In school you always have that one class that everyone dreads. The embellished rumors from those who have gone before have you ready to show up the first day of class with a withdraw form just to save a trip. As a horticulture major at Purdue, HORT 217 was THE class. This was the semester where you were supposed to learn all of the trees and shrubs used in landscaping for the climates above the Mason Dixon line. During each week we walked miles around campus and Hort Park looking at the assigned plants, usually 25 species or so at a time. The Latin and common names, size, interesting characteristics, desired planting location and hardiness were a few of the facts we needed to know and reproduce correctly with absolutely no misspellings to get the plant correct on the Friday quiz. Did I say quiz or mental torture session? The quiz consisted of 25 separate cups with a twig in each one. With the spindly, limp wilted twig staring you in the face and a time limit closing in on you, one had to quickly identify the specimen and recite its biographical history like this twig was being vetted for public office.

To prepare for this class a housemate of mine and I put everything on flash cards and carried them around with us to constantly review until they became seared in our brains. By the final examine we had well over 300 plants recognized and memorized. To this day I look in my yard and do not see Oak, Maple, Willow and Crabapple trees but Quercus, Acer, Salix and Malus species. (I won’t bore you with the hardiness zones).

Let’s flash to today. More often than not these days I will be working at my computer and decide I need a drink or snack from the kitchen. I lumber out of my chair and arrive at the fridge opening the door – then, after a brief black out I find myself staring in the refrigerator wondering why I came into the kitchen in the first place and why I am gazing so intently at leftovers. My memory may completely leave me in twenty steps but I can still tell you after 25 years that Euonymus alatus is the row burning bush lining my yard. What is the difference? Having those flash cards right at my hand ready to pull out to review repeatedly literally cemented those plants in my head.

I find incredible comfort and awe with the fact that God, too, has my name constantly right at His hand. When Israel was going through a rough patch thinking God had abandon them the prophet Isaiah in speaking for God tells the people that even if your mother forgets you “I will never forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hand.” (Isaiah 49:15b-16). He does not just have us near but tattooed right where he can see us constantly, we are that important to Him. He loves each one of us so much that we become His priority and focus.

During the Christmas season keep in mind this fact, God sent His Son to be born and live among men as a man Himself so that he could not just tell us how much He loves us but so He could demonstrate it. He knows each of us so well He cannot wait to get to the Friday quiz to show that He has missed no fact about us, and if you read John 19 you can see that His Friday quiz was a tough one. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). God sent His Son with a message and as a gift on the first Christmas. Listen intently to His message, accept wholeheartedly His gift.

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This daily devotion is written by John Key

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