Kingdom of God

A Broken World

In the wake of what's happened in Florida, my heart is very heavy. This world is so broken and unfortunately, I don't think it's on the upswing. I'm not trying to be a pessimist, but we're all broken people--this is a reality. We've all been hurt, come from broken homes, have dysfunctional families, have broken friendships, and the list goes on. There is no perfect person in this world. 

Just look at TV. I know this isn't the only problem and certainly isn't the only reason for violence today, but I think it has something to do with it. Some shows are fine, but some images, messages, and world-views have become so mainstream that we are desensitized as a culture. Everything is becoming permissible to watch.

The other day while working at home, I glanced at the TV and watched in horror as a woman with a large butcher's knife killed two people. They didn't leave anything to imagination. I was sick. Why do we want to watch these things?! How is this enjoyable? What good does it do for us? Why put these things into our minds?

Our minds can create enough horror on their own without the help of others. Just FYI, this show was on normal, cable television. We weren't watching a slasher film. 

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/5, 1/2000 sec, ISO-500  |  Seattle, WA, USA

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/5, 1/2000 sec, ISO-500  |  Seattle, WA, USA

I think what Paul says in Philippians 4:8 is relevant: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (ESV) 

This is a high standard, but what a wonderful thing to work towards! Obviously, this doesn't bring the healing we need as a world. Only God can do that! But if we can stop putting evil things in, then what a change I believe would happen.

The world is broken, but God really likes to redeem people and activities. Why don't you be the start of that?

-Ashley

Meet Sage | Weekly Portrait Project

We met Sage five years ago when we visited a church in Tacoma, Washington. He might look like an intimidating person (I did try to get him to smile--promise!), but is one of the most fun people we've ever been around. Him and his wife (and kids!) are amazing people who are constant encouragements to us. We love these guys. Read about Sage's story below:

My name is Sage Sanchez.

Jesus rescued me 11 years ago. I was born into a generational curse of drug addiction that plagued my family for years. Sitting in jail, I started asking myself questions, that never dared to ask while I was entrenched in the lifestyle of gangs and drugs. Not too long after sitting in jail for a year, and searching for the Lord, I was in a position that I had face reality, and all my fears, I realized I was face to face with God, broken and, crying out to Him to save me! He was faithful and just, He rescued me, and has been restoring me back to who I am created to be. I am called to be a husband, a father, and most importantly, a child of God. I am thankful that He let's me partner with Him in ministry, and serve broken young people that I can relate to.


Like Sage, we all have stories when we've been in a broken place. We might all be different looking, from different countries, speak different languages, and have different experiences, but the bottom line is that at a basic level we're all the same. I hope that from this portrait project you are beginning to see the beauty in diversity of people and their stories. 

Give me the opportunity to share YOUR story! Email me (ashley@transparentlifephotos.com)!

-Ashley

He Knows You

Canon 5D Mark II, 24mm f/2.8  |  f/10, 1/80sec, ISO-640

Canon 5D Mark II, 24mm f/2.8  |  f/10, 1/80sec, ISO-640

When I am surrounded by mountains, I can't get over how big they are and how small I am. It's the same when I went scuba diving a few years ago. I remember being about 20 meters down, looking around the water that went on forever, realizing how small I am in the midst of such a big world.

In those moments I have to remember that the God that created all of these mountains and the depths of the ocean is for me and even created me along with those mountains! It says in Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV):

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

Wow! Such an amazing truth. God created all of us and knows who we are--the true us. He created us--He knit all of us in our mother's womb. He wonderfully made all of us. What a treasure to know, that God is not far or aloof, but intricately made each one of us! He wants to be a part of our lives. He didn't just create us and leave us.

Whenever you feel small in a big world, remember that in God's eyes you are important and known! What else more could you want if you already have the approval of the creator of the world?

-Ashley

Consider the Flowers

The last few days have been intense for us. It would take many blogposts to explain, but mainly we have been trying to get everything sorted for us to remain in our city. We've been working on this process since we arrived in the beginning of September, but it has proven to take longer than two months. Albeit this has been challenging, we are finally at a good spot. We have all the documents, memberships, sign-off's and so on. The only thing that isn't good is that our current visa expires on the 21st (this upcoming Wednesday).

As I've reflected today, what I find interesting is that I haven't found this whole process too worrisome. The constant trips to different offices repetitively (we've found that the lucky number is somewhere around 4-5 times) hasn't been too burdensome. Finding out, after you think you know the process, that you need another letter wasn't too bad. Yes, it would have been nice to know that before, but it's doable. Even people saying no hasn't been tragic (they've all said yes in the end, so it's worked out). 

What is stressful and burdensome is the constant anticipation for an outcome.

The last couple of days, I have wondered why both Joshua and I are so irritable. I was so perplexed by this because generally we get along great. It suddenly dawned on me today that the stress of waiting and anticipating, and a deadline fast approaching can definitely wear on people. It kind of goes back to my previous blogpost about waiting for the perfect wave. We are anticipating, hoping, etc. without any conclusive answers yet. For this situation to resolve would be so nice right about now!

So with all this in mind, as I was posting my photo of the day it reminded me that this doesn't have to pan out for me to have contentment wherever I'm at. We have been living in a state of unknown, but it doesn't matter.

It doesn't change who God is.

In Matthew 6 (in the Bible), Jesus talks about how we shouldn't be anxious about our lives because God knows and will take care of us. He talks about the birds, how they don't store away in barns, but God provides for them. He creates beautiful flowers that don't 'toil or spin'. He created the grass, which is here today and gone tomorrow. But us...we are much more of value than those things. How much more will he care for us? (This is my paraphrase, read the verses here)

It is true. God greatly cares for you and me and is much bigger than our situations. So although I want things to resolve, I will just have to keep living in "unknown land". At least one thing is for sure--even though I'm in "unknown land", God is with me. I'm not doing this alone. I'm so thankful!

Whether you're in a good place today or are anticipating an outcome, I pray you know God is with you. 

-Ashley

A Deep Longing

When my department and I went to this mosque, there was a man that was sitting on the floor, watching us with curiosity. I don't know this man's story, but I think it's very likely that this man sits in this mosque often, praying and asking God to show him the straight path.

Whether people realize it or not, I think we all have a deep longing in our hearts. Something that cannot be filled by food, water, relationships with people or material things. I know this is true for myself--I have a deep longing that I have tried filling with many things. For a long time, it was feeling adequate or worth something. I tried to find my worth in everything I did--my achievements, what I learned, the relationships I had, etc. I always was dissatisfied.  I have even tried with food, eating WAY more than I needed and trying to fill my lacking emotions with good tasting food. Neither of these things worked..nor has anything on this earth. Truly it has been my relationship with God that has filled this void in my heart and I am truly so thankful! It has not been something I have done--I could never fill this by myself. When I try to fill it, I'm always disappointed (as mentioned above!).

God desires to show all of us His Kingdom. I pray that we all find it so that we might truly know and have life abundantly! That is His desire for us and it's wonderful!

What are your thoughts? Do you agree that we all have a longing in our hearts for something bigger than ourselves?

-Ashley

Ramblings on Life & Fear

Sometimes I am amazed at how things grow in life. Take this tree for example:

This palm tree had another thing growing over it and honestly it looks messy. It reminds me of my own life, in that if I'm not careful, things can easily "grow" and overtake me if I don't stop it. For example, fear. If I don't constantly give my worries over to God, then it's possible and very likely for me, to have fear to grow in my heart and I will become entangled in it. It's good to do a daily check on yourself to make sure that things aren't creeping in that shouldn't be there. I read this verse today that really encouraged me (on fear) that is:

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
— Exodus 14:14 (ESV)

I'm so thankful that God will fight for us...and it's clearly not our responsibility! We just have to stand still...and do nothing. Which is really hard for most of the world!! I know it is for me. I am called a 'workaholic' often by one of my best friends here. :) Not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

Hope you are encouraged today. Remember that God will fight for you!

-Ashley

Pain. It's everywhere.

There is so much pain all around us. No one is excluded, although some would like to think they were and hide it more than others. 

Up until recently I hadn't really paid attention to it. I have guarded my heart incredibly, not trying to notice other's pain, other's hopelessness, other's sadness. However, after recently opening up about my own pain to some friends of mine, I've now seen other people with new eyes. Eyes that understand. Eyes that are full of compassion. Eyes that can't sit idle, but want to help. 

With everything going on across the world shows evidence that people are in pain. Pain from loss, pain from disappointment, pain from all sorts of things. But what can we do? Can we do anything? 

The only person I know that can help is the creator of all - God. The Kingdom He talks about is so rich. So fulfilling. So hopeful. I know everyone doesn't believe the same as me, and that's fine. But I do believe God's Kingdom is the answer to our problems. Until the Kingdom comes, life will continue as is because there is a ruler (namely Satan) here that hates everyone (although he gets others to think the opposite) and wants them all to be in pain. This enemy delights in their pain and suffering. 

God, bring your Kingdom.

Today's photo of the day is of a sunflower. I love sunflowers--they're probably my favorite flower. When they began to grow up around our home, I was surprised and very happy. To me, they show happiness, brightness, beauty and hope. I think that in the midst of our problems, we can still have hope. Hope in what is to come. 

This post is a lot more serious than any of my other posts, but I feel I have so much rambling around in my mind that I want to express. Feel free to comment below, as I've love to talk more about God's Kingdom. I think this photo is fitting for my Kingdom of God project, too. 

Tomorrow will be a happier post - promise. :)

-Ashley

The Kingdom of God (KoG) Photo Project

As I said in my last post, I am going to start a photo project entitled, "The Kingdom of God'. I started this project a few years ago, with little success. Why? It's an incredibly hard topic!

What is the KoG? Jesus talks a lot about the KoG coming or is here now, so what does that look like? There are quite a few passages in the New Testament that talk about the Kingdom, but even then it's so complex and can be confusing. 

I wanted to start off my project by revealing some of my first shots for what I think the Kingdom of God represents. Let me know what you think!

2014-kingdomofgod_forblog01-pearl.jpg

This to me represents this passage: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:45-46). Apparently the Kingdom is worth searching for and very valuable.

This picture just resembles to me how people in the Kingdom might live. Maybe unguarded, authentic, ready to serve and do things most people won't do, etc. These things are not easy. You have to humble yourself quite a bit!

That's all I would like to share for now. If you have any ideas of pictures of what the Kingdom is, share them with me! Would love to try them.

-Ashley