Devotions By Jan


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Belly Laugh

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:25 “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

They say that,”laughter is the best medicine.”  And apparently, science confirms this idea.  Giggles and guffaws both can reduce stress by stimulating heart, lungs and muscles.  A hearty laugh can increase endorphins released by your brain, giving you that “feel-good feeling.”  Have you ever noticed that good relaxed feeling after a big belly laugh?  That is because the stress response is fired up then cooled down, increasing heart rate and blood pressure.  A good laugh can completely turn around my mood.

Today’s verse is about a woman who laughs at the future.  This woman is clothed with strength and dignity as she lives her life with wisdom (vs.26).  She works vigorously (vs. 17) and she is not idle (vs. 27).  The public praises her because of her works (vs. 31) and more importantly she is praised by her children and husband (vs. 28).  But what is most surprising about this “super woman” is that she laughs at the days to come.  Her heart is light because she fears the Lord (vs. 30).

My tendency is to fear rather than laugh at the future.  I do not know what changes may be in store for our country or personally for my life.  Rather than have a light heart, I sometimes have this vague disquiet about what lies ahead.  But when my heart is steadfast and trusting in His power and sovereignty, than I do not fear bad news (Ps. 112:7).  How much better to laugh at the future and fear God than to fear the future and laugh at the idea of God’s control!  He is directing it all and because that is true, I can be glad.

Thank you Lord, for Your loving control of my future!

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Jackpot!

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 3:16 “Long life is in her (Wisdom’s) right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace,”

At this writing, the Mega Millions jackpot stands at 540 million dollars!  The one winning this inconceivable amount will have beat some pretty incredible odds.  The odds of winning are roughly one in 259 million!  The standard response is, “Well, someone has to win.”  Eventually, of course.  But the jackpot has climbed this high as there has not yet been a winner.  And at each drawing the number of participants increases, making the odds of winning even more difficult to beat!

Today’s verse talks about having riches and honor in one’s left hand.  The right hand holds long life.  It is not lottery winnings that fill the hands but wisdom.  The advantages that wisdom gives a life is likened to what wealth can do for a person.  But even this comparison falls short as wisdom is better than riches.  How much better to get wisdom than gold! (Prov. 16:16)  Wisdom gives us what money cannot buy; long life, honor, pleasant ways and peace.  Skillful godly living makes life absolutely rich!

It is so hard to think in this way.  With wisdom there is no instant gratification!  Wisdom does not give me any covetous looks from my neighbors.  There is no recognition or envy.  And life is not necessarily easier with wisdom.  But I tend to think all that could be the case if I were just a little richer!  However, the benefits and advantages of living wisely are not taxed, stolen, or frittered away as money can be.  My life is rich because of Him who is the Source of Wisdom.

Thank you Lord, that with Your love and salvation, I have already won!


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Changing Tack?

Scripture for Today: Psalm 25:9 “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.”

No.  I do not know these people either.  But I sense a kindred spirit in this woman who is prudently holding onto the boom.  When a boat tacks and changes direction, that boom quickly swings to the other side of the boat.  For the unaware, it means being knocked in the head if one is in its path.  I know this from experience!  The one changing direction would, in a perfect world, let his passengers know what he was doing.

Today’s verse reassures the believer that God has a plan for how we live our lives.  He is available to be our Guide and to teach us His way, which is always the best way!  All His ways are loving and faithful (verse 10) even if it seems that He is guiding us into waters that do not look so calm.  He is there and He is good.  But it is only the humble who can be guided.  When we confidently change tack or direction without His counsel, (James 4:13-16) we are likely to be in the way of that boom!

I am excited for this new calendar year, in fact so much so that I tore Christmas down a bit early!  But at the same time, I can be fearful of what changes may be in store.  There will be changes.  There always are.  He may change some of my directions.  But if I am humbly seeking Him and His guidance, I do not have to be surprised by that boom!  And I am reassured by who He is.  All His ways are loving and faithful!  I can be peaceful as I look ahead knowing that He is completely trustworthy!

Lord, I need You to guide me.


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Mulled Spiced Drinks

Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:8 “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” 

Some smells transport me back in time.  This is one of them.  Every outdoor Christmas Market in our area of France sold hot spiced wine or hot spiced apple juice.   The smell of it would waft up and down the rows of stands.  People would wrap their frozen fingers around that mug for warmth.  And for those indulging in the alcohol version, the warmth radiated within as well.  Those spices of allspice, cloves, cinnamon, orange zest, ginger and anise would be mulled for hours, the flavors intermingling.  The result was pure delight!

Today’s verse encourages the believer to think about a list of things that are excellent or praiseworthy.  Just as a variety of spices are mulled and mixed over time, so we too are to reflect, ponder or ruminate over the truth.  Truth is the starting point for all of our thoughts.  And when we start there, we find ourselves thinking of all the rest.  The truth is noble and right.  The truth is pure, lovely and admirable.  The Truth is Jesus Himself (John 14:6).

My thoughts can be all over the place.  So many times, it takes a conscious effort to reign them in and focus on truth.  So many things clamor for my attention.  So many things distract me and often those very things are the opposite of this list!  But there is a wonderful result when I mull over truth.  I will experience the peace of God guarding my heart and mind (verse 7) and the peace of God will be with me (verse 9).

Thank you Lord, that thinking on You is worth the effort.

 


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Seasickness

Scripture for Today: Psalm 107: 28-29 “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.”

These poor men!  This photo is from a postcard of American soldiers suffering from seasickness on the deck of the USS Powhatan during World War I.  The misery on their faces says it all!  Not all of them seem to be affected.  And the waves cannot be too awfully strong as the deck remains level.  But it does not take much motion for the sensitive stomach to churn.

Today’s verse talks of merchants who were used to life on the sea.  But this time, the Lord Himself stirred up a tempest that created huge waves (verse 25).  Their courage melted away as they staggered around like drunkards.  This was outside their normal area of expertise.  Even so, it was not until they were at their “wits’ end” (verse 27) that they cried out to the Lord.  And when they did, He brought them out of their distress, stilling that storm and hushing the waves.  Coming out of it, they were thankful for the calm.

I take the calm in my life for granted, that is just until the waves grow large!  I am like these sea merchants in thinking I can handle the sudden storm.  But I quickly realize that I cannot.  What starts as a queasy stomach can turn into full grown panic as my small efforts do not seem to amount to much.  How good and faithful He is to respond to my cry!  Whether that storm is of my own making or a test from Him, my first thought should always be to humbly ask for His help.

Thank you Lord, that You can still my storm.

 


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No Fear

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I do not normally think of myself as a fearful person, but then I am not trying to do what this woman is doing, hanging over the Hong Kong skyline!  She is either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid to take such a risk!  The hammock seems to suggest ease and relaxation, which has got to be far from what she is feeling!  Even so, it is a sure bet that she does not suffer from acrophobia!

Today’s verse is an encouragement to not fear.  I am to put my trust in God.  His presence keeps me from being dismayed at dizzying heights.  He strengthens.  He helps.  And most importantly, He upholds me with His righteous right hand!  Whether I am facing insurmountable odds, or the presence of evil, I do not have to give in to fear.

The stronger my faith is in Him, the less problem I will have with fear.  In Matthew 8:26 Jesus challenges His disciples with the question, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Their boat being pummeled by a storm seemed reason enough.  But had they had more trust in Him, fear would not have been an issue.  I do the same thing when faced with scary circumstances.  The level of fear I am feeling is a barometer of just how much I am trusting Him.  But with God for us – who (or what) can be against us? (Rom. 8:31)  Through Him, we are more than conquerors, even over our own fears!

Thank you Lord, that because of You, I do not have to fear.


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#Me Too

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 4:13 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

I have been amazed and appalled at the number of women who on our Facebook news feed have posted the “Me Too” hashtag.  This has become the rallying cry for those who have been sexually harassed or assaulted.  The idea was to bring awareness to the magnitude of the problem.  And with 1.2 million tweets and millions more posting on Face Book, in six short days it has done just that.  But for many the experience was too painful to make public and would only reinforce the trauma.  However, for others it is empowering.

Today’s verse contains a truth that is even more empowering.  Nothing is hidden from God’s sight.  What is done in secret will one day be revealed.  What was thought to be covered up forever will be uncovered before the One who will mete out perfect justice.  No one will ever get away with anything.  That is a balm that can heal a lot of deep lasting wounds.

I am thankful not to have experienced such trauma and my heart goes out to those who have.  But unfortunately, I have been robbed, cheated, and have had my reputation attacked.  There is no proof.  There is no recourse.  However, I can leave the retribution to Him.  He has promised to repay and avenge the evil much better than I ever could (Romans 12:19).  He sees it all and He is the Master of transforming what is unthinkable, pouring out healing and blessing.  What was intended to harm, God is able to turn around for good (Gen.50:20).

Thank you Lord, for the justice You promise.