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Priorities

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang… and Flying

Eliza Jane Giselbach, born a week-and-a-half ago is the best thing that’s happened to this Mammy during the pandemic, for sure. She’s also the catalyst for lots of lost sleep, more than a few episodes of over-excitement in her siblings, and searches for pandemic-safe outlets for kids who are making way too much racket for a mom (and mammy) who are over their heads in unpacking from a move, laundry, cooking and just adjusting to life with a newborn, once again. 

While watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with them, Ezra asked if we could ever really get a car that could fly. After hearing various speculations around the room about the unlikelihood of that happening during our lifetimes, Ezra said this: “…But we are going to fly—just by ourselves—when Jesus comes to get us. We will fly and we will not even need a car or a plane or anything.”

I Corinthians 15 explains to us the very serious nature of his little five-year-old statement. Everything we are and do and every hope that anchors us is founded in the fact that the resurrection from the dead happened in that garden outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago, facilitating His own flight back to the Father; and that the resurrection and ascension will happen again for you and me. That all-encompassing thesis for the lives of all Christians, in fact, is the driving force for all the things we’ve done in the craziness of welcoming Eliza Jane into that household. Papa and I held those wee hands several times during the day of her birth and prayed for her safety and her life in the Lord. We held them again after her safe delivery and thanked Him for their new little sister. We prayed that she would grow up to be a strong and faithful force for good in the Kingdom. Every night before they climb into their beds in that little nursery, we say our books of the Bible, spend time in a Bible account with them and listen to them talk to God. They pray about Baxter, the cat, with the same ardor that they pray for Eliza, at this point, But our whole purpose in these times around the Word is their emergence in, at last and for all time, knowing the difference between things that are temporal and things that are eternal—people who will be raised and things that will not. Every mealtime prayer, every Bible time, every worship assembly, every invitation to neighbors to visit our services, every card of encouragement, every prayer for a lost one, every blog-post, every speaking appointment, every spanking, every ethical discussion and decision, every meal prepared or instance of hospitality offered—every one— is woven into the fiber of life that comes from being certain that He walked away from the tomb. 

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15:13-20).

IN FACT.  Those two words about the resurrection are the crux of most of what I will do today. I’m so thankful for the resurrection and for the purpose, hope and certainty it brings to every day of my life. What appears to be chaotic in the moments of a Christian’s life is not really chaotic at all. Even the stressful and sleepless times are purposeful. Even the inevitable moments when we fall to temptation are of value when we right the wrongs and learn from the failures. It’s profound to ponder that something empty in Jerusalem 2000 years ago is making my life full and purposeful still today. Something that shook the earth, then, has given me something unshakeable. Praise God today for the resurrection!

And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it (Matthew 28:2).

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe… (Heb. 12:28).

And praise Him that, leaving our own tombs, we will fly…without a car or a plane or anything!

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Family Ties in the Social Distance #42: Proverbs 15:16-17–Treasure with Trouble

My husband, Glenn, is sharing these daily lessons for our West Huntsville family as we are necessarily (because of the virus) spending less time physically together in worship, study and fellowship. We may be “socially distanced,” but  we’re a close-knit family and we want to keep it that way! One way to stay on track together, spiritually, is to think about a common passage and make applications for our lives together even when we are unable to assemble as frequently. I’m sharing these daily family lessons here for those in other places, whose families (or even congregations) might benefit from a common study in these uncommon days of semi-quarantine. There are Family Bible Time guides included, as well. You can adapt, shorten or lengthen them according to the ages of kids (and adults) in your family. Blessings.

From Glenn:

Favorite Proverbs: Proverb 15:16-17…

“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.”

This has to be one of our top ten.  If you are recently married, you’d better get this truth into your home before the kids come along and you find yourselves in a dark place.  It has to be instilled consistently and early:  A godly, Christ-centered home where we love one another will always be vastly better than a house with wealth accompanied by trouble, hatred and disobedience to God.  

Think right now about your career. What are you trying to accomplish with that employment? What is the greater meaning of this work? Is work the most important thing in your life?  Does that job support your family or does your family support the job?

Does harmony and contentment thrive in your home because Jesus lives there and is the center of all you do?  Finish this statement: When harmony breaks down in my home it is usually caused by ________________. In many cases you will find that, behind whatever you wrote in the blank, is an emphasis on something material rather than a priority on pleasing God.  

I try to pour this principle into the hearts of people in pre-marriage counseling.  The value and size of a house doesn’t reveal the amount of happiness dwelling inside.  Happiness can thrive in a shack as well as a mansion.  Never assume that where there is wealth there is joy, because they often don’t live in the same place.

Our Lord said “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Contentment is in prioritizing His kingdom and your place in it. 

In your meditation times today, add this important proverb.  Sometime during the day, read it to your family, explain it, and let your children know this is the driving thesis of your home.

Family Bible Time with Glenn and Cindy:

Matthew 5:31ff (continued)

Jesus said “I was in prison and you came unto me.”

  1. Read Matthew 26:47-56 to your children and find out what the disciples did when Jesus was actually arrested–when he became an innocent prisoner. They became so afraid that they reacted in a way that we don’t ever want to imitate. How does Jesus tell us, as His disciples, in our Matthew 25 text that we can be with Jesus when He is in prison?
  2. Of course, most of us today in the United States cannot visit a prison during a pandemic, since there are restrictions against such. In fact, it is difficult to gain permission to enter at any time. But we can certainly, right now, support the prison ministers we know who have given/give lots of hours and  experience physical and emotional stress as they visit and teach the gospel in prisons. Tonight, have your children write letters of thanks and encouragement to a prison minister that you know. If you do not know one, let me recommend a faithful one for your children to write. Have your younger children draw pictures. This will encourage our brother who has devoted years to a prison work here in Huntsville.

Mr. George Coffell

c/o West Huntsville church of Christ

1519 Old Monrovia Road NW

Huntsville, AL 35806

If you have the Hannah’s Hundred CD, sing the Matthew 25 song once more along with the Matthew 5:16 song. Pray with your children. Remember to pray for the prisoners in our land; that the gospel may be taught to those who are in need of salvation and who may listen to the Word.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Curbside-Pick-up Lessons

I’m not adept yet at grocery pick-up, but I’m on the curve. Today I did the Kroger pick-up and then ran through a drive-through to get a sandwich. Needing badly to be outside, to see people and to feel that there’s a whole world out there–a world that’s not wholly sick, but still thriving in key ways, I parked under a tree to eat that sandwich. When I finished, I walked around to the back of the SUV and opened the hatch to get a banana for dessert–a banana for which I’d really been wishing for about three days. (In fact, I’d wished for bananas so badly that the girl who was putting my groceries in my trunk said “Wow! Your family must really love bananas!” She was right. I had lots.

As I grabbed that banana (which was mostly green, but I really wanted a banana) I knocked a half gallon of milk out of the back of the forerunner. I really wanted milk, too, but there it ran, down the little incline and over about three more parking spaces. But since I really wanted that milk and I knew how difficult it would be to replace without actually entering a store,  I put what was left of that slit carton in three plastic Kroger bags and put it in the passenger seat beside me. I got the diaper wipes out of the console and cleaned up the mat in the back as best I could (because, do you even know how rank spoiled milk smells?) and came home as, at last, I ate that green banana.

In my driveway, I realized that those three bags had not really fully contained that milk from the bursted jug. The passenger seat was a pretty big mess. And now my driveway was and my sidewalk, too. So I went inside and got the top to a Tupperware cake-taker and went outside and poured the remaining milk from that jug into the Tupperware. I took my big trash can from the kitchen outside to put those heavy wet Kroger bags into the trash. Then I went inside with my bowl of milk, got a jar and a funnel and poured the milk from the Tupperware into my jar. I got just a little over a quart, for all my trouble. It would have been easier to go down to my neighbor’s farm and ask if I could just milk a cow, for that quart. But, like I said, I really wanted some milk.

That’s pretty much how my week’s been going–about a quart of satisfaction per every gallon-worth of trouble…and a big mess in three different places at the same time.  I know some of you can relate.We’re innovative and independent, but we’re also incorrigible in our routineness. We’re inertia-driven, struggling to stop those routines and find our grooves in what seems a surreal stay-in-place pandemonium. We fight anxiety–about the sickness itself, about political extremism, about people from whom we are disconnected, and about the economy. We worry about how we will ever make up all those cancelled appointments and engagements and events once we do start having schedules again. I’ve wondered many times lately how people do quarantines without prayer and the Word. Knowing there’s no place to go now would be extremely hard if there was no ultimate place to go…for eternity.

But there was also this other moment; a moment that also happened while I was driving to that curbside this week….

My friend, a relatively new convert, called to ask me if I was okay and to encourage me to pray. She said, “We all have to pray. God will give us what we need if we just pray and pray.”

I knew she was right (Matthew 6:33), but I wasn’t sure exactly where she was coming from as we started talking. She related to me that some of her unbelieving friends were in a bad situation in a local hospital. She said to them “You need to let me pray for you. God can help you.” And so she did. Her prayers were answered in God’s great timing and this family is now open to Bible study.

She went on to tell me how very hard she has also been praying for her unbelieving husband. “I believe he is coming around to the point of believing in God,” she said. We talked further and agreed on a book that I’m ordering for her study with him. Then we talked about my friend’s job changes lately.

My friend has, for many months, been working in a restaurant. I encouraged her to tell the management that she could not work on Sundays during worship. She did tell them that, but, in spite of their agreement, they kept scheduling her so that she had to miss worship. At last, a few months back, she told them she would have to leave their employment if she could not faithfully worship. So they let her go; essentially, they fired her. She was seeking first the kingdom and, as she did, the Lord, in Matthew 6:33 fashion, provided another job, working with elderly people in a nursing home. My friend loves this work. Its pay and benefits are what she was looking for all along.

Her next statement was rich. ” Here I am, as an essential worker now; working, getting paid to do something I love, and eating right through this pandemic, while the people who fired me, as restaurant managers , are out of work.”  Can you think of a more practical illustration of Matthew 6:33?  I’d be hard-pressed to come up with one.

See, in a few of the little things, we may look at a quart’s worth for all of our trouble and get discouraged. But, in the big eternal things, let’s be sure to notice that, for our quart’s worth of seeking, our needs are repaid in gallons. Your prayer may not always be answered in exactly the same way or with the same immediacy that my friend’s is being answered. But mark it down: When we seek the kingdom first, the result, even when we wait till heaven to get it, will be fourfold (and more) blessings.

I know another family who was in the midst of trying to buy a home in a new city to which they were moving just last month. Their house sold, in the thriving February American economy, before they even placed it on the market. Finding one in their destination city was proving harder, though. It was a seller’s market there, as well. Many homes were simply snatched up before this good family had a chance to travel to see them. In one case, this family even placed an offer on a home sight-unseen, becoming pretty desperate to find a place to live. Every house they tried to buy, though, was not negotiable to their price range or was sold before they could even take a look. This little family kept praying and serving the Lord and, then, the pandemic hit. That’s when the market flipped. Suddenly, people were no longer buying houses and, just like that, this little family’s dollars would go much further in buying a house. They were able to quickly find a house and negotiate the price in a way that would have been impossible only a few days prior. No one in this scenario was happy, of course, that a pandemic had reached America (or even existed, of course.) But, at the same time, this couple could look back and recognize that, in their former disappointments, God was providing something better, as they continued in His will.

It’s often just like that. Providence can be seen so much clearer in hindsight. And, even in situations that were destructive and for which we would have never wished or prayed, for His people looking back, there was Providence…good things coming from difficult things. Blessings in trials.

Am I saying that God’s always going to fix all the problems for us, as His faithful children? Yes. I’m saying He will. I’m just not saying when. For some of the trials, heaven may be the fix. We may struggle with some hardships for all of this lifetime, as His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). But Paul’s thorn in the flesh, whatever it was, is “fixed” now. Let’s live in the shadow of Matthew 6:33 and patiently wait for the fourfold blessings, whether they may come in the blessed here and now or in the sweet by and by.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

 

 

 

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“Wednesday nights are just not do-able…”

It’s a phrase I’m hearing a lot from young mom’s lately. “Wednesday nights are just not do-able in this season of our lives.” Of course the reference is to the assembly of God’s people that happens in the middle of the week. It’s usually, but not always on Wednesday evenings after the work day is done and there are usually Bible classes for the little ones and, at the congregation where I attend, there’s rich fellowship and a ladies prayer group and a ladies class and so much more. I’d hate to think I’d have to do battle with the devil for the rest of the week without the boost that this family time gives me. 

But what about those who are in the season of life when the littles are needing to get in bed before 8:30? Supper’s got to fit in the schedule somewhere, the workday for the breadwinner makes for a time crunch between quitting time and class time. Sometimes there may be two breadwinners and there may be a lot of school, sports, theater, and other extra-curricular activities scheduled for that afternoon, even for elementary aged kids.  Plus, there’s the homework for children who, in the early grades of school, are already tired when the carpool winds down in the afternoon. And toddlers are not always very gracious and deferential when schedules become tight. 

I know it’s hard. But I want to say it is just that: HARD. To say it is not do-able is just not accurate. I watch the busiest of families with multiples do it each Wednesday. When I walk in a few minutes before seven, I enter though the fellowship hall where invariably I see families who’ve picked up (or packed) supper and are eating together on site before going to class. Kids are playing together in this large room while moms are cleaning up the “picnic”. Older women are hanging out there too and holding babies and offering support. Lots of families now bring pajamas in the diaper bag and you see kids changing into those on pews after class, so they can fall asleep after Bible time in the car on the way home. 

Let me tell you what these kids are learning. There are two three-year-olds I know who can recite all the books of the Bible. There’s a four-year-old who recently sang the book of James from memory. There are lots of elementary aged kids who can give you an overview of every book of the Bible (some pre-schoolers, too). This week my three-year-old Colleyanna came home excited about Zaccheus and five-year-old Ezra was able ti give me the details of the feeding of the five thousand. They had little crafts that reminded them of these details and they wanted these on the refrigerator. But, most importantly, what they have learned is that God’s will and work is the most important business to which their families attend.  

Because, you see, there will be another season one day. It will be a season of amazing teenage distractions. There will be huge and glaring contradictions in their arenas of ethics and morality. There will be endless invitations to parties and temptations to participate in the things that will ultimately damn their souls. There will be academic challenges that will lure many of them them from faithful attendance and, in the end, from a relationship with God. There will be big tests at school and even bigger tests of faith in a world that mocks it. In the most diligent of homes, there may be times when your children notice inconsistencies between your profession and your practical daily living. This season is coming. 

But it doesn’t take a smart mom to figure out that the child who saw her do very HARD things weekly just because the Lord’s work was paramount in her world, is better prepared to do HARD things when the season changes. Building spiritual muscles for the heavy-weight temptations the devil hurls will not be done in overnight therapy when that season has come. Spiritual muscles are in training in the fellowship hall before class and on the pew when the pajamas are going on. It’s happening in the class when the teacher is singing about who “came to class” and when the kids are playing in the auditorium, while dads are talking with each other and moms are in the prayer group meeting—praying for the futures of souls that will one day be placed permanently in one of two destinations. 

Someone has said that the problem with the living sacrifice of Romans 12 is that a LIVING sacrifice keeps crawling off of the altar. May I just say that the display of practical weekly priorities is a big sacrifice-binding cord that you really do want to have in place. 

Now, I know we could go to Hebrews 10:25 and I believe that our Wednesday meeting would be an appropriate application of that passage, particularly when elderships have set up these assemblies for the feeding of our souls. The passage commands  something practical about our assemblies together and our faithfulness to them, for sure. But I would postulate that our love for the times of study and fellowship (and for the Lord, who is the centerpiece of those times) should motivate us to WANT to be at the midweek assembly.

We could also compare the importance of all of the competing activities with the assembly of the saints in the middle of the week. Lots of times we let the loudness of the urgent, but temporal things get our attention while we ignore the whispers of the eternally important things. In a hundred years it will not matter one iota whether or not your child succeeded academically. It will not matter if he excelled at football or soccer. It will not matter whether she took ballet or gymnastics or had swim lessons. But it will matter a great deal whether or not he/she learned that spiritual matters are the most important matters of life. It will matter if he/she grew up with a determination to do HARD things for the One who did the hardest thing for us. 

Even while writing this, I’ve talked with two moms whose children have moved to another season of life at universities–in these cases, even Christian universities.  The devil is trying hard, in each case, to erode convictions of godliness. Both of these godly mothers are very thankful, even while they don’t know the outcome of these challenges, that they did not compromise these priorities as their children were growing up.  This knowledge is their protection now from deep regret.

Every season is the season for sacrifice. And the living is not a sacrifice (Romans 12:1,2) if we aren’t doing HARD things. Let’s not confuse “not do-able” with “difficult”.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Replacing the Calendar Again

When I hang a new calendar, looking over the spent and tattered one I’m putting in that file cabinet…the cabinet that now has a stack of gridded sheets that represent the business, the slammed schedules, the birthday parties, the travel. as well as the mundane housecleaning, cabin cleaning, and mending days of the past year, I always try and think about the big picture. Every little square in that twelve page card stock and pocketed book that I’m filing away was a day of movement. Every square was movement toward heaven or away from it. We live sadness and hope. We live purpose and appointments. We live fun and fervor. But we never live static. Each turn of the page is a progression toward eternity. What makes each square so precious is that one square will be the last one. 

…Which makes me think about empathy. With the passage of time in each of our lives, our experiences multiply. I mean, I used to have no clue about grandparenthood. (Who are all these crazies who are obsessing over a dimple or the color of a baby’s hair?) Now I know. I fully empathize because my realm of experience grew. That happened on one of the squares in 2014. I used to come up short in the empathy department for those who were caring for elderly parents. Not any more. That happened slowly on lots of squares in the past ten or so calendar records. Experiences have simply broadened my scope of empathy. It was never that I didn’t have sympathy for those in the sandwich generation. But empathy is a whole different thing. Empathy is what make you give grace and truly feel WITH another who is experiencing something you’ve known firsthand. Remember, empathy is what makes our Lord the GREAT high priest that He is. We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Rather, we have one who has been tried in every point, just like we are tried, yet He did it without sin (Heb. 4:15). Empathy qualifies him to be my mediator and I am so thankful for His divine empathy. 

On that page, let me list a few scenarios of which I will not be critical this year. Experiences produce empathy. Empathy produces grace. So here:

  1. I will not criticize young mothers who are struggling in worship services to make toddlers behave. 
  2. I will not criticize young families who are occasionally late for Bible class.
  3. I will not criticize young moms who show up for Bible class on Wednesday night in jeans and a milk-stained t-shirt. 
  4. I will not criticize older people whose eyes occasionally close and whose head sometimes inadvertently bows during the sermon on Sunday.
  5. I will not criticize bragging grandmothers.
  6. I will not criticize grandmothers who buy too many baby clothes.
  7. I will not criticize the careful choices made by children about the care of aged parents.
  8. I will not criticize the families of faithful elders and preachers about matters of judgment.
  9. I will not criticize people who occasionally cry in public–people who others may classify as “emotional basket cases.”
  10. I will not criticize the eating and exercise habits of busy people.
  11. I will not criticize those who do not take every call at the moment it comes.
  12. I will not criticize busy people who lose keys, phones, glasses and other essentials frequently and who sometimes forget appointments.

There’s a little list of a few of the many decisions that experience has helped me make. Experience is my friend. Gray strands are my teachers. I know that our realms of empathy are not all the same. But the world might be a gentler place if we allowed the scenarios  and circumstances we’ve faced to teach us grace. Notice that I did not say “indifference to sin.” We have to care deeply about what grieves God. But empathy makes us also care deeply about the “infirmities” of His people. Experience makes us keenly aware that we might not know details that are crucial in decisions being made by others. Empathy makes us better people.  

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

You Can’t Do this Later…

Last Sunday morning found a bunch of Christians that I personally know with sick kids and viewing worship on livestream. One of them sent me these notes she jotted while viewing the West Huntsville livestream and caring for the babies. So today, one photograph says it all. If we could process this one lesson from the pulpit to the lifestyle, our families, churches, and evangelistic efforts would thrive in ways we’ll never know unless we do just that. If you want to hear the full lesson, it’s here: https://westhuntsville.org/sermons/10-things-you-shouldnt-put-off/.

Later that day, at Kidsing, Glenn asked the weekly question to the little ones: “Who can tell me what the sermon was about this morning?” The answer, from a six (or so) year old:

“Ten things we have to do and we can’t do them later.” He was right and here’s a rundown of those important “right now” things. Enlarge, print and put it on your fridge or in your Bible. Most of all, put it in your life!