Browsing Tag

Blessings

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The River Clapped its Hands.

I was just so tired of looking at masks instead of smiles. My kids who live close enough for me  to ever see them anyway, were all in quarantine. I didn’t even want to drag out the Halloween jack-o-lanterns and garlands and goblins because nobody is ever going to be coming over. Every time I opened my laptop, I’d feel just a little worse after looking at the news. The counseling Glenn and I were doing—talking, really —was about heavy things that were hard to get out of my mind once the conversations were finished. Some people seemed bound to make decisions they are bound to regret once the pandemic and national tension are over. Sometimes, I was pretty sure attitudes in the grocery store had also been affected by the negativity in the world at large; there seemed to always be tension there, but never any Clorox wipes. People I knew were in the hospital and I could not visit them. Sisters I knew had been diagnosed with Covid and, worse still, others had been diagnosed with cancer. (These last observations should have been enough to stop me cold in my “pity party” tracks, but I persisted.)…I had geared up to speak a whole bunch of times this year and every single speaking engagement of 2020 had either been canceled or I was speaking it into a camera in an empty studio room. There were never any encouraging, in-person faces; and if there were, I could not see past the masks. We’d mailed out hundreds of packages and about one out of every five was lost in transit. Glenn, in cleaning up after a family birthday party, had jerked on a birthday balloon I’d taped to the candelabra (back before all the kids were quarantined) and he jerked the whole fixture down, so I had a dangling broken light fixture above my dining room table. Stuff was broken in the little Digging Deep studio, too. Mornings would find me determined to accomplish a check-list. Evenings would find me moving most of today’s to-do list to tomorrow’s page. At night before falling asleep, I’d read about some city (or forest) where fires were ragIng, because of natural forces or because of forces of racial and vitriolic unrest. I really was wallowing in the national pandemic of discouragement. 

My husband suggested that we go away for a few days. “We NEED to do this, Cindy,” he’d say almost every day. “Our bodies and minds need to rest.” I was less than thrilled, arguing that this is not a good time to travel. “I just got home from a necessary trip”… “Things will be closed. We are in a pandemic.”  But I tried to be compliant.  I checked out flights  to New England to look at the leaves, but apparently they don’t want people from Alabama to look at their leaves this year. That little trip would have required a couple of weeks of quarantine and temperature checks upon arrival, etc. So we just pointed the car in a southwesterly direction and ended up in Natchez, Mississippi with very little purpose or plan to do or see anything. But I saw a lot of things. 

In the state of Mississippi, the mask mandate had been lifted. That, friends, may not have been medically smart. I do not know. I do know, though, that seeing strangers smile at strangers is a balm to weary spirits.

Immediately upon reaching our hotel in Natchez, we started looking for a church. The place where we ended up was in Vidalia, Louisiana. (After that search online and in the car, for a couple of hours, I was most appreciative of our church family, city-wide, in Huntsville, AL) This little church had to be the friendliest one in the state of Louisiana. All of their services were in-person. Their singing was robust and obviously from their hearts. They prayed for their “visitors” from Alabama in every single prayer and they graciously asked Glenn to preach on Sunday. But the thing that renewed my appreciation for the family of God was the comment in class by the kind gentleman who also led their singing. In the context of brotherly love from 1 John, he said “Most of you know that I live by myself. I try to talk to neighbors about the Lord, but most of them are not too interested. You know that this right here is my family. Y’all are my people. Y’all are the ones I need to see and I look forward to the times we get to be together. This is my place.” Now I don’t know about you, but my soul soared to hear this black brother talk about this very racially integrated body of believers as “his people.” I thought “This is what the Lord wants in all of our hearts. While the world is tumultuously acting like the world and trying to make everybody walk on eggshells around everybody else, he has called us out of darkness and translated us into this great family—the kingdom of his dear Son.” I determined to go home and just love my family like never before! Sometimes a woman needs a brother to just put her self-focused little mind in place again. He, like a spiritual chiropractor, just popped me back into alignment. 

The next time we met with these sweet Christians, I took along our current Digging Deep study book and found women, who had never even heard of DD, eager to begin. Glenn talked to these sweet folks about Lads to Leaders (They had not heard about that either, but there was obvious young potential there.) There were folks there who had already found us and our West Huntsville family online and already begun to listen to archived lessons online. This zeal for the Lord’s family was refreshing.

Glenn was diligently looking, on this trip, for replacement light fixtures and doors for some oddly sized closet entrances in one of our bedrooms. We found someone who was selling both there in Natchez and set up a time to meet her. While almost every old house or historic place we attempted to go and see had been closed due to a hurricane (…yes, we had unwittingly traveled TO the hurricane area and electricity was off in much of the area and trees were across several area roads) this sweet lady took us to a large living space—a loft on the top of business space on Commerce Street in historic downtown Natchez, to look at light fixtures and doors!  Not only did we get the antique doors and the fixture—both just what we wanted—but she, having grown up in Natchez, was able to give us perspectives about history that no tour guide had yet given. Finding that she had been to Israel, we began talking about Judaism and the Old Testament. By that time, of course, I’m back at the SUV, digging out our Digging Deep study of the Ten Commandments and I honestly think no one has ever been more excited to get a copy of a Digging Deep book than this sweet lady was to receive The Ten. I have a sister who is going to love to study this with me!”

…And in my reluctant heart, I was thinking “God is showing Cindy Colley a few things about a few things, among which are mercies that are new every morning (particularly in new faces and places). He might be showing me that I should just follow the counsel of the godly man He gave me, without arguing. He could be providentially asking me to get busy counting blessings and evangelizing wherever I am; focusing on finding opportunities to speak of Him, knowing that the world of vitriol changes one heart at a time as people are influenced by the gospel.”

And then, before coming home, we just stood and looked out over the mighty Mississippi. Covering two city blocks that had once been a bustling part of old Natchez, those mighty waters just keep on raging with undercurrents that prevent swimming or fishing, jet-skis or sailing. From the Natchez shoreline, just about the only boats one sees today are huge barges. headed for more peaceful ports and trade farther inland on the tributaries of this powerful body. Draining 41 percent of the United States, the water flows at incredible speeds and with deadly force. But God is in the business of irrigating and draining and He has channeled the power of millions of gallons of water within our vision—for warmth and light and industry and transportation. It’s hard to look at that river and its productivity without marveling at the creative and controlling power of the God we serve.

He gets it right, every time. In a world that’s screaming about justice and equity, I’m going to follow the One who gets it right. Even when I, his daughter, may question and writhe in His Providence—even when I might grumble in the shadow of His mercies, He gets it right. He is supreme and I’ve returned home with a greater respect for His majesty and provision for me. I saw the mightiest river in our part of the world “clap its hands” in full glorification of the Lord. Who am I to hang my head and think life’s unfair when the river is praising the equity of God?! 

 

 

Let the rivers clap their hands;

let the hills sing for joy together

before the Lord, for he comes

to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness,

and the peoples with equity (Psalm 97:8,9).

 

He gets it right. I’m thankful for renewal.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Baby G3 Gender Guessing Contest! Go!

Mother’s Day is Sunday and our 40th wedding anniversary is on the 16th, so I’m getting, Lord willing, a very special gift next week! Baby G3 (the fourth grand-baby for these two blessed people) is due to arrive on Thursday of next week and we could NOT be more excited!  We have many blessings, but it’s easy in a pandemic to magnify the negatives and allow them to block our view of amazing provisions and platitudes. A blessing of this magnitude is one more reason to keep our focus on the One who already knows every outcome of this chaotic state of Covid-19. I will not get to be at the hospital, but I will be sharing the news of baby brother or sister with his/her two older siblings and with YOU! Post your best guess about Baby G3. Post gender, weight and length. All correct gender-guessers will then compete in weight guessing. Length will be used for exact tie-breaking. Winner will receive 4 (in honor of the 4th grandchild) free items of your choosing, from the Colley House site (www.thecolleyhouse.org). All guesses must be in comments below this post on my personal FB page. SO go there to guess. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: 30 Reasons why 60’s better than 30…

  1. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I might as well be good with it. 
  2. The obvious and best one: I’m getting closer to heaven all the time. 
  3. Ezra
  4. Colleyanna
  5. Maggie (Each grandchild should get a separate number in this list.)
  6. People excuse  extreme forgetfulness (like when you see her every Sunday and every Wednesday night and you can’t remember her name). 
  7. Tuesday is senior day at the thrift store. 
  8. No more dreading the decade of the “sixties.” Too late for dread now. 
  9. My best friend turned 60 before I did. Glenn Colley will always be older. 
  10. All the personal hormonal drama is a thing of the past (and the purse paraphernalia that accompanies the drama is, too.)
  11. I get to wear the greatest name: Mammy.
  12. I rarely ever have to say “no” to any children. 
  13. Nobody expects me to know what’s going on in the fashion world. 
  14. People expect me to wear stuff that feels good…like elastic waistbands, Dr. Scholl’s and oversized tee shirts.
  15. I’ve by no means arrived in the wisdom department, but experience brings it on and years breed experience. 
  16. Teenagers have grown more polite to me each year. Doors are opened and they call me ma’am (Leviticus 19:32)
  17. As Ezra put it, “You are old, but, since you don’t have any kids, you have fun.”
  18. Neither minimalism nor hoarding bothers me at all. Life’s too short to even contemplate.
  19. Peer-dependence is mostly a thing of the past. Seeing peers go to glory more often some how does that.
  20. More and  more people I love live in the place where I’m headed.
  21. I worry less that my teeth are yellow-ish and am more thankful that most of them are there-ish.
  22. People stop wanting you to take computer tutorials and, instead, just upgrade, repair and replace for you. 
  23. There was no Lip Sense when I was 30. 
  24. There was no sense in which I had thousands of “friends” at 30. But now…
  25. I have a crown of glory (Proverbs 16:31).
  26. My shoes are in my own closet, my straightener is in my own bathroom, I  generally have a parking space in my own driveway and laundry baskets take a lot longer to fill up.
  27. My phone is not fat and bulky anymore. (We won’t think about what IS fat and bulky these days.)
  28. My kids think I’ve gotten so smart. My grandkids think I’m way smarter than their parents. 
  29. Maybe I AM smarter now that, as a home-schooling parent, I’ve gone through primary and secondary school three times.
  30. The value of memory has at least tripled in my old eyes. 

 

But, for all those reasons, it still makes me a little bit sad that the march of time is happening to music that’s on fast play-back. Whatever it is that’s worth doing in this lifetime should be begun this very moment. The rapid rate of the passage of time, as a sixty-year old woman in 2019 reflects, is breathtaking. Hit-and-run years have, right before my eyes, taken their plunder and left the realization that the bulk of the important influence that builds any legacy, for good or evil, has already been exerted.

Ezra explained that water goes up into the sky and gets into the “cwouds” and then it “wains” back down into the muddy puddles and all of dat is called “ ‘vaporation”.As James put it, the vapor of my life is vanishing (James 4:14). But I guess there’s no evaporation in heaven. After all, we sing, “No clouds ever darken the sky.” I know there’s no aging process. Since this then, is my only chance at aging, I pray I can count its blessings and minimize its painful little ironies like “Just about the time you have enough money to do some fun stuff, you don’t feel like doing it, or “You finally learn you should listen to your body—just about the time your body just starts pointing and laughing.” 

And, speaking of listening to your body, mine’s reminding me often of the greatest thing about getting old. The victory flags are coming into view!

When the perishable (body) puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(I Corinthians 15:54-55)

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Praising His Power (Read to the end and be blessed!)

There are so many things about which I wanted to write at 4:00 am this morning. Jet lag is real and exacerbated when you have a spouse who’s also experiencing it. You’re wide awake at 3:30 a.m. You’re pretty sure he is, too. His movements are restless and his breathing includes an almost audible sound of frustration every now and then. You’re almost sure he’s awake, but you still don’t say anything in the darkness, just in case he has stolen a few moments of sleep in the wee small hours of the morning. 

I thought a lot about the trip to the Bible Lands (https://www.biblelandpassagetours.com) this morning. It was a tight travel with 46 other people, only a few of whom I’d ever even met. Glenn and I spoke, in studies and devotionals, a total of 21 times and this schedule counted as an annual vacation?! We walked (much of it strenuous hiking) a total of about 60 miles. We packed and unpacked a large bus several times a day. We ate some pretty unfamiliar foods and I’m told that I did eat camel tongue, but I’m in denial about that. I permanently lost my cell phone in Jericho. I did some difficult counseling (or problem-talking is really a better description)  along the way. The plane rides were long; the nights were short. The temperatures were topping out at around 100 degrees several of the days and most restaurants don’t serve a glass of ice with anything you order to drink. I didn’t see a single store that compares to Publix or WalMart, though I’m sure they must be there. I left a bunch of my clothes in Jerusalem because my niece was on her way to do a similar tour and her luggage never made it to Tel-Aviv. There were bumps and adjustments and rigor and sweat. 

And it was the best trip of my lifetime! I will treasure the memories and savor the rich teaching for the rest of my days on this earth and maybe even carry a larger bucket into eternity! I will remember the bodies of water: the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. I will be thankful for the water of life. I will remember the ruins of Bet- Shaen and of first century Jerusalem and of Dan and be thankful there’s no ruin in heaven. I will think about the passionate wailing at the Western Wall and be thankful there is no wall of separation between me and the One who ministers in the Most Holy Place for me. I will think about the Jews who still cling to the observances of a system that has no blood of redemption and ever praise Him that the law of Moses was nailed to the cross and that I do have blood.  I will remember the intensity of the Arab/Israeli struggle around the state of Israel and be prayerful for the simple gospel and its attendant blessings to permeate and, one day, powerfully affect the spiritual climate there. I’ll think about the world-changing gospel, likely first preached on the steps of the temple where Glenn was privileged to proclaim them again a few days ago, and just praise Him that the forceful words of Acts 2 have found their way into my heart two thousand years later. I will work to help them find their way into the hearts around me. 

I will keep working and praising (and stumbling and failing), but I will do it with an added dimension of thanksgiving. A woman who is enjoying the blessings that are inherent in Christ—a woman who has entered the Holy Place and ministers in the service of the High Priest —is blessed beyond comprehension. May those of us who are those women make daily choices that reflect hearts of utter dependence and extreme gratitude! 

So some simple lessons will be forthcoming in some subsequent posts. 

But for today, I want to tell you about something I heard last night over the dinner table at Zaxby’s as we sat there with some of our younger couples and singles from the West Huntsville church. One of our couples, Stephen and Brenna Anderson, had just returned from a trip to Washington, DC. Searching out the church there for a Wednesday night assembly, they found that the prospects of Bible study with Christians inside the city were more difficult than they’d thought. They finally found a single congregation inside the city and made their way via the metro to a spot within walking distance. They arrived early and, when they knocked, were admitted by a young man who told them that the ministers were out of town, but welcomed them in. The Bible study was to begin at 7:00 p.m., but 7:15 came and it was still just the three of them. Finally one more brother arrived and, as they began to sing together, just the four of them, two men wandered in from the street. One of the men was obviously very inebriated; the other listened intently to the prayers and praise and, at the end, asked for prayers as he made his way to a destination in Virginia. He indicated that he really didn’t know exactly what he needed, but he knew he needed prayers. The prayer was offered and the service ended. While the local people tried to help the drunken man to safety as he left, Stephen approached the man who’d asked for prayers with a simple life-changing question: “Would you like to have a Bible study?” 

The man answered “Actually, I would.” 

It took a while for the local man to “handle” the situation with the disorderly man, so Stephen spent that time in study with this visitor. The man, whose background was Muslim, had already come to believe in the Lord Jesus and was already searching the scriptures  for salvation’s path. He knew a lot about the Bible.  After a while in the Word, the man’s next question came: “Could I be baptized now?” 

Stephen said, “Well, let me see about that…I’m a visitor here, too, but let’s ask if we can make that happen.” 

And it did. The baptistry was filled. The man’s sins were washed away and he went on his way rejoicing. 

Stephen and Brenna left him, the infant Christian, in the care of the man who baptized him. They went on their way (hurriedly, because the metro was closing) rejoicing, too. 

God’s people searching out God’s people. Two or three (or, in this case, four) of them gathering in His name and knowing He is there. God’s Providence working mightily. A powerful combination producing the very best thing that could possibly happen on a vacation! 

How can you not be encouraged to begin your work-week with His name on your lips? Let’s do this week for Him!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Maybe there’s a Kitty…

I was the teacher for the ladies Bible class. I proceeded to try and get there early, so I could put a chart on the board comparing Melchizedek with Christ. I dropped off Colleyanna, my sweet two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, who’s staying with me this week, in her classroom and hurried to room 119. I was a minute early, but there were lots of girlfriends in there already and they were chatting about potty-training…all about the stress you go through when your kids are first out of diapers—You have about ten seconds to find the bathroom when they tell you they’ve got to go. There was advice about not rushing it…”My Joy’s only been potty trained for a couple of weeks and she just turned three.” 

And I was listening while I was writing my chart. In my Mammy-head was “Maybe I should be glad she’s not potty-trained, then, because I don’t think I could handle any more stress just now,” and “Oh, well. Colleyanna is just two-and-a a-half. There’s plenty of time…But we have to do it before PTP, for sure, so she can go to class.” 

And just as sure as the world, I wrote a column on my chart entitled “Melchizedek” and, on the opposite column (instead of “Christ”), I wrote “Colleyanna” and started listing my verses of comparison. 

When it came time to actually study the verses with that room full of ladies, I had them look up the verses as we discussed the list and someone would read them out loud. Only the first verse had nothing to do with the topic. Astute women in the class (who should have been teaching) quickly realized I’d added a one and it was verse five instead of 15 …or some such simple mistake. Those ladies are very forgiving. 

Then we got to the second verse. Same thing. One chapter off. Nothing about the fact that Jesus is the King of Peace. This time they laughed that i’d mess up two verses in a row.  I commented about how I was going for 100 percent wrong scripture citations and we moved on. 

…To the third wrong citation. My phrase about the King of Righteousness was in the previous verse. And I could not stop laughing at myself. “Why am I up here teaching instead of you all who can find the verses?!” I was thinking. “This is a great game though. See if you can find the verse she really meant.” Kind of like those kids’ secret code puzzlers over on the elementary hall, where you break the code and every letter in the “solution” is really two letters off. I started to wonder if I would be able to regain my composure and go on with Hebrews 7. (In the back of my head, I also wondered how such an airhead would possibly be speaking 287 times in Israel in a couple of weeks, put together a live podcast from the Sea of Galilee, complete a lectureship manuscript before leaving, try to counsel a sane person though a failing marriage later in the week, and follow simple recipes to send meals to my in-laws tomorrow…And how’s anybody entrusting the care of a two-year-old to this Mammy?…”Make a note to get all of your loved ones to be sure and be at the web-inar about caring for loved ones with dementia, for sure,” I told myself while moving to the point about how we do not know the genealogy or descent of Melchizedek. Soon I will not know mine either. 

And then the bell rang and  I forgot…just forgot…to go and get Colleyanna from Bible class. I just proceeded to go right in the auditorium and have a seat. She was a lonely little thing, still sitting there buckled in her little seat just admiring her coloring sheet on a perfectly empty table. “We wondered if you were coming,” the teacher said. 

“Oh, you mean this is “pick-up-only’ class?” 

I forgot to bring the ice-cream freezer I was loaning to my friend for the youth devo. I forgot to bring the “Awake at Night” book I was giving to another friend. (But fitting title for my week.) I forgot to get the details of my international phone plan for the folks who are helping me do that podcast from the Sea of Galilee. I found myself humming that hymn that ends up with the words “Remember No More.”

Pulling into the parking lot of WalMart late last night, I felt a little like I should not be allowed behind the wheel at all. But there, at the door of WalMart was an ambulance in full flashing-lights mode. I thought about some poor soul that had suffered a stroke or heart attack while in the store. Someone inside had a real problem. I needed to stop and pray for them, take a deep breath, and count my blessings.

Then I noticed wide eyes in the backseat of my SUV and I heard a little voice from the carseat behind me “Look Mammy! Maybe there’s a kitty stuck in a tree.”

Count your blessings while you can still count. But then again, none of us can count that high!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Great Smoky Mountain Marriage Retreat: The Lunch Surprise

Last Friday at noon Glenn and I sat in a very nice restaurant in Pigeon Forge, TN. We were blessed by our benevolent God to get to be part of the Great Smoky Mountain Marriage Retreat. Together, it was our privilege to get to speak nine times at this event. We do not know why or how we received this honor that’s all at the same such a great pleasure and an extremely humbling experience. After all, our own marriage is certainly far from perfect and our human weaknesses are always conflicting with our divine aspirations. But I’m telling you, if you’ve never been to this event, you ought to think about making plans for next year. The teaching we heard there was very thought-provoking and action-motivating. We agreed that we would love to get to go back and just soak in the teachings of others and that our marriage could not escape improvement if we could do that.  The practical adjustments recommended, if even partially applied, could not help but enrich even the best of marriages. So, if you are thinking, “I wonder if this retreat would help us…”, the answer is “Yes.” Prioritization of time for this is our recommendation.

But, back to the lunch at the nice restaurant….That lunch was actually a highlight of our time in Pigeon Forge, because it was the one time while we were in town, that we got to sit down and eat a meal with our kids, Hannah and Ben Giselbach. Really, it was our first time in four years, I suppose, to sit down to a meal with them, without the wonderful, but sometimes conversation-disabling distraction of their children. Ezra and Colleyanna spent the weekend at our house in Huntsville with a favorite cousin (really sort of a double-cousin), Song Nicholas. SO there we were, soaking in the conversation about the retreat, about the beautiful scenery, about the food, and…yes, even about missing the kids.

We had great food and we all splurged and even ordered soft drinks or tea. (How often does this happen anyway?) Not one of us even shared a meal with anyone. We were getting good at adulting-sans-babies by the time we finished up. We told the nice waiter that were were all done and couldn’t hold a bite of dessert. He replied, to our surprise, “Then you’re free to go. Those folks in the booth behind you took care of your tab.”

I know you’ve probably had that happen. If you have, you know how it makes you feel. You think “That’s just about the nicest thing anyone has ever done for us.” You start thinking about the price of that meal and how that those sweet people knew it was going to be a costly sacrifice, even as they were asking for our ticket. Then you think about how you can’t wait to hug them and express gratitude and thankfulness for their tender care of you. What a very special thing to do!

The only hitch, for us, was that, while we knew these people were attendees at the Great Smoky Mountain Marriage Retreat, we did not know them, personally. I looked and looked for them (I knew I could recognize at least one of their kind faces…the sweet face that briefly talked to me as we entered the restaurant.) But I never knowingly saw her again during the rest of the weekend. I went into both ballrooms and scanned both audiences at the end trying to find her. Glenn even ask for their identity from a public speech. But these sweet people were elusive.

If you are either of those people in the benevolent booth behind the Colleys, will you accept our profound thanks for such a lovely gesture. You encouraged us beyond what we could say and made us want to be better, more generous and more anonymously thoughtful of those around us. We promise to pay it forward as we go through our immediate future days. May God bless you for your kindness to our family.  “Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, my brethren, you have done it to me.” We know that there are a myriad of ways in which we are surely among the least and we are constantly thankful for His mercies shown us through His good people.”

Five little lessons:

  1. You should come to the Great Smoky Mountain Marriage Retreat and you should just go ahead and plan to be better for having come. One couple that we encouraged to come has already informed us that they found light at the end of a tunnel while there. We love that. Even if your marriage is not in a dark spot, the light that Jesus is can shine brighter in your home.
  2. You should sometimes take time with your adult children without the kids, if this is possible. The babies are the best part of your lives right now, but your adult kids still need some conversation and bonding time with you, too. Adult kids, you really make your parents feel special if you want to hang out with them.
  3. Christians are the best and kindest people on the planet and they have been very good to the Colley family.
  4. Pay attention to faces and names. I’m not good at this, but I know Christians who are, and they are blessed because of it. I’m going to work harder at this!
  5. God’s people are one of  His primary conduits today for blessing His people; so consciously be a conduit. Conduits are clean and useful, especially when God’s water of life is flowing though them.