Thursday, July 31, 2008

4 Minute Devotions: Coyote Ugly

Encountering a coyote early one morning in Knoxville, TN, gave me a greater appreciation of the need for a sacred sanctuary. A short reflection on Psalm 96 v 6.

Podcast version here

Psalm 96:6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

I saw my first coyote, very early, the other morning. It was beside the place where I like to fish. I had just put my fishing tackle back into the car, when I saw this thin looking, ugly dog cross the path. It was carrying the remains of a dead fish in its mouth and headed over to some rocks to chew awhile.

At first I thought it was an abandoned puppy. It was gaunt and thin, but as I watched it, I realized it had the wizened look of a fox. There was no bushy tail, so I counted that out. It was the eyes that made me realize this wasn’t an abandoned pet. Dog’s eyes are usually big and round; this animal’s eyes were small and peering at me.

I tried to take a picture of the creature, but my camera was out of focus. When I got home, I looked up a few images of coyotes on the Internet. My suspicions were confirmed. It was a coyote – an ugly looking scavenger, if ever I saw one.

I guess my fishing hole must be part of the coyote’s territory. With all of the development that is going on, its refuge must be constantly diminishing. The woods next to my fishing hole must be its sanctuary. Perhaps I’ll get the chance to see it early one morning again. I hope so.

When we talk about sanctuaries in the church, we’re usually referring to our churches. They have become the centers of our spiritual habitats, where we can feel safe and experience the presence of God’s peace and love. As spiritual places and values begin to diminish around us, our havens of holiness become crucial to our relationship with Christ. In the midst of our troubles, worries, and anxieties, we need the church to be a solid foundation of hope, healing, and holiness for our lives.

So, today, let us give thanks to God for the churches where we engage in worship, experience fellowship, and enhance our discipleship. These sacred sanctuaries add so much to our hearts and spirits, helping us become better followers of Christ and servants of His Kingdom.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank You for the places where we gather for worship, prayer, and praise. We are grateful for these spiritual sanctuaries in our communities where we can feel and know the love of God. Help us to do what we can to support our churches, so that future generations of worshippers will gladly gather in these sacred places, too. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor at Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to send him some feedback on today’s message, send an email to

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