Sister to Sister: Digging Deep’s a Little Piece of the Providence.

Most of us could use a little good news this week, so here it is:

Kerri Epling, a sweet Digging Deep participant from Elizabethton, Tennessee, tells me that, through the Digging Deep Facebook group, Jessi made an eternal connection—one that resulted in her sins being washed away (Acts 22:16) and in her translation from the power of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13). That’s good news. 

Jessi grew up with a connection to the church though her grandfather and even was immersed as a young girl, but was not truly converted. Now, grown and married and searching for truth, she came across the DD page, among others, and mustered her courage to inquire there about the church in her area. (Jessi said she was kind of “stalking” us. Well, I like for friends like Jessi to be “stalking”!) Thanks to those of you who responded, and especially to Kerri, she and her husband have engaged in extensive study this week and, on Sunday night, Jessi was baptized for the remission of her sins (Acts 2:38)!

Jessi now has a brand new Digging Deep study guide and a group of ladies who are excited to support her. She has a welcoming family in the Lord and a living relationship with her Father. She has the promise of heaven! Her husband is studying, too, and I know you all will be praying along with me for wisdom for his teachers and a tender heart toward the Word.

I know some of you would love to encourage Jessi by sending a card or a personal note. Here’s how:

Jessi

℅ Kerri Epling

The church @ 137 East C Street 

Elizabethton TN 37643

There are some powerful lessons hidden in Jessi’s story. Here are a half dozen:

  1. The influence of a godly grandparent can outlive him/her. Even when it seems you may be fighting a losing battle for the souls of your grandchildren, keep fighting. They may remember and turn even after you’re gone. 
  2. Social media has done/ can do eternal good. It often makes our world in Him a little smaller and our evangelism more efficient. Use it for His glory.
  3. Thank Him for providence. He can work through unexpected means when someone is looking for truth. (Amazingly, Jessi found that she and her husband had known some of the same people and had some previous connections with Kerri’s family!…just common ground that helped establish camaraderie and confidence.)
  4. Never pass up a chance to study with someone or direct someone toward truth. There are searching souls among us!
  5. Always muster the courage to ask for spiritual help when you need it.  Conversely, always muster the courage to reach out of your comfort zone to spread the Word. (Tonight in our Bible class, we studied Acts 8. How much courage it must have taken for Philip to go into Samaria, a place where those of Judea were generally unwelcome to, for the first time, present the gospel to Samaritans. Was he surprised when many believed and obeyed? )
  6. Learn to be expecting God’s word to convict hearts when we teach it in love. 

Keep Digging. There’s gold at the end of the dig (Revelation 21:18-21).

Congratulations 5000th Digging Deep Member, Tina Martin!

Digging Deep congratulates 5000th member, Tina Martin, this morning! What started as a Wednesday afternoon lesson at Polishing the Pulpit and then a dozen young girls studying together on Facebook has, with the blessings of our God. become a 5000 member group of women who are into a study of how we gain the victory over the devil in 2017 (https://www.facebook.com/groups/282349391779769/).  It has taken some key elements that He has providentially provided…technology, fellowship, the origination of the study  and the catalyst of Polishing the Pulpit (http://www.polishingthepulpit.com), a great overseeing eldership at West Huntsville (http://www.westhuntsville.org), Jennifer Benavides, and many hearts that are hungry. It’s humbling to get to be a little part of a great movement to study the book that can enable us to live forever with Him. I’m very happy for the fellowship and strength that comes from Digging Deep.

Several new avenues of sharing the study are opening up this fall. We now have a completed Spanish version of the study going up today on The Colley House, thanks to Jacky and Marlon Retana. They are faithful and dear people, who currently live and work in Panama. Jacky plans to educate herself about all-things-podcast and provide a Spanish podcast, as well. So invite your Spanish speaking friends. Esta Bueno!

Next, we’re toying with the idea of having an alternate audio podcast for those who prefer to listen while running or driving or cooking rather than watching and visiting the chatroom. Let us know if you’d be interested in this option and it will help us to know about which equipment we need and how to best record this alternative podcast access.

Finally, there’s a new online study this fall for teen girls, called Finding Him. It’s excellent material designed to mold hearts to want to please our Father–to love Him.  For more details about that visit http://rebekahcolley.com. The first online chatroom opens tomorrow night!

So Tina Martin, it’s your lucky day! Put a decimal right in the middle of 5000 and you get $50.00. (Decimal necessary.) Just go to The Colley House and choose $50.00 worth of merchandise. Facebook me and let me know what you’d like, leave your address, and you’ll receive this gift bundle with our compliments! Congratulations, Tina! I hope your biggest blessing is not the bundle, but the study! So glad you (and 400 other women) have joined the group in recent days. Please pray for every soul in the group, every month’s study, and especially for women who may really need the initial escape from sin and death We’re off to the greatest escapes!

 

 

From the Archives: Remembering One Back-to-School August

back-to-school_M1eTPK_u_MI’ll never forget this August of 2010, when My daughter Hannah, 23, and fresh out of college, became a high school English teacher. Hannah!…the one who had never attended a day of “real” elementary, middle or high school!  She also had never planned to be a school teacher. In fact, she had purposefully planned NOT to! Here are her thoughts that fall:
So I realize, of course, that it’s been 198264910.7 years since I’ve updated this thing. I would apologize for this, but seeing as how I’ve made no prior commitment to waste your time with my own random musings which are probably only interesting to me and maybe my mother who loves me more than any daughter deserves to be loved (my dad loves me, too, but is much less likely to even know what Tumblr is), an apology really isn’t necessary.
In the event, however, that you, the current reader, are somewhat interested in my quite unexpected post-grad way of life, keep reading. The other 90%, just stop here. This is just another, “Wow-let-me-impart-into-your-soul-some-urgent-life-changing-thoughts-that-are-really-not-that-earth-shattering-but-feel-good-to-get-off-my-chest” post.
The last time I got on here and talked about my life, I was fresh out of college, about to stay in a friend’s apartment all summer in Henderson, TN. I was doing some freelance work for a religious publication and working with some great kids in my youth minister boyfriend’s youth group. I was also speaking at youth rallies and such on some weekends. For then, that was plenty. I was just glad I didn’t have to feel like a major moocher at my parents’ house . I wanted to feel like I was doing something worthwhile. I felt that by the end of the summer, I would have another exciting plan to chase.
I had an amazing summer. I cooked every day. I had slumber parties. I dyed t-shirts. I got to speak to hundreds of girls who were hungry for truth and just someone to relate to them. I made new friends—some of which I think will last forever. I went star-gazing. I wrote a lot. I fell in love.
In the meantime, I sent my resume to as many newspapers as I could find that needed writers. I quickly discovered that not a lot of promising journalism opportunities are made available to newly graduated starry eyed writers with no major reporting experience and no Masters degrees.
By the end of the summer, I was still believing in my heart of hearts that I was going to get a call with an exciting job offer in an exciting new city in which I could spread my wings and become the competent journalist I was meant to be.
It seems God had other plans.
I got a call near the end of the summer. Chester County High School needed an English teacher and I had been recommended. Would I be interested in coming in for an interview? I chuckled. Never in my life did I ever think of myself as a public school teacher—much less HIGH SCHOOL. I was an English major, yes, but had never had a single education class, and definitely no student teaching experience. What a joke! I expressed, however, how honored I felt that I was considered, but for now, “probably not—I’ll get back to you though.”
Long story short—a week later, still no job, and my desperation was at an all-time high. The last thing I wanted to do was to financially depend on others when I was perfectly capable of working for my own paycheck. After a lot of thought and prayer, I decided to call the school back and inquire about the position. After all, it would only be a 1-year contract, it was good money for starting out (especially in this economy), and it would be good experience to have under my belt regardless.
The position was filled.
I knew it would be. Sure I did. My own stupid fault for being too good for a perfectly good job that not a lot of fresh college grads are offered.
I was kicking myself for a few weeks because of that. I kept praying. I asked God to open another door for me since I had shut that one.
Then I got another phone call.
I was sitting in McDonald’s with the boyfriend when the principal at CCHS called me and asked me to come in for an interview. Turns out the guy who was originally offered the job had a family emergency and had to give up the position. I was really sad for him, but this time, I wasn’t so smug about a temporary career path that wasn’t necessarily my first choice.
Two short weeks later, I was thrown in a classroom, responsible for the education of over 150 ninth graders, my heart pounding. What you may or may not know about me is that I’ve never stepped foot into a public school. Home schooled all my life, my expectations of public high school were…well, there weren’t any. I’m not just making funny jokes when I say I didn’t know what a hall pass was, what bus duty was, what in-school suspension was, or even what a grade book looked like. I felt like a turtle trying to run a marathon, but I put on a confident face and, although I looked like a student myself, tried to convince my students that I was aptly authoritative and deserved their respect.
I’ve somehow made it through 3 complete months of teaching. While I know this may not the path for me (and that, more than ever, I want to home school my kids), I don’t regret the decision to teach for this year. God has given me more open doors in these past 3 months than I remember having my whole life. I’m amazed at how many of my students feel comfortable opening up to me about real-life issues: divorce, abuse, sex, break-ups, self-abuse, and most importantly, how to get to heaven. I’ve had Bible studies with students who are searching for something solid and stable in their worlds that are full of everything that’s broken. I’ve had multiple opportunities to share Christ with so many different open and desperate hearts. It happens just about every day—not exaggerating.
Besides that, I’m learning so many life lessons myself that I know will inevitably help me to be a better mother, a better teacher, a better organizer, and a better communicator. God knew I needed these lessons. I complain a lot about how He’s teaching me patience and wisdom, but deep down, I can hear my dad’s voice ringing loud and clear….”This is good, Hannah. It builds character.” Every time you hear a parent say something about “character-building,” you know it’s going to feel lousy sometimes until it’s all over and you can admit it helped you to grow. I’m trying to beat myself to the chase by admitting it now. The truth is, just as a disclaimer, I complain a whole lot because my job requires so much more work and time than I ever dreamed it would (I’ve realized that all teachers are underpaid and underestimated). I am ready to experience something new, but I do not question God’s plan in placing me here. Yes, He’s using me as a mouthpiece for Him in many ways (whether or not I always make the best use of that), but more than that, I think He’s teaching me a few lessons I needed myself.
I still view my life as an adventure, despite the day-in-day-out routine I’m in at the moment. After this year, I’m excited to see what God has in store for me.
As always, I’m so unworthy and I make the dumbest mistakes. On the upside, I believe I’m learning from each one. That makes them almost worth it.

Sister to Sister: For 32 Years I Prayed

Version 2It’s a few minutes past midnight on the morning of my son’s wedding day. In a few more hours he will be a married man. Tonight at the rehearsal dinner I got to hear our daughter, Hannah, reminisce about their childhood in our home and it was the best time a mother can have at supper. Then I got to hear Caleb play and sing a song he’d written for Rebekah.  Magical moments you’d like to extend. But they pass. And prayers answered make new paths and progress toward the goal. Below are two poems…the first, a prayer, written when Caleb was very young. The second is all about the prayer’s answer. It was written yesterday. God always hears us and he always answers. We, as His children, get to simply live out the answers to prayers. How blessed we are to know our lives are under the Romans 8:28 umbrella! Here. For Caleb and for God’s answer for his life, Rebekah.

God Bless my Baby

God, give him strength as he enters our lives.

Give us wisdom as parents as each of us strives

To make for him places in our world to grow.

Teach us Lord. We’re so small.  There’s so much we don’t know.

God bless him as he to your wonders awakes.

Bless him, dear Lord, when his first steps he takes.

He’s so small.  May his scratches and bruises be small.

May my kiss make it better each time he may fall.

Help him to learn, Lord, just what he should know

To take him in life where you want him to go.

But in all of this learning, may he never forget.

The One who has made him and walks with Him yet.

Give him courage when Satan first gets in His way.

May he stay near your word. May he fall down and pray.

May he put on you Lord.  That’s my most fervent prayer;

And for all of his days cast on you every care.

When the time comes, Oh God, that he must go away,

Help us to let go; but still hear us pray.

God, bless our baby.  Look down from your throne.

Watch over him gently, for still he’s our own.

Give him shelter, dear Lord, from this world’s raging storm,

In a place where your love shines; a place that is warm.

Give him people to help him keep you in his life.

Give him one of your daughters, oh God, for his wife.

And one day may they know the joy I now feel,

Of a life yet unborn, but so precious and real.

May something I give him while still he is mine,

Make him know that all life, even unborn, is thine.

So Father, my prayer is for a life you’re now giving;

And, yes, for a soul that will always be living.

My task is so great.  I’m so small.  Help me see

That through Christ I can do it, for He strengthens me.

cc

 

The Answer

God is so good to your parents tonight

He’s  answered the details of prayer.

It wasn’t our wisdom, but Providence

Not our work, but His steady care.

 

He gave you the songs you’ve been singing

He gave you the voice that you raise

He gave you the music that’s deep in your soul

And the skill to lead Christians in praise.

.

You’ve excelled in conviction and conscience.

You’re courageous, yet kind and forbearing.

Confident in truth, introspective,

Consistent, hard-working, and caring.

 

He’s answered our prayer for His daughter, too.

More completely than parents could plead.

Immeasurably more than we ask or think.

She’s everything He knows you need.

 

So we thank our Father each night for her;

For the path that brought her to your life.

For her honor, her humor, her love for our Lord

And that she said, “yes”…she’d be your wife.

 

So you both can go ahead and start praying now

For the sons who will fill up your lives.

For their safety in coming, their bruises and scrapes

For the ones who will raise up their wives.

 

And, Son, pray for daughters, for you know how to teach

A little boy to be the best kind of brother.

She’ll be holy and His and so pretty, to boot…

She’ll grow up to be just like her mother.

 

When the years and the tasks loomed so large, Son,

We prayed for this hour in your life.

We prayed that your heart and your hands would be strong

When they first held the heart of your wife.

 

And all through the years, Son, you’ve taught us.

But the greatest thing you helped us see

Was the extreme sacrifice of the Father

To give His one Son on a tree.

 

We know that He brought you together

That the Father is writing your story.

So glad for this moment when you’ll vow to give

Him a lifetime…as one…for His glory.

cc

 

Sister to Sister: But, Why?

imagesIt was a great to be with so many last night via the Digging Deep podcast. We kicked off our year-long prayer study. It’s still not too late to invite friends to join us. The study group is a great tool for evangelism as well as personal growth. One of the features that many women like is that it really does allow you to go at your own pace, do what you can when you can and even relax if you fall behind or have to take a break along the way.

Last night we talked a bit about questioning God. There were several of our characters in the study who did just that. Abraham did it in Genesis 15, verses 2 and 8. Moses did it on several occasions (Exodus 5:22; Exodus 32:11; Num. 11:11). Job did it in chapters 40 and 42 and Rebekah did it in Genesis 25:22. Jesus even asked the question “Why?” in a wondrous fulfillment of prophecy as he hung on the cross (Psalm 22:1; Mark 15:34).

As we discussed our own prayers, we concluded that most of us have asked God questions in prayer. Two major categories of questions arose from your comments: (1.) We ask God HOW. How can I handle this situation? How can I be more godly in this strife? How can I please you as I meet this challenge? (2.) We ask God WHY. Why am I going through this most difficult trial? Why do I have to sorrow? Why can’t  I have a better circumstance at this point in my life? Why is this very hard command imposed upon my will?

I think we’d all agree that asking God HOW (i.e. for wisdom and maturity in handling our life’s trials and situations) is a good thing.  But, is it a good thing to ask WHY? I think it all depends on what we really want to know. Let me explain.

When I ask my child to do something and she responds with “Why?”, that is generally unacceptable. Oh, I know that it’s a good thing to put reasoning skills and rationales in the minds of our children as we go along, but there’s a lot to be said for the unquestioning respect of authority. I remember my mother putting it this way, “Obey first and ask questions later.” That advice is sound if the command is to get out of the middle of the street, buckle your seat belt, or stop talking during services. Perhaps retrospectively asking why is even a great learning experience. But, in the moment of decision, children must obey without questioning the reason. (That’s the reason, by the way, that counting to our children to give them “extra chances” to obey is not a wise idea. Often there is just no time for counting and you want your children to be conditioned to obey immediately every time.)

So it is with the commands of our God. Asking why baptism is commanded for salvation or why singing is the prescribed music form in worship or why we must withdraw fellowship in cases of blatant sin in the body is a child-like form of resistance to the ultimate Authority and it is not representative of a heart that has truly submitted to God, even when that heart and life may appear to be sacrificial and pious to men. “Behold to OBEY is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22—another passage that I heard from my mother about a bajillion times whenever I made excuses for disobedience).

But, on the other hand, I can ask why. If I truly want to find and fully take advantage of the heavenly purpose for situations, trials and sorrows in my sojourn on this planet, asking why is a very spiritually healthy thing to do. See, I really mean one of two things when I ask God why I lost this job? I mean “God, I am disappointed that you didn’t bless me as I thought you should and I am not happy with the way this is turning out!” or I mean “God, this circumstance is uncomfortable and I do not yet know what you are teaching me through it, but I want you to use this loss to fit me for heaven. Father, truly teach me why.” There is a vast difference between the two ‘whys”. When I become impatient with God, It usually comes out “Why is this happening to me? Why couldn’t it be someone else?” When I truly want to know his will and purpose in events and circumstances, the question is “Why NOT me? Let me be the one who learns and grows even from the difficult turns of events in this short life on earth. Whatever the pain, whatever the loss, whatever the burden, whatever the cross…if there is a straight shot to faith and heaven (or even a crooked and narrow one) through the trial, then ‘it is well with my soul.’”

Asking why is for the spiritually immature. But asking why is for the spiritually mature. Asking why either challenges God or it challenges me. It all depends on what I mean when I ask God “Why?”. Today, may I ask the “why” that helps me see heaven through the eye of faith.

A Funny Thing Happened…

Funny thing happened on the way over to Honolulu…. The first leg was the “we’ve-done-it-dozens-of-times-quick” Huntsville to Houston flight last Monday. But something happened that’s never happened to us on this route before. The plane ran into huge headwinds that just kept pushing us back, delaying the time we were flying over Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas. In fact, we were delayed significantly enough to put us well out of reach of any flights that would get us on to Honolulu that day. We spent the night in the Houston airport.

The trip was a total reroute, omitting our original stop in LA, and sending us on a direct flight from Houston to Honolulu early on Tuesday morning. We boarded, rather tired from the wear, and, as we suspected, were seated on the very back (arrrgh) middle seats in a huge jet full of expectant Hawaiian vacationers. Could be a long eight-and-a half hours. Settling in, we noticed that the man beside us apparently did not want to sit beside us and was trying to trade seats with the 20-ish pony-tailed girl in front of us, which she obligingly did.

Then the eight hours sped by at a literal jet speed!

“Hey,” she said. “Where are you from?”

“Alabama. How ‘bout you?”

“Alabama, too…A tiny little place called Crossville.”

“Oh, we’re from Huntsville. We know where Crossville is. And are you going on a vacation?”

“I am going on a Valentine’s trip to see my husband who is stationed at Pearl Harbor.”

“How fun! Are you surprising him or does he know you are coming?”

“Oh…he knows and he is planning all sorts of fun stuff. And are you on vacation?”

“Not exactly. We are going to take a few days off at the end, but first we are going to be doing a marriage and family seminar at the Honolulu church of Christ.”

All of this followed by a few minutes of wonderful small talk and then the great Bible study kick-off question we all dream of from potential Christians:

“Well, could you help me understand the difference in the various churches, particularly Catholic and Baptist and the Church of Christ?”

This query was naturally followed by several hours of intense discussion about the Bible, New Testament Christianity and what it means to be in Christ. In the interim periods, a different discussion about issues in her marriage and how God’s Word can resolve conflicts and bring joy to relationships kept the conversation going. All of this was followed by this statement by my new friend:

“Well I do not think I am in that circle of God’s grace. I do not think he hears my prayers. This makes me want to be baptized.”

This very sweet and open little wife left with a lot to think about. I do not think she will be spending her entire time on this island without discussing this with her seaman. She has already texted me once while we have been here and are connecting on facebook. She has promised that she will visit our West Huntsville services. We’ve exchanged contact information and she has invited me to stop for lunch at the restaurant where she works which happens to be located on a very familiar trek for me…right on the way to visit my dad.

Now, what’s the point? There are two. First, we were on the wrong plane and she was in the wrong seat. But there we were, all together now for almost nine hours. She was struggling with some marriage issues and we were on our way to teach His will on that very subject. All a coincidence? Well, perhaps. But I believe God providentially provided some answers for a searching heart. That’s the point. If we are prayerful for opportunities and knowledgeable enough and bold enough to take them (that’s where I struggle!), then I believe He is the great Connector. He is good to provide teachers to those who need them and searchers for those who will teach (“provide” being the root of “providence”).

Secondly, will you pray with me for her continued responsiveness to the gospel she has learned? Will you pray that there will be providential circumstances in her life that will allow her, even prompt her, to see her urgent need to obey? Will you pray for her conversations with her husband and her safety in travel? Pray for me and other Christians who may impact her, too… that we will find opportunities and have wisdom to lead her all the way to spiritual safety.

And, my sweet new friend, if you should find and read this, know that lots of people, women who do not yet know you, are praying that they will become your sisters through Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).