Devotions By Jan


Birds of a Feather

Scripture for Today: Deuteronomy 10:18 “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and He loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.

In seeing this image of a black and white stork I initially thought him quite disciplined to follow the rules of the road. But of course storks do not normally use a crosswalk. What a thought! Then I wondered if he were drawn to those black and white colors. After all, those are the same as his colors. And isn’t it true that we are drawn to and more comfortable with those who are like ourselves?

Today’s verse gives us another glimpse into the heart of God. He is especially attentive to the needs of orphans and widows. But He has a special place in His affections for the foreigner. God understands how easy it is for us humans to shun the one who is different from ourselves. But God’s perspective sees what is on the inside of man. And there, there are no differences when it comes to our need for love and significance. The Lord shows special love to the lost, lonely and displaced person. 

Having been a foreigner for many years myself, I know what it is to depend on the kindness of others in a host country. I could only get by because of those willing to reach out to others unlike themselves. Having been on the receiving end gives me a special empathy to extend love and help as He asks me to do (verse 19). Even so, it is an effort to leave my comfort zone and reach out to those different from myself.

Help me Lord, to have the same heart for the foreigner as You do.

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The Hummingbird

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 119:103-104 “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.”

Paul Bartram from London, England, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I love watching hummingbirds! They are so tiny and colorful and the speed at which they dart around fascinates me! They flap their wings about 50 times a second so that all one sees is a blur. Hummingbirds can fly up to 34 mph and can even fly backwards. Pictured here is the “sword-billed” hummingbird whose bill is longer than its body! In the higher elevations of South America, he can dig deep into the “corollas” of the flower to reach that sweet nectar.  He hovers there until he has had his fill.

Today’s verse describes God’s Word as being sweet to the taste. What the Lord communicates to my heart is sweeter than honey or the nectar from a flower. His Word is His love letter to me. Even the commands and warnings are there because He cares about me and wants the best for me. Loving His Word makes me wary of any wrong path that takes me away from Him. Understanding and wisdom for living are found in its pages. His companionship is felt through those promises and words of love.

Sometimes reading and studying His Word is difficult. Time presses and the day quickly fills with obligations and distractions. Rather than darting off to the next thing, I need to take the time and “hover” there at the source of all that sweetness. Sometimes the meaning of a verse is not so clear. It is at that time I need a longer bill to dig deep. The effort is always worth the sweetness I find!

Lord, keep my mouth full of the sweetness of Your Word.

(Look familiar? This is a repost from 2015)

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Ruffled Feathers

Scripture for Today: Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways; when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

This Griffin Vulture has a mean look but even more concerning are his ruffled feathers! A bird will ruffle his feathers for a variety of reasons. It may be that he is preening himself, shaking off the dirt or feather dust. Or he may be ruffling his feathers against the cold, trying to keep warm. But at times those ruffled feathers standing upright around the neck can indicate that the bird is angry, upset and trying to relieve that tension! This bird behavior is what is referred to when we ruffle someone’s feathers, upsetting or annoying them.

Today’s verse describes someone who well could have ruffled feathers. This is the one who frets when seeing the wicked succeed in their evil schemes. Instead of feeling frustration at people who seem to get away with wrongdoing, we are to be still.  We are to wait patiently in God’s presence for Him to act. The wicked may seem to succeed in their grab for power or in their widespread lies and deception. But sooner or later there will be consequences they will have to face.

There seems to be more occasions these days to fretI But to be in that constant state of righteous indignation is emotionally exhausting! What’s more, I do not bring about God’s justice and retribution any sooner by getting worked up! My feathers can stay smooth and calm in that place of faith in God’s ultimate justice. I can live life with a light heart, laughing at the days to come (Prov. 31:25) because God laughs at the wicked (Psalm 37:13)!

Help me Lord, to refrain from fretting and to be still.

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The Great Tailed Grackle

Scripture for Today: Psalm 73:9 “Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.”

One either loves or hates the Great Tailed Grackle. Mexican legend has it that this bird stole seven songs from the sea turtle, leaving it silent. Their chatter is less like song and more like the tones of tearing sheet metal or cars crashing! This is an urbanized bird with attitude, stalking the streets as if they belonged to them. They are clever foragers, carefully combing the grilles of parked cars for dead insects. They are also nest robbers and the females will even steal nesting material from each other!

Today’s verse describes the arrogance of the wicked. They are noisy with their claims to special privilege and feel that whatever the earth has is theirs to take. With their wealth and power comes privilege to treat others with contempt. Rules are for others of less importance, leaving them “free of care.” (vs 12) In many cases the wicked do prosper, negating the old adage that, “cheaters never prosper.” The psalmist is discouraged, until he understands their final destiny and judgement. (vs 17)

I can be just as discouraged when I see others seemingly get away with thumbing their nose at God. I too can feel that it is not worth the effort to keep my heart pure (vs 13) when I have no earthly advantages for it. But this is the short view! The Lord does not promise me riches here but He does promise me Paradise that rivals anything earth has to offer! I can say with the psalmist, “as for me, it is good to be near God.” His presence is my joy, His peace my comfort and His love is the strength of my heart! (vs 26)

Thank you Lord, that being faithful to You is worth it!

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Guard Rooster

Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

It is normal to think of guard dogs, but who ever heard of a guard rooster? A delivery man recently found out all about it! Caught on a doorbell camera video, Fred the rooster, showed just how protective he could be! The delivery man tried to take a non-threatening stance with hands up in the air, but being new, he was harassed anyway. With his delivery he also delivered the message, “Not cool,” before sprinting back to his truck with Fred in hot pursuit!

Today’s verse talks about our hearts and minds that need guarding. It is the peace that Christ Jesus provides that does the guarding. His peace stands guard against worry and fear. His peace also guards against the flight of our imaginations and all the “what if’s.” Without His peace we are vulnerable to troubling, sleep-stealing worries. But His peace surpasses any attempt at explaining it, as it is possible to have in the middle of the most worrisome circumstances. And this peace is the result of giving all our anxieties to the Lord in prayer.

I sometimes think I unwittingly shoo away this guard by neglecting to pray.  These verses encourage me to bring everything to Him, not just the big worries that I think are worthy of His notice. His love is so intimate that He cares about whatever is preoccupying me. His peace is the best answer there is to keep even the small worries from accumulating!

Thank you, Lord, that Your peace calms me down.