Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Deovtion Feb 20, 2019

Greetings!
When I heard that the church conference my daughter and I go to every year was going to be in Galveston, Texas, several thoughts went through my head.  I didn’t know where in Texas Galveston was located and the only real thing I knew about Galvaston was through the song sung by Glen Campbell - which has periodically been running through my head since I found about the location of this conference way a long time ago…..
Because we live in the ‘information’ age it was pretty easy to google Galvaston and learn everything I could.  I’m pretty geographically challenged so I still had kind of a hard time figuring out exactly where it was in relationship to the rest of Texas and the United States and I still have difficulty wrapping my head around the size of the state of Texas especially since I came from a fairly small state!  
But the big thing I learned is that Galvaston was on the Gulf of Mexico and there was a beach in front of the hotels and the conference center where our meeting was going to be.  Beach!  That is pretty much all you had to say - Beach!!  I figured even with all the meetings and classes and such there would still be time to watch the waves roll into the beach and relax within that great atmosphere!  I was excited!  To the beach I was going!  Whatever else there was pretty much immaterial.
Our plane landed in the late afternoon and we started our hour long drive from Houston to Galveston when it started getting rather rainy and foggy…. rather foggy might have been a bit of an understatement…. it was getting very foggy.  My wonderful driving daughter did an excellent job of navigating through the dark and rain and fog to eventually find the hotel we were staying in.  (We were amazed when we left Galveston at the end of the week at the bridges and such we had driven over and never even noticed because it was that foggy…..)
We did manage to find the entrance to the hotel which was more of a challenge than it should have been but because of the extreme nature of this fog we literally couldn’t see much of anything.  Thank goodness for extremely bright lights in front of hotels!  We checked in and in doing so said something about the fog and the hotel clerk kind of sighed and said, “Yes,  this is sea fog.  We get it this time of year almost every year.  It is pretty nasty”  “How long is it supposed to last?” I asked.  “Oh” she answered “Anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks”.  
I didn’t ask more questions (maybe because I was afraid of the answer and I really didn't want to hear we were going to be fogged in the entire week we where there)  but I wasn't totally dismayed because I kind of assumed it would be the fog like I am use to - the fog where it is heavy in the morning and then as the day progresses eventually lifts and all is well.  But no, this was not that kind of fog - sea fog - who had ever heard of that?
Sea fog, it turns out, does not lift as the day progresses.  We got up the next morning and opened  the curtain to look out at the scenery of Galveston and at the beach…… And all we saw was this curtain of gray.  Really?  So I went out on the balcony and I literally had a hard to seeing the chairs on the balcony much less anything outside of the balcony rail.  I admit - it was a little disconcerting.
I was in a bit of mourning because I had looked so forward to looking at the beach and the waves and the sea beyond… and all that was visible was gray fog - heavy, wet, no light piercing, fog.  I knew the beach and the waves and sea was there, just right across the way….. but it was not to be seen - at all. 
God is there.  God is always there.  God is always right with us.  But so many times we get fogged in with all the problems and issues and stress and difficulties around us and we can’t figure out where he is.  We can’t see him, we can’t feel him, all we see is the fog of the problems that are weighing us down.
Remember - you don’t need to see God to know he is there.  We live in the promise of a God who knows every hair on our head, knows everything that we are going through, and even knows that the fog will lift and he will help us then see clearly.
Don’t get so caught up in the fog that you forget that even if you can’t see what is right in front of you, God is there.  
Amen!

Devotion February 13, 2019

Greetings!
Every year my daughter and I go on a trip together to a church education conference.  It is a pretty nifty thing since every year we get to go to a different part of the country - a new place, a new city.  We’ve been to San Francisco and Denver and Orlando and Albuquerque and a bunch of other places.  We usually compound the adventure by renting a car and so we can get out and see the sights in these new places since we are pretty sure that we will never be back to most of them.  In fact except for Louisville and Baltimore they have all been in places we had never even thought of going before.
One year the conference was in Grand Rapids which was one of those, ‘what is in Grand Rapids’ kind of questions cause we had all heard of Grand Rapids but didn’t really know anything that was there but that turned out to be one of the more enjoyable conferences!  Considering the location of Grand Rapids and the fact we were going the last of January we had envisioned cold temperatures and snow - and it turned out to be rather warm and quite conducive to walking around outside, we even got to ride this beautiful indoor carousel - you can never tell what is going to happen or what the weather is going to hold!
Twice in recent memory our conferences have be beset by snow - the year we were in Nashville and on the last day of the conference there was a blizzard and many of us were snowed in an extra day and because it was a blizzard you really couldn't go out an do much - and then there was the year in Albuquerque where it was the coldest temps and the most snow they had had in umpteen years to the point where it was the first time the schools had been closed for snow and we received notes under the door of our hotel that said they didn’t have enough natural gas for this weather and they were going to have to lower the temperature in the hotel.  Brrrrrrrrrrrr.  
This year our conference was in Galveston. Never been to Texas before so that was pretty exciting. Every time I told someone where I was going the Glen Campbell song ‘Galveston’ came into my head and in fact it still does.  The draw for Galveston was that it is on the beach!  Waves and sand - but it is the first of February so we figured there wasn’t going to be a lot of sun bathing or wave riding!  And there wasn’t because the fog was so dense you actually did not know if there was a sandy beach or waves crashing into the shore because we literally could not see past the railing on our balcony of our hotel and the temperatures plummeted.  Most of us were ill prepared for the frigid 30 some degree weather and the 5 minute walk to the conference center was quite the journey as you kept your head down against the wind and your arms wrapped around your inadequately dressed self!
This traveling to these conferences at the end of January have become quite the conversation concerning - what is the weather going to be like this year?  Especially since our experience has been that whatever the typical weather is in these locations - we are going to experience something out of the ordinary.  We go to Little Rock next year and I wonder if we should warn them we are coming and there is going to be some type of bizarre shift in the weather when we are there....... 
But even with the bizarre weather and the difficult circumstances the conference still continues to go on and we continue to enjoy our time of seeing people we only see once a year and of learning and of worship and of being able to learn about new places and of exploring a little…..
And so it is with God.  Regardless of the circumstances around us we can always count on God coming through and helping us when our lives take unexpected twists or turns, or things don’t turn out the way we think, or we have to venture out towards an unknown exploration.  Such a gift to know we have a God who is always, always, always there with us.
Amen!

Devotion January 30, 2019

Greetings!
We went to the beach a few weeks ago.  It was January and the weather was rather chilly, but it was still the beach so that is all that matters.  It truly isn’t significant as to what the temperature, the beach is still the beach and and the ocean is still the ocean and regardless of anything else the the waves always come to the shore and break and the water rolls back out again.  Continually. Regardless of any other factors.  There is a consistency there that I believe is part of the attraction of being at the beach.  
Of course the level of the waves or whether they are smooth or rough does change.  The tide is higher or lower depending on the time of day.  If it is stormy the waves are higher and crash more roughly onto the sand; when it is calm the waves kind of gently flow to the beach and flow back out to sea again….
But always the waves, coming in and going out and the sound of that and the visual of that make such a soothing regularity which produces the feeling of calm.  Maybe that is why I like the beach so much, because there is just this calm that is created when back in your real life all is swirling and chaotic….
And while I am feeling that calm, relaxing feeling I love to people watch at the beach. I have always had such a moral dilemma with that.  Is it really fair to all those people I have watching to have someone watching them when they don’t even realize it?  Am I in some way invading their life by sitting on my balcony and just watching as they run down the beach, or play with the ball or walk their children?  Is it a problem to smile when I hear the laughter and the squeals as people get into the water - and in January it is mostly squeals because I think people think ‘beach’ and think ‘warm’ even when it is January until they commit to running into the breaking waves and realize that warm and January are not necessarily synonymous! 
Watching the people as they wander down the beach, or ride their bicycles on the board walk; as they throw footballs or kick their soccer ball or fly their kites; as they walk arm in arm or hand in hand or just beside one another lost in conversation; or walk while talking on their cell phones or looking at their cell phones; as they walk their dogs on a leash or trust their dogs leashless to walk beside them.  
It just seems that everything about the beach is peaceful - the constant waves, the relaxed people meandering along the edge of the water, or through the softer sand or up on the boardwalk, the laughter and even the shorebirds gliding on the air currents who don’t seem to even have to put much effort into their flight.
That feeling of peace; of being relaxed; of contentment; of calm is the same feeling our God keeps reminding us is possible if we just let ourselves fall into his arms.  Especially as we read the Psalms there is that prevailing concept of the consistency and the assurance of God’s presence in our lives.  
Just like we leave the chaos of the world behind when we travel to the beach, we can leave the uncertainty of our lives behind when we allow ourselves to fall into the arms of a God  who wants nothing more for us than the constant calm of his believing in his care.
Its hard sometimes because our problems seem so pervasive, but there is no better promise than the one we are constantly reminded of through the knowledge of the one who created us.  The one who wants so badly to be our one true God; who offers us peace no matter what else seems to be happening.
Just lean on him; allow God to hold you; believe in the promise of a God who will hold you and fill you with his relaxing presence.
Amen!

Devotion January 23, 2019

Greetings All!
Went on a trip today. Long trip. Foggy trip. I started not to go because the weather forecast looked rather bleak. Icy, rainy and foggy. No fun to drive.
And the forecast regarding the weather turned out to be pretty accurate.
Started out the journey by taking a load of items to the car where I had to break some ice off the handle of the door and I thought to myself ‘this was an ominous sign’ but I knew I needed to go and I looked around and saw cars driving as normal down the road in front of my house and figured that if they could go so easily down the street then my driving should be OK - that is after I scraped off the ice from the car and made sure the wipers were unlodged cause there was a mist of rain falling and I was pretty sure that during this trip I was going to have to avail myself of the windshield wipers as I began my trek.
Car loaded, deep breath taken as I climbed into the car and headed down the road. Most of the driving is interstate driving so I figured that enough traffic had motored down the road to have cleared the pavement from any remaining frozen patches. And it all started out pretty well….
Turns out what I had to worry about was not the ice crystals that possible were adorning the road that impeded my progress, but trucks.
I do not know why on a random Wednesday morning there seemed to be a convoy (remember that Convoy song from 1975 - that just popped into my head and I am sure will remain there the rest of the day!) of large trucks - but there was. Not just 18 wheelers but log trucks and dump trucks and lowboys (I use to be a job counselor for a while and I learned all those ‘trucky’ words). You name the truck and for whatever reason it was on the road this icy, misty, foggy Wednesday morning. These trucks were not the least bit interested in sharing the road with anyone. Every time a hill loomed ahead where in my mind I thought I can get around this truck, another truck would pull into the passing lane and then there were two slow moving trucks blocking both lanes so I wasn’t going anywhere other than behind the truck!
I even came to the place where there are three lanes and trucks aren’t suppose to travel in the far left lane so they don’t clog up the road and some truck driver who obviously felt the rules were written for everyone else decided defiantly to add his truck to the third lane and now there were 3 large trucks blocking passage…..
Did you ever feel like something was blocking your way forward as you continue down the path of your life? Ever look up and ask God why there were so many roadblocks in front of you…. maybe even ask God to move those roadblocks away so you can continue on with your journey in the direction you wanted to go at the speed you think you need to go?
Well the moral of the truck story is that even though I may not have gone at the speed I wanted I still ended up at my destination.
And even though the journey of our life doesn’t go at the speed we would like, we can be assured God is right there with us and we are going at the speed God knows is best for our life and best for what he knows we need to do and learn.
Don’t get frustrated if things aren’t going how you want. Don’t worry if things aren’t working out how you want or when you want but have faith that you are going exactly how God knows is best.

Amen!!

DEVOTION JANUARY 16, 2018

Greetings!
Went to the beach over the holidays.  My husband lived at the beach for several years and for a while this became a tradition.  The kids and I still lived in WV and the husband would travel back and forth every couple weekends to visit but when holidays came I would pack up the kids and we would drive to see him at the beach....It was thoroughly enjoyable and exciting to know that whenever a school break came up we could go to the beach!
The ‘poor thing’ (my husband) lived in an efficiency hotel room with a balcony overlooking the beach where he would sit in the evenings, watching the waves and hearing the ocean sounds and all those wonderful moments associated with being at the beach. I called him 'the poor thing' because he occasionally would call me having the audacity to say something like "I'm siting on the balcony watching the waves' and would whine -  while I was at home with three teenagers and a foot of snow on the ground…. Well you can guess how that whining went over!
Anyway, when holidays came the kids and I packed up the car and motored off to the beach to stay with the husband for as long as we could!  Of course one of these holidays at the beach included the time between Christmas and New Years - so there were many years of New Years Eves at the beach.  It was wonderful.
After the husband found employment closer to home, we continued the tradition of New Years Eve week at the beach but as the kids got older and life got a little more complicated that particular tradition unfortunately went the way of the preverbal dinosaur.  
Oh, we have been to the beach some since then but generally to different beaches closer to where we now live and it was never quite the same.  This year, the husband and I decided that it would work out and we could go to ‘our’ beach once again. Amazingly enough when we got there it was like we had never left.  Pretty much everything looked the same, felt the same.  Even though it had been many years, many years, since we had been there, we remembered where everything was; we drove around like natives! We visited places we had been, even going to the Harris Teeter where we did most of our grocery shopping when the husband lived there.  (OK, that may have been a little strange but even the store was the same!)
And we did a lot of that, driving around drinking in the familiar places where we had fond memories.  We did a lot of beach walking as well, altho we are older now and there was more boardwalk along the beach walking than actual on the beach walking!  However it was on the beach itself where most of the changes had taken place.  
On the beach were now many things that hadn’t been there before.  To my amazement there was an actual horse corral filled with horses and for most of my family fortune I could ‘rent’ a horse to ride up and down the beach.  Even more to my amazement they were doing a lot of business…..
More my speed the beach was dotted with playgrounds for different age kids.  Playgrounds for the wee ones and playgrounds for the little older children and even a playground for the older teen crowd.  But other than that it was the same ole beach we knew....
The exciting thing for us was to find our old favorite Irish Pub and entering it and finding out it had not changed one bit.  We were seated right by the fire place where we could enjoy that ambiance with a good vantage point to remember a lot of moments in our history that had happened in this place.  The food was still delicious and it was such a great evening the first night we went we ended up going back another night of our vacation!
This beach week was  a great visit filled with the nostalgia of the familiar; filled with the warm feelings of remembering years past when we visited; memories of my husband who reminisced about people he worked with and places he went.
Made me think of church.  For me church is that place where I go to get that same feeling of warmth and familiar and the knowledge that no matter where I am, the sanctuary is just that - a sanctuary where I can feel at home; where I know what to expect; where I am served a good ‘meal’ in the bread and wine;  And yes, sometimes there is a new element, but that only adds to the knowledge that God sometimes likes to help us see the benefit of the new and the fresh. 
Haven’t been to a church in a while - come back and visit.  Just sit in the sanctuary and breath in the familiar; let the knowledge of God’s presence wash over you and give you a moment of peace.  Let what is the same as you remember give you a feeling of comfort and security; and let the new give you the understanding of a God who comes to us in ever reinvigorated ways to open our eyes and our hearts.
Coming to church just might be like a vacation that renews and regenerates you to spend time in a place where not only you know you should be, but a place where you feel at home. 
Amen!