Devotions By Jan

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Chocolate Joy!

Scripture for Today: Nehemiah 8:10 “Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'”

Growing up in France, it was always a big deal for our children to buy and enjoy the Kinder Eggs.  This simple chocolate treat had a toy inside within a plastic shell.  The “surprise” was always very simple and quickly forgotten, but it was always good for a few brief moments of joy.  I am more familiar with the Kinder egg being labelled “Kinder Surprise” rather than “Joy.”

Today’s verse encourages the Israelites to enjoy food and drink and to celebrate the reading of the Book of the Law of Moses.  After years of exile, they had come back to their homeland.  And after years of exile, they were hearing the word of the Lord, some of them for the first time ever.  They were overcome with grief and were weeping as they listened.  But the joy of the Lord was the order of the day!  Continuing their mourning would only sap their strength.  Instead of grieving they were to celebrate God’s love and instruction.

There is a time to mourn and weep when facing God’s convicting word.  He is close to those who are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit for their sin. (Psalm 34:18)  But there is joy when I feel His forgiveness wash over me!  The realization of his unconditional love and grace wipes those tears and gives me new resolve.  I am energized and strengthened when His joy lifts me off my knees.

Thank you Lord, that you turn mourning into gladness (Jer. 31:13) and exchange my sorrow for Your comfort and joy!

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

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Full of Prunes

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 5:18b-19 “…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord”

People smile at the mention of prunes.  They are known especially as a laxative but they help generally with digestion as well.  In fact, prunes are high in antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties, and are good for bone health, skin and hair!  My Mother would often tell me that I was “full of prunes,” when as a child I would say or do something silly!  I guess being full of prunes was not such a bad thing after all!

Today’s verse tells the believer to be filled with God’s Spirit.  The Holy Spirit resides in each of those who have turned to Christ in faith.  God has put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit. guaranteeing what is to come (II Cor.1:22).  But being filled with Him means giving more of ourselves over to Him to work in and through us.  When we are filled with His Spirit, we overflow with praise and song with others and heartfelt music to Him!

The problem comes when I am filled with other things.  How can He fill my heart when it is full of bitterness or a refusal to forgive?  How can He have room to display His fruit when I am full of jealousy and envy?  My stubbornness and pride put Him in a tiny corner of my heart where He is barely noticed.  Then I wonder why I am just not feeling His presence and power.  Holding on to those heart-filling obstacles means that the song and praise fall silent.  But oh how wonderful the change when I confess and rid my heart of what is blocking Him!

Lord, fill me to overflowing today!

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Give Peas a Chance!

Scripture for Today: Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

As a little girl, I got away with hiding those detested peas in my napkin.  When excused from the table, I would take the napkin with me and flush those peas down the toilet!  As the youngest of four, my poor Mother was none the wiser.  Thankfully I got over my distaste as peas are such a great healthy food!  To give peace a chance however, is a much more important idea!  John Lennon of the Beatles popularized this phrase with his first solo single hit released in 1969, “Give Peace a Chance.”

Today’s verse encourages the believer to live at peace with everyone.  Paul includes some qualifying conditions; if it is possible and as far as it depends on you.  Sometimes peace just is not possible if both parties are not willing to work at it.  But there is plenty that can depend on our own responses.  Being able to live peacefully with those intent on provoking us seems nearly impossible.  But when we remind ourselves that God is just and He will repay and avenge (verse 19) then we can at least find that peace of mind for ourselves.

I wish I could say that all my relationships are always peaceful.  But even the best of them occasionally go through turbulent times.  However, I know when I am making things worse.  And the first step in making peace usually starts with a humble apology for the part I played in the drama.  That first step requires me to put aside my pride.  That is the part that depends on me.  I can then trust the Lord to work through the rest.

Help me Lord, to do all I can to live peaceably.


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Chocolate Citroen

chocolate-citroenScripture for Today: Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

My husband is passionate about cars and I am passionate about chocolate.  This creation seems to cover all our bases!  My husband always turns his head to see one of these “Deux Cheveaux” go by.  But my head turns at any sign of chocolate.  This Citroen is made of 2,645 pounds of chocolate so both our heads turn!  It was created by eleven students in France as part of a project at their school for restaurant management.  This masterpiece took 4,000 hours of painstaking effort and the result is impressive.

Satisfaction with both cars and chocolate is not so easy to find.  Today’s verse tells us where true satisfaction can be found.   This psalm is a prayer of Moses.  After recounting all the times the Lord disciplined the Israelites in the desert, Moses recognizes that God’s love remained faithful and constant.  The people had experienced “trouble and sorrow” over many years.  Now Moses prays for the satisfaction that comes from God’s unfailing love.  That satisfaction will bring them joy and gladness every day, despite the hard times.

Chocolate, cars, or any other earthly passion can fail to consistently bring me satisfaction  But God’s love does not fail.  His love and compassion are renewed every morning (Lam. 3:22-23).  When I am feeling an emptiness and lack inside, lots of good things can be a temporary distraction.  But nothing can reach that deeper longing of my soul like an awareness of His love.  That reassurance not only satisfies but replaces the emptiness with a song of joy!  And what a wonderful way to begin a day, to be satisfied in the morning!

Lord, thank you for Your love that never ever fails me!


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Falling in Love

chocolate-a19de532014ed9ad141b3e71154e499eScripture for Today: Psalm 89:2 “I will declare that Your love stands firm forever, that You have established Your faithfulness in heaven itself.”

I had to chuckle when I saw this same saying inscribed over the doorway of a cafe!  I admit that I am a “chocoholic” but I do have my standards.  I am most tempted with the dark and only in certain forms.  Indulging in that creamy satisfying taste never lets me down.  Chocolate always lives up to my expectation.  But before long, I would have to “fall” into it again to have that same satisfying experience.  The expression, “falling in love,” makes love seem haphazard and unintentional.  If we can fall in, perhaps we can climb out as well.

Today’s verse speaks of a love that stands firm forever.  It is a love that is constant and true because of the One who is doing the loving!  Beginning this relationship does not involve falling into it, unless we are falling to our knees in repentance and humility!

It is understandable that love can disappoint.  Love between flawed humans is in a constant state of flux.  Our ever-changing emotions make our love unreliable.  But there is a love that does not change.  God’s love is so great that it reaches to the skies! (Ps. 57:10)  He will never disappoint.  That is because His love does not depend on me but on His faithful promise.  His faithfulness to His Word is untouchable there in Heaven itself!

What a huge comfort to know that the Lord is never going to give up on me!  Nothing is going to change His love.  God is Love in its most beautiful and purest form.

How amazing it is that You can love me, Lord!  Help me believe it on this Valentine’s Day!

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Carob Pods

carob_fruitScripture for Today: Luke 15:16 “He was longing to eat the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”

I have never seen a carob pod growing although they have been cultivated in California since being imported in 1873.  They almost look like locusts the way they hang off a branch, which is why they are also called, “locust bean.”  This tree grows well in the Mediterranean climate and the pods are used to feed livestock, but we enjoy them too with a little preparation.  The seeds when pulverized are a great substitute for chocolate.  Carob chocolate has only half the fat of regular chocolate, but then I only enjoy it half as much!

The young man in today’s verse was desperately hungry.  After asking for his inheritance from his Father and then squandering it, he finds himself feeding carob pods to the pigs and wishing he could fill up his stomach with them as well.  It is finally at this point that the “prodigal son” comes to his senses and returns to his Father.  His Father, representing our Heavenly Father, runs out to welcome him.

So many are living contentedly with carob pods in the pigsty when they could be dining at their Father’s table (and with real chocolate!)  So many do not come to their senses.  And the Father did everything right.  There was no lack of love in that household.  There was no failure to communicate truth.  He raised that son perfectly.  Yet, the son rebelled.

It serves no purpose to second guess or feel guilty that something more could have been done.  It is the Lord who does all the “doing” to draw us to Himself.  And thankfully, there is always hope that a loved one will return to God’s waiting arms.

Lord, keep me hoping and praying.

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Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

chestnuts-chestnuts-chestnuts-collect-autumn-harvestScripture for Today: Isaiah 45:3  “I will give you hidden treasure, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”

This carol, originally titled, “The Christmas Song,” was written by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé on a hot summer day in 1945.  Wells drew from his childhood memory of vendors on the streets of Boston selling roasted chestnuts and serving them in paper cones.

In France we also enjoyed roasted chestnuts on the street, their warmth feeling so good on cold hands!  But the chestnut is also candied, boiled, steamed and grilled.   For Christmas and New Year’s the “marron glacé” is traditional fare, a chestnut that has been glazed in sugar syrup.  When they are still green and fresh, the chestnut is difficult to handle with its spiny bur.  But getting at that delicious treasure is worth all the effort!  There can be up to seven chestnuts in one bur.

Our verse for today talks about treasures that are hidden.  The riches that the Lord reveals are not so obvious.  Like the chestnut, they are sometimes stored in places difficult to see.  The outside of that hidden treasure makes it easy to miss.  Getting at that treasure inside may involved going through some tough prickly times.

It is through the hard times that I see God’s love and gentleness with me.  It is when life is difficult that He reveals the treasure of who He is.  His comfort and His grace are the unexpected surprise behind that negative experience.  Through a trial He becomes MY Lord, calling me by name.  Faith becomes very personal as He reveals to me the treasure of His power and presence.

Help me, Lord, to discover true riches and treasure this Christmas!