Category - Life

The Moments That Take Your Breath Away
The Earthquake after Easter
Our First Valentine’s Day
Which Step Will You Take This Year?
The Broken Thanksgiving

The Moments That Take Your Breath Away

It had been a long and hard day as I pulled my car into the driveway up on Rocky Top. As I did, my breath was immediately taken away.  I gasped.  The beauty was stunning.   The pink azalea bush had come into full bloom overnight.  The sight of the beauty against the back drop of the lake was like salve to my weary soul.

I’ve had many moments that take my breath away:

  • Holding each of my children in my arms the first time
  • Watching my daughters walk down the aisle to their grooms
  • Hearing my adult son say words of wisdom
  • Watching a sunset while holding the hand of my husband of 37 years
  • Holding my grandchildren in my arms for the first time
  • Being a part of someone coming to know Christ

At moments like the above, it is as if time stands still and God’s love, joy and peace fills my heart.

Then there are those moments when your breath is knocked out of you. The room begins to spin and you feel as if you are in a dream and just can’t wake up.  You know those moments:

  • The sudden death of a loved one
  • The doctor’s diagnosis of a serious illness
  • A spouse or parent breaking the commitment of forever
  • The decisions or actions of ungodly people
  • The loss of a job
  • The betrayal of a friend

Unfortunately, I have experienced several of the above moments. God has taught me and is still teaching me the following principals.

  1. Remember the moments He has taken your breath away with His goodness, mercy and love. He is still that same God. Psalm 105:5 says: “Remember the wonders he has done, the miracles…”Our memory is a powerful tool. Use it wisely.
  2. Declare Who He is: Sovereign, Good, Faithful, Loving and Kind. Circumstances may be difficult and people may deeply disappoint us. Yet our God is faithful! “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” Deuteronomy 7:9
  3. Praise Him and Thank Him. When we praise Him and thank Him, the enemy flees. In II Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord praises. As they sang praises, the Lord confused the enemy and they were defeated.
  4. Don’t Panic.   Recently there has been a viral video of a paddle boarder with 15 sharks circling him posted on Facebook.    The sheriff’s department announced to the paddle boarder to “exit the water in a calm manner.”    When the enemy is circling us, staying calm and moving toward shore in a steady manner will ensure our survival. Panic causes us to make stupid decisions.
  5. BREATHE: Your breath might have been knocked out but God is more than capable of breathing His life into you. In Ezekiel 37, God brought Ezekiel into The Valley of Dry Bones. God asked him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”  Then the Lord said, “Prophesy to these bone and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you and you will come to life.’ ”   When the  breath is knocked out of you, He can breathe His new life into you.   He is capable of turning that nightmare into a miracle.

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


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?

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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