Browsing Tag

Thankfulness

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: From Thankfulness to Holiness

Often we think of the first chapter of Romans, remembering the fervent denouncement of those involved in what is there called “unnatural” and termed “vile affection.” It is extremely important in a world in which tolerance seems to have been been promoted to the position of executive and operative virtue of society, to be aware of the concluding verse of the chapter. It is the verse that, quite literally, is slicing our culture in half. The verse is clear that it is not enough to refrain from committing homosexual acts. As his people we must never lend our voices to defend such behavior or to show our approval. On the subject of homosexuality, we have to choose between cultural correctness and the word of God. We have to be sure that, neither with silence, nor with words or actions, do we ever indicate approval of the sin of homosexuality. We do not laugh at it in sit-coms, allow it to occur in our homes when others visit, or fail to respectfully express the truth about God’s condemnation of it in our blogs, posts, and conversations. 

But today, as I was reading from the chapter, I noticed that the Scripture details the progression of the trip from innocence to the guilt of homosexuality. In verse 21, it says that those who were changing the “natural” into that which is against nature, failed to glorify God and failed to offer Him thanksgiving.

Moms, how important is it that you and I chart a clear course of thanksgiving in our homes? How important is it that we make sure our children hear us, in abject humility, pour out our praises to God? How vital is it that we have them to make those lists of blessings at Thanksgiving time and, more importantly, all throughout the year…every year? How important, really are crayon colored thank-you notes written in the hand of young children? How important is that never-missed heartfelt table prayer prior to every meal? How important is it that parents control the impulses of instant gratification that are accompanied by little acknowledgement of His providence and of our resultant responsibility to use blessings for His glory?  How vital is it that you, Mom, are displaying constant thankfulness rather than constant complaining about the simple circumstances and problems of this life? Does gratitude matter?

The answer is yes and yes a thousand times over. Romans one clearly details a progression from unthankfulness to unholiness; from the heart of ingratitude to insolence. in fact, in this passage,  it is the failure to glorify and give thanks that predicates the sin of homosexuality. 

Moms have a wonderful opportunity to exhibit and promote a spirit of thanksgiving on this national holiday. But, then again, on which day of the year do we not have a rich harvest of His blessings for which our children should see us praising and thanking the One from whom all blessings flow? 

Our kids might eventually choose to live unholy lives to their eternal loss. Those words are difficult for me to even type. The thought of the loss of one of my children’s souls is more horrible than I can contemplate for very long. The specific possibility that one of my children would ever come to us and tell us that he/she had chosen a life of homosexuality or bisexual behavior is unspeakably grievous. But to look back and realize that I had contributed to a spirit of rebellion by failing to take opportunities to instill gratitude during their formative years would fill me with sorrow. 

Take the time. Look for His glory in all of your world each day. Magnify Him when you see Him in nature, in providence and in specific answers to prayers. Do this in front of your children. Engage them in thanksgiving every time you are in prayer together. Make thank-you notes a weekly or even daily part of your home’s core “curriculum”.  The ‘gratitude chambers” of your kids’ hearts may not be automatically opened in our affluent culture of self-gratification. So make sure  you are putting thanksgiving in those places of their hearts, remembering, as you do, that you are building a resistance against sins of rebellion that are death-worthy (Romans 1:32). 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Topic Needed Was Topic Assigned.

So today…

  1. My dad was a sleepy-head because he coughed all night long.
  2. He was nauseated because of the antibiotic he took for the coughing.
  3. He was also dehydrated because of the nausea, which was because of the antibiotic, which was because of the cough.
  4. I got all mixed up about the starting time of my ladies’ day and I got there an hour early on a morning when I really could have used a little sleep. 
  5. I stopped on the way home to take a very short nap in the car and my husband phoned to “check on me” just as soon as I drifted off. Time all up!
  6. When I got back to my dad’s house, he had once again lost his breakfast and had despairingly gone back to bed. 
  7. I tried to get him up to watch the Bama game with me, although what I really wanted to do was go to a hibernation hole somewhere. But just as I was hoisting him up, the doorbell rang and a stranger delivered the news that Dad’s little dog had been hit by a car. 
  8. I told my dad to lie back down and do not get up. I got in the SUV with a big blanket to go down the meadow and find Tommy, bleeding and addled. 
  9. It took about eight calls before I could find an open veterinary office. 
  10. The veterinarian projected that the minimum cost for the surgery likely needed is two thousand dollars.
  11. I made the sad decision to have the puppy euthanized. 
  12. I had the sad duty to tell my father about the puppy.

So today, I am thankful for:

  1. The steroid and antibiotic that gives me hope for a better night’s sleep tonight.
  2. Supper that has “stayed down” for almost three hours now. 
  3. Mixups that make me early, rather than late.
  4. A chance to talk to women from Philippians 4 about how it’s not what’s happening on a particular day that determines my contentment. It’s about the promised peace that passes understanding. Do you think God provides what we need as His children?!… that His Word throughly furnishes us?!  I needed to do that particular expository of the great chapter about rejoicing. 
  5. A husband who checks on me.
  6. A sweet cousin who helps me with dad when I have to be gone for a couple of hours, even on days when he is sick.
  7. A great Bama victory to keep my dad preoccupied during the sad afternoon’s business. 
  8. Neighbors who were kind enough to take care of Tommy and come and notify me.
  9. Understanding my father’s limited income and his sadness, a clinic that donated the euthanizing shot and the cremation.
  10. A husband who always helps with difficult decisions, and does it with logic and a level head.
  11. My dad who, even though he forgets a lot of things (like I do), has not forgotten the difference between human beings and his dog. He simply said. “Well, we did what we could.” 
  12. A pillow on that bed in the back room and a monitor so I can hear my father if he calls. And the Word I can read as I fall asleep on that pillow…so I can hear my Father as He calls.

Some days you just think about Philippians 4 and the wonderful things Paul said about contentment from a dank and dark prison cell. And then the things about which you’re anxious seem small—negligible. And the peace that passes all understanding guards your heart and mind. It’s been a good day….And tomorrow? It’s the day when we go and get all that encouragement from the family of God. I hope my dad is well enough to go and get that…and worship the God of peace.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Water, Bread and Meat

This week at the Colley house, we have been without internet. My husband started digging on Sunday afternoon to repair an underground water pipe that was leaking and he dug right through our internet cable. At our house, there is no television cable or dish, so the sole source of information/ entertainment/communication this week has been our two little iPhones. That means there’s been no printing at all and all of this in a week when we have Ezra, our grandson who is a bit of an avid  Sesame Street and Peppa the Pig fan. Add to that it was scheduled to ne  a week of some pretty intense problem-solving meetings via Skype and Facebook and messaging. Worst of all, it’s PODCAST WEEK! The most interesting caveat is that the podcast this week is all about the consequences of  murmuring. Yes, the study is about some people who got in some pretty big trouble for complaining about that manna in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. I keep thinking, “You know, if those Israelites who were smitten with death by poison because they murmured could have enjoyed one percent of the luxuries I’ve enjoyed this week, they would have been wide-eyed with wonder in the wilderness!” Add to that the practical challenge of this month’s study, which is to make it through one day without verbalizing a single negative thought and I am a pretty delinquent Digger, for sure!

I love the passages of the study this month. They are rich with practical lessons. As I write, we are three hours till live podcast. There’s a make-shift tent in my living room covering a toy-strewn floor. A chubby-faced two-year-old sits beside me eating dry cereal in my bed. Tiny  crumbs are sprinkled on the brown sheet. I was already having trouble sleeping this week because I accidentally left my pillow…MY personal only-one-that’s-comfortable pillow. There’s been a mountain of laundry on the guest bed all week. There’s a huge pile of mending waiting for any day with a few extra minutes. There a dress that was supposed to be for Colleyanna’s Christmas that remains unfinished and she is quickly outgrowing it. I’m supposed to have a gallon of chili made by tomorrow for a benefit for Freed Hardeman University and I have not even purchased the ingredients yet. There are people in the cabin who have also lost their water and their internet in the all of the digging. Ezra ran in the study and interrupted a very serious counseling session Glenn was doing this morning. He poured two gallons of water out of the bathtub this afternoon and stuffed something unidentifiable up the spout of the tub.  A long list of correspondence and thank-you notes await me and there is no current means to catch up. There are still some Christmas decorations up in some of the rooms in my house and tomorrow it’s February. There is a large pile of unpacked luggage in my bedroom floor from two trips by two different people. And there is a little boy who is inviting me earnestly into his tent to “play cars” this very minute. Did my husband ask me this week if I wanted to travel to Chattanooga with him yesterday and pick up a purchase he made at an antique auction and stop on the way home for ice cream? I thought I heard that.

You know where this is going. You know because you live like this, too. Oh, you may not be living quite this frenzied this week, but you’ve had a week or two like this. And some of you are currently living crazier. But you’ve had meat to eat this week IF you wanted it. The Israelites were homeless people in the wilderness with very little variety in diet and a lot of enemies ahead to defeat. Their children did not have cribs and nurseries and their elderly did not have eldercare. They were tired from slavery and intimidated by strong nations. But still, they had a God who was providing their every need and did not take kindly to their disbelief and strife. He loathed their grumbling and punished them mightily for it. 

So here’s the list you knew I was getting to:

  1. There are 4500, more-or-less, women who are interested in the study that drives me bonkers as I try to keep up every month and it’s a study about the ransom that’s been paid for all of us. How encouraging! A bunch of those women have recently sent heartfelt notes of encouragement. I’m blessed way beyond what I could ask or imagine.
  2. We have the technology to study together thanks to wonderful elders at West Huntsville and we have Jennifer Benavides and Mike Deasy who know how to make it work for us.
  3. I have a living room for a tent instead of a tent for a living room.
  4. I have a bed with linens on it and a sweet two-year-old who loves to be there with me. 
  5. He’s chubby. His ribs have lots of flesh on them.
  6. I have a pillow and I can sleep in peace and His assurance when it’s under my head.
  7. I have a guest bed and I have clothes (even enough to make a mountain and even enough to be clothed while there’s another pile waiting to be mended and two more piles simultaneously in pieces of luggage.)
  8. I have a sewing machine (and lots of other machines).
  9. I have a granddaughter who is healthy and growing, even faster than I can sew.
  10. I have enough money to purchase food to share.
  11. I have the room for company and sweet company for the room.
  12. I have a husband who helps people with serious sinful addictions instead of the other way around.
  13. All I had to do to get the running water was unclog the spout; not strike the rock or walk to the outskirts of a city as was the case in our studies this month.
  14. We have a little cable that brings the world to our fingertips.
  15. I have lots of generous family in Him to whom I owe multiple notes of gratitude.
  16. I have reminders of a wonderful time of holiday joy with family.
  17. I have a husband who likes to buy me ice cream.

I am on my way to the promised land. He is fighting my battles and providing for all of my needs. He is my rock in the desert (I Cor. 10:2-4). How dare I murmur! He is my water (John 4) and my bread and my meat (John 6). He is my all in all. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

From the Archives: A Bird in a Basket

images-1This past Saturday I spoke at a ladies seminar in the state of California. It was a great day–rewarding in lots of ways for me. It was a stormy weekend in my home state of Alabama, while sunny and calm in California. Sometimes it’s just a little serendipity when I get to slip away from the storms (in my mind and in the sky) and enjoy a space of calmness. I actually got to sit on a tiny sunny townhouse patio and visit with a sister I’d never met before. Two small birds live in a basket on that patio and I stood about two feet from Mr. or Mrs. Bird (not sure which) and clicked his/her photo. (I really wish I had brought along my Canon rather than just my cell phone.) I’m told that those birds come back each year and have begun to feel so comfortable in that basket that sits among some artificial flowers on a plant stand, that they don’t even bother to stir when people walk all around them. Before the evening was over, we had five people within a very few feet of the nest and no panic in the nest whatsoever. My host told me that one of that family of birds plucked one of those artificial flowers one year, took it around to her front yard and used it in the building of it’s own nest in a front yard tree.My host, Mrs. Maggie, knows a lot about the birds that feather that nest each year. But she cannot be sure it is the same birds year after year. She pays close attention to their patterns of nest-sitting. She knows that it is both a male and female that exchange places sitting, for she looks through her kitchen window (only a few inches away) and sees them swapping places. She knows that baby birds are born there each spring because there are a few fleeting days between the hatching and the flying when she enjoys watching them grow. All she has to do is keep putting the basket out for them year after year and they check-in as if they know their upscale room is reserved.

But did you ever think about how that God, from somewhere as far away as heaven and yet closer than that kitchen window does know whether it’s the same birds year after year? He knows whether or not the original nest sitters have survived the winter. In fact, he will know the exact moment that the bird in my photograph falls never to fly again.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father (Matthew 10:29).

The passage goes on to ask the rhetorical question: “Aren’t you more valuable than many sparrows?” God knows and cares about the nest home of those birds and its inhabitants. He knows about my home and its inhabitants, too. He knows that one day, like the sparrow I too, will fall. But I am of more value than many sparrows and I, who have never before taken wing will, on that “glad morning when this life is o’er, fly away.” Praise the God Who cares for the tiny bird in the basket, but cares infinitely more for me.
Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Secret Celebration

12309716_10153138255241384_7154760262295702121_o-1Tonight I was privileged to sit in a Bible class about the book of Job, taught by a real Bible scholar, Brandon Renfroe. He reminisced a bit about a statement made by Wendell Winker. I’m not sure I’m getting this word-for word, but he said that everyone wears an inner garment of sackcloth. The point being made, of course, was that, like Job’s companions, we often do not know or comprehend the extent of the  suffering others may be enduring.

If everyone wears “secret sackcloth”…then surely every Christian woman should also be wearing a sort of secret “party dress”…a celebration garment. See, in Christ, we all have much in every day about which to rejoice, even when things are tough and circumstances are challenging.   Even a casual reading of the short letter to the Philippians  makes me ashamed of the days in which I have failed to rejoice. It makes me keenly aware that the substance of joy is not in delightful circumstances or ease of living. It’s in Christ. It’s the peace—a peace that surpasses our capacity to understand— that gives us the inner garment of celebration (Phil. 4:7).

It’s funny how that, as I grow older, I become more and more intent on living in the moment—taking joy from the good things that are right here and right now. I think that happens to us in our fifties, when we start to realize that we are not really even middle-aged, much less young (because we are probably NOT going to live to be 110!) “Over the hill” was funny at parties when I and my comrades were turning thirty. Now that the hill really is in the rearview mirror, “over the hill” is less funny and more sobering. Most of all, it makes the moments of life increase in their intrinsic value. (It’s supply and demand. Every commodity becomes more valuable when there is less of that commodity.) When you realize the moments are fleeting, you search them out. You want to find their sweetness and extract it. You just begin to live more in each moment.

So, today, a day spent with my ninety-three-year-old father, held a bunch of ripe moments that were worth the savoring. Here are a baker’s dozen of them:

  1. We bowed our heads in a busy breakfast restaurant and I heard him thank the Father for “all Thy many blessings.”
  2. He can still carefully place each of his morning pills on a grid, wash them down with that liquid med, check them off as taken, and get it all right (at least mostly). That’s a super huge blessing.
  3. He voluntarily did his muscle therapy. It made me feel a bit ashamed of all the mornings I find excuses to skip the treadmill.
  4. He wanted to get on about the business of getting that Christmas tree and finding the stockings, buying fruit and getting me up in that barn loft to find the decorations. I hope I can still “have fun” when I’m a nonagenarian, if I even get to be one.
  5. He did not want me to pick the tree. He wanted to peruse, with walker, the long aisles of trees and this WWII veteran could not BELIEVE that some of those little trees were sixty-five dollars and they were “not even Scotch pine.”
  6. Happiness for him was finding a tree that was full and pretty and six feet tall and, best of all, twenty-five dollars.
  7. He had me hold it up, so he could walk around it, twice. “I think I’ve found my tree, right there.”
  8. The thing that made him happiest was that, when we got to the register, that tree was on sale for $19.99. “I never even knew I was going to get it for a cheaper price!”
  9. For hours, I watched him organizing and attaching name tags to big red stockings. He was happy to find that tiny red one. “This one would be good for Ezra, but I’m not sure all his stuff will fit.”
  10. He doesn’t know the first thing about my laptop, but he does want it in HIS lap when I’m scrolling through pictures of Ezra or watching his soon-to-be grand daughter-in-law on that new FHU lectureship promo video. “Is there anything that you can’t find on a computer?”
  11. “Let’s leave the Christmas tree on when we go to church, so we can see what it looks like!”
  12. I heard the trembling voice beside me in worship singing “Years I spent in vanity and pride…Caring not my Lord was crucified.” I don’t think there were many of his years spent in “caring not.” But then probably all of us have spent most of our years needing to care…more.
  13. Commenting on the class as we were driving away from the church building: “I couldn’t hear so much of what he said in class, but it sounded like he was not so complimentary of Job all the time.” I went on to tell him that I thought it was more Job’s friends that he was criticizing. “Well, I don’t think you could call them friends. In fact Job told them they were pretty miserable counselors, at one point.”

Well, I want us all to be good counselors—real friends—women who are full of the Philippians kind of joy and comfort and women who are able to seize that joy and pass it around when sisters are in need. That’s how we will make it to heaven together.  I want us to really live our lives—every moment of them— in the happy, hopeful shadow of the cross. It’s a perpetual inner celebration that only people in the family can understand.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Thanksgiving…But Not Giving Thanks.

images-1Today is Thanksgiving Day. It is of interest to read the initial proclamation by Abraham Lincoln instituting the holiday in 1863:

 

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

While I have never been in agreement that the military engagements of the Civil War were unavoidable, as Lincoln stated, I heartily agree that the blessings enjoyed then and now in our great country are gracious gifts of the Most High God. The President of the United States in 1863 called Jehovah the “Most High God,” “Almighty God,” “beneficent Father” and “Almighty Hand” –all in one short paragraph as he freely acknowledged our dependence on Him and our need to find forgiveness from Him for our transgressions. How very different and aloof–even antagonistic–to Him is our government today! How we need national and personal humility when we consider the blessings in which we bask as Americans. Today, we are more about  “gay pride”  than God’s providence (even being sure that we celebrate homosexuality in the  various holiday parades); more about Black Friday than the Beneficent Father and more about accruing than acknowledging. It’s really unbelievable that  thinking people could try and extract God from a day called “Thanksgiving” in the first place! Absurd.

 When I was small, my mother taught me to say the magic words: please and thank-you. I still believe in magic and I still believe these two words are the keys that unlock an alabaster box of blessings if we can formulate them with our lips as an accurate expression of our hearts’ sentiments. Please is, of course, the word that we use to say that we are pleading. A child might use the word in frustration when she realizes she is not going to be granted her wish. She might repeat it over and over with increasing volume to create the effect of desperation in hopes of getting the desired commodity. As children of God, though, we should realize that every time God looks upon us with favor, we are unworthy even of that notice. We must be like the woman who came to Christ in Matthew 15, whose daughter was demon possessed. She, recognizing her totally undone condition, pleaded, “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” Realizing that her life was out of control as she literally fought the demons alone, she said, “Lord, help me.” Then we read her amazing statement about being but a dog under the master’s table and we marvel at her admission that, as a Gentile, she was undeserving of any gift from Jesus. But, in spite of the obstacles between her and the favor she requested, she kept pleading.

Pleading is all I can do before the throne. I am not, in any respect, worthy of even the audience. It’s mercy in the extreme that purchased my communication with the Lord. I am but a dog under the table. Pleas are the tones with which I approach Him, because to suggest that he should approve or prefer my voice based on any merit I could muster is ludicrous. Please–the begging kind of please–is the way I ask of Him. In spite of the obstacles (sin) between me and His favor, I keep pleading.

And when I get the please right, the thank-you comes naturally. I mean, if I really understand the lowly depths from which he lifted me, I cannot but be utterly grateful. It is my understanding of my circumstance without Him, that makes me appreciate my standing with Him. I must realize that of waste, desert and wilderness, God has made a garden, gladness, and melody. And I respond with thanksgiving.

For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody (Isa.51:3).