A Destination Wedding

10380276_10153167780351384_1610195395567955643_nI’ve never been the mother of the groom before and I’ve never attempted to do a rehearsal dinner at all, much less a dinner at a “destination wedding”. I cooked in an unfamiliar kitchen at a church building during pajama day at the large preschool housed in that building. Mermaids, super-heroes and puppy dogs were in and out of the kitchen all day. The staff members at the Hilldale church in Clarksville, TN were all very hospitable and kind. Still though, there are a few things about destination weddings , for which I had failed to prepare. I learned some lessons:

  1. You can make a lot of lists and think you have everything but the kitchen sink before you leave and still need to go to Sam’s, Walmart, Belk, Dollar General and Hobby Lobby all during the day of the dinner for things you forgot.
  2. The shoes that felt comfortable at 9 a.m. feel like torture chamber equipment at 9 p.m.
  3. When your car is loaded like a Jenga puzzle, it’s going to be the container with the most little pieces that comes crashing down from the top  and scatters its contents in all the crevices you’ve never even seen before because you have never had every single seat in the SUV down for luggage room. (…And it will probably be something like…say thyroid medication…something you need very much, that you will never see again).
  4. Somebody IS going to fall down on a trip like this…it just WILL happen.
  5. You can leave home in your short sleeves because it’s 68 degrees outside and feel snow in your face before the day is over.
  6. Your GPS will mostly be accurate, but the one time Siri makes a blunder, there could be lots of mud in the recovery process.

But let me just say this: None of these little incidental things could even dampen the spirit of this mother of the groom. Nothing that stresses or panics about  a destination wedding is even as much as a real hiccup IF the FINAL wedding destination is heaven. Our son is the best example and teacher of Christianity to his parents that we could have ever imagined or for which we could have ever prayed. He touches our hearts daily with his dedication to the work of our Lord as he serves the church at Macland Road and in his personal relationships. I believe he wants to do the right thing more than just about anyone I have ever known. I do not deserve to get to be his mother and I certainly am not responsible for the goodness in Him. But I am thankful to God for it every day. He has always intended to please the Father and there has never been a day in His life when he purposefully rebelled against Him in any decision. (I know that’s a big statement, but I’m convinced of and humbled by it’s truth.) I have lived in amazement at this reality; amazement, shame—when I think of my own failures,—and thankfulness. One of the groomsmen shared a little detail with me on the day after the wedding. The last message Caleb delivered before getting married was delivered by a groomsman to one of his elders who was in attendance at the wedding. The message? A check for his contribution for the Sunday he would be away on his honeymoon. I love that heart.

Rebekah Meinsen Colley (that is so fun to type and say) is a treasure that we surely could not have anticipated or merited. A few days ago on a Sunday, Rebekah sent Glenn and me a text message: “Today we studied Jethro in Bible class. I just want you to know that I am so thankful I am getting the blessing of great and wise in-laws like you.”  Now tell me, who gets a daughter-in-law  who knows how to make you feel that good?! She called Glenn and me into the little private dressing room where she was getting ready to marry Caleb last Friday night and gave us each a little red bag. My gift was a necklace and Glenn’s was a key chain. The inscription simply said “Thank you for raising the man of my dreams.” I will treasure that necklace for the rest of my life because it’s a little symbol of a huge and rare blessing. If I had to pick one thing that I love most about her, (Well, first…it would be so hard to pick…) I’d say it’s a genuine love for lost souls.  I have watched her agonize over those around her who are unprepared for the judgment day.  Glenn and I can learn much from this handmaiden of the Lord. We bask in relationship blessings from our faithful Father and we are especially thankful at this juncture in life for Rebekah’s parents. We will forever owe a debt to Jim and Debbie Meinsen for the things they put deeply in Bekah’s heart.

Destination weddings are wonderful. Destination marriages are the best ever…and ever…and ever! I pray that Caleb and Rebekah will never lose sight of the goal. I pray they will keep the directions handy (This GPS never makes an error.) and study every detail of the route. I’m going to the same place to meet the same Bridegroom, who is already there. It’s a destination that’s already prepared (John 14:2)…and that’s a very calming reality for this mother.

Total Abandon

12139968_10153059430706384_8136593055007130536_oWe were having lots of fun in New England…doing museums, little small-town festivals, eating seafood and, perhaps best of all, getting up late. We made reservations for the first three nights of our stay; first in the Boston area and then in Yarmouth on Cape Cod. The views we saw were more breathtaking than we could have imagined. But it IS possible to PLAN a spirit of abandon and that’s what we’d done in regard to reservations for the rest of our trip. We were going to just forget about clocks and schedules and firm destinations (after all, we do all of that when we’re home). This was going to be an adventure!

And so we were doing all of our favorite things: wandering down countryside roads in Northern Massachusetts and New Hampshire, scouting out quaint little antiques stores, snacking at 200-year-old country stores and taking pictures of covered bridges. We weren’t worried about being lost, because ”lost” in New England was more of a target destination for us than a routing mishap.

…Until we decided to do a few miles on an interstate to get a bit further inland and a little further north. (“Leaves should be peak if we could get about 100 miles further north.”) Well, that few miles on the interstate took hours. Slammed. It slowly began to dawn on us that our total abandon had better turn into a quick plan for housing that very night. Glenn remarked that the lights on the freeway resembled a giant and unending Christmas village. It registered with us, really for the first time, that we had, quite without intent, chosen the last holiday weekend of the northern vacation season and peak week for leaves and that half the southern population had chosen that weekend as well.  Upon investigation—looking around, telephoning and web searching—we found that the coast had virtually no hotel rooms left. If we found a room, it was going to be a real feat. We started considering options like “reconnecting with dear friends who’d moved up north” or sleeping sitting upright in that packed Kia Soul that we’d rented. Since watching that sunset and deciding that the state of Maine was going to be suddenly off the itinerary for us, I’ve garnered a new appreciation for a few things:

  1. I’ve thought about Mary and Joseph, who heard “no room at the inn” all those centuries ago. I was vacationing. They were not taking a trip of leisure. I was looking for a comfortable place to sleep. Even my car would have likely been more comfortable than the barn that finally lodged them. I was looking for a place to rest; not a place to finish labor without anethesia and give birth.  Little life emergencies often make me think about the Lord and how very much he sacrificed for me on a daily basis—even before the cross—beginning with the feeding trough in the barn. I wanted a clean place to wash up and rest and begin a new day of admiring the beauty that He created. He, the Creator, saw his first sunrise as the Son of Man from a filthy stable where all of the blood and the smells that our sterile nurses wash away in the moments after birth likely lingered on. I worried about where we would pillow our heads that night.  Mary must have been a little anxious about where she’d be and whether Joseph would be a good makeshift midwife for the Son of God.
  2. I’m a bit ashamed of what I believe my “needs” to be. That’s probably enough said about that. But it was surprising how thankful I could be for a room that I would have never “picked out”. We really throw around that word “need” in our very rich society. It was from that room that I read about my sister Roberta Edwards’ tragic death as she carried on the work that was her every day’s agenda for the orphans in Haiti. I need to feel shame sometimes.
  3. I’ve also thought about the “just and the unjust” a good bit. All of those people from all walks of life were traveling by the thousands to see the splendor of the changing leaves in New England. Our  personal “oohs” and “aahs” were often punctuated by comments about our God’s majesty, supreme creativity and grace to us. But, sadly, many, if not most of the leaf lookers, weren’t giving much thought to God at all. We heard them taking His name in vain repeatedly, saw them consuming alcohol and, in general, behaving like the world behaves. Certainly, when we went to praise Him with the churches in Lawrenceville, Masssachusetts on Wednesday night, in Providence, Rhode Island on Sunday morning and in Manchester, Vermont, on Sunday night, those places of worship were not experiencing the same crowd congestion as were the foliage and forest attractions. Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).Perhaps we get to inherit the creation in a much more precious way than those who are not meekly walking with Him. Perhaps just knowing that it is our Father—the one who is loving and caring for us, the one who is hearing and answering our prayers—He is the One who made this display on the East coast of America in 2015. He is the One who does it every year. He is the one who makes every display of nature—every sunrise, every shooting star, that amazing expanse of surging water that we saw, the volcanic activity, the marvels of deoxyribonucleic acid and every other marvel in the human body—He is the ONE! It is His cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and His sun that rises on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). And yet he cares for ME, even keeping a tally of how many hairs are on my head (Matthew 10:30). I would get to see the leaves even if I was unjust. But I am glad I am among the justified, so that through His grace I can see the One who made them!
  4. It’s important to have a reservation. It was a minor hitch when we failed to have a room in New Hampshire or Vermont. But, if we fail to have a reservation in the final destination of humankind, it will be the ultimate tragedy. A spirit of abandon about that destination is the worst tactical error one can make.

The end of the story is that we did find rooms for the rest of our stay. They were not exactly the ones we would have chosen and they were not in the precise location that we’d have planned. They certainly were not at the price we would have expected to pay for them. But, suddenly, we were very grateful to God for a place to lay our heads. We told Him so. I’m planning to keep the reservation I have made in the place of eternal sightseeing…the place where I will at once never tire of the beauty and yet still find a rest (I Peter 1:4). Have you made your reservation there?

Sister to Sister: TOMORROW!!! Live Podcast…New Digging Deep Study

11951697_10152971997926384_2734780424500354200_oTears swell in my eyes when I have the opportunity to worship my Lord with 2000 people on a Sunday morning. It’s something I only get to do about twice a year. I know that worshiping the Lord should always fill me with emotions of reverence and gratitude. Surely it’s the holy Object of worship more than the people with whom we are worshiping that’s evokes awe and joy and respect. But I think the reason the large crowd touches my heart in deeper places is that it truly is a foretaste of heaven. It’s profoundly encouraging to know that God’s people are many and that they are eternally triumphant. It’s as if we’re already on the giant cruiser together to the shore where there is no more parting, sorrow and dying. You can hear the boatman’s call best in places like Polishing the Pulpit (www.polishingthepulpit.com).

And speaking of…I hope you plan to join us tomorrow at 2:30 EST for the live podcast of Digging Deep (http://livestream.com/whcoc/for-women). It’s at once the end of a study that has profoundly affected me  and the beginning of a new study. I hope you are adding friends to the facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/282349391779769/) and personally inviting them to study along in a practical new study that starts on September 1st. It’s a helpful study for both Christians and non-Christians. My dream is that some soul will be brought to the Lord through this year’s study. I think it will happen with prayer and lots of invitations to the study. What a great answer to this year’s prayer study that will be!

Next, I hope you will join us for “Sweet Hour of Prayer” tomorrow night via lifestream as well (8:15 EST). Today is the last day to email me your prayer requests or, if you are here on site, you may put them in the box on the stage in ballroom A. (I’ll have some request forms at the remainder of my lessons there in that room.) We’ll spend about an hour talking to our Father about the specific requests that our Digging Deep ladies have made. Prayer is not our idea. It’s God’s method of hearing and answering us. It will be a “blessed hour of prayer when our hearts lowly blend and we gather through Jesus, our Savior and friend.”

So join us for both! You’ll be blessed. I’ll be encouraged. Prayers will be heard, as always. We don’t have to be together for God to be hearing us, but being together sure blesses OUR hearts!   (Our technology is limited here due to so many people using the internet at once, but we are going to do our very best to bring it to you!)

Finally, can I just say that PTP is more wonderful with Ezra. Here he is right this moment in my hotel room bed, while his mom is speaking to teen girls. As I sat in that room of 2000 yesterday morning praising Him, I thought about the fact that there was so much to be praising Him for right there in my lap, on both sides of me, and down the row. If Jesus comes on a day while we are praising the Lord together as a family at PTP, it will seem but a short trip through the clouds to glory! Perhaps that observation is short-sighted and made simply because I haven’t seen heaven, but for now great assemblies of his people, even in a place where we still have to pray for strength for ourselves  and for sick, lost and grieving people—those grand gatherings are still pretty wonderful.

The Healing Leaf

images-4She was eagerly interacting with her third-graders as I passed by the classroom last Sunday morning. With her arms around one of them, she listened intently to the trivia that was so important to the little girl. The next time I noticed her she was on the second pew on the left side of the auditorium, sitting erectly and drinking in every word the preacher said. Then I noticed that she never missed a word as we sang praises.

When I finally got over to talk with her, she told me about her third graders, how much she loved them and how encouraging they were. She particularly talked about a little girl who, the daughter of a single mom, is extremely plugged-in and smart as a whip! The zeal was unharnessed and the optimism for the future glowed unabashedly.

I should add here that she currently has no hair. Legally blind before the cancer, the nineteen months of chemotherapy “finished off” her eyesight. As I first approached her and gently patted her on the shoulder, she asked the lady sitting beside her…”Who is it?” Her friend identified me for her and she, in turn, just glowed all over and began to tell me how much she’s enjoying the gospel meeting. There are “chemo” bruises around her eyes and on her face. But her completely bright spirit belies any of the chemo sickness or fatigue.

After conversing with her a bit, I asked about the prognosis. Her reply, “We cannot cure it, but we can keep it at bay.”

I am inspired by so many souls who, rather than giving in to disease and discouragement, seem to find in the throes of trials, the springboard to greater faith and they, like the skilled alchemist, just mix up a little fear of the unknown with twice that much pain and a smidgen of humor when needed and combine with that great faith and, when this mixture gels, it produces in them a contentment like Paul had in Philippians 4: 11-13:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

I remember my mother making several statements when she was suffering with the same disease as this friend I met today. They were statements that evidenced that she had the recipe right, too. Statements like:

“Oh, you know, everybody has to leave this life in one way or another. I don’t know that it matters all that much how.” …Or…

“Well,  why should I think that I would not be one of the people who has this disease. I am surely not better than many of the people I know who have had cancer.”…Or…

“We need to just be sure we’re living so that we can spend forever together in heaven. That’s where the permanence is.” …Or…

“You know, I do not mind going at all. It’s only about the people I’m leaving behind that I worry. It’s because of them that I’d like to stay, because I know they will hurt when I leave, and they want me to stay.” (She knew this because she had lost her own mother in this same way.)

Medical professionals and technology today can do so much more about cancer than they could in the eighties when my mother suffered with it. There’s just so much more hope now than when she was diagnosed. And yet, how? How could there be more hope than any generation can find in I Thessalonians 4:16, 17?

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Every child of God, healthy or disease-ridden, whole or maimed, free or bound, at the mountaintop or in the darkest valley has hope that can only be described as infinite. We will always be with the Lord. In the eternal scheme of things, it makes little difference how this old body proceeds from the earthly realm. Infinity is the length of time we have to be with the Lord. Infinity is the word that describes our time of wholeness and perfection. Infinity is the equalizer for those of us who have called on His name.

After the service, my new friend said to me, “I’m so glad brother Colley came down here last night to preach right here on the floor right in front of me. I could almost see him.” I’ve got a feeling brother Colley will be finishing this meeting from the floor. And I’m happy that we will have that wonderful eternal gospel meeting in a place where there will be no loss of eyesight, no bruises, no feeble frames and no cancer. I’m glad God “has a healing leaf” for each one of those!

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1,2).

Sister to Sister: “Meredith” Making Waves

images-2Last week I told you about “Meredith”, a sweet sister I met at a retreat on the previous weekend. You can read about her here. She happened to read the words I had written about her and I wanted to share with you her response. I want to share it because I know it will brighten your day and make you thankful. The thing I am most excited about sharing with you is that the young man who was resistant to the gospel has now obeyed our Savior in baptism! Each one of us touches lives through others for eternity. It’s cliche, but it IS like ripples in the water; only, in the case of these ripples, the water is the water of life.  It eternally sustains, washes and quenches. Sometimes we know we’re making ripples or even waves. Sometimes we don’t. God is so good! So this, from Meredith and let’s all soldier on!

Cindy – I read your latest blog and just cried! It was just what I needed. Honestly I don’t see myself in that light so it was incredibly encouraging to read that my life and service still matter and no matter how dark and hard it may get He can still shine through my life. The enemy has been whispering and even shouting at times that it’s just too hard and it won’t matter if I slow down and back off in the service to my King. The enemy loves for me to remember the brownies I baked and then dropped, the cards I have written and had to throw away because of the errors and sloppy hand writing and the cookies I baked, but cried when I was done, because it hurt. But, I will fight to remember the blessings and what I can do (and there are TONS of things I can still do for the kingdom) and not focus on the dark piece of this puzzle in my life right now. I will not listen to the father of lies, but cling to the One who already solved my biggest problem ever and made a way to make it possible for me to spend eternity with Him where there will be no pain or tears FOREVER. Thank you again. It meant more than you’ll ever know!

So let me just say again…I want to be more like Meredith. The part of her that matters most is perfectly whole. So, with the apostle John, I would say to her ” Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”(III John 1:2)

Sister to Sister: “More of Gravy than Grave”

images-11In some bizarre and horrific case of mistaken identity, my husband had been convicted of a crime worthy of the death penalty. Surgeons had inserted an electronic device into his neck that, upon detonation, would shock and kill him. The surgeon’s blue markings were still all over the side and back of his neck. We knew his time on earth was short, even though we were uncertain of exactly which breath would be his last. Sobbing and speaking in hushed tones, I asked him to kiss me goodbye. He gently pulled me in to him and…I woke up.

It had been a long series of flights from Huntsville, Alabama to Honolulu. An energetic and wonderful crowd of Christians had met us at the airport with multiple beautiful leis and hearty welcomes at about 8:30 pm last Monday night. To our weary bodies, it felt like midnight, though. After collecting our luggage, getting a rental car at a different location and finding our way, with lots of help to our very comfortable lodgings, the Christians (Yes, they know about souther hospitality. They are 2100 miles south of the mainland!) brought wonderful Popeye’s fried chicken and shared a sumptuous feast with us, complete with sweet Hawaiian bread and mashed potatoes and gravy. I loved it!! The thing is, we usually don’t eat so sumptuously even when it is dinner time, much less when our body clocks are at 2 a.m. But we were famished and it was delicious. I guessed, though, as I awoke from that dream, that, like Scrooge said, ”There was more of gravy than grave” about that nightmare.

So I turned over and went right back to sleep (after checking Glenn’s neck just to be sure) and dreamed this time that one of the sites for the Lads to Leaders convention had suddenly become unavailable, so we were planning to have the convention at my house. I was, in my dream, pretty much okay with this, just working the sandman’s hours away in my methodical middle-of-the-nightmare psyche, figuring out just where each competition would be held, how we could stagger the awards ceremonies, where I could store the trophies till Easter, how many families could share the cabin and how many children could sleep on the hammock.

Food. Now figuring out how to feed that crowd was proving the biggest challenge, but lots and lots of Popeye’s Fried chicken—that would be just the ticket.

So yes. I think jet lag and drumsticks were barging right into my dreams. As I awakened the second time, I thought surely the sun was almost up; after all, I had lived through a crime, surgery, a painful good-bye, and the meticulous planning of a home convention.  But alas, the only lights in the window were from the corridors of the apartments next door. I found a red clock on the wall. It was just 2 a.m.! Glenn awakened just enough to turn over and groggily ask “Is everything okay?…Come back to bed.”

“Everything is okay…yeah…but this night is eternal…It surely seems like it should be morning by now.”

I’ve thought about eternal night several times since then. I’m never afraid of misshapen stuff in the closet floor in the day time. Our old house creaks and shudders all through the bright morning and afternoon hours and it is never alarming at all. I do not worry about family members from whom I am separated while I am busy ironing or washing dishes or shopping; only when I am lying awake at night listening to my husband breathe. It is then that I think about how I may have misspoken with a sister and perhaps she thought I was angry. It is in the dark when I reconsider what I said in that ladies day speech that may not have been entirely correct. It is in the night, when my husband is out of town, when I wonder if I actually locked the basement door or blew out the candle in the kitchen. In the night. There are a thousand  unanswered questions and every tiny hitch in my world is blown exponentially out of proportion.

Even when I was a little girl and my mom told me it was bedtime, my response was to cry and say, “But Mama, I don’t wike to sweep.”  But I do “wike to sweep” now. More than you can imagine, I like to…. Rest is what keeps my perspective optimistic, my body rejuvenated and my schedule bearable. But, in my world, rest and night-time almost always coincide. So every now and then, there are anxieties, imaginary noises and even nightmares before I get to the restful part of the dark hours.

I think about heaven a lot. Predictably, for the first time ever, I’ll have rest without darkness. I am going to love that. All of the complete rejuvenation, all of the anticipation of complete newness every moment, all of the joyful relationships without any of the angst, dread, fears or overblown complications of the night. I will rest…in peace.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them (Revelation 14:13).

And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever (Revelation 22:5)