Poem’s Progress

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(Picture: Herald of Spring – Crocus. Taken: 3-9-17)

John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

Not surprisingly, most poems I am inspired to write are from my own experiences and point of view. The one featured in this post is the first time I recall writing as God spoke directly to me, for me. It was written during a pivotal time in my young life: graduation not far behind me and an uncertain but wide-open future ahead. What the Lord spoke to my heart encouraged me to keep looking to Him through it all.

“You First!”

Hear Me when you have the voice,
Choose Me when you have the choice.
Fear Me when you have fear,
Come close and I’ll be near.
I never forsake those who call,
I lift up the weary who fall.
Follow My light when darkness is seen;
Accept My forgiveness and you will be clean.
Blindly trust Me and then you will see:
My love lasts for all eternity.
Hope in Me when no hope is there,
Love Me when your feelings are bare.
Acknowledge Me in everything you do.
Look towards Me and I will see you through.

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© Ladeena Ashley

Creative Inspiration
The poems I write aren’t planned, they are caught on paper as inspiration strikes! Most of my experiences writing poetry begin with one simple word or a suddenly meaningful phrase. Either a familiar one from a new perspective, an odd combination of words, or simply a random concept inspired by something I’ve seen.

My soul instinctively recognizes whether it is a moment to smile and reflect, or to swiftly grab a paper and pen to keep the inspiration for posterity. Thoughts seem to come from within and yet without; separate from but working in tandem somehow with my own thinking. Once the initial word or phrase is penned, another soon follows. Like a warm summer breeze, the inner prompting and “still small voice”of the Holy Spirit at once enlivens and calms my soul.

My heart, mind, soul and the Holy Spirit seem to dance together, swaying in a glorious rhythm to compose each line, expressing the very lyrics and steps of my faith. The harmony of my heart in full surrender to God silences all discordant fear and doubt. Without speculation as to the ending, I continue writing until the words cease flowing and I sense it is complete. Gleeful inspiration then gives way to reverent awe and peace. Often I lose myself in writing, and it’s only when I finally read my chicken scratch and scribbles that I begin to fully grasp what’s been created.

Blessed to Be A Blessing
I feel incredibly blessed to have such a close relationship with the God of the universe, and that He saw fit to grant me this gift to share with others. For me, the otherworldly peace, love and holy excitement I feel – in moments of everyday life, but especially when writing – are evidence of a real and living God. It is amazing to be known and loved so deeply and completely, and in thankful awe be able to convey the reason for my hope through verse and rhyme. It never ceases to amaze me. God never ceases to amaze me.

God will be close to you, too, if you let Him. The enemy knocks loudly, but the Lord whispers to our souls. Learn to quiet your soul in order to hear His still, small voice.

As believers, we’re all given gifts. Don’t hesitate to trust Him to help you use what He has given you to be a blessing to others, wherever you are.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

You Are Not Alone!

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God will always “bee” with you! (*Giggle* Couldn’t help myself!)

There are times when we all can feel alone. Sometimes you can even feel lonely in the middle of a crowd! I’ve felt that way more than once, lost in my own musings.

Just a year ago, during what was shaping up to be a prolonged journey, I began a new chapter of my life on my own. A week or two in, I felt quite alone, until the Lord reminded me that He would never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Although at the outset, this reassured me, I thought again that we can’t see God. We can’t simply run up and give Him a hug like we do flesh and blood human beings! The next moment He brought to mind a broader truth: He is not some distant God who watches from afar, sending help and strength in our souls when we need it. On the contrary, the Lord is omnipresent. In other words: everywhere at once. As His child, I am blessed to have God the Father watching and looking for ways to bless me. Christ Jesus the Son walking with me not only as my Savior, but as my Friend and Brother. The Holy Spirit, Who has been indwelling me ever since I made the decision to trust in Jesus for my salvation, and gave Him control of my life.

So God is with me – He is One in essence, expressed in three Persons – therefore I can say that wherever I am, there are actually FOUR of us!

I wrote a poem with this perspective in mind. This may also help those who may not fully understand the Trinity to at least identify how God works in our lives through each of the three Persons.

“Not Alone”

I’m not alone, for You are with me;
even more, it’s not one on One.
There are four of us along life’s path:
Me, God the Father, Spirit and Son.
You’ll never leave me or forsake me
Grace and mercy are new each day.
I’m in awe of Your care and provision;
I love You more than words can say.
Father God, You watch over me,
Jesus, You match every stride.
As I journey, the Spirit indwelling,
You are my peace and my true guide.
In the midst of the uncertainty
on You, three in One, do I rely.
For only by Your strength and wisdom
will I overcome, not merely try.
Powerless and fallen on my own,
I freely offer my all to You.
Thankful You are working for good
everything that I’m going through.
No, I’m not alone, but so very blessed
–Daily You hold my life together
Joined in Your perfect fellowship
You’re with me and I’m Yours forever.

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©Ladeena Ashley

A Heartbeat Away
We are not alone. Wherever we are, through Christ we live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28). We can trust that no matter how we feel, nothing will separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39), and He is as close to us as the air we breathe. Perhaps closer. He knows us inside and out, right down to the number of hairs on our heads. (Matthew 10:30). When you stop to ponder further, it’s pretty amazing that He knew what our struggles and failings would be, and He made us anyway.

Sometimes when we don’t sense Him near us, it’s because we’ve strayed or are holding on to something we shouldn’t. But God doesn’t leave us, He’s waiting for us. When we repent and turn it over to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us if we’d only ask (1 John 1:9). Other times He seems distant for no apparent reason – perhaps a test, trial or a dry spell – but even then He’s always a heartbeat away.

Faith Notes
Rest in the knowledge that when you trust in Jesus, you are never alone; and then rejoice in His unfailing love!

Here’s a great song that I sing to myself when I’m tempted to feel lonely, especially in the midst of this season of waiting:
I Am Not Alone – Kari Jobe (Note: Link will open in new window.)

God’s Word on His Presence
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.”Acts 17:24-28a

Psalm 139:1-18
Matthew 28:20
John 14:16-17
Jeremiah 23:23-24
John 10:27-30
1 Corinthians 3:16

One Final Thought (semi-spoiler alert)…

“The Shack”, a movie that will be released in theaters soon, addresses loss and God’s sovereignty and love through a very visual depiction of the Trinity. Though it is seen by many as blasphemous and idolatrous to show Father and Spirit interacting with the main character while in human form, it is a work of fiction, and I believe it should be received as such. I humbly suggest that when and if you watch it, your focus is upon the truths we can glean from it and not the flesh and bone in which they appear. If not kept in perspective, this limitation can serve to diminish the indescribable greatness and all-encompassing power of our God, Whom the intent is to honor through the movie.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
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)

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)