Empowering Women in Worship

I have had the privilege of leading worship at my home church, Christ’s Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA, for 7 years now. I love my church and my community… and I LOVE what I do. Although different than what I thought I might be doing in life, I feel as if I am right where God has called me. And that is a fun and exciting place to be! But like anything else, a calling comes with its share of obstacles. Although trying at times, it has been an amazing learning experience. I have learned how to rely on God when feeling alone, and I have learned to believe in myself and the calling God has on my life.

As a result of my own journey, my passion has heavily turned to equipping and empowering women, specifically women in worship. I want women all over the world to know they are valued beyond measure, that they have unlimited potential, and that they have a unique gifting and calling within God’s kingdom. And the more I dive into this calling, the more I feel God shaping it. Deep in my heart I feel like this calling is going to turn into something bigger than myself. Have you ever felt like that?

I know this to be my first step: A WORSHIP ALBUM DESIGNED TO EMPOWER THE NEXT GENERATION OF FEMALE WORSHIP LEADERS.

But what comes next? I don’t know. This vision is what I will start with, and who knows what it will turn into. That is why I love serving God and trusting in his sovereign will for my life. Because he always has a plan, and I can’t wait to see where He takes me on the journey of empowering women in worship.

Check out this video for more info on my first step:

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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.

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.

Dependance On God


I just started Oswald Chambers’ book, My Utmost For His Highest. It is an amazing devotional that I have heard so much about over the years, but have never had the opportunity to read. So far, it has lived up to all the hype. It is an inspirational and life-changing read that has re-focused my mind towards Jesus. My reading yesterday was called: “Will You Go Out Without Knowing?”  It is inspired from Hebrews 11:8

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

…Even though he did not know where he was going!! That is crazy. Abraham had so much faith and trust in God. He started walking even though he didn’t know where in the world he was going. Oswald Chambers writes, “You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing.” We have to trust that God knows what he is doing. And it is in those moments that he is able to stretch us and grow our faith in Him.

Last year, I had 2 major events happen in my life that helped me to grow in my trust and faith in God: I made my own worship album and I traveled to Africa. When I initially felt called to do both of these things, I was in the dark. I had no idea what was going to happen or how it was going to happen. All I knew was that God knew what He was doing. And I had to trust in Him and take each step at the time. Now looking back at last year’s journey, I can truly say that God had a amazing plan for me and knew exactly what he wanted to do through me. What if I had not said YES to God’s calling? Where would I be now? Maybe somewhere not as fulfilling as here. Maybe I wouldn’t have as much faith and trust in God as I do now.

Chambers writes, “Let the attitude of the life be a continual ‘going out’ in dependence upon God.” Are you depending on God? Dependance on God can put us in such a place of wonder… wondering what God is going to do next… wondering how God is going to provide finances for the situation… wondering when God will reveal the answer… wondering how you are going to get from here to there. It is in those moments of wonder that God reveals who He is.  Chambers asks, “Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does?” Let’s believe and trust in our God to do great things even if we have no idea where He is taking us. And let’s grow closer to Him through the beautiful journey.

Love Week

LoveLOVE fills the air this week. It’s Valentine’s week… a time to share your heart with the ones you love. It could be romantic… it could be brotherly or sisterly… it could even be with your pet. Love is everywhere.

I am grateful because I have many people around me who love me and I love them. My husband is such a blessing from God. He is kind, humble, hilarious, and my best friend. My family is so supportive in everything I do. My dog greets me with so much love when I come home, and cuddles with me on the couch. My church family gives me strength when I need it and points me in the right direction always. I could go on. I am so blessed and feel so LOVED on this Valentine’s week.

But more than the love of my husband, family, friends, and dog… I am so blessed to serve a God who loves me despite all of my failures and downfalls. He loves me so much that He sent his only son to die on the cross for my sins. That was the greatest display of LOVE in all of history. And I am so blessed to serve a God who accepts and forgives and loves unconditionally.

Happy LOVE week everyone. May love fill your minds and your hearts, as we reflect on the love of others and the immense love of our God.

-Ashley

 

Why Worry?

Why Worry?

Worry. I do that a lot.

I have my new worship album coming out in 8 days… yes 8 days. It was a year process, and it is coming out in 8 days! (Did I say that already?) I can’t believe it. But unfortunately, in the last few days, I have found myself in a constant state of worry. There is a lot to finish up before the album release… worry. And I just found out that my album is not going to be done until the morning of the event… more worry. I have to prepare for my rehearsal with my band still… worry. The final videos and technical strategies need to be finalized… more worry. I don’t know how many people are even going to come to the album release… worry. And worst of all: what if they don’t even like the songs… WORRY! The more I think about it, the more I worry… and then God slaps me in the face.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 

28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6)

When God called me to do this album project at the end of 2011, I was worried. But looking back at the year process, God has taken care of me this entire time and used these songs and this project for His glory. I am praying that I will have faith in God this week. And trust that he will complete the work that he has started in me and through this project. To God be the glory. 

I release my worry to Him, and I pray that today, you can do the same. 🙂

-Ashley