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Dancing in place with the Devil

When you think of HELL, where does your mind take you?

A pit of fire? Perpetual fire beneath the earth where the wicked are punished after death? Sweat? Unbearable pain? Walls burning around you? Screaming? Earth? A spiritual realm of evil and suffering…. When you think of HELL… What crosses your mind?

To define Hell is to say the lack of love. No love. Imagine a world without any love at all. Hell is a place where all the love leaves the world. Where helping others is not a priority… ever. Not a thought that crosses anyones mind. Only getting to the top of the top matters. Survival of the fittest. Surviving for nothing. Family doesn’t matter. Men do not protect woman and children. Murder. Rape. Woman abandon their children on the side of the road to grow up and survive on their own. Hell is not a fictional place written in a book where lava flows at your feet, as you are dancing in place with the devil.

To define Hell is to say the lack of love. No love. Imagine a world without any love at all. Imagine your world without any love… without Compassion… without Forgiveness… without Service… without Friendship… without Companionship… without Trust… without Sacrifice… without Commitment…

…without God... Then you are truly imagining hell.

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The Pursuit of Happiness.

Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

As I am sitting here, drinking my coffee, I find myself reminiscing. Just thinking about life. My life. Looking back five years ago, three years ago, even last year – where I am, what I am doing today – this is not where I had imagined myself at. If you told me a year ago that this is where I would be, living at home with my mother, and that I would be happy about it – I would have laughed at you. I would have gone as far as to call you crazy. “My mom lives in Ohio. I am never going back to Ohio. Have you lost your mind?”

I know what happiness feels like. It feels like wanting to be awake. It feels free, lifted of any burden. It is the feeling of contentment AND the motivation to change.

A short five years ago… I was at a strange time in my life. I was selfish and self-seeking. A huge part of me still is selfish and self-seeking. If you asked me five years ago what was important to me, I would have answered very different from what I would tell you today. My priorities included money and myself. Not family and friends, certainly not God. As far as I was concerned then, there was no God.

However, I was hungry for something more. An adventure, and an adventure I would most unquestionably get.

It was around December 2008 that I had decided I needed to move to Florida. I had no family or friends in Florida (yet), but doggone it, that’s where I needed to be. Lucky for me, a photographer I had worked with in Toledo, Ohio knew a friend in Destin, Florida who needed a roommate. It was a ways off from my original plan of Miami, but Florida is Florida is Florida – and that’s where I was going to be!

Four years ago today I was still in Ohio, my car had broken down and drained all the money I had saved to move to Florida – it looked hopeless (as it should be very obvious to you now, nothing stops me from getting what I want – not even money or the lack thereof). I just didn’t believe I was going to make it out of Ohio alive. Then it dawned on me, the love of money controls everything. This love for money controls your thoughts and actions. It caused fear and uncertainty. Doubt. If there is one thing life has taught me, it is that I have no time for doubt.

A second thing life has taught me? That I have no time for bull sh*t.

So the next month I hopped in my car, let my boss know I was taking a week vacation to Florida (which required me to put everything I owned and could possibly fit into my car…) and I made the drive. The photographer’s friend still needed a roommate, and I conveniently needed a place to stay. Just for a week, right? While I was here on my week vacation, it occurred to me that I would also need a job, wouldn’t I? Seeing how unemployment was at an all time high, I was shocked to be hired at the first place I applied.

At this moment, I realized – I should probably let my boyfriend and work know that I am not coming back.

Three years ago from today, I was very far from where I started this post and equally far from where I am going to end it.  I was unhappy and married. Not necessarily unhappily married, just married and unhappy – and the two may or may not go hand in hand.

That’s probably an exact thought I had three years ago from today.

I was getting  ready to go to my morning serving job and then preparing my other uniform for my night serving job. Work. That is what my year consisted of. Work and sleep. It was then that I found out how happy you could be while you were dreaming, and how angry you could be when someone woke you up.

Shortly after, I had an epiphany –  you didn’t have to be asleep to dream.

2011

Two years ago I was training to run my first 5k. I hate running. I hate exercising in general. I ran most of the 5k, and walked the last bit. Let me assure you, this was an accomplishment. Not necessarily one I was proud of. Yet, an accomplishment still the same.

However, it was just like the year before, filled with the never ending excitement of sleep. At this moment it was impossible not to have imagined a rejected future, but also I imagined a life of many countries, of vast and enduring adventure, of walking, riding, and driving in foreign places.

July2012

Just one year ago from today – more recent, yet still just as unreachable as any other event in the past; I was getting ready to go into Carrabba’s for work. I was sure to work as many hours in the night as I could, and sleep the rest of the day away. I would find myself sleeping until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I was most certainly depressed. Some people turn to alcohol, drugs, television, or other addictive behaviors to tune out the reality of life; I sleep.

I sleep, because in my dreams I am able to make up a reality much more suited to my overactive imagination and vain ambition.

It was this summer that I planned out what was to be the most epic road trip of all time. My plans were a facade (a word with which I know the meaning, but butcher the pronunciation of every time). Planning was the dreaming  I could do while I was awake, at least until I could escape to the solace of my bed. It was everything I talked about, wrote about, and thought about. “The Trip.” It was going to take me away from whatever nightmare I felt I was living through, and it was going to be memorable.

The trip was most certainly memorable, but I learned the nightmare wasn’t one you could escape simply by waking up.

Then there is today. July 20, 2013. Had you told me last year that a year from now I would be living with my mother, and I would be happy, you would have been right. However, Ohio would no longer be her home anymore either.  The place I am at now is happier than I could have imagined for myself in the buried chaos of the last five years.

What I find even more crazy is that a year from now a stranger will pull this blog up, read this post, and then think to themselves what an odd person wrote this blog – and then that stranger may realize that they were indeed the author of this blog, just a very different version of themselves.

It seems that every day that passes nothing appears to change; yet looking back, nothing is the same.

me

Trying to recollect the steps down memory lane,

wondering if my futile attempts are in vain.

One would think,

without ink. 

The past would remain,

to drive one insane.

Was it this way or that?

Changing by the tip of a hat.

Within a moment of time,

one would look at a line.

Forever lost,

within a rhyme.

A Sinner’s Perspective

Does God bless you for making the biblically moral choice ? (even in the ‘smallest’ of decisions…?)

Today, I broke the law. In my head, I justified my criminal behavior, from a sinner’s perspective, by saying “it’s not that bad.” Now, I know what you are thinking… (or do I?) “Who did you kill?” Oh! I mean, “What did you do?”

Well, since you asked; We have overstayed our welcome at a certain apartment complexes parking lot, and were asked nicely to move. Not once, but twice by two white stickers pointing out “Your truck tags are expired”. They even offered to tow our truck to the nearest impound at our expense! How nice of them! Well, I decided I would save them the hassle, by moving the truck myself. Now, I have AAA… and towing is free. Yet, I live just across the street from said apartment complex. From there, I weighed the time commitment (of waiting for a tow truck) to the consequences (slim-chance of getting pulled over while driving a vehicle with expired tags) … and the Consequences won out. Whilst driving said truck, a question crossed my mind, backed by my little knowledge of the Bible… “Does God bless you for making biblically moral choices… even in the ‘smallest’ of instances?” The reason I ask, is because while driving the truck across the street “wasn’t that bad”, the bible states (in fewer words) to submit to civil authorities and obey the laws of the land... (1 Peter 2:13-17) So from there, I wondered to myself, “Am I disobeying God’s will for me because I chose immorally?”

So I leave you with my thoughts, would God have blessed me if I had chosen the more righteous path? and the answer… Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times. (Psalm 106:3)

(Does this mean I am going to hell… No! Because thank Jesus Christ, God’s only son, who came here to carry my burden, and unjustly die on the cross, to defeat hell, and rise again so that sinner’s can have a relationship with God)

Gay Marriage: Right or Wrong?

Many times patients are so ill, that if they knew the true extent of their illness, just their despair could kill them. So doctors work diplomatically, dispensing information only as it is needed to help the patient along. If a surgeon told your mother the brutal truth, and it caused her to die of a heart attack, wouldn’t you hold the surgeon responsible?

It’s right after Easter, the day we celebrated to remind us that Christ rose from the dead and freed us from the death sentence of sin.

So, I think it’s a perfect day to tackle that not-so-well known topic.

You know, the one on Gay Marriage.

*Gasp*

I said it. It’s like a sin to even discuss it, isn’t it? Just like it used to be the end of the world to discuss divorce, and you might as well turn around and crawl back in the womb if we are going to discuss those who have had premarital sex (don’t worry, that blogs coming soon). Those issues aren’t so big anymore. And let’s face it, who wants to look at their teenage daughter and condemn her to hell for one innocent and confused act of sexual curiosity. Or ten. (Not condoning premarital sex here, just condoning the grace that’s supposed to come along when you start following Christ).

That was deep.

I bet you didn’t think my blog was going to get so deep, huh? Well, I have opinions. And they stink just like everyone else’s. And this just happens to be the little place I set up for myself to broadcast my stinky opinions to the world. But hey, at least I’m honest!

Let us get this ball rolling… Let me start off with: I do NOT know all the answers. I know only what I have learned so far. In time, I truly believe God will reveal more truth to me throughout my whole life. Salvation is instant. Sanctification is a life long process.

I agree that the act of homosexuality is a sin. There are 44 references to fornication—sexual immorality—in the Bible. The word – love – appears 310 times. What is it we are campaigning for the most today?

When the Word of God is rightly divided and applied with love, it’s knowledge will produce salvation sanctification. Conversely, when it is wielded as a weapon against people (Eph 6:12) it will ultimately destroy that which was meant to be restored. (Website – and a perfect example of a site I am not sure I agree with in it’s entirety. Website held original quote, which I altered)

But we all sin. God loves us so much, this love cannot be changed, even if we sin. Even if that sin is sexually. Even if that sin is murder. Jesus died for our sin (singular). In reference to our sin nature.

So why waste time hating sin, when there are sinners who need to be loved?

Whether we cheat on our spouse, sleep with the same-sex, have sex before we are married, spill our seed on the floor(uh – not personally guilty but I know a man or two who would be struck with lightning right about now), or struggle with dwelling in lustful thoughts – Jesus STILL loves us.

I must confess, I just killed a tourist, for bad driving, in my head. Also, a sin.

I don’t have all the answers, I don’t know how I would respond if I was asked if I support gay marriage. I think it is safe to say in response to the question, “I just don’t know. I know what society tells me, I know what the anti-gay Christians tell me. I know many of the references in the Bible tell me. I have a basic understanding of Biblical law. I have a basic understanding of societies law. I have my conclusions, but I wouldn’t say they are fact.”

It’s not something that people typically ask me or I come across everyday, except on the Internet… where there is no filter on people’s hate. Both Hate toward the sinner and hate toward the religion.

The answer to the above questions would depend completely on how well we “rightly divide the word of truth.” And unless one is able to apply truth with love-based motivation and compassion, the lesson merely becomes an abstract; devoid of it’s redemptive healing power.

What I do know is I have several homosexual friends. And I love them. Just genuinely love them. I have no agenda, I’m not trying to convert them to my religion (though when the opportunity reveals itself, I will certainly tell them about my God who loves me so much He gave. That He paid the ultimate price for us). I’m not trying to “make them be straight.” I’m not telling them they sin,(because IF they’ve accepted Christ already – they know that homosexuality is a sin. If they’ve not already accepted Christ, they probably already know Christians hate… Well lets just say Christians tend to be well-known for what they are against and less known for what they are for. After all, those good-good Christians don’t hate – that’s a sin.)

I AM trying to be loving to all people by being a friend, and doing what friends do. I AM trying to carry the burden of others.

What outsiders see is a bunch of hypocritical Christians who tell them they can’t be married because Christ says so when The Bible also says not to get divorced, not to be gluttonous, not to covet, not to LIE… (And that’s right, if you lied this week – even a little white lie – that sin is the same hated sin only because it keeps you from God. Who can be this perfect? God loves you so much and that sin would keep you from His love had He not gave… Jesus. ) So if you are an habitual liar with a good heart and struggle immensely with telling lies, and die telling a lie – would you not make it to heaven?

God had Christ cancel the laws of the old testament and put in place a new covenant. (Hebrews) because we would never be able to keep the laws! By the law we were condemned.

Hebrews 8:8-12

“For he finds fault with them when he says:[a]

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”


The Bible is the best self-help book ever written. Not my-husband-needs-help book, not my-gay-neighbor-needs-help book. The best I-need-help book.
We need to stop being harsh on others first, and easy on ourselves. Turn the light of the bible on our own hearts. Can you approach a homosexual and say “I’ve never sinned? I will never sin again.”
It will be a really big let down for yourself when you do.
But Christ died for our liberty, for us to be free to do as we please (Galatians) and while not all thing are beneficial, we have the freedom to do anything (Corinthians). The hope of this liberty is so that we will love (Galatians).

When someone does not accept Christianity as their belief, then we are to love them as if they have no sin. If they claim Christianity and still sin, there is a set way to approach the fellow believer, but it is always gently. If they still do not get it, then we are supposed to love them as if they have no sin.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
—1 Timothy 1:15-16, NIV (Website)

If we try to keep the law (homosexuality is abomination, they are sinners, the law says marriage is only for a man and a women) then we the believer who are enforcing the law become fully accountable for the WHOLE law (Galatians, James) which we have proven we cannot keep, and we the believer will be held up to the law we tried to hold others accountable too and we the believer will be judged by the law.

So, Ashlee, what does this mean?

I do not have all the answers. I do not know what God will say to those who promote gay rights or anti gay propaganda…

What I do know is that I am called to do one thing, and according to Jesus as the most important commandment, love my God by loving His people.

Words of “I love you but” – does not show love. Actions show love. Love with your actions! Give Grace with your words!

I know what some of you might be saying right about now… “Woah, Woah Ash. I thought this was a blog about whether or not gay marriage was right or wrong?” Ok, the truth is, I tricked you. Because for me, the question isn’t whether or not we are meant to get so caught up in the sin and the law against it. Jesus sat with the sinners, the drunkards, the betrayers, and yes… even the tax collectors – woah. He was their friend. He loved them. He helped carry their burdens. “So what you are saying is I am the patient you intended the quote for above?” Why yes, yes I did. As I don’t want you to die of a heart attack so consumed by the law, when Jesus died to set us free from it’s condemnation. We are FREE! Free to love, free to give.

If you are a follower of Christ – are you not also called to love? How are you helping carry others burdens? When you approach the sinner to share with them this great secret knowledge you hold that they sin, are you doing as told and turning the Word inward and examining yourself? Are you not also a sinner. Do not throw the stones.

We are hardening people’s heart to the Good news of Jesus. He is the transformer of hearts. Men do not transform hearts. When we force the law down the throat of the non believer, we are hardening their hearts. And we are condemning ourselves to the law.

When Jesus returns, they stand covered with the blood of the sheep they chased into the wolf pack, expecting Him to say, “Thou good and faithful servant,” but instead He says to them, “Get out of my chair!” (Website)

I hope this to be my prayer,

“Let my words be life. Let my words be truth. I don’t want to say a word unless it points the world back to You.” Lord, please help me to be more like Christ. I want to wash the feet of the tax collectors of our day. I want to drink, eat, and be merry with them Lord, and while I am with them I ask that the light of the Holy Spirit shine throughout me and my actions. I wish to help carry their burden, as I am called to do, and ask that when those opportunities arise you open my eyes. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Marriage is hard.

Marriage is hard.

I say this, and some of you are like, “Eh, I’ve heard that before. I get it… marriage is hard.

Yet, it’s not something you truly get until you are married.

You can’t even begin to understand; what others have told you barely has scratched the surface of the hardships you’ll face. Lets look at this for a minute.

It is as if you are destined to marry the person who is the exact opposite of you. I mean, literally, you do everything different. everything.

Everything.

One of you sits to pee, the other one pees in the sink. One of you can’t stand a house not to be clean, the other sometimes gets the clothes next to the hamper, if they hadn’t already stripped down in the living room. One of you needs your personal space, you can’t be bothered while you are in the shower. The other one asks you to define personal space, as they brush their teeth with your tooth brush while you’re in the shower.

That doesn’t even begin to uncover the differences.

You speak differently, hear differently, communicate different… You even eat differently!

So you’re both so different, and you’re now sharing a confined space you call “home”. However, sometimes it feels more like a war zone than a home. I did mention you argue differently too, right? One of you storms off to clear their head, while the other one needs to cling on for dear life and share their feelings. As if you weren’t going to come back when all was better…
You were going to come back, right?

It’s not like I could sit here and name every single difference you’d face. There are books out there that do a great job of preparing you, but nothing will ever truly prepare you for marriage. It’s like the saying, “You’ll never truly be ready to have kids.”

Except this kid is a grown adult who wants you to treat them with both the utmost kindness as well as baby them when they’ve made some seriously dumb mistake. And you do it too.

Why… Why do you do it?

Because after the battle is done for the day, as you pick up the pieces in the form of dirty clothes scattered throughout the house, you realize something. You become familiar with this person, one of the only people in the world you’ve told all of your deepest, darkest secrets too. The one who’s lifted you up when you were down, encouraged you while you were up, and laughed  at with you in between.

This person is your soulmate, made for you by God. Created specifically to both annoy the heck out of you and love you unconditionally. To both drive you crazy as well as grow you in ways never possible before.

Once in a lifetime love.

Sometimes you catch yourself questioning, “Why the heck did I say ‘I do’?!” and moments later (or sometimes days) you get reminded, “Oh that’s why.”

The good outweighs the bad, the love outweighs the anger, the joy outweighs the suffering. You just know, deep down, that this marriage is worth fighting for.

You’ll question yourself, you’ll ask why… Or for how long can you keep going like this? Then just remind yourself, with God anything is possible.

Make sure you are truly with God. Pray often. Be the kind of spouse you’d expect of the person your child marries to be. Remember, the Bible is the best self-help book ever written. Not the best your-spouse-needs-help book, if they pick it up and get it, they get it. You are called to love. Choose to love your spouse as they are, and if/when God chooses to transform their hearts you may truly deserve the perfected them.

Be the lover, the friend, the partner… After all, that’s why you got into this mess.
Be Christ-like, that’s what each of you need. Because…

Marriage is hard.

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