Devotions By Jan



Scripture for Today: John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

They still allow toilet paper of different colors in France.  One can choose just the right shade to  coordinate with your bathroom decor!  Our white-only choices seem boring by comparison.  Recently, we in North America have gone from talking about toilet paper shortages to heated discussions regarding color.  As important as this dialogue is, there is one even more important; what color is our soul?

Today’s well-known verse declares that God loves His creation.  He loves the world and His offer of salvation is inclusive to “whoever believes.”  As divided as mankind is, the need for forgiveness through God’s Son is a need that we all share.  The value He places on each of us individually is so high that He was willing to sacrifice Jesus so we could be with Him for all eternity.  Deep down in every human is a soul that is colorless in that we have the exact same need of salvation.  The ground before the cross is level.  No one is more deserving than another despite race, economic advantage or educational background.

This is a truth that changes how I view others.  Because of God’s undeserved grace to me, I can extend this same grace to others.  There is no sin too grievous for Him to forgive.  When violating even one of God’s laws I am guilty of all (James 2:10).  This is the way we are all the same, needing His forgiveness and grace.  I do not want to focus on what separates us but rather on what unites us all in our shared need for Him!

Lord, thank you for Your all-inclusive love.

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The Hedgehog

Scripture for Today:  Col. 3:12-13  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another, if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

We had hedgehogs living under our one hundred year-old home in France.  They were quite harmless when left alone.  They came out at night and mosied around the yard.  They were certainly slow creatures and very timid.  When approaching them, they may roll up into a spiky ball and stay immobile.  Our cat pretty much ignored the hedgehogs.  Perhaps there was an “incident” that convinced him to leave them alone!  They can look cute and cuddly when surrounded by flowers but the up-to-sixty spines that clothe their bodies are a strong incentive to keep one’s distance.

Today’s verse describes a clothing that is beautiful and approachable.  We are to clothe ourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  We are to be forgiving because we ourselves have been forgiven.  These adjectives bring to mind the character of Jesus who is “gentle and humble in heart.”  The list also reminds me in part of the fruit of the Spirit.  And as one having a new nature, they are also to characterize me.

But I am not always so soft and approachable.  Quite frankly, before that first morning cup of coffee I can be quite prickly!  There are times when being a hedgehog is just easier.  But because God has chosen me and I am dearly loved, I can respond to others with these beautiful qualities He is slowly developing in me.  Not only is this clothing more comfortable for others but for myself as well!

Lord, help me to resemble You today.

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Albatross Around the Neck

Scripture for Today: Psalm 38:4 “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.”

The albatross looks nice enough but I would not want to wear him around my neck!  The old expression comes from a 19th century poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”  The narrator flippantly shoots the albatross, a bird thought to be a sign of good luck.  The sailors are so incensed that they oblige him to wear the dead bird around his neck as penance.  The expression today means having a heavy burden one cannot escape, and being kept from doing what one wants to do.

Today’s verse describes the guilt David felt as being a burden too heavy to bear.  He describes it as a searing pain in his back, making him feeble and crushing him (verse 7-8)  He recognizes his sin and that he is experiencing the rebuke and discipline of the Lord.  He groans in “anguish of heart” and confesses his sin (verse 18).  Not only does David experience God’s wonderful forgiveness but even the guilt is lifted off of him.  It was because David acknowledged his sin that God forgave even the guilt of his sin (Psalm 32:5).

The guilt of sin is never something I have to feel around my neck weighing me down.  When I agree with God about my sin in repentance, He is there to lift that burden from me.  His forgiveness means that sin is removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  Memories of past failures do not have to influence me and any reminder of them does not come from Him!  His forgiveness is liberating and freeing.  He never brings up the matter again and He gives me a light heart, reassuring me of His constant, unconditional love.

What a gift!  Thank you, Lord.


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.

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A Mother’s Comfort

Scripture for Today:  Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

This figurine of a mother and her child is one of my favorites.  It was a two-dollar treasure I found at a thrift store and it is named, “Tenderness.”  It reminds me of the comfort and tenderness God gives to His children.  It sits on a shelf next to John 3:16 in French.  I love its simplicity and the way the mother inclines her head towards her child.

Today’s verse describes the soft, tender and comforting side of our God.  We relate more often to God as our Heavenly Father.  But in this verse, God is also pictured as a Mother.  His comfort is as sweet and warm as a Mother’s is for her child.  His love is expressed through that comfort He shows when we are hurting. This verse is especially for His people, the Israelites, in the promise of restoration and healing of their land.  But these beautiful qualities of comfort are for us too, as He is the God of all comfort (II Cor. 1:3).  Our comfort also abounds through Christ (verse 5) and the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter (John 14:16).

It is funny that even though I am a mother and grandmother myself, I still have moments when I want my own Mom.  That desire for her sympathetic arms never seems to disappear, especially when I am hurt or ill.  She is no longer here but I will always have the Lord.  He sees my tears.  He understands my heart.  He comes in close to comfort and assure me when I am feeling down and vulnerable.  There are times when I am convinced I am feeling His arms wrapped tightly around me.

Thank you Lord, for mothering me.