Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion Nov 28, 2018

Thanksgiving!!  Thanksgiving was created to give us a day to give thanks.  And most of us at least give thanks before the meal begins and I think most of us have a feeling of how we truly are grateful for the food and the day and the family - but, and I don’t think this is wrong by any means, most of us just enjoy the day and all the things that go with it.  And maybe we even perhaps give thanks for the stress of getting ready for it…..
Cause when do you start getting ready for Thanksgiving?  Probably weeks in advance, at least we do.  There are 17 of us immediate family and since I live as much in the middle as anyone and probably have the house most suited for 17 people, we come here which is fine cause that means I don’t have to go anywhere!!
A whole bunch of weeks before Thanksgiving the adult portion and mostly the female portion of the 17 people decide on who is going to bring what for the feasting.  It is kind of a rubber stamp now as we have done this several times and we always pretty much have the same menu and now everyone sort of brings the same things they always have and it works out pretty well!  
And then after the weeks of planning the family begins to pile into the domicile and stake out their places to sit (at least that is what the male portion of the hoard does cause the female portion usually head straight for the kitchen to stake out their preparation area and a portion of the frig!) and a sort of routine chaos begins.  Of the 17 people, 8 of them are under 12 and in fact 4 of them are under 5, so your mind now is picturing what this chaos may look like.  We all did say a prayer of Thanksgiving this year because the weather was good enough that the children could play outside and since there were enough older children to monitor the younger children it all pretty well worked out - altho a couple of the guys grabbed the bench outside so there was some adult supervision in a manner of speaking!  
All was going well and there always has to be some sort of big decision to be made that we have a hard time making and that was no different during this Thanksgiving preparation.  Being the pastor of a church, available to me is the Fellowship Hall where we could have gone to eat with tables and high chairs and a large running around area….. but then there were those in the crowd who saw the amount of work of carrying the pots of feast over to the church which was just across an alley and they had a vision of how 17 people would arrange themselves to be able to all eat together if we all remained in our domicile.
On top of the organized chaos and loudness…. when you have 8 children and the associated adults and everyone is talking because that is what you do in our family is all talk while the children are voicing their fun and sometimes displeasure and sometimes just loud screaming and the guys are yelling because of some miraculous football play …. some malady began to over take me and I began to feel rather puny (which is a euphemism for I was not feeling well and it began to progress as the day continued) and my adult children made me sit down in the recliner (oh darn….) and rest for a while which I gladly did which was probably a good indication of how bad I felt because I usually don’t give up that easily,  but when I realized the sitting down in the recliner was only the beginning of the creeping malady for which I was sitting I ended up taking to the bed and in the midst of the chaos and loudness and screaming children went to sleep which should tell you a whole lot more about the depth of my not feeling well.
I assume time passed when the sainted husband bravely ventured into the hospital ward and woke the sleeping beast and wondered if the infirmed would like to indulge in some Thanksgiving dinner.  And not wanting to be left out I gradually rose to a sitting position where I slowly moved to a standing position and then inched my way down the hall to the eating area requesting that I be placed in the feasting location farthest away from the maddening crowd so as not to inflict whatever disease had invaded my body onto anyone else….
I was taken a little aback however when I wandered down the hall and one of my daughters greeted me with “Now don’t be surprised by what we have done”….. You see my trepidation because those words could have had a lot of far reaching possibilities.  I began to think things like the living room now being in the kitchen or a wall taken down or some outlandish redecorating…..  
It was all good.  They had just altered some tables so that everyone could sit together in the same room - not at the same table but we all were close enough and arranged well enough that everyone could see and talk and be a part of the crowd….  And I had my own special stool in the corner so not only was I able to see everyone, I wasn’t very close to anyone and I could lay my head against the cabinets for those moments when in my disease I was no longer to fully sit myself up!  Great job to my family who figured this all out along with preparing the entire meal while I was knocked out from some strange illness.
The food was all laid out nicely on a table for everyone to walk around and serve themselves and someone served me a plate of very small, very small, portions of each dish so that I could at least have a taste of the feast…..
And then as the food winded down and everyone was satiated with Thanksgiving specialties, everyone got up and the cleaning began and before too long and even in a quite organized fashion all the food was divided up into plastic containers for each family to take home and the dishes were loaded into the dishwasher and the remaining ones washed and the floors swept and the trash taken out and the extra tables taken down and before too long the entire area looked all spiffed up….. and I hadn’t done a thing other than sit on my stool in the corner leaning against the cabinet and through my fogged eyes watched the scurrying and occasionally answered a question.
Now there was a part of me that felt real guilty as I watched my family do all this work….. but that was a real small part because I knew that I wasn’t able to be any help at all and my heart was warmed at the way they were all working together to accomplish the task at hand!
So remember -  so it is in God’s church and with God’s people.  Sometimes we find ourselves feeling real indispensable.  Sometimes we find ourselves holding so tightly in ownership to some task in the church that we feel like there is just ‘ no one else to do it’.  But God knows what needs to be done and God knows there will be times when we just can’t rise to the job even if it is a job we ‘own’ and if it truly needs to be done, God will make sure it is done.  
It doesn’t reduce our value in God’s eyes if there is a day, or a week, or even longer when we can’t do whatever it is; it doesn’t reduce our value in the eyes of the other church members if there is a day, or a week, or even longer when we are unable to do whatever….
As a church God calls us to do what needs to be done and yes we all have our abilities and the things we like to do and even the things that we think we are the only who can do it, but as a community we stand with each other, we stand beside each other, we walk behind each other to pick up what needs to be picked up.
And with all of us together, what needs done gets done.  Does it get done the way ‘we would do it’ - maybe not.  But that’s OK.  
Always remember, we are God’s church, we are God’s people and it is together God’s work is done and while we are all important, none of us are completely indispensable…

Devotion Novembr 14, 2018

Next week is a busy week for everyone.  Thanksgiving preparations, probably house cleaning for family coming in - and maybe it isn’t a busy week because you are the family that is coming in and someone else is doing the Thanksgiving preparations and the house cleaning….  Or maybe you are going to have a nice restful and relaxing week…
I however am one of the busy week people with Thanksgiving preparations and house cleaning and family coming in which is great because I love it when the house is full of the hustle and bustle of family and adults sitting around discussing different aspects of their life which for my kids it is usually talking to one another about their kids because they have a plethora of them.  And then there are the kids who are repeatedly told to stay in the play room and to keep the toys in the play room but who repeatedly are running around all over the house everywhere but the toy room and dragging out the toys from the toy room and are told to take the toys back to the toy room and they do but somehow the toys keep reappearing outside of the toy room…. and there are dogs barking outside…..
But it is OK.  Anyway that is not what I was going to talk about but somehow that is what came out as I was getting ready to talk about what I wanted to talk about which was the busyness of next week.  Because we have to prepare for the clamor of all these people - and I think maybe the mental preparation is more important than the cleaning and buying supplies and cooking what can be cooked ahead of time.
While I love all those people being around and the chaos of the little ones running around and screaming - because regardless of how old the ‘little’ ones are they do see the necessity to scream and scream often and scream loudly and each time you hear a shriek you are weighing in your head “Is that a real I’m hurt please help me scream or is that just one of those run of the mill type screams that the children seem to want to do often and loudly” and most of the time the screams are the just kid cause we are kid screams - but sometimes it is hard to tell!
So during the time before the people tornado hits I do some mental preparation to remind myself that chaos will ensue no matter how much preparation is done - and that is OK!!
Mental preparation is important when it comes to our relationship with God.  In fact mental preparation is imperative when it comes to our relationship with God.  Because our relationship with God is a spiritual act and spiritual acts use our mind and our intellect and we have to take a moment to get ourselves in the right place in order to be able to fully connect with our creator.  We just don’t go bopping into the presence of God like we would run into Grandma’s Thanksgiving prepared house…. we go into the presence of God with our hearts and our minds tuned to listen and to hear what God says to us and that is a mental thing…. and unless we put aside all those shopping lists and to do lists and personal relationship concerns and ‘what happened on Dancing with the Stars last night’ questions that fill up our thinking space we have a hard time allowing God to fill us with what God feels we need  - so you have to prepare yourself by putting all that away, by tuning yourself to the spiritual nature of God and by quieting all the ‘me’ stuff…..
Worship, prayer time, whenever you are looking for a special moment with God, prepare yourself and you will find there is so much more to experience together with your creator.
And I will get my mind ready for next Thursday……

Devotion October 31, 2018

It is Halloween!!  So when I looked at the date on my calendar when I sat down at my desk this morning - cause I always look at my calendar first thing when I sit down at the desk because I have realized I am getting to that place where I don’t always remember everything….
In fact I have found out now that if I have to do something that is out of my routine I have to write it on my calendar on my desk and on the calendar in my kitchen and on the calendar on my phone and maybe even put it in that little reminder feature on my phone when will beep at me and remind me of something I need to do…. such a sad commentary that the old noggin just doesn’t retain what it use to.  I prefer to think of it as being because I have so many things I need to keep track of with work and family and outside obligations that there is just too much data and it is sort of like when my phone tells me the storage is all used up!
So this morning I did as I usually do and when I sat down at my desk I looked at my calendar and remembered it was Halloween!
I always have enjoyed Halloween.  Back when the kids were small and they would begin thinking of what they wanted to be for Halloween and I was a stay at home Mom and had time to hand make these great elaborate costumes.  Then it would be the search for not too expensive candy because we would have around 300+ kids come by the door.  What fun it was wandering around the neighborhood seeing all the other little children in their costumes and all excited about the candy they were going to receive cause there isn’t much little kids like better than mounds of candy (not sure parents would agree with that but you know this really is a night for kids to just have fun). 
Over the years we have lived in a couple different neighborhoods that had oodles and oodles of trick-or-treaters wandering the streets and many of those years the sainted husband would come up with some great Halloween scenario to portray in front of our house including boiling cauldrons and eerie music.  There was that year where he went a little overboard and the little kids were too afraid to come up to the porch to get the candy…… Course we had lots of left over candy that year and now I’m thinking maybe that was his plan. Hmmmm?
In one of our neighborhoods the houses on our street were really close together.  It was an old neighborhood with the narrow tall two story (or more) houses with front steps that led down to a sidewalk.  The years we lived there everyone one in their houses would come out and sit at the bottom of their steps to hand out the candy because it was quite a journey up most of our steps to get to the porch or the front door so we all made it easier on the throngs of children which traveled through that street…. but what was nice was this was the only time we as neighbors took the time to come to the front of our houses cause we all had fenced in back yards with parking in the back.  Out there we would go and sit and as the kids meandered through filling their sacks and pumpkins and pillow cases with our candy, we neighbors actually talked to one another!  It was such a nice enjoyable time.
I have to admit for me the most bizarre halloween candy collecting location I lived in was in a very, very rural area where there really weren’t that many people and the houses were scattered out along back roads.  When we moved there and October began to approach I did inquire as to how we would trick or treat.  And the locals looked at like because they had always lived there and they didn’t know there were options for trick or treating such as walking along sidewalks.  Halloween there consisted of dressing up in your costume and driving down the road, pulling off, running up to a house, collecting goodies, running back to the car and driving to the next driveway where you would often have to wait for the car in front of you to back out of the driveway before you pulled into the driveway where your children would climb out of the car, run up to the house, have items plunked into their pumpkin and back to the car, climb back in, seatbelts on, drive down the road, pull into a driveway, take off the seatbelts, jump out of the car - you got the picture!  
When I first moved where I am now and October approached I asked about how we did Trick or Treat?  I don’t have any children any more to dress up which is sad, but I was curious as to how to expect children to come ambling by my door expecting treats. There were no sidewalks and no real neighborhood and somehow I didn't think people drove around like they did when I lived out in the country.  Turns out the children go to the mall and the various trunk or treat locations and to down towns where the business treat and the number of children who actually come to your door are probably non-existent.  Sad face cause I really enjoyed smiling faces lifting up their halloween bag looking for something scrumptious dropped into the bag.
Aren’t traditions interesting?  So many different places and so many different ways of doing things and so many different understandings of how things are done and who does them and how they get done.  And sometimes people are interested in hearing about other traditions and sometimes people don’t understand that there are other traditions and ways of doing things and some people are flexible to ‘go with the flo’ and others are ‘my way or the highway’.  Just like all those different places I have lived during Halloween and too often just like our churches.
There are many, many different churches.  There are many, many different types of churches.  There are many, many different sizes of churches.  There are many, many different ways people worship.  There are many, many different ways people understand  worship.  There are many, many different times people worship.  There are many, many different songs people sing during worship.  There are quiet churches and loud churches and in the middle churches.  We could go on.  There many, many churches and no two churches are alike and no two churches do everything exactly alike.
And just like Halloween traditions, most of what we do in church is as much tradition as anything else.  And we need to remember that the importance of church is to gather and worship and serve our God and as long as we are doing that all these differences in tradition are just that….. traditions; ways we have done things for years because it works for us and it is comfortable and the objective is achieved - we worship and serve God.
So worship and serve God!  Become part of a church.  And don’t worry so much about the how, but concentrate on the why, which is to honor a God who loves us and showers us with his grace….