Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 3)

 

As I continue to think about this subject, I must acknowledge that the America we live in today is different from that of a half-century ago. There are policemen in certain communities in our country who are increasingly anxious when pulling over a violating automobile when the driver is a black man. That is simply reality. Sometimes in these communities, due to violence occurring between African American citizens and police officers, our black brothers and sisters, though they’ve had nothing to do with the incitation of violence, are fearful when family members leave their homes.

We could spend time deliberating about which fears are founded and which are based on unsubstantiated claims. But regardless of the the basis for it, fear is always uncomfortable. Christians should always be compassionate toward brothers and sisters who fear. Some of them are fearful for safety, their own or that of a loved one. Some are fearful for the well -being of their children as members of minority groups. Some are, indeed, so fearful that they have begun to think about leaving the United States. There are Christian women who are daily praying for safety as their husbands traverse the everyday travel and tasks that comprise their work days.

I want to go and put my arms around them when I read about their fears, because they are my sisters and they are afraid. 

But I am sometimes fearful, too. There are some areas of my hometown to which I would not dare to venture at night. These are areas in which crime is rampant, murders are common and theft is a real threat. In this particular town, those areas are the predominantly black areas—the areas in which the population is, by and large, African American. I try to be evangelistic and honest, as well. Like my brown sister, though, I am fearful. I have no doubt that she would sympathize with my fear in the event I had to travel through that zone of trepidation, just as I do with hers, because we love one another with the love of the Lord. We should and do pray for one another.

Sometimes we struggle, though, with how racial tension should affect our congregations and the church in general. Next time, we will focus on the church and race relations. I’m praying that this series is useful, at least in a small way, in making sisters who read ever more determined to be a part of a movement to be united in Him, even as our culture seems to continue to be sharply divided. 

 

Sister to Sister: Feedback from an “Orphan” Sister

Two women outdoors hugging and smilingPerhaps you read the recent post called “Orphans Among Us”. If not, you may read it here: http://thecolleyhouse.org/sister-to-sister-orphans-among-us. This reader response made me want to be more like Christa (and more like Christ).  I hope it will encourage us all to value our family in the Lord more than even our physical families.

 

Hi, Cindy!

I hope all’s well with you. I just read your article “Orphans Among Us” and I really enjoyed it! I was raised half in the church. I was born into a Catholic family. My parents divorced and my mother remarried (unscripturally) to a man who attended (a very permissive and not wholly biblically sound) church of Christ. While that congregation had some issues that eventually led to my whole family walking away from the faith, I know God had me in the palm of His hand. When I got older and started looking, the local church of Christ is where I started (and fortunately that one was sound). While my family growing up is still lost, I’m thankful that the process resulted in my husband becoming a Christian and my children being raised in a Christian home. All the backstory was just to say this: I’ve had an amazing experience with other women stepping in to be my surrogate mothers in the faith. I’ve been blessed with several wonderful women who have been wonderful friends and tasked themselves with teaching me as their own. I don’t know what I would have done without them. I got really nervous when we moved to a new place because I was losing my physical family, but also my surrogate family in the faith.

Last year was especially hard for us. We were still relatively new in town. I’m a stay-at-home homeschooling mom. I lost two babies last year, and some wonderful women helped me through that. The doctors thought there was an ectopic pregnancy. I was desperate and scared. We’ve since been been “adopted” by an older couple at our congregation. They have my little boys calling them Gigi and Pawpaw. Once, I was at their house and one of their actual kids called. They’d come in from out of town and were telling them where they were. Lloyd and Christa, who had “adopted” us, told their children that they had company and would have to see them later. When I offered to leave so that they could be with their kids, they told me that my family was closer than theirs. As Christians, we’re closer to them than their blood family (who are lost). When I lost my second baby, Christa had been acting as my mother the whole time (my blood family wanted me to have an abortion because I have a history of difficult pregnancies). When we went to the ultrasound and the doctor couldn’t find the heartbeat, Christa was the first person I called. While my own mother wasn’t willing to look at the ultrasound photos (they were all I had, but our baby isn’t alive in them), Christa came over and cried with me over them. When I hemorrhaged at 5:30 in the morning (and my husband, after rushing me three blocks to the hospital, had to leave me there to get back to our kids–who we didn’t have time to wake up), I called Christa. She wasn’t angry that I woke her up (but said she would have been if I hadn’t). She sat with me all day, held my hand, and prayed with me. I know that it’s so very true that there are orphans among us. I just wanted to share my experience as one who was adopted.

Sister to Sister: “Baby Down!”

14305233_937682760579_6131246353948726920_oWhen my Hannah was about four years old, her younger cousin, Abel, was born. Amidst all of her grandmothers’ ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the new baby, Hannah shouted across the room to her grandmother “Pumpie!” (That’s what she called her.) “I’m over here!” 

This week, I’ve had a few vivid recollections of that sort of sibling or cousin jealousy as I’ve held my brand new Colleyanna. Ezra, her big brother, looked at me and repeated a phrase over and over as I was walking around with Colleyanna in my arms today. He kept saying “Baby down.” 

I said “Do you  mean you want me to put the baby down?” 

“Uh-huh,” Ezra said. (Like mother, like son).

Sibling jealousy was a thing…a real thing in the Corinthian church of the first century; so much so that Paul used a good portion of the book of First Corinthians to address it. The climax of the discussion is in chapter 13, where he describes love. As I think about that chapter, I see that several of the characteristics or anti-characteristics of love were a bit lacking in Ezra’s behavior today. For instance, love envies not. I’m pretty sure envy was at the root of “Baby down”. I think maybe Ezra was being pretty focused on himself and behaving a bit unseemly. But Ezra is a little child. (And this kind of attention seeking toward a grandmother is not unpleasant to this Mammy, by any means!)

It’s interesting that I Corinthians 13 concludes by pointing out that children talk like children. They think and understand like children. But when they grow up, they put away childish things. There will come a day very soon, if things are right in Ezra’s home, when he will no longer be jealous of his sister, but rather protective and encouraging. Maturity compels us to protect and encourage each other in the body of Christ—to seek the well-being of one another (I Cor. 10:24). That’s what Christians do when they grow up.

Practically speaking, this means you rejoice when someone else excels in some area of service even if it’s an area in which you also work. You are glad when another receives honor for the good things in her life. You are willing to step aside and let another person have the chance to do something that perhaps you have “always” done. You forbear with someone who does something in a a manner less preferable to you, albeit scriptural. You absolutely refuse to berate a brother or sister to his or her  face or behind his or her back, but you will go to all lengths to save his or her soul. In short, you get out of the way for the cause of Christ. You serve rather than seeking service (i.e “How come no one visited me in the hospital?”). Your path in Him is one of conviction and consecration, rather than convenience. It is always self-instructive, rather than self-indulgent. You are never eager to say “Hey, look! I’m over here!” When a new Christian’s needs take precedence, you never say “Baby down,” because it is your purpose to put childish things away.

And when you use the phrase “Oh, grow up!” you’re talking to yourself and you are wanting to do it the I Corinthians 13 way!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

She Facebooked her Friends and said “Rejoice with Me!…

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…for I have found the piece which was lost!”

Several sisters have asked about the lost dress. Facebook can be a huge umbrella of encouragement even in the mundane.  I know life’s not all about finding Cindy Colley’s heirloom dress, of all things, but I was truly humbled and amazed that so many of you cheered us on as we searched for and found a little dress that I very much wanted to put on BabyG2 next September.  Hundreds of you (literally) and many that I’ve never met have been the sweetest sisters a woman could ever have. I love Facebook for giving your encouragement to me. 

The dress was deep in a closet at Hannah’s (my daughter’s) house. It was in a garment bag hiding behind her wedding dress, which was in the back of that closet in another very huge garment bag. The funny thing was, I had everyone looking for a pink box in which I’d originally wrapped that dress for the gender reveal two years ago…the gender reveal that turned out to be for a boy. Thus, the dress was never opened at the reveal. 

What I had forgotten was that the dress had been removed from the box and used as an illustration at a ladies day in Middle Tennessee a few months after that reveal…the very weekend, in fact, that Ezra was due. (Thus the reason it never got out of my car at my house….It just went straight to Hannah’s house and got hung in a closet there because hospital luggage is not conducive to dress preservation.) That’s just where Facebook became very helpful. You found out I was looking and three of you remembered the dress. You identified where you saw it and the garment bag in which it had left the church building at East Main. In turn, I told my son Caleb (via his Facebook page) to stop looking for a box and start looking for a garment bag. Truth be told, I don’t think he’d done a whole lot of looking for either. (He’s a good egg, though.) But Hannah, being the faithful Facebook follower that she is, immediately saw that post about looking for garment bags. She had moved all the hanging clothes in that closet more than once, laid them on the bed and searched the back of that closet for a box. But this time, she rushed home and actually looked through those clothes she’d been moving  back and forth. She looked for a black garment bag. She found the dress and tried to call me…twice. Unable to reach me, she called her Daddy, who got in the car and drove across town with photos on his phone to spread the cheer.

When he walked in the kitchen door in the middle of last Tuesday, I was surprised to see him. 

“What would you give a man…?” he began. 

“You found my dress??!!”

“I think so. But what would you give a man?…Is this the dress?” He offered his phone and a series of photos.

“You found my dress!!!!” 

“Yes and you should call your daughter on that phone that I don’t even know why I pay for.…She wants to hear from you.”

******************************************************

There are always lessons, of course. Here they are:

  1. If Facebook can find a lost dress, surely we can connect some dots and find some lost souls, too. Facebook is a more personal and encompassing kind of outreach than email or USPS. It’s the kind of networking in which you never know if a click that posts or comments may be the click that does click with some lost soul and opens a door to a relationship, a study, an invitation that could result in a saved soul.
  2. Facebook is a neutral commodity. You get to decide whether your use of it is for the Lord or for the devil. Now, finding a dress is not a work of the Lord. But encouraging each other, as Facebook friends did (and do regularly for me) through this medium, is a great way to get the most good out of something the devil loves to control.
  3. You’re never going to find what you’re looking for if you’re looking where it’s not. That dress was not in all those absurd places (like on top of way-up-there kitchen cabinet and in overflowing trunks where I would have never crushed that batiste and damp basement corners) where I was looking. Sometimes life is like that. We can’t find contentment. We look in all those hard-to-do absurd places instead of the obvious place where the “owner” of truth has put it in the first place. 
  4. You may be own, be picking up, carrying, and moving about the answer to all your dilemmas. But until you recognize that, open it up and really look inside, you won’t find what you’re looking for. Hannah did that with that garment bag. She moved it over and over as she looked other places, to no avail. That’s what we do with our Bibles. We lay them on the table beside our beds. We pick them back up and take them to worship. Sometimes we move them back and forth and back and forth without ever really opening and examining them. We move the book, but we don’t meditate on it, memorize it or mark it. There are many people who own a Bible but do not own truth. It’s very important that we show our kids the difference. The Bible is not a lucky amulet. It’s what’s inside that can bring us joy. But that joy exists for me only when what’s inside the book gets inside of me. Hannah had a garment bag that she was transferring mindlessly back and forth, while what was inside eluded us all. 
  5. Some people are so close to what they really want, but just not quite there. Jesus told a scribe as much in Mark 12:34. “You are not far from the kingdom,” Jesus said. I have many friends who are close to the kingdom. I hurt for them because, of  course, being close to the kingdom of God is not enough. Hannah was near that dress we were hunting each time we talked about it on the phone. It was sometimes right there in the same room with her. Close is not good enough. We have to give people the information they need to identify that for which they search. 
  6. Some news is so good, you want to personally deliver it. I love that about my husband. He loves to bring joy…not just to me, but to everyone in all circumstances. We have the very best news of all. When we understand the wretchedness of that from which the good news— the gospel—rescues people, we can’t be stopped. We are going to those people. We will move heaven and earth to reach them with the good news. In fact Heaven has already moved that they might have this good news. It’s up to us to make the move on earth. We simply must. We are going to tell them that we’ve found that for which they are searching. 

The Extraterrestrial…Really.

NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-EarthriseYesterday, I spent the morning with a group of about 100 of God’s women focused intently on the subject of prayer. I don’t know about the other ladies, but I was deeply affected. We read Harry Potter and watch Star Wars and clamor after tales that allow our minds to venture outside this box that we inhabit…the box of space and time. But we rarely appreciate the fact that there is one extra-terrestrial tale that’s not just a tale. It’s about a real place, with a real Ruler who has power and sovereignty over this universe and all that’s in it. And we are already part of that extraterrestrial world…involved enough that the Sovereign has already given the supreme sacrifice to bring us into His presence. And we can communicate with that Sovereign power; even influence His will, if we submit to His terms. It’s the most amazing concept we can ponder while still bound to this earth by gravity. And it’s real. It’s evidence-backed faith that takes us there. It’s the most authenticated book in history that reveals this other world to us. 

Today I had a chance to pray with a sister as she dropped me off at the airport. We prayed about our future ventures, especially about the venture we are both trying to accomplish, along with our families to the throne of God for eternity. Have you ever thought about the magnitude of that blessing?…I mean the sweet privilege of going in prayer, with a sister, to the throne of the Father you share…the Father who is the King of the universe?

In a few moments, I have a scheduled phone call with another sister in Christ. We will talk about the struggles and pain in her life and we will both be going before our Father’s throne with these particular sorrows. We both have the assurance that there’s somebody else, though not physically related, who shares the bond of the blood of Jesus, and who cares deeply about what’s going on in the spiritual journey of the other.

Over the weekend I promised to speak to some event directors about an internship for a young Christian sister and to recommend another sister for a scholarship. Those are small pleas to administrators for little positions and rewards. But as I left the room of sisters tonight to make the trip back to Huntsville, they promised to make requests for me to the supreme Administrator of all good gifts (James 1:17). We cannot do anything more important for each other than to plead each others’ causes before that Administrator!

Blood sisters share DNA that makes them have physical similarities because they were born of the same parents. Spiritual sisters share spiritual traits that make them alike in more important ways. They share traits that they will still be sharing in a million years, while those physical genetic tendencies will have lost all traceability. Physical kinship is tied to the genes. Spiritual kinship is tied to Jesus. The former is merely the handiwork of the latter. And yet the latter took on human DNA—had physical kin—so that I could be his spiritual kin and so that I could share that kinship with you.  He did this so that I could come boldly before the throne of grace for you and so that you could do it for me (Hebrews 4:14-16). 

I know that you already knew all of this. So did I. But meditating on it makes me love God more. It makes me appreciate the forever family more deeply. It makes me long for a time when that family will be inseparable.

Coconut Oil for MY Pantry

Coconut-Oil-WebClearly, I was distracted. I’m not sure you can be clearly distracted, but I was…let’s say…strung out. I had Ezra, my 17-month-old grandson with me, so that’s automatic happiness and automatic craziness. I was headed to an out-of-town meeting with some folks. Glenn was driving me in a horrific rainstorm and so I was looking at my iPhone; reading some email and Facebook prayer requests and requests for counsel about some marriage issues. The house I’d left behind had laundry all over the hall floor and toy trucks and helicopters and mermaids and crumbs everywhere. All over the bedroom floor was unpacked luggage from earlier trips. There was unread mail and unpacked shopping items on the counter (Wish that was all that was on the counter.) It had been a day for squeezing in stuff I did not expect. In fact, I had done a few of those kinds of days back to back.

Earlier in the week, my sisters and I had made a firm decision to inject coconut oil into the food at my dad’s house to boost his short-term memory abilities. We’d read amazing things in places like this—http://www.naturalnews.com/039811_coconut_Alzheimers_dementia.html. Although we know you can’t believe everything  you read on the internet, we thought “What can it hurt?”  We’d also been trying to figure out how we were going to juggle things during the upcoming week of the gospel meeting where my Dad worships, which, coincidentally, occurs at the same time as our own gospel meeting at West Huntsville. He would need help with things like getting his dishes to the fellowship hall, parking, etc…so we were all about making a plan for that week.

Well, somehow, in the frantic fray of the afternoon, I got confused about the date of the gospel meeting at Jacksonville. So I proceeded to make my daily afternoon check-in call to Dad:

Me: “Hey, Dad. How are you doing?”

Dad: “Pretty good. How are you?”

Me: “We’re good. Are you getting ready for church?”

Dad: For church? This is not Sunday, is it?”

Me: No, but Dad, did you forget? It’s your gospel meeting!”

Dad: “To tell the truth, I guess I did forget. I better get up and get my socks on and go to that. I guess it’s at seven?”

Me: “Yes. It’s at seven. You still have time, But I’m worried about you. You do not remember going to the meeting yesterday?”

Dad: “No, I can’t really remember that, but, I’ll get ready and go. I’m glad you called me because I was going to forget all about that.”

So then, of course, I contacted Sami, my sister who had just left his house. No answer. I tried her husband…her son. No response. Finally I left a message on Sami’s phone…”Dad did not even remember that the gospel meeting was happening this week. Did you figure out someone to help him with the fellowship meals and the driving? Let me hear when you get a chance. Love you.”

A few minutes later, I got a call from Sami.

Sami: “Hey…but the meeting is not this week. Remember? It’s the first week in March?”

Me: “Oh dear. You are right. I have to go right now. Bye.”

Of course, I immediately called my Dad, who was hurrying, as much as a nonagenarian hurries, to try and get there by seven. Bless him. He was going to brave the storm to get to an evangelistic effort that I just thought was happening at the Jacksonville church of Christ. On learning that I was the one with the mental glitch, he said “Well, I didn’t think there was a meeting going on, but I took your word for it. Thank you for calling me back. I think I’ll go back to bed, roll back over and go back to sleep.”

Four lessons learned (or at least temporarily cognitively stored in short-term memory):

  1. When you truly trust someone, you just put aside everything you were thinking and go with the trusted individual . That’s, unfortunately, what my dad did. He trusted me. That was not the right thing to do, because I’m obviously fallible (and crazy). But that’s how we are with the heavenly Father if we really trust him, and it is the right thing to do.  We’re willing to ditch our own plans and do life His way.
  2. Love your sisters. It’s a group effort to successfully serve your father on earth. It is certainly a group effort to serve the heavenly Father. You need your sisters. They’ll help you keep life straight. Thank God for them every day.
  3. Focus on the Father. Sometimes things…even important things…can make you lose your focus and get mixed up about what’s going on with the most important relationship..the one with the Father.
  4. Don’t be trying to get the speck out of someone else’s eye when the beam is in your own eye (Matthew 7:3-5). That’s exactly what I was doing…going nuts over the fact that my dad was forgetting important things when it was actually me who was forgetting. Sometimes I do that with sin. The sin that drives me crazy in the lives of others is the very sin with which I struggle or even to which I fall. Keep trying to help others overcome sin, but be sure you always have the humility and focus to look inwardly while you’re helping others (Galatians 6:1)….

Maybe you need to get the coconut oil for your own pantry. It is going on my grocery list for my own pantry…today! If it doesn’t work, I hope you’ll visit me at the home.