Go With God!

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Magnolia – April 10, 2017

 

In my last post, I spoke of how the Lord paved the way for me to follow Him, and how grateful I am for His providential care in my life. Of course, as with everyone, the choice was mine to make, but I am living proof of what the power of God can do when we decide to follow Christ. I haven’t regretted it.

For long-time believers such as myself, it’s easy to forget what it was like before we accepted the gift of salvation, but I was quickly reminded by participating in a group exercise several weeks ago that got me thinking about the “big picture” of my faith. On each side of 3×5 cards, we were asked to write down what life looks like with God, and without God, and how things could have been much worse had He not been pursuing us.

This is what I wrote:

Without God

GOOD isn’t enough – Lame
BAD gets worse – Hopeless
UGLY leads to – Death

With God

GOOD feels great! – Joy!
BAD prepares for ugly – Strength!
UGLY can be overcome – Victory!

Here’s what I mean…

Without God

GOOD things in my life, though enjoyable, were ultimately empty. Dissatisfaction leads to a never ending quest for more. Joy is shallow and fleeting, if this life is all there is.
Likewise, the good things I did for others apart from God, while nice, have only a temporary effect with no eternal worth. I can do nothing truly “good” (in the highest sense of the word) on my own.

BAD circumstances are a part of life, whether you are a follower of Christ or not. However, without God, they can easily devolve into even worse predicaments. We can grit our teeth and bravely move forward (like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti western), but without God we all eventually become run down, discouraged and even despondent. We make fear-based decisions or use the limited wisdom of the world. Either way, sooner or later the wheels fall off, leaving us in worse shape than before.
God often uses bad circumstances to get our attention, but some of us take quite a few hard knocks before we turn to Him. Yet He never stops pursuing us.

UGLY events, such as accidents, unexpected death or other tragedies bring us face to face with our own mortality. Recently an extended family member suddenly passed away, so lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about eternity.
Without God, even the ugly parts of life that don’t “do us in” will break our spirit at the very least, and can indeed prove to be fatal, for relationships, for our mental health and for our physical bodies. Without God and faith in Jesus, I would still be lost in my sin, and my eternal future would look very bleak.

Now for a poetic intermission…

“Without Him”

Without the Lord, I’m nothing
– a face without a smile;
A drone with little emotion,
yet quite easily riled.
Without the Lord in control,
I’m just an empty shell.
No thoughts of the future,
It’s too far off to tell.
But Jesus is the same today
as He was yesterday;
The future’s already known to Him,
and He faithfully shows the way.
My joy restored, I sing out loud
Praising the Lord Most High;
For without Jesus, I go empty,
but with Him, I never run dry.
With Him is perfect love
which casts away my fear;
He comes close to me
when I humbly draw near.
For with Him is life
without Him is sin;
But with Him there’s forgiveness,
and I can begin again!

3-7-94
©Ladeena Ashley

Okay, now for the best part…

With God
GOOD feels great! I gratefully acknowledge that all I have is from God; life and priorities are focused on things of eternal worth. Each day as I look to God, spending time with Him in prayer and reading His Word, He transforms me. Spirit renewed, I’m more keenly aware of both the beauty and pain in the world. In response to the needs I see around me, deep satisfaction is found in serving others, as He leads. Relationships bring a thousand times more meaning and fulfillment into my life, because I’m part of a larger family, sharing the same hope, faith and struggles with others.
As I learn and grow ever closer in relationship with God, there is an indescribable peace, deep joy and strong love not found anywhere else but in full surrender to a loving Savior. I know because I’ve experienced it in my own life and witnessed it in the lives of many believers around me.

BAD situations force me to rely on and draw courage from God. Though life isn’t perfect and not every problem is solved instantly, there is an incredible comfort and strength simply knowing that God loves me, He walks with me, and He knows me inside and out. I am known by the God of the universe!
Like most people, I do still occasionally whine about what’s going wrong in my life, but once I shift my focus off of myself and my circumstances and back onto Him, a powerful sense of hope and peace floods in. He reminds me of His promises, and I claim them boldly in prayer, often personalizing them to my situation. Just the other day I prayed, “Lord, I will not be anxious about anything, but I pray with thankfulness as I present my needs to You, knowing Your peace – a peace that passes all human understanding – will calm my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

UGLY trials and disasters are possible to overcome because I’ve learned to trust God through lesser calamities. When under pressure, as I lean fully on the Lord, He gives me wisdom to make good decisions. With every step taken in faith, confidence, contentment and joy builds, carrying me onward. “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalms 43:5)
My faith gives me hope, but also an eternal perspective on my troubles. Specifically, I don’t fear death! For to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). When my earthly life is through, I’ll transition to an eternal life filled with indescribable love and peace, because of what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection. In trusting and following Him, victory and joy can be ours here on earth and forever in heaven!

I shudder to think how my life would be without God. Exhausted, hopeless and empty, to say the least. But thanks be to God for His infinite grace and love, for by it I have been redeemed and continually transformed from the inside out!

Go With God!

My prayer is that you are also “with God”, and trusting Him no matter what life throws at you, whether good, bad or ugly. Jesus didn’t promise that life with Him would be easy, in fact He said in this world we will have problems, but He has overcome the world, and so shall we!

When life is good, bad or ugly, we can have joy, strength and victory with God, through Jesus!

Note: This post is much longer than I’d intended, but it’s what I felt led to share. I never know what God will lead me to write, but it’s always a fun and rewarding adventure! Thanks for coming along with me on it!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Forget Her Not!

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Forget-Me-Not  –  April 18, 2017

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I’m thanking the Lord for my mom, but also for my grandmother, because when I was the tender age of five or six she asked me if I’d like to go to church with her. In the years that followed, though not raised in a particularly Christian home, I was taught and embraced the ways of the Lord from an early age, in a small Baptist church family.

Here’s a poem I wrote about seeing God working to bring me to Himself, even before I fully understood His plan or answered His loving call and finally gave my life to Him when I was 13:

“God’s Been There All Along”

God was there before I knew Him,
and surrendered all to His plan;
Preparing the very bedrock
of faith on which now I stand.
God knew I would be receptive
to my grandmother’s invitation,
so attending church as a child
provided the basic foundation.
The beliefs I’d never question now
were built on clear Biblical truth
I’ve learned from countless sermons
and Sunday school in my youth.
So it’s not so strange to be strong
– so unwavering in my conviction;
For God’s been there all along,
gently guiding my life’s direction.
From a young age He prepared me
for all the struggles I would face,
so when many would fall away,
I trusted firmly in His grace.
I thank the Lord for such faith –
Without it, God knows where I’d be.
I’m so grateful for His amazing love
and His incredible work in me!

4-16-17
© Ladeena Ashley

Looking back, I don’t recall specific conversations, but I know I was loved by my family. I’m also realizing more and more lately that who I am and many of my core strengths and gifts have come from them.

In particular, I come from a long line of nature-loving amateur photographers. Third generation, you might say. My grandmother snapped copious shots of flowers, squirrels and scenery, especially in the summertime when she and my grandfather visited state parks in their camper trailer. My mother is also quite the shutterbug, and has created quite the collection of scrapbooks filled with images chronicling her explorations all over western Oregon, with a special focus on waterfalls, flowers and fungi. So it comes as no surprise that I too have an intrinsic love of nature and a deep urge to capture its beauty.

My mom and I have gone hiking together several times, and it always seems to take us half again as long to traverse a trail, as we both frequently venture off of it, pausing to get that perfect angle. I have the advantage of digital technology, but she still uses 35 mm film cameras, so every shot means more to her, as she is constrained to 24 takes in a roll. While she often moves branches and leaves to “set up the shot”, I usually prefer to make do with what’s there, finding great beauty in imperfections. Overall, it’s a joy to spend time with her, breathing the fresh air and sharing laughter while reveling in the wonders of God’s creation.

I credit my love of nature, photography and sense of humor to my mother and grandmother. I hope that you can point to either a mother or a mother figure in your life that helped shape you into the person you’ve become. Thank the Lord for them, because ultimately He’s the one who placed them into your life for His loving purposes.

My grandparents have been gone for a while, but their legacy lives on through me. I cherish the time I have with my mom, and I’m so thankful she’s always been my first best friend. (In fact, she came up with the title of this post!) I praise God for family, and for providing the opportunity for me to learn His ways and place my trust in Him.

Happy Mother’s day!

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

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)

Bring Your A Game!

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English Daisy – April 18, 2017

It’s easy to be thankful when things are going well, but a thankful change of attitude is even more necessary in the midst of frustration and struggles. I call it bringing my A game (Always be thankful). Here’s one of my older poems that addresses this need:

“Perfect Praise”

Trusting God is wonderful,
and supplies one with much peace,
for when we look up and praise Him
our inner fears and turmoils cease.
In praise, God has created
the quickest way to liberation:
Humbly trusting, filled with hope,
giving God all our adoration.
Thanking Him comes more easily
through the happiest of our days;
But true communion and joy is found
when we fill every moment with praise.
Though things aren’t always easy,
it will get better along the way,
As we thank God for what He’s done,
resting in His mercies when we pray.
Faith is seeing things unseen,
trusting through all situations.
Praise God in advance for what He will do,
and He’ll surpass all expectations!

11-20-97
©Ladeena Ashley

Work Stress
Recently I was given a special project at work. I had been expecting it, but what I didn’t see coming was the flood of applications that had preceded the project, swiftly overtaking my inbox. Okay, no big deal. After successfully thinning out my regular work a bit, after lunch I turned my attention fully onto the project. That’s when things became super hectic: Cue the phone calls, an important email, and several frustrating design issues. With each interruption my irritation grew; soon I was completely tense and uncharacteristically cranky.

Off My A Game
Even after my workday was done, the tension lingered. During the ten minute walk to my car, the Lord gently whispered to me as I noted the warm afternoon sun and abundant blooms. Yup, the enemy had gotten me off my A game. The Lord pulled me out of my peevish rut as I prayed, asking forgiveness for my unchecked attitude, thanking Him that I have work that keeps me busy, even of it stresses me out at times. Later I sat quietly in the car to decompress for a few minutes before finally driving home.

Pain To Praise
Just like God can turn good from bad situations (Romans 8:28), we always have to be on guard against the enemy of our souls, who delights in using everything, good or bad, to pull us away from God’s grace any way he can (1 Peter 5:8). When life is a pain in the neck, that discomfort should send us running straight to the Lord, because although not everything in life is a joy, there is strength, comfort and contentment when we trust in and look to Him instead of focusing on our struggles.

Praising God for His goodness, His providence, and of course all the blessings I enjoy lifts me out of any doldrums, worry, and, yes, the occasional frustration. It resets my mind, calms my spirit and keeps me moving!

Whatever may be a source of frustration for you today, if you’re struggling with or stressed out about something in your life, stop and pray. God will renew your mind with His peace as soon as you surrender it to Him. Trust Him with it, thank Him for what He’s already done and for what He will do. Better times are just around the corner, but we must be in the right frame of mind, ready to receive it! So bring your A game!

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
(That’s right! It’s a command! God knows it’s what’s best for us!)

Blessings to you, this day and always!
©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photo)

An Easter Poem

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I’ve struggled a lot with what to say in this post. Last weekend I was plagued with a series of migraines and tension headaches that pretty much had me feeling useless. Knowing that Easter was coming, and I’d missed a week (in my mind anyway), there was a great deal of internal pressure to write a truly moving and meaningful post for this important holiday. After worshiping with a few songs, I felt ready to compose something special.

Here’s what God helped me write:

“Easter Poem”

Hallelujah! What a Savior!
“It is finished!” Jesus cried,
All our shameful, bad behavior
on the cross was crucified.
Then, that glorious third day
Jesus mightily overcame
Death and the grave itself,
fully despising its shame.

“Christ is risen!” “He’s risen indeed!”
We shout out on Easter Day;
He showed the way to be freed
when He rolled the stone away.
Because the Father sacrificed
His only Son from heaven above,
there’s healing and peace beyond belief,
forgiveness and unending love!

Such a wondrous feeling to be saved
through faith, by His amazing grace.
Mercies new each day, I start again,
with a joyful smile upon my face!
Can’t help but share my hope with others
as I’m loving and serving them, too.
Giving my life because Christ gave His
is really the least that I could do!

4-15-17
©Ladeena Ashley

Pressure
I must confess that this poem reads much differently than what I began with.

So what happened? Taking pen to paper, all I got down was six long lines before getting stuck. After several furtive attempts to continue, I eventually stepped away. Feeling like a failure for a few moments, I stopped myself and asked the Lord if perhaps I was pushing too hard. Was an Easter post His idea or mine? Ultimately, I surmised that the pressure I put on myself to write seemed to turn this joyful ministry into somewhat of a chore. To be honest, I do have the tendency to downgrade even enjoyable activities as mere items on a mental to-do list to be accomplished. I’d gotten in the habit of posting every week, but in reality, it should be God’s timing. It still seemed like the right thing to do this time, so after a short break and more prayer, I finally scooped up my laptop and sat somewhere more comfortable to write the post and finish the poem.

Joyful Ministry
Whatever you’re planning to do this Easter and beyond, keep in mind what Christ did for you, and share with others as you feel led. As I was reminded again recently: as a believer, everything you do is ministry. At work, at home, at school, at the store, not just at church. Every day is a new beginning, a chance to grow and a chance to love and serve others. Just don’t let it become a chore, like I sometimes do. Jesus died for us so when we surrender our lives to Him we would each live out our special purpose. So if you’re not sure what that is, pray and ask Him to show you. It helps to make a list of of what you’re good at (skills and gifts) and what you’ve learned (in school and in life), and you might see a pattern. Once you’ve discovered what your purpose is, get out there and do it… joyfully!

“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Amazing Adventures Await!

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So…last Friday night was awesome!

It was our turn to serve at the Simonka House women’s shelter. In just a couple of hours we’d be leading the chapel time. The poems I had selected were okay, but something felt missing. So I stopped and prayed, asking the Lord if He had something specific for me to convey to the ladies. He did. Later, though filled with nerves, I boldly stood to share the new poem the Lord gave me (written from His perspective):

“Running”

Running from Me as though you can hide.
Vain pursuits leave you empty inside.
Fleeing dark past for brighter tomorrows,
you’ll never outrun the pain and sorrows.
My child, you’ve resisted far too long
– Admit your weakness, I’ll make you strong.
For more than sufficient is My grace.
Stop trying to hide; lift up your face.
Can’t rewind, but you can turn around,
it’s not too late to cover new ground.
Adventures await the moment you pray,
“I trust You, Lord” in surrender today.

3-10-17
©Ladeena Ashley

Some of the women at Simonka are pretty vocal, and that night was no exception. Throughout the poem, several voiced their agreement and affirmation. Humbled and awestruck by the response, I carefully finished reading. Many said “amen” and I was given a hearty applause. For the next few moments I shared a couple of thoughts about running from God before playing the song Prodigal by Sidewalk Prophets. Then I sat down to listen to the message. At the end of our time together, many ladies approached me saying that my poem meant a lot to them, and few also asked if they could get a copy of it.

I shouldn’t be surprised that the Lord showed up, but sometimes I still am. Mostly I’m ecstatic just to be used so powerfully. Yet that’s what happens when we get out of our own heads, out of the way, and make ourselves available for whatever He wants.

Surrender
Like Jonah, we may not want to do what God asks, either because we’re nursing a bad attitude or have succumbed to crippling fear (sometimes both!). We can easily run away from God spiritually, if not physically. At the very least we certainly wrestle with Him, holding back portions of our lives that we just can’t quite relinquish control of. But, as Jonah discovered, God doesn’t let us go that easily. He pursues us, often disciplining us until we finally surrender to His will in that area, abandoning our own logic and throwing ourselves at the foot of the cross. Then He lifts us up, dusts us off and sends us on incredible journeys we would never have dreamed of while stuck in our own stubbornness.

Along For The Ride
While I don’t run, I’m often timid when it comes to following God – at least when speaking in public! Constantly I must remind myself that fear doesn’t come from Him (2 Timothy 1:7), there’s no room for doubt because it’s not about me (Galatians 2:20), and that God loves me and knows what He’s doing.

On Friday I truly felt like I was just along for the ride, and what an amazing ride it was! If we remain surrendered to Him and available, He will work in and through us to do incredible things! But first we have to stop running, wrestling, or cautiously standing on the sidelines.

If you’re running from God, or wrestling with God in some area, don’t wait! The enemy wants you to cling tight, because he knows that what you hold on to… has a hold ON YOU, keeping you from fully enjoying all that God has for you. So surrender it to God, then get ready, because your next steps will be the first of many adventures!

Extra Credit
For the full Bible story, read the book of Jonah (it’s only four chapters!).

Faith Notes
Another song that fit with the theme is Big Fish by FFH. It’s a little corny, but catchy!

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)

Rise and Shine!

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The word “rise” seems to be a popular buzzword these days, and it can mean many things. My first overall thought is to rise above circumstances with hope and courage, but it goes beyond that.

Lately it seems to have taken on a decidedly defiant meaning: rising in protest against various laws and decisions, in furious opposition to the authorities who made them. I keep hoping and praying that people will rise above the anger and instead direct positive energies toward activities that will truly make a difference.

Here are several positive ways we can rise:

Rise to God’s command to love one another (John 15:12-21). Take the high road when confronted with divisive or demeaning remarks, knowing a gentle answer deflects anger (Proverbs 15:1, NLT).

Rise above our initial reactions to look at the facts for what they really are. Verify them with a credible source before believing posts and comments, and only pass them along to others if it is helpful, loving or encouraging in some way (Colossians 2:8).

Rise above the negative opinions and fears of others, holding on to the unshakable knowledge that God loves you and has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11), while keeping in mind that the same applies to others, too.

Rise to defend the oppressed, assist the weak and the needy, and pray for the persecuted. Lift up those who are low in spirit. In doing so, however, act with respect to the authorities God has put in place, and without repaying evil for evil (Romans 12:9-21).

When we wait on and trust in the Lord, He gives us strength to rise up and soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31). We can have expectant hope and indescribable peace even in the face of an uncertain future.

Rise to every occasion with confidence in the skills, gifts and abilities the Lord has given us. We win at life by having a winning attitude (as opposed to a whining one). Philippians 2:14

Rise and shine! Thank the Lord for each day we can rise out of bed and share the light of God’s love with others. Every day is a gift and we should raise our eyes to the heavens with thankfulness for His grace, mercy and infinite love (Psalm 59:16).

Like the yeast that causes bread to rise, we should all be the gently powerful force that spreads the love of Christ wherever we go. Encourage and lift up others with caring words, sharing the hope we have in Him – in big and small ways – with all we meet (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Let us all rise and be counted as faithful followers who study and live out the Word of truth in our lives (2 Timothy 2:15), yet remaining humble, fully relying on His grace.

Rise up in resolute faith to accomplish goals, win games and spiritual battles, at times succeeding against all odds because we serve a God with whom all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)! If God is for us, it doesn’t matter who is against us; for we are more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:31-39)!

Rise in unity of spirit. We were called to one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. We serve one God, who is over all and through all (Ephesians 4:4-6). The enemy seeks to divide us by twisting the truth. Fight the real enemy by praying against his schemes and standing strong in God’s Word! Build each other up so that with one heart we will glorify God in what we say and do (Romans 15:1-6)!

Let us raise our hands and pray for those in authority, interceding for those in government positions on all levels (1 Timothy 2:1-8), without anger.

Rise, and keep on rising, even when the night is long or the days are full of troubles. Nothing we do for the Lord is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58), and He works all things for the ultimate good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

Finally, when I think of the word “rise”, the hope and joy of our salvation springs to mind. I await that glorious day when those who have trusted Christ will rise and be together with Him forever (1 Corinthians 15:52)! In the meantime, our mission is to bring as many with us as we can!

More of God’s Word

“Arise and shine, for your light has come!” Isaiah 60:1

“I lift my eyes up to the heavens, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

Faith Notes

Here’s a new song by one of my favorite artists. It is part of the reason I’ve been thinking about the word RISE: Rise – by Danny Gokey
(Note: Link opens in a new window.)

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Dispel The Shadow Of Doubt!

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Doubt is sneaky. It’s like the first shadow of what could turn into a long dismal winter of fear. From the first suspicion that something or someone isn’t what or who we thought they were, to the nagging lack of confidence in ourselves, doubt can be a powerful thing.

I’ve been experiencing a bit of doubt lately. Both in pondering our future as a nation under a new president, and personally as I’ve accepted a more proactive role within the leadership of my church. Tonight was my first official meeting after a long break from significant responsibilities. I hardly spoke a word. I’m praying a lot for help getting back into the swing of things, with no shortage of consternation on my part.

Power In Purpose
Isn’t it all too easy to look at at that’s wrong in the world and in ourselves? Look at the problems instead of His power? We have all been placed in our respective stations in life for a grander purpose. That purpose is to glorify and serve the One Who has given each of us what – all in all – is a beautiful life, and the hope of an infinitely better one. We have this light, this treasure in jars of clay to show that the God of the universe faithfully gives us the power to work out His perfect plan and purposes through us we continue submitting to Him (Philippians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 4:7)!

One Step Away…
One of the enemy’s main tactics, besides apathy and anger, is fear. And, as I said in my opening lines, doubt is usually the beginning of fear! We may doubt simple everyday things like whether or not we will make it to work or school at a certain time, but if we ever question God’s faithfulness, sovereignty, or power to change lives, it is the devil’s way of trying to get a foothold. Becoming doubt-full is to be full of nothing productive; instead it’s the beginning stages of becoming faithless and even hopeless.

On the contrary, when we are tempted to lose heart, to stand down from the battle and even collapse in a heap into the nearest chair, it’s then that we must cry out to the Lord, “help my unbelief!” and “I need Your strength!”. Casting our cares upon Him means not only putting forth our daily concerns and needs, but also voicing our fears, failures and yes, doubts. Doubts will come; just don’t let them take root and become an even bigger problem. Instead, let the light of Christ so shine in and through you that doubt has no place in your life (2 Corinthians 4:6)! Blast away the shadow of doubt with the light of faith!

Here’s a poem I wrote many years ago about doubt and how to dispel it:

“In the Shadow Of A Doubt”

In the shadow of a doubt
the enemy lies in wait
for us to hear the Lord’s commands
and have the urge to hesitate.
Waiting to devour us like a lion,
but appearing meek as a lamb;
We need to keep our eyes focused
on the Light, the great “I AM”.
For Jesus is the Light of the world,
the One whose light is true;
The One who’ll never forsake us
but Who loves us and sees us through.
In the pain of our toughest trials,
when we’re not sure what’s to be,
at those most difficult times
is when we’re more fully free.
He loves us, He’ll take the burden
– He took on all of the blame;
He wants to love all your cares away
– love’s the reason why He came.
As soon as we commit our ways
to the Lord and His loving laws,
the enemy in the shadow of doubt
has no place to sink his claws.

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©Ladeena Ashley

Pray!
Please join me in praying for our nation as we prepare to welcome a new commander-in-chief to the White House. Doubts and fears about the future, as well as anger and discontentment have been expressed by many individuals and groups, and may continue long into the weeks (or months) ahead.

Pray for a peaceful transition, and for the new leadership on all levels. Regardless of your personal views, if leadership fails, we all lose, so PRAY for their success as we move forward into this new chapter of government and world history as a whole. Overall, let us all be beacons of Christ’s light of hope in the darkness, wherever we may find it!

God’s Word
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” James 1:5-7

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:19

“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3

“Do all things 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…” Philippians 2:14-15

Faith Notes
Keep on Pushing Back the Dark – a great song by Josh Wilson
(Note: Link opens in a new window.)

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

The Tapestry of Life

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As we embark on the adventure of another year, it seems fitting to speak again about the future, and how we can trust the Lord to guide us. For one thing, He has an infinitely farther and better view than we could ever imagine! One of my favorite wall decorations features a poem about seeing things from God’s perspective. It speaks of a beautiful tapestry of which we on earth can only see the underside. To us, it is a mess of knotted threads and a chaotic mix of colors, but from His side, it is a beautiful, perfectly formed piece of artwork that powerfully displays His glory and love.

Along those (thread) lines, while writing the poem I shared in my last post, the phrase “heavenly lenses” stuck out to me, and another new poem followed almost immediately about our sight versus how God sees. Though on earth and in our limited human capacity, we cannot bear the fullness of God’s knowledge, it is still something we all should strive for. The more we can glimpse life through His eyes, by the transformation of our minds through prayer and His Word, the happier and more fulfilled our lives will be. More importantly, when we see more often where God is working, joining in what He is doing, our lives will make a greater impact on our world.

In this poem, the Lord brought to mind a lot of verses that speak of sight: seeing, looking and perspective in general. Quite honestly, I initially wrote it without actually cracking open my Bible as I went. It wasn’t until I was in the process of editing that I double-checked the references, finding that God had inspired me to access His Words that I have hidden in my heart (Psalm 119:11) pretty perfectly!

True Sight

We see not as the Father sees
Instead, darkly glimpsed, as through glass.
Distorted and hazy outlook
–yet to God the future is past.
His ways are higher than ours,
our perspective a prism of hues;
Imperfect perception we employ
to interpret life as we choose.
We observe the outward appearance
but the Lord peers into our heart
and by grace we return His gaze,
trusting love will never depart.
For not a sparrow escapes His view,
we’re eternally in God’s sight.
Whether in full brightness of day
or enveloped in shadows of night.
His eyes ever scan the horizon,
finding ways our lives will be blessed,
all the while knowing our mess ups
long before we’ve knelt and confessed.
Reading God’s Word removes the blinders
transforming within, by His power.
Joy revealed not in circumstance,
but by faith, not sight, every hour.
For all that’s seen is temporal
— life a fleeting mist in the air.
Yet what’s unseen and lasts forever
is the light, hope and love we share.

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©Ladeena Ashley

Nearly a week ago, I was given a new perspective on life, one that I would never wish on anyone: the after-effects of a slight concussion from bumping my head. My view of the world has become just a bit skewed; I have less patience for Sudoku, books that don’t completely enthrall me, or other things that I might normally to engage myself in for long periods of time. I’ve seen a doctor, who has said the headaches will eventually dissipate, but for now I am struggling just a bit to concentrate on finishing this post.

I have faith that it will improve and I will return to my fully functioning, upbeat self, soon. Even if I don’t, my life is in God’s capable hands; because even though I don’t always understand what He’s doing, I’m trusting that there’s a gorgeous woven masterpiece, and I’m thankful to be a part of it!

Faith Notes
Here is another of my favorite songs. It fits this post and some of what I’m feeling:
Whatever You’re Doing – Sanctus Real  (Note: Link will open in new window.)

Scripture references: 1 Corinthians 3:12; Ecclesiastes 3:11, 15; Isaiah 55:9; 1 Samuel 16:7; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 8:38-39; Matthew 10:29; Psalm 139:1-18; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; James 4:14

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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