Browsing Tag

Encouragement

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Bennington, Vermont: You Did More than You Know!

God can take a little and make a lot. Remember back in the very beginning of what we thought would be a short Covid season, when we tried to encourage that little church in Bennington, Vermont?  Well, it’s their turn to encourage us and they are doing that now in a powerful way!

Back in the spring we heard, from Sarah Floyd, the preacher’s wife at this small congregation, that members were struggling. A difficult mission field in any season, it became particularly difficult for the little group at Bennington church of Christ to remain cohesive and encouraged as meeting together and blessing each other with fellowship became more difficult. Some were having health issues and others were new Christians. Younger members were feeling isolated and funds were often in short supply. 

Lots of you sent cards, just to encourage them. As the minister, Jason Floyd (shown here), explained to me, he and his wife, Sarah, became a mini post office for a while there, unpacking boxes of your letters and making deliveries to the homes of the various members who are spread out over a large area around Bennington. The Floyds covered a lot of miles as they, and perhaps others,  hand-delivered your encouragement to the members. 

On one of those runs, Jason met a house guest of one of the families which attends the congregation. She answered the door when Jason delivered your mail. As Christians do, Jason engaged this lady, whose name is Sally Bristol, in conversation, which eventually resulted in a Bible study, and another and another…

Yesterday, this lady put on the Lord in baptism (Gal. 3:27) and became your sister in Christ! Our little cards helped, in a teeny, but important way, to produce something that was beyond what we had asked or imagined, according to His power that is working within us and especially is at work in Jason (Eph.3:20). If you were among the many who sent cards to encourage this family of His people, I hope you will bow before the throne and praise Him for using those little cards as tools of evangelism even when we were unaware of that occurrence. He is so good and His word is exceedingly powerful. I hope this baptism will make you want to continue to offer support to mission work and keep sending cards when you see those in God’s family struggling. I hope it will make you believe even more strongly in His providence for us as we pray for the gospel’s full effect on lives we may reach, even across hundreds of miles. It is doing all of that to my heart!

You might even want to take the time to drop Ms. Sally a note to let her know that you are praying for her life in Him and for continued influence for good as she now has a chance to take the message to others. You can send it to this address:

Sally Bristol

℅ church of Christ

 524 South St

 Bennington, VT 05201

And, if you have children who helped make the cards, be sure to tell them about this amazing day that THEY helped facilitate! Visible results of service projects WILL appear and they do wonders in growing the faith of kids.

What a glorious God we serve! I praise Him today in the words of the Spirit through Paul: 

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph.3:20,21)

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Family Ties in the Social Distance #6… (Ladies, please read the bold at the end!)


***Today, if you are a regular reader of Bless Your Heart, I hope you will read through to the very end and notice the activity. If you could send a card or two (or more), it would be a blessing to some struggling brothers and sisters and children in Vermont!

 

My husband, Glenn, is sharing these daily lessons from Philippians 4:8 for our West Huntsville family as we are necessarily (because of the virus) spending less time physically together in worship, study and fellowship. We may be “socially distanced,” but  we’re a close-knit family and we want to keep it that way! One way to stay on track together, spiritually, is to think about a common passage and make applications for our lives together even when we are unable to assemble as frequently. I’m sharing these daily family lessons here for those in other places, whose families (or even congregations) might benefit from a common study in these uncommon days of semi-quarantine. Blessings.

From Glenn:

Week 2 –Monday  — “Of good report”

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:8-9).

According to Strong’s, the word praiseworthy means well spoken of, i.e. reputable; of good report…sounding well; uttering words of good omen, speaking auspiciously. 

Paul means we should meditate on things that good people would admire. Consider three illustrations from Scripture: 

1)Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). Paul is urging them to reflect well on the gospel in their community by the way that they live.

2)The qualifications of men we need for our church elders include, “…he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:7).

3)Jesus taught us to live our lives so that, in general, people will admire His Father because of the lives we live serving Him, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:16).  

Perhaps the application of this principle fluctuates with cultures, but the meaning is this: Generally speaking, there are things which good people in any society approve and appreciate.  These are the better things in us. Perhaps it is less true in America today—we’re in a time when political assemblies can erupt into crowds booing when the name of God is mentioned in a positive way—but the general recognition of good exists, nevertheless, and arguably, still among the majority of people in our country.  Think for a moment about praiseworthy ideals: to honor one’s parents, to possess good manners, to show respect toward the elderly, to protect women and children when they’re in trouble, to be honest even when our dishonesty might go unpunished, to obey the law as a matter of conscience (Rom. 13:1-5), to respect other people’s property, to respect God’s laws about sexuality (avoiding adultery, homosexuality, rape, lasciviousness, etc… [1 Cor. 6:9-11]), to be kind to people who are kind to us and even to those who are not. These are things that are respected by the communities in which most Christians live and work.

There are still many in this old world who appreciate these things. Paul exhorts us to meditate on them. To do so contributes to our spiritual health and to preventing impediments to our successful evangelism.  

Tonight’s Story Time:

Today, during the day, read Genesis 42 so you’ll be well prepared to tell the details to your children in a way they can grasp and from which they can learn.

  1. The famine prophesied by Joseph had reached to Jacob and his family. Jacob, the father of this large family, was doing what every husband and father should do. He was providing for his family (42:1-4).  He instructed ten of his sons (Benjamin wasn’t sent  because Jacob was afraid of harm coming to him.) to go to Egypt where food could be bought.  God was working His plan to bring the family together with Joseph and save a people—soon to be called Israel—through which the Christ would eventually come.  Your children may not be old enough yet to understand all of this, but they will understand that God uses our lives to make things work out the way He has planned.

2.  God provides for His children. We call that providence, yet sometimes it may be years before I can understand just how God has worked something out for my good.  When Joseph, dressed like the Egyptians and talking like them, saw his brothers, he did not tell them who he was. He had a “secret identity.” (Do your children know of anyone who has a secret identity?) In his heart, he remembered those dreams he had when he was 17, in which his brothers bowed down before him (42:5-9).  Now they really were bowing down before him. Now he understood why God made him dream all those things when he was a boy. 

Tell your children that, throughout their lives, during good times and bad, they must trust that God’s working in their lives. Have them think of some good things that are coming even from all the sickness in our world today. 

3.  Beginning here, Joseph started a lengthy and complicated test to learn if his brothers had changed. Were they still mean and wicked? Did they hate Joseph’s little brother, Benjamin, just like they had hated him?

It must have been hard for Joseph to not immediately tell them who he was.  Ask your children if they think this was wise or if they’d have done it differently.  Discuss.

4. Now talk about how that sometimes it is very hard when God’s people are separated from the people they love. Talk about how hard it must have been for Joseph all those years. It is hard for people today to serve God when there are not a lot of other Christians around them. Talk about how sad it is even for us when we cannot gather together with our Christian family.

Special Activity: This week, Cindy (my wife) has heard from a faithful Christian preacher’s wife in Vermont. Her name is Sarah Floyd. The Christians in Vermont are very few and they are struggling. They are not getting to meet together very much right now and many of them live far from each other. They don’t get to have lots of activities like many of us do. They don’t have KidSing or Lads to Leaders or Youth devotionals or even lots of Bible classes. These Christians and children would LOVE to get cards or pictures from your family. Just a picture or a verse or a photograph from your printer; a little spring flower from a coloring book or a handmade bookmark…anything would brighten their days, make them feel less isolated, and encourage them to be faithful. Make as many of these in the next five days as you can. Put each one into a separate envelope with the following first names on them. Then stuff them all into a larger envelope and mail them to the address at the bottom. If you could do a couple each night this week, then by next weekend, you’d have a little stash to send. (But even if your children are very small and you just make one, that’s still a blessing to one person!…And it’ll bless your child, too!)

Be sure to put one first name (or two or more names if it’s obviously a couple or family) on each card you make. Then put all the cards made by your family in one big envelope and mail to: Bennington church of Christ, 524 South St., Bennington, VT 05201.

Here’s the list (this seems like a good number, but I believe they have about 15 -20 on a usual Sunday):

Widows/widowers/single older people: Joyce, Doug, Lin, Mitt, Ruth, Nancy

Older couples: Bob and Carol (elder and wife), Ken and June (elder and wife), David and Joyce

Lady who lives alone because her husband works overseas: Mary

Only teenager in the church: Teen Mary 

Her 10-year-old sister: Rachel

Parents of Mary and Rachel: Doug and Wendy

Newer Christian: Tina

Newer Christian family: Nate, Amanda, Haylee, William

Needs encouragement: Alan and Jen

Pray together and especially pray tonight that we will soon be able to get together and hug and worship with our church family. Pray for the people in Vermont who are struggling to be faithful to our Father.

 

For those of you who are  Bless Your Heart readers  and want to send cards  to Vermont, I wanted to include a little of Sarah’s note (to show you the need). Sarah Floyd has been a friend for several years, is a devoted preacher’s wife in a difficult place, a great wife and mom, and an author of fiction. (I haven’t read her first book in an upcoming series yet, but I plan to read it! It’s Finding Joy and it’s on Amazon.) I was looking forward to being in her area (four hours from where she lives, but she was coming) this very weekend, before the ladies day in Biddeford, Maine was canceled. Here are some of her thoughts that tugged at my heart. Sometimes we take the family-ness of our congregations, brimming with faithful people, for granted. We have so many activities and so much time together that we may even complain, at times.   I feel for these sisters and brothers who feel the isolation all of the time; not just when a pandemic or short separation arises. I’m committed to sending a card a day until I’ve encouraged every one of them. Could you? The list and address are above in the Family Bible Time activity. 

Here’s a part of what Sarah wrote: 

Please pray for New England Christians right now, sisters.

There aren’t many of us at all.

There are only about 300 members of the church of Christ here in Vermont. Yes, in the entire state.

We meet in very small congregations.

We meet in congregations mostly filled with elderly people on fixed incomes.

We meet in congregations that are just a few weeks of missed contributions away from having to close the doors of the church building.

We don’t have many Christian family members, as a rule, to support us spiritually in this frightening time, or if we do, most of them live far away.

Our congregations are an hour or more apart.

We often work for years to establish relationships with people to influence them for Christ, because door knockers are often cursed at or turned in to the police around here, and we are afraid of losing those relationships the longer we are in quarantine.

We are also terrified that our “fringe” members…the ones who only come once in a while or just to Sunday morning worship…will get in the habit of just not coming at all…and for some of our congregations, most of our members are “fringe” members.

We have too many elderly members and too few young members to have a buddy system in place, so those of us who are still young and healthy are trying to keep up with everyone.

We fight tooth and nail to even be able to hold area-wide events like singings and ladies days (so little manpower available), and they’ve been canceled. Most of them will not be rescheduled this year.

And, finally, many of us already felt SO lonely and SO isolated from other like-minded people, that this enforced seclusion is utterly depleting our emotional strength. Our social cups were already almost empty before, and there’s nothing left to pour. This is where I am, as a SAHM of a special needs child (and a 3 yr old). I am thankful for technology and the ability to worship and communicate online, but it doesn’t take the place of the ladies retreat I was going to attend without.my.children.

Never underestimate the negative power of isolation and loneliness, and please, once we are free to live as we choose again, remember your brethren up here will still be pretty isolated. Please consider visiting us, sending your teens here on a mission trip, forming a team and serving up here long-term, etc. Most of all, please pray for us. Often. Fervently.

Thank you if you got to the end of this. Love in Christ to all of you!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Thanks to Committed Diggers!

Monday was challenging.  Suddenly I had a whole lot more on my plate than I had planned. There was some extra shopping to get done for an incomplete project the elders and preachers were trying to accomplish before Christmas. There was another unexpected need in the church that took a couple of morning hours. Digging Deep podcast preparation was chewing at my heels and my children were coming in the next day for the holidays. Once they arrived, we had planned to travel together to Memphis to see Glenn’s parents and the food for the family that would meet there needed yet to be prepared. Some of the gifts for Christmas were half-made…sort of too far in to give up, but not close enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Digging Deep class was also scheduled for Monday night. At 7 am on Monday morning, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Then I went to the church building at 9 am to confer with a friend who needed to talk. And it was there that I received the encouragement that immunized me from holiday stress. There in the fellowship hall, gathered around a table, were three sisters—Bibles and Digging Deep books all open, They were not an official study group. No announcements had been made. No special schedule is followed. They are just three sisters who try to make it a point each month to get together and compare notes on the study.  

It’s the holidays, people! These women have families. Together, they have seven children. Five of these seven are still below high school age. (Two are adults.) These women had spent much of the previous day in activities at the building; worshipping and serving. They spent the entire morning on Monday talking about God’s authority, searching the Scriptures together and sharing commentary and conclusions from the Word. Then they all showed up at 6:30 pm for the larger (and a bit more official) group study. One of them led that study and capably shared the fruits of hours and hours of study. Their children are with them, in most instances, at the various studies. Another of the ladies is also teaching the Wednesday ladies Bible class for this entire quarter. And this IS the holidays!

I came home Monday night and told my husband how very encouraged I was to see this kind of zeal about Bible study. When our minds are excited about study, they will also be deeply affected by it. We will be transformed by the renewal of mind that comes from study (Romans 12:2). 

So thanks for changing my stressing to blessings. Thanks to these local sisters for giving me the perspective I needed on Monday. And thanks to ALL of you Diggers in every group and to you who are going it solo.  To every one of you who’s COMMITTED this year, thanks for being a channel of His blessings!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Contest Winner #2: Alisha Middleton

Sometimes the most encouraging commodity is a memory. Oh, we don’t enjoy the passing of those who are sources of strength to us, but memories and the tangible reminders left behind are still invaluable to us. We lean on examples of faith that have already led  to heaven. Heaven, in fact, becomes dearer as its throng swells to include many who’ve been dear in this life to us. The second contest winner, Alisha Middleton, has an encourager who lives in the place for which we’re all striving. Here’s her letter…

Three months ago our congregation lost someone very dear to us. One of our shepherds, Dale Ledbetter passed away after suffering with a very painful form of cancer. We miss him everyday, especially the love and compassion he showed for members of our congregation. The attached picture shows a onesie that he picked out for our son before he was even born. Also in the pictures are some of the notes he wrote to us during my pregnancy with Liam. Our son never got to meet Brother Dale, but someday I will show him these notes and tell him about the type of man he was. I hope my son will be like him someday.

-Alisha Middleton

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Holiday Contest at the Colley House!

                                                                                                 Christmas Contest!

                           Need a Hug?

Every year at Christmas time, The Colley House has a contest. Some talented, or thoughtful, or just some lucky lady gets a prize package. This year it’s the most creative kinds of online encouragement to each other. Here are the rules:

You can email me or screen-shoot me a copy of the best letter or  tiny note of encouragement, or even hand-drawn picture that you have received this year. You know, someone wrote on your facebook page or sent you a message that really made you want to be better, or made you feel appreciated. It can be from your husband, your friend, your sister, your child…anybody. Please send to byhcontest@gmail.com OR you can share on my personal public facebook page.  Entries sent to other addresses or via Messenger or text will be disqualified (Just because CC is going bonkers this holiday season and this way I’ll only have two places to look. =) It’s okay if we know you, if you are a digger, if you are a member at West Huntsville, etc…Anybody who does not have Colley or Giselbach in her name is eligible. 

We’ll get some unbiased help and choose three winning encouragers. Then we’ll send a free book, cd, or dvd of choice to BOTH the person who submitted the entry AND the person from whom the note or picture originated. It’s okay if the two people are thousands of miles apart or in the same household. Please don’t hesitate to share just because you feel like the note is “braggy” about you. We know none of us are “all that.” We just want to learn to BE better encouragers. Deadline for your entry is December 10th. That gives you a dozen days to think about encouragement. What could be better?

We’ll spread the love via the blog and it will help us all be better encouragers (as per our November Digging Deep study.)  One…Two…Three…GO! 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Bind Us Together

For several days now, I’ve been thinking about and praying for a righteous perspective about relationships…friendships…the sisterhood. Like most areas of living, if we can get HIS view into our own focus, we can get this right. After thinking and maybe even overthinking, I believe the age-old secret to preserving godly relationships is deeply embedded in the concept of agape, itself. And it really seems pretty simple to me.

I think there are two premises that are required for friendships that cannot be severed. It’s important to remember that BOTH premises must be central to BOTH parties in a relationship. It seems to me that, if they are, you have a friendship that can’t be annulled; a kinship that will never end. If they are not, the friendship is severely compromised.

The first premise is this: I will never intentionally offend you, unless I must offend you to obey God.

The second premise is this: I will never be offended by something you inadvertently do, unless it is sinful, and thus offends God. 

Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but it seems to me, that if BOTH parties in a relationship are willing and able to maintain BOTH of these premises, there will be no end to the “green pastures” through which he leads and protects us. Adherence to the first premise means that I will love you enough to do whatever it is that would keep you safe from insult or injury in my relationship with you, up to the point of offending my Lord. The second means I will love you enough to give you the benefit of the doubt when I am tempted to become offended, unless you are sinning in the offense.

I believe this is Biblical. The first premise is based on many passages, including I Corinthians 10:24.

Let no man seek His own, but every man another’s well-being.

The second premise finds a home in many places, too. Among them would be I Corinthians 13:4-7

Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The first premise makes me pray “Lord please help me to be only an encouragement to this, my sister, and help me never to be a stumbling block to her in any way.  Let me show her always your grace and your light and place my own desires below her needs and desires.”

The second premise makes me pray “Lord, please help me to think the very best of this, my sister. Please help me to be longsuffering enough to know that she loves me and that she would never intentionally hurt me.”

If we both are thinking both ways, we can’t ever lose relationships over things that are less important than the gospel. I believe a great example of this is the relationship of Jonathan and David. Surely Jonathan placed his own desires below the needs of David as he risked his own life in the advancement of David, even against his own flesh and blood (I Samuel 20—premise 1). Surely David must have always been thinking only the best of Jonathan, even as Jonathan died fighting in the army of David’s own enemy, Saul. It is encouraging to see David’s memorial honoring of Jonathan even after he lost his life in service to Saul (II Samuel chapters 1&9—premise 2). 

I hope and believe I can rely on these Biblical principles to guide me to godly relationships…those relationships that can always promote unity and evangelism among and by His people today.