Welcome to Rocky Top
When the Floor Gives Way
The Fallen Christmas Tree
The Harvest
It is Well with My Soul!
The Whisper

Welcome to Rocky Top

Welcome to Rocky Top….yes, I live on a street named Rocky Top in a house on the side of a rocky mountain in the state of Tennessee but Rocky Top for me is more a state of mind that I find myself in often.

I imagine you may also live there sometimes… you know… close to the edge… either you are close to the edge of losing it with your kids, your husband, or boss or even a friend that is driving you insane. You may even have fallen off and are trying to climb your way back up what seems to be a slippery slope.

The steep cliff I see off my back porch is God’s way of reminding me He is there for me. Trees, wildflowers, and beautiful wild animals live on this Rocky Top with me… along with a husband that I truly love but often pushes me to the edge with his adventures, and six grown adult children who come to visit often… isn’t that kind of weird… adult children. I’m not sure how I am still sane and they are also… but their children… my grands… William, Addy, Aubrey and Isaac… well I have to admit I adore and would do almost anything for.

So I welcome you to Rocky Top… come sit in one of my brown rocking chairs on the back porch. We will experience Real Life together as we remember Who He is and What He is Able to do when you live close to the edge and are afraid you might just fall off the steep cliff.

When the Floor Gives Way

Today I welcome to the back porch of Rocky Top, Amy Daniel.  Amy is the wife of Joseph, mommy to Addy and Aubrey and works part-time as a registered nurse.   She is also my middle-child!  Most importantly, Amy is a beautiful daughter of the king.  You will love her heart for Jesus and her honesty in this blog!

It was ONE of those days!  The baby was sick.  People seemed to be coming against me from every side.  My mood reflected the circumstances of the day.

As the kids napped, I went to Jesus, praying He would revive my soul.  However, instead of allowing Him to do what I knew He would do I made other choices.

I chose to be discontent.  I chose to grumble and complain about unfair circumstances.  I chose not to listen to Him.

Nap time was over and I chose to begrudgingly resume mom duty.  I took the kids into the kitchen to feed them a snack and that’s when it happened.  The floor gave way beneath me.   Literally.  Unbeknownst to me, the tile in my kitchen had formed a giant bubble in the middle.  When I stepped on it, tile and grout flew everywhere.  No injuries were sustained.  Panic ensued as I frantically called experts to diagnose why my floor gave way.

The diagnosis was surprising.  When the tile was originally laid, no room was left for expansion.  So when humidity entered, the tile expanded and buckled in the middle.  Thankfully, it was fixed by laying down new tile and leaving room for expansion.

As I thought about the floor giving way, the Lord began to speak to me.  I had let discontentment, bitterness, and grumbling creep into my soul.  When circumstances don’t go the way I plan or seem unfair, there is a choice to be made.  I can explode with anger and throw an adult temper tantrum or I can rest in the promises of God.

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  I Corinthians 3:11

When He is my foundation, the floor can literally fall out from beneath me but I will stand firm because my feet are planted in His strength and not my own.

The tile had no room to expand so it exploded.  So often in my life I leave no room for the Lord to work.  I am so busy trying to control my circumstances that I never stop to offer them to the only One who does have control.  The result is discontentment and grumbling.

II Corinthians 5:14 “The love of Christ controls us…”        Honestly, most of the time I allow external factors to control me……the kitchen floor, the broken relationship, the sick child, the unpaid bills.  When I choose to shift my focus off self and circumstances and onto the True foundation, then the love of Christ starts to pour out of me.  Joy comes then!   At that moment I realize the repairman who God brought to my home may need to experience the love of Christ.  Or maybe God allowed the floor to explode just so I could share my story with you!

Stand firm on the Foundation of Christ, allow room in your life for Him to grow you, and refuse anything but His love to control you!


The Fallen Christmas Tree

The decorating of the Christmas tree up on Rocky Top has always been a festive time….Christmas carols playing in the background, the smell of a freshly cut tree in the air,  a crackling fire glowing in the fire place, crab bites (a family favorite) and sparkling Welch’s.

Not so much this year.  As I sat on the floor going through ornaments, I begin to quietly cry.  Over half of our ornaments were given to us by people we had pastored in the past.  Satan whispered in my ear, “No more ornaments for you.  That part of your life is done.  You don’t even have one from your own mother.  And she’s dead now. ”

Preacher didn’t know what was going on in my heart as we began to decorate the tree.  I had chosen not to make any crab bites and the Christmas music playing in the background almost seemed annoying.

After it was decorated, we stood back to admire the work and I think I just let out a sigh.  Normally we sing a Christmas carol together as Preacher turns on the lights.  Not this year.

A few days later as we were traveling for our new ministry, I received a text from a friend who had agreed to come take care of our home and water our Christmas tree while we were traveling.   The text read, “Here is how I found your tree.”  It was followed by a picture of the tree turned over, stand and all, water everywhere with pieces of broken ornaments scattered throughout the room.

My heart sunk.  I did not cry.  Sadness just enveloped me.  Two dear friends cleaned it all up and even tied the tree to the back door to keep it standing up.

Upon returning home, Preacher and I once again decorated the tree.  Determining to change my perspective and heart, crab bites were made along with cookies.  Maybe food would soothe my wounded, grieving heart.

The tree stood proud for one week.

After a long day of ministry and Christmas shopping, I walked into the house to once again find the eight foot Christmas tree lying on the floor with more broken ornaments and  a water soaked tree skirt.

This Rocky Top girl would like to tell you she worshipped, kept perspective by remembering so many people who are going through much worse things than a fallen tree but I did not.

I sat in the middle of the mess and began to just sob and yell at God.

When Preacher got home, he helped me clean it up.  He offered to attempt to stand it up again.

“No! Get it out of my home.  Tomorrow I will buy a fake tree.” I yelled.

Preacher carried it out and threw it over the cliff on the back of Rocky Top.

The next morning when I sat with Jesus so many emotions swirled in my heart and head…..from anger to shame to failure.

As I opened His word He spoke with gentleness:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.  I will put my Spirit upon him and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.  He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” Matthew 12:18-21

Through His word, Jesus reminded me of why He came.   He came to sit with me in all my mess.

Christmas is grace in our failure.

Christmas is forgiveness to those who wound and betray us.

Christmas is strength when we are weak.

Christmas is justice and not judgement.

Christmas is peace in chaos.

Christmas is joy in our deepest sadness.

Christmas is comfort in our grief.

Christmas is knowing He will lead when we are wandering.

Christmas is your mentor, your Timothy, and your children giving you ornaments of truth to hang around your neck instead of glass ones that will eventually break.  (Proverbs 1:9)

Christmas is HOPE in what we believe to be hopelessness.

We want Christmas to be filled with laughter, fun, gifts and happiness.

Sometimes Christmas is just remembering that in all the hurt, in all the pain, in all the change, in all the disappointments in life, whether they are big or small, Jesus came to give us Himself.

Emmanuel………God with us!

The HOPE of the world.

P.S.  The fake Christmas tree with pre-lit lights is standing proudly up on Rocky Top.

The Harvest

Every Fall I am inevitably asked about whether Preacher and I celebrate Halloween.   My usual response is “We celebrate the Harvest.”   Today as I was reading God’s word I was reminded of the most important harvest.

Matthew 9 says “When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:36-38

The crowds are everywhere—the mall, at the ball game, at the park and even at church.  They are people I don’t know— faces without names.

Jesus had compassion on the crowds then, and He has compassion on the crowds He sees today.  The Greek word for “compassion” in this passage means “to be sick at your stomach“.    Jesus was so moved by the helplessness of the crowds that He wanted to throw up.

Honestly, most days I have no compassion for the crowds.  I avoid the crowds.  My tendency is to just move through the crowd as quickly as possible to accomplish whatever task is before me.

Jesus described the crowds as harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd.  I see the crowds as a nuisance.  Jesus saw them as individuals needing guidance and care.

Jesus told His followers clearly there was no shortage of people needing to be loved, cared for and transformed.  There was only a shortage of workers to go and share of His love, care, and hope.

Jesus challenged His followers to “ask” Him for more workers to go to the crowds.

I ask Jesus for a lot of things.  This morning I asked Him to protect people I love, to heal hearts of those I love, to give Preacher wisdom, to save those I love.  All of these were good things for me to ask for.

However,  I did not ask Him to bring workers into His field.  My lack of asking Jesus for more workers probably has more to do with the fact I really do not want to be a part of the answer.

Pain, hurt and fear can cause us to withdraw from others.  Why open yourself to reaching out when experience says “You will just be wounded again.”

Yet, Jesus knew as He challenged His followers to love and care for the crowds, that even His own disciples would desert him and betray Him.

The Harvest is ready!   Lord, forgive me for being so self absorbed and fearful that I have not gone into your fields of harvest.  Crowds are waiting to hear the message of Hope and Love that only our Savior can bring.  As our nation mourns the loss of many due to mass shootings, hurricanes and earthquakes may we be filled with compassion and hold out the word of life to the crowds.

Will you open your eyes this approaching Holiday season to see the crowds?

It is Well with My Soul!

It’s been awhile since I have sat on the back porch up on Rocky Top to write. Truthfully, I have been terrified of what would come out as I hit the keys on my laptop.

If you have been with me since the beginning of this blog, you know I am REAL. What does that mean?  I don’t play games or try and pretend all is well when it is not well.

Protests took place in Rocky Top city this weekend. My son and his wife are in Houston as Hurricane Harvey dumps rain on the already saturated earth. Parents are hurting because their young son has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

I returned from a land just a few weeks ago where floods, hurricanes, or protests would have been welcome disasters. I sat in a room as two precious sisters in the Lord shared how their husbands had been tragically killed for their faith.  Yet, these women sang praises to Jesus and lifted up His name.

Perspective is always an antidote for self-pity.

As many of you know, Preacher resigned as senior pastor at First Baptist Concord last week. It was an agonizing decision.   His words on Sunday, August 20 will ring in my head for a long time, “I love this church.  Yet, I love Jesus more.  We must be obedient to His call on our lives.”

On Monday, September 11 we will begin to serve Life Action Ministries as missionaries to America and the world.   Life Action is a  ministry filled with many wonderful people who daily sacrifice so much to see our nation turn their hearts toward God.

At sixteen years of age I walked down the aisle of a church and told the pastor God was calling me to missions. In God’s graciousness, He knew it would take forty years, give or take a few, to prepare my heart to totally accept this call.  What can I say except that I am a slow learner.

The mission statement of Life Action ministries is to ignite Christ-centered movements of authentic Christianity that displays the gospel and fulfills the Great Commission.

Our nation is sick. The answer is Jesus.  Churches in our nation are in desperate need of revival.  Revival is not a week-long set of meetings with guest preachers.   Revival occurs when a dead heart comes back to life and determines to follow Christ at all costs.  Revival happens when a church body decides to care more about the lost than their own personal preferences.  Preacher and I must be obedient to His call of revival on our lives.

Real life on Rocky Top will continue. Preacher and I will still call this home as long as the Lord allows.

What I want you to know is “It is Well With My Soul.”

Many tears have been shed as Preacher and I sought God’s direction for our lives.  Change is not easy, especially as we age.  When comfort is longed for, God challenges us with change.  A true disciple of Christ never becomes “comfortable.”

Paul in the New Testament is the ultimate example of one who followed Christ.  Over and over we see Paul making ministry decisions not based on what was best for himself or what was comfortable for him.  In Philippians 1:12 Paul clearly emphasized that everything in his life, the good and the bad, was about the advancement of the gospel.

When change comes, the question is not “What does this mean for me?” but “What does this mean for His kingdom?”

Preacher and I are just God’s servants. Our desire is to simply advance His kingdom.

So dear readers, from my heart to yours “It is Well With My Soul.”

Allow any change, difficulty, or hardship to bring Glory to the King and advance His Kingdom!

The Whisper

Today let’s welcome Amy Daniel to the back porch up on Rocky Top.  Amy is the wife of Joseph and mom of two littles.   She also loves on lots of littles as she serves as a neonatal intensive care nurse part-time.  Amy’s other role is my middle daughter.  Thank you, Amy, for reminding us that God does “whisper” to us through His word if we will just take time to listen.

It’s 3 a.m.   I jump up frantically and run down the hall towards the screams of my baby. She’s hysterically crying. She won’t calm down. She won’t look at me. I hold her tight and say her name loudly over her screams. She finds my eyes and her little fingers grab my hand and she slowly  settles.
In the quiet I hear the whisper.  “AMY.  Look at me. Hold onto me. Settle.”
“Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭105:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s way past the bedtime of my little girl.  She didn’t get her way.   A temper tantrum is on full display.   I get down on the floor with her and take her face in my hands. I say her name loud above her wailing and she finds my eyes. I say in a calm voice, “Breathe slow with me. Keep looking at me. Breathe.”  And slowly she settles down.
Once again I hear the whisper.   “AMY. Breathe. Keep looking at me. Settle.”
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I’ve been distracted lately with the craziness of life.  There are daily stressors and the unexpected twists and turns of life.  Yet, God is good. He speaks to me in the midst of my stress. He calls to me the same way I do to my children.   When He speaks my name and I choose to find His face, He settles my soul.
He whispers“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28‬ ‭NIV

Allow the Lord to whisper to you today in the stress of life.  He will settle your soul as He calls you by name.‬‬

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