Colleyanna Mae Giselbach!!…9 lbs, 5 oz…9-1-16…6:21a.m.

14202669_10154648225322446_6950069074743094361_nDear Colleyanna, 

First of all, let me just say that that’s a very big name for such a small soul. Maybe your middle name, Mae, is  the more appropriate size for someone who tallies up more toes than pounds. Maybe Colleyanna Mae, especially when paired with Giselbach will fill up two whole lines when you get to kindergarten…that’s IF you can remember all the letters in the right order. It’s a mouthful for your brother Ezra, but he can say “my baby” just fine and he loves to hold you in his “wap.” it’s sweetness when you think about the Colley part. That part of the name is the part I really wanted to wear when I married your Papa, who is protective of his family, brave and faithful to our God. He preaches the gospel, as does his father and as his grandfather did. He gave that sterling name, Colley, to your mother. I’m glad she wanted to give it to you, because sharing a name is a special kind of bond. You and I are both Colleys!

Anna. Anna was a proclaimer of that wonderful gospel, too. In fact, the Good Book says that she stayed in the temple and spoke of God to all who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem. That’s in Luke 2. I hope you will be an “Anna” who will devote all of her days to speaking to people who are looking for the Redeemer. You are so tiny, but remember, Moses was just a baby in that little basket in the river when God fished him out for the purpose of saving Israel. You, too, can take the message of redemption.

Mae. Mae was your father’s grandmother. It was actually Jenet Garner’s middle name. Now it is your middle name.  A faithful preacher’s wife, the original middle-named-Mae influenced many people to be, simply and only New Testament Christians. She did it through hospitality, service, home Bible studies, mission travels, genuine friendship evangelism and through her children.  This woman of God died just a few weeks before you were born, but she already loved you and smiled sweetly just a few hours before her death when she learned you would wear her name.  She asked her family to gather around her bedside and sing her favorite hymns as she traveled with the angels from this life to the next. God granted her this moment just as she had wished. Then he granted her someone to carry a part of her sweet name through another life cycle.We are glad that’s you. 

Giselbach. That’s the name your Daddy gives you now. It’s the name that ties your little family together. It’s the one you will one day call your maiden name. It’s the one you will exchange when your daddy walks you down that aisle one day. Treasure the wearing while you can.  Your Giselbach father and  grandfather are faithful proclaimers of the Word, too. 

As I write, you are not yet 24 hours old, but, let me tell you, you stay up at night like a champ. Room 279 wins for the rowdiest night spot in the obstetrics ward. It’s now 4:20 and I think it would be a pretty big stretch to say we’ve had an hour’s sleep so far tonight—your first night outside the dark haven where God formed you.  I guess it’s been a pretty scary day for you…learning to breathe, to wear diapers, to cry, and to experience the sharp little pains of needles and the coldness of thermometers and scales. But there was one point of this day that was scary for even me. Your Papa led us all in prayer in that little hospital room just a few moments after you were born…just the six of us: both sets of your grandparents and your parents. He implored God on behalf of your soul, which is arguably the biggest part of you right now. He asked us to hep bring you to heaven with us. In this old world you entered today, that proposition is challenging and scary.

But here is what I know. In your daddy’s family there are/were at least  a half dozen gospel preachers. In your mother’s there are/were upwards of twenty. There surely should  be nothing that could stop you from knowing the gospel…the good news of redemption that Anna shared at Jerusalem. Yes….You were born into a scary place; a place where sins that I wish you would never have to hear about are celebrated. But, even in the scariest of American times, you will have the gospel which is the anchor of the soul. It’s the power of God to save (Romans 1:16). It’s the separating influence (Romans 1:1). It’s the big blessing (Romans 15:29). It’s glorious (II Cor. 4:4). It’s grace (Gal. 1:6). It’s salvation (Eph. 1:13), peace (Eph. 6:15) and promise (Eph. 3:6). It’s truth (Col. 1:5). It is your hope, Colleyanna (Colossians 1:23).                                                            

There was a lot of good news yesterday, my sweet Colleyanna. You were the best news of yesterday, to us. But what makes you such a joy to our family is that you are forever. That soul can defy the devil and give God the glory for His Good News…the gospel. The gospel is good news because it’s the answer to every scary prayer. It is all we need to have our fondest dreams come true. 

We love you Colleyanna…your pink cheeks, little blondish fuzz, your super long feet, your sweet fingers wrapped around ours and, especially the de-ja-vu of the way you look just like Ezra! You are rich already and you have brought great wealth to your Papa and me. We hope we have lots more time to make memories with you. But lots more time is nothing compared to eternity. Let’s do eternity together with all the people who prayed that scary prayer with us today. Let’s do eternity with God! 

From the Archives: A Bird in a Basket

images-1This past Saturday I spoke at a ladies seminar in the state of California. It was a great day–rewarding in lots of ways for me. It was a stormy weekend in my home state of Alabama, while sunny and calm in California. Sometimes it’s just a little serendipity when I get to slip away from the storms (in my mind and in the sky) and enjoy a space of calmness. I actually got to sit on a tiny sunny townhouse patio and visit with a sister I’d never met before. Two small birds live in a basket on that patio and I stood about two feet from Mr. or Mrs. Bird (not sure which) and clicked his/her photo. (I really wish I had brought along my Canon rather than just my cell phone.) I’m told that those birds come back each year and have begun to feel so comfortable in that basket that sits among some artificial flowers on a plant stand, that they don’t even bother to stir when people walk all around them. Before the evening was over, we had five people within a very few feet of the nest and no panic in the nest whatsoever. My host told me that one of that family of birds plucked one of those artificial flowers one year, took it around to her front yard and used it in the building of it’s own nest in a front yard tree.My host, Mrs. Maggie, knows a lot about the birds that feather that nest each year. But she cannot be sure it is the same birds year after year. She pays close attention to their patterns of nest-sitting. She knows that it is both a male and female that exchange places sitting, for she looks through her kitchen window (only a few inches away) and sees them swapping places. She knows that baby birds are born there each spring because there are a few fleeting days between the hatching and the flying when she enjoys watching them grow. All she has to do is keep putting the basket out for them year after year and they check-in as if they know their upscale room is reserved.

But did you ever think about how that God, from somewhere as far away as heaven and yet closer than that kitchen window does know whether it’s the same birds year after year? He knows whether or not the original nest sitters have survived the winter. In fact, he will know the exact moment that the bird in my photograph falls never to fly again.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father (Matthew 10:29).

The passage goes on to ask the rhetorical question: “Aren’t you more valuable than many sparrows?” God knows and cares about the nest home of those birds and its inhabitants. He knows about my home and its inhabitants, too. He knows that one day, like the sparrow I too, will fall. But I am of more value than many sparrows and I, who have never before taken wing will, on that “glad morning when this life is o’er, fly away.” Praise the God Who cares for the tiny bird in the basket, but cares infinitely more for me.

The Extraterrestrial…Really.

NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-EarthriseYesterday, I spent the morning with a group of about 100 of God’s women focused intently on the subject of prayer. I don’t know about the other ladies, but I was deeply affected. We read Harry Potter and watch Star Wars and clamor after tales that allow our minds to venture outside this box that we inhabit…the box of space and time. But we rarely appreciate the fact that there is one extra-terrestrial tale that’s not just a tale. It’s about a real place, with a real Ruler who has power and sovereignty over this universe and all that’s in it. And we are already part of that extraterrestrial world…involved enough that the Sovereign has already given the supreme sacrifice to bring us into His presence. And we can communicate with that Sovereign power; even influence His will, if we submit to His terms. It’s the most amazing concept we can ponder while still bound to this earth by gravity. And it’s real. It’s evidence-backed faith that takes us there. It’s the most authenticated book in history that reveals this other world to us. 

Today I had a chance to pray with a sister as she dropped me off at the airport. We prayed about our future ventures, especially about the venture we are both trying to accomplish, along with our families to the throne of God for eternity. Have you ever thought about the magnitude of that blessing?…I mean the sweet privilege of going in prayer, with a sister, to the throne of the Father you share…the Father who is the King of the universe?

In a few moments, I have a scheduled phone call with another sister in Christ. We will talk about the struggles and pain in her life and we will both be going before our Father’s throne with these particular sorrows. We both have the assurance that there’s somebody else, though not physically related, who shares the bond of the blood of Jesus, and who cares deeply about what’s going on in the spiritual journey of the other.

Over the weekend I promised to speak to some event directors about an internship for a young Christian sister and to recommend another sister for a scholarship. Those are small pleas to administrators for little positions and rewards. But as I left the room of sisters tonight to make the trip back to Huntsville, they promised to make requests for me to the supreme Administrator of all good gifts (James 1:17). We cannot do anything more important for each other than to plead each others’ causes before that Administrator!

Blood sisters share DNA that makes them have physical similarities because they were born of the same parents. Spiritual sisters share spiritual traits that make them alike in more important ways. They share traits that they will still be sharing in a million years, while those physical genetic tendencies will have lost all traceability. Physical kinship is tied to the genes. Spiritual kinship is tied to Jesus. The former is merely the handiwork of the latter. And yet the latter took on human DNA—had physical kin—so that I could be his spiritual kin and so that I could share that kinship with you.  He did this so that I could come boldly before the throne of grace for you and so that you could do it for me (Hebrews 4:14-16). 

I know that you already knew all of this. So did I. But meditating on it makes me love God more. It makes me appreciate the forever family more deeply. It makes me long for a time when that family will be inseparable.

Sister to Sister: Intruder in the Night

th-2Footsteps in the night. It was this last Friday night at 1:30 a.m.  Glenn had locked all the doors tightly before we retired. Something was terribly wrong. The footsteps were a bit muffled, but they were clearly the sound of a human intruder.

My heart skipped a beat as I turned to Glenn and quietly said “What WAS that?” He was already half-way over to the drawer where the pistol is kept. Rushing back over to the bedside to throw on more clothes (after all, you don’t want to be immodest when you appear before the thug who is probably going to kill you), he said, in a voice that signaled his rush of adrenalin, “It  sounds an awful lot like footsteps.  And it did…and it was still happening…and sometimes it sounded as if they were in the kitchen, right beside our bedroom door, which was already slightly ajar.

“Yes it does,” I replied, still in disbelief. I had never been afraid in this house. But this was NOT our normal autumn squirrel in the attic.

Glenn stole over to the bedroom door, and standing behind it, gun in hand, he peeked out into the kitchen. Someone was out there. Now there was no denying it. Moving shadows, shuffling, the kitchen door ajar. I heard the metal-to-metal sound as my husband pulled back the slide and threw a round into the chamber. I could not believe this was happening. The bullet was in the barrel.

In a stunned moment of panic, I said “Don’t shoot Gideon!” I mean, what IF one of those little boys who are temporarily living in our back-yard cabin had been sleep-walking or even pranking someone and had wandered into the house in the middle of the night?

Then it all happened. I was lying there replaying the last moments we had spent together through the day and thinking, “This could be for real. My husband may die. I will have to find some way to make it without him for a time. But I will see him again. ”

Glenn stepped over the threshold into the kitchen, a moment of shuffling as the gun was being raised and the perpetrator looked him in the eye. My husband’s shout was piercing. “Caleb!”…It’s you!”

Moments later, after the “Mommm!!!..Why did you not tell Dad that I was coming home tonight?”  and after we all realized that he, indeed, had told me, albeit weeks ago (and that’s way too long ago for my shorter-all the-time term memory), we crawled back into bed.

Glenn was still trembling, as he put his arms around me. “I almost shot my son. I almost shot Caleb,” he said. “I am so thankful that I paused for one split second to discern who he was. I did not know that I would do that…And those silly lights of yours in the kitchen (He was talking about rope lights that line the top of my pantries; lights that we only have because he’s conceded to the decorator in me.)…if it were not for those lights I probably would have shot before knowing it was him. I’m so glad we have those lights. Someone…no, everyone, in this house could be deeply harmed.”

“I know,”  I said…”Life, as we know it, could have been forever-and-ever irreparably changed. We are so very, very blessed…unspeakably blessed.”

Then he said this: “I just kept repeating in my mind as I stood behind that door…’There is no one who has the right to be in here. No one has my permission. No one has the right to be here.’ But, of course, I was not thinking of my son.”

Then we prayed—a deep emotional prayer of thanksgiving and praise. I cried. And somewhere in the moments just before dawn, we finally fell asleep again. I think, for me, it was around 4 a.m. Even now, 36 hours after that panicked awakening, it still does something to my body to recall it.

There are some take-aways in every painful recollection. Lest you think the lessons are about gun safety—even gun control–please know that we are extremely careful with firearms in our house and we are also pretty convinced that the world, in general, is safer, when citizens have the right to bear arms. The lessons for me are practical and spiritual truths, about which I am keenly reminded as I treasure the relationship I have with the man who will always be my child—my firstborn. I think when he walks down the aisle next month to be married I will drink a little more deeply in the joy of imagining his future and bask a little more thankfully in the realization that he and his bride will have precious time together in this venture we call “life”.

The take-aways for me:

  1. The first is the obvious one. We should all be prepared to lose our loved ones to eternity at any point in time. The part of that last phrase-“in time” is not just rhetoric. If it’s a point “in time”, it’s fleeting. It’s a point that you can identify by a date, hour, minute and second, but, by the time you do, it’s as far away as if you’d never marked it. Gone. But, when we say “a point in time” we really are deferring to eternity. Have you ever thought about the fact that there are no “points” in eternity? A realm so far beyond our grasp of imagination or reason and yet only a heartbeat away for any of us! For the Christian, that’s the adventure of living. It’s getting ready to be forever whisked out of this world and into one beyond the scope of human thought. It’s not just getting ready, but it’s also “being ready”. It’s sometimes, in the panics of life, still being able to know “It is well with my soul.”
  2. I should write things down when they are appointments I am making weeks ahead of time. (I should write things down when they are the next day.) Old people like me are not mentally invincible. Not even close. And, sometimes, that matters. (The silver cord may be snapping or the golden bowl being broken [Ecc. 12:6]) I should write things down.
  3. Pausing for discernment can be a really good thing before big irreversible decisions.
  4. Light is invaluable. It illuminates truth. If we walk in darkness, we stumble and we do not know where we are going (I John 2:10,11). We do not properly assess danger and we do not properly protect  what is good. Psalm 89:15 says “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.”  A little light in the darkness kept Glenn from pulling that trigger. It was a joyful sound when I heard him shout “Caleb!” But the illumination that comes from the light of the world keeps us from eternal hell (John 8:12). That’s real joy.
  5. The son has the right. Glenn just kept saying, “No one has the right to be in my house!” But the son had the right. Caleb has full access to us at any time—complete and absolute access. In the same way, no one has the right to the Father’s house. There is nothing I could ever do that would gain my entry into that house where there is warmth, security, peace and salvation. But the Son? He has the right. And because He is the great Intercessor, he has unlocked the doors for me (Matthew 16:15, 16). Because of the Son, I have gained entry and full access to the throne of the Father. He has the right and I am so very thankful.
  6. Thanksgiving is not the holiday of the week for the Colleys. It is the mantra of the last few days. I pray that our family will live every day in thanksgiving; not just for amazing blessings like the sparing of our son’s life in that surreal moment in the kitchen Friday night, but, most of all, for the Son, who has the right to be in the Father’s house.

 

About Those Poor Departed Souls

IMG_0756 (1)Glenn and I were rummaging through items at a yard sale in New England recently when I ran across this Purgatorian  Society certificate dated 1932. Someone actually bought this from the Catholic church during the hard days of the great depression with the full belief that membership in this society would benefit him personally as well as be of help to those “poor departed” souls in purgatory. Membership grants this certificate’s owner the right to participate in “the priceless and countless benefits of Eight High Masses offered daily in Redemptorist Churches, for the spiritual and temporal welfare of its members.” As benefactors of the Redemptorist Order, all members of the Purgatorian Society are privileged to share in the prayers and all other good works performed by the Order throughout the World.” This particular certificate was “Given at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help” in Roxbury, Massachusetts, under the “direction of the Redemptorist Fathers”, on July 15th, 1932. It was duly signed by the “Reverend Father Rector” and contained these words at the bottom: “May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

Eighty-three years after it’s first issuance, I gave two dollars for this at a yard sale. The proprietor at this yard sale was a woman who was ninety-three years old. She would have been ten years old at the time of its issuance, so it more likely belonged to a parent or grandparent. It belonged to someone who believed that in the purchase of membership in this society, the answers to  prayers of “Fathers” during eight masses each day would serve to benefit personally the owner of this certificate. The owner likely also believed that these prayers would aid in behalf of loved ones who had died and were being punished in Purgatory. The prayers of this “order” would help to shorten the time that loved ones who had died were being tormented for their sins. In all of the research that I’ve done about these societies, those suffering in Purgatory are usually referred to as the “poor departed souls.”

Several things come quickly to mind as I think about the ownership of such a certificate:

  1. The owner is deceased now and knows the reality of the permanence of the conditions of “poor departed souls”.  He would gladly give the price of tens of thousands of such certificates–yes, all that he ever had–if he could have just one chance to submit to the simple plan of the New Testament in order to be saved.
  2. The owner of the membership was content to rely on the prayers of lost men, when he could have, if he had chosen to be righteous, availed much as he, himself, talked to the Father in heaven (James 5:16).
  3. The owner of the certificate put His trust in the wrong “Father” when he purchased the document (Matthew 23:9).
  4. The certificate, once prized, has never actually been worth even the yard sale price. The frame (from a very old frame shop in Boston), that we threw away so that we could more easily ship it home, was the only thing of ANY value. In fact, the doctrine on the parchment was believed at great and eternal expense by the owner.
  5. When people in the Catholic faith, the Pentecostal faith, the Mormon faith, the Jehovah’s Witness faith– yes, any well meaning people of any faith–decide that there is more divine revelation than what we have in the Bible, there is no end to the fanciful doctrines of assurance that can be designed and believed. The authority principle (i.e from whence we derive authority for religious beliefs and practices) is a principle about which we must settle our minds in order to please God. If we decide that the New Testament is our authority for worship and practice, as it claims to be (II Timothy 3:16,17), there can be no room for men to devise alternate plans of spiritual benefit and societies to benefit “poor departed souls”. But if we do not accept it as the final authority from God, the door swings wide open for any human society, belief system, authority, and practice. Purgatory and any system of payment for “poor departed souls” is the product of a belief in continuing revelation. But then, so is the papacy, the acceptance of modern-day prophets and/or apostles, and actions based on what God “is laying on my heart” separate from the Word.

Someone, somewhere in Massachusetts took great comfort when he passed through his chamber at night upon retiring and saw the certificate guaranteeing him and his departed loved ones the benefits of eight masses each day by the Order of the Redemptorist Fathers. One night, he likely pillowed his head, never to rise again on this earth. But he still exists on the other side of time and He has tragically learned the truth about the piece of paper that I shipped home from New England.

Would you like to talk about the New Testament’s simple plan for assurance–for knowing we are saved–as we face death? I would love to talk about that with you. byhcontest@gmail.com.

Now, if you’re Digging Deep in God’s Word with us (https://www.facebook.com/groups/282349391779769/), don’t forget the podcast is tomorrow night at 7 CST right here: http://livestream.com/whcoc/for-women.

Sister to Sister: She Suffered the Little Ones to Come

Roberta-EdwardsFor years I’ve heard about the selfless actions of Roberta Edwards in behalf of souls in Haiti. I’ve always wanted to meet and know her. I guess now I will have to wait till I get to know her in heaven…a short wait, when viewed through the eyes of the great Father we share as sisters. She inspired and encouraged me, especially as I followed the story of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and her response to those for whom she had sacrificed so very much. For those who are studying persecution in our Digging Deep 2015-2016 study, she stands as a modern-day example of one who constantly rejoiced through trials and even through persecution. Her death was due to an act of violence and we may well find, upon hearing results of investigations, that it was indeed “persecution for righteousness’ sake.” Will you join me in prayer for the children she left behind, for her family members who are grieving in indescribable ways and for the work for which she paid the ultimate price? Many have clamored for various women in the Catholic church to be canonized as “saints”. My sister, Roberta IS a saint (as are you if the blood price has been applied to your soul). She is a saint who is rejoicing in glory on this autumn night. But children in Haiti are weeping. I am praying that their joy, too, will come in the morning (Psalm 30:5). If it does, it will be largely because of the work of Roberta Edwards.

Here is the report about the shooting from the good church at Estes in Henderson, TN, one of her chief supporting congregations:

Our hearts are saddened to report the death of our missionary Roberta Edwards. On Saturday evening of Oct. 10, witnesses report that Roberta’s car was stopped by another vehicle which intentionally blocked her path. Armed gunmen emerged from the vehicle and fired into Roberta’s car, causing her death. Haitian authorities are investigating, and the identity of the perpetrators and the motive are not known at this time. She is survived by her parents, Robert and Laura Edwards.

Roberta was the administrator and “Mom” at SonLight Children’s Home in Port au Prince, Haiti, where dozens of children have received foster care over the years. Roberta also directed a nutrition center that feeds 160 children two meals a day, five days a week, in addition to providing funds for these children to attend school. At the time of her death, she was providing care for 20 children at her home. Her work has been overseen by the Estes Church of Christ since 2002. The facility where the children’s home operates is provided by Manna Global Ministries, and supporters of Roberta’s work in Haiti include individuals and congregations across the U.S. and beyond.

Roberta was a light to those in the community and dedicated to bringing hope to the hopeless. She knew that she worked in a dangerous setting, but had committed herself to care for children in Haiti despite these risks. Roberta has received her reward for her dedication to serving the Lord in Haiti. She will be missed in Haiti by her children, the community and friends. She will be missed here in the States as an encouragement and inspiration to us all. It is our intention to honor her memory by continuing the battle against Satan in Haiti and pressing on in the work of God’s kingdom.

Memorial services and funeral arrangements are pending, and we will provide updates as those become available. If you would like to honor Roberta with a memorial gift for the work in Haiti, those may be sent to the Estes Church of Christ, P.O. Box 191, Henderson, TN, 38340, and her family will be notified of your tribute. Please be praying for her parents, her children at SonLight Children’s home and the many Haitian brothers and sisters who are deeply grieved by this loss.