Author - Donna Avant

Our First Valentine’s Day
Preaching to Myself
Which Step Will You Take This Year?
Look What God Has Done!
The Broken Thanksgiving

Our First Valentine’s Day

Thirty-eight years ago Preacher sat beside me on a wooden park bench on the campus of Baylor University and handed me a wrapped box for Valentine’s Day. It was our first Valentine’s Day together.  I was so in love with this blonde haired, blue eyed preacher boy that my heart was beating out of my chest.

I opened the box and there it was….a brown leather NIV bible. At first, I will admit, I was disappointed.  Preacher, I know you are a preacher but could you  get a girl something a little more romantic than a brown leather Bible.

Then I opened it up to read the words he wrote on the inside cover.

Presented to: Donna Duniven

By: John Avant

“To the girl I love—the words of the only one who will ever love you more.”

Love always, John

My heart melted. I knew this preacher knew what real love was.  He understood that love wasn’t just an ooey-gooey feeling.  Love wasn’t about giving expensive gifts or romantic dates.  Although, I will say over our 37 years together as husband and wife, he has romanced me plenty.

John Avant knew the only thing that would sustain us through the many ups and downs of life would be the love of the Heavenly Father and His word.

His Word has held us through the death of both of our earthly fathers, the death of a grandbaby, and many friends who have gone to be with Christ.

His Word has been our wisdom while raising three children.

His Word has sustained us through tough financial challenges.

His Word has reassured us through times of questioning.

His Word has reminded us of His passionate love for us when the world felt cold and lonely.

His Word has been our direction when we weren’t sure which way to go.

Preacher challenged me on February 14, 1979 to passionately love Jesus and to hide His Word in my heart.

As I look at that old, brown leather NIV Bible, which is now all marked up, I thank the Lord daily that Preacher’s first Valentine Day’s gift to me was not something that would wilt or fade with time, but it was the Word of God!

Thank you Preacher, for not only preaching His Word faithfully but living it daily in front of me and all those  you shepherd.   Happy Valentine’s Day, Pastor……..may you know I love you with my entire heart and He loves you more!

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  I John 4:7-8


Preaching to Myself

This Texas-born, now turned Rocky Top girl is not a devoted “country western” music-lover. However, sometimes there are lyrics that grab my attention.    “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw is now on my playlist.  Please don’t judge me.  The chorus of this song does have biblical truth in it:  “Always stay humble and kind.”  The rest of the song, not so much.

“Be completely humble…”Ephesians 4:2

“Be kind and compassionate to one another…..” Ephesians 4:32

The Greek word, “humble”, in Ephesians 4:2 means “to lower your self-estimation.” For one who follows Christ, it is the acknowledgement of total dependence on Him.

The Greek word, “kind” in Ephesians 4:32 means “to furnish what is needed, to do good, or be gracious”.

Tim McGraw got it right when he put “humble and kind” together.

If one doesn’t lower their “self-estimation” and acknowledge their total dependence on God, it is impossible to show true kindness to others.

January hasn’t shown much humility and kindness in the news or on social media. There are a lot of people just yelling, shouting, complaining, arguing and marching.

One can believe the Bible is true and inerrant, be pro-life and also be humble and kind.

“Hold the door, say please and thank you!” McGraw’s lyrics continue.

Before self-righteousness happens, remember humility and kindness may be easier to show to those we really don’t know very well. “It can be easy to get so focused on the darkness around us that we never address the darkness in us.”  (Lysa TerKeurst)

The letter to the Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus. Apparently, there were people who called themselves Christ-followers who weren’t being humble and kind to others in the church.

This preacher’s wife has had way too much experience with people who aren’t “humble and kind” inside the four walls of the church, including myself, sadly. It is imperative that we model to our children how to respectfully disagree with others.  The current trend is “if you don’t agree with me you must be dumb, unpatriotic or not a Christian.”

As January comes to a close up here on Rocky Top and we enter the “love” month of February may each of us choose to be “humble and kind” to those around us.   Some practical suggestions: (preaching to myself)

  1. Say please and thank you.
  2. Make eye contact with others and give them a smile.
  3. Listen to others without thinking about what you are going to say next.
  4. Have a teachable spirit. No one knows everything.

As followers of Christ, let us model humility and kindness inside the walls of the church as well as outside the walls of the church.






Which Step Will You Take This Year?

As the New Year comes in tonight, I welcome my friend, Kristi Nolan to the back porch on Rocky Top.  Kristi’s challenge was very personal to me!  I truly believe “obedience” is the key to our churches experiencing revival as well as our nation experiencing spiritual awakening.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Lao-Tzu

We’re on the cusp of a new year… year is passing away and some are ready to bid it farewell-don’t let the door hit you on the way out.   For many 2016 was a year that brought more than its share of bad news; while for others, 2016 was a year of new adventures and milestone events.  2016, like most every year, has a mixed bag of success and failure, joy and sorrow, peaks and valleys.   As we prepare for a new year, we often make goals for things we want to do or not do, choose differently, choose better – make a fresh start, a new beginning.   For many of us, that means we start reading Genesis.

This week as I read through the familiar stories that always bring fresh insight, I was reminded of the steps we take with God.   I was reading about Abraham and how when he set out from his home he chose to take his nephew Lot with him, neglecting the portion of God’s call that said to “go from your country and your kindred…”.  That one step of disobedience leads to great devastation  When the herds and flocks of Lot and Abraham become too large to be contained within the land where they had settled, Abraham wisely proposed that they spread out.   He offered Lot first choice, and that’s when Lot makes his first step towards devastation.   “And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt….Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom.  Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners and against the Lord.” (Genesis 13:10-12)

Lot chose to pitch his tent on the outskirts of immorality – not in it, just outside of it. And the ramifications of this decision would be devastating.  Lot would eventually offer up his own daughters to the wicked men of Sodom in an effort to protect the angels of the Lord.  He would lose his wife as she chose to turn and gaze upon the city as it burned.  And ultimately his legacy was forever affected as his daughters, who had been raised around such immorality, decided that it wasn’t a bad idea to get their own father drunk and lie with him in order to conceive and preserve the family name.  I’ll just leave that right there for a minute…………

One simple step of partial obedience by Abraham and Lot’s one step made out of selfishness, led to tragic decisions for his entire family.

I’ve heard before “Draw the line that you will not cross, not to see how close you can get to it without crossing, but to stay as far away from the line as possible.” This example in Scripture demonstrates the truth of that – his tent was pitched on the edge, yet the immorality absorbed his family.

The journey of a thousand miles – one step of disobedience leading to devastation or one step of obedience leading to redemption.   Which step will you take this year?

Look What God Has Done!

Christmas is almost here up on Rocky Top. The kitchen is a mess:  powdered sugar everywhere, dishes in the sink, and the garbage is overflowing.  “All is Well” is playing in the background and though my life might appear to be “picture perfect” on the outside to some, my eyes well up with tears.

All is not well. Hurt, pain, tragedy surround Rocky Top as well as others in the world.

My eyes might be filled with tears but truly there is much joy in my heart. Preacher said Sunday that if we want Joy in our hearts, we must not look at circumstances, what others have said about us or have done to us, but we must look and see what God has done.  In Luke 1:47,  Mary rejoiced when she saw Elizabeth. The word “rejoice” in this passage means to shout loudly “Look what God has done.”   As an unwed, pregnant teenager in a culture where stoning was the punishment for immorality, Mary had many reasons not to be joyful.  Yet, she made the supernatural choice to choose Joy.

As shared before up here on Rocky Top, my dad was not a good man for most of his life. He had 4 wives.  Mom was his first.  We might have lived in the same city for many years, but his visits were not frequent.  Dad’s life was about dad until he met Christ.   After thirty years of many calling out his name to the Heavenly Father, Dad received Christ in February of 1995.  His life changed radically.

Christmas times after that were so much different. Dad would come visit before Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  Presents would be exchanged, meals eaten, prayers said.  He always, always left to drive home before Christmas Eve.  We would beg him to stay.  Not sure why he wouldn’t.

One Christmas day we received the following email from him.

To My Girls:

As I sat down to write, it is Christmas Eve night. I attended a candle light service and was feeling a loneliness that I never felt before.  Because I have no Christmas tree, I came back to my apartment and placed the candle in a bowl and lit the candle again.  As the light from the candle begin to glow, I knew that I was not alone.  Christ was by my side and I began to rejoice in His Love.

From the light of my small candle, I knew that God had not only given His Son to guide and love me, but also has given me a gift of very precious daughters. The gift that each of you have given me is more priceless than any material thing on this earth, and that is my grandchildren.  Each one of them holds a very special place in my heart.

You have taken the love you have in the Lord, and placed it in the hearts of your children. I know that you could not have accomplished this without the help and love from your spouses.  I feel very proud and blessed to know these fine men of yours.  For each is a very loving husband and father.

My candle is just about out. Although it will stop burning, the love I have for the Lord, you, your husbands and the grandchildren will burn forever.  I pray each day that God will guide and protect you, and that He places an Angel by the side of each grandchild to protect them.

May Christmas be alive in all our hearts each day and may the Son of God always be with you.

With All My Love, Dad

And so friends and family, Look what God has done!

Merry Christmas and may your life this season declare: Look What God Has Done!

The Broken Thanksgiving

Table set, turkey carved, homemade apple, pumpkin and pecan pie ready to be eaten. Table full of loved ones. Thanks offered to the One and Only Lord. Laughter and love for all. Then it happened……the beloved lady pilgrim salt shaker flew “randomly” out of my hand and crashed to the hardwood floor. Broken in several pieces with salt scattered everywhere….had that lady pilgrim salt shaker and its companion for over 10 years. Ruined and broken. It can be glued back together but not sure it will ever hold salt again. Maybe if the repair is done just right.

No one likes brokenness. Whether the broken happens in things or people, brokenness is just messy and uncomfortable. If we are going to be real and honest, the majority of us want to run from the broken. Just get something new. Move on to the next thing or the next person. Broken is not fun.

Brokenness involves hurt and pain. When there is love for anyone or anything, brokenness is a risk we take.

Witnessed a lot of brokenness lately:  a beautiful 17 year old’s death due to a car accident; a 55 year old’s death due to ALS; several broken families due to a spouse deciding they had enough; broken bodies due to age; broken spirit’s due to hurtful words.

When one is broken what is on the inside comes out, according to my friend, Gary Witherall whose wife was martyred in Lebannon.

The salt came spilling out of the pilgrim lady salt shaker. Salt can heal. Salt adds flavor. Salt can sting.

Looked around that Thanksgiving table of loved ones, we had all experienced some type of brokenness in our lives: broken homes, broken hearts, broken bodies, and broken dreams. A lot of salt spilled at that table. Many times the salt has been used to heal; definitely a lot of flavor and sometimes just hurt and sting.

No coincidence, just finished reading Ann Voskamp’s new book, The Broken Way. If you are one that would just soon live a comfortable life, dreaming of a nostalgia that is non-existent in your home or church, then this book is not for you. If you long for Christ to redeem your brokenness, to love through and in your brokenness, then this will take you on a journey to embrace your brokenness and allow Christ to redeem it.

“Never be afraid of broken things—-because Christ can redeem anything. When I’m no longer afraid of brokenness, I don’t have to control or possess anything—dreams or plans or people or their perceptions. I can live surrendered. Cruciform. Given. This feels like freedom. Not being afraid of the brokenness—this sets you free in a thousand ways.” Ann Voskamp

But even more importantly, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death.” Philippians 3:10

With much Thanksgiving in my heart, I’m going to glue that broken pilgrim lady salt shaker back together and set it out every Thanksgiving as a reminder to our entire family to embrace the broken things in our lives!

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