Day 3 on Day 1

wordswag_15772217746881254903782.png

Last month, I opened my life up to a circle friends and asked them to hold me accountable in my study of God’s Word. I beseeched them to inquire how my Purpose Driven Life Bible study was going, and to pray for me along the way. So, last night when one such friend inquired as to how my study was going, I had to be honest – “I am on Day 3…” I relented. He chuckled, “That was two weeks ago.” Ugh, he was almost correct. I actually started two and a half weeks ago – hmmph – I am supposed to be on Day 18. <insert embarrassed emoji here>

But, is that not that reality of life? We have hurdles, we have victories, and we do our best to survive all the in-between. To stay stuck in the embarrassed-emoji mindset is to let the enemy win. Move on.

So, I opened the book, and read the long-awaited Day 3’s question – “What drives your life?”

It would have been nice if I could have told you guys Jesus alone was my motivation in 2019. Honestly, I wanted that to be the case, but I let so much of life’s circumstance distract me into forgetting. Thankfully, He is ready to remind me as often as my memory lapses. Even when I skipped the study, He was faithful to bring me to the right path, all I needed to do was sit surrendered and waiting at His feet.

On the day of Christmas Eve, my Father gave me the gift of Psalm 16. His words have consumed my thoughts ever since underlining their truth through my tears.

The Lord Himself is my inheritance.

What an astounding truth – He is my “ḥel·qî ” – my portion, my share, my reward. This divine, holy, perfect, merciful, forgiving, almighty God – this, this is my legacy, my truth. See why Psalm 16 is such an incredible gift?! Even the Psalmist himself said, “What a wonderful inheritance…no wonder I rejoice!!” And, I do rejoice, especially since I recognize I have such a tendency to fall short.

Truth is, my heart and flesh are going to fail; however, Christ Jesus is my portion, my strength, my hope – forever. Forever is hard to grasp for my finite human mind, but it is no less true simply because I do not understand it. Honestly, understanding doesn’t need to accompany trust – just surrender.

What drives your life, Tonya? I believe it is no accident I just made it to Day 3 on Day 1 of the new year. My heart echos Psalm 16:11. The Lord will surely show me the way of life, granting me the joy of His presence and the pleasures of living with Him forever. This is the gift He has given me – the manna of His perfect counsel, the provision of His steadfast love and a share of His enduring grace.

Kindergarten Science

For this teacher, Kindergarten Science is often a beautiful lesson in life. Just this week, we discussed how sometimes, with temperature variations, substances can undergo reversible changes (such as with water being frozen and then thawed.) But that also, with many other substances, modifications happen which can never be reversed- as with these little pumpkins.

Prior to being cooked, they were hard and could not be molded (or squished) by our hands. Yet after being heated (from the inside out) they became all-too-easy to squash, and at this point, the change was irreversible – they would never be raw pumpkins again.

We squished the pumpkins into pieces, and chatted about our actions and words, and how once we act or speak it cannot be undone. But, my thoughts couldn’t help but wander over to the truth of God’s irreversible love, and to how we can fully trust in the good news of the Gospel. When Christ sheds His love abroad in our hearts, He makes an irreversible mark on our souls that can never be erased or undone – we are His forever!

Nothing we do can alter His great love for us! What an amazing truth this is!

Nevertheless, the lesson did not stop there. While the truth of His unchangeable love resonated in the deepest part of my spirit, I began to also think of how His love reshapes us through the tests and trials of life. These are all a part of the intricate “heating up” process as we walk with Him. And once He changes us with the warmth of that kind of love and grace, we are truly never the same.

He sometimes puts us in the fire so as to help us become more “squishable” – usable for His glory. And, while this may not always be welcomed by our hard-shelled, inflexible, decorative-only selves, it is necessary if we want to become more like Jesus.

What began as lesson for my Kindergarteners, ended up a lesson for their teacher. I am thankful for Kindergarten Science – and the little pumpkins God uses to change me.

48 Seconds

Philippians 4_8A few years ago I read a book written by Tommy Newberry entitled, 40 Days to a Joy-filled Life. The Lord used Mr. Newberry to challenge me to take inquisitive notice of my thought life and begin filtering it through the Word of God. Newberry aptly asserts, “No area of your life is untouched by your thoughts,” and I would have to agree. I see it in my own life, as well as in the lives of my students. A single thought can change the course of an entire day or switch emotional tracks from one to the other.

For a couple of years now I have had a timer set on my phone to remind me to stop and “think on good things” for at least 48 seconds (Phil. 4:8, get it?) And it always makes me smile and feel a little lighter. But on the wearisome days when I ignore my reminder (yep, unfortunately, I do) before I know it, I am traveling down a back road to falsehood, where anxiety, worry, doubt, fear, and lies reside.

This week was a series of those wearisome days; so, I am thankful God knows me well and handed me the gift of a Kindergartener’s insight. This amazing kid said, “Mrs. Brown, I don’t like painting. I can’t’ do it!” I confidently reminded him he could do all things because Christ would help him. With genuine belief, he said, “I don’t need to listen to the Devil, he’s trying to trick me, right Mrs. Brown?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I agreed, “You are so right J, he is tricky!” Of course, I was convicted immediately.  The simple truth of his innocent wisdom shocked me silly! By ignoring the simple, yet powerful truths of God’s Word, I often allow myself to be outwitted. I suppose this is why I am consistently in need of grace-filled reminders from the Author of my faith.

Thankfully, there is a way to combat the enemy’s assault on our minds – put in to practice what Jesus taught us. When we view this life (and circumstances) from a Biblical worldview, it changes us – it redirects our focus back to the truths of God.

Mr. Newberry and the Apostle Paul found the gold in this veracity – think on whatever is right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy!

Philippians-4-8-Shaun-Menary

Praising God for who He is, what He has done, and all He has yet to accomplish has the power to change the course of our thought life if we would only let it! Maybe we could all challenge ourselves to think about the goodness of God, I am quite certain He will change us – 48 seconds at a time!

He Rejoices

Getting to know my Father is a precious adventure. The journey is one I find both overwhelming and comforting all at the same time. His love is so perfect it is hard to grasp how deep it truly is. Nevertheless, what a privilege it is to get to know Him!!

He is a faithful Father and loving Friend, the Prince of peace and perfecting Potter, and He most certainly is sure Salvation and the sweetest song.

Because He is a relational and almighty God, His word is alive and powerful – and perfectly personal! Zephaniah 3 reminds me of this! So each time one of my chats with my Father takes me to the stirring words of Zephaniah, my heart lingers a little while longer on verse 17 of chapter 3.

The beautiful imagery of God spinning around in delight, shouting proclamations of gladness and joy over me, leaves me dumbfounded – every single time.

To be able to rest in the arms of an almighty God, knowing He will always save me, is incredible! His boundless love for me causes Him to be merciful when I fail Him, and inspires Him to sing over me with an everlasting joy!

My friend, should you need encouragement, read Zephaniah 3:17, close your eyes and picture this – the Creator of all things, the One who created the endless Heavens and the beauty of Earth rejoices over you with shouts of gladness, joy and truth! I have no doubt it will become one of your favorite verses too.

A Must Read

book-reviews-featured-image

Women of all ages are not exempt from the struggles of finding out who they are and where they belong in this great big world. All nationalities, all races, all social classes -we all have the same inner battles – admittedly, some of us more than others. However, many of our youth today lack the guidance of godly mentors. This is why when I read Scarlet Hiltibidal’s book, He Numbered the Pores on My Face, I was blessed beyond measure. The following is the review I have written for it.

From the cover to the very last page, author Scarlet Hiltibidal pairs humor, honesty and the truth of who we are in Christ in such a pleasant and wonderfully witty way. She is unabashedly transparent, which is needed when addressing the all-too-real issues girls (and for that matter, women of all ages) deal with. Mrs. Hiltibidal writes with an easily readable style infused with solidity of Biblical truth. I have highlighted, giggled, cried and taken notes in the margin and been blessed in my journey through this book. I am walking away a little taller, on my knees, because of her reminder of who I am in Jesus Christ. He Numbered the Pores on My Face would be a valuable treasure to have on any bookshelf, especially if it is in the home of a young girl. BH-HeNumberedThePoresOnMyFace-SS

If we are fortunate, we have the opportunity to read a book that challenges and inspires us. Mrs. Scarlet Hilitbidel is now among my favorite writers because of her fantastic work, He Numbered the Pores on My Face. It would be a treasure for any woman to read and keep in her collection to pass along. And, it is my privilege to showcase such a treasure here on my blog. Happy Reading to all – Moms, daughters, sisters and girls of all ages (even Dads can experience the blessing too.)

Sing Praise Back

My keyboard is often both a great friend and a stubborn mocker. For over two weeks now I have sought, unsuccessfully, for words ample enough to express what is in my heart. I sat down several times and began to type, then I would delete, then type some more, and, yes, you guessed it, delete again. This morning was no different. Yet, thankfully, my keyboard seemed a tad less cranky. So, I thought I would re-visit it once more. I wrapped up in my favorite, cozy blanket, made myself a cup of warm honey tea and ventured into the writing world one more time.

When I surveyed the Psalmist’s words, “sing to the Lord a new song…all the earth rejoice, and be glad…sing to the Lord a new song for He has done marvelous things…” I could not help but want to read it again, and again. So, of course, I had to mark it down. Tonite, we return there together.

These four Psalms bring me such hope, for He truly has remembered His mercy, and He is always ever-so-faithful. To know righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne, and His right hand and Holy arm will forever be victorious, causes me to truly tremble – tremble with rejoicing, tremble in awe and most certainly, tremble with gratitude.

As the almost-blank-page began to fill up with the letters and punctuation, my heart began to lighten a little. I knew the image at the top of the page (that had been patiently waiting in draft limbo) was finally going to make its way into the real world.

Sing soul, rejoice and be glad. Sing soul, tremble and be moved – you have seen His salvation!

When I was out on the Susquehanna that day, I didn’t know the Holy Spirit would bring me on a journey into the Psalms that would move me so. I’m sure thankful He always knows how to make good memories even better ones – and, how He is ever making my life new with His grace and mercy.

Elevation Worship team sings a song that echos my heart entitled, With You. They call on the Lord to consume all that they are with the glory of who He is. There truly is no place I would rather be than in His presence, knowing He is singing over me. The least I can do is sing praises back, He is certainly worthy!

With You by Elevation Worship

House Hunting

House hunting – two words that can unload buckets of stress into a person’s life. As you travel from domain to domain in search of the perfect fit for your family, sometimes discouragement has a tendency to creep in. Especially when you have seen 26 houses in just five short weeks – God love our realtor’s heart! Nonetheless, it is difficult to settle when your mind and heart are finicky, and you are terrified of making the wrong choice. What should be a time of excitement and fun with your spouse turns into frustration and unrest. But yesterday, my Father arrested my racing thoughts and calmed me with Psalm 37.

There is so much comfort in trusting Him to lead the way. Deciding to find our delight centered in His truth and grace brings a new joy and a hope that will never leave the seeker of God ashamed.

Taking refuge in the mercy of His omniscient way wraps one’s mind in a warm blanket of heavenly peace, and rest fills the soul full.

Teaching me to wait proves to be a full-time job for Him, I’m sure because I have this crazy tendency to be impatient. But, isn’t it just like the Potter to use everyday things in life to mold us to be more malleable ?!

This same Potter holds the clay, always. And, because He holds the keys to the Kingdom, why would I ever fret about an earthly home? He holds those keys too.

Life will forever be filled with “house hunting” type lessons, nevertheless, resting in the same hands that hold the heavens and me is more than enough to bring calm.

Knowing Him

Sometimes, the distant (and recent) past turn me into an incapacitated pillar of salt, much like Lot’s wife. Stormie Omartian says it like this, “…even the good things of your past can keep you from allowing God to do a new thing now. If we get locked into what we did before, we may miss what God wants to do now.” He has a divine plan for our lives; looking back, building our expectations either on past failures or past successes, only keeps us stuck.

The great hall of faith – Hebrews 11 – can refresh one’s perspective. These folks could have turned back to the country they came from, they had opportunity, yet they didn’t. I want to be like these great witnesses of faith, going out, serving Him, even when I don’t know where He is taking me (v. 8). Being willing to choose affliction, and daily esteem the reproach of Christ, knowing that what He has for me is far greater than anything this world has to offer (v. 25). Oh that I would learn to receive His plan for my life with peace (v. 30), resting in the sure promise that His will is always for my good.

He is forever doing a new thing in our lives, He will even be doing a new thing when I am on my deathbed.

His creativity and power are endless. It is my call to, in faith, be a blessing to others – and, my great privilege as His child to worship Him. There is endless wisdom when we lean on Him in all situations for guidance and help (v. 21.)

Looking unto Jesus, the one who endured the cross joyfully, may I run the race that has been assigned to me – letting go of what I think I know, and taking hold of that which Christ Jesus has already taken hold of for me.

Robert J. Morgan asserts, “Relationships aren’t static. They are either growing richer or leaner with passing years.” Oh that my years with Christ would be more rich than lean – living in the fresh moments of His new mercies rather than my expectations and past experiences – getting to know my Savior more intimately day by day.

I am finding drawing more closely to Him than anything else is paramount in my walk this side of eternity. He is so much more than we can comprehend; it will take an eternal walk to even begin to know Him. I’m thankful He gave us that with Calvary.

At the end of my journey I long to be found among those precious names in the hall of faith – with His face always before me, His testimony in my heart, and His praise on my lips. And, as Abraham was, may I be counted a friend of God.

Elevation Worship

Stay Salty

The world’s pull is subtle. It’s insidious tendrils never appear as a Goliath in size but are just as mammoth in the potential destruction they hold. The world will siphon off our strength when we are looking to anything or anyone other than Christ. Whether you are a Pastor, Sunday School teacher, leader, mom, dad, lay-person, teacher, banker, any profession – all walks of life for a Christian are ministerial in nature – we are called to approach our lives from a Biblical perspective. Everything we do is to be filtered through the truth and will of His Word. His promises are directly related to our successes (and failures.) When we are obedient and walk in His ways, His promise is to provide, protect and bless. His promise is not to keep us from trials or hardships – only to strengthen us and keep us in tact as we face them. His strength is perfected in our weaknesses, and we are made more like Him through every circumstance when we look to Him and not to the world. When you keep bad company, it will rub off on you, eventually. When you are worldly-minded, your heart is focused on goals more than God and self more than service. Worldly-mindedness is a sneaky, controlling love that calls a person to be constantly endeavoring to attain and accomplish what the customs of man and his practices of life beckon for. It is totally devoid of the truest godly pursuits of peace, good and God’s glory and has none of Christ’s savor – none of His divine light. We are to be salt and light in this world. Losing His savor is easy to do when we change our perspectives from the truth and light of His great promises to the shadows and emptiness of the world’s deceit. Stay salty fellow laborers, serve and seek His way – it will be worth it! Leaving a legacy of surrender to the Lord, and His will is the best thing we can leave behind. Mark Batterson writes, “Every prayer we pray, every gift we give, every sacrifice we make, and every step of faith we take is an inheritance left to the next generation. And our prayers live on, long after we die, in their lives.” Oh that I would be that kind of woman, that kind of teacher, that kind of servant – Biblically minded and seasoned with His savor!

Sing Soul, Sing

Today is a new beginning, a chance to live free,

Not bound with bonds of sin and shame.

When the enemy taunts my soul these hours,

and dares to accuse my earthly name,

May I look to You,

my heart behold the empty Cross and vacant tomb,

and trust,

My pardon was paid.

I’m no longer a slave.

I’ve been cleansed by Your blood.

White as snow, no more condemned,

or ensnared by sin’s unholy arm,

I am a child of God, set free to live, blessed to sing a new song.

Sing soul, sing.

Sing to the One who bled and died and give Him all your days,

Glory and honor to the King of Kings,

my Friend,

Jesus, be always praised!