Browsing Tag

Priorities

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!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“When all the People Are in Church…”

Tonight’s the Digging Deep podcast (http://new.livestream.com/whcoc/for-women). Be sure to join in and comment. The results are better when you participate, of course. I’m looking forward to this, the first podcast of a brand new decade—a discussion of glory from 1 Samuel. There’s been a lively discussion about Hannah’s vow on the group page, so we’ll comment a bit about that. 

While shopping on Saturday in a very crowded home goods/clothing store, I was navigating my cart around another customer. We had this short conversation. She began with a frustrated tone: 

Her: “I thought surely today would not have been so crowded.” 

Me: “Whoosh!…Seems like everyone’s in here today.”

Her: “Sunday’s the day I should’ve come. When all the people are in church and it’s nice and quiet.” 

Me: “Well, that’s where I’ll be tomorrow.”

Her: “Yep….That’s when I should come back.” 

How sad that there are those living in a country so permeated with the gospel; a country where there’s a Bible in almost every hotel room and multiple Christ-confessing churches meeting in almost every little town—how sad that there are those in our community who view the Lord’s Day as merely a great time to go to the store while “everyone’s at church.” It says something good about our community…that at least there are lots of folks who are attempting to honor God in some way, in truth or in misguided good will, on Sunday mornings. It says something very sad about my fellow-shopper. The benefit she is deriving (or at least the one she is recognizing) from the cross is a stress-free shopping morning every seven days. It’s kind of  like my tossing a heavy platter of pure gold in the dumpster and feeling relieved that I’ve decluttered—only the “clutter” that my friend saw in Christianity is infinitely more valuable. 

I hope your resolve this year includes using the most valuable possession you have. I hope you will be digging in the Word. Your search for treasures that will outlive you doesn’t have to be in our Digging Deep group. But its accountability and fellowship is very helpful. Visit here to get started on the January study today: https://thecolleyhouse.org/digging-deep-2019-2020. Or open up the Book on your own and bask in the blessings for yourself and your family. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

And Prior to the Lesson this Morning…

I was up at 6 a.m. this morning—a  Sunday morning—and I asked my husband if he’d be okay studying for his lesson upstairs while I watched an episode of something (volume up) and ran on the treadmill in the basement. He said “Oh yeah…It won’t bother me. I’m just going to be preaching up here. Go ahead.”  That’s his usual mode on Sunday mornings. He likes to pace and whisper-preach his well-prepared lesson one last time. He never uses notes in the pulpit and that last run-though is vital to his memory. 

But despite the loud volume on my television and the humming treadmill motor, I could hear bumping and knocking, stamping footsteps and things falling in the upstairs part of the house. It did not sound at all like study or the kind of whisper-preaching that my husband does on early Sunday mornings.  If he was preaching up there, it must have  been some more  powerful sermon. Just as I was working up a sweat, Glenn came down the stairs, rounded the corner and with a look of utter agitation on his face, he shouted “Can you  power that down and come help me?…Can you come right now?”

“What’s wrong?…”What’s the matter?” I said as I started shutting off the treadmill and the TV.

“Well, we have a small squirrel in the house and I can’t catch him. I’ve tried and tried, but he’s very fast and He keeps going under things and behind things and I need you to help me corner him. I’m in a pickle. I have got to get back to this lesson.” 

“Oh no…Oh dear…okay,” I stammered. “…but I am really not your girl for this job.” See, Glenn wanted me to stand at the end of tables and sofas and beds to try and corner the squirrel when he emerged from hiding places. What I wanted to do was stand on top of those tables and beds and sofas and stay as far from that squirrel as I possibly could get. I soon saw, though, that our squirrel had no qualms whatsoever about running on top of tables, himself, and jumping from stairwells to tabletops to floors and behind armoires and under closed doors. He was the next thing to a flying squirrel and he was all over my house. And he loved stairwells.

The next few minutes proved to be a worthless workout. Out of breath, Glenn kept saying “I’m going to have to let you take care of this because I have to preach in a few minutes.”

“I’m not the right person for this job. I just can’t do this, “ I kept responding.

“Be brave. I need you. The church needs you. Just watch for him to come out and call me.”

About that time, we both thought we heard the little fugitive in a closet—a closet jam packed with 150 glass-bottle Coca-Colas, and a dozen packages of paper-ware for a big Christmas party we’re planning for the congregation at the end of the week. In addition there are a bajillion gift bags in there along with piles of random packing and wrapping materials and bows. There’s a shelf of 32 volumes of the “Great Books” and there’s a library that I use for Digging Deep. There are clothes I’ve hoarded for grandchildren and all of my winter coats. There are extra bed pillows and there’s an electric train. In short there are a million places for a squirrel to hide in that closet and there’s great potential for squirrel havoc in there and I am NOT the girl to go rummaging through that looking for a jumpy squirrel! I would jump out of my skin if I ever actually found him in there! My imagination went quickly to him jumping from the top shelf onto my back as  I’m jostling those boxes and bags on the floor. Or what if I came eyeball to eyeball with him when I looked behind that basket of toys?!  Intellectually, I know he’s small and he wants out of my house as badly as I want him out; but this is no academic exercise. This is Cindy Colley in a closet with a squirrel who’s already proven his gymnastic prowess. I’m not your girl.  

So I shut that closet door. I pushed a very heavy chest against that closet door. I went to another closet and got a big black board that I use to cover the kitchen sink when I need more counter space for serving company and I wedged it up against the door, between the chest and the crack at the bottom of the door. I was thinking about all the donations I was making to this project (after all, who wants to set the dishes for guests on a “squirrel trap”?) But I was not thinking too long and hard  about that. I was thinking “I am NOT your girl, whether you have to preach or not.”

I went to the door of the room and shut it, stuffing a quilt under the crack at the bottom. The door kept popping open under pressure, so I rigged a bungee cord up to another doorknob in the adjoining hall. My house was starting to look like a scene in “Home Alone” and I knew that home…alone was exactly what that squirrel was going to be while we went to worship. Home (my home)…Alone (with my Christmas gifts and party supplies and my precious little library)! I could not bear that thought. I am not your girl. 

“What if he escaped from the closet while I was gone to get the board? What if he is not incarcerated, but instead he’s ‘at large’ again in my house? What if he’s in there parading around my Christmas tree where he was when Glenn first spotted him while pacing and preaching  in the living room? What if he is IN my 13-foot Christmas tree? Will I find a mess of broken ornaments on the floor when I get home from worship? Will I pull back the covers on our bed and find pieces of that tree…or worse? What if we don’t find him today? How far back does the front seat recline in my car and is it going to be a warm night?” I went back and rigged another door with a quilt and bungee cord. Some things are just more important than…say, washing your hair or even showering before leaving for worship. 

As we traveled to worship, Ezra and Colleyanna, (ages five and three, respectively) called for FaceTime. Hearing about that squirrel was the best thing about their morning. “INSIDE your house?!!” they yelled with glee. “Under your Christmas tree?!”…”I wish dat squuyell was at my house! Dat would be esciting!”

I tried hard to worship. I really did…and that lesson about Mary and Martha zoomed right over to my pew and zeroed right into my “careful and troubled about many things” heart and I repented for the squirrel-induced hindrances over and over.   

Pulling out of the parking lot, Glenn said “Where do you want to go for lunch?” 

“I just want to go home and find that squirrel.” I replied….”In fact, I’d really love to cook lunch for you while you do the dispatch work.” 

“Seriously?…Well, alright then. We’ll go home.” 

And my good husband drove home, got his little 22 pistol, loaded it with rat shot, and made a regular invasion of that closet. In fact, that entire room looks like it was in the direct path of a level five tropical cyclone.  

A few minutes later, Glenn came through the kitchen with a John Wayne kind of swagger and said “Well, we got him.” 

“Great!… Where was he? I didn’t hear the gun.”

“It was pretty easy, actually,” Glenn replied. “I was just about to give up finding him in that closet. I walked through the bathroom with my gun to look for him in the sewing room…” (That was another room I’d bungee-corded off).  

“…And out of the corner of my eye, I spotted him…floating around in the toilet.” 

Ten take-aways from the thirsty squirrel saga:

  1. Biblical, marital submission trumps fear and is a strong catalyst for creativity.  
  2. When you say “I do…for better or worse” at the altar, you never know what you’re really signing up for.    
  3. Some mornings, just living life burns more calories than running on a treadmill  (or even doing a high intensity training workout).
  4. Always keep a few spare bungee cords around the house. They’re good for lots of things.
  5. Worship is hard work. Some days it’s very hard work.
  6. That Mary and Martha lesson is very practical and unrelenting in its varied applications (https://westhuntsville.org/sermons/mary-martha-and-lazarus/).  
  7. Lots of sacrifices will be made when the thirsty have hope of a drink.  
  8. Make your husband a hero even if he never pulls the trigger. It’s all in the chase; the effort and the end result. 
  9. Sometimes you plunge in too deeply for something you want and you find there’s no way back out.
  10. Not every Sunday baptism ends with walking in newness of life.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


 

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?