Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion December 14, 2016

Greetings all!

“Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean that someone isn’t after you.”  is one of those trite sayings that we’ve heard for years.  But, you know, just because a saying is trite doesn’t mean it isn’t true!  
I guess I got a little paranoid the other morning as I was driving to a meeting.  It was about 6:30 in the morning and I stopped to get gas.  As I got out of the car and started to pump my gas, the gas pump started talking to me and letting me know of all the many services that I could obtain at this particular gas station. 
 It was then that I realized I was also being bombarded with advertising from the loudspeaker that was announcing all the coffee products and breakfast items that could be found in the convenience store inside of the gas station.  
I already had coffee in the car and I had already eaten but by the time I had heard all the adjectives which made this coffee and food sound like the nectar of the gods I was starting to want something that I really didn’t want.  Which of course was the objective of the talking gas pump and the overhead speaker.  
It is no wonder that we are all a little paranoid anymore about the things that are going on around us – advertising has reached a place that it is almost as of we don’t have a chance!  They know exactly which buttons to push to make us want things that we don’t need, much less even really want.  You can’t go to a little league ballgame without advertising, you can’t listen to the radio anymore without there being more advertising than music, TV shows have more advertising than show – it is everywhere.  And what advertising does is convince us that we don’t have enough – we need something newer, better, prettier, or just more of it.  
And what this does is produce in us the very attitude that Bible tells us to beware of.  Throughout the Old Testament the people are constantly being reminded that God will provide everything they need.  Throughout the ministry of Jesus he is constantly reminding the people that God will provide everything they need.  If you truly trust in God, the newer, better, prettier and more shouldn't matter because new or better or prettier or more are all held in the perspective of God – not in loud voices over the loudspeaker at gas stations or TV or radio or billboards littering the highway.  
This advertising bombardment is what scripture is warning us of – because as we allow these voices of new and better to saturate our thinking, the trust in God’s provision seems to get pushed to the outer margins and before we know it  our life becomes about getting prettier and more rather than living in the trust of God.  Its subtle and it happens before we realize it.  
You’ve got coffee in the car but before you know it - after listening how pleasing the taste and aroma of their freshly brewed coffee you find yourself at the counter with your succulent tasting cup of premium blend……. It is only through the work of the Spirit of God that we can come to the understanding that there isn’t much we need…… God does provide.  
So maybe we should be a little paranoid as we come to see the advertising folk trying to get us to depend on them to let us know what we need and want – instead of God.
 
Amen!!
 
Joanne

Devotion December 7, 2016

Greetings!

OK, I promise this is the last Jeopardy story.  I have to admit that one trip did generate a lot of fodder for these devotions - you know, that trip to California to watch my daughter compete on the game show Jeopardy (see how sneakily I worked in that proud momma moment!) but unless God sends a great inspiration I believe that pretty much most of the experiences we had in California have been rendered into devotions. 
Well, that is for this last one….
When you go to be a part of the Jeopardy show, the contestant is whisked away in a van very early in the morning and the family who is going to attend and watch the taping of the show is responsible for getting themselves there much later.
So my daughter left at some untimely early hour and her husband and I lounged around for quite a while until it was time for us to get into the rental car and make our way to the studio where the show was filmed.  
Fortunately the people in charge of the game show have figured out that there are many people who wing their way out to California and have no clue about where they are or what they are doing or how to get anywhere so they put you in a hotel that is a straight shot to where you have to go!  
So my son-in-law and I (well mostly him because he is very good at following directions!) easily found the gates to the studio lot and drove in and were directed to a parking building where we parked.  
Out of the car and walking down the sidewalk of the parking building we saw a big sign that said, “Jeopardy” which pretty much told us that perhaps this is where we needed to go!  
And it was.  You wait here at the big Jeopardy sign, sign in at a table where you receive a name tag and then you wait some more until someone comes and says, “Follow me” and we did…..
There were actually two groups of people who followed the person who said, “Follow me” - there were those of us who were there because we were with a Jeopardy contestant and there were those who were just people who came to sit in the audience.  
The two groups had different name tags and we were kind of kept separated.  Our group of contestant related people was substantially smaller than the group of people who were there just because they wanted to watch the show.  
So our small group was separated out and we began to walk with the person who said “Follow Me”.  It was quite a long walk and so we talked among ourselves getting to know one another - a little bit but you could tell we had a leariness of one another because we knew the people we were associated with where going to be competing against one another!
In our small group was this very nice lady, however she was also a very loud lady and had that kind of voice that when she talked it sort of transcended over all of us.  And this particular lady liked to talk and we quickly realized that this lady, nice as she was, really wanted everyone to know who she was - because she mentioned it as part of most of her sentences.  
“I was on Jeopardy a couple years ago.”  She stated loudly enough that not only did our little group hear her but a couple members of the group a ways in front of us turned to look our way.  After a moment of several of us going, “That’s nice!”  and “Good for you”  and trying to be polite (and admittedly it was pretty nifty).  After a few moments of silence as we continued to walk, again, loudly, we heard, “When I was on Jeopardy a couple years ago….”  
Someone else in our group decided that she needed acknowledged and said, “That is really interesting.” and we continued to walk (It was quite the jaunt from the parking building to the building where the show is filmed plus we had the mandatory bathroom stop along the way….)
There were during our walk at least 3 more very loud outbursts of “I was on Jeopardy a couple years ago” and lo and behold when we were finally seated in the Jeopardy audience seats my son in law and I ended up sitting beside of this once Jeopardy contestant who continued to loudly  explain everything there was to know about being a contestant on Jeopardy (she was there because her husband was now a contestant).  Then came on the everyone be quiet sign and I have to admit we were all quite relieved!  
I assume that this otherwise very nice lady just needed attention - just was one of these people who needed everyone to notice her and know who she was - and we certainly did by the end of our Jeopardy participation.
Isn’t it great to know that we don’t need to get the attention of God?  Isn’t it great to know that God knows every hair on our head (an interesting figure of speech to let us know how thoroughly he does know each of us) and we don’t have to do a thing to get his attention.  We have God’s attention before we even know we need God’s attention.  We have God’s attention when we think we are alone or deserted; we have God’s attention when we are doing good or doing bad or not doing anything at all.
And we don’t have to do anything to get him to notice us - isn’t that great!

Amen! 

Joanne

Devotion November 30, 2016

Greetings!

Back in the dark ages when I was young, social convention had quite a different look on life than it does now.  Practices were looked at as denoting whether a  person was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and the culture then was all about whether people saw you as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Now - a - days we would look on the things we were concerned about as being pretty silly, but back then they were quite serious!  
I remember being in 7th grade and wanting a pair of heels to wear to church and I was allowed to have a pair of shoes that had this tiny little nub of a heel on it - and I remember one of the older ladies at church actually bending over and ‘checking’ to see how high the heel actually was!
There was also much consternation during ‘those times’ regarding ear piercing.  Pierced ears were considered to be on the edge of declaring you were a ‘loose’ woman (wonder what they would have said if they had seen those today with all the piercings in all those many places…..) so getting your ears pierced was something that you took to heart - you really had to think it through to be sure you weren’t branding yourself as something you were not.  
Those of us high school girls (yes you were in high school before you pondered such a brazen act!) who were contemplating ear piercing, wanted to make sure we weren’t declaring ourselves more available than others - we just thought it was a nifty way to be able to wear more jewelry!  Pierced ears made us feel very grown up and very 'worldly'!
Getting your ears pierced way, way back then was not a task you took lightly because there was no easy access to having it done (unless you were brave enough to have someone with 2 ice cubes and a needle that had been passed through the flame of a match perform the procedure…. I was not that brave!)
Getting your ears pierced in my day was not done in kiosks in malls or in department stores, but in the emergency room and/or physicians offices.  
My ears were pierced by a then nationally renown heart surgeon because he happened to be the one on call in the emergency room when I went in to get these holes strategically punched through my ear lobes.  Pretty snazzy, huh!!
He took it pretty seriously, too, as he laid me down on the emergency room table and used these great surgical sterilization techniques and a specialized tool that he made sure I understood was something he used for his most technical heart surgeries….   And my ears were pierced.  I really felt like I had made it in the world and was a woman of great sophistication (even though I was only 15!)
For years following this courageous move, the routine in my life was to daily take the time to make a serious decision as to which pair of earrings I was going to place in my heart surgeon surgically pierced ears.  Earrings were something I sought out when shopping to find nice and unique and ‘pretty’ ones to wear.  Earrings became a great source of gift ideas for me and an easy solution when someone wanted to know what they could get me for Christmas or Birthday or just because they wanted to buy me something (like that ever happened…..)
Then came along kids. Babies.  And babies seem to think that the neatest thing in the world are these things stuck in your ear lobes - their little hands immediately reach out to investigate these anomalies.   So to prevent small fingers from ripping metal out of my ear, I pretty well stopped wearing earrings.  Maybe on a special occasion…. and then finally out of the habit of every morning making that important decision of picking just the right pair of earrings, there were no more earrings.
However, when holidays came along - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter… I remembered all those holiday earrings I had accumulated and I decided that - well maybe - just for these special holidays I would put the earrings back in my ears.  
There was a problem with this.  Ear lobes are living flesh and all of our living flesh has this innate ability to heal itself.  Earlobes know they are not suppose to have a hole in them so when there isn’t something there to prevent it - earlobes try to heal themselves….
So when the holiday comes and I decide I need to wear my fun holiday earrings, and I try to put the earrings in my ear, I am greeted with this thin layer of skin that has grown over the long existing hole….  Wearing these fun, cute, holiday earrings comes with a bit of pain as I am forced to punch through this thin layer of skin in order to get the earrings in my ears…
Coming back to God after an absence of any length comes with a little bit of pain… Maybe not  physical pain like my ears, but with a bit of spiritual pain as we are confronted with the God we have neglected; confronted with this loving, gracious God who has stuck with us even though those days when we have excluded him from our lives; challenged with realigning our lives to begin again living as God wants us to.  
Coming back to God means a certain amount of personal reflection and that is never easy and always comes with a bit of pain as we realize how really selfish we have been in trying to live for ourselves instead of living for God.
Yes, coming back to God will be painful…. but ever so rewarding!

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.