November 1, 2014

About Tonya Ellison

Tonya Ellison — Blog Contributor
Tonya comes to us from Rio Rancho, New Mexico where she lives with her four favorite people, three kids ages 4, 6, and 9, and her husband of seven years, Jamel. Her hobbies include writing and reading, crocheting, and spending time with her family. She earned her BS in Human Services/Management and works as a Bereavement Counselor.

Answers, Guidance, and Direction

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The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the [whole] person; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure and bright, enlightening the eyes.
The [reverent] fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even than much fine gold; they are sweeter also than honey and drippings from the honeycomb.
Psalms 19:7-10

My kids started a new math curriculum a couple of years ago. This curriculum was confusing and, in my opinion, it made the process much harder than necessary. It would give a problem and no explanation on how to solve it. It would leave us flipping the paper over to see if we missed something or having to resort to a web search to assist in finding the solution. We were left wanting and needing more, left alone without direction or answers.

Now, this may seem extreme for a math situation, but you should understand that math is not my forte…I need as much clarity as possible. I need to know what to do and how to do it, without clarity I’m lost.

To me this is much like life—without clarity I’m lost. Reading the words in this passage gave just that…in a world where there are so many problems without clear solutions we are left to search for answers. But as always our Heavenly Father has those answers written for us, His clarity is at our fingertips in His word, it is on our lips with each prayer. He makes a statement and follows with a clarifying statement—His words rejoice our heart, they enlighten our eyes, they endure forever, they are righteous and true, they are richer than gold and sweeter than honey. They are clear and concise.

When I found the solution to the math problem, I found a sense of peace—peace that lasted until I read the next problem. But with God’s direction and answers the peace is lasting. Unlike math, where the answers may be questionable, God’s Word is always dependable, always correct.

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Let’s pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your answers to life, for Your guidance, and for Your direction. Life can be like math at times, confusing and uncertain. But Your words are true, clear, and they enlighten us. They are dependable and constant. Your words guide our lives, our hearts and our minds, thank You. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.

Young and Old

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I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone.
O God, You have taught me from my youth,
And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.
And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to all who are to come.
For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens,
You who have done great things;
O God, who is like You?
You who have shown me many troubles and distresses
Will revive me again,
And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
May You increase my greatness
And turn to comfort me.
Psalms 71:16-21

I just turned 30 this past week.  I know I’m far from old and gray, but I’m also not considered “young” anymore.  (Just ask my kids).  It was an important milestone for me and, apparently, 30 makes you a real adult.  When I read the words, “You have taught me from my youth,” I thought back on the past 30 years.  I was amazed by how much He has taught me over these years; some lessons I needed to learn more than once….  But it is much more than just what He has taught me over the years.

It is the time He has invested in me and the love shown to me.  It is His strength, His wonderous deeds, His greatness.  It is His desire to revive and comfort me again…and again…and again.  At 30 I find myself married with 3 busy kids, working full time, going to school full time—and needing a lot of reviving and comfort.  He does this daily, and sometimes all I can say is “O God, who is like You?”

Today I find myself thanking Him for His greatness and provision in my life.  I find myself repeating the words of David, “Lord don’t forsake me in my old age….” I want to spread His goodness.  I want to show this next generation that, without Him, I could not do what I do.

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Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, the things You do for me it’s more than amazing!  Thank You for teaching us in our youth, and for not forsaking us in our adult years. Thank You for Your provision, for Your greatness, and for sustaining us as we share with the world what you do daily in our lives.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

No One Can Fathom

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Every day I will praise You
and extol Your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
His greatness no one can fathom.
Psalms 145:2 and 3

“No one can fathom….”  In life we try to find a reason for everything.  We don’t want any unknowns, we need answers.  Some things will be understood by all (like the greatness of ice cream), some things will be understood by few (like math), and some will be understood by none—like the greatness of God.

There are so many times, even on a daily basis, that I don’t understand why God does what He does for me.  And for others, even those I don’t feel deserve it, and even when I don’t feel as if I deserve it.  So when the words of this psalm say to ‘…extol (or praise) His name for ever and ever’, I don’t find that a difficult task to accomplish.

I accept that God’s greatness is one of those things in life that will not be understood until it is time—until we see Him in all of His glory.  Until this time we are asked to follow simple steps: exalt Him…praise Him…extol His name.  Why? Because.  Because His greatness keeps us going even when we don’t deserve it.  His greatness just is!  We don’t deserve it, we didn’t earn it, but His love for us allows it to flow freely.

No, I cannot say why He does what He does, but I don’t need to.  I know that I need to praise and pray, I need to worship, I need to give thanks…for ever and ever….

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Let’s pray:  Dear Lord, I pray contentment in not knowing why You do what You do. Your greatness is a blessing, Your greatness is inspiring.  Daily You shine upon us, and daily we will say ‘Thank You!’  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Cracks

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Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare Your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart, You, God, will not despise.
Psalms 51:15-17

The words of this Amy Grant song began to play in my head as I read these verses…
We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah…

I think so often we want to impress God with our performance—with what we do, say, and with our actions—that we forget that our brokenness speaks in volumes.  I don’t fault us for wanting to do this, we want to seem ‘put together’ to those around us, to ourselves, and to God.  We want to seem as if we are in control, following God’s word from “Genesis to the maps”, (as my pastor says).  But life happens. We are humans who fall and we break.  Yes, God does love us when we are doing well, when we are walking in righteousness.  But there is more to daily life than that…when we hurt, when we cry out in pain, when we are broken.

I always think of the story of the shattered pot.  Yes, the pot was a beautiful piece of art when it was whole but somewhere along the way it was knocked over, breaking into small pieces.  From the looks of it, there was no fixing it.  But God takes those pieces and mends them together; He fits each piece back where it belongs.  The difference is not that the light shines through the cracks but God’s light shines through us.  It was something to say that the potter created…a beautiful piece to begin with.  But it is another thing to say that God took something that was thought to be trash and made it beautiful again.  The care He took in repairing it is like the care He takes in repairing us.  Our broken and contrite hearts.  Our broken pieces that others may look at and want to throw away.  When we are broken, we may not want to turn to God.  Perhaps out of shame or pain; there may be many reasons.  But it is during these times when we need to turn to Him the most, when we need to allow Him to touch our broken lives, healing us in ways that will allow His light to shine through our cracks.  This gives Him glory and shows our faith in Him.  Yes, He delights in us doing good because that’s what were supposed to do, but as His Word says in Psalm 51, sometimes, a lot of times, our sacrifice is our brokenness.

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Let’s pray: ‘Better than a Hallelujah’, Lord!  Only You can make our broken into beautiful.  Only you can mend the hurt and pain.  We live in a performance-based society…we’re told that doing good all the time will get us where we need to go.  But You, Lord, open Your arms to our brokenness.  Thank You!  Please touch our hearts and remind us daily to turn to You when we are broken and battered.  Your light will shine through the cracks and display beauty.  Broken and contrite, Lord…this is our sacrifice to You.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Better Than A Hallelujah
Amy Grant

The Pits

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Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all His benefits—
Who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalms 103:1-5

A pit This pit can take on many forms…it can be a pit dug by others, or a pit of our own making.  This passage doesn’t specify that He will only save us from what others do to us, but that He will “redeem your life from the pit”, even if we make it ourselves.  Where others will cover us in shame and anger, He will cover us with love and compassion.  He will not only save us from situations we create ourselves, but He will wrap His arms around us while doing it.  He promises that our desires will be met…He promises love, compassion…He promises forgiveness, and healing.

The difference between God’s promises and those we make (or those made to us by others), is that God’s promises ring true.  These promises will not be broken; they are not conditional.  In fact we are given these promises over and over again.  We are forgiven over and over again, we are loved always, we are healed, and we are clothed in compassion.  Such simple everyday concepts made beautiful; made permanent, made personal.

I will praise the Lord. My soul will sing His praises for all He has done for me, for all He will continue to do for me. I will praise His Holy name.

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Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, only You, Lord, know the workings of my innermost being.  Only You know when I need love and compassion.  Only You know when I truly need love and healing.  Only You understand when I need compassion.  Only You know when I need to be pulled from the pit.  Only You.  In Jesus’ Name, I pray.  Amen.

Always and All the Time

SeekingHimLogo

In You, LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in Your righteousness.
Turn Your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
Be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since You are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of Your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for You are my refuge.
Into Your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.
Psalms 31:1-5

  • Refuge

  • Deliverer

  • Rescuer

  • Fortress

  • Rock

  • Leader

  • Guide

  • Faithful

  • God

I can’t imagine what David was feeling when He was penning these words to God…I can’t imagine what his life’s struggles led him to think or to feel.  But I do know what these words make me feel.  I do know what it feels like to know these words for myself—and believe these words for myself.

Not only in times of strife and struggle have I called on God to be these things for me, but He has proven, in times of hurt and pain, that He always is here in all of these roles.  He is my Rock and my Fortress when I juggle the everyday mundane tasks.  When I wake to iron, make lunches, drive people to school and practice, He is my Strength.  When I interact with my family, friends, colleagues, He is my Leader and Guide.  When I am tired at the end of the day but still have things to finish, He is my Rock.  He is Faithful to help me when life gets crazier than it seems I can handle.

The beauty in David’s words is that God is not a sometimes God…He is an always God…He is always these things. Always and all the time.  Good times.  Not so good times.  We could be living in a palace at this place in our life, or we could be running through the wilderness.  Beautiful sisters, remember that He is constantly these things to me, and to the woman next to you in line at the store, to your friends and family…and to you.  He is always and He is all the time.

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Let’s Pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, sometimes I forget that You are Here all the time, sometimes is easy to only reach out for You when times are bad, when I’m in the wilderness.  But David’s words remind me that You are an ‘always and all the time’ God.  And we need that reminder because life can get crazier than we can handle alone.  Lord, thank You for being a constant Refuge in the good and bad.  Thank You for being our Strength, our Rescuer, and our Rock.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

He Is Our Strength

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Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Psalm 81:1

It is the simplicity of this sentence that grabs my attention—a simple act that makes such a difference.  In life there have been countless times when God has proven His love for me, countless times when the only way I made it through a situation was by relying on God for my strength.

I look at what God for Jacob and for Israel.  I look at the battles won, the victories celebrated, and I know that the glory for those victories belongs to God.  He gives strength in the tough situations, He gives strength in day-to-day life…and everything in between.

Shouting for joy is a simple request compared to what He has accomplished in my life.  I’ll sing His praises to my kids, to my husband, to my friends and family.  I’ll thank and praise Him in my quiet time, when I’m driving, during soccer practice, while working, and whenever I can because it is in these times when His strength sustains me.  It’s in the everyday when His strength surpasses the weakness of my flesh.

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Let’s Pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, Lord, teach us how to sing Your praises! Thank You for accepting our songs and shouts, for reminding us that what we have to offer in thanks is good enough.  Thank You for the victories in the everyday and in the tough spots.  Your love gets us through it all.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Life Can Be an Idol

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Not to us, O Lord, not to us, But to Your name give glory
Because of Your loving kindness, because of Your truth.
Why should the nations say, “Where, now, is their God?”
But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands.
They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see;
They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell;
They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk;
They cannot make a sound with their throat.
Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them.
O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their Help and their Shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord; He is their Help and their Shield.
You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their Help and their Shield.
Psalms 115:1-11

“Their idols are silver and gold…” —and jobs and people, and money, and dreams, and aspirations, and things, simple things.  We place these things above our Heavenly Father; and we put a value on these things that we shouldn’t.  There are days when I ask myself where my cell phone is…but have I asked myself when the last time is that I prayed?  I wonder if my check is going to be on time…but was I on time when God nudged me to minister to that woman the other day?

This passage reminds me how easy it is to fall into the trap of letting life and all that it entails become our idol; and the trap of looking to other people and to other things to fill the void only the Lord our God can fill.  This Scripture also reminds me that through it all, He is still there—His loving-kindness, His truth. When we find ourselves focusing on other things around us, we need to step back and remember that He is our Help and our Shield; we trust in Him and not in the things of this world.

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Let’s Pray – Dear Heavenly Father, life has so many distractions that it is easy for us to place them higher in our life than we should.  Thank You for Your loving kindness, for Your grace, and mercy. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Who Do We Put Our Trust In?

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Praise the LORD!
Let all that I am praise the LORD.
I will praise the LORD as long as I live.
I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath.
Don’t put your confidence in powerful people;
there is no help for you there.
When they breathe their last, they return to the earth,
and all their plans die with them.
But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their Helper,
whose hope is in the LORD their God.
He made heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them.
He keeps every promise forever.
He gives justice to the oppressed
and food to the hungry.
The LORD frees the prisoners.
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are weighed down.
The LORD loves the godly.
The LORD protects the foreigners among us.
He cares for the orphans and widows,
but He frustrates the plans of the wicked.
The LORD will reign forever.
He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 146

I can say that I don’t recall reading these words before but, as I read them I thought to myself, who do you put your trust in? So many times our society places individuals on pedestals (I do it myself). These individuals can include celebrities, politicians, preachers and pastors, our significant others, family members, friends, anyone. We raise them up and then raise our expectations of them. We ask things of them that they cannot deliver. We think they can do no wrong and, when they do so, we find ourselves hurt. Why do I do this? Why do we do this? I’m honestly not sure, but we are reminded of something…

Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.
When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them.
Verses 3 and 4

They breathe a last breath…they are only human. I learned that thinking like this does a few things—it places unnecessary (and often unwanted) pressure on the person, and it takes away God’s glory. We place others in His position. This Scripture reminded me that we need to only place our confidence, our hearts, and our lives in One.  God.  He is our Helper, He is our hope, He is our peace, and He is the only One Who will never fail us.  As this scripture says

He keeps every promise forever.
Verse 6

This isn’t said to ruin relationships or break trusting connections; it is said to remind us that those around us are as human as we are, and when they will fail…they deserve grace and mercy. There is One who will never fail us, and that is our Heavenly Father.

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Let’s Pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, so often we take our eyes off of You and place others higher than we should.  Remind us and guide us to remember that out of everyone, You will never fail us, and You will never break the promises You’ve made.  Thank You for those who You have placed in our lives as role models, but it is You, Lord, who we need to put our trust in.  In Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.

His Faithfulness Continues….

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Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth!
Worship the LORD with gladness.
Come before Him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the LORD is God!
He made us, and we are His.
We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving;
go into His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the LORD is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and His faithfulness continues to each generation.
Psalm 100

I’ve heard this passage my entire life…in church, in songs, through preaching, and in regular conversation.  A wonderful thing about God’s Word is that with each reading, a passage can reveal something new.  It may seem as if you’re reading the words for the very first time—when in fact it may be the hundredth time.

This passage did the same for me this time.  As I read the words, the last line stood out.  I know that God’s Word speaks to you in your seasons; and in this season of being a mother I need as much guidance from God as I can get.  For those of us who are sending our children back to school, or off to work, or out in the world—whatever stage of life our children may be walking into—there can be a good deal of worry associated with the actions of our kids.  “…And His faithfulness continues to each generation” (verse 5).

This line alone makes me want to shout thanks to the Lord!  It reminds me that He will be equally as faithful to my children as He has been to me.  Sometimes when I’m reminded of His promises such as this one, all I can say is “God is good! The Lord is good!”  Simple words that say so much. His promise to myself and to my children is reason enough to live this passage on a daily basis…but He has done so much more than that.  He has done more than I could ever imagine.  I want to live these verses not because of what He has done in my life, but for who He is to the world.  He is faithful, He is loving, and for this I thank Him.

Let’s Pray: Lord, Your words bring peace…they bring joy…they bring security. Words could never truly honor You as You deserve; but, Lord, we promise to make the best effort we possibly can.  I pray these words are written on the hearts of all the women reading this, and that we live these words in good times and in bad.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.