Category - Current Events & News

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It is Well with My Soul!
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Love Your Neighbor
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A Single Match, A Small Fire and Destruction of the Smoky Mountains
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Preaching to Myself
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The Power is Out!

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!

Love Your Neighbor

Once again I welcome Kristi Nolan to the back porch up on Rocky Top.  Kristi has been married for almost twenty years.   She is the mom to a seventeen year old young man, an eleven year old beautiful daughter, and a thirteen year old son who has to choose to overcome autism every day. 

About this time every.single.year we hit a bump in the road – but this year it feels especially rocky- more like a 90-degree turn than a bump.

Every.single.time it feels like I’ve had the breath knocked out of me.

But this time feels deeper and more ominous.   This time, my son cries out, “why doesn’t anyone like me?” and he talks about not wanting to go on, about stopping his pain – and he’s done research online.

Nothing prepares you for finding that in your 13 year old’s computer search history. Even if you know that statistics say 1 in 28 people on the autism spectrum will attempt suicide, you really don’t think you’ll become the 1 in 28.  Until you almost do.

I’m not sure what part any piece of the puzzle plays into the place where we sit today- but there’s one piece that other people can absolutely help to reduce, if not remove.

Have you taught your children about kindness?

Have you talked to them about noticing the kids who always seem “other” or “different”?

Have you talked to them about helping someone build their confidence instead of tearing it down?

Have you talked to them about having the courage to stand up for those who are being targeted by the meanness of others?

Have you told them how disappointed you would be to know they had been cruel to someone else, especially if that someone couldn’t help their differences?

Let me tell you something about bullying that I’ve learned so well in the last 7 years :

They know how to do it when teachers aren’t watching.

They know how to do it and make it someone else’s fault.

They know how to intimidate others to not be a “tattletale”.

They know how to convince the adults they didn’t mean anything by it.

They.know.what.they’re.doing.

This isn’t about a school, or a class, or a teacher, or a particular student…..

It’s about the world we live in – we cannot run from it and hide (although sometimes we would just like to).

Because these people aren’t just students at school –

they aren’t just coworkers at your job –

they aren’t just inconvenient people who live on your street –

 

They’re your NEIGHBORS — as in, “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR” —

How are you doing at being the one who loves your neighbor?

This season of my life has shown what’s in my heart – and it’s been refining.

I have learned that I will hurt for my child – I will be frustrated about relationships that seem too fractured — I will see the world for what it really is – broken and full of sin –

But I can do all this while reacting in LOVE to my neighbor –

I had lunch with a new friend recently and she had the following verse on the chalkboard in her kitchen:

You are included among those who have been called to BELONG TO JESUS CHRIST – Romans 1:6”

We all BELONG

that other kid who was mean to yours – they belong

that neighbor who refuses to make amends – they belong

that coworker who stole your ideas to get ahead – they belong

that former-friend who chose the not so typical lifestyle – they belong

that spouse beside you who betrayed your trust – they belong

My child may feel different and left out and like he doesn’t belong at the lunch table or in the courtyard,

but HE BELONGS TO JESUS CHRIST….

And so do you –

And so do your neighbors –

Everyone belongs – are you helping anyone find their way to where, to WHOM, they belong?

A Single Match, A Small Fire and Destruction of the Smoky Mountains

Today I welcome Betsie Hughes to the back porch up on Rocky Top.  Betsie has been married to Dan for twenty-four years.  Together they have a beautiful blended family of five adult children and five grandchildren.  Whether it is being a mortgage consultant (her “real” job) or sharing practical truths from the Word of God with women, Betsie’s love for Jesus flows genuinely from her heart.  I am thrilled to share her words of wisdom with you.

A casual glace at the TV.   Smoke was billowing from The Chimney Tops;  it was enough to catch my attention but honestly it just didn’t look that menacing.  Over the next few hours we were about to see how wrong I was as conditions aligned to create the perfect environment for a devastating fire to change lives forever.

We know now that two boys were responsible for starting that devastating fire in our Great Smoky Mountains.

I imagine two scenarios. The first is that this boys were hiking down the mountain with no idea what was happening behind them.  Maybe they were far enough ahead of the smoldering mountain top that they really didn’t know what they left in their wake.

The second is that they saw the flames dancing through the dry leaves devouring the underbrush and seeking to climb the beautiful, majestic trees of our beloved Smoky Mountains and ran. Sick to their stomach and terrified at what was happening with no way to turn back time or stop the devastation.  Fear gripped them as they ran faster and faster away from the flames.

The morning after the fires in Gatlinburg, TN the Lord led me to this verse.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell”  James 3:5-6

The fire started at The Chimney Tops miles away from Gatlinburg by probably a single match…..a small fire. Conditions were such that the fire quickly spread.  I am sure as the residents of that mountain community watched the news – they were not imagining that their homes and lives were in imminent danger.  While I watched from afar, the magnitude of what was about to happen was nowhere in my consciousness.  It was unfathomable.  What happened that night was both a string of events and combination of circumstances that may happen only once in a lifetime.  It was however, also a perfect image of the power of a small fire to spread and destroy when we least expect it.

Our words can have that same impact on our relationships and communities where we live. A moment or lifetime of moments where we don’t control the words that spill out and hurt those around us.  Sometimes we see the hurt and other times we are completely unaware of how our words have wounded someone.

The anger, selfishness, and un-forgiveness that we allow to creep into our hearts and minds will always spill over in our words and actions. It may be a tiny spark – just a moment, a word or comment.  We innocently share a secret or unfounded thought or belief about a situation or a person and then……a fire is raging, devouring everything in its path.  We lash out at our spouse or children in a heated moment of suspicion or anger and the fire begins smoldering.  We fan the flame with every angry, selfish thought and harsh word.

We are unaware of the impending danger but it is as deadly and devastating to us and those around us as those fires in Gatlinburg were to the homes and lives of the residents.

Our tongue can set the entire course of our lives on fire and it takes years to recover. I have been on both the giving and receiving end of the hurtful flames.  There are times I would give anything to be able to take back the words I’ve said in anger or when I have allowed bitterness to creep in and take root in my heart.  I also see in relationships all around me where the tongue has emotionally created such pain that we begin to do things that we could never have comprehended would happen.  Broken relationships, divorce, wayward children, ruined business dealings…..all left in the wake of that small flame of words that quickly overtook the relationship.  The entire course of a life changed and broken without understanding of how it happened so quickly.

I imagine those were some of the same thoughts that morning after the fires. Those fires unimaginably changed the lives of the residents of this beautiful mountain community. There were families who lost homes, loved ones and possessions that held beautiful memories.  They stood looking at the utter ruins of their homes that were totally destroyed.  The impact reached so much farther than just that one night.  While the fire was extinguished, the devastation for many will last a lifetime.  So it is in our lives.

His living Word is the only water that will quench the fire of the tongue. John 7:39 says “whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

It’s a spiritual battle.   Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, we can’t control our tongue.  However,  every day we can protect our heart by soaking in God’s Word and then out of our hearts can flow living water that nurtures and protects instead of flames that devastate and destroy.   The Lord must capture and rule my heart.  Every moment.  Every day.  His living water must soak the soil of my heart to protect me and those I love from the flames that destroy.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Power is Out!

Up here on Rocky Top the power is out!! We are sitting in the dark. We have a few candles flickering and one huge flashlight but these sources of light do little to illuminate this house or the dark night outside.  On Rocky Top when the power goes out, we also have no water due to being on a well. So not only is it dark and hot in the house, very soon it will also be “stinky”! I am hoping you can figure this out without further explanation.

Powerful winds tore over the lake yesterday ripping down trees and huge limbs. The yard is filled with debris.

Preacher drove around looking for “the problem”. God has gifted him with the ability to see the problem, know the solution and speak to it.

About 100 yards from our front door was the problem. A power line was down, coiled up in the middle of the road along with bits and pieces of a large tree.

Knowing the problem, the solution was evident, appropriate calls were made and then we waited for the power to be restored. The line needed to be reconnected to the source of power.

As we waited, news came across my phone of violence in our land. Preacher and I discussed the events of the week in the darkness.

Before we fell asleep, we prayed in the darkness.

“Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We hope for the light but there is darkness…….For truth has stumbled in the public square, and honesty cannot enter. TRUTH is missing.  The Lord saw that there was no justice, and He was offended. He saw that there was no man and He was amazed that there was no one interceding.”

Isaiah 59:9,14-16

The power lines are down on my street. They are disconnected from the source of power. Yet the power is there. The power has not disappeared. Someone just has to connect the lines to the source.

Too often first thing in the morning I reach for my phone to check Facebook, Twitter, Fox news or messages instead of hitting my knees to intercede and cry out for His power. I choose to not access His power.

Too often I grab my phone to call someone to discuss a situation instead of discussing first with my Father. I choose to look for power in another source instead of the the One true source.

Too often I choose to try and fix something before seeking His truth and His ways first. I attempt to use my own power.

Too often I pass people without seeing them through His eyes and speaking words of love and encouragement. I choose to not let His power flow through me because I am so focused on myself.

Too often I do not open my mouth and share the Good News of Jesus with others. I choose not to let anyone else know about the One power that can change their lives.

God forgive me! God may I not be the one to allow the power lines to stay down. Lord, may I not be the one to keep His power to myself.

I want power on up here on Rocky Top and in my life! Living in the darkness is hot and smelly.

But more than anything, I want to see His power again moving in our nation!

And dear, dear friends who read this blog faithfully, our nation is one big hot, stinky mess because we as believers have allowed the power lines to go down and choose daily to not connect ourselves to His power and intercede for this nation and world.

We must return to our knees and cry out to God for His light to shine in and through us to our world.

That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness has not overcome.”

John 1:5

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