Welcome to this week’s installment of “What Being Brave Looks Like,” the series where we feature my smart friends and their wise words about what it means to be brave. Today we are welcoming Reverend Ashley Allen, one of the amazing pastors at my church, Floris United Methodist Church. Ashley is our online campus pastor and an all around lovely human being. She shared these words with our Wesley Fellows a number of months ago in a retreat setting. When I heard these five directives, I thought to myself “YES!! THIS is what being brave looks like in a world where cynicism and snark are more often the norm! THIS is what it means to live open-hearted and all in! ”
I can’t wait for you to inhale these life-giving words and make them your own. I think they are particularly appropriate as we celebrate the graduates in our lives, so feel free to share with yours.
Please welcome my beautiful, wise friend Ashley.
The most destructive day can never destroy your hope, your call, your future.
So no matter how the wind blows, keep calm and be kind.
When things become hard, wise hearts stay soft.
Solving a problem can’t ever trump loving a person.
And be more tender with you because you carry wounds and a soul, and so does everyone else, and being tender with you is how you begin to be tender with them.
Because out of the heart, the tongue speaks, and the heart refuses to speak with a divided tongue.
How you talk to your own heart is how your heart will talk to everyone.How you talk to your own heart is how your heart will talk to everyone. - Ashley Allen Click To Tweet
You can’t beat your demons by beating up on yourself.
Demons die by love.
Fall more in love with something else and your demons die like nothing else.
Preaching gospel to yourself is how you whisper calm to your soul,
Good news that soothes the raw edges of things,
the soft ways of grace and tender hope that carries you Forward.
Embrace failure when she comes, and come to sit comfortably with her. Failure wants to be a kind teacher, a wise surgeon, a needed guide. Failure is a redirect, not a judge.
Make failure your assistant — not your assessor.Make failure your assistant — not your assessor. -Ashley Allen Click To Tweet
Risk is your doorkeeper — look forward to warmly meeting every morning.
Risk enough that you might get burned — because that’s how your life lights up.
And when your risks shake hands with failure, Exhale:
New life happens in you when you aren’t afraid of the deaths that happen before resurrections.
When you fear you aren’t enough or that you’re too much — you really fear the freeing beauty of being you.
Rise to whatever comes to you, go to wherever you’re sent, give however your soul knows how, and give thanks whenever you breathe.
In Deuteronomy 30 God addresses the whole company of Israel through Moses and says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Verse 19).
God’s will for us is generally to do more of that which gives us life (Deuteronomy 30:11-20; John 10:10) and to turn away from those things that drain life from us. Furthermore, God points out that the wisdom that enables us to choose life is not something we will find outside of ourselves—in heaven or across the ocean—but that this knowing is very near to us; it is in our mouths and in our hearts for us to notice and observe (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
In the New Testament Jesus says, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV). Many of our smaller decisions and most of our significant decisions—even decisions that require us to choose between two equally good options—involve the ability to notice what brings a sense of life, freedom in the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17), the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7).
These inner dynamics need not be attached to anything that is particularly momentous; in fact, they might seem relatively inconsequential until we learn to pay attention and trust what they have to tell us. That slight tension headache we get as we interact with a particular person or the aspect of our job that is inordinately draining, the life-giving energy we feel in the presence of art and beauty, the sensation of being “in the flow” when we are engaged in a particular activity, the feeling of peace we notice as we walk into a particular building or space—these are experiences of “life” and “death” that we can be attentive to and receive guidance from.
The opportunity to choose life is ours—in the day-to-day choices we face as well as in the larger decisions of our lives. This opportunity is there for us in our personal decisions and in the leadership decisions that affect many others. When we make it our habit to notice and respond to that which is life giving, we are in touch with what is truest about God, ourselves, and our world. Then, when we are called upon to make larger decisions—even in the leadership setting—we can draw upon all of the understanding and awareness we are gaining to inform our decision.
Ashley Allen is both the Online Campus Pastor and Celebrate Recovery Pastor at Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, VA. Ashley holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in musical theatre but left the theatre in 2006 when she received a call to ministry. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in 2013 at which time she was also ordained. She has called Floris UMC her church home since 2010 and joined the staff in March of 2011.