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Welcome to Rocky Top
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Do you ever feel odd? Out of place? Peculiar?
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The Unexpected Christmas
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My Royal Supply Bag
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One Year Later
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Lessons from my Granddaughter

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.

Do you ever feel odd? Out of place? Peculiar?

As I was walking on the property of the Life Action Lodge located in Buchanan, Michigan, I spotted an unusual tree.  It was growing sideways, as though it was struggling to reach toward the sky, or as if someone had taken a saw and cut part of it off.    What had happened to this tree?

Had it been diseased and someone pruned it?

Had lightning hit causing part of it to fall off?

Had it been overshadowed by larger trees and grown crooked in an attempt to receive sunlight?

Whatever had occurred, this tree was different than all the other trees.

Did the tree know how weird, different, and peculiar it was?  Had others stopped to stare at it?

As I finished my walk, all I could do was think about that unusual tree.

Somehow I related to that tree.

God is continually pruning me and there are times when I am not lovely to look at.   There are attitudes hidden in my heart that He is continually pruning.

There are circumstances in my life that may make my story seem peculiar to others.  Life has happened, sometimes like lightning striking, altering what life once was.

At times I have felt overshadowed by other trees and have had to strive to be in the sunlight.

Yet, the uniqueness of that tree is what caused me to stop, to ponder,  and to take notice.

Do you ever feel odd?  Out of place? Unusual? Peculiar?

If so, maybe it is that very uniqueness of your life that will cause people to stop, to ponder, and to consider why you are different.

Take time today to thank the Lord for your uniqueness, for circumstances that have come into your life that might cause you to look, act, and live differently than everyone else.

God created us to live in community but He did not create us to live in sameness.  He created us to be unique individuals who will cause others around us to stop and consider His glory and wonder in our lives.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  I Peter 2:9

The Unexpected Christmas

Real Life on Rocky Top welcomes Amy Daniel to the back porch today.  Amy is my middle child.  She has a precious heart for Christ and truly loves people.

My house is on the market, my husband just started a new job, we are packing up our home of the last few years, and oh by the way………I’m pregnant.

All of the above life changes were unexpected.   I don’t know about you, but at Christmas time, especially,  I want things to go as I planned.  I want to give the perfect gift, have my home decorated as if Joanna Gaines was my BFF, have my kids behave like angels for all to see, get the Christmas bonus, and make the perfect holiday meal and so on.

But let’s be real…….it hardly ever goes as planned, especially if children are involved.

As I thought through the complete upheaval in my life, the Lord began to speak to me.  Although I want Christmas to go according to my plans, the heart of Christmas is the unexpected.

There was an unexpected pregnancy, an unexpected birth in an unexpected place with shepherds and angels unexpectedly worshipping the newborn King.  All of the Christmas story is shockingly unexpected for the people involved.

But not for THE God involved.

Christmas has become about my plans.   Yet, the best part of Christmas is that HE HAS A PLAN and it is so much better than mine.

So if you find yourself sitting in an unexpected place this Christmas (a place of sickness, grief, loneliness, or unexpected change) take heart my friend because it is in this place where Christmas is alive.

It is in the unexpected that God Himself comes down to us.   Emmanuel, God with us, is actively and purposefully pursuing us in the unexpected.

Take your eyes off your plans, your schedule and center your eyes and heart on Him.

We have to be willing to SAY YES as Mary did.  “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”   Luke 1:38

So this Christmas, CHOOSE to lean into the unexpected and say YES to His plans!

My Royal Supply Bag

Approaching Veteran’s Day, a question popped up from the past on my Facebook: “Would you be willing to fight and/or die to protect those you love?”   Most, including myself, would quickly say “Yes”!

But there is the more difficult question:  “Would you be willing to change for those you love?”

Would you choose to forgive instead of growing bitter?

Would you choose peace over strife?

Would you choose joy instead of sadness?

Would you choose hope over despair?

Would you choose to bless instead of curse or gossip?

Would you choose to be kind instead of being rude?

Would you choose to demonstrate love rather than hate?

I want to say “yes” to change.  But trying harder doesn’t make change possible…. There may be behavior modification for a while, but true change comes only from within – it comes from the heart.

Peace, love, joy, kindness, patience, and forgiveness are only possible when they are flowing out of a relationship with God.  I have access to them through my relationship with the King!

Addy, my five year old granddaughter, was playing in her room with a backpack filled with “stuff”.  Her daddy asked her what the bag was for and her reply was “It’s my royal supply bag.”  Inside the bag was her crown, a beautiful gown, some slippers, a wand, and a sword and various other “princess” necessities.   Her daddy asked her, “Why do you need all this stuff?”   Her reply, “Dad, I’m going to be a Queen one day!”   Addy definitely sets her expectations high!

As followers of THE ONE TRUE KING, our expectations should be HIGH!   Christ gave His life for our ability to have heart change.

We have a royal supply bag with us at all times. John 14:17 tells us that His Spirit dwells within us – His Spirit IS our never-ending supply of His truth, forgiveness, peace, joy, kindness,  and hope.  When we access those royal supplies, His love will be on display in our lives!

Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”    The word “renewing” means a total renovation.   If my mind is going to be renewed resulting in true heart and behavior change,  I MUST renovate my mind with His word!

If I want peace in my home instead of constant strife, I need to meditate on His words of peace and allow His peace to flow out from me.

If I want to experience true forgiveness for others rather than bitterness, I need to remember the  forgiveness He has extended toward me and His forgiveness will be produced in my life.

We all have a royal supply bag that was given to us when we entered into a relationship with Christ.   This royal supply bag was costly………….it cost the Almighty King of the universe, his one and only Son.

  • Put on the garments of praise instead a spirit of despair: Isaiah 61:3
  • Put on His robe of righteousness instead of spirit of shame: Isaiah 61:10
  • Fight your battles with the sword of the Spirit instead of words of hate: II Corinthians 10:3-5
  • Embrace the King as your Abba daddy instead of living with an orphan spirit: Romans 8:16-17
  • Walk in His peace instead of anger: James 1:20
  • Walk in God confidence instead of fear: Romans 8:15 and II Timothy 1:7

We have those “supplies” at our disposal – but we must access them by saying “Yes” to renewing our mind with His Word and allowing Him to change our hearts!

One Year Later

It was a year ago that Preacher and I stood on the stage of a mega church in front of thousands of people and said our good-byes as their Senior Pastor and his wife.   It was a bittersweet day for me. Bitter because I truly loved being a senior pastor’s wife, and sweet because we were saying “Yes” to the Lord by choosing obedience to a new calling on our lives……..serving Him through Life Action Ministry.  

This past year has been a roller coaster of emotions for me as God has both revealed things to me about myself and reminded me of truths through the lives of those serving Life Action.  

  • Confession:   Being the senior pastor’s wife caused me to become an addict – I have confessed these addictions before the Lord and He has graciously forgiven me.  My addictions: Attention and Power.  If my addictions have ever offended you,  please forgive me. Years under the spotlight caused me to lose sight of the sixteen year old girl who humbly walked down an aisle,  took a pastor’s hand and committed her life to serve the Lord. No human being should ever be placed on the throne that only has room for One – Christ.
  • Truth: Servanthood    People working at Life Action are among God’s choice servants.   Their lives are characterized by what Life Action calls our six responses to God:   Humility, Honesty, Repentance, Forgiveness, Obedience, and Seeking God’s Kingdom First.  Over and over I have witnessed these six responses demonstrated in their lives. Women who choose to raise a family in a RV nine months out of year as they serve churches across the USA.   Communicators and musicians so gifted that they could serve the Lord from any stage, yet choose to serve churches of various sizes so that they may experience a reviving work of God’s presence.  
  • Confession:   When we walked away from the mega church, we also walked away from a very large salary.  Although our church agreed to support us for a season, we were walking toward a “no salary” position.  In other words, we had to raise our own support. We became full-time missionaries. The Lord used this as a reminder of the commitment I had made to him when I was sixteen – a commitment to serve Him as a missionary.  He had been preparing me for this for forty years. I was in a completely new situation – sitting with someone and sharing with them about our new adventure and asking them to support us financially. This proved to be quite a challenge for me, but through it God taught me humility and reminded me that He was always my True Provision.   
  • Truth:  Faith     People at Life Action are people of faith.   This past year I have witnessed families who live on very limited budgets, yet do not hesitate to sacrificially to give to others in need.  There are families who adopt children that the world would cast aside. Grumbling and complaining are rare while praying is a way of life.

Our mission at Life Action is “to inspire your next Yes to God.”   When we say “yes” to something, it usually requires us saying “no” to something else.   This past year I have said “Yes” by following Him in obedience and it did require me saying “no” to pride, control, selfishness and bitterness.    God has begun a new work in my heart and I am so grateful to Him and to Life Action Ministry.

My prayer for you today is that you will choose to “Say YES to God.”   Is He asking you to forgive someone? Is He asking you to be honest with yourself and admit you are addicted to something…power, attention, food, gossip, a negative attitude, or maybe social media?   

This past weekend I hiked up to Grotto Falls in the Smoky Mountains.  As I observed the rushing water flow over the rocks into the pool below, the Lord whispered into my heart “Refreshment comes when you confess your sin and turn to me.”    Sin is choosing our way over God’s way. Are you choosing to do life your way and not God’s way?

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”  Acts 3:19

If Life Action or I can serve you or your church in any way, it would bring us great joy.  Preacher’s motto during this last year has been: “I am just His servant.” I just love that man!  So excited to serve alongside him at Life Action as a servant to the Most High God!

www.lifeaction.org

 

 

Lessons from my Granddaughter

This Rocky Top girl recently traveled to St. George Island, Florida to vacation with our entire family of three adult children, their spouses and all four of our grandchildren.   Preacher had researched to find a special adventure for our oldest two grands, Addy and William.    A boat ride to see dolphins in the wild and a treasure hunt was booked.

When we boarded the small boat to travel on the wide open ocean, Addy chose to sit by me.  As the boat began to travel the waves, Addy immediately began the hand holding.  If I let go of her hand for even a second, she would lay her open hand on my lap as if to say, “Nonna, (what the grands call me) I need your hand.”

I wanted to enjoy the beauty around me but was mesmerized by Addy’s joy.   Her entire face was consumed with a smile.  She was embracing this adventure, the unknown, the uncertainty.   The captain of the boat told us all where we were going, what we hoped to see and do.  Yet, Addy had never experienced anything like this.  With her small four year old hand in mine and life jacket secured she was content to embrace the adventure.

After we returned back to our rented home for the week, the Lord began to speak to me so clearly through my sweet Addy’s life.

  • Donna, I never take my eyes off of you. You are my daughter.  I take pleasure in watching you experience the life I have given you.
  • You can embrace the adventure I have put before you with complete joy or you can choose to not trust me and make yourself and everyone around you miserable.
  • I have given you a life jacket in your salvation and My Word. I will never allow you to drown in hurt, pain, shame, guilt, fear, rejection, and bitterness.
  • My hand is always open for yours. You just have to ask.   I delight in your weakness and your brokenness.
  • You were made for adventure, Donna. You weren’t made for comfort and security.

The captain’s objectives were all accomplished.  Dolphins jumping in the wild were seen.  Arrows made of sticks were followed on an uninhabited island where X marked the spot of buried treasured.    William and Addy uncovered the treasure chest by digging through the sand with their hands.    Their joy seemed to culminate when the treasure chest was opened up to discover faux jewels, golden coins and sand dollars. So much fun.

Listening to the waves crashing on the shore the last night of our trip,  this old hymn came to my heart.

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word;

Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!  How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;

Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus! Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him, Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;

And I know that He is with me, will be with me to the end.

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to trust His cleansing blood;

And in simple faith to plunge me ‘neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ‘tis sweet to trust in Jesus, Just from sin and self to cease;

Just from Jesus simply taking life and rest, and joy and peace.

(Written by Lari Goss, Public Domain)

My dear reader my prayer is that you choose to trust Him completely with whatever adventure lies ahead of you.  He is faithful!  In the trusting, the joy will come!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

 

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