How to Bloom

I’ve not got a good track record when it comes to house plants. But one that I have managed to keep alive is my Christmas cactus. I even succeeded in getting it to bloom this year.

There are a couple of things I have learnt from this experience. (Not just about plants)

If I left this plant in my warm cosy living room, it would not bloom. Ever. It needs to experience some quite harsh conditions: It needs to be cold and have more hours of darkness than light.

The second thing I learnt was this: Even though it bloomed almost a month late, it didn’t matter. It still bloomed.

So I think there are some fairly obvious life lessons, (and perhaps some slightly less obvious ones too) that we can take from this. Obviously some of this will be a bit cheesy, but what do you expect? So lets get to it…

In order to bloom, we often need to experience hardship

I think this is a fairly obvious statement. But do we really live in this way? Life is lovely when everything is easy., but not so much when we are facing hardship. From my own experience, and the lives of many others, I know it to be true: In order to bloom we often need to experience hardship.

For starters, it makes us more compassionate. How much better can we understand other peoples problems when we have faced a few of our own. And it often means we have a desire to help others who are now going through the same things we have.

Paul puts it like this in one of my favourite bible verses.

Not only so, but we  also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

We grow through suffering, it even leads to us really know hope.

But when I talk about hardship, I’m not just thinking about suffering that we have no control over. In my mind, I also have the kind of hardship that we choose. If we want to get in shape we will pick up weights which feel uncomfortable at first, and then when it begins to feel comfortable, we will have to pick up an even heavier one. When you start to think about it, there are many hardships we will endure in order to achieve something.

In order to bloom we need to be willing to get uncomfortable at times. That may mean being willing to get up earlier, or go to a place which might feel difficult to us. It may mean giving away something that we hold onto tightly. The problem is, many of us (myself included) are addicted to being comfortable. We will do anything to avoid being being tired, or hungry or cold. But if we stay in our cozy living rooms, we may never have the opportunity to bloom.

The timeline doesn’t matter as much as we think it does.

I didn’t get any less joy from my cactus blooming, just because it happened a month late. I still think it looks as nice now as I would have done a month ago. Now it has bloomed, that extra month I was waiting doesn’t seem to matter at all.

Have you ever noticed this in your own life? You can wait and wait for something, for what seems like eternity. But once you get it that time you waited doesn’t matter at all, because its all behind you. You have that thing now.

You may have a timeline for your life in your mind. And maybe that time line isn’t going to plan. Especially this year!

When the pandemic hit, it felt like it was at the worst possible time. Not only had I just got engaged, but the children’s ministry I lead at church was growing. I was so excited about the future. I had plans for our wedding, and also for the children’s ministry. Our wedding was much smaller than we would have wanted and most of the plans for the ministry have been put on hold. But God has taught me so much during this time; mostly that it isn’t just about me and my timing, but that it is all in his hands. Taking our children’s ministry online has meant that some children who would struggle to get to church normally, have been able to join us, and then when we were able to return (for a time) we were able to experiment with really good all age ministry.

There have been times when I have compared myself to my friends, what they have achieved, and felt disappointed, because I hadn’t bloomed in the same way as them. Maybe you find yourself doing this. Maybe you had a plan for you life, and you feel like you are years behind schedule.

Do you think that my cactus sat on the windowsill in the spare room/ Tom’s office (which will hopefully be my office again at some point after the pandemic) worrying about when it will bloom. Worrying about why it hasn’t bloomed yet, and why all it’s Christmas cactus buddies have. Of course not! That would be completely ridiculous. Jesus tells us its just as ridiculous for us to worry.

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour 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? 

Matthew 6: 28-30

In this blog it may feel like I am trying to tell you two completely opposing things. Push out of your comfort zone in order to bloom, but relax if it’s not happening in the time frame that you want it to.

But perhaps these two things are not quite so opposed as they may seem. Perhaps the people who are most concerned about the future, are the very ones who don’t want to push out of the comfortable zone. Who don’t want to leave the living room.

So don’t be afraid of being uncomfortable, that is when God will stretch you, that’s when you will learn develop perseverance, character and hope, and also, don’t worry if you have to wait a longer than you thought you would.

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A Quick and Easy Guide to Choosing which Book of the Bible to Read

Have you ever just sat there staring at your bible, wanting to read it, but not knowing where to start, then this is the post for you. There are so many different styles of writing in the bible, which is great, because we all like different things; but do you know what’s even greater?

They all point to Jesus!

This is my cheesey and slightly tongue in cheek guide to choosing which book of the bible to read next. Please don’t take it too seriously, but let it be a reason why you open your bible, and get reading. (I wrote this a few years ago, and to be honest, it does make me cringe a bit now, but it seems to have helped a number of people, being to only post on my old blog to go viral (by my very low standards) so I thought I would put it out there again.)

A Quick and Easy Guide to Choosing which Book of the Bible to Read

If sweet romantic stories tickle your fancy you will love reading Ruth, curled up on the sofa with a bar of dairy milk!

If you are always watching home improvement programmes like Grand Designs then be sure to read Nehemiah.

If you enjoy a bit of gore and violence then pick up the book of Judges.

If you like stories with a strong female lead then go ahead and read Esther.

If you always loved the problem pages of magazines then head over to James.

If you think it’s fun to read other peoples post then 1 and 2 Timothy will be perfect for you.

If adventure is your thing then you will love Exodus.

If you are into rules and law then check out Leviticus.

If stories set in the future float your boat then go to the back of the bible and read Revelation.

If poetry is more your thing then stick your finger in the middle of the bible (and slightly to the left) and pick up to Psalms.

If you prefer your poetry to be more emotional and angst filled then Ecclesiastes is the book for you.

If you just love family history then start at the beginning with Genesis.

If you enjoy underdog stories then 1 Samuel will be right up your street.

If you want little nuggets of wisdom then look into Proverbs.

If you like intense, edge of your seat, danger and suspence, then Daniel will be sure to thrill.

Finally if you want to read something life changing then the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) really are the thing for you.

The bible is an amazing book, there really is something for everyone. I guess God made us all different, so made His book just as diverse!

If you have more to add to the list feel free to share them in the comments section.

Missing the Point

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I am worried that I have completely missed the point.

Being more worried about how many people are following me… than the one I am called to follow.

Being more concerned with looking good… than doing good, than actually being good.

Putting more effort into the contents of my bank account… than the contents of my heart.

More interested in making people like me… than making disciples.

And, frankly, I am sick of it. I am sick of being so selfish. And what’s even more disturbing that I don’t seem to be alone. This idea of success has seeped into the whole culture of the church.

And no where is this more obvious than in the bizarre world of blogging.

A world of perfect hair and perfect teeth and selling your soul for an extra like; spending our days sat in comfortable homes writing words of “encouragement” instead of getting out there and helping the poor and needy.

Blogging is a nice thing, but maybe, for some of us, it’s the easy option. The safest option, that avoids any real connection, or any real risk.

Blogging is a good thing. It helps me organise my thoughts, and I know it helps other people on some level. But lets not let this, or anything else get in the way of the real Christian work.

The Christian life involves actually getting out there and getting your hands dirty and helping people in the worst kind of need. It involves real community and a shed load of the hard kind of love. It means you will often get hurt. It is not the easy road. But it is the road that we need to take.

When we take this steep and stony road, which probably involves a few dark valleys or, even worse, rickety rope bridges across those dark valleys; a lot of mud and dirt and hurt, but the road that has the most beautiful views. This is the place where we meet Jesus. This is the place where we find adventure.

For many people reading this there might be other good things getting in the way of great things. Maybe the pursuit of education and knowledge; a good career; the idea of the perfect family or the perfect marriage, no matter what the cost.

While, like blogging, these can all be great things, they can become a hinderance if we do not keep them in check. If we do not look beyond our own lives and towards the rugged cross. After all, Jesus didn’t die so we could have a nice comfortable life, he died so that we could have a relationship with him. He calls us to a life of risk and discomfort, but the only kind of life that is really worth living.

Before I Go Home, I’m Going to Give Him Everything

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I am excited to share this guest post from my sister-in-law Cassie Stanford with you all today.

Before I go home, I’m going to give Him everything.

I find that when I’m going to talk about a topic, I try to give an analogy. For some people, this analogy may bore them senseless, but please bear with me.

I run for fun. I also run because it is challenging, it pushes me physically and mentally. It is suggested that you find some sort of phrase, or saying to get you through those tough, gruelling miles, where it seems like you just can’t go on. My phrase is: Before I go home, I’m going to give Him everything.

I realised during one of my runs, that my phrase could also be applied to every day life. Before I go home, I’m going to give Him everything. Home being heaven. Before I stand face to face with God, I want to give him everything.

Sounds easy in words. Difficult in practice. Let me reassure you that it can be done.

We have a God that is so loving and forgiving, A God that gives us a gift of a fresh new day. He knows our days before we wake, and he knows our hearts before we pray. He knows our struggles.

Within the book of Hebrews it says “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”. Just prior to this verse we have the cloud of witnesses, those who had hardships but still put their faith in God, they have run their own races.

Maybe you are in a position where you have started your day so badly. Everything is going wrong and you are down about things. God accepts the negative things, and the hard things too. You can start to give him anything from any point in the day and he will be grateful to you.

Maybe you are in so much pain and bed ridden, you won’t be doing much at all in your day, but you can still give what little you have to Him, and He will be grateful.

Maybe your day is going great and you are over flowing with blessings and happiness, He will be grateful for everything you give Him in your good days too.

I try to remind myself to give God everything every single day even when things are hard and I feel like tearing my hair out. I stop. Breathe. And say: Before I go home, I am going to give Him everything.


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Cassie Stanford lives in Worksop with her husband Ed and son Isaac. She likes to run, Mostly after Isaac.

A Place to Belong

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“Where are you from?” A question that should be easy to answer. But it isn’t always is it? Do you reply with the place where you live; the place you were born or the place you lived for the longest?

When I walked out of an abusive marriage, I had to move back in with my parents. To a place I had never lived and knew no one. I felt that I really didn’t belong. I had just left my marriage, the one relationship that is supposed to last a lifetime, on top of that, I had to start all over again. Yet again.

I think that many people experience this kind of confusion, whether they have lived in dozens of places, or in the same house their whole life. We are all searching for a sense of belonging, and often struggle to find it.

I think that this is a longing God has put into all of us. And when God puts a longing in our hearts; he loves to fulfil it.

For years I have known that my home is heaven. That one day I will live there, and find my home the in place where I will belong forever. This is a great hope for the future, but what about now? I have (hopefully) many years between now and the day I find myself in heaven.

The great news is, this home isn’t just a promise for the future. It is a promise for right now as well.

I love that throughout the book of Psalms, David refers to God as his home. No matter what troubles he is facing, who is hunting him down, he is able to God his refuge in time of need. He is that same thing for us. You hear soppy couple’s tell each other that their home is where ever the other one is. Well that is true of God as well, and since he is everyone, you cannot escape your home. No matter how far you travel, God is always your home.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Phillipians 3:20)

Notice that this passage doesn’t say that our citizenship will be in heaven, but that is is on heaven. Right now.

You are already a citizen of heaven. You might not live there, yet. But you already have the passport.

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We already have all the rights that come along with being a citizen of heaven, and all the protection as well. We find our identity in this citizenship. We already belong.

No matter how unsettled or lonely you feel you have a home and an identity; you belong.