Sister to Sister: You Can See 44 Quadrillion Miles!

(Note: Some have asked about details for the Digging Deep Israel tour.  We’ve hit a glitch in scheduling, but hopefully we will have those details in a couple of days. We’re thankful for patient friends.)

Sometimes the well is just about dry. I can’t  write a blog post because sleep deprivation has stolen what little mental capacity I had in the first place. Putting together a thought is challenging, much less transferring to the written word.  I know there are many of you who have had challenging seasons of life  and you are there with me. Well, maybe not as mentally depleted, but YOU started with a greater mental capacity BEFORE the drain. (Don’t get me wrong…I love the drain because it means I get to spend time with my father, who is 94 years old. The challenge is a privilege in the lives of my dad’s children. It’s a blessing, albeit a very depleting one.)

Allen Webster, at the Jacksonville church of Christ in Jacksonville, Alabama, yesterday, reminded us that we can see further in the darkness than we can in the daylight hours. (You can watch those lessons here and I’d recommend them: http://jvillecoc.com/sermons.) We can see the sun in the daytime, of course, and that sun is about 93 million miles away. It’s pretty impressive how far we can see when we’re looking for light. But, oh, at night!…When we are in the darkness and looking for light, we can see stars that are 7500 light years away. The star Eta Carinae is over 44,000,000,000,000,000 miles away and we can see it with the naked eye! Can you marvel with me at how much farther we can see in the darkness than we can in the daylight? 

When we look for the light that is Jesus Christ, we can often see Him better in the dark times of life. When we are looking for heaven’s hope, we see it perfunctorily in sickness, sorrow, loneliness or death. When things are going our way…when living the Christian life seems pretty easy…when we’ve “got this”, sometimes we stop looking so hard for His Will and for heaven. We pray more in the darkness. We praise more in the darkness. We study more in the darkness and we see the needs of those around us more when we experience need ourselves. 

One more thing about challenging times: This week I received some very vitriolic messages from a friend who just can’t stand this blog or the things I write and teach. I mean she really hates them. Perhaps she is right in some of her judgments. But the point I want to make is not about who is right. The exchange just got me thinking…this: 

We should all be careful about the tone with which we approach each other with criticism or confrontation. I, Cindy Colley, should be always careful about HOW I say the things I say, especially when they are things with which many will vehemently disagree. You never know exactly what kind of day or week your adversary may have had. You may be unaware of personal challenges she may be encountering. She could be in the darkness, looking for light at the end of her tunnel. While we may be forced to express oppositional views, let’s give each other grace. Let’s put words and actions on the parts of those with whom we disagree in the best possible light, even assuming their paths may be difficult at the moment. I may be able to  help someone to heaven without blurting out that she is headed for hell at the get-go. I can help someone have a cool head, but not if I’m biting off said head. I can help someone know truth, but not if I know-it-ALL. There’s righteous judgment to be made, of course, and I must be discerning. But putting myself in the shoes, for a moment, of the one I’m addressing, will help me speak with the tone that will be most likely to truly help toward heaven. In short, I must WANT to sit down beside her around the throne and every communication must be toward that eternal end. 

Sister to Sister: Still Using a Little Dixie Cup?


Looking at all of this water as I sit here watching the waves roll in on this beautiful Alabama Gulf shoreline brings to mind my two-year-old grandson, Ezra. It was a painstaking task for such a little one who  loves splashing in a puddle even more than I love putting my toes in this deep and expansive one.  But he was determined to make his own puddle for splashing in my bathroom floor with a dixie cup and a tiny stream of water running in my bathroom sink. I saw him pour the meager ounce of water on the hardwood and I asked him “Ezra, why on earth are you pouring water in Mammy’s floor?” 

“I make a puddle. I can spwash.”

“Well, you may NOT make a puddle in the floor, but you are welcome to make one in the bathtub, if you like.”

He smiled broadly. That was even better! He would get to carry the water in his little Dixie cup, that with each fill held a little less of its shape and got a little more crumpled. Tirelessly, he went back and forth from the sink to the tub, pouring his little purple and yellow cup half-full of water into the big garden tub, barely even making a wet spot for jumping. In truth, he was spilling more on the floor en route than he was collecting in the tub. 

It occurred to me that we, finite little creatures in the workings of an awesome God, are a lot like Ezra. We keep doing the same futile things over and over again, trying to make our own “puddles”. We painstakingly try to collect the things that will make for happiness in the end. We often spill and make messes in the process and what we ultimately accomplish is  small and temporal. We fail to realize that we have a Helper, who could give us unbelievably effective and permanent results if only we would come to know His ways for our lives.

See, Ezra didn’t think about the fact that there was a big and powerful source of water in the spout of that tub. What would come out of that waterspout, if I but turned a lever for him, would fill up his tiny Dixie cup hundreds of times without the trip he was making back and forth. In fact, he would not even need the crumpling cup. There would never be a mess on the floor and the danger of him slipping in that mess would never threaten. Not only that, but there’s a stopper in the bottom of that tub. With the turn of a big knob, I could plug that reservoir up, so that none of the water would be wasted. None of that big stream of water would go down the drain where his little trickle of a puddle of water had been slowly disappearing. All of the resources were there for Ezra to not only jump in a “puddle” and have a splashing good time, but there was enough ingenuity there for his little Scuffy tugboat to sail or even for him to have a heated sauna swim, had he preferred, as I would have if I were his two-year-old size. 

Sometimes the blessings and opportunities are all around us, but we keep carrying the Dixie cup, spilling the contents along the way and processing through the same futile routines over and over again. We think we can work our way to desired goals only to find out in the end that our dreams are disappearing down the huge drain that only our God can plug. He has every resource we need to achieve what really will make us happy and fulfilled, but we fail to investigate His Will. We fail to ask for His wisdom. We fail to understand fully His resourcefulness. He controls all the levers and knobs and he freely offers His limitless capability for our ultimate progress and benefit. But often, like Ezra, we just go on about our vain tasks with impotent precision, expending life’s time and energy in fruitless pursuits. (In this case, it was profitable for me to allow Ezra to be “entertained” for a while before I showed him the “puddle” I could so easily make for him. See, I needed to dry my hair and put on my make-up. But God is never too busy to turn on the living water for those who are seeking it [John4:10].)

I know many people who have thrown away the Dixie cup and turned on the waterspout. Can I help you know His will for your life? You can stop living small and messy and start basking in His spiritual abundance!

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. (Ecc. 2:11)

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc. 12:13)

Sister to Sister: It’s about the Overtime

I don’t know a lot about NFL football. I was not even present for the first three quarters of that game last night. Even after I got my father situated at the end of the third in front of the TV, got the babies changed and pajama-ed after worship, got everyone a piece of pizza and had a prayer, I could not have told you the score. But the momentum of that fourth quarter was enough to move even the most lukewarm easy chair observer. 

But this Falcons-Patriots fifty-first Super Bowl match-up was, in one sense, the most exciting of all Super Bowl games because it went into overtime. Never before has a Super Bowl game gone into overtime. And this overtime proved to be the undoing of a team that had kept the lead for about 59 of the previous 60 minutes, at one time having led by 25 points.

The thing that always strikes me about overtime is the fact that it is a brand new fresh start. Both teams begin again, just as at the initial toss of the coin…on level ground with an even score, the same number of time outs and the same luck of the toss. All interceptions, errors, fumbles and missed kicks are erased. From many perspectives, it’s just as if the four previous hard-played quarters never even occurred. 

That’s what life is like for Christians. We live in overtime. All the mistakes and interceptions and fumbles of the past life of sin are erased when we come out of the waters of baptism. We begin again with a brand new chance to finish strong. No matter that we spent three quarters lagging terribly behind in the devil’s territory. No matter that we allowed more points than we ever should have given up to the opposition. No matter than we lost a lot of opportunities and allowed strong opponents to run right over us. No matter that we let a lot of mentors and supporters down. We get to start all over again and what matters is not the last four quarters of squandered chances. The only thing that counts now is what we do with the overtime. 

I’m not so big on NFL ball. I’m glad the Pats won. I was pulling for them because my son’s a fan.  But I’m very big on the extension that we have in Jesus after the buzzer. Unlike the Patriots, we could never deserve a second chance. We’ve failed miserably and we cannot recover by playing hard and tying up the game. The blood of Jesus offered at Calvary evens the score. It gives us hope of winning once again. And the prize is not a trophy, fame, money or a place in the hall of fame. The prize is eternal life. It’s a prize, unlike the Super Bowl championship, that will be of ultimate importance a hundred years from now and, from hence, throughout a timeless state of existence.  

For Tom Brady, I know it was important to forget the previous sixty minutes and view the next few seconds of overtime as simply “all that mattered”. For me, it’s important to remember what God has forgotten. He’s  forgotten all my sins and iniquities to remember them no more (Hebrews 10:17).  Paul thought about His overtime reprieve this way in Philippians 3:13,14:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Sister to Sister: Water, Bread and Meat

This week at the Colley house, we have been without internet. My husband started digging on Sunday afternoon to repair an underground water pipe that was leaking and he dug right through our internet cable. At our house, there is no television cable or dish, so the sole source of information/ entertainment/communication this week has been our two little iPhones. That means there’s been no printing at all and all of this in a week when we have Ezra, our grandson who is a bit of an avid  Sesame Street and Peppa the Pig fan. Add to that it was scheduled to ne  a week of some pretty intense problem-solving meetings via Skype and Facebook and messaging. Worst of all, it’s PODCAST WEEK! The most interesting caveat is that the podcast this week is all about the consequences of  murmuring. Yes, the study is about some people who got in some pretty big trouble for complaining about that manna in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. I keep thinking, “You know, if those Israelites who were smitten with death by poison because they murmured could have enjoyed one percent of the luxuries I’ve enjoyed this week, they would have been wide-eyed with wonder in the wilderness!” Add to that the practical challenge of this month’s study, which is to make it through one day without verbalizing a single negative thought and I am a pretty delinquent Digger, for sure!

I love the passages of the study this month. They are rich with practical lessons. As I write, we are three hours till live podcast. There’s a make-shift tent in my living room covering a toy-strewn floor. A chubby-faced two-year-old sits beside me eating dry cereal in my bed. Tiny  crumbs are sprinkled on the brown sheet. I was already having trouble sleeping this week because I accidentally left my pillow…MY personal only-one-that’s-comfortable pillow. There’s been a mountain of laundry on the guest bed all week. There’s a huge pile of mending waiting for any day with a few extra minutes. There a dress that was supposed to be for Colleyanna’s Christmas that remains unfinished and she is quickly outgrowing it. I’m supposed to have a gallon of chili made by tomorrow for a benefit for Freed Hardeman University and I have not even purchased the ingredients yet. There are people in the cabin who have also lost their water and their internet in the all of the digging. Ezra ran in the study and interrupted a very serious counseling session Glenn was doing this morning. He poured two gallons of water out of the bathtub this afternoon and stuffed something unidentifiable up the spout of the tub.  A long list of correspondence and thank-you notes await me and there is no current means to catch up. There are still some Christmas decorations up in some of the rooms in my house and tomorrow it’s February. There is a large pile of unpacked luggage in my bedroom floor from two trips by two different people. And there is a little boy who is inviting me earnestly into his tent to “play cars” this very minute. Did my husband ask me this week if I wanted to travel to Chattanooga with him yesterday and pick up a purchase he made at an antique auction and stop on the way home for ice cream? I thought I heard that.

You know where this is going. You know because you live like this, too. Oh, you may not be living quite this frenzied this week, but you’ve had a week or two like this. And some of you are currently living crazier. But you’ve had meat to eat this week IF you wanted it. The Israelites were homeless people in the wilderness with very little variety in diet and a lot of enemies ahead to defeat. Their children did not have cribs and nurseries and their elderly did not have eldercare. They were tired from slavery and intimidated by strong nations. But still, they had a God who was providing their every need and did not take kindly to their disbelief and strife. He loathed their grumbling and punished them mightily for it. 

So here’s the list you knew I was getting to:

  1. There are 4500, more-or-less, women who are interested in the study that drives me bonkers as I try to keep up every month and it’s a study about the ransom that’s been paid for all of us. How encouraging! A bunch of those women have recently sent heartfelt notes of encouragement. I’m blessed way beyond what I could ask or imagine.
  2. We have the technology to study together thanks to wonderful elders at West Huntsville and we have Jennifer Benavides and Mike Deasy who know how to make it work for us.
  3. I have a living room for a tent instead of a tent for a living room.
  4. I have a bed with linens on it and a sweet two-year-old who loves to be there with me. 
  5. He’s chubby. His ribs have lots of flesh on them.
  6. I have a pillow and I can sleep in peace and His assurance when it’s under my head.
  7. I have a guest bed and I have clothes (even enough to make a mountain and even enough to be clothed while there’s another pile waiting to be mended and two more piles simultaneously in pieces of luggage.)
  8. I have a sewing machine (and lots of other machines).
  9. I have a granddaughter who is healthy and growing, even faster than I can sew.
  10. I have enough money to purchase food to share.
  11. I have the room for company and sweet company for the room.
  12. I have a husband who helps people with serious sinful addictions instead of the other way around.
  13. All I had to do to get the running water was unclog the spout; not strike the rock or walk to the outskirts of a city as was the case in our studies this month.
  14. We have a little cable that brings the world to our fingertips.
  15. I have lots of generous family in Him to whom I owe multiple notes of gratitude.
  16. I have reminders of a wonderful time of holiday joy with family.
  17. I have a husband who likes to buy me ice cream.

I am on my way to the promised land. He is fighting my battles and providing for all of my needs. He is my rock in the desert (I Cor. 10:2-4). How dare I murmur! He is my water (John 4) and my bread and my meat (John 6). He is my all in all. 

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. 

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!)