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The Earthquake after Easter
2
A Single Match, A Small Fire and Destruction of the Smoky Mountains
3
Our First Valentine’s Day
4
Preaching to Myself
5
Which Step Will You Take This Year?

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

 

Preaching to Myself

This Texas-born, now turned Rocky Top girl is not a devoted “country western” music-lover. However, sometimes there are lyrics that grab my attention.    “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw is now on my playlist.  Please don’t judge me.  The chorus of this song does have biblical truth in it:  “Always stay humble and kind.”  The rest of the song, not so much.

“Be completely humble…”Ephesians 4:2

“Be kind and compassionate to one another…..” Ephesians 4:32

The Greek word, “humble”, in Ephesians 4:2 means “to lower your self-estimation.” For one who follows Christ, it is the acknowledgement of total dependence on Him.

The Greek word, “kind” in Ephesians 4:32 means “to furnish what is needed, to do good, or be gracious”.

Tim McGraw got it right when he put “humble and kind” together.

If one doesn’t lower their “self-estimation” and acknowledge their total dependence on God, it is impossible to show true kindness to others.

January hasn’t shown much humility and kindness in the news or on social media. There are a lot of people just yelling, shouting, complaining, arguing and marching.

One can believe the Bible is true and inerrant, be pro-life and also be humble and kind.

“Hold the door, say please and thank you!” McGraw’s lyrics continue.

Before self-righteousness happens, remember humility and kindness may be easier to show to those we really don’t know very well. “It can be easy to get so focused on the darkness around us that we never address the darkness in us.”  (Lysa TerKeurst)

The letter to the Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus. Apparently, there were people who called themselves Christ-followers who weren’t being humble and kind to others in the church.

This preacher’s wife has had way too much experience with people who aren’t “humble and kind” inside the four walls of the church, including myself, sadly. It is imperative that we model to our children how to respectfully disagree with others.  The current trend is “if you don’t agree with me you must be dumb, unpatriotic or not a Christian.”

As January comes to a close up here on Rocky Top and we enter the “love” month of February may each of us choose to be “humble and kind” to those around us.   Some practical suggestions: (preaching to myself)

  1. Say please and thank you.
  2. Make eye contact with others and give them a smile.
  3. Listen to others without thinking about what you are going to say next.
  4. Have a teachable spirit. No one knows everything.

As followers of Christ, let us model humility and kindness inside the walls of the church as well as outside the walls of the church.

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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