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Birthday

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Living Influence of a Great-Great Grandmother (and of some in-between)

Last weekend, we celebrated Colleyanna’s birthday. It was a fun time at Serenity and, although there were just a half-dozen of us gathered in the dining room, Colleyanna could not have loved it more if we’d been in the presence of royalty at Buckingham. She and her siblings were excited from the moment they woke up in the morning till the moment the last game was played before bedtime. 

The last game before bedtime was a game of “house”.  Max (Ezra) was my husband and I was Lilly.  Our “house” was the master bedroom.  I worked at a restaurant (my kitchen…that work was real) and Max raced a motorcycle. Our next-door neighbor, Snowdrop (Colleyanna..she’s always picking a name with flair), was always dropping by, uninvited, and bringing her cat, Oreo. (It’s funny how there was more than one  new board game and more than one toy received at the birthday party, but their favorite game, by far, was still the one that just involved people and pretending (and not those toys). 

As I was thinking about the half dozen years that Colleyanna has been on the planet, it was not lost on me that last weekend also marked the birth of someone else who, not so long ago in the grand scheme of things, was left alone with three children between ages one and seven. She was left to have to find childcare for her children while she worked hard to make ends meet in a tiny little house. She was, though under great duress, a woman of great faith and prayer. She was resourceful. And her children were blessed.  

That woman was my grandmother (Colleyanna’s great, great grandmother) and her birthday was last weekend, too. Born on September 10th, 1898, she was, when she left this life in 1980, Mattie Lee Louise Abernathy Smith Duncan. That’s a lot of name for such a humble and meek woman of God.  She taught me how to play house, and rock school and hop-scotch and she could make a doll out of a handkerchief and a chalice out of gum wrapper.  She took me to beautiful springs that bubbled out of a rocky hillside near the graves of some of our ancestors.  She was the one in that lineage who came to know and obey the gospel first. Converting her second husband to the Lord, all told, she (they) raised two faithful gospel preachers, an elder in the Lord’s church, another son and my mother, who was one of the greatest examples of Christianity I’ve ever known. All of those five children, to my knowledge, died as faithful Christians. 

Two of those children were profound influences on my spiritual development. How does one ever overestimate the power of motherhood in the molding of a soul for heaven? My mother’s power in my life is, even now, strong and vast. But one of the preachers my grandmother raised, Bobby Duncan, was the local preacher in the church in which I grew up. He baptized me and I am quite sure I do not even fully know the extent to which he shaped my love of the Word and my desire to serve God. That shaping is palpable every time I take out the Word to study. 

I often remember specific things Bobby Duncan said when I am studying a particular topic or text. I love the fact that my husband was blessed to “inherit” the preaching files of my uncle Bob. In my basement there is a file cabinet that is more valuable to both of us than any material treasure he could have ever left behind. He wrote almost every sermon in very complete outline form, though he never read his sermons. He had them so very well-learned by the time of delivery that  no one would have known that much of what he said rested on the pulpit in front of him. Here are a few samples of quotations I’ve recently read from his files in that cabinet: 

On the faith: “The faith is constantly under attack. It is under attack by the forces of atheism, agnosticism, existentialism, liberalism, anti-ism, radicalism, and every other “ism”. The gospel cannot defend itself against these attacks. It has no voice of its own. It must utilize our voices for its defense. I have about as much respect for one who would stand idly by and watch a defenseless old lady get mugged, and not lift a hand to defend her, as I have for a gospel preacher who will stand idly by while the faith is being attacked , and not say a word in its defense (Phil. 1:17). We must contend for the faith.”

On marriage, divorce and remarriage: “Brethren, let’s not be stricter than the Lord was in these areas. When a man puts away his wife for fornication, and marries another woman, he only has one wife. We ought not to penalize that man for doing what the Lord said he could do (Matthew 19: 9; 5:31-32)  When a man puts away his wife for a reason other than fornication, then he is living in adultery and should not be utilized in the services of the church, but should be forewarned and disciplined.’

On adultery:  “Well, what is to be done about the sin of fornication? What is to be done to obtain forgiveness? If one is guilty of the sin of fornication, then what is he supposed to do? Of course, if a person is not a Christian, in order to be forgiven of any sin, he has to obey the gospel of Christ. He has to hear the gospel and believe it, repent, confess, and be baptized. But now notice, repentance means getting out of sin. It means giving up the sinning business. If a man is a thief, he has to quit thieving. If he is a bootlegger, he has to quit bootlegging. That is what repentance involves. If he is committing fornication, then he has to quit committing fornication. And that would involve that adultery that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 19:9 where it says ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife except it be for fornication and shall marry another committeth adultery.’ If a man is in an adulterous relationship, when he repents, that means he has to get out of that relationship. He can’t just keep on committing sin and get God’s forgiveness.”

On taking the name of God in vain: “Technically, what does it mean to take the Lord’s name in Vain? 

  1. It means to use God’s name to back up a lie.
  2. In Isaiah 59:4 “They trust in vanity and speak lies….”
  3. The word “lies” is the same Hebrew word “shav” translated “vain” in Exodus 20:7.
  4. (Hosea 10:4  “They speak vain words, swearing falsely in making covenants…”
  5. (Exodus 23:1) “Thou shalt not take up a false report; put not thy hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.” 
  6. To take the Lord’s name in vain means, therefore, to use the Lord’s name to back up a falsehood or a lie.”

What I love about studying these files is that there’s no mincing of words. I love that he was bold and compassionate, powerful and plain, rich and relevant. (What he wrote 40 years ago still helps me make practical decisions.)

What I also love is that I know it was the power of the gospel that touched the heart of a young woman, married at 15 in 1913 and deserted by an adulterous husband by the time she was in her early twenties—It was the power of the gospel in a broken heart that indirectly gave me sound teaching through this great man of God. Taking in washing and ironing, working at the cotton mill just to survive with three small children, my grandmother put something in three  hearts that led them all to respond favorably to the gospel when presented with it. She then met and married my grandfather and she (and others who helped her), led him to the Lord eventually, too, along with the two children they had together. They led some of my grandfather’s family members to the Lord. In the end, there have been about 20 faithful ministers (in various capacities) and elders, who are descendants of or who married descendants of this praying woman.  I could have quoted from several of them, who have written various works. I chose the one who has impacted my life most deeply (except for Glenn, of course.)

Just marvel with me at this simple woman’s legacy. She’s still speaking through her children’s children. If you find yourself in a place of challenge—even brokenness; if you find yourself feeling hopeless or alone, remember 20 elders and preachers/ministers in the kingdom from a destitute mother of three. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. Be empowered by it, for it is the “power of God to salvation”(Romans 1:16).  It’s the power of God to salvation to the single mother who is doing all she can to put heaven in the hearts of her children. It’s the power of God to salvation to the child who is growing up in a world in which the devil is fighting hard for his soul. It’s the power of God to eventual salvation for the little girl who is turning six and pretending to be “Snowdrop” just as it was for her great-great grandmother who was “pretending” with three young children in a shotgun house in the mill village in Jacksonville, Alabama in the early twentieth century. 

If you are doing hard things for Him, you may be doing more for His glory than you can imagine! Pray for the little souls in your charge and keep your eye on the goal! I’m keeping the faith!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Happy Birthday Colleyanna and Digging Deep!

Today is Colleyanna Mae’s fifth birthday. She’s Covid-quarantined, so I will not get to see her today, but I cannot wait to get to celebrate with her. She’s bright-eyed and her smile’s possibly the most infectious of the family. She loves tiny things that sparkle (Right now I have to make a trip to the church building because she thinks she left her red crystal there. She’s hoping it is in the lost-and-found. I think it is probably in the “lost-and-trashed” because that’s what any finder [or vacuum] would do with that teeny piece of plastic, but I bet she gets another crystal. She even called to ask if I’d checked lost-and-found.) She loves the Lord, too, and she prays for Baxter, her cat, faithfully.

I love that girl more than she will ever know (at least till she’s a mammy.) This year’s Digging Deep study book is dedicated to the Lord first and then to Colleyanna’s future. Here’s the dedication page:

For Colleyanna Mae Giselbach. You are my little sunshine ray. All I have to do, when a morning is challenging, is think about your little life’s philosophies, and I’m counting my blessings again!You are sleeping, this week, in my bathtub, your favorite place to spend your nights when you visit Mammy’s house. You have your little nightlight that puts stars—stars that slowly change colors—on the ceiling.You have your little “pings” (things) that you collect and carefully organize all around you before you fall asleep. I don’t want you to grow past the sleeping-in-the -bathtub stage.

But one day, when you do, I want to study these important conversations of the Lord with you.And my heart’s most thrilling picture is the two of us talking with the Lord about these things in a land where the conversation is not punctuated by darkness and day’s end.

Happy birthday, Colleyanna!

It’s another special birthday, too. Digging Deep turns 11 today! Eleven years ago, someone had faith as a grain of mustard seed and started a little facebook group that’s grown into a tree in which birds can build their nests. God is so good like that!

So, start digging into my favorite study, so far. (It’s always the one I’m doing right now! His Word is so good like that!) What He did, on purpose, for me is what I need to be thinking about these days. It will keep us going in challenging times and add to our joy in the times when faith is soaring. So get going, get inviting, and get excited with me. The eleventh year is about the eleventh hour of the life of my Lord. It’s riveting to any spiritually-minded person. I hope you can get some friends who need the Lord to do it with us!

Happy Birthday, Digging Deep. 1…2…3…Go!

 

(Here’s a fun DD birthday retro pic. I think this group was beginning “Authority.”) 

 

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Happy 95th…to Both!

Yesterday was my Dad’s 95th birthday. It is hard to believe that he lived in an era in which an automobile was a very rare sight in his community, but then traveled the world during World War Two in a ship called the San Saba. When he was a small lad, he disassembled a radio to try and find the “people” who were “talking in there”. Now he asks us how that tiny phone can possibly contain the answers to any and all questions we ask Siri. He owns the bell and a wooden desk from that one-room schoolhouse in Peaceburg, where he attended when he didn’t have to be in the fields picking cotton (or hiding under the cotton basket so he wouldn’t have to pick). But then he went on to be one of the first in his family, if not the first, to graduate from college. It’s hard to believe he grew up as one of eleven children, a sharecropper’s son, and now he is the single remaining person of that generation of family. He watched the world take flight, man travel to the moon, the building of interstates and infrastructures and internet, as well as the destruction of the Nazi Regime and the Soviet Union. Ironically, he served in a huge worldwide war against injustice in the 1940s while blinking his eyes in 1973 and opening them to the injustice that would take millions more lives than all of the wars in which the US has ever been involved. 

So I took my dad in the golf cart to the back of the barn on Saturday, where he thought he was going to see a new fire-pit, When all of his family shouted “Happy Birthday!” as we rounded that corner, he knew this party was all about him and he had lots of fun opening Alabama and Mayberry trivia books and clothes and blankets and collar extenders. He loved a hat that one of his nephews had made for him bearing the name and insignia of his U.S. navy ship all those years ago and a forty-eight star encased flag like the one under which he served our country. But the best surprise of the day was the news of the upcoming birth of his third great grandchild, Baby Nicholas! That was the best news for all of us. 

It’s profound. Really. Yet, it happens all the time. This 95-year-old grandfather seems so very far removed from that 95-day old baby undergoing gestation. So many years, history, trials, victories…just so much living between them. And yet, there is coming a day when they will both recall the tiny dot on a vast eternal timeline in which they both existed on planet earth, that place of preparation for what is real and never diminishes or passes. Then, it will surely seem so distant and fleeting—that dot on the eternal timeline (If one could even say “eternal” and “timeline” in one sentence)—that they, having been mortals in generations that touched briefly on earth, will seem to have existed even in the same relative moments of time. What is 95 years, anyway, on the timeline of God, to whom a thousand years is as a day? 

Of course, the oversimplification of the profundity is this: We’d better all be able to get our tiny focus out of the wars, the accomplishments, the education, and the advancements and look at time and triumphs through the eyes of our Maker. He knew about flight and WW2 and globalism and the internet when he called Noah to save a seed line for the Messiah. He knew about all of the passing productions of men when He called Abraham out of Ur. He knew he was moving a patriarch so that He could call all men through Jesus to Himself one day, where no invention or amount of progress can bring men even close to matching the perfection of heaven. The answer to that call is all that matters. It is what links the 95-year-old grandfather and the tiny baby in gestation for eternity. It is, when that baby one day puts-on our Lord, what will truly make them blood kin. It’s the blood of Jesus coursing through spiritual veins that makes us eternal family. 

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (II Peter 3:8)

It’s just profound.