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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The “I love you”s matter…a lot, really.


We didn’t get to be together for Thanksgiving. The Colley crew had the flu. We didn’t get to have our Christmas Eve breakfast at Celine’s house because Christmas landing on Sunday messes up all those preachers’ schedules.  I’m pretty determined to get this mammoth mess cleaned up, so we can make another one here as we ring in the new year with my father’s chaotic family of–(wow!)–29, now! There will be bazillions of presents under the tree that’s been a stand-very-tall-great-water-drinker for a whole month now, thanks to Ezra (this year’s tree-picker.)  There will be lots of football foods (although it will be a lackluster year in that “arena” for sure…) and there will be the fireworks at night–the ones on which my dad always spent way too much money!) I’m hoping the great blessing of a brand new baby over in Mississippi in the Nicholas family will pick another day to arrive, so that more of that part of the crew can come here, but we will be blessed and ecstatic even if he picks that very day! And, yes. This party will also be on the wrong day, after all those preachers (and the rest of us) get finished with the most important first things of every week.

SO, here’s hoping this tradition can avoid cancellation this year! In honor of its founder, here’s a reprint of what was happening in a hospital room just five years ago during the holidays. It seems like yesterday and it seems like an eternity ago. I’m glad this pain for Dad has been over for five years now and that there’s much faith that he is whole and happy and now with the most influential person in my life.  She’s been there for 30 years now and how I have missed her! There’s been some ( a lot) of a different kind of pain since that December five years ago that I’m happy he did not have to know. But God is sovereign and God is good and God knows all things. There’s great comfort in the fact that He knows our hearts, intents, and he has fashioned our eternities. He knows the end of every trial we face before we even feel the pain. He has got my life span’s little speck of eternity in the palm of his hand and He is cognizant of and cares about every need that looms large (to me) in my little speck. I constantly remind myself that this crisis or that huge wound is just a wrinkle in the little speck.

I praise Him for family that means so very much in times of rejoicing and in hours of trial. I praise Him for Jesus who advocates for me before His throne at all times.


Five years ago:


Tonight in this hospital room, this daughter experienced a few very sweet moments. I will treasure them in memory whether my dad and I have lots of future sweet moments in time or not. As today has gone by, my Father who has said precious little, and only in in breathy, labored tones for several days, has become more and more alert. Mind you, what you might think is pretty much asleep all day was still more alert to those who have been keeping this vigil. 

Every time I see his eyes open, I try to go to his side and grab his hand. Tonight he grabbed right back. He even gave me his signature quick nod of recognition. 

Then I always think of everything I can talk about in his one ear that now has a hearing aid. (The other hearing aid was crushed on the floor of the ambulance—and that was another story as Sami chased the driver down and out of the building to try and find the missing hearing aid.) I talked about football. I talked about getting better. I talked about what I was eating and about breathing treatments. And then I told him I loved him. He slowly forced out the “I” and then put his very sore tongue to the roof of his very blistered mouth to make that “L” sound. 

I said “Are you trying to say “I love you?” 

“Yeah” he said. 

That’s all I needed to hear to be okay through this long night. Such a great little present for a this weary pilgrim. But that was not all. I asked him if he wanted me to read the Bible. This time I got a clear “Uh-huh.” 

Before the hospitalization, we’d been reading in Acts and we were ready for chapter seven, so I read the story of Joseph to Him as told by the first martyr, Stephen. I think I was reading so that all the staff out at the nurses station could probably hear. When I got to the resolution part about Jacob going down to Egypt, Dad just drifted back off to sleep.  

I’ll take it. A few minutes of communication is a great source of comfort in this very well-lit, bustling, but yet, very lonely room. It is the best one of today. There are a few lessons in every gift. Here are tonight’s five lessons. 

  1. “Yeah” is easier to say than “I love you.”  That’s true in just about every relationship. Short answer quizzes in families and friendships are just easier.  Sometimes in all kinds of life problems, we have to help each other say those three words. It’s always better, if someone’s having trouble saying them, to assume he means them till you know differently.

  2. You never know the value of healthy communication until you have to do without it. So don’t let days go by—days when you could be talking and sharing with the ones you love. Don’t let those days escape while you pout or exchange the silent treatment or engage in hurtful communication. Especially, don’t do this in your marriage. You will experience deep regret.

  3. Only the people you’ve really loved with agape can appreciate fully the three words when you say them. See, Daddy did not love me just enough to share some material blessing with me (although he certainly worked hard to do that). He did not just love me enough to put up with my inadequacies (although he surely was in the next room during the messy, late- night-studying, bathroom-hogging teen years). He did not just love me enough to build things in the wood shop for Christmas (although there was the doll bed and the cabinet for my tea set during the sixties and the wooden purse, stilts and shuffle board game of the seventies and the marble mazes and rocking horses and graduation banks for grandchildren of the eighties). He, along with my mother, who was also sharing and making and building, loved me enough to give their lives for me, if needed. They loved me enough to pray about inadequacies and to correct them. They loved me enough to build more than toys and purses. They loved me enough to build character. That’s the most enduring home-made gift.

  4. There’s something very ironic about the goal. Heaven is THE goal. Ironically, God has placed in us a very strong desire to keep our loved ones here with us rather than to be completely willing to have them go and be with the Lord. I cannot fully explain that fierce desire to preserve and protect feeble life. But I know it is right to have it. It is right to protect and preserve life, because that defense is innately built into the moral compass of people of conscience. One has to be trained to devalue life. It is not the natural affection of Romans 1: 31 and 2 Timothy 3:3. So I grab that hand and it’s the best when he grabs it right back.

  5. There’s great comfort—always, in all ways— in the Word. There’s an amazing example, for instance, of the application of Romans 8:28 in that ancient account of Joseph in Egypt. We get to look at how a faithful person perseveres when there are family members who are spiteful or friends who falsely accuse or forget about the good things we do for them. We get to see, up-close and personally, how the  faithful react to both poverty and riches. Sometimes, when we are weary, there’s so much comfort that we can go right off to a deep and peaceful sleep while reading the Word. I think I can maybe even do that tonight…right here in this chair. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister Archives: You Just Can’t Appreciate Jesus Like I Do

Digital Rendering of a Woman with Headset

Things just aren’t like they used to be in reference to morality in our country today. Homosexual advocates have a champion of their cause sitting in the Oval Office. The icons of our teen girls are a sad lot of extremely immodest, fornicating, pro-choice, feminist and/or vulgar-mouthed screen stars. Television sit-coms would have us believe that there’s a homosexual man or woman living in every third household in America and that conversation is incomplete and flavorless without cursing and taking God’s name in vain. We kill 1.2 million of our innocents every year and we often pay for the murders with tax dollars. Our schools are battlefields in this culture war and, as a result, our kids are often safe from neither physical harm nor molestation of their values systems. There are many schools today which have outlawed student-led prayer through Christ and/or prayer around the flagpole, but which grant excuses from classes at certain times of the day so that Muslim children can pray toward Mecca. More and more, children need the solidity and emotional safety of parents who can always be depended on for real answers to social issues, for values that are unchanging, and for the provision of a real home; a haven where they can count on being protected physically and emotionally, but most of all spiritually.

And our own “Christian” teens are living in this moral vacuum. More and more of our children raised in “Christian” homes are coming of age and leaving home without the moral underpinnings that they need to make wise choices. Many have already made serious mistakes before high school or even middle school graduation. Our kids are experimenting with pornography, alcohol, and sex of various kinds during high school. They have often been indiscriminate in their television and movie viewing. They have allowed their minds to become subtly controlled by the materialism of television and the movies while becoming anesthetized to blatant sin. They’ve slowly come to laugh at what should make them, as Christians cry. They’ve incrementally given their real allegiance to the world while giving only a token Sunday/Wednesday nod to the things of God.

And then, with a little hope, thankfully, many find their way to the Christian university. At Freed Hardeman University, where my son and daughter have both attended, there are some amazing faculty members whose lives are wholly given to the Lord. There is a Bible faculty, on that campus which, in my opinion, is second to none in the world. And, many times, thank God, those students, who arrived as freshmen in a very weak spiritual condition, find themselves growing closer to God, wanting to know the freedom from guilt, and finding joy in heartfelt service to God. Sometimes these kids have the will to truly change during these college years and many of them will be faithful for the rest of their lives. Praise God.

But there is a sad phenomenon that sometimes occurs in this college scenario. Sometimes, those students who walked away from God during high school and became dangerously involved in alcohol abuse, sexual sin or pornography, etc., somehow feel that they have the spiritual edge over those kids who made the better choices in high school. You may be wondering, “Now where could she be going with this?” Let me explain.

More and more I am hearing college devo leaders say things like “If your life has never been totally messed up with sexual sin, then you can’t fully appreciate Christianity like I can.” Or, “I am not going to stand here and tell you that I have led a sexually pure life. You wouldn’t believe me if I did, since there probably aren’t two out of every ten people in this room who could say that. I’m going to tell you I’ve done about everything you’ve done, maybe as much as several of you put together and He still reached down for me.” Or, “I wouldn’t trade places with any of you out there who always walked the straight and narrow because I love the Jesus who came to the wide path and rescued me.” Or, “There may be those of you who think you made all the right choices through high school. You may have. But, if you did, I doubt you really know a lot about reaching the sinner with His forgiveness.”

What’s wrong with this sort of message in a devotional talk? Well, I can think of some definite dangers. First, let’s take this sort of teaching to its natural conclusion. If I can eventually put the greatest appreciation of the Savior in my kids by encouraging them to participate in sin, then shouldn’t I just provide the alcohol for their high school parties? Shouldn’t I encourage fornication and experimentation with homosexuality, porn, vulgarity and lewdness? Shouldn’t I get the raunchiest forms of satellite TV and download the most explicit computer images for them to view? Second, there are many lifelong consequences that come with various forms of sin (even forgiven sin). You can think of lots of these off the top of your head. With fornication comes the fear of STDs and/or the effect that this behavior has on your later marriage.

With abortion comes the hauntings of guilt and the cry of the dead baby that you may hear for the rest of your life. With alcohol comes the possibility of alcoholism. With porn use comes the addiction you may have to fight till you die. The high school student who had the foresight, fortitude and faith to leave these sins alone should never be tauntingly stereotyped as the pharisaical, righteous one as I often hear in college circles. Third, It took a lot of courage and conviction to avoid the typical high school sins. It was not an accident that this purity of life was maintained. In fact, it was the same Christ who offered you His forgiveness that reigned in the heart of your friend there, as she worked so hard to never let King Jesus down. Did he ever need his forgiveness? Oh absolutely. Can she appreciate that forgiveness? Definitely. But he or she doesn’t have to walk away from the light to know the power of darkness. Fourth, we have to be really careful not to make a lifestyle of sin appealing to young people. Many—no, most young people who become enamored with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life during the very young teen years, do not emerge on the side of the Savior as adults. We are losing huge percentages of our kids as they experiment with the sins of the devil in high school. Parents and mentors who are really focused on eternity will do all that’s within their power to enable their kids to get in the safety of His will and to stay there every single day as they face the huge challenges of life in high school. Just one time, be on the receiving end of that phone call from a grief stricken parent informing you that a teen has been prematurely snatched from this life while under the influence of alcohol and you will desperately want your child to be among the number of pharisaical righteous ones on that college campus one day.

I understand that the one forgiven of much will love much (Luke 7:47). I know, from the life of Paul that the chief of sinners can be the most devoted to the cause (I Tim. 1:15). But there is a real sense in which each of is chief of sinners. There is a sense in which we all have obtained the ultimate forgiveness. We cannot afford to make the depth of depravity to which one has slipped the barometer of perceived spirituality. Let’s stop viewing those who remained faithful to God through what was arguably the most difficult years of life as some sort of self-righteous, sub-Christians. Let’s look to their examples and perhaps even to wisdom they gained for encouragement. I know many of these heroes. Among them are Joseph, Daniel, Samuel, Esther, Mary, the mother of the Lord and Timothy. And I know many of them who are now in college, as well. I can look at the short inexhaustive list above and know that God has a special place in his heart for those who stood relatively alone for truth and right in the high school years.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

From the Archives: I Need this Reminder…

female-with-burger-cartoon-business-vector-character_zkuQM1OO_SLooking at the clock on the radio, I knew I didn’t have time to go back home. It was already 6:32 and Bible study started at 7:00. I had forgotten my phone again. It’s lying by my bed on the nightstand, but nobody will call me anyway. Glenn is fast asleep somewhere in Ukraine where it’s 2 am (2:32 to be precise) and everybody else I know will be at church. No worries.
Driving through Huntsville in a pelting and blinding rain, I started to wonder if everybody would be there tonight. But I was wrong to wonder. Encouraged by a great crowd with several visitors, a dynamic lesson by Todd Clippard, watching a four-year old in the foyer say all the books of both Testaments, and then getting a couple of contacts while attending a short visitation meeting, I was ready to go home and accomplish a few housekeeping chores before bedtime.

But I have to pass Sonic on my way home. Now that’s a blessing and a curse. The blessing is the Route 44 diet Dr. Pepper. The curse is the hamburger you really want to go with it. I’d skipped supper, was hungry and ordered both (but just the 8 point burger, no mayo and definitely no fries or onion rings).

I paid with my credit card, turned the radio down and said a prayer while waiting for my order. I thanked God for the food that was coming. Then I turned the radio back on. I thought about calling my kids, but, oh yeah…no phone.

Listening to oldies, savoring every one of those eight points and thinking about what a good day it had been and what an even better day it would be tomorrow, because that’s the day Glenn gets back to the US, I thought, “Life is good,” as Glenn often quips.

Then the abrupt pop came from the radio. The radio stopped playing, the fan stopped blowing, the window would not roll up or down. When I turned the key, there was nothing but a repetitive clicking sound. I started to think about my options. They were limited. I might walk home but it’s much too far and it’s raining. I might call someone… if I had a phone. I might ask someone in a car next to me to think really hard and see if he has any ideas, but he does not look very nice. I might call a cab… if I had a phone. I might go over to the highway and hope somebody nice passes by…somebody from church…but they will not pass by because they’d already left the building before I did. I might try to go up to that huge emergency vehicle that’s taking up three parking places over there and ask the EMS people if they have any ideas. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. This is an Emergency and they could do me a service. The only part of EMS that this is not is the M for “medical.” I bet they will help me. I’m doing it. I’m walking over there and see if they will look down and see me. I am not tall enough to knock on their window. And, alas…they are driving away. I am stepping in puddles to get to them and they are driving away and they are splashing me.

Getting back in my car, I decided to rummage through my purse. Maybe I did bring that phone. I didn’t. Let me look around this lot again. Maybe someone is a nice person…No, I don’t think so. This is Northwest Huntsville. In fact, I am scared. Why do I even come to this scary place??!!

But I will get “scareder” and “scareder” if I keep procrastinating and not thinking of anything to do. Everyone knows a scary place is twice as scary when it gets past nine or ten at night. I’ll just have to go up to the door where it says “Employees Only” and hope there is an employee who looks nice and will have pity on me and let me come in and use their phone. I hope they have a phone book, too. But no employees look nice either. They look tattoo-ey and smoky and I think all of them cuss. They probably will want to cuss at me when they know that my car is likely going to spend the rest of the night here in one of only a few places where they don’t have to walk in this rain to deliver the order.

But one of the not-so-nice looking employees came to the door and said, “Can I help you?” She called to her friend who had a cell phone. She immediately handed it to me. Another employee scrambled for the phone book. The two of them walked out and looked at my car. One looked under the hood. One had jumper cables. But by now the car would not even go into neutral so we could push it away from the Sonic order box sign thingies, so we could get a car close enough to connect the cables. Then a third employee walked over. He was the scariest because he was the biggest. He started asking me questions like “What does your husband do?” and “Why is he out of the country?” I wondered just why this not-so-nice-looking man wanted to know these things. He wanted to know what church he preaches for and where is this church? I sort of wanted to stop telling this man about my husband being out of the country and I sort of wanted to say “ I don’t really know the answer to this question. Could I phone a friend? With your phone??” But then he said, “I am a member of the church of Christ, too. I’m just in Huntsville because I go to UAH. I am a member of the church in Birmingham.”

It is just so strange. Suddenly this big six foot-four man did not look “not-so-nice.” As he walked over to his car to get some longer jumper cables he looked more like “very nice.” He helped the girl (whose car was not close enough because of these ordering boxes) to jump the curb from the other side and pull up into the middle of the sidewalk, so she could jump me off. He connected the two batteries. He said, “Go try it now.” I started the car and told them both that I love them! I do love them. I am, because of their kindness, sitting in my warm dry bedroom thinking.

Sometimes, when I was a child, after I had inflicted some injustice or said some harsh word, my mother used to tell me to just go to my room and “think about it.” I really hated when she told me to go and think about something.” I had really rather have had a thrashing than to have to go and “think about something.” So I would decide that I would go to my room, but I would not think about it. The ironic trouble is… the more you decide not to think about it, the more you think about it. And I guess you learn a thing or two when you think about it. I’m sure my mother knew all of this to be the case.

So, tonight, I am thinking about it. Here are some lessons learned as I think about it:

1. Do not wait till the last minute to leave for church. Not a good habit.
2. Keep up with your cell phone. If I’ve heard Glenn say it once I have heard him say it a thousand times: “I do not know why I even pay for that phone. It is never turned on and if it is turned on, it is not with you.”
3. Do not be out in the open in West Huntsville late at night when your husband is out of the country.
4. Memorize some local friends’ phone numbers or at least write them down and put them in your car, in case you fail at #2.
5. Carry some jumper cables with you.
6. Do not park so close to the order box thing that you cannot fit between it and your car. If you have to go back and forth, and back and forth from the driver’s seat to the engine, you will get very wet, especially when you have to walk all the way around a huge banner advertising happy hour with half- price drinks and slushes; a banner that is tied to the two posts and blocks the entire sidewalk… every single time you make this trek from driver’s seat to engine. Makes you feel like maybe if you were going to walk this much and get this wet, you should at least be going toward home.
7. Always carry enough money with you so that you can give a little to someone who has goodness in his/her heart. I had exactly thirteen dollars to my name. I was glad I had at least paid for my burger with my credit card or it would have been even less. I had even given all my pocket change to the other girl as a tip when she brought my food. I gave my thirteen dollars to one of the employees and told her I wish it could have been more. I do.

But the most important lesson is this: Cindy Colley, please resolve to stop summing people up based on appearances, situations of employment, areas of town, or any other outside indicators. Guess what? All outside indicators would have shouted that my vehicle was by far the most dependable of any of the cars of any of the employees who helped make mine run. It was nicer, newer, more expensive when purchased and cleaner. But none of that mattered tonight. What mattered was what was occurring under the hood. People are that way. The people at Sonic were that way tonight. See, these people whom I was misjudging, based on appearances, as those who could probably care less about my plight, were, in fact, those who knew what to do and didn’t think twice about whether or not they were doing it. They didn’t ask me if I would like for them to come out in the rain and see if they could help. They just got about the business. They didn’t look like the most dependable people to me. But, under the hood, they had what was needed and they freely gave it. One of these people was my brother in Christ. I am going back to Sonic in the next couple of days and carry him some homemade bread and some good spiritual books. He looks like the kind of guy who would really enjoy reading them!

“But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”