Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion for August 31, 2016

Greetings!

Because I am a proud mother I have to routinely mention that my daughter was on the TV show Jeopardy!  And even more exciting was the fact that she allowed me to go with her and her husband as they jetted out to California to be on the show.  (While I can’t say anything about what happened on the show, be sure to watch Sept 13!)  See, that proud momma thing can get a little irritating for other people, but that is what us proud momma’s do!
Our family has watched Jeopardy together for as long as I can remember. In fact, I remember summers when I was in Junior High and High School when Jeopardy was on at noon - Art Fleming was the host then (I can’t remember things like why I am in a room or where my keys are but I can remember 50 years ago that Art Fleming was the host of Jeopardy - that strange phenomenon of getting older!).  My Dad would come home for lunch and we would watch Jeopardy together while he ate.  
So it is a pretty long standing tradition that our family watches that particular show!
For those of you who may not be familiar with the TV show - Jeopardy is a quiz show.  There are 2 rounds of 5 categories - and each category has 5 questions.  Then at the end of the show there is ‘Final Jeopardy’ where the contestant bets whatever part of what money they have on one question.  The one who ends up with the most money wins!  The show is known for having questions that range from being fairly obvious to ridiculously difficult!
Back before the days of being able to record (or now-a-days DVR) shows that you were unable to watch, our family actually planned our evenings around gathering in front of the television and watching Jeopardy.  
It was a family ritual that was seldom broken - and we were pretty competitive with one another.  There were even a few times when we actually tried to keep score but that became way too complicated.  However, it was pretty obvious who the champions of the family game would be each night.  My son and oldest daughter were most often the contenders who came out ahead - but there were those nights where the rest of us shone pretty brightly.
And every night us losers would say - ‘it all depends upon the categories’ as we admitted defeat to the other family member - usually my older daughter or son.  However the nights that one of the three of the rest of us comes out ahead it is really hard to be in the same house with us until the next airing of the show …….
But back to being the proud momma - so my oldest daughter is able to pass through the many steps it takes to make it to the actual TV show.  And there I sat with her husband in the audience watching my daughter compete - and to fulfill a life long dream for her.
As awesome as that experience was and as proud as I was of her in that moment, I am also just as proud of her in her regular life of being an excellent mother and wife and pastor 0  as I am proud of all my other children.  A son who has turned out to be a wonderful pastor, husband and father; a daughter who is a great wife, and mother and has achieved excellence in her field.  
So don't ever think that God isn’t proud of who you are.  Don’t ever think “Well, I haven’t memorized 500 bible verses like Mary or had perfect attendance like Bill or been able to give as much as Lucy or served as an officer like Andy’ or whomever you may compare yourself to - God is proud of who you are; just as you are.  
After all God created you (Just as we created a family of Jeopardy addicts!); God made you just as you are; loud or quiet, bold or shy, reckless or careful, outgoing or timid, tall or short, big feet or small ones …. There isn’t one of those characteristics that is better than the other because they are all creations of God - and as that old cross stitch sampler said, “God made me and God don’t make no junk!”  
Don’t ever feel like you are not as good as someone else in the eyes of God.  God is proud of you just as you are.  
Yes you know you have made mistakes… you know you have not always done exactly what you know you should have done.
And the great thing about our God, is that he loves you and is proud of you anyway!


Amen! 

Devotion for August 24, 2016

Greetings!!

“Take me out to the ball game.  Take me out to the park.  Buy me some candy and cracker jacks….”  Many of you know that is the song sung at virtually every level of baseball game during what is known as the ‘seventh inning stretch’.  The ‘seventh inning stretch’ is actually exactly what it sounds like.  During the seventh inning of the ball game everyone is encouraged to stand up, move around and sing the familiar “Take me out to the ball game” song.  It is one of those traditions that is just fun for everyone! (And did you know it started because in the first years of baseball it was considered rude to get out of your seats during a game so it gave the crowd a chance to stand up!) 
If there is time many of the ball parks now follow the “Take me out to the ball game” song with the YMCA song as everyone sings and dances the song while creating the Y, the M, the C and the A in the air with their arms!  
There are lots of fun things that happen in a baseball park while the game is going on.  Each park usually has their own repertoire of entertaining events that occur between innings.  There are often games played by adults or children out on the field - my personal favorite is the one where two adults must put their heads on the end of a baseball bat with the other end of the bat on the ground.  The adults must spin around for a certain amount of time and then when time is called they have to stand up and run a race.  It is pretty hysterical as the now very dizzy adults stagger down the course……
Ball games also include various music riffs that are meant to stir up the crowd so they will cheer loudly for the home team.  We sing “We are the Champions” - the old Queen song along with another Queen song, “We will Rock You” which involves loud foot stomping which really seems to get people in the cheering mood.  
And no game would be complete without the trumpet da-da-da-da-da followed by the hand motion as ‘Charge!’ is yelled!!
But the other night my husband and I went to a game where we got to do none of the  extra fun activities at the ball park.  
Before we go to the game, my husband and I usually very judiciously check the weather forecast.  Not that we are wimpy and are afraid to get wet, but because we find nothing worse than standing around waiting for a game to resume after rain has arrived and the game goes into the ‘inevitable rain delay’ mode.  The ‘rain delay mode’ means that everyone in the stands at the ball park rushes to the few covered areas and huddles there for an indefinite period of time - sometimes minutes; sometimes hours.  Having previously experienced the standing around for hours for the game to resume - or for them to finally ‘call the game’ and send everyone home, which is especially hard to take after you have stood around waiting for hours for the game to begin again!  
So in order to avoid that experience, we usually  check the weather forecast and if there is a particularly good chance there will be a rain delay, we usually stay home from the ballpark and avoid that rainy unpleasantness!
However, sometimes we get it wrong.  Last week we thought we checked the weather but either we didn’t or we grossly misread the radar on our phone weather app because we weren’t at the game for 1 inning before the sprinkles came.  Of course the game continues with just sprinkles and it had been pretty hot so we figured we could tough that out.  
But sprinkles turned into rain which turned into a cats and dogs downpour.  We quickly joined the rest of the crowd who were packed under the one awning and the light bulb went off over my husbands head as he remembered the big umbrella we owned was in the car and in order not to have to be packed into the midst of the crowd he was willing to brave the elements and take off running to the car where he retrieved the large umbrella!
By the time he got back to the packed under the awning location, the rain began to slack off and only the sprinkles remained and the game resumed.  We went back to our seats, used our programs to dry the wet (and I was amazed at how absorbent the paper from our programs were as it dried those seats right up!)  We sat back down, the teams ran back out onto the field, they executed maybe 3 plays and the cats and dogs downpour arrived again.  
However, we had our umbrella and we popped it up and there we sat.  The rain poured down all around us and we figured that it wouldn’t be long till we were told the game was suspended and we were to go home….. But in the meantime we were dry and not in the huge crowd shoved shoulder to shoulder together under the awning!
The other factor in this rainy game was that it was Friday night; Friday night is fireworks night at the park.  The fireworks people obviously read or didn’t read the same weather forecast we did because all the fireworks had been put up and were ready to go….. And I learned that fireworks can even be put off in the midst of pouring rain because that is what they did.  Figuring the game was going to be called off and they couldn’t put the fireworks back up whoever makes such decisions decided to go ahead and deliver the fireworks show. 
Even though my husband and I were disappointed that the game was rained out, what a special time we had as we sat in the stands under our big umbrella watching the beautiful firework display.  It was pretty much just the two of us left to see the shooting sky colors, but being able to have this experience was, almost, worth the rainy night.  My husband and I together, under the big umbrella, almost alone in the stands, oohing and aahing over the beautiful sky show - it was great!
God often does this for us - creates unsuspected enjoyable moments in our lives.  Things in our life fall apart; things happen that ruin the plans we have had; things happen that cause us to have to stop in our tracks; life just isn’t going how we envisioned just like sitting in the pouring rain at a ball park.  
In the midst of our depression, our confusion, our devastation, God creates a special moment - something we never expected which gives us a temporary respite from the woes of our life.  God is full of surprises and he will always come through when we least expect it.  
Amen                                                                            
 

Devotion for August 17, 2016

Greetings!!

When my husband and I were first married we lived in an apartment on the East End of the city about a block up from the river.  On the other side of the river from our house was the local baseball park.  During the summer when it was baseball season, my husband and i would get off work, come home long enough to change clothes and then we would walk down our street, walk across the bridge (this was more of a journey than it sounds like - it was a pretty long bridge!), and then navigate the couple of blocks over to the park where for $3.00 each we would spend a great evening watching the ‘Charleston Charlie’s - a Triple A team for the Cincinnati Reds.  We went for years and over the time period we were able to see some great players who eventually made their way up to the major league and became pretty notable players.  
After the game, we would reverse the trip, and would walk the couple blocks to the long spanning bridge, which was very well lighted since it was way after dark when the games were over, and back to our apartment we would go.
Time passed, and we moved several times to different places and eventually made our way back to our baseball town.  By now we had kids but we again, took up the routine evening visits to the ball park.  It was a great time!  The park was small enough that all the kids who were there ran free, watching very little of the baseball game but having a fun filled evening running and laughing and just being a kid!  And my husband and I had a great evening of actually watching the players play baseball!
You know how traditions start at young ages and this ball game habit filtered down to our children.  Our children moved out on their own and my one daughter ended up in a town with, you guessed it, a local baseball team!  When my son moved to the town where he eventually graduated from college and then seminary, one of his priorities was season tickets to the baseball team - but he had made it to the big time because his baseball team was a winning major league team!  
I have three children so it would only make sense that the youngest daughter also followed in the family baseball footsteps.  The town to which she moved had, of course, a local ball team as well - she however even had a famous ball team since it was the subject of a very well know movie!! 
So what do you think our family did when it came time to have a family gathering to celebrate two of our granddaughter’s birthdays - I know of course you could answer this question since all I have talked about was going to baseball games…… 
It was a really great evening.  The family gathered, all 13 of us, at the ball park.  We had special tickets and because we had birthday girls with us the ballpark staff did some really fun things with the kids - they threw out the first pitch and yelled, “Play Ball!” and even had the opportunity to sit in the press box and announce the players for an inning.  
We actually did watch most of the baseball game and of course rooted for our team - we oohed and aaahed as there were good and bad plays; we stood up and sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Park” and danced to the YMCA song…. 
This baseball game custom of our family has been a great source of bonding and a great springboard for conversation whenever we get together….  And perhaps it is a little less controversial than the other family convention which is the church… a family of pastors and believers; of committed church attenders, steadfast in our faith -  but not always in agreement on the what and what-fors of what we believe - and while there have been evenings that have lasted into the wee hours as we tried to hash out our varied ideas about the practices of our wide-ranging ideas…. We have learned over the years that baseball is a much safer tradition to dwell on!
Most families have their own family traditions - those practices that happen every time the family gets together; common interests that have grown through time that have been a source of intergenerational bonding and always an easy conversation starter whenever the family came together.
So as we read holy scripture and come to ready the stories of the ‘family’ of God it stands to reason why God used the idea of family to tach us about relationships and of course traditions.  From the beginning most of the stories have to do with passing down the traditions of God from one generation to another - in fact for centuries that is how the understandings of God remained on the forefront of God’s people - knowing and following God was what the family of God did; the things of God were the family discussions from morning until evening; the stories of God were the subject of family talk….  
As surely as baseball in our family, God was the focus of these families throughout the stories we have been given in God’s Word…. 
And this tradition is what we should be doing as families today…. the things of God and the things of the church and the things of our faith should be the subject of our family talk.  Traditions of the church; traditions of our ‘other’ family - the family of God - the more important it is to us, the more important it will be to our children and their children and so on….  
And while baseball talk, or whatever is important to your family, is a lot of fun and should be a part of our family gatherings, the things of God should be just as important and just as popular in our gathering talk - for that is the talk of eternity…….

Amen                                                                            

Devvotion for August 10, 2016

Greetings!
My husband and I have always loved going to baseball games. There is nothing better than spending an evening sitting at the ball park, listening to the silly music on the loud speakers, eating popcorn and drinking a large drink; maybe having a hot dog or two…. yelling “Yes!” when there a player scores and “Boo!” when there is a bad call. There is standing and singing during the 7th inning stretch…… A great, relaxing evening to escape from the world and enjoying a game.
I always like getting to know the players and I get one of the programs every time I go and as each home team player goes up to bat I get out my book and look them up and glean what information I can about who they are and where they are from. Often times the book will include things like ‘What is your favorite TV show’ or ‘What is your favorite dessert’ for each of the players and so the guys on the team become even more ‘real’. Certainly makes the game a lot more interesting because when a fella comes up to bat you know a little more about who he is and so what he does during his ‘at bat’ means a lot more.
My husband and I go to the local team which is a single A ball team which means that these players are vying to get called up to the higher level teams on their journey to play in the ‘big leagues’. This certainly makes these lower tier games more interesting because you know that the players are aware there are people in the stands watching them as they search for players to fill in gaps in the teams which are in the upper levels in the baseball team hierarchy.
And I have to admit it is pretty mixed emotions when one of the players you have been getting to know and watching play all season gets ‘called up’ and leaves the team for better opportunities! You are happy for the player - but sad because you have learned to recognize him and root for him and expect him to be there as you hear the line up for the coming game.
Now I know none of these players are conscious of whom I am; none of these players look up to the seats my husband and I normally sit in and say - “Hey, they aren’t here tonight” but the players do seem to respond to the noise of the crowd - they hear the clapping and the ‘hootin’ and hollerin’ of the people who come. The players do understand the support of all those who come to the games to encourage them on and who come - regardless of their winning steaks or the periods of game losses.
I think of our relationship with God in much the same way as I think about baseball. God is a loyal fan of each one of us. God is a supporter of each one of us. God is always rooting us on - ‘hootin and hollerin’ for us as we do what we should do, and always there even when we don’t do what we should.
But there are two big differences…. One is that God does not sit in the stands and get to know us from afar and urging us on from the stands…. God is right there on the field right with us. As we play second base God is right with us, pointing out the ball and helping us position our glove in just the right place…. God helps us hold the bat and hit that ball. God knows every hair on our head and he certainly knows everything we need.
And the other big difference is that we don’t have to perform to a certain level to make it to the big leagues; we don’t have to worry about angels in the stands checking us out to see if we are worthy….. According to God, the one who created us and knows us and loves us; according to God we are already in the big leagues and we always will be!

Amen!

Joanne
If you are new to this weekly devotion, it began many years ago to give us a boost during the week to help us continue in our walk with God! Please feel free to share it with those you know!

Devotion for August 3, 2016

Greetings!

I’ve always enjoyed doing service activities that involved working alongside other people.  Over the span of my life (which amazes me when I think of the length of that span!), I have participated in a myriad of activities that involved doing work with a group of people, often times even when I didn’t even know many or any of the people I was working with!
But you know,  when a bunch of people get together with a specific objective in mind,  everyone gets into a rhythm and it doesn’t matter whether you know the people you are working with or not you all just do what needs to be done!  There is a goal and a way to get there and you just put your nose down and do it!
I admit that I am usually not one of those people who charge into these situations and grab a job, I am the person who likes someone to say to me “Do this” and sometimes even “Do this this way….”.  Once you  have given me directions, I am good to go!  I will stay at that responsibility until I am told to not do that responsibility any more or until the job has been thoroughly completed.  In fact I enjoy doing routine tasks over and over and over and over.  Must be why I often spend my evenings watching my favorite TV show and cutting out shapes for one kid project or another.......
Years ago my husband and I owned a silk screen company where we printed t-shirts and hats.  My favorite thing to do was to get a stack of t-shirts or hats and sit with my little press and stamp t-shirt after t-shirt after t-shirt after t-shirt…. Well, you get the picture!
An opportunity arose to work the concession stand at the local baseball field.  An activity that I really enjoy - a group of people, working together, shoving those hot dogs and hamburgers out the windows to the hungry fans; filling up the drinks and handing out french fries.  A thoroughly enjoyable evening which was also for a good cause.
I show up for my evening of concession stand concessioning and take my position asking boldly, “What do you want me to do….” and eventually as people began to find their stations and begin their work I found myself at the pretzel station.  I became the pretzel lady.  Perfect for me - one job, one responsibility and I could man my area all evening.  
After proper instruction of course - take out the pretzel, spray it with water, sprinkle some salt, wrap it up and the customer is ready to enjoy a delicious doughy, salty snack! - I began my duty with great dedication and enthusiasm!
The evening went great.  I perfected my craft, held my spot and happy customers abounded.  That is until the end of the evening when it was close to closing time.  There were 5 pretzels left hanging in their little warmer waiting to make someone a scrumptious treat.  And truth was if they were left they were going to be thrown away and who likes to waste food much less the revenue that would have been garnered had the pretzels been sold to that hungry ballgame watcher……
So as we began to close down the operations, anyone who came to the window to buy just about anything was offered a pretzel.  
“I would like to buy a Sprite?” and the reply was “Would you like a pretzel with that?”  “I would like an order of french fries.” followed by “Would you like a pretzel with that?” Pretzels were suggested to random people walking by…. “Want a pretzel?  They are delicious!”  
And lo and behold, we were able to sell the rest of those pretzels (except one which went home with me to my dog because my dog loves pretzels…..)  
You see what a little bit of enthusiastic suggestion can do!
So why is it so hard for us in the church to do the same thing in sharing the gospel?  Why is it so hard for us in the church to offer people something much better and much longer standing than a pretzel?  Why is it so hard for us to offer people Jesus as if he were the last pretzel and we needed to get it sold?  If we can get excited about offering people pretzels, then surely the greatest gift we can offer anyone is a relationship with Jesus Christ and that should get us very excited! 
So the next time your church is having a dinner, or a bible study or a special evening together; the next Sunday morning worship; whatever it may be.  Get excited!  Know the value of ‘selling’ this experience to those who are not hungry for pretzels, but hungry for something in their life that will give it meaning - give them meaning.  
OK - I want to hear it out there - when someone comes around you say, “Hey!  Want some Jesus?  It is the best thing around!”

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.