Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Duty and Destiny

I didn't want to go. I didn't want to go like a five-year-old doesn't want to drink that cough syrup all our moms have made us take at some point. You watch it, tiptoe around it, and maybe she just won't notice. I mean, this cough isn't that bad. I'm sure I'll get over it.

But that's the thing about God. He isn't in the business of bandaids. He calls us to fullness of healing and greater tomorrows. I had a bitter pill to swallow in order to do what I knew in my gut He wanted me to do. So I went.




Like a bone, He allowed me to be broken so that I could be set in a familiar place, but in the right way; to heal properly. Can I tell you a secret? Just between us?

It worked.

I fell back into old steps like never before and joy flooded my soul. What I first saw as my duty became a part of my destiny in Christ. I was completely and utterly dependent on Him to form something out of my brokenness and it was beautiful.

You see, sometimes God sends us back into the desert we just came out of with a map. Like, "Okay, you've been here before. Now what can you do differently this time?" Did you know that the Israelites, the ones who wandered in the desert for forty years were actually only a few days' journey from their destination originally? God let them wander so that they would learn to trust Him, wholeheartedly, before leading them straight into the Promised Land.

I say all this to say that God could have offered me the same opportunities in the place I was in. I wouldn't have had to say goodbyes or hurt or deal with the bitterness. But He allowed me to be broken so that I could be set in right standing with a direct map to the Promised Land, more abundant than before. He wanted my duty to become a wonderful destiny, replacing the old memories with new ones. I am thankful for the heartache in the long run. I am. Because God's grace is bigger than me and it always will be.

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Seder

Thursday night I attended my first "Seder" dinner with my boyfriend and his family. I really wasn't sure how to approach this medium-sized, Marriott Hotel ballroom filled with yarmulkes (traditional Jewish skullcap) and "regular people" at first. All I knew was that this Passover-style dinner mimicked a time in the life of my Savior.

We prayed, worshipped, took parsley flakes dipped in salt water and bitter herbs that would put wasabi to shame. Think I'm kidding? You try eating that mushroom-looking explosion of spices. In my feeble mind, the sheer magnitude of what my on-fire mouth was experiencing alone must have meant Jesus meant business.

We then moved on to enjoying an all Kosher meal that consisted of chicken, vegetables, sweet potatoes. Not my usual cup of tea, but I was determined to soak up every bit of this experience because my Jesus had done something very similar. I had spent a good portion of my morning in prayer, asking God to do something in my heart that I had never experienced before.

Jesus, show me. 

We finished dinner and stood up to worship. The first song was in Hebrew and I was lost. Discouraged, I listened and prayed as Jewish hands went into the air.

Jesus, show me. Please.

The song changed to something I knew in english (I can't even remember the name to be honest) and more hands went into the air. The praise in the room swelled and suddenly I felt my heart would burst.

That's when He showed me. 

"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." -Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

Sitting in the back of the room, I saw each and every one of the worshipping hands and heads, capped and uncapped. The loudest and most heartfelt praise I had ever experienced was coming from Jews and Gentiles alike, and that is what He wanted to show me.

Ashley, this is why I died. So that you could worship alongside my other children without shame or condemnation. The church is one body, worldwide. It is the essence of who I am. 

Tears fell. How could I have missed it? He brought me there to show me that people from other churches, Jewish people, pastors I've never met before all worship Him the same way I do. The church is supposed to represent the whole body of Christ, even when we don't recognize His skin tone or traditions or language. Sometimes we lose sight of that in the quest to get people saved and raise attendance numbers to that we "outgrow" our spaces. What God showed me was that we have to be praying for the other churches across our city, country, and world. How would the state of Florida, Alabama, California, Tennessee change if we began praying for the churches we drive past on the way to "ours"? My prayer is that I will see another congregation and not think of them as another "body of Christ" but another part of the same body.

Jesus, change my heart. Let me see them like You would: whole and beloved. 

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I've written this post a thousand times I think, mulling over grammar style and subject matter and ways that I can convey an idea that bubbles inside my soul. But at the cross, that stuff doesn't matter. When we're faced with the humanity of who we are, only Jesus remains. His soft grace lulls me into a peace I haven't felt in a while.

Jesus, You are beautiful.

I can't help but melt at the vastness of Him, taking me over in all His glory. I think I've forgotten to notice lately. No excuses, just transitions.

Sweet Jesus, thank You. 

I rest in Him and let myself dream. Sometimes I want to be a speaker; sometimes a writer. All the time though, I just want to be heard. A lot has changed in the last few years and joy floods my soul now more than ever, but not without a little fear. Do you think they'll listen? Does what I have to say matter? The answer is that it doesn't. What matters is what Jesus has to say. What matters is who He will touch through my life's "questions".

"Right" I think, and His grace begins to wash over me like sweet perfume. Can you feel it? He's closer than a brother because He's lighting me up from the inside, filling my countenance with love and mercy, just like His. Oh, those wounds are mending. Can you see them? Me neither. They fade in the sight of Jesus and I'm wearing His frames from now on.

A thousand praises to You, God. Hallelujah. I am caught in the current of grace.

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Thursday Morning Laundry

I sit in a small room, taking it all in.

Someone speaks but I do not recognize their words. Instead, I take special notice of the insignificants: the computer a few feet away, a newsletter laden bulletin board, the polish on my shaking toes. It's cold in here and easier to ignore the blows this way. 

I'm bleeding now, but I don't fight back. Something inside of me broke and this is all I can do, sit and listen to my dream deferred. I let each droplet hit the floor as everything else hits the fan and I am reminded:


When I leave this room, the whole world will tell me I have a right to be upset. When I leave this room, the whole world will tell me I do not have to forgive someone who will never apologize. When I leave this room, the whole world will coddle my wounds and tell me savor them.


But the whole world is not the benchmark for treating people. Jesus is the minimum for how anybody should be treated because "Ashley, do you remember all that I forgave you of?"


I feel so deflated though and can't seem to get back to where I was. Where did my fire go? I know I love Jesus but my passion is gone. Do they realize what they've done?


Only sound. No sparks.

Six months later I'm doing Thursday morning laundry. It is too mundane and I feel like I should be doing something else. Never enough and now nothing at all.

But maybe that was the point? In light of Jesus, we're all down for the count. What matters is what we do with who we are. Will we let that sin defeat us or use human fallibility to inspire us into God's individual calling on our lives? As lead pastor of Next Level Church Matt Keller puts it, He is the "God of the Underdogs."

So I keep going, keep writing, and keep washing my clothes.

Spark. Flames.

Turns out that dryer lint and grace are highly flammable.

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355