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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Replacing the Calendar Again

When I hang a new calendar, looking over the spent and tattered one I’m putting in that file cabinet…the cabinet that now has a stack of gridded sheets that represent the business, the slammed schedules, the birthday parties, the travel. as well as the mundane housecleaning, cabin cleaning, and mending days of the past year, I always try and think about the big picture. Every little square in that twelve page card stock and pocketed book that I’m filing away was a day of movement. Every square was movement toward heaven or away from it. We live sadness and hope. We live purpose and appointments. We live fun and fervor. But we never live static. Each turn of the page is a progression toward eternity. What makes each square so precious is that one square will be the last one. 

…Which makes me think about empathy. With the passage of time in each of our lives, our experiences multiply. I mean, I used to have no clue about grandparenthood. (Who are all these crazies who are obsessing over a dimple or the color of a baby’s hair?) Now I know. I fully empathize because my realm of experience grew. That happened on one of the squares in 2014. I used to come up short in the empathy department for those who were caring for elderly parents. Not any more. That happened slowly on lots of squares in the past ten or so calendar records. Experiences have simply broadened my scope of empathy. It was never that I didn’t have sympathy for those in the sandwich generation. But empathy is a whole different thing. Empathy is what make you give grace and truly feel WITH another who is experiencing something you’ve known firsthand. Remember, empathy is what makes our Lord the GREAT high priest that He is. We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Rather, we have one who has been tried in every point, just like we are tried, yet He did it without sin (Heb. 4:15). Empathy qualifies him to be my mediator and I am so thankful for His divine empathy. 

On that page, let me list a few scenarios of which I will not be critical this year. Experiences produce empathy. Empathy produces grace. So here:

  1. I will not criticize young mothers who are struggling in worship services to make toddlers behave. 
  2. I will not criticize young families who are occasionally late for Bible class.
  3. I will not criticize young moms who show up for Bible class on Wednesday night in jeans and a milk-stained t-shirt. 
  4. I will not criticize older people whose eyes occasionally close and whose head sometimes inadvertently bows during the sermon on Sunday.
  5. I will not criticize bragging grandmothers.
  6. I will not criticize grandmothers who buy too many baby clothes.
  7. I will not criticize the careful choices made by children about the care of aged parents.
  8. I will not criticize the families of faithful elders and preachers about matters of judgment.
  9. I will not criticize people who occasionally cry in public–people who others may classify as “emotional basket cases.”
  10. I will not criticize the eating and exercise habits of busy people.
  11. I will not criticize those who do not take every call at the moment it comes.
  12. I will not criticize busy people who lose keys, phones, glasses and other essentials frequently and who sometimes forget appointments.

There’s a little list of a few of the many decisions that experience has helped me make. Experience is my friend. Gray strands are my teachers. I know that our realms of empathy are not all the same. But the world might be a gentler place if we allowed the scenarios  and circumstances we’ve faced to teach us grace. Notice that I did not say “indifference to sin.” We have to care deeply about what grieves God. But empathy makes us also care deeply about the “infirmities” of His people. Experience makes us keenly aware that we might not know details that are crucial in decisions being made by others. Empathy makes us better people.  

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Girls Who Have the Spirit (The Meek and Quiet Spirit!)

Pic1This week, it’s been a real source of gladness for me to work with girls at POINT, one of the best camps I’ve ever attended. It’s small. It’s fun. And it’s jam-packed with the spiritual! I’m looking at a round table of girls right now who are planning a class for young children about the prominent woman of Shunem in II Kings 4. They have baked bread, put together costumes, and, just now, they all sneezed loudly in unison. (You’ll have to read the chapter!) They’re auditioning for the best sneezer!

These are girls who have the right spirit. They’re working in his service. They are meek. They will tell you that their cause is bigger than themselves. They may not sound so quiet in this video, but they do remind me of this poem. They are working to be virtuous women!


The Virtuous Woman


















Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Healing Leaf

images-4She was eagerly interacting with her third-graders as I passed by the classroom last Sunday morning. With her arms around one of them, she listened intently to the trivia that was so important to the little girl. The next time I noticed her she was on the second pew on the left side of the auditorium, sitting erectly and drinking in every word the preacher said. Then I noticed that she never missed a word as we sang praises.

When I finally got over to talk with her, she told me about her third graders, how much she loved them and how encouraging they were. She particularly talked about a little girl who, the daughter of a single mom, is extremely plugged-in and smart as a whip! The zeal was unharnessed and the optimism for the future glowed unabashedly.

I should add here that she currently has no hair. Legally blind before the cancer, the nineteen months of chemotherapy “finished off” her eyesight. As I first approached her and gently patted her on the shoulder, she asked the lady sitting beside her…”Who is it?” Her friend identified me for her and she, in turn, just glowed all over and began to tell me how much she’s enjoying the gospel meeting. There are “chemo” bruises around her eyes and on her face. But her completely bright spirit belies any of the chemo sickness or fatigue.

After conversing with her a bit, I asked about the prognosis. Her reply, “We cannot cure it, but we can keep it at bay.”

I am inspired by so many souls who, rather than giving in to disease and discouragement, seem to find in the throes of trials, the springboard to greater faith and they, like the skilled alchemist, just mix up a little fear of the unknown with twice that much pain and a smidgen of humor when needed and combine with that great faith and, when this mixture gels, it produces in them a contentment like Paul had in Philippians 4: 11-13:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

I remember my mother making several statements when she was suffering with the same disease as this friend I met today. They were statements that evidenced that she had the recipe right, too. Statements like:

“Oh, you know, everybody has to leave this life in one way or another. I don’t know that it matters all that much how.” …Or…

“Well,  why should I think that I would not be one of the people who has this disease. I am surely not better than many of the people I know who have had cancer.”…Or…

“We need to just be sure we’re living so that we can spend forever together in heaven. That’s where the permanence is.” …Or…

“You know, I do not mind going at all. It’s only about the people I’m leaving behind that I worry. It’s because of them that I’d like to stay, because I know they will hurt when I leave, and they want me to stay.” (She knew this because she had lost her own mother in this same way.)

Medical professionals and technology today can do so much more about cancer than they could in the eighties when my mother suffered with it. There’s just so much more hope now than when she was diagnosed. And yet, how? How could there be more hope than any generation can find in I Thessalonians 4:16, 17?

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Every child of God, healthy or disease-ridden, whole or maimed, free or bound, at the mountaintop or in the darkest valley has hope that can only be described as infinite. We will always be with the Lord. In the eternal scheme of things, it makes little difference how this old body proceeds from the earthly realm. Infinity is the length of time we have to be with the Lord. Infinity is the word that describes our time of wholeness and perfection. Infinity is the equalizer for those of us who have called on His name.

After the service, my new friend said to me, “I’m so glad brother Colley came down here last night to preach right here on the floor right in front of me. I could almost see him.” I’ve got a feeling brother Colley will be finishing this meeting from the floor. And I’m happy that we will have that wonderful eternal gospel meeting in a place where there will be no loss of eyesight, no bruises, no feeble frames and no cancer. I’m glad God “has a healing leaf” for each one of those!

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1,2).

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

I Have a Prior Commitment (Part 2)

280107_10150245550298692_363378268691_7579920_3733981_o-1The Prior Commitment and My Attitude

It is interesting that Peter commands actions (subjection and obedience, chaste manner of life) and attitudes (meek and quiet spirit) in the details of how  we attain to be daughters of Sarah In I Peter 3: 1-6).

Christianity obviously rules not only our outward actions, but it requires our hearts. The greatest command is still, today, loving the Lord with my all…all my heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27). Thus, core principles of Christianity, the “ethics,” if you will, of Christ, determine my daily decisions and regulate my relationships…all of my relationships. I am often amazed as I see women who are kind and gentle people, mannerly and decorous, unselfish and soft-spoken until they get behind the closed doors of their own homes.

May I suggest to you that home should be the place where you exhibit the best that Christianity has to offer? After all, your relationship with your husband is the most permanent of all earthly relationships. If you have children growing up in that home, you are daily and indelibly etching on their souls. You are putting attitudes in them that will prove very difficult to remove…ever. And your own happiness in your marriage is largely dependent on your attitude at home. Are you getting in your own way of happiness?

Remember the premise. Your prior commitment–the one you made to Jesus in the waters of baptism–rules your marriage. Perhaps the most succinct passage that you apply daily in your relationships is known as “The Golden Rule”:

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them, (Mat. 7:12).

It’s a great challenge to apply this passage at home. It means we refrain from nagging. We are nurturers as women. We want to fix our husbands, even the insignificant shortcomings of good husbands. But nagging is ineffective (It is like flipping a light switch over and over when the lights are still not coming on) and is not consistent with our prior commitment.

Applying the golden rule means we’re not pouters. As pouting wives we give our  husbands the silent treatment. If we don’t get our way, we withhold conversation, smiles and warmth from the men we love. We treat them in ways in which we would not like to be treated. We should never let the sun go down on marital wrath (Eph.4:26). Further, we should not end phone conversations in words of malice or let cars back out of our garages when relationships have rifts. Life is too fragile and regret is too bitter.

The golden rule also prohibits manipulation. Women have the power to get much of what we want. It takes strong women to keep this power under control. Whining, crying, lying, withholding sex or using sex to achieve selfish purposes is inconsistent with the prior commitment. Weak women, like Delilah (Judges 16) and Jezebel (I Kings 21) use the power of manipulation. Strong women for God use the power of self-control. We do not submit to our husbands because we have to. We submit because we choose to honor the prior commitment.

The golden rule makes us polite, genteel people. Are we polite to our husbands? Do we speak respectfully to and about them? Do we especially work to do this in front of our children, our most crucial audiences?  Do we refrain from interrupting and correcting them? Do we use the words like “please” and “thank-you” and “you’re so welcome” and “excuse me”  to the people we love most? We are most certainly reaching into the future  marriages of our children as they watch the marital interactions of their parents. Surely it makes sense that our homes will be warmer and happier if we are polite within their walls. But, regardless of whether we see the positive outcomes, we must honor our prior commitment. We must honor the original vows we made to the Lord. Remember, Sarah called him “Lord”.

Financial matters are tempered by my relationship with Jesus, as well. My husband’s masculinity–his wholeness as a man–is incomplete if he knows he fails as a family provider. Do you want to give your husband the gift of emotional wholeness? Stay in the budget! Work hard to be frugal and help him in every way possible to make ends meet. Be sure you contact him about all large decisions prior to making them. “What is a large decision?” you may ask. If you’re wondering about this with regard to some pending choice, you should go ahead and ask before purchasing. It’s much more pleasant to hear, “Oh, sure…go ahead,” than “I cannot believe you did that without consulting me.”  Never compare your husband’s money-making ability in an unfavorable light with that of another man. That comparison is a great way to strip away your husband’s confidence and masculinity.

The golden rule simply has endless and positive ramifications in our marriages. Think about how many problems with in-laws would automatically find solutions if both spouses applied the Golden Rule toward their partners in dealing with parents. In fact, if you combine Jesus’ Golden Rule with his eternal rule about leaving and cleaving (Gen. 2:24), your marriage would be insulated from interferences that cause pain in marriage.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #31: Zero-Tolerance Cool Rule

276649_origWhile it’s true that all kids are going to go through stages when they want to be “cool” in some innocuous ways (i.e, using innocent faddish teen words or sporting the latest hairstyle), Christian service and the kind of “cool” that berates others are inherently incompatible. You just can’t put your heart into ministering to those who are diseased, poor, unpopular or socially awkward while you make fun of them. I have seen this kind of “cool’ in action on the mission field or at work camps. It manifests itself in cells of popular kids in youth groups who love going to pass out goody-bags to homeless people while leaving the less-popular, less accepted members of the youth group to do another job on another street. How is it that we can minister to materially needy outsiders while rejecting socially (and, often materially) needy insiders? Such “ministry” is really only about self. Problems with selfishness are hard to address in youth groups where well-meaning leaders have little control over the much more direct impressions that are being made by parents at home.

But this is written for moms at home. We can fix this is if we start early and stay late in our absolute across-the-board refusal to allow our kids to berate others based on race, social strata or intelligence quotas. At our house, we banned making fun of people because of the stylishness (or lack thereof) of clothes they wore, because of brand names of clothes, cars, or shoes, because of the homes in which they lived, or because of the age or situation of their parents. Children, especially teens, are so very emotionally volatile and our kids have no business ever considering themselves better, in any sense except spiritually (if they are indeed sanctified and holy), than their peers. They simply cannot grow up as both servants and snobs.

Of course there are all kinds of ways we put humility in our children. There are the great stories of Abraham and Moses and Paul and the Lord, himself. There are the constant examples we show them in our own quiet benevolence and in our words of kindness. There’s the hospitality we offer without distinction and the way we sit with visitors to our services even when they don’t smell good. It’s just the way we emit this understanding that physical attributes are unimportant and very temporary. We can, over time, put blinders to wealth and beauty on our children.

But another important and effective add to this parental mix is punishment. Our children should know that when they berate someone there will be a price to pay. When they berate someone who is poor, they may miss a meal themselves. When they make fun of a person’s clothing because it is not up their standards of style, they may have to surrender a few choice pieces from their own wardrobe. When they do not want to sit with a socially awkward person in the youth section, then they can come and sit with the parents. When they want to exclude someone who is less than popular from an outing, the outing is off.

And then you just get out the Good Book and, in your Family Bible time, you give them an expository of James 2. Do it on a child’s level, but take it to heart in your soul, too.  It’s a powerful passage and most of us moms can use a review ourselves.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: The Dangling Sleeve

DanglingSleeveIt was just a regular Monday post office run…dropping off packages of books. I noticed that the big green truck parked beside me had the driver door ajar, but both my hands were full and, besides, maybe I shouldn’t close someone else’s truck door. (What if I locked someone out or something?) Upon entering the tiny little building, I was a bit frustrated to see that some little woman had beat me to the one customer window. Not only had she barely beat me in there, but she had obviously packaged her stuff all wrong and the one employee behind the window was having to take off layers and layers of stubborn duct tape, get a new box and then re-package it all over again! My stomach was growling, I had so much to do and my boxes were awfully heavy. Still, I forced a smile and said, “No problem. Sometimes packaging stuff is just hard to do.”

Then the postal worker cued me in. “Yeah, it’s ‘specially hard when you only have one hand.” Then I saw it…the dangling sleeve on the right side of the little woman’s denim shirt. I had complained to my husband that I had way too much to do today. I had been a little frustrated in my mind about those heavy boxes that I held in my TWO arms. I had rearranged scheduling conflicts, frustrated that I had to hold the phone in one hand while multi-tasking with the other while the doctor’s office had me on hold. I was wearing a jacket that kind of bothered me because the zipper was a bit tricky and often required both hands and a brain to get it zipped. I had been in such a hurry that I didn’t even blow my hair dry. “I’ll just crimp it up wet today,” I thought. “I’m already tired and it wears me out to do the hair dryer in one hand and the roller brush in the other…” The little lady in front of me then showed me her new tennis shoes. They were brand spanking new, I could tell, and they fastened with velcro. I told her I liked them as I contemplated how long it must have taken her to put all those layers of duct tape on that box. She had even duct taped the items in place on the inside of the box.

At last the items were repackaged and her shipment now met regulations. She had also saved eleven dollars due to the patience and repackaging of the nice lady on the other side of the window. She reached into her shirt pocket and gave the postal worker a big wad of cash and the worker counted out what she would need, handing her the refolded stack of money along with her change. Then the little woman turned around to me and said, “I’m sorry.”

I finished my work at the window and walked outside to see her, at long last, maneuvering that big green truck out of the little parking lot.

She single-handedly did something large for my careless heart this morning. I remember the words of the Lord:

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched…

Some days I think my hands are full. I’ll bet every single day, her hand truly is. One day, though, it will not matter that she only had one hand. One day, it will be unimportant that I had two. It will only matter what we each did with what we had. Perhaps it’s my wholeness, my wellness, that robs me of time for contemplation and compassion. Maybe it is my ability to multi-task that often keeps me from focusing on the one most important task of soul-winning. Maybe it’s my abilities that blind me to disabilities. Maybe it’s my self-sufficient attitude that keeps me from God-dependent gratitude. Whatever my excuse may be for falling short in his service, she single-handedly grabbed me this morning and jerked me back to the reality that I have great blessings and subsequent responsibilities therein. The dangling sleeve was empty, but full…of what I needed for this day. May God help me to stop selfishly complaining and rejoice in unselfish compliance. And may I fold my hands (both, plural, together) every day and offer Him thanksgiving and praise.