Tantrums and Grace

Have you ever thrown a fit when talking to the Lord? I mean, mine was more like a tantrum, but who’s comparing, right?! Anyway, the few brief moments and months leading up to my toddler outburst had been hard – and often hurtful. My emotions were being driven by my feelings and my feelings by my focus (which was on myself.) As I sat in my car, I listed all the ways I had been slighted, the lack of understanding shown, what injury injustice had done to my heart, and how exhausting it was to have to always take the narrow path on the high road. See what I mean about my focus? I was Elijah in the cave, except I was in a car. Still yet, the Lord allowed me to cry, complain, question, and yes, He even allowed me to be angry and self-centered – He just didn’t let me stay there. I knew what was coming, but I was fighting it. His Words of life and truth hidden in my heart bubbled up, one at a time, until I knew what was to come.

Repentance through an act of service, forgiveness, because the love of Jesus compels us to see others, to view our circumstances, through Holy Sprit colored glasses.

As I turned the keys in the ignition and began to drive to my destination, I had calmed down; but, I was still resisting what my spirit was directing me to do – the kind and godly thing, that thing which goes beyond oneself. I remember my words as if I spoke them yesterday. “I just want to know I am loved, and you hear me.” As I cried out to my Father, He just listened, then I felt Him lean in and love on me with His heart. I heard Him whisper, “You are mine, and I am yours; I am your Maker and Husband. I am your rewarder when you diligently seek me. I love you with an everlasting love; and the same love that covers a multitude of your sins, is the same love which compels you to love others.”

His tender correction toppled my tantrum, His faithful hand of love subdued my fit.

I could go on to tell of the divine happening in the grocery store, but let it be said, some miracle moments are just between a father and his daughter. Just trust me when I say this, His love is big.

His love is bigger than our hurt, bigger than our selfishness, bigger than our complaints, bigger than our fear, bigger than our brokenness – so big it blows my mind!

I am certainly thankful He doesn’t only whisper into caves to prophets, and that His love covers my tantrums with grace.

Counter-clockwise View

Changing of Perspective

At work (unless its raining) I love to walk a small circular path next to the lake outside my building. It is a pleasant and beautiful scene, accompanied by birds singing melodies,  frogs bellowing messages, and the geese gliding effortlessly across the water. And, on most days there is a warm breeze blowing to make the walk even more wonderful.  It truly is a peaceful, and lovely place to get in a little exercise. A couple of weeks ago, I was taking a fast-paced jaunt around this little circle when I decided to switch it up a bit and take 3 counter-clockwise loops. It was on my first  time around when the view made me pause and take in the beauty. You see, the scene traveling clockwise, while lovely, was very different from the one which arrested me mid-walk. I could hear Holy Spirit’s whisper in my soul – “Sometimes, you need to see things from a different angle Tonya, to get the better view.”

The presence of Jesus captured me in those moments.

The past month has been one sprinkled with uncertainty, fear and grief, yet  mixed with joy, and excitement. To say it has been a little odd would be an understatement. I have heard before, every new beginning starts with an ending.

Goodbyes are simply a part of moving into something new. I have felt those goodbyes down deep in a place only Jesus has access to. I am forever grateful His scars know how to heal.

The simplicity of choosing to switch up my routine walk led to a powerful moment of healing. God lovingly cupped my face in His hands, and turned my eyes to see things a bit differently. Instead of being disappointed in me for grieving the goodbyes I had said, He allowed me to see loving freely makes you vulnerable and open to making life-long connections. Those kind of goodbyes are hard.

Just ask the disciples.

Just ask anyone who has ever loved deeply.

It is ok to grieve forlorn farewells and greet happy hellos at the same time.

The change in view led me to see how life is full of sorrow and beauty – often at the same time. It is what makes life the journey it is. Jesus took a different approach to culture and religion, and He often took a route the disciples did not understand. After taking my counter-clockwise walk, I have thought about this a lot. I believe Christ wanted them to see things from a different perspective, to see life from His point of view.

The Craftsman who built with His hands was the Chief Cornerstone the builders rejected . The King born in stable, without an earthly throne, is the King of all Kings. The Healer who could raise the dead to life is the Physician who heals with nail-scarred hands. Yes, His truth is the wildly wonderful lens I want to view my life through.

It would be a tragedy to believe our lives could never be a mix of good and bad, ugly and beautiful, confidence and uncertainty or sorrow and rejoicing – often in concert with each other.

To try and not experience it fully because it feels odd, or seems way too hard, is to slight ourselves of the gorgeous blessings of a counter-clockwise view.

 

Well Able

My pastor brought a word to us a couple weeks ago which has been a source of challenge and comfort. I have read my notes over and over again to, as David did, encourage myself in the Lord! I long to be like Caleb and Joshua who were positive and ready to face the battle to get to the promise. Sometimes though, it is so easy to identify with the negative Neds who only saw the hurdles ahead – and embellished them with catastrophic thinking.

The land we have gone through is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw are of great height…and we seemed ourselves like grasshoppers to them…(Numbers 13:32-33)

The land which they passed through to spy out (was) an exceedingly good land. Yet, while all twelve spies saw that the land was good, not all of them had faith and confidence in God. And, as is still true today, misery loves company – and negativity battles to win the debate.

“Caleb quieted the congregation and said, Let us go up at once and occupy (the land,) for we are well able to overcome it…then the men who had gone up with him said, “we are not able to go up against the people for they are stronger than we are…” (Numbers 13:30-31)

Our focus affects our attitude and our attitude affects our actions. They go hand-in-hand.

Ten men saw the enemy as giants and themselves as grasshoppers. They chose to focus on the potential problem and not the promise of their powerful God. Therefore they expected a sure defeat. Their miserable attitude had them angry against the two whose faith-filled stance had their vantage point fixed on whole of God’s promise. Both sets of spies encountered the exact same scene yet their focus was vastly different.

The way we interpret the facts dictates what we see to be true. We are responsible for how we get over the hurdles in life…we are good at seeing problems but not coming up with solutions…we are so ready to give up and forget all He has done for us…for every problem there is a solution if God is in the equation…let God do His thing!” -Pastor Bill Muller

This world hasn’t changed much since the days of Moses, it is still set and ready to suck the joy out of our journeys. But the Lord is still keeping His promises. And, at the close of the day, how we have chosen to see our circumstances will affect our ability to have peace and strength to navigate the obstacles and enjoy the sweetness God has already promised us.

It is a milk-and-honey kind of sweet to know the Lord walks with His own, and delights to give us His best – a land flowing with goodness!

So, let’s go up at once and occupy it, for in the power of the almighty we are well able to overcome it!

A Mother’s Day Song

The enemy loves to keep us burdened. He is constantly reminding us of all that we don’t have.

Ahhh, but God.

God strives against the enemy of our souls, and as Jesus makes intercession for us, we can trust the plans of a good God to bring us through – and adjust our focus.

Last year, the Lord graciously placed a few words in my heart as I thought about Mother’s Day. It had always been a tough Holiday for me, and even still, a slight twinge of sadness snuck up on me. So, I know He gave me those words last Mother’s Day to “adjust my focus” – for a reminder to rejoice in those things that are true!

This year, in His perfect grace, He went a little farther to remind me (because I’m often forgetful) I was not given a Mother’s heart in vain.

On Friday an early Mother’s Day gift arrived. I received a text from a student’s Mom thanking me for pouring love into her daughter’s life, and for showing her the love of Jesus. Mrs. Sweet Parent shared with me that in January her little girl sought her out to come talk with her. This precious student of mine laid on her bed, and with tears flowing, told her mother she wanted to always have Jesus in her heart and live for him.

I read the rest of the text through tears.

My gift had not been wrapped in a box, or been delicately arranged in a pretty bag filled with confetti. But, oh my happy soul, it had been divinely wrapped in the love of a Father who adores me. It was perfectly timed and purposefully given. You see, this precious mom could have told me in January – but God.

He knew the plans He had for me.

He knew I was going to be leaving my teaching career this summer. He knew this would be an emotional time. He also knows around Mother’s Day the enemy taunts me with lonesomeness.

My sweet Father is such a precious friend.

When I read Isaiah 54 over ten years ago, I could have never imagined the reason it would grow to be such a precious exhortation from the Lord. He has caused my barren womb to no longer be a place of sadness but of joy. He has filled my childless arms with a quiver full of children.

I love them with love from the mother’s heart my Creator has given me.

My heart could not be anymore full than it is this Mother’s Day. I will sing – for my Father has truly blessed me with children – more than I could have ever expected!

Opposites Work

A friend reminded me recently God uses opposites. He often works in the contrasts. Marriage is hard that way sometimes, isn’t it? God working in our lives, bringing us into a covenant relationship with a different personality, can often be an irritation more than we view it as a blessing. 🤔 We are human, two sinners who said, “I do” with so much anticipation and excitement that we felt we might burst from being in love.

Then life happens.
Midnight strikes.
Cinderella gets real.

Life is full of obstacles, and marriage is full of struggles. And yes, sometimes we simply don’t like each other – in the moment. But, marriage is also full of laughter and friendship.

And, the amazing thing is when I am willing to see the real moments from an eternal perspective, I see just how good my God is for bringing me to my opposite. This man might not love in the same language as his bride, but he speaks his so well I can’t help but feel it – the glass slipper glides on my foot and I know – he loves me.

A Reminder

I had to read this passage a few times this morning. It is full of powerful truth.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. 2 Corinthians 10:3‭-‬8‭, ‬13‭, ‬18

Think about it…

Through Jesus, we can destroy arguments and high opinions contrary to the knowledge of God. We can take every thought captive into the obedience of Christ – to not do so is disobedience.

I have read that many times, nevertheless, it rocked me –

To not be the prison guard of my thoughts, to allow the the unruly inmates to control me and not bring them before the Master, is a direct act of disobedience. Whoa!

We are not waging a physical war. No matter what our circumstances may seem to reveal, there is a battle raging in an unseen realm which requires divine weapons of warfare. We have those weapons in Christ Jesus!

But, let me remind myself …

We have access to divine Holy Spirit power to destroy the strongholds in our lives.

Paul tells me to look and see what is before my eyes, to have confidence in the One who saved me, the One who gives me strength, wisdom and skill – all so as to build others up and to glorify His name.

I can boast in Jesus and not be ashamed!

If we can grab the gravitas of this truth Paul boasted so surely in, what a difference it would make in not only our own lives, but in the world!

2021


God’s rhema (utterance, word) for me as 2021 begins is PURPOSEFUL…


Purposeful in…

Word
Thoughts
Actions

Daniel PURPOSED in his HEART that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank…


have PURPOSED that my MOUTH will not transgress.


GIVE AS he PURPOSES in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.


Barnabas…encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.
whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.

What’s yours?? I’d love to be praying God’s word over your life! Drop it in the comments t👇😁

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You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
Psalm 17:3

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:8

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.
Daniel 1:8‭-‬9‭, ‬20

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
II Corinthians 9:7‭-‬8

Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
Acts 11:22‭-‬24

Mary, a Surrendered Faith

From the moment God made Eve, He had special plans for women. Even when her own act of disobedience brought about the discipline of her Creator, God, He was gracious – He made her a mother! The miracle of having a child, the honor and great privilege of motherhood, was her Father’s loving hand once more giving her life. After reading Eve’s story, it is no surprise to find, throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, Jewish women taking part in much of community life. From commerce and trade to Temple worship, women were held in high regard. Proverbs 31 is but one place lending us a peek into the active life of a godly woman. She looked well to the ways of her household, and could be found to be a willing worker, even active in selling linens to merchants and in the buying and selling of land. And, above all this, she feared the Lord, served Him and her family – these were her most precious attributes of wisdom and kindness.


Women were included when God instituted the Mosaic covenant (Deuteronomy 29:11) and were present when Joshua read the Torah to Israel. Their presence was not just an option; they were required to be present for the public reading of the Scriptures on the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 31:12).

https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/newsletter-jun-1988/the-role-of-women-in-the-bible/

A glimpse into the lives of other Old Testament women of faith as well only solidifies the reality Jewish women were active in their community of faith. So, one might ask this question – as I did when studying the life of Christ’s mother, Mary – why did the early first century life for women look so different than their foremothers of the Old Testament?


…Jewish people often found themselves under the rule of foreign powers vying for Palestine’s important position as a land bridge that connected Asia, Europe, and Africa…the cultures of these occupiers deeply affected Jews and the region’s other inhabitants.

Early, J. E. (2015). Jesus and The World Into Which He Was Born. In 974330454 755833937 J. E. Early (Author), A history of Christianity: An introductory survey (p. 1). Nashville, TN, TN: B & H Academic.

It seems quite certain the subtlety of Satan present in Eden has been active through the years post-Eden, even through today. The Jewish people have been on a journey for centuries, from the Flood to slavery to exile to the Diaspora and the years that followed. First-century Mary grew up in a society deeming women “less than.” Although Jewish women were, in theory, esteemed, it was in private, not publicly. Jewish women were to be homemakers and lead quiet lives of prayer and holiness, but not in open concert with the men in their community of faith. They could hear a sermon, but most likely, they were to not ask questions nor voice opinions. According to Jewish history, Mary most likely would have had to stay in the “Woman’s Court” when she went to Temple. She would not have dared venture past its confines. According to all the research and reading of the Scriptures I have done thus far, I believe Mary was a young pauperess, probably in her teens, when she was betrothed to marry Joseph. She lived out her normal days in Nazareth – a tiny nothing of a town in the corner of Galilee. According to the world around her, Mary was ordinary, nothing too special at all.


God thought differently.


Her Father God trusted her character.

He knew she would question yet surrender.

He knew Mary would know the Scriptures (even if she had been discouraged from gaining any learning or education.)

I know I may take liberties here, but I imagine Mary listening daily to her father and the other men quote and talk over the Holy Scriptures.

I genuinely believe she had been “pondering” many things in her heart all her young life. From the very beginning of her story, we see how special she was indeed.

At that time in history, it would have seemed revolutionary (and offensive) for a Jewish woman to speak and interact with a Priest/Rabbi, let alone have a conversation with one of God’s messengers from Heaven. Nonetheless, God sent Gabriel to Mary first instead of her espoused, Joseph. Think of this considering what we have learned about first century Jewish culture. From the onset – before Christ was even in Mary’s womb – God challenged culture and traditions made by man (and not God.)


Let that sink in.


This common girl from Nazareth, and her surrendered faith, gave birth to the Rabbi of rabbis, King of kings, the Messiah – Jesus – our Savior. When I think of what she must have thought the day Gabriel told her what was to come, my mind goes crazy with questions. But one question I will ask her one day in eternity will be this, “did you ever falter or doubt?” I know me – tiny steps forward in faith and giant leaps backward in doubt and fear. I simply cannot fathom the call on Mary’s life, what it must have been like to raise the Son of God, knowing He was also your Savior.

Can you imagine?

In Luke’s account of Mary’s life, we see she was bewildered by Gabriel’s greeting and could not fathom what he was saying to her. She was a virgin; how could she have a child, let alone be mother to the Son of God?! Yet at the end of their conversation, Mary’s surrendered faith was the foundation upon which God built the rest of her life.

An ordinary peasant girl was used to bring the most extraordinary gift the world has ever known.

Trusted by God. Highly favored by the Creator. Unlearned and young, Mary was wise beyond her years. She knew to trust in the Lord with all her heart and not lean unto her own understanding of things. Mary’s astounding and sweet story sheds grace on my own inadequacies. It brings truth. And with that truth, freedom. Mary is teaching me a thing or two about how God uses the foolish things to confound the wise – especially when we surrender all to Him.

Be still…Be kind…Be Firm


Today I had more than a few thoughts about the circumstances surrounding our lives. I had more things whirling around than I could write, so I decided to video-blog them. But, what unfolded was me videoing and deleting until…

“Be still” came into my heart and I read the words of Proverbs 16, and thought about James 3:17.


The following video was the product.

Be still is often the Lord’s admonishment  to me because I’m such a talker. I need to slow down and listen more, not only to my Father but with others as well.

I pray this will be a blessing to your heart.
Click the link below to watch today’s video blog, Be still…Be kind…Be Firm.

https://youtu.be/h8X0KXODgw8

Kaleidoscope of Faith

Sometimes I forget just because I have not literally seen His face, audibly heard His laughter or physically sat at His dusty, divine feet, does not  mean I have not truly experienced His goodness.


If I would only be still, and look at my life through the kaleidescope of faith, I would see Him more clearly.

The little hands that work so hard to write their letters perfectly just to hear their teacher say, “Wow, great job!,” is His voice whispering, “I have called you to do an important work.” 

My Savior’s sweetness can be felt when a precious little one takes a break from her lunch just to come give her teacher a hug.

The Holy Spirit’s grace abounds as this writer’s pen flows with words of wisdom and encouragement that can only come from the heavenly place where living water flows endlessly.

My Father’s loving arms embrace me when my friend sends me a text to say, “Hey, I just wanted you to know I miss you and I’m thinking of you, always,”

And, how about the calls and texts from my baby brothers that make me smile and laugh with such sincere joy? That is a taste of what it must have felt like to walk next to Jesus as a friend and brother.

My list could go on and on.


The myriad of ways God shows Himself present and active in our lives is beautifully variegated.  Oh that I would be more open to see the subtle, yet profound, truth – ordinary moments become extraordinary in the presence of the King.





Sidenote 😁
Lisa Harper is an amazing Bible teacher and a Spirit-filled speaker. Her book, Believing Jesus, is what the Lord has used to stir my heart tonite. The book of Acts is going to be an incredibly moving study, I’m sure.

Join us and share all that the Lord does in your life too!!

I look forward to hearing from you!!