Devotions By Jan


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Boxing Day

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 28:27 “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.”

Today is Boxing Day, celebrated every December 26th by the British and the Canadians.  And no, it has nothing to do with actual boxing!  These days it has lots to do with shopping and finding the best deals, much like the American Black Friday.

There are many ideas about its origins but most agree that it began as St. Stephen’s Day when gifts were given to the poor.  Its name could have something to do with the Alms Box at the back of churches, emptied and distributed on this day.  The carol, Good King Wenceslas, was written by John Mason Neale in 1853 about a King in the 10th century who gives food to a poor family on St. Stephen’s Day.  The song concludes with, “Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.”

This same idea is found in today’s verse.  Those who are generous find themselves lacking nothing.  Conversely, those who are stingy and do not share their wealth with the poor can find themselves in need.  Not only before the holidays begin but also the day after Christmas is an opportune moment to be thinking about those who are less fortunate.  After opening the huge pile of presents, there is often the problem of where to put it all!  We find that cupboards, closets, and garages are already full.

There is so much joy in giving!  And what I have experienced over the years is that God always provides for my needs.  The more I give to others, the more I experience His blessing!  The Lord continually surprises me!

Thank you Lord, that there is no “outgiving” You!

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post from December 2016)

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Red and Green

Scripture for Today: Psalm 108:4-5 “For great is Your love, higher than the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth.”

Christmas season is all about the red and green.  Anytime I wear these two colors during the year I may hear the comment that I am wearing Christmas colors.  Nature has no such seasonal restrictions!  Red and green are part of the skies as seen in this photo of the “green flash” at sunset.  It is a rare event that few have the privilege of seeing.  This flash of green above the upper rim of the sun’s disk only lasts a few seconds.  Refraction bends the light, the atmosphere working like a weak prism.  I look for it but have yet to see this colorful display.

Today’s verse exalts and praises God for His love, faithfulness and glory.  They are seen in the beauty of the heavens.  From all over the earth one can look up and see His glory in the expanse and resplendence of the sky!  The red and green sky is one more reminder of His faithfulness at Christmas time.  He was faithful to His promise to send salvation in the person of Jesus.  He proved His love in putting on flesh to walk among us.  Jesus is now exalted to the highest place at the right hand of God (Acts 5:31 and Phil. 2:9).  He is higher than the heavens!

His faithful love was shown all over the skies, in the star of Bethlehem and in the appearance of the angels.  He continues to remind me when I am not feeling it.  He lifts my head to look up!  He is faithful and He is love.

Lord, remind me again today.


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Candy Canes

Scripture for Today: John 10:11 “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

There are lots of legends and stories surrounding the origins of the candy cane.  One of those stories says that a choirmaster in 1670 gave sugar sticks to his young choir boys to keep them quiet during a lengthy church service.  It is said that he shaped them to resemble a staff so as to remind them of the shepherds visiting the baby Jesus.  It is more likely that candy sticks were straight at that time, but it is a nice story.

Today’s verse is a declaration of Jesus about who He is.  It seems strange that He would identify Himself so closely with shepherds as they were considered lower class citizens on the fringe of society.  Yet, “God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:11) and we are in desperate need of a Shepherd to meet all of our needs and to lead us!  Not only does this Shepherd do all of this, but He is good.  Everything He does is good whether it be keeping us from danger or correcting us with His rod and staff.  But the biggest proof of His goodness and love is the laying down of His life for us, His sheep.

How appropriate then, that the angels announced Christ’s birth to those shepherds!  They were the first to hear the news!  They were the first to bow down and worship Jesus.  And they were the first to spread that news, glorifying and praising God! (Luke 2:8-20)

And I have the same privilege!  I may not be the first but I am just as privileged to know and love that Good good Shepherd.  He has laid down HIs life for this silly sheep and I am forever grateful!

Thank you Lord, that You came for me!

 


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Gingerbread House

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:1 “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

I have seen lots of gingerbread house creations over the years, including those of my grandsons.  But I have never seen such attention to detail as these houses on display at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Napa Valley.  It took lots of self control on the part of my husband to not indulge in just one roof tile.  That is because not only are they elaborately constructed, but they were done by budding chefs, making them delicious too!

Today’s verse describes the wise woman as someone who knows how to build her own house.  By contrast, the foolish woman will tear hers down.  It is in the power of the woman to do either.  So much of a family’s emotional health and well-being are dependent on the wife and mother.  She has the potential to build up the members of her household with words of love, acceptance and encouragement.  What comes out of her mouth is to build others up according to their needs (Eph. 4:22).  The home where this is true is a safe and peaceful place.

It is a sobering thought to realize the potential of my words.  I do not always see the damage I am doing to the walls and floors with my complaints and negativity.  There may be tiles missing from my roof as a result of my criticism and nagging.  It is a daily challenge to bite my tongue.  But I have seen too the benefits when the Lord answers my prayers to “set a guard over my mouth.” (Psalm 141:3).  It is only with His help that I can be that wise woman with a house still standing!

Lord, help me control my mouth today.


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The Nutcracker

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:8 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.”

For years I have enjoyed seeing the nutcracker in Europe, but now I am seeing more and more making their appearance in America for Christmas.  They have long been a symbol of good luck in Germany where they originated.  The early ones were in the shape of animals, birds and people in the 15th century.  By the 1800’s they were fashioned to represent and vilify unpopular leaders of the day.  Now, the most popular ones are the soldiers who benignly stand guard.   Their function as nutcrackers is almost forgotten!  But their purpose is to press that hard nut until it is crushed.

There is hard pressing in today’s verse but not crushing.  Paul goes on to say that there is persecution but not abandonment.   He is struck down but never destroyed.  Paul experienced tremendous pressure but his spirit was not crushed.  He did not crack.  He did not lose heart as he was convinced that the One who raised Jesus from the dead would also raise him (verse 14).  Despair does not have a chance as Paul is filled with hope, fixing his eyes on the unseen and eternal (verse 18).

Sadness does seem to press down on me and can feel overwhelming in the face of loss.  And like Paul says, it can be perplexing as I struggle with the questions of “why.”  But for me as a believer there is hope instead of despair.  There is God’s comfort and presence instead of abandonment.  He is especially close to those who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).  What is unseen and eternal keeps me from feeling utterly crushed.

Thank you Lord, that Your birth at Christmas turns my despair into hope!


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Cable Car Caroling

Scripture for Today: Psalm 147:1 “Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him.”

It was 1969 and our church youth choir had to get special permission from the city of San Francisco to reserve two cable cars.  I have sung in choirs at lots of different venues over the years including; street corners, European cathedrals, grottos, and the Rose Bowl.  But I will never forget singing my heart out up and down those steep streets!  Today, there are many different fundraisers and community groups who carol on these cars.  But in the 60’s it was not so common.  We got lots of funny looks, but we also got passerby’s joining in!

Today’s verse encourages us to praise the Lord through song.  It is fitting because it is His due and He deserves it.  But in addition, it is a good and pleasant experience.  Christmas time is the perfect opportunity to praise Him as so many of the older carols spell out who He is and why He came!  Thankfully, there are no restrictions in this verse that the singing needs to be on key or pleasant to hear!

I sing to and for Him.  But what is so incredible is that it does me so much good as well.  Praising God in prayer and listening to sacred music turns my heart toward Him.  But nothing lifts my spirits more than singing His praise!  It brings me closer to Him as I know He always listens.  Not only is my spirit involved but so is His Spirit as songs prompted by Him help me make music from the heart (Eph. 5:18-19)

Today Lord, “tune my heart to sing Thy grace.”


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Poinsettia

Scripture for Today: Psalm 112:4 “Even in darkness, light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and  compassionate and righteous.” 

I love seeing the red and green of the poinsettia at Christmas time!  This native flower to Mexico is referred to as, “Flower of the Good Night.”  The reason for this term is the way the poinsettia becomes so colorful.  It is only after twelve to fifteen hours of darkness a day for a period of three months that the leaves (or bracts) become a vibrant red.

Today’s verse is a wonderful reassurance that the darkness the believer experiences will not be indefinite.  Those who belong to the Lord are upright because of Christ’s righteousness.  And we are assured that eventually there will be a dawn.  Often in Scripture darkness represents calamity and light represents well being.  No one is exempt from dark times.  Regardless of education, wealth, health or status, we all face some kind of crisis or suffering.  But for the believer, there is a dawn coming!  For the one made righteous through Christ, there is hope.

What is amazing to me is that even in the darkness, there is blessing.  The Lord is actively at work in that darkness.  He is using all the negative in my life to test and refine my faith.  Every hurt and disappointment, He uses to grow me more like Him.  He does not waste any pain or difficulty but He utilizes it all to change me.  What a comfort to know He is in control!  When I finally exit that time of darkness, I am different.  Because of His work and grace I can emerge more colorful.  Perseverance, endurance and stronger faith are the colors He produces through that dark time.

Thank you Lord, that you know what You are doing and I can trust You.