Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion June 27, 2018

Greetings!
I wan’t sure I should tell this story.  It doesn’t put me in a very good light…. but then I guess it is OK to take one for purpose of writing this devotion!  It starts by admitting I have bad habits - 2 of them in fact.  (Well, there is probably more than that but for today we will limit it to these two.  I’m sure in the future more of them will pop up!)
The first bad habit - well I’m not sure if it is a bad habit or if it is ‘just the way I am’.  I always disliked that phrase ‘it is just the way I am’ cause it sort of implies that we can’t change and if you are a believer in the power of the Holy Spirit then that is all about change but that is a topic for another day…..  This big build up is just to point out my unobservant nature.  Now what is that you say?  I just don’t notice details in my surrounding.  I hope I am never at a crime scene because I would be useless……  Did you see the perpetrator of the crime?  ‘Yes’ I would say.  Can you tell me about them?  “Not much” I would answer.  What were they wearing? I would ponder for a moment and reply “I’m not sure”. Were they short or tall?  Again the pondering “I’m not sure”….. The conversation would continue but not much information would be forthcoming.
I actually took a class one time to develop observation skills.  I was working as a chaplain in a hospital and during one of the trainings it was pointed out that to be an effective chaplain we should notice things about the surroundings and such….  I really did try but there is a skill that just isn’t part of me.  And if I think about it being observant I try but it just doesn't work out very well.   
One of my great unobservant moments came when I was doing pulpit supply at a church and my sermon was on one of Jesus’ parables.  After the service one of the congregational members came up to me and said…. “I was sure that during your message you would mention the stained glass window.”  Now I had noticed there was this huge stained glass window which was the entire back wall of the church.  The direction I faced during the entire service. Right in front of me.   I did remember it was beautiful - but the fact that it very plainly depicted the topic of my sermon just didn’t register…. 
Now the other bad habit that needs to be a part of this account today is my propensity to walk looking down instead of walking ahead.  At least I know why I do this - it has to do with the fact that I am one of those people who can fall down standing still…. (I feel bad for my daughter who inherited this falling malady).  It is not that there is anything wrong, I am just not as coordinated as many people - most people - almost everyone else.  
My worst falling story which is emblazoned forever in my memory came when I was in hight school.  In the town I grew up in there was a military school and all of the residents of the school  were required to attend church on Sunday Mornings.  Our particular church seemed to be the church most of them came to.  It was quite spectacular because the cadets in their nifty uniforms would ‘form up’ at the school which was on the other end of town and march through town in great formation, with pomp and circumstance  to church on Sunday mornings.  They would attend worship (they had a special place in the balcony of the church and that is another interesting story which I”ll have to remember to relay at some later date!)
Anyway, after worship the cadets would then get back into their marching formation for the march back to school.  Each Sunday after worship this gathering back together happened directly in front of the educational building of the church.  One Sunday my uncoordinated, unobservant self came out of the educational building just as all the cadets had put themselves into their proper place in their marching block and were facing the educational building…. I hope you have this picture.  There are 50 or so cadets of junior high and high school age looking straight at the educational building as I quickly come through the door and proceed to fall down the front stairs…..
It was traumatic.
So then began the habit of looking down as I walk because I have been known to fall down just walking across a flat concrete sidewalk….. Thus became the habit of looking down as I walk because then I can be on the lookout for items on the ground or sidewalk or road or floor that might trip me up - altho I don’t often need anything actual object there to cause this tripping.
So this uncoordinated, unobservant nature of mine came in to play the other afternoon as I was exiting a building.  This building as many professional buildings had two sets of automatic doors you traversed through to enter or exit the building.  Now I am not sure on this particular day if I had forgotten there were two sets of sliding doors, or if I had just become overly confident in the automatic sliding of these doors.  I wasn’t particularly distracted by anything… but I was as usual walking along looking at the floor assuming the doors were at peak working ability, gliding through the first set of automatic doors and of course not noticing the sign on the second set of doors which said something along the lines of the door was working slowly…..
Bam! Straight into the door I walked of course causing great consternation from the people in the vicinity of the unobservant, uncoordinated old lady who walked straight into a door because she was looking down while she walked and not looking ahead and suffering from the assumption that she did not need to observe the door in front of her because it ‘should’ be sliding open as I approached…   and then maybe there was some concern about the door…. The good news was I did not fall down which given my history was rather surprising.
Do you go through your faith life looking down and not observing what is around you?  Do you go through your faith life not realizing where God is and what he is doing all around you?  Do you have yourself charging ahead without considering where God may be and what God is doing?  Do you take the time to reflect on what God has done for you or do you just assume that God will automatically do whatever you desire, or want, or think you want?  
When it comes to our relationship with God we cannot barrel ahead with our heads down assuming God will open the doors in front of us and clear the obstacles.  Sometimes God will let us bang into the closed door just to remind us that God is not something we should assume, but someone we should be actively involved with; activity looking and experiencing the God that is with us, realizing his presence but also realizing that unless we observe how he is working we miss all the blessings, all the work, all the care and concern and comfort and peace that God offers.  We miss the wonder of what God does.
Look up!  Be aware!  The God you love and believe in is there… and we only really realize that when we pay attention!
Amen!

Devotion June 20, 2018

Greetings!
I don’t know what it is like for any of the rest of you, but here on the East Coast it is hot. As in scorching hot.  As in not even cooling off at night hot.  As in there is no breeze and the air is stagnant and it is miserable hot.  As in there is no rain in sight hot.
So you understand the current climate where I live is hot.  When I first moved here I noticed that everything that was scheduled outside in the summer either took place very early in the morning and ended around lunch time or took place later in the evening past supper time.  It was curious since the culture from where I came most things started later in the morning and went until supper time….  
As anytime you move to a different location there are things you have to learn and now I know why activities here are scheduled as they are.  It is just too hot in the afternoons to do anything.  I was use to the hottest part of the day being around noon and then began to cool off  and now it just keeps on getting hotter until day is done......
Adjustments in my thinking had to be made and none of us like to have to change how we think…… (insert a smiley face here!)
I looked at the weather forecast and realized that the days upcoming were just going to get hotter and hotter and hotter and there was no rain in sight and the evenings and night were not getting any cooler and i looked out my kitchen window at my lettuce patch and realized that the lettuce was going to have to go.
We have a small garden behind our house.  I didn’t want a big garden because the days of ‘putting up’ the proceeds from the garden were not something I wanted to do, or really needed, to do.  Back when I was younger and my husband and I were first married and we were full of youthful energy we went into gardening big time.  Our house had a huge back yard and we decided to take about a 1/4 of it and turn it into our vegetable plot.  We even planted a plethora of fruit trees and berry bushes.  
There were rows of tomatoes that we had grown from seed cause we were young and thought we were really going to be pioneers about this food growing plan.  We had lettuce and green peppers and green beans and peas and corn and cucumbers and zucchini (which I quickly realized was almost a plague because it grows like wildfire and everyone has it and you can only make so much zucchini bread because you find out your husband doesn’t like zucchini….) and our fruit trees and bushes yielded many kinds of berries (this is also where we learned that the sainted husband was highly allergic to fresh strawberries) and peaches and pears and apples....  
We planted and hoed and had a great yield and I spent weeks canning and freezing and such and we felt very accomplished!  
But now I am older and realize I can buy green beans that are just as good with none of the work so gardening because something enjoyable with a minimal amount of work.  I like a few fresh tomatoes and cucumbers for my cucumber/tomato sandwiches and the green peppers are good for some stuffed green peppers and salads….  No canning or preserving involved and that is fine with me cause there are grocery stores within 5 minutes……
And then there is the lettuce. I don’t even put a whole lot of effort into the lettuce.  I just take an edge of the garden and sprinkle some seeds from the packet and that is it.  I give it a little water and before too long there is lettuce.  And more lettuce.  And more lettuce.  People avoid me because I am always asking them if they want lettuce.  I take bags of it to the church and encourage people to take lettuce. 
But it is now approaching the end of June and I look at the weather forecast and I know that lettuce is a cooler weather crop and if I don’t harvest what is left now it will wilt and turn brown and no one will benefit from the humongous lettuce yield I get every year.  After all I have been eating fresh lettuce (as have my close friends and family and anyone else I can give lettuce to) for almost 2 months now and I think that is pretty good.
Out I went with my plastic Walmart bag (which I use for just about everything around the house…..) and I began to pull up my lettuce plants and stack them beside my plastic chair until all that is left in that area of my garden is some leaf remnants and dirt that I quickly hoed so that it looked nice and neat and ready for next year's lettuce seed.  Looked pretty sadly empty but then I looked at the stack of plants by my chair and I sat down and began to pull lettuce leaves from the plants.
Now remember there is a huge stack of plants by my chair and the plants are pretty much still covered with tasty lettuce leaves, but I still sit very meticulously pulling each leaf off the plant, pinching off the smallest bit of brown and retaining the remainder of the leaf.  I do this with each plant and each leaf when the sainted husband wanders by and reminds me that I have lots of lettuce leaves and if I threw away the ones with brown on them i would still have plenty of lettuce.  He is right of course, and even though I try I just can’t do it….. 
My lettuce harvesting continues as I take each leaf and pinch off the slight imperfections and put the remnants in my bag ready to take inside and stand at the kitchen sink and wash each leaf individually and place them on paper towels to dry so that they can become delicious salads for myself and the sainted husband and all of the other people I will offer my many bags of freshly picked lettuce….
Yes, the allusion is obvious but something we need to be constantly reminded of. We are just like those lettuce leaves.  God picks us out from the world around us at just the right time, helps us work through those little (or often humongous) imperfections, claims us as his, washes us off and allows us to be used for his kingdom and his purposes.  
We need to be constantly assured of our specialness to God who wants not only the very best for us, but helps us to be the very best for him.  That lettuce would not do anyone any good if it were just harvested and just thrown back into the dirt…. the lettuce receives its value from what it can do - provide delicious additions to peoples meals at it is put on sandwiches or added as a garnish or providing the basis for a scrumptious salad.  
So sit up straight and feel good about who you are.  You are God’s special lettuce, chosen by him, cleansed by him, gifted by him and used by him!  
Amen! 

Devotion June 13, 2018

Greetings!
I have this little dog named Rocky.  I often figured I should have named him Calvin or Luther because he was dropped off at a church I served so he was a church dog and a church leader name would have been very appropriate.  
But at the time he was really tiny and had this mask like a raccoon and so the song ‘Rocky Racoon’ came into my mind and well that is how he has his name.
During subsequent visits to the vet we tried to figure out what kind of dog Rocky was….  and it turned out he was a ‘Cheagle’ which is a combination of a Beagle and a Chihuahua.  Now, he is a sweet little dog and can be very affectionate, but like all breeds of dogs there are specific characteristics which make the dog who they are and which dictate in large part how they act.  
So Beagles are scent hounds which mean they like to seek their prey by smelling.  You have all seen Beagles with their noses to the ground just traveling as fast as they can as they follow that smell where it might go and hopefully that smell will lead them to what they think it will.  
Which means the Beagle part of Rocky leads him to have his nose down on the ground as he goes after whatever it is that he thinks he is smelling. This has gotten him into trouble several times when he has escaped the compound (he has a huge fenced in yard) in pursuit of some unknown entity that evidently has left a trail smell.  Normally he will come back when you call but you have to call several times because this dog is really focused and to distract him from his odiferous quarry is sometimes extremely difficult.
And then, Rocky is also a Chihuahua and Chihuahua’s are also known as ‘ratters’.  A ‘ratter’ is a dog that goes after rats.  A useful skill to have since no one likes rats.  
Now we don’t have any rats so I wonder if the Chihuahua side of Rocky is a little frustrated but he does substitute his ratting nature by going after sometime that is under ground in our yard.  
There was this one day when I went outside and there was a trench dug from the back of our house, all the way across the yard to the back fence.  I’m no good at guessing distances but I can tell you that is quite a good way.  I watched as Rocky would dig a little bit, stick his nose in as far as he could, dig some more, stick in his nose and this continued all the way across the yard. I wondered if I could harness this somehow and rent him out as a ditch witch.......
We took him camping a couple weeks ago and he did the same thing in a circle around a tree and we were jokingly wondering if he would fell the tree (and maybe there was a tinge of worry in our minds because he really dug a circle around that tree!)  Who knows what may have lurked in that ground at one time. 
The other Chihuahua characteristic that Rocky exhibits is the typical Chihuahua “I am going to eat you in one bite” bark of the Chihuahua whenever unknown people are around. And sometimes known people.  Rocky can see me through my office window occasionally and it sets off a maelstrom of vicious sounding barking that would scare off Ivan the Terrible.  
What it brought to mind is the concept of instinct.  No one taught Rocky to put his nose to the ground and follow whatever being left a smell behind.  No one taught Rocky to dig after unknown critters underground.  No one taught Rocky to bark at whatever happened to move within his vision.  Rocky just grew up and did these things.  He didn’t think about it; he didn’t practice; he didn’t spend hours in training on how to be a Chihuahua/Beagle doggie.  He just was a Cheagle and did Cheagle activities, all on his own.
And that is how we are to think about ourselves as children of God.  We are children of God.  It is part of who we are and how we live and what we do. 
Now we may have to work at it a little harder than dogs do; we may have to be more intentional in thinking of ourselves as God’s.  But if we do, and if we steep ourselves in the things of God, our instincts to do what God has directed us to do will kick in just like a Beagle on a trail. 
God has given us this inner need for him and that inner need to please him and that instinct to do what God calls us to do.  But unlike the natural inclination of the Chihuahua, we have to make a conscious effort to direct ourselves on the correct path.  God will help us do that of course, but it is like a little switch we need to turn on inside ourselves that says, “OK, I’m going to live as a Child of God”.  And once we do that, we will find ourselves digging a trench across the yard fulfilling the yearning God has put inside of each of us to be his.
So stand up and say, “I’m a child of God” and head out on the scent of living as God’s!
Amen! 

Devotion June 6, 2018

Greetings!!

Ostriches. For some reason I have this real fondness for ostriches. I don’t know why. I don’t remember having any real experiences with ostriches growing up. I don’t remember any cute stories about ostriches or movies about ostriches that would have led to this ostrich attraction. It isn't because of how ostriches look. Ostriches are not very attractive - they have that long bare neck and a body of fluffy feathers that aren’t a particularly pretty color and always looked mussed and this weirdly shaped head that really looks too small for its body and these bare legs. Not a pretty bird at all - and I understand they are not particularly friendly……
So I’m not sure what it was that made Ostriches one of my top 10 favorite animals (I know it is a bird but to me it looks and acts more like an animal.)
I know why I am terrified of spiders - it is because when I was quite young I went to my great uncle’s house and he was watching a movie about giant spiders tromping down a village and eating people and from that moment on spiders became my great fear.
I also know why I have a healthy respect for some other animals - such as giraffes. I was at a zoo when I was young back when zoos weren’t designed to keep people safely away from large jungle animals. While I was gleefully standing by a fenced in area that sort of kept in giraffes, a giraffe came over to the fence where I am sure he was use to getting fed. There was that quarter machine which dispensed food for you to feed the giraffes and when I had fed the giraffe lots of delicious food, I turned my back to let the people I was with know I had fed a giraffe cause I thought that was pretty exciting, the giraffe decided I had not quite fed him enough so he leaned over the fence and took the rest of his meal out of my shoulder…..
But then how many people can say they had been bitten by a giraffe?
That was the same zoo where I mistakenly turned my back on a cage of monkeys when one of the monkeys reached through the bars of the cage and grabbed my hair and would not let go until a zoo staff person came and released me to some loud jabbering from the distressed monkey!
Come to think of it I got bit by a horse one time as well - of course that was my fault because I had been warned to stay away from this horse and when everyone was distracted I wandered down to see the horse who quickly took a large bite out of the front of my shoulder.
I don’t know why this story about ostriches degraded into my poor experiences with animals. It probably was a good idea that I didn’t decide to become a vet even though that was one of the career choices rumbling around in my brain as I was trying to decide my future….. If I were a vet all that would have happened would have been animal bitings!
I’ve not had any of these unpleasant experiences with ostriches so maybe that is why I like them better than other animals who in my subconscious I am worried are just waiting to take a hunk of my flesh!
I do enjoy looking at ostriches and I remember one time going to a small zoo where you rode on a train through the fields which had lots of large safari type animals. We went through a Zebra area and a camel area and and antelope area and we came to an ostrich area and I was quite excited to be this close to my favorite animal.
Lo and behold, our train broke down right in the ostrich compound! So for about 20 minutes we were able to sit on our train and commune with the myriad of ostriches! I was beside myself with excitement!!
Of course my kids will never forget the time when I was driving them to camp and fortunately we were driving on a little traveled 2-lane road when all of a sudden I slammed on the brakes and pointed as I exclaimed “Ostriches!” And sure enough there in a yard beside a house and in that yard out in the middle of nowhere - were ostriches - 4 of them to be exact. Someone after my own heart had made some ostriches their personal pets! Why didn’t I think of that?
Of course what made me think of all these ostrich experiences was the trip I made last week to my daughter’s house and as we are going to my granddaughter’s T-ball game my daughter told me she had a treat for me on the way - ‘What could it be?’ I wondered. And sure enough, in a field by someone’s house, there was an ostrich! Joy!
So why is it that I have this fondness for ostriches? I don’t know - I just do. Do you ever wonder why God has this love for you? You haven’t earned it. We aren’t particularly ‘good’ as compared to God. There is little about us that would put us on a heavenly plane. We fail daily (or more likely hourly) and yet we are loved and special to our God. There is no more reason than that - God just loves us, just as we are and he delights in us just as I delight in seeing Ostriches randomly out in a field.
What a great God who takes us just as we are and calls us his and is as joyful for us as I am for ostriches!

Amen
Joanne




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.

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.