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Heaven

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Zig-Zag

How about we start a new week?  And for mine, I’d like to stay at home for 24 hours straight at least once in the coming week. I went from Huntsville to Dallas, Texas to Huntsville to Chattanooga, Tennessee to  Corinth, Mississippi, to Memphis, Tennessee to Huntsville to Chattanooga to Huntsville to Chattanooga to Huntsville between the last two week-ends. If anyone looked at a map with this trajectory, she’d say I zig-zagged my week away! She would be right. 

Sometimes it seems that way spiritually and mentally, too. When schedule obligations collide with time limitations—when unexpected and close-to-catastrophic events are suddenly added to an already minute-to-minute schedule, we adapt a survival mode that’s nothing like normalcy. (We go places without combing our hair. Pajamas are okay for Dollar General. Brushing our teeth takes about 20 seconds. We thank God for fast food that we try to avoid , otherwise. When cleaning for company, we say “Oh well, it’s just a cabin; not the Ritz.”  If holes and dirt and stains are hidden on the little people we are dressing—or if they can be—then we pretend they are not really there.) We’re just trying to get through things—funerals, procedures, croup, ear infections, stomach flu, ladies days,—in one piece and with lots of prayer, albeit prayer often spoken while moving quickly. 

About that zigging and zagging. I think a lot about how to combine or even avoid trips to the same proximity. But, despite best efforts, my life map looks like a child’s scribble back and forth in the same spot on a piece of messy paper. Thinking about this last night, I realized that it’s often the zig-zag here on earth that makes the straightest line toward heaven. It’s the going back and forth from crisis to crisis on this planet that best prepares, tests and grows me toward a perfect place of stability and rest. Sometimes the zig-zag is the direct route to peace. 

These earthly routes are tests. (Sometimes I know my “grade” is not a passing one. So thankful for grace.) Going over and over the same ground in my little world is preparation for rest in His big world. He never meant for me to be “at home” in this life. (Good thing!) He’s placed me in the perfect realm for testing. He gives me the scenarios that give me choices. His Holy Spirit said as much in James 1:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Can I keep doing the ‘next right thing’ even when it becomes extremely challenging, physically and emotionally? Can I say with confidence that I’m going to be okay through this survival mode, no matter how long it lasts, because He is my strength and refuge…the ever present help, no matter where I am on the zig-zag (Psalm 46)? Can I even treat other people with kindness and generosity, when I’m feeling like someone or some ones are not being kind to me? All the angst of the zig-zag is to be expected. The way of life is constricted. The gate is narrow and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:14). I’ve got an idea that most of those who do, will have done some zig-zagging in survival mode. 

Life is ultimately a test. The quicker we learn that reality, the easier the trials will be. My focus must be passing the tests of my faith; the short-term challenges that will, in one eternal day seem like nothing. The trials are but for a moment, and we should praise Him that we are being “processed” for heaven through them!

One last thing. Have you ever thought about the fact that Job never knew about that day that God encountered the devil and said “Have you thought about my servant Job?” (Job 1)? Job did a lot of zig-zagging from that point on in his life. He went over and over and over exactly why all of this was happening. He walked into doubt and back again, several times. He walked into the valley of the shadow of death and back again, with multiple loved ones. He walked into extremely poor health and back again. He walked into frustration with those who were his accusers, and back again.

Through all of His changes, Job knew that God had none. When I can come to understand this, the zig-zags of this life will not be wasted on me. They will be purposeful, even powerful, in the deliverance of His grace. 

Job 23:13-14 – “But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back?  What He desires, that He does.  For He will complete what He appoints for me, and many such things are in His mind.”

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Living Influence of a Great-Great Grandmother (and of some in-between)

Last weekend, we celebrated Colleyanna’s birthday. It was a fun time at Serenity and, although there were just a half-dozen of us gathered in the dining room, Colleyanna could not have loved it more if we’d been in the presence of royalty at Buckingham. She and her siblings were excited from the moment they woke up in the morning till the moment the last game was played before bedtime. 

The last game before bedtime was a game of “house”.  Max (Ezra) was my husband and I was Lilly.  Our “house” was the master bedroom.  I worked at a restaurant (my kitchen…that work was real) and Max raced a motorcycle. Our next-door neighbor, Snowdrop (Colleyanna..she’s always picking a name with flair), was always dropping by, uninvited, and bringing her cat, Oreo. (It’s funny how there was more than one  new board game and more than one toy received at the birthday party, but their favorite game, by far, was still the one that just involved people and pretending (and not those toys). 

As I was thinking about the half dozen years that Colleyanna has been on the planet, it was not lost on me that last weekend also marked the birth of someone else who, not so long ago in the grand scheme of things, was left alone with three children between ages one and seven. She was left to have to find childcare for her children while she worked hard to make ends meet in a tiny little house. She was, though under great duress, a woman of great faith and prayer. She was resourceful. And her children were blessed.  

That woman was my grandmother (Colleyanna’s great, great grandmother) and her birthday was last weekend, too. Born on September 10th, 1898, she was, when she left this life in 1980, Mattie Lee Louise Abernathy Smith Duncan. That’s a lot of name for such a humble and meek woman of God.  She taught me how to play house, and rock school and hop-scotch and she could make a doll out of a handkerchief and a chalice out of gum wrapper.  She took me to beautiful springs that bubbled out of a rocky hillside near the graves of some of our ancestors.  She was the one in that lineage who came to know and obey the gospel first. Converting her second husband to the Lord, all told, she (they) raised two faithful gospel preachers, an elder in the Lord’s church, another son and my mother, who was one of the greatest examples of Christianity I’ve ever known. All of those five children, to my knowledge, died as faithful Christians. 

Two of those children were profound influences on my spiritual development. How does one ever overestimate the power of motherhood in the molding of a soul for heaven? My mother’s power in my life is, even now, strong and vast. But one of the preachers my grandmother raised, Bobby Duncan, was the local preacher in the church in which I grew up. He baptized me and I am quite sure I do not even fully know the extent to which he shaped my love of the Word and my desire to serve God. That shaping is palpable every time I take out the Word to study. 

I often remember specific things Bobby Duncan said when I am studying a particular topic or text. I love the fact that my husband was blessed to “inherit” the preaching files of my uncle Bob. In my basement there is a file cabinet that is more valuable to both of us than any material treasure he could have ever left behind. He wrote almost every sermon in very complete outline form, though he never read his sermons. He had them so very well-learned by the time of delivery that  no one would have known that much of what he said rested on the pulpit in front of him. Here are a few samples of quotations I’ve recently read from his files in that cabinet: 

On the faith: “The faith is constantly under attack. It is under attack by the forces of atheism, agnosticism, existentialism, liberalism, anti-ism, radicalism, and every other “ism”. The gospel cannot defend itself against these attacks. It has no voice of its own. It must utilize our voices for its defense. I have about as much respect for one who would stand idly by and watch a defenseless old lady get mugged, and not lift a hand to defend her, as I have for a gospel preacher who will stand idly by while the faith is being attacked , and not say a word in its defense (Phil. 1:17). We must contend for the faith.”

On marriage, divorce and remarriage: “Brethren, let’s not be stricter than the Lord was in these areas. When a man puts away his wife for fornication, and marries another woman, he only has one wife. We ought not to penalize that man for doing what the Lord said he could do (Matthew 19: 9; 5:31-32)  When a man puts away his wife for a reason other than fornication, then he is living in adultery and should not be utilized in the services of the church, but should be forewarned and disciplined.’

On adultery:  “Well, what is to be done about the sin of fornication? What is to be done to obtain forgiveness? If one is guilty of the sin of fornication, then what is he supposed to do? Of course, if a person is not a Christian, in order to be forgiven of any sin, he has to obey the gospel of Christ. He has to hear the gospel and believe it, repent, confess, and be baptized. But now notice, repentance means getting out of sin. It means giving up the sinning business. If a man is a thief, he has to quit thieving. If he is a bootlegger, he has to quit bootlegging. That is what repentance involves. If he is committing fornication, then he has to quit committing fornication. And that would involve that adultery that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 19:9 where it says ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife except it be for fornication and shall marry another committeth adultery.’ If a man is in an adulterous relationship, when he repents, that means he has to get out of that relationship. He can’t just keep on committing sin and get God’s forgiveness.”

On taking the name of God in vain: “Technically, what does it mean to take the Lord’s name in Vain? 

  1. It means to use God’s name to back up a lie.
  2. In Isaiah 59:4 “They trust in vanity and speak lies….”
  3. The word “lies” is the same Hebrew word “shav” translated “vain” in Exodus 20:7.
  4. (Hosea 10:4  “They speak vain words, swearing falsely in making covenants…”
  5. (Exodus 23:1) “Thou shalt not take up a false report; put not thy hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.” 
  6. To take the Lord’s name in vain means, therefore, to use the Lord’s name to back up a falsehood or a lie.”

What I love about studying these files is that there’s no mincing of words. I love that he was bold and compassionate, powerful and plain, rich and relevant. (What he wrote 40 years ago still helps me make practical decisions.)

What I also love is that I know it was the power of the gospel that touched the heart of a young woman, married at 15 in 1913 and deserted by an adulterous husband by the time she was in her early twenties—It was the power of the gospel in a broken heart that indirectly gave me sound teaching through this great man of God. Taking in washing and ironing, working at the cotton mill just to survive with three small children, my grandmother put something in three  hearts that led them all to respond favorably to the gospel when presented with it. She then met and married my grandfather and she (and others who helped her), led him to the Lord eventually, too, along with the two children they had together. They led some of my grandfather’s family members to the Lord. In the end, there have been about 20 faithful ministers (in various capacities) and elders, who are descendants of or who married descendants of this praying woman.  I could have quoted from several of them, who have written various works. I chose the one who has impacted my life most deeply (except for Glenn, of course.)

Just marvel with me at this simple woman’s legacy. She’s still speaking through her children’s children. If you find yourself in a place of challenge—even brokenness; if you find yourself feeling hopeless or alone, remember 20 elders and preachers/ministers in the kingdom from a destitute mother of three. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. Be empowered by it, for it is the “power of God to salvation”(Romans 1:16).  It’s the power of God to salvation to the single mother who is doing all she can to put heaven in the hearts of her children. It’s the power of God to salvation to the child who is growing up in a world in which the devil is fighting hard for his soul. It’s the power of God to eventual salvation for the little girl who is turning six and pretending to be “Snowdrop” just as it was for her great-great grandmother who was “pretending” with three young children in a shotgun house in the mill village in Jacksonville, Alabama in the early twentieth century. 

If you are doing hard things for Him, you may be doing more for His glory than you can imagine! Pray for the little souls in your charge and keep your eye on the goal! I’m keeping the faith!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Fond PTP Memories

It’s six days till the official beginning of PTP. I remember once hearing brother Windell Winkler say that PTP founder Allen Webster is the single most creative man he’d  ever met. My husband and I concur and just keep being amazed . Between his tracts that have influenced thousands, his dream that just kept growing for this powerful gathering that has strengthened the church in large ways worldwide, and the impact of the publication called House to House, Heart to Heart, it almost certainly has to be said that more people have learned the gospel though his work than through the work of any man living in this century; perhaps more than through any man since the first century. This is not to detract from the hard work and amazing talents of the other directors, etc… but the imagination for the instruments we see is from God through our brother Webster. I know it is because the focus of each of these gospel-sharing tools is the Word and the cross. There’s never any sought glory for any man or even any congregation. I hope you are taking advantage of opportunities through Door-knocking day 2022 (https://nextdoor.housetohouse.com) or the Great Smoky Mountain Marriage Retreat (https://smokymountainmarriage.com), through one of the Spark programs (https://polishingthepulpit.com/spark/), or through PTP 365 (https://watch.polishingthepulpit.com). You will be better prepared to share the saving message. 

In honor of the very exciting week ahead, here are 10 favorite little memories that we carry from this great gathering.They are not the largest thing we take-away, of course—that would be spiritual growth that we need so desperately in this old world.  

I hope you’re coming. 2019 was too long ago. I pray we never have to skip another year!

  1. Each newly-walking grandchild walking across the stage in the interim between lessons. (We just want to get their steps going in the right direction.) We’re praying fervently that they will all be faithful all of their lives.
  2. That one year when  the audio tech got criss-crossed and my husband introduced my son, saying he would lead the opening prayer. Caleb opened his mouth at the microphone and his mother’s voice came blaring forth from a ballroom down the hall. 
  3. The first year there was a women’s program and we had just 12 or so women and Hannah was THE whole entire children’s program. Wow! We have been blessed in the interim since those days. 
  4. The eclipse of 2018. The way we got to witness that phenomenon together.
  5. That year (2011) that I did four little lessons about Digging Deep that, unbeknownst to me, would turn into a 12-year in-depth study of Scripture by women around the world. What in the world?!  God never stops amazing and blessing. 
  6. That year when Digger Doug napped in our hotel room and somehow children found out and kept coming to our door to politely ask for a photo with him.
  7. Maggie’s first birthday party at PTP.
  8. Tonja McRady or Vicky Yocum playing a fruit of the Spirit game with Colleyanna  and Ezra while babysitting them during her parents’ “single-mingle.” Colleyanna said : We can’t play with that “Goodness!” piece because that is a word we cannot say. 
  9. Finding my Dickson in the Sevierville church sound room after its being missing for two years!
  10. That sweet year when we honored my dear friend and brother William Woodson, but he slipped from the bonds of this earth before the date of the celebration. Oh, what an alternative honor and celebration. I love the happy reunion of PTP, but how I hope I can attend THE reunion!

I hope you’re coming. Your memories will be yours. But they will be just as precious!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

All I Need.

He’s my refuge, sword and buckler

He’s my rock and He’s its cleft.

He is enough—sufficient

When there is nothing left. 

 

He is promises delivered 

He is future victories won

He can pity like a Father 

Empathizing like the Son.

 

Bearing burdens till He lifts them

He stays near till struggles cease

With His own He condescends to dwell

Exchanging fear for peace. 

 

I cannot comprehend this love

When I am so undone

I cannot fathom boundless grace

For me, the filthy one.

 

But certain can I be of it

There’ll be no fitful tossing

As I approach the end of time 

And face the Jordan’s crossing.

 

I’ve laid the hands of those I love

In His, at end of day.

I, too, can grasp that gentle hand

And quietly fly away.

 

Angels, then dispatched for me

Will give my soul protection

Guiding me to “things above”

On which I’ve set affection.

 

Praying, praising, pleading more

The vigil I will keep. 

Till my spirit takes its journey

And my body lies in sleep.

 

He’s my refuge, sword and buckler

He’s my rock and He’s its cleft.

He is enough till one sweet day

On gentle wings —-I’ve left.  

c. colley

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sally Went Home.

A couple of years ago, many readers sent cards to a small church in Vermont; cards of encouragement, through a rough season for an often snow-bound community. As your letters were delivered, one of the families to which a delivery was made, had a house guest named Sally. Jason Floyd, the minister who was making delivery runs, began to study with this house guest. In time, we gained a beautiful sister in Christ. (You can read about Sally’s conversion here: https://thecolleyhouse.org/wp-admin/post.php?post=14214&action=edit.) Then later, we got the good news that Sally’s son Roger, had also been added to the body of Christ. We rejoiced together with these family members we ‘d never met.
Today, we got this news from the Floyd family, which works with this church in Bennington, Vermont. Sarah Floyd, thank you for letting us know and we will keep praying. Heaven will surely be worth it all!
Oh, Christian ladies, do some of you remember your card ministry to the members of my little congregation in Vermont? When you flooded my lonely brothers and sisters with hundreds of encouragement cards throughout that awful spring of 2020? And then, thanks to your ministry, my husband met a lady named Sally, who was baptized later that year? And then, in April of this year, her son was also baptized? (Cindy Colley has told the story beautifully on her blog.)
Well, those cards have quite literally brought someone to Jesus today, sisters. Sally left this earth this afternoon after a months-long health battle that included a wound that wouldn’t heal, sepsis, congestive heart failure, and internal bleeding. She isn’t suffering for the first time in her 65 years…she was born with a heart defect and wasn’t expected to survive childhood. And we wouldn’t have known she existed if y’all hadn’t sent those wonderful cards.
Thank you to all of you who participated and prayed. Please keep praying for her son Roger, her daughter Michelle, and the rest of her family, and for our little church, and for my husband, who will be preparing to preach his first full funeral at some point soon.
We never know what kind of eternal influence a small gesture may have on a single soul. Sometimes the influenced soul may not even be the target of the good will. Sometimes the positive reaction may be delayed. Frequently the  giver is not even aware of the good that’s been done by the gift. But someone is with Jesus now, in part, because you took the time to send a card. I’m very thankful to be in this group with sisters who love the Word, souls who need it, and Jesus!
Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Last Check on this Account (An account that has done some eternally important things.)

A page from one of many scrapbooks

It was 1993. We were quickly changing nine-year-old Caleb Colley (3rd grade) from his traveling shorts and t-shirt to a plaid coat and navy pants, blue saddle shoes and a big-boy-tie, right there in the Presidential Lobby parking lot in front of the Opryland hotel in Nashville.  He had his Bible, marked and in hand, ready to go to a conference room and read his scripture. (We had no clue how many hours in our lifetimes we would spend wandering around looking for our destination in that hotel!) He was more nervous than he ever gets now even answering cold questions from the floor. But it was his beginning in Lads to Leaders. Later that weekend, he would lead “Victory in Jesus” in a boiler room where we all strained to hear what any of the boys were leading, and he would deliver a five-minute speech from memory in a science classroom on the campus of David Lipscomb High School. It was the good old days before there was a Delta in the hotel (but there was a giant theme park next door!), before there was an app to help you find your way, before there were hospitality suites or even Staxx burgers, when many events still had to be held off-site, before there were yellow and green divisions of Lads in Nashville (much less a white division for the big years) and before there were other Lads conventions anywhere! People who knew the importance of encouraging a little boy to hone his leadership skills for the glory of God had made road trips to hear that five minute speech. That little speech was the genesis of a preaching life that would influence people in lots of places to His glory. (His glory is the whole purpose.) That weekend, for our little family was a small “victory in Jesus.”

And Hannah was five. She was just beginning her little pre-school trek on that amazing Lads to Leaders journey. When we, as a family committed to earning our first “Centurion of Scripture” well before Hannah was able to read, little Hannah said to me one day, “I do not wike this game!”

I replied “Hannah, why do you not like this game?”

“…Because I cannot wead.”

It was hard for a little girl to learn 100 verses when she couldn’t study them in the pages of her Bible. And, thus, Hannah’s Hundred was born. At first, we just made up catchy little tunes with which Hannah could memorize her verses. But soon, others wanted copies for their kids. Before we knew it, we were in a tiny radio station sound room singing into microphones and we were traveling to a little production company to have hundreds of copies on cassettes, then CDs and finally digitally transmitted copies. They are cheesy little tunes that will get stuck in your head. They certainly required no talent. But they get stuck in your kids’ heads, too–along with the words! You can find the digital copies here: www.thecolleyhouse.org/store

In this process, Caleb and Hannah came to know and love Dr. Jack Zorn, founder of  the greatest youth leadership program in America (https://www.lads2leaders.com), and his sweet wife, sister Frances Zorn, too. Caleb imitated brother Jack’s signature thumbs-up and he could impersonate his familiar “NOW!” whenever he asked anyone to do something immediately.  Hannah rushed to get her yearly photo with him for her Lads scrapbook.  As teens, both kids developed teen study programs for Lads to Leaders, called GIFTS (the girls’ program) and GUARD. When Hannah went to that board meeting with her new GIFTS program to seek approval, she was a nervous 16-year-old. But her friend, Dr. Zorn, was there. He was the ultimate    Barnabas for her.  Caleb and Hannah had a little part in developing the Keepers and Providers programs and both attended Freed Hardeman University applying scholarship money awarded through the program. Lads just became very central to their spiritual development. The impact the program had on both Caleb and Hannah was and is yet, profound. Through the years their appreciation of Brother Zorn deepened as experience and maturity taught them the value of those early, nervous years in Lads to Leaders.

Both Caleb and Hannah now have children in the program.  It’s a privilege for Glenn to serve on the board of directors and it is so much fun to encourage churches to launch their programs and mentor kids in our home congregations.  We had no idea that day as we entered that grand lobby that we were walking through a life-changing door. We are thankful for the tool that Lads to Leaders is to our family and to thousands of families seeking to secure their tribes on the Rock of Ages! It’s clear that Lads cannot mold kids; it takes homes to do that. But it can facilitate that process in tangible ways.

Sister Zorn’s last trip to an area congregation was when she traveled to the congregation where Hannah’s family worshipped to meet our first grandchild (with her daughter, Rhonda, who cares deeply and serves with great dedication.) Hannah was humbled and encouraged that she was there in this, yet another, genesis in her life.

But the envelope that Hannah got in the mail last week was just about the sweetest piece of mail of her life. Rhonda and Halo Fernadez, the caretakers of the Zorns during their final years, have been patiently settling the estate and paying the bills from brother Zorn’s checking account. (I might add that this account was not always bulging through the early lads years. I think brother Zorn ended up mortgaging his home on more than one occasion to make the convention happen.) At the end of the laborious, but sentimental bill-paying and settling, the remainder in the account was $213.65. This last check in the account of Dr. Zorn was made out to Hannah Giselbach, in the amount of $213.65. Not too many of us will have “last gifts” from any of our greatest heroes in this temporary world; especially from heroes who have already gone on into the permanent pavilion of bliss and rest. But I’m telling you this: There was no greater, more needed, more hugely encouraging gesture in this whole world than what that girl found in her mailbox that day. She’s so touched that she doesn’t know whether to frame it or cash it! (She’s hoping the bank might let her do both!) This was a complete surprise from friends (Rhonda and Halo Fernadez) with whom Hannah had no conversation about any trial, whatsoever. She did not even know that Rhonda knew she was struggling in any way. But she wept and then she wept some more. (And Rhonda later told her she could buy shoes with the money. Notice the pic!)

I will reiterate. There are no better people on the planet than those in the body of Christ. There’s no better support group than faithful Christians in the lives of your children. There’s no better parenting tool than the Lads program. There’s no more valuable encouragement in dark days than the amazing compassion of humble Christians who “get” the words of our Lord in Matthew 25. When you become “the least of these, my brethren” (and really, all of us are) you know the power of compassion. I want to be better. I hear a lot about “eyes wide open” these days. It usually refers to political and social awareness. I want to be better about keeping my eyes wide open to opportunities to be “on the right” in the Matthew 25 way. I want to be a sheep. I’m profoundly thankful for the sheep all around me. The righteous will answer in that day “When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and in prison?” It is the King who will answer them and his judgment words will be ” Come ye blessed and inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” I want to hear that sweet voice. That’s the one inheritance that’s even better than the one in the mailbox!

You can watch Hannah’s first little speech here:

https://www.facebook.com/cindy.colley/videos/1127858841095002