Devotions By Jan

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Stork Sightings

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.”

How fun to be back in the land of the storks!  Here on the French/German border I see them daily on my walks and they always take my breath away, soaring above my head or foraging in the fields.  There are lots of beliefs and legends surrounding this magnificent bird.  In ancient Egypt a stork was used as a hieroglyph for the “Ba”or “soul.”  And in Germany storks have long been protected because of the belief that their souls were human!

Today’s verse describes a soul that yearns and even faints for the presence of the Lord.  The soul of man is created to have intimate relationship with his Creator.  The courts of the Lord are a lovely place (verse 1).  Being in His courts for even just one day is better than a thousand days anywhere else! (verse 10)  We are told to “dwell” in His house as a sparrow and swallow would nest in her home (verse 3).  This is not just a Sunday church experience but a daily closeness with Him.  Those that dwell in His house are happy and blessed, praising Him for His goodness (verse 4).

I know I am far from His house or presence when I am dissatisfied and negative.  When I am feeling far away from my Creator, there is a lack of joy and praising Him is not a natural impulse.  When I have had enough of my own company I feel my soul being drawn again to His wonderful and lovely presence.  I yearn for those soft sweet whispers of love and reassurance.

Thank you Lord, that You always welcome me back to Your presence!

(Look familiar?  Summer reposing while reposting!)

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The Osprey

Scripture for Today: Matthew 4:19 “‘Come follow Me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.'”

I wondered what I was seeing standing so proudly at the top of a mast at the harbor.  The osprey is quite the accomplished “fisherman!”  Ninety-nine percent of his diet is fish.  He plunges feet first into the water from 30-50 feet up in the air and has a reversible outer toe!  It can be moved either to the front of the foot or moved to the back of the foot.  This gives him a two-toe formation forward or back for carrying off his fish.

In today’s verse Jesus invites two fisherman, Andrew and Simon-Peter, to join Him.  Two more were then called; James and John (verse 21-22).  All four responded immediately to the call.  Jesus spoke in terms to which these fishermen could relate.  Following Jesus would mean for them leaving their livelihood and putting people first.  And like the osprey, they would need that flexible reversible toe.  The disciples would be talking to people of all classes, races and religious backgrounds.  Like Paul would later say, it was important to become all things to all people in order to save some for the sake of the Gospel (I Cor. 9:22-23).

Putting people first is not always my natural inclination.  My own comfort or agenda often takes priority over God’s invitation.  But the message of God’s grace is to be shared, and I need to relate the Gospel in a way others can understand.  To become all things to all people means I need to find common ground.  It means I need to ask questions and listen intently to their thinking before I share.  Not only does this show respect but helps me know what they need to hear.

Lord, make me sensitive to the need of others.


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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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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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The Pied Kingfisher

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 31:5 “Like birds hovering overhead, the Lord Almighty will shield Jerusalem; He will shield it and deliver it, He will pass over it and rescue it.”

This is one amazing bird!  The Pied Kingfisher lives in Asai and Sub Saharan Africa and is referred to as the “King of Kingfishers!”   The black and white markings make him easily recognizable.  But it is his specialized hunting skills that make him remarkable.  He is the largest hovering bird, scouting his prey from 50-60 feet above water.  He uses no air currents but instead will flap his wings 8 times a second to hold himself in place.

Today’s verse describes God’s promise to His people to shield, deliver and rescue them.  They had turned to Egypt for help from their enemies rather than to God.  They had turned to the silver and gold idols they themselves had made rather than to God.  This promise is made despite their revolt and with the promise comes a call to return to Him (verse 6).  He is the One who hovers and sees every distress.  He is the One who not only surveys from above but like the Kingfisher, descends with amazing precision.  Nothing escapes His watchful eyes and nothing is beyond His power.

He sees it all.  And He uses that knowledge to show me His goodness, mercy and love.  The plan He is unfolding in my life takes into account every tear.  He is my “El Roi,” the God who sees.  He saw Hagar’s tears and He sees mine (Gen. 16:13).  He hovers.  He stays in the place of tender concern.  I can be assured that my circumstances, though difficult, are working towards a good that I may not ever see this side of eternity.  He has promised.

Thank you Lord, that your love and protection hover over me!