Category - Real Life

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Which Step Will You Take This Year?
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The Broken Thanksgiving
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The FALL on Rocky Top: Death, Life, and a Prayer Tent
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The Fight is On!
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Hiding in the Cleft of the Rock!

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…..one 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!

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

 

The Fight is On!

I really, really do not like to fight. I’m not a fighter by nature. I would rather sit in a circle laughing and talking with others. I truly like peace with people, with my family, and with my church.

But here is the hard, cold truth. Peace came at a price. That price was His precious blood spilt for me and you. His blood poured out of His sinless, perfect life. Peace came because a war was fought.

Jesus won! But it cost a great, great price.

So as I look at His word I read “Fight the good fight of the faith.” (I Timothy 6:12).   I read “I fought the good fight.” (II Timothy 4:7)

Yes, Christ has been victorious on the cross but until He returns, there is a fight! I can either choose to be a part of it or I can sit on the sidelines of life.  And though I love peace, I do not like to sit on the sidelines.

The problem is when I do fight, I want to fight people. To be brutally honest, when I get really mad I want to take some boxing gloves and just hit someone really hard. I actually do that sometimes when I work out!

I hit hard. I mean so hard that the person I am working out with will say, “Donna, do you have anger issues?”

People aren’t the problem. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

We have a real enemy, an adversary. There is one who does not want peace! He does not want peace in my life, my husband’s life, my children’s lives, and he especially does not want peace in the life of my church.

The enemy knows that the world apart from Christ is without peace.   Peace is sought after by people.

People spend thousands of dollars every year to obtain peace. Some take long vacations, some buy boats and fancy cars,  some use alcohol, drugs, sex, and the list could go on and on. Some just attempt to obtain peace through power over others.

If the world sees no peace in my life, the life of my family or in my church, then they want nothing to do with us. They can always attempt to find peace another way.

So if I am going to have to fight, I need to know the rules of this battle.

  1. Embrace my identity as an OVERCOMER.   When the enemy whispers “You are a failure. You can’t do this. Just give up. Quit serving Him.” I need to remind my adversary that I am an overcomer because Jesus has already won the ultimate battle. “Everyone born of God overcomes the world.” I John 5:4
  2. Fight with my armor on. When I stand to fight, I need to do it with all the equipment that Christ has already purchased for me. I need to use defensive weapons: His belt of truth to combat lies; His breastplate of righteousness to combat my inadequacies; His gospel of peace to offer the lost world around me; His shield of faith to combat my unbelief; His helmet of salvation to protect my mind. I also need to train myself to use offensive weapons: the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and PRAYER which pulls down the enemy’s strongholds or fortresses in our lives.  This type of praying is not “bless me praying”! It is on your knees calling out His name and praying His word back to Him. It is War Room praying!   Ephesians 6:10-18 and II Corinthians 10:4-5
  3. Worship with thanksgiving. Every time the battle is on I must worship Him. I must sing His praises. I must declare all He has done in my life. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” Revelation 12:11
  4. Overcome evil with good. If there is a person that I might believe to be my adversary, God’s word is clear! “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” Romans 12:20

The battle is on right now in my life and the lives of those I love. It is intense and is just no fun. There are sleepless nights and hard days.

The Lord promises me He will stand by my side and give me strength.  (II Timothy 4:17)

He will enable me to fight the good fight!  He promises me peace in the middle of the fight.

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.”  II Thessalonians 3:16

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiding in the Cleft of the Rock!

I’m sitting on the back porch up on Rocky Top on a hot, humid August day. School is back in session. Vacations are just a memory now. My Day Planner (yes, I’m old school) is covered up in blue and black ink. Basically, I’m overwhelmed and I have just been back from vacation for two weeks.

Between cheering on the USA Olympians, looking at my “to-do-List”, listening to the flooding reports in a state that I love, and watching the political wrangling on TV, life just seems fragile and complicated.

How do I navigate all this?  My mind quickly returned to one day on our vacation while we were out exploring. Preacher and I were out in the middle of nowhere. A huge storm began to roll in. There was no way we would be able to make it to a man-made shelter before the storm hit. We saw huge rocks in the distance and began to run toward them while the rain began pelting us. As we approached the rocks, there was a “cleft” in the rocks. We sat down on dry ground in that cleft and watched as the storm rolled thru. We were in awe that the Lord had provided such a beautiful place for us to take refuge. We knew we couldn’t let this precious moment go to waste. So as we sat in the cleft of that rock, being sheltered by the storm, we did 3 things which have taken us through every imaginal storm in life in the last 36 years of our marriage.

  • We remembered His faithfulness!

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God. He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9

Talk with your family, your husband or just a friend about the times in your past that you have seen God’s hand in your life or times when you have felt His presence or heard His word.

  • We practiced thankfulness.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

Spend time verbalizing out loud answered prayers, people, things, or circumstances you are thankful for. His gifts are all around. Thank Him for them!

  • We prayed!

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Share with someone what you struggle with  and ask them to pray for you. Stand in His righteousness knowing that He hears you when you pray. Prayer is the most effective tool we have in life.   Yet,  I do believe it is the most under-utilized and under estimated tool we have available to us as believers.  We must realize that we are in a battle.  There are battles raging all around us.  Some are in a battle for their marriage, some for their children, some for their churches and some for their very lives.  We must fight this battle with His weapon of warfare:  PRAYER!

As I finish writing this, it is thundering in the distance. Another storm is approaching. This time I’m not on a beautiful beach hiding in the cleft of a rock as the storm approaches. I’m back home on Rocky Top. There will always be another storm because that is just life. But I’m so thankful that My God is the ROCK in which I can stand on and He hides me and protects me.  I am confident in MY ROCK!!!

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliver; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the strength of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. “ Psalm 18:2-3

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