Browsing Tag

Heaven

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Looking More Like Home

Tonight, I am not where I want to be at all. I’d like to be in Texas with my husband as he mourns, there, the death of his sister, Laura Jenkins. I’d like to be there, not because it would be enjoyable, in any sense, but because it would be my honor to get to personally listen to the sweet tribute that will be her memorial service and to personally hug her husband and children and her parents who have meant so much to our family though the years. I’ve known Laura, of course, for as long as I have known my husband—over 40 years—and I have laughed harder with her than almost anyone. We laughed so hard that night I went sprawling across the WalMart parking lot in a mammoth fall, my feet right out from under me, sliding across wet pavement for several feet in a monsoon. (I’m still laughing just writing about it, but her laughter always exacerbated mine, particularly if we were in a place in which we were not supposed to be laughing.)  I’ve laughed until I hurt at stories Laura told about ordinary people in her congregation, community or work place, because she could imitate funny people doing outrageous things better than almost anyone I know. I laughed when she wore her Christmas sweater inside-out to an exclusive Christmas event. I laughed when she accidentally gave a very expensive Christmas gift to a friend at a party where she intended to give a pair of socks, because she had wrapped the two gifts (for different people) in identical boxes and placed them in the same closet. She lived, laughed and loved just about as well as anyone I ever knew.   I wanted to be there to see her face one more time, hug her neck and say goodbye to her. I wanted to hear that infectious laugh once more, even if it was quieter and softer. But this time, for reasons over which I had no control, it was not to be. I’m glad Glenn made it to Texas in time to converse with her and to see her smile before she won this battle that all the faithful, one day, will win. I want to be faithful and win like she did. 

I personally know (with amazing precision) the hurt through which her daughter will battle on her way to be with her. I was 33 years old when I lost my mother to the same wretched disease. I think that’s exactly the age of Laura’s daughter, Amanda. My children were the ages of hers. My husband was a minister, like hers. It will not be easy. But it will be bearable because of Calvary’s sting removal. Jesus took away the sting of death that’s hopelessness. An old rugged cross made all things new for Laura. The pain on that hill took her’s away–for good–in the valley of the shadow of death. An empty tomb rolled away that one big stone for millions to come; those who’ve been buried and raised with Him. 

I’m not where I want to be today. But Laura is exactly where she wants to be. I well remember standing beside the grave of her tiny firstborn with Laura and Jeff. Her words have echoed in my heart over and over. She said “But I want to go on to heaven now.” 

While, I’m sure that, with the birth of her daughter and later, her second son, she had strong desires to stay and mold and watch as their lives unfolded (and I’m absolutely positive that her inner Lolli was hoping to watch three beautiful and talented grandchildren all the way to adulthood), she never stopped wanting to ultimately go to heaven. 

 I often thought about my own mother and how that, no matter how much I missed her, how hard the days were when I needed her counsel or her affirmation—affirmation that I was doing okay at things that mattered—I still would never have wished her back. How can anyone wish for the return to life—life with sin and dirt and sickness and pain and tears and sorrow and loneliness—for a loved one who left prepared for the place where nothing’s ever been dirty and no one has ever hurt? ( I sometimes think Lazarus must have been pretty frustrated when Jesus called him back to Bethany.)

Instead of wishing her back, you turn to life again and just start wishing yourself and your spouse and your children to be there, in that sorrow-less place. You start wishing it so much more than you ever did before and you wish it more with every new day than you wished it the day before. Oh, you don’t want to go right now. But you REALLY want to go.  You start wishing it so much that every day is a series of decisions that inch you closer and closer to really being there. Friends turn into souls right in front of your eyes. Get-togethers turn into evangelism. Kids’ tournaments and plays and parties turn into golden chances to teach little hearts Matthew 6:33 in myriads of ways. Houses turn into temporary tabernacles and colors and clutter, square footage and styles start to matter less and less as time goes by. Chance meetings and introductions are open service doors and worship assemblies are vestibules of heaven. You see more clearly the median between the narrow lanes of life and the wide way that leads to destruction and your mother-wings are exercised in keeping children out of, not just the broad way, but even off the shoulder of that road. You are intentional about your kids and heaven and the memory of the one who was so intentional with you is a constant affirmation of your life’s work in little hearts. 

And your daddy. That’s a different story. You want him to be happy so badly that you’ll travel almost any distance to let him put his arms around your kids on any holiday, birthday or any day that ends with “y”. His happiness. You want it, but you can never figure out how to make it happen. Nothing, at least for a while, makes him seem truly content. That’s because His center of contentment has relocated. You keep reminding yourself he’s on his way there, too.  And  you rehearse the comforting truth constantly that, when we don’t know what to do, we serve a God who always does know what to do. You find yourself giving up and giving to Him more often and with more faith than you ever thought could grow in your soul. You pray harder than you ever prayed before. You give your daddy over and over to the care and providence of a God that knows the end of His story and Who is already holding and protecting half (maybe even the better half) of that great man.

And  one day, you wake up and, somehow, you are relieved that some of the hardest pain of life is behind you. You look in little faces and see pretty accurate images of your mother’s characteristics; not necessarily her eyes or her nose or even her expressions, but you start to see her humor, her ingenuity, her selflessness and, most importantly, the faith that made her the silent anchor of so many people all around her. And, in that transfer, your children become the precious commodity that you most want to place in heaven with her. 

By and by, your home starts to look more and more like heaven. It becomes an anchoring moor—a  haven of stability and faith— for kids, then teens, then young adults, and finally, grandchildren– who desperately need those staples in this crazy world. You think about how proud your mom would have been of her grandchildren who are bringing glory to the One who’s taking care of her. You think about others who’ve known and loved your kids—people who’ve died —who just might be over there telling your mother about her grandchildren—about their faith, about their baptisms, about their first little sermons or the way they are influencing others for Jesus.  

She’d be happy to know your home is looking more and more like heaven. But really, heaven is looking more and more like home. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Digging Deep Israel: No Ruins in Heaven

It occurs to me, as I travel on this plane from Nashville to Newark en route to Tel-Aviv, that this Bible Lands tour will be full of ruins. Ironically, the sights I’ve been reading about, spending lots of money to see, and envisioning in my imagination, for these months, can aptly be described by the miserably unfortunate word ruins, the root of which word is what we hope does not happen: to our party or the weather or a good day. We’re always sad when something gets ruined. 

But that’s just what happened to the civilization called Beersheba that we’ll be visiting in a few hours. Once it was the well-watered plain where Abraham planted a Tamarisk tree (Genesis 21), and offered Abimelech seven ewe lambs with an oath or covenant (Genesis 21). It was the place where Jacob offered sacrifices on his way to Egypt (Genesis 46) and the site of the judgment of the wicked sons of Samuel (I Samuel 8). It held peace, security and promise to the patriarchs and justice and judgment to last of the judges. Whatever it was, it was teeming with life and vegetation and war and reckoning. It was the southernmost border of Judah and the general nomenclature for the south of Israel itself in those texts where Scripture reads “from Dan to Beersheba.” 

I’m bursting with excitement to get to see this plain on Tuesday. The fact that anything of the Old Testament Beersheba has long decayed into a state beyond recognition does not make me less interested in seeing it. I think I’ll love it when I get to sit down under the same species of tree that Abraham planted and beside a well that’s in the same vicinity as the well contested by Abimelech.  This is true because, in my imagination, I can paint a picture of those patriarchs—nomads in that same plain under the same sun that will shine down on me. 

Imagination is what we will rely on, in many instances, as we travel the Bible lands, because what’s real today is just a reminder—a ruin of what once was. 

Have you ever thought about the fact that imagination is what we use to view heaven? We can’t see it, as it is, but we can listen to the words of the Bible—mostly about what’s not there (Revelation 21)—and we can imagine how it will be. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing for the past months about the Bible lands. I’ve read passages and I’ve thought about what it must look like. Now I will see. 

One day I will see what I’ve only imagined in this lifetime. I will see heaven; the place where the patriarchs are living right now. Only this time, there will be no ruins. Everything will be pristine and new and current—forever and ever. In fact, I will sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in this place where nothing is ever old or ruined or obsolete. There are no ruins in heaven. It’s the sphere of the incorruptible (I Peter1:3,4). 

I know I’m going to love Beersheba. But this land—literally “well of the sevenfold oath”—will not hold a candle to that other well-watered plain to which I journey…the plain in which I’ll never visit a single ruin. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“Have you ever heard of Green Berry Holder?”

We’ve worshipped together for 15-plus years now. The Mark Holder family has been dear to the Colley family for all of those years. Mark is the deacon in our congregation who keeps our tract ministry going. I love his wife Susan and they have three faithful Christian children now (all of which were very small children when we first moved to work with the West Huntsville church). Mark has a voice that’s James Taylor-esque and it’s every bit as smooth and rich. He and his sweet daughter, Emma, performed together at our West Huntsville holiday party again this year. It’s a highlight for us every time I get to hear them. 

I’d often go to the mailbox when little Katie Holder (she’s in the middle of the photo), Mark and Susan’s oldest, was growing up and find letters written in pencil to our daughter, Hannah, who was about seven years older than Katie…sweet notes forging a friendship that was encouraging to Hannah, giving her a bit of a mentor responsibility to Katie (who is now in grad school, by the way). Katie attended the guest table at Hannah’s wedding. Emma Holder, the youngest daughter of Mark and Susan, is now a college student and, just this week, met me at the church building to give a sewing lesson to a couple of girls in the youth group, so they could complete their Lads to Leaders Keepers projects. Emma is beautiful, talented, and, best of all, faithful to our Lord. Ethan Holder, the youngest of their three children, is active in a busy youth group, loves baseball, and has a dry sense of humor. We love the Holders.

So you can understand, since my maiden name is Holder, how that, fifteen years ago, when we moved to West Huntsville, I quickly tried to determine if there was a relationship between my family and Mark’s. Sadly, our ancestors seemed to be from different areas of the country, and Mark had no knowledge of any links to connect our families. Still though, the Holders, were among our biggest spiritual encouragers. Watching the girls grow from smocked bishop dresses to formals at the senior banquets, watching them graduate from kindergarten and then, seemingly the next week, from high school and, one of them, even from college, has been a surreal witnessing of the quick and sweet evaporation of childhood. 

And then, one Wednesday night, this year, Mark came up to me and said “Now, have you ever heard of Green Berry Holder?”

Well, “Green Berry” is not just a name you’d find multiple times in a genealogy search. It’s not like Mike, Jeff, or James on a document or a tombstone, of course. He had my attention as I replied, “Yes. Green Berry Holder is my great-great grandfather, and there can’t be but one Green Berry Holder…”

“And he is MY great-great grandfather, too,” Mark said. 

And so we are cousins. Our common ancestor is only four generations back. Green Berry Holder was married to Mary Rhodes and they were the parents of twelve children, one of which was Jabus, my great-grandfather, and one of which was Josiah, Mark’s great-grandfather. Records indicate that Josiah was the firstborn and just a year or so older than Jabus.  The brothers  and the rest of the family had some hard times while their father, Green Berry, served in the Alabama Infantry during the Civil War. It was after he fought in several battles that he was wounded near Atlanta in the Battle of Peach Tree Creek and returned home.

It was wonderful fun for me to find out that Mark’s great-grandfather grew up with mine during those days prior to and during the war between the states. It’s fun to think about how many colloquialisms we might share in our speech or what similar genetic traits might still influence our kids due to our common ancestors, Green Berry and Mary. It’s fun to talk about the stories of individuals on the family tree and to think about how my grandfather, who often held me on his knee when I was a very young child, had likely known Mark’s grandfather and maybe had mourned his recent passing, even though Mark’s grandfather was living in Tennessee at the time of his passing.

Most of all, I’m extremely blessed to think about how it is that each Sunday, Mark and I sit in the same room and sing praises to our Father, even though our branches of the family tree came about knowing His truth in very different ways. My grandfather, John Franklin Holder, learned the truth and became a faithful man of God. I am not sure when or where he learned the gospel, but I know he was a member of the Lord’s church by the time the family lived in the  sweet old Peaceburg community in the early part of the last century. One of my siblings has the original bell that rang when it was time for the services in that little building. Mark, on the other hand, is a first-generation member of the church of Christ. He first attended with a classmate in college and searched on his own, finding the way to lead his family to heaven. 

As much fun as it has been to discover an earthly kinship, the truth about family is not lost on me. What I love most about the Mark Holder family did not deepen or change or evolve when I learned that we descended from the same great-great grandfather. It’s the heavenly Father who gives us the characteristics that make us close. It’s not the facts that you find on ancestry.com that provide your truest kinship. It’s the spiritual ancestry…the fact that we are spiritual children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7).  That kinship makes us most similar in priorities, goals and matters of the heart. It’s not what you find on a tombstone somewhere; it’s the connection to our final and real resting place around the throne. It’s not what you find of good or bad  (and we have found both) in the lives of the people on the tree. It’s the good (the complete and perfect good) we both have found in that man on Calvary’s tree that gives us the precious family that means the most in this life. 

I’m eternally grateful for the man on my family tree who first contacted the blood of Jesus. I’m thankful for the one who first invited Mark Holder to study the scriptures. Most of all, I am thankful for the family tree…the one at Calvary…that makes us blood kin in the primary and eternal sense of the word “family.”

As I studied Green Berry Holder, I found that the words below are inscribed on his old tombstone in Jacksonville, Alabama:

I have fought a good fight

I have finished my course

I have kept the faith

I hope to go and see that stone in the very near future. May Mark and I be able to confidently say these same words on another glad day that’s also inevitably in the very near future!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“Sweep in Heaven Peace”

Matthew 25 is one of those rare passages containing a glimpse into the world beyond this one. The curtains of the judgement scene are pulled for a few brief verses and we are clearly taught from those judgment verses that, when we do good things for the brethren, we are doing them, in essence, for the Lord. 

So, on the way to the crisis pregnancy center, where my daughter was volunteering on that Thursday morning, she explained to her kids that, when Ezra and Colleyanna were in the playroom that she would be attending (a place where siblings, of mothers who were being encouraged NOT to abort their unborn children, would be entertained and watched) that they would be doing an important job. She explained that they would be helping mothers learn how to be better mothers and take good care of their babies; that it’s a great day because they would actually be doing something for Jesus. Ezra, who is four, took the job seriously.

Following their time at the pregnancy center, they headed to Chik-Fila, where they were meeting my son-in-law, Ben, and their friend, Carina, to study the Bible. Hannah told the children about the importance of the Bible study and that, when they were playing nicely during the study, they really were getting to do yet another thing for Jesus. 

The best part of the day was yet to come. At the conclusion of the study, Ben told their sweet friend that he and Hannah were always available should she decide she wanted to be baptized into Christ. She responded “Could I just do it right now?”

In their excitement to take her to the water, Hannah hurried the kids into the car and began to explain to them that Carina was going to be baptized for the remission of her sins. From the back seat, Ezra smiled a huge smile and said “You mean we get to do something for Jesus AGAIN?”

It had been a long and full and very blessed day. On the way home, the radio was playing “Silent Night.” Hannah was thinking about other things (good things) and didn’t even notice the song on the radio until she heard the little voice again from the back seat:

“I wuv this song. You know why? Because it says, ‘sweep in heaven peace’ and Carina gets to go to heaven now. I think this is a God song. A God song for Carina.”

May you and I have that heart…a heart that loves getting to do things for Jesus…a heart that wants “heaven-peace” for people in a troubled world… a heart that wants a “God-song” for all the people who could use His music in their lives!

 

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

Sister to Sister: Could I Please Be in that Club?

Last night we, Glenn and I, flew into Boston. It was around midnight when we landed and there had been only one half-hour delay. Glenn commented as we were headed to the rental car desk, “Well, that all went fairly smoothly. Good flights…and paid for with frequent flyer miles, so this is all good.” 

He did not know that the “fairly smoothly” was about to turn into a “middle-of-the-nightmare” that would finally land us in our bed in Wakefield, MA at around 3:30 a.m. There was no car, though payment had already been made. Options were to take Uber and then come back the 27 miles tomorrow via Uber to get our car, or call Delta and try and get them to switch to a different car company since we had booked through Delta, or just wait—maybe an hour-and-a-half or so— till the car company had someone else to return a car. 

We picked the call Delta option; only we got an answering service that said the phone wait time would be, minimally, an hour. So, next, we picked the wait for a car option. I sat there in the giant lobby of a deserted car rental terminal while Glenn went away somewhere, disappearing down an escalator. Since my phone was dead, I was not sure where he was going. I later found out he was going out into the thirty-degree weather, sans coat of any kind, to stand in a long line of people who, like us, were waiting for someone to bring back a car. People were saying, “Oh, it doesn’t matter at this point that I rented that Mustang convertible. I’ll take whatever that is driving up. A Kia compact?….Fine!”  And that’s exactly how Glenn felt, too. After all, even that little Hyundai that we finally drove away had a heater.

And then there was the thirty-minute wait at the drive-off window while the people tried to figure out how to honor the voucher Glenn had been given because they didn’t have the car. When they found out that the desk, back in Iceland, had failed to give Glenn the required rental switcheroo paperwork, they were not going to let us drive away. The GPS ETA  to our hotel clicked on to well past 2:30 a.m. Then, once we were on the freeway, there was the night time construction work. The more we drove, it seemed the later the ETA. Parking places were at a premium at the hotel at 3:00 am, but, thankfully luggage carts were a-dime-a-dozen.

As I lay there in that warm bed, one little insignificant scene kept playing through my mind. The tall man with the grey mustache in the long khaki trench coat. He came bustling through the terminal, brief case in hand, saying to his friend, “I’ll get the car. It’s a Hertz…and I’ll meet you at the curb.”

They were only a few feet from me, so I thought maybe I could save him the trouble. I said, “But Hertz doesn’t have any cars.”

“Oh, they’ll have mine,” he said. “I’m in the President’s Club. It’ll be there.”

Never in my life have I wanted to be in the President’s Club so badly. I wondered how much it costs to be in that club. Can people borrow membership in that club from other people? Can you get a membership on the spot?

I looked to see if my phone had charged enough to text my husband. I texted “A man came through and he said they do have cars for people in the President’s Club.”

Glenn shot back “He was right.” 

So I’m thinking now about the most rewarding “in group”…the “in Christ” group. There’s a  very small percentage of the world’s population that has met every requirement to have the ultimate reservation ( I Peter 1:4); the reservation that’s absolutely certain to provide. It’s foolproof. This “in group” can be confident, just like the man in the long trench coat. There’s no exclusivity based on externals or wealth. It’s simply exclusive of those who failed to accept the benefits of the blood of Jesus, for without the blood there can be no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22).  The benefits include all spiritual blessings, and redemption and forgiveness of sins (Ephesians1). They include the waiver of due condemnation (Romans 8:1) and the opportunity for eternity with God in heaven. Membership gives the ability to say, with confidence, “Oh, mine will be there. I’m in Christ. I’m in the church that has a full assurance about the reservation.” I’d love to help you be in this church. Romans 6:3,4 says we contact the blood, the requirement for entrance, in baptism. Are you a candidate for membership? I’d love to talk with you about the benefits…straight from and in the very words of the Holy Spirit.  You will, like me in that airport, (times a billion and more) wish you were in this group when the time comes to redeem all of the ultimate reservations. I love being in the sure group. It’s not a haughty thing to be sure. It’s a trusting thing.