Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

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!

DEVOTION June 26, 2019

Greetings!
The sainted husband bought a new car….. First real new car we have had - I can only think of one other really new car we have had over the last 40 some years and that car was a necessity because we needed a car whee there was plenty of room between the back seat and the back of the front seat!  We had two children (I wish we could say we had two children in car seats but when my two oldest children were babes and toddlers car seats were a luxury item that few people had.  Those of you who had little children during these years probably can relate to the ‘unsafe’ ways in which we ferried little ones around!)
Anyway, we had a small compact car - a Chevy Nova (not the big muscle car version of the Chevy Nova but the later model which had turned into a small, very small, family type car).  We did have a friend with the fast moving sporty Chevy Nova but while that would have been nice that just didn’t seem practical with two small ones…..
But it is true that small ones grow and we didn’t quite take that into consideration when we decided to take a family vacation and travel the journey from WV to Colorado to visit the sainted husband’s brother and his wife and of course to see the sights along the way  in the small little Chevy Nova. However, the sainted husband took off the halo during this trip because he went into ‘gotta get there’ mode and the sight seeing trip became a few and far between sight seeing trip.
We thought we were well prepared for a trip of that magnitude with two toddlers. We had snacks and books and (remember this was a whole bunch of years ago before tablets and internet and movie screens in the cars) I thought I had scored big time when I found a package which had a cassette player, books, headphones and an audio recording of those books on a cassette tape.  Bam!  A way to keep two toddlers occupied as we zoomed across the country….
And yes, for a good majority of the trip the cassette player/cassette tape/book/headphones entertainment system worked very well. Of course there were the few squabbles about who would liste to which book at what time and the inevitable "She's touching me" moments but not bad considering..... But what we did underestimate was the size of the car and the amount of space between the back of the front seat and the feet of the toddlers.  Now toddlers aren’t very big and we had two pretty small children size wise  and you would think there would be enough room for two tiny toddlers to sit on the back seat and not disturb the parents in the front seats…..
My husband has really long legs - I on the other hand have pretty short legs so we very carefully positioned the children so the one with the longest legs - the elder, the son - would sit behind the short legged me and the younger, the daughter - would sit behind the long legged husband.  We thought we had the thumbs up for smart parenting - right positions in the car, snacks, entertainment…..
But we did not take into account wiggly children in the small car….. entertained children will sit still won’t they?  Ha! you say - parent fail.  Even entertained children wiggle and entertained children strapped into seatbelts (yes even in the stone ages without car seats we did have seat belts!) only have certain parts of their bodies that can move freely - legs and feet.  So the entertained children spent most of the trip very well absorbed into their cassette player/cassette tape/book/headphones entertainment system - and kicking their legs.
Which meant that in this small car the kicking legs and feet connected on the back of the seats of the parents in the front seat over and over and over and over...... We took their shoes off… we stopped the car once and had a discussion….  And it wasn’t long until the “Quick kicking the seats!” became a futile endeavor - admittedly I gave up long before the haloless sainted husband but eventually it did happen and he drove a lot leaving forward so his back wasn’t against the pummeled car seat!  

It was a long trip in more ways than one.
How many times has God tried to get you to listen?  How many times has God tried to lead you to ways that are more productive in your life?  How many times has God stopped the car and had a ‘discussion’ with you?  
How many times have you paid attention to God’s message to you?  Or are we just like children with headphones absorbed in something else and disinterested in what is going on around us; disinterested in what God is trying to tell us?  Figuring we can just keep on doing whatever it is that God knows is not good for us, or good for those around us, or that we need to do for God or for ourselves or those around us….
Being a follower of God doesn’t mean we can just go along our merry way and do whatever we want…. being a follower of God brings with it responsibility and God’s call to us to pay attention to the one who created us, to the one who loves us, to the one who knows what is best, to the one who chose us to help do the work needed to be done. We can only do that work if we listen..
So quit kicking the back of the car seat and listen to the word of your God for you!
Amen!