Category - Family

The Whisper
Celebrating Dad!
Love Your Neighbor
The Earthquake after Easter
Our First Valentine’s Day

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!

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.


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”


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,


And so do you –

And so do your neighbors –

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

The Earthquake after Easter

It was a dreary, rainy Sunday afternoon up on Rocky Top.   The cold meds I had been taking, combined with the sound of steady rain, lulled me into a deep sleep in my old brown leather recliner.

Suddenly I woke up to the sound of a muffled thud and the house shaking.  After rising slowly and walking around the house, I was convinced I had just woken from a strange dream, likely the result of the cold meds.  However, within the hour, I realized I hadn’t been dreaming or hallucinating.  Upon entering my office in an attempt to be productive, I screamed, “Preacher, come quick!”  There, outside my office window, laid a massive oak tree on the ground not far from our home.

The tree was probably seventy-five feet tall and appeared to be healthy and was covered in new green foliage. Preacher guesstimated the tree was fifty years old.  The entire root system came up as it fell to the ground. Just last week our grandkids had been hunting Easter eggs in the shade of that tree.

How does an apparently healthy tree just fall in the middle of the day?  There wasn’t high wind or a thunderstorm,  just a slow, steady rain that had fallen over the course of several days.  Up to six inches of rain had saturated the ground of Rocky Top.

Upon closer inspection of the fallen tree, half of the root system had been exposed by the rocky cliff it had been growing on. In other words, on the outside the tree appeared healthy but the roots didn’t go deep and secure into the ground.

Isn’t that how many people fall:  we appear to be healthy on the outside but our roots have not grown deep into good soil.

The pictures on Facebook and Instagram look great:  cute outfit, perfect shoes,  gorgeous skin and hair, even breath-taking scenery.  All indicators point to LIFE IS GOOD!

Nothing wrong with some great pics on social media.   When I was a little girl, my “mamaw” used to say “Pumpkin (yes she was a southern grandma), what’s on the inside is so much more important than what is on the outside.”   Now as a Nonna to three grandchildren, the importance of root deepening is becoming more apparent.  Growing older doesn’t necessarily mean the roots are deep and strong.

Root deepening  is a constant process according to God’s word“So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.”  Colossians 2:6-7

  1. Root deepening isn’t about remaining in the same place. It is about growing roots deep in His love, His truth and His ways. Most of the time that involves change which requires faith.
  2. Root deepening isn’t about simply knowing God’s word.  It is about doing God’s word. A teacher knows the pupil understood the lesson when it is lived out in real life, not when the pupil simply recites what the teacher says.
  3. Root deepening is about knowing when roots become exposed due to the elements of life, to deal with it. Ask for help.  Ignoring exposed roots will lead to a fall.
  4. Root deepening happens when thankfulness is overflowing. A thankful spirit looks up and out to the Giver of Life, Jesus.

The fallen oak tree will be removed soon. No damage was done to anyone or really anything.

Yet, it was a reminder that the adorable Easter picture, the fun Easter egg hunt, and the dinner we enjoyed as a family came at a price. It is because of that high price, I desperately want to grow my roots deep into His love.

“I pray that you will be rooted and established in His love.” Ephesians 3:17


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


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