Browsing Tag

Fellowship

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: My Life on a Cart

Polishing the Pulpit (https://polishingthepulpit.com) is a conference for Christians, held annually in Sevierville, TN and it’s become a 5500-person fellowship/teaching event that’s unlike any other; both in great potential for the gospel’s spread and in popularity with gospel-followers. As you can guess by its name, it began as a little workshop for preachers and has developed in 25 short years to be a power-house conference (because of His power) that has meaty and practical sessions for all of God’s people. As one of the audio and video technicians, who gave his life to Christ in baptism at the end of the week said “Where can you find this many people who are just this nice?” I love that assessment.

I know the devil would love to worm his way into this event, but God’s people there, both leadership (the elders of the Jacksonville church of Christ) and attendees, are determined to keep a sound and unified event. It’s become a family (both physical family and spiritual family) reunion for the Colleys, to which we look with great anticipation every year. 

As we left the convention center this year, I took a long look at our luggage cart, and there I saw a huge conglomeration that’s now still a big pile in my bedroom floor. But looking at that cart, I saw a small cross-section of my whole world.  I could look at that all-too-familiar hotel cart and see my life–the things that I love and the things I do–rolling across that parking lot.  Some of the things were meaningful in a long-term way. Some, like the number of pairs of shoes I’d brought along, were just extra and unneeded baggage. I looked at that cart and contemplated for a minute.  

I saw all the Digging Deep paraphernalia…my new DD bag that had carried handouts, books, baby entertainment items for worship, and bread to give away before my classes began; my Digging Deep t-shirt and the old “Authority” book from which I’d taught a couple of times through the week. And my brand new “Glory” book was also somewhere on the cart. There was even a shovel, a rake and a hoe, given to me by one of the Georgia diggers . Digging Deep was everywhere on the cart.

There was stuff from the Digging Deep Israel trip: a large group photo given to us by John and Carla Moore as they packed up the Bible Land Passages table in the Exhibit Hall. At the very top of the cart was the ram’s head with real ram’s horns, given to us by fellow Israel traveler, Caysi McDonald. Lindsay VanHook put them on the head she crafted and Linzee Stephenson mounted the ram’s head on a wooden spatula. It served us well, at the climax of the Mount Moriah scene, in Family Bible week at West Huntsville and then at Family Bible time in the Atrium with a hundred or so kids.

There were a lot of grandchildren things on that cart. There was my Bernina sewing bag, a big white laundry basket that had served to transport a bunch of birthday gifts and decorations for little Maggie’s first family birthday party, held just outside the atrium, after the crowds had exited on Thursday. There was a big black plastic garbage bag that had served to hide the 34-year-old red and white wooden scooter that Glenn had made for Caleb for his first birthday; now being passed along to Maggie (She loved it, repeating over and over “Brooom, brooom!” as she pushed it around by the wooden handle bars.)  The big bag was now full of laundry awaiting the wash.  There were leftover snack bags and boxes; surprises we’d brought to tape on the hotel room doors of the grandkids. The grands were fully represented on the cart.

My sisters were there, too. The little trinkets and treats and notes of encouragement that so many sweet friends had shared were rolling, too, in various bags and cases.

There was a computer printer, two large Bibles, a portfolio for organizing lessons, two lap-tops and an iPad, a large commentary and a big package of computer paper. It’s the way we roll when we are speaking in a total combined  number of sessions that exceeds thirty. There was even a coffee maker and a bag of Keurig cups to keep us burning the midnight oil. And there were dress clothes for all those speeches. And dress shoes and ties and scarves and there was a bag of brand new socks for Glenn because he has that propensity for leaving his at home. (He has that propensity in common with Don Blackwell. We went to Israel and washed the same pair of socks every.single.day.) 

I guess I could go on listing blessings on that cart. But the thing that struck me is  this: Your stuff represents your heart. Obviously, the stuff on the cart is the stuff I didn’t want to do without for a week-and-a-half.  Jesus said something in the same vein over in Luke 6:34

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 

By the time we left, I noticed the world was refilling the empty hotel. Carts were coming in with vastly different loads; carts pushed by people who were almost naked—carts that held luggage and beer and swimsuits and water shoes and tickets to the pleasures of the world around us. My husband commented that after watching Christians crowd those hotel hallways for a week, it was very shocking to see the world. We probably need to keep on being a little shocked. 

It’s also very motivating. Think about the diffusion of those 5500 people into a world that pushes the wrong load. Think about what we can do if every one of us invites one person to study the Bible with us monthly between now and our next gathering in Sevierville. Think about what we can do if each family has Family Bible Time daily for all 355 days between now and the next PTP. Think about how much stronger our families will be if every mother at PTP studies the Word deeply every day between now and next August 12th. Think about how much of an effectual working will occur if every woman who left that place is fervently in daily prayer for this entire year. Think about the power of a diffusion. How many carts could we load for heaven? 

How many? How many could I help load, given my opportunities in my little circle of influence? I’m going to try to have at least one more packed and loaded for heaven before that gathering on the mountain next year. Will you try, too? 

  

                                                 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Flying Through the Storm: A Lesson Learned

The flight to Dallas had not been on time from any perspective…delays texted to me before my airport arrival, more delays after checking in, and even more delays at the gate. Further waiting occurred on the runway and then evaluation delays before landing. My arrival time to the wonderful home in which I was staying was delayed from around 8:30 pm to 11:00 p.m. But the warm hospitality of this wonderful couple in rural Briar, Texas made it worth the wait. They could not have been more kind and they situated me most comfortably in this land of beautiful bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes. 

The ladies day was a soul-refresher, too—renewing old sisterhood relationships and forging new friendships that I am sure will last a lifetime. Watching young teens ( and some older ladies, too) using their talents to lead our worship gave me hope for the future of our great sisterhood. Our study of the sower and the soils in Matthew 13, Luke 8 and John 4 was a refresher course in evangelism that I needed. The peace of this study of the Master Sower and His Seed was almost palatable enough to make me forget that the lightning was flashing, the thunder booming and  the rain crashing down on the outside of that old country church building. I heard about the baseball-sized hail that was falling nearby, but my mind was focused, for the entire morning, on the serenity of trusting Him.

Until I got in the car for that mad dash to the airport and realized that my flight had been canceled. The text message had come while I was speaking. Not only that, but the flight on which I’d been rebooked was taking off before I could possibly make it to the airport. The estimated call-back time from American Airlines to try and find sufficient information for booking yet again were over 2 hours. Updates online were slow coming. Word was that over 80 planes had been grounded at DFW due to hail damage. and most of the ones not grounded were having a pretty hard time exiting the stormy Dallas/Fort Worth atmosphere. There was a 9:10 pm flight that was still posted as “on-time” and that was my only choice to fly back without missing Sunday worship. So I asked my sweet hosts to drop me at the airport and let me see if that flight really could get me home. 

When they dropped me off at the BNA, I exited a car full of warmth and real hospitality. My every need had been met with extreme consideration. I’d marveled at the secret cellar door Brother Bradberry had constructed—a bookshelf that magically opened to a stairwell. He’d played the violin for me and even given me some violin and harp music to enjoy in my car. (His music teacher was, to my surprise, a former member of The Sons of the Pioneers.) They’d fed me breakfast and taken me out for dinner. They’d patiently waited for my incoming flights and given me a cozy place to sleep. They’d shown me lots of bronze sculptures by an amazing artist who had lived his life as a member of the church there. His pieces were showcased in public arenas around Dallas. Sister Bradberry has shown me gorgeous quilts that she had designed and pieced and quilted. All in all, I felt as if I had a VIP pass to a museum of culture and art. And it was all there in a sweet little house in a rural spot just between Boyd and Azle, Texas. 

And then I went into the world. There at the curb for departures, I left genuine fellowship and concern, warm handshakes and hugs and walked into chaos and havoc, anger and disgust— on faces, in audible snarls and in cursings of the weather, of the various airlines and of airline representatives who could not have possibly been responsible for all the mayhem. It was kind of like exchanging a security blanket for a muleta at a bull fight. I think I have never heard so many profanities, expletives and gutter words in one thirty minute period as I did during my check-in process at the airport. Police had just handcuffed some drunkards who’d had a little too much time and drink in that airport that day. Angry travelers who’d survived long flights 24 hours ago had then spent the day, unexpectedly, waiting…and waiting…and wandering from switched gate to switched terminal …and waiting some more. Frustrated airline representatives were snapping back at rude customers and sometimes even at entire groups of passengers waiting at their gates. The storm on the outside had made its way into the airport and the explosive tempers there made for a choleric mood in every crowded terminal passageway. People were hungry and had been drinking too much and many had spent far more than they’d ever intended, leaving themselves wanting for provisions for the rest of their journeys. To put it mildly, people were mad.  

Lesson one from that stormy night: In times of distress and anxiety, there’s a vast difference between the dispositions of the few people who have chosen the narrow “rural roads” and the multitudes who are crowding from gate to gate through the broad “terminals” of life. When I see them in clear contrast, I’m so happy to be a part of the family of God. And may I see them in clear contrast; not just on the stormy days, but every day. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

PTP Diggers…Just for fun: Tap me on the shoulder and say “I escaped!”

I’m sitting here in the dark in a hotel room in Sevierville, Tennessee on the Lord’s day, with two sleeping grandchildren on the bed beside me. During the past four days, I’ve spoken to ladies groups seven times, heard my husband speak once about the responsibility of elders from Revelation 2 and 3, heard my son do a Q and A session and then another on Joy, and wished that I could go and hear my daughter talk about how our God is not extraordinary. I worshipped the Lord this morning in a conference center where thousands of others were worshipping Him and heard a decidedly comforting sermon about how my Lord cares for me through the storms of life. I know it sounds like heaven and it really feels like I must be in the very vestibule of it; after all, I am walking these halls with hundreds who will share in that eternal abode. I’m putting my arms around the necks of brothers and sisters–bodies that will rise to meet Him in the air. I’m getting to eat and drink with family that’s untethered to this earth, already having its sights set on another feast above. I talked to ladies about how that caring for my earthly father, who left this life last December, has taught me that the heavenly Father can never be repaid. But my Father can be honored. I know he was honored when someone went home and cleaned out her closet after hearing a lesson on modesty. I know he was honored when another went and purchased alternate clothing onsite after hearing that lesson. I know He was glorified when one sister  I love said, “It has been a very hard and dry year. I came so thirsty and I have been filled.”  I know He is being magnified on this mountain at Polishing the Pulpit 2018. Sometimes I think, in a perfect world, Jesus could just come on back for us while we are at PTP.

But He might not come while I am on a mountaintop of service and fellowship. He might not come while I am communing with Him with hundreds of Christians. So I am praying I can take home with me the will to persevere, the courage to speak for Him, the true heart’s desire to influence these children beside me for Him with all my being, and the serene contentment to know that all of this is all I need.

I’m bursting with excitement over the new Digging Deep study being unveiled on Tuesday at 12:15 in Ballroom B. You can watch the unfolding of Digging Deep 2018-19 live-stream tomorrow here: You have been faithful to study Great Escapes and, if you are like me, you know that the Word never disappoints and you are praising Him this month for the Greatest Escape of the faithful from the torment that awaits those who reject Him. He left heaven so we can go. He came to a dirty, sinful and disease-ridden world so that I could leave it. He partook of earthly things, so that I could be a partaker in heavenly things (Her. 3:1) and share His glory. I know you are thinking about that during the final days of this 2017-18 dig. (All four Dig-A-Bits for August are in the “can” and coming your way.)

I’m excited about the trip to Israel! More details will follow about that trip. But it opens up to all members of the body tomorrow at 12:45 pm. Several of you have approached us this week and said “I am going!” This will be a life-changing trip for us and I can’t wait to board the plane for Tel-Aviv next May. Registration will be open until we reach our maximum number. We have currently registered around 35 people from the Digging Deep group alone.

I have a few more lessons to go at PTP and I am over-the-top excited about every one…just blessed beyond what I can ask or imagine.  I’m studying a lot this week. As I interact, though, with so many faithful women of God, I know that I’d learn so much that would help me to heaven if I was getting to talk less and listen more. I hope to hear several more of you. I’ve been blessed, already, to hear Tish Clarke, Sami Nicholas and Celine Sparks from the ladies line-up and several of the best men in our brotherhood. I am bringing my cup to hear Hiram Kemp tonight…and it is already overflowing. Some of the most valuable nuggets for living come in casual conversation in the courtyard, over the table at Cracker Barrel, or in the lobby of the hotel. We look forward to these times and they encourage us to pursue strengthening fellowship. One of our favorite times annually is the meal we schedule each year with the Kirby Cole family. They are a sweet segment of our family in Him.

If you are a Digger and you see me or another Digger in the hall today, tap me on the shoulder and say “I Escaped!” You can do this and keep walking to your lecture It will be a fun way to lead up to our session on Tuesday, for which I absolutely cannot wait!

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Digging Deep Israel: Flights from Nashville Included

It’s thrilling to see the list of travelers growing as we plan the Digging Deep Israel trip. I’ve been thinking about what our Lord said about marriage in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 lately. Every time I go to the Word now, I think about how his surroundings must have appeared.  I’m told that much of  the ancient areas we will see look a lot like they did when he was walking and teaching on this earth.

We have people now from Australia to Arkansas signed up for this trip. We have a doctor, a preacher or two, some students, some homemakers and some people who work in industry. We have people who are already knowledgeable about the area and people, like me, who know very little. We have four things in common, so far: We are all excited. We are all Digging Deep families. We all have current passports. We are all Christians!

That last one is the one that will make this fellowship sweet. It’s the same component, really, that makes the promise of heaven such a powerful motivator. Of course, with heaven, the sweetness is infinitely compounded because of Who will be in our presence in that great, eternal and truly HOLY land.

Have you got your passport in order for heaven? I’d love to help you do that!

Now about the brochure: There seems to be a discrepancy on there somewhere about whether or not the flights from Nashville to Israel are covered in the fee you pay. YES! Those flights are included. As you make plans, keep in mind that the flight to Israel is a part of the money you pay IN the package. Not extra. That’s a big expense and it is included in your package. Bible Land Passages has done its best to estimate the cost of those flights and they are generally very close in that estimate. So the cost may vary  by some small amount as we get closer to departure, but it should be very close to what the brochure states. Sign up before  August 1st if you’re a Digger or family member of a Digger! If there are extra spaces, we will open it up to other families at that point.

The Bible Lands! Go here to go there:https://thecolleyhouse.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/2019-Bible-Land-Passages-Colley-Israel-Studies-Program-and-Tour-General-Information-and-Registration-Documents-Revised-4.13.18.pdf

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Westside…Still the Best Side of Virginia!

Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of the Westside church in Salem, Virginia. It was a blessing and honor for Glenn and me to be invited back to speak to the regulars and home-comers as faithful saints gathered on this day, as they have faithfully done in this locale for fifty years. Interestingly, our local work with this congregation began on it’s twentieth anniversary. We were extremely blessed to have lived and worked there for a wonderful and memorable five years. That means that twenty-five years have elapsed since we made the decision to move from Salem to Alabama. That sweet family of God, where the candle of Revelation two is very much still aflame, will always hold a deep and dear spot in our hearts. 

I learned some things about myself yesterday about which maybe I needed to be reminded, or even to learn. 

I learned that I love to talk about God’s Word, no matter the circumstance. Though there were friends in that room for whom I have great affection…friends I was longing to hug and with whom I longed to reminisce, the first order of the day and my favorite one, other than worshiping Him, was to open that great Book and talk about Philippians one. It still always amazes me that He has given us Words appropriate and pressing for every circumstance and meeting of His people.

I learned that time is a speeding locomotive and I long for the timeless side. It just took my breath away when I realized a few days ago that exactly thirty years had elapsed since that day we pulled up with a newborn and a three-year-old into the driveway at 203 Parkview Drive in Salem and saw Charlie Gwaltney, in his plaid driving cap, waving us into the drive as he bounded across that yard with a big box of doughnuts and a welcome that good elders know how to give new preachers. How could this really be? I want to be in that place where the shock of the passing of time never gives me this helpless feeling and where death doesn’t steal away large segments of the congregation while I’m briefly looking the other way. That congregation around the throne will be secure and immovable. 

I was reminded that I am consistently treated, by God’s people, in a manner that’s far better than I deserve. I want to treat every member of His family with whom I have contact just that way. They are the channel of His blessings to me. May I BE the channel to others. 

In the middle of huge blessings that were just packed tightly into a few hours, there was still something that was inside of me…something that gave my heart just a shred of dissonance and kept making me think “I love this so much, but why is this so hard?” I kept trying to put my finger on it, this “feeling” that kept welling up inside me, sometimes almost evoking sentimental tears. It’s hard to know, in the middle of the emotion of a flood of memories, but I think the dissonance was this: The world, the congregation, the work, the influence in Salem Virginia is not mine in 2017. In 1987-92, that was my world. My purpose was all wrapped up in souls in Salem—my kids’ souls, my husband’s work, the Eddlemons, who were learning the gospel, the ladies retreat, the friends and family day, the radio program and the neighborhood outreach that I tried to do at the library and the school and in our neighborhood fourth of July parade. 

But someone else’s truck is parked in our driveway. That’s a good thing. It means we went somewhere else, to a place where we thought the need was greater for us—for our family in His cause,  for ministry to my mother who was dying, at the time.  Certainly we are never irreplaceable. In fact, those who followed us have done greater works than we could have done in that place. For those men and those works, we are profoundly grateful. There’s a great work still happening in that place. God’s goodness is everywhere in Salem, Virginia in 2017. 

But is it okay to acknowledge with a little bit of sad nostalgia that, right then and there, in the middle of a huge flood of memories for so many people, that I am one of those memories? Maybe it is okay. Maybe it’s a good thing to enjoy being physically present in the time and place, wherever that is, where our influence for Him, however small, is greatest. I had a work to do for Him in Salem in 1987-92 and it kept me very busy and extremely fulfilled. It was the “time of our lives” when reviewed with the perspective of child-rearing. What happened in those years is propelling a young preacher in Jacksonville, Florida today and a young mother of two who is a preacher’s wife in Columbus, Georgia. There’s no adequate gratitude to the Westside church for that environment of faith. 

But still, our influence there now is extremely limited. I think that reality yesterday was a kind of wake-up call for me. If there is any good that I can do in my sphere of influence in 2017, I’d better get busy.  Many of those who listened to the gospel in 1987 have gone on to glory or moved to other places. Lots of the arenas where our words were heard have been replaced by other venues—better ones. This reality made me long to return to the place and time in 2017 where our small influence is still engaged—where there is still a space to “get busy.”

Today, we are on our way back there. We wouldn’t trade that walk down memory lane yesterday for any amount of money. It was priceless to us. We owe a great debt to the Westside family. But we praise Him for the here and now…and, most of all, for the heaven that waits!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Monkey on Board!

Tonight I showed my dad a couple of You Tube videos that feature the San Saba, the navy ship on which he traveled around the world during the second World War. Now, I’m pretty sure there must have been some momentous things that occurred as that crew delivered troops to shorelines, launching them in smaller boats to finally put troops ashore in enemy territory. 

But Dad commented specifically about two days he recalled as he watched those films. He was reminded of the first occasion when he saw a sailor in the film sending signals to another ship with  specific waves of various colors of flags. He said “I was trained to do that; and one day the ship that my brother, J.P., was on, the USS Maryland, came within a couple-hundred feet of our ship. Now I knew my brother was on that ship and I thought maybe I could get a message to him. So I tried to do that with the colors. My message reached my brother and he actually responded.” 

Now I thought that was a pretty neat story. Two brothers from Peaceburg, Alabama in passing ships on the Pacific all the way around the world, communicating with the Semaphore flag alphabet. Something about that exchange made me thankful for the comfort of knowing that, though they would not lay eyes on one another or speak to each other, that my dad, on that particular night fell asleep knowing that his brother was safe and sleeping nearby, at least for that moment in time. 

There is comfort in knowing our brethren are safe. There is security in knowing that, although our circumstances and earthly perspectives may be different, our cause is the same. There is encouragement in knowing that the same Father is unfailing in His mercy to all those who accept His Will and advance His cause. But the unity of our unique communication, as sisters, and our fellowship with one another is a priceless commodity. We should never take that for granted in our country where we have the freedom to openly meet together and encourage one another.  

I’m glad I got to hear Dad tell about that day. 

The other day he recalled? Well, it seems on that day, one of the sailors brought a small pet monkey aboard the San Saba. (Japan does have some pretty cute monkeys.) But, to my father’s dismay, the authorities found out about the extra mate and the ruling was “Monkey Overboard.” The monkey, like a brave compatriot, continued to wave at the sailors as he bounced in the waves of the Pacific until they were out of sight. 

I’m not sure there’s a lesson in that second recollection, except maybe that it was too bad for the poor friendly monkey that his visit to the San Saba occurred during a war that was very much about the ethical treatment of human beings, rather than in today’s cultural war in which, often, the rights of animals trump the rights of innocent human beings. He was just a few decades shy of PETA, poor thing.