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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

More than a Southerner…

I identify strongly as a Southerner. It’s not a choice. There’s no denying it, really, when I wallered on the floor as a toddler. If my mother was not going to do a thing right now, she would do it d’reckly. When I was playing with, instead of eating, my food, I was told to quit messin’ and gomming. (I don’t even know.) The exclamation of choice in the adult conversation around me was “Well, I declare!” The middle-of-the-day meal was dinner and we wiped the table after it with a rag. We never had a pop. We had a coke, no matter what brand it was. I had a housecoat; not a robe. Crappie, the best of the best fish to catch at Hollis’s  Lake, rhymes with copy; not with happy.  (And, by the way, when fishing, I was watching my bobber.) I really didn’t know what a utility room was until I was an adult. It was the washroom. I had wonderful fluffy aunts (Aunt Lizzie and Aunt Bertie Mae) and the word aunt rhymed with paint; not rant and surely not font. 

 I remember “Cousin Cliff” and I remember southern advertising jingles like 

Jack’s hamburgers for 15 cents are so good, good, good…. You’ll go back, back, back to Jack, Jack, Jack’s… For more, more, more.

I was on the five o’clock news on Birmingham’s channel 13 live from Hibbett’s in January, 1978 purchasing my Bama National Championship jersey, even as the title was being hotly contested. 

I like mah-naise on my sandwich and I push a buggy at the store. I climbed Mimosa trees as a kid and caught lightning bugs (not fireflies) and tied a string on a June bug’s leg for hours of flying fun. I had several memorable whippins with a hick’ry. Sometimes, my mother would even make me go out and find the switch, myself. (Now there was a lot of thinking going on around those bushes.)

And never were there days as purely southern as the very rare snow day. First off, the weather-man (not meteorologist) never got it right in Alabama about snow, so there were many very disappointing awakenings on Lynn Dale Lane. But, when the world was white, after lots of excited shrieks, we scraped for snow cream first, and then we donned layers and layers of mis-matched pajamas, topped with a layer or two of Buster Brown snap sweaters, and a coat from the next kid up. (It had to be big by then.)  Then three pairs of socks and rain boots (never galoshes) if we had them, or bread bags tied around our tennis shoes. Metal trash can lids down the back hill between the house and the garden were the best! On rare occasions, we even got snowed in, and couldn’t make it to Adamsville for church, so we put on all those layers and we walked a couple of miles down the mountain to Sandusky, where Dan Jenkins or, later, brother Jarrett, was preaching. Those memories, before live-streaming, (or any of the conveniences and conflicts that have come with the internet) are pretty wonderful.

There were some very good things about Southern living that have left vestiges (remnants) for my life in Alabama still today. People did not pass people who had flat tires or over-heated radiators. People stopped to help. People in the store let me bring things home to try on before paying. “Just bring it back next time you’re in town.” People took up collections for neighbors—door-to-door— when they were sick or had lost a loved one. People were not afraid to answer the door and many people routinely left their doors unlocked. People called on neighbors—not door dash— when they were missing an ingredient. People scrunched up and made pallets when relatives came for extended visits and they had fun doing it. Mothers sewed and baked and were not afraid for their kids to walk home from the bus stop alone. Small-town kids could walk to the grocery store or up-town to the square and bring home the necessities without even having any money. The clerk knew and trusted the family to make it good on the first of the month, when billed. 

Trust is the thing. It’s so important for making life work together. It’s essential for good marriage, for good neighborhoods and for good business— and it’s making a quick exit from our communities. 

When we turn from the ultimate trust—trust in God—we become untrustworthy (and untrusting) toward our fellowmen. We are like the Jews to whom Jeremiah wrote in 9:4-6: 

Take ye heed every one of his neighbor,

and trust ye not in any brother:

for every brother will utterly supplant,

and every neighbor will walk with slanders.

And they will deceive every one his neighbour,

and will not speak the truth:

they have taught their tongue to speak lies,

and weary themselves to commit iniquity.

Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit;

through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the Lord.

And then we slowly lose, not just the goodness of community, but the simple joys of community living. There are many fun things I got to do, when growing up, that my grandkids will not experience because of eroded trust. 

I know these are mostly idle musings of a nostalgic grandmother. I know, too, that all good things must come to an end. Every society in history, left unconquered by enemies, has lost its way, and eventually crumbled from within. Though I am unable to prevent the demise of wholesome adherence to principles of integrity that engender trust in my country or even my community, I am able to BE trustworthy. I am able to be helpful to elderly Mr. Jimmie, across the street. I am able to take bread to neighbors and to check on them when something seems off. I am able to have people in my home for soup and to take soup to others who are sick or lonely. Most importantly, I can still say, “Would you study the Bible with me?” as I am praying for some soul that needs so badly to trust in the One who is the essence of integrity. The gospel is the truth that grows integrity in the lives of the people around me. It is the truth that transports us, rather quickly, from a place that has little trust left, to a place where there is no lack of trust, ever again. I want to be the spiritual remnant that is given the new order of trust spoken of by Zephaniah in 3:12,13. Faith in God changes everything and gives us hope for a home where trust is never eroded. May I share the “trust” that takes away fear. 

I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people,

and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.

The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies;

neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth:

for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.


Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Pray This!

Psalm 33 begins by saying that praising God befits or is comely for the upright. We can infer from that, that when unrighteous people offer praise to God, even while doing evil in the name of God, it is ugly and uncomely in His holy eyes. We all can recount recent scenarios in which great evil was done by hands of those whose lips were praising. Can you imagine how nauseated God must be when people who are devising evil against innocent people are doing so in the name of—claiming the authority of—God Almighty, for those evil intentions? That’s why Revelation 3 describes God as determined to vomit out those who are claiming to be His, but are not fully committed to seeking his righteousness (Revelation 3:15-20). 

The Psalmist goes on to say that this God, the one Who spoke the heavens and their hosts into existence, is the same One who sees all the children of men. When I look at the night sky, it is unfathomable that He sees me! From where He sits enthroned, He does see me! The One who is in charge of every generation, past and future, is also concentrating on me! He fashioned every heart and observes every deed of every man and woman. There is great comfort in that because there is no duplicity when dealing with God. He knows my heart.  He knows both its vast imperfections and its motivating intent. That is what I want Him to know. 

There is no strength in an army. There is no strength in horses or great human deliverers. 

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,

on those who hope in his steadfast love,

that he may deliver their soul from death

and keep them alive in famine.”

I know some innocent people who are in a famine right now.   You probably know some, too… real victims in a world in which unrighteousness constantly claims victimization. Some are children. Some are spouses. Some are war-ravaged. Some are persecuted leaders just trying to do the right thing.  The Deliverer is near to the innocent. He will deliver them. My soul waits for Him. My hope is in Him. 

If you haven’t read Psalm 33 lately, go there today. Pray with the psalmist:  

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,

even as we hope in you.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

When People Disappoint

Sometimes people disappoint us. Sometimes we believe in, invest in, and become vulnerable to people who ultimately disappoint. That’s just a part of living because the devil is so busy in this old world. Sometimes he cannot get us by direct temptation. Sometimes he fails to get us to veer from truth, procrastinate righteousness or become apathetic to the cause of Christ, so he contaminates some strong part of our support system and, through the loss of some person or group of people we esteemed, he discourages us, erodes our faith in the Holy One, and sometimes tempts us to throw in the towel.

Maybe you have someone (or a group) in your life right now who is trying to beat down your zeal for righteousness. Let’s take some quick thoughts from scripture that are faith-sustaining. For today, let’s not wonder why God is not hearing our pleas but, instead, let’s remember these things:

  1. God’s timetable doesn’t always fit my immediate preference, but it is what benefits me in the long run. This is so important. That’s why we have so many passages about waiting on Him. His resolution is always worth the wait for His faithful people. It strikes my heart to think that even the persecuted prophet Jeremiah had to wait ten days for a word from the Lord (Jeremiah 42:7)  At least seven times in the Psalms only, we hear the words “Wait on the Lord.” Notice these words from Psalm 37. They are full of the promise that God gives the victory to those who faithfully wait. 

Wait on the Lord,

And keep His way,

And He shall exalt you to inherit the land;

When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it.

I have seen the wicked in great power,

And spreading himself like a native green tree.

Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more;

Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found.

Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright;

For the future of that man is peace.

2. God’s methodology on the way to victory for righteous people doesn’t always fit my plan of victory. I’ve learned this so many times over in my six decades of life. I think it should happen a certain way. Then God slowly, but with precision, steps in and provides a plan that I could never have dreamed up in my most creative moments of plotting a course. His ways are higher than mine! (Is. 55:9—I love this passage!)

3. People, no matter how charismatic or apparently righteous they may be, are vulnerable to the devil, but God’s way is still perfect.  I am vulnerable. You are vulnerable. When people fail to walk in His ways (Yes, when I may fail to walk there), we should learn that consequences of sin are always worse than the sinner expects them to be. ALWAYS. That’s because we leave the perfect, stable, never-changing light of God and choose the dark path that has sin’s trap-doors and dragnets and faux rewards at every turn. We think we can navigate a path that promises an instant heaven while we remain unscathed. We think we can go on with life, normally, after experimentation with the devil’s temptation, but the path that promises an instant heaven delivers an eternal hell, with lots of casualties along the way.  Sometimes the consequences of sin reach out to those innocent people around the sinner. When I find myself affected, it’s important to remember that the hurt comes from sin; not from God. 

4. Prayer is not an instant release from pain. We know this in our minds, but our hearts want the immediate soothing of His peace. Daniel went into the lion’s den after praying. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found themselves in a very hot spot just after standing firmly with Jehovah. Jeremiah was in a pit and James was murdered. John the Baptist lost his head shortly after sending His message to the Advocate. Sometimes, the Advocacy renders, not immediate peace, but immediate problems that eventually lead to eternal peace. Sometimes the Advocacy renders, not immediate calming of circumstances, but chaos that gives muscle to spiritual goals. Sometimes the Advocacy—let’s face it—renders what seems like torture, tribulation and testing. But all of that pain brings something that can sustain us for an eternal reward (James 1).  I know there are readers who can attest to this even while walking now through the valleys that seem to have no “other side.” But there IS the other side of tribulation born of disappointment. 

While speaking to a friend, a mother of four, this morning whose world is being torn apart by the sin of someone in whom she trusted, I realized that there are many of us, who to some extent or another, are suffering collateral-damage-pain at the hands of the enemy.  We know, in our minds, that God is perfect. He has placed us in this testing ground to give us a large chance to glorify Him for a very short, sin-influenced lifetime—to even suffer pain at the hands of the devil, through other people—so that we can share in the glory that Jesus has obtained at the throne. We suffer so that we may know Him more perfectly!

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:10,11).

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“I didn’t really plan on saying that…”

Maggie is three. But she’s an old soul and a very young fresh-from-God soul at the same time. This was her prayer one night last week: 

“Thank you that Adam and Eve repented and got to go up to heaven.” Then, when she finished praying, she said “Yeah, I just didn’t really plan on saying that. I just thought of it.” 

She’s learning every day and it doesn’t get past me that some of us old people need to be engaging in a lot more unplanned prayer. Sometimes we forget that prayer is not merely a habit we form of communication with the Father, but it is also a living expression of our evolving thoughts, petitions and praise to the One who has the infinite power to listen to all of His children, all over the world, at all times; to hear us as if there were only one of us (I wish I could have had that power when mine were small!) and to answer us in keeping with the very best eternal interests of each one of us.  This is not like the rote recitation of the pledge to the flag. It’s not reminiscent of the early twentieth century morning quotation of the “Lord’s Prayer” in schoolhouses all over America, although that’s an idea that was not a bad one. It’s more like Hannah at the temple crying out for a son (1 Samuel 1). It’s like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—firm in their resolution that God was able to deliver and yet firm in their own resolution to be true to Him even if he didn’t (Daniel 3). It’s more like Jesus on the cross commending His spirit into the hands of God (Luke 23:46). It’s you and me, asking for whatever it is that means the most to our hearts, expressing the trust that He is Sovereign no matter what assails us, and giving our all into His hands. That’s the kind of communication that flows freely, unencumbered by memorization or strict ritualistic form.  It’s the praise of a grandmother when a child puts on the Lord in baptism. It’s the prayer of a mother over the specific ills that have befallen a sick child. It’s the cry of a parent who is watching an adult child walk through a dark valley of betrayal and/or abuse. It’s the silent heavenward whisperings of a care-taking child watching a faithful parent deteriorate and die a thousand deaths on the way to glory.  It’s the wailing cry he hears from His child when the dearest on earth has left for the arms of the One who is interceding. It’s the petition for help from the Infinite One when navigating a path that seems busier and more overwhelming than a single person can even record on a calendar or spreadsheet. And all of this, of course, is far more raw than rote. 

It’s “Yeah, I didn’t plan on saying that, but I just thought of it.” This is being still and knowing (Psalm 46). 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

If you just get to one ladies day this fall, make it this one!

This will be the best expenditure of your September, by far. If you’ve never been encouraged by Carol Dodd, this is YOUR morning! She’s showing us all how to take the darkest of times and turn them into his glory. A stage 4 cancer patient, at present, she is using every day–through pain and mishap and treatment and sometimes what’s extreme difficulty– to continue to maximize the offering of glory she can give to our great God during the sunset days of her life. I continue to stand amazed at how very encouraging she is to the ladies–the body, even– at West Huntsville and beyond. She recently spoke on our PTP Spark program, and I think I can say, without hesitancy, she was the favorite speaker of the week. Her passion is Bible study. Her goal is heaven. Her Lord is Christ. her sovereign is Jehovah. Her purpose is His glory. Her husband is Don (he’s a great blessing, too.) Her people are the Christians at West Huntsville. Her little distraction and game-changer, for the moment, is cancer. And that’s really the order of things in her world. I’m saying…you just don’t want to miss it. Child care, lodging, fellowship and spiritual strength–all available here:

(Digger Bonus: If you make it to this ladies day, you get one free pass  in the Digging Deep study this year. One incomplete chapter in the 2021-22 study and you can still be a finisher next August! Just for fun!)
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!