Author - Donna Avant

1
The Fallen Christmas Tree
2
The Harvest
3
It is Well with My Soul!
4
The Whisper
5
Celebrating Dad!

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.‬‬

Celebrating Dad!

Father’s Day for many is a difficult day. For some it is a time when a fresh wound of grief is opened as they remember the dad they once had on this earth.  For some the wound of abandonment, abuse, neglect, or just deep disappointment is opened.   While for others, Father’s Day is a fun day of celebrating all the good in their dad.

As I sit on the back porch of Rocky Top today here are some key traits that I celebrate in all the dads who have been or are in my life. None of these dads were or are perfect.  Yet, each exhibits character qualities which flow from their relationship with Christ.

  • Cherisher    When I asked someone what you call a person who just adores or cherishes his kids, the word “cherisher” was used. I had never heard of this word and it sounded odd. Yet, I have seen this trait so clearly in one of my son-in-loves. He totally cherishes his girls. He adores them. His eyes light up when he talks about them, when he sees them, when he holds them. He treasures them dearly.

“The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his treasured possession.” Deuteronomy 7:6

  • Instructor     My grandson had swimming lessons last year and by the end of the summer he had no fear of the water.   Unfortunately, as this summer began he struggled. He would only sit on the steps of the pool UNTIL his dad got in the water with him.   His dad began to instruct him. He even made up a funny song to help him. I watched as his dad patiently coached him, gently reminding him of all the skills he had learned the previous summer. He never yelled or screamed.   He demonstrated the skills and gently led him.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8

  • Adventurer   This is Preacher.   One of the favorite sayings in our home, “You may have a bad day but you will never have a boring day if you are following hard after Christ.” Everything was an adventure to our kids when they were with their dad. Whether he was sitting on the couch reading Chronicles of Narnia, learning how to scuba dive with sharks (yes, he took our 14 year old son diving with sharks) or going on a mission trip to the Middle East or Africa, life was an adventure. Preacher wanted to make sure that all of our kids knew that following Jesus is the most exciting adventure of their lives.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20

  • Builder   Papa Avant was a builder. Professionally, he was an engineer, but his life was summed up in the word “builder” by his children and grandchildren at his funeral. Papa built things and fixed things. Our son’s first memory of his Papa was him fixing our mail box. Papa made music boxes and treasure chests. He made things that had meaning. However, the most important things Papa built were his family and his church. He built a family who knew that success was not defined by material wealth but by serving Christ and others.   In his later years, he was a part of a church plant, where he was known for his deep wisdom.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” I Thessalonians 5:11

 “I will build them up and not tear them down….I will give them a heart to know me…”  Jeremiah 24:6-7

  • Victor   My dad was a very flawed man and he was not a good father. He did not know his own father. When I was 16, my dad divorced my mom, and in the subsequent twenty years he was married three more times. Dad was focused on himself until his life began to fall apart.   In February of 1996, dad called and said he was on a business trip in Atlanta. He informed me that his fourth wife was about to leave him, he was about to be laid off and was close to bankruptcy. I began to pray because Preacher just “happened” to be in Atlanta and was preaching at a church that night. Dad promised me he would go hear him even though he had never heard him preach.  After praying for my dad for thirty years, that February night my dad responded to the love of Christ and became a new man.  For the next nine years, my dad grew in his faith.  He became a passionate dad and grandfather.  At his funeral, students that he taught made comments such as “Your dad was like a father to me.”  “Your dad was a good man.”  My dad didn’t start well.  He did finish well.

He became a victor.  Anyone can begin a race, it is a victor who finishes well.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the righteous Judge will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” II Timothy 4:7-8

No matter how good or bad you perceive your earthly father to be, my prayer is that today you celebrate the Father who cherishes you, instructs you, brings you on adventure, builds you up, or causes you to be victorious because HE IS A GOOD, GOOD FATHER!

Copyright © 2015. Website design by Girl on the Roof.