Crockpot Christmas CONTEST!

 

unknownEvery December The Colley House has a fun contest and give-away. This year’s contest is unabashedly self-serving for me.  Perhaps it will be helpful to someone else who’s got a lot going on this Christmas, as well. Since I’ve got at least four Christmas dinners for which I’m preparing all or a significant amount of the food, I’m asking for your best and most SIMPLE holiday recipes.  Who’s in? Just send me your favorite holiday crock-pot recipe OR a simple tried and true recipe that your family loves around the Christmas table. It can be anything from appetizers to desserts or any dish in between. It can be for your football game gatherings during the holidays or even the cookies you leave for Santa. The key is simplicity! I want recipes that I can make quickly AND that will be popular with the family. (Popular food makes the cook popular, too!)  You can enter as many times as you like and the top three winners will get to choose any two Colley House products at no cost! (There are four new Colley House books published in 2016, so you might want to check those out.) I’ll publish the best of the recipes and I’ll think of you all while I’m cooking those holiday meals. (I know I could go to Pinterest, but I love sister recipes because they’re sort of a like a long distance potluck!) Deadline is December 16th at noon. You can email the recipes to byhcontest@gmail.com. So hurry and send me a taste of your holiday! Blessings and much holiday happiness to you and yours!

P.S. I’ll share first. Here’s the recipe for Caramel Popcorn Balls, the traditional tree-trimming snack at the Colley house:

1 box brown sugar–1/2 cup butter–1/2 cup light corn syrup–1 T water–1 t. salt
Mix all that up (you don’t have to melt the butter. Just throw it in there) Microwave all that for 10 minutes. But after five of those ten minutes, take it out and stir it and add 2 tsp. of baking soda.) Then finish microwaving. Then pour over or mix in 3 quarts of popped corn and 1 cup of peanuts. (We leave out the nuts and just add a little more corn, because Hannah doesn’t like nuts) Spread on foil or waxed paper to cool or form balls. (We like the balls and to do this I spread butter on a piece of wax paper and hold this in my hand while I “squish” the ball together. You need something in your hand, because it is very hot when you mold them.) We love these! (The original recipe says microwave 12 minutes, but my microwave burns the caramel at 12 minutes, so I guess you kind of have to play with that!) They are so yum. Ezra left little sticky “Ock-corns” all over the house! He went crazy over them!15250781_961064418549_1488882612686999350_o

 

Holiday Contest 2015: Family “Mug” Shots

IMG_0784 (5)Here it is. The Colley House has a tradition of a few give-aways during the holidays. This year we’re excited about our Digging Deep travel mugs. We’ll fill one with Christmas candy and send it your way if you are one of five winners. They’ll go good under your tree, especially if someone you love is one of the hundreds of women who are actively participating in the Digging Deep study.

Here’s all you need to do. Email me your favorite family holiday photo…funny, memorable, nostalgic or just sweetness along with your 50-word-or-less explanation of why you love the photo. We’ll share favorites with our readers and choose five winners. Email the photos to byhcontest@gmail.com. Be sure to include your name and address and have them to me by December 14th, so I’ll have plenty of time to get the mugs out to you by Christmas! You can enter as many times as you want, but send each entry in a separate email.

Here are some of our family favorites. I know you have them, too!

 

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So go! Happy memory hunting! And if you need to purchase a mug for your favorite Digger, go here:http://thecolleyhouse.org/store#!/Digging-Deep-Travel-Tumbler-Mug/p/54019059/category=7007069

And one more thing…Keep those family holiday traditions going strong. They’re tough fibers in the weave we call “family”.

 

I Was Shocked and Hurt on Christmas Morning

DSC_0315I was shocked and disappointed…and that was a very good thing. At first I couldn’t believe my ears. I was wearing Ezra in a baby carrier (burdensome task, I know, but someone has to do it). We were in the midst of the Christmas morning magic and I was passing out the gifts under our tree. (That’s just always been my job on Christmas morning) For some odd Christmas-Eve- reason, I had been up till 4 a.m. that morning (Whew, I don’t know how Santa came when I was awake almost the entire night, but he did!) So there we were in the middle of ribbons and paper and gratitude and magic, when I suddenly felt very thirsty. So I looked over that little Santa hat hugged tight to my chest and said. “Hey Glenn, do you mind getting me a drink from the kitchen?”

And then it came from his lips…the line I will never forget: “You get it yourself. I don’t really want to miss this.” Just as calmly and matter-of-factly as you please, he said it. At first, I thought he was saying it with a hint of teasing, you know playful banter, but he didn’t move and his face was expressionless, his eyes glued on the gifts that the kids were admiring.

Then Hannah looked over at him, wide-eyed, and said “Really, Dad?” He just kept right on looking with interest at the boys’ gifts and admiring the books or socks or whatever he’d been given and nodded. “Yeah, she can get it this time.”

Hannah quickly rose out of the middle of that couch and said. “I’m getting it, Mom.” I cannot believe he just said that.”

I said, “No Hannah…I’m halfway there already.” I thought I really needed to go to the kitchen by that time to have a short cry and recompose myself…to try and salvage the morning. But I was confused, hurt and deeply disappointed. Maybe I said something offensive to him? Maybe his psyche was being affected by that chemo-type medication he was taking for that pre-cancerous spot on his ear? Maybe this was a dream and I was about to wake up? I tried to process this all the way to the kitchen sink. Maybe….”AHHHHH!!!!…there are beautiful dishes that are just like my mother’s best china in my dish drainer!!!” They heard me scream all the way to the living room.

And there they were… the beautiful dishes. The china was vintage. It was just exactly like the dishes from my childhood at 941 Lynn Dale Lane—the ones we only ate on when the preacher was there for supper during the gospel meeting…and maybe, once in a while, at Christmas time. My father had given them to my mother one Christmas when I was about two years old. That would have been back in the sixties. And the way he had given them to her was by placing them in her dish drainer and she found them in the exact way that I had found mine. (Many thanks to my sweet sister, Celine, for finding these in an antique store and contacting my sweet elf with possibly his best Christmas idea ever! Celine has the real set from my mother’s kitchen. But now, I have a set, too…and this priceless Christmas morning memory.)

But the best part of the story is that I was sad, shocked, disappointed and very disturbed. I know women whose husbands speak to them every day just like mine spoke to me and there is no surprise or shock when they do. I know women who are quite used to husbands who inconsiderately snap at them, who respond to their requests with contempt, and who fail the tenderness test every day of the week. In the lives of these women there is no shock, no amazement, because it is, in fact, nothing out of the ordinary when they are treated with disdain or, at the least, indifference. The children in these homes, sadly, grow up, never even seeing or understanding what a godly leader looks like.

But not at my house. Praise God that this relatively calm and benign behavior from my husband was shocking. I’m glad it was a moment of hurt and pain—a bolt from the blue. Because you can’t have a bolt from the blue unless you have…well, the wonderful blue! I’m grateful for that little moment of psychological excruciation. I’m grateful to the husband, but mostly, I’m grateful to the Lord, because I know it is the influence of Jesus, the Christ…His golden rule, His example of washing disciples’ feet, His kindness to the women he encountered, His inverted pyramid of greatness, and the Calvary kind of love that He has for His bride…that makes moments like the vintage dish moment shocking to me. I’m so thankful for my Lord, the ultimate loving Husband.

For the Babies We’re Missing This Christmas

IMG_0291 3The following article first appeared in Think Magazine, edited by Brad Harrub, in the year 2006. I’m thinking today of my little Ezra and how much joy he brings us at Christmas this year. He has a tiny stocking hanging from my mantel and his portrait in a ho-ho hat is above the fireplace. I’m thinking, too, of the 1.3 million or so first Christmases that will not happen this year because tiny lives. already DNA encoded, gender selected, hair color and handprints already decided, were snuffed out selfishly in a society that has disregarded the sacred nature of preborn life. Today is for the Christmas morning smiles that will not happen, the tiny people that will never wear Christmas pajamas, look with wonder at the lights on the tree or sit in Santa’s lap. They will never give a single gift, work to share joy with underprivileged people, or find their places in any humanitarian efforts. Thankfully they are safe in the arms of the Father, but those who have elected to place them there as preborn souls,  have life’s blood on their hands this Christmas. May we, as a society face the truth about what that is in the womb: it is innocent human life. May we face the truth about what it is when we intentionally take that life: it is murder. So, for the babies we are missing this Christmas:

In terms of loss of life it was the most horrific day in American history. It was January 22, 1973. Little did those seven black-robed justices know that the opinions they filed on that day would result in the terminations of over 48 million pregnancies as of this month (and still counting). It happened rather quietly as lots of Supreme Court decisions have. I was thirteen years old. We had a television and access to the newspaper, but the Roe vs. Wade decision was only a relatively small news blurb on that cold winter day and it would be a couple of years before my family even began to realize the appalling implications of  what had occurred in that courtroom.  It was as if the blackness of that day’s events just sort of settled in over time. The darkness fell slowly. If we had known about the 47 million babies on that day, surely we would have raised our collective voices in anguish for them. If we could have foreseen that a six pound, full term baby, even one who had begun his exit from the womb, could legally be stabbed at the base of his skull and thus delivered lifeless, then surely millions of us would have been so vigilant in our protests that government officials would have been prompted to action. But the devil wanted to hide the truth on that day. Just as he has been doing since he drew Eve to the death fruit in the garden (Genesis 3:4), he continues to hide the shocking death factor that comes along with the sinful decisions we make, whether they be in the chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court or in the secret chambers of our hearts.

What those seven men in black robes did that day in 1973 was unconscionable. But there is a sense in which their decision to murder the unborn on that day was not as bad as a mother’s or doctor’s decision to do so today. You see, with greater amounts of information come greater responsibility. In 1973, it was impossible to look through the window that we call ultrasound and see the unborn baby sucking her thumb. In 1973, all of the biological data had not yet conclusively confirmed that at least by the twentieth week after conception, unborn babies are fully capable of feeling pain.  In 1973,  I couldn’t go online and read about how that a baby’s heart starts beating at about the same time the mother may begin to suspect that she is pregnant; or how that by the time surgical abortions are performed (around the seventh week of pregnancy) the baby already has arms and legs and brain waves. Today all of this information is a click away. At least those judges were still in the dark about some of these details of human gestation. But we are without excuse. We now know.  The murder of 2006 is, in this significant sense, far more premeditated. When a person knows the full implications of the procedure– that excruciating pain and ultimate death will come to an innocent life because of her choice—the act escalates to murder in the first degree.

Of course, Christians have always known the seriousness of the sin of abortion. We have taken it on faith all along, knowing that God forms in the womb (Isaiah 44:2), that He is the one Who makes the bones grow in the womb (Ecclesiastes 11:5), knits together in the womb (Psalm139:13), and  that He calls the baby by the same Greek name (brephos) whether born or unborn (Luke 1:41 and Luke 2:12,16). God’s wisdom informed us of the value of life in the womb far before all of the scientific data was in. It is His wisdom, in fact, that has established absolute moral truth for all societies.

In Romans chapter one, we read about a society that had rejected God and His moral  truth. They failed to give Him glory for life and its joys. They credited themselves and became vain in their imaginations (21). They rejected the wisdom of God and professed themselves to be wise (22).  Finally God gave them up to uncleanness (24) and they, refusing to have God in their knowledge (28), cast off all spiritual restraint and became filled with all unrighteousness (29). The sins listed in verses 29-31 cover the gamut of immorality and are frighteningly prophetic of our modern America.  In the middle of that list of vile behaviors, the scriptures say that the people were without natural affection. The ESV renders the phrase heartless. What does it mean to be without natural affection or heartless?

It is difficult for me to imagine an affection more natural than that of a mother toward her child. It is instinctive. No one had to come into my hospital room when my children were born and give me lessons on hugging and cuddling my children. It is motivating– strong enough to make me risk my life at any moment for their safety. It is enduring. Nothing they can do can make me stop loving them. It is words, hugs, smiles, spankings and stories. It’s holding hands, wiping noses, butterfly kisses and cheering in the stands. It’s a thousand things every day that nobody ever taught me to do. It is natural affection. It is affection that was planted by a Creator. It is only when we as a society refuse to have God in our knowledge that we can possibly find it in ourselves to be heartless toward the fruit of our own wombs.

Our amazing God, in counseling Job, mentioned the mother ostrich (Job 39:13-16). He says that she leaves her eggs in the earth and warms them in the dust. He says she forgets that the foot might crush them or that the wild beast might break them. He says she is hardened against her young ones just as if they were not even her own. And then He gives the reason for Mama Ostrich’s hard heart:

Because God has deprived her of wisdom, neither has he imparted to her understanding.  Job 39:17. 

But I am not an ostrich. God has imparted to me wisdom and understanding. He has given me a heart and a conscience. He has given me His will for my life. He has, in giving me these blessings, set me apart from the animal kingdom and given my human life inherent and eternal value. He formed those inward parts of me in the womb. They are the same inward parts that he is still forming in wombs.

One day recently, while speaking with a crisis pregnancy counselor in Montgomery, Alabama, she related this phenomenon to me. She said that many young girls come in determined to abort their babies. Sadly many leave with that same determination. In this particular center, each expectant mother is offered a tiny pair of baby booties. These booties, knitted by volunteers, are just the right size for the tiny feet and toes already  beginning to form in the womb of the young girl. The young girl listens and understands that her baby’s DNA code and all genetic characteristics are already determined. Its sex, hair color, eye color and even the shape of those tiny toes that will soon be big enough for those booties has already been set. She hears that all her baby needs now to be healthy at birth is nutrition. Then the booties are placed in the young girl’s hand. If the girl leaves the office with those tiny blue or pink booties in hand, the odds are overwhelmingly favorable that she will carry that baby to term. If she refuses the booties, she will likely choose to abort the baby. Why is this true?

God has given each mother a heart of natural affection. It is to this heart that the booties are appealing. The booties are a tangible test to see if that heart has been so hardened against the wisdom of God that it no longer responds to the plea of the life within her. Often the moment the little shoes are offered is the moment of truth. Will she respond with natural affection or has that heart been hardened and replaced by a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28)?  The woman who walks out that door empty handed usually proceeds to the abortion clinic. There an innocent human life is taken. Romans one concludes by saying that those who commit such things are worthy of death. 

The blackness of January 22,1973 has settled. We now understand its implications. We mourn the loss of 48 million babies. May we, who walk in the light, raise our voices in prayer and to our legislators in behalf of the innocent, silent ones whose lives are endangered in wombs of those who walk in darkness.

Cindy Colley

References:

“Abortion in the United States: Trends and Statistics” (2004), [On-line], URL:http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/facts/abortionstatistics.html.

Anand, Kanwaljeet S.,  Expert Report on Fetal Pain to U.S. Federal Court reviewing the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, (2003) [On-Line], URL:http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/Fetal_Pain/index.html

“Defining Abortion,” (no date), [On-Line], URL:http://www.nrlc.org/asmf3.html.

Sister to Sister: Q and A: Boo-ing Halloween?

10615534_10204242926530145_8465613083946747314_nQuestion: Should Christians participate in Halloween traditions?

Response: Perhaps I am wrong about what I think about Halloween traditions. Maybe there’s something I’ve yet to consider that may change my mind. At the very least, it is probably not a smart thing for me to publicly say what I think because there will be so many people who disagree with me about a matter that I deem so inconsequential. Besides that, we all know that it really doesn’t matter what I think about it…at all. So you can stop reading now if you want and be none the worse.

But the question has surfaced in our inboxes three times already this week, so I’ll go ahead and take a stab at conveying my thinking about costumes, trick-or-treating, jack-o-lanterns and all things Halloween.

1. I believe there is an innocent way to observe the candi-est holiday of the year. I was an adult before I knew there was any supposed tie to anything pagan or evil about Halloween. When I was a child my parents were creative in costuming and very much involved in our fun neighborhood masquerade night. I had absolutely no idea that wickedness was ever associated with the holiday until I was much older…an adult. Today, my family in the West Huntsville church has the best of times in what we call a “trunk-or-treat” night, although it is primarily done indoors in our fellowship hall. It involves nothing scary and nothing that has to do with death. It involves sweet children in delightful costumes walking around giving big smiles and hugs to the adults that line the walls. And it involves chili and Mexican cornbread and orange cookies and treats in the bags that the children carry. Lots of the adults dress up and join in the fun, too. I’ve already been a popcorn vendor and “Lucy” from the Peanuts gang at two different West Huntsville get-togethers this season.

2.   I do not believe that the origin and early development of the holiday necessarily prevents our nod to it in benign observances. It is my judgment that, just as we can separate Christmas from the birth of Christ and celebrate it as a national rather than religious holiday,we can celebrate Halloween as a cultural observance rather than a pagan one. Just as we can celebrate Valentine’s day without expressing allegiance to or approval of a Catholic“saint”, we can celebrate Halloween, in innocuous (otherwise innocent) ways without any allegiance to anything wicked or pagan. Just as we can call the names of our months by names that are derivatives of the names of pagan gods without implying approval of idolatry, I believe we can trick-or-treat without implying approval of witchcraft, Satanic practices or devil worship.

3.   I do believe this is a matter of opinion and not faith. (I love I Corinthians 8 when I’m contemplating matters of judgment.)

4.   I believe if one finds herself in violation of conscience by participating in any form of trick-or-treating or pumpkin carving, that it would be wrong for her to thus violate her conscience by so participating. It is always wrong to violate your conscience. Consciences can be retrained by diligent Christians who are studying the Word, but never should be violated.

5.   I believe it would be wrong for me to cause another Christian to stumble by my participation in any event that is not commanded by the Lord. If a weaker brother who worships with me is offended if I wear a shirt around Halloween time that says “Boo”, then why would I wear that shirt? However, in most scenarios, I have found that those who choose not to celebrate Halloween in any way are reading the same book about unity and freedom in matters of judgment that I am reading, and, most of the time, they are not offended by the “fun” that others in the church are having with pumpkins and trick-or-treat.

6. I believe it is appropriate for moms and dads to decide together about their tolerance level regarding this holiday. While things associated with death and the morbid and certainly the mean and destructive practices are not becoming of Christians, things associated with princesses and super-heroes and candy treats might be fun  and wholesome for your family. I believe parents should enjoy the freedom to guide their families in this tradition.

7. In congregations in which unity may be threatened over an observance of Halloween, it would  be good for elders to sit down with concerned families and express their judgments about the concerns and members should thus abide by their wishes. After all, what are shepherds for, if not to  make judgment calls in matters of opinion and, in making such decisions, to preserve the flock from division? The biggest tragedy about Halloween would be for a church to find itself, on November 1st, splintered and at odds over something so insignificant as a Halloween party…or not. (I might add here that it would be challenging for me, as a preacher’s wife in our congregation, to abstain from participating in our West Huntsville time of holiday fellowship without causing some discomfort among some in the body. That is, I believe dressing up this year as Lucy for trunk-or-treat was more of an encouragement to others than a stumbling block, in my particular circumstance. Perhaps in another church in another part of the country, that might not be true.)

8. I believe Halloween is a great opportunity for widows and elderly Christians to bond with the children of the church. Our own children made “appointments” with elderly people in the church to come by and “show off” their costumes and we sometimes took treats to those elderly people (kind of backwards trick-or-treating). Anticipation and excitement emanated from the faces of those older saints. But more importantly, our kids grew, through this and other service projects to love these mature Christian people—a great blessing in the development of our children, for sure.

9. I believe that sometimes the innocent celebration can open doors for evangelism. I know it did with us in our neighborhood as we discussed and invited neighbors who had questions even in the street as our kids trick-or-treated together. Of course, that knife could cut two ways and if your religious friends are  negatively impacted by your participation, you should be sensitive to their concerns and even take the chance to discuss your practices with them. Souls of people are far more important than your personal family fun.

10. Having said all of this, we should not underestimate the positive impact of family traditions on our kids. They are a big part of the glue that holds your family together. They are second to the spiritual traditions of family Bible times, prayers before meals, prayers before kids leave the house for school or college, attending singings and gospel meetings together, participating in programs for leadership development,etc… in binding your family together. From experience, I know that the anticipation of traditions and holidays celebrated in ways that belong uniquely to your family are huge in creating the cohesiveness that you want your family to maintain—the bond that helps you through the tough times that every family inevitably faces. (And it is usually Mom who best creates and maintains the great traditions that sweeten the adult memories of every child who grew up loving family traditions.)

Now, this ten point synopsis is probably overkill for the subject of boo and bats and costumes and candy. Further, I’m sure there will be those who disagree and that’s okay. But if all of us can be 100 times more concerned about the health of the Body of Jesus than we are about promoting our own “take” on the holiday, we will experience a strengthening of our precious unity as the family of God, even during the last week of October.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Here’s a quick valentine idea for your sweetheart. My daughter did this for her husband and sneaked it into our family valentine box.

  1. Buy a deck of playing cards.
  2. Get some pretty paper.
  3. Write a list of 52 reasons you love (respect) your man.
  4. Print or write (calligraphy is nice) one reason on each of 52 rectangles of pretty paper. Make these rectangles the size to fit on the front of the cards and still have the corner numbers showing on the cards (the “reason” covers the face or the configuration on the card).
  5. Glue the paper rectangles on the cards. You can “Mod-Podge the surface if you want, but that’s optional.
  6. Decorate the front card (which would be the ad card with your photo, little jewels from the hobby store or just the title; “52 Reasons I Love You.”
  7. Punch two holes with a hole-puncher on the left side of each card and put the cards on a couple of office binder rings to make a little book.

It was fun to hear the 52 reasons including “You hold my hand during every prayer,” “You are sweet to old people and they love you,” “Your love of guns makes you wonderfully masculine,” “You are extremely protective of me,” and “You never skip our Bible time.”

It’s so much better than the Hallmark kind of card and it allows lots of room for your own creativity. (Or, I’ve heard you can cheat and find this idea on Pinterest.) Best of all, it’s a great way to show a husband some Ephesians 5 respect.