Patience or Indifference?

20170406_125109Periwinkle – April 6, 2017

This evening, before eating dinner, it was a challenge for me to focus and pray. For some reason I’ve been in a bit of a funk. (I partially blame the dismal, drizzly weather, though it does make for some gorgeous raindrop-accented photos.) Not depressed, just not sensing God’s presence quite as much as I had been.

For one thing, all this waiting is taking its toll on me. One minute I’m full of faith and hope for reconciliation, and then in the next, I’m tired and ready to throw in the towel. When I last inquired of the Lord about continuing to wait, I sensed that I should indeed stay the course. It was a simple answer, and there’s a reassuring peace in knowing, but it is brutal just the same.

So tonight I thanked the Lord for my job and what I’d accomplished today, and for the meal. Then, out of my mild malaise, I asked Him to show me if there’s something I need to be doing differently, because I don’t want anything holding me back from His will in my life. Sensing that I should let my dinner cool just a few moments more, I opened my devotional book, “My Utmost For His Highest”, and read today’s entry.

God answered using the words of Oswald Chambers, who pointed out that there’s a difference between patience and indifference, and the key is to keep focused on the Lord as our source of inspiration and strength. That there will be seasons when we don’t hear anything (or very little) from the Lord, and we must endure like Jesus did when He was tempted in the wilderness. Thankfully I’m not in a “dry season”, but it does happen.

While waiting, there have been times that I’ve slipped from patience to indifference. Waiting is painful, and I’d rather not think about it! Yet I have all the fortitude I need, and more, in Jesus. Furthermore, there’s actually great value in struggling, for when all is well and I cease striving, it’s all too easy to become complacent in my faith. In fact, faith seems less necessary when life is good. Yes, we should be content with what we have, but there should also be a “holy discontent” that keeps nudging us from the good we enjoy and do, toward the even greater things He has waiting for us in the wings!

Here’s a prose poem about striving for God’s best:

“Greater Blooms”

Dancing in dandelions
Oblivious to roses of promise
Content with what we have.
Yet in the fields, God is calling
to reject the blithe comforts
– to long for greater blooms.
We cannot see for all the ochre
Happily we exist in present blessings.
Beyond the field is danger
Extending our hearts to break
or soar, enfolded in love’s wings
to land amidst magenta petals
yet now out of imagination’s eyes.
But God sees all and waits
to bless us once we’re ready
to take the risk to dream.

12-17-98
©Ladeena Ashley

I don’t know how things will play out, but God does, and therefore I will continue to wait. Not with indifference, but with a joyful expectation that grows as I humbly keep my eyes focused on Him! (Hebrews 12:1-2)

In Closing…
If life is going well for you, thank the Lord but don’t stop striving.

If you’re waiting on God for something, I pray you can wait with joy for His will to work out in His perfect timing.

Whatever you may be going through now, count your blessings you already have, and stay focused on Christ, because your answer is right around the corner!

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Grace and Transforming Power

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I had the distinct pleasure of helping minister to the ladies at Simonka Place last night. Once again, God showed up in a mighty way. I’d like to share some of my experiences with you.

Prep and Prayer
In preparation for my portion of the service, I needed to chose a song and a poem that would fit with the planned message. With so many choices, this is not easy. Even after praying for guidance it still stressed me out because I wanted so badly to be a good witness, and for everything to fit together perfectly. I caught myself acting as if it was up to me to encourage these women! Ultimately, however, I was reminded again that God is working and in control, and my service will accomplish whatever it’s supposed to. I’m simply along for the ride! Eventually I placed a handful of poems in a folder, and settled on one song.

At Simonka
Once at the shelter, we made conversation and I began to get ready. Pulling up the song I’d already chosen, another song kept playing in my head, so I cued up that one on my phone instead. Glancing through the poems in my folder, the first one seemed “right”.

After the opening prayer and an informal introduction, I shared how circumstances and bad choices can lead us away from God, but if we’re honest with ourselves and trust Him with the mess of our lives, He will turn it into something beautiful.

Here is the poem I read:

“Return to the Garden”

I met Jesus in the garden, hope blossoming free.
Lingering near the roses, He walked along with me.
Then I turned one moment – sweet nothings caught my eyes.
I was drawn away; the lion’s roar disguised.
Silently, my Savior reached out, but the wall was built.
Flower beds abandoned, the blooms began to wilt.
Years passed, I settled into a less than joyful haze
Until I realized I was out of His grace.
Through the darkness inside, I heard His quiet call.
Rising softly over the moss-draped wall.
Trusting in His mercy and forgiveness, I fought
Against the steely forces for the peace I sought.
By His Father’s power and love, down the wall came.
Vanquishing the enemy’s lies through Jesus’ name.
Once again among the roses, my heart set free
His gaze and warm embrace are love and life to me.
The fragrance of His holy love fills my weary soul.
As I live for the One who has made me whole.

3-13-02
©Ladeena Ashley

Faith Notes
The song I played for the group was “If We’re Honest” by Francesca Battistelli.
(Note: Link to opens in a new window.)

Though meant as a meditative time to simply listen, many of us sang along. It was so beautiful, softly singing with the music, listening to these souls so battered by life also lifting their voices to sing about the forgiveness and love of Christ! My hope and prayer for everyone I meet is that they each experience it for themselves.

Transformation
My friend’s message theme was: “There is nothing about our yesterday that will wipe out your tomorrow.” Unlike the world’s view that says our past performance is a good indicator of future success or failure, we can change through the transforming power of Jesus. The catch is, we have to let Him change us, because if we keep doing things the same way, we’re going to keep getting the same results.

God Sighting
I love connecting with people through song and word, but this time especially! Not long after the service concluded, one of the ladies came up to say that the song [chosen last-minute] gave her a special confirmation of something earlier that day.

Time and time again, God shows up when I step out in faith and courage, following His will the best I can. His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in my weakness! (2 Corinthians 12:9) In a world so filled with hate and confusion, I pray that you too share with others the hope, love and deep peace that can only be found in Christ!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

What Does Love Require?

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Hot on the heels of the fire storm of comments for and against certain celebrities and their expressed views about President-elect Donald Trump, equality, and a litany of other issues, a good friend of mine recently posed a thought-provoking question on Facebook. He asked if it is possible to make a point without hurting others. At the time, I responded by saying, “Only by making it a point to LOVE them!”.

The next morning, still pondering that idea, the theme of a powerful Bible study video segment by Andy Stanley began repeating in my head: “What does love require of me?” (a link to the video is below). No matter how strongly we feel about a particular subject, as followers of Christ we are called to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Him (2 Corinthians 10:5). The most important way that obedience and our love for the Lord plays out is by choosing, day in and day out and often moment by moment, that our ultimate response in every situation will come from a place of Godly love and from His perspective.

Here is a new poem that the Lord inspired me to write and which sprang out of those musings. If it speaks to you, please feel free to share this post!

“What Does Love Require?”

What is the loving response
– the most positive words to say?
Before opening our mouths to speak,
will it edify in some way?
Is your demeanor that of peace
or is there warfare in your soul?
Is your motive to encourage
or to defend, shame, or control?
Should you tactfully address a group
or just keep it one on one?
When and where and even IF
stops before damage is done.
Perhaps, energy channeled,
we’d do best not talking at all;
Humble actions speak volumes,
but foolish pride precedes a fall.
For the lasting impression
– the Jesus the world will see
are the words, deeds, and attitude
of the followers we claim to be.
The exact methods vary
– God grants wisdom to discern
when to share or hold our tongue
while remaining open to learn.
In each and every encounter
we can choose to hurt or inspire;
the question we should be asking is:
what does love require?

1-10-17
©Ladeena Ashley

I realize that this is all much easier said than done. Yet the Lord knows how hard it is to tame the tongue. In His Word, God tells us that although it is a small part of our body; with it we can share life-giving words but also can inflict great damage. James compares it to a bit in a horse’s mouth, a ship’s rudder, and the spark that has the power to ignite a raging forest fire if left unchecked (James 3:2-11).

However, we are not left to ourselves in this! God has promised that he will grant wisdom to all who ask (James 1:5; Proverbs 2:6), and nothing can separate us from the love we have in Christ (Romans 8:38). We just have to practice the habit of drawing from His bottomless well of wisdom and indescribable wide and deep love (Ephesians 3:16-21) that never fails!

So, what does love require of you? To share it through all situations!
Not just on Sunday, around “churchy people”, or on special occasions, but EVERY DAY!
You and I fail all the time, but He won’t give up on you (Isaiah 41:10), so keep trying!

God’s Word
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

“The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” – Galatians 5:14

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:36

“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

Extra Credit
Here is the link to the study I mentioned. It is a 42-minute video, but well worth a listen to delve even deeper into why it’s so often difficult to love others as we should.
Andy Stanley – Brand: New – What Love Requires
(Please note: link will open in new window on YouTube.)
Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Moving Forward While Waiting

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Happy New Year!
The new year has arrived, and with it a clean slate and the hope that this year we’ll all  finally “get it right”. Or at least be happier, healthier, prosperous….you fill in the rest.

This day is bittersweet for me because an important relationship remains in a state of limbo. In that part of my life, I am poised to…well…continue waiting.

Some seasons of waiting are of longer duration than others; it’s easy to grow discouraged when changes aren’t happening at the speed or in the manner we’d like. We must always remember that God’s ways are higher than ours; He will not be rushed! However, He will be with us, loving us through every second as we trust in Him. My own faith, strength, and courage were certainly tested in 2016, but many joys also lightened the load. I never stop growing and learning.

Here’s a poem I wrote about where my heart and head are at right now:

“Heavenly Lenses”

Pulled up once more by my bootstraps
–the Lord seems slow, but He’s never late.
Uneasy with unresolved issues,
nothing more to do but pray and wait.
Moving forward feels like standing still,
must make better use of my days:
Proactively pursuing God’s will
–surrendered more fully to His ways.
In moments like these, He is my strength,
when discouragement dulls my senses;
I cling to Jesus, reading His Word
to see through heavenly lenses.
For God’s wisdom surpasses all
that my human brain can comprehend.
Not knowing is the hardest part
–when it’s time for this season to end.
Til that day comes, I trust His plan,
lifting my hands in thankful prayer,
for though the future is unclear now,
I know that God is already there!

12-30-16
©Ladeena Ashley

Waiting Wisely and Well
Waiting is never easy. We’ve all been through periods when we’ve done all we can do, and now the ball is in someone else’s court. To keep my faith strong and my sanity (relatively) intact, the Lord has helped me use the time wisely. Proactive waiting, you might say.

Here’s a short list of what I’ve learned, and questions to ask:

  1. God knew this would happen
    (He loves you and you can trust His plan)
  2. It’s okay not knowing what will happen
    (it’s not like you’d predict any other time, either)
  3. What is the Lord teaching you through this?
    (about His character, yourself, and life)
  4. How can you improve yourself while waiting?
  5. How are you preparing for the possible outcomes?
    (pray — this does NOT mean worrying or obsessing)

Waiting doesn’t have to be full of stress, anxiety and discouragement. Use the time to reflect, regroup and, yes, rejoice! Praise God in advance for what He will do. Before you know it, the answer will come, the situation will change or the problem will work out. When the time comes, you can be more ready because you knew how best to wait!

God’s Word About Waiting…

“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” Isaiah 30:18, NIV

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love, rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” Psalm 33:20-22, NIV

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9, NIV

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31, ESV

Faith Notes
Here’s an awesome song that my heart sings every day!
Trust In You – Lauren Daigle
(Note: Link will open in new window.)

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

Frozen or Free?

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For some folks, this time of year is difficult. Hearts can feel as frozen and cold as the ground, and the crisp air can easily feel stinging instead of refreshing.

Several days ago, the northern Willamette Valley was graced with several inches of snow. It was beautiful, and still is; however the lingering cold front quickly turned a winter wonderland into dangerous conditions for travelers. It reminds me of a Christmastime in my not-so-distant past.

2003
My husband and I were visiting his family in Washington state for Christmas. It snowed while we were there. In fact, we were having so much fun with family members (some we rarely saw), that the decision was made to stay an extra day to romp in the deep snow. I remember talking with my father on the phone. He’d been especially vocal about wanting us to come back to Oregon and spend more time together. My dad was quite disappointed that we weren’t returning just yet; however we still ended the conversation on good terms.

About an hour into our journey home, Mom had called, asking me to phone when we arrived. We happily discovered that it had also snowed a bit there, so as I stood by our front door, looking at the other-worldly landscape, I called. She let me know that Dad had remained in bed all day, and had passed away peacefully in his sleep a few hours earlier. Mom had checked on him a few times before realizing the final time that he wasn’t breathing. This was three days after Christmas. Sadly, not everyone could make it to the funeral, due mostly to the hardened snow and ice that stubbornly coated the roads that whole week.

Thankfully, my father and I talked and spent time together during the months leading up to Christmas. He’d been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis (from inhaling fumes during a truck electrical fire) the previous year, and had been using oxygen for a few months, but it was still somewhat of a shock. Though I sort of regret not returning more quickly to see him for a few more moments, we had already talked things out the best we could, and I had shared my faith with him. We had made peace.

Sadly, some souls may not have had that privilege, and may muddle through the holidays with a palpable emptiness and bitter regrets. Many others try to ignore unresolved differences with estranged family or friends.

The good news is, we don’t have to live like that!

Hope & New Life
The gift of Christmas is for all time! Hope came in a manger, Jesus bore our sin and pain on the cross, and then the promise of a powerful new life sprang from the tomb!
Put another way, if we come to Him with hope and faith like a child, trusting that He knows and has taken on all of our sorrows and mistakes, then He creates beauty out of the ashes of our life!

No matter what you have been through, whom you have lost, or how badly you might feel things are messed up, there is ALWAYS hope, ALWAYS forgiveness and ALWAYS renewal available through Christ!

Forgiveness
If you have been hurt, just remember what Christ did for you. He endured pain and all kinds of temptations, ultimately taking the punishment for all of our screw-ups, on the cross. Our sins did not put Him there, but in awesome love, He willingly gave up His life for ours. Nothing anyone has done or could ever do will come close to that. We have forgiveness through Christ, so we must forgive others. Before we even come to the manger or “go tell it on the mountain” and offer praises, “if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you” (Mark 11:25).

If you get along with all of your family members, count yourself especially blessed! If that is not the case, do what you can to pursue reconciliation and patch things up. Just remember: In the end, you can only do what you can do. The rest is up to the Lord. We are each responsible for our own choices and ultimately accountable to Him.

In Summary…
All of us know folks who have lost loved ones. Show them extra patience and love.
If someone has hurt you, forgive them. (You’re really releasing yourself!)
If you hurt someone, ask for forgiveness. (Humble yourself by taking responsibility for your part.)
Like Jesus, they may reject us. Love them anyway. (1 John 4:11)
They may not accept forgiveness. Forgive them anyway. (Romans 12:20)
Don’t let the winter snow chill your heart. Let His love melt it and make a new start!

The greatest gift of Christmas is love.
Don’t wait! Claim it, embrace it and then double it by sharing it today!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

©Ladeena Ashley
2016 All Rights Reserved (content & blog photos)

Transformed Through Service

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“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Lately I’ve been thinking: why must there even be “the least of these”? While I understand it in the practical sense (being socially, emotionally or monetarily limited), something in me has always cringed a bit about that verse. Not so much out of regret – but because it’s just sad that in teaching His followers to serve others, Jesus had to acknowledge that such distinctions, labels or classes existed.

For myself, I’ve never subscribed to the hierarchical mentality, if you will. No one deserves to be pigeonholed, categorized or judged by their current station in life. It’s not only a waste of time, but also far too easy to make the wrong assumptions, which only lead to misunderstanding and dissension. Instead I simply respond to words, actions, and attitude; treating everyone as the souls they are: cherished and loved by their Creator. I ask questions and listen. While I may not fully understand what someone is going through, or where they’re coming from, God does. My job is to trust that He will lead me and give me the words to speak, sharing the hope I have in Him with all who ask (1 Peter 3:15).

Here’s a prose poem I wrote a long time ago, thinking about the needy among us…

“The Least of These”

They wipe off the food with
careful touches
Embarrassed to be seen with a
smudge
on their faces.
But I rub my coat sleeve
across my dirty face
Unable to find enough food to feed
my angry stomach.
I shuffle past the lively eateries
— The smell of a thousand herbs
fills my nostrils
If only someone would give me
something to
revive
my aching feet
Someone please care, give me
and others
something to hope for
something to live for.

5-12-94
©Ladeena Bell

True Service

We are all beloved souls wrapped in flesh, looking for love, hope and acceptance. In serving, we aren’t merely providing resources and help. On deeper levels, we are sharing our relationship with Christ through relationships with others: His hope shining into the darkest despair, His love healing broken hearts, and His truth exposing the lies that the enemy uses to keep the “least of these” believing that they are the “least of these”, and not the precious sons and daughters they truly are.

JOY

We all know: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), but I’m here to tell you that JOY (Jesus Others Yourself) itself indeed comes to vivid life when I serve! As I mentioned in my TRANSFORMED post, one of the ways I serve is by attending and helping facilitate the chapel time at Simonka House (women & children’s homeless shelter) once a month. There’s a song or two, a message, and a couple times I’ve shared my poems aloud. After our Spirit-filled time together, I feel positively giddy! As our group leaves, the guests and staff are always so appreciative, thanking us with frequent hugs that send us off with grins on our faces and thankful joy in our hearts.

The Bigger Picture

It truly is both humbling and invigorating to be used by God to bless others. Setting aside our own concerns to focus on the needs of others blesses us and helps keep life in perspective. In the bigger picture, serving also broadens and enriches our experience; building relationships that help pave the way for future ministry opportunities we can’t even imagine now. It’s a win-win-win!

Gifted To Serve

God has endowed each of us with a unique set of talents, skills, interests, and of course, material things, and He has a plan and purpose for them all. In fact every day should be lived to His glory as a form of worship, regarding ourselves as no better than anyone else (Romans 12:1,3). Some are called to distant countries, but most of us can love and serve wherever we are. God says in His Word that we should use what we’ve been given and network (Luke 16:9); leveraging it for the kingdom. It’s the best investment we can make. The best part is: we can’t out-give God. The more we give, the more His Spirit flows and we are transformed – and the world along with us.

Faith Notes

Here’s a “classic” song by Audio Adrenaline…
may we all be His Hands And Feet wherever we go.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Colossians 3:23

©Ladeena Ashley
2016 All Rights Reserved (blog content & photos)

Open The Floodgates!

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More than once, I’ve caught myself comparing my written offerings to those of others, wondering if my life experiences are enough to draw from and carry a blog. Every time, the Lord reminds me that it’s not what I have done in my life, but what Christ has done in me that matters. And He has done a lot!

Coping vs. Living

Growing up in a dysfunctional home, I learned to suppress my feelings, keep the peace, do what was expected and yet not expect much of life or others. This continued long into adulthood, mostly as a way to cope with relationship struggles and difficult circumstances. I also anesthetized myself with music, movies and other happy distractions. Dealing with things was safer than interacting with people. In a nutshell, the life I was living was not really living. Most of the time I was simply surviving.

The Gift of Being Present

Thankfully, the Lord often uses adversity to wake us up. During an extremely challenging season in my personal life these past two years, I had to step completely out of my comfort zone and trust God to lead me every step of what has been the most transforming, healing and rebuilding journey of my life. By His Spirit, God has truly opened the floodgates of my heart! My emotions, once but a trickle, are now a rippling river winding through my days. I’m still getting used to feeling things so strongly, and being vulnerable and “present”. Thankfully the joys usually outnumber the sorrows. In fact, several times I’ve been so filled with God’s love while thanking Him for friends and for how far He’s brought me, that happy tears spring from my eyes and I can’t help but praise Him!
 

Here’s a poem I wrote during one of many mini transitions; filled with thanksgiving and determination to stay close and keep following His lead.

“Heavenly Hug”

In the middle of a life that’s broken apart
You lifted me up and restored my heart.
Changes, though scary, needed to be done
to abide most fully in the light of the Son.
During this painful season, when many fall,
You strengthen me as I humbly call.
Great joy and freedom when all is at Your feet,
Carried daily by grace with a peace so sweet.
I’m swept up in Your holy embrace —
a heavenly hug that warms every space.
My soul finds rest in Your faithful love;
I’m moving forward with eyes set above.
Resolute to follow, leaning ever near
–Your still, small voice whispers in my ear.
Replacing lies and dysfunction with Your truth.
I’ve more than reclaimed the zeal of my youth!
My Savior and Lord, to You all praises be
— You hold my life together as I rediscover me.

2-9-16
© Ladeena Ashley

I pray that you also know, deep down in your soul, just how long and deep and wide God’s love is for you (Ephesians 3:18). That you can fall on His grace, be healed by His love, draw on His strength and be carried by His peace.

No matter what challenges we face, or what the world throws at us, we are strongest when we trust fully in He who holds the universe in His hands. If not even a sparrow falls without His knowledge (Matthew 10:29-30), how much more does He love you and me?! God doesn’t make mistakes, and His love never fails! Whatever you may be holding onto or holding back today, release it to Him. You won’t regret it!

Extra Credit

Here’s a song that never fails to move me to tears. I sing with it like a prayer to the Lord, because it describes exactly how I feel with Him.

When I’m With You – by Citizen Way   (link opens in a new window)
© Ladeena Ashley
2016 All Rights Reserved (content and blog photos)

You Are LOVED!

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We all get down at times. However, when life pulls you down so far that it’s a challenge or even seems impossible to get back up, you must reach out to others for help. It is awkward and scary. For some it could mean the difference between life and death.

Suicide Awareness

You may have heard that today, September 10, 2016, is Suicide Prevention Day, on both World and National levels. There are many sources for guidance out there, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I recommend that everyone take the time to read the information and resources on their website, and by all means, please share their number (1-800-273-TALK) with anyone who may be at risk.

Sadness: No One Is Immune

Like many folks, I’m no stranger to seasons of sadness and even mild forms of depression. Just two years ago, and about this time, I was super depressed and down on myself, mostly as a result of the hurt and negativity that rubbed off of a person close to me. After church one Sunday (yes, depression can happen there too!), while agonizing about staying for a barbecue, a friend mistook my indecision for simple exhaustion, joking that maybe I needed a truck to carry me to the potluck. I responded by saying that a truck would be nice; it could just run me over and put me out of my misery. Whoa. Normally I’d quickly dismiss such morbid thoughts (if I had them) before they ever made it out of my mouth, but those words tumbled out so easily that it surprised me. I realized in that instant that things were beyond what I alone could handle. After furtive prayers and no small amount of internal struggle, I sought the wise, loving and godly counsel of a couple at my church. Thankfully, it didn’t take terribly long to recover, because I made a conscious effort to go “all in” with them and with God, trusting them to guide me.

However, some wounds cut wide and deep; the pain extensive and much more difficult to heal. Emotional scars are the worst — without a doubt, the loss of self-worth is more devastating than even the physical pain of abuse. Many in such extreme need simply lack the resources, self-awareness and the incredible courage to speak up and take that first step toward healing. Sadly, most may not even feel they deserve it. Seen from a spiritual standpoint, it’s obvious that the enemy uses depression and the confusion of discord to hold souls captive, all the while convincing them that no one cares (1 Peter 5:8). Worse yet, the people around them may not recognize the warning signs, or are too uncomfortable to get involved. So don’t be afraid to ask if anyone you meet seems “down”. Perhaps you aren’t equipped to help, but you can bring in others who can come alongside them.

The Greatest Counselor

In problems great or small, God, through the Holy Spirit, is the greatest Counselor (John 14:16). At those times when the weight is too heavy, and we can’t even find the words to pray, the Spirit prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26)! When we seek His counsel, holding nothing back, we’ll always find hope, strength and more love than any human heart can possibly contain!

Several years ago, God inspired me to pen this piece of encouragement that helped me though a bad day. Please feel free to pass it along to anyone who may be having a difficult time and who could use a little extra lift in a positive direction!

“In the Lord”

When you are tired and weary,
REST in the Lord.
When you feel you can’t go on,
LEAN on the Lord.
When troubles weigh you down,
TAKE JOY in the Lord.
When all would seem to be lost,
TRUST in the Lord.
When others put you down,
When loneliness overwhelms you,
When everything goes wrong,
Whenever you feel discouraged,
hurt,
afraid,
taken advantage of,
shut out,
ignored,
betrayed,
abandoned,
KNOW, in the Lord’s kingdom,
YOU ARE LOVED!

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© Ladeena Ashley


Extra Credit (to the Lord!)

While composing this post, an awesome song was playing in my head. It lifts me up every time I hear it. Here’s the link: You Are Loved – by Stars Go Dim
Blessings to you, this day and always!

© Ladeena Ashley
2016 All Rights Reserved (blog content & photos)

The Power Of Our Words

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Words are powerful things, and must be wielded carefully! I pray before and while I’m writing every post that my words are completely directed by the Lord. Thankfully, He often gives me little reassurances through the words of a friend, a song, or a perfectly timed devotional. So I trust, even when what I write is a tad more direct and less “flowery”, that my words will not merely encourage but also inspire you and even challenge you.

Here’s a “free-word association”, in the truest sense of the… word! And, I still ended up rhyming, too, so it’s sort of a poem. Bonus!

“Words”

Say the word. Spell a word. Give the word. Write the word. Reword. Send word. Sound out a word. Words in pictures. Express in words. Choose your words wisely. Word of mouth. My word is my bond. I give my word. A picture is worth a thousand words. Use your words. Words of wisdom. Words on a page. Let a word slip. Hurtful words. Healing words. Words of hope. Sad beyond words. Sometimes there just are no words.
What’s the word? The word I love?
The written Word of my Lord above.
Words through all eternity.
Words can bring peace and unity.
Words can cut. Words can kill.
Words can lift others, joy to instill.
Words of life. Words of love.
Words sent from the Father above.
The Holy Word of God is my sword
and I use my words to praise Him.

© Ladeena Ashley

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Words Of Kindness

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “practice random acts of kindness”. It’s great, if done in His name, but it is also imperative to practice speaking words of kindness. Never has that been more important than on social media, where nowadays even a single careless or unkind comment can spark a fiery series of accusatory reactions. Usually it’s best to hold your (virtual) tongue and simply scroll past. It reminds me of the old adage: “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all”, which is good advice. So if you must comment, make sure it’s positive, loving, and sincere. Is your attitude less than humble at that moment? Just move along, partner. Better yet, close the page, walk away, and pray for that person. A wise friend once told me that it’s hard to be angry with someone as you’re praying for them! However, with the growing number of negative posts, you might be praying a lot; but that could really be a good thing!

Show Them God’s Love

Okay, here’s a tough one…what about people who are different than you, are making unhealthy choices, or whose lifestyle you don’t agree with?

The first thing to remember is: God loves them as much as He loves you. He doesn’t play favorites (Acts 10:34; Deuteronomy 10:17). No one is perfect. We all fall short of what God intends, just in different ways (Romans 3:23). Show mercy to them because God has shown mercy to you.

The second thing is: We shouldn’t expect that non-believers adhere to standards that don’t apply to them…yet. Let’s put it another way: Jesus didn’t say, “change and follow Me”, He simply said, “follow Me”, and in doing so, we are changed. In fact, the only folks we are allowed to judge are those within the believing community, those who claim to know Christ and who have agreed to His follow His ways. (1 Corinthians 5:12).

So by all means, show mercy and “love people into the faith” so to speak. You can share God’s love without necessarily condoning all they do. How? I do it by daily surrendering myself to God in humble prayer, acknowledging that I am His and can do nothing on my own (John 15:5), offering myself as His ambassador, committed to be His light in the dark places and to everyone I meet. By studying His Word and hiding it in my heart (Psalms 119:11), and by daily praying for opportunities. Also, I bear in mind that my part may be simply to plant or water; someone else may be harvesting later. Best of all, the outcome isn’t dependent on us! The Spirit does most of the work, giving the right words to say (Luke 12:12; 21:14-15), and helping guide them toward the hope that’s found in God through Jesus, the very Word of God! And His Word never returns empty (Isaiah 55:11)!

© Ladeena Ashley
2016 All Rights Reserved (main content & blog photos)

Extra Credit

For more reading about the power of words, I invite you to read James 3:1-12.

Below is a link to a collaborative song by Hawk Nelson and MercyMe. It’s been playing in my head lately, and fits this post perfectly!

YouTube link: Words – Hawk Nelson ft Bart Millard 

(Note: link will open up in a new window)