Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion October 31, 2018

Greetings!
It is Halloween!!  So when I looked at the date on my calendar when I sat down at my desk this morning - cause I always look at my calendar first thing when I sit down at the desk because I have realized I am getting to that place where I don’t always remember everything….
In fact I have found out now that if I have to do something that is out of my routine I have to write it on my calendar on my desk and on the calendar in my kitchen and on the calendar on my phone and maybe even put it in that little reminder feature on my phone when will beep at me and remind me of something I need to do…. such a sad commentary that the old noggin just doesn’t retain what it use to.  I prefer to think of it as being because I have so many things I need to keep track of with work and family and outside obligations that there is just too much data and it is sort of like when my phone tells me the storage is all used up!
So this morning I did as I usually do and when I sat down at my desk I looked at my calendar and remembered it was Halloween!
I always have enjoyed Halloween.  Back when the kids were small and they would begin thinking of what they wanted to be for Halloween and I was a stay at home Mom and had time to hand make these great elaborate costumes.  Then it would be the search for not too expensive candy because we would have around 300+ kids come by the door.  What fun it was wandering around the neighborhood seeing all the other little children in their costumes and all excited about the candy they were going to receive cause there isn’t much little kids like better than mounds of candy (not sure parents would agree with that but you know this really is a night for kids to just have fun). 
Over the years we have lived in a couple different neighborhoods that had oodles and oodles of trick-or-treaters wandering the streets and many of those years the sainted husband would come up with some great Halloween scenario to portray in front of our house including boiling cauldrons and eerie music.  There was that year where he went a little overboard and the little kids were too afraid to come up to the porch to get the candy…… Course we had lots of left over candy that year and now I’m thinking maybe that was his plan. Hmmmm?
In one of our neighborhoods the houses on our street were really close together.  It was an old neighborhood with the narrow tall two story (or more) houses with front steps that led down to a sidewalk.  The years we lived there everyone one in their houses would come out and sit at the bottom of their steps to hand out the candy because it was quite a journey up most of our steps to get to the porch or the front door so we all made it easier on the throngs of children which traveled through that street…. but what was nice was this was the only time we as neighbors took the time to come to the front of our houses cause we all had fenced in back yards with parking in the back.  Out there we would go and sit and as the kids meandered through filling their sacks and pumpkins and pillow cases with our candy, we neighbors actually talked to one another!  It was such a nice enjoyable time.
I have to admit for me the most bizarre halloween candy collecting location I lived in was in a very, very rural area where there really weren’t that many people and the houses were scattered out along back roads.  When we moved there and October began to approach I did inquire as to how we would trick or treat.  And the locals looked at like because they had always lived there and they didn’t know there were options for trick or treating such as walking along sidewalks.  Halloween there consisted of dressing up in your costume and driving down the road, pulling off, running up to a house, collecting goodies, running back to the car and driving to the next driveway where you would often have to wait for the car in front of you to back out of the driveway before you pulled into the driveway where your children would climb out of the car, run up to the house, have items plunked into their pumpkin and back to the car, climb back in, seatbelts on, drive down the road, pull into a driveway, take off the seatbelts, jump out of the car - you got the picture!  
When I first moved where I am now and October approached I asked about how we did Trick or Treat?  I don’t have any children any more to dress up which is sad, but I was curious as to how to expect children to come ambling by my door expecting treats. There were no sidewalks and no real neighborhood and somehow I didn't think people drove around like they did when I lived out in the country.  Turns out the children go to the mall and the various trunk or treat locations and to down towns where the business treat and the number of children who actually come to your door are probably non-existent.  Sad face cause I really enjoyed smiling faces lifting up their halloween bag looking for something scrumptious dropped into the bag.
Aren’t traditions interesting?  So many different places and so many different ways of doing things and so many different understandings of how things are done and who does them and how they get done.  And sometimes people are interested in hearing about other traditions and sometimes people don’t understand that there are other traditions and ways of doing things and some people are flexible to ‘go with the flo’ and others are ‘my way or the highway’.  Just like all those different places I have lived during Halloween and too often just like our churches.
There are many, many different churches.  There are many, many different types of churches.  There are many, many different sizes of churches.  There are many, many different ways people worship.  There are many, many different ways people understand  worship.  There are many, many different times people worship.  There are many, many different songs people sing during worship.  There are quiet churches and loud churches and in the middle churches.  We could go on.  There many, many churches and no two churches are alike and no two churches do everything exactly alike.
And just like Halloween traditions, most of what we do in church is as much tradition as anything else.  And we need to remember that the importance of church is to gather and worship and serve our God and as long as we are doing that all these differences in tradition are just that….. traditions; ways we have done things for years because it works for us and it is comfortable and the objective is achieved - we worship and serve God.
So worship and serve God!  Become part of a church.  And don’t worry so much about the how, but concentrate on the why, which is to honor a God who loves us and showers us with his grace….
Amen!

Devotion October 24, 2018

Greetings All!
My husband and I are watching Grandchildren. My husband always watches grandchildren, that has become his ‘job’. Three days a week he is in charge of little ones - 2 on Mondays, and 2 different ones on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesdays. He whines but he enjoys it and his charges love their "pa"!
But this week the 2 Monday grandchildren came to our house because their Mom had a Continuing Education class to attend and the 2 Tuesday and Wednesday ones had other things they needed to do and so there are 2 at our house.
All is going well until a moment this morning when the older of the 2 went to the Library with her grandfather. The Library has a great program for young ones on Wednesday mornings and whenever we have grandchildren here Grandfather takes the ones who are the right age to the program at the Library.
This meant that the younger of the two grandchildren stayed with me at the house.
Now he is a little boy and he is always on the go - always. He hits the ground running as soon as he is out of bed and unless you tie him down he doesn’t even like to take the time to eat even though he is really hungry. One morning we made the grandparent mistake of having him sit in a regular kids chair at the table, put his food in front of him and before you could blink he was off the chair and cruising the house. So the worried he won’t get enough to eat grandparents sort of stuffed food into his mouth whenever he wandered by…. I know, grandparent mistake but we do learn!
So after the breakfast fiasco and he was sufficiently full of food - or at least enough nourishment to get him through the morning until snack time - he began his exploration of the world. Grandad and granddaughter headed off to the library and that left the drifter and grandma at home.
Since he was busy with his travels, I decided I could get some work done and I sat down at the table in the living room (which was suppose to be a place to eat but somehow got piled up with things I needed to do….) and began to cut out large animal parts.
Now, you say “Why are you cutting out large animal parts” which would be a normal question to ask and I will tell you why…. Each month we have a ‘fun’ night for our church’s children and youth. Sometimes it is just fun and sometimes it is fun tied to a Bible lesson. Since this is Halloween season we always do Spooky Stories from the Bible with a bible story and then some supporting activities.
This year one of our spooky Bible stories is the beast from the book of Daniel that is made up of a bunch of different animal parts. So the kids are going to make their own animals made up of giant animal parts and to prepare for this fun the animal parts need cut out….. Which is why I am sitting at the table while the young one is making his way around the house again and again and again cutting out large animal parts…..
Now a while ago I had to tell him “No!” as he began to pull a chair over to our dining room table and proceed to climb onto the table which was not a good idea and you would have thought that I had put bamboo shoots under his toe nails as a loud wail went out and he went over to the couch, buried his head under a pillow and cried real alligator tears…. Poor guy.
It wasn’t too much longer when he decided he needed to pull open the dryer that is in my kitchen and if he could have figured it out he would have been inside of the dryer which required another “No!” which gave a repeat of the earlier loud cry and huge tears and a moment of sulking until he got distracted by something he saw and quickly dried up the sobbing and off he went once again.
I continued my animal part cutting and as I cut them I laid them neatly in a stack on the edge of the table having another grandmother not thinking moment and of course what attracted my little explorer but these pieces of paper that were on the table and he motored over and I saw a little hand reaching up the table as it tried to grasp some cut out animal legs and again there was a “No!”…….. this time there was a cry delay which always means the cry is going to be louder and the prediction was accurate as his eyes closed and the mouth came open and out came the ‘my life is over’ screech followed by tears and a run over to the couch where once again he tried to bury his head as he continued to shed these huge tears…..
There is a part of grandma that wants to run over and hug him and say that is ok and give him a cut out animal leg but then the ‘I once was a parent’ part of grandma kicks in and I know that shortly he will become distracted by something like the abandoned spoon under the coffee table and life will go on and learning "No!" is an important part of growing up.
Our relationship with God is much like that of a grandparent or parent and while God loves us more than we can ever imagine, God knows quite well what is good for us and what is not. God knows quite well when we need the parental brakes applied and when we, even as adults, need to hear “No!” to our wants and desires and our requests.
And often, we respond just like a disgruntled one year old as we cry and sulk and think God doesn’t like us any more because we aren’t getting everything we want.
But we know that God loves us with a perfect love, a generous love, but also a love that knows that we aren’t always going to make the right decisions and we aren’t always going to do what is right and good for us - a love that knows that we can’t have everything we want because God knows the big picture and many times God knows that saying “No!” is the best thing for us and for the purpose God has laid out for us….
So know, that when God says “No!”, God is not being mean, or is not trying to ruin your life, or is not ignoring your requests, we need to trust in the one who not only created us but created the world and everything in it and knows us and knows our future.
Its hard and we will probably sometimes run to the couch and hide our head and shed crocodile tears, but God is still there and God still loves us and God only wants the best for us…..

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 Oct 3, 2018

Greetings!
I love spending time with people and I particularly enjoy spending time with people over a meal - especially lunch.  So if you ever want to go to lunch and I don’t have a myriad of other responsibilities that happen to be happening during that lunch time which is unfortunately often the case…. anyway I enjoy a nice lunch with a person or persons and I really am not overly picky as to what that lunch may be or where it may be….
So the other day I was going out to lunch.  I was looking forward to the lunch and made sure I worked out my schedule so that I could spend some fun time over a table of food!
Seemed like the events of the day cooperated and I gathered what I needed  and grabbed the car keys and into the car and off I went.
It wasn’t far to go and it was a fairly popular lunch location for many in the area but I found a parking spot (which when you go to here on Sundays after church is not always a possibility), pulled in and parked and proceeded to walk across the lot.
I was the first one there and fortunately in front of the door to the eating establishment was a nice bench just asking for someone to come and sit.  So being there before my lunch companion, I did.  
It was a nice bench, pretty comfortable and a great place to do some ‘just sitting’ and relaxing.  I actually overcame the temptation to pull out the cell phone and peruse Facebook or emails or even play a game because I thought what a nice opportunity just to sit and relax and gaze off.  
Several other people were gathering around the entrance to the restaurant apparently waiting for others to come join them and a small girl, probably about 4, came and sat down beside me because she was tired of complaining to her mother that she didn’t want to stand and wait any longer.  Thought it was just like a child to be willing to come and sit down beside someone and not worry about all those social conventions of joining another person you do not know on a pretty small bench. 
Now I realize all of the wariness of today’s society especially when it comes to children and strangers and I am not disrespecting this necessary aspect of our world today when it comes to being careful with our little ones.  I assume that this little girl’s mother felt the ‘older woman’ on the bench looked pretty safe and after all Mom was standing right there and there really wasn’t an escape route had I chosen to do what we worry people might do.
I of course never wasting an opportunity to talk to a child because I love little children in my grandmotherly sort of way, I told the little one she was welcome to sit with me and I saw her mother look questioningly but not say anything…. The wee one proceeded to tell me all about how she was meeting her mother’s friend here and her mother’s friend was bringing her (the little girl’s) friend and how she was looking forward to having a grilled cheese sandwich with some of those really good chips that tasted like cheese and she really like cheese which is why she was getting a grilled cheese sandwich and some chips that tasted like cheese and yes she talked just like that with nary a breath…. It made me want to breathe for her!
I told her I was really glad she was going to get her favorite cheese and get to see her friend and she began to talk once again non stop until finally the Mom friend and the little girl friend showed up and Mom said ‘Come on, it’s time to go in and eat’ and I smiled at Mom who did not smile back as she held out her hand towards her daughter and proceeded into the restaurant.
This whole encounter reminded me of Jesus’ words when he said, “Let the little children come to me because their’s is the kingdom of heaven”.  We wonder what that means and how that applies to us mature adults who think we have it all together because we are old and children have a lot to learn because they are young yet as Jesus so often does, he flips us around and says that we mature, supposedly knowledgeable adults need to become like children…..
It has a lot to do with the willingness to be vulnerable around people we do not know in order to be like Christ around them - open and willing to share our lives, share our faith or just tell someone we like grilled cheese sandwiches and be amenable to allowing God to guide the conversation to places that only God knows one of us sharing that talking time need to be.
And maybe we as adults need to relax a little and remember we are children of God…..

Amen! 

Devotion Sept 12, 2018

Greetings!
I took the month of August off from these devotions.  It was pretty flattering the number of people who said, “Where is our devotions?”.  But you know after doing these for 12+ years the brain just needed a break.  Not that my brain does much work with the devotions as I have said previously God does most of the work and just uses my fingers to do the typing - but even with that there is a certain about of brain draining that happens and with all things the drained brain needs a little refreshing!  So I took off the month of August to see if there could be restored any of the dried out brain cells!  Let's hope it worked!
Seems amazing to me that it was 12+ years ago when all this started.  God had been after me for over a year to quit my job because ‘he knew the plans he had for me’ even though I didn’t.  It is a scary thing quitting a job when there is nothing in your immediate future but eventually I did quit because God had beaten on me enough until I finally did it….  What a strange time that was.  I had been working 3 different jobs for so many years that when I quit the main one and the other one had fizzled out and now I was left with the 2 churches I served - well, there was a time void that was disconcerting to say the least.
I remember that first morning I was alone and I had no where to go and I looked at my dog and said, “What are we going to do now?” and the dog looked back at me with his big brown eyes as if to say, “I don’t know but whatever you do I’ll do it with you!”  So the two of us got into such a routine that the dog was leading the way each day. And in fact if there was a day where there was a deviation the dog was really upset. 
Since all I had left was the 2 churches - my husband was working out of town, my kids had all flown the coop and it was just me and the dog and probably a cat because there always seemed to be a cat….. and I tried to think what I could do for the churches that might fill up this void of time because I was quite fearful of turning on the TV and watching Law & Order all day….
So I decided the churches needed some communication from me - every day. Each morning after breakfast I would get a cup of coffee (eventually I put a coffee pot in my office so it was just a cup I took up with me) and the dog would lead me upstairs to my office.  I had a great office.  It was on the second floor of our house and it was an old sun room so three walls were all windows and it was just a bright cheery room and I could procrastinate by looking out over the trees and at the cars who went by on the street behind our house!
Every morning I would sit down at the computer and the dog would sit at my feet and everyone was quite content. But now I had to figure out what type of communication I was going to send to the people of my churches….  I came up with some kind of scheme of what to send each day and now I’m not sure what they all were although I do remember that Monday morning was some type of churchy joke and then on Wednesday came the “Midweek Devotion”.  None of the other days worth of whatever it was I was sending stuck but the devotion did and here we are a plethora of years later and it is still coming - except for August of this year - and I have every confidence that if it is God’s desire then they will continue to come and I will continue to sit down each Wednesday morning and say, “OK God, what is it today?” and God will say, “Remember on Saturday when you…..”  and I will say, “Oh yea!”  and I will begin to type and voila there it will be!
I guess the couple lessons here are to remember that God allows us to take breaks every now and then.  In fact, God encourages us to take breaks every now and then.  That old adage, “Don’t work or you don’t eat” gets a little too overly used, or maybe misused,  to make us think that we have to busy every moment of every day….. God never intended that and we see evidence through scripture of God having people rest.  
But also the lesson is a constant reminder of God’s provision for our lives and I remember that terrifying moment of quitting my job and leaving the building with all my stuff and having a panic attack in the parking lot because I was convinced I and my family were going to starve to death……  
If you are obedient to God and you listen to God’s direction, God already has everything worked out and you just have to trust.  It was certainly true for me!  

Amen!

Devotion July 18, 2018

Greetings All!
When I was in Junior High School back in the days when there was Junior High School which now has been reconfigured as Middle School - way back then in those days of 7th Grade when girls discover boys and boys have actually reached that place where girls don’t have cooties anymore, I had a boyfriend. We had been friends all the way through grade school and somewhere along the way came that transition where the boy who was your friend realized girls could be something other than friends and you start calling yourselves boyfriend and girlfriend!
Well, the special thing about this particular boy was not his quick wit or suave charm or his good looks but the fact that his father was the manager of the local bowling alley. The nifty thing about that was that most of our ‘dates’ consisted of my parents dropping me off at the bowling alley for the evening where because my boyfriend’s father was the manager we bowled for free all evening and on top of the free bowling we received free snacks!
It was a pretty fantastic time of dating - I wasn’t a complete mercenary only going out with this boy because of the bowling… I did enjoy his company and we did have a good time together and as a result I got pretty good at bowling! But it was pretty sweet for the boy too because dates were pretty cheap for him!
What made me remember these carefree Junior High bowling dates was a trip to the bowling alley with my granddaughters. I asked them what they wanted to do and both of them quickly responded in unison - “We want to go bowling!”
Fortunately I knew where the bowling alley was and I figured bowling would be a good family outing!
And off we went to bowling. Now it has been years since I have bowled - I have been in leagues over the years and bowled on a regular basis but that seemed like eons ago and bowling it seems is not like riding a bike because you don’t automatically return to your former ability when you go bowling after many years of neglecting said sport…
So my granddaughters and I make it to the bowling alley and rented our lane and our shoes and found our balls and we began to bowl. Remember the riding the bike thing….. I started out this bowling experience with gutter balls…. Yes. Gutter balls…. Not just one but several and eventually the balls started actually going down to lane and knocking a couple pins down and eventually there was a spare and eventually even a strike but still mixed in were those gutter balls.
I started to worry that my granddaughters were going to get a higher score than me - but then they had those bumper things on the alleys so that their ball couldn’t go into the gutter!
We had fun, I was a little disconcerted that I did so poorly after my long ago history of pretty good bowling but the real problem came the next morning when my feet hurt, my neck was stiff, my finger was swollen and there was a whole plethora of aches and pains. I wondered what had brought upon this achiness, and I remembered the bowling! All those muscles that hadn’t been used in that way in years reacted to this sudden awakening and they didn’t like it!
Just like it is when we neglect God for a while. When something within us stirs us or something outside of us prompts us to return to the presence of our heavenly father, there is a learning curve to get back into the routines of a spiritual life; of our relationship with God. And you know, just like those achey bowling muscles there might be a little discomfort involved with that re-entry into the realm of God; there might be a bit of work involved in returning to a knowledge of the presence of God.
But as you begin the process, God will be there with his hands outstretched willing to pull you along and help you regain your place with him. Like returning to bowling, it takes some practice to get back to the routines of life with God… but it is worth it!

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.