Devotions By Jan

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Butterfly Bushes

Scripture for Today:  John 3:3  Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

We used to have several Butterfly Bushes (Buddléia) in our yard producing white and purple flowers. I loved watching the butterflies come and drink the nectar from its flowers in the Spring. And to think that those remarkable butterflies were once unremarkable caterpillars! Their transformation is a beautiful image of our spiritual rebirth! Every Spring is a time of renewed expectations and hope. What one thought was dead and gone suddenly shows signs of growth! Spring is especially a season of rebirth.

In today’s verse, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he will not see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again or born from above. It must have been a shock to hear. Nicodemus was a respected Pharisee and ruler. He probably thought that if anyone could enter the Kingdom, he would be a likely candidate. He did not realize that in fact, he needed “wings” and as a caterpillar, he did not have them. Being born again is a work of God’s Spirit and a complete transformation is what is needed. And this is what Jesus offers to those who come to Him in faith.

So many refuse this offer of new life. They cannot see beyond their caterpillar stage and seem content to crawl along the ground rather than fly! But every Spring I am reminded of the new life He has given me. My old life is dead and buried. I have been changed forever! I am not at all tempted to return to the form of that caterpillar. He has given me wings, color, sweet nectar and new life! And it was all accomplished by His Spirit and not at all by my own efforts.

Thank you Lord, for Spring and new life in You!

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Scripture for Today: Isaiah 55:7 “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

There is nothing new about offering someone flowers as an apology! Perhaps the bigger the bouquet, the more heartfelt the apology. But if it were just one flower to say it all, then this Daylily may be the best choice! That is because its name is, Pardon Me! This cranberry-colored lily with a yellow center and ruffled edges is incredibly hardy. It can survive harsh conditions that other plants cannot and will tend to rebloom!

Today’s verse tells us that God will have mercy on the wicked and on the unrighteous. He promises to show mercy to those that forsake their ways and their thoughts, turning to Him for forgiveness. God does not just pardon but freely pardons! This is a gracious invitation to turn away from wicked ways and thoughts, and to turn towards a full and complete pardon He offers! There is no wrongdoing so grevious that He will not forgive! There is no thought so shockingly awful that He cannot freely pardon it.

What a comfort this verse is! No one is beyond the reach of His pardon. And this pardon covers my secret sinful thoughts that no one else knows about. The fact that some sins are hidden can sometimes keep me from realizing my guilt. Frankly, I would not want anyone to know my thoughts! But it is no problem that God sees it all because He pardons it all when I turn to Him! What an amazing gracious God we serve! Would that I pardon others as freely as He pardons me!

Thank You Lord, for Your pardon so freely given me!

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Flame Vine

Scripture for Today: John 15:11 “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

This beautiful flowering vine is obviously called the Flame Vine for its vibrant color. It grows very quickly and is a native of Brazil and Paraguay. Some stems can be as long as 80 feet! Its vigorous growth will cover fences, trellises, trees and small buildings. When everything else is dying and turning brown in the fall and winter, this vine puts on a stunning show of flame-colored blossoms. In a cold bleak time one can almost feel its warmth.

That beautiful happy color only stays vibrant when these flowers stay connected to the vine. Today’s verse speaks of joy, a much-sung commodity in the Christmas season. Jesus is telling His disciples that the fruit of joy comes as we stay connected to the vine, meaning Jesus Himself. Remaining connected to this source of joy is done through our obedience to His commands. We remain in His love (verse 9-10) through following His commands, enjoying that sense of closeness to His heart. His joy comes through that connection as well, especially as we love others as He has loved us. (verse 12)

There are quite a few props to joy that are missing from my celebration of Christmas this year. Somehow, without some Christmas traditions I can lose sight of my joy. But the joy that comes from connection to Jesus remains and cannot be stolen from this season. His joy is a complete one that does not depend on those outward prompts. His quiet deep joy comes from the warmth of His love and presence. And just like the flame vine I can exhibit vibrant joyful color against a bleak landscape because of His joy!

Thank you Lord, that You give me joy.

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Pulmonaria Spilled Milk

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now, it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

One can understand how this plant got its name! The leaves of this semi-evergreen perennial are splotched with white, looking like someone spilled milk on them. The phrase, “don’t cry over spilled milk,” is attributed to James Howel, a British historian who used it is his writings in 1659. By it we mean there is no use in being upset over what has already happened.

Today’s verse tells us not to dwell on the past. Whether what is behind us is something negative or positive, we are not to keep our focus there but to be looking forward. We can miss the new thing He wants to create in our lives.  To us it may not look like much.  Our lives can even resemble a wilderness or wasteland.  But He has a purpose in mind and His plans are always good. His way goes straight through the dry times to life-giving springs of water!

During uncertain and negative times, my thoughts turn to the past. It is easier to focus there than to look around and see less-than- perfect circumstances! But I do have a choice. I can either look at the wilderness and wasteland OR I can look at the streams of water He has provided to meet my needs. I can bemoan the spilled milk all over the place representing some good things I have had to give up OR I can look to my Lord for the new thing He wants to create in me and my world.

Lord, help me to trust You and the new thing You are doing!

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A White Camellia

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

This beautiful flower comes in different shades of pink and red. But it is the white camellia that has special significance in the novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Jem destroys the cantankerous Mrs. Dubose’s camellia bush after she insults his family. Later, after reading to her as a sort of penitence insisted on by his father, she dies. But not before presenting Jem with a box containing a white camellia. This beautiful flower is now seen as representing understanding and patience.

Today’s verse from Proverbs tells us that it is from wisdom and understanding that patience can come. Overlooking an offense is the result of that patience and understanding. And overlooking an offense done to one’s self is admirable, commendable and puts one in a good light! It is difficult and sometimes nearly impossible, but if done, it can be to our glory! It certainly is not to our glory to respond to that offense with bitterness and retaliation.

Just as Jem could get past the old lady’s meanness when understanding her addictions, I can be more gracious when understanding the struggles of the one who hurt me. Understanding their circumstances and frustrations can make me more patient. Understanding too how much the Lord has forgiven me helps me extend that same grace. But I do have trouble letting go of hurtful words and slights and it is inglorious! I need the help of His Spirit to truly forgive from the heart. He wants me to overlook it with grace and forgiveness. In doing so I am well viewed by others but more importantly, He is glorified!

Lord, make me wise enough to understand and show patience.