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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: The Natural Look

Our little window for tree-cutting was quickly closing on us. The schedule had been relentless and there were a couple of hours in which to cut the big tree that finds its place in the same corner of our living room every yuletide season. We had two of our kids and Ezra and Colleyanna with us. More importantly, the two tree-cutters were also preachers and both of them had two sermons in front of them the following day. (One of them also had a four hour drive home.) Saddened to learn that the nearby tree farm we’d patronized for the last few years had no big trees this year, we traveled a little farther to a beautiful spot in God’s north Alabama world; a secluded tree farm we’d discovered online. It was a beautiful day and the kids and I rode through the farm in the back of the trailer, thinking of fun superlatives for describing the biggest dog we’d ever seen and watching the baby goats (and noticing that NONE of the trees looked like Christmas trees. They all looked like giant bushes that had just grown up in the wild…kind of like the shrubs in front of your house when you never prune; only bigger.)

But just as we were completing our round of travel around the farm, guess who we spotted at the little office building on the property’s entrance. It was the man in the red suit himself. The tree no longer mattered to Ezra and Colleyanna. They saw Santa Claus! (…at which time my son-in-law mouthed the words to his wife “Remember…my sermon. Remember it’s four hours home.”)

There were no other children around. (There might be a reason this tree farm was kind of desolate on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.) Santa was Victorian. He was authentic. He was conversational. He took time with each child. Colleyanna was afraid, at first, but Santa gave her time and space. He spoke to her in gentle tones and let her examine his white gloves. Ezra talked ninety-to-nothing. He told him about the binoculars he wants for Christmas and about how he wanted to look at the night sky with them. He examined the beautiful golden compass that Santa pulled out of his pocket and learned that Santa depends on that thing to always find his way home. Meanwhile Hannah shot about a bazillion perfect pictures. 

The preachers among us missed the whole thing, of course. They were out there among the trees, trying with all they had in them to find a tree that would “redeem the time” it took for us to get all the way over that river and through those woods. They called us over to look at a specimen that was about 14 feet tall. We let the kids play on the sleigh and trudged over to look at 14 feet of a great big bush. It’s branches began at the ground and traveled all the way up…like a bush. Some of the branches at the bottom, furthermore, were going to have to be cut away in order to get the giant bush in the huge bucket we use for a stand. 

Standing there surveying the tree, I could hear my husband talking to the proprietor. I could hear the man explaining how he doesn’t do a lot of pruning and shaping. (We knew that.) “A lot of my customers tell me they prefer the natural look.” This was that.

But seven dollars per foot for the “natural look”?  We stood there and hemmed and hawed. My son-in-law said “I think this is your tree.” (The sermon was motivating him.) My husband said “This could be your tree, but just remember…Lowe’s has some pretty good 12-footers.” 

I knew the tree had problems. I could see that it was going to take some serious tying off to our mantel to even stabilize the massive bush. I knew it would be extremely difficult to decorate. (I mean there were no branches directed “out” for ornaments and tinsel. All branches were several feet long and they all traveled “up”.) I could see that the tree would be even more directionally challenged when we did the necessary trimming of the trunk. in short, this tree was a true, albeit massive, hybrid between “Charlie Brown” and a specimen from Who-ville.”

But the kids had spent a long time with Santa at this farm. They were playing on the sleigh. Santa had taken a lot of time with the golden compass. The huge dog and the little goats and the trailer ride over the bumpy terrain had been the start to a perfect tree-cutting experience. I knew that my choice now was to take home the giant bush (….all of the big trees on this lot were giant bushes) or to tell the kids we were going to the store and buy a tree. I also knew that their daddy was likely not going to even let them go with us to purchase a tree. (There was the sermon.) We’d exhausted every area tree farm possibility. My husband, the patient, good sport that he is, said “Whatever you want to do. Just know this tree is going to be a pretty expensive “Charlie Brown” tree. But it’ll be fine if that’s what you think.”

In my mind, I weighed the options. This was going to be the centerpiece of two or three large gatherings. All my friends have those “perfect” trees. They all think I’m over-the-top, anyway, about old sentimental or vintage or even art deco-rations. What will they think about this old bush…the tree that really belongs on the Island of Misfits? Then I looked over at the children who were anxiously waiting for the part when we yell “Timber”, fell the big tree, load it on the trailer and sing our way home. I looked over at Santa, who had been so kind and personable to our children while we took all of those FREE pictures with the best Santa we’d seen this year. And then there were the sermons.

The perfect tree or the perfect end to the whole experience?? Which?…Easy decorating after the children leave or hearing the kids yell with excitement when the tree (massive bush) comes down?? Salvaging the sentiment of the day at the farm by the river or…well…Lowes? I looked over at the children on the sleigh and said “ We already got our money’s worth with that Santa and all those pictures and, well, it’s just a tree. I think we need to take one home. Let’s cut it.” Sentimentality, in my heart, always wins over efficiency. Every time. Besides, there were the sermons. 

The rest is history. The moment was perfect. Ezra thought the tree was even perfect. (He still will think that when he comes back in a few days and sees it decorated. In his eyes it will be “bru-tiful.”) They took that massive Leyland cedar bush and put it in a shaker machine. Seeing a tree that big having a shaking fit was pure joy for the kids. Ezra imitating the giant jitters was almost worth the price.  

And that was the last thing that was worth the price. Getting the tree in the door, getting it in the bucket, getting it tied off to the walls and windows and mantel, getting any decorations to gravitationally comply, hiding huge gaping spaces in the greenery with every life-sized Coke Santa or large gift, figuring out a way to top a bush that has one long wisp of a sprig sticking out at the top and attempting to bind together some semblance of a Christmas tree shape was the part of the sentiment that became less and less “tender”, shall we say, as the hours up and down the ladder wore on.  

But then again, it was just a first-world problem of a Christmas tree. I’m praying for so many that would love the chance to be decorating a Christmas tree rather than be in that hospital or rehab room. I’m thinking of friends who will not see their children and grandchildren this holiday season at all. Homes where the joy has been stolen this year because of selfishness are reminders that what’s over in the corner of my living room has little real significance at all.  I think about mothers who are agonizing over children who’ve walked away from God this year. 

As I took out those ornaments that had to be hard-wired instead of hung this year, I remembered so many sisters who had made contributions to the funny tree….There were Betty Anderson’s West Huntsville ornaments, Deanne Foy’s porcupine, Wanda Weber’s stars made from road maps and Pam Emerson’s yearly cross-stitches in tiny plastic frames…and the children’s little handmade reindeer and snowflakes! Darcie and Harrison, Colton and Nell…all have their handmade contributions on the big bush. The macaroni and Lifesaver and popsicle stick ones made by Caleb and Hannah in years gone by are there. It’s always the very most meager ornaments shaped by tiny hands that shout our wealth as we put up that tree! 

So it’s over there. It’s propped and tied and hidden and I’m still watering it just like it was pretty.  A hundred people squeezed in around it last Sunday night. We laughed and prayed and ate and drank Coke from old-fashioned glass bottles. (I’m especially glad for the famous  Coca-Cola Santa this year!) And we drank chai tea, and coffee and cocoa and cider and lemonade. And moving around, shoulder-to-shoulder, with my family in Him, I drank in the truth that the Colleys are very rich. It was the best kind of drinking party. 

And 10 other lessons from this year’s tree: 

  1. There is a big difference between a full-grown tree that’s been pruned and one that has not. It’s that way with kids, too. Diligence in cutting away the ugly stuff each year is so important.
  2. Sermons really are way more important than trees and Santa, of course. Priorities.
  3. Just because something is planted on a Christmas tree farm doesn’t mean it’s a Christmas tree. (There’s similar truth about people planted in a church somewhere.)
  4. Just because a big deficiency is temporarily hidden does not mean it has been removed. (Sin is like that, too. You move the big Coke Santa and it’s still there. Everyone else might not see it, but the One who owns the tree knows it’s there.)
  5. Children are the most gracious critics. Maybe that’s why God says we should be more like them. 
  6. Sometimes, the wrong quick decision at the tree farm has consequences that you’re not really comprehending in the moment. (Sin is like that.)
  7. What’s up at the top needs to be substantial, too. (What’s at the top of your world? Is it substantial or flimsy? It’s what people are noticing about you!)
  8. Sometimes just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s good. (Think of lots of entertainment venues, sports tickets, and worldly pleasures here.)
  9. “Natural” is not always better. (Take the “natural man, for instance, from I Corinthians 2:14. Sometimes we need some cleaning up that’s way beyond our nature.)
  10. The best ornaments are not the ones that take the eye of the world. (Remember the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit in 1 Peter 3?…way better than the gold and pearls and costly array.)
Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Pick-up Lessons

I was driving my husband’s recently purchased pick-up truck through a veritable monsoon between Jacksonville, Florida and Columbus, Georgia. I stopped at a McDonald’s in a little town called Dawson, Georgia. The pickings were slim and I needed three things: a fish sandwich, a restroom, and a safe parking lot where I could put my seat back and sleep for fifteen minutes. But when I tried to start the truck after that little nap, the starter wouldn’t even turn over. I had left the headlights on and my battery was dead. 

My husband was in Texas that day recording some material for World Video Bible School, but I caught him via phone just before he began taping. He said my plan to cross that highway on foot and go in that O’Reilly’s and ask them to come and test the battery was a good plan. So I did. The bad news was that they did not have enough employees to spare one for my battery check. I had to turn right back around and cross that highway again, to no avail. “We’ll send somebody over when our courier gets back in a little while.”

So, of course, I crossed back over and did that thing that never helps very much….I worried. Once I got to Columbus, I still had to load and cover some furniture items with a tarp and then make the last leg of my trip back to Huntsville, Alabama before I could sleep that night. It was afternoon already. (…And I really needed to play with the grandchildren in Columbus for a few minutes, too!)

I went inside the McDonald’s. Two old codgers sat there chewing the fat over their afternoon cups of coffee. I thought it might be worth trying, so I said “You don’t have a pair of jumper cables, do you? I left my lights on and I can’t get the auto parts folks to come for another little while.” 

One of them said he did have some and he’d go get his truck and see if we could “start her up.” He uttered a profane word or two, but in a few minutes, I was excited to be ready to roll again. I jumped out of the cab and shut the door to run around and thank these two men one last time before leaving. Just as I did close the door, I heard that familiar electronic sound of power locks. I had just automatically locked my keys, purse, and phone in the truck…and it was running! I ran back around to confirm what I already knew…every door was locked up tight. I looked at one of the old friends. He said, “Ma’am, this just ain’t your day, is it?”

“We ain’t got no locksmith in our town.” (Of course not. Of course, they don’t.) “But the sheriff’s a friend of ours. That’s who we’ll have to call. He might have to scratch up your truck a little.” (Of course he will. Of course he will scratch up my husbands new/old truck on it’s very first trip out of town.)

But, at this moment, I was thankful for my new “cussing” friend and I started a conversation while we waited for the sheriff… about my husband—where he was and what he was doing out in Texas:

“Oh, he’s a preacher, then. Well, where do y’all live?”

“We live in Huntsville, Alabama. My husband preaches  in Huntsville for the West Huntsville church of Christ.”

‘Well, I have a great niece who lives in Huntsville…really in Madison… but I can’t think of her name right now….But what have you been doing all the way down in Florida?”

“Well, my son lives down there and his wife is having a baby. So I took a cradle that my husband made and I worked on the nursery.”

“Well, what does your son do in Jacksonville?”

“He’s a preacher, too. He preaches for the Lakeside church in Orange Park.”

“Well, why are you going to Columbus?”

I thought, at this point, about reserving some information, but these two old men just didn’t seem like perpetrators of injury. So I said, “Well, that’s where my daughter lives. Her husband preaches at the Edgewood church there in Columbus.”

“Well,” he responded, “I ain’t never heard of so much religion in one family.” Then he told me about something he’d watched with emotion on television—about a father being in thankful prayer when his son was saved after being wounded in one of the school shootings. 

I said, “God is so good. I’ve been talking to him several times already today.”

He said, “I bet you have. You’re needin’ to, I believe.”

(I noticed that this kind old man never cursed again. He complained about the heat and humidity. [By now, the rain had given us a short respite.] He complained that his sheriff buddy was off-duty today. He complained about the deputy taking so long. But he never used that colorful language again.)

The deputy did not have the right tool (Of course she didn’t), so we waited a while more for the back-up car to come. I was glad, that if this kind of stupidity on my part was going to emerge, that it did happen in a sweet little town where the back-up patrol was called in for the Jimmy tools. 

I could hardly watch while they did the truck-scratching work. I thought of my husband’s excitement the previous week, as he told me about this new white truck he’d found “without a scratch. Somebody did hit the bumper, so the man just bought a brand new bumper to replace the old one. I mean, Cindy, this truck is pristine. I think I’ll buy this truck.” 

So, instead of watching,  I went inside and bought gift cards for the men who were being so very patient and kind to me. (I did have one credit card in my pocket.) These sweet men tried to refuse the little gifts, but they’d already told me that they eat breakfast together there at McDonald’s, with the sheriff and a few more men, every day, so I knew it was a practical little thank-you gift. I insisted.

Before long I was driving on toward those sweet grand-babies. By now I looked like a homeless granny without a shelter bridge. The driving rain was back with a vengeance. But, you know, grandchildren don’t notice drenched hair or wrinkled clothes. They’re just looking to see if you brought a surprise. So I’d stop and get a frosty just before I got to Wood Duck Lane. But I would not, under any circumstances, kill the motor or get out of the truck. I’d use the drive-through. 

The take-homes:

  1. Worrying really never does avail much. Praying does (James 5:16). 
  2. People often say they can’t help cursing. “It’s just such a habit.” That’s not true. Knowledge is power.
  3. Never close the door on a running vehicle. (especially if you have a child locked inside in a carseat….Can you even imagine?)
  4. There are lots of people who have crusty outsides, yet very benevolent, patient insides. Those people may be good candidates for conversion. some of them have not seen “much religion” and maybe you could show them some. 
  5. Pristine material things will never be pristine for very long, anyway. So don’t sweat it so much when you are forced to help them along to the destined place of rest…the scrapyard.
  6. My husband is the best. His response about the door?…”Well, It’s not really that bad.”
  7. Sometimes you have to tell your husband you scratched up the truck. You should remember that on the days when he leaves his socks on the floor or scatters his popcorn on the rug under his chair.
  8. Good days are relative. You just need to look around (at cancer, at automobile accidents, at children lost to death, etc…) to realize that sometimes when “This just ain’t your day.” it really is very much your day.  
  9. Grandchildren make everything better—the one on the way in Florida and the ones who love ice cream in Georgia. But some of you were already ahead of me on this one. Thank God for them every day. Pray for their heavenward progression every day. Just do not let days go by without praying for each of them by name. 
  10. Son-in-laws are good, too. Mine helped me tie up that furniture, a piece he had re-finished for a family member for Christmas. He then insisted that I was not going to drive home that night without him testing and replacing my battery. (And not even one curse word under his breath.)

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: A Shepherd’s Plea

One  of  my favorite holiday gifts this year was from my brother-in-law, Scotty Sparks. This gift originated with my grandfather, a shepherd in the church for many years in Jacksonville, Alabama. It’s a letter he’d thought about a lot and typed out to send to members of his congregation who had gone astray. Following his death in 1982, the letter ended up in my mother’s hands. She eventually gave it to Scotty at some point in the late 1980’s and, as you will see from Scotty’s note to me, he used it as an outline from which to preach the gospel. Every plea in the letter is just as pertinent to people who walk away from the Lord today as it was to wayward members of the body when it was first penned. I know my “Daddy Duncan” wrote this from a heart of grief at the lost condition of some soul that was under his care. Perhaps he sent it to several. Perhaps, he also preached from this outline.

 

Here are Scotty’s words prefacing the letter he gave me for Christmas:

This is a copy of a letter written by your grandfather, John Duncan, while he served as an elder at Jacksonville. I do not know the year. Your mother, Johnnia, gave it to me while I was at FHU to have as a resource. (She was always giving me good books or material.) I eventually developed this into a sermon. I hope you will overlook my “boxing in” the points. As a college student with a low inventory of sermons and an even lower inventory of dimes for the copier, I simply used the original letter for my notes. Perhaps the precious knowledge that your grandfather’s deep love for souls demonstrated in the words of this document and preached several years after his death to encourage people he would never meet on this side of heaven will compensate for the defacement. 

And here is my grandfather’s letter. If you have walked away from faithfulness, will you think about his words?

Dear brother in Christ,

I am writing this letter not to censure or criticize your any way, but that I may exhort you and cause you to think of what it means to live in a lost condition.

One of the most solemn questions that could be asked of a lost person is:

“What if you should die in your lost condition?”…Terrible thing to think about….Judgment. One day we will have to stand before the great white throne and give an account unto God for the way we live here. We need to read often Luke, the sixteenth chapter, beginning with verse 19; the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and also the other passages of the Scriptures that teach what an awful place hell is.

Another question just as solemn is:

“What if you should live in your lost condition?” At first, that question doesn’t sound to be very solemn at all, but let’s think seriously about what we are doing when we are living in a lost condition.

First of all, we lend support to the forces of Satan against the Lord; fighting, whether we mean to or not, with Satan against the Lord’s cause, because there is no such thing as being neutral in the conflict between Christ and the devil. Christ, himself, said, “He that is not with me is against me.”

Secondly, we will influence others to be lost. not intentionally, of course, but inevitably. As God uses His children to lead others to salvation, the devil uses all others to lead people into sin and to keep each other in sin. Wicked men and women are used to lure some into evil, but some people will not be tempted by them, so, to reach these, Satan must use good and upright people. For example, wives may keep their husbands from being saved; husbands may lead wives to hell; parents may cause their children to be lost; or children may even do the same for their parents. 

Thirdly, we will live a life less abundant than God intended for man. Jesus came to give life more abundantly (John 10:10). A more abundant life includes many things…for example, forgiveness, hope of eternal life versus no hope, hence no fear of death versus a fear of dying; fellowship with Christ versus no fellowship…and many others.

Fourthly, our hearts will become harder (Heb. 3:13). “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” …Hebrews 3: 7,8… “Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, “To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness…” …I Timothy 4:2…”Your conscience will become seared as with a hot iron.”

Fifthly, we will die in our lost condition. It is a mistake–a lie of the devil–to think that we might live in a lost condition  and die in a saved condition. In Numbers 23:10, Balaam wanted to die the death of the righteous, but he had refused to live the life of the righteous. And, if we die in this lost condition, we will be lost eternally. 

In conclusion, if we knew we would die tomorrow, we would want to be Christians, but if we knew we would live to be 110, we should still want to live each day for the Lord. There is one thing worse than dying in a lost condition–and that is living in a lost condition. 

 

My grandfather, to me, was that great friend who took us hiking in the woods in the fall and  fishing in the summer. He was that friend with whom we watched Bonanza on Sunday nights after worship. He was  the friend who went to town on my birthday to buy me the wonderful very hard plastic horse that I  still treasure and the silver necklace with the tiny blue bauble. He is the man who had such a credit rating in this small town that I could go in almost any store in town and pick up whatever he sent me for and simply say, “Put this on John Duncan’s bill.” He could build anything in that garage and he would take me to work with him and let me play on a giant old adding machine on his desk. He taught me to skip rocks and to bait hooks. He was the quintessential grandfather.

But to others, he was more. He did not, to my knowledge, have even a high school education, but he did important things. He faithfully raised two children of his own and three stepsons whose father left them at a young age. He was the progenitor of seven faithful preachers and of six women who married faithful preachers; of three elders in the Lord’s church and of four women who are wives of elders in the kingdom. 

Once, as a child, I enquired about why my grandmother all of a sudden had a lady coming every now and then, to help her do housekeeping chores. I had never seen a maid before and, though my grandmother was kind of ill by then, she was the hardest-working woman I knew. “Well,” she said, “…this lady needed some food and some help with her light bill, so your grandfather told me to try and think of some jobs she could do, so he could help her back on her feet.” I didn’t think so much about that then, but I have thought a little more about it as an adult. It’s a pretty good thing when you can help people without enabling indolence.

The congregation where he worshipped and served is now 99 years old. Next year, as it celebrates its 100th birthday, it will rejoice in the fact that its publication “House to House/Heart to Heart” reaches millions of people around the world annually with the gospel. The congregation will reach thousands who attend its Polishing the Pulpit conferences around our country. Of course, none of this is his doing. It is the doing of our great God who has used lots and lots of ordinary people through the years to keep the work that began with a gospel meeting in the year 1918 by Brother C.H. Woodruff alive in Him for the next 100 years. Each man in Christ is just one little link in a chain of events and lives and opportunities: one chapter in a book that will find its last chapter around the throne. But still, I’m glad for His tiny little part and I’m glad he was my friend.

As I write, I am sitting in the large Houston Cole library (pictured) on the campus of Jacksonville State University. It is one–the last, in fact–of several buildings that my grandfather helped construct on this campus. His secular job was to direct the maintenance operations for this university during several decades of the twentieth century. He was proud of its buildings and grounds and fiercely dedicated to a work ethic and the management of a team of hardworking men. He did not own his own home, but lived in university housing. (That’s me on the porch of that university house with a surprise from under their tree circa 1963.) He did not own his own car, but drove a university truck. His large and productive garden, where I learned how to grow things and what happened to people who didn’t like to work, was planted on university soil. He typed the letter that I am holding on a university typewriter and directed his team from a little university office. His sons would gather in a particular spot in one of the dorms that was acoustically wonderful and sing hymns. I even have a recording of one of those hymn-sings, and those young men were incredibly good for a country quartet. (I doubt that the dorms at JSU are often used for hymn-singing today.)

Now, I know that I am not unique in being able to reminisce about godly influences in my early years. I know that there are congregations all over this world that warm by fires that have been stoked through the years by faithful, yet very ordinary people. I know that my grandfather never once thought about the fact that I might someday sit and reminisce, from this chair, in a building constructed from a blueprint he once held in his hands. But here I am. In the same way, you and I do not know where and how our influence may live in the ensuing decades. But there will be a time and place in which someone will be thinking about me. I will be, to the world, an insignificant name on a grave marker. But to someone, I might be able to make an eternal difference. I hope I can do that for the little souls in my family, Ezra and Colleyanna, and I hope that difference will be for heaven.

My grandfather did not own much as he traversed a tiny little area on this planet. But he owns a mansion now. It would do a lot of people I know an eternally important good if they would heed the words transcribed above from a simple twentieth century shepherd. Can I help you live in a saved condition?

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

7 Pounds of His Grace

13912431_928723135739_3489667227565621351_nDear Father, 

I already knew that You are God, Yahweh, the Great I AM. I am the one who speaks and writes and cries about life in the womb because of the holocaust against it in America today. I should say that I am ONE of the ones, for there are still many and we are unwilling to give up the battle for life to those who routinely burn with saline, rip apart, vacuum out and discard those viable body parts, suffocating those screams before  tiny mouths can open to the air that allows them to cry out for themselves. I am not about quietness when I can be a voice for those whose beating hearts are stopped in brutal and painful ways. 

But, today, Lord, I knew more than ever that Your throne of grace and majesty extends into the darkness of the womb. Help me never to forget what I saw today. I know that You have pushed the pause button on the miraculous, but this morning in that doctor’s office in Montgomery was just about as close to a miracle as I will get before Your mighty trumpet blows. 

My little girl’s little girl was there, as big as life, on that screen. In fact, it was the tiny epitome of life. They told us that she weighs seven pounds and four ounces already and her chubby cheeks evidenced that she’s big and healthy.  Lord, I cannot believe that I saw so clearly that right cheek turn to the side. I’m remembering now that you told us to have cheeks that turn. I pray that she will. It will be painful for me if I ever have to witness her cheek being smitten; yet I know she will experience hurt and people will mistreat her. Help her to turn the other cheek—to show mercy in exchange for cruelty. Help her never to be self-centered or to seek for glory. Help her to defer to the preferences of others. Help me to show her the beauty that comes from a meek spirit.

I saw her little hands in her mouth. It’s tight in there now and she’s just all balled up with her hands against her cheeks and against those tiny lips. Lord, they are Your hands. Those fingers will play instruments or hold a baseball bat or a needle and thread. They will turn pages in all kinds of books. They will turn pages in Your book, Lord. One day some handsome boy will put a ring on that chubby finger that I saw today and her daddy will give that hand in marriage to him. Those sweet hands will roll out dough and pat curly tresses and pick up cheerios and mend socks and fold clothes.  I pray that those little fingers will minister for You, Lord; that they will feel burning foreheads and administer Tylenol…that they will hold other hands beside hospital beds and nursing home rockers…that they will change diapers…that they will change lives by opening up Your Word in Bible studies. May those hands hold Yours. May they be daily folded in prayer and reaching to fill needs. 

I saw that tiny heel that Hannah has been feeling—-that even I can feel— as she kicks against the taut skin on Hannah’s right side. I could count the toes and see that little foot so very clearly. Lord, You made that little extremity so perfectly! May her spiritual feet be just as beautiful. May her feet carry the gospel of peace to the souls around her for all of her days. Help us, as her family, to train her to walk—to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. May we never take it for granted that she will, but help us Lord to be purposeful for the footsteps of her and her brother, Ezra. The devil is purposeful. He is seeking to devour. On some days it seems like he is making it next to impossible for parents to direct the footsteps of little ones in Your ways. But we can do all things through Your Son. May even we, as grandparents, profoundly impact her footsteps to stay in Your narrow way that leads to life. 

She heard me, Father! That little girl responded to my voice. I knew because when I spoke she turned her head toward me and she opened her eyes wide in response! This is the part I could not believe. I said, “She’s hearing me!” The technician responded “Of course, she is!”  So I told her right there that I loved her. I called her “Sweetness” since I do not know her name, and I told her about You, Lord. I just could not help myself. I made her promises. I made them out loud and  I will keep them. I told her I will teach her about Jesus, Your Son, and that I will teach her Your Word. I told her that we love her so much and that we cannot wait to tell her about You! I sang a bit of “Baby Mine” to her and I was overwhelmed at that moment with Your goodness to me. I am just dust, Lord! How can I thank You for a moment like that?! When I was driving those four hours to arrive in time for that ultra-sound after getting those three hours of sleep last night, I have to admit it. My faith was weak. I thought I would see an unrecognizable bit of blur. I saw YOU there, Father, and I will never forget Your grace in letting me see, in her, Your amazing creative power and unrivaled attention to detail. I stand amazed in Your holy presence!

And then, as she turned to look toward us, searching for the sounds, she opened that huge eye as wide as she could, as if to say, “Where ARE you?” And, in that moment, I fell helplessly in love with that little girl…just hopelessly and forever devoted to her well-being. Father, help me, to show her the goodness in this world; the hope that’s still left in this place. Help those beautiful eyes to sparkle and shine and to shed few tears of sorrow.  But most of all, help us to show her the hope and peace that comes from living for You. Help those gentle eyes to witness, with wonder and awe, the pictures and characters in little Bible story books. Help them to record the righteous examples of service around her. Guard her tender eyes from those things that can trap her at an early age. Give her maturity and resolve before the toughest tactics of Satan catch her eyes. As she grows, give her eyes to search for those who may be willing to listen to the gospel, the message of Your salvation. Open her eyes that  they may see those whose needs may really be doors to evangelism. Lord keep her eyes focused heavenward. 

Reflecting back on this day, I can hardly believe You let me do this. Your Words are true: She IS fearfully and wonderfully made! My only sadness is that her grandfather is preaching Your gospel in Kentucky this week and there is no way I can adequately describe this heart-swell to someone who was not in that room!  Help us Lord, her parents and grandparents. If all is as it seems, You are giving her to us in perfect condition. May we work as a team, Father, to give her back to You, through the gift of Your Son, in that same perfect condition. Father, thank-You for today. I cannot wait  to hold her, fresh from Your hands. I cannot wait for her to see my face and to start learning just how much I love her. But, most of all, I can’t wait to show her You and just how much YOU love her. I want her to see Your face!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Caught Praying on the Monitor

13344646_911796716419_9022849487098569765_nCaught on the video monitor the other night, Ezra, who was twenty months old, at the time, was praying. In his own crib, in his nursery, door closed, and darkness gathered round him, he listed his little litany of people , ending with Baxter (his cat) and ended with a simple, but very audible “Amen”.  I know God heard little Ezra, because he’s the God who takes time for the little ones (Mark 10:14). 

What makes a twenty month old talk to God when He’s all alone? You know what does. It’s pretty simple. It’s night after night of “practice”. It’s doing it when he’s not alone each night. It’s story time with parents who know it’s important, for the development of faith in God, to talk to Him every night. It’s intrinsically knowing that, in his daddy’s arms, hands folded talking to God, all is right in his simple little world. That’s why Ezra knows how to pray. That’s why, however simply and trusting, he talks to God when he thinks he’s all alone. 

One day you will think you are alone. There will come a time when you are facing your own alone-ness and darkness. You might not know yet exactly what that darkness will be. It may be the loss of someone you love. It may be that someone you love disappoints you deeply. It may be the loss of your health or wealth. It may be the fall of your freedom or encroaching national enemies. It might be loneliness or divorce or addiction. It might be sin.

When your darkness comes, will you be able to talk to the Father, even from the darkness—when you need Him most? The answer is yes…if, like Ezra, you’ve been talking to Him every day in the light; if you’ve spoken with Him daily from your safe and happy place when surrounded by those you love. 

The simple faith that gives us the solace and strength of prayer in the dark times of our lives is not instantly gained when we need it. It’s developed during the good times. It’s having a relationship with the Almighty that’s constant and secure through the ups and downs of regular and normal days. That’s what gives us the peace and assurance of knowing He hears us when life gets irregular and abnormal…and sometimes even, very nearly, unbearable. I have friends  who use prayer as a panic button. I have other friends who never need a panic button because they’ve got the security that comes with a life time of communication through prayer and Bible study. They deeply understand and cling to the promise of Romans 8:28…that He’s making every day, and even the darkest night, turn into ultimate blessings for them, as His children.   They are secure when they are alone and life is dark, because, like Ezra, they’ve  “practiced” when times were easier and gentler. 

“Amen” is a very comforting word. It means “let it be so”. I’m glad “amen” is in little Ezra’s limited vocabulary. I’m glad he says it already to the One Who transcends everything Ezra will ever learn or know in both majesty and power. But that One is also the One who knows how many little red hairs are on His head (Luke 12:7). He knows his down-sitting and his uprising (Psalm 139:2). He knows Ezra’s litany of loved ones and He even knows His cat, Baxter. Are you talking to the One who loves you that much? You should be living in that kind of sweet security right now. Someday, when night falls, you will very much need the sweet security of prayer. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Mama’s K.I.S.S. #42– Dropping Opportunities

Fiestas_Patrias_Parade,_South_Park,_Seattle,_2015_-_090_-_child_picking_up_candy_(21574028625)-1As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been presenting installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” This is number 42 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to have servant hearts. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

There are so many of these “dropping opportunities” if moms just look around. It helps to start this one way before your kids are big enough to participate. It’s just courtesy, kindness and deference to others and it will come naturally to teach this to your children if you begin practicing this on your own before it’s time to teach them. Just watch for people, especially older people who drop something. Sometimes she knocks items off of a  grocery shelf. Sometimes she inadvertently leaves a coin purse unzipped and coins roll all over the parking lot as she unlocks her car. Sometimes it’s someone younger and her baby drops a sippy cup or a pacifier from the stroller or grocery cart. A grocery list, a walking cane, a pencil, a kleenex, a pair of sunglasses…even a communion cup from a shaky hand—someone is always dropping something and dropping times are stopping times for moms who want to put service in the hearts of their kids. When your kids get big enough, make it a contest to see who can calmly and safely be first to pick up a dropped item for someone while you are out today. Kids who smile and speak (without a reminder) to the person who dropped the item as it’s returned get an extra point. If the returned “stuff” requires “catching and/or gathering” from the ground, that’s another point.

I know. This is common sense. But common sense about courtesy is becoming less and less common as we incorporate our families into an ever busier and isolated world. This is a simple way to help us preserve the vestiges of courtesy in the places where they are precious to Christian families; most especially our homes. 

Finally, all of you, have… a tender heart, and a humble mind. (I Peter 3:8)