Unravel the Loopholes

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Look up – through the mess – and seek Him… Oct 9, 2017

 

God is so awesome! Once again, He gave me a new poem to share at Simonka Place on Friday evening. I finalized and printed it up only an hour before nervously reading it during chapel time at the women’s and children’s shelter. My new nickname could be “The 11th Hour Poet”! I’d been told that the message theme would be “justifying our actions”, but I waited until Friday afternoon to begin looking through my works for a poem to share. Nothing quite fit, so immediately I prayed, “Okay, Lord, do You have something special I can write for the ladies?” With a pencil and notebook at the ready, this is what He inspired me to write:

“Loopholes”

Lord, I get so tangled in myself
– every loophole becomes a noose,
cutting me off from Your truth,
trying to justify with an excuse.
Yet there’s no excuse I can make
that You cannot see right through;
Any loophole I identify
unravels in light of You.
Your Word cuts to the heart,
exposing the enemy’s lies;
The truth behind every “reason”,
each sidestep and disguise.
So in humble awe, I surrender
my faulty wisdom for Your grace.
Laying down my foolish pride
– running into Your embrace.
For You gaze right through me
even as You see me through;
I’m justified only by grace,
through faith, not what I do.
Thank You, Lord, for loving me
and for Your patience when I stumble.
May all the loopholes in my life
remain unraveled as I stay humble.

11-10-17
©Ladeena Ashley

To some degree or another, we all rationalize our actions. We are made in God’s image, so among other things, we have intellect, emotions, and a will, but because we also live in a fallen world, our clever minds can easily get us into trouble. I myself tend to over-think things or selfishly want my own way, more often than I’d like to admit. There are several loopholes or spiritual gray areas we’ve all used to justify our actions.

For many, one struggle is telling white lies. It seems like the most loving thing to do, but it actually isn’t loving at all. A white lie is still a lie. Yet there are gentle ways to tell the truth. I’m generally honest to a fault, so the challenge for me is to avoid stepping on toes through my matter-of-fact comments.

Some folks act as if they can hide things from God, or attempt to somehow outsmart Him. Those notions have never made sense to me. It’s silly to think that we can convince God that He’s wrong by using the seemingly sound reasoning and logic of the world. It is also dangerously foolish to cherry pick doctrine to serve our selfish purposes. The enemy delights in twisting the truth. By picking and choosing what we believe or turning it to justify our agenda, we’re playing right into his hand.

God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are infinitely higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). We can’t even begin to comprehend the full measure of His wisdom, or fathom the depths of His understanding (Isaiah 40:28). Basically, God is God, and we are not!

That being said, the Lord actually invites us to reason together with Him (Isaiah 1:18). He welcomes dialogue. Yell, scream or even shake your fist at God. He can take it. Just know that no matter your argument, He will win. Yet when you lose, you win, for in surrendering yourself, you gain His wisdom and a deeper understanding of His will and workings.

Once again, the crux of the problem is trust in self versus trust in God. The more you trust in His perfect will and infinite love for you, the wisest (though not the easiest) choice becomes clear: to pray and seek His will ahead of your own. The God of the universe has your best interests at heart and has the unlimited resources to accomplish great things, even out of our knotted-up messes.

So with humble hearts, let us seek the perfect wisdom He offers freely (James 1:5), daily committing to follow Him with no pretense and no agenda except to do our best, by His grace.

May all of our clever loopholes be replaced with threads of joyful obedience, in light of His goodness, wisdom and love!

Faith Notes
Here’s one of my favorite songs that fits the theme of this post:
What You Want – Tenth Avenue North

Wisdom of the Word
“For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’.” 1 Corinthians 3:19

“Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!” Isaiah 5:21

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Faithful Through the Flood

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Reflection on life – October 14, 2017

 

My heart is heavy today. Someone close to me is going through multiple struggles, and on the brink of giving up completely. Though I trust that God has a plan, and this dear one is just a step or two away from deliverance and victory, I also know that I cannot make decisions for them. So I wait and continue to pray that the powerful love of the Lord will become undeniably real, thwarting the enemy and exposing his lies.

Today I decided to distract myself by finally taking the time to type up some of my earliest poems. Most are handwritten in pencil, on pages pulled from an old three-subject spiral notebook that I had long since pulled apart to consolidate my keepsakes. It has been an interesting afternoon, glimpsing back into the thoughts and hopes of my younger self.

One poem I wrote as a teenager actually echoes some of how I feel today. While I don’t recall what exactly had been troubling me at the time (life at home was definitely no picnic, for one thing), I thank the Lord that just as He was faithful in the midst of an overwhelming flood of cares back then, He is still my source of strength, hope and peace in the midst of uncertainty today.

“The Flood”

A great many things
have been flooding my brain;
Each time nearly swept away
by the hard downpour of rain.
The residue that’s left behind
are my exposed feelings and fears
that I’ve buried deep beneath the dirt
only sunken deeper with my tears.
Too many things have happened
– I keep getting lost in a dream
Forgetting that it’s reality,
but knowing things aren’t how they seem.
I’m just so scared of the future,
though I know it’s all in God’s hands;
I keep wondering, “What if…?” too often,
for I know not God’s plans.
But I do know I can’t recall a time
when God wasn’t there for me.
So I’ll get through it all with Him,
no matter how bad things seem to be.

10-22-91
©Ladeena Ashley

When you feel like you’re drowning and there are just no more words, cry out to God. Look to the heavens and simply pray “help me, Lord!”. He loves you and He is listening! In fact, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, expressing the deepest cries of our hearts (Romans 8:26). When we are at the end of ourselves, it may be the beginning of something miraculous through Him!

No matter how big or small the flood, lean fully on God – as He has carried me, He will carry you! You are NOT alone!

Faith Notes
We can trust God in the Eye of the Storm! This is a great song by Ryan Stevenson.
(Note: Link will open in a new window.)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

God Is Good All the Time!

20170914_182822Cyclamen – September 14, 2017

 

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I’ve been thinking about this verse lately. Specifically, about how hard it can be sometimes to give thanks and worship God in all circumstances, especially with all that’s going on in the world these days. Sadly, less people seem to seek God, let alone worship Him. It’s become more difficult to rejoice and be thankful.

Why does the Lord ask us to do something that sounds nearly impossible at times? It’s a part of God’s command to love Him (Matthew 22:37), not just because He deserves it, but because He loves us so much, He knows what’s best for us, and by His grace He makes it possible. For me, maintaining a thankful heart keeps my mind from dwelling on any present hardship and instead focuses it on His indescribable love and grace. Hope lingers and grows as I recall how He has brought me through similar circumstances in the past. I don’t always know what I’m doing, God does, and by His grace He’ll continue carrying me into the future. So I rejoice and worship!

There’s really nothing else on earth quite like the deep peace and overwhelming love I experience in worshipful prayer: the eyes of my heart looking heavenward and my soul laid bare before my creator, with full trust in God’s care for me. His Spirit removes each thorn of sin as I confess it, replacing every ache with an inner strength and a sense of wholeness that is hard to explain. I am filled with gratitude for all He has done for me, in me and through me!

Here’s a little poem I wrote after a particularly uplifting time of prayer led to praise:

“A Peace of Praise”

Praise the Lord Jesus Christ forever!
The earth and everything in it are His.
I am His child
I am His unfinished masterpiece
I am His gem
I praise my Lord, my King, my Savior.
Peace comes like a wave;
All doubts, fears, anger, pain
disappear.
I can truly say
there’s nothing on my mind,
there’s nothing wrong,
because my Lord Jesus is on the throne
Peace will ever be my song
Forever!

7-6-94
©Ladeena Ashley

A Thankful Heart
Worship truly is the natural out-flowing of a thankful heart. The more I praise Him for what I have, the more I realize just how good He is to me, and in turn how good He is overall. Yet worship in its purest form is praising God for Who He is, not just what He does. Only out of full surrender and the deepest trust can I say “God is good” even when my circumstances are not.

Made For Worship
God thoughtfully created us to glorify and to worship Him (Psalm 8:4-6; Isaiah 43:7). We are made in His image, meaning that we each have emotions, thoughts and a will. As a result, sometimes we suffer when people exercise their free will by inflicting harm on others, or because we live in a fallen world and on a planet that is constantly shifting. Yet, the hurt, doubt and fear we feel do not make God any less worthy of worship. No, He is perfect in all of His ways, and His love for us never fails (Psalm 136:1).

How easily we’re able to rejoice and worship the Lord, particularly in difficult situations, reveals how deeply we know and trust the God we say we believe and follow. Only by daily acknowledging our need for Him in prayer and trusting that He truly is who He says He is, can we avoid living like mere “fair weather Christians”. My prayer for you and believers around the world is that you will trust Christ with your whole heart, and keep praying and praising every day, even if He doesn’t take away your burden or rescue you from every trouble.

My relationship with Jesus Christ is the firm foundation of my life. He lightens the load and lifts my spirits as I surrender my cares to Him (Psalm 55:22). He will do that for you, too, if you let Him!

Faith Notes
Even If – by Mercy Me is a powerful song that speaks of praising God in all situations, and being able to say (or sing!) “it is well with my soul” even in the midst of struggles.
(Note: Link will open up in new window.)

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Do Not Lose Heart!

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“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)

Declaration of Dependence

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Nature’s fireworks! May 17, 2017

 

I have mixed feelings about Independence Day. Two years ago, on a sweltering July day, it became obvious that I needed to make a change by stepping away from an increasingly emotionally and mentally abusive relationship. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. Thankfully, the Lord had been preparing me for it, helping me steadily rebuild my faith and reclaim my identity in Him, so when the moment came I was strong enough to take action.

This poem is a declaration of dependence, of sorts. Written only weeks before that pivotal day, it is a prayer of joyful trust and commitment to follow the Lord wherever He led.

“Uncharted Faith, Grateful Hope”

As far as I can go,
I come, my all to bare;
Hands open, ready to receive
any guidance that You share.
Beyond my understanding,
to uncharted faith so wild.
Boldly trusting You’ll lead me
when I ask, for I’m Your child.
Beloved because of mercy,
going forth only by grace;
Filled anew with grateful hope
each day as I seek Your face.
For indeed, when I come humbly
to offer this meager frame,
My heart is light and free –
You love me and know me by name!
I could not flee from Your presence,
though I’ve fallen short of Your will.
Forgiveness covers shortcomings
– Jesus fully paid my bill.
So I reach out in trust and awe,
setting aside my every fear;
Strengthened, knowing through it all,
when I come, You meet me here.
Thank You, Lord, for loving me
– I pray my life honors You.
So that others can’t help but see
Your goodness in all I do.

6-14-15
©Ladeena Ashley

There is still no clear resolution in my situation, but the Lord has brought me this far, so I continue to follow His direction each step of the way. Meanwhile, He helps me keep growing, serving and sharing His love any way I can.

My faith is strong because God has an impeccable track record. Since deciding to trust the Lord and give Him my life at the age of 13, He has never let me down. I may suffer consequences from bad decisions, but through Christ my sins are forgiven, and His strength and peace have carried me through more tough times than I can count. I’ve learned that I can always depend on Him, and good things come to those who fully trust Him and obey His Word.

So, today I pray that you claim the true life and liberty that is found in trusting Christ! (John 17:3; John 8:36)

Daily declare your dependence on God; then He can fill up your heart so it bursts with shining hope and joy, like fireworks in the darkness of this world!

“Be strong, and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24

If you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship, don’t be ashamed to seek wise, godly counsel and support to either attempt to improve the situation or get out of it. Each circumstance is different. For confidential advice and resources, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).



Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Peace in the Midst of Change

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Double Delight rose – May 23, 2017

Besides death and taxes, to many it seems the only other sure thing in life is change. It is inevitable. Seasons change. Hairstyles and clothing styles change. We change jobs, begin and end relationships, let go of or lose possessions. Our bodies and habits change as we get older…the list goes on.

However, as a follower of Christ, I find deep reassurance in knowing that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and that the God of the universe is the infinite, perfect and unchanging source of love, hope, peace and joy.

For me, there is great comfort in knowing that I don’t serve a fickle God who says one thing one moment, then amends it the next. If God changed, that would imply that He could somehow improve or be worse. In that case, He would hardly be worthy of following. No, He is complete and perfect in all His ways, and always will be. He, His Word and His promises stand forever. Incredible peace is found when a soul accepts deep down that God is Who He says He is, and they can trust Him to follow through on what He says He will do. If the Lord seems to change at times, it is merely one of the side-effects of living in a fallen world and the limited human perspective from which we view our circumstances.

Here’s a poem I wrote about the changing of the seasons, and how having the Lord as a constant companion through each transition inspires me to stay devoted to Him, in turn, through whatever changes come in life:

“God Of All Seasons”

Through all seasons, He’s the reason
we can more than cope;
So rejoice and sing, for our King
has given us ultimate hope!
In ice and snow, the love we know
will never lose its power;
God sustains through sun and rain
to strengthen us each hour.
Warmth in winter, a cooling spring
to allay the summer heat;
He’s everything for those who trust Him
to make their joy complete.
From first to last, the future and past
are under His control;
His love and grace fill every place
to mend each troubled soul.
Fall leaves change, we think it strange
to see night drop so soon;
Yet God’s the same in love and name
in December as well as June.
God of all the seasons,
forever, Lord, help me be
ever faithful through all weather
as You shine Your love through me.

10-16-99
©Ladeena Ashley

Son Shine
As summer begins, I’m much more apt to head outside, either on foot or on my bicycle. There are more opportunities to interact with people who don’t know the faithful God I serve. My prayer is that as we all get out and enjoy the sun, we always remember to shine the love of the Son to all we meet. The world is in an ever-increasing state of flux, seemingly spinning more and more out of control every day. All the more reason to share Who keeps our lives centered and even joyful in the midst of the chaos.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Extra Credit
Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6a

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

You Can Be Healed!

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We all need healing at many points in our lives. For some it is physical, for others it is emotional, mental or spiritual. When we cry out to God to alleviate the hurt, pain and struggles, we must come with faith and expectant hope that He is listening and will answer us (James 1:6). We also need to confess any sins and forgive others (and ourselves!) before we can ask for healing (Mark 11:24-25).

Sometimes we are miraculously healed the moment we place our request at the Lord’s feet, but because He knows us fully and responds to the deepest cries of our hearts, restoration may not be in the manner we expect. Other times we must participate daily in the healing process. A prayer of surrender may merely be the first step toward a long journey of slow but steady healing as He walks us through the necessary changes, often bringing caring people into our lives to help keep us accountable.

Prayer and Poem
Last night at Simonka House, we held a special healing service for the homeless women. Knowing that I’d likely be called upon to pray with them (I’m uncomfortable praying out loud with others, but working on it), I had prayed beforehand that He would “get me out of the way” and use this imperfect vessel as He saw fit. The Lord answered my prayer, in part, by giving me a new poem, which I shared. Here’s what I wrote:

“Current Of Grace”

God’s calling from the other side,
across the river of belief,
where healing waters flow swift and wide,
washing away the hurt and grief.
Not to worry if you can’t swim
– just let your fears go under;
Safest place is to be with Him,
immersed in hope and wonder.
Surrender to the current of grace;
Only His love can make you whole.
Arms open – lift up your face
and let the flood restore your soul.
Until finally you float ashore
and joyfully meet His gaze.
Complete in Christ, you’ll want no more
than to overflow with praise!
So take the first step to healing
God will meet you where you are;
The joy the enemy’s been stealing
will come to you, near or far.
Take the plunge, no hesitation!
Be renewed by the deep river
that flows without reservation
from the Great Physician and Life Giver.

6-9-17
©Ladeena Ashley

God Showed Up
Joining the team in the front of the chapel room was not easy for me, but while anointing and praying one-on-one with the women, the Spirit moved powerfully! It was especially meaningful when a couple of the women asked for deliverance from depression and anxiety. Having experience with that myself, I related on a deeper level and prayed with more passion and authority in public than I ever had before! One more way God uses the negatives in our lives for good! (Romans 8:28)

My Journey
Looking back over these past two years, I’ve experienced almost overnight spiritual healing, and others have noticed the amazing personal transformation in my life. Emotional healing takes longer, but the Lord has been faithful and will continue walking with me every day as I lean fully into Him.

Victory!
Another area of steady healing for me has been financial. In fact this week, after languishing under a dismal cloud of debt for most of my adult life, I can now say that I am debt free! I praise the Lord every day for the wisdom, faith and resourceful strength to endure those hard times and emerge victorious!

In Closing
God loves you so much, and longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18). Whatever you may need healing for, take the plunge into His Living Water! Don’t simply stick a toe in the current of grace, or you won’t experience all that God has for you! Surrender fully to His love today and your fears and hurt will be swept away! (Ha! That rhymes!)

Faith Notes
This song by one of my favorite artists fits well with today’s theme:
Jordan Feliz – “The River” (Note: Link will open in new window.)

“Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to His anointed. He answers him from His heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:6-7

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Resolute To Overcome!

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Often God uses ordinary things to encourage and inspire us. Years ago, I experienced a seemingly insignificant moment that has stuck with me ever since.

One morning, as I was driving over a bridge and past the docks in a Seattle area inlet, one of the large boats caught my eye. It was of average color, and no more amply endowed with equipment as the other fishing and crabbing vessels nearby. What drew my attention was its name, cleanly and boldly displayed in a strong Times New Roman or similar typeface on one end of the ship: RESOLUTE.

The ship’s moniker could have been chosen to make clear the stalwart determination of the captain and the tenacity of the crew in overcoming squalls and angry waves to fill the holding tanks, surviving season after season of sleep deprivation and aching muscles. Providing food for the masses while making enough profit so that the sacrifices are worth it. Or perhaps the name was a reminder of victory over a personal challenge, and to sail onward in hope and strength through whatever comes, knowing after making it through that, they can survive just about anything.

What It Means To Me
Resolute to me is simply another way of saying that one is committed, sure, purposeful, steady, persistent, immovable, “all-in”, faithful, often with a steely determination, and usually related to a belief or decision. Holding on and not wavering from one’s prescribed path. Never giving up.

To say someone is resolute carries with it a deep element of courage and strength. At its best, being resolute means holding true to my belief or decision, remaining undeterred even in the face of great obstacles. At its worst, it is stubborn and unyielding. Knowing when and if to quit trying, pursuing, and so forth isn’t always easy. Also, unfortunately, we can be resolute for the wrong reason, or hurt others by not speaking the truth in love.

Being resolute looks different for everyone, and varies according to circumstances. It can be quietly steadfast, stoic, even gritting our teeth against unimaginable pain. In competition, it is bursting with excitement, every muscle poised to carry out the strategy, determined to conquer or win. It can be light and hopeful, reaching for goals such as New Year’s resolutions with a positive outlook, committed to bettering our lives.

Side Note
The word “resolute” isn’t used as often as its cousins “resolution” and “resolve”; it seems to have fallen out of favor, especially in this growing age of moral relativism. Making decisions and sticking to them is dangerous at times. Not everyone will like what we do. But that’s another post!

Happily Resolute
For me, I am happily resolute, though the waters have not always been as calm as those in the picture above. Yet it is for that very reason, having survived several of life’s storms and coming out stronger, that I can’t help but thank the Lord for His transforming grace, love, and mercy in my life. God’s faithfulness helps me remain resolute as I look to the future with much peace and hope, joyfully trusting Him to continue leading. That is the feeling that “hooked me” when I first spied that ship, and what still steers my course today. Here’s a poem I wrote about being resolute:

“Resolute”

Such uncertain future,
but sure of His deep love.
Peace lifts my tired soul
as I fully gaze above.
When flood waters rise
I’m tempted to shrink back,
but I trust in His provision
for the things that we lack.
Recalling past blessings
in the face of great need;
The belief that survives
is the one that I feed.
I look forward in faith,
clinging to the hope I find
midst the fierce storm
and the battle in my mind.
Through prayer and Word
God’s strength will sustain
to weather life’s torrents,
resolute through the rain.

3-11-12
©Ladeena Ashley

Over the years since that first sighting in Washington, whenever crossing that bridge I would scan the docks for that boat, and smile. Though no longer residing in that part of the Pacific Northwest, whenever I catch a glimpse of a boat, the memory and the encouragement remain.

May this post encourage you to be more resolute in trusting the Lord through life’s storms. He may not rescue you from them, but He has promised to always be with you through them. The struggles may last longer than our own strength can get us past, and we may stumble, but as long as we keep getting back up, keep trying, and claiming God’s promises, we can overcome the impossible.

Faith Notes
Speaking of overcoming, check out this awesome song:
Overcomer – by Mandisa
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God’s Word On Resolute

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“…In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Be strong and courageous! Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:9
Run so as to win the race! 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Inwardly we are being renewed day by day! 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58
We will reap a harvest if we don’t give up! Galatians 6:9

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

Be TRANSFORMED!

 

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In my last post, I spoke of being transformed by the grace of God. Recently the focus at my church has also been on that very topic (God is on the move!). Certainly, with world events unfolding as they have been, the need for personal transformation is more imperative now than ever. If we’re to have any lasting impact on our world, we all need to be transformed daily into the likeness of Jesus. In fact, for some we may be the only Jesus they see.

In looking back on my own journey, pondering and praying about how it happened, I felt led to share the progression more specifically with you. God inspired me to list out the main areas of growth, strength or change in the form of an acronym, using the word “transformed”. I hope and pray that these thoughts will inspire and help you grow in your own journey of transformation.

Trust Jesus – Although I trust in Him for salvation, it is only the start. True trust means trusting completely that Christ is who He says He is, and that day in and day out, we choose His ways over ours. To do that, every one of the enemy’s lies must be replaced with the truth of God’s Word. For instance, when I’m tempted to focus on my shortcomings or succumb to fears about the future, the Lord reminds me that I am His beloved child and His plans are good for me (Jeremiah 29:11)! For me, one of the most simple but powerful words to pray are: “Lord, I trust You.”

Repent & Pray – Many things can hold us back from being that “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1), and become idols or stumbling blocks to transformation. For me, it is too easy to plop down in front of the TV instead of spending time with Him. Temptations vary, but forgiveness and peace are always available when I daily claim His forgiveness and seek to change. Through Christ we are sanctified (made clean and set apart), but it’s important to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12) by intentionally choosing Him each day. In struggles, we must accept His correction, even if it’s difficult.

Accountability – This is a tough one. Being vulnerable with God is one thing, but letting others into the most deepest, darkest parts of inner life is another. We all need one or two special people in our lives for perspective, encouragement and yes, sometimes conviction to stay on track. “Two are better than one…if one falls down his friend can help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). I’m thankful that during this past year, God has brought the right people to speak into my life, greatly enriching my faith journey.

Never Give Up! – Some days I don’t feel God’s presence as strongly as other days, but thankfully faith is not a feeling, but an action! Despite my fickle emotions, I trust that He will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 3:6), and I can do all things through His strength (Philippians 4:8)! One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 10:23 – “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” For me, just knowing that the creator of the universe knows and loves me is at once humbling and empowering. That thought alone has sustained me during many trying situations.

Serve Others – The most powerful thing you can do in the midst of your own troubles is to come alongside others through theirs. Sharing some of my story and poems with the women at Simonka Place (shelter for women and children, through Union Gospel Mission) has been an incredible blessing and source of holy joy for me. It gets my mind off of myself and makes my problems seem minuscule in comparison. Plus God is using me to bless people – which is definitely a win/win!

Follow His Word – To follow what the Lord says, we must read it, meditate on it, and memorize it. “I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11). Wisdom and grace come in surrender to God through His Word. It comes alive through His Spirit in me: lifting me up, emboldening me and shedding light on those areas on which I need to work. Growing up in the church and knowing many passages of Scripture is no excuse; there’s always something new He can show me.

Order Priorities – Long ago, I learned another acronym: JOY (Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last), and it is a wonderfully simple creed to live by. Balancing life’s demands – work and service with rest and play – is practically an art form. Even as comparatively simple as my life is, I haven’t quite mastered it. I’m getting there. I do what I can, then rest in His grace as I look to Him each day, knowing He’ll direct my path (Proverbs 3:6).

Remember His Faithfulness – In other words, count your blessings! The Lord actually longs to be gracious to us (Isaiah 30:18), and He’s proven it over and over again throughout my life: that perfectly timed song, sage words of a good friend, and many other blessings! Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Look for God’s grace everywhere, and you will find it. When we recall what He’s done, we can worship and sing praise even in hard times, because He carries us and loves us so perfectly.

Mentor Others – True transformation compels us to share what we’ve learned with others. We all have a story; the lessons and insight gained might be exactly what someone else in a similar circumstance needs to hear. For me, this blog is a form of mentoring. Befriending others or deepening existing friendships can be a great blessing to both parties. Taking a younger person under your wing and sharing your wisdom might steer them away from the mistakes you made. We have all been blessed to be a blessing (2 Corinthians 9:8), so don’t be stingy with His grace!

Encourage Others – The transforming power of God moves me to be that city on a hill (Matthew 5:14), shining His light and love wherever I go. The Lord expects nothing less than our all, but with so many blessings we can’t help but share the reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15), and boldly so, as the Spirit directs!

Destroy Strongholds – Especially as violence erupts and tensions flare worldwide, it’s never been more obvious that we are engaged in a spiritual battle, one that isn’t against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). Changed hearts effect more change in the world – one life at a time! Trusting in our Commander, we, as His soldiers, must fight the good fight – on our knees, in prayer. Only by His power will we demolish strongholds in Jesus’ name (2 Corinthians 10:4).

In Closing…

So that is what the Lord has impressed on me to share. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and this isn’t a definitive list, but my prayer is that some of the points hit home with you. If we ever hope to effect change out there, it begins with transformed lives within. Christ never changes; He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), but His love and grace changes us. By believing and actively trusting in Him through these and other spiritual disciplines, we might just start a revival!
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

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