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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Calling Her Blessed Again…

As I am writing it’s Mother’s Day week. This year marks the 27th year since my mother won the battle over cancer and went home. She’s victorious and happy–even blissful, and I would never will her back to the struggling lifestyle that I try to tackle every day. But, still, I miss her like crazy–even now, twenty years hence. The children of the Proverbs 31 woman rose up and called their mother blessed. I know my mother is blessed, especially now–with the Lord, but I don’t know how to call her blessed. As I look back over the chapter, though, I see some things that made the children of Proverbs 31 call their mom blessed. I wonder how, exactly, they called her blessed. Did they tell their friends about the way God worked through the good deeds of their mom? Did other people look at her children and say that those kids were a blessing to the Proverbs 31 woman? Did her children write posts about how blessed their childhoods were because of the mom that made sure they were getting the maternal care they needed both physically and spiritually? If so, where did they post these notes? I do not know exactly how her children called her blessed, but today is my attempt to call my Proverbs 31 mother “blessed”. One thing’s for sure. The ultimate blessings are in the place in which I fully believe my mother is cognizant, rejoicing and awaiting my coming. She is blessed, now, for sure.

The heart of my father trusted my mother, that she would do him good and not evil. I do not remember ever having the first inkling of an idea that my dad ever thought Mother was lying to him, that she might be having an affair or that she was tricking him into getting things her way. In fact, the whole idea of any of those things seems preposterous. My mother never asked me to lie to my father. In fact, she would have spanked me in the “spanking place” if she thought I had lied to him. Not only did he never doubt her honesty, but he trusted her judgment. He trusted my mother to clothe us, to buy Christmas gifts for all of us and the extended family, to buy the groceries and to stock the freezer. He did not have to be a micro-manager. He trusted her.

My mother sought wool and flax and worked willingly with her hands. Her candle did not go out by night. If I close my eyes, I can see her hands. They had a couple of little age spots on them. Her fingers were long and thin and she never had a manicure. They were hard working hands. She had a sign in the little bedroom that doubled as her sewing room that said, “Whoever dies with the most fabric wins.” She won. See, she really did seek wool and flax and polyester and cotton and rayon. She could make anything on that Singer and so she did. I remember coming home from school one day for several weeks in November to a lot of white fur all over the carpets and bedspreads. I wondered if she was having bunnies over to play every day while I was at school. That year on Christmas morning, there were three precious little white fake fur coats for my sisters and me.

I remember many summer mornings when I would awaken to find that she was already out in the hot sun. I would look out the back kitchen door and down the hill I would see her bent over in the butter pea patch. I would try and be quiet, because I knew if she saw me, I would either be picking with her or washing breakfast dishes in the kitchen. If I was ever bored, I did not say so. I knew better. No one in that house ate the bread of idleness.

We did eat well, though. My mother gave meat to her household and a portion to her maidens. I cannot remember ever going hungry. My mother knew what day the meat would be in the marked-down bin at the market and she was willing to get up very early to be there. We did not go out to eat often because that was expensive. Our favorite Sunday night place was called “Traveler’s Rest” and it averaged a full six dollars for our family of six to eat burgers there. But there was always plenty of food on the table at home and it was always delicious. My brother was allergic to chicken, so when we had chicken, we had a small dish of some other kind of meat for him. Everyone was considered and everyone counted. My mother did not carry a couple of dishes to the fellowship meal, either. She carried a huge meat casserole or a couple of fried chickens, several side dishes, some cornbread and a big cake or banana pudding. If my mother ever had a maiden, she would have had plenty to eat, too. And I can never remember one meal around that table when we did not bow our heads and thank the Lord for the food.

My mother considered her purchases and used them well. She was frugal. I actually remember her sending us through multiple lanes at the store, so we could each be a customer and take advantage of “one-per-customer” savings. I remember buying fabric from the remnant bins and canned goods from the dented bin. I remember making our own popsicles and culottes. (Does anybody remember those?) She saved and redeemed green stamps. She sold encyclopedias and she taught school in our little Christian school for our tuition and we all went to school together. She saved the remnants of bars of soap and Daddy melted them down and made big new multi-colored bars. Free outings included the library and window shopping trips. Our shoes came from a little hole-in-the-wall place called “Salvage Shoes,” but we loved going there! She made everything fun and there was no place the kids in her Sunday School class had rather be than in our yard. One of them said one day, “I love going to Johnnia’s. She’s got a gallon of kids!”

She stretched out her hand to the poor and reached out her hands to the needy. My mother sent shoes to the prison where a neighbor boy ended up after his mother left home and he turned to drugs. I remember frequent walks up the street to Mrs. Brackin’s house, when she was feeble, to carry food from our kitchen or garden. I remember how Mother cared for Kathleen and Chris and Patrick when their mother went a little crazy and left them. I remember a little girl we picked up for worship services. She lived in the basement of an old upholstery shop on the Pratt Highway. I remember she didn’t smell good, but she loved coming with us. I remember another man who often rode with our family to worship and two older women, too. I remember Mother finding a place in a Christian orphanage for some children up the street when their parents left them destitute. Most of all, I remember the years and tears and fears of her caring for my grandparents. I remember when that small sewing room was converted to a sick room for them. I remember Mother’s sacrifices of travel and time with my dad. I remember the crowded conditions and the worry about their health. I remember my mother’s attendance at their hospital beds and their death beds. I remember the agony she suffered when they left empty spaces after her years of care.

My mother made tapestries and coverings. She used quilting frames suspended from the ceiling. They made walking through the small living room next to impossible. She made at least four quilts and coverings for my babies’ nurseries. As I write, I have company up in my guest room and she is sleeping under one of those quilts. My mother was keenly interested in making all kinds of things. She embroidered and smocked and made dolls and aprons. She made sweatsuits and curtains, stuffed bears and potholders, purses and pajamas. We wore handmade dresses and coats and bonnets. We had the best halloween costumes and great parts in school plays because the teacher knew she could count on our costume designer. Christmas spilled out everywhere in our little house. We, in short, had it made. We had it all made by our mother.

She opened her mouth with wisdom and kindness. Time and space constrain me, but let me just say that profundity is when an adult can think back and still remember phrases and their intonations—phrases that were spoken forty-plus years ago. Things like:

“Cindy, if you read your Bible and find out that I have taught you something that’s not right, you do what the Bible says. Know that doing that is what will make me happy.”

“Cindy, people who make fun of you for doing the right thing are the same people who, really, deep down in their hearts, respect you for it. One day you will learn that.”

“Cindy, you had better be very careful about everything you do, because there are two little sisters who are watching every move you make and they want to be just like you.”

“Cindy, don’t ever let your boyfriend give you money. that’s just not respectable.”

My mother feared the Lord. I really believe this was the trump card that made all of the above so evident in her life. She had this amazing way of boiling all of the decisions of daily life down to the question, “What is most pleasing to God?” The question was pervasive and invasive, and we visited it and revisited it on a daily basis. Conviction took us to every service and to run the children’s bus program an hour before each service of the church. Conviction had her sew a gym uniform for me that met all the class standards but had extra length for modesty. Conviction had a class full of middle school girls learning about fearing the Lord. Conviction had her spending time with them outside the classroom in cook-outs in our yard and in flower-picking trips to make bouquets for girls who were leaving for college. Conviction had her opening up that worn-out Bible and showing us passages relevant to some raunchy attitude she was seeing in us or some discourteous remark made. If we weren’t careful, she was assigning us long passages to learn; passages that she deemed appropriate to help adjust our attitudes or demeanor (and we weren’t even home schoolers). The Bible was just like a giant magnet in the middle of the metal of our lives. It was the control, the draw, the reference point.

I cannot remember anyone ever commenting that my mother was charming. But many people of all ages filed by her casket in October of 1992 and commented that she was the best Bible teacher they had ever had. They cited that she had made the Bible come alive or that she had made even the outcast among them feel worthy. That night I was glad for the fulfillment of the prophetic proverb: Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

This has been long. If you only could know how selective I have been, you would appreciate the post for its brevity. My mother was not perfect. She was often weakened by sin, but then strengthened by the power of His might. She struggled with evil, but overcame with prayer. She sometimes fainted, but was renewed by the Spirit. See, though she was larger than life to this little girl, she was only human. I had to grow up to know she wasn’t really perfect. And, just about the time I began to see her human-ness, the possibility that she had flaws, her mortal limitations, she went and put on immortality. My mother really is sinless now. She is perfect, flawless, completely invincible. I can truly call her blessed.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Finding the Hook

Last week was packed with a good kind of craziness around our house. Our four-year-old grandson, Ezra was with us for a few days. Both Glenn and I were slated to travel and speak on the weekend, but we were still determined to take Ezra fishing, have lots of time pushing that swing outside, have at least three trips around the neighborhood on the tractor, visit the park, and squeeze in at least one pop-in with our postal lady and one with Ezra’s friends at the bank…not to mention the four services at the West Huntsville church while Ezra was in town. And all in between those activities, while at home, we were the good guys versus the bad guys in the living room. We have a hide-out under a tree that’s really on the couch under the afghan, a horse that’s actually wooden and  rocking, but he transports to far-away and dangerous places just the same, and a jail in the study that’s not as secure as one might think, for four-year-old prisoners who know how to “file out” with plastic knives sneaked in by allies or “bust loose” through the back porch and hop on a pirate ship, which is a north-bound hammock that tosses wildly in the stormy sea. 

A definite highlight this visit was a Captain Hook costume that I pieced together when Ezra’s imagination turned to Neverland. We re-purposed Glenn’s lawn mowing hat from the basement and, with a little red paint, a sword that my dad had made many years ago for my son, a feather from an Indian chief’s headdress in the costume crate, and a red robe from Amazon Prime, he was set. The little coat hanger hook glued inside a piece of wood in Glenn’s workshop was his favorite part of the ensemble. His little antique child’s bed in the window cubby in our bedroom was the perfect ship, with the baby sound machine on the ocean setting and a reflective nightlight putting the moon and stars on the ceiling. Captain Hook was up to no good and I was constantly spotting my costume jewelry around his neck, attached to his belt, or in that little treasure chest in his “ship”. (My jewelry stash may never be the same!)

But in one very serious moment (and those moments happen at unplanned times), this question emerged:  “Mammy, do bad guys know dat dey are bad?”

Now I had to pause a moment before delving into any response to that very relevant societal question. Just a few seconds of reflection was all it took to realize that this question is a deep spiritual and philosophical quandary. Its ramifications are profound. Yet it needs to be settled in the mind of this four-year-old…and in my own.

The answer is, of course, “No…Not always.”

James 1: 20-22 reads like this. Find the bad guy here:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 

The implication is  that the bad guy does not know how to leave the superfluity of naughtiness (also translated “overflowing of wickedness”) if he does not have the word engrafted or implanted in him. He simply must be in the Book to know that wickedness is wicked and that filthiness is filthy. A bad guy has to be in the Word (or have some connection to the broad influence of the Word of God)  to know that he is bad. Sin is identified by the laws of God (Romans 5:13). 

Some guys, though, have looked in the mirror of God’s Word and walked away, They are aware of the transformation that the Word would have them undergo. But they choose to walk away from the  “mirror” without letting that Word change their hearts or their behaviors. In this case, the bad guys do “know that they are bad.” They have, like Pharaoh of old (Exodus 8:15,32), hardened their hearts. 

Here’s the description by James of the “bad guy” who knows he is bad from verses 23 and 24:

For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

The Greek word for “forgetteth” there includes neglect.  This man knows, at least on some level, what God would have him to do, but he does not care. He refuses to allow God’s word to convict and change him. This “bad guy” knows he is bad. 

This conversation with Ezra ended with an elicited resolve to never, ever be the real-life bad guy; the one who knows he is wicked, but doesn’t care. But further, it ended with a resolve on both of our parts to always be looking in the mirror of the Word, so that we can know when we are bad and mend our ways. Wickedness, whether the wicked is aware of it or not, separates a man from God (Is. 59:2).

Hook. Where did the “pretend” end and the eternal realities begin? When did the pirate ship become a vessel of spiritual transport? When did his little mind stop fighting with the wooden sword and launch a pint-sized battle with the sword which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17)? You never know when the teachable moments will come, so be sure you are on-board in little adventures every chance you get. Those moments  may contain keys to eternity. 

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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Guest Writer: Ten “Must-Have”s on a Christian Girl’s List for a Prospective Husband

                                                                 

–contributed by Ally Smith.

  1. 1. First and most important “must-have” is finding a man who puts God as his “number one”; even before you and his family or job.
  2. 2. Is he committed to building the kingdom of God and spreading His Word? Wait for the man who is always involved in church events and always conducting in some way during worship; not someone who only shows up when he has to or when he’s expected to. He should always want to be involved in his congregation.
  3. 3. Does he love God…or does he love the world? Wait for the man who falls deeply in love with God instead of worldly temptations and possessions. 
  4. Is he a man of constant prayer? Does he pray before you pull off on a date for your safe travels? Does he pray before your meal on a date? Find a man who is constantly praying and talking to God.
  5. Is he pure in heart? The Bible says in Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance (watchfulness), for from it flow the springs of life.” Wait for the man who is constantly aware of his actions and making sure they are pure and in keeping with God’s Word.
  6. Is he slow to anger? Proverbs 22:24-25 says “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” Wait for the man who is temperate and is willing to talk through misunderstandings and conflicts.
  7. Is he wise with his money? Proverbs 21:20 says “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” Does he save and put his money towards good things or is he always finding ways to spend it and sometimes finding himself in trouble? Don’t get involved with a man who loves his money more than the Lord for that leads down a sinful path of destruction and torment. 
  8. Is he considerate? Philippians 2:4 says “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” A considerate, selfless man will have your best interests in mind. 
  9. Is he a man of forgiveness? Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” don’t get involved with a man who holds grudges and dwells in the past. Wait for the man who is forgiving and understanding of others. 
  10. Does he set a Christian example? Titus 2:7 says “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity and dignity.” Look for a man who is being a good example to his younger siblings and peers. 

 

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Keepers!…Sew Much Fun!…Excitement is Cooking!…These Girls Are Keepers!…

(Don’t miss the video at the end!)

You get the point. While the puns are pretty plentiful, this program in the Lads to Leaders organization for mentoring youth in churches is my favorite of all the Lads events. I  believe, for our girls, it is the most practical thing I’ve seen, other than direct mother-daughter mentoring, for helping our girls do what Titus 2 commands in that list of imperatives–things that older women in our congregations are to teach younger women. Today, I’m just going to give the definition of the Greek word oikouros, translated keepers at home or workers at home in Titus 2:5.

Ouikouros means:

caring for the house, working at home, the (watch or) keeper of the house, keeping at home and taking care of household affairs, a domestic

It’s an exciting concept in 2019, that God’s women are the keepers, the watches, the sentinels of this basic God-formed structure of society; that we get to take care of the “factory” if you will, for the future proclaimers of the Word,  and for the future elders and their wives for the eternal kingdom. It’s a privilege, the significance of which we dare not lose on our daughters.

Thus, the inception a few years ago of a program that helped complete an already thriving training ground for the youth of our churches. I hope you can take the time to watch a short video about this program. Special thanks to some of the girls at the West Huntsville church in Huntsville, Alabama and also some from the Centerville Road church in Garland, Texas.

You can see them here: https://youtu.be/VnBF2-s3VG0

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: “Mammy, I want to tell you…”

Ezra, my 4-year-old grandson, just called to tell me about the baptisms that are occurring tonight after a Bible study that his parents have been conducting with a couple that visited the marriage seminar at Edgewood recently. This is blessing my world tonight in so many ways and on so many levels. 

The obvious and most important is that two souls are being washed tonight. Two precious souls added to the body of Christ. Two souls saved by the mercy of God and the blood of Jesus (Romans 6:1-4)

The second reason that what’s happening right now is pivotal is that these two people being baptized are parents of very small children. That means that these kids, from this night forward, will be parented by intentional, devoted Christians—people who are directing them with eternity always in the forefront. It means that whatever brokenness or spiritual poverty may have existed in the former generations, no longer has to exist. Tonight is the forging of the first link in a chain that can be unbroken—each generation forging its own link and each generation guiding the next to faithfulness. These small children will never have to remember a time when their parents were walking away from the Lord. 

The third thing that’s wonderful is that I’m basking in the joy that a mother gets in knowing the next generation is evangelistic. It’s not always easy and pretty to be conducting Bible studies with a two-year-old and a four-year-old in tow. It’s not always easy to offer hospitality, to make sure that your children and those who belong to the ones who are hungering for the gospel are quiet enough, so that concentration on truth can occur in the next room. It’s not always easy, but it is always eternally gratifying. 

And that’s the part that makes a grandmother’s heart sing: “Mammy, this is Ezwa…. I want to tell you that Mrs. Kiki and Mr. Lavardo and Jo-Jo and all of them are going to get to go to heaven now. Dey WEALLY are. It’s because I been so good to dem and Cohweenanna has, too. We been teachin’ dem about God. Dey have already been baptized tonight.” 

Well, you and I know that they will not go to heaven because Hannah and Ben’s son has been good to them. They will, just like you and me, get to go to heaven because God’s Son has been so good to them. All the same, I’m happy that Hannah and Ben are putting joy into Ezra and Colleyanna when souls are reached with this good news. I’m glad she is showing them that they can have a part in someone coming to know the Lord. I hope they will get to experience this ultimate bliss over and over in their lives.  

It is ultimate bliss for this lifetime. Only heaven can be better than this. 

Tomorrow, I am going to go and teach women lessons from Titus 2. Because of tonight’s little four-year-old testimony of the power of parenthood, I’m going to speak the truths about motherhood with a little more conviction…perhaps with a little more clarity. The future of the body of Christ is dependent on what parents are putting into the hearts of their children. I’m so thankful for parents who are serious about the transferral of their families to that eternal home around the throne. And I’m supremely grateful for that sweet couple in Georgia who woke up this morning in an unwashed and lost state. Tonight, they are going to bed washed and heaven-bound. What blessed children will be sleeping down the hall from them!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #54: Devos for Younger Kids

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 54 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

This one really doesn’t need an explanation. If your children are upwards of ten years old, then they can easily host a devotional for younger children. Of course, these younger children could be the children in your congregation or they could be community kids. Help your children plan a Bible theme, like “The Big Fish” (the book of Jonah) or “The Men Who Would Not Bow” (Daniel 3) or “When a Lame Man Walked”(Acts 3-4). Practice the storytelling and related songs with your kids. Make visuals or plan to use puppets to tell the story or help your kids dress up as Bible characters as they tell the story. Make sure your children are prepared to pray with the younger ones.

Make little invitations with your kids or have your kids invite the children personally.  Alternately, if you are inviting children from your congregation, your kids could write out the invitation and submit it to the one who is making public announcements or to whomever prepares the bulletin. It’s important to let the kids pick the theme (with help and advice) and do the legwork and artwork. It’s important to specify the ages of children who are invited on the invitation, as well. Having kids present,  who are older than the hosting kids, may intimidate the hosts, especially the first time around (and you really want this to be successful). On the other hand, having babies present (especially without moms) may also distract from your children’s ability to focus and complete their plans. Just think ahead and try to make the big day whopping success for your own children, by indicating, on the invitation, just who the devotional is targeting. It saves last minute angst. Then be loving and gracious when the day comes if there are hitches in your original plan. Remember, the goal is servant hearts in your kids, so, in every Mama’s K.I.S.S. activity you are, most importantly, modeling the behavior of the Lord.

As the time draws near, practice a game or activity with your kids– a Bible verse scavenger hunt or a sidewalk tic-tac-toe game where questions must be answered before the Xs and Os can be placed. It could be a treasure map locating theme-related favors or preparation of a Bible food. Any of these activities should be related to the devotional story your kids are telling and your activity should be something kids can complete within a thirty or forty minute time period.

Snacks and favors are optional, but your kids might love to make or buy story-related snacks. Pinterest is a great source for ideas.  Be sure, if you are hosting community kids, to include info about the church in any favor bags.

Just be sure to let your kids take ownership of this little event. Talk about young souls that are being influenced while you are preparing. Then have fun with this!