Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Greetings!
We have a wonderful side porch at our home - surrounded by trees and bushes - with enough light coming in to make it a very pleasant place to sit.  Every morning, when it is warm enough, which hasn’t happened a lot this year, my  husband and I go out and sit on the porch and drink our coffee and eat our breakfast.  It is a great way to start the morning. 
Our outside cat joins us on the porch because he knows that if he hangs around my husband will give him the leftover milk in his cereal bowl!  What a treat and while I know all those experts tell you not to give milk to cats, he is old and he enjoys it and I figure when a cat moves into old age he can have whatever he wants!
My husband has always liked bird feeders.  Whenever we have lived somewhere that it is feasible he has found locations to hang his bird feeders and has religiously keep the feeders full of the types of food the birds particularly enjoy.  However that has brought up the great bird feeder conundrum.
So what, you ask, is the great bird feeder conundrum?  Well it seems that in the bird feeding world there is great controversy over whether you should feed birds in the summer.  It makes sense to feed the birds in the winter especially when the ground is frozen or there is snow about and the birds have a problem finding food.  But then, the birding world experts say, you should not feed the birds in the summer when the birds have a plethora of natural food to eat and they can fend for themselves.  Makes sense……
However the conundrum comes into play when I think about why I feed the birds in the first place.  And I have to admit I feed the birds not so much for the motivation of helping the birds but because I like to watch the birds and see how many and what kind of birds travel by and eat from the feeder.  The motivation I realize is totally selfish - and while I guess the birds benefit it is really for me and my husband who I admit enjoys keeping the feeders full more than actually watching the birds!
We even develop this kind of relationship with birds who regularly come by the feeder.  We have watched this cardinal couple all spring as they have come to the feeder - and I figured there must be little cardinals somewhere who needed fed as one morning mamma cardinal actually ran off some other birds so she could get some food from the feeder!  And sure enough just a couple days ago we saw a little miniature cardinal hopping around with mamma watching closely…  
 
And for those who are worried about Mr  Outside Cat and all these birds, he's old and he could care less there are birds flying and hopping around!
So what do I do now?  The bird experts tell me to take the feeder down during the summer and I know if I do that, I will no longer be able to spend my mornings watching as birds fly in and out and enjoying the food they find there.  Do I ignore the experts who tell me I should do what was best for the birds and do what I want so I will be happy birdwatching?
I, of course, did what any self respecting person of the 21st century does, I decided to google the opinions on summer bird feeding.  Of course there were numerous articles cause you know when you google something there is like 1000 results on just about anything you may want to find…..  And I found a lot of articles and opinions on whether to take down the feeders or not fill them up (amazing how many opinions there were on that!) during the summer and why it was advised to not feed birds in the summer.  
But!  I found a couple articles that told me it was fine to feed the birds all summer and that it would be fine and it doesn’t hurt the birds and that is all I needed to hear!  There was the information I wanted so I could do what I wanted to do!  Bam!
Unfortunately we do the same thing with God and with our understanding of our relationship with God and with the church.  Instead of doing what we should, which is studying and learning and hearing God’s word in the context it is given and really working and praying to hear what God wants us to hear; because that is often hard for us and not what we want or the way we want it or it makes us think differently and have to adapt our ways to God….
No we want God to conform to us and not to inconvenience us too much so we search around the scripture - or even google it - until we find a verse somewhere we can lift out of context and vindicate ourselves and the way we act and the way we think.  
But God is not someone with whom we can manipulate into the image we want.  God is God and we need to remember we are the creation and not the creator and God is not there so we can do and think and live however we want - but God is there to teach us and show us and instruct us in the ways we can make a difference in this world; even it it is hard or inconvenient or transforming.
Amen!

Devotion May 15, 2019

Greetings!
Last February when my daughter and I went to our annual conference which this particular year was being held in Galveston, Texas, our plane landed in Houston and our task was to then drive from the airport in Houston to our destination.  The trip was about an hour.  And of course my extremely competent driving daughter did the driving.  In fact my extremely competent driving daughter has driven me lots of places and probably is more willing to do most of the driving than she once was after the time when we were driving back from the beach in a rented car and it was my turn to drive - we use to have an agreement to switch drivers each time we stopped somewhere in order to ‘fairly’ share the driving responsibilities. 
Anyway during this particular trip the switch had happened and I was in control of the driving and my daughter decided this was a good time for her to fall asleep.  She is much more trusting than I am - I am not sure I would fall asleep when I was driving - or maybe I would and then I wouldn’t see what a not so hot driver I really am.  So during this stretch of driving where I was in control and my daughter was fast asleep our part of the journey had led us into a not so large city but a city big enough to have lots of lanes and lots of traffic.  This particular not so large city was going through a growth spurt and was trying to redo the roads in order to accommodate the rapid increase in traffic and people.  
What this meant for this particular trip was that there were lots of lane changes and detour type things and while knowing which way to go was not really an issue, the amount of traffic around me traveling at a rather rapid speed with entrance ramps coming onto the newly designed traffic patterns on various sides and at different angles provided to be quite the challenge for me and my daughter wakes up rapidly when she hears me rather loudly exclaim, “I don’t know what to do…….”  Since then she has been much more proactive in the volunteering to drive on our frequent trips! 
All of my kids are good drivers which I attribute to the dear man I paid to teach them to drive since I was too chicken to be in the same car with these driving learning children.  And I’m not that great of a driver anyway - and then I give credit to my sainted husband who was not a chicken when my learning children were driving and would let them drive all over the place while he was sitting in the passenger seat and I was not in the car hanging on to something or grinding down the enamel on my teeth……)
This dear patient understanding man who I have wonderful fond thoughts because of his willingness to travel with driving learning children had his own driving school and he was ‘certified’ by whatever certifies you to do this insane act of teaching teenagers to drive and his 'school' counted towards that tiny little discount you receive on your car insurance since having teenage drivers in your home causes your automobile insurance to reach the outer limits of the national budget.  This dear man took my teenage children and put them behind the wheel of his car and off they would go. (one child at a time since they all didn’t turn 16 at the same time and just now I had this flash of how in the world would I have survived had I had triplets and all my children turn 16 a the same time and there would have been no time to recover between learning to drive experiences!).
Now, full disclosure, is not that I didn’t think my children would become competent drivers. I had lots of faith in them to become very good drivers which they did. What the problem was the fact I was their mother…… Whenever I would sit in the passenger seat and look over at these newly learning drivers all I could see was their 4 year old selves which quickly brought to mind all those silly things that 4 year olds do and the strange decisions 4 years old make.  (I would be wealthy if I had a nickel for every time I said, “What were you thinking” when they were 4 to which they always - always - said, “I don’t know”. )  Of course I had confidence that my children had somewhat matured since they were 4, but there were those moments when I wasn’t really sure….. 
And every time I sat in that passenger seat and saw my 4 year old child behind the wheel of that car I would start to burst out laughing - not funny laughing but overwhelmed laughing - that same laughing I do when I am riding a roller coaster….  Not a good scenario for a teen who is trying to gain confidence behind the wheel!
Wonder what God thinks sometimes when he looks at us?  Here we are as adults sent out as disciples to do the work God has given us to do.  And as far as I’m concerned there really isn’t any work that is more important than the work God gives us to do.  
Not that I feel overly competent to do the work God has set before me but then I figure God wouldn’t have given me this task had he not felt I could do it - or we could do it - God and I working together.  But does that overly patient God look over at me sometimes and see the ‘baby Christian’ and start the same type of hysterical laughing wondering what the heck he was thinking when he called us his and sent us out as disciples…..
Probably not.  Just like this mother knows her children since she was there with them every step of the way in those growing up years…. God knows us even more.  
Every hair on our head, every thought, every idea, every moment…. God knows us.  And God still says to each and every one of us - “I have work for you to do for me….. Let’s go do it!”
Amen!

Devotion May 8, 2019

  • Greetings!
    When my children were in those growing up years, they were very active.  I pretty much let them choose and pick what activities they wanted to participate in - the only stipulation was that whatever they started, they had to complete whatever made up a cycle for that particular sport or organization or activity - a season or a semester or a year - it was all different!
    My thinking was that by trying a bunch of different activities they had the opportunity to really learn new things and to also learn what they liked and didn’t like.  That perhaps was the most valuable part of these experiences.   
    However the struggle to complete whatever it was they figured out they didn’t like was often a tremendous one.  There were lots of reminding them of the commitment they made and lots of remembering the deal I made with them about sticking through things and perhaps a threat or two thrown in…..  
    The interesting aspect was the unique way in which they would often try and get out of going to whatever it was they had decided they didn’t enjoy doing any more.  One daughter would ‘pretend’ to fall asleep right before we had to leave to go thinking I wouldn’t wake her up - and this was true in lots of cases since there is great peace and quiet within a household when a child is asleep and there is in most circumstances little reason to wake a quiet sleeping child up to disrupt peacefulness…….  But she did get become awake quickly when mom said it was time to go!
    Then there was the son who would refuse to change clothes - once he had his pajamas on when it was time to leave thinking, erroneously of course, that I would not make him go if he still had his pajamas on and now he didn’t have enough time to change…. fortunately he was still small enough to carry because a mother determined to teach the son to live out his commitments and promises picked the reluctant son up and carried him to the car to whence he went in his pajamas…….  
    Often there was the typical arguing, crying, stomping of feet and rolling of eyes that children are good at (in fact even now as almost middle age adults they can still exhibit some of these stalling tactics……) but that cut them little slack and even their soft hearted father knew better than to let their wily tricks work although he was much easier to fool than I was.  The old put a wash cloth under hot water and hold it to your face so you feel like you have a fever actually worked on him a few times…..
    Every now and then what these growing young ones realized is that the very things they thought they hated in the beginning and tried their best to avoid, turned out to be the very things they enjoyed the most……  Imagine that!  And sometimes the things they didn’t like stayed  things they didn’t like but they now they knew that and could check that off their list - and sometimes the things they did like turned out to be things they didn’t like the more they did them and sometimes these things became life long passions…
    But the point was you don’t know until you give it some time and effort and there is great personal growth in perseverance….. even reluctant perseverance where you have to go places with a hot face when really isn’t fevered, or a little sheepishly because you are in your pajamas, or a little angry because your determined mother knew you really weren’t asleep or that same mother who knew that your tummy really didn’t hurt…..
    Sometimes our relationships with God are the same way……we enjoy God for a while and then we get lazy or distracted or we don’t really think we are interested so we quit the things of God.  Maybe because we think God will always be there for us regardless of our participation level, maybe because this God stuff really isn’t for me, maybe because my impressions of God are a little skewed or don’t line up with my own preconceptions, or maybe because truly following God is a lot of work….
    But God is like a determined mother; God will continue to come after you and encourage you to get back in the fray with the other people in the congregations of almost all the churches who are struggling themselves to stay committed and stay focused and to persevere even when you and they are just not sure….
    God knows all your excuses and God knows all your avoidances and God knows that if you just take a deep breath and commit, and persevere though the difficult motivational times, you life of being part of the family of God will be worth the effort.
    Amen!
    Joanne

Devotion March 27, 2019

Greetings All!
Coffee cups are good for coffee and coffee cups are excellent pen holders - as attested by the number of coffee cups I have filled with pens. So instead of amazement over the number of coffee cups I have filled with pens, the amazement should be over the number of pens I have filling my plethora of coffee cups.
I have an attraction to pens and I do not know why. It is not an expense thing because you can get pens for a quarter. It is not really a writing thing because how much actual writing does anyone do anymore. Maybe if it were a thing about keyboards or keypads or what ever they call those pop up screens on our cellular telephones which is what we use more frequently to write things down.
But it has always been there - this pen collecting frenzy.
I go to conferences, exhibitions, demonstrations, programs and if there are free pens involved I come home with my fair allotment and maybe a few more if they happen to be some loose or left over. (I can now see you checking your pocket to make sure I haven’t ‘borrowed’ you pen).
My most recent trip to a Presbyterian Women training as I was leaving the speaker handed me a handful of PW pens and said, “Do you want these? I have been trying to get rid of them.” Well that was a silly question and of course I thanked her as I took them. More pens for the coffee cups!
Needless to say, I have lots of pens and most of them can be found in a coffee cup somewhere altho recently as I was cleaning out a cabinet I found a whole shoe box of pens…..
I was actually writing something the other day. Had my legal pad out and I was scribbling away with a pen grabbed from the closest coffee cup but the pen I had taken out of the closest coffee cup was not writing well. Knowing I had a bazillion other pens one would have thought I would just toss this underperforming pen and grab another one.
Of course not! I was not going to give up on this pen and so for the rest of the afternoons pen writing chore I needed to do, I struggled along with that pen, writing, shaking it, wiping off the tip, scratching along knowing that there is a good possibility I would not be able to even read all these notes I was taking with this less than perfect pen…
That is what God does with us. God never gives up on us even when we aren’t able to really do the things we think we ought to to, need to do, or even want to do for the Lord. God never gives up on us when we try to do what we believe God calls us to do and it doesn’t work out as it should, or we end up not being able to do what we think we can or should, or we try to do it and we really mess it up.
It doesn’t matter. God will always, always, always, regardless of anything, hold us dear to him.
Amen!!

Devotion March 20, 2019

Greetings!
What do you do with old coffee cups?  I’m not talking about coffee cups that you just don’t use anymore - but coffee cups that have cracks and chips and handles missing, especially the ones with the handles missing.  I’m expecting that if I could hear your responses most of you would say something practical like - we throw them away….. Makes sense.
Not me.  It is not that I am a hoarder but with few exceptions all the coffee cups I have are coffee cups obtained from places I have lived or destinations I have visited; or touristy locations my children have visited because when they decided to bring a momento back to dear ole’ Mom they would bring me a coffee cup.  
So when one of these coffee cups develops a problem which makes them un coffee drinkable - because I do put away my fair share of coffee - I hesitate to throw them away because they are items which bring back memories.  I have a couple broken cups from the Observatory where my husband use to work; and a broken cup from the Marine Chaplain office at Camp Lejuene which has quite the story behind it…..  I have several broken Presbyterian Coffee cups which one would expect considering my profession.
So what I have done is repurposed these broken coffee cups which sadly can no longer be used for coffee drinking.  If you would ever see my desk (I pretty well keep my desk from public scrutiny because it is rather scattered.  There is this malady I have which prevents me from putting one thing away before I move onto the next which I guess if you saw my desk and if you dug through you could figure out everything I had been working on!) on my desk are currently four broken coffee cups.  One has pencils and one has pens and one has markers and such and one has accessories such as scissors and a hole punch and various tools such as that.  (I’m assuming you actually believe that these coffee cups are that well organized……).  But the point is the coffee cups are now serving a purpose other than their intended purpose but they are fulfilling that purpose very well!
If you go into my home, you will find much the same thing.  There are coffee cups in every room of writing implements and office tools and various other quickly needed items.  However at home the coffee cups have spread out their usefulness.  Many of my broken coffee cups have become plant holders (obviously only the handleless and chipped ones because if I used the cracked ones there would be no water left in the cup and the plant would not be very happy,)
Most rooms have at least one coffee cup containing water and a plant.  My intention was for the plant to be a temporary resident of the cup until it was well rooted and I could transfer it to some dirt and a nice ‘real’ pot of its own.  However over the years I have left some of those plants in the water in their cup because they are very happy there with no signs of really desiring dirt or a pot of their own so they remain in their handleless broken coffee cup from somewhere in my past and they are very happy!  
Scattered around my home are coffee cups from my college and my college years and from the rock and roll hall of fame and  my one trip to a Nascar race and several others that I cannot currently recall (which means that now I will be forced to walk around my house looking at coffee cups because I will ponder which other ones are there as I try to be productive and get work done this morning)….
There are times when we feel broken and chipped and cracked and our obvious conclusion is that in our brokenness and our chippedness and our crackedness we are no longer useful.  Somehow we think that if we aren’t able to do the things we have always done before; or if we can’t do the things we want to do; or we can’t do the things we think we ought to be doing that we are no longer valuable, that we are no longer necessary, that we are no longer needed or that we are no longer worth anything.
You are not what you did or think you should have done or think you ought to still be doing.  Your identity is not in what you do, your identity is you.  My broken coffee cup is still from Magnetic Hill even though now it is a plant rooter rather than a coffee holder.  
You are a valuable child of God even if you can’t get on a 5 foot ladder and wash your windows; you are still a valuable child of God even if you can’t stand on your feet for 8 hours and work in retail; you are still a valuable child of God even if you can’t do everything you use to do each day.  You are still a valuable child of God even if you have been excused from your employment for whatever reason…
So take a deep breath and remember you have a God who knows every hair on your head (or every hair you use to have on your head) and knows exactly what you have done and what you are capable of and what you can do. Don’t dig in your heels and think that you are only worth something if you are doing ____. (fill in the blank).  My broken coffee cups would tell you that they are just as important to me as pencil holders as they were as coffee containers.  
And you are just as important to God regardless of what you can or can’t do, are able or aren’t able to do…..
Amen!