Love: Just Do It

L'Engle 2

“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (John 14:21 NLT)

We often talk about the importance of loving other people but, if I’m completely honest, I think my biggest struggle is truly loving God. Loving Him, that is, beyond a mere emotional, mushy feeling of admiration and affection. Loving Him in all that I do. Loving Him in the way I live out what I read in His Word. Loving Him in the way I invest my time and energy and attention. 

Anyone else find this difficult at times? Let’s remember not to rely on our feelings, because (a) they’re not enough and (b) sometimes they’re not even there. We need to CHOOSE to love God, not only with all our heart, but also with all our soul and strength and mind. (Luke 10:27)

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Five Sticky Words

For about three days at the beginning of April, I was surrounded by people who write, edit, illustrate, rearrange, print and sell words. Attending the annual Evangelical Press Association convention, always the professional highlight of my year, I was in my element.

I likely spoke many more words in those three days than I normally do in three weeks (since I live alone and work at home), and I certainly heard a lot more words than I’m used to. Words were amplified through microphones, projected onto screens, sung along to music, exchanged on paper, typed into laptops and broadcast on social media.

But five words in particular have stuck with me since my return home. Five words divided into two sentences. Two complete sentences with subject and verb. Seventeen letters in total.

The Lord knows.

Be you.

These statements were not spoken from a podium or written in a magazine. They were offered to me during two separate private conversations. I had shared my heart with two people I am just getting to know, and they both gave me enormous gifts wrapped in the tiniest packages.

Both are seasoned writers and no doubt have exceptional vocabularies, yet they used a few of the simplest, clearest words in the English language to say what I needed to hear. No bling, no attempt to impress, no grand gestures. Still, their messages, like a crisp seal pressing into melted wax, left a lasting impression on me.

What a great reminder, especially for those of us in the business of communicating, that an economy of words—when those words are carefully chosen—is sometimes far more desirable than a long, elaborately crafted message. And this applies to prayer, too, by the way.

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

What do you need to say to someone today? Can you say it in just a few poignant words?

The Lord knows.

Be you.

Ann-Margret

 

 

Not Spectacular

As a writer and artist, I constantly have to resist the siren call of fame and acclamation. I have to drown out the voices that tell me I’m not any good unless I’m the best at what I do. I have to be okay with placing fourth in a writing contest, having a smattering of followers on social media and, let’s face it, getting no responses to some of my blog posts (such as the one from last Saturday).

It comforted me to see this on my Facebook news feed this morning:

“God didn’t call us to be spectacular. He called us to be faithful.” Jon Weber

Today, I am resolving to be okay with being me. With God’s help, the best version of me, but not more than that. Not someone else. Not something else.

Last week, a newish friend (also a writer) listened as I expressed some of my self-doubts when it comes to my writing and then said: “Be you.”

Got it.

In light of that, I’m re-re-rethinking the purpose of this blog. As much as creativity is a huge part of who I am, I’m not sure it’s working to blog about it. I think I just need to do it. The last few months of “Creative Saturdays” posts will stay where they are, but I can’t keep it up, at least not now. Instead, I’m going to leave Saturdays open. I’ll still blog, but without confining myself to a particular topic. I may share graphics I’ve created with favourite quotes, which you’ll be welcome to share. I may just sit and chat with you like I am right now. I may yet suggest fun creative projects. We shall see!

L'Engle quote

On that note, here is something that jumped out at me this morning as I was reading A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle. (Click on the image to see it larger and download it.) I don’t need to be a spectacular creator, but I absolutely need to make sure I am building people up, adding beauty to the world and furthering God’s kingdom—not destroying, tearing down, cutting up.

Hmm. Deep thoughts this morning…

Ann-Margret

Underneath Me, All Around Me

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This illustration is a page from my devotional colouring book, Restore My Soul, which was published two years ago. Here’s the accompanying devotional:

Deep, Deep Love

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

At a women’s conference I attended with my mother some years ago, I learned the story behind the hymn “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” and now it seems so much more meaningful to me.

The hymn was written by Samuel Trevor Francis, a merchant and lay preacher in London, England, in the 1800s. One day, during his teenage years, Francis contemplated suicide on a bridge over the River Thames. But the Lord met him in his time of need and Francis put his faith in Christ in a life-changing moment. He went on to write many poems and hymns and lived to the age of ninety-one (he died in 1925).

Consider the significance of these lyrics in light of his experience of looking down at the river that almost took his life:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

Whatever you’re facing today, I pray that you’ll remember that God’s love is immeasurably greater. As you work on the coloring page, share your burdens with the Lord and ask Him to reveal His love for you in a new and special way. Or pray for someone you know who is hurting and think of a way to share God’s love with that person.

Ann-Margret 

Book Giveaway!

For the last three months, I’ve been posting creative projects or creativity joggers on Saturdays. Some of you have risen to the challenge and tried out the suggestions. It’s been fun to see or read your responses to the projects! However, many of you have either not jumped in yet or simply didn’t show me what you worked on. So I’m going to offer an incentive… the chance to win a free book! 🙂

Over the next week, look over the past Creative Saturdays posts (start here and just keep scrolling down) and find at least one that you’d like to try. Then…

  1. Come back here and let me know what you did (in the comments section) OR email the results to me at ann@annhovsepian.com.
  2. Be sure you’ve signed up to follow this blog (top right corner of this page, just under the red “ribbon”).

It’s fine if you haven’t fully finished the challenge when you enter; I would just love to know that you’re working on something.

Next weekend, I will throw all your names into a bowl and randomly choose one to win a copy of one of my books (your choice) plus a couple of little surprises. If you’ve participated in the past, please remind me and I’ll include your name.

Leave your comment or email me by midnight-ish on April 14. I will post the results the following Tuesday.

[Note: I’ve written this post late on April 1, after a busy Easter weekend and with one day to go before I fly off to a week-long conference, so please forgive me (and let me know) if the details are fuzzy. I will gladly answer any questions you have!] 🙂

Have fun!

Ann-Margret

Waiting on God

Waiting… Maybe it doesn’t mean what you think it does. 

Whether you’re looking for a job, trying to have a baby, or praying for a loved one’s salvation, you know what it’s like to wait for something important to you. Sometimes we don’t have a choice but to wait for God’s timing and plan to unfold. Other times, we take matters into our own hands and do whatever it takes to get the job done. Ironically, both those reactions can lead us into disobedience.

How can waiting on God be sinful? Remember that sin isn’t only outward behaviour—it can be committed in your heart, too. You may pride yourself on waiting on God’s timing without meddling, but if you’re not content in that waiting, if you’re not truly trusting His plan but are simply giving in to it, or if you’re resentful that you’re not seeing the results you’d hoped for, that’s sin.

Have you ever wondered why the people who serve you in restaurants are called waiters? They are waiting on their clients. That’s not referring to the long minutes they stand by your table while you’re trying to decide what to order. It refers to the service they are giving you—their availability to respond to your requests and meet your needs.

This is a good definition to apply when we talk about waiting on God. We’re not meant to sit around and do nothing while God moves. Instead, we should be ready and willing to serve Him in any way that He calls us to, putting aside our own agendas, wants and aspirations. Like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, and Jesus Himself, our response to God should be: “Here I am!”

It’s also important to beware the delayed gratification trap. Instant gratification sometimes results in dissatisfaction in the long run, while delaying gratification creates a waiting period that may help you see that what you’re waiting for isn’t what you truly want after all. However, waiting on God and delaying gratification are not the same thing. Gratification of any kind shouldn’t be our main goal. Gratification is getting what you desire. But what if what you want most—and are willing to wait a long time for—isn’t in God’s plan for you? Just because you’re being patient, it doesn’t mean you’re doing the right thing. Satan doesn’t care if you sin now or later; he just wants you to fail.

When you let go of your plans and simply start living in daily obedience, that is when you are truly gratified. Instead of anxiously waiting for your dreams to be realized, ask God to lead you where He wants you to go, to align your heart’s desires with His and to give you patience while you wait for Him to reveal His will to you.

Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until He is gracious to us. (Psalm 123:2)

Ann-Margret 

 

Creative Pause

Jesus brackets

It’s hard to post a fun, creative prompt on the day between our remembrance of Jesus’ death on the cross and our celebration of His resurrection.

For today, I just want to encourage you to go beyond the year-in-year-out same-old ways of looking at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Ask God to give you a fresh understanding of the significance, power and impact of these events. As you listen to or read the biblical accounts, reflect on how they relate to your life.

Yesterday, for example, during our Good Friday service at my home church, I was reminded that the soldiers who crucified Jesus also gambled for his clothes—that they valued His garments more than they valued Him. Do we look to Jesus only for what we can get from Him, or for who He is?

There is an element of being creative in our spiritual journeys. We need to open our eyes and ears and truly observe the past and present and let it touch our minds and souls so that we can discern the right way forward. We need to be open to digging deeper and stepping out of our safe zones.

I pray that this weekend is a special time of reflection and spiritual growth for you and that you would connect with the Saviour in a meaningful and memorable way.

He is risen!

Ann-Margret

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