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Faith

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Best Care for Amos

 

Yesterday, I hugged a mama who stood by the casket containing the sweet form of her two-year old son. Then I hugged the baby’s daddy. They have spent the last year-and-a half in and out of cancer units at Huntsville Hospital, Vanderbilt and St. Jude. Baby Amos has spent more nights of his life in the hospital than out. They watched him suffer when Morphine and Ativan were no match for the pain. These parents were often away from their six other sons while keeping the bedside vigil for Amos. One of those six is severely disabled–unable to walk, communicate, breathe easily, or eat– due to complications at birth. This nine -year-old receives constant family care. The past year-and-a-half have been, for these parents, only survival mode.  Last Tuesday, Baby Amos won the battle over the cancer and gained the ultimate freedom from all pain and sickness. 

At what was appropriately termed a celebration of his life, his brothers, ages 3-12, led the family (and all of us) in singing “God is so Good”, “How Deep the Fathers Love”,“Jesus Loves the Little Children”, and “Jesus Loves Me”. His father talked about counting our blessings and letting our lights shine. He talked about baby Amos now being whole and happy and safe with our Lord. Some of the songs were sung in English first and then echoed in Samoan, the family’s native tongue. One song was sung completely in Samoan and the rich tones of that full and beautiful refrain from that broken-hearted, but faith-filled family are with me still as I reflect. They did not falter in praise. Amos’ uncles and his cousin also helped with the service. 

Last night, as Eliza Jane said her bed-time prayer, she said “Thank you for taking care of Baby Amos when he died.” I could not have said it better. Simply profound. He is now in the infinitely better care of the Father. 

That’s what He’s done for me, too. At Calvary, he took care of me for the time when I die. He empowered me to shout “Oh death, where is thy strength? Oh grave where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

 Amos suffered like none of us reading has endured. Yet during some of his hardest days, he was still giving out his favorite form of encouragement—fist bumping all around him “to beat the band”  from that hospital bed. 

Sunday night is often Eliza Jane’s night to come to Mammy’s. As I write it’s about 6 am on Monday and she has just come from her little bed to climb in and snuggle with me. As I look down at her little Bluey-tattooed arm and her disheveled dog-ears, her closed eyes and that ever-beloved paci, that we can’t seem to wrest away, bobbing up and down, I wonder why. Why is it that one family has lost their baby and my little grandchild is sleeping peacefully beside me? I do not know. But I do know that they really have not lost him. They know right where he is. 

While the pain is excruciating and the sorrow will not ease for a long time, that sorrow stands in juxtaposition to the faith and hope that was so bravely displayed yesterday in that service. Their very lives, in this moment, are the battleground between despair and faith, between steadfastness and  surrender to the awful pain that was initially inflicted in the garden by the devil himself. And faith and hope is winning in their lives. I have never seen a more potent display of faith. They came to Huntsville, Alabama almost ten years ago now, for many reasons, the immediate one being care for Melchizedek, their third son. They needed resources. They needed more current methods of health care for Mel. They needed a strong church family. But I think we needed them more than they needed us. 

I am stronger today than yesterday, when I went to worship in dread of the sadness I knew the day held. God is good, like that. Yesterday, he gave Glenn and me four people with whom to study. He gave us three baptisms. He gave us a visitor who needed a little comfort over lunch. He gave us an extra 9-year -old friend at lunch for the children. He gave me two visitors to transport in my vehicle. On an infinitely grander level, He gave us His undeserved communion around His table and the privilege of study and praise. And then, just when I sat down to witness a family in their hour of deepest sorrow, He gave me, through the lens of a great Samoan ohana, the light at the end of a dark tunnel. I have long quoted Psalm 46:1:

God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in a time of trouble. 

Yesterday, the verse was not merely quoted; it was on display. Trouble, in that verse, means a constricted place, in which there is no way to turn. It means between a rock and a hard place. Yesterday was a tangible picture of what His people do when between a rock and hard place and, in the most constricted of places.  They realize that the Rock is Jesus and that, even in darkness, they can find a way to stand firmly on that Rock. Thank-you, Abraham, Diana, AJ, Caleb, Mel, Glenn, Gabriel, Zechariah, Pisa, Ruth, Junior, Retta, Malachi and Gideon. We are praying continually. Thank-you Amos, for leaving a little legacy. The God of more (Ephesians 3:20) can do more than we ask or imagine with a brief life lived in that constricted place.

He is good.      


 

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Are You Happier Now?

I was seventeen. I’d wake up in the morning and listen to “Layton and Dearman In the Morning” on WERC radio in Birmingham. I had just about three choices of music for my drive across the metro area to school. Today I have thousands of choices that I can activate by voice and stream to various spots in my house without moving a single device. I can regulate the music using  the watch on my wrist. At 17, my mom would hurry me to the breakfast table, lamenting that the eggs and biscuit and gravy would be cold if I didn’t come on. There was no quick microwave reheating. Sometimes I would ask my dad to let me go to the office with him and deliver me mid-morning to school because I had to finish a research paper or project. I’d need transportation to the big library downtown and I’d have to take note cards for documentation. There was no googling or running computer references or printing from an online document. If I needed to reach a parent while at the library, I’d have to hunt a phone and I’d need change. I had eight track tapes—just a few —of the Carpenters, Barry Manilow and John Denver in my old Impala and I had a machine to play them that covered the entire top of my chest of drawers. It would be a few months before I would meet my future husband, and, then, when we were apart, our calls, from rotary phones, would be strictly timed, because every minute was charged. Often we would wait till after eleven p.m. to talk, because then the rate dropped to half price. I couldn’t order most things from home. I couldn’t just ‘erase” or delete an error on the sheet on which I was typing. I had to actually get out white paint and a brush and paint over my mistakes, and they were many. Further, my typewriter seemed to always be running out of usable ribbon. If I needed a copy of something I was typing, I had to travel to the library and pay for Xerox copies to be made. If I missed The Brady Bunch on Friday night…well, I just missed it. There was no retrieval of a missed program. In Birmingham, racial unrest reached phenomenal proportions and Vietnam was still at the forefront of the news programming in that little one-(teeny) bath, three bedroom house I shared with five other people.

What hits me hard, almost every day, is that I have so much more now—technology, funding, convenience, living space. But all of that has not made life easier or better; just different. This is not a lament. It’s a praise. 

I praise Him that happiness is independent of the physical circumstances, and is, instead, found in Christ. If you are significantly happier today than you were ten years ago, you likely put on Christ in that interim. When this reality hits hard—that the presence of more ease is not the presence of more peace—I praise Him for the constitution of real contentment. Contentment in Christ spans years, and changes and accumulation or loss of possessions. It remains mostly unaffected by whatever is happening “out there” and rests squarely in what He is doing through the Word, “in here”—in my soul. 

Someone else expressed it better: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

I’ve never truly learned to be abased. I’ve abounded in His mercy every day of my life. I’ve never been hungry as was Paul. But I’ve lived long enough to know that happiness never emerges from wealth, health, what eases the plans or what pleases the palate. He is the source of contentment. I’m thankful for the consistency factor of contentment in my Lord. He provides. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Perpetually Late this Weekend

It’s Sunday afternoon. What a blessed weekend!  Every single flight was delayed. As a result, I got a very late night ride for an hour with Lindsy Bailey, mother of six who has come through the fire and knows who holds her future. I got to sit up in the clouds in a holding pattern and remember how my nine-year-old grandson had, earlier in the day, told me of which weather pattern each type of cloud was predictive. I praised God for the beauty of the sky when the sun is setting and I am above the beautiful clouds. That doesn’t happen every day. 

But I was late. As a result, I was extra thankful when a connecting flight was also delayed. And, as a result, I had someone fun pick me up at the airport in her pajamas. She reminded me of earlier times in our lives when the Word of God had guided us through a dark time in life. I love her.

The only thing  for which I was a little early the whole weekend was the ladies day, itself.  And I was so glad there was a minute for Brooke and Lori and Bekah and Scarlet and Becky and Remi and Coy and Leah and Willow and Katja and sweet special ed teachers and so many more. How can one tardy woman be so blessed?

Another flight was delayed and it gave me this wonderful chance to sit down in a rocker in the home of a dear old friend and reminisce and talk and talk until I felt like I’d been to a therapy session. We all need one now and then.

She dropped me at the airport to come back home, and faster than I could adjust, in my mind and itinerary, to another delayed flight, I was watching that flight schedule board change and change again, until there was no hope of making my connection to the home airport. Realizing I was going to be spending the night in either Springfield or Charlotte on Saturday night, I was rescued by Jim and Debbie Meinsen, who in spite of the fact that they were returning from an out-of-town trip, and Jim was teaching a Bible class today and Deb was leaving just after worship today to travel to be with her daughter and grandchildren (who are also my grandchildren) while their dad, Caleb, was away preaching in a gospel meeting…in spite of all that, they said “Yes. Come on! Sleep at our house. Go to worship with us tomorrow. It’s potluck…then a two o’clock service. We’ll be there in 30 minutes to pick you up. Then we will bring you back to the airport after church tomorrow and you can try again. 

SO I had a great room and bed and pancakes and sausage and eggs for breakfast. I heard three great lessons today and had a meal of barbecue and chicken and ham and potato casserole and broccoli salad…and I’m embarrassed to keep going! Then I had two hours there at the building to just visit with the Highlandville family. And I haven’t laughed so hard in a while. The family there includes a bull-riding judge who knows a lot about the Pentecostal religious conferences in the area that include sword swallowing, high swan-diving into ten inches of water, monster trucks and army tanks rolling over cars…and it was so funny, except it’s really not funny when people get that spiritually confused.  It was interesting. All that conversation was prior to getting to talk to a young girl who completed an earlier Digging Deep study as a brand new convert. Her encouragement will be in my heart for a long time. She’s faithful and determined and trying to reach others in her family.

 I would not have been able to meet her if it were not for the fact that my life was running late! While lamenting that I was not home with my family on Sunday, I realized that I was right there in a building into which I’d never been before with HIS family—MY family in Him. And it was an unexpected blessing. 

I’m hoping these next two flights will get me home. If they are on time, I will walk in my kitchen door around midnight. I’ve already gotten a call from home saying there’s a three-year-old who is begging to spend the night with me when I get there. But, there may not be any night left to spend. Praying I get off the ground this time. But if not, who knows what blessings are ahead?

Maybe the best thing, though, is what I hear I may be missing at home. One of my sisters, who needs to come home to the Lord, is planning to do that today. I’m praying so hard that today is her day. Who cares if I am there?  If she will just be right with the Lord, we will have forever together!  Forever! He is so good.

He is SO good! 

12:20 am update:

  1. I am home!
  2. The three-year-old is fast asleep in the little bed in our window dormer.
  3. Best of all, the sister who was astray is home, too, with the Lord.

It is late. But God does great things in His own good time!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Nevah…Ebbah! …The Lads Convention

  1. I feel down in front of 1000 or so people in the front of an auditorium.
  2. Hannah’s coffee lid popped off in her hand and coffee went all over an elevator full of people and all over Eliza Jane just as they were rushing to Eliza’s Bible reading.
  3. I lost my phone. In its recovery (“Recovery” is a wonderful word!), Hannah was just in time for a big security episode with non-lads Opryland guests in which EMT and screaming and cursing were all involved at 12:30 pm in the Cascades lobby. (For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness 1 Thess. 5:5….So thankful we were in the day group!)
  4. Eliza made the announcement to an elevator full of people: “I tooted. Cue (excuse) my body.” Oh dear…
  5. I fell–again–in front of 1000 people in the front of an auditorium.
  6. The Easter bunny had a big problem with tardiness this year, and children were a bit disappointed. But he worked it all out. We are not sure he is a faithful Easter bunny because he finished up his work while we were worshipping. However, to give him the benefit of the doubt, it did take us a LOOONG time to get back to the room after worship and all the eggs from the bunny were hidden when we got back.
  7. Someone got a marriage proposal onstage this year at Lads (a first!) Congratulations!
  8. Eliza announced to all the people entering an elevator: “You all be cah-ful! Dere’s tee-tee on dah flow-ah.”  (There was not. Someone’s cooler had leaked in the group just before us.)
  9. All five of my grand-children (and some very dear “other” grand-children) were in one convention and all had important events to attend. And that was the hardest part–to miss some of those events, so that I could attend others. But what a blessing!
  10. I contracted laryngitis (almost to the point of complete silence) rendering me useless to any part of the big family for crowd control.
  11. I went to the right room at the wrong time for a competition (It was mistyped on our congregation’s schedule). I  had a nice break…realized that no-one was showing up and then made a very mad, mad dash to a different room that was 19837 miles away, with 3 small children.
  12. I cried during Bartimaus and “Thank God for Kids.” Jesus Loves the Little Children.

But in the aftermath of the good storm, I rest in knowing that some 20,000 people, children and adults, have arrived back home with a greater, fuller, deeper conviction–a purpose to never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. As Eliza Jane said, at the end of her speech…”I will not be ashamed …nevah, ebba!”

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Lads to Leaders…A Great Fall!

Lads to Leaders. There is nothing like it. It’s a convention with just shy of ten thousand people that runs like a well-oiled machine. 99-plus percent of the people who run the convention are volunteers and the hotel staff sometimes complains that we are the group which never runs up bar tabs or watches the pay-for-view movies they provide in the rooms. But they still love us. We are relatively quiet, very clean and respectful. 

But the hotel staff, on the whole, doesn’t know about the most beautiful things about Lads. That room full of thousands upon thousands singing praises to our God on Sunday morning, the hundreds of different child-delivered speeches developing the phrase “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” The debaters who have learned, for life, how to articulate the Bible’s teaching about music in our worship, the many children who have learned 100 verses through the year or read the Bible from cover to cover. They don’t know about the very best part of Lads to Leaders, the faith that grows exponentially each year —faith that will be applied in all areas of adult living and faith that will be transformed into evangelism and souls around the throne one eternal day. 

We are one complete day into the convention as I write. So far, we’ve gone to the right room at the wrong time, once. (We’re going to count that waiting time as our one quiet time of the day…. We relaxed there for a moment, realized it was way too uninhabited for a Bible reading room, and then made a mad dash to the place where we actually belonged.) My husband walked around with white fuzz all over his navy pants, all day long. (One of the grands had been given a treat bag with a cotton ball bunny tail attached to the outside of the bag. It was so cute and Glenn carried it dutifully until that bunny had made white deposits all over his pants.)

The most dramatic climax was when I fell—twice—in front of about a thousand people in the Presidential ballroom last night. The first fall was a dramatic trip over someone’s legs; all the way to the floor, My first thought was “I can’t believe I did that in THE most public place in this whole convention—right up at the stage, during the awards, while all eyes were keenly focused on the toddlers going across the stage and the Oak Ridge Boys were belting out ‘Thank God for Kids’.… My next thought was “How will I ever get up?” 

But somehow I did, for just a about twenty seconds and then…I did it AGAIN!  Now I know that falling is a genetic thing. My mother was a great “faller”. But this was absolutely the finest and most public demonstration in the annals of family falling. Twice. in front a packed ballroom. To booming music. While Video cameras were focused on the very spot where I was face down, bottom up. I’ve fallen, pretty dramatically, in some pretty public places though the years, including, but not limited to…a WalMart parking lot, the north shore of Prince Edward Island, and  a public sidewalk in a busy metro area, And I have never fallen without laughing hysterically. Further, I have always had faithful “friends’ watching (I almost never fall privately) who laughed the kind of laugh that’s starts as a snicker, but quickly progresses to a chest-cleansing, tear-rolling, abdomen grabbing guffaw. And we can’t stop. Last night was no exception. My daughter cried laughing. My friend Penny is ordering me one of those pretty “necklaces” that they wear in the stage three hall at the nursing home. 

But yesterday, before the falls, I got to watch my grandson speak at a ballroom reception,  I heard him say “Jesus said  ‘The devil wants to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, Peter.’ I hope Jesus prays for me, too.”  (I can attest to the fact that Jesus is before the throne in that advocacy.) I got to hug and encourage lots of little people who will do big things for Jesus because they are not ashamed. I got to listen to Eliza Jane say “I hope I will “neh-bah be ashamed. Neh-bah, ebba.” I share that hope. 

Ellis’s speech is about Humpty-Dumpty, the obsession of his little three-year-old world right now. It’s about a great fall and it’s about Eutychus and the Biblical fall from the window when Paul was preaching. It’s about Jesus who puts us together after our great, common fall. I was just falling “on theme” for him. Yeah. I’m going with that. It WAS a great fall…both times. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Pokémon and Priorities

 

Last Sunday morning on our way to worship, I got this text from our daughter, who was obviously getting kids in the van and voice texting at the same time. Immediately after the following text, I got another in which she just simply (and sarcastically) said, “Thank-you Siri!”

As you can tell, the first sentence is really to me. The rest is a lesson given to Colleyanna (a.k.a. Call Ana). I could have gone through and punctuated and re-spelled, but somehow the rawness of Siri’s eavesdropping and recording made this even sweeter to me. I’m thankful for her and all parents who are trying so hard to chip away at selfishness and instill priorities of faith and devotion to the Almighty. I know many who have power-packed conversations all day long in Deuteronomy six fashion with absorbent and intentional minds. Yesterday, I went over to Hannah’s  house to join a Bible Study with non-Christian women that she had scheduled at her house. Watching Ezra sit at that table and look up the verses we were using was another palpable thanksgiving moment for me. None of this is likely or even possible without the huge and overarching Providence of a God that knows how to accomplish our heavenward goals for children far better than we can imagine.

Here’s the fun little text about dropped Pokémon cards and priorities:

Please tell us where you’re sitting and get our sermon sheets. OK now call Ana. It’s not his fault that you dropped your Pokémon stuff he didn’t do that. I know it’s easy to blame him but he didn’t do that you dropped him and it’s OK will get them. Will get them organize will get them where they need to be but right now you know how must it make Jesus feel if we’re on our way to worship him and we are way more worried about Pokémon cards then we are about making sure we’re ready to worship and we’re way more worried about Pokémon cards than we are about safety how how much that make God feel I understand that the Pokémon cards are very important to you. I understand that there are things that are important to me too, but we need a set our priorities, straight, OK

So, Thanks Siri.