Sister to Sister: “Meredith” Making Waves

images-2Last week I told you about “Meredith”, a sweet sister I met at a retreat on the previous weekend. You can read about her here. She happened to read the words I had written about her and I wanted to share with you her response. I want to share it because I know it will brighten your day and make you thankful. The thing I am most excited about sharing with you is that the young man who was resistant to the gospel has now obeyed our Savior in baptism! Each one of us touches lives through others for eternity. It’s cliche, but it IS like ripples in the water; only, in the case of these ripples, the water is the water of life.  It eternally sustains, washes and quenches. Sometimes we know we’re making ripples or even waves. Sometimes we don’t. God is so good! So this, from Meredith and let’s all soldier on!

Cindy – I read your latest blog and just cried! It was just what I needed. Honestly I don’t see myself in that light so it was incredibly encouraging to read that my life and service still matter and no matter how dark and hard it may get He can still shine through my life. The enemy has been whispering and even shouting at times that it’s just too hard and it won’t matter if I slow down and back off in the service to my King. The enemy loves for me to remember the brownies I baked and then dropped, the cards I have written and had to throw away because of the errors and sloppy hand writing and the cookies I baked, but cried when I was done, because it hurt. But, I will fight to remember the blessings and what I can do (and there are TONS of things I can still do for the kingdom) and not focus on the dark piece of this puzzle in my life right now. I will not listen to the father of lies, but cling to the One who already solved my biggest problem ever and made a way to make it possible for me to spend eternity with Him where there will be no pain or tears FOREVER. Thank you again. It meant more than you’ll ever know!

So let me just say again…I want to be more like Meredith. The part of her that matters most is perfectly whole. So, with the apostle John, I would say to her ” Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”(III John 1:2)

Sister to Sister: I Might Need a Seaweed Wrap

images-1It’s been a steep learning curve for me in the March Digging Deep study of prayers in Jonah and Habakuk. I’ve told the story of Jonah scores of times to my children when they were preschoolers about that small prophet being swallowed by the giant fish. I can still hear a tiny Caleb filling in the blanks as we would tell and retell the story:  “So dey dus frew him overboard and a big fish dus swawowed him wite up!” (You have to be a preschooler’s mom to read that!)

But there’s so much more to that account…a story that Jesus verified in Matthew 12 as being true and literal.

I was blessed to have Flori Barber on the podcast with me earlier this week. You can watch the archived edition HERE. There were three pertinent lists given during that podcast from Jonah’s prayer as he wrapped his head around truth in the belly of the fish even as his literal head was wrapped in seaweed (Jonah 2:5). So much wisdom was discovered in that sea creature’s belly. Truly, that fish vomited a good deal more than he swallowed and Jonah was on his way, at least for a time, to do the bidding of Jehovah.

Several have requested the lists, so here they are:

Flori’s “Lessons Learned from the Prayer in the Belly”:

  1. When we pray we must acknowledge God and approach him with a penitent heart.
  2. We must humble ourselves and admit our wrongs.
  3. We should thank God for saving us.
  4. We should not just pray for help/deliverance, but pray for strength and knowledge to do what we can do on our part.
  5. We should repent and turn away from sin
  6. We should acknowledge that God is where we find salvation.

Cindy’s “Lessons Learned from the Prayer in the Belly”:

  1. Sometimes, hitting “rock bottom” is the wake-up call that I need.
  2. When I attempt to get out of God’s sight, He will make sure it happens. (vs.4)
  3. The deeper the sin and sorrow, the greater the salvation. (vs. 5)
  4. When I believe the devil’s lies, I burn my own bridge to mercy. (vs. 8)
  5. Repentance requires action. (vs. 9)

Jonah Prays the Scriptures:
Jonah 2:2…………….Psa. 18:4-6; Psa. 22:24; Psa. 120:1,2; Lam. 3:55.
Jonah 2:3…………….Psa. 88:6; Psa. 42:7.
Jonah 2:4…………….II Chron. 6:38; Psa. 31:22
Jonah 2:5…………….Psa. 69:1; Lam. 3:54
Jonah 2:6…………….Psa. 16:10; Job 33:28
Jonah 2:7…………….Psa. 18:6
Jonah 2:8…………….Psa. 31:6
Jonah 2:9…………….Psa. 3:8; Psa. 50:14; Psa. 50:23

Sister to Sister: Holiness: Don’t Miss It for the World!

holiness_1I recently met a sweet forty-something-ish woman, at a ladies day where I was speaking, who was electric in her conversation. I mean this woman just drew you into her facial expressions and gestures. She made you want to get to know her;  to know who she was and what made her tick. Let’s call her “Meredith”. You could tell that Meredith enjoyed life and that she was definitely a “people person” .  I enjoyed her enthusiasm about the ladies day we were attending and I learned from Meredith as she asked another lady present how she could encourage a sister who was not present. I learned that her home congregation was another hour or so east of where I was at that moment and that her ladies were busy planning their own retreat for the very next weekend and that my daughter, Hannah, and I would get to be with this positively infectious personality again at that upcoming retreat.

So there she was at this beautiful lodge the very next weekend. Meredith was one of the first to arrive from her job teaching pre-K children on that Thursday afternoon. She came in with the same wonderfully focused and quiet zeal that I had previously seen. This weekend she brought one of her friends from work with her. She was the only person  at this ladies retreat who had been successful in bringing a visitor with her. I loved getting to know her co-worker who had even brought along her young son who visited politely and then diligently worked on homework in another room. Both of these pre-K teachers had taken the following day off for this spiritual activity. This visiting lady spent one of our break times telling me how important her friendship with Meredith was and indicating to me how very influential Meredith had been in her life.

Throughout the weekend I heard about the times Meredith has lead the ladies Bible study and I watched her interact with the younger women on the topic of evangelism. I tasted the yummy enchiladas at Saturday lunch and learned that they were her signature “easy recipe”. Then one of the younger women came in on Friday night and drew us into her conversation about her boyfriend, who is deeply involved in a study of New Testament Christianity, but is struggling to overcome biases from denominational family members. I watched and listened as Meredith shared the excitement about this searching heart and gave encouragement to this young woman who desperately wants to reach this soul with the gospel of Jesus. Meredith helped her with scriptures and with reassurance about the power of the Word.

During every lesson, Meredith sat wide-eyed, absorbing the Word and its applications. Never pretentious, in her jeans and pink sock feet, Meredith took notes and nodded her approval of the points being made.  By now, I knew that she was the kind of person I wanted to put in my giant Thirty-One bag and bring home with me. I could tell she would be a blessing to whomever she met and in whatever context she smiled that infectious smile.

It was the last moment of the retreat and Meredith had been asked to lead the closing prayer. We went around the room asking for prayer requests. Just before she bowed her head, one final minute was given for any last request, at which time Meredith said, “Two things. Please remember my friend Lori.” (Lori was the friend she had brought along to the retreat, who had, incidentally, already left.) “…And remember me. I’m going to a new neurologist to see if he can help me.”

So I had to ask the question: “Oh?…What’s wrong?”

“Well, I’ve had these issues with my muscles and my bones,” she said. By the time I finished asking questions and she finished answering, I learned that her body is chilled much of the time, her right side is often numb and sometimes partially paralyzed. She has trouble with memory loss and putting the right names with faces and cognitive skills. The doctors have been thinking Multiple Sclerosis, but tests for that have been negative. The new neurologist is her hope of finding some answers.

Now, just think about this with me. Almost any one of us, experiencing those symptoms would have dismissed the prospect of a three day ladies retreat (much less the visitor accompaniment, the ladies day the weekend before, the leading of a Bible study, the evangelism and encouragement, and the help with food) as something extra-curricular for which there was surely not adequate stamina. Meredith’s synopsis at the end of the retreat was something along these lines….”I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. It was just what I needed to be focusing on right now…being holy and how to see all the blessings in my life.”

“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”  So many of us have it backwards. We aren’t willing to miss the world—its momentary pleasures– for all the holiness and blessings God has to give us. How sad!

I want to be more like Meredith. I don’t want, for the whole world, to miss a thing He has for me.

Sister to Sister: I’m Old…So Here! (Part Two)

11057335_10152618923116384_8647455845390333819_nSuggestion number two is harder for me than the previous one. Digging in the Word is never boring. There’s always something unexpected waiting. The more you know, the more you want to know. But my words to Him, on the other hand, are not inspired. They are not perfect. They are often more of what I need to say–confession, regret, pleadings for mercy–than what I want to say. Maybe that’s just it, though. We need to say what he already knows but wants to hear us say. That, of course, includes our praise as well as our pleas.

If you are expecting a child, you need to be praying Manoah’s plea from Judges 13:8.

“…teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.”

If you are presented with a seemingly insurmountable challenge in life—a spiritual responsibility that makes you weak in the knees or an opportunity to glorify Him that takes your breath away—pray the words of Mary in Luke 1:38:

“…Behold the handmaid of the Lord…”

When you are sorely disappointed by circumstances beyond your control, pray from Romans 8:28:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Ask him to help you to wait in faith for the good that will ultimately come from even this sorrow or pain as it is woven together with the other “things” in your life. Ask Him to help you cling steadfastly to the “calling”.

Another prayer that takes a lot of spiritual stamina to take to God has its roots in Matthew 16:26:

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

If you thank Him for whatever part of the “whole world” he has laid at your feet (and for most of us, it’s plenty to live on and lots more), and then you add this: “But Lord, if I ever let these material blessings get in my way of serving you, then just take them on away from me,” —then you are beginning to grasp the insignificance of the physical blessings in comparison to the spiritual. You will find it increasingly difficult to allow ballgames, homework and travel to get in the way of worship. (After all, He gave you those children with healthy bodies and sharp minds and He gave you the money, health and means to travel. You’ve prayed that he will remove these blessings if they are spiritual obstacles.) You will find it increasingly difficult to take jobs or promotions that will be at the expense of valuable spiritual time with your family. You will have a hard time agreeing to spend your resources on that concert or book or movie that will put your mind in a place of moral compromise. In short, you have prayed a prayer that finds its answer in places of greater spiritual strength. Maybe the best part is that, when you are reaching new spiritual heights, your children are watching and  learning exactly what (and Whom) it is that matters most to you. You are making a direct imprint on little hearts; an impression that may affect not just one generation, but multiple ones.

Perhaps most importantly and most universally we should be praying James 1:5. Just don’t do mornings without it!

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

Do you have crying babies that can’t always let you know what they are needing? Then you need wisdom. Do you have toddlers that are presenting behavioral challenges and yet you are not sure whether they are rebelling or misunderstanding the instruction? Then you need wisdom. Do you have children who are hearing little tidbits about sex at school or in peer groups, but you really don’t know how much is too much to share with them about this subject just yet? Then you need wisdom. Do you have pre-teens who are suddenly becoming uncomfortable in their own skin—kind of stuck in the awkward years between cuddly and cool? Then you need wisdom. Do you have teens who are being exposed to—even experimenting with– sin? Then you need wisdom? Or do you have teens who are trying hard to do the right thing among peers who are mocking—even persecuting? Then you need wisdom. Do you have parents or grandparents who are aging and needing more and more of your time? Then you need wisdom.

So, listen to this old woman. Don’t do mornings without the James 1:5 prayer. It’s a present from God all wrapped up and waiting for you. It’s for those who lack wisdom—you and me. (“If any of you lack wisdom…”) It’s accessibility is for those who ask. (“…let him ask…”) The source of this wisdom is not Dr. Phil or Oprah or even your preacher or elders. It’s God. (“…of God…”) The Giver is not stingy or selfish. (“…who gives to all men liberally…”) He does not make fun of you because you are in need of wisdom or because you do not already know what He knows. (“…and upbraids not…”) This is not a “maybe” promise. It is a happening thing. (“…and it shall be given him.”) How can you get your soul’s permission to do mornings without praying James 1:5, especially if the nurturing decisions of your day may well be influenced by getting your heart into that prayer?

In the last post, we emphasized the importance of getting into the Word. It’s true. You rob yourself of the best kind of riches during any part of your life in which you fail to study. But do you want to multiply the dividends of your study investment? Then pray the scriptures as you study them. But beware….You will be in the Word more so you can pray more deeply and you will pray that you can be in the Word more deeply!

Sister to Sister: I’m Old…So Here! (Part One)

11057335_10152618923116384_8647455845390333819_nWhile I know I’m not the Proverbs 31 woman yet and I’m surely not wise enough to be called a counselor, I am pretty old. I am a grandmother! So there’s this command in Titus 2 for me to be a teacher of younger women. I really want to at least try to be a Titus 2 older woman. I know God’s Titus 2 wisdom is infinitely greater than mine, but still, He calls me to be a vessel for His truth to the younger women I love. Younger Christian women are, perhaps, my greatest source of encouragement in this part of my life. I love the way that so many are dedicated–really given totally– to putting their families around the throne for eternity.  I’m going to take the next few installments of “Bless Your Heart” to talk from the person that I can hardly believe I am (old) to those who are twenty and thirty-somethings—those of you who still have time to get life right…those who can make some major choices in your homes and lives that will make you happier when you’re 55, like me.

So here’s the first and most obvious suggestion. No, this is not a suggestion. This is more important than food or sleep. May I implore you to study the Word? Young women often ask me how I “got into” speaking at ladies days. They ask for suggestions to help them become teachers of ladies classes or seminars. Here’s how: Study. Then study some more.

There is simply no shortcut for Bible study. It’s a great temptation to search for pithy ways to say fluffy things, to repeat the one or two lessons that you’ve presented over and over in various places, or to use borrowed material. But you will never have even a fraction of the influence on others if you use any of these shortcuts as you will if you study. If you are not deeply into the Word, your best efforts will come across as presentations rather than the bread of life that feeds hungry souls. I know this, not because I have always done a great job at Bible study. I know this because I have often failed and  regretted presenting a lesson that could have been better…meatier… and could have resonated more deeply and in more souls.

Just make a promise to yourself now that you are going to get into the Word in some way every day. You can do the Digging Deep study that’s on this site. You can outline every chapter of the New Testament. You can choose a topic and get out the concordance and make notes on all related passages. You can write materials for teen girls. You can do character studies. You can  do word studies. You can listen to sound gospel preaching and teaching from websites like www.westhuntsville.org or www.housetohouse.com, among many others. You can order materials to study from www.apologeticspress.org or do research from a virtual spiritual gem of mine at www.christiancourier.com. You can purchase great books from www.publishingdesigns.com or www.winklerpublications.com or from tuckersbooks.com, among many other outlets. You can write your own spiritual scripture-based blog.

Just do it. Just promise yourself that you are going to help yourself to peace and wisdom and future happiness. No matter what age you may be, if you have not been studying daily, you have already wasted too much valuable time. Further, the more you know about the Bible, the more there is to know. It’s an all-you-can-eat spiritual buffet that’s necessary for life, never consumed, never gets old and never fills you all the way up. Ultimately, you’ll find yourself in a post-death situation that renders all other information besides the material contained in that one book eternally and utterly useless. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t over-plan and under-commit to the plan. Don’t wait till you have the “right” tablet or computer program. Don’t give up if one time of day or study plan doesn’t work well for you. Don’t let babies or jobs stop you. Don’t let a missed day turn into a missed month.  Don’t be afraid to ask for accountability. Especially, don’t be afraid to ask God to help you find the time and make the effort. It’s worth it. It’s worth it in the end. But it’s also worth it on the first day that you start your regime. So do it. Every day.

Sister to Sister: THIS (seminar) & THAT (visit).

Unknown-12I’m looking forward to some excruciatingly busy, but unbelievably blessed times. This weekend, Glenn and I will be at the Macland Road church in Marietta, Georgia (www.maclandroadchurchofchrist.org/event/marriage-seminar-glenn-cindy-colley/) to talk about marriage and the family. It’s called the “You’re Singing My Song” seminar and we always love doing these. I think it’s one of the most tangibly rewarding things God lets us do. We get to actually see the results of doing marriage God’s way and we hear over and over, through emails and Facebook and even phone texts from attendees that a big decision to do family Biblically makes all the difference in the temperament of home. In fact, it makes the word “home” sweeter and the concept of family the haven that God intended it to be.

Then, the following weekend, my daughter, Hannah and I will be speaking a bunch of times at a women’s retreat near Trion, Ga. I love the topic of “Renewal” that they have chosen. I love, even more, the scriptures that will form the basis of our discussions. From Psalm 51, we will be discussing the creation of a clean heart and the renewal of a right spirit. From Romans 12:1,2 we will address the renewal of the mind: refusing to conform to the world and mind transformation. So excited about these six lessons. I think we are doing a question and answer session, as well. God has the answers if we really want them for daily instruction and practice. Let me know if you want info about this retreat. I am not sure how full the accommodations are, but I can put you in touch with the one who knows.

Yesterday I had the blessed opportunity to go and visit with one of our elderly, but young in spirit, women, Mrs. Nancy Cantrell. There has never been a moment since I have known Mrs. Nancy, when I have not deeply admired her. She and her faithful husband lived together many years in his service, doing mission work and just taking the precious gospel to all who would listen. Truly, she is one of the most evangelistic sisters I have ever known. For several years now, she has been living alone and spending every day in the anticipation of being reunited with her dear husband around the throne. She has faithful adult children and grandchildren. She IS the Titus 2 older woman, for sure.

It’s rare that I get to be the younger woman of Titus 2 these days, so I wanted to take advantage of Mrs. Nancy’s offer to help me with my embroidery software for my Bernina sewing machine. She’s taken the time to monogram many, many gifts, including graduation and wedding towels for Hannah, Christmas dish towels for me, and a beautiful handmade Bible cover that I treasure.  Can I just tell you that I basked in the pleasure of getting to go to her house and have fresh brewed coffee while she showed me a thing or two I needed to know about my embroidery program. I cannot think of anything that could have put me in Titus 2 more directly than my visit with Mrs. Nancy. She exudes every quality of this verse:

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things…

And, she spent her precious morning teaching me some improvements I could make in one aspect of being a “keeper at home”….Titus 2 still works today just the same as it did in the first century. I love the timeless quality of practical New Testament teachings.

I’m telling you, younger women…if you have somebody in your life who fills this bill, you’d better take advantage of her friendship and counsel. The days are coming quickly when, in our feministic world and, sadly our culture-influenced church, women with the Titus 2 qualities will be few and far between. Even if I hadn’t learned a thing about my software, my visit would have been worth it simply for the Titus 2 osmosis from which God knew we would benefit when he gave the instruction that links younger women up with older women in Christ.

That’s the way it is. God’s best is reserved for His children. Thankful for His best this week.