The Lost Art of the Love Letter

loveletterRemember when people used to write letters and send them through mail? More importantly, what happened to the lost art of writing LOVE letters? There are so many beautiful love letters that expressed exactly how people felt in the most memorable of ways. I adore the writing of these famous love letter excerpts…

“I drank no coffee since I left you, nor intend to till I see you again. There is none worth drinking but yours, if myself may be the judge.” Johnathan Swift, 1721

“I have always thought you the cleverest, most agreeable, absurd, amiable, perplexing, dangerous, fascinating little being that lives now or ought to have lived 2,000 years ago.” Byron, 1812

“Life isn’t half long enough to love all the different things about you in. I shall die in the middle of a little laugh at some new funny thing that I adore you for.” Katherine Mansfield, 1915

“Don’t expect me to be sane any more. Don’t let’s be sensible… I came away with pieces of you sticking to me.” Henry Miller, 1932

Why did we ever stop writing like this, or feeling and thinking in such poetry? The words are so beautiful and heartfelt. Today, we tend to think abbreviated. We might send a “:-)” over text or a “143” over email. These can be meaningful, but what would happen if we sat down to write a handwritten thank-you letter or left a sweet note on a post-it for our loved one? Dare I say we would appreciate the words that much more?

I decided to try a love letter myself, and I decided to write it to the one who means the most to me: God. Sorry that it is not hand-written (this is a blog), but I believe that it still makes my point, and allowed me to express my love in a more creative, heartfelt way.

Dear God, 

You are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands upon thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. You are a jealous God, and for that I am grateful… that you would care for my attention. You chose to give your life for me. You bled and suffered so that I might be free. Your sacrifice brings me life. 

I long to sit in your presence forever and a day. I long to bask in the beauty of your glory. I long to see your face. But if not your face, your shadow will do. Because seeing any part of you is worth it all. I will wait for you like the moon waits for the sunlight. Shine on me and let your reflection be a testament to my lasting devotion. All my love is for you and I am yours… all of my heart, mind, and soul.

Yours truly, 
Ashley Beckford

There is too much love in this world to have it go unexpressed. Try writing a love letter to someone special in your life… a significant other, a best friend, a family member, etc. Let’s bring back the lost art of beautiful and meaningful writing. And let’s show love to those who matter most.

Meaning Behind: Light of the World

Light of the World

Light: the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible.

Picture yourself in a dark room. Everywhere you look, there is black. You don’t know what is around you. You can’t take a step without the fear of bumping into something. You are lost, feeling your way around blindly, desperately searching for some small ounce of light. How do you feel in that moment? What is going through your mind? Are you scared like I would be… uneasy and uncertain?

Light is very important. Light is needed if we are to see clearly. Light is the what points us to understanding and certainty. If you can see, you can act. If you can see, you know what to expect.

In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the LIGHT OF THE WORLD, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus is the LIGHT OF THE WORLD. He is the agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible. And not just the ordinary things around us, but the supernatural and spiritual truths that are needed in our lives. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and we are to follow Him. It is promised in scripture that if we do that, we will never walk in darkness. We will never have to be afraid because He is shinning the light of life, and true salvation is found in Jesus.

Let us always pursue a life in the light of Jesus Christ. May we search out and find Him in the place where His glory dwells. I hope that this song encourages you to do just that.

LIGHT OF THE WORLD

Let Your kingdom come, Your will be done, I turn to face the rising sun
To find You in the place Your glory dwells
A brand new day, A bright new start, A second chance, A change of heart
To find You in the place Your glory dwells

Light of the world come down
Shine till the path is found
Light of the world come down, come down

I’ll run to You when you call me out, follow You through fear and doubt
To find You in the place Your glory dwells
I’ll trust in You when my faith is weak, die to self and humbly seek
To find You in the place Your glory dwells

Light of the world come down
Shine till the path is found
Light of the world come down, come down
Break through the dark of night
Heaven and earth collide
Light of the world come down, come down

You are the way the truth and the life
Shine on, Shine on

To purchase the song, CLICK HERE.

Being a Female Worship Leader is Hard

worship-leader-idolThis post is specifically for my female worship leader friends, or anyone who works with other female worship leaders. A little background…

I am the only female worship leader on staff at my church. On my church campus, I work with one other male worship leader, and all the other campuses have male worship leaders. Over the years, I have come to understand the difficulty of trying to lead the same set as my male worship leader counterpart. It has been a challenge! For one, I naturally don’t have the same type of “energy” as he does. Most of our congregation, when I first got hired, was not used to seeing a female take the reigns. It was a different type of leadership that they were not used to. Also, the guys didn’t know how to sing in a female key. Eek… what is harmony?! Females are so used to singing harmony to male worship leaders, but males have not grown up with that ear training. So, it was very difficult for them… and still is. Over time, I have learned to place my songs in keys that work best for male and female both, but that still doesn’t solve every problem. (If you are wondering, C-C works as the best range for everyone).

In addition, when we introduce songs, my male worship counterpart and I are supposed to find a song that works for both of us. Yeah right! This is so hard. We found a couple songs that worked, but it usually resulted in both of us struggling with the song. Compromise led to… not the best for our congregation. We recently worked out a rotation where we can introduce 2 different songs simultaneously to different services. I won’t go into the details, but this has been an amazing process because we have been able to introduce songs that fit our own style and heart, yet still minister to our congregation. Co-leading has also helped this.

Another struggle that I have run into lately has been the availability of female-led worship songs for the corporate church. There is not much out there, especially upbeat songs! In the top 30 worship songs right now, there are only 2 female led songs and they are more like ballads. Typical, right? So how do I survive as a female worship leader!? Below are some resources that I hope will help:

  • ORIGINAL MUSIC
    • My heart is to write songs, specifically for females to use in the corporate worship setting. These songs are meant to be singable, catchy, and in a female key.
    • To look through my catalogue, go to my website. Charts are also provided on my site for FREE!
  • YOUTUBE CHANNEL
    • I have recently been posting more live videos from my worship sets on the weekend. Most of the songs that I am posting are male-led songs that I have transposed and arranged specifically for me. Feel free to rip off the arrangements and use them for your own worship sets!
    • Check out the videos on my YOUTUBE channel.
  • LIST OF MALE SONGS TRANSPOSED
    • Here is a list of some of the top worship songs that are male-led, and the keys that I would do them in (Just a few to get you started!):
      • 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord), Matt Redman- Key of D
      • One Thing Remains, Bethel- Key of E (without the octave jump)
      • Christ Is Enough, Hillsong Live- Key of D
      • The Rock Won’t Move, Vertical Church Band- Key of D
      • This Is Amazing Grace, Phil Wickham- Key of C
      • God Is Able, Hillsong Live- Key of E
      • Stronger, Hillsong Live- Key of A
      • Our God, Chris Tomlin- Key of E
      • Everlasting God, Brenton Brown- Key of A
      • Not To Us, Chris Tomlin- Key of E
      • Glory To God Forever, Fee- Key of F#
      • We Are The Free, Matt Redman- Key of D

Hope this helps! Please message me if you have any questions. My heart is for other female worship leaders and I want to continue to be of resource to you. More posts and resources to come.

 

Fear of Alone

Last week, I conquered my fear of going out alone. I know this probably sounds weird to some of you, but I hate being alone, specifically alone in public. I think I am such a people person that I don’t like to keep conversation in my own head. But last Friday, I was forced to.

bike

I went to the beach alone…
Rented a bike alone…
Rode my bike several miles alone…
Locked up my bike and shopped downtown Huntington alone…
Got tacos and ate on the beach alone…
Was stalked by a seagull alone…
Read my bible and wrote in my journal alone…
And drove home alone.

Yeah, this sounds a little depressing right? To me yes. But to some of you, this is like a dream. Unfortunately, this day was very difficult for me. I hate it when I am forced to have conversation with myself. I would rather talk it out with a human being. But I realized that this day of alone time was the best thing that I could have done. Although some moments were awkward and weird, I was forced to work through my feelings and emotions by myself. I was lost in my own thoughts and my own arguments. I was trapped into finding solutions on my own. I was with me, myself, and I.

Surprisingly, I found more peace than I thought I would. I was able to spend time with God, the creator of the universe. Especially when I am so often surrounded by noise, this was very refreshing. God seemed so much closer and so much more accessible. God really does move and speak in the silence. Ultimately, by the end of the day, I felt not so alone. I felt as if my conversations now had a counterpart, and my questions now had answers. Life was much clearer and my fear was much smaller.

I still love people, and I still prefer noise. I guess that is just my personality. But I now know that I need to make more time for silence in my life. Alone is good. Alone is needed. Alone helps me to see things much clearer.

Flying Through Open Air

When I was in Jr. High, my school had an amazing ropes course. It was really high in the air and was very challenging. Coming from a person who is terrified of heights, I was not too excited to do this in P.E. class. But unfortunately, I am also very competitive and love a good challenge so despite my fears, I did it anyways. I started with some of the easier things like the wall climb and the zip line. Check. But when I got to the harder ones, especially the trapeze jump, I second guessed my yearning to do it. 

In order to tackle the trapeze, you climb up a 40 foot wooden pole like a ladder, but instead of steps, you are placing your foot on small metal U’s coming out of the pole. Not the most stable of ladders. Of course you are strapped into a safety harness that will catch you if you fall, but you are not thinking about that as you get higher and higher… further and further away from the safety of the solid ground. The higher I climbed, the louder my breath became. The higher I climbed, the further I was from comfortable. But being in Jr. High where peer pressure is a part of every day life, I forced myself to take one more step… and one more step. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I reached the top. I was relieved until I realized that what I had to do next was even scarier than the climb. 

Trapeze

I had to pull myself up onto the top of the pole and balance without holding onto anything! What?! For someone who was deathly afraid of heights, this was the most frightening thing yet. So, very carefully and with all the confidence I could muster, I climbed up onto the top of the pole. 

I was frozen.

Ahead of me was an even more daunting task than before (I didn’t think that was possible after what I had just gone through). Ahead of me was a handle that I had to jump to… and remember this is 40 feet above the ground!! They wanted me to leap from a tiny pole to a handle. It looked so far away. 

Now what I want to talk about next is the jump. And not the grab of the handle (which I did successfully!), but the time in between the jump and the grab. The time where you are flying through space with nothing to hold onto. The time when you are virtually leaving one platform and looking towards the next. It is scary. It is uncomfortable. But it is necessary. In order to get to the next step, you must take the leap and endure the place of no foothold. 

rr_trapeze4

To be honest and transparent, my worship department is in such a place right now. My boss resigned and his last day was Christmas Eve. It was not a bad exit. God is calling him to other things and I wish him the very best! However, my department is in transition. We have taken the leap off of the log and are now flying through the air waiting to reach the handle. We don’t know what is next or what God has in store for our department. 

To be more transparent, I have faced several challenges during this transition time. My first challenge is trying not to look back to the platform I just jumped from. I am tempted to go back to the familiar, but God doesn’t want that for me. His plan is best and he knows the exact color and shape of the next handle. My prayer in this season has been to not only be content in the open air, but also to look forward to the handle. God knows the exact color and shape that we need in the next season… the color is going to be stunning and the shape is going to be exactly the shape needed to grab onto. 

My second challenge has been the temptation to freak out! When you are flying through the air of transition with nothing to hold onto, it is easy to get scared and uneasy. So my most recent prayer has been that of trust. Trusting in God despite the circumstances and surroundings. Trusting in God can be hard, but it is the best thing to do in a season of transition. I have found security in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” God knows the plans He has for me, and all I need to do is trust in his plans. No need to freak out! 🙂 

Prayers are appreciated while myself and my department fly through space, trusting in God and his plans for the next season of ministry. In the meantime, I enjoy the open air! It is a rather nice breeze. 

Friendsgiving

ImageThis past weekend, my friends and I got together for Friendsgiving. (For those of you who don’t know what that means, it is a celebration of Thanksgiving dinner with your friends, according to Urban Dictionary.) We ate a wonderful meal together, played games, and talked about what we were thankful for. And as I sat in that room eating amounts of food beyond the capacity of my stomach and laughing till I cried, I realized that I have so much to be thankful for. Here are some of those things, in no particular order:

  • Friends. They make me laugh when I don’t want to and they make me a better person.
  • Family. They have always given me so much support and love, even when I didn’t deserve it.
  • Husband. He is the positive in my negative and loves me unconditionally. We fit together like turkey and gravy.
  • My dog, Oreo. He always greets me at the door with a smile (if dogs could smile) and a wagging tail.
  • My job. It is more like a family, and I am thankful that my passion has become a paycheck. The dream.
  • Health. In a world surrounded by sickness, I am so blessed to be healthy and thriving.
  • Music and Songwriting. It has become at outlet in the most opportune times and I love seeing how God is using some of the songs for His glory.
  • My house. Every time I walk in the front door, I feel like I should be more grown up than I am. And when it is filled with friends and family, it becomes a home. Blessed beyond words.
  • Food. Not only do I get to eat every day, but I get to eat wonderful foods that are a luxury to most people around the world.
  • Water. It’s clean and conveniently in my fridge. Yet another luxury that I take for granted.
  • My church family. They are so generous and loving, and I am glad to call myself a CCVer (attender of Christ’s Church of the Valley).
  • The space heater in my office. It warms my toes and my heart in the cold mornings.
  • Christmas. My favorite time of year, full of friends, family, fireplaces, and carols.
  • Prayer. I am so grateful that I have a medium to talk to my God every day, and I am thankful that other people use that medium to bless my life.
  • Technology. I can keep in touch with my friends in Africa and high school all in one facebook.
  • Clothes. Another luxury that I take for grated, and use to define my personality in so many ways.
  • The Cross. Without Jesus and His sacrifice, I would be lost. In Him, I have found new life and salvation.

I could go on. I am so blessed and s0 grateful. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on those blessings, and I encourage you to do the same. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

PS… if you are interested in hosting your own friendsgiving, here are some helpful rules that we went by: Rules Of Friendsgiving

Kids Singing My Songs? I Never Imagined.

Last week I was invited to come visit the kids choir at CCV (my home church). Rebekah Neilson, our kids worship leader, said that they had a surprise for me. Oooo… I love surprises! So this past Tuesday, after I led worship for the women’s bible study group, I went to pay them a visit. As I walked down the hall to Room 201, I heard the voices of many little worship leaders in the making. They were being led to sing vocal warms ups. As I walked into the door, I saw a few of them turn their heads to look at me. They smiled in anticipation.

I wondered what the surprise was going to be. I had an inkling to what in might be… Rebekah had introduced my song, “Heart After You” a few months back for the weekend kids services, and they have been singing it in rotation ever since. I had seen little snippets of video here and there of the kids singing out the lyrics with their sweet hand motions, but had never seen it in person. Shortly after I arrived at their rehearsal, Rebekah had them turn around towards me (all of their cute little faces) and wave hi to Mrs. Ashley. They cued the music and sure enough it was the intro to my song. They all faced Rebekah as she led them in singing the song, hand motions and all. I pulled my phone out to capture the moment and tears started to well up in my eyes.

 

I never thought in a million years that the songs I wrote for my album would reach kids. But after seeing them sing one of my songs the other night, I have never felt so much joy! I have seen youth and adults of all ages sing this song in particular, but the kids were the ones that melted my heart.

My writing inspiration for my album was to put scripture to song, and my goal was that the songs would be catchy enough to stick in the hearts of its listeners. The night of my album release, I showed a video that expanded on this idea. I mentioned the songs that I used to sing in Sunday School as a kid. These songs put scripture into my heart even at a young age. And they were catchy enough to stick with me even until now! That is amazing! And that is why the moment I saw the kids singing “Heart After You”, it became more special to me than anything I have ever experienced.

Psalm 51:10 (“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”) is the scripture inspiration for “Heart After You”. The lyrics to the song read, “Create in me a heart that’s clean, A heart that’s after You.” My prayer is that as these kids continue to sing out these lyrics, the Word of God would become a part of their vocabulary… their being… their life. And in years to come, they would never forget.

To God be the glory.

John Mayer and Worship

John-Mayer-1So last week, I went to the John Mayer concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Oh man, I love that guy. He is super talented and the show he puts on is phenomenal. Phillip Phillips opened up for him, and he was great, but John blew him out of the water. (John… like I know him on a first name basis or something… lol). The show was sold out, and everyone was excited to see John Mayer and his band play because he hadn’t been on tour for a while… due to his vocal surgery. But amazingly enough, his voice sounded better than I had ever heard it before (Yes, I have seen him 2 other times in concert). It had a sweet and smooth quality to it, and he seemed like he could sing for days without getting tired. I was very impressed. He even had vocal breakdowns in a couple of his songs, where he was able to showcase his voice alone. Good concert and great show.

But what does this have to do with worship?

As I looked around the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday night, I saw people (and actually sat next to one) who were completely and whole-heartedly in awe of John Mayer. They were lifting their hands, singing at the top of their lungs, and shouting for a man who they WORSHIPPED and LOVED in every sense of the word. They were followers of John Mayer and because they loved him and his music so much, it was easy for them to get excited at the concert. It was a no-brainer. John Mayer appeared and they responded to who he was and what he was doing.

So why don’t we do this on Sundays? Why don’t we get that excited during worship or the message? Why do we come to church and stand there with blank stares on our faces, arms crossed, and minds wandering? We serve a God who created the entire universe and everything in it. He is the one who put the stars in place and the moon in rotation. He is the God who made roaring water-falls and majestic mountains. He created the intricate nature of our minds and the beating of our heart. He sent His only Son to live on this earth, die on the cross, and resurrect to life 3 days later, all so we could access Him blameless and clean. He is holy, mighty, sovereign, great, majestic, perfect, gracious, loving… I could go on and on and on. Isn’t our God worth the best of us and the best of our worship? Shouldn’t we come to church on Sunday ready to lift our hands in surrender, sing at the top of our lungs, and shout for joy to a God who deserves it all?

John Mayer can be great… and he is.
But shouldn’t our God be GREATER?

My Husband

As I was looking through my old blog posts, I realized I had not written anything about my husband. And trust me, he is worth writing about. He is the positive in my negative and the inspiration behind so many parts of my life.

weddingWe have been married for 4 years now. Wow. Time flies! It feels like just yesterday that I was walking down the aisle towards his beaming face. I could not have found a better fit for me. Or rather, God could not have orchestrated a better team. He really does compliment me in so many ways. For one, he is the most positive person I know. This has proved time and time again to bring me up out of my negative rants or lifted me out of a depression. He always knows how to make me smile when I am having a bad day, and knows how to support me in just the right way. Especially being a ministry husband. So many times the politics of church can bog me down, but he stays strong and leads me through it.

My husband is a professional musician. Most people think that when we come home, it is a constant house of music. This can be true at times when we have to prepare or rehearse, but for the most part, music is removed from our home. We both do music all day so when we come home, we want a break from all the madness. Every once in a while, you will catch us songwriting together or talking about our favorite songs at the moment, but mostly we escape it all to just be with each other. My husband is super clean and neat. (Besides his desk… lol). God knew that I needed someone who was going to pick up after himself and take care of himself. I have a slight tendency to be OCD, which means I can’t relax until the house is organized and clean. Since my husband takes on some of this work as well, I don’t get stressed out very often. Perfect match.

My husband is the most humble musician I know. He is SUPER talented and can play any style, but when he is playing drums for our church worship band, he is never a show-off. He truly has a heart of worship and always points to God no matter what gig he might be at. This is rare to find in the musician world, but he exemplifies it better than anyone I know. Did I mention that he is hilarious too! He makes me laugh more than anyone.

lance and i

I am so grateful the God brought Lance into my life (that is his name by the way). 🙂 He could not be a more perfect fit for me. We didn’t always have a perfect relationship when we were dating, but God has somehow blossomed the Beckford team in marriage. We are better now than we ever have been, and my prayer is that every year I would fall more and more in love with this man. The secret, however, is not more time together or more kisses (although that stuff is wonderful). The secret is putting God first in our own lives and then living out a Godly marriage because of it. The secret is loving each other with a Godly love and sacrifice, all the while being as selfless as possible. Marriage is beautiful, and I am so blessed by my husband.