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Faith

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Where Is Your Sting? –Part 7

 

                                            The Sting of Death Is Regret.

This is probably the toughest one for people  who are missing loved ones. You look at an old yearbook when cleaning out a bookshelf and think “Why did I not get this out while Dad was living and get him to tell me about these people he knew in college?”…”Why did I not tease Mother about her senior “ambition”: “to have a lot of money”?  Why did I not look through this box of photos with her and let her tell me who these people are? Why did I EVER think it was a chore to change a bed or wash tired feet, when it was really a blessing? Why didn’t I look around and say thank-you more often for intricate wooden toys built in that workshop, for shade trees planted or for the sewing of quilts that warm me now or for handmade dolls and dresses now being passed down to the fourth generation? Why did I not even know about this person she was trying to convert or this person for whom he bought meals or this class that he taught in his youth? I regret spending time counseling others, while at his house, when I could have been conversing with him.   

And then there are those bigger and more hurtful regrets. The times you raised your voice at a nonagenarian just because he was stubborn about doing his exercises properly or because he kept changing the water temperature in the tub when you had told him to leave it where it was…and mostly because YOU were about five nights behind on sleep. Those little things haunt you because they happened too frequently and you know you should have been kinder. You always apologized, but it’s difficult to get them out of your head. Regret is, of course, wishing you could go back and do something differently…and you can’t.

But I cannot imagine having to deal with the one huge regret as my parents left this life. If there is anyone reading who has walked away from the spiritual training your Christian parents gave to you, may I beg you to return while there is time? Even if your parents are gone from this life—even if they left this world hurting because you had walked away, there is still time to keep yourself from eternal regret. You can see them again and you can exchange regretting for rejoicing when you do. You can never go to heaven because you wanted to please your parents, but you can SURELY please them in the process of pleasing your Lord! I’m so glad for the place of reunion and rejoicing…just beyond the place where I can lay down all regret and pick up the white robe.

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Where Is Your Sting–Part 5

 

The Sting of Death is Humiliation.

While it should be often said that the sting of death is sin (I Corinthians 15:56), that sting hurts in various places in the human heart.  Sometimes a big part of the sting of death is the feeling of humiliation. It should not be this way, of course, but while I am so very thankful for those healthcare professionals upon whom we depend so heavily in times of illness, there are a relatively few  people in the healthcare industry that have yet to prioritize the good of the patient as the number one concern. Again, the majority of those who are caring for a loved one at the hospital are kind, compassionate and truly seeking the optimal good of the sick person, but not all are. Even those who are fully compassionate are often hampered by regulations of the insurance industry or of the hospital or rehab institution.

Like the primary care doctor, who after we’d made several visits to her clinic, could not recall that my father was a patient of hers when she made hospital rounds, and had not had the time, I assume, to check the records. Or the ER doctor we’d never met, who spent a good little while in the hallway of the ER attempting to talk us into stopping any aggressive treatment long before any Christian could conscientiously comply. I felt sorry for nurses who could not bring very necessary medicines to our father when he was at rehab, because they were not stocked in the pharmacy there. We had those medicines from home, right there in the drawer beside his bed, but the staff was bound, by regulation, to forbid us to administer them, even though we’d been administering them for many years. (Yes. Of course we did.) And there were therapists, who because of patient overload and restrictions by health insurance companies, were forced to be more driven by the clock than by the needs of patients.

Then in the final moments of life, it became obvious that the nursing staff had only two protocol choices: a ventilator OR medication to slow and eventually stop the heart. When we opted for neither of those, the nurse whose job it was to come in at the end of life and facilitate the peaceful passage even stated that, in her 14 years at doing “this”, she’d never seen a family who didn’t choose one or the other.  

Of course, it was not very long until our prayers were answered that night and all suffering ceased forever. I will say that I do not believe the “final-moments-nurse” had seen a family singing “Be With Me Lord” as the heart line on the monitor went flat. But that flat line was so much more than a monitor alerting us. It was the coming of angels and the eternal relief of a redeemed soul.  I believe she finally saw that it was so much more, as she looked at us in total wonder when we started that sweet chorus. 

Now, perhaps this is too much information on too difficult a topic. There are times, though, in life when I’m so affected by the words and actions of those around me who are not in the Lord, that I need to remember and reflect. Here are lessons that I learned as some (a very small percentage in the grand scheme) medical “experts” looked at me as if I had no clue about life or death or ethics or even common sense. Somehow, they made it appear humiliating to fight for the life of an aged man. It seemed when he died, on the face of it, humiliating that we had fought so hard for the life we loved and, in the end, lost that battle. But what the experts did not know, is that we won! We were able to walk away from that scenario, knowing that we had done our best every step of the way. We had maintained the standards of ethical integrity all along the journey and then, when the end came, we put His hand in the hand of Jesus without regret. We could pillow our heads and know that the real Expert was in charge now and that we could freely talk to the One who was lovingly overseeing the care of the perfectly mended one; the one we will miss for a short time and the one we will see again where there are no more tough decisions.

Lessons:

  • Sometimes it’s the people who are less clinically qualified who are the best caregivers. Those Physician”s Assistants have sometimes compensated for any letters they may lack on the ends of their names by exhibiting care and compassion. 
  • Those who study the Bible are far more qualified to define and assess ethics about medicine as it relates to life and death than are people of the world, even though the clinically qualified often do not recognize their deficiencies in these areas. Many doctors and nurses are both well-read in scripture and qualified by their secular educations. This situation is optimal. 
  • Medical professionals, apparently, rarely see families who are intimately involved in the decision-making processes of the aged. They surely seemed surprised that we would chart any sort of course on our own. I’m wondering if this typical relative lack of involvement speaks poorly of our nation’s care for its elderly, in general. 
  • It is extremely comforting to know you’ve prayed Romans 8:28 hundreds of times and what is happening in moments of crisis is a part of the “all things” of that passage. 
  • The sanctity of life can be compromised most easily in the pre-born season of life and in hospital rooms of the aged. Sometimes, those who are vocal for life at one end of the spectrum are careless with it on the other end.  
  • A clear conscience, molded by the Word and protected by His wisdom (James 1:5), is a very valuable commodity for His people at the moment of a loved one’s passage. 
  • The doctors are needed and most are compassionate. But the Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. 
Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

…And I Thought the Smile Was Just for the Camera

Tonight I get to attend the annual West Huntsville Women’s Retreat. It’s a time that yields closer relationships among sisters and it’s a spiritual focus sharpener. It’s a very temporary get-away that helps us ultimately win the eternal get-away from the sinful world. It makes us know we were meant for heaven and it makes us want to diligently set our affections there. I hope you Huntsville friends are coming!

This year, I’m especially excited that I get to hear Christian speaker/author Rebekah Colley talk about “Knowing God.” I love that she’s so knowledgeable at the very young and energetic age of 22. I love that she focuses on the Word and throws in an illustration here and there, rather than the other way around. I love that she knows Koine Greek, the language of the original New Testament. I love that I got to pick her up at the airport and spend a little time with her. And I love, love, love that she is carrying my grand baby! 

In case you missed the Facebook posts, I’m over-the-moon excited to tell you that  next July 20th is the due date for our first grandchild that will wear the last name “Colley”. If Ezra and Colleyanna have taught this grandmother anything, it’s that there is infinite love in my heart for every grandchild. I cannot wait to meet this baby that’s already very much alive and very active and already has my heart! I am not dealing as well with the eight-or- so hours that separate Huntsville from Jacksonville, Florida, where this baby has taken up residence, but I’m saving every frequent flyer mile from this Samoa trip to try and keep me… and them, frequent Florida/Alabama travelers in the future.

It was very sweet of my Rebekah to give me a family photo shoot for Christmas. I was busy, but I knew it would be worth it to pick out those clothes in the right color scheme and assemble down at the cabin. I knew I’d love the 16 x 20 canvas that Rebekah was having made for me of my favorite photo from the session. The photographer came over to shoot the photos. We posed and posed on that porch and then we rearranged and posed some more. We moved to other spots. We bribed Ezra and Colleyanna to be patient and keep smiling.  We held them for some of the shots and then put them down for others. Ezra even managed to get on Ben’s shoulders for a few of the shots. We moved back to the porch again. Then, as the camera  was just clicking away, Caleb just casually (and out of the blue) said “We’re having a baby.” 

I know you’re thinking that they were very clever to have that camera clicking as they spilled those beans. And you’re right. So today, in case you missed it, I’m sharing just a fraction of the photos. It’s really not for you, though. It’s so I’ll have this moment—the most unexpected, fun surprise of my year–on this blog which has evolved into the chronicling of my ordinary, but blessed life. 

Thank you for catching this on film, Caleb and Rebekah. I’m so glad this loved child will call two of the most godly people I know “Mama” and “Daddy.” (And I can’t wait to hear him say “Mammy”! ) I’m glad for your strong desire to transfer faith into her. I’m blessed above teeming billions of people on the planet because all of my children are seeking Him and are determined to pass down a legacy of righteousness; never self-righteousness, but holiness because of Calvary. It’s not what I deserve, but it surely is what I desire: a little tribe of Colley and Giselbach children who love books and who love THE Book most of all, little boys who love super-heroes, but who supremely love THE Hero who conquered death that we might have life. I long for little imaginations that conjure up castles and queens, knights in armor and tiny animated other-worlds. But I want them to firmly plant their dreams in THE other world where THE King is preparing a forever-after for them. Did I ever mention that MY fondest dream is being around the throne with them? I’m so thankful for my portrait, Rebekah Colley.  I’m most thankful that you and Caleb share the big dream!

Here are a few of the bajillion  photos. You can definitely find the exciting revelation moment. (It’s fun to watch Ezra disappear into a hug, too…and then watch the progression of Hannah’s hands. OK…maybe not as much fun for you as for me!) 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: The Ultimate Hot Spot

Talofa! For the past week, Glenn and I have enjoyed extraordinary hospitality and we’ve been blessed to teach on the beautiful island of American Samoa. Glenn has done elder case studies with the men of the Nu’uuli congregation and surrounding areas in hopes of their aspiring to be godly elders for the future of the church here. Unlike most places on the mainland, women were willing to spend two-and-a-half hours in study of the Word with me and then, when that was over, they wanted to stay and ask questions. Our treatment by the family there was far better than we could deserve and we will always be grateful. I ate a few foods that were brand new to me, including mussel and turkey tail (I did not even really know there was a tail!). I have eaten taro root and yams that were white and Glenn loved the octopus. 

We met for our services in a red and white building at the foot of a huge mountain that exhibited beautiful waterfalls when the rains came. (We teased them that they painted the building just for us Bama fans!) The singing was the most beautiful and energetic I have ever heard. I could not understand most of the Samoan words, but I knew, for certain, there was no reservation of praise and thanksgiving. Abraham Soli, who traveled with us from West Huntsville, along with Joseph, occasionally, (who is local) did the interpreting for Glenn. His sisters, Ruth and Pisa, also from West Huntsville, interpreted for me in the women’s classes. This island was their childhood home. Their father, a faithful elder and preacher of the gospel, started the congregation and his body is now buried in a tomb that stands right behind the building. Their mother’s tomb is beside his. To say they are loved here is an understatement. They did an excellent job translating, as well as being very generous and loving to the people of the island. In return, the islanders were very kind and generous to all of us. They did not eat until we were finished. They would not allow us to wash as much as a fork or cook a dish. They truly loved beyond measure. 

The biggest challenge of the week was communication. Though our translators were excellent, there are all kinds of difficulties when you are trying to match two languages to deliver exact meaning. Imagine trying to define Greek words from Titus 2 to the best of your limited ability, and then, when you are done explaining, the explanation is still not in the right language for understanding. You still have to go through one more round of defining. 

Connectivity with the world off the island was almost impossible. We had no cell phone connections, an extremely scant facebook connection every now and then, and our email was turtle slow. There were some important emails and urgent correspondence that we did not feel could comfortably wait till we got home, so we kept trying…trying at the hotel, trying at the church building, trying at McDonald’s. But it was to little avail. We will be spending some time trying to catch up when we reach the mainland on Wednesday morning. The 17.5 hours in the air, between here and Huntsville, Alabama, is a chasm of lost communication, itself. We will wait to hear from loved ones until that communication is restored. 

But there was One that we love dearly with whom we never dropped a call, with whom we never had to wait for connectivity or for whom distance has never been a problem. I am so glad—SO GLAD—that my God is never unavailable. When I could not offer any help to the couple who were experiencing marriage problems, I could still implore in their behalf and beg for His providence in making a way for restoration. I could pray James 1:5. When I could not speak with my children or grandchildren, I could still talk to their most important PARENT and beg for his mercies on them—that they would be constantly in His service and in His care. I could still talk to the ONE who could do so much more for them than I could ever dream of doing. When I could not call my siblings who are so good to me as we work through the settling of matters after our dad’s death, I could talk to that other Father, Who is overseeing the whole process and Who is, even now, caring for the father and mother we miss so much. On Sunday, when we knew that we could not worship with our spiritual family on the mainland, we knew that we were doing the exact same things that they had already finished doing and that the sweet savor had been coming before our Father’s throne all through the hours of the first day of the week from all around the world. We were connected in the most important ways.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: A Frog for your Wallet

A quick study of the history of Hawaii reveals the profound influence that the Bible had on the historically pagan culture in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The Hawaiian islands, united under King Kamehameha in 1810, were ruled by his wife and son following his death. It was this pair, Queen Ka’ahumanu (the wife of the deceased King) and King Kamehameha II, who abolished the country’s pagan religion along with its practice of human sacrifice. Soon afterward, the first missionaries arrived from New England and began to teach about Jesus. By the year 1823, the queen herself requested to be baptized, along with six high chiefs. At this time, prostitution and drunkenness became illegal in Hawaii. By the year 1840, the country’s new constitution read:

“It is therefore our fixed decree,

I. That no law shall be enacted which is at variance with the word of the Lord Jehovah, or at variance with the general spirit of His word. All laws of the Islands shall be in consistency with the general spirit of God’s law.

The Word of God, though not always presented in its purity, was having a profound influence on the culture in the islands.

I spent a few days last week in Honolulu and then boarded a plane for American Samoa, where we’ve been blessed to be invited to teach for the Nu’uuli and neighboring congregations here in Samoa. When I got seated on the plane I opened the airline magazine placed in the seat pocket in front of me to read a feature story celebrating eastern idolatry and its popularity on the island of Oahu. The article was entitled “New Year’s Cleansing” and it read (in part):

Folks are lined up at 8 am on New Year’s Day, almost around the block. Rock concert? Hangover clinic? Hardly. This is the New Year’s blessing at the Daijingu Temple of Hawaii at Nu’uanu, purifying all comers for the New Year as early as possible. Rev. Akihiro Okado waves a stick festooned with slips of white paper over bowed attendees, reciting a chant in an archaic form of Japanese used solely by Shinto  priests. 

The article continued:  You don’t have to practice Shinto or even be human to get the blessing. People bring their pets, too. Once people (and pets) are cleansed they head on over to nearby stalls to buy omamori or amulets to keep on blessing them through the year. They buy little charms for traffic safety to hang from the rearview mirror of their cars or tiny gold frogs to keep in their wallets or purses so that they will always have money. There’s a also a “home security triple pack” that, hung properly in three places in your house, protects from fire, ensures peace and brings prosperity in the home. Instructions make it clear that you hang these with tape and not with a tack. In order for these to work, they must be destroyed yearly by temple clergy and new amulets must be purchased yearly after the cleansing. Many people donate hundreds of dollars to the temple to purchase amulets for family members and friends who cannot afford or do not wish to purchase their own for the new year.

It’s interesting to notice that those who come for cleansing are not required to live pure lives. They are just required to bow down before the priest to get the cleansing. It’s telling that the blessings they are counting on are independent of any truth or of any choices made by the intellect of the comers. They are counting on little gold frogs for prosperity and little strips of paper for home safety–frogs and strips of paper that will never require anything of them, except (for those who purchased their own) the money they paid for the privilege of carrying them around for a year prior to turning them in and re-buying them for the next year.

Psalm 115:4-8 comes to mind:

Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not:
eyes have they, but they see not:
They have ears, but they hear not:
noses have they, but they smell not:
They have hands, but they handle not:
feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
They that make them are like unto them;
so is every one that trusteth in them.

Those little gold frogs are the works of greedy men’s hands. They have little frog mouths and little frog legs and tiny little frog feet. They have little frog eyes. But they cannot see inside that man’s wallet. They do not croak inside that woman’s purse. They cannot jump out of her change purse or his pocket. And those people who make and sell the little gold frogs?…Those who buy and trust in the power of the little gold frogs?…They are just like the little gold frogs. Their existence will be spent in the darkness, powerless to avail any good or accomplish any worthwhile goal. And, in the end, they, too, will be destroyed, but in everlasting fire.

Hawaii was onto something when its monarchy abolished pagan worship back in the early 1800s.  It’s sad that the islands have come full circle and, once again, find something to celebrate in idolatry, the ultimate affront to the real Giver of every good gift.  It’s tragic that so many choose to believe in the power of something so utterly impotent. But there is nothing new under the sun. The Psalmist had it right all those years ago.

 

 

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Where Is Your Sting?–Part 4

The Sting of Death Is the Struggle.

Sometimes the last hours before death are intensely difficult. When death follows sickness, the struggle for the faithful— just before the angels come— is often obvious to everyone in the room. When a loved one, due to intubation or shortness of breath or other problems, loses the ability to fully communicate, but looks at caregivers with eyes that plead for some kind of relief, the inability to offer that relief is almost unbearable. Sometimes, as a son or daughter, you are looking at a parent— one who has relieved your own pain, borne your grief, on countless occasions. You would give anything now to ease the struggle as life ebbs away for your loved one, but there is absolutely nothing you can do but pray as the power of life and death does not rest in your hands. 

That’s when you are glad for passages of Holy Writ that are comforting beyond what any mortal can offer. You pray, in those moments, for the “peace that passes understanding”—the peace that can “guard your heart and mind” in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). You remember that neither life nor death (neither of the possibilities at the end of the struggle) can separate those in the room from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38). You remember that, whether this loved one lives or dies, you are still walking in the dark shadow cast by death and that you should fear no evil, for He is with you. There is great comfort in His rod and staff (Psalm 23:1-3). You remember that you may be  approaching a very precious moment because that’s how the death of His saints is characterized. It is “precious” to God (Psalm 116:15). The Word is truly the staff on which you lean in these moments of struggle. 

You also remember that there was One who struggled between life and death for six hours one dark day on a hillside outside of Jerusalem. Surely the desperate look was in His eyes as he bore excruciating pain and suffered unbearable mental anguish. Yet there was no one to come to His aid. His mother looked up into the suffering eyes of her son. The disciple whom he loved looked up and saw the struggle. The Father looked down and, because he knew that the cross was the only path to heaven for me, turned His face away, at least in some sense, from that situation that my sin demanded. He struggled more intensely than anyone in any hospital bed that I will ever know. He struggled so that my  struggle between life and death could be just that—a relatively short, albeit, perhaps painful fight against death; a struggle that ends with eternal victory over death. He, the just One, did the struggle —the suffering—for me, the unjust One. 

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.

And because of the empty tomb—the quickening of the Spirit of Christ—the sting of death for the faithful is extremely short and, in fact, is the doorway to victory.