Browsing Tag

Ezra

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Finding the Hook

Last week was packed with a good kind of craziness around our house. Our four-year-old grandson, Ezra was with us for a few days. Both Glenn and I were slated to travel and speak on the weekend, but we were still determined to take Ezra fishing, have lots of time pushing that swing outside, have at least three trips around the neighborhood on the tractor, visit the park, and squeeze in at least one pop-in with our postal lady and one with Ezra’s friends at the bank…not to mention the four services at the West Huntsville church while Ezra was in town. And all in between those activities, while at home, we were the good guys versus the bad guys in the living room. We have a hide-out under a tree that’s really on the couch under the afghan, a horse that’s actually wooden and  rocking, but he transports to far-away and dangerous places just the same, and a jail in the study that’s not as secure as one might think, for four-year-old prisoners who know how to “file out” with plastic knives sneaked in by allies or “bust loose” through the back porch and hop on a pirate ship, which is a north-bound hammock that tosses wildly in the stormy sea. 

A definite highlight this visit was a Captain Hook costume that I pieced together when Ezra’s imagination turned to Neverland. We re-purposed Glenn’s lawn mowing hat from the basement and, with a little red paint, a sword that my dad had made many years ago for my son, a feather from an Indian chief’s headdress in the costume crate, and a red robe from Amazon Prime, he was set. The little coat hanger hook glued inside a piece of wood in Glenn’s workshop was his favorite part of the ensemble. His little antique child’s bed in the window cubby in our bedroom was the perfect ship, with the baby sound machine on the ocean setting and a reflective nightlight putting the moon and stars on the ceiling. Captain Hook was up to no good and I was constantly spotting my costume jewelry around his neck, attached to his belt, or in that little treasure chest in his “ship”. (My jewelry stash may never be the same!)

But in one very serious moment (and those moments happen at unplanned times), this question emerged:  “Mammy, do bad guys know dat dey are bad?”

Now I had to pause a moment before delving into any response to that very relevant societal question. Just a few seconds of reflection was all it took to realize that this question is a deep spiritual and philosophical quandary. Its ramifications are profound. Yet it needs to be settled in the mind of this four-year-old…and in my own.

The answer is, of course, “No…Not always.”

James 1: 20-22 reads like this. Find the bad guy here:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 

The implication is  that the bad guy does not know how to leave the superfluity of naughtiness (also translated “overflowing of wickedness”) if he does not have the word engrafted or implanted in him. He simply must be in the Book to know that wickedness is wicked and that filthiness is filthy. A bad guy has to be in the Word (or have some connection to the broad influence of the Word of God)  to know that he is bad. Sin is identified by the laws of God (Romans 5:13). 

Some guys, though, have looked in the mirror of God’s Word and walked away, They are aware of the transformation that the Word would have them undergo. But they choose to walk away from the  “mirror” without letting that Word change their hearts or their behaviors. In this case, the bad guys do “know that they are bad.” They have, like Pharaoh of old (Exodus 8:15,32), hardened their hearts. 

Here’s the description by James of the “bad guy” who knows he is bad from verses 23 and 24:

For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

The Greek word for “forgetteth” there includes neglect.  This man knows, at least on some level, what God would have him to do, but he does not care. He refuses to allow God’s word to convict and change him. This “bad guy” knows he is bad. 

This conversation with Ezra ended with an elicited resolve to never, ever be the real-life bad guy; the one who knows he is wicked, but doesn’t care. But further, it ended with a resolve on both of our parts to always be looking in the mirror of the Word, so that we can know when we are bad and mend our ways. Wickedness, whether the wicked is aware of it or not, separates a man from God (Is. 59:2).

Hook. Where did the “pretend” end and the eternal realities begin? When did the pirate ship become a vessel of spiritual transport? When did his little mind stop fighting with the wooden sword and launch a pint-sized battle with the sword which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17)? You never know when the teachable moments will come, so be sure you are on-board in little adventures every chance you get. Those moments  may contain keys to eternity. 

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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: “Mammy, I want to tell you…”

Ezra, my 4-year-old grandson, just called to tell me about the baptisms that are occurring tonight after a Bible study that his parents have been conducting with a couple that visited the marriage seminar at Edgewood recently. This is blessing my world tonight in so many ways and on so many levels. 

The obvious and most important is that two souls are being washed tonight. Two precious souls added to the body of Christ. Two souls saved by the mercy of God and the blood of Jesus (Romans 6:1-4)

The second reason that what’s happening right now is pivotal is that these two people being baptized are parents of very small children. That means that these kids, from this night forward, will be parented by intentional, devoted Christians—people who are directing them with eternity always in the forefront. It means that whatever brokenness or spiritual poverty may have existed in the former generations, no longer has to exist. Tonight is the forging of the first link in a chain that can be unbroken—each generation forging its own link and each generation guiding the next to faithfulness. These small children will never have to remember a time when their parents were walking away from the Lord. 

The third thing that’s wonderful is that I’m basking in the joy that a mother gets in knowing the next generation is evangelistic. It’s not always easy and pretty to be conducting Bible studies with a two-year-old and a four-year-old in tow. It’s not always easy to offer hospitality, to make sure that your children and those who belong to the ones who are hungering for the gospel are quiet enough, so that concentration on truth can occur in the next room. It’s not always easy, but it is always eternally gratifying. 

And that’s the part that makes a grandmother’s heart sing: “Mammy, this is Ezwa…. I want to tell you that Mrs. Kiki and Mr. Lavardo and Jo-Jo and all of them are going to get to go to heaven now. Dey WEALLY are. It’s because I been so good to dem and Cohweenanna has, too. We been teachin’ dem about God. Dey have already been baptized tonight.” 

Well, you and I know that they will not go to heaven because Hannah and Ben’s son has been good to them. They will, just like you and me, get to go to heaven because God’s Son has been so good to them. All the same, I’m happy that Hannah and Ben are putting joy into Ezra and Colleyanna when souls are reached with this good news. I’m glad she is showing them that they can have a part in someone coming to know the Lord. I hope they will get to experience this ultimate bliss over and over in their lives.  

It is ultimate bliss for this lifetime. Only heaven can be better than this. 

Tomorrow, I am going to go and teach women lessons from Titus 2. Because of tonight’s little four-year-old testimony of the power of parenthood, I’m going to speak the truths about motherhood with a little more conviction…perhaps with a little more clarity. The future of the body of Christ is dependent on what parents are putting into the hearts of their children. I’m so thankful for parents who are serious about the transferral of their families to that eternal home around the throne. And I’m supremely grateful for that sweet couple in Georgia who woke up this morning in an unwashed and lost state. Tonight, they are going to bed washed and heaven-bound. What blessed children will be sleeping down the hall from them!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“Sweep in Heaven Peace”

Matthew 25 is one of those rare passages containing a glimpse into the world beyond this one. The curtains of the judgement scene are pulled for a few brief verses and we are clearly taught from those judgment verses that, when we do good things for the brethren, we are doing them, in essence, for the Lord. 

So, on the way to the crisis pregnancy center, where my daughter was volunteering on that Thursday morning, she explained to her kids that, when Ezra and Colleyanna were in the playroom that she would be attending (a place where siblings, of mothers who were being encouraged NOT to abort their unborn children, would be entertained and watched) that they would be doing an important job. She explained that they would be helping mothers learn how to be better mothers and take good care of their babies; that it’s a great day because they would actually be doing something for Jesus. Ezra, who is four, took the job seriously.

Following their time at the pregnancy center, they headed to Chik-Fila, where they were meeting my son-in-law, Ben, and their friend, Carina, to study the Bible. Hannah told the children about the importance of the Bible study and that, when they were playing nicely during the study, they really were getting to do yet another thing for Jesus. 

The best part of the day was yet to come. At the conclusion of the study, Ben told their sweet friend that he and Hannah were always available should she decide she wanted to be baptized into Christ. She responded “Could I just do it right now?”

In their excitement to take her to the water, Hannah hurried the kids into the car and began to explain to them that Carina was going to be baptized for the remission of her sins. From the back seat, Ezra smiled a huge smile and said “You mean we get to do something for Jesus AGAIN?”

It had been a long and full and very blessed day. On the way home, the radio was playing “Silent Night.” Hannah was thinking about other things (good things) and didn’t even notice the song on the radio until she heard the little voice again from the back seat:

“I wuv this song. You know why? Because it says, ‘sweep in heaven peace’ and Carina gets to go to heaven now. I think this is a God song. A God song for Carina.”

May you and I have that heart…a heart that loves getting to do things for Jesus…a heart that wants “heaven-peace” for people in a troubled world… a heart that wants a “God-song” for all the people who could use His music in their lives!

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: “I Said I Would Try”

“Ezra, what happened?! You told me on the way here today that you were going to be good and obey!” He leaned in dramatically and said slowly for emphasis, “No, Mama. I told you I would TRY to be good and obey. But then I said ‘but I probably won’t.’”

Taken from my daughter’s Facebook status yesterday, it’s probably the 3-year-old way to verbalize how we all feel sometimes when we fail to live the way we intended. It’s how I feel when I fail to keep the New Year’s resolution about more time for study and prayer. When I fail, yet again, to speak in kindness to my husband, who does love me similarly to the way Jesus loved the church. When I fail to give my friend the World Video Bible School card that I intended to give her in hopes that she would watch a soul-saving lesson. When I fail to encourage the sister at services who has been going through a broadly known temptation to sin. When my voice is larger than my persistence in patience with my children. When my will to be in control of spending is not as firm as my desire for some fleeting pleasure of this world.

“I said I would TRY, God.” How must He feel when I fail over and over?

I suggest that it was not an inexperienced God who answered the question in Matthew 18, “How often shall I forgive my brother who sins against me?…until seven times?”

The “No. I’m telling you to forgive him until seventy-times seven,” answer was not based on any reality of man sinning against man. After all, is there any human being who has trespassed 490 times against Cindy Colley?  The answer is no.

But have I…will I transgress that many times against my God?  I hope I do not do it in one day, but, alas, I probably have/will in my lifetime. God was saying to me “Be willing to forgive others, to the extent  and with the love with which I have forgiven you.”

In fact, He said that His forgiveness of my “490 actual sins” is dependent on my willingness to forgive my brother/sister of the total number of sins for which they seek my forgiveness; even though my burden to forgive will never actually reach the extreme level of God’s willingness to forgive me. The extreme level was/is Calvary.

The lesson is not about overlooking Ezra’s misbehavior. I hope he got the spanking because He will be blessed to have experienced consistent discipline. The lesson is not about God overlooking my sin, either. It’s about the amazing length to which His arm of salvation was willing to reach to pull me from its clutches, because, in His righteousness and justice, He could not overlook it.

I’m so thankful that when I really do try, as His child, he disciplines me, forgives me and then always sits me down again beside Him and gives me another chance. I, like Ezra, am pretty sure I will never get it exactly right. But I will be sitting beside Him when the last service is over, when the last hymn is sung, when the last  “amen” has been uttered. And He will just transfer me to sit, once again with Him, around the throne…for always…not because I was perfectly good, but because I was perfectly forgiven at Calvary.

The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:10)

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: “…thank you for letting me hold Colleyanna’s hand…”

They got their food to go. The parents, for the first time ever, let the three-year-old hold his sister’s hand on the way across the parking lot to the car.  Ezra took that job very seriously and talked with her gently about being careful to watch for cars. He never let go of that sweet little hand till they reached the car and climbed into their car seats. The little family distributed the chicken nuggets and asked Ezra to say the prayer before they ate their food. This is what he prayed  from that back seat where hearts are really pretty fresh from God, Himself:

Dear God, thank you for letting me hold Colleyanna’s hand all the way to the car while we didn’t hold on to anyone else.” 

The child did not even know what all he said in that little prayer. 

He said he loves his sister. He said he already knows that it’s his job to protect her and take care of her. Brothers and sisters are for loving. It’s our responsibility to take care of each other…especially in the family of God.

He said that he was happy he got to hold her hand all the way. There was a destination and the little boy wasn’t letting go till they were safely there. Are we thankful for the “all- the-way” aspect of Christianity? Are we willing to go the distance with brothers and sisters till we, together, arrive safely at the big destination? Forbearance in Ephesians 4:2, is a characteristic of walking worthy of the vocation to which we have been called. It means the ability to “keep on putting up with” each other. We are flawed and sinful and, sometimes, going the distance with each other is not a walk in the park. 

He knew the reason she needed his hand. He had been taught about danger. Do we take the spiritual dangers around us seriously?  I mean, relative to the souls that we influence, …those who are younger in the faith than are we…do we hold their hands and do everything we can to protect them from the roaring lion, the subtle snake, the wolf in sheep’s clothing and the father of lies? Are we sober about the danger?

He knew that the big difference on this day was that Daddy had let him do this without either of their tiny hands holding to the hand of an adult. If he only could imagine the trepidation living in the hearts of those Christian parents. Today, it’s sending them a few feet ahead in the parking lot. Tomorrow, it’s sending them a bit further… to the classroom or the workplace or the university.  One day soon, it’s that father giving away the little hand of that sweet little girl for good, by the light of some candles, in front of the minister… to some young man who’s not nearly good enough. 

Without one reality, it would all just be too big…too much…too overwhelming for good parents to do. But the saving reality is this. One day…maybe even a little bit every day…the daddy will give the hands of those sweet children to Jesus. And really, that little boy who thanked the Lord that “we didn’t hold on to anyone else” will be ever grateful to the same Lord that we are holding on to Someone Else. And that Someone is a very present help in any time of trouble (Psa. 46:1). He is the ultimate Protector. And He will never let us go until we safely reach the destination. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Lads–25 Years and a New Generation


Taking a moment from the madness that is the Lads to Leaders convention in Nashville to tell you that it is still the best tool of which I am aware for developing leadership skills for the church; the church that our children and grandchildren will love and serve in the decades that will round out the 21st century. Watching our West Huntsville kids prepare has made my heart happy for that particular congregation and for the families that Glenn and I love dearly who work there with us. Those families in the program, along with many others who are working in various areas for  the Lord,  make the elders’ jobs easier and bless the efforts in the pulpit with strength and encouragement. 

This year we are taking 32 song leaders to Nashville. THIRTY-TWO young people who are ready to learn to lead in praise. I watched the youngest group last Sunday afternoon in Huntsville as they, one by one, went to that big podium to lead that large crowd in the songs they had chosen as favorites. My voice caught a little as four-year-old Timothy Johnson, whose mother is just finishing up the last of her three cancer surgeries for this year sang “Tarry with me, blessed Savior…Tarry with me ‘frew de night’”. Sometimes this year I have felt a little of the darkness of night, too. But when I get  to this place, I am strengthened. I am motivated to look to the young…and be better for the Lord. 

it was 25 years ago that we drove up to the Presidential lobby, dressed our son Caleb in his coat and tie, right there in the car, and rushed him in to his very first Lads event. We had no idea we were entering, through that Presidential Lobby, one of the most spiritually influential activities of our lives. We did not know about that year when our two children would be entering a combined total of 26 events. We did not know about the foot blisters, the year Hannah’s “Art Says It” entry would be entered as 11th grade when she was really 11 YEARS OLD, the many visits the Easter Bunny would make to this hotel, and that our family would eventually be participating in five different conventions around the Southeast U.S. We didn’t know about those 8 huge scrapbooks that are upstairs in our guest room, chronicling our kids’ teen years—books with which we could never part. We didn’t know that little Maggie Colley, who will be born next July would have her gender-reveal in Orlando this year with huge pink balloons tied to a chair in the Lakeside section of that big ballroom. We didn’t know yet about all the years we would lose hair bows, pitch pipes, scripts, and competitions, while winning confidence, lifetime friendships, character development and memories. 

As I finish this post, I’ve returned home from the convention. This year, our Lads experience took on a whole new dimension. Our first participant in a new generation of Colleys led his very first song in Governor’s Ballroom A at 4:30 last Saturday afternoon. I did not know, when that gentleman called out “Number nine”, that my heart was just going to walk right up there and sing “When we walk with the Lord…In the light of His Word.” I basked in every syllable and especially in that truth  that 3-year-old Ezra can sing with all of his might, but cannot yet fully comprehend: “There is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” I hope he will know, for all of his lifetime, the happiness that comes from that trusting obedience. What a glory He sheds on our way!