Devotions By Jan


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The Mandarin Duck

Scripture for Today: Matthew 19:5 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

The male species of this duck originating in China and Japan is considered the world’s most beautiful.  Pairs of these birds are sometimes given at the occasion of a marriage as they are symbols of fidelity.  The thought that these ducks promote love and marriage is a centuries-old idea.  Perhaps it came about as they swim in pairs so close together.  And they do return to the same mate in the next mating season rather than establishing a new bond.

Today’s verse is the answer Jesus gave to the Pharisees seeking to trap Him with questions on marriage.  He quotes what God established in the beginning in Genesis 2:24.  The step of marriage is to be a binding commitment.  The original and best plan for marriage is that it be exclusive and permanent.  One new flesh is created from two.  Tearing apart the two can cause excruciating pain.  The Lord in His love and compassion gives us the best plan to avoid that kind of pain.

God’s plan for marriage can seem restrictive to some.  But to give love the best chance to flower and last is within that safe place of total commitment.  It shows that we are serious to stay together.  The world says that one is somehow missing out.  But I know differently.  It is through many years of ups and downs, trials and joys that my love for my husband grows.  Short term love cannot even be compared to the depths of love that commitment can foster.  God’s plan, though sometimes difficult, is the best plan there is!

Thank you Lord, for creating the best opportunity to grow my love.

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The Cardinal

Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

It is not fair.  The male cardinal gets all the attention with its bright red plumage whereas the female is largely overlooked.  And yet,  although the colors are more subtle, she is beautiful too.  Normally among songbirds, the male is the only one to sing.  He will sing to defend his territory and during courtship.  However, the female cardinal also sings.  She sings mainly during the spring, during courtship and while sitting on her nest.  Her song is a bit longer and more complex than the male’s song.

Today’s verse downplays the differences between races, social status and between the sexes.  These words describe a coming together that is not so natural.  Believers can achieve oneness in Jesus Christ.  Regardless of our differences, followers of the Lord can have a unity that is remarkable!  Unlike the “birds of a feather who flock together,” the body of Christ is incredibly diverse.  People that would not normally come together find themselves sharing a deep bond in our shared love of Jesus!

What a beautiful testimony to find this unity in a world that is so divided!  Love that reaches across generation, gender and race is the mark of a Christian (Mark 13:35).  It is not natural.  I want that mark on my life, but it can only happen with the fruit of the Spirit in me.  It helps to remember that down deep, my soul is exactly the same as my neighbor’s.  I see differences but the Lord looks on the heart (I Sam 16:7).

Lord, thank you that You can bring together what the world does not!

 


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Ravenous Ravens

Scripture for Today: Luke 12:24 “Consider the ravens; They do not sow or reap. they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds.”

I don’t appreciate seagulls, but ravens even less so.  They are big, black, shaggy and noisy.  Recently their numbers have increased in California.  They prefer building their nests along sea cliffs, being close to the water and being near a variety of food sources.  When their territory overlaps with the seagull, it can get noisy!  In referring to a group of them, old expressions used the term, “unkindness” or “conspiracy” rather than a flock of ravens.  The raven is known for being intelligent and opportunistic in finding its food

Today’s verse talks about our God being a God who cares for His creation, including the ravens.  Birds do not need to plant for the coming season or hoard their food for the lean times to come.  Yet, they do not go hungry.  God cares for their short little insignificant lives.  By contrast we, being created in God’s image, are of so much more value to the Lord.  He is intimately involved in every little aspect of our lives.

I need to remind myself that God will take care of what I eat, what I drink, what I will wear and every other detail.  For Him it is just small stuff.  Those who do not belong to Him are consumed with these issues.  The food and fashion industries encourage us to “seek after these things.”  But as a believer, I want to have different priorities.  I want my mental energies to be spent on His Kingdom and what is of eternal value!  He has always provided all that I need.

Thank you Lord, that Your care shows me that You value me!


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Swallows Day Parade

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 84:3 “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, My King and My God.”

The 60th annual Swallows Day parade takes place in San Juan Capistrano this weekend.  It is the largest non-motorized parade in the United States.  This event celebrates the return of the swallows from Argentina where they winter each year.  Parade spectators enjoy the festive ambience and a sense of community as local clubs, schools and associations participate.  There are dogs, wagons, horses, bands, dancers, and of course the pooper-scoopers at the end!  The only thing missing are the swallows, most of whom have unfortunately migrated further north to Chino Hills.

Today’s verse talks about the ideal place where the swallow builds her nest for herself and her family.  The swallow builds her nest near God’s altar.  When one thinks of a nest, there is the thought of comfort, care and protection.  A nest represents home and hearth.  The altar of God represents His presence and His dwelling is described as “lovely” (verse 1).  His altar is a place of adoration and worship and the one who dwells there is said to be blessed or happy.

My nest could be feathered very comfortably with all kinds of creature comforts.  But like the swallow in today’s verse, the most important component is God’s presence.  Far more important than open concept, decor or the latest appliances is enjoying the presence of my Lord God and King every day.  He has knocked on my door (Rev.3:20) and I want to make sure that my door remains open to Him!

Lord, may my home be marked by the happiness and peace I have in You!


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The Condor

Scripture for Today:  I Corinthians 15:25-26 “For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

This vigilant squirrel is right to keep an eye on the condor flying overhead!  But perhaps he does not need to worry too much as the condor will only feed on a carcass.  They are scavengers and I suppose they have their place in the scheme of things.  But to me they are disgusting because of their eating habits, not to mention their grunts, growls and hissing!  There are two species of vultures to which the condor refers and they are associated with death in Scripture.

Today’s verse speaks of death as an enemy.  It is an enemy that touches every one and each time brings with it unspeakable sorrow.  It is an enemy mankind has brought on ourselves by our own sin and rebellion against God (Rom. 6:23).  But thankfully, death will one day be vanquished forever.  There will be a time when there will be no more mourning or death (Rev. 21:4).  The pain and sorrow of separation will in the future be a distant memory.  Death will take its rightful place, fully vanquished and overcome under His feet.

I know this is true as Jesus has already vanquished death for Himself when He rose up from the grave.  And God has already made me alive spiritually when I was dead in my sins (Eph. 2:5).  But what is true in a spiritual sense will one day be true in a physical sense as well!   I will enjoy a new body that will never wear out (I Cor. 15:54) and death will be “swallowed up in victory!”  No more funerals, obituaries or burials!  And best of all, no more goodbyes!

Thanks you Lord, for the coming victory over death.


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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!


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Chimney Swifts

Scripture for Today: Job 12:7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;”

It was a real show!  In my sister’s yard in Portland, we arranged our chairs to watch as hundreds of small swifts circled in the air.  They would gather in small groups, adding new members as they swooped around the rooftops.  After about twenty minutes of this confusing ballet, someone in the group deemed it time to drop, fluttering, into the chimney.  All it took was one to begin a mass entrance!  How did they know when to begin?  How did they choose their leader?  Somehow, they were communicating with each other to orchestrate this orderly nightly processional.

Today’s verse points out that animals and birds can teach us!  If these birds could speak, what would they tell us?  Each one of them knows that, “In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (verse 10)  They are not at all confused about where they came from and Who it is that gives life and breath.  Their existence depends entirely on their Creator.  Perhaps that is the meaning of their high-pitched chattering calls!

These birds can testify to truth that escapes many people!  He is not far from any of us as, “in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)  Not one sparrow is forgotten by God (Luke 12:6) and the swallow nests in the shelter of God’s presence (Psalm 84:3).  In God’s sight we are worth so much more than these tiny flying creatures.  His care is so obvious in my life.  How silly of me to doubt!  Regardless of my circumstances, He is there and He is faithful.

Thank you Lord, for your constant unfailing love.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule.)