Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion June 20, 2018

Greetings!
I don’t know what it is like for any of the rest of you, but here on the East Coast it is hot. As in scorching hot.  As in not even cooling off at night hot.  As in there is no breeze and the air is stagnant and it is miserable hot.  As in there is no rain in sight hot.
So you understand the current climate where I live is hot.  When I first moved here I noticed that everything that was scheduled outside in the summer either took place very early in the morning and ended around lunch time or took place later in the evening past supper time.  It was curious since the culture from where I came most things started later in the morning and went until supper time….  
As anytime you move to a different location there are things you have to learn and now I know why activities here are scheduled as they are.  It is just too hot in the afternoons to do anything.  I was use to the hottest part of the day being around noon and then began to cool off  and now it just keeps on getting hotter until day is done......
Adjustments in my thinking had to be made and none of us like to have to change how we think…… (insert a smiley face here!)
I looked at the weather forecast and realized that the days upcoming were just going to get hotter and hotter and hotter and there was no rain in sight and the evenings and night were not getting any cooler and i looked out my kitchen window at my lettuce patch and realized that the lettuce was going to have to go.
We have a small garden behind our house.  I didn’t want a big garden because the days of ‘putting up’ the proceeds from the garden were not something I wanted to do, or really needed, to do.  Back when I was younger and my husband and I were first married and we were full of youthful energy we went into gardening big time.  Our house had a huge back yard and we decided to take about a 1/4 of it and turn it into our vegetable plot.  We even planted a plethora of fruit trees and berry bushes.  
There were rows of tomatoes that we had grown from seed cause we were young and thought we were really going to be pioneers about this food growing plan.  We had lettuce and green peppers and green beans and peas and corn and cucumbers and zucchini (which I quickly realized was almost a plague because it grows like wildfire and everyone has it and you can only make so much zucchini bread because you find out your husband doesn’t like zucchini….) and our fruit trees and bushes yielded many kinds of berries (this is also where we learned that the sainted husband was highly allergic to fresh strawberries) and peaches and pears and apples....  
We planted and hoed and had a great yield and I spent weeks canning and freezing and such and we felt very accomplished!  
But now I am older and realize I can buy green beans that are just as good with none of the work so gardening because something enjoyable with a minimal amount of work.  I like a few fresh tomatoes and cucumbers for my cucumber/tomato sandwiches and the green peppers are good for some stuffed green peppers and salads….  No canning or preserving involved and that is fine with me cause there are grocery stores within 5 minutes……
And then there is the lettuce. I don’t even put a whole lot of effort into the lettuce.  I just take an edge of the garden and sprinkle some seeds from the packet and that is it.  I give it a little water and before too long there is lettuce.  And more lettuce.  And more lettuce.  People avoid me because I am always asking them if they want lettuce.  I take bags of it to the church and encourage people to take lettuce. 
But it is now approaching the end of June and I look at the weather forecast and I know that lettuce is a cooler weather crop and if I don’t harvest what is left now it will wilt and turn brown and no one will benefit from the humongous lettuce yield I get every year.  After all I have been eating fresh lettuce (as have my close friends and family and anyone else I can give lettuce to) for almost 2 months now and I think that is pretty good.
Out I went with my plastic Walmart bag (which I use for just about everything around the house…..) and I began to pull up my lettuce plants and stack them beside my plastic chair until all that is left in that area of my garden is some leaf remnants and dirt that I quickly hoed so that it looked nice and neat and ready for next year's lettuce seed.  Looked pretty sadly empty but then I looked at the stack of plants by my chair and I sat down and began to pull lettuce leaves from the plants.
Now remember there is a huge stack of plants by my chair and the plants are pretty much still covered with tasty lettuce leaves, but I still sit very meticulously pulling each leaf off the plant, pinching off the smallest bit of brown and retaining the remainder of the leaf.  I do this with each plant and each leaf when the sainted husband wanders by and reminds me that I have lots of lettuce leaves and if I threw away the ones with brown on them i would still have plenty of lettuce.  He is right of course, and even though I try I just can’t do it….. 
My lettuce harvesting continues as I take each leaf and pinch off the slight imperfections and put the remnants in my bag ready to take inside and stand at the kitchen sink and wash each leaf individually and place them on paper towels to dry so that they can become delicious salads for myself and the sainted husband and all of the other people I will offer my many bags of freshly picked lettuce….
Yes, the allusion is obvious but something we need to be constantly reminded of. We are just like those lettuce leaves.  God picks us out from the world around us at just the right time, helps us work through those little (or often humongous) imperfections, claims us as his, washes us off and allows us to be used for his kingdom and his purposes.  
We need to be constantly assured of our specialness to God who wants not only the very best for us, but helps us to be the very best for him.  That lettuce would not do anyone any good if it were just harvested and just thrown back into the dirt…. the lettuce receives its value from what it can do - provide delicious additions to peoples meals at it is put on sandwiches or added as a garnish or providing the basis for a scrumptious salad.  
So sit up straight and feel good about who you are.  You are God’s special lettuce, chosen by him, cleansed by him, gifted by him and used by him!  
Amen! 

Devotion June 13, 2018

Greetings!
I have this little dog named Rocky.  I often figured I should have named him Calvin or Luther because he was dropped off at a church I served so he was a church dog and a church leader name would have been very appropriate.  
But at the time he was really tiny and had this mask like a raccoon and so the song ‘Rocky Racoon’ came into my mind and well that is how he has his name.
During subsequent visits to the vet we tried to figure out what kind of dog Rocky was….  and it turned out he was a ‘Cheagle’ which is a combination of a Beagle and a Chihuahua.  Now, he is a sweet little dog and can be very affectionate, but like all breeds of dogs there are specific characteristics which make the dog who they are and which dictate in large part how they act.  
So Beagles are scent hounds which mean they like to seek their prey by smelling.  You have all seen Beagles with their noses to the ground just traveling as fast as they can as they follow that smell where it might go and hopefully that smell will lead them to what they think it will.  
Which means the Beagle part of Rocky leads him to have his nose down on the ground as he goes after whatever it is that he thinks he is smelling. This has gotten him into trouble several times when he has escaped the compound (he has a huge fenced in yard) in pursuit of some unknown entity that evidently has left a trail smell.  Normally he will come back when you call but you have to call several times because this dog is really focused and to distract him from his odiferous quarry is sometimes extremely difficult.
And then, Rocky is also a Chihuahua and Chihuahua’s are also known as ‘ratters’.  A ‘ratter’ is a dog that goes after rats.  A useful skill to have since no one likes rats.  
Now we don’t have any rats so I wonder if the Chihuahua side of Rocky is a little frustrated but he does substitute his ratting nature by going after sometime that is under ground in our yard.  
There was this one day when I went outside and there was a trench dug from the back of our house, all the way across the yard to the back fence.  I’m no good at guessing distances but I can tell you that is quite a good way.  I watched as Rocky would dig a little bit, stick his nose in as far as he could, dig some more, stick in his nose and this continued all the way across the yard. I wondered if I could harness this somehow and rent him out as a ditch witch.......
We took him camping a couple weeks ago and he did the same thing in a circle around a tree and we were jokingly wondering if he would fell the tree (and maybe there was a tinge of worry in our minds because he really dug a circle around that tree!)  Who knows what may have lurked in that ground at one time. 
The other Chihuahua characteristic that Rocky exhibits is the typical Chihuahua “I am going to eat you in one bite” bark of the Chihuahua whenever unknown people are around. And sometimes known people.  Rocky can see me through my office window occasionally and it sets off a maelstrom of vicious sounding barking that would scare off Ivan the Terrible.  
What it brought to mind is the concept of instinct.  No one taught Rocky to put his nose to the ground and follow whatever being left a smell behind.  No one taught Rocky to dig after unknown critters underground.  No one taught Rocky to bark at whatever happened to move within his vision.  Rocky just grew up and did these things.  He didn’t think about it; he didn’t practice; he didn’t spend hours in training on how to be a Chihuahua/Beagle doggie.  He just was a Cheagle and did Cheagle activities, all on his own.
And that is how we are to think about ourselves as children of God.  We are children of God.  It is part of who we are and how we live and what we do. 
Now we may have to work at it a little harder than dogs do; we may have to be more intentional in thinking of ourselves as God’s.  But if we do, and if we steep ourselves in the things of God, our instincts to do what God has directed us to do will kick in just like a Beagle on a trail. 
God has given us this inner need for him and that inner need to please him and that instinct to do what God calls us to do.  But unlike the natural inclination of the Chihuahua, we have to make a conscious effort to direct ourselves on the correct path.  God will help us do that of course, but it is like a little switch we need to turn on inside ourselves that says, “OK, I’m going to live as a Child of God”.  And once we do that, we will find ourselves digging a trench across the yard fulfilling the yearning God has put inside of each of us to be his.
So stand up and say, “I’m a child of God” and head out on the scent of living as God’s!
Amen! 

Devotion June 6, 2018

Greetings!!

Ostriches. For some reason I have this real fondness for ostriches. I don’t know why. I don’t remember having any real experiences with ostriches growing up. I don’t remember any cute stories about ostriches or movies about ostriches that would have led to this ostrich attraction. It isn't because of how ostriches look. Ostriches are not very attractive - they have that long bare neck and a body of fluffy feathers that aren’t a particularly pretty color and always looked mussed and this weirdly shaped head that really looks too small for its body and these bare legs. Not a pretty bird at all - and I understand they are not particularly friendly……
So I’m not sure what it was that made Ostriches one of my top 10 favorite animals (I know it is a bird but to me it looks and acts more like an animal.)
I know why I am terrified of spiders - it is because when I was quite young I went to my great uncle’s house and he was watching a movie about giant spiders tromping down a village and eating people and from that moment on spiders became my great fear.
I also know why I have a healthy respect for some other animals - such as giraffes. I was at a zoo when I was young back when zoos weren’t designed to keep people safely away from large jungle animals. While I was gleefully standing by a fenced in area that sort of kept in giraffes, a giraffe came over to the fence where I am sure he was use to getting fed. There was that quarter machine which dispensed food for you to feed the giraffes and when I had fed the giraffe lots of delicious food, I turned my back to let the people I was with know I had fed a giraffe cause I thought that was pretty exciting, the giraffe decided I had not quite fed him enough so he leaned over the fence and took the rest of his meal out of my shoulder…..
But then how many people can say they had been bitten by a giraffe?
That was the same zoo where I mistakenly turned my back on a cage of monkeys when one of the monkeys reached through the bars of the cage and grabbed my hair and would not let go until a zoo staff person came and released me to some loud jabbering from the distressed monkey!
Come to think of it I got bit by a horse one time as well - of course that was my fault because I had been warned to stay away from this horse and when everyone was distracted I wandered down to see the horse who quickly took a large bite out of the front of my shoulder.
I don’t know why this story about ostriches degraded into my poor experiences with animals. It probably was a good idea that I didn’t decide to become a vet even though that was one of the career choices rumbling around in my brain as I was trying to decide my future….. If I were a vet all that would have happened would have been animal bitings!
I’ve not had any of these unpleasant experiences with ostriches so maybe that is why I like them better than other animals who in my subconscious I am worried are just waiting to take a hunk of my flesh!
I do enjoy looking at ostriches and I remember one time going to a small zoo where you rode on a train through the fields which had lots of large safari type animals. We went through a Zebra area and a camel area and and antelope area and we came to an ostrich area and I was quite excited to be this close to my favorite animal.
Lo and behold, our train broke down right in the ostrich compound! So for about 20 minutes we were able to sit on our train and commune with the myriad of ostriches! I was beside myself with excitement!!
Of course my kids will never forget the time when I was driving them to camp and fortunately we were driving on a little traveled 2-lane road when all of a sudden I slammed on the brakes and pointed as I exclaimed “Ostriches!” And sure enough there in a yard beside a house and in that yard out in the middle of nowhere - were ostriches - 4 of them to be exact. Someone after my own heart had made some ostriches their personal pets! Why didn’t I think of that?
Of course what made me think of all these ostrich experiences was the trip I made last week to my daughter’s house and as we are going to my granddaughter’s T-ball game my daughter told me she had a treat for me on the way - ‘What could it be?’ I wondered. And sure enough, in a field by someone’s house, there was an ostrich! Joy!
So why is it that I have this fondness for ostriches? I don’t know - I just do. Do you ever wonder why God has this love for you? You haven’t earned it. We aren’t particularly ‘good’ as compared to God. There is little about us that would put us on a heavenly plane. We fail daily (or more likely hourly) and yet we are loved and special to our God. There is no more reason than that - God just loves us, just as we are and he delights in us just as I delight in seeing Ostriches randomly out in a field.
What a great God who takes us just as we are and calls us his and is as joyful for us as I am for ostriches!

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 May 2, 2018

Greetings!
I remember my first pair of headphones.  So now we have to analyze that statement - it is very odd that the thought of my first pair of headphones came to me the other day but for some reason it did.  I wish remembering why I came into a room or where I put my keys or the name of the person I am trying to think of would come to me so easily but not to be….. It wasn’t something important I remembered, it was simply this flash of the first set of headphones that came to my mind.
I remember I was probably in junior high school then (junior high school was before the days of middle school but they are essentially the same things) and I imagine I was given them because my father didn’t want to listen to ‘my music’ which I listened to all the time, usually pretty loudly.  I was a voracious 45 buyer (so if you know right off the bat what I meant by that it shows your age - and if you don’t know what I am talking about 45s were small black plastic discs that contained one song on one side and another song on the other side.  The popular song was considered the A side and the ‘other’ song was the B side.  They had a large hole in the center and you put a little plastic disk in the middle so you could play this small record on your record player (the name ‘turntable’ came later when they were trying to make a record player sound cool…..)  Every Friday when I received my paycheck from my job at the snack bar at the local drug store my first stop on the way home was the record store where I would buy the latest ‘single’.  Every now and then I would spring for a whole album…
Then you would find me in my bedroom playing my music….. And I am thinking that is why my dad came home one day and gifted me with a pair of headphones.  
They were big and black and had round padded cushions which fit entirely over your ears with the headband thing attached so you put them over your head and unlike more ‘modern’ headphones they were really heavy and had a heavy black cord attached that you would plug into your record player which means that as long as you were listening to music you were pretty much attached to the music conveyance - none of that portable stuff back in those days with the dinosaurs.  
I guess there was one portable device I had that played music and that was my transistor radio.  I had a little transistor radio in a leather case that would pick up the local radio station that played all varieties of music throughout the day but would play top 40 in the evenings when all of us ‘youngsters’ would listen to our favorite songs.  The show was one of those call in ones where you could call in and request a song and dedicate it to someone which was a sneaky way to let a boy you hoped listened to the radio in the evenings know that you were ‘sweet’ on him.  
What was really funny was that a whole bunch of us girls would sit on the phone (which was attached to the wall in the kitchen) and talk to each other as we listened to the songs on the radio and to the dedications called in my us and others.  You could only talk to one person at a time so there was a whole lot of hanging up and calling another person and hanging up and calling another person and so forth for hours - or until the person who had a party line with you would break in and say they needed the phone and you would have to hang up for a while - and then you would every so often pick up the phone and see if the party line person was still talking…..
Somehow we veered off from headphones (altho that little transistor radio had a type of headphone - it was a small bit of wire attached to the radio that had one single black but that went into your ear - didn't work very well but it did the job at times.... ) so I guess it is all tied together. 

Back to my heavy, cumbersome headphones which I can call them that now because headphones today don’t quite resemble that premier headphone….  Well, let me rephrase that.  There are headphones which resemble those brand new headphones I had 60 years ago, but now the type of headphones of today are a lot lighter and a lot snazzier and I imagine a lot more efficient.  There was definitely a quality issue with those original headphones cause you could hear the music but things sounded a little tinny but I didn’t know the difference back then and they certainly served the purpose for my dad - which was not having to listen to my music which he would critique often in great detail….

But now headphones are of a whole different generation of style and comfort and quality.  My granddaughters have headphones which in some ways resemble my original headphones, but they certainly are a lot cooler - one granddaughter has Thomas the Tank Engine headphones and the other has girly camouflage (you know, pink instead of green in the camouflage swirls!) and I guess you can get headphones that are decorated in about any way you want them!

Headphones now-a-days have a quality where you put them on and begin to listen  you can hear all the sounds and all the instruments and all the nuances and if you close your eyes you can feel like the music is all around you and sounds ‘live’ (Remember those commercials where the tag line was ‘Is it real or is it Memorex?’ - it is the age thing again!)  
Today’s headphones certainly give you that ‘real’ quality and you don’t have to have large black clunky uncomfortable heavy headphones, you can have small little ones that fit into your ears and produce a better sound that the big black old ones and there are little small ones that fit into your ears that aren’t even attached to a cord attached to anything that allow you to hear music from some device - which can be odd sometimes when you see someone walking along obviously listening to some type of music and you can’t see any headphones anywhere…. Makes me wonder when they will perfect this bluetooth thing to the point when our brains can just hear the music without any type of headphone or ear plug thing at all!   It will happen.
I still use headphones but that original clunky less than optimal quality (altho at the time I thought it was the greatest invention I could have and I thought they sounded perfect!) are a thing of the past - I think I blew out the speaker that was in one of the ear pieces (which is now when my husband will nod his head cause he thinks I still listen to my music too loudly).  Today, I actually have two pair of headphones, one of those white cord type of headphone which fits into my iPhone and has those little plastic tips that you put snugly into your ears - and that little cord even has a microphone which I have never used but assumably you can talk on the phone with it while the headphones are in your ears - but then that would interfere with my music listening!
Then at Christmas I purchased a pair of noise cancelling blue tooth headphones which were a necessity if I was going to get any sleep.  Now these headphones are a little strange in that there is no wire to attach it to anything and the little plastic pieces fit into your ears but the plastic part of the headphone hangs on behind your neck…  Took me a long while to figure this thing out as there are all these little tiny buttons on the plastic portion of the headphone that have to be punched in the right order in order for the music to actually begin to play through the little ear bud things in your ear.  They are nice and they do work but sometimes I reach to get them and use them but my brain says, “I don’t have time right now to go through the proper sequence of events in order to get these headphones to work so we just won’t use them right now….”
Do you ever feel that way when you get ready to pray to God?  Do you ever feel like you need to go through a series of steps or follow a prescribed order of what you need to say or ask for or give thanks for?  Do you ever feel like you need to pray in the ‘proper’ way or it won’t work? 
God is not like complicated bluetooth noise cancelling headphones.  God doesn’t need you to do anything complicated or formal or ‘correct’ in order to talk to him.  You don’t need any type of special connection or any type of device other than your words.  
You don’t have to go get anything, or plug anything in or properly place anything, or charge anything, you just talk.  You can talk out loud, you can talk in your mind, you can write it down.  Doesn’t matter.  All God wants is for you talk to him  from your heart and he will hear you - guaranteed.  
Our connections to God are always there and God is always listening and God is eager to hear what you have to say and what you think and what you worry about and what your enjoy and just about anything you want to talk to him about.  Nothing is too trivial, nothing is too hard, nothing is too personal.
All you have to do to talk to God, is talk.
Amen!

Devotion April 18, 2018

Greetings!!

Worms. Think much about worms? When is the last time you thought about worms? Maybe never? Maybe when you were planning your fishing trip? Other than fishing worms don’t come up much in conversation. Worms are sort of there and pretty much don’t impact our lives much at all.
But thinking about fishing I use to go dig worms with my grandfather to go fishing and I thought they were fascinating which wasn’t the norm for little girls because most of the little girls I knew would squeal and back up when confronted with a dug up earthworm - although I know of a few little boys who also screwed up their nose and backed off a little when a worm was dangled in front of them. There was a little boy in my neighborhood when I was growing up who would eat a small earthworm just so the rest of us standing around would go “Oh Ick!” and then he would laugh and live to eat another one another day!
I was amazed not so many years ago when I learned that you could go into about any convenience store and buy a container of worms. Buying worms when I had spent so much time with my little spade digging in loose dirt for worms and I would pull one out and my grandfather would say, “Nice One!” In fact those were the first words when the idea of fishing came up - “Let’s go dig some worms!” and we did. The digging almost became as much an adventure as the fishing. We always put the worms in a cottage cheese container - isn't it funny the things your remember.
And then I was even more amazed when I realized that there were people who actually made a living out of raising worms - worm farmers. Really? Growing worms - how is that done? My cynical self has visions of little worm nurseries and as they grow older the babies are taken out of their little cribs and released into a pile of dirt……. Does someone wake up in the morning and say, “I think I’ll become a worm farmer?”
My daughter use to sing a fun children’s song about Herbie the worm but I can’t remember any more about the song other than it was about Herbie the worm. There was a children’s song when I was little which talked about worms playing nic nac on my snout which is kind of a bizarre concept to think about and that is about all I remember about that song as well.
I had a seminary professor who use to talk about worms quite a bit - and your interest is piqued as to why we would be considering worms in seminary? Well, it was my reformation teacher and whenever we got to the topic of Martin Luther he would bring up about how Martin Luther called every one a worm because worms crawl around in the dirt and muck and compared to God so do we. He even brought plastic rubbery worms to class one day and gave one to each of us to really emphasize the point that we were all worms - I have tried to keep it all these years… maybe I’ll look for it to remind myself of that dear professor who really meant a lot to me even though he continually called us all worms which wasn’t really a compliment.
And then there are those really icky worms that built ‘tents’ in your trees…… I use to have nightmares about those wormy things!
Guess all worm talk isn’t about dirt. My daughters had a glow worm when they were young…. Started out with one daughter who had a stint in the emergency room after a fall and with the insertion of some stitches and we bought her a glow worm to comfort her - which was a stuffed animal sort of thing with a battery powered light inside. Well the other daughter was quite upset that she didn’t also get a glow worm so I remember a late evening driving around the city until I found another one so there were two two stuffed glow worms in our house and two happy little girls and an even happier set of parents because they weren’t listening to a grieved child who had not received a glow worm.
So what brought on all this ruminating about worms you ask? It all started after a particularly warm day followed by a pretty good rain. Walking over to the church I began to notice a brigade of worms crawling across the sidewalks of the church. Wonder why the joke about chickens crossing the road doesn’t apply to worms - Why did the worm cross the sidewalk? I truly don’t know but there were quite a number of worms who were traversing the great expanse of the sidewalk. The sidewalk isn’t that wide but I guess for a worm it is a pretty daunting journey.
Anyway, there they were - worms everywhere. I started to call my husband and see if he was thinking about going fishing that day because he truly would not have needed to stop by the convenience store and buy worms!
The great worm migration was early in the morning and when I went out later in the day across the same concrete sidewalk - the worms were still there. But a great tragedy had occurred. What use to be worms were now dried up worm remnants…. It was rather sad even though they were worms.
What was interesting was that for the next several weeks I kept witnessing this same event, worms in the morning and dried worms int he afternoon. I fully admit that there was a part of me that wanted to spend my morning moving all the alive slowly migrating worms back into the soil but I realized that would have been a never ending project and I did have actual tasks to accomplish.
And then yesterday when I took my walk in the afternoon - my usual walk time except for the days when I get highly motivated and walk early in the morning - on the track upon which I walk the worm phenomenon was there as well. Only since it was afternoon it was the worm remnants that were there and it was overwhelming how many worms thad been there. In places the worm left overs were so numerous you couldn’t walk and not tread on left over worms…….
I don’t know whether to be scientifically curious as to this worm happening or to just feel sad for the loss of so many worms.
Sometimes we dry up in our faith just like these worms. We wonder away from the church, from the nurturing presence of our church family, our teachers and our leaders; we wonder away from the place where we have our home in Jesus constantly surrounded by his love and grace. We think we can venture out on our own - we don’t need God’s people to surround us and care for us - we don’t need the petty little snits God’s people get into sometime because we are all just people and while we try we can never get along perfectly.
But even those uncomfortable moments are part of God’s instruction that we can get along and disagree and still share the love of Jesus with one another - that is part of the process.
We venture out on our own - Jesus is with us all the time, isn’t he? - so why do I need the church? I can make it on my own.....
And then our faith begins to dry up, we begin to lose the connection, we are worms stranded in the middle of a warm sidewalk and we don't feel that warm, loving connection quite so much. The things of God begin be become a memory.
God gives us the warm nourishing soil of the church to keep our faith alive and fresh and yes even tested sometimes. But we know if we stay, God will always fill us with the combined spirit of others and it will fill us and warm us and keep us from finding ourselves alone and wondering where God might be. 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.