Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion January 15, 2020

Greetings All!

Happy New Year!  How many of you stayed up and brought in the new year?  Or like my husband, who went to bed way before the ball dropped!  But that is nothing unusual because he never stays up to bring in the New Year... 
There was one year however when he actually stayed up for New Years - remember the year 2000?  We lived in a very rural area that year with essentially one town in the whole county and that small little town decided the year 2000 was worth a big celebration.  For the evening they closed down the streets of the town, set up tables filled with sparkling grape juice and the year 2000 hats and noise makers and all kinds of food and the best thing ever was the crane in the middle of town which held a big disco ball that dropped at the stroke of 12.  
I also remember we were told the whole world was going to self destruct when it turned 2000 and thankfully that didn't happen!
Anyway my husband and the whole family went to this celebration which was a great time - and the husband stayed up till midnight when they dropped the ball from the crane and everyone shook their noise makers and drank their sparkling grape juice!
Now we are at the beginning of a new year and what I noticed as I stayed up to watch the New Years Rockin’ Eve is that the 2020 jokes were rampant.  
If you haven’t heard the 2020 jokes I’m surprised.  Right before the Times square ball dropped there was about a ten minute montage of Barbara Walters saying “Good evening.  I am Barbara Walters and this is 2020”.  Then the next day as the Rose Parade was broadcast, there again was a different montage of Barbara Walters saying “Good evening.  I am Barbara Walters and this is 2020” and I figured we were in for a few weeks of hearing Barbara Walters say “Good evening.  I am Barbara Walters and this is 2020”.  
And I was right. I’m really hoping we aren’t in for a whole year of “Good evening.  I am Barbara Walters and this is 2020”.  
But then came the series of vignettes where people were using the “We can see 20/20 this year” phrases over and over as they showed eye charts and those metal things the eye doctor has you look through when the doctor is measuring your eyes along with various other types of eye pictures to support the 20/20 illusion. “We can see 20/20 this year” I predict is going to show up in a lot of places over the next 11 months!
The first few times of this 2020 funny fest was pretty amusing with all this Barbara Walters talk and the 20/20 vision quip and then after a couple of weeks of hearing it over and over it became pretty annoying. To the point where when these punch lines appeared there was a quick channel change or radio station change and an audible 'ugg'….. And maybe even a wish for a quick coming of 2021 which doesn’t hold the obvious material for playing with words - or playing with number words!
While over saturation of anything can make our lives miserable and cause multiple eye rolls and audible ‘uggs’, we can never  be over exposed to the word of God.  We should never be annoyed when we hear once again “For God so loved the world…” or “In the beginning….” In fact unlike “Good evening.  I am Barbara Walters and this is 2020”, we should crave hearing God’s word as much as we can for it is in God’s word that we find our identity; our special place in God’s eyes; our goals and our purpose; our comfort and strength….
I admit I am tired of “Will you see with 20/20 vision this year?” but each day I enjoy hearing the words of God over and over.
And that is how it should be!

Devotion Jen 8, 2020

I started thinking about these Midweek Devotions and when they started - 2006. And then I remember this is 2020 and think - Wow - that was a long time ago!  I sat for a moment trying to remember exactly what was going on in my life during that time that made me begin these devotions and then in bits and pieces it began to come to me……  cause I'm getting old and that is how things come to me anymore!
I was working in a job I was really good at and had received a lot of accolades and atta-boys or I guess atta-girls or perhaps atta-persons would be best.  I worked hard at my job as my family can attest ….. and I was also serving 2 churches which were over an hour from my house which ate up a lot of time just in travel along with the other things you have to do.  I guess now would be the appropriate time to say the standard joke of ‘Preachers only work one hour on Sundays’ or I guess I can legitimately say I worked 2 hours on Sunday since I had two churches - chuckle, chuckle!
At any rate, here I was in this time consuming job that I was good at and I enjoyed but I had a boss who was the micro-manager of all time and but at the same time knew very little about what I actually did or how I actually did it or the content of the work or what it entailed or even what it was all about….. but she was one of those bottom line people and one of those what was in it for herself people and at the same time was trying to impress her bosses which made  the job a wee bit stressful - well maybe more than a wee bit but I try and look at the bright side!
I could tell, my family could tell, my friends could tell that the stress of the work was starting to take its toll.  I began to have health problems; I had a surgery that required a much longer recovery time than it should have; and there were some people hired to work in my department who were totally inadequate and frankly not suited for the jobs at all but who held some credentials that could be used for publicity purposes and who began to pretty much undermine this great program I had established and so with some great soul searching and some great faith in the “God will take care of you” I quit my job.  Insert that little emoji with the shocked look on its face.
This was quite the trauma.  My husband was working in another state; my kids were gone and it was just me and the dog.  What was I going to do? I had worked literally all the time. I of course did the Wow!  Now I can clean my house but that lasted about 3 days since it was just me and the dog living in the house.  Now what?
I did have the 2 churches I was serving at the time but since I had been squeezing that in with the full time job the prep work for that was pretty organized and fell together quickly……
The dog and I developed this routine.  Get up, eat breakfast, get coffee and walk up to my office on the top floor of the house. Surely there was something I could do in my office since this before the days of Facebook where I could have easily twittered away my time scrolling through everyone else’s lives.
Something in me remembered my days in college where every day I would put a pithy saying on my door - imagine if you can it was before computers and so I actually would hand write it!  Insert again that little emoji with the shocked look on its face! 
So I thought - maybe I can start thinking up pithy sayings again but make it about faith and then I can send it to my church members who have email - this wasn’t the stone age like my college years and there were computers and email in 2006…… 
And that is when it started…… I have often thought about trying to look back through emails because I never delete anything and seeing if I can find that inaugural devotion but then there is real stuff I need to do.
Reflection is a great way to begin a new year.  Not making resolutions that we jokingly will laugh about in a couple months - but reflection on the last year and where God has been in our lives.  You will be amazed how you begin to see how very involved in your life God actually is….. moments where at the time you thought things were falling apart but God allowed you to see the good in what was happening around you or how God was working and things could have been a whole lot worse than they were.  
Bad things happen to us all - there are moments of turmoil and inconvenience and concern - but if you look back you will see how in the disorder God is there! And then you can start off the New Year a little bit closer and a little bit more willing to step out in faith and hear God’s call on your life!

Devotion October 2, 2019

I heard on the news 2 nights ago that it hand’t rained in our area for 39 days.  That is a long time.  So while they haven’t declared it an official drought yet, you can pretty well tell it has been a long time since we have had any type of precipitation and combined with our 2 months of 90+ degree weather the grass is brown and crunchy when you walk on it and the bushes are drooping and the still green leaves are falling from the trees ….. Guess you can say it is a hot and dry time of almost Biblical proportions - after all the magic number for everything in the Bible is 40 and 39 is almost 40!  I’m keeping my eyes to the sky for the plague of locusts…….
What this not quite a drought has done has made us a slave of the local news weather forecast as we listen and watch in hope there will be be a weather forecast where the chance of rain is more than 10% - after all this is North Carolina and there is a chance of a thunderstorm every day at 4pm regardless of the temperature or the drought or the lack of drought.  The only requirement is it be summer and North Carolina and every weather forecast has that 10% chance of a thunderstorm at 4pm in spite of the weather man saying 'there is no rain in sight'.  
While in past summers that 4pm rain has been pretty predictable.  It was pretty amazing to me after I moved here that this daily 4pm rain was really a thing…… Except for this summer where the idea of rain has pretty well gone the way of the unicorn.
So we continued to watch the weather forecasts and check the weather radar on our electronic devices and hope there was a glimmer of rain somewhere - and finally our quest for just the hint of rain came to fruition as the chance for rain when up to 40% - amazing how 40% can be so exiting  -  that is after all more than 10% which has been the constant across our weather map. 40% actuallt gives you some hope!  Indeed even on the weather radar on the electronic device there was a little splotch of green which indicated of rain and it was even traveling our direction - maybe we can get think about getting excited; but then we don't want our hopes dashed once again because the rain never shows up. 
The sky began to darken, there was a breeze rustling the leaves - now our hopes were really ramping up….. but no rain seemed to be coming.  Then the sun came out, then it clouded up, the sun came out, it clouded up so we began to lose that glimmer of hope that the green splotch from the weather radar was really going to pan out.
And then there was this sound; we hand’t heard it in a while so we weren’t sure it was real but it did resemble that noise we had once heard that sounded like rain dropping through the trees.  We looked out the window and with a squeal of delight we both said at the same time - “It’s raining!”.  We dropped everything and went outside to sit on our porch and enjoy the rain - but by the time we got there it was over.  Sad face with great disappointment.  
Maybe it will rain someday…..
There are days like this in our life.  Great droughts in our experience of God.  We feel separated and isolated and we are certain God has forgotten all about us  and will probably never come back to us again.  We feel dry and droopy and just like grass and bushes and trees that haven’t had any rain in 39 days.  
I know it will rain again and we can be without a single doubt that God has not forgotten us or forsaken us; we can be sure that God is still with us even when we feel like the spiritual side of our life has all dried up.  Have faith and know that God will continue to be there and will continue to work on returning our feelings of the Spirit’s presence and when we least expect it the knowledge of God’s presence will return.  You can be more sure of that than anything else in your life - even in the dark days, God is there - just like I know it will rain one day and I bet you that it will rain for several days and we will be saying:  “Geeze I’m tired of this rain!”

Devotion Sept 4, 2019

This is a nature story.  Nature isn’t always a pretty thing.  Most of nature is gorgeous, but there are parts of nature that are down right disturbing.  Considering animals that need to eat and their source of food is other animals - often cute ones and you cringe a little inside when you think about it but in your head you know that is how things have to be.  Reminds you of that song from the Lion King - The Circle of Life.
But just because we know that circle of life is the reality of the world doesn’t make it any easier when we think about the cute little animals and the need for animals to survive….
Well, that was a gloomy beginning but this story turns out much better.  Sometimes I wonder why I begin ruminating on something that is either totally unrelated to what I think I am going to write or sort of related but not really what I was going to say.  That Holy Spirit is a strange inspirer…..
Anyway the story I was going to tell had to do with a Robin.  Now I don’t know that Robins fall into the cute animal category.  They are rather interesting looking with their orange bellies and they are nifty to watch as they hop around on the ground grabbing up their worms to eat.  Just watching Robins, or other birds for that reason, makes you think about God and how well designed things are to do what they need to do.  Especially animals and birds and nature in general.  
Back from the ruminating and on with the story……. This Robin I was watching was in the throws of trying to build a nest.  Now here is another fascinating feat of nature.  How do these birds with only a beak and wings and hoppy little legs manage to build such a sturdy, functional nest with only pieces of twigs and such they find on the ground.  Sort of makes me feel ashamed when I can’t put something together with arms and legs and opposable thumbs and supposedly superior intelligence…..
While I sat and watched the Robin - you know of course I was supposed to be doing actual work that needed to be done but was instead sitting on the porch watching this Robin as it gathered nest building materials……
This industrious Robin would hop around on the ground, find something it liked, pick it up with its beak, fly away to wherever this nest was being built and in a very few minutes would be right back to find the next piece of its building component
Well, this Robin found what I guess it felt was the most perfect building block of his nest building and tried to pick it up, but the end was stuck under a rock.  Well, that Robin must have felt this was a most essential piece of his nest because he tugged and pulled, and pulled and tugged, and tugged and pulled…. flew away for a few minutes and came back and began the process once again - tugging for all it was worth to get this one twig I guess he felt was essential for his nest.
Here is where the circle of life ruminating comes in - While this Robin was so preoccupied with getting this one particular stick - of which in my human mind thought there were plenty more around -  our cat spied the industrious Robin insistent on this one particular element of nest construction.  So while the Robin is completely focused on releasing the twig, the cat begins that cat stealth walk when cats are sneaking up on something.  The Robin was oblivious to the impending danger…..
When I became the Robin saving super hero (wish I had had a mask and a cape but there wasn’t time) and ran down off the porch, shooed away the cat, the Robin realized its present danger and flew away.  Whew!  Superhero work is hard.  The Robin must have realized the futility of this stick because I didn’t see it return - but I released the twig from the rock anyway just in case Mr Robin felt the need to come back for this particular item. - more superhero work!
Sometimes we get ourselves so caught up in things that we begin to neglect what is good for us.  Life gets in the way and our focus shifts from the ways of God to whatever else that is out there that is captivating our attention.  But what we need to learn is that God will reach out and try to snatch us back to the life that is best for us and best for the work God has given us and it may be far removed from what we thought was important….
Setting  priorities can be difficult.  There are cats and twigs under rocks and activities and responsibilities and people and all manner of distractions that will always vie for our focus.  Sometimes we just need to step back and look at where we are and where we are going and what we are spending our time doing…. And then let God guide us to where we truly need to be.

Devotion August 21, 2019

I have always had a fascination with alligators.  I just think they are nifty looking and a very mysterious.  The sainted husband who sometimes has this quirky sense of humor wants to get a blow up alligator and put it on the edge of our pond, in the weeds, for people to see and ponder….. Is there really an alligator there?
We haven’t done that but for years I really wanted to see a real live alligator.  Once we went to my son’s house in Mississippi and we drove around and I saw some swamp areas and was really hoping to see an alligator but didn’t and I was quite disappointed.  I did notice they actually had signs up places for ‘Alligator Tours’ but there wasn’t time for that and no one else seemed to be particularly interested in looking for alligators.
So my desire to see an alligator traveled with me through the years as I kept thinking how neat it would be to see an alligator.  Even though I read these reports about people and animals getting snatched by alligators as they walked along paths I was sure that would never happen to me and if I did get to see an alligator I would respectfully stay far enough away from said alligator that I probably wouldn’t be snatched.  
In fact there were family members who would shake their heads at me whenever an alligator would come on TV or there would be some other alligator reference somewhere because they would know that whenever the alligator image appeared they would hear me say - ‘Boy, some day I would like to see an alligator’.  Eye rolls would accompany the shaking of heads and I am really surprised they didn’t take up a collection to send me somewhere to see an alligator and I imagine at that very moment they wouldn’t be disappointed if I was snatched by that alligator - at least they wouldn’t have to listen to me say repeatedly that I wanted to see an alligator.
Then it happened!!  And I am here to tell the tale but I wasn’t very smart and I figure there were angel protectors around me because I didn't think the alligator seeiing through very well!
The sainted husband and I took a couple days to go to the beach - and there came hurricane warnings as soon as we checked into our hotel on the beach so we weren’t allowed on the beach.  We, of course, needed to find alternate means of entertainment because the sainted husband didn’t like the idea of just sitting on the balcony reading all day which sounded perfectly fine to me! So he spent some time googling all the ‘other than the beach’ activities in the area and found some civil war site and that became our entertainment option for the day.  It was my turn to roll my eyes but I went anyway.
On the way to the Civil War site we passed a bog with a body of water and bullrushes and cat tails and such and a sign that said, “Beware of the Alligators” and I insisted we stop on the side of the road by the sign because I was sure there were alligators hanging out by the sign or they wouldn’t have put the sign there.  Maybe my time had finally come and I was going to get to see my alligator!
And I wasn’t disappointed! There, literally right below the “Beware of the Alligators” sign was an alligator.  Now all you could see was the top of his head - you know alligators and how they lurk in the water and all you see are these two eyes above the water as it waits to capture its prey - That is what makes alligators fascinating; that mysterious almost underwater reptile patiently waiting for just the right moment…
So in my excitement I jump out of the car and run towards the bog and the waiting alligator, the sainted husband yells “Get back in the car”, I realize he is right that this lying in wait gator could at any moment have decided that I looked like a nice juicy meal and from the nature shows on TV I know they can jump out of that water in a flash and so I got back in the car and the gator must have been well fed because it raised up his head to prove to me he really was a gator and that I was pretty dumb and pretty lucky… but I finally got to see a gator and now no one has to listen to me say, “I want to see an alligator” and I am sure they are glad about that!
My insistent saying of “I want to see an alligator” reminds me of God’s call to each of us to be a witness to the love and grace of Jesus Christ.  Jesus told us to go and tell people what he has taught us, but I think there are ways to do that where people actually listen and ways to do that which cause people to roll their eyes and shake their heads and actually avoid us….
The best way to show our faith and trust in Jesus Christ is not by exasperating people with our constant banter, but to live our lives in the manner Jesus modeled for us.  People notice - we don’t have to point it out or draw attention to it or remind people, “Look at me, I’m living as Jesus told me to”.  People notice.
Of course we have the opportunity to say something when people ask us and we should, but like my alligator weary family, if we drone on and on about how they ‘need Jesus’ they just tune it out or avoid us and that certainly doesn’t help in our desire for others to live in the joy and peace of a life lived for Jesus.  
You know my family got to the point they were switching the channel quickly on the TV whenever the hint of an alligator would appear, so don't live a life where people tune you out because you keep prattling on but live a life of love and commitment and know that through the work of God and the Holy Spirit people will come to know Jesus through you - and you won’t have to say a word!