Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion March 15, 2017

Greetings!!

My husband and I have a granddaughter that loves to work puzzles (we also have 3 other granddaughters and 2 grandsons - I just needed to mention that because I don’t want to leave anyone out!)  She’s three and it amazes me how well she can put puzzles together - of course I’m a grandmother and everything amazes me because I have wonderfully exceptional grandchildren (as all grandparents do!).  One time when we were watching the granddaughter we had asker her mother what sort of things she likes to do because as grandparents we feel this obligation to make our grandchildren happy all the time and we want to make sure they are doing what they like while they are at grandparents house….
So our daughter told us she liked to work puzzles and so my husband and I dutifully trotted off to the dollar store (when is the best source for grandparents to buy all sorts of wonderful items for their grandchildren) and bought several puzzles (because we are grandparents and can’t buy just one…..) in preparation of our grandchild visit.  
And sure enough our granddaughter came and when we were not running her around to playgrounds because we have learned playground hopping serves several functions - she enjoys playing at the playground, she is outside of our house, we figure the fresh air is good for us, and it wears her out which means she will go to bed at a reasonable hour and her grandparents can collapse in exhaustion at an early hour!
But there are those times when the granddaughter needs something to do in the house.  We do have a collection of random toys we have procured at various yard sales and occasionally at the store (such as one time we had 2 granddaughters at the house and quickly learned we needed 2 of the same toys in order to keep the peace and of course we had to go to the not cheap store to procure these duplicates).  
Pretty amazingly in our toy collection we have these two little plastic tractors that are ride on toys that my dad had bought my kids when they were wee and we still have them and my grandkids still ride them around our house - I”m just awestruck every time i see them ride these because of the age of these ride on toys that still work great!
Anyway, it did turn out that our granddaughter was really good at putting together these puzzles and at first my husband and I were very good at making sure that she only got one puzzle out at a time and worked it, put it away in its box and then got out another one, worked it and put it away in its box.  But then we would get busy and the next thing you would know the granddaughter had several puzzles out and they were all jumbled up together and we had to sort them out and put the puzzles together in order to get all the right pieces into the right box….
Now one would think that experienced, relatively intelligent adults who are now grandparents and who would have never allowed this puzzle mixing to take place with our own children, would learn to do something intelligent like put the puzzles somewhere we could only get them to insure that there was only one puzzle out at a time - but no, we obviously do not have the capacity to learn because after each granddaughter visit we simply put the boxes of sorted puzzle pieces onto the shelf ready to be accessed by the granddaughter on her next visit where the same routine will be repeated……
And then comes along the younger granddaughter who is just about a year younger than our older granddaughter who comes and stays with us. The younger granddaughter is quite mobile but not quite old enough yet to be able to put together puzzles.  However, she is fascinated with the  idea of puzzles and delights in finding the boxes of puzzles and dumpling them all out where her well l trained grandparents put the jumbled puzzles together for her and then put them back into their proper box.  I have every confidence that as she gets a little older she will have the same skills as her older cousin but right now not so much!
The other day the younger granddaughter came to visit along with her parents and as we all decided that an adult activity of a card game was in order, the little granddaughter, went off on her own to play which she is very good at! 
We had an enjoyable card game and then it was time for the parents and the grandchild to go home after the grandchild had been left to her own devices in the play world of the grandparents house which includes several boxes of puzzles - I think we are up to about 6 boxes of puzzles now…
So everyone leaves and my husband and I go to survey the damage which we had assured the parents was fine and we would clean it up…..  Only to find that there were 6 empty puzzle boxes and puzzle pieces strewn around the house….  We were very tired so all we could muster was to shake our heads and say, “We’ll get this in the morning” and go to bed.
So the next morning we began the great puzzle sorting.  Now, this was quite the adventure.  We had partially assembled puzzles on every table in the house and we were taking pieces and going from table to table to see which puzzle they might belong to and after a couple hours work we had 2 completed puzzles and 4 puzzles that had missing pieces…  
Now, keep in mind these puzzles only cost $1 each and the Dollar Store still had the same ones and the Dollar Store was only a 5 minute drive away and the best solution would have just been to toss the incomplete puzzles and go get new ones….
But no…… We spend the next 2 hours searching the house of missing puzzle pieces.  We went through every toy on the toy shelf, we lifted up couches and looked under them, we took cushions off couches and looked down in the sides of the couches and chairs, we lay on the floor looking under TV stands and other furniture - all to find these missing puzzle pieces…..
And we eventually did - all but one - one puzzle piece which we finally gave up on sort of because we still have in the back of our minds this one piece and occasionally one of us will find the other one looking through something or around something or behind something and we will sheepishly look at the other one and say something like - “Thought that puzzle piece might be there….”
Just like my husband and I were relentless with our puzzle piece search, so is God with his care for us.  God will forever be searching to keep us, to hold us…. no matter how lost we may get, God will never stop reaching out to us and putting us back together.  
Someday we will find that one remaining puzzle piece - and just as I am convinced of that - God is that focused on you - so don’t ever worry about being so lost that you are out of his reach!

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 February 22, 2017

Greetings!

You know those strange little things that happen to you in your life and they affect how you think of things or how you do things for the rest of your life - even though the situation is completely different from the original thing that happened.  I’m not even talking about great traumatic events but just something that happened and you just can’t get past it…..
Case in point:
Many, many years ago when I was an instructor for a college, I did what college instructors did which was carry around my standard professor briefcase that I would bring into class and put on the desk and clip open the clasps and open the brief case, get out the proper text book and some papers and my lecture notes, lay those on the desk, close the brief case by clicking the little clasps, lift the brief case and put it on the floor by the desk.
It was a class by class ritual and pretty standard for college instructors to do…. and I of course wanted to be on the cutting edge of college professor etiquette so I felt this ritual was an imperative part of the classroom experience!
Every day, after my last class I would judicially pack my briefcase to take home.  Papers I needed to grade, books for lessons I need to prepare and whatever other supporting materials I may need including the all important grade book - that book that had the list of all my students and all the grades they accumulated over the course of the term.  I was a quiz and homework aficionado so every student had lots of grades to average together to get the final grade for the course.  My grade book was a very important part of my work!
I like routine and every day I would do the same thing.  Pack the briefcase at home with books and papers and whatever I needed, carry it to my classroom, use it to carry my important stuff as I went to different classrooms during he day, pack it up before I left to come home, and carry it home!
I drove a station wagon then and I would open the back gate of the station wagon and there  I would stow my brief case as I drove from the school to home. There was a Kroger’s on the way from the school to our home so often my ritual would include stopping at Kroger’s to get groceries.  I had three kids then (and a husband and a couple dogs and cats) so there were always groceries we needed! Having the Kroger’s on the way home was a blessing and a curse - it meant that stopping when I really needed something was pretty easy but it also meant that stopping when I really didn’t need something but just wanted it was pretty easy as well…..
On this one day I had stopped at Krogers on the way home and did a good deal of shopping and put all of the bags full of groceries in the back of my station wagon with my briefcase which I had pushed to the back so I could put in all these newly purchased groceries.  Off to home I went.
The house we had then did not have a garage so it was all parking on the street.  I had parked enough to unload groceries that I knew exactly where to park as to optimize the opening the back of the station wagon, going through the back gate, through our yard and into the back door which opened to the kitchen.
Now we lived in a fairly safe neighborhood and a thousand times I had done the same thing…. opened the back of my station wagon and left the back open as I made my several trips through the back gate and through the back yard and into the back door and into the kitchen.  It would have been really difficult to close the back each trip with hands full of groceries….
So on this one day as I was doing what I always did, unloading my groceries with the back of the station wagon open with nary a thought of anything going wrong because I had done this exact thing a thousand times…..
As I came out of the back door of the house on my way back to the open station wagon knowing  that all I had left to bring into my house was one more grocery bag and my brief case, I see a car speeding off down the road and as I reached the station wagon I quickly realized that this speeding off car had grabbed the brief case out of back of my station wagon (for some reason they didn’t take the one grocery bag left which to this day I remember had various bathroom items I needed - shampoo, soap and such and which was probably worth more monetarily than the briefcase!).  
I was beside myself…..How could anyone be so brazen to just pull up beside a car that was obviously being unloaded not knowing when that unloading person my return and take something like a brief case?  What did they think they were going to find?  I am sure they were quite disappointed in what they did get unless they really needed a Microbiology book and lesson plans - maybe perhaps they would grade all the papers for me and bring them back?????  
In God’s great providence, I had just that morning made copies of the grade book because we were required to turn copies in with our mid term grades…. (My students would be very disappointed thinking all their grades were gone!)
Of course this was not that big of a tragedy, everything in that briefcase and the briefcase itself was easily replaceable, but it was very traumatic in its own way.  To this day, I will not leave the back gate open when I am unloading anything.  Doesn’t matter where we are - we can be in the most secure location possible - but I still will not leave that gate up…. It has been probably 30+ years since that occurrence…..
So how have the things of God changed your life?  How much has God done for you; how many times has God given you what you needed when you needed it - sometimes physical things, but most often love and grace and comfort and peace; feelings we truly need at times in our lives?  As a simple stolen briefcase has affected my entire life, what God has provided for you should affect your life just as much!  
So take some time and look back over your past years and see where God has been there; see how God has been active in what was going on; see where God has walked along side you; 
You will be amazed and your life will be changed as you realize that as God has always been there for you, he will continue to be there…..
And I will still close my back gate each trip when I unload my groceries!

Amen! 

Devotion February 15, 2017

Greetings!

It was about two weeks ago.  I had Wednesday night Bible Study just as I always do.  It had been a pretty productive day and I had even been able to work ahead a little bit - always a plus since in this pastoring business you truly never know what might happen next.  A phone call can rush you out the door at a moments notice and while you are glad to be available there is always that little voice in the back of your head going, “Did I get (fill in the blank) done?” So anytime you can work a head a little bit it is a good thing!
So Bible Study went well - my two Bible Studies are pretty much my favorite times during the week!  I go home after Bible Study was over, do the Wednesday night chores I always do and after the news (it is imperative one keeps up with the crime in Charlotte……) I went to bed.  All was well it seemed - just as normal as it always is which is the way I like it!
The next morning I wake up, felt a little tireder than usual but I’m getting old and it is not that unusual to feel tired in the morning - this getting old thing is not for the sissy…..
Anyway, it was Thursday so the routine is to go over to the church and get the bulletins copied and inserts made so that my faithful bulletin folder/stuffers can come by and fold and stuff the bulletins in preparation for Sunday morning - what a great help this people are!
So the bulletins are copied and the inserts are copied and chopped in half and everything is laid out and I kind of notice as I’m doing this that there is a little headache creeping up from the back of my head and my chest is a little tight but again I’m thinking it is just the old thing and didn’t pay much attention as my nose begins to fill up and my back starts to get a little achy and well it is about lunch time so I figure it is a good time to go home and eat some lunch and I can finish the odds and ends I need go do before I go off on my normal Thursday afternoon visiting…..
I had my normal peanut butter sandwich but it seemed like it took me forever to eat it and I didn’t even want any potato chips to go with it (a true sign of Armageddon) and then I said to my husband, “You know, I don’t do this very often but I think I’ll take a short nap after lunch…” He looked at my like I was from Mars but he chimed in “You do look a little pale….”  Thanks......
So to my recliner I go and about 3 o’clock he gently nudges me and inquired if I was still alive and it was apparent at that point as I groaned loudly that the dreaded flu was upon me…..
For the next 4 days (I think it was 4 days - it is still all a little bit fuzzy) the flu completely took over my life.  Every pore in my skin hurt; every bone in my body hurt; coughing; sneezing; - well at some point you have had the flu and you know what I am talking about.
The doctor says, “Don’t come into the office” which was smart on her part since there are sick people there…. and pretty much she said (I like my Dr she is very practical!) “You can take some meds and it will last 7 - 10 days or you can not take meds and rest and drink fluids and it will last for 7 - 10 days”.  Any kind of flu/cold medicine makes me feel worse than the above mentioned flu so I opted for the sleep and fluids.
It is just amazing how the flu takes over your life.  There is nothing you do that is not flu related; the food you are able to tolerate; the drink you constantly crave; the comfortable place you find to lay; the lack of communication with the world around you or with other people; even the bed clothes you wear since everything that touches your skin hurts… for 7 - 10 days all of your thoughts and actions (or more likely lack of action) are centered in flu.  I realized that I decided I was actually beginning to get better when I began to be able to think about things other than this flu that had wracked by body….
Bet you never thought of God as the flu…But think about it.  What God wants is to so take over our lives that we think of nothing else. 
Maybe we can think of God as the flip side of the flu - as bad as the flu makes you feel, God makes you feel equally good!
So just like your life with the flu where you think of nothing else but how ucky you feel, life with God is where you think of nothing else but how wonderful your life is in God.  Just like with the flu you think of nothing else but the flu, life with God should be such so that we think of nothing else but God as the focus of your life.
And even though at some point this flu will eventually be gone, I am thankful that my life with God never will!

Amen! 

Devotion January 25, 2017

Greetings!!

I grew up in a valley - a valley that regardless of where you went from the town I was in (which was quite small - maybe stretching the town to all the surround farms you may have had a thousand or so people - I lived in the middle of town and there was a cow pasture right behind my house and my neighbors had a horse in their back yard that we would ride around the field that was beside my house - in the middle of town….)so from our town you would have to go up or down a hill - a WV hill which in many states would probably be called a mountain - to get anywhere, even to the next town.  
I rarely ventured anywhere west of where I lived so mountainous terrain was pretty much all I knew.  I went to New York City once but I didn’t even consider the concrete as terrain and to the beach a couple times but that wasn’t really anything comparable…..
So my world view was where you lived in a place in which you always saw mountains somewhere and you always went up and down mountains… that is until I got married.
My husband and I were married and for our honeymoon (this is a rather sore subject so I am surprised I am even mentioning it but it does rather support my story) my husband wanted to go visit some friends in Iowa and I was young and in love and wanted to do whatever made him happy because making him happy was what made me happy.  Plus I had never been west of West Virginia and that sounded like quite an adventure to me - just me and my man heading out to parts unknown our west.
And the trip was quite the shock for me.  We got into my husband’s father’s truck - we planned to save money by sleeping in the back of the truck which was well fitted with mattresses and it was still fairly warm in September - at least in WV but not in Iowa I learned.
Once we were across the Ohio River was I in for a shock!  The land was flat - really flat, not even hilly flat and as we began to travel through other midwestern states on our way to Iowa the flat land became even flatter… How is that possible you ask - but it did.  
My new husband whose family was from Colorado and had made this trip quite often and who had lived in Iowa for a couple of years kept making fun of me as I was just agog at the flat land.  The fact that on the farm after farm after farm that we passed along the straight road had the corn growing right up to the house on all four sides with just a skinny strip of land surrounding the house and a small road running up to the front of the house and the rest was corn…. corn and more corn and flat land.  
I remembered the Byrds song “You can see for miles and miles and miles” and now I knew what they were talking about….. It was just utter amazement for me.
Years later after we had been married for a while and now had two children (and I was pregnant with the 3rd) we decided to drive to Colorado and see my husband’s family.  
My children were not amazed by the flat land and the corn - they just wanted the trip to be over - or to stop at a hotel with a pool - but I once again was astounded by the straight road up ahead.  Straight road so straight that you couldn’t see the end of it, not because it went up a hill and you couldn’t see past that but because you just couldn't see straight any farther….  Just amazing.
And now 31 years later, here I am once again in Colorado.  We flew out here this time but looking out the plane window you still get that awesome view of flat fields laid out in perfect squares (or now circles because that is how the irrigation system is designed).  From up in a plane it is even a more spectacular visual because you realize how high you are and even though the squares and circles look rather small you know that they cover large expanses of land….
Once we landed here we got into a car to go to visit the ‘old home place’ of my husband’s father.  It was three hours away - and it was so straight and flat that i can actually tell you that there were 2 curves between here and where we were going; otherwise it was straight - just straight.  I kept wondering how one could stay awake because there was nothing to do as you drove three hours of straight road…..  and there would be 40 - 45 minutes of time when we wouldn’t even see any other traffic and on both sides of the road were just miles and miles of flat land - the expanse of it is just mind boggling….. especially from a girl who grew up in the valleys of WV with hills all around.  
But it just reminded me of what a big God we have.  We tend to box God into the little world that surrounds us.  God tends to be what God is in just our little frame of reference - but the God who made the hills and valleys also made the regions of flat land and corn and straight roads.  Looking at all this land around me that you can see (our sight is rather limited in WV since you can only see what is from you to the base of the next hill!) for such a long way makes you really better understand how truly big our God is.  And as far as the eye can see out here in the flatland… God is even huger than that!
It helps us remember that we can never limit God.  God who makes the hills and the valleys and God who makes the plains and the God who makes the vast sea and God who makes the sky and God who makes every one of us and knows every hair on our head…..
Praise the God who is so big and so great and so wonderful he can never be limited to our scope of understanding - and that is a good thing!

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 January 18, 2017

Greetings all!

Weather is such a strange thing.  Weather is 70 degrees where I am today and a mere 50 miles away it is 35.  It is sunny here today (it is a great day in other words!!) 50 miles away where it is 35 there are gray skies and snow flakes flying around in the air.  
So when you go to the weather channel on your TV and they start talking about the weather across the country, you can virtually find almost every type of weather that there is.  Pretty much you can find sunny places and rainy places and snowy places and cold places and warm places and places where there are experiencing one type of weather and have a ‘chance’ of another type of weather.
And you know what we do - we obsess on watching the weather forecasts so we will know what the weather is going to be and then we don’t trust what we watch because we figure it is all just a guess anyway!  Right???
Packing for a trip is another strange thing.  What do you pack?  Especially when you are thinking about going to a totally different part of the country where you know that the weather is not going to be what you are experiencing in the place you are residing when you pack and in the back of your mind you don’t really trust those long range weather forecasts (granted we have experience with not trusting those long range weather forecasts since there have been numerous times in our lives when we have been told to prepare for the storm of the century and we wake up to sunny skies!).
This is where I am as I stand in front of my empty suitcase wondering what to pack.  After all, I am going to be a thousand miles from home and certainly in a whole different weather pattern than I am experiencing where I live.  I watch the weather forecast for the area to which I am going and there are a lot of words like ‘possible’ and ‘if the front moves this way’ and ‘chance of’…. Huh?
I think “How am I suppose to know what to do!!!”  There are voices in my head at this point that said, “Oh, just wait til you get out there and buy clothes that match the weather…..”  This is tempting.  I do like clothes…..
But the responsible part of me says this is probably a bad idea…
So I am still standing over an empty suitcase worrying that when I get out there I will not have what I need….. And even knowing it will be colder than it is here, I  wonder “How much colder?”  Do I pack heavy sweaters or light sweaters and do I pack for the evenings when we have to go out to eat or do I pack for the temperature of the rooms where I will be sitting in meetings or I guess I should pack layers but I really don’t like to have to carry things when I have to start removing those layers because it becomes warm…
And then you are under the restrictions of your suitcase can only weigh so much or you have to pay exorbitant fees (and once I flew and my suitcase was overweight and they wouldn’t even let me pay the overweight fee I had to get rid of stuff or I couldn’t get my suitcase on the plane….  I had to go by a backpack, sit in the floor of the airline terminal, unpack heavy stuff and put it in the backpack before I could get my suitcase on the plane!!)
And yes, I am still standing here looking at the empty suitcase with the weather channel on….
Sometimes we think that God is just as confusing as the weather and trying to figure out what to pack.  We stand before God like he is an empty suitcase and say, “I don’t have a clue as to what you want me to do.”  We look for a TV channel that will give us a forecast of what God sees ahead of us and what will happen if we do (or don’t do) what he has in mind for us.  
And we forget that the answers are right there in front of us. God gives us plenty of information - we just don’t use the tools he gives us….. We have his word in scripture; we have his word in worship; we have his word in Bible Study opportunities……  Its all there.  
But it takes an open mind and a willingness to listen and have patience  - and an attitude that realizes that God is not always going to tell  us what we want to hear.
My suitcase still isn’t packed - but it will happen…..  Just like God will be there for you if you will just open yourself up to him.  

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.