Category - Hope

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Holy Week??
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When the Floor Gives Way
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The Fallen Christmas Tree
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The Harvest
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The FALL on Rocky Top: Death, Life, and a Prayer Tent

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?

The FALL on Rocky Top: Death, Life, and a Prayer Tent

It is Fall once again up on Rocky Top. The leaves are raining shades of yellow, orange and red as they fall from the trees. It’s a beautiful sight to behold as they float down on the wind.  Ironically, the beauty comes from dying. The leaves are falling because they are dead.

Fall is a bittersweet time of year.

Today I listened to my beautiful, middle child spill her soul as she shared about her baby in heaven.

She told the story to a group of mommies. With gentle tears rolling down her face she remembered how she had put her hope in being a mommy only to find out that hope was no longer alive. I remember holding her after she got the news………..no heartbeat, no life. We all grieved. Someone had died and we had been robbed of ever knowing this tiny human.

Yet, there was my brave girl standing in front of those women sharing about how death had taught her to put her hope only in Jesus. My momma’s heart was proud of her courage.  She told the story of death on the birthday of her now 3 year old daughter, Addison Faith.   Death had occurred in the Fall.   Life had also been born in the Fall.

Years ago driving down the road, I received a phone call about death on a fall day.   Daddy had died in his bed, a massive heart attack. Daddy didn’t come to know the God of Hope until he was 58. His journey to Christ came at a price. He died to himself. Died to selfishness. Died to a never ending stream of bad marriages. From age 58 to 68, that man truly lived. He lived to bring his new Father glory. With his new heart, he loved big and well. When I arrived at his apartment after receiving that phone call, it was covered up with his new life: pictures of grandchildren, his Bible, and the book The Prayer of Jabez.

That was a very hard fall. Yet, there was HOPE. I knew my daddy had really died when he was 58 and he was now fully alive with His Savior.

True, real life requires death. Sometimes the death is more painful than others. Nonetheless, death is hard.

A lady tapped me on the shoulder. “Do you have a few minutes?” she asked. Me, I never have a few minutes. My schedule can be my never ending god if I let it.   “Sure.” I said.   Then death came.

“I really need to ask your forgiveness.   God, told me to come talk to you. I have said bad things about you to others. I’m so very sorry. Will you forgive me?”   Tears were welling up in her eyes. She was brave.

Time to die to myself.   Time to make a choice of letting my pride and anger take over or die to myself and let Jesus live in me.   I asked a few more questions to understand the situation.

I had hurt her unintentionally.   I cried.   I apologized. We prayed.   Life came. I thanked her for being real and vulnerable. I wished I had thanked her for dying to herself.

Fall is also the time of year, that we, as a church focus on people around the world who do not know our Savior.  Millions of men, women and children have never heard the name of Jesus. To be blunt, millions who will spend eternity in hell.  We don’t like to talk about that.  It is uncomfortable.

Our body of believers built a tent in the middle of our church building.  The Prayer Tent.  As I walked through the tent, His voice was clear:  Die to yourself.

Christ hasn’t called us to live for Him: He has called us to die, so that He might live through us.” Beth

“It’s not me trying but me dying.”  Watchman Nee

Millions of people will never hear His precious name, know His intimate love, experience His mighty power, or spend eternity with Him unless WE die!

Die to our selfishness.  Die to our comfort. Die to our greed.  Die to our fear.

To live in His abundance.  To live in His adventure. To live in His POWER.  To live in His confident joy.

Lord, thank You for the Fall.   It is a visible reminder that death brings true LIFE and HOPE! And if I choose to die to myself and live in You then one day I will stand with Jesus, my grandbaby, my daddy, a brave sister in Christ and millions of others whose faces I may never meet till I meet you, and there will be no more death, no more dying.   Just You in all your beauty and HOPE!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” I Peter 1:3-4

 

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