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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: My Life on a Cart

Polishing the Pulpit (https://polishingthepulpit.com) is a conference for Christians, held annually in Sevierville, TN and it’s become a 5500-person fellowship/teaching event that’s unlike any other; both in great potential for the gospel’s spread and in popularity with gospel-followers. As you can guess by its name, it began as a little workshop for preachers and has developed in 25 short years to be a power-house conference (because of His power) that has meaty and practical sessions for all of God’s people. As one of the audio and video technicians, who gave his life to Christ in baptism at the end of the week said “Where can you find this many people who are just this nice?” I love that assessment.

I know the devil would love to worm his way into this event, but God’s people there, both leadership (the elders of the Jacksonville church of Christ) and attendees, are determined to keep a sound and unified event. It’s become a family (both physical family and spiritual family) reunion for the Colleys, to which we look with great anticipation every year. 

As we left the convention center this year, I took a long look at our luggage cart, and there I saw a huge conglomeration that’s now still a big pile in my bedroom floor. But looking at that cart, I saw a small cross-section of my whole world.  I could look at that all-too-familiar hotel cart and see my life–the things that I love and the things I do–rolling across that parking lot.  Some of the things were meaningful in a long-term way. Some, like the number of pairs of shoes I’d brought along, were just extra and unneeded baggage. I looked at that cart and contemplated for a minute.  

I saw all the Digging Deep paraphernalia…my new DD bag that had carried handouts, books, baby entertainment items for worship, and bread to give away before my classes began; my Digging Deep t-shirt and the old “Authority” book from which I’d taught a couple of times through the week. And my brand new “Glory” book was also somewhere on the cart. There was even a shovel, a rake and a hoe, given to me by one of the Georgia diggers . Digging Deep was everywhere on the cart.

There was stuff from the Digging Deep Israel trip: a large group photo given to us by John and Carla Moore as they packed up the Bible Land Passages table in the Exhibit Hall. At the very top of the cart was the ram’s head with real ram’s horns, given to us by fellow Israel traveler, Caysi McDonald. Lindsay VanHook put them on the head she crafted and Linzee Stephenson mounted the ram’s head on a wooden spatula. It served us well, at the climax of the Mount Moriah scene, in Family Bible week at West Huntsville and then at Family Bible time in the Atrium with a hundred or so kids.

There were a lot of grandchildren things on that cart. There was my Bernina sewing bag, a big white laundry basket that had served to transport a bunch of birthday gifts and decorations for little Maggie’s first family birthday party, held just outside the atrium, after the crowds had exited on Thursday. There was a big black plastic garbage bag that had served to hide the 34-year-old red and white wooden scooter that Glenn had made for Caleb for his first birthday; now being passed along to Maggie (She loved it, repeating over and over “Brooom, brooom!” as she pushed it around by the wooden handle bars.)  The big bag was now full of laundry awaiting the wash.  There were leftover snack bags and boxes; surprises we’d brought to tape on the hotel room doors of the grandkids. The grands were fully represented on the cart.

My sisters were there, too. The little trinkets and treats and notes of encouragement that so many sweet friends had shared were rolling, too, in various bags and cases.

There was a computer printer, two large Bibles, a portfolio for organizing lessons, two lap-tops and an iPad, a large commentary and a big package of computer paper. It’s the way we roll when we are speaking in a total combined  number of sessions that exceeds thirty. There was even a coffee maker and a bag of Keurig cups to keep us burning the midnight oil. And there were dress clothes for all those speeches. And dress shoes and ties and scarves and there was a bag of brand new socks for Glenn because he has that propensity for leaving his at home. (He has that propensity in common with Don Blackwell. We went to Israel and washed the same pair of socks every.single.day.) 

I guess I could go on listing blessings on that cart. But the thing that struck me is  this: Your stuff represents your heart. Obviously, the stuff on the cart is the stuff I didn’t want to do without for a week-and-a-half.  Jesus said something in the same vein over in Luke 6:34

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 

By the time we left, I noticed the world was refilling the empty hotel. Carts were coming in with vastly different loads; carts pushed by people who were almost naked—carts that held luggage and beer and swimsuits and water shoes and tickets to the pleasures of the world around us. My husband commented that after watching Christians crowd those hotel hallways for a week, it was very shocking to see the world. We probably need to keep on being a little shocked. 

It’s also very motivating. Think about the diffusion of those 5500 people into a world that pushes the wrong load. Think about what we can do if every one of us invites one person to study the Bible with us monthly between now and our next gathering in Sevierville. Think about what we can do if each family has Family Bible Time daily for all 355 days between now and the next PTP. Think about how much stronger our families will be if every mother at PTP studies the Word deeply every day between now and next August 12th. Think about how much of an effectual working will occur if every woman who left that place is fervently in daily prayer for this entire year. Think about the power of a diffusion. How many carts could we load for heaven? 

How many? How many could I help load, given my opportunities in my little circle of influence? I’m going to try to have at least one more packed and loaded for heaven before that gathering on the mountain next year. Will you try, too? 

  

                                                 

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!