Sister to Sister: Give Him the Remote

It’s a daily challenge to be in this world and yet remain insulated from its spiritually destructive components. I cannot imagine going through a day without having to constantly remind myself of what conversations, media and relationships are appropriate for somebody who’s following Jesus and what Philippians 4:8 would filter out for me. I want His word to always be the filter in the nitty-gritty decisions of everyday living. I think sometimes it’s easy for me to say the big things like “I would give my life for Christ,” or “My favorite book is the Bible” or “Growing in Christ is my number one goal,” but it’s the all-day-long difficult and specific choices that make or break my big easily stated commitments.I don’t call into question the sincerity of somebody whose little choices don’t reflect the big professions of life. Sometimes I think we really do mean the big commitment statements found on our profiles on facebook. It’s just that the inconsistencies in the little decisions don’t sting because we’ve become environmentally and culturally anesthetized. What should really hurt us as His people doesn’t hurt at all because we’re breathing the fumes of the society in which we live. Once I accidentally made a pretty huge gash in my left hand; lots of blood and nausea, an eventual scar and a pain that was wretched.On another occasion a doctor made a similar gash in my foot to remove a piece of glass; lots of blood, a similar scar, but absolutely no pain. The difference was, of course, the presence of the anesthetic.

So how is it that we can sing “I am mine no more, I’ve been bought with blood,’ or “Purer in heart O God, help me to be,” or ” I surrender all” or “Lord take control,” and yet fail to even feel the sting of the destructive media influences that are in direct opposition to the themes we’ve stated for our lives? I think we just don’t feel the pain that should accompany spiritual wounds because we are anesthetized by the culture in which we live. As the world becomes more and more ungodly, we are lulled into a kind of comfortable moral drowsiness that makes us unaware of the effects of the tools in the hands of the devil. We find ourselves laughing at all kinds of wickedness as it is digitally welcomed into our living rooms, bedrooms and dorm rooms. We can listen to vulgarity and profanity and hardly be aware we’ve heard them even as they work to erode the values that we’ve professed all along. Pretty soon we start thinking through our days about the drama or the hilarity of some episode that really was pretty far removed from the “I want to grow in Christ” thesis through which we intended to filter our choices. We start talking about things that are in the Galatians 5:19-21 list with the same nonchalant tone with which we would talk about the weather.Without even really thinking about it, we spend more time concentrating on the works of the flesh as portrayed by Hollywood than we do in Bible study or prayer. Pretty soon, the gap between what we profess and our practical focus is a chasm.Perhaps we find that in our entertainment choices, we sometimes “rejoice in iniquity.” Perhaps we even encourage others to violate their consciences by encouraging them to love what God would identify as abomination. In short, we’ve just become numb to the sorrow we should feel as his children at the presence of sin in our media choices. The devil wants to devour us and he is much more successful when we start failing to feel the pain of the lion’s tenons and teeth.

It’s been helpful for me to constantly remember and repeat the phrase “Entertainment is optional.” Being “optional” means it’s not a requirement for life. It means it’s not absolutely necessary. In fact retaining entertainment in my life is probably less necessary than retaining my limbs or my eyesight. But Jesus said if your eye or your hand offends you, just get rid of it rather than allowing it to cause the loss of your soul. I can go to heaven without ever turning on the television, but I can’t go to heaven if I’m not “abstaining from the very appearance of evil.” (I Thess.5:22)

Matthew 6: 33 is not too difficult to understand when it comes to this abstinence from the appearance of evil. It’s not hard to understand when I try to conform my thoughts to Philippians 4:8. Where it gets hard is not in my ability to comprehend its meaning. It means when I have choices in optional matters I am going to make sure my allegiance is first to His kingdom and righteousness. Where it gets hard is in my willingness to apply it all day long. It’s difficult while I am watching the episode to stop and ask, “Am I seeking righteousness when I put this stuff into my head?” It’s difficult to just pick up the remote and say “I choose to seek first His righteousness.”

So many times, I can look back and know full well that a particular decision was completely out of alignment with the BIG profession I have made for my life. Those times are my biggest regrets. I want to adjust the practical part of my Christianity, because Christ can’t remain in my heart if He’s not affecting my agenda, dominating my calendar, making my choices, and shaping my plans. The remote should be controlled by Him.

 

Recipe Catch-Up! [Read more…]

Sister to Sister: Not a Minimalist

I will never be a minimalist. In fact, I am a bit ashamed to say I think I am a maximist. ( Since “maximalist” has a political meaning, I made that word up.) It might not be right, but it’s true. So many people have blessed our family through the years with friendship and comfort and then tokens of those sweet relationships…and I am an avowed sentimentalist. I can’t part with anything that was my mother’s. I have a thimble that my grandmother gave to me when I was a little girl. She said it came over on the boat with my ancestors. My grandchildren are wearing the same clothes that my children wore. I even have a very hard time throwing away a dish when it breaks, if it was made by one of my children in a pottery class or given to me for Christmas by my father. 

But lately, I’ve been trying to make myself part with clutter. I’ve been making a conscious effort to trample a bit on the sentimental side of me and “see” what I can throw away. I give myself all those reasons: If you haven’t used it in three years, then…or…Do you want your kids to have to sort through all of this one day?…or…You know, you can remember the day he took his first steps out in the yard without keeping the stick he picked up off the ground. I know…I need this exercise, so, as I put the Christmas stuff away and put the “regular” stuff back out, I tried to put a little less “decor” back out and a little more in the trash. 

And I saw this book that had been lying on a desk in the study. “I’m going to get rid of that,” I thought. “That book always makes me sad, anyway.” It’s one of those journals that mothers fill out for posterity, telling children all about  how they grew up, how they met the children’s daddy, favorite toys and prices of things in the good old days. Our little family had given it to my mom for Mother’s Day during the year that she passed away, so she didn’t even have enough time left to fill it out. So I picked it up to put it in a give-away place…or at least to try. 

But I looked inside and saw our note to her. I saw the four-year-old and eight-year-old signatures of my kids. Then the note from my father when he gave the book back, along with a couple more notes that he’d sent through the years since her passing. The first one I read said this:

Cindy, 

If crying is wrong  for an old man, I’m sorry, but that is exactly what happened when I  came across this book given to Johnnia in her last year here. The pictures are Johnnia’s type thing. She didn’t have a chance to write diary things in it. 

The message of love from you, Glenn, and the children touched me. I thought of how obedient you were over the years and how miserable you would always be if you slipped a little and disobeyed her in a moment of weakness and how eager you were to rectify it quickly. You and (your mother) are influencing me every day of my life. Not unrelated to this is the Duncan-Smith bunch (her family)…fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins…but of the good qualities of all, you got a double dose. 

Then there was another note, written following one of our big family holiday visits to his house:

…The sound of feet stomping…the sound of young voices (and old)…the sound of the bounce of the basketball…the sound of and sight of roller skating…the sound of the ultra-young to the older ones in offering thanks for the food, etc…the sound and sight of the splashing of the pool, in the summer…the much work done here when y’all come (allowing me to sit around). All of this is summed up in one word: LOVE. Cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, maybe a grandparent here and there. 

The sights and sounds described herein, at times have likely been annoyances, but to me, they have become music to my ears…Keep up (your mother’s) traditions. Love…

PS…the part I miss most on these occasions is her voice and joy.

Then next, I noticed a letter of encouragement written to my daughter, Hannah, from her grandfather during her teen years. Among other things it said:

“You have not, in any way, let us down…you are of sterling quality and good for the church and the family…Keep on doing what you’re doing and living like you’re living. I love you…You’re my tweetie!

Funny how I thought I could just throw that book away. Funny how words can re-appear and resonate with encouragement on days when you need it most. Funny how one of the people who’s had the most profound influence on me could make me believe that I could influence him! Funny how someone long gone to glory can still influence so many so deeply. Dad’s little notes made me want to encourage people more…especially in writing. I have friends, especially one (Carol), who do it constantly. But I need to be better at written encouragement. 

I didn’t throw the book away. Instead, I think I’ll write in it’s beautiful pages and pass it on down. Maybe when Hannah is a grandmother or when Caleb is a grandfather, one of them will think about throwing it away on another day. Maybe they can be minimalists. But I doubt it. 

For Scripture Sleuths Only! (By Request from Digging Deep)

The Digging Deep study in the previous month included a comparison of the baptism in the Red Sea (Exodus 10) and the baptism of a sinner today. This comparison is made by the Spirit in I Corinthians 10. Here’s a partial list of components of that comparison. The scenarios surrounding the journey through the Red Sea are in the opening chapters of Exodus. Scriptures about the New Testament counterpart are included below.

  1. Both candidates of “baptism” had a former master (Romans 6:16-18). Pharaoh was a cruel, murderous liar. The devil, our former master, is a cruel (I Peter 5:8), murderous (Romans 6:23), liar (Rev. 12:9).
  2. The Israelites  were committed to the new leadership of Moses to travel toward the promised land. We yield to the new leadership of Jesus Christ. These two leaders have many likenesses. Among them are these:
    1. They were both Hebrews (Exodus 2; Luke 2:4).
    2. They were both born under rule of cruel Kings (Pharaoh and Herod, Exodus 1,2; Matt. 2:1-13)
    3. Both were hidden in Egypt (Exodus 2; Matt. 2:1-15).
    4. Both were hiding from cruel kings who wanted to kill them (Exodus 2; Matt. 2:1-15).
    5. Both turned water to another substance (Exodus 4; John 2:1-12).
    6. Both fasted forty days (Ex. 34:28; Matt. 4:2).
    7. Both were mediators (Ex. 32:11-14; I Timothy 2:5).
    8. Both were lawgivers (Exodus 24:12; Romans 8:1,2).
    9. Both chose twelve men to send out (Numbers 13; Matt. 10:1-5).
    10. Both were/are leading to a promised land (Dt. 8:7,8; John 14:1-4; I Peter 1:3-9).
    11. Both were victims of attempted stoning by their own people (Exodus. 17:1-4; John 8:59).
    12. Both offered people water from a Rock (Exodus. 17:6; John 4:1-14; I Cor. 10:4).
    13. Both of their faces shone (Exodus 34:35, Matt 17:2).
    14. Both were shepherds (Exodus 3;John 10:10,11).
    15. Both have victory songs (Exodus 15; Rev. 15:2,3).
    16. Both had missions of redemption (Deut. 7:8; I Peter 1:18,19)
  3. The escape through the Red Sea elicited a great rejoicing among the subjects as is evidenced in Exodus 15. Our baptism should and does elicit great joy (Acts 8: 39).
  4. Both baptisms preceded the giving of a new law. The first was given from Mount Sinai in Exodus 20. Our new law was given from the mountain of Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).
  5. Food was given after the passage through the Red Sea. It was manna and quail in the wilderness. Our new food is the bread of life (John 6:35).
  6. People died at the Red Sea baptism (the Egyptians, rebelling against God). The man of sin (the rebellious man) dies in baptism today (Romans 6:5,6)
  7. The Red Sea was the beginning of a trip to an inheritance in a promised land (Deut. 8:7,8). Our baptism is the beginning of our trek to our inherited promised land  (I Peter 1:1-5, Rev. 21:7).

If you love God and His Word, you have to love this list. If you are not involved in the Digging Deep study. you should still take time before you die to study this list. It will stop you in your spiritual tracks and make you more in awe of Him.

 

Mama’s Kiss #46: Write Letters to a Children’s Home

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 46 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

This one is simple and obvious. Perhaps your congregation already allows your children to interact with residents at a children’s home, either by collecting needed supplies, saving money in those collection cans, or helping with the Christmas shopping for children who have been placed in homes due to either the death of parents or circumstances in which care is no longer provided by parents. I hope, if your church does this, you will not pass up the chance to make sure your children are busy with these projects. But even if your children participate in group projects, it’s still a great idea to get your children personally involved with children who are disadvantaged because of absent parents. Perhaps your family could schedule a visit to such a home. There are many of these around the nation that are sponsored by members of churches of Christ. (One great facility in our area is the North Alabama Christian Children’s Home, directed by Don Williams: http://nacch.com. Another great one is Pine Vale in Corinth, MS and you can reach them at amy.collum@pinevalech.com. or randy.collum@pinevalech.com. Or, if you are in Oklahoma: tiptonchildrenshome@yahoo.com.) Most of these homes welcome visitors and your children could meet and become pen pals with children who would love to hear from them throughout the year. You could compose letters to these children during your family Bible time and then, upon learning their preferences, personalities, and birthdays, your children might send packages or gift cards with the permission of the house parents. Memorizing James 1:27 along with this project is a great idea.

There are multiple benefits gained by this connection for both your children and those in the system. Appreciation for blessings, opportunities to be selfless, and accountability to friends in need  are some of the benefits your children will encounter.  I was in the second grade when our class in my Christian school first visited a children’s home. I was assigned the writing of the letter to thank them for their hospitality to us. I still remember some of the contents of that letter. The children we met that day and the simple fact that they did not have any present parents made a huge impact on my young heart. It was a sobering thought to my seven-year-old self that there were other seven-year-olds who might never know their moms and dads. It was a small and hard part of coming to understand human suffering, but it was good for my young and impressionable second-grade self. Twelve years later, one of those children I met in that home attended Freed-Hardeman University with me and we talked, as college students, about the death of her parents. Ten more years passed and I helped my own children buy Christmas gifts for children in that same home. This Christmas, I loved getting the chance, once again to buy those black and white Nikes that were on the list of a thirteen-year-old whose parents are AWOL. I can hardly wait till Ezra and Colleyanna are old enough to learn the joy this brings. I know there were many opportunities  that passed our family by–things we should have done, and didn’t– and certainly we are not any great examples of benevolence. We should have shared more of His bounty than we ever did. But I am convinced, because of the impact of even these small gifts on me and on our children, that even the smallest hand in benevolence builds character.  I’m sad that there will always be these opportunities (John 12:8), but I’m thankful for the good that can be done in multiple generations of families when these perennial opportunities are presented and grasped.

 

Today’s Recipe: Green Lime Punch

Janice Knight

Super simple!  Use a half gallon, (or nowadays, two of those little round tubs) lime sherbet, and pour a half gallon ginger ale (or sprite, for sweeter) over sherbet in a punch bowl.  Stir and chop up the sherbet.  It’s a hit every time.

 

Sister to Sister: You’ve Got Something New!

Providence always seems to make our Bible studies very applicable to our lives. Here we are in the initial days of 2017, trying to make our lives better this year for His glory and our study coincides with a new journey made by His people of old from a life of bondage to a life of freedom and, ultimately, rest. God is good! Their passover was in their first calendar month and, from there, life changed in some very good ways for Israel. Today, let’s notice some of those new  experiences for Israel and how they correspond to the new lives that we have in Christ. Here’s the list from last night’s podcast. It will make you appreciate the cross and the deliverance from your bondage of sin even more. These are taken from Exodus 14-24.

  1. A new camp (14:2). Christians are moved to a new place, too. Colossians 1:13, I Peter 2:9.
  2. A new champion (14:4). Don’t miss these great passages: Romans 8:31-39, Hebrews 13:6.
  3. A new guide (14:19). We follow the Lamb (Rev. 14:4)
  4. A new song of praise (chapter 15). This was the song of Moses. But we get to sing the song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev. 14:3).
  5. A new promised inheritance (15:17). Heaven is our inheritance. Are you an heir (I Peter 1:3,4, Revelation 21:7)?
  6. A new voice (15:26). Matthew 17:5. Are you listening (Hebrews 1:1,2)?
  7. A new source of sustenance (16:1-10). He always provides for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).
  8. A new urgency about bread (16:16-18). We should seek the Bread of Life every day, too (John 6:35; Luke 4:4)
  9. A new priority (16:26). Their sabbath took precedence over gathering bread. Matthew 6:33 says our priority is seeking the kingdom and He will provide the bread!
  10. New battles within the camp (17:4). Do Christians have discouragements within the church? (Take a cursory look at the book of James and the book of I Corinthians. The devil doubles his forces when people become Christians!)
  11. New battles from without the camp (17:16). Ephesians 6:12-13. Living for him is spiritual warfare.
  12. A new evangelistic thrust. (18:11). If we live for Him, the great commission (Mark 16:15, 16) becomes second nature to us. There are those, like Jethro, who will naturally be impacted by our faith. 
  13. A new clean (19:14). We are washed (I Corinthians 6:9-11).
  14. A new priesthood (19:22). Praise God for our high priest and for the fact that he made us holy for the priesthood (Hebrews 4:14-16)!
  15. A new freedom ((20:2). We are no more servants of sin (Galatians 5:1)!
  16. A new purity (20:20). We are done with intentional sin (I John 2:1).
  17. A new law (21:1; 24:12). The law of the Spirit in Christ has made us free from the Mosaic law of sin and death (Romans 8:1,2). We, too, have a new law!
  18. A new standard of morality (chapter 22). The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 is replete with “You have heard…but I say unto you.”. Jesus’ way is a path to a new morality.
  19. A new rule of giving (22:29-30).  Leaving the tithe behind, we give as we have been prospered (I Corinthians 16:1,2). 
  20. A new passover feast (23:14-19). Christ is our Passover (I Corinthians 5:7) and we memorialize our Lamb in the Lord’s Supper as instituted in Matthew 26:26-29.
  21. A new covenant (24:4-7). Have you signed on to the covenant that required His blood (Hebrews 8:6)?

Catch-up on Recipes! Here are three more from the December contest: 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

(This recipe, from Lindsey Cella, sounds good for Alabamians today! Brrr!)

Ingredients:
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cubed (We use 1 (48 ounce) bag of Tyson’s boneless skinless chicken thigh strips, it works out the same)
1 (10 ounce) package frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
1 onion, chopped
3 (14 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
2 (10 ounce) cans tomatoes and green chilies
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon minced garlic
(Tortilla chips and shredded cheese added by bowl, if you want it. We always want it.)😝
Directions:
•Combine chicken, corn, onion, broth, tomato paste, tomatoes and green chilies, cumin, chili powder, 1 tsp of salt, and garlic in large crockpot.
•Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 7 hours or on HIGH for 3 hours to 3 hours and 30 minutes(essentially just cook it until the chicken isn’t pink that’s what we do😂)
•serve with Tortilla chips and shredder cheese serves about 6 to 8 (that’s what our recipe says, it’s a lie, this makes tons😂)

Easy and Delicious Peanut Butter Fudge

Ginny Vines

1 package of white almond bark
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 16 Oz jar of peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)

DIRECTIONS:
Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
Melt the almond bark according to directions on package.
Stir in peanut better until smooth.
Stir in condensed milk. You must do this quickly because it will start to harden.
Put in refrigerator until cool and hard, cut and enjoy!

Pineapple Casserole 

Janice Knight

This goes great with ham.
2 tall cans pineapple chunks with juice
6 Tbs. flour, mixed with 1 cup white sugar
1 sleeve town house or ritz crackers
1 cup shredded cheese
1 stick butter or margarine, melted

Using a 9×13 inch dish, pour in the pineapple.  Then stir in the flour/sugar mixture till combined.  Put half the cheese in next, and stir. Crush the sleeve of crackers and distribute crumbs evenly on top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on that, then drizzle the melted butter all over.  This makes it shiny and crunchy.  Bake till brown (about 25-30minutes at 375 degrees F.  This is good hot or cold.  Greg at church eats it for his dessert.

(from cc: Shout-out to Greg, I guess! This is a favorite at the Colley house, too!)

 

Sister to Sister: How about a Little Empathy?

When I hang a new calendar, looking over the spent and tattered one I’m putting in that file cabinet…the cabinet that now has a stack of gridded sheets that represent the business, the slammed schedules, the birthday parties, the travel. as well as the mundane housecleaning, cabin cleaning, and mending days of the past year, I always try and think about the big picture. Every little square in that twelve page card stock and pocketed book that I’m filing away was a day of movement. Every square was movement toward heaven or away from it. We live sadness and hope. We live purpose and appointments. We live fun and fervor. But we never live static. Each turn of the page is a progression toward eternity. What makes each square so precious is that one square will be the last one. 

…Which makes me think about empathy. With the passage of time in each of our lives, our experiences multiply. I mean, I used to have no clue about grandparenthood. (Who are all these crazies who are obsessing over a dimple or the color of a baby’s hair?) Now I know. I fully empathize because my realm of experience grew. That happened on one of the squares in 2014. I used to come up short in the empathy department for those who were caring for elderly parents. Not any more. That happened slowly on lots of squares in the past ten or so calendar records. Experiences have simply broadened my scope of empathy. It was never that I didn’t have sympathy for those in the sandwich generation. But empathy is a whole different thing. Empathy is what make you give grace and truly feel WITH another who is experiencing something you’ve known firsthand. Remember, empathy is what makes our Lord the GREAT high priest that He is. We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Rather, we have one who has been tried in every point, just like we are tried, yet He did it without sin (Heb. 4:15). Empathy qualifies him to be my mediator and I am so thankful for His divine empathy. 

On that page, let me list a few scenarios of which I will not be critical this year. Experiences produce empathy. Empathy produces grace. So here:

  1. I will not criticize young mothers who are struggling in worship services to make toddlers behave. 
  2. I will not criticize young families who are occasionally late for Bible class.
  3. I will not criticize young moms who show up for Bible class on Wednesday night in jeans and a milk-stained t-shirt. 
  4. I will not criticize older people whose eyes occasionally close and whose head sometimes inadvertently bows during the sermon on Sunday.
  5. I will not criticize bragging grandmothers.
  6. I will not criticize grandmothers who buy too many baby clothes.
  7. I will not criticize the careful choices made by children about the care of aged parents.
  8. I will not criticize the families of faithful elders and preachers about matters of judgment.
  9. I will not criticize people who occasionally cry in public–people who others may classify as “emotional basket cases.”
  10. I will not criticize the eating and exercise habits of busy people.
  11. I will not criticize those who do not take every call at the moment it comes.
  12. I will not criticize busy people who lose keys, phones, glasses and other essentials frequently and who sometimes forget appointments.

There’s a little list of a few of the many decisions that experience has helped me make. Experience is my friend. Gray strands are my teachers. I know that our realms of empathy are not all the same. But the world might be a gentler place if we allowed the scenarios  and circumstances we’ve faced to teach us grace. Notice that I did not say “indifference to sin.” We have to care deeply about what grieves God. But empathy makes us also care deeply about the “infirmities” of His people. Experience makes us keenly aware that we might not know details that are crucial in decisions being made by others. Empathy makes us better people.