Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion February 21, 2018

Greetings!
I’m a little sleep deprived.  You know when you are sleep deprived when you cry over sappy meme’s on Facebook (for those of you who are not Facebook users a meme is a picture with caption that is trying to make a point.  It usually is something that wouldn’t normally fit together or someone famous saying something they probably wouldn’t say) or over a sad song on Pandora (Pandora is a music service on the internet that plays your favorite songs) or simply because you feel the need to cry…. or you know you are sleep deprived because your eyes feel very heavy and it is not because a hypnotist is saying:  “You are getting very sleepy” or because you keep looking at the time to see if it is bedtime yet and it is only 1:00 in the afternoon….. 
Well I could go on - we all know that feeling of being sleep deprived and today is one of those days.  Now you may think that I am sleep deprived because I have been watching grandchildren over the last several days and that is certainly a reason to be sleep deprived for several reasons - one is because you don’t sleep well because you are watching someone else’s children and you want to be sure nothing goes wrong with them and so you just don’t sleep well because you have that one ear open all the time just in case there is a whimper from somewhere.  In this specific case grandchildren made me sleep deprived because the 5 month old is teething and the poor little guy is just miserable and I know there are a thousand remedies to ease the teething pain but nothing was working with this little child and so there were essential nighttime rockings and soothings contributing to sleep deprivation - not that I minded really but it still contributed to the current  absence of sleep situation.  
By the way, this is one of the questions I’m asking God when I get to heaven - why do teeth cause such a problem?  These poor little babies who don’t understand this pain in their mouths - teeth hurt coming in and coming out and then you have to do all that over again and often teeth hurt while they are still intact - but I digress…..
So what do I actually attribute this sleep deprivation to?  The Olympics.  “The Olympics?” you query, “Why the olympics?”.  
My favorite events of the Olympics are the figure skating events.  There are figure skating events throughout the 2 weeks of the Olympics and except for a few breaks of people sliding down hills really quickly, or people sliding ‘rocks’ slowly down a lane at other ‘rocks’ or people skiing and shooting guns and skiing and shooting guns and doing it over again several times - despite the occasional interruption of these activities, figure skating still reigns supreme in my Olympic watching extravaganza.   
Figure Skating has all the qualities you could want - athletic ability, artistry, good music, nifty costumes, interesting personalities, captivating back stories of all these competitors, couples….  It is all there.
So my question is this, with all the interest of ice skating (notice how I assume that because I favor ice skating everyone else does as well….) why is it that ice skating is not broadcasted until late in the evening so if I want to watch the skating competition to the bitter end it is midnight or later before I am able to turn off the TV and go to bed?  
Why don’t you record it I hear from those of you concerned about my lack of sleep - and my answer is this - I tried that but the problem is there is no time to watch what you have recorded because in between Olympic watching I have grandchildren around and I have to work and because there is always something new in the Olympic arena to watch so when would you watch what you have recorded?  I did try to record something and then record what I wanted to watch so I could fast forward through the commercials and I thought I could get it all watched but then I ended up staying up later than when I just stayed up to watch in the first place.
Whew!  What a conundrum!  Do I put up with the sleep deprivation knowing that it will abate after the Olympics are over or do I give up some olympic viewing only to find out who won through the news feed on my computer the next morning?
Well, I guess you can figure out that I chose option number one.  So until the Olympic Figure Skating is over, I guess I will just have to learn to be sleepy……
So here I am willing to sacrifice my sleep just to watch Ice Skating on television.  I am willing to put up with this feeling of emotional fatigue and a little physical achiness and these heavy eye lids to watch something that I could find out the results in 10 seconds if I waited til the next day.  
It made me consider that if I am willing to give up sleep for a sport, why is it so difficult to be willing to give up something for God?  If I can decide to give up something for something that in the scheme of things will make no absolute difference, why is it so hard to make a sacrifice for God who makes all the difference there is - who makes eternal difference….
That is what we all need to consider - we give up so much for sports and fun and other types of entertainment, but when it comes to giving up something for God we hesitate and make excuses and figure God understands….
Is there going to be a time when God says to me - you were willing to give up sleep for Ice Skating but you weren’t willing to give up time for me?  
Hmmmmmmm??

Amen!

Devotion January 31, 2018

Greetings!
I realize this is the wrong time of year to talk about this… I mean walk outside today and it is cold, and the wind is cold, and the chill just sets into your bones when you go outside.
So thinking about doing things outdoors is not what would normally come to mind…. but even with the cold temperatures and the blowing wind, the sun is out and the sky is blue and I felt this wave of desire to be weeding..
Weeding? you say. Why would anyone have this desire to be weeding? Especially on a cold winter day - even if the sun is out.
But, for me, weeding is relaxing. There is just something therapeutic about gathering up all the weeding supplies (which isn’t much - just a bucket and those clunky weeding scissors which probably have a real name but I have always just called them weeding scissors and then I usually have a little hand shovel which I don’t use often but it is part of the supply kit) and finding a spot that needs weeding, very ungracefully getting down to weed level, knowing it will be a while before I just as ungracefully get back up….
And then you dig in - literally. I personally prefer the just grabbing the weeds and tugging and pulling and ripping those roots out of the ground and then putting them in the bucket. Just think about the how beneficial to ones frustrations to picture those frustrations as these weeds that you are jerking out of the ground….
You think about whatever and then grab a weed and with some force give it a strong tug and out comes that weed and with it a thin layer of a particular vexation of the last couple days. You grab another handful of weeds and the annoyances of the past week/month/several months/year begin to wane a little as your discontentments and disappointments and irritations seem to take on the face of these weeds.
And after an hour or so of pulling weeds, there is a calm that seems to have invaded the tenseness that existed before the weeding experience…..
Now I don’t think that there are any great annoyances that I’m wanting to abate today, but as I walked out of the door of my home and I looked at the beds around the foundation which currently don’t have any weeds because it is the middle of winter, but I envisioned warm evenings, sitting on the ground, pulling the weeds and enjoying the now cleaned out, prettier beds around the house, that feeling of accomplishment - accomplishment that you can actually see!
Now, what you know in the back of your head as you sit back and look at the nicely weeded bed with the plants that are suppose to be there able to breathe and flourish…. what you know is that next week you will be back at this same location pulling more weeds…. maybe not so many but still more weeds and so more pulling and still more pretty cheap therapy….
It made me think about the peace that Paul talks about when he tells us about how with God we can have a ‘peace that passes all understanding’. Now to get the peace from the irritations that have a tendency to weigh us down, I have to get down and get dirty and expend energy and sweat and use my supplies and take time and eventually go through all the effort of trying to get back up again….
But God says, if you just trust in me I can give you peace as well and you don’t have to go through all those gyrations of getting down and pulling weeds to get that peace… you just have to trust.
Now I realize that trusting can be just as hard for some as doing all that work to jerk out weeds firmly affixed to the soil…
But it is a free offer, no strings attached, no work required…. peace from God - just believe it!
Amen!

Joanne


If you are new to this weekly devotion, it began many years ago to give us a boost during the week to help us continue in our walk with God! Please feel free to share it with those you know!…

Devotion January 17, 2018

Greetings!

I have a friend, a guy.  Known him for a very long, long time.  He was a steadfast bachelor.  Declared he would always be a bachelor.  Wasn’t going to get tied down.  Didn’t want to be responsible to anyone.  Wasn’t any way he was ever going to get married.  Oh, he had girlfriends.  He dated, sometimes almost seriously but he was pretty up front with those he dated that he was never going to ‘get serious’ and it was never going to ‘amount to anything’.  
We talked and I assured him that he was pretty mistaken - that being in a relationship was not a hardship but a blessing.  He said I was just using trite words and he was probably right but I’ve been married almost 40 years so it is hard to describe marriage to someone who is perpetually single.  
He lived in a plain small house - a modular house.  No offense to the men out there but it looked like - especially from the outside - a house a single man would live in.  There were a couple untrimmed bushes by the front porch and a tree outside and a sidewalk to the graveled parking area.  Pretty plain.  He kept the grass cut and the little bit of string trimming that needed done was done sporadically…..
And then it happened - to him the unthinkable.  He met her.  Her being the one who was going to change his way of life; her who was going to soften that resolve to forever remain single; her that helped him to understand the joy of being in a long-term relationship with someone you cared about…. he fell in love.  He was smitten.  Gone was that adamant declaration that he was going to forever remain single.
What is kind of funny about all this is that he didn’t come out and tell me…. He didn’t really tell any of his friends because I am sure he knew we would taunt him - not that we weren’t happy for him but you have to tease him a little after all those years of “No one is ever going to get me…..” .  
How I realized what was going on was looking at his house.  All of a sudden I noticed that there was this beautiful border of mulch around the bushes in front of his house.  Then came a small, elegant little flower bed with one of those little garden flags in the middle.  Next thing I knew there was a border of flowers along the sidewalk from the front of the house to the parking area.  A pretty little bird feeder hung in the tree and a sturdy, but nice, bird bath was evident at the corner of the house - surrounded by some great hosta.  The front porch was swept, the mail box was painted and the bushes were trimmed.  
Yes, I know this is a sexist remark, but the front of his house now had a ‘woman’s touch’.  It was transformed from this plain and functional modular house on a plain and functional lot - to a nicely decorated and landscaped homey looking residence.  And it was then I knew - he had lost the battle with independence - but it was a battle well worth losing and he had a glow about him and the beautifully transformed front yard to prove it!
That is what God does with us.  We come to God these plain, independent, selfish people adamant about our dependence on no one.  And God just takes us and turns us around and and we become these beautifully transformed children of God!  Just like the front of my friends house, we become new and different; cleaned up and spruced up and as beautiful to God as a newly landscaped flower bed!  And when we are filled with God we become so changed that people around us just know that there is something different and wonderful.  
Now the big difference is that my friend is eventually going to very reluctantly, I’m sure, tell me about this new found girl-friend.  But when we are made new by God we want to shout it from the mountaintops - “Look what God has done for me!  I am a new creation.  The old me is gone and a new me has emerged!”   What a great work God can do!
Amen! 

Devotion December 20, 2017

Greetings!!

Woke up this morning and it was raining. Now I know that rain is important; I know we need rain to make the plants grow and to provide water so we have something to drink and can take showers and flush our toilets and wash our dishes. It has to rain. But cold rain is another thing already. Cold rain just gets inside your bones and creates a chill that just won’t go away no matter how many coats or sweaters you put on or blankets you wrap up in.
But it isn’t really about the nasty cold rain that we are experiencing today - all day to be exact; this is simply about the fact that it is raining and I have to go to work. Now I’m not complaining about going to work - I love what I do and I’m usually anxious to get over to my office and get started on the day’s list… and I am not complaining about the commute to work because all I have to do is walk out my side door and across the alley and into the church and there I am! At work; in my office!
But on days like today when it is raining quite vigorously outside a commute anywhere is uncomfortable simply because you have to go out into the cold water falling from the sky that chills your very being…. Fortunately on my porch is an umbrella (we of course keep the good umbrellas in the car - notice the plural…. Umbrellas in the car where of course you can’t get them to walk through the rain to the car… or anywhere else for that matter)
But the good news is that there is an umbrella on my porch so that I can get to work without being drenched in cold, irritating rain.
So out the door I go onto the porch - which of course is also good news because I do have this buffer between the nice cozy warm and dry house and the shivering region of the low temperature moisture laden outdoors - and it is here that I have the opportunity to grab the umbrella, put it up, angle myself through the screen door so that I can get my self off on my short journey.
I get out the door, I pick up the umbrella, I pop it up and off I go. After I have maneuvered getting through the screen door which isn’t quite wide enough to get me and my wide open umbrella through in a normal way so I turn sideways and tip the umbrella so that I can get down the steps and onto the sidewalk all while trying to keep myself from being rained on…..
It was when I got onto the sidewalk that I noticed that there was something strange about my umbrella. I’m not even sure I can describe what the issue was - it wasn’t anything I had even seen before and because of this malfunction of the umbrella I was finding myself getting wet with that frigid precipitation.
Somehow one of the metal spokes of the umbrella had become caught in one of the other metal spokes on the other side of the umbrella so the fabric portions of the umbrella were folded up underneath the the portions of the umbrella that were up and tight and trying to do their job of holding off the rain - but enough of the umbrella was included in the folded up portion that the working portion couldn’t do its proper job…… In other words the umbrella was broken and I was getting wet!
Now the next part of this scenario was that I was on my way to work and that of course means that my arms were full of items that I generally take to work with me - my keys, my coffee mug (which is just an essential part of my starting my work as the keys to get into the building and my office) and I have my laptop and some papers so the one hand is holding the umbrella and the other arm is holding onto all of the paraphernalia I need for work (it must be noted here that I have a couple really nice briefcases that I could use to aid in this ‘stuff’ transition from my office to my house but of course I choose the more cumbersome caring…..).
The sensible thing of course would be to angle myself back onto the porch, set down the items I am carrying, and then try and figure out the problem with my errant umbrella. No, I stand getting myself drenched in the deluge trying to hold the umbrella in the crook of the arm already full of items, balancing it on the back of my head, while I try one handed to finagle the folded metal and fabric of the umbrella back to where it will work to keep me protected from the unpleasant weather around me.
Well, I finally became miserable enough that I did what I should have done from the very beginning which is go back onto the porch and lay down the many parcels I was trying to balance while holding the umbrella and use both hands on a dry porch to fix the broken umbrella.
Which I did within a few seconds - after spending an eon trying to do it the unpractical way - and then I was able to open the now working umbrella, pick up the work articles, angle out the door and walk across the alley to the church - now only wet from the poor decision of trying to fix the problem with the umbrella (or the bumbershoot which is one of those weird words that also means umbrella) where I would have been quite dry had I done what I needed to do at first…….
I’m sure you know that this is the week before Christmas. And many are trying to juggle parties, and gift buying, and grift wrapping, and card writing, and phone calls that need to be done, and food that needs to be bought and prepared, and all those extra church services you have to attend and emotions that are good from memories of good Christmas’ past and emotions that are bad because of bad memories of Christmas past or people who have moved or passed and you will miss this Christmas and just trying to do the normal things you have to do everyday anyway and you feel like you have an arm full of objects while getting wet and trying to fix a non-functioning umbrella……
It is at this moment where you take a step back, look to the heavens and say, “God, I know that you never intended the birth of your son to create such a difficult time; such a time that this season of Joy has almost become a burden; help me balance the ‘Good news of great joy’ with the pile of ‘things to do’ that humans have created around this season…..
In other words, get back on the porch and put everything down and then you can see that Christmas is about the Christ…..

Amen
Joanne




These devotions began in 2006 as a way to give us a midweek boost as we live out our lives as the people of God! Feel free to share them if you wish.

Devotion

Greetings!
There are several major purchases many of us make in our life.  Usually these major purchases take the form of houses and cars (altho my student loans fall into this category of major purchases since they  are more than cars and close to houses and this major purchase will follow me the rest of  the days of my life - notice the Soap Opera reference…..)
Major purchases take major thought and major consideration and major commitment and in many cases a major stepping out in faith.  I remember the time when we moved to a new area and went to buy a house and our loan giver required me to get my boss to sign a piece of paper saying I was employed and we bought the house and the next week our whole office got laid off - boy was that a moment of faith (and of course because God is so good all worked out).
The most recent major purchase we have made is my car.  I lived for umpteen years in WV where it snows at the drop of a hat and the roads are often covered (I will never forget one winter when I taught an evening Bible Study an hour from my house and every single week, the night of the Bible Study, it snowed and driving back go my home was a slow challenging crawl because I, even though I lived in WV and knew better, had never thought to get a car with All Wheel Drive to help me drive in the snow!
So, I finally get a car that is All Wheel Drive!  Score!  Of course since the time when I bought the All Wheel Drive I can count on one hand how many times it has snowed and I have needed the All Wheel Drive. 
But the wonder of this All Wheel Drive is the fact that it is loaded with all these automatic devices.  Now I would have never thought to request all of these ‘smart’ features of this car but it was used and it came with what it had.  While it is amazing to me all of the attributes of this car, there was a great learning curve coming from the stripped down model of car I had previously!
My car now has all these lane changing warning systems.  If there is a car in my blind spot on either side of me these little lights will be on which tell me these vehicles are there and if I have my blinker on and I try to go that direction warning beeps will let me know that I should not be trying to go into that lane.  Wow!  What a great help.  No more having to turn around to look in the lane beside of you and thus taking your eyes off the cars in front of you in order to change lanes.  But I will tell you it took me a while to get use to this.  After how many years of driving - (It is about 50 years and it hurts to say that….) and having to look over my shoulder to see if there was a car there and now not having to - what a major change.  Hard to quit those reactions that are almost automatic after all these years.
Then there is the even more amazing back up camera.  No more trying to turn around and drive backwards while contorting your body to be able to see what is behind you.  You simply look at the screen on your dashboard which comes complete with colored lines that tell you how close you are to the obstacles behind you and then if you get way too close to what is behind you a beeper goes off.  There is literally no excuse to run in to anything behind you!
But it was really hard to be able to do this when I first got the car.  Learning to depend on this camera and these lines and even the beepers.  My daughter has a really long driveway and one time when I was at her house I drove backwards up and down the driveway to practice using the screen to back up!  
And I think I finally have it!
But I tell you all these modern safety conveniences on this car (and there are more) really tested my ability to trust the safety conveniences over the way I had done things for almost 50 years!
And is that not true with God.  God says trust me and we see the evidences of how trusting God really does make a difference in our life, but we have a hard time giving up that control and not doing things the way we have always done them relying on ourselves rather than trusting a God who we know is all knowing and all powerful.  
Even though we know the promises, have seen the evidence, it is so hard to trust our loving and caring God.  But I think it is like the afternoon I spent driving backwards up and down my daughters driveway, we have to start and we have to ‘practice’ trusting God until we finally realize that relying on God really can make for a better life.

Amen!

These devotions began in 2006 as a way to give us a midweek boost as we live out our lives as the people of God!  Feel free to share them if you wish.