Devotions By Jan

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Scripture for Today: Psalm 55:17 “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.”

Photo Credit: Christian Ferrer /CC BY 4.0

It was a very rough start to this cruise taken on the MV Viking Sky in March of 2019. The storm in Norway was manageable in principle. But she suffered a loss of oil pressure causing an automatic shutdown of all engines. The mayday distress signal was issued at 14:00 and was not lifted until 15:11 the next day. And in that time period, 30 helicopter trips evacuated 479 passengers. Their mayday signal, repeated three times in a row, understandably had priority over all other calls!

Today’s verse is a distress call to God repeated three times: morning, noon and night. David refers to his troubles like a tempest and storm (verse 8). He is distraught because of his enemies but he refers to just one in particular; a companion, a close friend (verse 13). The betrayal of a so-called friend is what is fueling David’s anguish. But David’s cry to God results in casting his cares on the Lord (verse 22). He ends this distress call with trust that God will take care of the wicked men in his life (verse 23).

There will always be those who oppose God and do evil. The storms in my life can sometimes be traced back to the waves and strong winds they have caused. But what causes more distress, prompting that mayday call, is the betrayal of a friend. Coming from an unexpected source makes it all the more painful. A cry for help is the best response I can make. And like David, I can end my prayer with trust. The Lord knows, He cares, He will sustain me and in His justice, He will take care of it.

Thank you Lord, for always hearing my cry.

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Penny Farthing Bicycle

Scripture for Today: II Timothy 4:5 “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Fjmustak, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With each pedal stroke, this gentleman can travel great distances, as much as 15 feet! That is because of the huge size of that front wheel. And even though he is rolling on cobblestone, his ride is smooth. But despite these advantages, the Penny Farthing bicycle, created in the 1870’s, is not safe. As he sits so high and nearly over the front axel, he is prone to pitching over those mustache handlebars head first and landing on his head!

Today’s verse is a charge to Timothy from his mentor, Paul. He is told to “keep his head.” The idea is to always be steady and clear headed. Despite unexpected hardship, Timothy is encouraged to stay calm, cool and steady. Timothy is warned that soon, sound doctrine and truth will no longer be welcomed. His listeners will prefer myths and what is easy to hear (verses 3-4). But he is to remain faithful to what God has called him to do, just as Paul had been.

I could lose my head in only listening to what is easy and pleasing, ignoring the doctrines and meat of God’s Word. If I were to take that easy route, I would be unprepared for any kind of hardship. Suffering, trials and difficulties are all part of my Christian walk and the best way I know to meet them head on is to know what God says. I may never understand the “why” of that unexpected hardship. But by staying in His Word, I can be assured of God’s love and faithfulness through it.

Thank you Lord, that You help me keep my head!

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Goat Head Weed

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 12:7 “….Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me.”

Photo by Paul Garland at

The goat head weed produces stickers that seem innocuous being so small! But what pain it can produce! These nasty seeds are shaped like a miniature goat’s head. They are much like the sandbur but are meaner and tougher, harming people, pets and livestock. The 200 to 5,000 seeds produced each season germinate quickly and can lie dormant in the soil for many years. How amazing that something so small can puncture bicycle tires and footballs!

In today’s verse, Paul is describing a tormenting thorn. It was sent by Satan but in God’s hands it was used for a good purpose; to keep Paul from becoming conceited. Paul had received some incredible visions and revelations from the Lord. The temptation for Paul was to boast and feel spiritually strong because of them. There are lots of ideas as to what Paul’s thorn might have been. Perhaps it was a physical ailment. But thorns were used in the Old Testament to describe Israel’s enemies (Num. 33:55) and malicious neighbors! (Ex. 28:24) Paul dearly loved the Corinthians church and was having to deal with false teachers.

A relationship that has gone sour, a conflict that goes unresolved, or a family member that has no interest in reconciliation can all be like a thorn in the flesh.  And like the goat head seed, the problem can lie dormant for years before becoming visible and causing pain. The ongoing discomfort from those thorns is a constant reminder that I am weak and not strong.  But like Paul, God’s strength is available to me at the very point of my pain and weakness.

Thank you Lord, that I can experience Your strength regardless of the “thorns” in my life!

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Hanging It Up

Scripture for Today: Psalm 137: 1-2 “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps.”

I love decorating the Christmas tree with musical instruments. We have a set of white porcelain ones that stand out against the greenery. For me, Christmas is all about the music. The old classics are always my favorite with their rich descriptions of the Gospel message. It makes me smile and tear up to hear the old ones played in the malls as many have no idea of the profound truths they are hearing. (unfortunately, only with instruments) Harp music is something I especially associate with the joy of Christmas and the world-changing message of the angels.

Today’s verse has the captive Israelites hanging up their harps in the poplar trees. They did not do it for decoration but as a sign that they were done with singing. Their captors had demanded of them songs of joy. (verse 3) Their response? How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? (verse 4) What these captives did not realize is that all those who live by faith are foreigners and strangers on earth. (Heb. 11:13) We can continue to sing songs of joy when we look to that better country, a heavenly one. (Heb. 11:16)

I am not quite ready to hang up my harp just yet, although there are definitely days that I think of it. Quite frankly, the fear, negativity, isolation, and the surrender of some Christmas traditions can steal songs of joy. But I can choose to focus on what will never be stolen from me; my true country ahead! There, unending songs of joy will fill the corridors and resound in every corner!

Restore to me Lord, the joy of my salvation!

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Silver Lining

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 11:17 “Light is sweet and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.”

These days I am looking for a “silver lining” to the dark clouds so many of us are experiencing. The proverb, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” is attributed to John Milton and a poem he wrote in 1634 entitled, “A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle.” Looking past the gloomy darkness to see that less obvious glimmer of light takes a mindset we do not always have. It is seeing the hopeful side of a somber situation.

Today’s verse is written by Solomon in a book filled with references to the sun.  The phrase, “under the sun” is often used when speaking of the futility of life.  All of life is said to be meaningless and vain if not lived in right relationship to God.  Even sweet light and the pleasure of seeing the sun has no real meaning without knowing its Creator. The context of this verse also speaks of remembering the darkness.  Whether we are in the middle of dark days or remembering those hard times, they help us appreciate the sweet light so much more when it arrives!  Recognizing the contrast makes me grateful for every ray of sunlight!

I am so thankful for a loving personal God who gives me just the right amount of darkness and sunlight.  I can trust Him as He gives to each day what He knows is best. The dark clouds of an on-going negative situation do not need to weigh me down. The Lord invites me to look to Him who is the Light. And even just a sliver of light can make a huge impact on that darkness.

Thank you Lord, for the sweet light of Your presence.