Sister to Sister: You Can See 44 Quadrillion Miles!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sister to Sister: Pop-off People

Do you know anyone who’s just liable to pop off in a rage at any given moment?…Someone you just dread being around because she just might snap at you for the least of offenses, or for nothing at all? Sometimes such a person will be fairly polite for an extended period of time, causing you to loosen your guard and open up to her–share some of your opinions–only to have her lash out once more, causing you to retreat again and making you want as little conversation with her as possible. 

I’m not an expert in dealing with such a person. But I’m getting more experience and I can think of a few lessons learned in what is, perhaps, not the prettiest way. 

First, I hope you don’t allow yourself to become embittered toward such a person. If you do, you lose the best chance to do something that builds patience (James 1: 2ff ) Instead of shouting or “smarting” back, try gently explaining that, while you do not deserve this kind of mistreatment, you refuse to lash out in anger against anyone and that you will do your best to continue to be nothing but kind regardless of how you are treated. Each time you respond in kindness, you’re building spiritual muscle that makes you stronger for the next encounter.

Second, resolve to pity that person. Just be glad you are not her. Be glad you are the recipient of ill treatment rather than the dispenser. Such a person is not very happy. Troublemakers are troubled people. Besides, you have the favor of the Lord if you do not seek to retaliate in such a scenario. Stay on His side. 

Thirdly, Read the last few verses of Romans 12 and think of some practical ways in your specific situation in which to heap coals of fire. In my instance, this person told me exactly what inexpensive item she’s looking for right now on eBay. She told me this just before exploding at me. Well, I can shop on eBay, too, and I may search for some coals. I just may find some (at a bargain price) to heap on her head. Perhaps it would help move her toward heaven. 

Fourthly, if you believe there might be a disorder or a chemical imbalance occurring that’s causing outbursts of anger, pray and consider toward finding someone who might be able to convince the angry sister (or brother) to seek medical or professional help for the problem. Often this is very difficult to accomplish (because everyone’s afraid to get close enough to the ticking time bomb to suggest it), but I have seen angry people modify or eliminate the problem with proper help. They’ve gone on to live happy and productive lives. Homes have been stabilized and marriages strengthened by medical intervention. It’s just a fact.

Fifthly, don’t put too much stock in a criticism if it is from lips that alternately yell and scowl and bear gnashing teeth. Go to an older, wiser, unbiased person and ask for an assessment before you enter the world of guilt. Most importantly, go to the Word.

Lastly, remember the lamb that was led to the slaughter, opening not his mouth (Is. 53:7 ). Remember he spoke from the cross saying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” and made that forgiveness possible beginning at the following Pentecost (Acts 2:37,38). Remember your own state without that lamb’s sacrifice. (Your sin might not be unrighteous anger, but it is something!) Be sure that you are on-the-ready to forgive if penitence is achieved in the life of the angry sister. In fact, you should be in prayer for that penitence. 

Remember, the golden rule was meant for golden opportunities. When someone pops off at you, it’s a large and spontaneous and, yes, a golden opportunity to exhibit your faith in the command of Matthew 7:12.                                                                             

Post-Election Elation?!

Image of two ecstatic colleagues showing their gladness and looking at camera

 

It is true. We must be loving. We must be kind. In all circumstances. But passion about electing someone who promises to do something that legitimately can save millions of babies’ lives and can very possibly prolong our freedom to speak the gospel in its entirety–excitement about that is not wrong, especially when one looks at the incredible unrighteousness that just spewed forth from the other platform. In fact, for my conscience, it was/is difficult to be passionate and public (as public as my little world lets me be) about the election, but it was/is necessary. Post-election excitement because you think you now may have a chance (even though the president-elect is immoral in many areas) to preserve this freedom is not wrong. Excitement when you believe the gospel will have an easier route being taught and lived is a good thing.

But passion without practicality is useless. If Christians do not now use every opportunity to try and reach the lost, stand for truth and righteousness, and train our children to be sanctified in a dark world, we have won an empty battle. The real victory is in souls saved for heaven, of course. Today, I feel the debt I owe more keenly than ever. Today, I found a soul in my little realm of influence and asked her to study the Word with me. In the past weeks and months, I prayed a lot for the best interests of the gospel in the election. I have a chance now to show the world and the Lord and the devil that my heart really was/is in the furtherance of truth in a culture of relativism. So, go ahead and say we must be kind and loving, but please do not say we should not be passionate about the process or elated about the results. Most importantly, let’s get busy using the freedoms that have been prolonged, for now, to teach and practice Christianity…the love, the kindness and the passion for truth.

I really do believe that there is a good chance that millions of future lives will be saved as a result of this week’s voting. I have reason to be very hopeful that the tenor of the Supreme Court will change. I believe Planned Parenthood believes this to be a very real possibility, too. (http://www.mrctv.org/blog/planned-parenthood-devastated-shattered-over-unthinkable-trump-victory) It’s okay to rejoice over this. It is okay to be happy when Planned Parenthood is devastated.  It’s okay to be happy about this huge victory for innocent life; a victory over one who vowed to keep abortion legal and accessible…who said babies, all the way up to birth, have no rights. IT IS OK to be excited. It is just not okay to be ugly or unkind or unbecoming of the gospel we hope to share with people who are lost. 

In the book of Esther, someone in authority had to be hanged in order for thousands of  innocent lives to be saved. Truth had to come to light and, when it did, there was a change of power. It is important to notice that the Jews had light, gladness, joy and honor when the Persian authority, Haman, was hanged. There was a feast, the people rejoiced and “it was a good day” (Esther 8:16,17). They still had a heathen king in power, but God’s people had been handed a reprieve. We may be just about right there today.

I know that last Tuesday in America did not parallel the Persian account in every way. But, still, if God’s people are prayerful and in mourning because of a holocaust of innocent people and then, through an election surprise, we perceive a  light at the end of that tunnel, it’s okay to rejoice. It’s okay to have gladness and light in our hearts and homes.

One of my friends commented earlier this week that she couldn’t care less about who is the president of the United States. She’s just about spreading the gospel and living for Him. I think, in times where the two major party platforms are so very opposite in their stances on abortion and gay marriage, we need to care. I think, though God is sovereign and though He will ultimately protect his remnant, He cares about sin. He cared enough about sin that He watched His Son die on Calvary. I believe He cares about–is heartbroken about–the national sin of America, today. So I am going to do all I can to promote morality and righteousness in our land. Most of all, I am going to try and do all I can to bring people to the real remedy for sin, one soul at the time.

There’s a lot of talk about healing a divided nation this week. Healing is what I long for. But I must remember: It is not tolerance that ultimately heals. Ignoring or accepting cancer does not heal it. He is the Great Physician and He can truly heal our land. But not unless and until we fill His prescription.

Sister to Sister: I’m all out of “Nice”.

 
nice-cup-of-tea-and-a-biscuits_M156zYu__LI was in a coffee shop the other day, trying to get some work done while waiting for my husband, when a group of thirty-something and forty-something women came in. They congregated and visited near my table. I wasn’t getting much work done, but they were loud, so I got a lot of eavesdropping done. I overheard one of them say this:
“So I’m just about done. I mean yesterday was the worst day at work and I was SO nice to customers all day. ‘How can I help you?’…’I’m so sorry you’re having difficulty.’…’Here, let me help you with that.’… I mean, by the time I got home, I was all out of ‘nice’. My husband started in about one of his little issues and I just said ‘You better just go to bed because I am fresh out of nice. My nice is just all used up.'”
I hope we never run out of nice, as God’s women. This woman’s perspective surely was not a holy one born of a meek and quiet spirit (I Peter 3:1-5).  Her spirit, rather, was one completely divorced from and opposite of kind and long-suffering toward her husband. She really had used up her nice in a context of earning a paycheck and, at the end of the long hard day, she had nothing left for the one who should be the most important person in her world.
I hope we are different as Christians. As God’s woman, I should see my home as my first responsibility; the place that gets the very best of me–not the leftovers. I want my husband to get the best of my nice–not merely because he could demand it, but simply because he’s my husband and I love him (Titus 2:3-5) and because my God has demanded that of me. Even should my husband be having a bad day or, as is the case with some sweet sisters I know who are married to non-believers, even if he’s having a bad life, my commitment is to God to give my husband my respect (Ephesians 5:33).
Where is your nice going when you really think about it?  Maybe you have enough nice to go around. But if you are using it up outside of your house and life with your husband and/or children is suffering as a result, priorities need to be rearranged and adjustments made. This woman at the coffee shop was truly very nice to her friends as she sipped her latte . She had time for them. One or two of them asked her questions and she responded with a smile. It made me wonder if she was going to use it all up again that day before she got home to the one that God has made to be her head (Ephesians 5:23), the one she is to be loving with phileo–friendship love (Titus 2:3-5).
 Surely the hearts of His daughters are refillable. Nice is a commodity that we restore over and over again when we continue to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness and goodness is the natural harvest of a life lived in Jesus (Galatians 5:23)…a life transformed by the Word and from  the world by a renewed mind (Romans 12:2). But if you constantly find yourself struggling to be nice where it consequentially matters most, then contemplate and eliminate, reflect and deflect, consider life carefully and change it prayerfully, trust and adjust. Get your nice on!
A woman can tear down her house with her own hands (Proverbs 14:1). Maybe some of us are building relationships at the coffee shop, the office and even in the church building, while destroying the most important one. If that’s you, let me encourage you to stop right where you are and vow to do whatever it takes to bring nice home to your most important earthly relationship.

Wonder-Women

15 days in a row…away from home. Then four nights in my own bed. Then away again overnight. Then back home to the excitement of company in the cabin for three days. Then the following morning…flying out again for a week in Wyoming and Montana. Eleven speeches in there somewhere and a week of helping (in small ways) a wonderful friend who just had a routine, but very painful knee surgery. A few hours of PTP counseling, a podcast, the launch of a new Digging Deep study, a doctor appointment with my dad, a doctor appointment and some tests run for me (should be psychological, but no!) and all the regular cooking and cleaning and laundry that’s the lay of the land at Serenity. All of that to say it’s a life that God smiles on with many opportunities and deep blessings that just bowl me over daily. Sometimes I just ask Him, “Why me, Lord? Why are you so good to me?” Everyone knows, though, that, when opportunity knocks and you open the door, sometimes exhaustion slips in that open door, too.

The main reason I’m reflecting to you about the past few days and the upcoming ones, though, is so you can understand my utter appreciation for my friend, Alissa Clarke. See, Alissa  knew there was company coming to my cabin tomorrow. She further knew that I was out of town today, with my Dad. So, when I got home tonight, my cabin was cleaned! I mean the thing was top-to-bottom, sheets-changed, bathroom-scrubbed spic! Now my friend, Alissa has three kids, ages five and down. She is one of the heads of ladies’ ministries at West Huntsville. She runs a home business and she is sewing all of her twins’ dress clothes for this fall. She attends ladies prayer group, ladies Bible study, and ladies craft night. She has a crowd in her home for every Bama game (which means THIS weekend…Roll Tide!). She also just got back from PTP, thus she had more laundry than I do and she was just as tired as I am. And this Wonder-Woman came over today to clean my cabin. Truly! And, Brody, her five-year-old, worked his funny little self to pieces for ME. (I love you, Brody!) God is so good to me through sisters!

And then there is my friend, Jennifer Benavides. If you are reading this, it’s because of her. There would not, could not be a “Bless Your Heart” blog, a “Digging Deep” study, or a Colley House website were it not for the freely offered technical services of Jennifer. She will not want to post this for me. She never wants any mention or any recognition of any kind. But tonight, as I write this, Jennifer has begun her trip to San Antonio, where she will sit in a waiting room with her dear mother and await the doctor’s report following a difficult surgery on her father to remove a malignant tumor. Will you join me in praying for Jennifer’s parents–the Densons, and for brother Denson’s doctors, for Jennifer and the rest of the family, and for the Benavides family here in Huntsville, who will be missing the keeper of their home for the next couple of weeks? Jennifer has prayed for many of you and I have often been strengthened by her prayers for me. I know God will give what is ultimately best, but having been by my own father’s bedside this year, I know the hope that prayer kindles in weary hearts.

A friend loves at all times, but a brother is born for adversity. Friends can ease burdens. Friends can show kindness. But it’s only family–family in the Lord–that can lift voices in unison before the Father’s throne when another family member is in the midst of adversity. I believe (and know in my own life) that it’s the adverse times of life—the dark times–that make us fully appreciate our place in the family and the benefits of family membership.

I’m humbled by those benefits. I would have never asked my sister to come clean my cabin. But I am truly honored and humbled by her heart of kindness. I’m truly grateful–to her and to the Lord who made us family. She is one of many who would do anything for me…really…anything. My tech-savvy Jen is another. May God help me to be half the servant I see in so many faces of my family in the Lord, particularly at West Huntsville. May I remember, when I do it to the least of these my sisters, I also do it to my older brother. His name is Jesus.