Devotions

Devotional~Icky Spiders and Satan's Traps

Like many people, I often take rabbit trails on the internet. Recently, while I wandered down one of those paths, I discovered a creature that is too disturbing not to share. A very icky spider.

To be truthful, I don't like spiders. A lot of people don't like them, including my mother, who battles yearly wolf spider invasions with sticky traps. Killing spiders is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. A creature with that many legs and eyes, that spins webs and set traps to capture hapless victims and suck their blood--well, it’s creepy.

Spiders remind me of Satan and the traps he sets for us in order to thwart our Father's plans for our lives and rob us of everything good. Psalm 141:9 says, Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers! 

Some spiders are ickier than others. Not like the little roundish ones that sometimes crawl into my bedroom and sit on the ceiling over my bed, no doubt staring at me with their multiple eyes, trying to ascertain if I'm too large to tangle with. They aren't a big deal, except when I go to kill them. Then I have to make sure I don't miss, otherwise they drop on my bed, which, needless to say, can lead to a lack of sleep.

Chinese Hourglass Spider. ©Jason Bond. (See footnote 1 for more information.)

Chinese Hourglass Spider. ©Jason Bond. (See footnote 1 for more information.)

Anyway, the disturbing spider I discovered online is called a Chinese Hourglass Spider.  For those who want an official name, it's Cyclocosmia, or "trapdoor spider," and it's a genus of spiders in the Halonoproctidae family.  (I copied all that from the internet, so don't be too impressed. I can't even pronounce those words.)

Trapdoor spiders hide in holes, waiting for prey to wander by. Then they jump out and grab the victim. This is not cool behavior as far as I’m concerned.

Unlike that awful picture, in real life this creature isn't very big. The spiders are only twenty-eight millimeters, which is a little over an inch long. That’s a good thing. Still, there's something disturbing about it, especially it's butt, which is a hardened disk made tougher by a series of ribs and grooves. If you look it up online, it looks like a monkey face. Besides grossing me out, the spider’s ugly butt does have a purpose. The Chinese Hourglass Spider uses it to clog the entrance to its burrow when threatened (see graphic lower right).

Study of Hourglass Spider--public domain. See footnote 2.

Study of Hourglass Spider--public domain. See footnote 2.

Supposedly these spiders are worth some money if sold as pets. Yes, I said pets. I’m sure some of you just shuddered like I did when I read that little factoid. I think the word "pet" applied to spiders is a misnomer. A pet is something you can hug, like a dog or a cat. You can have have a relationship with a pet because you look into its eyes and see life there. I've never looked into a spider's multiple eyes and thought, I want you in my life, Mr. Spider! We’ve got a real connection going on here. I know you feel it, too. I want you to live in my house. Crawl into my lap and let me hug you.

To be honest, I don't think spiders even have souls. I can't prove it, but I don't have to because it's only my opinion.

So, my friends, if this spider grosses you out as much as it grosses me out, and you happen to think about it as you go about your day, just let it be a reminder of how Satan lays traps. He’s evilly sly and tricky, and fools people, like this spider fools its victims. To prevent yourself from being fooled, read the Word and pray, and learn how to overcome all the wiles of the enemy. And if you aren't in a relationship with Jesus Christ, ask Him to come into your heart right now. You don’t need a special church service or a minister to do that. You just need Him. 

 

Footnotes:

1.  Picture of Chinese Hourglass Spider. ©Jason Bond. This media file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License - Version 3.0. According to this license, I can use this picture, but in using it, I do not imply in any way that the holder of the copyright of this picture agrees with me and or anything I've written in this article.  

2. This media file is in the public domain in the United States because the date of the picture is between 1890 and 1891.

Devotional - Stop Complaining (Bleating and Sniveling)!

Have you ever been around someone who complains about everything? Not just joking around, but seriously. There is no purpose to their conversation except to gripe. In fact, talking to them isn’t a conversation—that implies give and take. Instead, they use a conversation as a venue to tell you everything that’s gone wrong in the past, everything that is currently wrong, and everything that will go wrong in the future. If you offer advice, they shrug it off. By the time they’re done, you're ready to take a nap.


My definition of complaining is griping about everything that's wrong with no desire to find a solution. (As opposed to discussing an issue in order to find answers. Or making snarky comments to joke around.)

Here are some synonyms: protest, grumble, whine, bleat, carp, cavil, grouse, criticize, bellyache, moan, snivel, gripe, and kvetch. My favorites are bleat and snivel.


Complaining has been on my personal hit list for a quite a while. It’s not productive. Nothing positive is ever accomplished by complaining. Often complaining makes small problems look big. It’s like fodder for problems; they grow larger as we feed them with words. Complaining fosters helplessness and discouragement. It gives credit to the lie that things are harder than they really are. And it also creates an atmosphere of negativity that can easily lead to strife, quarrels, and depression.


Complaining isn’t spiritually healthy, either. Philippians 2:14 says, Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault. . .


Putting a halt to the complaining (bleating, and sniveling) habit is hard if it's habitual. But a sure-fire weapon against negativity is to replace it with thankfulness. After a bad day at work, be thankful you have a job. When your taxes seem too high, be grateful you have an income to tax. If nothing else, make a list of all the good things in your life. Then when a bad situation happens, read your thankful list. Out loud. It's hard to snivel when you're counting your blessings.


"When you consistently maintain a positive frame of mind, you'll become known as a problem-solver rather than a complainer. People avoid complainers. They seek out problem-solvers." Joseph Sommerville, PhD, from The 5 Keys to Interpersonal Success.


Hubby and I are making an effort not to complain when we’re together. Things in our home have changed as a result. We’ve always laughed a lot, but now the atmosphere of our house is lighter. We laugh more. We enjoy each other’s company more. In fact, it’s harder to fall into snippiness or to misinterpret each other’s words.


*****


Psalm 141:3: Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.


Lord, please set a watch over my mouth. Show me when I’m negative or complaining. Help me be a blessing to those around me with positive words. In Jesus name, amen.

Devotional - Jack, the Snow, and a New Poo Place

Yesterday it snowed, and by nightfall we had about 8 inches. After Hubby used his snow blower on the driveway, he blew a narrow path for Jack the Dog to follow to the back of the yard so he could do his business.


. . .Fast forward to late this afternoon. It was “time to go poo,” which Jack does every day at this time. I figured he’d follow the blown path to the back of the yard. I stood on the deck (in 8 degrees) and watched Jack pee on the nearest bush. Then he headed straight back to the deck where I waited.


“Go, Jack!” I said, waving my hands like an idiot. “Go Poo!” (Yes, he knows what this means.)


He looked at me like, you’re kidding, right?


Keep in mind that we’ve been going outside at this time for at least three years. We know what we’re supposed to do.


“Go poo!” I repeated.


He took off, but not down the path Hubby had so carefully made. Instead, Jack headed to some trees along the fence line and followed them, stopping every few feet to stare at me.


“GO!” I yelled, wondering if our neighbors could hear me.


When he finally reached the back of the yard, he still didn’t follow the path. He followed the fence line where the snow was much higher. Then he stopped and stared at me. That’s when I realized that his regular poo place was covered up with snow. Hubby hadn’t blown the snow there.


By this time, I was feeling the cold, but I trudged out in the yard until I came within several feet of him. He was confused and uncomfortable. I had to get up close and personal to encourage him to do what he needed to do.


“Go Poo.” I pointed my finger like the ghost of Christmas Past.


He ran back and forth along the fence and stopped to stare at me again. He wanted his regular poo place and nothing else would do.


“Go Poo,” I said again.


Once again, he ran back and forth along the fence and stopped.


We repeated this maybe ten times until Jack couldn't hold it anymore. He went poo. Finally. Oh happy day! I could go inside and thaw my cheeks.


I praised him and walked straight back to the house. He didn’t follow me -- or the path. He kept trying to find another way. Near the fence. Around the trees. Anywhere but the path.


When he finally reached the house, he was shivering, so I carried him down to the family room and we sat in front of the pellet stove to warm up. Silly little dog.


As usual, Jack’s actions were a spiritual metaphor. The path Hubby had made for Jack wasn’t what he was used to. It didn’t cover the same ground and didn’t lead to his usual poo place. So instead of following the path, Jack wandered through deep snow, trying to find the old place, following his old habit.


Things would have been so much easier if he’d just followed the path.


How many of us are like that when God reveals a new plan for us? Something that takes us a direction we’re not familiar with. We’re like Jack. You’re kidding, right God? We want the old because it’s familiar. Comfortable. We wander off, insisting that the old is better. Then we find ourselves, like Jack, lost in a snowbank of confusion.


The LORD says, I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. (Psalm 32:8 NLT).


Lord, please help me always follow the path You’ve set for me, even if it’s not comfortable or familiar.

Devotional - Some Thoughts on Trust

Trust can be broken. . .


Today Hubby had to work on the snow blower. As he put on his coat, Mr. Whiny Dog Jack did his usual whimpering and staring routine, which means he wants to go out, too. However, Hubby is not so quick to let Jack out now because of his recent “Great Escape.” He no longer trusts Jack to stay nearby.


Trust is a terrible thing to lose. . .


When my daughter was a teenager she claimed I had a direct phone line to God. That’s because I always seemed to know when she was doing something wrong. . .which, I might add, was more often than I would have liked. (I have her permission to say that, in case anybody is wondering.) But my insight into her behavior was not because I was such a spiritual giant; rather, it was because I was in a heightened state of alert. She’d already proven to be less than trustworthy so I had to be watchful and weigh all her words and actions.


Trust is hard to regain. . .


When I confide in a person and then discover they’ve discussed my issue with someone else, used what I’ve said to judge me, or used my words as a weapon to hurt me, I rarely confide in them again.


Loss of trust leads to consequences. . .


My hubby doesn’t trust that Jack will stay in the yard; therefore, Jack’s time outside is limited to when someone can watch him at all times. My daughter’s behavior as a teen caused me to watch her closely, and she sometimes missed out on activities because I knew she could not be trusted in those circumstances. And I’m sad to say that there are people I now hold at arm’s length because I don’t know how they will use the things I say.


Oh, Lord, please help me be a woman of my word, to my friends and family and to You. Amen.

Devotional - Lost Dog "Parable"

Last weekend our dog, Jack (who I’m pretty sure is a few light bulbs short of a pack), escaped our yard. I learned a long time ago that I can’t take my eyes off him when he’s outside.

Jack

I’ve lived with Jack a lot longer than hubby Kim. He has held out hope that Jack is akin to the collie mix he used to own. Devoted, watchful. . .smart. Yeah, well, like I indicated, Jack’s intelligence is up for debate. It’s hard to tell whether he’s dumb or just out for himself like so many small dogs. And I suspect his “devotion” (read: dogging our footsteps in the house and staring at us incessantly) is more from insecurity and a need to be adored than from being a watchful family guardian.

So last weekend Kim was working outside and took Jack with him so they could have some time together. That was Kim’s first mistake—thinking Jack wanted to be outside so they could be together. Instead, when Kim wasn’t looking, Jack followed his nose out of the open gate. When I heard Kim yelling for Jack, I knew what had happened.

Unfortunately, Jack wasn't wearing his collar. He has a collapsing trachea, so we don’t like to keep anything around his neck inside the house for fear he’ll get caught on something and choke to death. Our bad. He does have a chip under his skin with our information on it, but that entails someone having a chip reader.

So the search was on. I drove up and down the road, talked to a couple of men. Hubby searched the trees behind our property and then took his truck to go looking further. I called a friend to pray. My biggest concern, besides my little dog being killed, was the potential guilt my dear husband would live with the rest of his life if something happened to the dog on his watch.

This story has a happy ending. Hubby made another drive down the street and woman came out of her house and asked him if he was looking for a little tan dog. She said a friend of hers across 32 (a very busy road) had found a little dog. Sure enough, it was Jack. When Hubby got there, Jack was shut inside a car to protect him from their big dog (who wanted a piece of Jack).

Jack was obviously glad to be home. I was so relieved. The thought of the little guy lost outside, alone, and afraid, really bothered me—even though he did it to himself.

I was reminded of the parable of the Good Shepherd.

Matthew 18: 12-14:  What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

When Jack left our yard, he was no longer under our protection. He was in the world, threatened by traffic, other dogs, and who knows what. He could have ended up in the pound or worse, smashed on the road. But we searched until we found him, then brought him home to warmth and safety.

Isn’t that like us when we move out from under the Lord’s protection by sinful action or thought? Sometimes we don’t know how to find our way home. Worse, we’re trapped and the enemy of our souls is snapping at us, threatening our safety. But Good Shepherd comes to find us. He picks us up and carries us back home. What a beautiful picture.

(And we’ll be buying a harness to replace Jack’s collar. I’ve decided he’ll have to wear it all the time.)

Devotional - Underneath It All

We had our heater/air conditioner vents cleaned a while ago. Two guys came out with a big vacuum that was hooked to a van and sucked all the dirt out.

Some of the Stuff From Our Vents

The vents in our house had never been cleaned, so I suspected we’d get stuff out of them, especially based on the amount of dust that gathered on freshly dusted furniture after only a few days. I think I was the only one who really noticed this dust, being the Queen of Clean in the Kingdom of Prentice. But even I was surprised by the stuff that got sucked out of our vents. A big plastic bag, pieces of wood, and lots and lots of powdery dust. Who would have guessed how much stuff was deep inside our house, lingering unseen for years and years? And to make it worse, imagine all the dusty powder in the air we breathed before it settled on surfaces.

I couldn’t help but make a spiritual correlation. I began to examine my inner man—my heart. What things was I holding onto that I shouldn’t? Was there anything there that would spread the dust of unforgiveness? Anger? Resentment? Some other icky thing that shouldn’t be there?

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” You might say, keep your vents clean with all vigilance, for from them flow the air of life.

So. . .what’s in your spiritual vents? It might be worth a cleaning.