1
Welcome to Rocky Top
2
Graduation?
3
Holy Week??
4
When the Floor Gives Way
5
The Fallen Christmas Tree
6
The Harvest

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.

Graduation?

It’s the season of graduation ceremonies up here on Rocky Top.  People are becoming doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers, high school graduates and even preschool graduates.

Last week I watched the cutest five year old walk down a long aisle wearing a red cap and gown.   The tassel hung to one side of his adorable face and his smile of accomplishment shone for everyone to see.  As this boy’s Nonna, I beamed with pride and waved as he passed me by.

The head of the preschool boasted about the graduates’ many accomplishments: they knew numbers, the alphabet and various others bits of knowledge.    The teachers had observed their ability to use this knowledge and now they were ready to be presented as graduates!

A few days after this momentous occasion, I began to question if I had graduated.  Yes, I hold a high school diploma and even a Bachelor of Science degree from Baylor University.   My teachers and professors observed my proficiency in many different subject matters for me to obtain those diplomas.

But am I graduate of God’s word?   A teacher knows his pupil knows the material when the pupil doesn’t just regurgitate knowledge but when he sees the pupil utilize the information in real life.

I can memorize thousands of verses, attend every Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, BSF, Precept Bible study, and go to Sunday School or small group every week yet if I do not use the knowledge of God’s word, it’s just information.

Information doesn’t bring transformation,” I heard a preacher say (Jay Smith).   I must realize that God’s word is meant to be experienced and allowed to be poured out of my life by the power of the Holy Spirit.

If I have memorized the fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) but they are not evident in my life, it is time to question my walk with Christ.

A tree will be known by its fruit.

Am I kind even when others are not?

Is love evident in my life even towards those who are unlovable?

“Words and ideology on a page are cheap.  Grace and incarnating the love of Christ isn’t.” (Voskamp).

When my husband is thousands of miles away sharing the Gospel with those who have never heard, does peace reign in my life when the basement pipes leak again?

Am I patient when I have been put on hold for thirty minutes?

Lord, I don’t just want to be filled with head knowledge.  I want to be filled with YOU!

A true leader/a graduate displays knowledge in action……..kindness, peace, love, joy, and thankfulness.  A graduate of the Word of God displays Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit!

It is better to memorize one verse and live it out than to continue to fill my head with knowledge but show no fruit in my life.

Lord, may I always have a teachable spirit and always be a graduate of your Word!

 

Holy Week??

It’s Holy Week up on Rocky Top.  I said to Preacher this morning, “I’m not so sure what is Holy about this week.  Too much hurt, too much pain, too much brokenness and not enough truth and love going around.”  Preacher reminded me that “holy” means to be set apart.

Hurt, pain, brokenness set Jesus apart from the crowd—-and He chose it.  He chose to bear my sin so that I would never have to bear separation from God—a God who loves me and chose me despite my imperfections.

A few weeks ago I stood in front of a group of women to teach on HOPE.  I gave them a nice three point outline from Romans 15 of what women of Hope are to be.   I ended the message with a powerful story of Hope.

Then my world was rocked with a seemingly “hopeless” situation.  The enemy whispered in my ear, “So where is your HOPE now, Bible study teacher?”

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”  Hebrews 11:1

What do I hope for?   A marriage that glorifies Him, children who glorify Him, ministry that glorifies Him.

Is that the real answer?   Let’s be honest…..the answer usually goes something like “a marriage that makes me happy, children who grow up and make me look good and are successful, and opportunities to do great things for God which make me look good.

Glorify God?   God was glorified through His Son, Jesus when He was broken, beaten and bruised yet He uttered not a word.  God’s one and only Son nailed and displayed on a bloody cross brought glory to God.

Last week I walked a beach that was covered with broken seashells.  With every step I took, there was an eerie sound of more shells breaking underneath my feet.  And with every crashing wave that hit that beach, more shells were deposited.   People walked through the broken shells hoping to find just one whole and unbroken shell.  Their desire was for one shell that was intact with no imperfections.  There were very few of those to be found.   Yet when they were found, there was no life inside—the shell was empty.

Truth is without all those broken shells there would not be much of a beach, the broken shells made that beach.   Brokenness to some may seem invaluable.  Brokenness to Christ is everything.  He chose it so I might have life.  It’s only in my brokenness that He can be glorified!

During Holy week Jesus cursed a fig tree.  It appeared to be healthy but it bore no fruit.  Christ also turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple.   They appeared to be offering a much needed service but Christ knew the truth.  Appearance often is deceiving.

Don’t be afraid of brokenness or broken people.  Be more afraid of people who seem to have it all together and are just like those “perfect” shells on the beach…….empty and dead inside.

I, for one, need a Savior……..for myself, my marriage, my family, my church.

Be Holy this week.  Be set apart from the world’s definition of perfection and wholeness.  Celebrate His brokenness.  Celebrate your brokenness.  Allow your brokenness to glorify HIM!

“May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”   Romans 15:13

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?

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