Sister to Sister: But, Why?

imagesIt was a great to be with so many last night via the Digging Deep podcast. We kicked off our year-long prayer study. It’s still not too late to invite friends to join us. The study group is a great tool for evangelism as well as personal growth. One of the features that many women like is that it really does allow you to go at your own pace, do what you can when you can and even relax if you fall behind or have to take a break along the way.

Last night we talked a bit about questioning God. There were several of our characters in the study who did just that. Abraham did it in Genesis 15, verses 2 and 8. Moses did it on several occasions (Exodus 5:22; Exodus 32:11; Num. 11:11). Job did it in chapters 40 and 42 and Rebekah did it in Genesis 25:22. Jesus even asked the question “Why?” in a wondrous fulfillment of prophecy as he hung on the cross (Psalm 22:1; Mark 15:34).

As we discussed our own prayers, we concluded that most of us have asked God questions in prayer. Two major categories of questions arose from your comments: (1.) We ask God HOW. How can I handle this situation? How can I be more godly in this strife? How can I please you as I meet this challenge? (2.) We ask God WHY. Why am I going through this most difficult trial? Why do I have to sorrow? Why can’t  I have a better circumstance at this point in my life? Why is this very hard command imposed upon my will?

I think we’d all agree that asking God HOW (i.e. for wisdom and maturity in handling our life’s trials and situations) is a good thing.  But, is it a good thing to ask WHY? I think it all depends on what we really want to know. Let me explain.

When I ask my child to do something and she responds with “Why?”, that is generally unacceptable. Oh, I know that it’s a good thing to put reasoning skills and rationales in the minds of our children as we go along, but there’s a lot to be said for the unquestioning respect of authority. I remember my mother putting it this way, “Obey first and ask questions later.” That advice is sound if the command is to get out of the middle of the street, buckle your seat belt, or stop talking during services. Perhaps retrospectively asking why is even a great learning experience. But, in the moment of decision, children must obey without questioning the reason. (That’s the reason, by the way, that counting to our children to give them “extra chances” to obey is not a wise idea. Often there is just no time for counting and you want your children to be conditioned to obey immediately every time.)

So it is with the commands of our God. Asking why baptism is commanded for salvation or why singing is the prescribed music form in worship or why we must withdraw fellowship in cases of blatant sin in the body is a child-like form of resistance to the ultimate Authority and it is not representative of a heart that has truly submitted to God, even when that heart and life may appear to be sacrificial and pious to men. “Behold to OBEY is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22—another passage that I heard from my mother about a bajillion times whenever I made excuses for disobedience).

But, on the other hand, I can ask why. If I truly want to find and fully take advantage of the heavenly purpose for situations, trials and sorrows in my sojourn on this planet, asking why is a very spiritually healthy thing to do. See, I really mean one of two things when I ask God why I lost this job? I mean “God, I am disappointed that you didn’t bless me as I thought you should and I am not happy with the way this is turning out!” or I mean “God, this circumstance is uncomfortable and I do not yet know what you are teaching me through it, but I want you to use this loss to fit me for heaven. Father, truly teach me why.” There is a vast difference between the two ‘whys”. When I become impatient with God, It usually comes out “Why is this happening to me? Why couldn’t it be someone else?” When I truly want to know his will and purpose in events and circumstances, the question is “Why NOT me? Let me be the one who learns and grows even from the difficult turns of events in this short life on earth. Whatever the pain, whatever the loss, whatever the burden, whatever the cross…if there is a straight shot to faith and heaven (or even a crooked and narrow one) through the trial, then ‘it is well with my soul.’”

Asking why is for the spiritually immature. But asking why is for the spiritually mature. Asking why either challenges God or it challenges me. It all depends on what I mean when I ask God “Why?”. Today, may I ask the “why” that helps me see heaven through the eye of faith.

Sister to Sister: Thoughts from Ezra’s Pew

DSC_0042I’m soon going to switch gears and stop being so mono-themed in the “Bless Your Heart Blog”. I’m going to travel back to Huntsville in a couple of days and quickly get on a plane to Dallas to go and be with the sisters at Farmersville, Texas next weekend. (Looking forward to that!) I am going to put Ezra in his mothers arms, kiss his cheek one final time and leave Montgomery, Alabama and see if I can live without him (for a few days).

But I’m not there yet. Yesterday, as I sat on the pew with Ezra for his first ever worship service, I became keenly aware of the eternality of the little soul beside me. The first congregational hymn sung in his hearing was a clarion call for his newborn life in the service of our king:

“There is much to do. There’s work on every hand.

Hark, the cry for help comes ringing through the land.

Jesus calls for reapers. I must active be.

Ready at thy bidding, here am I. Send me

Here am I. Lord, send Me

Ready at They bidding. Lord, send Me.

I realized that, while Ezra was born into a family of people who are trying every day to be about that mission, one day he will have to make his own choice about his life’s work. One day he will not be strapped into a carseat and carried to services. One day he will not be forced to hear his father preach each Sunday. As His daddy preached yesterday about the identity of the new Testament church, I realized that little Ezra will one day choose whether to become a member of the church, the body of Christ; and that, should he choose to be a Christian, he will face persecution for that choice, just as has every generation of believers. All, including Ezra, of those who live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12). But I believe Ezra may face persecution like my generation has not seen if he should decide to be a brave soldier in the Lord’s army.

Still, I pray he will. I pray that he will have the chance to face ridicule for a decision he makes one day for the Lord, so that his spiritual muscles will develop. I pray that he might get the short end of the financial stick one day because he will choose to be ethically righteous rather than covetous. I pray that he will miss some ballgames, concerts and business meetings because he will be saying “Here am I. Send me.” I pray that he will be excluded from some groups of his peers because he chooses to abstain from the works of the flesh in which they are engaging. I pray that He will have some chances, every now and then, to stand alone for truth…because it is, ironically, when you stand alone, that you realize that Someone divine is right there with you. I pray that there will come a day when he will marry a woman who wears the meek and quiet spirit—a girl who is willing to fully submit to Ezra, a man of God, as he leads her heavenward. I pray that there will come from that sweet union yet another generation of soldiers who are willing to make sacrifices and pay a price—the ultimate price, if necessary—for His kingdom.

Why is it that a grandmother would pray for her sweet grandson a life filled with uncomfortable situations and remarkable challenges? The answer is in that little word “life”. The measure of Ezra’s greatness does not fully lie within the life of challenges and persecutions and difficult choices. The ultimate measure of his greatness finds its zenith around the throne in the next life. Will Ezra be there? He will be there if he wants to be. If Ezra Lee Giselbach is willing to one day say, “Here am I. Send me,” …if he is willing to spend the short lifetime in the going…then he can have the eternal life in a place where ridicule, persecution, loneliness and exclusion are forever absent.

Why would a grandmother wish and pray this life for her sweet grandson? The real answer is profound in its simplicity. It’s found in the words to the closing hymn of baby Ezra’s first service. May the words of this sweet song be the motivation behind his service for all of his days, for without this truth, all of life is vain.

Jesus loves me. This I know.

For the Bible tells me so.

Sister to Sister: Willie Robertson and Left Behind

10679070_700530216680305_700528176680509_35246_2632_tI suppose it’s time for members of the body to once again run the old and false doctrine of premillennialism up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes. I am saddened by and afraid of the influence of  Willie Robertson, producer of the new Left Behind movie that premieres October 3rd. Here he is:

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Perhaps the reason that believers have shared the accounts of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark and Jonah and the Whale with their children without talking about the rapture is because the Bible does not speak of “the rapture”. It certainly does not speak of anyone “vanishing into thin air” on the last day and it does not speak of anyone being “left behind” on this earth. The factual prophecy of the last day includes the faithful meeting the Lord in the air (I Thess. 4:16-18) and the earth and all of its elements melting with fervent heat (II Peter 3:10-12). It speaks of those who have rejected the Savior being divided from those who have obeyed and all of both groups being judged simultaneously and, thus, entering into their eternal places of torment or bliss (hell or heaven) directly following that great judgment (Matthew 25:32-33).The “Left Behind” fantasy is just that.

I have hated, for the past couple of years, to see our brethren clamor after the Robertsons because I kept seeing evidences that they were compromising the moral and spiritual truths in the Word (thecolleyhouse.org/duck-dynasty-a-clear-call). I do not believe they have represented New Testament Christianity, the church of Christ, in a good way. God has called us to be holy and the promotion of drinking and selling alcohol, the opening of casinos, the acceptance of dancing and immodesty, the use of euphemisms, and the full cooperation with denominations is not a picture of sanctification.

But this new and blatant promotion of premillennialism surely will cause members of the body to take pause. Surely we will stop inviting Willie Robertson to our congregations to speak on spiritual topics. Surely we will stop encouraging our teens to put him on the pedestals of their impressionable minds. Surely we will concede that, while there may be some entertainment value in the Dynasty, the danger of selling premillennialism in wholesale and Hollywood fashion, outruns any positive effect that Willie might be wielding. This very bold and public denial of Biblical truth puts Willie in the category of false teachers of whom we must beware (II Peter 2:1).

Christians should study up on what the New Testament plainly teaches about the judgement day. Opportunities will be presented among our friends who go see the movie. We should be ready to teach the truth about the judgement of God in love. We must be sad when our brethren leave faithfulness and buy into false doctrines that will cause their souls to be lost. But we should look for the opportunities that may spring forth even from the apostasy of those who turn away. There will be many souls influenced negatively by this production. May we be on the lookout for the chance that could come from this huge undertaking of the devil to teach someone the soul-saving  truth about the last great day.

Sister to Sister: Ezra Lee!

DSC_0269Ezra Lee Giselbach met the people who’ve been loving him to the moon and back last Thursday at 11:45 am after a long night and morning of delaying his debut. He weighed 10 pounds and an ounce and he’s 20 inches. Yes, he was the “biggest” star on the baby wing for that week. He also, according to the nurse, claimed the record for the most visited baby in any recent history in that hospital. Just so blessed is what we are…just so over-the-top blessed.

Congratulations to Michelle Weaver, who wins the basket of parenting goodies from The Colley House for guessing the birth stats of Baby G. Now there were lots of entries and some very close competition, so we had to weigh some of the stats a little more heavily to determine a winner. First of all, any entry that did not include all four stats was disqualified. Next, those who were late were thrown out (those submitted past noon on 9/13). Next we picked out those who had selected the right date (the big birthdate stat that will follow him through life on official documents).  Then we leaned heavily on weight. Since the odds (when comparing all newborns) were against his heavy weight, we thought anyone guessing a heavier weight on the right date would be a pretty good guesser. The length and time would have been used for tie-breakers. Michelle was the guesser who had the right date AND the heaviest weight. She wins! Let me know an address, Michelle, and your package will be on it’s way. It’s valued at approximately $140.00.  (I’ll run a 40% off special for any readers who want the whole package if you email your order to byhcontest@gmail.com within the next week. Don’t buy it online. Just say you want the Baby Ezra special!) That would be all eleven products (that’s 11 Christmas or baby gifts) for $84.00.

Ezra has made many friends already and his very presence has graced me with lots of opportunities to serve. There’s always a list of jobs waiting at the Giselbach home, where I am visiting now…fun jobs like listening to what Ezra wants to tell me and then the less fun, but necessary jobs like cooking and cleaning, unpacking boxes, nursery modifications and making bows for the front door. (Okay, it’s all fun, but the direct contact with my Ezra is THE best. Sometimes, if his tummy is all full, he comes to sleep in MY bed!) Opportunities for writing are not really part of the picture right now, so I won’t…except to say that I thought I was excited to be Baby G’s grandmother BEFORE that amazing little boy looked in my eyes. But I did not even yet know what I was talking about. There is something very special about gathering with your family in a hospital room, thanking God for the safe delivery and perfect form of your daughter’s son. There is something profound and life-altering about pleading with THE Father for wisdom in directing that little baby’s soul to the throne. Every life-changing event  is just intense and far-reaching for those families whose affections are around that throne. Life must be conversely shallow for those who are all wrapped up in the here and now. I want Ezra’s little life to be totally engulfed in the cause, immersed in the hope and directed in the Word. I want this for all of my future grandchildren. It’s funny how the tiniest soul can waltz into your life and exponentially increase your longing for heaven. Ezra is God’s heritage. May Hannah and Ben and all of those who influence Him protect the sweet heritage. May he be the first arrow in a quiver full!

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“This is kind of a large number of people in this room with a bunch of high expectations for a five minute old !”

Here are some of my favorite pictures of Ezra Lee Giselbach: (And yes, If you see me in person, I will carry out the duty of all good grandmothers and show you some more. That used to be kind of rude behavior, but the culture is changing.)

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“And everybody I meet is a preacher. I guess all my Sundays will be taken.”

 

 

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“I mean EVERYbody.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kickin' back...

. “Kickin’ back…after a few hours in the real world”

 

 

 

 

"...the place I love to be"

“…the place I love to be”

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“Papa Colley is ‘over the moon’  about my red hair.”

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Hanging out with the guys.

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“I like her the best.”

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Dressing up to go home in Uncle Caleb's shoes.

Dressing up to go home in Uncle Caleb’s shoes.

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“…and this is Uncle Caleb’s outfit, too.”

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Finally home in my own bed.

Finally home in my own bed.

My first sermon. Watching Papa preach "What I want Ezra to know," via www.westhuntsville.org.

My first sermon. Watching Papa preach “What I want Ezra to know,” via www.westhuntsville.org.

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“Now, what sorts of things should I do while my parents are asleep?”

 

 

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Sister to Sister: Baby G…for Joy that a Man is Born

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In the hospital hallway just now, while waiting for a procedure to be completed, so I could re-enter room 9, I read a couple of crowded bulletin boards…completely. Anything for a diversion. I walked down a hallway a couple of times. I talked about trivia with my son-in-law. I chatted momentarily with a physician. I noticed that people had stopped saying “Good evening,” and had started saying “Good morning.” The night was fast passing. I did not want to think about the pain that was occurring in room 9. The procedure should have been routine with minimal pain, but a slight complication made it long and laborious and pretty painful.  I finally commented to Ben, “I cannot believe this is taking so long.”

But you know how the child-birthing nights are passed. Anticipation is the mode of operation.  Hope is the victory. The intensity of every pain, every contraction, every dreaded procedure, every injection is eclipsed by what you are  anticipating….You are going to have a baby when you leave that place. Right now is not what this is about. This is about a sweet reward. This is about tomorrow.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you (John 16:20-22).

There is a spiritual sense in which our God labored in the birth of the church. He suffered anguish at Calvary to bring us the joy of redemption. His disciples shared the sorrow as they kept the vigil of persecution and sorrow in the leaving of the man-Christ and the infancy of the body of Christ on earth, the church. It was a long night of anguish between the time when Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem and the time when Paul could write that the gospel had been preached to every creature (Colossians 1:23).

Jesus bore the suffering for the joy. That’s what Hannah has done through this long night. The sun is coming up outside this hospital window and we, like the others on this hall who have labored through the night, are excited about the possibility that this may be the morning of joy. It is to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly more than we ask or desire that we look this morning (Eph. 3:20). We see His new mercies this and every morning (Lamentations 3:23). May the man child that is born of this travail ever bring Him glory and honor.

 

Sister to Sister: An “Aunt Clara” Day

images-17Yesterday it was my privilege to speak to sisters at the East Main church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It was one of the best planned days of which I’ve ever been a part. Those ladies had anticipated just about every possible scenario and each transition had been carefully organized. I have never seen a smoother ladies event. There were 60 churches from four states represented.

I almost wished they could have had some trouble with the power point or with the sound system. Maybe they could have at least pitched a song too high or run out of food or something— because their perfection was a stark contrast to my repeated and public blunders throughout the day.

First I came in with two purses, one on each shoulder. Now one of those purses was the little striped purse that pretty much matched what I was wearing—the one that’s cute, but can’t possibly hold all the stuff that I need to take on a road trip. That’s the one I meant to bring in the building with me. But, in my preoccupation with getting my books and props in, I somehow  grabbed both the little striped purse AND the very big, very old, very full blue and purple paisley bag that definitely clashed with the grey and beige ensemble. Those two clashing  bags made their way through a lot of meeting and greeting as this “bag lady” proceeded through that wonderful group of women.

Then as I got up to speak, I somehow got that ear-wired microphone thing on backwards, so that, instead of being in front of my right cheek, that microphone was on the back of my neck. Having remedied that, at last, it was only a few more minutes before the whole microphone apparatus fell crashing to the floor, taking with it one of my dangle earrings, which bounced and rolled toward the right aisle.

Having received instructions to meet some ladies at a side exit following the third presentation, so that I could reach the fellowship hall before the crowd, so as to give me a little prep time for the upcoming Q and A session, I followed them to a large stairway, where I promptly dropped my purse (the striped one) which had become entangled in my microphone cord. The microphone dangled and fell, too. Then, while a sweet young sister was helping me get untangled, I also proceeded to drop my Bible which went flip-flopping down the stairs as papers fell from it and scattered all up and down the stairs.

The sweet girls helped me get it all picked up, proceeded to help me get some food and took me to the elders’ office (where my laptop had been placed so that I could take a few minutes to look over some notes)…This is where I spilled a big cup of lemonade and ice all over the elders’ desk and its accompanying notes and materials, and all over the carpeted floor.

And in that very office is where I accidentally left my laptop as I drove off a few hours later.

And finally, on the way home, I got into fairly familiar territory, and began ignoring the voice on my GPS, in deference to those phone calls I needed to return.  I got into a conversation with my sweet mother-in-law about my sweet Baby G and, before I knew it, about 15 minutes later, I realized I was revisiting every scene I had passed 30 minutes prior. Sweet Baby G had just waltzed into my mind again and taken all of my sense of direction and logic away.

I felt like Aunt Clara. Does anybody remember that bungling, stuttering old woman from the 1960’s-70’s “Bewitched” sit-com? That’s who I was yesterday! The harder I tried to be  dignified and poised, the klutzier I became. The greater my determination to be productive, the more directionless.

Some days are like that. Here are some lessons that I need to learn from my “Aunt Clara” days which may possibly become more frequent as I embark on grandmother-hood (but let’s hope not—three out of every five is enough, already).

  1. Sweet sisters do not look at “bag ladies” and say “You sit down by my footstool.” They hug you and welcome you and, instead, say “You sit here in a good place” (James 2). And that’s a good thing.
  2. Fashion is far less important than getting the Word out there. (You can let the earring go ahead and bounce down the aisle, but you have got to get that microphone off the back of your neck and in front of your mouth.) The ladies at East Main were on target with getting the Word out. Five lessons in one short day on the things in our culture that are “all mixed up” was a Word-dissemination marathon! I loved it! We should all be on target about getting the Word in the “microphones” of our lives!
  3. Don’t use your Bible for a purse or a filing cabinet. My husband has said that many times to me. On that stairway, I wished I’d listened.
  4. If you are having an “Aunt Clara” day, choose water. It’s better for you on any day, but but if you are pretty sure you’ll spill it, it’s the best choice. (And always, ALWAYS choose THE water [Revelation 21:6] It’s the remedy for ALL life’s biggest messes.)
  5. Always re-visit every room you have visited before leaving a place and scan for lost items. That rule, applied diligently, could have saved a nice belt, a phone cord, and a diamond ring for me this year. But those are just things. Most importantly, before leaving the planet earth, we should all be revisiting our places of influence, constantly scanning for lost people and diligently trying to retrieve them for eternity.
  6. Don’t allow distractions to outdo directions. It’s just a very common spiritual mistake that we make. We start listening to the wrong conversation. We start allowing our minds to get fully engaged in what’s happening here and now and forget where we are going. We listen to the phone rather than the GPS. We start traveling away from the target destination of heaven rather than toward it (Colossians 3:2).
  7. If you are going to have one of those days, it’s nice to be on theme. At least the ladies day theme was “All Mixed Up”!

Have a great and focused day for Him!