Browsing Tag


Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Life’s Sweetest People

The five sweetest people in our family are completely and utterly “un-messed-up” by sin. It’s a wonderful thing to watch young grandchildren live their lives so voraciously–just hungering for life’s next adventure while having zero enemies and zero concerns about the state of the Union, much less the world. It’s the most refreshing thing to try and back out of the reality in which Satan has placed us all, and look at today through their eyes. This day is just the next opportunity to live and laugh and love God. 

Here’s the prayer our oldest, Ezra, led yesterday at lunch. I want to remember its sweetness. 

Dear God, 

Thank you that we got to go and worship you today. Thank you for this food that Mammy made for us. Thank you all the things you give us every day. (Then Eliza started chiming in her prayer requests, so Ezra added those—“Thank you for Eliza’s teacher in her class. Help Eliza to obey.”) Help us to all be good. Thank you for our nice, soft beds we get to sleep in. In Jesus” name, Amen. 

Amen. He is just so, so good. If you have young children or grandchildren, take the time to savor the world through innocent eyes now and then, 

Just before bedtime, a giant spider began weaving her web in extreme intricacy,  just above the trash can that Ezra’s mom was just about to pull to the road. Ezra wanted us all to see God’s amazing design in that spider and web. His mom showed us that even on his underside, God had made this spider have an ugly “face”  to scare away her predators. Ezra ran to get a flashlight, so we could see the amazing intricate web she effortlessly spun. We even watched the spider’s huge shadow on the brick behind her, as the light shone on her, casting a sci-fi-worthy image on the side of the house. Ezra commented about our amazing God. (I’m so glad that He has given us the things we need to resist THE predator of our lives, when we really want to resist Him.)

Oh, and that little spider, just like that little boy, can weave her way into places that I could never even go. “The spider taketh hold with her hands,
and is in kings’ palaces” (Proverb 30:28).

God is amazing. May I remember today that the child’s perspective is the real one. He loves us and He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). 

“Suffer the little children to come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”…words of Jesus, who conquered life’s  horrific “messer-upper” for me. 


Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

LADS: More than the Medal

Ezra, Colleyanna, and Eliza Jane with LADS director, Roy Johnson

It’s the most spiritually rewarding weekend of the year. I have never, ever seen an eight-year-old have such a hard time studying for Bible bowl. But he was given a choice. You can do this IF you want to do it. We will help you get to as many practices as we can. We will help you learn the answers to the questions. We will make sure you have every tool you need. BUT, the determination factor is up to you. You have to decide if you WANT to learn a whole lot about Ezra and Nehemiah. And so, Bible Bowl became a daily part of his homework. All the other children on his team were homeschooled. That means their study could be done during the most attentive hours of the day and other subjects could be temporarily rearranged as the re-building of Jerusalem 600 years before Jesus was incorporated into the school day. All the other kids on the team lived in the proximity of the home congregation, so they could attend lots more of the practices. In fact, Ezra did not get to attend one single practice competition at other congregations. SO Ezra needed to apply himself doubly after he made the commitment. He knew he was prepping for both an individual written test in February and a team competition at the convention on Easter weekend. He was doing this while prepping for the speech event, the song-leading event and the oral Bible reading event. He was doing it while his mom was also prepping his two sisters for the song-leading event, the speech event and the Bible reading event.

And there were a couple of times when Ezra wanted to “change his mind.” I did not know it was going to be this hard!” …””I did not know there would be this many questions.”…  “Can’t we just always play the KAHOOTS game online to learn this stuff?”… “Can I practice with Mammy on the phone, instead?”… “Will there be a machine and lights, like on tv, when we get to the real Bible bowl?” 

It was like pulling teeth this first year, but I watched from afar as Ezra learned about things messed up by human sin and then rebuilt by people who were determined to put things back like God intended them. He learned about the vessels, the priests, the importance of the Word and the reverence given to sanctified things. He learned much about the importance of getting back to the Word and its instructions about consecration and worship. He learned about his name’s origin in scripture and he concurrently made his speech about building for our great God and praying “Remember me, O God, for good.” His speech ended with the hope that he can pray that prayer at the end of His work on earth for God. His song was “Make me a Servant” and he learned about that theme from Ezra and Nehemiah.

vintage lads, Ezra’s Mom (left) with founder Jack Zorn.

Even in the midst of the sometimes excruciating lack of focus and strain to keep going, there was a goal that was constant for an eight-year-old. There was the fun of knowing that there would be ten-thousand other people in a beautiful place and that every one of them would be supportive of the good that even an eight-year-old can do for God. While it was like pulling teeth, Ezra’s little sister did pull a tooth, literally, right out of the front of her mouth and the tooth fairy almost collided with the Easter Bunny right there in the Opryland hotel. There was that chance to walk across the stage with siblings while “Thank God for Kids” was playing on mega-speakers throughout that huge ballroom. There was the moment when Ezra’s Papa placed those red-coats on those “teenagers” up there who had done amazing things for the kingdom and were receiving the top award that Lads to Leaders conveys on it’s hardest-working kids.

There was, prior to all of these convention activities, the day that the test was to be taken. Because of circumstances beyond control that prevented Ezra from taking the test at home, Ezra got permission to take the written test at his school with his mom being proctor in a quiet room while his class was having recess. The test was submitted and the studying for the Bible bowl at convention kept happening at home, although it was crowded in between some pretty major school projects, several sicknesses and some fairly heavy-duty life challenges. 

He did keep studying because his mom kept telling herself “It does not matter whether he wins a medal or not. It matters that he made a commitment, on his own volition, to do something for God.” She kept telling Ezra “When we promise to do something for God—no matter how hard it gets, no matter how much we want to reverse our decision, no matter how fun something else looks—we finish what we start. I do not care if you win the Bible bowl. I do care if you keep your promises. Other people are counting on you, too. You are part of a team that needs you.”  Caleb and Clark and Timmy are counting on you. You’ve got this. Just keep on to the finish line!” Ezra developed great respect for Louis Botello, his Bible bowl coach. 

But Ezra’s mother had no delusions. It seemed an impossibility that Ezra or his team would succeed….(Well at least not by the usual standards. It’s our prayer that true success is going to be a reality.) But Ezra was a second-grader on a team of older kids.  Ezra kept mentioning at convention that he REALLY wanted a medal. “Medals do  not come easy,”  we said. We almost left the awards ceremony before they even got to Bible bowl. All three kids had runny noses. Eliza was coughing up a lung and dancing in the aisles. Colleyanna was saying “My body is not used to this many people.” The day had already held eight competitions we’d attended, all told. I could have slept standing up!

Hannah was in the back of the auditorium letting two-year old Eliza run a bit when they called “Ezra GEEEZelback” to the stage. No one could see the expression on his face because he was sitting in the front of our section with all “the guys”. But there was no lack of sprint in his step as he bounded on up to the stage! His mother got so excited that she forgot she had Eliza with her as she headed  to snap a picture. While shooting the pic, she thought, “There’s a child in my lens trying to hoist herself up on the stage….Wait! That is MY child!”” Eliza was almost up there with Ezra and she wasn’t taking the stage stairs! 

There has never been a prouder second-grader than Ezra was at this moment!  There has never been a more shocked Mama than his. It ended up being the first of two medals. Ezra’s team placed second, so his little team of boys got to go up there, too, and Ezra had, not just his dream medal around his neck, but an extra one to boot! His chest was sticking out in the elevator as he kept examining them and he jangled up and down the hallway as loud as he could.

Now multiply this experience times about ten thousand all across American and in India and the Philippines, etc….See brown and white and ruddy and freckled faces in multitudes, See ribbons and trophies and high fives and hugs. See peers encouraging, both those who win and those who win-with-less-points. (There is no “lose,’ though we have been on the win-with-less-points side many times!) See memorization, creativity, prayer journals, scrapbooks, speakers, song leaders, debaters and coaches encouraging. See handicapped children and adults beaming with pride. See their teammates building victory runs down the aisles after their achievements. See red coats and parades of leaders and see new groups being welcomed each year. Just see the greatest faith leadership program I’ve ever seen working in thousands of little lives each year. I hope you can see LADS working in your home and congregation. It was our family’s 30th anniversary with Lads and we are so thankful to God for having seen the program work in our little troupe. 

See, Ezra is not unique. ( I mean, well, he is in some ways.) But his hard work, teeth-pulling study times, and ecstasy in the end, is just a little microcosm  of a great big picture of learning perseverance that happens over and over and over again in the program. This repeated process cannot help but build muscles in the big body—the ability to persevere through some hard times that surely seem to be knocking at our door as the society in which we live pushes out Christianity and its attendant blessings. 

Maggie Colley–her very first medal for Good Samaritan.

Next year’s theme is “I am not ashamed.” Next year’s debate topic is centered on authorized music in worship. Next year’s Bible bowl book is Romans. You still have time to get involved. Let me know if I can help your congregation find its place in a win-win situation for the next generation. 

And you can go here for a little levity. She didn’t know a lot about the program yet, but she did lead her song and do her “reading” and she wanted a piece of the ballroom experience.


Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Theology from the Purple Bubbles

It was Christmas Eve. The next day was Sunday. All three kids were in the tubs. It was the end of the long, fun day that had begun very early seeing what Santa Claus had brought to our house. It was the end of the last full day that these three precious children and their mama would be with us for a while. There had been a lot of doll tending, pink car riding in freezing temps, skate board coasting down the drive and crafting with new kits. There was still paper and stocking stuffers and sticky little messes every where. I, frankly, was very much looking forward to finishing up Bible time and getting those three Christmas “crazies” on their pillows, so I could finish prepping the 60 little gift bags I was taking to worship the next morning for the children at West Huntsville. I was just so very tired. 

And then the call came from one of those bathtubs. “Mammy!”….”Mammy!”  Each “Mammy” was a little louder, until you would have thought there was a fire-breathing dragon emerging from the bubbles in that tub. 

I’m sure I sounded a little impatient by the time I got to the bathroom door. “What is it?!”  (I had already given him a bucket of toys and even honored his request for a water-color Crayola marker to write messages on the tub and mostly to make his water purple.)  

So then it came..from a purple tub full of bubbles and that little brain that rarely turns off: “Mammy, God can do anything, right?” 

I nodded. 

“And God is good and he wants us to be good, right?”

“Yes, he does.”  (By now, I thought I knew where this was going and I was thinking that I did not even have the sanity, much less the theology to answer this question.)

“Well then, Mammy…why doesn’t he just make it so that we always do the right thing and we always ARE good and we never get into trouble. Why doesn’t he just make it where we never follow the devil?” 

It’s the question that apologetics debates are made of. People travel long distances to hear great minds discuss the problem of sin and suffering. There have been volumes of scholarly material written and reviewed and many people have spent years compiling and editing dissertations on various sub-topics of this query that I was hearing from this eight-year-old. 

But, even on Christmas Eve before an early Sunday, I had to give it my best shot. I talked about the love of God and how He wants us to love him. I talked about robots and how I can get a robot to do a specific thing that I want him to do, but I cannot have a relationship with a robot in my heart. I talked about children obeying parents and how the goal is not to force you to do right. It is the joy of seeing you CHOOSE to do right. It is that choice that makes you a great person. I talked a bit about some people in the Bible who obeyed because their hearts were convicted and how God keeps on forgiving us when we are choosing to do our best to serve Him. I talked about the great price God paid at Calvary so that we could choose Him. Along the way, Ezra asked questions from that purple tub about the universality of sin in mankind and about why adults are ever lost in the first place. 

The glaring truth for parents and grandparents is surely this: The best time for teaching deep truths is when deep questions are asked. I know I (or someone else) could have done a better job of explaining the answer to why a good God can allow people to be lost. I know that. But the point is this: No one else had that chance at that moment, and that was the moment when the soil of that little mind was most fertile for seed to be planted—seeds that with prayer and cultivation by parents and other important people in His world could make an eternal difference in His life. 

Further, since all of this is true, doesn’t it make sense that the more time godly parents can spend with their children, the greater the opportunities for molding them for heaven will be? I mean, since the most teachable moments are not “plan-able,” parents with heaven in their long-term vision will want large quantities of time with their children, so that the “quality” time that molds eternity will have a large space in which to “happen.” 

I hope that in 2023, moms reading will be intentional about the unintentional. I hope you will be devoting time to just being in the proximity of your kids more than you were in 2022, trusting God that, while seeking Him first, He will provide the times and places for conversations that might “happen” on any given day (or night.) In a world of forced secularism in their schools and, often, in their peer groups, it’s imperative that parents grab every opportunity, reason through every spiritual/moral dilemma and fill them up with the grace, mercy and truth from our God whose mercies are new every morning of their lives!

I know that, as a grandmother, my teachable moments with five little children that call me “Mammy” will be far less frequent than those times with their parents. That’s why I pray daily for four parents who will have so much to do with the eternal destinations of those precious little souls. Grandmothers, there is power in prayer. Don’t spurn a day without claiming that power!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

A Little Spark Flies…but read to the end for your husband’s DVD!

Our PTP Spark week was therapy in lots of ways for many people, but I could not exactly say it was a therapeutic week of peace at Serenity. We had a house full of people and three of them were six and down. ‘LIza, who is fifteen months got into the office supplies drawer in my kitchen and scattered thumbtacks all over the floor. I did not get them all up before Colleyanna who is four stepped on one in her bare feet just as it was time to leave for the kick-off at the building on Sunday morning.  ‘Liza also got into my purse and scattered my Spark receipts and my credit cards all over the entire place as I was trying to get out the door. Then I applied shaving cream all over the back of my hair as I complained “Why is this can of dry shampoo not spraying?” A fever virus ran through all the kids and one adult. Eliza Jane picked this week to explore just about every gymnastic skill you can imagine. A pipe leak produced rain on a stack of boxes of new Digging Deep books in our basement. Through this I spoke 7 times, Glenn spoke eight times and we each attended about 25 or so sessions…WITH KIDS! =). Our spiritual cups are full and our physical cups are a bit depleted. God is sovereign and good. 

One quick episode as I think back make weeks like this all the more worthwhile. Ezra and Eliza and I made a quick run to the dollar store in the middle of the frenzy. I don’t know what made this elderly woman in the store delusional, but she said this “Ma’am, I just have to comment on the behavior of this little boy. Is he always this good? He is just quietly helping that baby girl to see the things she is looking at and he is nicely waiting his turn to show you what he is finding. I just love watching him.”  Of course, having probably just refereed a big argument as we got out of the car, I was looking around for whose children she was seeing. But, in the end, I decided I would play along for the benefit of positive reinforcement.

“Well…” I said, “He is a very good boy and he is a good big brother.”

“How do you teach him to be like this?” she asked. 

“Well, it’s really not me. God is so good to us and he tries to be like Jesus.” I was talking in simplicity with volume, so Ezra would take this in.

“Well, I am new in town,: she said, “and I love the Lord, too.” 

Our conversation developed and we invited her to come to West Huntsville and hear Ezra’s grandaddy preach. Turns out she has a background in the church, but it’s been a while since she attended. Ezra told her he would watch for her at Bible class. When he saw her checking out in the front of the store he said “She’s leaving. Let’s go tell her bye and make sure she knows where the Bible class is.” And so we did. In the parking lot, he tried very hard to go and give her a card about our worship times, but she got away too quickly. 

I forgot all about her. Then on Sunday morning, as we sat down on our pew, I saw him searching all over the auditorium. I said “You need to sit down now.”

“But I think I do see her,” he said. He pointed to a lady in a far-away section and said “Isn’t that her?” 

“Isn’t that who?” I responded. 

“The lady from the dollar store. I think she came.”

Now I would have given my last dollar if it HAD been her, but it wasn’t. “Maybe she will come next time,” I said. “But whether she ever comes or not, we are going to keep inviting people because someone will come  and someone will obey His gospel and go to heaven if we keep on inviting.” 

I love that little heart. I love the fact that at PTP Spark, we had ladies from far-away places who are just beginning to learn about the church of our Lord. I love that He has allowed me—even little finite me (and you)—to be a tool in the greatest evacuation mission in history; evacuating souls from the power of sin. 

In other SPARK news, lots of men are asking about a DVD that was mentioned in one of the sessions. During SPARK week, it was out of stock. Glenn wanted me to tell your husbands it’s restocked now. It’s a how-to DVD about grooming your future elders in the church. It’s a tool that’s helped lots of churches prepare men to be godly elders and I really can’t think of a more important work on the planet right now. We have a desperate need. So many churches have failed in recent decades to replace the godly leaders that have passed to the eternal reward of faithful shepherds. There is a void of guidance and the sheep are wandering in so many places. You can find this helpful program here: 

As I write, I notice my coffee mug is resting on a book called “Disciples of the Empty Tomb” (by Brandon Renfroe).  Those words must be more than just a book/coaster on my bedside table. May that discipleship be the cornerstone of all I think and pray–all my stay, in every way, in every day!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“There’s something I don’t understand about God…”

So said Ezra, age five. As we were tromping through the old cemetery beside our house, he was asking about the people buried there. “Were these people Christians?” 

This little tromp followed closely on the heels of our visit to one of our friends whose wife has just passed away. “Was she a Christian?” 

I had explained to Ezra that she was a Christian and so she got to go to heaven, but that her husband, who is aged and, thankfully, left behind for now, is not. That’s why your Papa has asked him to study the Bible…so he can learn how to go where she has gone and so he can be with her again someday. 

“Did he say he would study the Bible?” 

“Yes, he did. So let’s pray that he listens and wants to obey God, so that he can go to heaven.”

And so came the common line of thinking that you and I have heard countless times. (I’ve just never heard it expressed by a five-year-old.)… “So this is what I don’t understand about God. You know, Mammy, that not all of the people who are not Christians are bad guys. Most of them are just nice people; but they are not going to get to go to heaven. People who don’t get to go to heaven are going to have to burn. So how can God do that to nice people?”

And that just about sums up one of the most pervasive of all theological questions: How can a loving God damn people to eternal torment?  

So I talked about this for a brief few minutes there in the cemetery with Ezra. I told him how this earth we walk on is just really a testing place. “God is giving us a chance to choose whether we will obey him—all of what he commands us—or not. He is seeing if we trust Him enough to just obey Him. If we look around us and see this beautiful world—that grassy field over there, the mountain behind it, these huge oak trees and even our own bodies that can run and chase each other—if we see all of that, we should know that Someone made all of it. If we search for Him, we can find Him in His Word and then we can know what He wants us to do. But we have to care enough to study His Word and find His wishes for our lives. If we care enough to do anything to obey Him, He will help us to know how to do it and He will be our Father and take us to live with Him, forever.”

Ezra responded….”I kind of understand all of that, but I think there are some parts of it that I cannot understand because I’m just a kid. I think I will understand it better when I’m a grown-up.” 

I did not want to burst His bubble and tell him that there are some parts of it that he will never understand. But I did add that the most important thing to God is that we trust Him enough to just do what He says even if we don’t always understand. 

Later in the week we watched that classic old Disney movie together: Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. He listened intently to a line taken from the ten commandments and another phrase repeated throughout the movie: “I make sure I’m right, and if I am right, then I go ahead.” 

Then Ezra said “Mammy, is Davy Crockett dead now?”

“Yes, he is, Ezra.”

“Well, was he a Christian?…because he acts like a Christian.” 

So now, reflecting on the week I just spent with that precious little five-year-old, I’m pretty sure he’s absorbing the truth that the most important thing about living, is dying; and the shape your soul is in when you do. 

As I was driving him back to meet his mama today, we had one final theological discussion. It started when he said something to purposely scare me and I quipped “Ezra, you are going to give Mammy a heart attack!” 

“Mammy, what’s a heart attack?”

After a little discussion about valves and blood flow, Ezra said. “Do you think I will ever have a heart attack? I’m kind of afraid of a heart attack.” 

I tried to reassure him that he is healthy and that, although he will one day die, it will likely be when he’s an old man and that he will probably never have a heart attack, even then.

“But, Ezra, you know every single person has to die one day.”

“Oh, I know that,” he said. 

And then I added, “…unless we are still living here when Jesus comes back in the clouds. If he comes soon and if we are still living, then we will never die.”

As I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw a look of excitement like I rarely see on that little face.  He said. “Do you really mean it?! You mean if we are still alive when He comes back, we will never die?!” 

“That’s right.  We will just fly up and meet him in the clouds and go on to heaven with him.”

“Oh!…Well then, that’s what I hope happens! I want to still be living when He comes back!” 

Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20).

Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom (Matthew 18:3).

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“Dat’s de Pwoblem!”

Five-year-old Ezra is concerned, lately, about every death. (We all should be a lot more thoughtful about the appointment with death and judgment that 100% of us will keep!) He’s especially concerned about whether or not people who’ve died have gone to be with God. Recently, his parents visited Mount Airy, North Carolina, the home of Andy Griffith and the model town for the fictional town of Mayberry. As they were telling Ezra about going to Floyd’s Barber Shop and the drugstore and the Sheriff’s Office, He asked them “Did you see Andy Griffith?”

When they told him that they couldn’t see him, because he’s dead, Ezra immediately asked “But did he obey God?”

Last week, while Ezra was visiting with us for a few days, he “tromboned” a few bars of “Seventy-Six Trombones.” A little taken aback that he would know that song, his Papa said “Ezra, do you know what that song is about?”

“Actuawy, I do.” Ezra replied.

“Do you know what movie that’s from?” Glenn asked.

“Actually I do. It’s from De Moosic Man.”

“Do you like that movie?

“Yes. I love it!

About this time I interjected that his parents were a little bit worried about the hero of the story—the fact that he was a conniving swindler promoting sin at every turn. Glenn answered, “But didn’t he repent at the end?”

Ezra quickly chimed in “No, he did not wepent. Dat’s de pwoblem.”

I’ve been asked to speak in an upcoming lectureship about how to raise our children to be evangelistic. In thinking about how to frame this lesson, I’m reminded that Ezra is right. Sometimes we think about all of the anti-Biblical messages in the world that draw people from God: atheism, denominationalism, worldliness, etc….We think about the huge propaganda that Satan has successfully spread about the non-essential nature of baptism. All of these (and more) are huge roadblocks to salvation in our modern world. But all of these are surmountable. I’ve seen people overcome each of these obstacles to live full and rich lives and go home to glory when they died. They did it by repenting: changing their minds about a particular course of action and following a different course.

But Ezra is right. When people are unwilling to repent, that unwillingness is the obstacle to salvation that cannot be overcome. That’s the pwoblem.

Repentance is the absolute hardest part of God’s plan of salvation. It’s the part that takes boldness, stamina, perseverance and self-control. It’s the part that makes you keep on confessing Him for life and it’s the part that makes you determined to get to the water and have your sins washed away. It’s the part that, once out of the waters of baptism, keeps you heaven-focused. It’s the part that makes you never, ever give the world a longing look again.

If we can put the concept of repentance in our kids—both its difficulty and its attendant blessings—we will raise naturally evangelistic kids. We do this by using the word “repentance” when we are punishing them. We do it by talking about hearts when we watch movies like The Music Man. We do it by stressing the concept of coming to one’s self when we are talking about the Prodigal Son or David and Bathsheba in family Bible time. We do it when we read the story of Beauty and the Beast or Pinocchio or any number of tales in which people changed their minds and actions in a positive direction. We do it when they hear us pray that our hearts will be tender and change when we find out we are wrong. They do it when they hear us petition Him in behalf of specific people we name, who need to change their hearts. We do it when we explain to them the difference between Peter and Judas when the cross put them to the test. We do it when, at very young ages, we keep spanking that hand over and over until we get a contrition after disobedience. We do it when we show them compassion after the contrite heart rights a wrong.

We saturate our children with the truth that salvation is about hearts. It’s about obedience resultant from penitent hearts.

Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Jesus Christ