Devotions By Jan

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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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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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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!


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Happy Spring!

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 35:1-2a “The desert and the parched land will be glad. The wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom. It will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.”

Happy first day of Spring!  I do not see too many signs of the season in Cape Cod where we are expecting more snow today.  But this gallant purple crocus peeking out through that white stuff tells me that things are changing!  The trees here are still bare and the grass is not so green.  But this tiny burst of color gives me hope that the landscape will not always be so barren.

Today’s verse uses the image of the crocus to picture the joy of God’s redeemed people.  The desert of their distress and persecution will be transformed into joyful springs of water.  There will be a day when God will move on their behalf, coming with vengeance and salvation (verse 4).  Every wrong will be made right.  There will be singing, shouting, gladness and everlasting joy for the redeemed.  There will be complete healing and protection.  Sorrow and sighing will be no more!

What an incredible future awaits me!  I can choose to live with joy as I look forward to that day.  I do not have to be bowed down with sorrow over the struggles I face.  A different season is coming.  There is a promise of so much more to come.  All will be transformed in the blink of an eye.  At that point, there will be no containing my bursting joy!  It is so easy to look around at everything sad and negative in my life and become discouraged.  But instead, I am going to look for that small crocus flower today!

Thank you Lord, that incredible joy IS my future!

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Fading Flowers

faded-flower-colors1-400x266Scripture for Today: Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers, the flower fades but the Word of our God shall stand forever.”

Flowers that fade are not uncommon.  It can happen when there is too much exposure to sun and heat.  A once vibrant color can fade after being pollinated, no longer needing its suitors.  But the flower can also fade from stress after being transplanted.  Flowers growing from bulbs, such as the daffodil, fade with age.  The hydrangeas in my garden in France would fade being sensitive to the acidity of the soil.  The writer, Robert Bridges, used this image of fading flowers to describe diminishing love.

Today’s verse uses the grass that withers and the flower that fades to illustrate how brief and temporary life is.  The green grass can spring up overnight after a good rain and blanket a hillside.  And just as quickly, the grass can wither in an unrelenting sun.  The flower can enjoy a stunning burst of color, but eventually fades.  What a contrast to God’s Word that never withers and never fades!  It is always true and never changing.

God’s Word is living and enduring, making my life full of vibrant color (I Peter 1:23).  Through His Word He has put in me seed that never dies.  In a winter of bare trees and dry grass, I know that in the spiritual realm it is always spring!  His Word refreshes and strengthens me (Ps. 119:28).  Nothing can ever happen to make it untrue, unreliable or irrelevant.  What God says brings me comfort and hope in the most dire situations.  His promises keep me strong and His reassurances give me courage.  I cannot even imagine life without His precious Word to help me live it!

Lord, keep me faithfully reading Your Word.