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Priorities

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #51–Mentoring Younger Kids in Sports

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 50 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”.

It’s easy (and fun) for us to become very involved in the sports activities of our children. This is not wrong. It’s commendable, even necessary, for us to be involved if our children are pursuing goals that could bring acclaim on some level in various sports arenas. The big deal about sports is that they can’t be the big deal in our lives and families. The biggest deal has to be Jesus and his church, of course (Matthew 6:33). So Wednesday night ballgames are preempted by Bible class, Sunday tourneys by worship, and team arrogance cannot characterize our children. There are all kinds of lessons to be learned on the diamond, the court and the field. But it takes a never ending zeal for teaching them on the part of parents. I should say that I know a host of parents right now who are characterized by this zeal. Uniforms on church pews, visitors at worship from ball teams, and Christian-dad-led devotionals on the field are just a few signs that this sort of zeal is alive and well.

But what if those teens who are athletically bent carried it one step further and  actually invited younger  kids over for a devo and a pick-up basketball game, or for a youth singing followed by a field trip to the batting cage? What if the guy who is the expert on the rowing team, invited the younger ones out on the river for a day in the canoe, along with a spiritual time together on the bank somewhere? Maybe the girl who is the star high-school basketball player could invite the younger ones to a game followed by a sundae supper at her home, and a talk about standing out for him when we are in the lime-light. This is, of course, not an exhaustive suggestion list, but you can see where your little all-stars can go with this. Even if your athletes are ten years old, they can be doing this for those who are six and seven, with a little transportation help from you! What if your twelve-year-old invited his entire team to go to a night of VBS with him followed by a coaching session around your home basketball goal by one of your congregation’s “pros”? A good “pro” is pretty easy to find when he’d be coaching twelve-year-olds; and think of the life-coaching he could be doing at the same time!

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with sports and edge out the Lord. But it’s better to be overwhelmed by His goodness and let sports be the catalyst for sharing that bounty. That’s all-star evangelism.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Oikouros. Do You Do This? (Conclusion)

As this series concludes, please remember that I understand there are those moms who’d like to do this oikouoros thing, but can’t. We should help such women in any way that we can to get to the goal. Some readers may say that I cannot understand, because I lived in a world in which my husband prioritized my staying at home or because I was able to have many luxuries and still  be at home with my children during those formative years. I know that I have been very blessed and there is some truth to those objections. I have to work every day to honor Him with blessings and to be sure I am not taking them for granted as if He owes me something. At the same time, I hope we‘ve picked up on the fact that the injunction to be oikouros is an inspired teaching conveyed in a word in Titus 2 and multiple times in concept form throughout Scripture. We will always suffer spiritually when we look to the world’s decision-making standards rather than the expressed will of our Creator.

One afternoon, I was driven up to a fabulous house in a high-end neighborhood where I would be staying while speaking in the area. I walked through beautifully decorated rooms, past a well-stocked entertainment center. I said hello to two very well-dressed young children and their dad, who was taking off his tie from a busy workday. I went upstairs to the beautiful guest bed and bath where I would be sleeping. The next morning, when I awoke, I peered out the window at a fenced, park-like backyard complete with a full playground with all the bells and whistles. I went downstairs for some orange juice and began to converse across the granite kitchen bar with my hostess. 

Somehow in that conversation, we moved to the topic of stress and the busy world in which we live. In this context, came the words that still make me sad when I remember that morning. I’ve heard the words many times since then. Sometimes the words are truth and that is sad. But sometimes they are words spoken, not of conviction of conscience, but more for a hurting conscience’s comfort. Her words were “I wish I did not have to work, so I could just stay home and raise my children.”

One day a child said the words to me this way: “ My mom would like to stay home with me, but she says that if she stays home, we can’t have our pool.” A variety of amenities have completed the sentence in different situations: “our new house” or “my private education” or “our trips to Disney”. 

There is a way to get past this amazing perspective. Go on a mission trip to Zambia or Argentina or Columbia or Tanzania or Haiti or any of the hundreds of poverty-stricken places in our world. Listen to children tell you about digging for rats to eat. Take cold showers and realize the hard way that there are no adequate sewage systems. Notice that goat head or turkey tail is a coveted entree, depending on your location.

I could go on, but the point is all too obvious. We are so rich in these United States that we have come to include luxuries in our lists of necessities. Our children are sometimes bringing shame on our families because they have grown up in worlds of instant gratification; worlds void of guidance, nurture, family Bible times, and deep family prayer. “A child left to himself brings his mother shame” (Proverbs 29:15). We, like the rich young ruler, have a lot going on materially, but we will continue to reap sorrow when we allow our possessions to own us rather than the other way around. 

“He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mt. 19:22).

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Conversations about Malignancy

Here’s a snippet of the shocking conversation as I sat that Sunday morning on the second pew, as a visitor. The lady next to me, a member of that congregation,  a middle ager and with her husband, spoke very casually:

The lady: “Yes….My daughter lives in Little Rock with her husband.”

Me: “Well, How are they enjoying that area?”

The lady: “Well, I’m not sure. I think my daughter may not be well. She might have cancer.”

Me: “Well, is she going for treatment? Has she been diagnosed?”

The lady: You know I’m just not sure about her condition or what she is doing about it.  I’m not sure if she is going to see her physician or not. I don’t know what type of cancer she has or how large the tumor is.  I need to ask her again. We also have a son who may be sick, too. I just can’t remember what he said about his condition, either. Oh dear.  Honey, what is the name of that condition he has? Can you remember? (Looking over at her husband).

That was not exactly the conversation. But what would you think if it was?…That this mother was insane?… That she had been traumatized at some point, becoming cold and calloused about her own children?…That she was simply unfeeling and very different from the Christ we had all gathered to memorialize that Sunday? 

Here’s the real conversation:

The Lady: “Yes. Our daughter lives in Little Rock with her husband.” 

Me: “Well, where do they worship there?”

The Lady: “You know I am not sure. I can’t really recall what kind of church she said they are attending. I need to ask her again.

Me: (a little shocked). And you have more children?

The lady: Yes. Our son….He lives in Florida….Now he goes to some other church, too…I think he does. Oh, Honey, can you remember what kind of church he goes to?” …Oh…I’m trying to think…”

Just then the service began and I tried to pick my jaw up off the floor and frame my startled mind to worship the God of the Universe…the One who spoke the world into existence and yet knows how many hairs are on the head of this woman’s daughter….And He knows where that head is bowed on any given Sunday, if it is bowed at all. He knows if this woman’s son and daughter have a spiritual malignancy. He knows and offers the cure.  But until this woman becomes more keenly aware of the eternal urgency of the spiritual welfare of her children, she will never be helpful to them in battling the spiritual cancer.

I was a visitor. Granted, I do not know the ins and outs of the relationship this couple have with their children. I do not know how recently the conversion of this middle-aged couple occurred. I do not know if their children have had a chance to hear the pure good news. But I know that, if this woman is emotionally and mentally stable, and if she loves the Lord and His church, she will quickly grow into knowing about, caring for and sacrificing for sin’s cure for her children. She will be plugged in to the treatment plan and she will be offering them the resource that will save their spiritual lives. 

The difference between the cancer conversation and the one that really happened that morning? The first has to do with the speck in eternity that is our lives and the second has to do with the infinite remainder of eternity (and we really can’t even use the word “remainder” when we speak of infinite time. The remainder is still infinity.) The first has to do with a mortal body that houses the soul. The second is about the soul, itself—the essence of every human being. The souls of her children—who they are—is what this woman knew very little about. I pray that I may always know my children. 

The second conversation, the real one, is far and away–infinitely–more important.

 

  

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Are You Dying for a Piece of Cake?

photo courtesy https://www.army.mil/birthday/

Last Sunday, while visiting a congregation of God’s people in Columbus, Georgia, I met a soldier–a brother in Christ– with a remarkable story. It seems that, while he was stationed in the Middle East, the United States Army’s birthday (June 14th) rolled around and several units were assembling at an undisclosed location to have a festive morale-building celebration in honor of the occasion. A giant cake was ordered for this birthday party and it fell the duty of this soldier to go and pick up the cake. So he got in his assigned vehicle, a Hummer, and made the trip to retrieve the biggest cake he’d ever seen.

All was well until he found himself under enemy fire on the return trip. Panic struck this soldier as deadly missiles were barely missing the Hummer. In the seat beside him where his partner was supposed to be sitting, armed and ready…in the place where the weaponry to defend his very life was normally positioned was… cake–a giant cake.

Thankfully, this brother, after a couple of very near misses, escaped the fire and made it safely back to his battalion. The party began and the cake was cut. Thus, my opportunity on Sunday to meet him.  But this big, brave and  brawny soldier almost died for a large piece of birthday cake.

It occurs to me that we sometimes take great spiritual risks for pieces of cake. The devil is attacking and sometimes we let our guards down. Sometimes in the place of spiritual ammunition gained from study of the Word, we have worldly pleasure and entertainment. Sometimes in the seat of conviction, we have  the religion of convenience. Sometimes our spiritual lives are risked for something as small as a night of fun with friends or a date with a guy who is fun, but not holy. Sometimes we risk our chances to make it home safely for wealth or prestige. I know that, even if a man should gain the whole world in exchange for his soul, it would be a very poor trade indeed (Matthew 16:26). But I fear that, very often, many are selling out for so much less. We go spiritually bankrupt for a piece of cake. We are destroyed by enemy fire because we let the cheap “cake” of this world get in the “seat” where the tools of our spiritual warfare should be. When we do this, unlike the soldier, we will not make it safely home.

Maybe it’s time to rearrange priorities and put the important, eternal things back in the place where they belong.

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

From the Archives: All Dirty Uniforms Welcome!

softball-340488_960_720Question:When ball games, work, or other activities in which our young people may participate require them to leave mid-game, mid-practice etc…in order to make it to the services of the church, is it a wrong thing for them to wear their uniforms to worship services or Bible classes?

Answer:

Are you kidding me? What better statement to the church, the world, the Lord and the devil can a young person make than the one he wears to that service! He says “I was involved in what many people consider to be the most important part of life: sports. But that’s not the most important thing to me.” She says “ I’ve had to make it clear to those on my team and to my coach that my participation in this activity is a distant second to my faithfulness to the assemblies of God’s people.” It is a statement that so many of our adults need to hear.

When our young people wear ball uniforms to worship, my husband stands from the pulpit and makes a very clear object lesson from the young people who sit there in that attire. He says something along these lines: “We are so blessed to have young people of faith who chose to be at the gospel meeting tonight. Look at these guys in their uniforms. They left the field at the bottom of the seventh inning. They don’t know whether their team has won or lost. But there is one victory they are determined to win and it is the most important one. We are privileged to have men in uniform in our midst. And it’s a blessing to get to clean up a little dirt if it falls from the cleats of these guys. I know you will tell them how proud you are of the choice they made tonight.”

I have, unfortunately, heard of those who have criticized these young people for wearing uniforms to services. How could any church member get his conscience’s consent to discourage a teen or child who has made such an extremely difficult decision by criticizing the wearing of the uniform? I would be afraid of the wrath of Diety who called a little child to him and said “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven…But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for Him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the sea.”

For every one of these children who show up in uniform there are generally several adults who made conscious choices to be elsewhere that Wednesday night or during that particular service of the meeting. Perhaps our time would be better spent addressing the decisions of those who are failing to seek first the kingdom (lovingly helping them arrange priorities), than addressing whether or not the kids who made courageous decisions to fly in the face of negative peer pressure are spic and span when the first song begins. May their souls always be clean. May their lives always be unspotted. But let all dirty uniforms be welcome!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Coconut Oil for MY Pantry

Coconut-Oil-WebClearly, I was distracted. I’m not sure you can be clearly distracted, but I was…let’s say…strung out. I had Ezra, my 17-month-old grandson with me, so that’s automatic happiness and automatic craziness. I was headed to an out-of-town meeting with some folks. Glenn was driving me in a horrific rainstorm and so I was looking at my iPhone; reading some email and Facebook prayer requests and requests for counsel about some marriage issues. The house I’d left behind had laundry all over the hall floor and toy trucks and helicopters and mermaids and crumbs everywhere. All over the bedroom floor was unpacked luggage from earlier trips. There was unread mail and unpacked shopping items on the counter (Wish that was all that was on the counter.) It had been a day for squeezing in stuff I did not expect. In fact, I had done a few of those kinds of days back to back.

Earlier in the week, my sisters and I had made a firm decision to inject coconut oil into the food at my dad’s house to boost his short-term memory abilities. We’d read amazing things in places like this—http://www.naturalnews.com/039811_coconut_Alzheimers_dementia.html. Although we know you can’t believe everything  you read on the internet, we thought “What can it hurt?”  We’d also been trying to figure out how we were going to juggle things during the upcoming week of the gospel meeting where my Dad worships, which, coincidentally, occurs at the same time as our own gospel meeting at West Huntsville. He would need help with things like getting his dishes to the fellowship hall, parking, etc…so we were all about making a plan for that week.

Well, somehow, in the frantic fray of the afternoon, I got confused about the date of the gospel meeting at Jacksonville. So I proceeded to make my daily afternoon check-in call to Dad:

Me: “Hey, Dad. How are you doing?”

Dad: “Pretty good. How are you?”

Me: “We’re good. Are you getting ready for church?”

Dad: For church? This is not Sunday, is it?”

Me: No, but Dad, did you forget? It’s your gospel meeting!”

Dad: “To tell the truth, I guess I did forget. I better get up and get my socks on and go to that. I guess it’s at seven?”

Me: “Yes. It’s at seven. You still have time, But I’m worried about you. You do not remember going to the meeting yesterday?”

Dad: “No, I can’t really remember that, but, I’ll get ready and go. I’m glad you called me because I was going to forget all about that.”

So then, of course, I contacted Sami, my sister who had just left his house. No answer. I tried her husband…her son. No response. Finally I left a message on Sami’s phone…”Dad did not even remember that the gospel meeting was happening this week. Did you figure out someone to help him with the fellowship meals and the driving? Let me hear when you get a chance. Love you.”

A few minutes later, I got a call from Sami.

Sami: “Hey…but the meeting is not this week. Remember? It’s the first week in March?”

Me: “Oh dear. You are right. I have to go right now. Bye.”

Of course, I immediately called my Dad, who was hurrying, as much as a nonagenarian hurries, to try and get there by seven. Bless him. He was going to brave the storm to get to an evangelistic effort that I just thought was happening at the Jacksonville church of Christ. On learning that I was the one with the mental glitch, he said “Well, I didn’t think there was a meeting going on, but I took your word for it. Thank you for calling me back. I think I’ll go back to bed, roll back over and go back to sleep.”

Four lessons learned (or at least temporarily cognitively stored in short-term memory):

  1. When you truly trust someone, you just put aside everything you were thinking and go with the trusted individual . That’s, unfortunately, what my dad did. He trusted me. That was not the right thing to do, because I’m obviously fallible (and crazy). But that’s how we are with the heavenly Father if we really trust him, and it is the right thing to do.  We’re willing to ditch our own plans and do life His way.
  2. Love your sisters. It’s a group effort to successfully serve your father on earth. It is certainly a group effort to serve the heavenly Father. You need your sisters. They’ll help you keep life straight. Thank God for them every day.
  3. Focus on the Father. Sometimes things…even important things…can make you lose your focus and get mixed up about what’s going on with the most important relationship..the one with the Father.
  4. Don’t be trying to get the speck out of someone else’s eye when the beam is in your own eye (Matthew 7:3-5). That’s exactly what I was doing…going nuts over the fact that my dad was forgetting important things when it was actually me who was forgetting. Sometimes I do that with sin. The sin that drives me crazy in the lives of others is the very sin with which I struggle or even to which I fall. Keep trying to help others overcome sin, but be sure you always have the humility and focus to look inwardly while you’re helping others (Galatians 6:1)….

Maybe you need to get the coconut oil for your own pantry. It is going on my grocery list for my own pantry…today! If it doesn’t work, I hope you’ll visit me at the home.