Category - Uncategorized

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It is Well with My Soul!
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The Whisper
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Celebrating Dad!
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Love Your Neighbor
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The Moments That Take Your Breath Away

It is Well with My Soul!

It’s been awhile since I have sat on the back porch up on Rocky Top to write. Truthfully, I have been terrified of what would come out as I hit the keys on my laptop.

If you have been with me since the beginning of this blog, you know I am REAL. What does that mean?  I don’t play games or try and pretend all is well when it is not well.

Protests took place in Rocky Top city this weekend. My son and his wife are in Houston as Hurricane Harvey dumps rain on the already saturated earth. Parents are hurting because their young son has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

I returned from a land just a few weeks ago where floods, hurricanes, or protests would have been welcome disasters. I sat in a room as two precious sisters in the Lord shared how their husbands had been tragically killed for their faith.  Yet, these women sang praises to Jesus and lifted up His name.

Perspective is always an antidote for self-pity.

As many of you know, Preacher resigned as senior pastor at First Baptist Concord last week. It was an agonizing decision.   His words on Sunday, August 20 will ring in my head for a long time, “I love this church.  Yet, I love Jesus more.  We must be obedient to His call on our lives.”

On Monday, September 11 we will begin to serve Life Action Ministries as missionaries to America and the world.   Life Action is a  ministry filled with many wonderful people who daily sacrifice so much to see our nation turn their hearts toward God.

At sixteen years of age I walked down the aisle of a church and told the pastor God was calling me to missions. In God’s graciousness, He knew it would take forty years, give or take a few, to prepare my heart to totally accept this call.  What can I say except that I am a slow learner.

The mission statement of Life Action ministries is to ignite Christ-centered movements of authentic Christianity that displays the gospel and fulfills the Great Commission.

Our nation is sick. The answer is Jesus.  Churches in our nation are in desperate need of revival.  Revival is not a week-long set of meetings with guest preachers.   Revival occurs when a dead heart comes back to life and determines to follow Christ at all costs.  Revival happens when a church body decides to care more about the lost than their own personal preferences.  Preacher and I must be obedient to His call of revival on our lives.

Real life on Rocky Top will continue. Preacher and I will still call this home as long as the Lord allows.

What I want you to know is “It is Well With My Soul.”

Many tears have been shed as Preacher and I sought God’s direction for our lives.  Change is not easy, especially as we age.  When comfort is longed for, God challenges us with change.  A true disciple of Christ never becomes “comfortable.”

Paul in the New Testament is the ultimate example of one who followed Christ.  Over and over we see Paul making ministry decisions not based on what was best for himself or what was comfortable for him.  In Philippians 1:12 Paul clearly emphasized that everything in his life, the good and the bad, was about the advancement of the gospel.

When change comes, the question is not “What does this mean for me?” but “What does this mean for His kingdom?”

Preacher and I are just God’s servants. Our desire is to simply advance His kingdom.

So dear readers, from my heart to yours “It is Well With My Soul.”

Allow any change, difficulty, or hardship to bring Glory to the King and advance His Kingdom!

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.

They.know.what.they’re.doing.

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”

We all BELONG

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,

but HE BELONGS TO JESUS CHRIST….

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 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.

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