Category - Uncategorized

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The Earthquake after Easter
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A Single Match, A Small Fire and Destruction of the Smoky Mountains
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Our First Valentine’s Day
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The Broken Thanksgiving
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The FALL on Rocky Top: Death, Life, and a Prayer Tent

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

 

A Single Match, A Small Fire and Destruction of the Smoky Mountains

Today I welcome Betsie Hughes to the back porch up on Rocky Top.  Betsie has been married to Dan for twenty-four years.  Together they have a beautiful blended family of five adult children and five grandchildren.  Whether it is being a mortgage consultant (her “real” job) or sharing practical truths from the Word of God with women, Betsie’s love for Jesus flows genuinely from her heart.  I am thrilled to share her words of wisdom with you.

A casual glace at the TV.   Smoke was billowing from The Chimney Tops;  it was enough to catch my attention but honestly it just didn’t look that menacing.  Over the next few hours we were about to see how wrong I was as conditions aligned to create the perfect environment for a devastating fire to change lives forever.

We know now that two boys were responsible for starting that devastating fire in our Great Smoky Mountains.

I imagine two scenarios. The first is that this boys were hiking down the mountain with no idea what was happening behind them.  Maybe they were far enough ahead of the smoldering mountain top that they really didn’t know what they left in their wake.

The second is that they saw the flames dancing through the dry leaves devouring the underbrush and seeking to climb the beautiful, majestic trees of our beloved Smoky Mountains and ran. Sick to their stomach and terrified at what was happening with no way to turn back time or stop the devastation.  Fear gripped them as they ran faster and faster away from the flames.

The morning after the fires in Gatlinburg, TN the Lord led me to this verse.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell”  James 3:5-6

The fire started at The Chimney Tops miles away from Gatlinburg by probably a single match…..a small fire. Conditions were such that the fire quickly spread.  I am sure as the residents of that mountain community watched the news – they were not imagining that their homes and lives were in imminent danger.  While I watched from afar, the magnitude of what was about to happen was nowhere in my consciousness.  It was unfathomable.  What happened that night was both a string of events and combination of circumstances that may happen only once in a lifetime.  It was however, also a perfect image of the power of a small fire to spread and destroy when we least expect it.

Our words can have that same impact on our relationships and communities where we live. A moment or lifetime of moments where we don’t control the words that spill out and hurt those around us.  Sometimes we see the hurt and other times we are completely unaware of how our words have wounded someone.

The anger, selfishness, and un-forgiveness that we allow to creep into our hearts and minds will always spill over in our words and actions. It may be a tiny spark – just a moment, a word or comment.  We innocently share a secret or unfounded thought or belief about a situation or a person and then……a fire is raging, devouring everything in its path.  We lash out at our spouse or children in a heated moment of suspicion or anger and the fire begins smoldering.  We fan the flame with every angry, selfish thought and harsh word.

We are unaware of the impending danger but it is as deadly and devastating to us and those around us as those fires in Gatlinburg were to the homes and lives of the residents.

Our tongue can set the entire course of our lives on fire and it takes years to recover. I have been on both the giving and receiving end of the hurtful flames.  There are times I would give anything to be able to take back the words I’ve said in anger or when I have allowed bitterness to creep in and take root in my heart.  I also see in relationships all around me where the tongue has emotionally created such pain that we begin to do things that we could never have comprehended would happen.  Broken relationships, divorce, wayward children, ruined business dealings…..all left in the wake of that small flame of words that quickly overtook the relationship.  The entire course of a life changed and broken without understanding of how it happened so quickly.

I imagine those were some of the same thoughts that morning after the fires. Those fires unimaginably changed the lives of the residents of this beautiful mountain community. There were families who lost homes, loved ones and possessions that held beautiful memories.  They stood looking at the utter ruins of their homes that were totally destroyed.  The impact reached so much farther than just that one night.  While the fire was extinguished, the devastation for many will last a lifetime.  So it is in our lives.

His living Word is the only water that will quench the fire of the tongue. John 7:39 says “whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

It’s a spiritual battle.   Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, we can’t control our tongue.  However,  every day we can protect our heart by soaking in God’s Word and then out of our hearts can flow living water that nurtures and protects instead of flames that devastate and destroy.   The Lord must capture and rule my heart.  Every moment.  Every day.  His living water must soak the soil of my heart to protect me and those I love from the flames that destroy.

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

 

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

 

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