Devotions By Jan


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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)


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Impatiens

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

I tried growing Impatiens in our long narrow yard while living in Grenoble, France.  They seemed to really thrive in the climate and soil.  But I eventually gave up as our rabbit kept thinking they were his lunch!  This flower is said to be a symbol of motherly love as they easily release and scatter their seed at the slightest touch.  It certainly is not indicative of motherly love with its other names; “touch-me-not” and “snapweed.”

Today’s verse would be great on the wall of every family room!  Somehow, the standards in this verse are especially difficult to live out with those closest to us.  Within those four walls we feel free to speak our mind without any filters.  We allow ourselves to snap at others or use our words to distance ourselves from those around us.  However, the standard for our words is that they be helpful and beneficial to those listening.  And we are to build up and encourage others in a way that speaks to their needs.

More often than not, my words are expressed according to my need to say them.  I often am unaware or uncaring as to the needs of the listener.  But with that attitude the conversation is usually cut short.  If my words are not building up they are perhaps subtly tearing down.  How much does it really cost me to compliment or encourage?  I want my words to be gracious,  sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Prov. 16:24).  I want my words to be like His; kind, compassionate and forgiving (verse 32).

Lord, make my words as gracious as Yours.

 


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Bougainvillea

Scripture for Today: Romans 15:5-6 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Our bougainvillea is climbing all over our back fence and its vibrant red color is a gorgeous!  There are equally vibrant colors of orange, fuchsia, pink and yellow, but my favorite has always been the red.  There are over 300 varieties worldwide and they can grow from 3 to 40 feet tall.  But what is surprising is that the actual flower is a small white blossom one sees in the center.  The bright colors actually come from the surrounding bracts, which are modified or specialized leaves.  Because they are positioned below the flower, I mistake it for the actual flower.

Today’s verse talks about collectively glorifying God.  The point of the believer’s life is not to draw attention to one’s self but to Him.  We are that small insignificant white flower.  But because of pointing people to Him, there is vibrant color in our lives.  He makes us beautiful because He is beautiful.  And together with other believers we can be united with one mind and one voice in this purpose of glorifying and praising Him.

Drawing attention to myself, taking credit for what God has done in my life or wanting to take center stage keeps me like that small insignificant white flower.  It takes a humble heart to be more about His glory and His name.  But I can have that same attitude Christ did (Phil. 2:5).  Along with encouragement and endurance, He gives me the desire to give all praise and glory to Him.  He is worthy!

Lord, may today be all about giving You the glory You deserve.


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Passion Fruit Flower

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 12:2b “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I have always wondered why this flower is called the “passion flower.”  But it seems obvious when seeing the original Latin genus name of “passiflora,”  However, there is another explanation.  In the early 1700’s missionaries in Brazil used this flower as a teaching aid to explain the crucifixion.  They called it the “flower of 5 wounds” referring to the nail wounds in the hands and feet of Jesus and the lance wound in His side.

We are nearing the end of “Passion Week” which refers to the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.  Passion motivated the Lord to endure great suffering out of His love for us.  The word, “passion” or “passio” in Latin originally meant to endure suffering.  Later it came to mean any intense emotion.

Today’s verse gives us a glimpse into the passion Jesus felt as He hung on that cross.  He endured the pain, the humiliation and the shame.  He endured the scorn and the excruciating separation from His Father for the first time in all eternity.  He did it all for the joy set before Him.

Why was He so passionate?  What was the joy set before Him?  Could it have been me?  He rescued me because He delighted in me (Psalm 18:19).  He takes great delight in me and in His love will no longer rebuke me but rejoices over me with singing (Zephaniah 3:17)  Because of His sacrifice an eternal love relationship is now possible.  It has always been a joy for me.  How amazing that I am a joy to Him as well!

Thank you Lord, for being a passionate God!