Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Deovtion Feb 20, 2019

When I heard that the church conference my daughter and I go to every year was going to be in Galveston, Texas, several thoughts went through my head.  I didn’t know where in Texas Galveston was located and the only real thing I knew about Galvaston was through the song sung by Glen Campbell - which has periodically been running through my head since I found about the location of this conference way a long time ago…..
Because we live in the ‘information’ age it was pretty easy to google Galvaston and learn everything I could.  I’m pretty geographically challenged so I still had kind of a hard time figuring out exactly where it was in relationship to the rest of Texas and the United States and I still have difficulty wrapping my head around the size of the state of Texas especially since I came from a fairly small state!  
But the big thing I learned is that Galvaston was on the Gulf of Mexico and there was a beach in front of the hotels and the conference center where our meeting was going to be.  Beach!  That is pretty much all you had to say - Beach!!  I figured even with all the meetings and classes and such there would still be time to watch the waves roll into the beach and relax within that great atmosphere!  I was excited!  To the beach I was going!  Whatever else there was pretty much immaterial.
Our plane landed in the late afternoon and we started our hour long drive from Houston to Galveston when it started getting rather rainy and foggy…. rather foggy might have been a bit of an understatement…. it was getting very foggy.  My wonderful driving daughter did an excellent job of navigating through the dark and rain and fog to eventually find the hotel we were staying in.  (We were amazed when we left Galveston at the end of the week at the bridges and such we had driven over and never even noticed because it was that foggy…..)
We did manage to find the entrance to the hotel which was more of a challenge than it should have been but because of the extreme nature of this fog we literally couldn’t see much of anything.  Thank goodness for extremely bright lights in front of hotels!  We checked in and in doing so said something about the fog and the hotel clerk kind of sighed and said, “Yes,  this is sea fog.  We get it this time of year almost every year.  It is pretty nasty”  “How long is it supposed to last?” I asked.  “Oh” she answered “Anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks”.  
I didn’t ask more questions (maybe because I was afraid of the answer and I really didn't want to hear we were going to be fogged in the entire week we where there)  but I wasn't totally dismayed because I kind of assumed it would be the fog like I am use to - the fog where it is heavy in the morning and then as the day progresses eventually lifts and all is well.  But no, this was not that kind of fog - sea fog - who had ever heard of that?
Sea fog, it turns out, does not lift as the day progresses.  We got up the next morning and opened  the curtain to look out at the scenery of Galveston and at the beach…… And all we saw was this curtain of gray.  Really?  So I went out on the balcony and I literally had a hard to seeing the chairs on the balcony much less anything outside of the balcony rail.  I admit - it was a little disconcerting.
I was in a bit of mourning because I had looked so forward to looking at the beach and the waves and the sea beyond… and all that was visible was gray fog - heavy, wet, no light piercing, fog.  I knew the beach and the waves and sea was there, just right across the way….. but it was not to be seen - at all. 
God is there.  God is always there.  God is always right with us.  But so many times we get fogged in with all the problems and issues and stress and difficulties around us and we can’t figure out where he is.  We can’t see him, we can’t feel him, all we see is the fog of the problems that are weighing us down.
Remember - you don’t need to see God to know he is there.  We live in the promise of a God who knows every hair on our head, knows everything that we are going through, and even knows that the fog will lift and he will help us then see clearly.
Don’t get so caught up in the fog that you forget that even if you can’t see what is right in front of you, God is there.  

Devotion February 13, 2019

Every year my daughter and I go on a trip together to a church education conference.  It is a pretty nifty thing since every year we get to go to a different part of the country - a new place, a new city.  We’ve been to San Francisco and Denver and Orlando and Albuquerque and a bunch of other places.  We usually compound the adventure by renting a car and so we can get out and see the sights in these new places since we are pretty sure that we will never be back to most of them.  In fact except for Louisville and Baltimore they have all been in places we had never even thought of going before.
One year the conference was in Grand Rapids which was one of those, ‘what is in Grand Rapids’ kind of questions cause we had all heard of Grand Rapids but didn’t really know anything that was there but that turned out to be one of the more enjoyable conferences!  Considering the location of Grand Rapids and the fact we were going the last of January we had envisioned cold temperatures and snow - and it turned out to be rather warm and quite conducive to walking around outside, we even got to ride this beautiful indoor carousel - you can never tell what is going to happen or what the weather is going to hold!
Twice in recent memory our conferences have be beset by snow - the year we were in Nashville and on the last day of the conference there was a blizzard and many of us were snowed in an extra day and because it was a blizzard you really couldn't go out an do much - and then there was the year in Albuquerque where it was the coldest temps and the most snow they had had in umpteen years to the point where it was the first time the schools had been closed for snow and we received notes under the door of our hotel that said they didn’t have enough natural gas for this weather and they were going to have to lower the temperature in the hotel.  Brrrrrrrrrrrr.  
This year our conference was in Galveston. Never been to Texas before so that was pretty exciting. Every time I told someone where I was going the Glen Campbell song ‘Galveston’ came into my head and in fact it still does.  The draw for Galveston was that it is on the beach!  Waves and sand - but it is the first of February so we figured there wasn’t going to be a lot of sun bathing or wave riding!  And there wasn’t because the fog was so dense you actually did not know if there was a sandy beach or waves crashing into the shore because we literally could not see past the railing on our balcony of our hotel and the temperatures plummeted.  Most of us were ill prepared for the frigid 30 some degree weather and the 5 minute walk to the conference center was quite the journey as you kept your head down against the wind and your arms wrapped around your inadequately dressed self!
This traveling to these conferences at the end of January have become quite the conversation concerning - what is the weather going to be like this year?  Especially since our experience has been that whatever the typical weather is in these locations - we are going to experience something out of the ordinary.  We go to Little Rock next year and I wonder if we should warn them we are coming and there is going to be some type of bizarre shift in the weather when we are there....... 
But even with the bizarre weather and the difficult circumstances the conference still continues to go on and we continue to enjoy our time of seeing people we only see once a year and of learning and of worship and of being able to learn about new places and of exploring a little…..
And so it is with God.  Regardless of the circumstances around us we can always count on God coming through and helping us when our lives take unexpected twists or turns, or things don’t turn out the way we think, or we have to venture out towards an unknown exploration.  Such a gift to know we have a God who is always, always, always there with us.

Devotion January 30, 2019

We went to the beach a few weeks ago.  It was January and the weather was rather chilly, but it was still the beach so that is all that matters.  It truly isn’t significant as to what the temperature, the beach is still the beach and and the ocean is still the ocean and regardless of anything else the the waves always come to the shore and break and the water rolls back out again.  Continually. Regardless of any other factors.  There is a consistency there that I believe is part of the attraction of being at the beach.  
Of course the level of the waves or whether they are smooth or rough does change.  The tide is higher or lower depending on the time of day.  If it is stormy the waves are higher and crash more roughly onto the sand; when it is calm the waves kind of gently flow to the beach and flow back out to sea again….
But always the waves, coming in and going out and the sound of that and the visual of that make such a soothing regularity which produces the feeling of calm.  Maybe that is why I like the beach so much, because there is just this calm that is created when back in your real life all is swirling and chaotic….
And while I am feeling that calm, relaxing feeling I love to people watch at the beach. I have always had such a moral dilemma with that.  Is it really fair to all those people I have watching to have someone watching them when they don’t even realize it?  Am I in some way invading their life by sitting on my balcony and just watching as they run down the beach, or play with the ball or walk their children?  Is it a problem to smile when I hear the laughter and the squeals as people get into the water - and in January it is mostly squeals because I think people think ‘beach’ and think ‘warm’ even when it is January until they commit to running into the breaking waves and realize that warm and January are not necessarily synonymous! 
Watching the people as they wander down the beach, or ride their bicycles on the board walk; as they throw footballs or kick their soccer ball or fly their kites; as they walk arm in arm or hand in hand or just beside one another lost in conversation; or walk while talking on their cell phones or looking at their cell phones; as they walk their dogs on a leash or trust their dogs leashless to walk beside them.  
It just seems that everything about the beach is peaceful - the constant waves, the relaxed people meandering along the edge of the water, or through the softer sand or up on the boardwalk, the laughter and even the shorebirds gliding on the air currents who don’t seem to even have to put much effort into their flight.
That feeling of peace; of being relaxed; of contentment; of calm is the same feeling our God keeps reminding us is possible if we just let ourselves fall into his arms.  Especially as we read the Psalms there is that prevailing concept of the consistency and the assurance of God’s presence in our lives.  
Just like we leave the chaos of the world behind when we travel to the beach, we can leave the uncertainty of our lives behind when we allow ourselves to fall into the arms of a God  who wants nothing more for us than the constant calm of his believing in his care.
Its hard sometimes because our problems seem so pervasive, but there is no better promise than the one we are constantly reminded of through the knowledge of the one who created us.  The one who wants so badly to be our one true God; who offers us peace no matter what else seems to be happening.
Just lean on him; allow God to hold you; believe in the promise of a God who will hold you and fill you with his relaxing presence.