Devotions By Jan

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Albatross Around the Neck

Scripture for Today: Psalm 38:4 “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.”

The albatross looks nice enough but I would not want to wear him around my neck!  The old expression comes from a 19th century poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”  The narrator flippantly shoots the albatross, a bird thought to be a sign of good luck.  The sailors are so incensed that they oblige him to wear the dead bird around his neck as penance.  The expression today means having a heavy burden one cannot escape, and being kept from doing what one wants to do.

Today’s verse describes the guilt David felt as being a burden too heavy to bear.  He describes it as a searing pain in his back, making him feeble and crushing him (verse 7-8)  He recognizes his sin and that he is experiencing the rebuke and discipline of the Lord.  He groans in “anguish of heart” and confesses his sin (verse 18).  Not only does David experience God’s wonderful forgiveness but even the guilt is lifted off of him.  It was because David acknowledged his sin that God forgave even the guilt of his sin (Psalm 32:5).

The guilt of sin is never something I have to feel around my neck weighing me down.  When I agree with God about my sin in repentance, He is there to lift that burden from me.  His forgiveness means that sin is removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  Memories of past failures do not have to influence me and any reminder of them does not come from Him!  His forgiveness is liberating and freeing.  He never brings up the matter again and He gives me a light heart, reassuring me of His constant, unconditional love.

What a gift!  Thank you, Lord.

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Dutch Chocolate Iris

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 2:4-5 “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on God’s power.”

This is a surprising color for an iris!  But in fact, the iris comes in an array of different colors, including a deep purple that looks black.  It makes sense that the word, “iris” originally meant “rainbow” in Greek.  In the language of flowers, Iris symbolizes eloquence.  And its three petal segments are said to represent faith, wisdom, and valor.

There is faith and wisdom in today’s verse as well as courage to speak the truth.  There is not however any eloquence.  Wise sounding words can be empty.  Persuasive words can be negated by hypocrisy.  But Paul explains that his message did not need either as his words were a demonstration of the power of the Spirit.  Paul never claimed to be eloquent in his speech.  Because he spoke simply, God’s power was evident.  And he resisted the temptation to speak only what “itchy ears” wanted to hear (II Tim. 4:3).

My faith does not rest on a fancy discourse or the latest fad or book.  Human wisdom can never replace the power of God’s Words.  It is not what exact words are used but God’s Spirit who helps me understand (verse 12).  He is the One that explains spiritual realities to me (verse 13).  And His Spirit uses my words of testimony even when I am not eloquent.  I may not feel strong or confident in sharing.  But thankfully, His power does not depend on my word choice!  “My faith  has found a resting place” and it is not in device or creed!

Thank you Lord, that my faith rests on Your power.

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Roseate Spoonbill

Scripture for Today: Psalm 34:8-9 “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. Fear the Lord, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing.”

This wading bird lives in the mangroves, or tropical swamps of the southeastern United States.  His pink plumage, red eyes and partly bald head make him recognizable, but what really distinguishes him is that giant spoon-shaped bill!  With it he may look a bit comical but this bill allows him to sweep underwater from side to side and scoop up fish and crustaceans.

Today’s verse has no spoon but is an invitation to “taste and see.”  There are those who say they have tried God or tried religion.  And perhaps they have in some manner.  But to “taste and see” means coming to the Lord in humble fear, recognizing who He is.  We realize just how good He is when we throw ourselves on His mercy and take refuge in His love and power.  When He opens the “eyes of our hearts” (Eph. 1:18)), we are ready to fully engage and scoop up every spiritual blessing He offers (Eph. 1:3).

I have tasted and I have seen His goodness.  And unlike the temporary good feeling of eating something tasty, His goodness and blessing keep me satisfied in the deepest part of me.  He knows exactly what I am craving as He created me to hunger for Him.  When I fear and respect Him, I will lack nothing.  He is that good!  He satisfies my deepest desires for love, peace, beauty, and significance!  How amazing He is!  I am blessed when I make Him my refuge.  And what is so amazing is that His goodness never fails to satisfy!

Lord, thank you for blessing me.


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Penguin Crossing

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.”

Who would not slow down and give way to penguins?  This sign warns motorists at Oamaru Harbour, New Zealand, to slow down for the Little Blue Penguins.  They are the world’s smallest and are also called Fairy Penguins.  Their size makes them easy to miss, crossing the road.  They come ashore to prepare their nests or to shed their feathers and grow a new waterproof coat.  For me, yielding right-of-way is a non-issue.

Today’s verse tells us we are to yield or submit to the Lord in each and every way we choose to take.  By acknowledging His control, His superior knowledge and His goodness, we travel a path much less complicated by twists and turns.  He makes our paths straight, unencumbered by lengthy unnecessary detours.  We reach our destination in good time, or in His time.  When we give way to Him rather than insisting on our own plan, we find He had a better idea all along!

I need to be reminded to yield.  My first inclination is to make decisions on my own.  And yielding my will to His is so often a struggle.  Even knowing that my own understanding is limited, I stubbornly resist.  I like being the one who makes the decisions.  Trusting Him with all my heart is scary without having some measure of control.  But He promises that when I do, He will make my paths straight, choosing the best way.  No time will be lost in making U turns or encountering dead ends.

Thank you Lord, that I can fully trust Your heart of love for me!

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Ultimate Sacrifice

Scripture for Today: Mark 12:33 “To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important that ALL burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Today on this Memorial Day we remember the ultimate sacrifice made by so many soldiers who gave their lives for our freedoms.  If it were not for their willingness to put their lives on the line, we would not be enjoying the rights and privileges that we do.  To honor their sacrifice is only right as we are the beneficiaries of their selfless acts of bravery.

Today’s verse talks about a sacrifice that is living.  This sacrifice puts to death one’s own rights and privileges in honor of the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  Christ died to free us from the penalty of our own sin.  And in response to His incredible sacrifice of love, we give Him all of our heart and strength.  Like David, our sacrifice to Him in return is a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:17).  And in loving response to His ultimate sacrifice, our bodies become a living sacrifice, living out His good, pleasing and perfect will (Rom. 12:1-2).

To live for His pleasure and to die to my own selfish desires is a constant battle.  Yet, it is what He asks of me as His child.  He is worthy of any and all sacrifice.  And when I compare my small struggles with what He went through for me, well, there is no comparison!  Because of His ultimate sacrifice of love, He has every right to demand “my soul, my life, my all.”   He has my soul.  He even has my life.  It is that “all” part that can be so difficult sometimes.

Lord, help me to surrender all!


Gorilla Prayers

Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:2 “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

If this gorilla is really praying, I wonder what his request might be.  Perhaps he is praying for a mate!  Could he be praying for freedom from his zoo habitat?  Maybe he is praying for something special for his next meal.  It seems ludicrous that any animal would pray.  Their needs are simple both physically and emotionally and there does not seem to be any awareness of a spiritual realm.

Today’s verse puts a finger on exactly what separates us from animals.  An animal, even if one argued that he had a soul, does not yearn for the Lord.  His heart and flesh do not cry out to the living God.   The longing for a relationship with the God of the universe is something beyond their capacity.  But for man, it is exactly why we were created.  God Himself put the idea and longing for eternity in the human heart (Eccl. 3:11).  We are made to cry out for Him in our innermost being.  Even just one day in His presence is better than one thousand days elsewhere (verse 10).

The Lord fills and completes me.  It is my communion with Him that enriches my very existence.  When my relationship with Him is interrupted by my own wandering or indifference, it does not take long to sense that something is missing.  Feeling that lack, I cry out to Him for reassurance that He is there and that He still loves me.  He always answers.  And somehow, I am more human when I am connected to my Creator.  The yearning is satisfied and it is “well with my soul.”

Thank you Lord, for completing me.

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Scripture for Today:  Psalm 119: 97 “Oh how I love Your Law.  I meditate on it all day long.”

This bunny reminds me of the one we used to have in Grenoble.   Cupcake had a beautiful long-haired coat and would sit on our laps like a cat.  But he was a bit of a free spirit too.  We would allow him to roam the enclosed back yard.  The problem was that every time we opened the door to the detached garage, he would make a run for it!  In his little bunny brain he was sure that freedom lay just beyond that door!  One day he made it and we never saw him again.  I sometimes wonder if it was a car on that street or a hawk from the mountains above us that did him in!

Today’s verse expresses love for God’s Law.  This is not the usual sentiment when thinking about law.  One can understand feeling respect but love seems a bit extreme.  However, God’s Law makes one wise, gives understanding and insight and keeps us from evil.  God’s Law gives us boundaries for our protection.  Unfortunately, we tend to constantly push at those boundaries, not understanding that they are there for our protection.

My independent spirit is SO strong!  I do not enjoy anyone telling me what I can or cannot do.  There’s a rebel lurking inside of me!  I want my own way, even if that way leads to ruin and despair.  My Creator must just shake His head at me when I am as foolish as Cupcake was.  His Law is really another expression of His loving care for me.  His arms are the Law that enclose me.  When I obey Him our communion is sweet.  Loving His Law is part of loving Him.

Lord, change my heart to love Your Law.