Monday, December 24, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Finding God’s Love in the Little Things

Little Things
A devotional by Dana McNeely

It was a little thing. A walk through a Southern California neighborhood while visiting my daughter. A beautiful sunny day when I learned of a dark injustice.

“See that house?” My daughter indicated a cute craftsman bungalow with a blue door and empty flower beds, recently tilled. “The HOA made my neighbor remove her bushes. But they hadn’t really died, they were milkweed.”

“Milkweed? She grew weeds … on purpose?”

“Not really weeds. Butterfly bushes. She raises monarch butterflies. The baby caterpillars ate all the leaves on the bushes. She told the HOA they’d soon grow back, but they forced her to remove the bushes. She was really upset.”

So was I. Even though I’d never met the woman, her story inspired me to learn more about monarchs and other endangered butterflies. My husband and I live near Phoenix with no HOA to curtail our activities. We’ve planted several varieties of milkweed where monarchs and other butterflies lay their eggs. We then raised many other flowering plants to provide nectar for the butterflies and a treat for our eyes. Existing trees and shrubs provide shade and shelter.

Butterfly Wonderland

If the sun is out (and it usually is) butterflies will flutter around the milkweed, land on the zinnias, or swoop over the pool for a brief drink. If I bend down and hunt through the milkweed, I can spot a few caterpillars in various stages of growth. A fat one might be climbing up a wall, searching out a place to form its chrysalis, which will look like a piece of carved jade. If I’m lucky, a young butterfly may have emerged, hanging upside down to dry its wings before attempting its first shaky flight.

Finding God’s Love in the Little Things

The more I learn about butterflies, the more I’m in awe of our Creator. What beauty he created! How intricate, how amazing! God shows his love in the instincts he programmed in the butterfly’s infinitesimal brain.

For example, the butterfly lays its eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves, which is the only plant the juveniles will eat. The underside of the leaf provides shade and camouflage for the eggs. The plant itself contains a poison, which is non-toxic to the hungry baby caterpillars, but tastes nasty to birds and other predators who learn quickly to leave them be. In cold winters, the butterflies from northern climes migrate hundreds of miles to Mexico. Our Arizona butterflies winter over!

The life cycle of the butterfly parallels Christian rebirth and transformation. After emerging from the egg, it lives as a caterpillar. Instinct, or the voice of its creator, calls it to retreat into a chrysalis for a time of transformation. Finally, it emerges as a butterfly, free to soar above the earth.

Each time I see a new butterfly emerge, I reflect on what the Bible teaches about transformation and rebirth. Here are a few Bible verses on this topic:

John 3:3 (KJV) 
 "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
 – "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

Romans 12:2 (NIV) – "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will."

Finally, as Christmas approaches, I reflect upon one last little thing that reflects God’s love. God sent his baby son to grow and live among men. 

In closing and in celebration of this Christmas holiday season when we rejoice over the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, I'd like to share this Bible verse:

Isaiah 9:2,6 (NRSV) 
–  "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined…For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Author Bio:

Inspired by the Bible story of Elijah and the widow’s son, Dana McNeely wondered why the prophet had come to stay with these two. Who were they? What was their life, before? And how did the boy change after dying, seeing the other world … and coming back?

Dana began research for her novel, Rain, which tells the story of the three-and-a-half-year drought from the boy’s perspective.  

No stranger to drought, Dana lives in an Arizona oasis with her hubby the constant gardener, two good dogs, an antisocial cat, and migrating butterflies. She writes biblical fiction, cozy mysteries, and has written for magazines and newspapers. Her short story “Death in the Butterfly Garden” appears in SoWest: Killer Nights (2017).

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