Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion for March 9, 2016

Greetings!!

My sister in law sent me tickets to go to the Biltmore.  Now, for those of you who may not be familiar with the Biltmore, it is a home the Vanderbilts built in the late 1880s.  It is quite an impressive place.  It is still today  the largest privately owned house in the United States and has some really neat features - like the basement with the indoor swimming pool and bowling alley.  The house sits on top of a high hill and has a beautiful view looking out over the surrounding hills and stands like a great impressive monolith.  
When you first ride up to the house in the shuttle bus that brings you from the parking lot, the impact is amazing.  It is like this great, huge, beautiful structure just appears before you.  Even my 2 year old granddaughter let out with a loud “Whoa!” when the house came into view.  Seeing that face with those big eyes and that awestruck expression on her face was truly priceless.
Even as an adult it is a view that is really beyond description and never lessens no matter how many times you see it.  You exit the shuttle bus right in front of the main door though which you enter the main entryway which includes the mandatory search through your belongings before you can really enter the house.  
One of the first spectacles you encounter is the ‘winter’ garden - a center room under high skylights filled with plants - beautiful plants -  flowering plants and ferns and dwarf trees.  My first thought was that I wanted one of these in my house!  I love plants and have plenty of plants around the house already, but this would just be the perfect place to put a comfy chair and spend an afternoon reading surrounded by this splash of nature!
What a juxtaposition as you wander into the next room and instead of being surrounded by this wonder of live plants, you are surrounded by the wonder of mounted animal heads.  Elk and Moose and Big Horn Sheep heads which decorate all the walls.  Now, this really isn’t a comment for or against big game hunting or with displaying the animals you hunt on the walls, but it was such a big difference between walking from this brightly lit area fill with living plants into this very dark ‘game’ room which is filled with quite the opposite - dead, stuffed animals.  But still there was a beauty to these impressive animals.
The tour continues on and on and on through this large home - 4 acres of home and you just can’t imagine what it must be like to actually live in such a cavernous, monstrous building.  The guides that are standing randomly around the home  told us there were some of these rooms the owners of the home never were in!  Of course with a house this size it must be a challenge to even walk from one end of the house to the other much less spend time in each of the rooms.  I kept looking for that comfy room where one could just sit and chill and watch some TV and that room didn’t appear to exist in this massive home - what enjoyment could there be if there really wasn’t any place to just have an enjoyable, informal experience!  
After you spend all this time in this largest of all houses, you are then directed out to the gardens.  Now here is really the beauty of this estate.  Down some steps you go and into the garden area.    Here you really see the beauty of the estate.  Blooming bulbs and roses and vines and flowering trees and bushes.  What a serene display of God’s creative wonder.  
From this time on, the rest of the day consisted of walking through the natural beauty of the world - not only the gardens but as you drive from the parking lot, it is a nice, slow, meandering drive through a bamboo forest, and beautiful green fields and a winding creek dotted by more blooming red buds and other spring bushes.  Such a relaxing, enjoyable, peaceful time driving through this pure, natural area.  
What a contrast to the time spent in the house where everything was ornate, and always crowded with furniture and other interesting items; where there were crowds of people which often made walking from one room to the next a challenge.  While the house was a nifty thing to see - there was never a sense of quiet or peace or restfulness; too much stuff, too many people; Even on the terrace where you could look out over the surrounding hills, there were always people walking about and talking and such that while you might admire the beauty, you couldn’t really feel the awe of God’s world because there was so much else going on.
This was just another way to remind us of the difference between what we - people - create and what God has created for us.  While what we as humans may make might be impressive and even beautiful, there just is never that same sense of grandeur and peace that God’s world brings us.  While we as humans may fill our lives and our areas with nifty and expensive things, there will never be that sense of joy that comes from being in the natural sphere of God’s creation.  
At some point, we just have to admit that God is God and we are not.  Nothing we do will ever match the creative miracles that God places all round us!


Amen!!                                                                              
 Joanne!

Devotion for March 2, 2016

Greetings!!

It was a beautiful, warm sunny day!  Nothing better when you are nearing the end of winter and the beginning of spring than one of these magnificent glimpses of the spring to come!  Days like this just lift your mood and make you feel really good!  After cold days and gray skies, a sunny day is truly a treat.
So today was one of those great days.  From early in the morning it was evident that the sun was going to shine - there were birds singing as if they too knew that they were going to enjoy this mild weather.  It was fun to put on a T-shirt rather than having to worry about long sleeves and sweaters - and any excuse to wear the flip-flops makes for a pleasant experience. 
We sat down on the porch with a cup of coffee and began to plan the day - a warm spring-like day calls for special plans, of course. 
Then after a trip through the house, I realized the down side to a day filled with bring solar light….  the smears on the windows from the grandchildren and the dogs noses were quite evident, those flakes of dust revealed themselves in the beams of the sunlight, the fingerprints from just about everyone popped out on the stainless steel appliances.  All those imperfections that are hidden during the dark, gray days of winter; imperfections that are easy to ignore because they just aren’t that noticeable - that is until the bright sun rises up and reveals all those household blemishes that dot around the house.
That is when there is a quick plan change…. All those thoughts of a romp in the out of doors in the sunshine under the clear blue skies falls by the wayside as you begin to think more along the lines of cleaning strategies.  
It becomes one of those good news/bad news moments as you realize that the sunshine has revealed all these cleaning needs in the house which makes you know that your day is going to be a busy one filled with rags and brooms and and buckets of water and cleaning products instead of picnic lunches and outdoor fresh air….
Well, maybe you will still get a blast of that fresh air because the first thing you do on this day of awesome weather is to throw open as many windows as you can.  What a great way to start the day - opening the windows and hearing all the sounds from the outside; feeling the warmth of the air as it passes through; the refreshing little breeze that occasionally feels like the outside is actually coming in.  And even though you know there is a ton of work ahead of you, the open windows are literally a breath of fresh air that help to inspire you to hunt up those cleaning supplies you have been ignoring for so long.  Opening up the window and letting in that outside air just seems to revitalize everything - including you!
So the good news of this impending cleaning marathon is that the sunshine that made you a bit sad as it illuminated all the mars on the floors and windows and furniture and helped you realize what you had put off for so long, also acts like a neon arrow that helps you see  where the cleaning needs to take place.  That sunshine is like a pointy finger that helps you locate the work that needs to be done instead of having to examine and search and maybe even guess where the needs might be.  While the sunshine may disclose the problems, the sunshine also makes it easier to locate them and do something about it!  
All of us have dirty fingerprints and smudges and dust as part of who we are.  All of us have neglected the imperfections and the accumulated dirty corners and the stains within us.  It is much easier for us to ignore these places inside of us that need a thorough scrubbing until a moment happens that acts just like a sunbeam highlighting those parts of us that we have tried for so long to ignore; we have worked hard to conceal what we know needs work and then, darn it!, the work we need to do in ourselves is illuminated and there is no choice but to deal with ourselves.
But that is when God will open the windows and send in the breath of his spirit and help us get out the duster and the broom and begin to work on cleaning up our lives; working on the dark places and the sin that beleaguers us and the baggage that has accumulated.  With God’s spirit to help us, the soul cleaning will still take as much (or more!) work as cleaning our houses, but we know we won’t have to do it on our own and the help we have will know exactly where the work needs to be done!
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.