Browsing Tag

Lee Holder

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Three Doors…Oh, for a Morning Like This Again!

I have some difficult things to do today. Really hard things. As I’m getting ready to go and do them, I’ve come across my notes from another weekday morning five years ago. I pray that I will see open doors today–  doors d. This was worth remembering….

SISTER TO SISTER: THREE DOORS

14481964_10153793830326384_7614171791050123724_oThese days, my siblings and I are spending more time than ever at my Dad’s house in Jacksonville, Alabama. I love being there, though the stretches away from hearth and home and husband make me wish I could be in two places at once. And there’s Waffle House. I love the way the servers (Dad calls them “nurses”….He has always called waitresses “nurses”.) are so very attentive to him. They start cooking his meal and setting his steaming coffee on the table when they see our car drive up. They open every little plastic container of creamer or jelly for him when they bring them to the table, knowing that his arthritic hands have difficulty pulling the tiny tabs to open them. Like I said, there’s lots to love about that kind of service. And the food is good…once…or twice…or even three times a week. But that many times a day is a bit much for my palate, not to mention my calorie count. 

Still, it’s not really about me at this stage. It’s about taking him where he would go all by himself, if he could, since we are really trying hard to get him not to be going places all by himself. It’s about a lot more than food these days. Sitting by the window in Waffle House watching the JSU world revolve outside the window with my sweet 94-year-old father is capital fun for me. We watch kids walking dogs and policemen pulling over cars and reflections of what all’s happening at the Grub Mart in the back glass. I show him pictures of his great grandchildren on my phone and he marvels at all the game scores, driving distances and names of famous athletes that I can call to his memory by a simple search on such a small device. The man who waited for the automobile to become a common mode of transportation marvels as I explain to him what exactly is a podcast and how women can interact during a podcast discussion—women from all over the world. 

So last Wednesday morning as he laboriously climbed the stairs at the entrance of Waffle House, I noticed a middle-aged lady holding the door open for my father. I smiled at her and thanked her for waiting patiently as he approached the door. She looked at my dad and said “Well, today I’ve already eaten, so I won’t get to eat my breakfast with you. But I hope you have a good one!”

I said, “:”Sounds like you’ve met Dad before…”

She responded “Sure did. I ate breakfast with him the other day and I told him ‘Your money’s no good with me!”

I thanked her for being so kind—to share a meal with him and then buy his breakfast. As he ambled on in, she said “Well, I enjoyed it. But really, on that day, I just thought about “what would Jesus do?…What would he want me to do?…and I decided He’s want me to do something good for a sweet elderly man.”

At that moment, I knew that there was more than one open door at the Waffle House. so I took the conversation to the next level: “That’s just so kind of you. I love my Jesus and I love to study the Bible. In fact…” At that point I went on to tell her about Digging Deep, and our study this year about types and shadows. I told her that I would love for her to join us and that my favorite thing to do is to study the Bible with people. I asked her if she would think about joining our group and even studying with me personally. “I’m all about Bible Study…”

“I sure will!” she said. “Stuff like this doesn’t happen by accident,” she went on, as I gave her my card with contact information. “I’ll be looking you up!”

Two doors were open. She thought she’d hold open a glass door for my father to walk through. She really was holding a golden door of opportunity open for me. I’m glad I could walk through it. I’m glad I had my wallet with that card to hand her. I’m thankful for His Providence at this moment and so many others. 

I’m not sure I believe that nothing happens by accident. But I do believe He is constantly orchestrating events to work for the good of His people (Romans 8:28). I hope she’ll pursue her opportunity now. I hope she’ll knock, so her door, too, can be opened (Matthew 7:7).

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Last Trip to the Little Farm

Fruit keeps on growing…

Today marks the last visit to my dad’s little farm. After next Tuesday, the farm will no longer be “ours”. My good husband, who has gone there so many times in my behalf, is doing it one last time today. It simply had to be done on this day and, since I get to fly to Texas today to speak to sweet sisters, my constant rescuer is on the road to Jacksonville.  I’ve made Glenn a list of things to not leave behind. I’ve specified certain things and their locations….things that just have my father’s fingerprints all over them…things that are worth very little to anyone else, but serve as memory handles of happy days spent in a sweet family circle that can never be quite as complete again.

I’ve told him how to transplant a little cane of my dad’s massive muscadine arbor. You bend the fruit-bearing cane over and bury it. Then you go back one last time and unearth it once the tiny new roots have begun to take hold in the soil. You cut it, take it home with you, and plant it in a protective tube, water it frequently, give it lots of light and wait.

Fruit can grow long after the original planter–in this case, my dad–is gone. It can be transplanted to distant places and it can reproduce itself exponentially. It takes some digging. It takes some burying. It takes some unearthing. It takes some travel. It takes some water and light. It takes protection and vigilance. But it produces something that will always taste like the first fruits.

It occurs to me that this is exactly how it is with the fruit of the Spirit. With all of these ingredients at play, His Will in me can just keep on living in others in which I may plant the seed. The vine (John 15:5), long after I am gone, will just keep right on bearing fruit that bears strong testimony to the holiness and saving power of the Original Planter (John 15:26), who is also a dear Father: THE Father.

So dig in the Word (John 17:17). Experience the burial… in the saving act of baptism (Romans 6:1-4). Unearth the growth–the root system– that prepares you to bear fruit in new places and situations (Matthew 13:18-23). Go with the gospel (Mark 16:15,16). Plant it over and over in hearts. Be generous with the water of life (John 4:14) and the light of the world (John 8:12). Be protective of young and tender plants (I Corinthians 8:13). Be vigilant about the harvest that’s plentiful, remembering that laborers are few (Luke 10:2). And enjoy the big arbor…the power that continues from the Original Planter and His first fruit (I Corinthians 10:23)!

 

 

 

 

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

The Invitation of a Child

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was blessed to help give a wedding reception for a beautiful Christian couple who now reside in Little Rock, Arkansas. Married in Guatemala, the place where much of the bride’s family lives, this reception was their American celebration. For some of us in that sweet place, it was a blessed collision of precious past moments and present blessings for which we have only insufficient words of thanksgiving. (Pictured above is Nathan and Ellen Anderson, left and right, and the Tuckers, center, at the reception….Oh, and Cliff and Nell Anderson, in arms.)

About 28 years ago, the Westside church in Virginia was getting ready for its annual Vacation Bible school. Little Nathan Anderson, in early elementary school, invited his friend from school, Grat Tucker. Grat’s mom, Diane, let him attend and, since he was her shining star—the only child—she kept the VBS take-home papers; colorful cardboards that meant little to Grat at the time, but were destined to be valuable papers, ushering into his world the best things of this life and even life eternal. But for now, they were placed in a drawer and forgotten.

So Grat and Nathan became best friends. Nathan was Grat’s campaign manager when he ran for class president in the fourth grade. They played ball together in community leagues and ate their lunches together at school.  

And one day several years later, after some temporary reversals in the lives of Grat and his mom, Diane thought it would be good if they started going to church. She opened that drawer to look for those VBS materials and decided they would “try the church where Nathan goes. You remember…that one where you went to that Vacation Bible School?”

And so they did. Someone welcomed them warmly. Someone showed them around the building. Someone invited them back. Someone soon invited them for a meal. And someone asked Diane to study the Bible. Open hearts are easily convicted and the rest is a sweet history. Diane was baptized into Jesus and immersed herself in fellowship, study and growth. It was the beginning of a new way of life for Grat, who was, in a couple of years, himself, baptized  into Christ on the campus of Freed Hardeman University during the Horizons program, where he worshipped and prayed and played basketball with our son, Caleb Colley.

Diane and I sat together in the cafeteria at FHU on that August day when we left our sons as students. They would eventually play intramural sports together, study for communication classes together and finally, spend a couple of years rooming together in Brigance Hall. Grat was a fiercely loyal confidant, a man of determined Christian character and one who always enjoyed a good practical joke. We loved having him in our home on weekends while they roomed together. I did lots of loads of laundry (Remember that time I accidentally bleached that red Nike swish into that faded pinkish color?) and his long legs were under the Colley table lots of times. He came in handy on moving days, with technology (He could  trouble-shoot our computers like no one else we knew…and he was a very cheap technician.)…and he didn’t mind sleeping on the hammock on the porch when the house was bursting with college students. 

Then they graduated and Caleb moved to Montgomery to do graduate work and work with Apologetics Press (http://apologeticspress.org). Grat soon moved to Jacksonville, Alabama to archive materials, develop the website and help Christians have access to the great materials that House to House/Heart to Heart publishes (https://www.housetohouse.com), working in that great ministry for the next nine years. This was the town, coincidentally, in which my father, Lee Holder lived and worshipped.

And that turned out to be a life-changing coincidence. I’m really certain it was life-changing providence. Early in 2012, my father was found unconscious in the Jacksonville church building on a weekday afternoon (https://thecolleyhouse.org/right-turn). An ambulance ride, a  hospitalization, a rehab and many prayers later, Dad returned home. He was well enough to live mostly independently. He still worked and drove and went to the church building at least four times every week. But we needed a presence there at home with him; someone who could check in on him several times a day. Grat was that person. (Here’s Grat with Dad at the church building…and Diane and Grat “silly-posing” with some of the family at PieDaddy’s):

Moving into a quickly converted garage apartment, Grat lived with my dad for five-and-a half years. I can say with certainty that my father loved him very much and wanted to be sure that he was treated just as all the “other” grandchildren at every holiday and family event. (Grat’s on the front right here with the whole gang): The Holder family will always be indebted to Grat Tucker for the hundreds of chair side conversations, the times Dad went to Waffle House without reporting in and Grat had to go find him, the times he drove him to worship because it was storming, the myriad of lost things Grat would find (the hearing aid under the bed, the hearing aid battery in the church hallway, the telephone under the recliner, the Bible in the trunk of the car), the reminders and systems of taking medicines, the constant demands of the pool and the very confounding way Dad wanted that to be done, the scores of Monday Alabama football rankings brought home from work for Dad to read and “discuss” over and over with him, that one night Grat captured the bat in the living room (https://thecolleyhouse.org/sister-to-sister-tommy-in-trouble), and especially the many prayers Grat offered on Dad’s behalf in those happy years of decline. They were happy because of the great team effort that was put into the care of that nonagenarian and Grat was a huge part of that team. (Here’s Grat on the Holder “farm”):

And then there was Kiki. I knew something was up, when weekends found Grat absent from the farm. That was after we daughters had made the decision to be with my father at his house 24/7. Grat had more freedom those days to travel and, once, when I was in his room checking on the fuse box, or something, I saw an artist’s drawing with the signature “Kiki” at the bottom. That was the first I knew about someone I would come to love and admire…someone who would become Mrs. Grattan Tucker. Grat was studying the Bible with her…and falling in love with her. She is Kirsten…Mrs. Grattan Howard Tucker IV.  Nathan Anderson, the first grade friend, traveled to Guatemala to perform this ceremony in which he presented the gospel to all of this large family. I am very glad Kirsten’s married to Grat. He needed her. I am infinitely more glad that  she is now married to Jesus. Their children will grow up in a Christian home. I think I will one day go and hear a Tucker son preach or see a Tucker daughter bringing up children for Him. It’s the genesis of a Tucker legacy for Him. 

All because of a child’s invitation. Oh, I know it is because of the Word and the blood and the love of John 3:16. But a child at school placed a flier in the hand of a friend…or he made a call to say “Can you come with me?” or he just invited him over on a Monday to play ball and said “Oh…we’re going to VBS, too…Can you stay for that?” 

A child’s invitation. Children found their way to the Savior Who said “Suffer the little children to come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” I’m glad Grat found his way through that one invitation to Vacation Bible School. A mom, a wife, children and grandchildren. peripheral people who will study with all of these Tuckers…all will gather around the throne because of one child’s invitation. 

Of such is the kingdom.

 

(Grat with Ezra at the Holder Christmas 2014):

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Lights of Glory

How sweet to hold a newborn baby

And feel the pride and the joy he gives

But greater still the calm assurance

This child can face uncertain days because He Lives.

As we sang these words last night at our service of praise, I just had a huge “catch” in my heart and voice. Realizing the depth  of the uncertainty that lies in our tolerant, morally unfettered world, I know that the newborn I will prayerfully hold this week, will face uncertain days. I immediately thought about how that my sweet father, who left this uncertain world last December, would have loved to have held the firstborn child of his firstborn grandson. (That’s my dad in the picture with Caleb all those years ago.) Their lives on this earth almost intersected. In truth, the lives did intersect. For a few days at the end of Dad’s life, both the brand new heart and the 95-year-old one were beating. Dad just never got to know about this intersection of life. Singing those words—any words, really—about the great hope we share with most of you who are reading, just arrests my emotions, of late. I had to stop singing and cry for a moment.

But then, there’s this last empowering verse and chorus. It’s the chorus that dries tears, replaces fears, and lets me sing again: 

And then one day, I’ll cross that river

I’ll fight life’s final war with pain

And then, as death gives way to vict’ry

I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow

Because He lives, all fear is gone

Because I know He holds the future

And life is worth the living

Just because He lives.

The truth is, by faith, I already know He reigns. Because He has made death His last enemy (I Cor. 15:25,26)…because the angel announced truthfully “He is not here, but He is risen,” (Matthew 28:6)…little Maggie can face uncertain days. She will face them with a fearless devotion to the One who has the last word over every enemy. 

Because He lives, the verses of life that bring sorrow are followed by verses that bring courage and anticipation. Of course, the last verse is the best. After the days in an uncertain world, where persecution surely could be a part of the landscape for Christians, there will be a day when pain and death give way to victory. We will see the lights of glory and fear will be a thing of the past. 

There are actually a couple of families, to whom I am very closely connected in Him, that are almost sure to be holding newborn babies by the end of this week. We will count their fingers and toes and marvel at the softness of newborn skin and try to catch the gaze of eyes that can’t yet focus. Proud fathers and grandfathers will be amazed by features that are most certainly inherited from “our side of the family.” But the real marvel will be the unseen feature housed in those tiny little bodies; little souls entrusted to the care of determined parents, who by faith can already catch a glimmer of the lights of glory…just because He lives!

There’s nothing new in the power of those three words “because He lives.” But sometimes, when I think about the decisive eternal victory that happened when that stone was rolled away and linen grave clothes were folded and left behind, I wonder how people, who have not looked into the empty tomb, can make it through the uncertain days. How can they overcome days of hopelessness when there is no light at the end of the tunnel? How can they bury loved ones and then “get on with things”, when the reality of death, for them, holds such finality? How can they ever “come back” from reeling reversals in health or finances, when they see no larger purpose than remaining healthy and wealthy? How can they suffer through the woes of bad moral choices, when there is, for them, no system of redemption? 

I guess they just function out of “expected normalcy” and take temporary joy from the blessings that our God generously rains down on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). But I’m so glad there’s a whole different shower of blessings for obedient believers. I love standing in that rain!

One day, when we’ve been there ten thousand years (if time could even be measured there), the little intersections of life on this planet will seem so momentary. Our lives on earth will be the tiniest dot in an eternal sphere.  But the choices in this brief moment we call life—our reaction to His empty tomb— make the dot remarkable. That makes the week (on the dot) in front of you and me significant. May the transactions, blessings, meetings, gifts, jobs, accomplishments, friendships and family that fill our planners this week be appropriate reactions to the victory He heralded when he walked away from that borrowed tomb.  Some events of the week will seem more significant than others. But life matters, this week, for all of us. Because He lives.

(Because He Lives, lyrics by Bill Gaither, Songs of Faith and Praise)

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“I Will Forever Love this Coach…”

Lots of you already know that transferring the celebration of Father’s Day from happy travels to see the patriarch and gifts for the aged man who raised you… I say the transfer to celebrating solely the great man who is the father of your own children is difficult. You have to work to fill the big heart chasm left when the patriarch dies. But almost all of the work was done at Calvary. You know you’ll see your earthly father again when you see your heavenly Father for the first time. There is great support, comfort and hope in Calvary for every situation in the Christian’s life. So I am pretty determined to celebrate Father’s Day with hope and gratitude at the forefront. (Maybe I’m also just preparing myself on paper for a hard day, but I am surely going to give it my very best shot.)

In honor of the memory of my father, I’d like to share this little tribute I received shortly after his passing. It speaks to the value of a good man’s influence, a simple integrity, and just doing the right thing. 

I am praying for this sweet man upon whom also fell the good influence that molded me…that persisted through my life in a father that was looking forward to heaven. I’m glad for Dad. Being in glory is the point…the whole point of a life well-lived. In fact, all the other points of light in any life are extinguished at death. But the reflection of THE Light (John 12:46) just brightens to eternity.

Here’s the tribute:

Remembering Lee Holder

Mr. Holder came to Webster’s Chapel School as a teacher about 1951. He taught the 8th and 9th grade. I was a 9th grader. Webster’s Chapel is a small, rural community in Calhoun County. He was a very good teacher. All the students loved him. He was fair, friendly, honest and always had his students’ best interests at heart. 

He was our junior high basketball coach. He was skilled at coaching and knew how to get the best out of his players. I was the son of a share-cropper (farmer) and my family could not buy me any basketball shoes. In the 8th grade, a year before Mr. Holder came to be our teacher, I only got to play in the games when we played on an outside court because of not having tennis shoes. I got enough money to buy a pair of shoes in my 9th grade year, and made the team, coached by Mr. Holder. Win or lose, after the games, he would stop by a cafe and we would get a burger. I never had any money. He would buy my burger, but none of the rest of the players ever knew he paid for my food. 

I was on the starting five on the team. When I needed to rest, he would call time out. I would take off my shoes and let my substitute borrow them. He didn’t have any tennis shoes, just like me the year before. He was a team player coach. We had a star player on our team, but he hogged the ball, he wanted to be the star player. He benched him for a while, until he played as a team.

This rag tag team beat teams that we were not supposed to. We beat a team one night, a big school, we had to escape the fans and players to keep from getting hurt. They rocked Mr. Holder’s car as we left the parking lot. He wouldn’t let us fight back.

I will forever love this coach and the role he played in my life. He motivated me to do my best regardless of my upbringing. He taught me compassion, team work, do your best, right living, sacrifice, and to invest in others. Perhaps, although as far as I know we hold the record as the best of record winning in basketball that our school ever had. He did his best coaching off the court, by investing in the lives of his students and players. 

It was good to see him again after more than 50 years when I visited the Jacksonville Church of Christ. I will see him again when I get to heaven. 

Then this handwritten note: 

I will forever love this coach, too.