Category - Word of God

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The Whisper
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The Moments That Take Your Breath Away
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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

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.‬‬

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

 

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

 

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