Category - Uncategorized

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The Unexpected Christmas
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Lessons from my Granddaughter
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Graduation?
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Holy Week??
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The Fallen Christmas Tree

The Unexpected Christmas

Real Life on Rocky Top welcomes Amy Daniel to the back porch today.  Amy is my middle child.  She has a precious heart for Christ and truly loves people.

My house is on the market, my husband just started a new job, we are packing up our home of the last few years, and oh by the way………I’m pregnant.

All of the above life changes were unexpected.   I don’t know about you, but at Christmas time, especially,  I want things to go as I planned.  I want to give the perfect gift, have my home decorated as if Joanna Gaines was my BFF, have my kids behave like angels for all to see, get the Christmas bonus, and make the perfect holiday meal and so on.

But let’s be real…….it hardly ever goes as planned, especially if children are involved.

As I thought through the complete upheaval in my life, the Lord began to speak to me.  Although I want Christmas to go according to my plans, the heart of Christmas is the unexpected.

There was an unexpected pregnancy, an unexpected birth in an unexpected place with shepherds and angels unexpectedly worshipping the newborn King.  All of the Christmas story is shockingly unexpected for the people involved.

But not for THE God involved.

Christmas has become about my plans.   Yet, the best part of Christmas is that HE HAS A PLAN and it is so much better than mine.

So if you find yourself sitting in an unexpected place this Christmas (a place of sickness, grief, loneliness, or unexpected change) take heart my friend because it is in this place where Christmas is alive.

It is in the unexpected that God Himself comes down to us.   Emmanuel, God with us, is actively and purposefully pursuing us in the unexpected.

Take your eyes off your plans, your schedule and center your eyes and heart on Him.

We have to be willing to SAY YES as Mary did.  “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”   Luke 1:38

So this Christmas, CHOOSE to lean into the unexpected and say YES to His plans!

Lessons from my Granddaughter

This Rocky Top girl recently traveled to St. George Island, Florida to vacation with our entire family of three adult children, their spouses and all four of our grandchildren.   Preacher had researched to find a special adventure for our oldest two grands, Addy and William.    A boat ride to see dolphins in the wild and a treasure hunt was booked.

When we boarded the small boat to travel on the wide open ocean, Addy chose to sit by me.  As the boat began to travel the waves, Addy immediately began the hand holding.  If I let go of her hand for even a second, she would lay her open hand on my lap as if to say, “Nonna, (what the grands call me) I need your hand.”

I wanted to enjoy the beauty around me but was mesmerized by Addy’s joy.   Her entire face was consumed with a smile.  She was embracing this adventure, the unknown, the uncertainty.   The captain of the boat told us all where we were going, what we hoped to see and do.  Yet, Addy had never experienced anything like this.  With her small four year old hand in mine and life jacket secured she was content to embrace the adventure.

After we returned back to our rented home for the week, the Lord began to speak to me so clearly through my sweet Addy’s life.

  • Donna, I never take my eyes off of you. You are my daughter.  I take pleasure in watching you experience the life I have given you.
  • You can embrace the adventure I have put before you with complete joy or you can choose to not trust me and make yourself and everyone around you miserable.
  • I have given you a life jacket in your salvation and My Word. I will never allow you to drown in hurt, pain, shame, guilt, fear, rejection, and bitterness.
  • My hand is always open for yours. You just have to ask.   I delight in your weakness and your brokenness.
  • You were made for adventure, Donna. You weren’t made for comfort and security.

The captain’s objectives were all accomplished.  Dolphins jumping in the wild were seen.  Arrows made of sticks were followed on an uninhabited island where X marked the spot of buried treasured.    William and Addy uncovered the treasure chest by digging through the sand with their hands.    Their joy seemed to culminate when the treasure chest was opened up to discover faux jewels, golden coins and sand dollars. So much fun.

Listening to the waves crashing on the shore the last night of our trip,  this old hymn came to my heart.

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word;

Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!  How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;

Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus! Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him, Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;

And I know that He is with me, will be with me to the end.

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to trust His cleansing blood;

And in simple faith to plunge me ‘neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ‘tis sweet to trust in Jesus, Just from sin and self to cease;

Just from Jesus simply taking life and rest, and joy and peace.

(Written by Lari Goss, Public Domain)

My dear reader my prayer is that you choose to trust Him completely with whatever adventure lies ahead of you.  He is faithful!  In the trusting, the joy will come!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Graduation?

It’s the season of graduation ceremonies up here on Rocky Top.  People are becoming doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers, high school graduates and even preschool graduates.

Last week I watched the cutest five year old walk down a long aisle wearing a red cap and gown.   The tassel hung to one side of his adorable face and his smile of accomplishment shone for everyone to see.  As this boy’s Nonna, I beamed with pride and waved as he passed me by.

The head of the preschool boasted about the graduates’ many accomplishments: they knew numbers, the alphabet and various others bits of knowledge.    The teachers had observed their ability to use this knowledge and now they were ready to be presented as graduates!

A few days after this momentous occasion, I began to question if I had graduated.  Yes, I hold a high school diploma and even a Bachelor of Science degree from Baylor University.   My teachers and professors observed my proficiency in many different subject matters for me to obtain those diplomas.

But am I graduate of God’s word?   A teacher knows his pupil knows the material when the pupil doesn’t just regurgitate knowledge but when he sees the pupil utilize the information in real life.

I can memorize thousands of verses, attend every Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, BSF, Precept Bible study, and go to Sunday School or small group every week yet if I do not use the knowledge of God’s word, it’s just information.

Information doesn’t bring transformation,” I heard a preacher say (Jay Smith).   I must realize that God’s word is meant to be experienced and allowed to be poured out of my life by the power of the Holy Spirit.

If I have memorized the fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) but they are not evident in my life, it is time to question my walk with Christ.

A tree will be known by its fruit.

Am I kind even when others are not?

Is love evident in my life even towards those who are unlovable?

“Words and ideology on a page are cheap.  Grace and incarnating the love of Christ isn’t.” (Voskamp).

When my husband is thousands of miles away sharing the Gospel with those who have never heard, does peace reign in my life when the basement pipes leak again?

Am I patient when I have been put on hold for thirty minutes?

Lord, I don’t just want to be filled with head knowledge.  I want to be filled with YOU!

A true leader/a graduate displays knowledge in action……..kindness, peace, love, joy, and thankfulness.  A graduate of the Word of God displays Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit!

It is better to memorize one verse and live it out than to continue to fill my head with knowledge but show no fruit in my life.

Lord, may I always have a teachable spirit and always be a graduate of your Word!

 

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

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.

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