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Thankfulness

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).

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Intruder in the Night

th-2Footsteps in the night. It was this last Friday night at 1:30 a.m.  Glenn had locked all the doors tightly before we retired. Something was terribly wrong. The footsteps were a bit muffled, but they were clearly the sound of a human intruder.

My heart skipped a beat as I turned to Glenn and quietly said “What WAS that?” He was already half-way over to the drawer where the pistol is kept. Rushing back over to the bedside to throw on more clothes (after all, you don’t want to be immodest when you appear before the thug who is probably going to kill you), he said, in a voice that signaled his rush of adrenalin, “It  sounds an awful lot like footsteps.  And it did…and it was still happening…and sometimes it sounded as if they were in the kitchen, right beside our bedroom door, which was already slightly ajar.

“Yes it does,” I replied, still in disbelief. I had never been afraid in this house. But this was NOT our normal autumn squirrel in the attic.

Glenn stole over to the bedroom door, and standing behind it, gun in hand, he peeked out into the kitchen. Someone was out there. Now there was no denying it. Moving shadows, shuffling, the kitchen door ajar. I heard the metal-to-metal sound as my husband pulled back the slide and threw a round into the chamber. I could not believe this was happening. The bullet was in the barrel.

In a stunned moment of panic, I said “Don’t shoot Gideon!” I mean, what IF one of those little boys who are temporarily living in our back-yard cabin had been sleep-walking or even pranking someone and had wandered into the house in the middle of the night?

Then it all happened. I was lying there replaying the last moments we had spent together through the day and thinking, “This could be for real. My husband may die. I will have to find some way to make it without him for a time. But I will see him again. ”

Glenn stepped over the threshold into the kitchen, a moment of shuffling as the gun was being raised and the perpetrator looked him in the eye. My husband’s shout was piercing. “Caleb!”…It’s you!”

Moments later, after the “Mommm!!!..Why did you not tell Dad that I was coming home tonight?”  and after we all realized that he, indeed, had told me, albeit weeks ago (and that’s way too long ago for my shorter-all the-time term memory), we crawled back into bed.

Glenn was still trembling, as he put his arms around me. “I almost shot my son. I almost shot Caleb,” he said. “I am so thankful that I paused for one split second to discern who he was. I did not know that I would do that…And those silly lights of yours in the kitchen (He was talking about rope lights that line the top of my pantries; lights that we only have because he’s conceded to the decorator in me.)…if it were not for those lights I probably would have shot before knowing it was him. I’m so glad we have those lights. Someone…no, everyone, in this house could be deeply harmed.”

“I know,”  I said…”Life, as we know it, could have been forever-and-ever irreparably changed. We are so very, very blessed…unspeakably blessed.”

Then he said this: “I just kept repeating in my mind as I stood behind that door…’There is no one who has the right to be in here. No one has my permission. No one has the right to be here.’ But, of course, I was not thinking of my son.”

Then we prayed—a deep emotional prayer of thanksgiving and praise. I cried. And somewhere in the moments just before dawn, we finally fell asleep again. I think, for me, it was around 4 a.m. Even now, 36 hours after that panicked awakening, it still does something to my body to recall it.

There are some take-aways in every painful recollection. Lest you think the lessons are about gun safety—even gun control–please know that we are extremely careful with firearms in our house and we are also pretty convinced that the world, in general, is safer, when citizens have the right to bear arms. The lessons for me are practical and spiritual truths, about which I am keenly reminded as I treasure the relationship I have with the man who will always be my child—my firstborn. I think when he walks down the aisle next month to be married I will drink a little more deeply in the joy of imagining his future and bask a little more thankfully in the realization that he and his bride will have precious time together in this venture we call “life”.

The take-aways for me:

  1. The first is the obvious one. We should all be prepared to lose our loved ones to eternity at any point in time. The part of that last phrase-“in time” is not just rhetoric. If it’s a point “in time”, it’s fleeting. It’s a point that you can identify by a date, hour, minute and second, but, by the time you do, it’s as far away as if you’d never marked it. Gone. But, when we say “a point in time” we really are deferring to eternity. Have you ever thought about the fact that there are no “points” in eternity? A realm so far beyond our grasp of imagination or reason and yet only a heartbeat away for any of us! For the Christian, that’s the adventure of living. It’s getting ready to be forever whisked out of this world and into one beyond the scope of human thought. It’s not just getting ready, but it’s also “being ready”. It’s sometimes, in the panics of life, still being able to know “It is well with my soul.”
  2. I should write things down when they are appointments I am making weeks ahead of time. (I should write things down when they are the next day.) Old people like me are not mentally invincible. Not even close. And, sometimes, that matters. (The silver cord may be snapping or the golden bowl being broken [Ecc. 12:6]) I should write things down.
  3. Pausing for discernment can be a really good thing before big irreversible decisions.
  4. Light is invaluable. It illuminates truth. If we walk in darkness, we stumble and we do not know where we are going (I John 2:10,11). We do not properly assess danger and we do not properly protect  what is good. Psalm 89:15 says “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.”  A little light in the darkness kept Glenn from pulling that trigger. It was a joyful sound when I heard him shout “Caleb!” But the illumination that comes from the light of the world keeps us from eternal hell (John 8:12). That’s real joy.
  5. The son has the right. Glenn just kept saying, “No one has the right to be in my house!” But the son had the right. Caleb has full access to us at any time—complete and absolute access. In the same way, no one has the right to the Father’s house. There is nothing I could ever do that would gain my entry into that house where there is warmth, security, peace and salvation. But the Son? He has the right. And because He is the great Intercessor, he has unlocked the doors for me (Matthew 16:15, 16). Because of the Son, I have gained entry and full access to the throne of the Father. He has the right and I am so very thankful.
  6. Thanksgiving is not the holiday of the week for the Colleys. It is the mantra of the last few days. I pray that our family will live every day in thanksgiving; not just for amazing blessings like the sparing of our son’s life in that surreal moment in the kitchen Friday night, but, most of all, for the Son, who has the right to be in the Father’s house.

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: They Didn’t Like the Free Food?

images-18It’s November, the month of national Thanksgiving. Facebook friends are posting daily thanksgiving notes and families are preparing for family Thanksgiving feasts. Christians should be introspective about our thankfulness and ask a couple of questions. First, do I credit my heavenly Father with the mercies and even the riches that I experience? Secondly, do I extend my thanksgiving habits to every day of every month of every year (because those are the days in which I experience new blessings from the Father)?

Numbers 11 chronicles a most ungrateful day in the history of Israel. The question they posed to Moses was  “Why did you bring us out of Egypt?” In the previous two chapters alone, God had lovingly led them, speaking to them through the meek man, Moses (9:1); thus, showing them that He had brought them out to be a people for His own possession.  He had provided that amazing pillar of fire and cloud to cover the tabernacle, beckoning  them to go and then to rest, characteristically remembering their humanness and their need for His divine guidance (9:15).  He had promised to perform this amazing feat perpetually, giving them peace about the future plans he had for them (9:16).  He had designed an elaborate trumpet alarm system, so the people could not fail to know  the meaning of his communication with them (10:1-8). He reiterated his perpetual promise to hear and remember them (10:9) and His great ark searched out their resting places (10:33).  All of these blessings directly preceding Numbers 11 are listed exclusive of even any mention of the fact that He miraculously plagued Egypt, the nation which plagued Israel with an excessively harsh form of slavery and that He dried up a large sea so that they could pass through and then summoned those same waters to crash together again on the Egyptians.

But they didn’t like the food that God rained down from heaven for them. So, in the midst of unprecedented protection and guidance the question God loathed was directed at His servant Moses “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt?”

See, when we indict God’s Word or His ordained leaders, we indict God, Himself. He’s made us, imperfect people, a part of His divine church, the Israel of today. He’s spoken to us through his Holy Spirit’s revealed Will and given us elders to feed us and guide us in the expedition of His will on earth. He has ordained our leaders in marriage and in our nations, too. He’s also  promised us rest and given us the amazing place of communication at His throne that we know as prayer. And yet sometimes we verbalize the question God hates. We say, “Why?”…”Why?”, mind you, is not always wrong. But when we indict God with the question, it reeks with ingratitude.

“If God is so loving, then why is the Bible so full of condemnation?”

“If homosexuality is a sin, then why did God make homosexuals?”

“Why should I have to go along with decisions my husband makes when he’s so insensitive?”

“Why did the elders make this decision? It’s just so inconvenient to have class before worship!”

“And why do they expect us to come to Wednesday Night classes? Don”t they know we have ballgames?”

“Why me? Why am I the one with this disease?”

Sometimes we forget that we borrow life from Him. It is His air and He designed the lungs that breathe it. It’s His water table and His sunlight and He made the plants that convert them to food for our sustenance. He gave us digestive systems to process  food and work to recycle its energy.  Moreover, it’s His scheme of man’s redemption; and the soul in me that responds to the plan is His, too.  It’s His cleansing that’s my only hope. Whenever I find his word burdensome, may I remember how lost I’d be without revelation from Him. When the authority over me seems “Insensitive”, may I recall the insensitivity he encountered for me at Calvary. When service seems inconvenient, may I call to mind the great rescue from hell that occurred because He left the splendor of heaven…for me. When earth’s sickness and death seem cruel and I’m tempted to blame God, may I remember that He is the One who has swallowed death in victory (I Corinthians 15:54). May I pause before I ask “Why?”…just to be sure I’m not complaining about the free food.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Another Chance–(Conclusion)…and His Women Getting Together!

tumblr_lyddxauOqc1r1o6z3o1_500She did not care that her family was not there. She did not care that her hair would be wet. She did not care that there had been a glitch in the temperature timer and the water was cold. She did not care that she was hungry and it was past lunch time. Maria just wanted to be immersed for the forgiveness of her sins. And so she was. She confessed that she does believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God and she was immediately baptized, buried with Him into His blood that, at that moment, cleansed of all her past sins and she began to be a grateful recipient  of the continual cleansing that will keep her ready for His coming for all of her faithful days. Praise God for “Another Chance”!

It was only a few hours before I received a message from a faithful sister who had read about the baptism on our congregation’s Facebook page. This sister had done mission work in Mexico and she knew a preacher who might be able to help locate a church for Maria. So I messaged this faithful man and he, amazingly, lives on the Texas/Mexico border, only thirty minutes from Maria’s home city. God is so good! And Facebook can be a great tool for His people.

A few days later, I was standing in line at the counter in a large hotel as the Polishing the Pulpit conference was beginning. Trying to get my room keys upon our arrival there—a convention, mind you, where 3800-plus people were converging—I overheard the man in the adjacent line giving the clerk his name. It was the same name as that preacher who lives in Texas! I turned to him and said, “You are looking for a church for my friend, Maria!”

“Yes!” he said. “I am!”

3800 people, who would go through scores of different processes and lines to get their accommodations at various times in the process of about four days…and I ended up next to this man, who was working on the same precious project for Maria as was I! God is good!

Later in that same weekend, the secretary from this church in Texas, a sweet-spirited sister, came up to me after one of my lessons and assured me that she has friends who live in the same community as Maria…people who will help her be faithful.  “We will not let her fall through the cracks.” I just have to say it again: God is SO good!

Additionally, due to circumstances which occurred following Maria’s return to Mexico, her family in Huntsville has experienced a transition. This has afforded Christians here an opportunity to help them find needed items and to begin a relationship with Maria’s daughter and her family. God is so good!

Will you keep praying to our God of goodness and providence for Maria and her family?  Will you pray diligently that God will help you identify and reach the Marias of your life? I know there are others in my life and Emily’s life and Bonny’s life, too. I know many of you have found more Marias than I have and I know lots of you have not needed a second chance to tell them. I’m not proud of the fact that I did need a second chance…another year and another mindset.

But I am so thankful for second chances!

_________________________________________________________________________

Now, don’t forget this weekend is the ladies seminar at West Huntsville. If you have something for which we should be praying on this Friday night, and you can’t join us in person, feel free to send me that request at ddprayers2015@gmail.com. We will be praying on that evening and distributing that prayer list to women for use in their own private prayer times. Some have already submitted requests. God will hear us all the time and individually, of course, but it is strengthening to pray together. I look forward to that time. Saturday will be a powerful day for our women at West Huntsville and all who can attend. I hope you’re in that number. It’s not too late to sign up and come at www.seminar.westhuntsville.org. In addition to the spiritual feast, there will be a physical feast, book tables, t-shirts and Digging Deep paraphernalia. There will be singing and praying and a Bible marking class. There will be encouragement and strength. And there will be men serving our lunch. That’s a first, I think, for our WH seminars, and we are liking it! Our husbands are great men who know how to lead and serve!

One more thing, Digging Deep podcast is on Tuesday night, September 29th. Be with us then and invite friends. They still have time to catch up with us as we are beginning this year’s Persecution study! Go live for Him! Go teach for Him!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sounds of God

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SOUNDS OF GOD

A basketball bouncing on my drive;

A soft little song from a girl of five;

The buzz of bees, a whistling breeze:

The splash of the shower, the crash of a tower.

Disposal trashing, compactor smashing;

Clocks dinging, doorbell ringing;

Rain falling, children calling;

Vacuum roaring, someone snoring.

CNN bringing the voice of our nation

While Mama is chatting in phone conversation;

A guitar strumming, a dryer humming;

A microwave zapping, a little pup yapping.

Piano scales practiced on old worn out keys;

Fireside conversations of old memories;

The sqeaking of rockers on tired rocking chairs;

The patter of feet going up and down stairs.

The laughter at dinner, the jokes of a child;

The living room wrestling when everyone’s wild;

The squibbles and squabbles of small girls and boys;

My! How God blessed us with all of this noise!

A Father is telling the story of old;

A hymn in the night when the story is told;

The children petition their Father in prayer.

Sweet sounds of our home , for He lives with us there.

Do you ever take time at your house to be still

And listen with ears that are tuned to His will?

To sounds of His blessings…to voices that pray?

Does God live at your house?  Have you heard him today?

Cindy Colley