Browsing Tag

Faithfulness

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Calling Her Blessed Again…

As I am writing it’s Mother’s Day week. This year marks the 27th year since my mother won the battle over cancer and went home. She’s victorious and happy–even blissful, and I would never will her back to the struggling lifestyle that I try to tackle every day. But, still, I miss her like crazy–even now, twenty years hence. The children of the Proverbs 31 woman rose up and called their mother blessed. I know my mother is blessed, especially now–with the Lord, but I don’t know how to call her blessed. As I look back over the chapter, though, I see some things that made the children of Proverbs 31 call their mom blessed. I wonder how, exactly, they called her blessed. Did they tell their friends about the way God worked through the good deeds of their mom? Did other people look at her children and say that those kids were a blessing to the Proverbs 31 woman? Did her children write posts about how blessed their childhoods were because of the mom that made sure they were getting the maternal care they needed both physically and spiritually? If so, where did they post these notes? I do not know exactly how her children called her blessed, but today is my attempt to call my Proverbs 31 mother “blessed”. One thing’s for sure. The ultimate blessings are in the place in which I fully believe my mother is cognizant, rejoicing and awaiting my coming. She is blessed, now, for sure.

The heart of my father trusted my mother, that she would do him good and not evil. I do not remember ever having the first inkling of an idea that my dad ever thought Mother was lying to him, that she might be having an affair or that she was tricking him into getting things her way. In fact, the whole idea of any of those things seems preposterous. My mother never asked me to lie to my father. In fact, she would have spanked me in the “spanking place” if she thought I had lied to him. Not only did he never doubt her honesty, but he trusted her judgment. He trusted my mother to clothe us, to buy Christmas gifts for all of us and the extended family, to buy the groceries and to stock the freezer. He did not have to be a micro-manager. He trusted her.

My mother sought wool and flax and worked willingly with her hands. Her candle did not go out by night. If I close my eyes, I can see her hands. They had a couple of little age spots on them. Her fingers were long and thin and she never had a manicure. They were hard working hands. She had a sign in the little bedroom that doubled as her sewing room that said, “Whoever dies with the most fabric wins.” She won. See, she really did seek wool and flax and polyester and cotton and rayon. She could make anything on that Singer and so she did. I remember coming home from school one day for several weeks in November to a lot of white fur all over the carpets and bedspreads. I wondered if she was having bunnies over to play every day while I was at school. That year on Christmas morning, there were three precious little white fake fur coats for my sisters and me.

I remember many summer mornings when I would awaken to find that she was already out in the hot sun. I would look out the back kitchen door and down the hill I would see her bent over in the butter pea patch. I would try and be quiet, because I knew if she saw me, I would either be picking with her or washing breakfast dishes in the kitchen. If I was ever bored, I did not say so. I knew better. No one in that house ate the bread of idleness.

We did eat well, though. My mother gave meat to her household and a portion to her maidens. I cannot remember ever going hungry. My mother knew what day the meat would be in the marked-down bin at the market and she was willing to get up very early to be there. We did not go out to eat often because that was expensive. Our favorite Sunday night place was called “Traveler’s Rest” and it averaged a full six dollars for our family of six to eat burgers there. But there was always plenty of food on the table at home and it was always delicious. My brother was allergic to chicken, so when we had chicken, we had a small dish of some other kind of meat for him. Everyone was considered and everyone counted. My mother did not carry a couple of dishes to the fellowship meal, either. She carried a huge meat casserole or a couple of fried chickens, several side dishes, some cornbread and a big cake or banana pudding. If my mother ever had a maiden, she would have had plenty to eat, too. And I can never remember one meal around that table when we did not bow our heads and thank the Lord for the food.

My mother considered her purchases and used them well. She was frugal. I actually remember her sending us through multiple lanes at the store, so we could each be a customer and take advantage of “one-per-customer” savings. I remember buying fabric from the remnant bins and canned goods from the dented bin. I remember making our own popsicles and culottes. (Does anybody remember those?) She saved and redeemed green stamps. She sold encyclopedias and she taught school in our little Christian school for our tuition and we all went to school together. She saved the remnants of bars of soap and Daddy melted them down and made big new multi-colored bars. Free outings included the library and window shopping trips. Our shoes came from a little hole-in-the-wall place called “Salvage Shoes,” but we loved going there! She made everything fun and there was no place the kids in her Sunday School class had rather be than in our yard. One of them said one day, “I love going to Johnnia’s. She’s got a gallon of kids!”

She stretched out her hand to the poor and reached out her hands to the needy. My mother sent shoes to the prison where a neighbor boy ended up after his mother left home and he turned to drugs. I remember frequent walks up the street to Mrs. Brackin’s house, when she was feeble, to carry food from our kitchen or garden. I remember how Mother cared for Kathleen and Chris and Patrick when their mother went a little crazy and left them. I remember a little girl we picked up for worship services. She lived in the basement of an old upholstery shop on the Pratt Highway. I remember she didn’t smell good, but she loved coming with us. I remember another man who often rode with our family to worship and two older women, too. I remember Mother finding a place in a Christian orphanage for some children up the street when their parents left them destitute. Most of all, I remember the years and tears and fears of her caring for my grandparents. I remember when that small sewing room was converted to a sick room for them. I remember Mother’s sacrifices of travel and time with my dad. I remember the crowded conditions and the worry about their health. I remember my mother’s attendance at their hospital beds and their death beds. I remember the agony she suffered when they left empty spaces after her years of care.

My mother made tapestries and coverings. She used quilting frames suspended from the ceiling. They made walking through the small living room next to impossible. She made at least four quilts and coverings for my babies’ nurseries. As I write, I have company up in my guest room and she is sleeping under one of those quilts. My mother was keenly interested in making all kinds of things. She embroidered and smocked and made dolls and aprons. She made sweatsuits and curtains, stuffed bears and potholders, purses and pajamas. We wore handmade dresses and coats and bonnets. We had the best halloween costumes and great parts in school plays because the teacher knew she could count on our costume designer. Christmas spilled out everywhere in our little house. We, in short, had it made. We had it all made by our mother.

She opened her mouth with wisdom and kindness. Time and space constrain me, but let me just say that profundity is when an adult can think back and still remember phrases and their intonations—phrases that were spoken forty-plus years ago. Things like:

“Cindy, if you read your Bible and find out that I have taught you something that’s not right, you do what the Bible says. Know that doing that is what will make me happy.”

“Cindy, people who make fun of you for doing the right thing are the same people who, really, deep down in their hearts, respect you for it. One day you will learn that.”

“Cindy, you had better be very careful about everything you do, because there are two little sisters who are watching every move you make and they want to be just like you.”

“Cindy, don’t ever let your boyfriend give you money. that’s just not respectable.”

My mother feared the Lord. I really believe this was the trump card that made all of the above so evident in her life. She had this amazing way of boiling all of the decisions of daily life down to the question, “What is most pleasing to God?” The question was pervasive and invasive, and we visited it and revisited it on a daily basis. Conviction took us to every service and to run the children’s bus program an hour before each service of the church. Conviction had her sew a gym uniform for me that met all the class standards but had extra length for modesty. Conviction had a class full of middle school girls learning about fearing the Lord. Conviction had her spending time with them outside the classroom in cook-outs in our yard and in flower-picking trips to make bouquets for girls who were leaving for college. Conviction had her opening up that worn-out Bible and showing us passages relevant to some raunchy attitude she was seeing in us or some discourteous remark made. If we weren’t careful, she was assigning us long passages to learn; passages that she deemed appropriate to help adjust our attitudes or demeanor (and we weren’t even home schoolers). The Bible was just like a giant magnet in the middle of the metal of our lives. It was the control, the draw, the reference point.

I cannot remember anyone ever commenting that my mother was charming. But many people of all ages filed by her casket in October of 1992 and commented that she was the best Bible teacher they had ever had. They cited that she had made the Bible come alive or that she had made even the outcast among them feel worthy. That night I was glad for the fulfillment of the prophetic proverb: Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

This has been long. If you only could know how selective I have been, you would appreciate the post for its brevity. My mother was not perfect. She was often weakened by sin, but then strengthened by the power of His might. She struggled with evil, but overcame with prayer. She sometimes fainted, but was renewed by the Spirit. See, though she was larger than life to this little girl, she was only human. I had to grow up to know she wasn’t really perfect. And, just about the time I began to see her human-ness, the possibility that she had flaws, her mortal limitations, she went and put on immortality. My mother really is sinless now. She is perfect, flawless, completely invincible. I can truly call her blessed.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Guest Writer: Lillian Howard on Fear’s Paralyzation-Part 2

(Upcoming: The Digging Deep podcast for October is next Tuesday night.I hope you can join us and we would love to have your comments in the live chat. Comments are a great enrichment to the study’s scope, of course. The winner of the international writing contest for kids will be announced here next Monday, so be watching for that, especially if you are one of those who submitted an entry. Every entry represented a great effort and a significant investment of time.)

How do we stop fear?

To begin with, remember it’s a growth process. You don’t wake up one day and suddenly have no fear any more than you wake up one day and suddenly know everything the Bible teaches on love. And it does start with courage. You’ll never conquer a fear if you don’t do it, and you’ll never do it without courage.

Next, remember why we don’t have to fear.

… the LORD is with you while ye be with him; and if ye seek him he will be found of you… 2 Chronicles 15:2

… If God be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

… for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Hebrews 13:5-6

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? Psalm 118:6

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 1 Peter 3:12-14

The almighty God is with us. We have our Creator and unfailing Lord on our side! His eyes are over us as we practice righteousness! What really is there to fear? The Lord even gives us a specific promise in Matthew 28:20. He promises us specifically that he is with us as we spread his word!

God is on our side, but he doesn’t just root from the sidelines. He does so much more than that.

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Isaiah 40:29

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. Psalm 27:14

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2Corinthians 12:9

But the God of all grace, … make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 1Peter 5:10

God gives us strength as we apply our courage. Psalm 46:1-2, Isaiah 12:2, and 26:4 also show that he is our source of strength to help us overcome our obstacles. And part of how he does that is through a magnificent gift.

These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk there in, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means… 2 Thessalonians 3:16

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Colossians 3:15

Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

When we walk with him, he gives us peace. He conquered the world, and now we can have peace. He is the very Lord of peace! But my favorite verses from this are in Philippians and Colossians.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds (Phil. 4:7).

But let the peace of God rule in your hearts (Col.3:15).

Peace keeps our hearts and minds from all the cares, fears, and troubles that we give to God, 1Peter 5:7. Peace rules in our hearts, which means it has conquered the fears and troubles that once lived there.

Remember back to our verses against trouble and fear. One definition of the word ‘troubled’ in these verses is ‘causing inward commotion and taking away calmness, or peace of mind’.

In closing, let’s notice 2 Timothy 2:22:

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

We have to follow peace. Like I said earlier, it doesn’t just come to us in this wonderful epiphany. Righteousness, love, and faith come from God. But that doesn’t mean they just come to us. We have to try to be righteous, try to have proper love, try to keep our faith. In the same way, peace is a gift of God, and we didn’t earn it. But we have to let it rule in our hearts. We have to remember that God is with us and give our cares to him.

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. Psalm 37:37

Uprightness brings peace. Let’s remember that as we face this tempting and often terrifying world.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: This Big Tree Again!

No one else noticed those little saplings on that Sunday morning in 1961 that had been planted by the robust young dad in the middle of a busy work week. He took a special interest in the property on Nisbet Street in Jacksonville, Alabama. It was where he took his family to worship every week. And worship was the focal point of the week. Nobody else noticed, I guess. But God knew.

God  said this surprising thing in Deuteronomy 20:19,20 about the trees in the fields of Israel’s enemies as they conquered Canaan:

“When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you? Only the trees of which thou knowest that they are not trees for food, thou shalt destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it fall.”

God is so good. He told them to leave the trees that would sustain them, and to cut down the ones that would protect them. He knew the difference between fruit trees and hardwoods. Of course He did. He made them.  He gave them purpose in His cycle of life. Those little saplings on Nisbet Street were the bulwark kind of trees.

Lots of things have changed since that day my dad planted those saplings in the church yard in Jacksonville. (Here’s the original story about those big oak trees and about some other little acorns, too: https://thecolleyhouse.org/dad-planted-acorns

But this last Monday will be remembered for many years as the day the tornado hit Jacksonville. There was so much property damage for that church we love in Jacksonville. I know if I were the devil, I’d be glad it destroyed the entire building from which that amazing House to House publication, that gospel proclaimer that reaches more households than almost any printed material in the world, emanates. But God knows about storms, too.

Isaiah 25:3,4 says this about the Lord and storms:

Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee. For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.

God knows about that storm destroying the building where His people were busy every day making sure that House to House made its way to all of us. He knows about His “strong people” glorifying Him! He knows about the loss of all that equipment used to plan and preserve the treasured lessons of Polishing the Pulpit, reaching thousands upon thousands every year through live audiences and recorded teaching. He knows how to make eternal riches from rubble and He will bless His people in their distress. In fact, we’ve already been assured that not one issue of House to House will be missed in mailboxes around the world. Polishing the Pulpit will be on schedule. God is good!

And he knows about the fall of a big tree, too. It’s a sad picture, but the good folks at Jacksonville have already granted us permission to haul off the huge trunk of that big oak tree. God knows about re-purposing, too. Is it time you let the Powerful One repurpose you? You will one day bow before Him. Why not make it now and be on the side of the Great One who can be your ever-present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1)– your shelter in the time of storm?

Let’s pray for those difficult hours of clean-up and for the rebuilding efforts in Jacksonville. Let’s rejoice that no lives were lost! Let’s serve Him!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Obedience: Finishing the Climb

 

When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.
And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb. Mt. 27:59-61

The progression to the foot of the cross had been a grueling and sorrow-filled climb. Mary had followed the Lord from the halls of Pilate to the hill of Golgotha. She watched the agony of the cross from a distance. She felt the earth move under her and witnessed the tearing of the rocks (Matthew 27:50-56). She was present when the centurion at the foot of the cross made the good confession: “Truly this was the Son of God.” She and the other Mary followed the rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, as he laid the body of the Lord, wrapped in clean linen in his freshly hewn tomb. She watched as Joseph rolled the stone over the opening of the sepulcher (Matthew 27:56-61).

I once had a study with a woman who was contemplating becoming a member of the body of Christ. She was unashamed in asking me just what would be required of her family. “Would we need to be there at every service? My kids have a lot of practices and games and our youngest really has a strict bedtime. The older two have loads of homework. Wednesday nights would be really difficult for us. I just need to know what kind of commitment we would be needing to make.”

I recall an elder in the church in one of the places we lived. Through every sermon, he constantly looked at his watch. He became visibly upset if the service exceeded the hour. I have observed, in some congregations, an exodus of a large number of people after the communion is served, but before the final song and/or prayer.

Somehow, I don’t think Mary was looking at the sundial. I don’t think she was wondering if the commitment from here on out would require more time and money. I don’t think she was thinking about how nice it would be to get home and wash her tired and dirty feet that had climbed the hill to Golgotha. I don’t imagine her thinking about what was for supper or whether there would be time before the Sabbath to go shopping at the market. In short, this woman, who had originally been demon-possessed, was now committed to the Conqueror of demons, of the grave…of sin.  She was the kind of disciple that willingly stayed till the end. Are you?