Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

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

Devotion April 11, 2018

Greetings!
When you think of Easter you think of a lot of things.  Of course there is the religious/church thoughts - the things we should think about but we have to admit that also comes to mind things like Easter Egg hunts and Easter bonnets (does anyone still do Easter bonnets?) and bunnies and cute little yellow chicks.  Of course here we go with the “I remember when” thoughts that seem to be pretty prevalent to me any more…. but I remember when I was a little girl and each Easter meant a new dress, a new hat, pretty white shoes and those cute little kid gloves.  
For some reason I remember us little girls standing in a circle on Easter Sunday morning comparing our shoes… we were mainly concerned about how high our heels were because back ‘in those days’ little girls wearing any type of heel at all on her shoe was a major deal and a teeny tiny little heel on your Sunday Shoes marked a major milestone in your life. 
Prepare yourself for  another majorly trite saying:  “My how times have changed!”
Now I realize that we probably have a much better perspective on Easter now-a-days since we don’t stress over the new Easter dress or the Easter bonnet but there are some very fond memories of Easter with the dressing up and the Easter dinners of ham and scalloped potatoes (we had steak this year for Easter dinner throwing all the major traditions out the door!)
However having been in three different churches over the course of this Easter season I noticed one staple that still remains as an Easter necessity - and that is the Easter Lily.   Easter Lilys everywhere.  
Now Easter Lilys are very pretty and we have even assigned ‘Easter meaning’ to these flowers that have come to symbolize this season - mainly because they bloom during Easter and they are pretty and they have parts we can say symbolize the things we understand about Easter.  And I admit to using this symbolism over the course of my church leadership life in educational settings to help explain various aspects of our understandings of the events of Easter!
However, Easter Lilys are not my friend. While they are very pretty and they come out at Easter and they can be very useful as Easter illustrations, Easter Lilys have this pervasive scent that can reduce any Easter Lily sensitive adult to a sniveling pile of runny noses and coughs and even a feeling of become a little overcome with wooziness. 
That would be me.
There was a traumatic event that happened in my life that caused me great consternation and I realized way too late that the culprit was the presence of Easter Lilys!  
This was during the days when I was serving a three church parish and it was Easter Sunday morning and I was, with the help of my youngest daughter, flitting between churches leading worship and of course since it was Easter there were extra services so the morning was quite busy and quite rushed and quite filled with Easter Lilys. 
Somewhere along the trip I did realize I was beginning to get a headache and I did realize that my nose was beginning to run and I did realize that I was sneezing a little more often than normal and I did realize there there was this tickly cough rearing its ugly head and but I was really too busy to pay much attention other than to secure some tissues to prevent any embarrassing moments and I continued on my overly involved Easter Sunday worship leading.
Finally I reached the final stop on my Easter Sunday world tour (just like a rock band!) and I walked into the church and there were what looked like a thousand Easter Lilys.  Now I realize that might be a slight exaggeration but not by much.  It was a small church and on every surface there was an Easter Lily including four covering the sides of the pulpit.  I admit when you first walked into the sanctuary it was quite beautiful and there was a special moment of thinking of this special morning in the life of the church but it was a chilly morning and the doors and windows of the church were closed and of course the smell of these Easter Lilys had invaded every nook and cranny and to someone who had already been sensitized by Easter Lilys from previous stops along the tour route this was quite the overwhelming experience….
But as the trooper I was I figured that I could muscle my way through one more hour of Easter Praise and Easter Lily aroma…. But no!
About half way through the service, in one of my talking moments as I was pontificating on the Easter experience and what it means for us in the modern day, I began to feel a little strange and before to long I realized that if I didn’t stop and sit down there was going to be a prone preacher on the floor not able to continue pontificating.  
Now one thing you learn after many years in the pulpit is adapting to the circumstances…. So fortunately we had planned as part of the worship service to walk outside during the passing of the peace and flower the cross and now seemed like a really good time to do that even if it was out of place and I believe I actually admitted to the fact that I was fading fast and going outside seemed like a really good idea!
So out everyone went, I sat down, drank what seemed like a gallon of water, popped a couple “Halls” (you know those great lozenges which are suppose to help in situations such as this) and by the time everyone got back inside I was able to finish out the service and as I was leaving with my daughter driving (I lived 90 minutes from the church so getting home woozy was an issue and my daughter had her learners permit and so she gleefully accepted the driving task) and said a Thankful prayer that I had made it through the great Easter Lily escapade almost unscathed….
Since then I have learned about Easter Lilys.  And one of the critical bits of information I learned was that Easter Lilys are one of the most potent of allergy producing flowers to people who are sensitive to the Easter Lily pollen.  I also learned that if you remove the little yellow stems inside the flower you remove the allergy producing portion of the flower and those who are Easter Lily sensitive like me can actually co-exist in the same space with the Easter Lily without getting all woozy and runny nosey and sneezy!
So when Easter comes and the Easter Lilys arrive, I don my face mask and my rubber gloves and I stealthily enter the sanctuary with my scissors and zip loc baggie and like a thief in the night I snip out the troublesome parts of the Easter Lilys and I even gently wipe off the remaining yellow residue in order to render the Easter Lilys safe for Easter Sunday morning!
And I am hoping that everyone is so enthralled with the service and my pontificating that they will not even notice the act of terrorism perpetrated on the runny nose, coughing, sneezing, whoozing production of the Easter Lily.
But you know, we have to be careful about doing the same act with the word of God.  It is so tempting to go in and sanitize God’s word by removing those parts we don’t like.  It is so tempting to go in and ignore the words of scripture that make us uncomfortable or rub against our sensibilities or let’s face it - give us a headache because it stretches where we are comfortable or ways ‘we always thought…’.  
God’s word has to stand on itself and has to be taken with all the parts - the parts we like, the parts we don’t like, the parts that offend us, the parts that give us hard work to do, and of course the parts that give us peace and comfort and those parts we agree with cause we like those parts - 
So go and clip those Easter Lilys so we can gather and enjoy (and in my case survive) Easter morning, but the word of God has to stay intact!

Amen!

Devotion March 21, 2018

Greetings!
By no means is this Midweek Devotion designed to besmirch my sainted husband.  Even though there might be a moment where you may think that is what happening, that is not what is happening - as in a lot of things we need to look at the bigger picture and figure that the details are for the purpose of making a bigger point so the little things may not be what they appear to be on the surface.
After all the sainted husband has made more crosses for me over the years than we can ever conceivably count.  I image that with the coming of each new church season the sainted husband spends a moment sitting in his recliner with the message going through the back of his head - “I wonder what kind of cross I am going to have to put together for this church season…..”.  This is of course after many many years of my coming to the sainted husband saying - “I need a cross that……” and then I follow with either a description of what that cross may have to do or what the cross may have to look like.  Sometimes it is the size of the cross that is an issue or the materials out of which it is made because over the years I have had many crosses that have fulfilled a variety of functions.
So far this Lent the sainted husband has made me three crosses all with different functions.  He made a cross out of pieces of wood we scavenged from the woods behind my house and a cross made of scrap wood for people to pound nails into (this took more engineering than one might think because as the cross lays on the table we needed to be sure people didn’t pound nails through the cross and into the table…. see this cross building can become quite complicated!) And he made me a cross out of pegboard so that people could put little rolled up bible verses in the holes.  Maybe we need to start a new business - Cross-R-Us....
So after this quite intensive season of cross building the last thing I want to do is say anything negative against the sainted husband - mainly because another season of the church year will come along and I will probably need more crosses….
And you know it hasn’t always been crosses.  There have been many times when I have asked him to build stuff where he looks at me with this stare which says volumes about what he is thinking about this new idea that I want him to put together.  One time it was a giant whale that I wanted big enough for for the kids at bible school to go in and eat their snack…. he accomplished that one (I have always wondered what ever happened to that giant whale.  The way I drag things along with me every time I move I’m surprised I don’t still have it somewhere!).  Admittedly sometimes he slows me down and says to me, “That is impossible” and even though I argue with them he is usually right.
So no matter what I say after this -  know that I am not going to bite the hand that feeds me retranslated to ‘insult the person who builds crosses and other things for me’ even though he plays a large part in this narration.
Today was one of those days where I had several things I needed to accomplish and many of those things required tools to put items together.  Some of those were actually crosses but I was making them out of foam board so I could handle those.  There were other items I needed to assemble and so as I began to plan out my day and gather the things I needed I went to the cabinet.
Now - a little background is needed here.  When we first moved into our current house my sainted husband was still living in our previous house in another state and one of the things you learn about living on your own is that there are things you need in order to be able to take care of yourself since there is no sainted husband in the house to take care of some of the chores you will need to do and he would have done them had he been there.
So what I did was assemble for myself a little basket with the few tools to do the things I would need to do on my own and the sainted husband would not be here to do.  My little basket had 2 screw drivers - a regular and a phillips (I impress myself that I even know these names); I had a hammer and a box cutter - because box cutters can be the most handy tool you own in this day of miracle plastic surrounding everything.
This morning as I was figuring out what I was going to need to finish the few projects left for me to finish I knew that I was going to need my box cutter and my hammer.  I went to the cabinet where I had stored this little personal tool kit and there was my basket.  I pulled it out and looked inside and there were a handful of screws, a used tube of super glue, some furniture pads (you know those things you glue on the feet of your furniture so they will scoot easily) which I never even knew we had and a drill bit.  
Now I have no witness to this act, but I am pretty sure the sainted husband has been in my basket because he is the only other one who lives in the house and these random items seem likely to have been abandoned by him. While the evidence is circumstantial, I can pretty well say with confidence that the sainted husband has borrowed the tools from my little tool basket - and who knows why because he has an entire out building full of tools - multiples of every type of tool that you can envision - and the sainted husband who after borrowing the sacred wife tools did not return them but instead returned left overs from various other projects he was doing….. 
Needless to say I was tooless to do my projects.
But you know no matter how many times we go to God for what we need, we will never be left empty.  No matter how many times we go to God we will find the tools we need - now I will admit they may not always be the tools we wanted or the tools we thought we needed - but they will be the tools God knows we need and after all he is a bit smarter than are…..
Never do we have to worry about being empty handed - our God will always fill our basket with what we need right when we need it and sufficient enough to do what he has called us to do!
Amen!

Devotion March 14, 2018

Greetings!
I have been doing these Midweek Devotions for the last 12 years.  I have a hard time even realizing it has been that long!  I remember when they first started.  I had just quit my job because God kept telling me I needed to quit my job and I kept arguing that I couldn’t quit my job but I knew in the back of my head I needed to quit my job. 
While I enjoyed what I was doing - I was the director of the Medical Program and teaching classes at a local college but there were situations with that job that had changed and it had become very stressful and it wasn’t until after I had finally quit the job that I came to understand how truly stressed I had become.  
I had for the last several years before this admittedly had become extremely overworked.  Finances being what they were I worked full time for the school and served two churches on Sundays that were 1 hr and a half from where I lived and on the side taught computer classes for a workforce development program where I would go into businesses with a case of laptops and teach employees basic computer use because it was a time when businesses were switching to computers and the staff were generally computer illiterate.  This was pretty stressful too because it generally was a bunch of people who were told they had to switch work they had been doing for years to a computer and they weren’t thrilled about it and I think they thought if they never learned how to use the computer they wouldn’t have to change - so the challenge was real!
So this crazy life went on for several years and I had a family at the same time but in the course of these years children began to drift away to college and life and it was just be and my husband. The computer work had dried up because after several years people had finally adjusted and adapted and were using their computers and then God comes along and tells me to quit my full time job and not to worry and all would be well…….
Right…..
But I did and so now I went from working all the time and taking care of a family to waking up in the morning and it was just me and the dog.  And the dog loved it.  We got into a routine.  My husband would leave for work, I would get a cup of coffee and the dog and I would go up to my office which was on the 2nd floor.  It was a good office - an old sun porch with windows on three sides.  My husband had built me a big desk and I had a nice desk chair and a great view (which wasn’t always a good thing…).
My dog and I got into such a routine that the dog would actually lead me up to my office each morning and if I actually had something else to do he was really irritated and wasn’t shy about letting me know it!
So what does all this have to do with my Midweek Devotion? 
Well, when one goes from working all the time to just (I don’t mean ‘just’ in a bad way but it was quite the reduction in work load)
serving two churches part time one feels this need to fill the time.  
So I think what can I do to fill the time and one of the things I decided to do was to start writing Midweek Devotions and send it by email to the church members in the two churches I served.  And that is how it came to be.  
12 years ago - quite amazing.  
Now the issue with these Devotions is that each week I go through this panic.  Obviously there needs to be something to include in the devotion - something I can use as an example.  Each week about Tuesday morning I start thinking…. and usually by Tuesday evening I am still thinking and I get worried because I am convinced that nothing is going to pop in my head and there is going to be a void and I will be completely stressed because nothing is there and that is when the panic begins to set in and I have a hard time sleeping Tuesday night because I know that I am going to have to wake up on Wednesday morning and go to my office and try to write something and there is nothing there and what am I going to do…..
And every week as I sit down at my desk and click up my ‘sheet’ of paper and take a deep breath and the idea comes (and you know of course where the idea comes from) and then you get mad at yourself because you know that you go through this same routine every week and you would think that I would learn…..
But like most of us - I am stubborn.  I still work under the wrong assumption that I will need to come up with something on my own and that there will be nothing there and I forget that every week as I go through this ridiculous panic that God always comes through and there is always something there even if it is just writing about writing about the Midweek Devotion that I am writing about.
Here is one of those instances where I will say to you - Do as I say not as I do!  Don’t do what I do but know that no matter what God leads you to do God is very aware of what you need to do and God will always come through.  And I don’t know why I (and I’m sure many of you) cannot learn that!  
I’m getting better.  I know in my heart that God will help me with this because he always does and he always has and I have no reason to believe that he won’t anymore. 
So know, know  that if God calls you to do something, God will guide you through it.  He may not make it easy, but he will always 
come through.
Praise God!  He came through again…….
Amen!

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!

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.