Masterpiece

DSCN9532

We had another awesome time at Simonka this evening. The theme was “Celebrating You”, about what God thinks of the women at the shelter, through Jesus (hint: good things!).

Once again, the subject was perfect timing, as I needed to refocus and take a breather for myself after the divorce, changing my name everywhere (I hadn’t realized just how many places and accounts it would affect!), and the emotional impact of all that’s happened this past month.

None of my existing poems quite fit the theme, however, I was feeling tired and not at all sure about writing an uplifting poem when I myself felt so depleted. So I prayed and left it up to God to speak through me or not.

Before attempting to write, I first had to remind myself who I am in God’s eyes and then hopefully pour out my thanks to Him on paper. Reviewing an organized list of Bible verses that my counselor friends gave me a long time ago that’s simply entitled “Who You Are In Christ”, I chose a few that jumped out at me, and as usual, references to a few other scriptures also found their way into my writing. Not surprisingly, by the time the last line was typed, I was feeling more centered and re-energized! Here’s the poem:

“Masterpiece”

Even when I feel depleted,
God, I find myself in You.
In all, Your will is completed,
Your strength always pulls me through.
For I am Your child, joint heir,
loved daughter, saint, Your friend.
Joyfully, my all to You I bare,
though You know me beginning to end.
In my every coming and going
You anticipate each thought!
Grand mystery, how, all-knowing,
You bring good and rework the plot.
Masterpiece in the making,
unfinished and carried by love
to shine so there’s no mistaking
that my worth comes from above.
For all that I am and will be
is from You and for Your glory;
In You I’m forgiven and free,
so I’ll keep sharing my story.
For You call me Your own,
by Your sufficient grace I stand.
You empower this flesh and bone
to carry out what You’ve planned.
May I always see myself as You do:
A warrior clothed in victory.
Walking boldly ahead as You
celebrate and sing over me.

5-27-18
© Ladeena Ashley

After I shared my poem at Simonka, my friend began his message by commenting that my poem really set him up well. He was right! I chuckled to myself several times as he cited most of the same verses and points. I hadn’t seen his notes, but the Lord had, and lined things up nicely!

Here are some of the highlights:

We are joint heirs with Christ – by grace we are made righteous and will have eternal life in heaven! Romans 5:17

We are children of God – we are loved, guided, and disciplined. John 1:12

We are called to shine like stars in the sky – we’re empowered to share the joy of salvation. Philippians 5:15

We are God’s friend – we can talk to Him about anything. His Spirit works with us and gives us wisdom. John 15:15

We are His workmanship – God created you on purpose! Ephesians 2:10

We are clothed in victory – we have victory over sin and death! 1 Corinthians 15:57

God delights in us and sings over us – God thinks we’re pretty great! Zephaniah 3:17

It’s important to know our standing with God, through faith in Christ. It’s entirely different than how the world sees us, but ultimately, God’s opinion is the only one that matters. God loves us so much that He actually rejoices and sings over us! It is vital to keep that in mind during difficult seasons, to keep hope and joy alive. On the flip side, however, when things are going well, we must also remember from Whom those blessings come!

I hope this helps you remember how God sees you through Christ, and that you’re living like you believe it!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Undercurrent of Grace

20180424_125927

 

The Lord continually amazes me. Lately my life has been marked with deep pain and frustration – which I’ll share more about in a future post – yet God never fails to give me strength and grace to endure. God is good even when life feels terrible!

The message theme for this past Sunday evening at Simonka Place was frustration. The Lord has impeccable timing! I love how He gently teaches me so that, sometimes sooner than later, I will write down and pass along what I’ve learned. Sharing my experiences and encouraging others makes the trying times a little less so. Yet again, the Lord inspired me with another faith-affirming new poem to share:

“Undercurrent of Grace”

When frustration and pain weigh me down,
riles me up or causes me to frown,
I turn to You, Jesus, You lift me up,
You lighten my heart and refill my cup.
Caught in the swift undertow of my fear,
I just call out Your name and You draw near.
In short-sighted times when things fall apart,
I trust that You forever hold my heart.
Through every hardship, as I humbly seek Your face,
You carry me with an undercurrent of grace.
In the darkest moments when many fail,
You call me Your champion, and help me prevail.
Swept into new depths of hope and love,
eyes off of myself and reset up above.
Strengthened to faithfully follow Your lead,
for it’s all You ask; You’re all that I need.
Sure of what I hope for, my confidence in You;
Turning all things for good is what You do!
Lord, Your perfect love rewrites my story
so it shines the light of hope, for Your glory.
I trust You, Jesus, I lean into Your embrace,
content to be carried by Your transforming grace.

4-22-18
©Ladeena Ashley

Sources of Inspiration

Earlier on Sunday, during the morning sermon, the idea that most resonated with me was that God calls me His champion. That when troubles come into our lives, He has confidence that we can fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:12) and overcome by His power. As the phrase goes, if He brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it! He believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. As His beloved children, when we remain committed to His ways, we are carried by a grace that transforms our fear into faith and turns us from worriers into warriors!

Sunday school class also dovetailed neatly into this concept of overcoming. The only way to not only survive but thrive during hardships is to keep our eyes focused on Him instead of all that’s wrong in this world. That in particular, we could all watch a little less news and media in general, which seems increasingly negative and sensationalized, and spend more time reflecting on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8-9). Not that we poke our heads in the sand, but that we adjust our internal lens to view life from a godly perspective, instead of being emotionally tossed to and fro by every shocking headline or story. “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (Matthew 24:6) Instead of getting yanked into the undertow of fear, live your life in gentle surrender to the undercurrent of grace.

Some moments are more frustrating than others, but all the Lord asks is that we do our best to faithfully follow His lead. He will do the rest. Hold onto His promises, trust in His plan for you, then get in there and fight like the champion you are!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Delightful Details

DSCN9139
Perfectly fallen leaf in the sidewalk… I found it that way, honestly!

 

A good friend of mine tagged me on a Facebook post for a photo-a-day challenge, with a different theme or concept to capture and share each day. The post was by Operation TheraPic, an organization that promotes photography as therapy for veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other negative effects of their military service.

Photography is certainly therapeutic for me, and I’m all for supporting our armed forces, so enthusiastically I accepted the challenge. After all, I already notice things that most other folks walk right past, naturally living life every moment as a scavenger hunt for blessings of all kinds, in both abstract and visual realms. The beauty of God’s creation especially draws my attention, but I also enjoy contrasting the natural with man-made structures and items. Overall, to me the world is a wonderland of colors, shapes and patterns, every perfectly or uniquely placed bug, flower, leaf, shadow or reflection is like a little love note from the Lord.

Here is a poem I wrote while reveling in nature, and how it points to heaven, our true home:

“Pause”

All manner of shapes
combine in harmony
Heralding with flicker of leaves
and sun-dappled symphony
The splendor of what’s to come
once our souls dispense of earth,
Holy communion with the Creator
and consummation of our rebirth.

All manner of sounds
– Nature whispers God’s love
Rustling leaves like ocean waves
point to the Father above.

Gentle avian choruses
bursting into exuberant throngs
foreshadow the glorious melodies
of worshipful heavenly songs.

All manner of evidence
of God’s providence and grace,
given freely, with ample to share
when we pause and seek His face.

7-1-07
©Ladeena Ashley

It feels good to discover and document life’s beautiful details in pictures, but lately I’ve collected more images than I have composed my thoughts in words. As often happens when out shopping, while looking for one thing to grab, there are dozens of other things that catch my attention. I’ve already taken more pictures than usual this month!

Details are a blessing, but I also can get caught up in amazement while totally missing the bigger scene. It’s like a colorful connect-the-dots but I don’t see the whole page. Instead I notice a few tiny circles in groups like polka dots, while others are tie-dyed or form interesting patterns. I get lost in child-like wonder. On the flip side, when I am anxious, I often miss what is most important while fretting over the minutia of life. In either case I must step back, review the situation from the beginning and connect those dots in order to see the bigger picture. I’m getting better at being objective.

Dogged by details?
They say the devil’s in the details – life is definitely more challenging than we all thought it’d be when we were kids – but we can navigate them with God’s help! He created every last molecule of existence, His handiwork shows His love, He delights in sharing it with us (Psalm 19), plus He sees the beginning and the end of it all (Revelation 22:16). None of our problems are too small that God is not concerned, nor too big for Him to handle.

When we’re overwhelmed and dragged down by worries, we must stop and pray, casting those cares on the Lord (Psalm 55:22). At times we simply need to step back and and take a deep breath every once in a while to notice the blessings around us, so we can once again regain that sense of wonder, purpose and joy. When we connect the dots and see the big picture of grace, then we can more joyfully move ahead into whatever adventure the Lord has for us next!

For me, the best kind of details are in God’s Word, worship, fellowship with other believers, and enjoying His creation. As I delight myself in the Lord and look to Him, He gives countless blessings along the way that keep me smiling (Psalm 37:4)!

Hopefully the photos I share for the challenge are a blessing for others. I always look for life’s little blessings and then look for ways to share that encouragement and hope with others! I hope and pray the same for you.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Do A Happy Dance!

DSCN8047

 

Yesterday evening, while in search of a poem to share at Simonka, I came across a page of bits and pieces of poems I’d started a few years ago. Taking one of the longer ones, I proceeded to add, edit and scoot lines around until I had something that might be presentable and in alignment with the theme of the night: freedom in Christ.

I told the ladies at the shelter that God gives us many blessings in life, but the greatest is the blessing of freedom that we gain through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When I stop to think about it: that I’ve been truly set free from the power of sin, and that I have the Spirit of God Himself living in me, it gives me joy. We should be so excited about what God has done and is doing in our lives, that at times we could easily do a happy dance!

Here is the poem I cobbled together, that one of the friends I serve with jokingly called a “Frankenpoem”, due to the nature of its creation:

“Reign Dance”

Blessings, like raindrops, cascade from above.
My heart, soaked and singing, drips with His love.
Splashing through puddles without a care,
so happily drenched, no raincoat I wear.
Far beyond the silver-lined clouds above
the holy drops of forgiveness and love
fall in unending supply from the throne;
My salvation and peace are in Christ alone.
Gazing toward heaven, immersed in His grace:
Glorious freedom! For He took my place.
Trusting my Savior, who washed every stain,
I sway in sweet surrender to His reign.
Matching His steps so joyful and light,
following with confident hope so bright.
Dancing with abandon, cleansed and alive;
Grace flowing free, I daily grow and thrive.
His Spirit transforms me, I dance and sing,
praising Jesus, who is my everything!

2-18-18
©Ladeena Ashley

I hope and pray that you are as excited about your faith as I am! Sadly, the longer you’re a follower of Christ, the easier it is to lose spiritual vitality. Of course, the enemy of our souls would like nothing more than for all churches to be filled with a bunch of lukewarm believers who are complacent and therefore posing no real threat to his schemes. I pray that those who claim to be His followers are (or become) so on fire for the Lord that, when they get out of bed in the morning, the enemy says to himself, “Oh, no! They’re up!”

Through Christ, we have been set free! We must do all we can to avoid letting ourselves once again become slaves to one sin or another. We’re all works in progress, and for me, following Jesus is like a dance. Most of the time, the Lord and I move across the floor in tandem, but sometimes my timing is off. Or I’m tempted to try doing my own moves, hurting myself or others in the process. Or, heaven forbid, the song itself starts to become more important than my dance partner. Yet He patiently waits for me, and the music will go on as long as I have breath in my lungs.

The world needs to know that music! With every school shooting and act of violence in the world, it is painfully apparent how much the world is hurting. Millions of souls desperately need the hope and peace that only can be found in Christ – whether they know it or not! You may be the only Jesus someone sees, so share His love with others. Things are only getting crazier – the time is now.

Are you letting the Lord reign in your life?

If you are a Christ follower, you’ve been set free – do a happy dance and share your faith with others!

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:5

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Victory In The New Year!

DSCN4779Super Moon Through Droplets (Taken: May 6, 2012)

 

So, I’ve got a confession to make: Although I spent some of my December with family and friends, and participated in church activities, too much time was actually spent watching movies and playing games. Sadly and ironically, real meaningful moments with the Lord – the One whose birth we just celebrated – were diminished in the name of holiday vacation “down time”. My first priority must be my relationship with God. To grow closer and be more like Jesus every day. Yet lately my focus had shifted too often towards pursuing comfort and fun.

Some rest is expected this time of year (though it’s never a good idea to take a vacation from Him!), and I did give myself some grace as I continued working toward reconciliation with my husband within an especially awkward emotional climate. However, I could easily have spent more time with Jesus, who, as I’ve written before, loves and pursues us, and wants to spend time with each of us, too. When seeking my own desires, I’m not seeking His and not growing; therefore I have nothing to offer on this blog and can do nothing of eternal worth (John 15:5). That simply won’t do! So I prayed and wrote this poem to express my regrets and feelings about where I was at:

“New Year’s Battle”

Blithe comforts quickly become a jail cell.
It’s hard to resist; the devil knows me well.
Caught up in self-pity, I waste precious time
fretting over falling short of the sublime.
Distracted from fellowship to recount fears,
immobilized, in a haze of salty tears.
My Savior waits so patiently once more
for my gaze to shift from off the floor,
where my fleeting notions lie scattered
alongside pursuits that never mattered.
My life, simply an assortment of choices,
listening for His whisper amidst the loud voices.
Each day I’m fighting to hear and follow
– for Christ lives in me! I can face tomorrow.
Knowing He is there, and here, and always,
my heart is lifted in His love and grace.
Pulled from the mire by His mighty power
to battle another year, each day, each hour.
Shortcomings and failures transform to victory
as I receive His love, and see as He sees me.
Only by wisdom and strength from above
can I hope for the future and rest in His love.
Emboldened to move forward as He casts out fear,
trusting with each step, He’ll guide me this new year.

1-1-18
©Ladeena Ashley

We all stumble and get lost in our fears, failures and human reasoning. Good thing our Father is the God of second, third, and many more chances! (1 John 1:9) God is so good and faithful, and through Christ He calls us His own, and we can claim the victory over sin!

Though not a goal-oriented person, here and now I resolve to rekindle more focused time with the Lord, using a devotional book that I have in mind. The closer our relationship, the stronger His light in me, and the more folks who may be drawn closer to Him, even through this imperfect vessel.

I’m guessing that you have a similar goal, perhaps even as part of a longer list of New Year’s Resolutions. We all need to keep learning and growing in Christ, and to be more lovingly bold followers of His. Overall, I’m praying that 2018 brings a worldwide “spiritual shake-up” and a revival in that sees many more souls saved by the love, power and forgiveness of Jesus Christ! Get out there and shine His light, and as the saying goes: when necessary, use words!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Share the Greatest Gift!

DSCN7826
Just like that, two weeks have gone by since my last post. Amazing how time flies during the holiday season!

Several years ago I had fun using Christmas song titles within a poem. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed composing it!

“Christmas Poem”

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,
the reason for our holiday cheer.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,
and all through the land,
very few knew what God had planned.
O’ Holy Night, Silent Night it was,
when Emmanuel came to live among us.
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night,
they left after beholding the sight
of Angels, who were Heard on High,
as the star in the east led the magi.
Joy to the World! The Lord had come!
God gave to us His only Son.
Go, Tell it On the Mountain, or just to a friend
that Jesus came for all, God’s love to send.
Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful, let us rejoice,
with old songs and new, with one joyful voice!

11-9-96
©Ladeena Ashley

Jesus is the greatest GIFT that anyone can get, and unlike fruitcake, I’m happy to “re-gift” Him! My prayer is that all who celebrate the true meaning of Christmas will be PRESENT with others, and DECORATE others’ lives with His love by sharing the joy of our Savior’s birth and the hope He brings. May we all shine and twinkle with the LIGHT of the Spirit; dispelling the darkness and showing others the way to lasting peace beyond anything this world offers.

In this season of giving, I pray that more folks receive forgiveness and new life through Jesus. That people hear how the birth of Jesus Christ the Messiah fulfilled scriptures, setting the main stage for our ultimate redemption. How in fact His birth was not simply a quaint story or fairy tale, but that the King of kings and Lord of lords was born and placed in a manger in the most humble of circumstances. But most importantly, that He lived a sinless life here on earth before willingly giving it up on the cross for our sins, put in a tomb, and rose again on the third day.

In the nicest way possible, we should spread the less-than joyful truth that we all get to live forever, but we have free will to chose where: eternal life in heaven, or a tortured existence separated from God. Let’s share that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God offers us the greatest gift of all: the gift of a Savior who broke the chains of sin and death. For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Let’s share the true meaning of Christmas.

Do you understand and celebrate the real meaning of Christmas? If you haven’t yet received Jesus and trusted Him as your personal Savior, you are truly missing out! To accept the free gift of salvation, I invite you to pray something like this: “Father God, thank You for loving me. I believe that You sent Your Son Jesus to earth, and I believe He died on the cross and rose again, as a payment for my sins. I accept the gift of eternal life through Jesus, and ask You to help me to follow You the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

If you prayed and accepted God’s free gift, congratulations! I’m sure many of the same angels who sang in the skies over Bethlehem are rejoicing that another soul has escaped from death into new life with Him! If you don’t have a Bible, get yourself one, and find a Bible-believing place of worship where folks will help guide you on your new journey with Christ.

This Christmas, whether you’ve just accepted the gift of Jesus, or you’ve been a follower of Christ for many seasons, let us all share the true reason for the season with everyone we meet!

Merry Christmas!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Pining For A Happy Ending

DSCN9270
The Christmas season has officially begun, and I’m feeling a bit disjointed. This will be the third holiday season in waiting mode: living apart from a loved one while continuing to navigate new emotional territory in myself.

Those of you who don’t know me personally might have guessed by now that the relationship I’ve been writing about is indeed my marriage. My husband and I have been living separately for two and a half years. In the grand scheme of things, that span is barely a blip, but at times it seems like an eternity. This morning in Sunday school, we discussed patience and perseverance, and I’ve had plenty of practice with both! There is much that is unresolved and will take more time to work through, but God faithfully walks with me each day.

It seemed like a good time to reveal the nature of the relationship in progress, because I’d like to talk about Christmas movies – the cheesy romantic ones in particular. I’ve actually already watched several of them this season. For most who are living alone or struggling this time of year, the last thing they want to do is be reminded of what they’re missing, or that their situation is less than ideal. For me, however, it’s a pleasant distraction that offers a smidgen of hope that things can work out. Yes, I’m fully aware that it’s all just fluff, and real life is never fixed by a kiss under the mistletoe. Loose ends and troubles aren’t all neatly wrapped up in a big red bow within short time frames like they are in the movies. Real reconciliation and lasting love takes godly wisdom and tenacity.

No, I don’t rely solely on those sticky-sweet, unlikely story lines to give me hope. My hope is in Christ. When I’m feeling disjointed, I look to Him, trusting that He is active behind the scenes. None of this is a surprise to Him. In a way, each of us are in our own Christmas movie. Let me explain:

Many of the plot twists and story lines we find in chick flicks are similar to what happens with the Lord, such as the main characters disliking, ignoring or misunderstanding each other in the beginning. For instance, many folks these days celebrate Christmas while ignoring the reason behind it. Before we know God, we may not understand His character or believe what the Bible says about Him. Even once we do, we forget, or the antagonist of the story (the enemy of our souls) tries to convince us that God isn’t really as loving, trustworthy or perfect as His Word says He is. The angst and distrust between people make for interesting drama on TV, but in relation to God it’s a real spiritual battle.

Like a tentative couple in a movie, we walk snowy paths, spending time learning more about the Lord and getting to know who He is (minus the stolen smooches, of course!). Things go well, until complications arise and we wonder how this will all get sorted out. In the movies, it must happen within the final ten or fifteen minutes, but in our lives it may take hours, days, or even years, depending on how stubborn we are.

At some point, one of the characters often makes some grand or incredibly thoughtful romantic gesture to communicate their love. Of course, God already did that by sending Jesus to earth to die for our sins. It was the grandest gesture of all (Romans 5:8)!

In the end, with misgivings resolved and love professed and expressed in kind, the happy couple embraces, looking forward to a bright future of life together. Once we are reconciled through Christ by grace through faith, realizing and accepting God’s infinite love for us, there is a sense of wholeness, joy and peace as we are wrapped up in a spiritual embrace that assures the hope of eternal life (1 Peter 1:3-4).

How the Lord interacts with us is truly a holy romance. God has shown us His love in multiple ways; most amazingly by sending His Son, Jesus, to be born in Bethlehem, knowing He would eventually suffer and die on the cross in our place.

Here’s a poem I wrote in response to God’s pursuit of me:

“Holy Romance”

You have all eternity
to listen and care for me
Amazing love overflowing;
You wait so eagerly.
Who am I to deprive
my soul of all You give?
Holy romance of faith;
You’re the reason I live.
Longing for fellowship sweet;
help me leave all at Your feet.
Renew my mind, flood my heart.
Only in You am I complete.
May worldly chains be broken free
as You woo me by subtle charms;
Daily refreshing the Spirit in me,
’til in heaven, I run into Your arms.

4-18-03
©Ladeena Ashley

If you know the Lord, then you know how your story ends. Jesus rose from the grave so we could live forever with Him in perfect fellowship and love, in heaven. No cheesy Christmas movie can even begin to match that feeling. Until that day comes, we must keep looking to Him, trusting that all the broken parts are in His hands.

Sometimes I feel disjointed and often carried away by my emotions, but no matter how messed up life gets, or how drawn out the process, He ultimately holds my life together and all will work out the way it should, in His perfect timing. It’s taking a lot longer than two hours, but I’m okay with that because God walks with me and gives me strength (Philippians 1:6).

If you’re not sure how your story ends, look to God. He loves you, broken parts and all. Tell Him your misgivings, spend time with Him and trust Him with your life. Just don’t give up. Only God can truly fill that ache in your heart, and make you feel complete (Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 15:13).

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Do Not Lose Heart!

20170925_185614

“A Dandy Sunset” – September 25, 2017

 

I’ve been ruminating over what to write about next. There’s been so much animosity, sorrow and distress in the world lately: Hurricanes and flooding in the Gulf Coast. Raging wildfires here in the Northwest and elsewhere. Puerto Rico demolished by Hurricane Maria. Ongoing political dissension. Earthquakes in Mexico. The looming threat of nuclear war. The list goes on… there’s so much to pray about! With all that in addition to dealing with my own stress and physical issues, I really needed to slow down a bit and try to relax. Like millions of others, I’ve been experiencing what one might call “drama fatigue”, and just want to hear some good news for a change.

Then, just when I think we all might be able to take a (short) collective breath, another tragedy unfolds, this time in Las Vegas. When I overheard there was a mass shooting, at first I avoided the news. Later as I took in the full scale of what happened, my mind shifted to the big picture, thinking of the countless souls who don’t know the Lord, many of whom are reaching a tipping point in their lives. Just one more calamity, and they could suddenly tumble off of the mental and emotional cliff into despair, potentially becoming the next headline themselves. At each painful turn, the world’s need for the Lord becomes more apparent. They say evil wins when good people do nothing. It also wins for lack of hope.

This past week I’ve been torn between wanting to escape, trying not to think about anything, and yet at the same time, wanting so badly to go out and evangelize the world that so desperately needs to experience the love, HOPE, peace, joy and forgiveness that is only found in Jesus Christ!

So, what have I been doing? Praying A LOT, taking sanity breaks, and writing as I feel led; trusting that God uses my blog to help others lean in a positive direction, and perhaps put their trust in Him. As I go about my day, I still look for little ways to shine God’s love into my corner of the world. Though I’m not an expert in the field of psychology, and I’m not a certified counselor or a particularly gifted public speaker (which is okay, because after all, I have two ears and only one mouth!), what I can do is be quick to listen to others, slow to speak and slow to get angry (James 1:19-21). To rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), and offer hope.

As we pray for those going through hardships and pain, we can take comfort knowing that God cares for us and grieves with us. Yet He is still on His throne. He knew these things would happen, and somehow He will bring good from the bloodshed in Las Vegas.

Indeed, just as other events before it, humanity came together in extraordinary ways to help others in their time of crisis. In the days following the shooting, reports surfaced about several off-duty police officers, firefighters, and nurses who happened to be at or near the outdoor concert, and ended up tending to wounds and pulling the injured to safety. I believe it is no coincidence that those public servants were there. As horrific as it was, the death toll surely would have been higher had they not been there and willing to stay or put themselves in harm’s way when the bullets began flying. God is merciful (Isaiah 30:18).

As servants of Christ, in the midst of evil and loss, we must not become weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9), but keep fighting the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:12); merely resting when necessary so God can fill us back up. Heaven forbid that I myself should become too bone-weary or “drama fatigued” to write something positive for this blog! I’m learning to view and engage the folly and evil of this world only enough to know how to best pray and show others the way out of the dark. For our struggle isn’t against what we can see, but the enemy who is at work behind the scenes, in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:12). But our Lord is stronger! Our best weapon is prayer, our sword is God’s Word, and our motivation is love. And if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

As I’ve written before, the birth pains (disasters both natural and man-made) will continue until Jesus comes back, and no matter what happens, we know Who wins at the end of the story! Instead of fretting about what’s going wrong in the world, I am trusting that in some small way He is helping me to be a part of what’s going right.

As I stay focused on Jesus, leaning fully on Him, I’m filled with a contagious hope as the Spirit reminds me that He is with me, that God will work things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)!

Do you have a contagious hope?

Pray, listen, accept His love, and fall on His grace.
Then share that grace and love with others.
Hold onto your hope, for God is faithful (Hebrews 10:23)!
Don’t give up the fight!

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 & 16

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Dare To Be Different!

DSCN8252
Tulips – April 18, 2017

Last Sunday evening , on my way home from serving at Simonka House, I was chatting with a younger friend of mine. We were talking about being a light where you are, and being true to who you are and who God called you to be. We agreed that it’s difficult for many people not to go with the crowd. Without thinking, I said, “It’s hard to be a shining light if you’re too busy blending in with the dark.”

It is definitely hard to be different in this world, to stand up for what you believe. The world makes it easy to go down the wrong path. The road to destruction is wide, but narrow is the path that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). It isn’t easy being a Christ follower because living for Him goes against the flow of the world (Colossians 3:1-17).

Here is a new poem I wrote about daring to be different:

“Dare To Be different!”

God’s love through us reverses the tide,
goes against the flow of selfish pride.
We’re called to serve as His hands and feet,
showing compassion to all we meet.
Not by power, but by His Spirit alone
we follow His lead – our hearts are His throne!
Living for Him, we shine most brightly
giving up things once held so tightly;
To humbly walk the narrow way,
honoring Him through all that we say:
Speaking grace and truth, in equal parts,
lovingly engaging wayward hearts.
So dare to be different, let His light glow,
Dispel the darkness with the hope you know.
Dare to stand out, lead with truth and love,
pointing everyone to the Father above.

9-23-17
©Ladeena Ashley

As Christ followers, we obey God and not men (Acts 5:29), and some of our ways will seem strange to others. Hopefully, because of the outrageous love of God that we show, it will seem more intriguing than odd. For example: Success in the world’s eyes means “looking out for #1”. In God’s economy, success comes when we look out for others’ interests, often above our own (Philippians 2:3-5). As God works in and through us, His quiet power will shine brighter than the flashiest sports car, biggest gleaming trophy or glittering jewelry! If you’re smiling when the world says you shouldn’t be, that gets people’s attention.

Overall, living and sharing our faith takes a lot of prayer and humility. When we do engage others in tough topics, we can remain true to our faith and beliefs and still be loving about it. Many well-meaning Christians have preached (truth) more than they have shown love (grace), and turned people off (although these days, it seems that just appearing to have differing beliefs seems to offend some people). We must balance God’s truth with love. To love others as He loves us, the key is to abide in His love (spend time with and daily surrender to the Lord) everyday through quiet time, prayer and reading His Word. After all, it’s not really us who is doing the loving, but Christ in us! In our human strength and power, we can’t love the way God calls us to – only by His power can we love and serve the way we are commanded to in His Word (John 15:9-13; 2 Corinthians 3:5).

That being said, we should never back down from calling sin for what it is, and not candy-coat what God so clearly states in His Word. Sharing God’s truth with love, the ultimate goal must be salvation, not to convince others that we’re right and the way they are living is wrong. It’s not about being right, but about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. Our part is to humbly share. Whether they reject the message or not, it isn’t about us, for Jesus himself said people will hate us because of Him (Matthew 10:22). There will always be a few folks around us – even extended family members – who merely tolerate a Christian’s presence. Yet those are the souls who need our prayers the most!

Dare To Be Different!
Where there is hate, show love. Where there is anger, offer forgiveness. Where there is fighting, be a gentle force of peace. Where there is selfishness, show love and give sacrificially. Where there is hopelessness, show others there is indeed hope, and more love, peace, and joy than what they’ve experienced before, in Christ!

Pray, be available and watch how God moves when you dare to be different!

“..for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” Philippians 2:13-16a

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

My True Home

DSCN9075Yellow Rose (Thinking of Texas, Louisiana & Florida) – September 10, 2017

 

Last week I discovered that the house my husband and I had most recently rented was torn down. Driving over to the old neighborhood to check it out, my nostalgia turned to disbelief as I neared the corner where a house, huge willow tree, fence, ash tree and shop once stood. My eyes filled with tears, staring at the vacant lot which was now only dirt, gravel and a few stakes surrounded by a chain link fence. A large sign announced the townhouses to come.

It’s amazing how attached we all get to places and things. There’s a keen sense of loss when the familiar disappears, either by wrecking ball, fire, storm, or simply relocating. It feels like small pieces of ourselves and our memories go with it.

Yet, as a follower of Christ, I know this world is not my home. As the old song goes, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…”*. I am in fact an alien in this world (Philippians 3:20), because by His Spirit, the Lord has made His home in me (Ephesians 3:17)! Feeling a little wistful about things is okay, but my ultimate happiness and security do not hinge on where I live or what I have.

Wiped Clean
In a way, it is a blessing that the house we called home for seven years is gone. There were good and bad memories, and now the slate as well as the lot are wiped clean. It’s time to build something else. Something better.

Similarly, reconciliation is a long process that starts with a demolition of sorts. You have to break things down and get back to basics before you can begin to build again. The same is true for ending relationships and starting over, however I’m still praying and working toward healing and restoration. My life is continually under construction as the Master Builder works out His will in and through me!

True Home
I’m looking forward to what God has in store, both in life here on earth, and my true home in heaven that will never be demolished! Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you….” (John 14:1-4). In the King James Version of the Bible, it’s described as a mansion, but I’d be happy with a quaint country cottage, log cabin in the woods, or a cozy beach bungalow! Really, though, no matter what form it takes, just to be with Him in heaven will feel more like home than anywhere on earth!

Here is a poem I wrote about my true home:

“My Home”

At home with my Savior,
heart’s door open wide;
No fears or worries there,
for love and peace abide.
His will, my goal,
His love, my only need,
His guidance through all things,
my willing soul to lead.
I’m in God’s holy family,
trusting in His perfect plan;
Committing all to His control,
though I don’t understand.
But wisdom comes with patience;
Through the Spirit, with my sword,
I simply pray for contentment,
for my home is with the Lord.

6-6-93
©Ladeena Ashley

Where is your home? Where do you turn when what’s familiar goes away? As followers of Christ, we have hope for today as well as the glorious promise of heaven: eternal life with the Lord, where tears, loss and pain are no more. The hope of heaven that I carry in my heart lightens my spirit and gives me strength during the uncertainties and losses of life. Remembering how far I’ve come, I have joy knowing His plans for me are perfect and good (Psalm 18:30). Every step taken and every word written leads me closer to heaven, trusting that as I bear witness of His grace, by His power others may also experience that reassurance. I hope and pray that you have the hope of heaven that comes through personal belief in Jesus Christ.

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all of the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

Faith Notes
I love this song about our true home: Where I Belong – Building 429
Note: Link opens up in new window.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

 

*Credit: Albert E. Brumley ©Copyright 1938