Devotions By Jan


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.


Essential Oils

Scripture for Today: Psalm 27:4 “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.”

Why are essential oils called, “essential?”  For some, it’s because they are concentrated down to the essence of the odor, characteristics and taste of the plant.  Others believe they are essential oils being essential to life.  In either case, to become essential is to be reduce to a highly concentrated form.  An example is one ounce of peppermint oil which takes sixteen pounds of fresh peppermint leaves to produce.

Today’s verse reduces all of life down to one concentrated desire on David’s part.  He views his relationship to the Lord as the most essential component to his well-being.  All of David’s attention is on the Lord.  Above all else he wants to enjoy His presence.  David asks of the Lord only one thing.  Nothing is quite as important than spending time in His presence and enjoying His beauty.  All else pales in comparison to the importance of his relationship to the Lover of his soul.

There is lots of talk today regarding what services in our world are “essential services.”  Some are obvious and some seem to be up for interpretation.   But one thing is essential to life here and to life eternally.  I can regain my health, my finances and my social connections, but what good is any of it if I forfeit my soul? (Mark 8:36)  I need Him.  The Lord is essential.  When everything else is stripped away, HE is still there.  His presence and beauty are essential to my life.  If I learned nothing else from this pandemic, it is this.

Lord, You are my life.

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Simple Pleasures

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 5:20 “They seldom reflect on the days of their life because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.”

Simple pleasures are the best!  How sweet to see the pure joy on the face of this little boy!  Squealing with pleasure he chases those bubbles and popping them has made his day.  Somehow, as we age, it takes a bit more to distract and occupy us.  With the weight of worry, the stress of responsibilities and the jaded skepticism that can creep into our thinking, we can miss out on having that glad heart.

Today’s verse teaches that God can occupy us with gladness of heart.  Rather than  negative reflections on the days of our lives, we can experience gladness.  Rather than chasing after riches which in the end are meaningless, we can be happy and contented with simple pleasures.  The art of being glad and satisfied has very little to do with what we can acquire.  All our work can be toiling for the wind (verse 17) or we can be happy in our toil, enjoying its fruits as a gift from God (verse 19).  It is a choice we make.  The Lord can keep us away from thoughts of always wanting more and instead occupy us with a glad heart.

Which is better, to have little with a glad heart or to have lots but be frustrated with what I do not have?  I find it such a comfort that God cares about the state of my heart.  He does not want me occupied with stuff.  He offers a light glad heart when I turn my temporal wants and desires toward what is eternal.  And when I do that, I can much more easily enjoy the simple pleasures in this life!

Lord, keep my heart occupied and glad!


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A Blank Slate

Scripture for today:  Psalm 118:24  “This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Gone are the days when students carried their own small squares of slate to school.  This simple tool of education in the early nineteenth century replaced the need for expensive paper.  It could be wiped clean with a rag and used repeatedly.  I cannot help but think of today as a brand new clean slate being the first day of a brand new year.

Today’s verse teaches that each new day is a day that the Lord has made.  This new day and new year are His creation.  It is blank now but it has the potential to be just about anything!  As our Creator, He continues to create and He has something specific in mind.  We can rejoice and be glad looking at that blank slate.  His plans for us are good and we can trust what He will do.  And He holds not only the chalk but the eraser for those times we get it all smudged with our mistakes!

There may be days this year when I wake up with a less-than-positive attitude.  I may think I know what is ahead for the day and it is not a subject for joy and gladness.  All the obligations facing me can bring me down.  But the message in this verse is that God gave me this new day as well as this new year.  He created it.  He is in control of my day.  He has plans for it that I may know nothing about!  I can face the day with joy regardless of what it might or might not hold.  Why?  Because He is in it, and in His presence is “fulness of joy.”

Happy New Year!!

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Bone Marrow Dish

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

My meal choice at a restaurant in France was so unusual that I felt compelled to take a photo of it!  I understood the description but had never seen anyone eat it before.  In Europe, bone marrow is normally served on toasted bread and sprinkled with sea salt.  Here the presentation does not let one forget its source!  In older American recipes it was often used for making broth.  This spongy tissue is slightly sweet and its texture is smooth.  Although it is full of nutrients, I was a bit put off by the taste of its obviously high fat content!

Today’s verse uses the imagery of dried up bones to picture a crushed spirit.  Bones that are dried up and feeling empty are a perfect description for depression.  In contrast, a heart that is cheerful and joyful is a great medicine for whatever ails us.  The phrase, “laughter is the best medicine,” has been around a long time.  Research has shown there are many health benefits to laughter, including increased blood flow, better immune response, lowered blood sugar, and relaxation.

My cheerful heart is often in spite of and not because of my circumstances.  Joy is many times a choice.  Like Habakkuk, when everything is going wrong, I can “joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab. 3:18)  I can still choose a joyful heart even when there is no evident reason for it.  That is because there is joy in the thought of His salvation and the future that awaits!  And joy is sure to return when I think about His unexplainable love for me!

Thank you Lord, for giving me a cheerful heart.






Storage Units

Scripture for Today: Luke 12:15 “Then He said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'”

When I saw this storage unit at night the name of it was brightly lit up.  It made me reflect on the role the storage unit plays in our materially blessed culture.  So often, a life is marked and identified by its acquisitions.  So often a life is judged by the accumulation of possessions.  For some, the essence of their life is found within the four walls of a storage unit.

Today’s verse is a loving warning from the Lord.  He understands how easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking that our possessions define us.  If we measure our self-worth by what we own, then it would make sense to want more and more.  But that is not where life is found.  Jesus called Himself, “the life” (John 14:6).  Greed whispers in our ear that life is found in the things we can touch.  How else can we measure our failure and success?

Greed is sneaky and insidious.  It is something that I need to guard against or it will influence my thoughts and my behavior.  Regardless of how much I have, the world tells me that more is better.  But in God’s economy, I am to be, “rich towards God.” (verse 21)  And the only way I know to be on guard against greed is by being in His Word and reminding myself of what really constitutes life; a loving trusting relationship with my Creator.  If I am greedy for anything, may it be more of Him, more of His love and beauty in my life!

Lord, be my defense against greed today.


My Virtual Reality

Scripture for Today: I Timothy 6:19 “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation to the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

I do not think I have ever had such a bizarre experience as seeing a virtual world with this 3D software!  Here I am learning the controls through a tutorial game and you can see in my son’s hand what I am seeing.  Creating this artificial environment makes it possible to experience anything anywhere!  How wonderful it was to walk the streets of Guebwiller, France and cross the river’s bridge and see the flowers of a place so dear to my heart!

Today’s verse alludes to a possible confusion between what is considered life and what is “truly life.”  This passage is encouraging those who are well-off to be rich in good works and generous in their giving.  Being willing to share is what lays up treasure in heaven where moth, rust and thieves will not touch it (Matt. 6;20).  But leading a life that is generous does something for us here on earth as well.  It allows us to experience a life that is truly life or “life indeed.”  There is another dimension to life that one can miss.

Living solely for selfish gain is not true life.  But when I live for others, life becomes richer.  I so need to remember this when tempted to envy.  True life is not found in what I possess.  True life is found in what I can give away.  I find that true life when I give and serve others.  Anything else is a life but without that dimension, not a true one.

Lord, do not let me miss out on true life today!