Browsing Tag

Providence

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Diggers in the Fold!

Last weekend, while in Middle Tennessee at a Keepers at Home Retreat, some of the ladies were outside studying the second month of Digging Deep “The Crown,” when they heard the bleating of sheep. Our study this month is from Psalm 23 and is about the Shepherd and his sheep. A few hours later, I found myself knocking on the door of the shepherd to ask him if the diggers at this retreat could come see his sheep. 

He was a very nice gentleman whose wife has been through a very dark battle with cancer. He was extremely open and and answered all of our questions about the sheep as he patiently led us through the gate to the barnyard and pasture that was indeed his sheepfold. He had five lambs that were born only the day before.  

The sheepdog was a large Great Pyrenees and he was extremely protective of the sheep. He herded them away from the intruders (us) and stood between them and us. Knowing that we’d love to have a picture with his sheep, the shepherd got a bucket of feed, rattled it and called the sheep to the barn. His call was very loud and shrill….”Coyeeeeeah!” The sheep answered back” “Maa-aa-aahhhh” in unison each time the shepherd made the familiar call. As the dog led them toward the shepherd and the barn, they followed. But the dog stopped short of bringing the flock past our little group. We stood in the gap between the calling shepherd and the flock. They were not coming to eat until the “threatening intruders” were outside the fence. 

We expressed our gratitude, left some jam and relish that one of the sweet sisters made, sent a Digging Deep book to his wife and drove away with the sweet security in our souls that we are the sheep of the GOOD Shepherd. John 10 and Psalm 23 were all up in this sweet visit! 

I just want to be a sheep, Baa!

Lessons from this fold: 

  1. God’s Providence is sometimes fairly obvious. The diggers were out there studying sheep and they heard the bleating in a nearby sheepfold. This is not an everyday occurrence in this part of the world.
  2. Christians are given opportunities around every bend in the road. Around that bend was a shepherd who needed the prayers we promised for his struggling wife. That apple butter and relish that my sister brought to give the women would end up being used for another purpose, too, and, perhaps, even open a door. That shepherd needs THE Shepherd.
  3. Sometimes there are obstacles between the sheep and the shepherd. Are there people or things in between you and the Good Shepherd? 
  4. The sheep do hear the Shepherd’s voice. We could have stood there all day and called. They were not heading that way until they heard the familiar voice. Then the response was automatic. Are you responding to the Shepherd’s voice? 
  5. Those sheep stuck close together. In the face of intruders, they seemed to understand their need to stick close to one another. Do Christians find strength and comfort in one another when we face the intrusion of outside threats? 
  6. This shepherd was an expert, both a shepherd and a sheep judge, putting 16,000 miles on his sheep trailer in one year. There were obvious ways we could tell this: the immediate response of the sheep to his voice, the medical attention that was evident on one of the sheep that had been partially sheared to remove pests, the cleanliness and proper ID tagging of the animals, the neatness of the barn and pasture. Is our Shepherd interested in our spiritual health and purity? 
Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Pretty Sure it was Providence in 15A

I was exhausted when I got to 15A in the little jet that would bring me from Charlotte to Huntsville on Saturday night. I’ve become accustomed to sleeping pretty deeply even on short flights, so I was looking forward to it. I’d spoken for five days wonderful, but packed, days in south Georgia, rented a car and traveled on down to Jacksonville. It had been a beautiful 24 hours in Florida. As the sun went down on Friday night and the first star came into view, I was holding Ellis, who is just under two years old. He pointed up, excited to see it and shouted “How I wonder what you are!” The thrill of getting to speak on a program with my daughter-in-law, for the first time, and watch Maggie, who is four, lead her song before we spoke—well, it had all been so exciting. The ladies were so full of faith and friendliness. I ate my lunch beside a community visitor who was loving being there, too. The whole day was encouraging beyond what I had hoped. But thrilling things are sometimes exhausting things and I was worn out. I had spoken about “what older women need from younger women”. I felt like I knew by this time of day that this older woman just needed the younger women around her to be quiet on that plane! 

But I sat down beside a wonderful conversationalist. Sometimes, that’s a pretty bad thing. But this time, I’m pretty sure God was providentially answering my prayers for opportunities to talk about Him. And so we did. The lady in the seat beside me was in her fifties and she wanted to know about where I’d been that day. I told her that I’d been to Jacksonville, Florida and that I lived in Huntsville. I told her I’d been speaking  for a church’s ladies event there. She was a veritable fountain of information—about classifying animals and about the duck-billed platypus, about birds and about lizards–in short about the design designer argument for God’s existence.  She was also remarkably knowledgeable about the dangers of Zionism in our world today and so we spent a lot of time talking about how God feels today about Jerusalem and Judaism. She knew little about the Bible and declared that she loved Jesus, but had left off “church” many years ago. I talked about how we can’t love Jesus without loving His church, since Christ had given his life to purchase the church. She wanted to know all about Digging Deep and, by the time we picked up our bags, she gave me a big hug and promised to stay in touch. “I feel like I have found a safe space and I am going to look up your Bible study.”

But perhaps the biggest blessing happened as we were exiting the plane and going up the jet bridge in Huntsville. A sweet young girl from the row in front of us said “I was eavesdropping. What was the name of your Bible study? There’s a group of us at work who study together and we are looking for a new study. We’re almost done with the one we are doing now.” I began to explain it to her before we got a little separated in the airport, but I had asked her if she had checked a bag, so I could try to find her at baggage claim.  

I found out a little more about her when we picked up our bags. She was getting home from her honeymoon. (She looked about twelve years old to this old lady. That’s why I was the OLDER woman speaker on the program Saturday!) She lives in a town just outside of Huntsville and teaches three-year-olds in a preschool. So I told her that, if she thinks she’d like to look at Digging Deep, I’ll send her a complimentary study book. She said, “I’ve already joined the Facebook group and that’d be great! Thank-you!” 

I’m just saying I serve a great God. There I was thinking that the work was done. I had studied and prayed my heart out about that ladies day, and it was over. Now I don’t know, for sure, but it might have been the work on that plane, that was, in His power and providence, the biggest seed-planting of the weekend! I love it when He surprises me like that!  I’d originally not even planned to fly home. Logistics and time constraints had changed my mind and I booked a flight  at the last minute. He is so good! Even if the Word does not find a place in those hearts, the conversations were encouraging to me. I’d stay awake anytime for conversations like these!

Pray for these two sweet women. Pray that Digging Deep can impact their lives for the better. Most of all, pray that His Word will be given a chance in their lives to wield its power for salvation. He amazes me.                                                                                                                  

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Two Lawgivers…One Amazing Plan for My Soul.

My Digging Deep book got something spilled on it. Something from nowhere. Can’t EVEN figure out. Glenn’s checked the car, the table, the counter…to try and clean up whatever it is. (Who even cares about any of those surfaces? This is my DIGGING DEEP BOOK!) I cannot clean up the damage. I have spilled things on my DD book before (every year, basically); it makes the book ripply, and fat. But this spill  TOOK  AWAY my answers…on multiple pages…the notes that have been especially difficult in this schedule-challenged autumn. That spill took away hours and hours of work. I guess I was writing with a water soluble pen, or something. My good boots broke, the guitar I was counting on for Ezra’s costume is not the right instrument, at all (of course not!) I have luggage and clothing all over my bedroom floor from the past three trips and another trip tomorrow, my leggings under this dress are too short for my boots, I was just going to wear this big black ring for a few minutes and now I will wear it till someone cuts it off, and Glenn informed me yesterday that he will not be wearing the costume I made for him to be Ezra’s sidekick…that instead he will be preaching in another state the night of Trunk or Treat (guess I will be Gru), and he has taken the doors off of my almost explosive kitchen pantry for an indefinite period of time, for repairs. And I am not even writing about any of the bigger problems that are on the horizon right now.

Some days are like that. But you and I both know that, with all these first-world problems comes the blessing trail. For every problem you can think up or experience, there’s a much bigger and more lasting blessing. (I still have the Word in many places in my home and heart, Some people don’t have feet, much less boots. I have a husband who WANTS to trunk-or-treat with children and who is able to preach the gospel, etc…etc…) I love the blessing trail!

Today, in this vein, let’s take a minute to compare Moses and Jesus and marvel at the amazing trail of His providence that gives us in 2021, not the image of the deliverer (Moses), but THE deliverer (Jesus). If you are a digger, this is question 13, Month 2. Here are my top ten comparisons.

  1. Both were raised up from among their own people (Deuteronomy 18:15) .
  2. Both were perfect intercessors, having lived with both the enslaved and the royalty (Hebrews 11: 24,25; Phil. 2:5,6).
  3. Both had the words of God in their mouths (Deuteronomy 18:15).
  4. Both lives were threatened by kings when they were babies (Exodus 2, Matthew 2).
  5. Both dealt with lack of faith in their brothers (Exodus 32; John 7:5).
  6. Both provided food miraculously (Exodus 16; John 6).
  7. Both were lawgivers (Deuteronomy 31:24; Galatians 6:2).
  8. Both controlled waters (Mark 7:19; Exodus 14:26, 27) .
  9. Both were shepherds. Jesus still is (Exodus 3, John 10).
  10. Both were leading to a promised land (Deuteronomy 6:3; 2 Peter 3:13).

And, when I think of this amazing encompassing, providential, telescopic power of my God, none of the little messes matter. My God, who sees Sinai and Calvary through the same lens, has got my blood-covered life figured out, too. I praise Him.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Nothing Outside His Control

As Glenn was leaving this morning, he said to me “Some days I can feel my heart pounding harder inside my chest.” 

I think we all have days like that. There are times, for all of us, in which we feel like our days’ activities and responsibilities have sped beyond our ability to calmly overtake them. It’s a feeling of control lost. Sometimes it turns into helplessness, throwing hands up, and sometimes even thinking “Why should I even try?” 

Of course, I’m not thinking I have more deadlines or responsibilities or opportunities than the average Jane. I’m just saying that, for all of us, there will be seasons of busy-ness that are larger than calendar space, times of stolen serenity or even heart hurts that make us contemplate reaching for the proverbial towel to throw in. 

For me right now it’s a basement that makes me cringe each time I go down there to the freezer or the treadmill or the book supply. Why did that other generation (the parents on both sides) have to leave us or move to much smaller quarters and how DID they accumulate this much stuff for which there seems to be no place? And why can’t I find any time to go through any of these stacks of boxes and books and drawers of furniture that are so intimidating to me in this part of life? And will the time not be very short until my kids are wondering the same thing? And shouldn’t I do something about that in a hurry, too? And while we’re needing to do all that, we’re also needing to go and take care of the parents— things they need today in their smaller quarters. And all the tasks that go on all the time—laundry, cooking, church activities ( they’re out the wazoo in a good way right now)—just keep happening. 

Then there’s the heart hurts of people around me —-things over which I have not one iota of control—things that I’ve taken into my own heart. I can release them temporarily in prayer, but my weakness is that I let them creep back in; I cannot master Matthew 6:25-33. Isn’t it interesting that 1 Peter 5:7, that tells us to cast our care on God, immediately precedes that statement about the devil prowling about seeking whom He may devour? Can it be that when I fail to release my burdens to Him, that the devil sees my hurting shoulders—realizes my hands are full and that I might not be prepared to wield the sword of the Spirit against his wiles—and so he attacks at my most vulnerable time?! I think so! May I learn to put down the stuff that I cannot use and pick up the sword!

The Word champions it all if we let it. Listen to the control in this passage I came across this morning in Hebrews 2: 

…or it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,

or the son of man, that you care for him?

You made him for a little while lower than the angels;

you have crowned him with glory and honor,

putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

I love that the ESV says there that nothing was left outside His control. My Savior who is now crowned with glory and honor has been given sovereignty over all things. Though He will not make me or any human do His will for now, there’s coming a day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. There’s coming a day when there will be no basement, no plunder, no furniture, no heart hurts and no devil prowling. That day is, by any standard and for any living person, relatively soon.

I want to be sure that, while I’m waiting for that day, that I never forget its relevance to the little pressure cooker in which I can put myself. May I never let my pride, my possessions, my schedule, my family, or any self-deception keep me from surrendering to the sovereign One every single precious day of this short life. Ironically, when I turn down the pressure cooker and turn up the prayer and study, the tasks start morphing into opportunities, the hurts into growth; the basement starts to become pretty irrelevant. (The kids can clean that up one day, if I never get to it. That’s what we just did for two packed houses and garages, and a barn and a couple of workshops. They might get a turn, too! =))

This life is short. I want to savor every day.  As my Maggie, who’s two,  says “I’m going to fight that ole’ Satan, so he will start running away!”

Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

Resist means to set one’s self against. May I put all my weight into that push today!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Waiting on Him

Today, I have just a small moment and a smaller mind to write, but His amazing providence is sustaining. For the past several days, I’ve been living in a senior facility as we transition Glenn’s parents from Memphis, Tennessee to Huntsville, Alabama. There have been some days in which we seemed to hit a brick wall at every turn as we have diligently worked to find a situation to meet all the needs of these loved ones. In the end, the answer came through a sweet 97-year-old sister who lives down the hall from “us” in this temporary place. She remembered another couple in God’s family who were almost in the exact circumstances as were my husband’s parents. She called to refer me to their daughter, the caretaker who knew all the details about this place. Amazingly, this daughter is a sweet friend whom I have not seen in a long time, but she was my suite-mate at FHU many years ago. So very helpful, she gave me details and info that put me in the right place at just the right time. The family that was on the waiting list for the one available room in this beautiful and seemingly perfectly tailored-to-our-needs place had just decided to remove their names for a while from that list and one (only one) room became temporarily available. Another sister came to stay with my favorite mother-in-law and father-in-law while I went to look at this place. And yet another sister invited me into her apartment at the facility (an apartment that happened to be identical to the one in which the Colleys are going to be living and is also the next door down.) Then our Father brought my husband safely home from his gospel meeting in Oklahome so that he could finalize the details about this move for them. 

I know I’m on the lookout for His blessings all the time, but really…how can the answers that we need so badly be all wrapped up in His family, except that His tender care is all around His people all the time? I know that we cannot always be sure that the exact answers we identify as Providence are the paths He would want us to choose, but there are times when it seems the ONLY answer is His answer. And it does seem that He wraps up the answer we desperately need in the beautiful security blanket of our spiritual family. His family in this episode of our lives was not from a single congregation either. At least ten congregations of His people were represented in this transition, from those who worked tirelessly to help get their things on the truck to the point of this writing.  Today, I’m very, especially, deeply, and profoundly thankful for the blessings of Providence that lie in the family of God. I’m thankful for the connected prayers of all of those involved to the One who knew the answer from the start. 

I’d also add that the move to the facility that’s not right for our family may have been very providential, too. After all, the time and muscle and 24/7 effort we “wasted” at the wrong facility gave us the week we needed for a space to open up at the right one. 

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love Him dn are the called according to His purpose.”  THIS. I believe Romans 8:28. 

Maybe all this detail is not the most helpful post for you at this time. But maybe for some sister who is waiting on the Lord, the trust that sustains will be resurgent through trials, prayer and the family of God. I know reminding myself of His Providence through difficult days is a medicine that heals a weary soul! 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Providence in Birth Order: The Hanna Family

In the last century, a popular theory emerged about personality and birth order. Developed by Alfred Adler, it just posited that birth order directly impacts personality. More recently, child and family therapist, Meri Wallace, authored a book called Birth Order Blues, in which she agreed with Adler and elaborated on his findings. 

There are other researchers who do not agree, but it seems to me that, at the very least, we’d have to all agree that parents change and mature between births of their babies, and so the parents of the youngest child in a family are different from the people they were five, ten or even fifteen years ago when the first child was born. They know more about what’s really important as more children come along. They know more about effective discipline. (Experience is a great teacher.) They have less and less time and propensity for selfish pursuits (and for the previously-born children). They should be more mature, introspective and wise. My daughter, who recently gave birth to her third child, says to me, whenever a doctor tells her something that’s elementary, or when a grandmother at the supermarket is critical of her discipline, “This is not my first rodeo.”  I firmly believe that the best-prepared parent is the one who’s riding in a repeat “rodeo”. 

It stands to reason that, environmentally, kids in the same families will not always be affected in the same ways by their common parents. I write about Providence a lot and I believe that God’s providing for His own families, His obedient parenting sons and daughters, even in the birth order of their children. 

Take my brand new friend, Honour Able Hanna, who was born last week in Grand Bahama. His dad and mother, Tavaro and Shameika, who work with the church there are among our dearest family members in the Lord. When we first knew them, about ten years ago, they were on a very different trajectory through life than the one they’ve purposefully mapped out during those intervening years. I love talking to Shameika about the conscious decisions that took her from being an all-in career mom (having been brought up to be just that) with aspirations of power in the business world to where she is today: having the full realization of the relative unimportance of money and prestige when compared with the blessings that come with being all-in for Christ. I’ve never personally seen anyone make the transitions so swiftly and completely as Shameika has done. In the meantime, her husband Tavaro has completed preaching school in the U.S. and they have together returned to their native island to reach as many as they can for the cause that directs them heavenward. Genesis was their firstborn. Her name was purposeful and prophetic. She was the Genesis of a spiritual parenting journey through which they were vowing to leave a legacy for the Lord through their children. Thus, Legacy, their second daughter, was soon born and it was not too long after her birth that the little family set their sights on coming to preaching school. This is Genesis:Genesis At the time they came over, the mantra or family purpose statement  using their children’s names was “ The Genesis of a godly Legacy.”

While they were in preaching school, baby #3 was born. Her name is Providence, and we watched God provide a path for the family to leave secular work and be full-time in evangelism, starting a congregation and bringing multiple souls to Him. The purpose statement was then “The Genesis of a godly Legacy by God’s Providence”.

Faithful Leigh was next and the family sub-title grew: “The Genesis of a Faithful godly Legacy.”

Finally these four perfect little girls welcomed a brother,  Honour Able to the family last week. Honour is beautiful! Fresh from heaven, he fills what Shameika says, for now, is the last empty spot in her heart—a heart that’s full of a desire to glorify Him. She says the final family word is “An Honour Able Genesis of a Faithful godly Legacy, by God’s Providence.”

Now, back to birth order. God is amazing sometimes in what He is working through parents who are set on honoring Him. In this particular family, four sweet daughters have been learning to be meek and quiet spirits (I Peter 3:1-6), little women of wisdom (Proverbs 31), and little girls who are constantly looking to faithful older women as examples of familial love and service. I remember it was at the birth of Genesis that the genesis really happened. Two parents made a firm decision to do everything within their power to get that little soul to heaven. They made big financial and time sacrifices to get on a path from which they have never looked back. Four little girls followed the Genesis and each came into a stronger and more focused home.  It was the little future elder and preacher, though, that God saved for last. He’s putting Him in a home that is already fully committed, trained and back in the field. He will get to see some things in his early, most formative years, that Genesis, the oldest,  for instance, did not get to see in hers—a preacher’s family in full-force evangelism, a mom and dad who have learned by experience to be amazing one-on-one evangelists, a father who has ten years of nurturing and discipline experience under his belt, a mother who has been forced to drop some things that she thought were priorities before the births of her girls and move some important things to the top of the list, a family who has been having Family Bible Time for ten years….In short, while they were all born into a home of faith and dedication, he has been born into a home that’s been through one of the greatest apprenticeships: the tutor has been experience. So Honour, by His great mercy, has the same parents as the four beautiful girls. But Honour has different parents, too. Honour’s parents are in their thirties; not their twenties. Honour’s Daddy is a preacher; not a businessman. Honour’s mother is a keeper at home extraordinaire and she already has ten years of home-schooling behind her. It’s the same family, but it’s not the same family. God has given this little boy six in-house nurturers, while Genesis had only two. He has six diaper-changers. But, more importantly, he has six people who are going to pray for him every day; four sisters who will be helping him learn his memory verses and remember to take His Bible to class. He will have a smaller portion of one-on-one time with parents, but the huge benefit of close quarters and constant conversation. (I mean really constant.)   He will have six storybook readers! God has given this future preacher a father (a tutor) who is a preacher. He has given him a mission field at the door of the little house. He has given him a  time and place when He will be watching parents react with prowess and protectiveness to a sin-saturated culture. It will not be the same culture at all into which Providence, the middle child, was born. 

Adler posited that birth order molds personality. I posit that, for His people, God providentially and strategically blesses through birth order. I think Romans 8:28 applies as mothers deliver babies. Surely a part of “all things” are those pregnancies, chromosomes, laborings, deliveries, nights up with babies, preacher school choices, people with whom parents interact and from whom they learn and grow. His providence is amazing and, when we view the eventualities of our lives through the lens of His glory, we find constant wonder and awe at the way He works through our families. 

Lastly, I love that Providence is the middle child in this family. Half-way through the birthing order—between the Genesis and the Honour was a full recognition of the wonderful way God was executing His plan though the Hanna family. That’s the way it works. If we have a beginning—a desire to build, through our homes, a legacy for our Father—He, brings us to a place in which much glory and honor (Kabad) can be returned to Him. 

It won’t be too many years before a different birthing order will be happening in the Hanna family. I pray that each child will be born into Christ and in due time, each arrow will fly with precision and providence toward eternity around the throne of the great and providential heavenly Father we serve. 

He’s great in the “working-together” of birth and birth order. But He’s greater in the “working-together” of the new birth that’s by water and blood (John 3). He’s great in family providence. But he’s greater in His provision for us all in the family that will assemble when we cross over to that great family reunion! 

And we know that all things work together for good for those who love Him and are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28). 

I’m glad our Father is a purposeful Provider!