Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Favorite Things about "Back to the Manger"

I wanted to note my favorite memories about this year's Kids' Christmas Musical while they are still fresh on my mind:

On a personal note
  • My daddy got to be there! Many of you don't know my dad. He is disabled and hasn't be out and about much in the past few years, but God is doing new things and I was so excited that Daddy was able to be there on Sunday to see Jay and all of my Grace Kids. Actually, my dad is as smart, funny and talented as momma and loves the Lord so much; and I hope you all get a chance to get to know his better as time goes on. We appreciate your prayers for strength and grace for him each day. (Ironically, this is the first play momma has missed because she is serving as children's pastor in Gallatin!)
  • I was so proud of my "Jaybird"! In the past he has always had the play memorized, but I could never trust him with a big speaking part because I knew stage fright was likely to take over. This year was his year and I can see how he is growing up! What joy for this momma!

As Pastor Tonya:

  • I love that God calls people to serve him through children's ministry and I don't just mean kids. God calls adults through children's ministry too!
  • I am amazed at what a bunch of mostly 5-10 year olds can accomplish (we had a few 11 year olds sprinkled in there!). They really lived up to 1 Timothy 4.12. . ."Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young . . ." I was "sanctified proud"!
  • Getting to know the kids better and learning more about their individual personalities through our time together.
  • How just about 8 weeks ago Megan S was too shy to come to practice without momma and at 10:45 she "saved the day".
  • When Grace V said at practice that we should love ourselves as much as we love our neighbors.
  • Time to be around my sweet friend Larissa (it seems we only get to "hang out"' during Christmas play season, but she is one of my favorite people.)
  • A reminder that despite what the world says about parents, people really DO care about their kids and support them and sacrifice for them.
  • I'm jealous of Leah B and Amy T's sewing abilities, but so happy to have them around!
  • Proud of my former Grace Kids Patrick for being an amazing sound guy . . .all grown up.
  • Loving the idea of "costume changes". I'm sure the kids felt like "stars"!
  • Appreciated being able to have the program on Sunday morning which I'm sure made the kids feel extra special and allowed us to be ready to go without having to crash through Sunday afternoon set-up.
  • So grateful for all of our volunteer team!
  • Carson W was too cute doing those motions.
  • Can't wait for the little blond who loved be on stage during the handbells to be old enough to be in the "real" play - what spunk!
  • Glad that God works through cheesy "Back to the Future" themes and disco music!

Ready to see the DVDs! Hopefully they'll be available soon!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


This probably should've been Derek Hunter's post, but I'm stealing it!

DH and DW and I got to attend a preaching seminar at Trevecca last week. Thom Long (a fabulous preaching professor at a big deal seminary, with a lot of credentials behind his name) was the speaker for the day. I don't think any of us had heard him speak before (shame on us), but Mark was excited about going (Baby Peter messed up his plans, but I don't think he minded) so we were looking forward to it. We just didn't know what we were getting in to, would it be boring and too academic, lots of theological rhetoric? We were pleasantly surprised . . .

Have you ever seen someone who is doing exactly what they were made to do? I don't just mean "churchy" stuff . . .I mean David Phelps singing (okay, so that one's churchy most of the time), Michael Phelps swimming, or Lauren Garrow Clement talking about hair design? (I know that seems random, but I heard Lauren talking to a customer in her shop one day, and I thought "That is totally her sweet spot!")

Anyway, Thom Long was amazing! We were immediately entranced by his natural style that was so good and rich, yet not at all initimidating. His eyes light up when he speaks and he honestly looks 10 years younger when he's on the teaching about preaching- his sweet spot. I know this up close because we got to sit at his table at dinner. He was so kind and warm to all of us there. Very engaging (even after teaching all day!).

So (the point of this blog), in the course of dinner, Derek Hunter talked about the fact that he didn't grow up in church with all of the Sunday School stories and he felt a little behind the 8 ball in his sermon prep sometimes because of that. He wanted Dr. Long's thoughts on resources (Derek is an avid reader and learner.) Dr Long made several suggestions, then added that as you do your sermon preparation and take that down all of the roads it leads you, "It will be manna". It will be enough.

What a beautiful word picture! How refreshing and filling and satisfying to my soul. (He wasn't even talking to me! But truth is truth!) As we turn to God, he gives us enough. Whether we need encouragement, or wisdom, or learning, or grace; when God sends it, it is enough! It is manna!

When the Israelites weren't satisfied with their manna, God sent them a lot of "blessing" at one time and it became something loathesome to them. The same would be true for us. God gives us what we need as we need it. We must not whine and wail about life being better in "Egypt", but we have to lean hard on God knowing that he cares for us completely. Even when we can't understand why things happen (I had a with God about that myself this morning), we have to keep on trusting and keep on walking. God's mercies are new every morning and that is manna!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A new way of thinking

I was reading an article by Rob Bell the other day and he mentioned about how God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, but that it was hard to get Egypt out of the Israelites. The Israelites did not know what to do with their new-found freedom. They had always, only known slavery and taskmasters. They could not comprehend what it meant to be "carried on eagles’ wings" and brought to One who would love and treasure them. (Exodus 19.4-5) They thought that rules were all about keeping them oppressed, rather than God's commandments giving them life. They would have never dreamed of taking their worries and complaints to Pharaoh; so it never occurred to them that they could take their problems to God rather than grumbling among themselves. They had left Egypt, but it stuck with them.

In the Bible, allusions to Egypt and the life of slavery there are often equated with our lives of sinfulness before coming to faith in Jesus. Unfortunately, it is hard to get "Egypt" out of us too. God forgives us and makes us his very own children and yet we continue to "wallow" in our past. We don't comprehend what it means to be totally and unconditionally loved and so we strive to earn God's favor that doesn't need to be earned. We push against the rules rather than living in freedom to love and serve. We grumble and complain to each other instead of boldly approaching the throne of grace with confidence. (Hebrews 4.16)

God, help us to take our places as your children and to live in the fullness of your love!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Incomplete Perfectionist

I stole this from a friend, but it describes me too well! I was thinking I should rename the whole blog "The Incomplete Perfectionist", but I'll just stick with this one post. I should've realized this a while back when it hit me that I procrastinate about things that I can't do exactly right or don't have time to finish . . .

So, I'm learning to get over it and to do what I can when I can, knowing that God loves me even if I don't get to all of the big plans in my brain and that my friends will forgive my shortcomings. I am trying to learn that a small good deed is better than a big good intention. And I am trying to learn that a short, small, silly published blog post is better than the deep, theological one that may still be floating around in my brain.

And I'm going to leave it at that!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jesus love me

Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so . . .this is one of the earliest songs that some kids learn. For I while, I had Jeana Ruth singing it as my ringtone. Levi is singing it in the church nursery every week (along with a lot of other fun songs thanks to Mrs Denisa and First Steps in Worship). It seems to me that a love for Jesus comes easily for children who are taught about The One who loves them so much.

This makes me think that our job (as the church and as families) is not to get them to love Jesus so much as it is to nurture the love that has already been planted by God. Part of our task is to not squash or hinder God's owrk. I am reading the book Think Orange by Reggie Joiner and he talks about the powerful influence of church and family working together. (Like you can diet or you can exercise, but your best best is to do both!) Both the church and the family can point them to our amazing God!

So, for my role (representing the church) in the Grace Kids' lives my goal is to keep Jesus in the spotlight. I want to continually point them to a God who loves them more than they could possibly imagine and who has called them to be his children.

I encourage you (the family) to show your children unconditional love, to model honor and respect in your home and to leave them a legacy of faith (which is so much more important than an inheritance).

The wonderful thing is that God will enable all of us to do our parts. He doesn't expect us to be perfect . . .he knows we're just dust. And when we work together, we can help children continue to fall in love with our Great Big God!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Catching up!

Ok, so I fell off the blogging wagon for a few weeks! Isn't life like that sometimes? It's been a busy and exciting time from Palm Sunday and our Redemption presentation, through Holy Week to a glorious Easter and a fun spring break!

The Honor classes for parents and kids got off to a great start last night! Thanks to everyone who participated! I am looking forward to learning with and from you! I'd also love to hear about "honor" in action at your house.

Next week, I will jump back into our Sunday morning review from children's church even though we won't be tying that into Wednesday nights because of the Honor classes through May.

I am so excited that our new Sr Pastor will soon be packing to head this way. I have always had high regard for Mark Lindstrom since our college days and am looking forward to serving with him and under his leadership. I believe that God's has more great days in store for our church, and I feel so blessed to be a part of this church family!

I won't usually do this, but I would like to mention here today that we have several ministry opportunities available with the Grace Kids during Sundays and Wednesday nights. Some of our teachers have had some life changing events happen in the past few months, others have been teaching for a while, there are babies on the way, and I also like to give our teachers the summers off when possible. I need your help to do this! If you, or someone you know, might be interested in serving God by loving His kids, I would love to chat about the possibilities and get a ministry application into your hands. Also, please add this to your prayer list. It is vitally important that we have disciplers for our Grace Kids if they are going to "grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus" (2 Peter 3.18). For the right people, working with kids will revitalize and change your life!

Okay, I think I'm all caught up now!

Wait, one more thing . . .our Spring Family Camp-out is coming up May 14-16 at Davy Crockett State Park! This is a great weekend for families with kids of all ages. $15 per family covers all of your Saturday meals and other activities through the weekend. Some of our plans so far include kickball, a Scavenger hunt, our silly camp-out auction, and much more! Each family is responsible for their own campground fees. I will be happy to talk details with you if interested.

Okay, now I'm really done! Enjoy spring with your family! The things that have to get done (laundry, grass, dishes) will get done - make time for the important stuff!

You are loved!
Pastor Tonya

Monday, March 15, 2010

A big "but"

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow (Daniel 3) and they didn't care if the king gave them one more chance or 100 more chances, they weren't going to do it. They went so far as to say that God could save them from the king's big, scary, fiery furnace and that could've been enough to show their faith in God.

Then they took it one step further. Verse 18 says, "BUT even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Those boys had decided in their hearts what lines they would not cross and when the time came they stuck with God, because they knew he would stick with them! And he did!

I encourage you to talk with your kids about the lines they will not cross (lying, cheating, stealing, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, playing the choking game, or anything else friends may try to pressure, dare or sweet talk them into) . We mentioned it in children's church yesterday but, of course, I didn't have time to talk with each of them one-on one. You know best what temptations your kids are prone to.

But don't just dwell on the negatives. Remind your kids that God is with them even in hard times! He will care for him as they trust in him. Sometimes, we end up in lousy situations because of things we have done; sometimes bad things just happen. Either way, we all know that hard times are going to come and we're going to have to go "through the fire". The question is "Are you going by yourself?" or "Have you invited Jesus to come along with you?"

Parents, lead by example. Tell your kids of a time that God brought you through a hard time. You do NOT need to tell them all of your burdens, financial woes, or issues - let them be kids! But you can point out God's faithfulness.

Have you decided to follow Jesus no matter what? If you have, you can show your kids how to.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stand up for what's right no matter what

We are on a prophet binge in children's church . . .Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah, and this week Jeremiah. Jeremiah was called to follow God at a young age and he faced a lot of hard times, but he stuck with God and followed through on what God called him to do even when things got hard.

Our story this week was about how God gave Jeremiah a message which he wrote on a scroll to deliver to King Jehoiakim. But just like us sometimes, the king didn't want to hear what God had to say. He cut the scroll off with a knife and threw it in the fire, as if that would stop God's word from being right and true. We all know that God's word endures and God told Jeremiah to rewrite the scroll. Of course, God's words came true.

We know that God's way is the best way, it's up to us to choose to live his way even when it's not easy. Don't be wishy-washy. Like Mr. Miyagi said in Karate Kid, "walk left side, safe; walk right side, safe; walk middle, sooner or later, get squish just like grape." God wants us to choose, he doesn't want us to be middle of the road . . .that's just not safe! However, Psalm 33.18 says, "the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love."

Questions for discussion:
  • Parents, tell of a time when you had to stand up for what was right. How did it turn out? How did you know that God was with you?
  • What things can our family do to help us be strong when hard times come? How can we prepare for that?
  • If you're feeling a little creative, create a scroll (maybe pencils, some scotch tape and a strip of paper?) and write Psalm 33.18 on it for the family to learn together. Post it where everyone can see it or have someone "unroll the scroll" and be the leader at mealtimes.

We will continue our Jeremiah discussion tonight in Kids' Bible study! Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sharing God's awesome truth

This week's scripture came from Isaiah 6.1-8. In this passage, Isaiah sees a vision that shows him how pure, awesome, and holy God is. In God's presence, Isaiah recognizes his own sinfulness and confesses it, then he his forgiven. Finally, Isaiah is called to go and be a messenger of God's truth and he responds, "Here I am! Send me!"

Through Isaiah we learned that we need to:
Remember - that we have disobeyed
Repent - turn away from our sinfulness and turn toward God
Receive - God's love and forgiveness
Rejoice - in God's goodness
Take Responsibility - to go and share God's truth.

By the way, when I spent a few minutes talking about God's awesomeness, holiness, and purity in the children's church lesson - there was a "holy hush" that fell over the room. The children were all very still and respectful . . .you have taught them well!

Some questions for discussion:

  • Who are the people with whom our family can share God's truth?
  • What would be our own special ways of doing that? What gifts/talents do we have? What do we enjoy doing and how can we turn that into sharing God's message of love and forgiveness?
  • How can we rejoice in what God has done for us?
  • Are there things that we need to remember and repent of so that we can keep our relationship with God on track?

On Wednesday night, we will continue exploring this lesson on Isaiah and how we can be messengers of God's truth!

Have a great week! You are loved!

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm going to tell this week's story backwards . . .after children's church one of the kids came up to me and said that he wanted to get baptized, so I told him we should talk to his mom about it. She was there to pick him up and he went over to tell her while I got the rest of the kids off to Sunday School. When it was just the three of us in the Chapel foyer, Connor said that he wanted to get baptized and I asked him if he knew what that meant. He said something about getting your sins forgiven and living for Jesus. I then explained to him that we ask Jesus to forgive our sins first, then we get baptized to show our church family about our decision to follow Jesus.

We talked about what sin is, and how Jesus is the only one who can forgive our sins. Connor admitted that he has sinned (against mom, but not dad:-). I told him he could pray and ask God to forgive his sins and make him a child of God right then or he could wait and think about it. At first he said he wanted to wait, but then (on his own) he decided he was ready! Praise the Lord! We prayed, mom and I cried and heaven had a celebration! So you may be in for a baptism next Sunday!

Connor has been coming to Grace since he was a baby. When he was a shy toddler and wasn't too excited about mom leaving him in the nursery and two year old class, Mom was consistent (and those teachers loved him). Mom stuck with him and with the importance of him being in church. Over the years, it has been a joy to watch Connor grow. He's now a first grader and super involved with the Grace Kids! He loves to be here and he's a joy to have around!

Connor has seen his mom and dad be faithful, he's talked about God with them at home, he's heard them pray, he's seen them love and serve others in Jesus' name. Connor's parents would probably tell you that they're not perfect and they haven't done everything exactly right...but let me tell you what they have done right - They have loved Jesus and Connor has seen that!

What a perfect way to end a day where our children's church lesson was on Elijah and Elisha from 2 Kings 2.1-14. We acted out the story and learned that just as Elisha had learned to be a man of God by following Elijah, we can look for godly people to show us how to be people of God.

Of course, you are the number one person that your child is learning from! This will always be true. I also trust that there are others in their lives who are pointing them to Jesus and teaching them to serve, give, love, pray and read their Bibles; but YOU will always be the number one influencer of your children. Don't ever let "the world" tell you otherwise!

Here are some things to talk about this week as we continue to explore this story:

Read the scripture together and talk about what you learn from it.

Tell your children about the people who have helped you followed Jesus.

Ask the kids things that they have learned from you and others about following Jesus.

Remind the kids that other people are looking at their lives too and that they are not just followers, but they are also leaders who can point people to Jesus.

Here's one last interesting thought from Highlights Magazine: "Three out of four kids said that they get to spend enough time with their family, but about 25% would like more time. Slightly more children ages 9 to 12 want more time with their parents than kids ages 5 to 8."

Note that: Even though the your kids are growing up, they're not out-growing you!

Okay, enough of my ramblings! Keep on loving your kids and don't be afraid to talk with them about God stuff. They don't care if you know all the answers! Remember that your heavenly Father loves you perfectly and is more than willing to give wisdom if you ask!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Just doing my job

So I got pulled over by a Columbia policeman one day last week. As I turned out of the Walgreen parking lot, I was in the process of putting on my seat belt. I stopped at a red light and as soon as I started to move, he turned his lights on so I pulled over. When the officer walked up to the van, he introduced himself and asked if I knew why he had pulled me over.

I responded, "Because I didn't quite have that seat belt all of the way buckled when I pulled out of Walgreen?"

"Actually, you have a brake light out. I didn't notice your seat belt thing." Then almost as an afterthought, "But thank you for being honest. "

It didn't occur to me to be anything but honest and while he ran my license and registration info, I straightened up the front of the van a little bit.

When the officer came back, he was filling out his form (only a warning, thank goodness!) and asked where I worked. I told him Grace Church of the Nazarene and without missing a beat he said, "You guys do a really great Halloween thing over there. I bring my kids every year."

I thanked him for his kind words and for only giving me a warning. He explained that the paperwork would show that he had been doing his job to keep people safe, he didn't want anyone rear-ending me. Then he thanked me again for being honest about the seat belt situation, like that was really amazing or something.

All that to say, he didn't see me putting my seat belt on so if I'd never said a word it wouldn't have mattered and we still would've had our nice little conversation about Family Fall Fun Fest. But hopefully because I was honest, it made an impression on him about me - not as a pastor, or even a member of Grace Church but as a follower of Christ. This isn't about me, but what I'm getting at is: I don't do the things I do, act the way I act or go the places I go (or don't go) because I am a pastor, but because I am a follower of Christ and everywhere I go, whether I realize it or not, people are looking at my life to see Jesus.

That very kind officer was just doing his job that day and I was just doing mine - being a follow of Jesus. Are you doing yours?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


This week's lesson was on the story of David showing EXTREME kindness to Mephibosheth (ask your kids how to pronounce it if they were in children's church! :-). This story comes from 2 Samuel 9.1-13 and is an awesome example of what grace really is!

In comparison to what David's kindness meant for Mephibosheth, we learned about what God's grace means in our lives: we haven't done anything to deserve God's love, sin separates us from a pure and holy God, but God comes looking for us and loves us because of Jesus. God makes us a part of his family and gives us a home when we accept his gift.

We will continue exploring this story Wednesday night with more activities!

Some questions to discuss:

Why did David show such extreme kindness to Mephibosheth?
Where to you see God's grace in your life?
How can the kindness you show to others make a difference in their lives?

Your kids are awesome! I am glad to be a part of their lives and to be able to assist you in raising people of God!

You are loved,

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Little Disciples

Had to take a minute from a book I'm reading called "Walk With Me" by Hal Perkins to share with you an "aha" moment . . .

Have you ever thought of your kids as your disciples? Just as we are supposed to be disciples of Jesus - to walk the way he walked, and talk the way he talked - our kids are following us. How are you leading them? What are you teaching by the things you say, the way you react, how you spend your time? Wow! That's big!

The Grace Kids ministry team is here to help you as you endeavor to raise people of God . . .as you follow Jesus, go make disciples at home!


Monday, February 1, 2010

The Tower of Babel

This seems like an excellent tool to keep you updated on what the kids are learning in children's church and on Wednesday nights, so in addition to any random thoughts I post, you can check this out to get the conversation going with your kids about their Bible lessons! (We start a lesson/topic on Sunday morning and continue with activities on that same lesson on Wednesday nights . . .

This Sunday we will be looking at the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11.1-9. This is a great story that reminds us that we should do the things we do to bring attention to God, not ourselves. Sometimes we get so focused on things - good things, even things for God - that we leave him out of the picture. We don't ask for his help or guidance, and then we sit back and think about what a good job we've done. Yikes! When we do that, we've missed the point! God showed the people in the Bible story that they were nothing without him. Usually, when we feel like "nothing", it's because we've been trying to do things on our own.

Things to talk about:

How can we keep God as the center of all we do?
When someone gives us a compliment for a job "well done", how do we give glory to God?
Start each day with a prayer, for God to guide you.
Pick a verse, or part of a verse think about it when your brain is free - for ex. "Let them all praise the name of the Lord, for his name is very great" Psalm 148.13.