Sheer Opulence

biltmore-estate-christmas-scheduleEarlier this week, Glenn and I had the chance to tour the Biltmore mansion in Asheville, North Carolina with a dear brother and sister in the Lord. It was a great time and I got my wish for snow! For today’s post, I want to share three lessons I pondered as I walked though sheer opulence.

First. Glenn walked around a corner and said these words (They need no commentary.):  “If man can make a mansion like this, what must heaven be like?”  I just like to think and think and think some more about that.

Second, material wealth is so relative. I think I know some pretty rich people….until I walk through the Biltmore. Then the people that have a lot of money, according to my standards, seem to have a paltry sum. But the wealth in Jesus is infinite to every believer. I love the level spiritual “playing field.” As it has been said many times, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. I am rich beyond imagination and so are you, if you are in Christ.

Third, I loved imagining the servants who lived in the simple quarters in the basement. I loved hearing, on my headset, about their lives in that mansion. They were paid New York wages in the early 20th century in North Carolina, a circumstance unheard of anywhere else in the southeast United States. They had plenty to eat and it was cooked by a real chef. They had heated quarters and they were provided beds and linens and then they were free to decorate their little rooms as they pleased. They even had access to an indoor bath just down the hall. Mrs. Vanderbilt made sure all of the servants and their children had a Christmas surprise each year.

Now, my grandmothers were raising their children during that same era. One of my grandmothers was a sharecropper’s wife and neither of my grandmothers had indoor plumbing until quite late in their lives. My father, a lad in the twenties, was very happy over a stick of candy or an orange at Christmas time. One of my uncles, a tiny boy, proudly brought in a rotten potato found on the sidewalk during the worst time of poverty in his little life and handed it to his mother saying “Praise the Lord…put it there.” There were some pretty hard times for many families during the early part of the twentieth century in this country. I’m sure my grandmothers would have basked in the servant’s quarters at the Biltmore had they had an opportunity. The servants at the Biltmore were never hungry, cold or destitute.

I think of the spiritual condition of servants in My father’s house. In His house, even in the basement, in the quarters of the servants, there is plenty.  Many people I know are spiritually cold and hungry and destitute and they don’t even know it. Perhaps they need to come to themselves like that boy in the far away country and say, “How many servants in my father’s house have bread enough and to spare and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father” (Luke 16:17,18).

Sister to Sister: Sunsets, Shooting Stars and…Prayer

full-moonMany times I have thought about sunrises and sunsets, full moons, rainbows, shooting stars and flashes of lightning. What if those were phenomena that were reserved for only once in my lifetime? What if there was only one day in my life when the sky would be on fire with hues of red, orange, yellow, purple and blue as that beautiful ball of fire slowly disappeared behind the horizon? I would be there. I mean I would have that date marked in red on my calendar, I would have phone alarms set and I would be out in some vast meadow with people I love, just waiting for those golden moments when the sun was sinking.

But the sun sets every day. Every sunset is just an everyday sunset. Oh, it is no less magnificent, demands no less power and commands no less praise. It’s still breathtaking IF I take the time to really drink it in, but, because it will happen again tomorrow, I don’t take the time to notice. I don’t drink in the majesty and, sadly, I hardly ever praise my God for the setting of the sun that is just doing his bidding as the earth travels around it.

Isn’t it that way with prayer?  What if I could only talk to my God during one day of my sojourn on this earth? I would be intentional about that day. I would spend the years prior deciding, listing, outlining and preparing for the things I wanted to say. What if I could only pray once a year? I’d be thinking all during the other 364 days about exactly what I wanted to say and I’d be sure to praise and petition and thank and cry out to the God of the universe on that day. What if I knew that I could only pray at one specified time during each week? I hope that I would look forward to that hour of prayer with more anticipation than any other event, possible excepting worship. But the beauty of prayer is that it gives me access to the throne at any moment of any day.

That is the beauty of prayer, but the unlimited access is also probably the factor that makes me take it for granted. Academically, I know it is a precious privilege. I understand the price that was paid for the intercession of Jesus in prayer. But because I can do it later…I can do it anytime…I’m somehow not as motivated. Sad.

Maybe that’s also the way it is with expressing my affection to Glenn, my husband. I can save that sweet conversation until just the right moment because I will have a million moments with him yet. The truth is, there will only be a limited number of sunsets, a limited number of opportunities to express gratitude or affection to my husband and a limited number of opportunities to bow in prayer. If I can somehow internalize the finite aspect of prayer along with the unlimited aspect—the unlimited lifetime “calling plan” for calling on the God of the universe—perhaps I will count prayer as the extremely precious commodity that it is.

Studying Moses helps me do that. I’ve been truly taken with the prayer life of this leader. His life was a conversation with God.  What I love about his relationship with the Father is that he just talked to him…at all times. He didn’t “save up” his petitions or praise for some future “time” of prayer. He asked when he wondered (Numbers 27:5), praised when he witnessed deliverance (Exodus 15) and mourned to God when he saw sin (Exodus 34:8,9). At least largely because of this daily dependence on God, he was characterized as the meekest man in all the earth.

I hope you will join us this Thursday night at 7 CST at  http://new.livestream.com/whcoc/for-women for a discussion of the prayers of Moses. It is a rich study.

Sister to Sister: Q and A–“Is my Child Ready for Baptism?”

600-00934291This is a frequent question from godly parents and we wonder about it for all the right reasons. We all want our children to want to be Christians. We want them to want to follow Jesus all of their days and so we are excited that they think about this decision at young ages. We don’t want them to wait until there’s a lot of regret and baggage to come to the Lord. At the same time, we want them to have both their hearts and minds engaged in what should be the largest of life’s decisions. Often, the subject of the discussion is a six or seven-year-old who is insistent on being baptized.

The first thing I must say is this: I surely do not have all of the answers. Given the gravity of the situation, the fact that I do not always even know the children involved and the varied developmental rates among children and then adding to these factors my own fallibility, I would never presume to tell parents the answer to this question. But having given it some thought, I do have some suggestions that might be useful to some.

First, Kyle Butt has done some thinking, too, and has written a book called “Am I Ready to be Baptized?” If your child is very young and thinking about baptism, it might be very productive to say, “Let’s take some time each night and study through this book,” as we try to decide if you are ready to make this big decision in your life. I also think it is good to make the book of Acts your curriculum for your family Bible time for a few months when this decision is being made. Some have said, “My child is too young to be interested in the text of Acts.” If this is the case, my advice would be to wait until your child is old enough to be interested in the accounts of conversion—the text. After all, if he/she wants to be a candidate for membership in the church, he/she should want to understand its origin and its significance in the scheme of redemption.

Second, there are critical questions that can give parents windows into the hearts of their children. Questions like. “Why do you want to be baptized?” and “What kinds of things will you be promising to do when you are baptized?” and “ Can you tell me about the Lord’s Supper and what it means to you?” and “Do you know why baptism is a burial?” are all good things to discuss. But the most important question, in my judgment is “ If you died today, would you go to heaven?” Many times children, when too immature for baptism will answer “Yes, of course!” If that is the answer, then, obviously the child is not ready and would be immersed for the wrong reasons.

But, thirdly, you may get all the right answers and still have strong doubts about a sufficient maturity level. In other words, the child may academically know the gospel, but he/she may not yet be capable of a love and commitment that is with all of the heart, soul, strength and mind. Emotionally, the ability to “tie into” Christianity for all of a lifetime, though developing, may not yet have ripened. Allowing a child to be baptized void of proper commitment (a strong yearning to please God for all of his life) would be a mistake that could have negative ramifications when the ability to commit to long-term projects has processed into completion. Perhaps an examination of other commitments might help you decide. Are there multiple projects that your child was very excited to begin (perhaps a building project, a sewing project, piano lessons, etc…), but soon abandoned due to lack of interest? When a child is ready to commit to Christ, there should be at least some ability to complete long-term projects. This is not to say your child should always complete every venture (How many of us do?), but there should be some propensity for perseverance in your child’s character when making this most monumental commitment.

Next, you may want to ask your child if he would like to wait until Sunday or next month to be baptized? You will find out something valuable when you ask this question. If your child is willing to wait, then he/she is likely not ready. The urgency of salvation combined with the necessity of baptism for salvation are concepts that your child needs to be unmistakably sure of when contemplating baptism. Remember, you are not asking this question to trick your child, but rather to obtain information about his thinking process as it relates to an eternal issue. If your child answers this in the “wrong” way, then assure him or her that this answer is not a “bad” answer, but it is something that you think is important to examine from scripture. (If your child is all about doing it with a friend, is overly excited about cameras and grandparents and celebrating  with others, this is a sign that you need to wait a while.) This is a great time to launch into the study of Acts together. The very fact that you are willing and excited about studying through this as an important family process will make your child look at this decision as something that is “big” and wonderful to your family. It will tighten the spiritual bond in your home as you work to decide this together.

Next, whenever you decide it is an appropriate time for baptism, it is a great idea to have your child write down, in her own hand, the decision she is making—“Today, I am being baptized into Jesus, for the remission of sins. I will be added by the Lord, to his church.”  I am doing this for the following reasons. Then have her list those. It’s okay to discuss the reasons being listed, but not to “give” the reasons (or the initial statement)  from your perspective. This document should be fully “owned” by the child. Assuming the document is composed in a mature and sound manner, you should make a couple of copies and put them in places of safe keeping. Often, this is very valuable to reassure these young Christians, later on, that their baptisms were valid and resulted in salvation.

Next, if you are unsure, take your child to mature elders and have them discuss this decision with them. They are seasoned and wise and may pick up on attitudes or thoughts that you, as a less objective party, have missed.

Next, remember this: Baptism is unnecessary and is a mistake when there is no sin. Just because your child is capable of rebelling against your will, telling an untruth, or disobeying does not mean he is yet capable of sinning. A child that is yet blissfully unable to feel the guilt of sin, who is unfamiliar with the torment of godly sorrow, is not a candidate for baptism. Sometimes we may be very sure of a child’s belief, but not as attentive to the process of repentance. An innocent child has nothing of which to repent—and, without repentance, there can be no scriptural baptism. Perhaps this lack of emphasis on repentance comes from the “ask Jesus into your heart” doctrine of denominations around us. It seems so simple and child-like to “ask Jesus into your heart.” And we hear of four and five and six-year-olds all the time who are “asking Jesus into their hearts” in denominational families around us. But may I suggest that there is a world of difference between “asking Jesus into your heart” in that denominational sense and in having sins washed away in the blood of the Lamb? While we do not want our children to wander into the life of the prodigal son in the far away land before baptism, we must also be aware that accountability for sin is required before repentance and baptism are needed. Knowing exactly when that accountability and guilt is a reality in the life of a child who has always been taught about God is not always easy. But it is important to wait until there is a need for a washing before immersion takes place; otherwise the significance of the need is lost in a useless formality. It becomes “symbol without substance”.

Finally, be sure your children are hearing you pray daily for their souls. Always. Pray privately for them individually and specifically. But be sure they also hear you pray for them. When they do, you are building a trust that will help you navigate this time during which you will make the biggest decision of their eternal lives. You will be building in their minds and hearts the import of the decision well before they actually are faced with it. And that preparation will be huge in their ability to shoulder the great responsibility that comes with becoming His child. Your very parenting is a bridge over which they will easily pass as they become children of THE Parent.

One Kodak Moment

1120_john-under-deskDo people still say “That’s a Kodak moment”? More accurately today, we should probably say “That’s an Instagram moment” or “Here’s a Snapchat moment.” And, just like almost every other amenity in our world of instant gratification, the moments we capture today are far more frequent and the product of the click is far more disposable than in the Kodak days. We no longer go to the store to buy film, put the film in the camera, discriminately and frugally choose the events and  poses we snap, carefully wind the film to its non-light-sensitive end before opening the back of the camera, take the film out, go to the store again to deposit the used film, wait a few hours or a few days for developing, go back to the store to retrieve the developed pictures, excitedly go through the pictures to choose which ones we are going to keep and which snaps were wasted, and finally, purchase photo albums and/or frames for storing the photos. Folks did store them, back in the day, and now, a couple of generations later, people try to figure out who that is in the photos and, alas, when no one is sure, they, albeit with a little twinge of remorse in the overruling of some sort of familial sentimentality, throw the photos away. Digital is far more efficient and, although we haven’t gotten to the digital overruling-of-sentimentality generation just yet, clicking and moving the little arrow to discard photos into the little trash can icon may be far less painful than actually burning them in a real garbage can.  As a matter of fact, digital disposal and erasure is probably making us regret less, in general. Many of our mistakes can be clicked away and we never have to look at them again.

Kodak moments, though, in my childhood were for capturing. In one little click and flash, a parent would try to grab a smile, a wedding photographer would try to catch an emotion, a son or daughter would attempt to record wisdom in an aged parent’s face. We were really trying to get the image of love on paper. We were trying to get a very temporary expression, event or emotion to last for a long time. We wanted to “freeze” Kodak moments in time. We wanted, in short, to have memory handles for the good times in our lives.

Have you ever thought about the fact that “…when we’ve been there ten thousand years…bright shining as the sun,” our entire lives—our sojourn here on planet earth— will be something like a Kodak moment? Just a flash. Just a click. Just a tiny speck of time in an infinity of existence (James 4:14). The button is being pushed now for you. The click is occurring as you are reading. The flash is now in your eyes and what you are doing with your flash of time is forever being recorded. It is an image that will never be discarded. It will appear before God in the day of judgment and the ramifications of what’s in the picture will determine your eternity. You and I are living in the “click” right now. We will live forever and ever, but never in the all-important click again. I think a lot about what’s in my picture. Once it’s developed, it’s there forever. It’s not digital. It’s permanent. I will remember it just like the rich man remembered from torment in Luke 16.

I hope you are really living in the click. I hope you and I are not just existing. I hope we are thinking about the big picture and how it’s going to turn out. I hope we are thinking about the final image in every decision and in every circumstance. I hope we are enjoying the click, too. After all, we’re not making a thousand selfies and then discarding all the ones we don’t like. Life is just one brief exposure to the shining Son. What we do with that Light determines where we will spend eternity.

Finally, one example of a man who is enjoying the click. My husband had a minor surgery (a hernia repair) a couple of weeks ago. (I know it’s only minor when it is happening to someone else.) He didn’t really handle anesthesia very well. I should have expected that he wouldn’t. (He didn’t think he would make it home from the hospital without fainting. Earlier in the year, he asked me if I wanted to go out for Mexican food the day I came home from the hospital after a fairly major surgery…. I had a tube and a bag hanging from my throat!…) There’s just generally a big difference in the way wives and moms handle sickness and the way the men in their lives cope with it. I love that difference. It makes me feel a little bit of mental compensation for all the many areas in which he far outshines me!) You should know I love being his nurse and I am so thankful he is now back in the saddle and riding pretty hard! (He still can’t lift heavy things and I am becoming more thankful each day for all the thousands of days that he has lifted all my heavy things for me!)

Anyway, here’s his “Pollyanna”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollyanna) list written the day after he came home from this one-day procedure. I love experiencing the click with this man. I’m thankful that he plays what we call the “glad game” at every turn in our brief lives together for Him! (And besides, he makes me laugh.)

Reasons I’m happy to have had surgery on my middle:

1.  It means I still have health care.

2.  I met some gentle and friendly people who deal with people like me every work day.  Reminded me that there are some times when the warmth of kindness is medicine.

3.  I’ll never have to sit again and wonder what it feels like to wake after having an operation on my middle.  Now I know.

4.  It gave me the chance to give my sweet wife an “In sickness and in health” award. She’s wonderful.

5.  It relieves me of the temptation to use mind-altering drugs. No way.  Don’t like that feeling one bit.

6.   It gave me a memorable example of a powerful woman.  I said, “What you’re doing is making me dizzy.” She said, “You’re going to sleep now.” I don’t remember anything after that.

7.   It gave me a couple of days where no one much expected me to leave my bed.  Rest is nice.

8.   I’m reminded that we humans will endure a lot to hold on to health. Hardly any price is too high.

9.   I love my old friend, Paul, because as much teasing we trade between us, he’s the kind of man who says, “I hope you’re alright.  I’ve been praying for you.”

10.  It  gave my children the chance to let me know they think they need me. And I need them.

11.  It gave my mother the chance to show that she still thinks of me as a boy.  I rather like that.

12.  I’m enjoying the thought of just how long I can get Cindy to be at my beck and call.

Sister to Sister: Help One More Child and Get a Free DVD!

Unknown-3Sisters in the church have huge hearts! Really. They do. We all voted and shared and shared and shared for Addie Heltsley, our sweet friend with Cerebral Palsy and she, along with Elijah, won the representation of Liquid Hope as the poster children—the Children of Hope. There were women in the Bahamas, in Hawaii, in Australia and New Zealand…just women around the world who were watching the voting results and praying for Addie. See http://thecolleyhouse.org/sister-to-sister-guest-writer-sarah-heltsley-addies-mom for her mother’s heartfelt gratitude and voice of…well, it’s been overused, perhaps, but…hope. You can hear hope in her words.

And then, you amazing women started asking me “Isn’t there some way we could help the other children…the ones who didn’t win?” Of course. Some of you may have already done so, but if you would like to contribute to the nutrition of another child, simply go to this page: http://functionalformularies.com/about/child-of-hope-contest/#sthash.gfJ7sDJz.gVJq7kKf.dpbs, click on the child you would like to help and make the donation on that page. You can also donate to the general fund if you prefer. Some of the children have insurance that covers Liquid Hope, so you may want to read the stories before choosing.  As I understand it, when you donate, there’s a short form you fill out, so on that form, please put a notation that you are a member of the  church of Christ, so that, perhaps, in some time of need or crisis, the families to whom we donate will come looking for spiritual answers. All families will be notified of the source of each donation. For every one of you who donates $25.00 or more, Glenn and I would like to send a free DVD  from http://www.thecolleyhouse.org. We will even pay the shipping!

Unknown-2You can choose the “Killing of Jesus” DVD or the “Building Great Kids” DVD. Simply make your donation online at the above address, then send us an email at byhcontest@gmail.com, giving us your name, the name of the child to whom you donated (or put “general fund” if you donated there),  your postal address and which DVD you would prefer. We’ll quickly ship this to you in plenty of time for holiday giving or for your own viewing. To be eligible for the free DVD, we just ask that you make your donation of $25.00 or more and let us know via email on or before November 20th.

We hope the DVD blesses your family. We know your contributions to the children will help theirs!

p.s. Catch Caleb Colley live tonight at 7 CST discussing the Brittany Maynard physician assisted suicide case: http://www.gbntv.org.

 

Sister to Sister: Guest Writer Sarah Heltsley…Addie’s Mom!

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“IT”S BEAUTIFUL, IT’S GLORIOUS AND IT’S MIGHTY!”

As many of you know, during the month of October, lots of us rallied behind Addie Heltsley whose father is a gospel preacher in Yuba City, CA. Her mother Sarah  let us know that she was hopeful that Addie could be awarded a full year’s supply of Liquid Hope, an organic nutrition supply that would allow Addie, a sweet little girl who suffers from Cerebral Palsy to gain much needed weight and strength to survive and thrive to a greater degree than previously possible. You can read about Liquid Hope and the  Child of Hope contest here: www.functionalformularies.com  As you may have also heard, Addie was the winner, in a close race with a beautiful little boy named Elijah.

Personally, my happiness, while definitely substantive, was tempered by the sweet photos and stories of Elijah and all the other children who did not win. It was no small relief to me when I heard that Elijah would also be awarded this year’s supply of formula and that all of the children would receive a box of this liquid nutrition from Functional Formularies. Now, as Paul, would have phrased it. “My joy is full!” I believe that our rally behind Addie was at least partially responsible for the end result of the contest which was twice as good as any of us expected.

Addie Heltsley’s mom, Sarah has composed a special message for all of the Bless Your Heart readers who voted and shared and contributed to Addie as well as to  the other kids who need formula. For today, let’s share Sarah’s joy. Let’s praise our great God that we are blessed with a close fellowship in His large and amazing family worldwide. Be sure to watch for an update later this week on Bless Your Heart about how you could help another one of the families in need, how you can do this in the name of the church and to the glory of God, and how, in the process, you can receive a free “How to Raise Great Kids” DVD for you or someone on your Christmas list. So keep reading!

Sarah, a self-described introvert, admits she had a hard time pouring out her heart’s gratitude at this emotional juncture. I loved reading her sentiments. Here you go:

Hi Cindy!

I have tried to write this so many times….It’s a LOT harder than it looks. I’m a pretty introverted person so this is proving difficult to express the joy and gratitude I have for the member’s of the Lord’s family swooping down and rallying behind Addie.

Addie (Adalyn Bliss) is our 5th child. She was born at 29 weeks weighing 3lbs 6oz. in a hospital not prepared to care for such an early baby. As soon as she was born they raced her down to Sacramento to a large hospital with a NICU.

I stayed a day and a half after my C-section in the local hospital  before I insisted to leave and go see our newborn daughter. She stayed in the NICU for 8 weeks and we made the two hour trip to see her every other day.

As Addie got older we noticed she was not doing the typical baby milestones and at 13 months she had an MRI that confirmed she had Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy…a form of brain damage that affects the muscles in her body.

By 16 months we could no longer keep her weight up and the design to put in a G-Tube was made (feeding tube). The first 6 weeks was awful and I regretted doing it everyday but slowly it became normal. She gained 10lbs in her first month!!

Last year our entire family changed our out look on food…we decided that we needed to change the way we eat. I have a wheat allergy so going gluten free was an eye opener to me.

Addie stopped gaining weight on her prescription formula, she was having mood swings, constantly severely constipated, and just had no energy. She slept ALL day.

This is where I started putting two and two together about her actual nutrition and what she was “eating” thru her tube..Have you ever seen what is on a label of Pediasure?….the first 5 ingredients are all sugar based. She had been basically living off of sugar for 3 years!

I started researching other formulas to get her prescription changed to, BUT…….her Pediatric GI Doctor had retired and NO ONE to this day has been able to find us a new one. They either 1.) are not taking new patients or 2.) will not take Addie’s disability medical insurance. Her prescription to receive formula runs out when she turns 5!

I took matters into my own hands and found Functional Formularies….a TINY little company that had JUST started making REAL blended food formula that also just happened to be organic and GMO-free.

I was lucky enough to be accepted to be part of an 8 week clinical trial of their product Liquid Hope. It is just that…..hope. Every symptom Addie had from being on Pediasure vanished. She finally gained weight…I didn’t just see her tiny ribs. She was awake during the day….the screaming fits stopped. And she….(sorry TMI) had a bowel movement everyday!! That is huge for kids with CP…..it causes so many problems in their GI system. She also made HUGE gains in all of her therapies.

When I found out about the Child of Hope contest….I jumped on it! Never in my life did I think it would become this big…The other parents and I really wanted to make it easy for other children to have a choice in what they are fed. To be told that your DME (Durable Medical Equipment supplier) will never carry this product because it does not make them enough profit is OUTRAGEOUS!

I figured if we got a 1,000 votes I “might” win. Wow….It became so much larger than that! I remember the first week and we had 200 or so votes and the other children had already gone past 1,000. I honestly thought that was it. There was no way we could compete with numbers like that. I stayed the course and decided to ask a group of preachers wives to vote……Um. Yeah. They did that….and then took us under their wing and they got to WORK!!! I have never seen so such devotion to a cause to a family they do not even know and had not even met! How does one even describe seeing them work in unison?

Like a little bee hive…they all had one goal. For Addie to receive the formula we desperately needed.

We saw the numbers gain, we saw them diminish…back and forth….at one point we had 1,000 votes—only to be behind by 300 the next week. It was grueling…exhausting…so incredibly stressful and even though it wasn’t “their” fight, every day we saw more and more Christians from all over this country jump in to help this little group of preachers wives help Addie get one more vote.

We have had so many people praying for us….it’s OVERWHELMING! To show any level of gratitude would pale in comparison to the effort expended. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Over 10,000 Christians pressed the vote button for Addie, Over 10,000 people now know the struggle that parents of G-Tube fed children are going through on a daily basis, Over 10,000 people have, at the very least, had our “little” family in their thought and prayers!

Over 10,000 people made a difference this month! They made a difference not only in Addie’s life…but Elijah’s and the other 38 children life on that page! Because of you….during the contest, 4 DME’s agreed to carry Liquid Hope and 1 DME has national coverage so that kids in EVERY state will have a chance to have real food.

This is the power of the Lord’s Family….. Sometimes I think we don’t we come together as often as we should or want.

But you should see it from my seat when we do…… It’s beautiful, it’s glorious and it’s mighty.