Category - Uncategorized

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Ponder?
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Sinking
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Day Eleven of Christmas
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The Ninth Day of Christmas
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The Eighth Day of Christmas

Ponder?

“Ponder” is a word that is not often heard these days.    I vaguely remember my Mamaw using the word in the context of “I need to ponder that awhile.”   As a child, I don’t think I really knew what she was referring to when she said it.

According to Webster’s, “ponder” means “to weigh in the mind, to think about or reflect on or to consider quietly, soberly, and deeply.”

Pondering is not something I do often.  I’m unsure if many of us “ponder” any more.  We are usually too busy to set aside time to “ponder.”   Instead I worry and fret as I go about my day.    In my mind, I rehearse every case scenario of any situation or relationship and usually end up exhausted about what could happen.  The “what ifs” in life lead me down a path of anxiety. 

This rarely used word came to my attention recently during worship one Sunday morning.   The praise leader led us in an updated version by Shane and Shane of the ancient hymn, Praise to the Lord, originally written by Joachim Neader in 1863.

As I sang the phrase “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,” I began to examine my heart. 

When was the last time I pondered anew what God can do instead of worrying and fretting?

Here are a few of my ponderings:

He spoke into existence every glorious sunset and sunrise, the powerful ocean waves, the majestic mountains. 

He created man and woman in His image.

He delivered the Israelites when they were in bondage to the Egyptians.

He gave His only Son as a ransom for my sin.

He healed the lame, the blind, and raised people from the dead.

He rose from the dead on the third day and conquered sin and death.

He forgives me when I’m at my worst.

He loves me unconditionally.

He heals relationships.

He restores me daily.

As I pondered all God has done and can do… create, deliver, forgive, heal, conquer, love and restore… my faith was built.  My hope was renewed that God can heal that relationship, conquer sin in my life, and advance His Kingdom in a world that is so terribly broken.

In Psalm 64:9-10 David declares, “…they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done.  Let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him!”   (ESV)

Choose today to “ponder anew what the Almighty can do.”  Stop worrying and start “pondering.” 

Sinking

I’m sinking!   I opened my mouth to scream for help and there was no one in sight. My body was almost waist deep in sand.   Waves were crashing all around me.

What began as a casual walk along the beach in the early morning hours was turning into a nightmare.   As the tide had gone out, pools of water had formed between the dry hard sand and the ocean.  What appeared to be hard wet sand was an illusion.

Holding my cellphone in one hand over my head, I threw the upper half of my body into the shallow pool of water and wiggled my way out and then begin to crawl onto the dry packed sand.

When I finally stood up, I began to laugh and cry tears of thanksgiving. 

Even though I was wet and covered in sand, I was determined to finish my walk.  As I did, the Lord brought Matthew 7:26 to my mind:  “But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”

Defensively I replied in my heart, “Lord, I am building my life on you.”  His response, “Go examine your life against my Word.”  The Lord never wants us to live our life in comparison to anyone else’s.   His standard for our lives is to be His word, not our neighbor, our friend, our family, or even our pastor.   Jesus’ life and His words are to be our plumb line, the tool in which we keep our lives aligned to God’s standards and not the world’s standards.  (Isaiah 28:16-17 and Amos 7:7-8)  When we measure ourselves against others, it’s an illusion, not a true standard.

Upon returning to the beach house where I was staying.  I sat down and opened His word.

Jesus uses the parable of building your house on either the rock or sand as the closing illustration of one of His most powerful sermons, Matthew 5-7.  Many refer to this sermon as “The Sermon on the Mount” because Jesus chose to preach sitting down on a mountainside as crowds of people were listening.

As I read through these chapters, the Holy Spirit began to speak clearly to my heart and convict me of areas in my life.   One of those areas is worry/anxiety.  “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34  The Greek word “worry” means to be “torn in two.”  When I worry, I am choosing to reject Christ as trustworthy and my mind is dependent on others or myself to solve problems.   My heart becomes divided.

Jesus doesn’t say not to worry when there is no more pandemic and a vaccine is found, or when the right political leaders are elected, or there is plenty of money in my bank account, or when all of my kids and grandkids have no problems.   Jesus says, stop worrying!   He says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) Care more about advancing His kingdom than my own kingdom.

Lord, forgive me!   Take my hand and pull me out of the sand and set my feet on you, the Rock. 

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”  Psalm 40:2-3

Do you feel as if you are sinking today? Is something or someone slowly pulling you under?  Does it seem as though our nation is slowing sinking?

Take a moment today to open God’s word to Matthew 5-7.  Ask the Lord to align your life to His word.  If there is any area of your life that is not set on His words, acknowledge it as sin, ask Him for forgiveness, and then choose to set your feet on the only one who will not sink!

Day Eleven of Christmas

The Gift of a Savior

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:8-11

A Savior, according to Merriam-Webster, is one that saves from danger or destruction or one who brings salvation.   To have a Savior, one must be in need of being saved from peril and recognize their need for salvation.

One Sunday as a six year old girl, I heard the good news of Christ for the first time as I sat in church with my mom and dad.  Ironically, neither of them were followers of Christ then.  My dad noticed that I was crying and asked if I wanted to go talk to the pastor.  I nodded and his  strong arms picked me up and carried me down the aisle.   I told the pastor I wanted Jesus to forgive me of my sins and that I wanted to follow Him for the rest of my life.  I met my Savior that day.

Walking out of the church, holding my dad’s hand that day, I remember looking up at him, knowing that He did not have my Savior in his life.   He did go to church occasionally, but there was no fruit, no other evidence of salvation.  Dad was a strong man who did not think he needed a Savior.

I began to pray at six years old for my Dad to come to know Jesus.

At the age of 58, my Dad’s life began to unravel.  His fourth wife was threatening to divorce him; he was being laid off from his job and facing financial ruin.  Dad was beginning to realize that he did need a  Savior.

After thirty years of calling out his name to the Heavenly Father, my dad received Christ in February of 1995 – and his life changed radically.

Christmases after that were different.  Dad usually came to visit a few days before Christmas Eve. We would exchange gifts, share meals and then he would announce his departure early Christmas Eve morning.  We would always beg him to stay and we never understood why he wouldn’t.

One Christmas Eve we received the following email from him. 

To My Girls:

As I sat down to write, it is Christmas Eve night. I attended a candle light service and was feeling a loneliness that I never felt before.  Because I have no Christmas tree, I came back to my apartment and placed the candle in a bowl and lit the candle again.  As the light from the candle begin to glow, I knew that I was not alone.  Christ was by my side and I began to rejoice in His Love.

From the light of my small candle, I knew that God had not only given His Son to guide and love me, but also has given me a gift of very precious daughters. The gift that each of you have given me is more priceless than any material thing on this earth, and that is my grandchildren.  Each one of them holds a very special place in my heart.

You have taken the love you have in the Lord, and placed it in the hearts of your children. I know that you could not have accomplished this without the help and love from your spouses.  I feel very proud and blessed to know these fine men of yours.  For each is a very loving husband and father.

My candle is just about out. Although it will stop burning, the love I have for the Lord, you, your husbands and the grandchildren will burn forever.  I pray each day that God will guide and protect you, and that He places an Angel by the side of each grandchild to protect them.

May Christmas be alive in all our hearts each day and may the Son of God always be with you.

With All My Love, Dad

Dad’s Savior was with him.  He went to live eternally with Christ about ten years later. 

As Christmas Eve arrives, is there anyone you know who needs a Savior?  Never stop praying for them.  It is the very reason He came!

The Ninth Day of Christmas

The Gift of Peace by Christi Avant Watson, my eldest daughter. You can find her writings at www.christiavantwatson.com or follow her on Instagram at @cavantwatson

Earth was born wrapped in the perfect peace of its creator. Your best gift wrapping skills have nothing on His.

“Let there be light” and there was a furious flame of unimaginable heat infusing vitality into everything yet to come, billions of perfect tiny balls of fire piercing the black, a giant mysterious orb illuminating night. “Let there be life” and the previously established seas began to heave with the breath of millions of swimming things.

“Let there be” turned into “Let us make” and humanity began unwrapped and unashamed. 

The need for wrapping ourselves began with the rejection of what God called “enough” for us. We had the literal voice of the Father walking with us through Eden and yet we listened to the voice of the viper. When we reached for that fruit, what we were really saying was “we want more.” 

With our knowledge of good and evil came the knowledge that we are embarrassingly exposed and utterly out of control. And our response to this realization? COVER IT! Our mother Eve and our father Adam ramshackled coverings from fig leaves.

Today, we are a bit more technologically inclined, and oh what wonderful wrappings we conceive!

Cover it with the right insta filter, the right price, the right politician, but whatever it takes, COVER IT. All the while the Creator cries as He did in the beginning, “Where are you?” He traded Adam and Eve their ramshackled wrappings for clothing made of skin. I wonder what had to die. What skin was it? Something had to die. Blood was the only adequate answer. 

A few thousand years later, “ (Jesus) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Philippians 2:6-7

He screamed his way naked into a manger and His mother did what every mother’s instinct is to do, she covered him in a security blanket. This one didn’t come in a monogrammed chevron pattern. It reeked of two terrified impoverished refugees. The God-baby that it covered became our covering. 

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:8

As Mary Magdalene and the other Mary fled from the empty tomb, Jesus met them carrying the keys of death and hell and said, “Do not be afraid.” Matthew 28:10

The One who traded our ancestors’ skin for figs offers us a trade too. “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 Come to me all who are suffocated by your own security blankets. I will trade you. I will take your blanket and you will take mine. 

I will cover your hate with kindness. I will cover your pride with humility. I will cover your judgement with compassion. I will cover your hurry with patience. I will cover your anger with forgiveness.  I will cover your anxiety with my peace.

Even now, you look cold, so  I’ll give you a coat too. “And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” Colossians 3:14-15   Are you ready to trade blankets?

The Eighth Day of Christmas

The Gift of Hope

This is an updated blog that I posted in 2017.  Be sure to read the new ending.  God surely is our HOPE!

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:  HOPE!

UPDATE

About one week after I posted this blog in 2017, I received a box in the mail from one of our Life Action missionaries.  It was filled with handmade ornaments.  Each one had a gift that Jesus brought us when He gave us Himself written on it:   Grace, Forgiveness, Strength, Love, Justice, Peace, Joy, Comfort, Knowing, and HOPE.

The day I received that box of ornaments, Hope was delivered. This dear friend reminded me that we are to be the Hope-givers to those around us.

My prayer this Christmas is that I will bring HOPE to someone else. Is there anyone you need to bring Hope to this Christmas?

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