Growth Lessons from a Flower

A couple of weeks ago, my geranium plant looked like just another plant: healthy green leaves but no flowers, no colour. I felt sad until I had another look last week and saw tiny buds emerging. A day or two later, they were starting to open!

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I was fascinated by how the tiny green “leaves” were pushed open by the flower so I did some research. Those are actually called sepals and I learned a few other things that immediately brought to mind the beautiful process of maturity believers in Christ go through (or at least should!)

Plant life always starts with a seed, which contains everything needed for growth and reproduction. It’s no surprise that Jesus used the analogy of a sower spreading seeds to illustrate how the gospel touches hearts.

Seeds need warmth and water to germinate. In some cases, the sprouting process requires light or even fire and other harsh conditions. Every human heart has different circumstances, but each one needs to give the gospel message time to send down roots and start growing. This happens when we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

Once a plant sprouts, it must produce its own food through photosynthesis—converting sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into sugars that help it grow. Similarly, Christians must draw spiritual nourishment from God’s Word and from time in His presence.

Eventually, a plant will develop buds that burst into colourful blooms. Flowers aren’t only pretty to look at. They attract pollinators to their reproductive organs, which God cleverly incorporated into His design. As we mature in our walk with God, others should be attracted to His beautiful characteristics in us and smell His pure fragrance in our lives.

When flowers reproduce—when collected pollen travels down into a flower’s “ovary” and meets the tiny eggs that are waiting—new seeds are created and the process begins again. Fruitful Christians are meant to further God’s kingdom by sowing seeds and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others.

How is your garden growing this summer?

Ann-Margret Hovsepian

 

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Craving Approval

I was 15 when I had to write the little blurb that would later appear next to my graduation photo in the school yearbook. Before listing my cherished memories, pet peeves, activities I was involved in, and closest pals, I shared this quote:

“There is no reward from God to those who seek it from men.”

This somewhat insignificant fact came to mind recently as I was reflecting on a truth about myself, one I felt God was challenging me to confront. I was thinking about how I’ve always struggled to make sure I have the approval of
people around me—and I don’t just mean my parents and teachers. Even strangers or mere acquaintances were not safe from my big approval-catching net.

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with living in such a way that meets with the approval of most people around you—if you’re doing so out of a sincere impulse to live rightly. However, it’s not ideal (or healthy) to base every action and decision on one’s perception of how others will react. Not only does this set you up to potentially make a lot of bad decisions, but it’s also exhausting, not to mention futile.

The irony that I ended up approaching life almost completely opposite to the words of wisdom I’d imparted on others three decades earlier did not escape me. The revelation was momentarily disheartening but it also gave me clarity and the opportunity to change my approach. It allowed me to ask God to change my heart and to move from being a people-pleaser to a God-pleaser.

Why is this important? Because being a people-pleaser is not the position of humility and servitude it appears to be on the surface. Instead, it’s just another way of keeping one’s focus on oneself. We think of people who don’t care about others as being self-centred and conceited, but being a compulsive people-pleaser is simply the other side of the same coin.

We live in a world where people on both sides of a political divide put a lot of energy into what we now call virtue signaling or moral posturing. We see the same problem in Christian circles with doctrinal debates. The compulsive need to have others see us as good and virtuous and morally superior seems to be spreading like a virus.

Galatians 1:10 makes it abundantly clear where our focus should be: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Now, doesn’t that make life a whole lot simpler?

Ann-Margret

Free Hummingbird Colouring Page

Hello, friends! Cover smallerI got the urge to doodle last night so I took a little break while nursing a sore throat to create a surprise gift for you. Here are two versions of a colouring page, with or without the border, that you are welcome to print out and colour.

The downloads are free, but I’d love it if you shared the link to this post with your friends and, if you haven’t already, please check out my devotional colouring book, Restore My Soul. If you have a copy of Restore My Soul and enjoy it, would you please consider writing a review today? Thank you! That would be an enormous blessing to me. ❤

Here are your freebies! Have a blessed day. 🙂

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Take Time to Be Holy

One principle I’ve learned over many years of attending Sunday School and Bible study is that the recipe for growth as a Christian calls for four key ingredients: prayer, Bible study, fellowship and service. And I’ve observed that these four ingredients are not only the means to growth but also the result of growth. The more we do these things, the more we want to do them and the better we get at them.

This principle was confirmed for me in a rather startling way a couple of weeks ago when one of the hymns we sang at church was “Take Time to Be Holy.” While we were singing, my attention was drawn to the repeated phrase: take time to be holy.

Take time. Take time to be holy. Take time to be holy.

The journey toward holiness begins with our choice, and it requires a time commitment. We can’t just sit around waiting for holiness to happen to us. (That’s why we feel like it takes forever to get there.) It isn’t simply given to us. It’s a process that is activated when we take time.

That Tuesday morning, I decided to listen to the song more closely so, while still laying in bed, I searched for the song on my phone and found a version of it sung by Joseph Habedank. And this is when I was startled by a joyous observation. Look at the first lines of the first verse:

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord — That’s PRAYER!

Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word — That’s BIBLE STUDY!

Make friends of God’s children — That’s FELLOWSHIP!

Help those who are weak — That’s SERVICE!

I’ve been a Christian for 39 years. I’ve been serving in the church since I was a teenager. My father’s a pastor. But I still struggle with the pursuit of holiness. Here’s the thing: As with any other pursuit, it’s not enough to desire holiness, to fantasize about it. Life isn’t a fairy tale where if you wish for something hard enough, it comes true.

The missing link is time coupled with effort. Commitment. I need to “take time to be holy” instead of spinning my wheels wondering why I’m not getting anywhere.

Time is a precious commodity. How am I spending it?

How are you spending yours?

Ann-Margret

The Internal Disease

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading Patti Callahan’s Becoming Mrs. Lewis, a fictional novel based on the real-life events surrounding the relationship between C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman. During one of their conversations, Joy expressed dismay at her tendency to be tempted by certain sins. She was struggling and I can imagine that she might have been angry, too—angry that she was bound to a nature that she could not be rid of or change.

I’ve been there. I’ve subconsciously—perhaps even wilfully at times—questioned God for making me a certain way, with weaknesses and tendencies that I am uncomfortable with and ashamed of. Why couldn’t He have made me to be naturally kind and pure and unselfish? This is spiritual immaturity and a lack of wisdom.

I love C.S. Lewis’ response: “God doesn’t judge by internal disease, but by moral choices.” In other words, we may not be able to control what tempts us, angers us, saddens us, or hurts us, but we do have agency to react to each situation in a moral and godly manner. Shame shouldn’t lie in one’s natural inclination toward particular sins but in choosing to yield to those temptations when God has clearly given us the free will to choose otherwise.

It’s like the hyperparathyroidism I battled for many years: I did nothing to create the disease in my body and I could do nothing to get rid of it. However, I had the choice to either change my diet and habits to minimize the symptoms or ignore my doctor’s guidelines and suffer. (Thankfully, surgery eventually solved my problem but even that was beyond my own capabilities.)

Looking back on my life, my sense is that many of us expend a lot of energy fighting with or denying our sinful nature when all we really need to do is daily choose God’s will over our own, God’s plan for us over our own.

Ann-Margret

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Joy Unspeakable

Growing up, I used to enjoy the vinyl records my parents played (I may have just given my age away!) and occasionally I hear some of the songs echoing in the far recesses of my brain. One of them was a hymn sung by a then-popular television evangelist, and it made me smile to remember it a few days before the new year because it is about a three-letter word that has become my theme in recent months: JOY!

Joy Unspeakable, written by Barney E. Warren in 1900, goes like this:

I have found His grace is all complete,
He supplieth every need;
While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
I am free, yes, free indeed.

It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, full of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Oh, the half has never yet been told.

I have found the pleasure I once craved,
It is joy and peace within;
What a wondrous blessing, I am saved
From the awful gulf of sin.

I have found that hope so bright and clear,
Living in the realm of grace;
Oh, the Savior’s presence is so near,
I can see His smiling face.

I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
How its waves of glory roll;
It is like a great o’erflowing well,
Springing up within my soul.

Isn’t that beautiful? The Bible says that the peace we find in Christ is beyond understanding (Philippians 4:7). Similarly, it’s fitting to say that the joy He gives us is “unspeakable”—indescribable. How do you explain that deep, bubbling joy that begins far down in your soul and overflows even in the midst of pain, hardship, uncertainty and need? It defies human logic and flies in the face of worldly standards of happiness.

I don’t know whether you’ve made any resolutions or goals for 2019, but I have one overarching one: to seek my joy in Christ alone and to share that joy with others. One way I try to do that is through my daily posts on Facebook, which you can follow here. I hope you’ll come and visit and be encouraged.

Be sure to check out the “31 Days of Encouraging Others” challenge I posted. In case you don’t have Facebook, here it is in a nutshell:

January challenge

Oh, one more thing before I close: Click on the “Freebies” tab above to find my latest free colouring page (“Rejoice!”)

I wish you a joyous New Year!

Ann-Margret 

P.S. Thanks for your patience while I took a break from my blog. I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be posting but I’ll be around a little more often. 🙂

 

Hiatus

Dear readers,

I haven’t posted in a while, and I appreciate your patience while I take a break from blogging for a little while longer. I had big plans for this blog at the beginning of the year but I had more enthusiasm than time and energy. And a week from today I’ll be on my way to Armenia for three weeks, along with my Dad and my niece Alexis, for my fourth mission trip to my motherland. Please follow our trip on our blog or on Facebook.

In late September, I’ll be the keynote speaker at the InScribe Fall Conference in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, and then, in mid-October, I fly down to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Breathe Conference, where I’ll mainly be learning (and my friend Jocelyn Green will be the keynote speaker!) but I’ll also have the opportunity to co-lead a workshop and facilitate a creative activity.

I’m also working on a new book proposal so, as you can see, there’s a lot going on! I still post pretty regularly on Facebook, though, so I invite you to follow me there, too.

This blog is not over, friends. I’m just gathering some really good material to share with you when the time is right. Thanks for sticking around! 🙂

Have a blessed summer,

Ann-Margret ❤

 

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