Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Devotion October 19, 2016


I have come to a retreat.  To a wonderfully beautiful place in the mountains of North Carolina.  This adventure is called a retreat, but in actuality it is continuing education conference.  You know, that necessary thing we have to do in our lives so that we keep abreast of and connected to and informed about all that ‘stuff’ that we need to know in order to continue our ministry.  
I guess that you can combine the two things together - retreat and continuing eduction.  I guess the two things can co-exist…..  Retreat sounds to me like rest and relaxation; sitting out in the warm sunshine in the gentle breeze under the colorfully changing trees by the sparkling lake just taking in the fresh air and not thinking about anything or anyone or ‘stuff’ that needs to be done.  Continuing education is sitting in a class listening to someone expound information that you hope you can assimilate into your thinking and your particular situation and then be of benefit to the people you serve through the use of all that information the has been poured out and hopefully you have retained.  The two don't sound very similar!
The problem with continuing education is that you come to a beautiful place like this and then you are expected to rise early in the morning in time to get breakfast and shuffle off sleepily to worship where you sit for 45 minutes and then you get up and shuffle to the classroom - making sure that the path you take to the classroom includes a pass by the little girls room and a pass by the coffee (which makes the first stop a necessity not soon afterward).  You and your coffee then make it to the classroom where you sit down and settle yourself in for what you know will be a couple hours of information overload.  
Now before this sounds like an excruciating experience, it may be a tad bit painful in the tiredness and stiffness category, but it is a good thing to hear and learn all this information and to talk to others about how things are going in their places of worship and to hear new an exiting ways things are getting accomplished in different places and to take a moment to brag about how well your church is doing.  I truly do like to learn and new ideas or re-informed old ideas are never wasted.
I think I just wish that the continuing education were not in a room with windows and skylights so that I can see the sunshine and the changing colors of the trees and the gentle breeze knowing that just down the steps from the room in which I am sitting sits a lake with benches where I could actually be sitting enjoying some retreating…… Or even better yet sitting on the porch of the coffee shop which overlooks the falls and listening to the sound of the water as I sort of check out and just allow the breeze and the sun and the sounds refresh the brain and the body and the spirit….
You spend the morning in class and then you meander to lunch where you eat quickly so that you can spend at least a few minutes outside in the warm sun and the gentle breeze under the canopy of colorfully changing leaves while getting a glance at the lake that is calling your name ever so subtly and you are tempted - very tempted - to cut out on that afternoon continuing education lecture because surely I can justify not being where I am suppose to be because of the lure of nature….. nature is a good thing right?  There is nothing wrong with nature.  God made nature so surely there would be nothing wrong with spending time in the natural world of the warm sun and the gentle breeze and the canopy of leaves and the gentle reflection of the lake.  Right?   Except I know where I am suppose to be and even though the temptation to ‘cut out’ is strong - I go to the class where I know I am suppose to be with my cup of very strong coffee in hand because I know that an afternoon class is going to be very difficult to remain focused - especially when there are all those windows…….
And of course I do the right thing because that is who I am and of course I learn a lot and get some great insight and some great ideas and get my successes reinforced and come to recognize some deficiencies - all those things that continuing education is suppose to do.  Of course it was the right thing to do and I achieved my purpose for being here (although there are 3 more of those long sessions left to go........).  
Part of me is glad that I resisted the temptation to skip out on what I was suppose to be doing (and part of me is a little sad that I missed out on the moments to actually retreat) but I went with the greater good and that will benefit me and those I work with a lot longer and I am sure there will be more nice warm days with gentle breezes and displays of leaves in color and glistening lakes…
We are tempted to do the same things with God.  We are tempted to skip the things of God when something which appears to be more appealing comes along; or something which seems to be more fun; or something that mimics the warmth of a sun and the gentleness of a breeze; something we think we need more than God….. But what we find is that when we neglect the things of God and push them aside for what looks like a better option, we eventually lose out in the long run.  When we choose the things of God, which we know we are suppose to, then everything else seems to fall into place and we find ourselves going in the direction God leads us and doing the things God calls us to do and that is when we truly find the peace and meaning in our lives.
Tempting breezes and warmth and beauty are all around us - but is God who is everlasting!


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.

Devotion September 28, 2016


It was time for Kids Fun Night.  The fourth Sunday of each month we have a fun evening for kids which is a way to let them know that church is not just about sitting still and learning things (although that is important!) but that we can gather together as the people of God and just have fun together!  
So we have done fun things - water slides and water balloon games and such and this Sunday was ‘body bumper games’!  I have accumulated a bunch of those plastic blow up things that you slip over your head and put your arms through arm holes and you’re body is protected by what looks like a upper body swim ring that covers your whole upper body with your head sticking out the top and arms out the sides and feet out the bottom.  The result is that you can run and bump into things and you just bounce off (ergo the name body bumpers!)
They are a whole bunch of fun for kids (altho my son and son-in-law who are no longer kids managed to put them on and play with them which was one of the funniest sights I have ever seen.  The video is on Facebook somewhere…..).
Well, that is the upside - they are a whole bunch of fun for kids.  When there is an upside there is usually a downside and in this instance meant that I had to blow up all the body bumpers and I had quite a few - in fact enough for every one of our children to have one.  
I started the week before because each body bumper has four sides and each side has its own blow into valve so with each body bumper you had four separate sides to provide enough air to inflate them…..
So I figured I could do a few a day and then by the Sunday night they would be done.  I quickly realized this was not going to be a very good option as after one blown up body bumper my oxygen was spent!  
The sainted husband then went and purchased an electric gizmo that made the job a bunch easier and I wasn’t going to have to worry about congregational members finding their pastor passed out in the floor!  By the  night of the kids fun night the bumpers were all blown up and ready to go.  And as promised the kids had fun!  And the adults had fun watching the kids have fun!
All was well.  But then, the realization was that the inflated body bumpers had to all be uninflated so they could be stored. Easier said than done because these body bumpers were designed to stay blown up - not to deflate (as they should be because you don’t want them losing air while kids are bumping into one another!)
So I opened all the valves - 4 per body bumper so it was pretty time consuming - and thought I could just leave them and later I would find them emptied of their air and ready to fold up and put away.
Well, that certainly was not the case.  Those ‘we need to prevent air from leaking out’ valves were doing their job.  The next morning as I walked into our fellowship hall fully expecting to find flat body bumpers - I saw a little bit deflated body bumpers but a far cry from body bumpers ready to fold up and put away!
So with each valve I had to squeeze the valve and pretty much lay my body over that one side of the body bumper as air was released.  And even after that the body bumper side still contained enough air that they couldn’t be folded up….
Now my job each day this week is to take each body bumper and continue to coax more air out so that (keep your fingers crossed!) eventually all the air will be gone and the body bumpers will be able to be folded up and put away……
Sure was easier to put the air in these things that get it out!
Isn’t that true with our life?  It is easy to get ourselves in trouble, but it sure is hard to clean up the mess afterward!  It is awfully easy to gain weight and awfully difficult to lose it!  Messing up our houses only takes few hours but cleaning it back up seems to take the rest of the week…..
Falling away from God happens before we know it and happens just as easily as gaining weight or messing things up.  We miss a couple Sundays, we get busy and quit helping with the things of he church, we quit our giving because of some extra expenses and then one day we realize what has happened.  What do we do?  Getting back into the habits of God seem almost impossible like getting air out of body bumpers.  The air has gone out of our relationship with God and God’s church and how do we get it back?
It isn’t easy.  It really is like getting air out of a body bopper.  It takes work - it takes prayer - it takes putting one foot in front of the other as we head back to the things we know we should be doing.  But with perseverance and with God’s help, we can restore that relationship just - and maybe even better - than it was before.  
You just gotta make up your mind to do it!


Devotion September 14, 2016


I’ve been annoying.  Yes, I admit it - annoying me.  There have been several people who have even said to me, “You are really being annoying”  and I answered them by saying, “Yes, I guess I am.” 
I don’t know if you get points for admitting you are being annoying, but even when you admit that you are being annoying I don’t think that makes you any less annoying.  And I have to admit it didn’t stop me from continuing to be annoying.  I’m not so sure that people didn’t avoid talking to me because they knew that any conversation we would have would involve the topic of my daughter’s appearance on Jeopardy. 
In fact you will probably be annoyed by this Midweek Devotion - in fact you are probably already annoyed by that opening paragraph…..  I think I am even annoying myself.  
But I must go on because when you are passionate about something it begins to invade everything you say; it begins to be the main topic of all of your conversations!  When you are truly passionate about something there is no doubt about the things that dominate your thoughts….
Of course my annoying actions center around my daughter’s appearance on Jeopardy. Anyone who has been around me, even random people in line at grocery stores have heard this story.  So let me tell you what my last several weeks have been like….
Everyone - whether I know them or not - has heard that my daughter was going to be on Jeopardy. From the pulpit, in the bulletin, during meetings, during important conversations and casual ones. There is no individual that I have been in contact with that does not know that I have a daughter on Jeopardy.  How many times have I mentioned it in these devotions that this great event was going to occur (and I can guarantee that coming up there will be a few more devotions related to this subject - so be forewarned…) 
Facebook was particularly the medium through which my annoying passion was exhibited.  Not only did I post a bunch about this significant event, but I shared anyone else's post which included a mention that my daughter was going to be on Jeopardy.....
“Hello, my name is Joanne and my daughter is going to be on Jeopardy.”  Sometimes met with an ‘Wow!  That’s great?” or even occasionally with a “What’s Jeopardy?”  I think I mentioned it so much that it got to the point that people started trying to beat me to the punch and would say to me, “Hello!  When is it your daughter is going to be on Jeopardy?”  I think it was their way of trying to prevent me from droning on about the fact that my daughter was going to be on the TV show!
My enthusiasm of my daughter being on Jeopardy was not so much about her gaining her 15 minutes of fame by being on TV, but that she was going to be able to fulfill a life long dream of hers and the whole family.  Our family has been a Jeopardy family for as long as I can remember.  Whenever we gathered part of the gathering would always include our sitting in front of the TV and playing the game together and of course as we watched there would be lots of speculation about “If I ever get on Jeopardy……”
So a couple years ago when my daughter told us she took the online test none of us were surprised because after all those years of watching Jeopardy and her avid reading  we all knew that if anyone had a shot….
Then she was called by Jeopardy to move on to the next step in being a contestant and when she went through the face to face phase of qualifying for the show and then the years of waiting until she finally had a phone call informing her she was going to be on the show….
And of course I was annoying during this whole process.  “Hello, my name is Joanne and my daughter tried out for Jeopardy…..”  “Hello, my name is Joanne and my daughter passed the on line test for Jeopardy” and “Hello my name is Joanne and my daughter passed the face to face test to be on Jeopardy”.  There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that not only was I proud of my daughter but there was something about Jeopardy that was important to me.  
Sometimes we worry so much about being annoying that we neglect to really let people know how important our God is to us.  We don’t want to risk what people think of us or risk people thinking we are fanatical or we don’t want people to avoid us because we can’t stop talking about the fact that God really is vital to our lives.  
But what should be more critical to our life and more essential to us that our God?  What should be more important to us than our church - our community of faith - our reason to gather tougher with people who are just as passionate as we are about our relationship with our savior?  And if these things are important to us, shouldn’t we talk about it?  After all, if I can over emphasize Jeopardy and my daughter to everyone I meet, shouldn’t God be just as important?  
After all, the things of God are ultimately much more valuable to us than something as trivial as a TV show.  And the things of God are ultimately more valuable to those around us than even my daughters’ activities.  
It is not that we need to be so annoying as to make people avoid us, but we do need let people know what we are passionate about.  Think of it this way - God is so passionate about you that he gave his son for you so that you could forever belong to God so shouldn’t we be so passionate about God that we should at least make sure that people know that  God is important to us - and how will people know that unless we are willing to mention it during conversations and meetings and even casually with people we may not know?
With God, it is OK to be a little annoying - because our relationship with God is worth whatever it takes to let people know what is essential to our life!

Dovotion September 7, 2016


The postal system….  When you say the ‘postal system’ people immediately conjure up different images - the friendly post person who walks the street with their bags over their shoulders full of mail, walking up to each person’s door or to their curb side box and deposting their handful of mail.  We lived in a house once where the post person had to walk up the steps of our front porch and put the mail through a slot in the wall beside the front door.  It was really convenient for us but obviously not for the postman and after a while we received a notice that we were going to have to put a mail box down by the sidewalk……
Now-a-days the  mail deliveries are more likely to be made by a person in a little white truck who pulls up to the box by the road and injects the mail into the box and continues on.  Of course when we lived in a rural area the mail was brought by a person in their personal vehicle - a contractor who bid for the right to be the one who took the mail out into the countryside and deposit the mail into not a curbside box but a corner where there was a plethora of mailboxes that people living in the area would have to come to and pick up their letters..  
Many people get their mail at their local post office where they can take their key and open their box (although remember the days when you had a combination lock on your mail box and you spun the dial to your specific numbers to retrieve the mail?).  We had a box at the local post office for a while but our particular post office only would open for specific hours for you to get your mail and that really didn’t work for us.  Plus we thought - "Why are we paying to get the mail when they can bring the mail to us for free........"
Of course we often complain about the mail.  The cost of stamps keeps going up, the services keep getting reduced, mail doesn’t come as quickly as we think it should and sometimes our boxes are a little smushed but never-the-less we depend upon the post office and those postal workers (who are often the brunt of our aggravation and we wonder why ‘going postal’ has become a synonym of utter frustration!).
What precipitated this ruminating on the postal service was our latest experience with receiving our mail.  We got home after being away for a couple of days and there in our curb side post box was a note that we had a certified letter - that little pink slip that shows up in your mail box which somehow you know is going to cause you an extensive amount of aggravation!  It this particular pink slip surely did…
We read the slip over several times and we thought by reading all the different little areas that had information and looking at all the checkmarks that all we needed to do was to sign it and put it back in the mail box and the next postal delivery there would be our certified letter.  Well, obviously we didn’t read correctly because the next day as we checked our mail box there the slip remained and there was no certified letter.  
When you have a conundrum and aren’t sure what to do,  a google search is in order… (for those of you who are not familiar with google searches this is a way to search for how to information on the internet).  We found that if you email the local post office and tell them to redeliver the letter then they will - but not all the time we learned.  We sent the email as instructed and the next day when we checked our mail box there was another pink slip and a letter from our mail deliverer.  The letter pointed out that if we had read the pink slip better we would have noticed that the box was checked which stated that this letter could only be accepted by a real live person and could not be left in a post box.  The letter also stated that if we went to the local post office the next morning the letter would be there.
Well, you know what we did.  Off to the post office the next morning, stood in line (cause there is always a line) and when it came our turn the nice postal worker took our pink slips and headed off into the deeper recesses of the post office building to locate our letter.  10 minutes later she returns and tells us that the supervisor had just seen the email and had sent our letter back out to be delivered to our house.  We shook the dust off our feet and headed back home...
Another conundrum - my husband and I both needed to work.  How was a real live person going to be at home to get this certified letter that had entered the circular world of the postal service….. .  
I sent my husband to work and I decided I would wait for the letter.  I really wasn’t sure what time the post person came but I was pretty sure it was in the afternoon - so I hurriedly got my work caught up and after lunch I got a chair and sat out under the tree in front of my house and patiently waited for the post person to show up at my curb side box in their little white truck……  I even had a note written to tape to the front of the post box explaining how I was there but only ran inside for a moment and to please wait for me…..  Just in case that eventuality would occur.
Turned out to be a very enjoyable afternoon as I sat in my chair under the shady tree and read a book and waited for that certified letter to appear in the little white truck…..
There were moments during this certified letter search that frustration began to over ride common sense and understanding that the system was working but just not in a user friendly way.  And sometimes we feel the same frustration with God.  We want God to straighten our path; we want God to simplify our life; we want God to just make miracles appear at our doorstep at our command….. and when it doesn’t happen we wonder where God is and why God isn’t listening and didn’t God promise that if we just prayed he would ‘give us all things’?  
But just like the postal system promises to get us our mail - it never promises it will be a smooth and easy process.  God does promise the best for us; God does promise to answer our prayers; God does promise to give us what we need…..  And God knows what our needs are; God knows when is best for us and when it is best for us and God hears our every prayer - and God knows the proper answer to that prayer which is not always to give us everything we want….
So never grow impatient or frustrated with God - sit back in your chair and know that God is caring for us in the way God knows what is best; Don’t ever think that your prayers are like a certified letter that is lost in the postal loop.
God hears and God knows and you can trust in that with all your being.

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.