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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Prayer Journal 10/29/2015



Worship the Lord your God and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you. Exodus 23:25

Heavenly father I want to thank you for my wonderful children. They are such a blessing and a joy in my life. I want to thank you for our home and my career. I am thankful that you always meet our needs. You are a God of abundance and you bless me more than I deserve. Lord I want to thank you for friends and family who support me and encourage me daily. Again father I want to thank you for blessing me by leading James into my life. Although all of this is so new he has been a blessing since the day we began talking. He is such a devout Christian man and I respect him very much. He encourages me and compliments me bringing joy to my life in a way that I have only felt in you. I look forward to growing in this relationship according to your will in our lives.

Father tonight I come to you asking for your healing power over James as he deals with sickness. Lord I know that you are the ultimate healer and I ask that you just lay your hands on him and remove any fever, pain, discomfort, infection, or ailment that he is suffering from. Dear Lord his faith is in your healing power and his love for you overflows. Exodus 23: 25 tells us that those who worship you will be blessed and you will take away any sickness. Tonight I claim this healing over James. By your mercy and grace Lord may he begin to feel better so that he can be energized to perform his duties at work and be the best father that he can be to his 2 beautiful sons. Lord I know that stress can sometimes cause us to neglect our physical need of rest and Lord only you and he know what his needs are. Father I ask that you answer any prayers in his life right now and relieve him of all that is holding him down. I can't be there to comfort him right now so God I just ask that he wakes feeling 100% healthy and well rested.

Jesus I thank you for being the great physician. I thank you for healing us when Satan tries to hinder us with sickness and stress in our lives. Jesus I thank you for delivering James from this illness tonight. I thank you again for bringing him into my life. He is such a positive influence to those who know him. He uses social media as a ministry for you Lord. Father you know his heart and from what I have seen his character is impeccable. Father may his healing glorify you and show your infinite mercy and grace in our lives. You are all we need. You are always enough. You sustain us. I love you with all that I am and all that you are.

AMEN

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Following Jesus on his Terms



So on facebook this morning I shared a post from 2 years ago through the "On this day app". It was the music video of Chris Sligh singing "Empty Me" which I have shared for you below. The song has always moved me especially when he sings "cause everything is a lesser thing compared to you compared to you". We are to empty ourselves of anything that hinders us from fully submitting our lives to God and ask to be filled with him. 

Tonight at church we went over what it means to really "Follow Jesus". We can't follow him on our terms we have to follow him on his terms. We have to be willing to sacrifice anything that he asks of us to follow him. We have to follow him unconditionally. We read Luke 9:57-62 and I have broken these verses down for you in red. 

Luke 9:57-62New International Version (NIV)

The Cost of Following Jesus

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
The man is saying I will follow you where you go and Jesus is saying to him "Oh really? Will you give up the comforts of your home and your life? I am homeless. Will you really go ANYWHERE I go? Are you really willing to do without for me? 
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Keep in mind here that Jesus knew the hearts of people and their minds. He knew where their hearts really were and where their priorities and motives lie. Jesus knew that this man was really going home to wait for his father to die so he could reap his inheritance. Jesus was telling him that he must devote himself to eternal things not earthly things. He needed to focus on what God wants him to do rather than what he wants to do. 
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus is talking about divided loyalties here. Plowmen required focusing their attention straight ahead so that the crop rows were straight. If they were to look back they would lose control of the oxen and plow. Jesus needs for us to be focused on him at all times and not on other things. The loyalty must be undivided. He is first. 
A really difficult task would be to take an inventory of your terms in regards to following Jesus. Ask ourselves "WHO'S TERMS AM I LIVING BY?" Make a list titled "Would I follow Jesus if..." then list difficult situations. Don't just list the ones you know you'd be willing to sacrifice but list the ones you are trying to tuck away. Remember Jesus knows our hearts. I am not saying he will demand these things of us but if you're heart is truly willing to follow him and say "no matter what I will follow you" then he will grant the desires of your heart. He knows. 
The purpose for this is found in Luke 9: 23-25
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
If we choose to follow him we must give up our life to him. We have to be willing to pay the cost to follow him because he paid the ultimate cost. He gave his life for us so that we may eternal life. The only way to that eternal life is by following Jesus Christ. We follow him on his terms. You see its a trade. He died for us therefore we should die to ourselves for him. His will before our desires. He is a God of abundance and he wants to bless us. He doesn't want us to be miserable or do without. We simply must be willing to take up that cross and do without should he ever ask us to. That is what fully submitting is. That is trusting in him. 
Just this week I was talking to this amazing man in my life about the ropes course with the fire department. He made the statement that it's all about trusting your equipment to not let you fall. That my friends is called faith. When you go to sit down in a chair you don't test it first. You just sit down with the faith that it will hold you up. When you wake up in the morning and place your feet on the floor you don't test it to make sure it will withstand your weight. You stand. We must put this same faith in God and trust that what he says is the voice of truth. This is a matter of life and death. Eternal life or eternal damnation. He is worth the cost. The value of following Jesus is worth everything because without him we will die anyway. That is what Luke 9:23-25 is telling us. If we try to hold on to our lives (living for self) then we will lose it. If we follow Jesus then we will have life in eternity. That is the treasure. 
Phillippians 3: 8-9 tells us that everything is a lesser thing compared to Jesus. Just like the song I posted this morning...God is revealing his truth to me by reiterating it in this lesson
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Where your treasure is there your heart will follow Matthew 6:21 **Jesus is our treasure
Read these Parables in Matthew 13

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
If Jesus is our treasure then we will follow him. This is further explained by the parables in Matthew 13: 44-46. These people gave up EVERYTHING to possess the treasure they found. That is what we are to do to possess Jesus Christ (our Treasure) (Life). 
Jesus will not share us and he should not have to. He sacrificed his life because he loves us just that much. There is nothing of more value than him. Everything is a lesser thing compared to him so I surrender all. Empty me of me so I can be filled with you! 


Monday, October 26, 2015

10/26/15 Prayer Journal


I have been inspired to start a prayer journal. My first entry is actually relative to the one who inspired me. There are prayer journals like any other journal that can be purchased at book stores but I have decided to incorporate mine into my blog. I am doing this because you all have read my posts and followed my journey over the past couple of years and I want you to see on a more intimate level how God is moving and has always moved in my life. I think you will have a better understanding of my faith and my love for him. I think you will witness faith in action and his endless grace and mercy. He is a God of abundance and I am so very thankful.

To preface you on how a prayer journal works you begin by praying and talking to God as if he is your father/friend/closest confidant. He is in fact all of these things. You may even journal your prayer before speaking to God as a way to gather your thoughts. You will begin your prayer journal with a scripture relative to your prayer request. This isn't some sacrifice or way to make sure your prayer is answered. It is to reference God's word to your needs. You then begin by thanking him for all he is and all he has done for you. You count your blessings and praise him. Think of how you would feel if someone is constantly asking of you yet they never show appreciation or gratitude. You then tell God in detail what it is you are wanting. You then conclude the journal by thanking him in advance for what you have requested. You are acknowledging who he is and putting your faith in action by expecting that he has answered your prayer. If your heart is in the right place and it is according to God's will then he will answer your prayers in his own timing. This could be instantly or could be years from now but faith is essential. When my son asks me for new shoes then of course I determine whether or not he needs new shoes at the moment. I know he will eventually need new shoes regardless so his request may be granted immediately or it may be on hold until I know he's ready for them. I tell him yes and he is "expecting" them and is excited about receiving them. This is how we too should approach God with our prayers.

10/26/2015

Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." Genesis 2:18

Father I come to you with thanksgiving in my heart. I thank you for my mother's salvation. I am thankful that I will witness her baptism this Sunday and my boys will see the joy on her face as she publicly declares her love for you. I am thankful for my children and the joy that they bring to me. I thank you for blessing me with them. I am so very thankful for my career and the wonderful boss and coworkers that I have. It is a place that is family friendly and caring. I want to thank you for my family who is so supportive and encouraging and I want to thank you for my friends who pray for me, with me and encourage me as well. I am thankful for the weight that I have lost bringing me closer to my body goals and a healthier lifestyle. I know that my body is your temple and I want to be the best person that I can be so that you may be gloried in all that I accomplish. Father I know I can do nothing without you.

Father tonight I thank you for bringing JJ into my life. I ask that you bless what we have begun so that our focus remains on you and your will in our lives. Father I ask for discernment and guidance to keep things at a healthy pace so that we establish a foundation of friendship and a bond that cannot be broken. I know that Mark 10:9 tells me that whatever your bring together let no man separate. I know that if we keep you at the center of our relationship that we cannot fail. I use the term relationship in a generic sense. Dear Lord everything is so new and we both love you with all of our hearts. I began this with fear in my heart because of my past and I refused to allow doubt to rob me of my blessing. Some may say "just to be on the safe side keep your guard up" but I reflect on how I am to pray and my faith. I have faith that God has answered my prayers for a devout Christian man to love me. I am worthy of such love. I am worthy of such happiness. I don't have to doubt or fear. There is risk in anything we do but faith is stepping over fear and saying I claim this blessing and I will live with expectancy. He is the answer to my prayers and the peace that I feel in my heart is exactly what I knew I would feel the day he came along. I was moved to tears on my drive home today because I couldn't find words to describe this feeling inside. When God answers you will know. Sometimes its as quiet as your breath and other times its as loud as a church bell.

I thank you again Father for answering my prayers and blessing me with a man who has amazed me with his love for you. I look forward to growing this relationship to be everything you have designed it to be. You are a God of abundance. You not only meet our needs but you exceed our expectations so that others may see your good works and long to know you as we do. May our relationship glorify all that you are and be a love story that will plant seeds in the lives of others just like the story of Ruth and Boaz. This is me father acting on faith and claiming my blessing. I love you with all that I am and all that you are. Your grace is always enough.

AMEN.

Dear future Husband 10/26/2015





Dear future husband,

I feel that you are near. I feel that God has revealed me to you and you have set your conquest on my heart. I wait with expectancy and validation. I will live each day with hopeful expectation of your arrival just as I am waiting on the Lord. He has given me a new song to sing and my heart tells me that you hear the melody within your soul. I know that you too are praying for me daily and for that I am so very thankful. I will never allow a day to pass without thanking God for bringing you into my life. I will never let your head hit the pillow without telling you just how much you mean to me and speaking positive encouragement over you. You will be the spiritual leader of our home. You will protect us against anyone wishing to bring us harm. You are protecting us now. Your altruistic character shines through your career and I am so very proud of you. A man who would selflessly lay down his life to protect the freedoms of the ungrateful is a man after God’s own heart and darling I can sing your praises from the rooftops. You love the Lord with all that is within you. You love him more than you will love me and I will serve you as I serve him. I will submit to you as God has commanded me to and I will honor you and love you with all that I am second only to God. I look forward to the mornings we study God’s word together and pray over our family. I look forward to the nights I lie in your arms. I look forward to our first date. I look forward to our first kiss. I look forward to you. Until then I will be faithfully and patiently awaiting your arrival.

Your future wife,
Ashley

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Setting the Record Straight


"People who are scared do not live life. They live according to what other's expect of them. They suppress all they really want to do and feel because they are afraid of what people might say. I say live your life creatively. Be accountable to God and to yourself. Do not be afraid to live your life because it may be over before you wake in the morning." -Ashley Bates

So there has been something I have really wanted to express but I wanted to gather my thoughts before blogging. I have openly posted my "Dear Future Husband" letters on FB because they are meant to be witty. I also post about the "single life" and the "Woes of dating" again it's really to post something funny or just to share in general. I also post about my children, local issues, living in the south, family and friends.

I wake up in the morning and get my boys ready for school, drive almost an hour to work, work all day, drive almost an hour home, help with homework, cook dinner, give baths, clean house, and go to bed. On Tuesdays we have cub scouts, on Wednesdays we have church, and the weekends are spent doing things with the kiddos. Every other weekend the boys go to visit their father and this is when I explore the dating world. TWO WEEKENDS out of the month. 4 possible dates for the entire month.

I post about things I can make humor of or that I can use to deliver a positive message. I am known as the single southern belle because my best friend and I also have a FB page where we post videos about the single life and dating. AGAIN LET ME REITERATE - IT IS FOR HUMOR! Because of the content that I post, I have had men and women message me, comment and tell me the following things more than I care to mention:

"Don't worry, the right one will come along"
"When you stop looking you will find him"
"Just focus on your boys and stop worrying about finding a man"
"Place your attention on God. He is all you need"
"Your priorities should be your kids and not worrying about dating"

Let me set the record straight please. My faith is strong. I love God and I put him first in my life. My boys are second. My job is 3rd. Then there is friends/family and last myself. I am content with my life. I have not been in a serious relationship in three years. I have talked to prospects and gone on first/last dates but no real relationship. The reason is MY faith is strong. I love God and I put him first in my life. My boys are second. My job is 3rd. You see I have all I need but I want to share my life with someone else. I love the feeling of falling in love. I love feeling that excitement and hope. Just like anything else that brings joy in our life, Love is a wonderful thing!

I have standards and I have boundaries. When I find someone I actually like then of course I get my hopes up. I should get excited. When it doesn't work out then I walk away with a lesson and I share that. I am very open with my feelings and my life. That is who I am. I give 100% of myself. We all have things we want in life and just because you don't want the same things I do doesn't mean I am wrong. It's easy to sit back and assume things about me when you don't really know me. Maybe instead of making that assumption you should look further than social media. Maybe you should reach out to me and find out who I really am. If I judged everyone's character, priorities and life goals by their social media posts then I would accuse my best friend of caring more about the Denver Broncos than anything else in her life, or another friend of only being focused on politics rather than his family, or the lady who obviously spends all of her time playing FB games and probably has no other life. You see it isn't fair to label me as desperate or trying too hard when it's quite the opposite. It is 4 days out of a month that I have allotted for dating should I actually meet someone I find interesting enough to share that time with.

I know that I don't owe anyone an explanation because I am an adult. I guess I simply wanted to vent my frustrations when I get messages like that. I know all of these things are true. I know the right one will come along when the time is right but guess what? You or I do not know when that will be. I live my life with expectancy. Every day I wake up could be that day. The next man I meet could be the one. The next first date I go on could be my last. The next first kiss I enjoy could be the last first kiss. I am living my life. I am really exploring and expanding my interests. I am learning and writing. I am meeting people and networking. I am making memories. I am healing old wounds, showing scars, and making new ones. I am blossoming everyday and I am revealing layer by layer as I find myself. I am writing the pages of my book as I live my life and for that I will never be ashamed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

UNCERTAINTY





I need to figure out how to deal with uncertainty. It is essential to learn to live with it and life is full of uncertainty. Uncertainty is a word that makes me shiver in fear. It is something I loathe. It cripples me and paralyzes me because I don’t know whether to move forward or retreat back into the safety of everything that is known. It’s like swimming at night out into sea. You never know what is going to grab you and pull you beneath the surface. What if I drown? It is like walking into the woods after dark looking for something…you can’t see it, you have no idea where it could be, and you never know what could happen to you. Uncertainty is the bride of fear. Uncertainty in life is inevitable but uncertainty when it comes to relationships can be removed with effort on our parts. 

In my life I do everything in my power to relieve doubt and uncertainty with those I care for. I always make them feel secure in where we stand in regards to a relationship and how I feel about them. Open and raw honesty is the antidote for uncertainty. It removes the doubt. It disables over thinking. It grants peace and security. It is the opposite of fear.

I believe it is everyone’s place to extend this service to those we care about. If everyone were honest about their intentions and feelings then there would be no room for over analyzing and over reacting. There would be no doubt and fear in our hearts. We would know we are safe to be who we are because we know where we stand.

The sad thing is people do not divulge these things. They tell us just enough or what we want to hear because they are either cowards who do not want to risk looking like an ass for using us or they are too kind and do not want to hurt us. The fact is they hurt us even more by leading us on. It is best to hurt someone with the truth than destroy them with a lie. The truth may hurt but it doesn’t harvest trust issues and it doesn’t leave room for overthinking and analyzing. No one has to wonder what when wrong or what they could’ve done differently. Everyone needs to have the courage to stand up for how they feel and own up to any mistakes made in the process. So what if you look like an ass…maybe you were one. You can’t walk away from every situation looking innocent when you know in your heart you aren’t. Where is the integrity in that? You can however be a man or a woman and own up to what you feel and share that with someone knowing that regardless of the outcome you did what was right. You gave them closure. 

That is how I live my life. Good, bad or indifferent. People say I wear my heart on my sleeve and that is how it gets broken time and time again but I feel alive. I love with all I am. I know who I am and at the end of the day when I lay my head down to sleep, I know that there is no doubt in any one’s mind about how I feel about them. I have ran away in my past but I have rectified the situations. I have bled my heart out for those who never loved me in return. I have given pieces of me until I wasn’t sure if there was anything left. The more love you give the more love overflows. It renews itself. Don’t worry about how you will look or what someone will say. Be honest and give the gift of certainty whether it is a declaration of your love or a painful goodbye.