Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion October 2, 2019

Greetings!
I heard on the news 2 nights ago that it hand’t rained in our area for 39 days.  That is a long time.  So while they haven’t declared it an official drought yet, you can pretty well tell it has been a long time since we have had any type of precipitation and combined with our 2 months of 90+ degree weather the grass is brown and crunchy when you walk on it and the bushes are drooping and the still green leaves are falling from the trees ….. Guess you can say it is a hot and dry time of almost Biblical proportions - after all the magic number for everything in the Bible is 40 and 39 is almost 40!  I’m keeping my eyes to the sky for the plague of locusts…….
What this not quite a drought has done has made us a slave of the local news weather forecast as we listen and watch in hope there will be be a weather forecast where the chance of rain is more than 10% - after all this is North Carolina and there is a chance of a thunderstorm every day at 4pm regardless of the temperature or the drought or the lack of drought.  The only requirement is it be summer and North Carolina and every weather forecast has that 10% chance of a thunderstorm at 4pm in spite of the weather man saying 'there is no rain in sight'.  
While in past summers that 4pm rain has been pretty predictable.  It was pretty amazing to me after I moved here that this daily 4pm rain was really a thing…… Except for this summer where the idea of rain has pretty well gone the way of the unicorn.
So we continued to watch the weather forecasts and check the weather radar on our electronic devices and hope there was a glimmer of rain somewhere - and finally our quest for just the hint of rain came to fruition as the chance for rain when up to 40% - amazing how 40% can be so exiting  -  that is after all more than 10% which has been the constant across our weather map. 40% actuallt gives you some hope!  Indeed even on the weather radar on the electronic device there was a little splotch of green which indicated of rain and it was even traveling our direction - maybe we can get think about getting excited; but then we don't want our hopes dashed once again because the rain never shows up. 
The sky began to darken, there was a breeze rustling the leaves - now our hopes were really ramping up….. but no rain seemed to be coming.  Then the sun came out, then it clouded up, the sun came out, it clouded up so we began to lose that glimmer of hope that the green splotch from the weather radar was really going to pan out.
And then there was this sound; we hand’t heard it in a while so we weren’t sure it was real but it did resemble that noise we had once heard that sounded like rain dropping through the trees.  We looked out the window and with a squeal of delight we both said at the same time - “It’s raining!”.  We dropped everything and went outside to sit on our porch and enjoy the rain - but by the time we got there it was over.  Sad face with great disappointment.  
Maybe it will rain someday…..
There are days like this in our life.  Great droughts in our experience of God.  We feel separated and isolated and we are certain God has forgotten all about us  and will probably never come back to us again.  We feel dry and droopy and just like grass and bushes and trees that haven’t had any rain in 39 days.  
I know it will rain again and we can be without a single doubt that God has not forgotten us or forsaken us; we can be sure that God is still with us even when we feel like the spiritual side of our life has all dried up.  Have faith and know that God will continue to be there and will continue to work on returning our feelings of the Spirit’s presence and when we least expect it the knowledge of God’s presence will return.  You can be more sure of that than anything else in your life - even in the dark days, God is there - just like I know it will rain one day and I bet you that it will rain for several days and we will be saying:  “Geeze I’m tired of this rain!”
Amen!

Devotion Sept 4, 2019

Greetings!
This is a nature story.  Nature isn’t always a pretty thing.  Most of nature is gorgeous, but there are parts of nature that are down right disturbing.  Considering animals that need to eat and their source of food is other animals - often cute ones and you cringe a little inside when you think about it but in your head you know that is how things have to be.  Reminds you of that song from the Lion King - The Circle of Life.
But just because we know that circle of life is the reality of the world doesn’t make it any easier when we think about the cute little animals and the need for animals to survive….
Well, that was a gloomy beginning but this story turns out much better.  Sometimes I wonder why I begin ruminating on something that is either totally unrelated to what I think I am going to write or sort of related but not really what I was going to say.  That Holy Spirit is a strange inspirer…..
Anyway the story I was going to tell had to do with a Robin.  Now I don’t know that Robins fall into the cute animal category.  They are rather interesting looking with their orange bellies and they are nifty to watch as they hop around on the ground grabbing up their worms to eat.  Just watching Robins, or other birds for that reason, makes you think about God and how well designed things are to do what they need to do.  Especially animals and birds and nature in general.  
Back from the ruminating and on with the story……. This Robin I was watching was in the throws of trying to build a nest.  Now here is another fascinating feat of nature.  How do these birds with only a beak and wings and hoppy little legs manage to build such a sturdy, functional nest with only pieces of twigs and such they find on the ground.  Sort of makes me feel ashamed when I can’t put something together with arms and legs and opposable thumbs and supposedly superior intelligence…..
While I sat and watched the Robin - you know of course I was supposed to be doing actual work that needed to be done but was instead sitting on the porch watching this Robin as it gathered nest building materials……
This industrious Robin would hop around on the ground, find something it liked, pick it up with its beak, fly away to wherever this nest was being built and in a very few minutes would be right back to find the next piece of its building component
Well, this Robin found what I guess it felt was the most perfect building block of his nest building and tried to pick it up, but the end was stuck under a rock.  Well, that Robin must have felt this was a most essential piece of his nest because he tugged and pulled, and pulled and tugged, and tugged and pulled…. flew away for a few minutes and came back and began the process once again - tugging for all it was worth to get this one twig I guess he felt was essential for his nest.
Here is where the circle of life ruminating comes in - While this Robin was so preoccupied with getting this one particular stick - of which in my human mind thought there were plenty more around -  our cat spied the industrious Robin insistent on this one particular element of nest construction.  So while the Robin is completely focused on releasing the twig, the cat begins that cat stealth walk when cats are sneaking up on something.  The Robin was oblivious to the impending danger…..
When I became the Robin saving super hero (wish I had had a mask and a cape but there wasn’t time) and ran down off the porch, shooed away the cat, the Robin realized its present danger and flew away.  Whew!  Superhero work is hard.  The Robin must have realized the futility of this stick because I didn’t see it return - but I released the twig from the rock anyway just in case Mr Robin felt the need to come back for this particular item. - more superhero work!
Sometimes we get ourselves so caught up in things that we begin to neglect what is good for us.  Life gets in the way and our focus shifts from the ways of God to whatever else that is out there that is captivating our attention.  But what we need to learn is that God will reach out and try to snatch us back to the life that is best for us and best for the work God has given us and it may be far removed from what we thought was important….
Setting  priorities can be difficult.  There are cats and twigs under rocks and activities and responsibilities and people and all manner of distractions that will always vie for our focus.  Sometimes we just need to step back and look at where we are and where we are going and what we are spending our time doing…. And then let God guide us to where we truly need to be.
Amen!

Devotion August 21, 2019

Greetings!
I have always had a fascination with alligators.  I just think they are nifty looking and a very mysterious.  The sainted husband who sometimes has this quirky sense of humor wants to get a blow up alligator and put it on the edge of our pond, in the weeds, for people to see and ponder….. Is there really an alligator there?
We haven’t done that but for years I really wanted to see a real live alligator.  Once we went to my son’s house in Mississippi and we drove around and I saw some swamp areas and was really hoping to see an alligator but didn’t and I was quite disappointed.  I did notice they actually had signs up places for ‘Alligator Tours’ but there wasn’t time for that and no one else seemed to be particularly interested in looking for alligators.
So my desire to see an alligator traveled with me through the years as I kept thinking how neat it would be to see an alligator.  Even though I read these reports about people and animals getting snatched by alligators as they walked along paths I was sure that would never happen to me and if I did get to see an alligator I would respectfully stay far enough away from said alligator that I probably wouldn’t be snatched.  
In fact there were family members who would shake their heads at me whenever an alligator would come on TV or there would be some other alligator reference somewhere because they would know that whenever the alligator image appeared they would hear me say - ‘Boy, some day I would like to see an alligator’.  Eye rolls would accompany the shaking of heads and I am really surprised they didn’t take up a collection to send me somewhere to see an alligator and I imagine at that very moment they wouldn’t be disappointed if I was snatched by that alligator - at least they wouldn’t have to listen to me say repeatedly that I wanted to see an alligator.
Then it happened!!  And I am here to tell the tale but I wasn’t very smart and I figure there were angel protectors around me because I didn't think the alligator seeiing through very well!
The sainted husband and I took a couple days to go to the beach - and there came hurricane warnings as soon as we checked into our hotel on the beach so we weren’t allowed on the beach.  We, of course, needed to find alternate means of entertainment because the sainted husband didn’t like the idea of just sitting on the balcony reading all day which sounded perfectly fine to me! So he spent some time googling all the ‘other than the beach’ activities in the area and found some civil war site and that became our entertainment option for the day.  It was my turn to roll my eyes but I went anyway.
On the way to the Civil War site we passed a bog with a body of water and bullrushes and cat tails and such and a sign that said, “Beware of the Alligators” and I insisted we stop on the side of the road by the sign because I was sure there were alligators hanging out by the sign or they wouldn’t have put the sign there.  Maybe my time had finally come and I was going to get to see my alligator!
And I wasn’t disappointed! There, literally right below the “Beware of the Alligators” sign was an alligator.  Now all you could see was the top of his head - you know alligators and how they lurk in the water and all you see are these two eyes above the water as it waits to capture its prey - That is what makes alligators fascinating; that mysterious almost underwater reptile patiently waiting for just the right moment…
So in my excitement I jump out of the car and run towards the bog and the waiting alligator, the sainted husband yells “Get back in the car”, I realize he is right that this lying in wait gator could at any moment have decided that I looked like a nice juicy meal and from the nature shows on TV I know they can jump out of that water in a flash and so I got back in the car and the gator must have been well fed because it raised up his head to prove to me he really was a gator and that I was pretty dumb and pretty lucky… but I finally got to see a gator and now no one has to listen to me say, “I want to see an alligator” and I am sure they are glad about that!
My insistent saying of “I want to see an alligator” reminds me of God’s call to each of us to be a witness to the love and grace of Jesus Christ.  Jesus told us to go and tell people what he has taught us, but I think there are ways to do that where people actually listen and ways to do that which cause people to roll their eyes and shake their heads and actually avoid us….
The best way to show our faith and trust in Jesus Christ is not by exasperating people with our constant banter, but to live our lives in the manner Jesus modeled for us.  People notice - we don’t have to point it out or draw attention to it or remind people, “Look at me, I’m living as Jesus told me to”.  People notice.
Of course we have the opportunity to say something when people ask us and we should, but like my alligator weary family, if we drone on and on about how they ‘need Jesus’ they just tune it out or avoid us and that certainly doesn’t help in our desire for others to live in the joy and peace of a life lived for Jesus.  
You know my family got to the point they were switching the channel quickly on the TV whenever the hint of an alligator would appear, so don't live a life where people tune you out because you keep prattling on but live a life of love and commitment and know that through the work of God and the Holy Spirit people will come to know Jesus through you - and you won’t have to say a word!
Amen!

Devotion 8/14/19

Greetings All!
I have one important responsibility at our new farm - well, actually I have more than one responsibility but one important job that I need to keep on top of because it is a job I can do and one I actually enjoy - and also a responsibility that the sainted husband does not like to do so it all works out well for the two of us - I enjoy it, he doesn’t and so the job became mine and that works out well! 
When we go to the farm every couple of weeks we immediately go into our house, change into our working on the farm clothes (I put on my working on the farm armor because of previous instances of being allergic to something and I’m still a little paranoid….).  Once we put on our working on the farm outfits we head out for our respective jobs - the sainted husband begins to mow and I have the honor and privilege of string trimming - first and foremost is the dog pound and second is the growth around the air conditioner - the sainted husband use to work in the air conditioner business and is extremely sensitive to growth around the air conditioner so that has to be a priority in my string trimming responsibilities……
I then have other areas which are next on the list and I know my routine very well.
When we first bought the farm one of the first purchases was the string trimmer.  We went to the store and went to the string trimmer sales area and I tried each string trimmer for my being able to hold it and use it.  
I am not the strongest person so the priority for the string trimmer was not only the ability of the trimmer to trim, but whether or not I could hold it and actually do the work.  
We decided on one of those string trimmers that had the rechargeable battery because I was a little leery of one where I had to  drag a cord around because I was convinced there would be the moment where I would cut the cord in half or some such equally devastating accident…
With the battery powered string trimmer in hand, we headed to the check out and I proudly brought my very own string trimmer to the farm!  
It was a little disappointing that I had to charge the battery before I could begin my job but once we were all charged up and did my first round of string trimming and I admit I really enjoyed it.  There is something therapeutic about chopping down all those plants and cleaning out an area.  I admit I over did it a bit and for the rest of the evening my arms continued to vibrate long after I had ended my task….
So the routine continues - go to the farm, change clothes, grab the string trimmer and off I go to my removing growing plants in undesirable areas responsibility!  
A couple of days ago we went to the farm, the sainted husband jumped on his tractor to mow and I went and retrieved the string trimmer and went to put the battery on it…. and I had forgotten to charge my battery the last time I used the machine.  Sad frowny face…..Not only did I not get to fulfill my responsibilities, but I enjoy this string trimming work and I was deprived of that at well!
Our life in the church requires us to be ‘charged up’ as well.  The work God asks us to do can be hard and time consuming and difficult.  We may really enjoy his work, but unless we have spent time with God - in prayer, in reading his word, in community with others of God’s family - we can’t do the work the God would like us to do; we can’t enjoy being able to do what God has called us to do; we get fatigued and disillusioned and overwhelmed and ineffective.
If we truly want to do what God wants us to do, it is essential to spend the time to ‘charge up’.  It is not a step we can skip.  
So plug yourself in - pray, read God’s word, spend your time in relationship with God’s people - and you will be ready and able to do what God has called you to do!!
                                                         
 Joanne!

July 10, 2019

Greetings!
The sainted husband and I were on one of our many road trips when I thought about the days when road trips were quite the rarity.  Seems like now we are always going somewhere - however this wasn’t always the case! 
In his former life my husband worked in a job where he traveled all the time.  He had a company car and would climb into his vehicle first thing in the morning, go into the local office, get a list of the repair jobs he needed to accomplish that day and then off he would go on his appointed rounds.
These appointed rounds comprised half of the state of WV.  Interestingly enough when he first started this job he had the entire southern half of WV (and later was 'promoted' to the entire northern half of WV!)  This particular part of the state was full of challenges since this was an area that was just one mountain after another.  Up one mountain over 2 lane curvy roads, competing with large coal trucks that didn't understand curves or speed limits,  and down the other side of the mountain where in the valley would be a town of some sort - some very small and some small - that was pretty much it.  
All of these towns were laid out in valleys where you would have mountain sides on each side of town (all four sides…..), a row of businesses/houses whose back butted up against a mountain on one side of a road, a railroad track on the other side of the road and a creek beside the railroad track and then another mountain.  The businesses were slim pickens' as they usually consisted of a store of some type which carried a little bit of everything, a church, maybe a restaurant/diner, perhaps a lawyer and/or a doctor. The people who lived in these small WV towns were really nice people and liked this simple existence. 
The one building these towns  had in common was a bank and that is where the sainted husband would do his repair work on machinery that no longer exists because technology has quickly surpassed the old machines banks use to use!  No longer are microfilmers and the old style copiers something that is part of the responsibility of a bank employee.  
But not in those days - every bank had its microfilmer and someone had the job of standing by the microfilmer and scanning each check by hand in order for the bank to have records of all the checks that came through the bank. The microfilmers were hooked to copiers which would be used when a check needed a paper copy.  Sounds quite archaic doesn’t it as we think now about the teller who just runs the check through that little machine sitting on their desk and it is done!  But when these machines broke, the sainted husband was right there!
Now each of these small towns were pretty spread out and often it would take half a day to travel to one of the towns even though the mileage didn’t seem to be that far.  But when all your mileage is up a curvy side of a mountain behind a coal truck and down another curvy side of a mountain behind another coal truck time is much more the factor than mileage.  In fact one time a new supervisor took over and couldn’t figure out why the service men in southern WV were taking so long to do their jobs…  until he came down and did a ride along and quickly figured it out!
Even though practically the sainted husband could have stayed out overnight occasionally on these forays to these small towns literally isolated from much else which would have made the trips each day a little less driving, motels were rare and the few that were around had the appearance of No-Tell Motels or reminiscent of the Bates Motel (remember Psycho!) so spending the night out wasn’t often an option.  Occasionally he would find a nice one and would stay out in order to decrease some of the driving but that was pretty rare.
Needless to say his 1000 mile a month driving job resulted in our doing little driving fun places as a family on weekends.  Even if I was willing to drive, the thought for him of getting into a car and going somewhere just wasn’t that alluring!  “A bus driver’s holiday” he would call it when we suggested that we drove somewhere over the weekend…… 
God often calls us to do the very things for the church and for the mission of the church and for the work of Jesus Christ that we do all the time; that we do for our jobs.  How often does the church call on us to take on a task and our reaction is - “but I do that all week, can’t I do something else?”  
But think about it - if God gifted you with certain skills that you use for your employment - for the support of yourself and your family - wouldn’t it make sense to understand God wants you to use those same skills for the betterment of the church, for the work God has the church to do?  You do it for yourself and your family - now, God says,  do it for me….
Makes sense doesn’t it?
Amen!