Devotions By Jan


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Squeaky Wheel

Scripture for Today: Psalm 142:1-2 “I cry aloud to the Lord, I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I will pour out before Him my complaint; before Him I tell my trouble.”

I am not so sure that the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” at my grocery store.  Too many times I have inadvertently pulled out a cart with that annoying noise.  A poem entitled, “The Kicker” first used this saying in 1870.  This American proverb affirms that the one who complains the loudest attracts the most attention and service.  The Chinese have a similar saying, “The crying baby gets the  milk.”

In today’s verse, David cries aloud to the Lord for mercy.  He lifts up his voice, pouring out his complaint and telling Him about all his troubles.  He is complaining to the Lord, and not in some quiet whispering voice.  He is loud and noisy about it.  This entire psalm is a cry of complaint about his enemies.  His prayer is open and honest and God does not reproach him for it.

Out of His grace and mercy God hears the cries of His children.  But the “squeaky wheel” idea does not work with Him.  I do not manipulate Him with the emotion and fervor I add to my prayers.  His will and plan are already determined.  However, pouring out my complaints to Him is such a release.  I can unburden my heart in prayers like this.  He understands and He can take it.  He would much rather I complain to Him rather than murmur and complain to those around me (Phil. 2:14-15).  Not only that, He is the One who can best resolve the problem.  Often, even before my prayer finishes, He changes that complaint into praise for what He will do!

Thank you Lord, for listening to my complaint.

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Portion Control

Scripture for Today:  Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Apparently, Americans are not the only ones who struggle with portion control!  The Polish cuisine is a hearty one as this Zapiekanka sandwich demonstrates, unless of course it serves several.  This baguette-style sandwich is considered Polish fast food and rivals most of our large sandwiches.  I was taught growing up to finish everything on my plate.  But the problem is that today, that plate groans with the weight of portions that have grown bigger and bigger, and the control has to come from me!

In today’s verse, there is no need to think about portion control!  Those that hunger and thirst for righteousness will be full and satisfied.  With His righteousness we do not pine for something more.  There is no feeling of missing out on something better.  A righteous life is the best kind of life.  Doing the right thing, following His way, and experiencing right standing with our Creator gives a sense of well-being that is complete.  No other kind of life can be quite as full or satisfying!

My problem is that I hunger and thirst for other things, good things, that give only temporary satisfaction.  But of course, I hunger and thirst again.  However, I do not want my life to be characterized by wanting.  I desperately want to experience that contentment and satisfaction He offers.  If I make the Lord the object of my longing, He will satisfy me.  He has promised life to the full (John 10:10).  This “blessedness” means that I can overflow with hope (Rom. 15:13) and with joy (II Cor. 8:2).  I want to be able to say with the Psalmist, “my cup overflows!” (Psalm 23:5)

Fill me up with You, Lord.


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Lap Cat

Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:12  “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

This is not our cat.  Tiger would never consent to sit in our laps, let alone relax and sleep there.  I tried so hard to make him a lap cat, but he would have none of it!  There is something soothing about having that little heater rest on one’s knees.  But when a cat is that relaxed and contented I feel pinned in place, not wanting to disturb him by getting out of the chair.

Today’s verse is about experiencing contentment regardless of our circumstances.  Having every need and desire fulfilled is no guarantee to having contentment.  Nor is experiencing lack a recipe for discontent.  Paul knew what he was talking about as he lived both of these scenarios.  What is encouraging is that contentment can be learned.  It is not always our first reaction but with enough practice it can be.  There is a secret to learning this contentment and that secret is found in our relationship to Christ.  He gives me the ability to find contentment in Him.

What this suggests to me is that when I am feeling disgruntled and deprived, I just need to crawl back up into His lap!  Rather than focusing on the negatives in my life, I turn to Him.  Reminding myself of who He is and all the blessings He has already given me helps me find that lap of contentment.  For me, it is really a choice as to where I am focusing my thoughts.

Lord, help me to find that elusive contentment in You.


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Counting Stars

Scripture for Today: Philippians 2:14-15 “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”

It seems an impossible task, to count the stars.  But who among us has not at least tried as a child?  I was surprised to learn that there is an answer!  9,096 stars are visible to the naked eye if one could see both hemispheres at once!  So of course, we have to divide that number in half.  Maybe the number 4,548 seems underwhelming but in fact that number becomes even less impressive with poor visibility or in lighter skies over cities.  However, with only a three-inch telescope that number jumps to about 5 million!

Today’s verse describes those who do not grumble or argue as shining stars in the sky.  Perhaps it would not be so difficult to count these stars!  Someone who does not grumble and argue stands in stark contrast to everyone else.  And the light from even just one of these stars pierces the spiritual darkness around it.  People notice when there is a sweet uncomplaining spirit in the face of adversity.  I know because my Mother is one of these stars.  Even though at 95 she has to depend on others, lose her mobility, and suffer all kinds of indignities, she does not grumble or complain.

I often wonder how best to “let the light shine” (Matt  5:16) so that people see and God is glorified.  This answer seems too simple.  But I find it is one of the hardest to live out.  Thankfully, it is God who works in me to bring about what is not natural! (verse 13)

Lord, make me a star!  Keep me sweet and uncomplaining today.


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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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Open Hands

Scripture for Today: Psalm 104:28 “When You give to them, they gather it up; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.”

Hands can be so expressive.  When curled up they indicate tension.  When folded they can communicate a readiness to listen.  When their palms are lifted, the hands express bafflement or confusion.  Anger is expressed when they form a fist.  But the open hand is a giving hand.  I remember when our children were small.  We tried to avoid spanking with our hand.  We never wanted our hands to be feared.  How terrible when children cringe from a helping hand!  We wanted our hands to have a positive association.

This beautiful verse for today mentions God’s hands.  They are open in a giving gesture to provide for His creation.  Although God is spirit (John 4:24) it is helpful to have this image of His hands.  He reigns, delivers and does mighty works with His powerful right hand.  His hands are like no others and when He opens them, it is with loving provision.  All that is good in our lives comes from those open hands.

I never need to cringe from His hands lifted in anger and punishment.  Although wrath and judgement do come from His righteous hands I do not fear them.  That is because I have placed my trust in Christ.  By faith I have received His righteousness as a gift and I am no longer under any condemnation (Rom. 8;1).  His nail-pierced hands are full of mercy and grace.  I do not fear those hands as His perfect love has cast out all fear. (I John 4:18)  I can trust His outstretched hands as they offer forgiveness and peace.  His hands provide for me what truly satisfies that deep longing in my soul.

Thank you Lord, for opening Your hands to me.

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


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Storm Chasers

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 4:6 “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”

Why would anyone chase a storm?  To risk everything and knowingly put one’s self in the path of danger seems insane!  Storm chasers include locals with cell phone cameras, news crews, researchers, photographers, university field trips and van loads of storm tour groups!  Whether they are motivated by adventure or science, those who drive hundreds if not thousands of miles to chase a storm are passionate!  I can understand the thrill and the awe of nature but my sense of self-preservation is too strong to join them.  After all, it is just chasing after wind.

Solomon in Ecclesiastes often repeats the phrase, “chasing after the wind.”   Today’s verse notes just one of the activities he lists as futile.  Chasing after more and more wealth may fill two hands rather than just one but it does not give us peace.  The more we have, the more we seem to want.  There is always more to acquire with the promise of peace, security and satisfaction.  But when we arrive, we find that the promise was false.

Just as one cannot catch wind, one cannot find meaning in the material world.  We were created with “eternity in our hearts.” (Eccl. 3:11)  Everything else is not only temporal but in the end, unsatisfying.  Having more handfuls does not insure having peace.  More often than not, having more creates its own worries and headaches and robs us of peace!  Some of the most contented and peaceful people I know have surprisingly little in their hands.  But how easily I forget that fact.  The truth is, I want heart peace more than any material benefit that exists.

Thank you Lord, for the peace and rest I find in You.

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