Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion for June 1, 2016

Greetings!!

My husband has decided he wants a new car. Well maybe not a new car - maybe a new to us car. But new is good….. This was brought on by the fact his current car - a cute little red Pontiac Vibe that he had had his eye on for months before he finally broke down and bought it - is approaching the 200,000 miles mark and as you can imagine is starting to show its age just a bit. He has maintained it well but after that many miles cars just tend to get a little tired; just as we all do as we age a bit. Over the last couple long trips he has started to hear a clunk here and a rattle there and the power (well, what power it had anyway) is waning just a bit. At least enough that the lack of power is noticeable when trying to maintain a proper speed to the surrounding cars.
Well the decision to begin to think about buying a new or newish car is the first step. The next step is what is that car going to be? What kind of car do we want? Well - the what kind of car do we want is a silly question because I don’t think we are going to get a BMW X5 or a Cadillac Escalade or a 1966 red convertible mustang with white interior…. So the proper question should be what kind of car do we need?
I already have a good size SUV All Wheel Drive with the trailer hitch and all the bells and whistles. What we need is a smaller, gas efficient car to tool around town, for my husband to drive to work and just be ‘that other car’ we have. We have a ‘toy’ car that may or may not be able to run on any given day so we don’t need another one of those. The problem today is that there are so many different kinds of cars and different sizes and different colors and different models - well put your imagination to a car any particular size that does any particular thing and I imagine you will be able to find it on one of the myriad of car lots around town.
Our thinking process led us to begin the arduous process of driving around car lots and perusing what was available. Here in was our first mistake. One just doesn’t driving around car lots and peruse what they have because you are driving slow enough and heaven forbid you get out of the car because faster than a speeding bullet there is a salesman.
Now granted car salesmen make their living by selling cars. So naturally they have a vested interest in you as you are perusing cars and thinking about what kind of car you might eventually want to purchase. However what we quickly learned is that every car dealer is having their end of the month, beginning of the month, middle of the month, end of the quarter, special Tuesday, sale and there will be a great deal - or the best possible deal - or you wont find a better one anywhere else deal and all of these deals are only good for that one evening and ‘I’m not kidding” or “This is for real” always accompanies the plea to immediately jump on this deal.
After we heard this so many times we have become almost immune because every car salesman at every car dealer said about the same thing…… is there car salesman school somewhere that teaches the proper lingo to rope people into buying that end of the millennium best deal ever you have to get it now car?
The end result become that we started our car perusing after the lots were closed. I sort of felt like a thief casing the place driving around in the dark (but well lit parking lot) look at cars when we knew no one was around. Somehow I figure our license plate is on a video somewhere and I fully expect to start getting phone calls asking me if I am interested in buying a car…
I do have a certain amount of empathy for the car salesman whose livelihood depends upon the number of cars they sell - but I’m still going to continue my avoidance tactic of late night car lost perusing…..
Sometimes we in the church become like over eager car salesman. In our zeal to let others know about the wonderful love and grace of Jesus Christ we can get a little annoying. The result is that people, especially people who have yet to come to know Jesus as their means of salvation and peace, start to avoid us. Yes - they avoid us. “Oh no. Here comes that Jesus person again and they are going to inundate me with how great their church is and how could I pass up another cover dish dinner…” “Oh, no! Here he comes, he is going to tell me that same story about his love of Jesus, again.” “Look out, she’s coming…..”
Now, don’t get me wrong. We are called to tell others about Jesus. We are called to let other people know of the joy and peace on our lives - but if that is all we talk about; if that is our conversation topic every time we get around a person who doesn’t share our faith, then people are going to just stop listening. People will start crossing the street to walk on the other side… It will be like we have a big “Avoid me” sign on our back.
Come on, admit it, wouldn’t you start to avoid yourself…..
We as the followers of Christ don’t have to be annoying. We don’t have to think that we need to wear people down and they will come to church with us. In fact how many people will come to know Jesus if everyone ignores us?
If we just walk the walk; if we just live the life we are called to live; if we just remember who we are - the message will ring out loud and clear and God will do the work of allowing people to see Jesus through us.
Be amazed at what God can do!

Amen                                                                            

Devotion for May 25, 2016

Greetings!!

There is a really nice park where we go to walk. It is not one of those walks where we take dogs  - there are far too many other dogs there walking and our dogs tend to be a tad bit vocal when they see other dogs on a walk, so for the good of the peace and quiet of the nice park we leave the dogs behind when we go on this walk.
It is a very nice and peaceful location. Serene. There is a large creek which is actually the backwater for the local lake.  Along the creek is a raised boardwalk that not only runs along the creek, but through some beautifully forested areas; through some gorgeous wetlands.  
The creek most of the time, when it hasn’t been raining a whole bunch, is very slow and meandering and the water is so clear that you can see the bottom of the creek.  Leaves float slowly by and you can’t help but feel a peace as you walk there.    
My one granddaughter especially likes to walk at this park because as she walks along the boardwalk, well, as she runs along the boardwalk, she hears that plunk, plunk sound that you get when you are walking on raised boards.  She thinks it is really funny and just cackles as she runs.  She will scamper up ahead of us as we are walking, then when she is far enough away she turns around and darts back, reaches out for our hands and says, “run!”  We of course respectfully decline the running portion of the walk, but she is not discouraged and continues her running up and back and up and back and up and back, laughing every moment of the way.   
As you walk along this path covered through the natural area, there is a plethora of wildlife - we call it wildlife but because these animals are so use to all the people, they aren’t so wild anymore.  Squirrels will sit on the rails of the wooden fence along the boardwalk even as you meander by.  Beavers come up and do their dam building right beside where you are walking.  Little ground squirrels scurry around under the walkway and along the trees.  
Chirping birds are everywhere - along with a large collection of ducks and geese.
As you arrive at the park and leave the parking lot, the first area you come to is a large field.  This field is more often than not, filled with Canadian geese.  Doing what Canadian geese do -mwalking along and scavenging the ground for the bugs they eat.  The ducks are pretty interesting.  I love to see them as they fly along the creek and splash feet first into the water and begin to float.  It is just so neat to hear the big splash and almost immediately the ducks are slowly floating along, their little feet just paddling......
This time of year we have been watching the ducks as the new baby ducks come along.  One day we see the Momma’s sitting still in various grassy areas, and then it seems like in no time, out pop these cute, tiny, yellow ducklings, just chirping away. Walking tentatively along with their mother - never quiet!  (reminds me of granddaughters!)  
Since we go to this park at least 3 or 4 times a week, we have been keeping an eye on these little ‘babies’ as they grow.  It is interesting that one of the great hallmarks of the growing duck babies is the amount of yellow you see on them.  
The very baby, baby ducks are all yellow and as they grow, the yellow begins to become less and less.  One day we go and we see the little peeping babies that are all yellow and have grown a little taller with a longer beak and the yellow begins to become mottled with some grays and browns  and you come a few days later and the ducklings are a little bigger and a little less yellow and a more gray and brown….. until one day you see the same little ducklings that are still a bit smaller than their Mommas but all the yellow is gone and you know it is just a matter of time till they begin to fly off on their own.  
Such a wonder to watch these babies grow and to watch their mothers and they guide and push and model and even discipline their little babies.  The mothers are so patient, sometimes keeping her charges close at hand and sometimes sitting closely by and letting her young ones wander a little bit far away - and if they get too far she calmly goes over and ‘suggests’ in her duck mom way they stay closer.  Several times another duck has come close to her babies, and Momma goes into action, quacking and flapping her wings and doing all she can to protect her ‘children’.
Isn’t this just like us and our relationship with God?  Scripture tells us how we are like babies when we first become close to God. We grow in our faith and understanding of who we are as children of God and there is a visible difference in our lives - just like the fading yellow on those baby ducks as they grow.  
Most of the time we are pretty faithful and we follow God as the ducklings follow their Mom - but then there are times when we stray; God does all he can to round us back up…….
What a great picture to know that as we grow and change and become more faithful, God will always be there for us - just like a Momma Duck!

Amen                                                                            
 

Devotion for May 18, 2016

Greetings!!

Walking dogs.  Walking dogs has taken up a good deal of my life which I guess is obvious because of how many times I talk about walking dogs.  The dogs seem like they always want to go for a walk - they do need to walk, but if it were up to them I think they would go for a walk all the time.  All you need to do is pick up a leash or put on the ‘walking shoes’ and the dogs are immediately excited, prancing and dancing and rushing the door.  They are quite upset if I am just cleaning up and putting the leash or the shoes away - since I touched the leash you would assume that meant we were walking, at least that is what the dogs think….
I’m always amazed, as well, how each time we walk in a particular spot it is as if the dogs have never been there before.  There is great excitement when we get out of the car regardless of where we are or how many times we have been there.  The dogs bound out of the car, nose to the ground and ready to head off on the adventure of walking.  Even though we have been to the location oodles of times before the dogs are exited and eager and headed off to experience the smells of the area!
Often times our walking adventure takes place in the local cemetery.  The cemetery, after all, is very quiet.  There is a nice road that runs around the outside and winds through the interior in several places so as one plots out the trek through the cemetery, there is variety of things to look at and a good area to walk.  
Out of the car we get and off we go on our walk, the dogs leading the way - well, pulling the way and I try majestically to keep up with them.  2 dog power makes a pretty strong tug…
The one particular cemetery that we frequent the most is on top of a large hill.  All around the cemetery are open fields and on one side is a cow pasture.  A cow pasture in fact filled with cattle.  The dogs were particularly fond of this side of the cemetery and when they jumped out of the car, noses to the ground, they immediately head that direction - tails up in the air, wagging, and their legs working in unison to head to the cows.  
Or maybe it was the tall grass that lines the fence that makes a barrier between the road surrounding the cemetery and the cow pasture - I’m not really sure because the dogs didn’t really seem to pay any attention to the cows once they reach this tall grass bordering the cows.  Their noses dig through the grass and you can hear the dogs huffing and snorting and occasionally a little growl could be heard.  But I came to walk and so I who has control of the leash insist the dogs begin to come with me instead of spending all their time sniffing in the one area of tall grass along the cow pasture - which I’m sure they would have gladly stayed.  
It had always amazed me as well that these cows never paid any attention to me or the dogs as we went barreling from the car to the cow pasture fence.  I can pretty well understand why the cows would ignore me, but I always thought that perhaps the cows would at least acknowledge these noisy little animals charging their way.
That is until one day…. One day as we drove to the cemetery, parked and unloaded the dogs who as predicted headed off for the border with the cow pasture; this day the cows seemed to pay particular attention to all of us.  All those cows who had previously been pretty complacent about cemetery wakers, looked up with their cud chewing faces, and just stared at us. All of them - it was pretty creepy.  After a moment of cow staring, we continued on our walk.  
We walked along the road that ran beside the fence that separated us from the cows and I looked over and for some cosmic reason, the cows were following us.  In all the time we had been on this cemetery walk before, never before had the cows even to seem to know we were there, much less follow us.  But they did…. 
We walked and the cows all lined up and continued to follow.  As we traveled the road, they followed on the other side of the fence.  We would stop, and they stopped.  We walked on and they walked on.  On we went and on they came.  Just weird.
There was a curve in the road and the dogs and I hurried along to maybe visually get out of the cows sight, but that didn’t work and the cows continued on - right after us.  
It was interesting that the cows had now followed us into a portion of their cow pasture where it appeared they had never been before.  From the looks of the field, this was new territory for our walker followers.  
Then the pasture ended and the road continued and the dogs and I walked on leaving the cows standing  in the corner of the cow pasture, longingly looking at us as we walked away.  Strangely enough there was a part of me that began to worry about these abandoned cows who had followed us into the pasture corner where they had not been before and I worried that they wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get back to their normal grazing area….
These cows blindly following my dogs and I along the road into an area in which they didn’t know where they were going or hadn’t been before made me think about how easy it is for us to blindly follow religious leaders that seem to be teaching a fun and easy and self-gratifying faith.  The message they teach tickle a part of us that makes their message easy to hear and them easy to believe.  We are like cows who follow strangers along the fence and end up in a corner somewhere we don’t need to be…. 
It is just a reminder how easy it is to get caught up in a crowd that can be easily persuaded to go a direction God never intended; to go a direction that will not honor God or provide what we need as God’s people.  We so easily follow and then find ourselves wondering where we are…..
Amen                                                                            

Devotion for May 4, 2016

Greetings!!

Moving to a new location can be exiting.  Very exciting - learning new places; learning new people; experiencing new activities; just a different culture; different weather.  It is jollification (yes that really is a word!) to become acquainted with the next phase of life.  
But with all the pleasures of moving and learning and the fun (that is what jollification means!), moving also has those details that negate the warm and fuzzy enjoyable aspects of the move.  Queries like finding a new doctor and a new dentist and a new place to get your hair cut and which local spot has the best burgers in town can be a little daunting, but this quest is nothing compared to the chore of those necessary utilities that have to be turned off in one place and added at another place and you are required to talk to a representative at each of the utilities at each end of your moving…… or at least attempting to talk to a representative.
What has made our personal need for utilities complicated is that we still own our home from which we moved and even though it is on the market to be sold, we are required to keep the utilities hooked up.  My husband is traveling back and forth and he would like to have some water and heat and such when he is staying there as well.  
All of our utility payments are the automatic out of your checking account payments (which is great for those of us who sometimes forget important items such as bill payment…..) and the complication came when we switched our bank account to our new location and therefore the chore of switching all those utility payments from the old checking account to the new one….  This is one of those chores that tests the patience of the most patient.
After lots of work and words muttered under the breath we thought this drudgery had been accomplished.  That is until the old bank contacted us that even though our account was closed the one utility (who by the way was taking payments out of the new account as well) was still trying to take money out of the old account.  It was definitely a grrrrr moment.
Back to trying to straighten this all out.  Picked up the phone, called the number the website told me to call if I had a problem.  “Thank you for calling our utility.  Your call is important to us.”  Sounds encouraging doesn’t it?  Sounds like they really want to talk to you doesn’t it?  
But after the sweet greeting, comes “If you want to talk to person who deals with emergencies press 1.  If you want to talk to the person who deals with everything else press 2.”  Two was pressed. 
“If you want to talk to the person who can help you press one.  If you want to talk to another person who can help you with something different press 2.  And on through option 7”  I truly wasn’t sure where my particular question fit in, so I hit zero which sometimes will work to get you through the maze of numbers…. no luck.  
I punched another number and was presented with a lot of other options and punched numbers which gave me other options.  Without exaggerating, it was punching buttons for over ten minutes before by accident I punched one which said:  “Please hold for the next available person…”  I was ecstatic.  I may actually get to talk to a real person….. when the next voice I heard was, “We are experiencing a large volume of calls.  Please call back.”  And the line went dead…….  I truly wanted to cry.
So often we see prayer almost like this automated maze of phone calls.  We see prayer is just as intimidating and scary as trying to call a utility company.  We think that we have to say the right words at the right time in the right order - like having to chose which option to press to get our problem taken care of.  
We worry that when we pray God is not really there - certainly he is off talking to someone else who has a greater need than me or is a better person than me or God doesn’t want to hear my problems again….. 
Or maybe we worry that if God really does listen, the answer won’t be what we wanted it to be (sort of like my please call back response on my phone call).  
So instead of risking all the questions we have about praying, we just don’t do it.  I admit, it took me a while to risk calling back to the utility company. 
Praying to God is not a maze of ‘doing it right’; it is not a test of having to say the correct words or having to say them in the right order;  it is not a chance encounter where we have to worry about whether God will hear us or if he’s off on another call;  
Never worry about the risk.  Prayer is just whatever is in your heart poured out to the one who knows you better than you know yourself.  Prayer is offered to the one who is always listening to you; it always attuned to you.  The one who will answer on the first ring and never put you on hold or require you to go through a maze of questions or will hang up because he is too busy.  
Yes, I finally got my utilities straightened out - with a lot of time and stress….. And it is great to know that I can talk to my God any time any place about anything - with ease!

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.