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Service

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Ideas for Growing Faith: Holiday Gifts and Activities

Several more ideas from the holiday contest are worth a mention. Anything’s worth a mention that might plant a seed in the heart of a child that may yield souls for heaven; perhaps even in multiple generations. SO, here are a few that rise to the top of the list of entries.

Kelly Rhodes suggested making a colorful songbook that’s child-specific. Each time your child or grandchild learns a new Bible song or verse set to music, put the words of that song in a decorated and durable binder, so that the child and parents will always remember the words to those sweet little hymns of budding faith.

Bobbie Goodnight suggested a story time using the book “If Jesus Came to my House” by Joan Gale Thomas. She also recommended accompanying it with a song called “In the Image of God” by Andy Robison. Click on the picture (left) for words and music. (Permission granted by the author.)

Erica Grieves’ idea was born of a quarantine. Missing the caroling and fruit basket-making and all the great congregational service projects, Erica set her kids to Bible-searching for scriptures about joy to include in  cards the family plans to send to those who need holiday encouragement.  As Erica puts it…”This year I’m gifting my kids the opportunity to turn our blues to the scriptures. Since cards bring joy to both giver and receiver, my children will spend the rest of our quarantine looking up verses that bring JOY. We plan to incorporate these into the cards. It’s an opportunity to remind us and others that no matter the circumstances, scripture always has the answer. It’s my prayer this will stick no matter what life may throw their way.” 

Lots of you moms are making blessing bags for the needy people your children see in parking lots or at intersections as you run errands. My grandkids’ bags include some simple toiletries, bottled water, snacks and info about the church. Blankets for distribution in winter are just $2.50 currently at their local WalMart, so they bought a few of those, too.  All of these blankets and small bags were placed in a large durable bag that now lives in the back of their van, just in case they see someone in need. Believe me, they were plenty excited when they did see  their first man in need last week. (The bag preparation was accompanied by Bible stories about giving sacrificially and the kids gave generously from their piggy banks to help purchase the  bag contents.) I believe this is an important and direct mental tie for kids to the judgment scene in Matthew 25.

Many of you are also distance-caroling this year for the widows in your congregations. These faithful elderly people will never forget the joy of this event and it just might be the highlight of their Christmas. If you do this, practice with your children. Make them understand the import of what they are doing in view of Matthew 25 and James 1:27.

Finally, Kathryn Baker’s kids were writing cards to all the members of the congregation during the Covid quarantine. Kathryn admitted that after a while, this became a tedious task. It was Kathryn’s mother-in-law who purchased for each child personalized stationery, markers, address labels, stamps and stickers to put some extra flair into this great, but challenging, service project. (Grandmothers, here’s a great place to step in and make a helpful contribution!)

Happy Holidays to all of you and may each of us give our children “good gifts”                                                                                                                                                                          (Luke 11:13, 14).

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Choices in the Distance

As you may have noticed, Glenn’s been keeping me pretty busy proofing with him, and writing for the children, on a Daily Boost that we’ve been sharing for the West Huntsville family for the quarantine period (https://westhuntsville.org/daily-boost/). I’ve barely had a moment to write anything except that. Now, I know you do not need me to write anything. Quarantine lessons and blogs and podcasts are coming out our ears right now and that’s a major source of encouragement for me! But, for my own sanity, in a world void of face-to-face interaction (other than with Baxter, the cat, and the Daily Boost Partner), I need to peck something out now and then. It’s not a face, but it’s a more personal interaction, anyway.  So, it’s really for me; not you!

As with every sweeping event that occurs in our world, the Corona virus overlies a spiritual battle. The devil would love for us to grow tired of being at home with our husbands. He’d like to see divorce rates soar as we come out of this crisis. On the other hand, we have a great opportunity, without the distractions of crowded schedules, to draw closer together as families and to solidify our bonds together with our heavenly Father. Further, we have before us right now, some almost tangible forks in the road. 

We have extra time. We can waste it in a depression that drives us to spend lots of time on social media commiserating with the rest of the world or we can establish goals for ourselves (Bible reading, homemaking projects, daily relationship-building activities with children, daily time in prayer with our spouses, etc…) That’s a choice all of us will make right now. 

We have some very discouraging news to process at this point in life. We have a choice about that, too. We can react with frustration and anger at government and the society around us, or we can search, in this darkness, for opportunities to be light. We can always shine brightest for Christ in the darkest times. Right now, service opportunities abound. There are elderly people to check on, cards can be sent to Christians in areas of the country in which there are voids of encouragement, we can share our toilet paper (maybe we can?) with those in need, or we can handle our bread from the oven with gloves and then carry some to neighbors who are struggling and perhaps are not members of the Lord’s church. We can take our kids (just us and them)  to create chalk sidewalk messages for shut-ins in our neighborhoods, from afar, or make drive-by greeting posters for those who may be sick or struggling. We can make those posters and drawings in our homes and on our own fences and then photograph them for those who would be uplifted by them.  We can waste the canvas that always comes with darkness or we can creatively paint it for His glory, This is a fork in the road. It’s a choice.

Those of us who are married will grow closer to our husbands or we will become easily frustrated and resentful. We should prepare for that choice. Sure, there will be changes that we have to process if our husbands are suddenly at home all day. There will be more cooking and cleaning and even less time for quiet meditation, especially if your kids have normally been gone all day. But we should prepare our minds for the choice. We can allow the current situation to damage our marriages or we can search for ways to capitalize on time to grow closer. We can take “haven” in internet devices or we can make moments to watch old movies and reconnect with those who are most precious to us. It’s a conscious choice. We can play the blame game with our spouses or we can play Monopoly. Don’t lose the battle by default.

We can also become so busy playing that we lose sight of the importance of the Word. Right now there’s a three hour gospel meeting online every night (https://www.facebook.com/digitalbiblestudy1/?tn-str=k*F.) There are two-hour upcoming virtual ladies days each Saturday from Polishing the Pulpit (more about that soon). PTP365 is an almost infinite treasure chest of the Word’s meat  and, right now, it’s FREE! https://free365.polishingthepulpit.com. There are Word-packed Bible classes for adults and children. They are all there. But it’s a choice. You may not be able to study and watch every day, but we can do it some days. We may not be able to do three hours every night, but we can do something. It’s a no-excuses-choice. 

And speaking of doing something, let me say THANKS to all who responded (and you did in a big way) to our support notes for the struggling little Vermont congregation. That was a choice you made and here are some of the responses so far: I love sisters. (One of you even hand-painted bookmarks for the entire congregation! Whaaa?!) I love the glorification you are about in your everyday quarantined lives! You make this isolated old woman beam even when I am all by myself. 

From Vermont:

Thank you so very much…It thrills me that so many more people will be aware of Christians’ struggles up here. The cards are pouring in…3 big envelopes plus a few from you already. We are going to be delivering them soon.

Thank you again.pastedGraphic.png

And the blessings just keep rolling in…thank you so much for the check and the books. There are not enough words.pastedGraphic.pngpastedGraphic.pngpastedGraphic_1.pngpastedGraphic_1.png

This is what greeted me when I checked the mailbox at the building this evening, plus a note that said I needed to go to the post office to get more. Thank you so much for doing this. pastedGraphic_2.png I also got the incredibly kind and generous letter from you two and the other men. Sending love and gratitude to all 5 of them! 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“Mugs & Muffins” for Mentorship

I’ve heard of several churches that have some monthly or quarterly women’s gathering called Mugs & Muffins (tea/coffee, muffins, and time in the word or in fellowship). It’s a great catalyst for growing closer and  learning to serve each other.

Our Mugs & Muffins happened last Saturday and I wanted to share its focus here, just in case there’s another little tribe of His women who’d like to encourage in this same way. 

Our teen guys get lots of opportunities to lead in worship. At West Huntsville, a different teen reads scripture for the church each Sunday night. Often our Wednesday evening song leader is a teen. And each Wednesday the closing prayer is led by a teen. There’s always a little team of teens serving communion each Sunday. Then there are multiple devotionals and activities throughout each week in which our guys are leading. 

But the girls love leading in girl group settings. There just aren’t as many of those opportunities. While the settings in which girls can scripturally lead songs and offer audible prayers, do not occur as frequently, there are ladies’ retreats, ladies’ days, purity days, ladies’ nights out, Dorcas classes, moms’ meetings, lads-to-leaders girls’ study sessions, Bible-marking classes for teen girls, other girls-only classes and ladies’ prayer groups (all of these happen at West Huntsville). So there is a great need for girls to develop a comfort zone that allows them to lead in worship without trepidation. 

Mugs & Muffins, created here by some of the teen leaders and moms, is a venue that is just for this purpose. It’s a Saturday morning mini-brunch (muffins are made by the girls and their moms) and then an hour of praising God, reading His Word, and praying to Him…all led by our young girls. The encouragement, in full-size servings from the older women, is a natural result. Lots of hugs, pats-on-the back, and little “such-a great-job” notes follow Mugs & Muffins. 

Here are a couple of photos from our last Mugs & Muffins. Numbers were a bit down due to our winter “family flu”. (We’re praying to get through with this kind of “sharing” soon!)

One of the teens came directly to me after Mugs & Muffins. Knowing that I was hosting ladies’-night-out at my house, she said “Is there anything I can do to help you on Monday night?” That’s the spirit of this Mugs & Muffins.

Have a great week serving  Him.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #54: Devos for Younger Kids

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 54 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”.

This one really doesn’t need an explanation. If your children are upwards of ten years old, then they can easily host a devotional for younger children. Of course, these younger children could be the children in your congregation or they could be community kids. Help your children plan a Bible theme, like “The Big Fish” (the book of Jonah) or “The Men Who Would Not Bow” (Daniel 3) or “When a Lame Man Walked”(Acts 3-4). Practice the storytelling and related songs with your kids. Make visuals or plan to use puppets to tell the story or help your kids dress up as Bible characters as they tell the story. Make sure your children are prepared to pray with the younger ones.

Make little invitations with your kids or have your kids invite the children personally.  Alternately, if you are inviting children from your congregation, your kids could write out the invitation and submit it to the one who is making public announcements or to whomever prepares the bulletin. It’s important to let the kids pick the theme (with help and advice) and do the legwork and artwork. It’s important to specify the ages of children who are invited on the invitation, as well. Having kids present,  who are older than the hosting kids, may intimidate the hosts, especially the first time around (and you really want this to be successful). On the other hand, having babies present (especially without moms) may also distract from your children’s ability to focus and complete their plans. Just think ahead and try to make the big day whopping success for your own children, by indicating, on the invitation, just who the devotional is targeting. It saves last minute angst. Then be loving and gracious when the day comes if there are hitches in your original plan. Remember, the goal is servant hearts in your kids, so, in every Mama’s K.I.S.S. activity you are, most importantly, modeling the behavior of the Lord.

As the time draws near, practice a game or activity with your kids– a Bible verse scavenger hunt or a sidewalk tic-tac-toe game where questions must be answered before the Xs and Os can be placed. It could be a treasure map locating theme-related favors or preparation of a Bible food. Any of these activities should be related to the devotional story your kids are telling and your activity should be something kids can complete within a thirty or forty minute time period.

Snacks and favors are optional, but your kids might love to make or buy story-related snacks. Pinterest is a great source for ideas.  Be sure, if you are hosting community kids, to include info about the church in any favor bags.

Just be sure to let your kids take ownership of this little event. Talk about young souls that are being influenced while you are preparing. Then have fun with this!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #53: Help a Homeschooling Mom

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 53 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”.

When our Hannah was about 12, she began tutoring a kindergartner who lived in our neighborhood. It was a big blessing for her and I think it was also a blessing for the family of little Lindsey, I was close by, just in case there were any issues that required an adult for any reason. Responsibility and service were great take-aways for Hannah. It was a hands-on prep for the school-teaching and home education that Hannah would be doing later in life, as well. Most of all, it gave Hannah some real-life experience in handling issues that required discipline and ethical choices.

There are home-schooling moms who can use a helper once a week. Why not have your teen approach one you know and offer their services as grocery store helpers, math tutors, piano teachers, once-a week casserole-makers or free Thursday backyard  babysitters for toddlers for an hour a week? It could be the beginning of a win-win situation for two families, as was the case in our neighborhood.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Remembering Greatness: Brother Flavil Nichols (1919-2018)

We traveled yesterday to Jasper, Alabama, a place that evokes fond memories for us. It’s the little town in which Glenn filled the pulpit at the Sixth Avenue church for about five years while my children made life-long friendships and learned some of their first lessons about politics, ethics, and social skills. It’s the place where Caleb put on the Lord in baptism and it’s the place where I lost my mother to cancer. It’s the place where Hannah owned both a fairy closet in her bedroom and an elf wonderland in the backyard. It’s the place where Caleb developed his first little neighborhood “company” at age eleven and where Hannah peddled homemade bread from her little red wagon all up and down our street, coming home with pockets full of change. They were good days. One of the best things about those days was exposure, for our children, to some of God’s most faithful children; children of God who were busy getting ready for their transport to glory.

When we drove past our old house on Wildwood Drive yesterday, recognizing the sheer rapidity of the passage of the days of our lives made me want to be sure I really live in every waking moment of every single day. I remembered our very first evening in that house and hearing the doorbell ring. I remembered Glenn’s eyes meeting mine and his saying “Who could that be?” I remembered looking around at stacks of half-opened boxes through which we’d been searching for bedding. I remembered looking down at myself and thinking that I was a bit embarrassed to be answering the door to this home, for the first time, in this bedraggled condition.

We answered the door, though, and there stood our brother Flavil Nichols and sweet sister Mary. As he always did for every visit, he had on his tie and sister Nichols had on her freshly pressed blouse and skirt and her freshly baked pie (I think it was chess) in hand. We could not even find chairs for them! We looked around and there was our couch, but there were no couch pillows to be found. It sat only about eight inches off the floor without its soft topper pillows, but Flavil and Mary Nichols had a seat there on that hard wooden couch and made themselves the kindest welcoming committee that Jasper, Alabama had ever proffered.

And through the years, Brother Flavil came over many times. He would come over when the youth devotionals were in our home and do the most amazing magic tricks with nine magazines and an old curtain rod on our living room floor. Sometimes he would do them with dollar bills, or with string or with the bathroom mirror. There are two or three faithful gospel preachers that have emerged from that youth group. You see, Brother Nichols knew that he was really about a whole lot more than entertaining young people.

He came over to make a speech about our great nation when we hosted the annual fourth of July parade in our neighborhood. There were watermelon seed-spitting contests, tug of war contests, a fire-truck to lead our parade and Glenn was Uncle Sam, the Grand Marshal. But the climax of the day was the little speech by Brother Nichols. He was, once again, doing more than talking about our country. He was doing his best to make the church look good in our community. He was, as always, about that better country (Hebrews 11:16).

I’m really glad that my children got to know the man we memorialized yesterday. His and sister Mary’s influence was so direct and positive in every way in their little lives. But yesterday, I started to think about all of the people who surely are still being indirectly influenced by the Nichols family in churches all over the world. I would daresay that most Christians today in Alabama, should they be able to explore the history behind their conversions to the Lord, would not go very far into that history without the events intersecting in some way with brother Gus Nichols or one of his sons. They literally taught and baptized hundreds of people in and around Walker County, Alabama. The sons of brother Gus traveled and settled in other states, too, and the influence broadened. There is no way to accurately count the number of gospel preachers who got their starts at the feet of brother Gus or brother Flavil. And the gospel moved on. Missionaries were converted by those who were converted by those who sat at the feet of the Nichols preachers. And the swelling around the eternal throne of God is incalculable.

So it was an honor for Glenn to get to speak to an audience yesterday that was largely preachers at the funeral service of a great man of God.

It’s important for us moms to realize, though, that Flavil Nichols was once a little boy. His mom washed his hands before supper, she mended his overall bib, she rehearsed his memory verses with him and she kissed his skinned knees. At his supper table, every child had to recite a new memory verse each night before turning over his plate for serving up the beans and meat. This little boy sometimes heard his Bible story and was put to bed before his father arrived home from his preaching appointment. And sometimes his father would arrive home asleep on the back of the horse he’d ridden to that preaching appointment. That faithful horse knew the way home. The gospel was the centerpiece of the life of that little boy, who held his first debate about the scriptures while still a teen and began preaching at the tender age of 15.

That kind of rearing renders greatness for the cause. Little snippets from a life of greatness (Mark 10:43), made me want to do the things that Flavil’s mother, Matilda Nichols, did for her children as they grew. Flavil told stories of accepting chickens in exchange for preaching the gospel. Once, at the end of a gospel meeting, he graciously thanked a farmer at a non-paying church, for the gift of a small pig. He just strapped it in a little crate on the bumper of his car and drove home. On another occasion, he went around a small town to which he had moved to preach and paid the debts of the former preacher who had left town owing money to the merchants. He once walked several miles to purchase the unleavened bread and grape juice for the Lord’s Supper for a church that explained that they could not afford those things. (That same church told brother Nichols that they would just pay him whatever the total contribution was that Sunday. When they paid him, he sadly realized that he, himself had contributed more than the amount they had paid him.) No ill-treatment or discouragement even slowed down his proclamation of the gospel. The power that is in that gospel is still emanating from him today. The reunion with those who reached the saving blood because of His work must be very sweet right now. I want my children to be like brother Flavil.

I hope I get to sit down with brother Flavil and sister Mary again one day soon because of that great gospel. I hope you’ll be there, too.