Devotions By Jan


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Blooming Joshua Tree

Scripture for Today:  Psalms 28:2 “Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your Most holy Place.”

Looking like hands reaching up to the sky, the Joshua tree appears as if it praying!  This strange looking plant is native to the dry southwestern states but grows mostly in the Mojave Desert.  I have seen these odd looking trees but have never seen one in bloom.  They do not grow these white clusters every year as their appearance depends on the amount of rainfall.  Not only is rain a factor, but these flowers need a winter freeze before they will bloom!

Today’s verse is David’s cry for help in dealing with the wicked who surround him.  He lifts his hands for mercy, pleading with God not to turn a deaf ear or be silent (verse 1).  Like so many of the psalms written by David, it starts out with discouragement and even despair, but then finishes with praise!  What starts out as worry over God being silent, ends with recognition of His strength and salvation (verse 8).  David renews his trust and his heart even leaps for joy! (verse 7)

That beautiful cluster of blooms on the Joshua tree can only come after being frozen and seemingly dormant.  Many times, I feel as if life has stopped, waiting for that answer to prayer.  When the Lord answers, “wait,” to the cry of my heart, it seems as if He has turned a deaf ear.  But He is working.  I can trust that He has a plan even though I do not see it.  He wants me to remain quiet and calm as I anticipate His solution.  He can do so much more than I can ask or even imagine! (Eph. 3:20)

Lord, help me trust that You hear my cry.

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Easter Bonnet Violets

Scripture for Today: II Thessalonians 1:11 “With this in mind we  constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.”

These beautiful clusters of fragrant violets reminded someone of an Easter bonnet to have given it this name!  These dainty deep purple flowers attract bees and butterflies with their strong fragrance of honey.  They flower very early in the spring and although they look delicate, they are quite hardy and frost resistant.

Today’s verse is in a passage that commends the believers for their growing faith and perseverance in the face of persecution and trials (verse 3-4).  Paul reassures them that God will deal with those that oppose them.  He prays that God will continue His work in them by making them worthy of His calling.  But what caught my attention was the reminder that it is God’s power that allows them to realize their desires for goodness and good deeds done in faith.  It does not matter how small and unimportant a believer may feel.  Appearances are deceiving because just as a delicate flower can resist frost, so the seemingly weak individual can resist and stand up under trial.

I know this is true because the Lord has been faithful to me time after time!  It is God’s power that works in me giving me unexpected resolve.  As a believer, I do not just survive but thrive because of His strength!  Like Paul, I can even look at my weaknesses as a positive thing (II Cor. 12:9) knowing that God’s power will be recognized!  As a result of His power, He fulfills my desire to live for Him a life that is significant!

Thank you Lord, for making me strong!


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Dove Flower

Scripture for Today: Song of Songs 21:11-12 “See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.”

Happy first day of Spring!  I would love to celebrate the advent of this  season with this stunning flower.  However, this elegant plant is more often found in South America, Panama, Costa Rica and Trinidad.  The orchid has several names including Flying Egret, Holy Ghost or Dove orchid.  This beautiful white flower does look very much like a dove in flight with its fringed petals.

Today’s verse celebrates the exit of winter and the entrance of Spring.  The winter rains are finished and the brown drab earth erupts in lovely flowers.  Moods change and singing is heard as well as the cooing of doves.  Spring is a time of new beginnings, new growth and hope!  God shows His kindness to all men by sending rain, crops in their seasons, plenty of food and joy to our hearts (Acts 14:16-17).  To believers and scoffers alike, He is faithful in doing this as a testimony to who He is.

It would never even occur to me to doubt the coming of Spring, or the sun rising and setting, or the gravitational pull on our earth.  These are all things I tend to take for granted.  But that does not make them any less miraculous!  In recognizing His creative hand I can “join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.”  He allows me to see His invisible qualities through what He has created (Rom.1:20).  My enjoyment of the seasonal changes is heightened when I realize the Source!  Rather than attributing nature to impersonal science, I can respond in praise to my Maker!

Thank you Lord for Spring!


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Poinsettia

Scripture for Today: Psalm 112:4 “Even in darkness, light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and  compassionate and righteous.” 

I love seeing the red and green of the poinsettia at Christmas time!  This native flower to Mexico is referred to as, “Flower of the Good Night.”  The reason for this term is the way the poinsettia becomes so colorful.  It is only after twelve to fifteen hours of darkness a day for a period of three months that the leaves (or bracts) become a vibrant red.

Today’s verse is a wonderful reassurance that the darkness the believer experiences will not be indefinite.  Those who belong to the Lord are upright because of Christ’s righteousness.  And we are assured that eventually there will be a dawn.  Often in Scripture darkness represents calamity and light represents well being.  No one is exempt from dark times.  Regardless of education, wealth, health or status, we all face some kind of crisis or suffering.  But for the believer, there is a dawn coming!  For the one made righteous through Christ, there is hope.

What is amazing to me is that even in the darkness, there is blessing.  The Lord is actively at work in that darkness.  He is using all the negative in my life to test and refine my faith.  Every hurt and disappointment, He uses to grow me more like Him.  He does not waste any pain or difficulty but He utilizes it all to change me.  What a comfort to know He is in control!  When I finally exit that time of darkness, I am different.  Because of His work and grace I can emerge more colorful.  Perseverance, endurance and stronger faith are the colors He produces through that dark time.

Thank you Lord, that you know what You are doing and I can trust You.

 

 


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Misfits

Scripture For Today:  Hebrews 11:13b and 14 …”and they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.”

Do you remember the old song on Sesame Street that says, “One of these things is not like the other.  One of these things just doesn’t belong…”  It is obvious from this photo which of these petals does not belong.  Living as a foreigner in France meant that I often felt like a misfit.  After almost thirty years of living in France I am still dumbfounded by newly discovered differences in their thinking!

What is even more surprising to me is having this same out-of-place feeling when in the USA.  My frame of reference has changed and I have grown comfortable with what previously was strange to me.  I find it difficult to change again to the American way of thinking.  So in fact, I consider myself a misfit on both sides of the ocean.

Today’s verse is part of a chapter listing  great men and women of faith.  What is true of all of them is that they were looking for a country of their own.  They were not comfortable in their culture.  They were longing for a better country, a heavenly one (vs 16).  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.  So in one sense, we are ALL called to be misfits.  As believers, our citizenship is in heaven so we do not feel too comfortable in whatever country we live.  We are not home yet.

I love living in France and I love living in the States.  But in fact, there is a restlessness inside of me.  I want a better country.  And He is preparing it for me!

Lord, keep me looking toward that country to come!

 


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Night-Blooming Cereus

Scripture for Today: Psalm 77:2 “When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and I would not be comforted.”

How amazing that this cactus flower only blooms at night!  Its flower is either white or a pale color, opening after nightfall and wilting by dawn.  It is native to Arizona and the Sonora Desert and is short lived in that harsh environment.  But it is beautiful and fragrant in its temporary glory.  I find it incredible that our Creator would fashion such a beauty, seemingly for His own enjoyment!  And the older the plant, the more blooms there will be.

In our verse for today, Asaph, thought to be King David’s director of music, describes the distress he was feeling in the middle of the night.  He sought the Lord.  He cried out to the Lord, but at the same time, he refused to be comforted.  His soul must have resembled the dry thirsty desert.  He was feeling those thorns of the cactus choke out the comfort he so needed.

When the lights are out and the house is quiet, there is ample opportunity to focus on the distress I have pushed to the corners of the mind during the day.  Like Asaph, I can turn to the Lord in those sleepless moments.  What seemed hopeless and without comfort turns around to something fragrant and beautiful; praise.  Like Asaph, I can remember what God has done in my past.  Remembering His faithfulness to me gives me courage to face the future.

No one sees that flower of renewed faith and intimacy with the Lord.  It blooms at night, and as I grow older, there are more opportunities for blooms to appear!

Thank you Lord, for Your comfort and reassurance in the night.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule.)


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Water Lily

Scripture for Today: Psalm 19:8 “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

Water lilies fascinate me!  Their beautiful white and pink flowers look as if they bloom effortlessly as they serenely  float on the surface of the water.  They can be seen on lakes or ponds whose waters are still, and they can root up to seven feet deep.  If left undisturbed they can cover hundreds of acres of water.  Because they float, they access the sunlight unhindered by taller plant species.  Their leaves lie flat on the water soaking up all that light.  The result is beautiful!

Today’s verse tells us that the commands of the Lord are radiant.  They give all the light needed to grow and thrive in life.  His commands refresh the soul and make simple people wise (verse 7).  They give joy to the heart.  Each and every direction God gives is right and completely trustworthy.  Obeying His laws makes our lives beautiful.

I do not normally think of rules and regulations as a source of joy.  But just as a child can feel unloved and neglected without parental boundaries, so we too can feel as if God does not care if He had not given us His commands.  They are a sign of His love.  He cares that I succeed in life and He has shown me how.  His commands and precepts are designed with my welfare in mind, not to limit me or restrict my freedom.  They can give joy to my heart when I see them as proof of His tenderness and care.

Lord, keep me in the still water, soaking up the light of Your presence today!

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)