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The posts below were submitted and curated by members of our congregation as part of the Lenten Devotional 2021.  Each week, the entries focus on one particular spiritual discipline (i.e. prayer, fasting, worship, etc.) that we are trying to live into and practice more faithfully as a community of imperfect Christians.  May these ponderings be...

The posts below were submitted and curated by members of our congregation as part of the Lenten Devotional 2021.  Each week, the entries focus on one particular spiritual discipline (i.e. prayer, fasting, worship, etc.) that we are trying to live into and practice more faithfully as a community of imperfect Christians.  May these ponderings be a source of inspiration to you as you journey on the path that leads to life.  Subscribe by clicking the mail icon above. 


A Cause for Celebration - Video Bonus

We've got a wonderful bonus from our Lenten Devotional series! Check out Mervin Lyle and his family performing his powerful Christ-inspired poem.

 View original post here:

About Mervin Lyle
Father and husband of the 3 beautiful women that I live with, share my spiritual gift of singing on the praise band, and head the Front Porch Ministry committee.

A Cause for Celebration

For God so loved the world, he gave us his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. — John 3:16

A poem that I wrote for you to reflect upon: 

View video of Mervin and his family performing this poem here:

Artwork by Kameika Lyle

When I was just a young kid, sitting in church, flipping the bible and looking at this verse

My little mind couldn’t contemplate the complexity of his sacrifice, what did they do to our lord? our savior, Jesus Christ

But as I grew older and would grow to understand, what makes a sinner into a good man

I would look back to that little kid, and think about all that I did, the paths that I took, at times straying away from the good book, the temptations that I had to overcome, not just one, or two

Let’s just say some, but in the back of my mind I always heard my Grandmother say, “Son you’ll go to hell, if you walk that way”

Many years later I would re-find my faith, got blessed with a beautiful family, in all... things were great

But sometimes the outward look of greatness, don’t tell the sacrifice of the journey made, the dues that are paid, the demons that are slayed, God knows I have made mistakes

So you may be asking yourself, what is the point, where does this lead?

Well back to the begotten son indeed, who sacrificed for you and and for me.

He laid the path for us to fall, get right back up, turn around and do it all.

For us to choose the strength to love one another, and be the caretakers of our sisters and brothers

Now don’t get it twisted, this is not a tale of a letdown, this is a celebration of the one that wears the crown, who our ever-loving God would sacrifice, to give me the chance at everlasting life, for me and for you.

So I celebrate....and that little kid in me, now celebrates too.

So when you're down, and you feel your faith is stuck on the ground, and you need to flip that frown upside down, just remember that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but will live your life to celebrate each year, as you cherish, his gift of everlasting life.

Heavenly Christ, thank you for shining your light, and showing us the way, we give much thanks to all you have sacrificed for us, and are humbled by your presence in our lives, for this we celebrate you as our one true Savior.  Amen.

About Mervin Lyle

Father and husband of the 3 beautiful women that I live with, share my spiritual gift of singing on the praise band, and head the Front Porch Ministry committee.

Bear Each Other’s Burdens

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. — Galatians 6:2

Last year we were asked to sign up for a 30-minute block of time during which we would focus on praying for our church and community.  As I walked into the church, I worried that I would be unable to stay focused, that my mind would go blank, that I would not know what to pray for. I find myself talking to God many times throughout the day, but I don't remember ever purposefully setting 30 minutes to focus on prayer. I did not know what to expect; this video shows how deeply moved I was from the experience.

About Jhenny Michalek
My family and I run the food pantry.  I love being part of a church that has so many members that I look up to as role models in my life.

Why Do We Wash Each Other's Feet?

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. – John 13:2-5

Original Artwork by Caleb Mathews

1969 was a good year! I got out of the Army in February, I went on my first disaster relief project (Scottsville, below Charlottesville, had a flood that was my introduction to cleaning up messes!), I was hired by IBM in September, and I married Mary in December. 

We moved to Manassas and settled in. Shortly after moving, Mary said that we should find a church. I agreed. Since Mary was already a member of the Church of the Brethren, we decided to attend there. The minister, Rev. Carl Smith, took me under his wing. I was a little rough around the edges in those days. (Mary had to put up with a lot!) Rev. Smith gradually got me involved in the church.

We had been attending for a while and Easter came around. Reverend Smith asked me if I would like to take part in the foot washing ceremony. I had never heard of this ceremony. I had grown up in the Methodist church in Midland and we DID NOT WASH FEET! I asked Mary and she said yes we could go if I wanted. I sort of forgot when the night came around for the ceremony. Rev. Smith never said anything. When Easter came around the following year Rev. Smith asked me again. This time I was a little more curious about the whole ceremony. Once again Mary said if I wanted to go we should. So we went, me with a great deal of trepidation. 

When we went into the church, the men were on one side and the ladies were on the other. Now I was nervous, Mary was my support system here. After a small service, we went to two different rooms. We took off our shoes and socks and sat in a row. Rev. Smith just happened to be next to me. When it came time for my feet to be washed, Rev. Smith washed my feet and then passed the towel to me. I washed the man’s feet next to me. What a humbling experience. I felt like I was at the table with our Lord. We left there and then had a simple meal. I have to admit that it was one of the most meaningful Easters that I had ever had.

I would say that if you have a chance to participate in a foot washing service, please do. I believe that you will receive a blessing from it. 

About Gordon Haines
Mary and I moved our family to the St. Thomas church in 1983. Since then, we have worked on many committees and been blessed and continue to receive blessing from our church family.

Fill Your Days with Worship!

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness;  come before him with joyful songs.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;  give thanks to him and praise his name. – Psalm 100: 1-2, 4

Photo by Sarah BrunWhat exactly is worship?

Worship is an act of devotion or recognition toward God. It can be performed individually, in informal or formal groups, or by a leader. Worship includes singing, praises, and being quiet. It includes prayer, reading, serving, preaching and evangelism. It takes place on Sunday, but also every other day of the week.

When I thought of writing a devotion on worship, I was a bit trepid. How am I showing reverence to our almighty God? After researching what worship entailed, I realized that my days are filled with worship experiences, and I’m sure many of yours are too!

Most of my days start with a Mary posture, at the feet of Jesus, studying God’s word, praying for his guidance over my day so that my Martha moments are following God’s plan more than my own. As I’m preparing for my day, I listen to Christian teachings on audio or radio to be encouraged by others stories and testimonies. As I go about town I listen to and sing praise and worship music in my car. Many days of the week I sit in the parsonage house folding clothes as I serve in the Clothing Closet, and I love to play my worship music while I work! If you see the light on and hear music playing, come on in and join me in worship!

I see now that my days are spent in worship. I learn more about God as I spend time with Him, praise Him, and listen for His guidance. I’m blessed to feel peace and joy, and I’m open to wherever He leads me, whether it’s starting the Community Clothing Closet, or writing a devotion about worship.

Worship is anything you do that declares the worth of the Lord! Fill your days with worship and be blessed!

About Renee Kinnear
Renee is married to Rob, has 2 kids and 2 grandkids. She enjoys time with her family, traveling, and the beach. She has previously served in Outreach/Evangelism, UMW, Kings Kids and Nursery. She is currently serving in Clothing Closet, Youth Council and Nominations.

Celebrate Good Times, Come on!

22 But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:22-24

Photo by Matthew & Sarah Hammack

The father in this story knew how to celebrate! Instead of joining in this vision, many times I find myself feeling like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son — doing what is expected, not feeling appreciated, and resentful when others who commit “obvious” sins fall astray and then are rewarded. I am struck by the father’s reaction to his son who returned home. He did not criticize, yell at him, try to tell him what he did wrong — instead he loved him. That is how I would hope we each would react if we had a similar situation with one of our children. But guess what? We do not have to “hope” that God will treat us this way. He already does! Romans 5:8 tells us that He loved us while we were yet sinners and Jesus died for all of us sinners. We are all called to celebrate — not judge! 

An area of growth for me is to not find fault with others or to feel self-righteous and judge others. Instead, in humility, I need to recognize that this is pride, a sin, that I repent of, and that God loves each of us and we are called to reach out to those who do not know Him. I need to not see my sins as “lesser” than others. I also need to remember the words in Galatians 6:9: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Lord, help me to recognize my own sins, and in humility to celebrate when others are “brought home” to knowing you. Let me be as loving to others as you are to us, and as celebratory as the father in the story of the prodigal son. Thank you for loving us, and sending us your son. In Jesus’ name, amen.

About Holly Banner
Holly is one of the Lay Delegates for the Annual Conference. She and Rich have three children and have been members of STUMC for 24 years.

A Modern Psalm

So much of the Bible is poetry. God inspired this, but God didn't have to do it this way. Poetry can give words additional power. 

Paula Harper shares more about the power of God's word through poetry as well as her own experience with poetry in her audio devotional. 


About Paula Harper
Paula Harper is a member of St. Thomas, part of the media team, communications committee, handbell choir, worship arts committee, local relief committee and is the front desk volunteer each Thursday. 

Worshipping Together or Apart

Make a joyful noise to the LORD all the lands! Serve the LORD with gladness. Come into His presence with singing. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him. Bless His Holy name. – Psalm 100:1-2, 4

Photo by Tracy Spencer

We feel called to worship. One of the best ways I know is through music. Something Earl Amstutz told me stays with me: When you sing you pray ten times. I feel such peace when I am singing with the choir.

Prayer, praise, and thanksgiving are other ways to worship. Reading and meditating on scripture along with prayer is a good daily discipline. If we can take the time to start our day with this kind of worship, it helps the rest of the day go well. While in church, listening to a sermon helps us focus our worship.

Worship was meant to be communal. The Bible tells us to not neglect coming together. During COVID, this hasn’t been possible. Zoom meetings have made connecting at least possible virtually. And when we go to church online, at least we can communicate with others we long to see in person. The Lord sees us in our need and we pour our supplication out to Him and humble ourselves and confess our faults whether together or apart.

We will celebrate as a congregation when we can see each other again. We celebrate various events in our lives: births, weddings and holidays. We even celebrate a life well-lived at funerals as we acknowledge our grief, knowing a loved one is with Christ. And one day when we see loved ones in heaven and are there to greet them with the Lord, what a day of celebration that will be! No more tears or sorrow!

During Lent as days lead up to Easter, we contemplate all these things. Christ took our sins in His body on the cross. He rose again to defeat death. We cast all our earthly burdens on Him because He cares for us. His perfect love helps us to cast out fear and replace it with faith. Sin pulls down; faith soars.

Lord, help us to turn from our wicked ways so that you can heal our land. Help us to love like you love – completely and unconditionally. Let us bring your peace to those we touch. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

About Mary Petrilla
Mary Petrilla is a faithful member of the Chancel Choir.

The Discipline of Confession

Artwork :Jennifer LewisConfession is a spiritual discipline that is corporate in nature because sin hurts both the heart of God and it leaves a wound in the fellowship of the believers.  In the first years of the church’s history, forgiveness and reconciliation were a lengthy process that brought healing and restoration.  However, in the MIddle Ages, confession became increasingly a private matter as it is mostly still today.  However, Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 18:15 - 20 expresses the communal nature of confession. He shares how forgiveness can be introduced into a community without destroying the body.  Thankfully, it is God who does the forgiving -- but God often uses human beings as the channel for his grace.

Author Richard Foster points out in the Celebration of Discipline, “Human beings are such that ‘life together’ always involves them in hurting one another in some way.  And forgiveness is essential in a community of hurt and hurtful persons.  In experiencing forgiveness, it is important to understand what it is not.”  Unfortunately, four things are often mistaken for forgiveness.

  1. Some imagine that forgiveness means pretending an injury doesn’t really matter.
  2. Some think forgiveness means ceasing to hurt.
  3. Many would have us believe that forgiveness means forgetting.
  4. Many assume that forgiveness means pretending that the relationship is just the same as it was before the offense.

Ultimately, true confession and forgiveness bring joy to the Christian community and healing to the parties involved.  Of course, the best part of confession is that it brings reconciliation with God, the Father.  Sometime this week, spend at least fifteen minutes in silence before God and invite him to reveal anything within you that needs to be confessed.

Suggested Prayer of Confession

The following prayer of confession was offered by Pastor Arum in the STUMC worship service on Feb. 14, 2021:

Resurrected Lord Jesus, we thank you for the gift of confession, the gift of starting anew every day.  We thank you for the freedom to be honest about our sins without fear, confident that you have triumphed over all sin, evil, and death.  We confess to you today that we have fallen short of being the people you call us to be.  We have hurt others by what we have done and by what we have failed to do.  Forgive us, we pray.  Help us to pattern our lives so that we become more connected to you every day, so that we live as you would have us live every day.  We pray these things and confess our sins in gratitude for your promise of forgiveness and new life.  Amen.

Lay Leaders
The Lay Leaders are grateful for all of the devotions that have been shared in this season of Lent.  Thank you all! (submitted by Pat Brown)

The Meaning of Confession

“I prayed to the Lord, my God, and made confession ...” – Daniel 9:4 (NRSV)

Photo by Sarah Brun

Growing up Catholic and attending Catholic school, I was well versed in all aspects of Confession, the Catholic definition. Confession was mandatory, at least once a week, generally on Saturdays.

Since I was always the “good kid” of the family (just ask my brothers!) I never had anything to confess when I was age 5, which the younger priests took in stride. 3 Hail Marys later and I would be on my way. Then there was old Father MacArthur. To this day, the very name brings up fear and apprehension! Whenever he was “on duty” for Confession, I would walk into the dark confessional booth, shoulders hunched, a lamb going to slaughter. If I stated my usual “I have no sins to confess,” hellfire and brimstone would erupt like a volcano from the mouth of Father MacArthur. One would think he’d just had the misfortune of hearing the confession of a 5-year-old serial killer! I was sure all of Fairfax City could hear his yelling! “I know you’ve sinned, no one is without sin,” he would proclaim, “CONFESS!” So, after barely surviving this harangue several times, I decided in order to save myself from this weekly horror, I would make up “sins” to appease him. I would regale him with accounts of my misspent days disobeying my mom, arguing with my brother, etc. Then, to make sure I was right with God, I would confess to lying.

Thus, was my introduction to Confession!

I have been a happy Methodist for decades now and know, even as I did at age 5, that there is no reason I can’t have a direct relationship with God and confess my sins directly to Him and ask His forgiveness. He doesn’t yell or talk down to me, just listens, and I know that I am forgiven and will always be His not-so-perfect-but-always-striving-to-be-better child, and will be loved even when I can’t keep my cool in traffic or am impatient with a co-worker. This, to me, is the true meaning of Confession.

About Peggy Lawlor
I attend the Contemporary service. In the past, I have helped at the Food Pantry, JNS, Youth Group and Council, Communion Server, a mission trip with S.T.A.R.T, worked with Helping Children Worldwide (Sierra Leone), Kenya Mission Project, and also served on the Missions Committee as well as other duties as a Lay Servant.

Confessions of an Imperfect Person

“I will confess my transgressions to the Lord and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is faithful, pray to you immediately.” – Psalms 32:5-6

Arizona Sunset, Photo by Sarah and Matthew HammackGrowing up, I knew confession was something people did in the presence of a priest. They sat down in a tall, narrow, booth thing (confessional), and talked to the priest who was seated behind the wall. This was how people could be forgiven for their sins.  I did not understand the importance of this at a young age; to be honest, I did not really understand confession at all.  I just knew that as I grew up, the more I began to understand, I too wanted to be forgiven for my sins.

I know I was born a sinner. There are times I feel that I do not deserve forgiveness for things I think or say, especially in traffic. It is usually a hard pill for me to swallow when I confess to Him; I feel embarrassed and ashamed.

I usually pray in my car where I can think. Once the confession comes out, I feel like a weight has been lifted. I feel that because of my honesty, I am closer to God.  My faith in the Lord allows the guilt and embarrassment to go away and I begin to feel something else: hope.

What does confession mean to me? It is being honest with Him and myself. No matter how bad or embarrassed I feel, my honesty with Him gives me hope that I am on the right path. When I confess, it helps me get closer to His path.  I am an imperfect person who wants to be better.

“I will confess my transgressions to the Lord and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is faithful, pray to you immediately.” – Psalms 32:5-6

About Teresa Johnson
I have been a member of the church for a couple of years now. I spend my time raising my two beautiful little guys and grooming dogs. I am a proud military wife.

Help Us Walk in Your Light

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." – 1 John 1:9

"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His son cleanses us from all sin." – 1 John 1:7

Photo by Jennifer Lewis

Psalm 51 is David’s confession of sin after he had taken Bathsheba and had Uriah killed.  He asked God for mercy and to be washed clean so that he would be whiter than snow.  David asked that God create in him a clean heart and put a right spirit within him.  David was restored to the joy of the salvation of the Lord.

God works in us to love one another and make peace so He can create a new clean heart in us.  He also says "Blessed are the peacemakers." The familiar song says, Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.  It is hard to confront another person, especially if we feel wronged, but it is the right thing to do. Jesus directed us to do the hard things sometimes.  Then we can teach transgressors the way of the Lord and work to help sinners return to Him.

As parents and Christians, we raise our children in the way that they should go.  They are prone to rebel and need to turn back (repent).  We seek to help them live the life the Lord would have them live.

In these recent times, our country is hurting.  It is so drenched in materialism, division, sexual sin, etc. Most people in the country are not committed Christians.  We need a revival. There are so many ills in our country.  I have memorized this verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” It starts with the body of Christ.  We must heed that message and be on our knees for this country.

Lord. we appeal to you to be the peacemakers you would have us be.  Help us to walk in your light, turn from our wicked ways so that you can heal our land. We pray for revival in our nation.  Help us to be your witnesses in what we say and do. In Jesus name, Amen.

About Mary Petrilla
Mary Petrilla is a faithful member of the Chancel Choir

Serving as a Youth

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45

JNS Service Project – Photo by Tracy Spencer

Serving. It is something that has never really been a big part for me growing up. I have volunteered and served on many occasions, but have never truly "served." Every time I would do something like volunteer work, my parents would sign me up or ask me if I wanted to do it with the only answer allowed being a yes. I would have fun serving at some of the places, but never really understood what it is like to serve spiritually and emotionally.

Whenever I would serve, it would always be something to involve my brother. We would do it for however many hours on the weekend and then go do another activity. I hadn't gotten the meaning of what it is like to serve for God and for your neighbors. 

This all changed when I was in middle school. I was growing up and was understanding more about what being a Christian is truly like. I also learned what serving is all about and how it is to help others and everything is for God without expecting anything in return. Each time I would serve since, I got a sense of satisfaction deep within me that let me know that I was not doing it just to do it, but to do it for Him. I would try to serve for activities that my parents didn't recommend and volunteered to be on a church committee. I have felt great about serving and am glad that I chose to do it.

We are called to serve each other. “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.' ”  Acts 20:35.  When each of us serve one other, we are serving God and helping all things good. We are receiving each others' hospitality and our own by giving. We need to give to receive.

About Milan Steen
Milan Steen is a youth who participates at St. Thomas. Milan is part of the PACK and the Building and Grounds Committee, and is excited to serve for the church.

Row, Row, Row your Boat

Friends love all the time, and kinsfolk are born for times of trouble. – Proverbs 17:17

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." – Mark 10:13-14

Photo by Tracy Spencer

“Row, Row, Row your Boat” is a familiar nursery rhyme, often sung in the round, that we learned as young children and have recently rediscovered in a new perspective. As new grandparents, helping with daycare of our one-year-old granddaughter, we have found a blessing, and also a challenge, to keep an active one-year old entertained. New video technologies make it possible to bring these age-old rhymes and songs to life. As we watched the images and listened to the pleasing melody keeping our granddaughter’s attention, we noticed that with each verse, the images of the man and woman gently rowing down the stream in the boat gradually aged. Childhood hair bows became hats with veils, smooth skin took on wrinkles and bright eyes were enhanced with glasses. Following busy careers, full-time childcare was not what we had planned in retirement but 2020 has presented families with many unexpected opportunities to share and enjoy time together. Scripture tells us,“Friends love all the time, and kinsfolk are born for times of trouble.” Proverbs 17:17.

Rediscovering this sweet tune about rowing a boat down a gentle stream can be about life’s journey. For us, it is a journey of faith and family, trusting God’s Word and showing unconditional love and support to our family. As we reflect over our life’s course constantly rowing that boat, whether we’re floating gently along or dipping our paddles in white water rapids, we are blessed to be part of St. Thomas UMC and involved in the lives of our own children and now our granddaughter. While in the Judean region in the area east of the Jordan River, Jesus was preaching to crowds. Once when some mothers were bringing their children to Jesus to bless them, the disciples shooed them away, telling them not to bother him. But when Jesus saw what was happening, he said ... ’Let the children come to me, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” Mark 10:13-14.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Jesus’ life and His words give us guidance in how to be strong in our faith and unconditionally loving and supportive to our families. We are thankful for the opportunities to share time together and be constantly reminded of our many blessings. Amen

About Barry and Debbie Barnard
We have been members of St. Thomas UMC for over 40 years. We are retired from careers in education and policing. We have two Children and one beautiful Granddaughter.

Prayer, Love, Service

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10

Children’s Choir at St. Thomas UMC, 2018When Sim and I joined St. Thomas UMC 52 years ago, we were welcomed into a vibrant, nurturing community of believers. STUMC had ample opportunities to grow within a church family and to serve within the Church, the larger community and the world. Our prayer life grew as we participated in Sunday School and other groups.

At that time, St. Thomas had one children’s choir (K-5th) that was reaching unmanageable. Lynn Painter, the volunteer director of the Sunshine Choir, asked if I would consider directing a choir for K-2nd graders. After lots of prayer, the Seraphim Choir began practicing on Wednesdays at 6 PM. What a joyous blessing God provided for all of us! We started with about 13 children and grew to over 40 K-2nd graders over the next 10 years. (This was before there were so many outside activities competing for children’s time.)

We began our practice with prayer thanking God for our time to sing His praises, followed by each child thanking God for one thing. Then we sang the “Doxology,” a short praise song used in most services. We eventually learned “Gloria Patri” and “The Lord’s Prayer” also used in services anywhere. Most of all, we sang happy, joyous songs such as “Hallelu”, “Arky! Arky!,” “Clap Your Hands,” “Creature Praise,” “Love, Love, Love,” “The Butterfly Song,” “Bu-bu-bu-bu-bubbling,” “I’m A Great Big Bundle,” “ Bullfrogs and Butterflies,” “Just Like You Lord,” “Pass It On” and many more that make me happy just thinking about them. I remember and love each child that loved to sing those songs!!! 

We ended our practices with some action game type songs like “Father Abraham” or “The Grand Old Duke of York” and cookies to share. We met for a full hour that went by so quickly because everyone was engaged in what was happening and the Holy Spirit was among us!!!

The Seraphim Choir sang once a month at each of the services, 8:30 and 11:00 AM using their talents to serve the Lord.

Prayer in action is love, love in action is service. - Mother Teresa

Thank you, God, for answered prayers and love that leads us into service.

 In Jesus name, Amen.

About Helen Stidham
Sim and I have been members of St. Thomas since 1969. We have raised two daughters, Ashby and Audra, and have three grandchildren. I have worked as a history teacher, kindergarten teacher, mental health counselor and a mental health lobbyist for the American Counseling Association, and now, in retirement, a wildlife rehabber, specializing in squirrels. I love all God's creatures, even human beings.

God Knows Best

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

“You Just Have To Believe” Artwork by Caleb Matthews

Twelve years ago, I was a happy stay-at-home mom. Stephen was going to graduate from high school in a couple of months and Brian would follow four years later. College bills were looming, but we had been saving for years. Then that wee small voice of the Holy Spirit told me to enjoy my time now, because I was going back to work. I laughed and asked who would hire someone who hadn’t “worked” for 15 years? He would have to drop a job in my lap because I didn’t know where to look and would want a part-time job.

Days later, I received a call from a former co-worker who had moved to a different company many years earlier. She was reaching out with the opportunity for a part-time position! Now, I would like to say that I immediately sent in my resume, but instead, I struggled with God for a week with the idea of change and guilt over leaving Brian alone for the first time. After she called back indicating that they hadn’t received my resume, I sent it in and got the job. It turned out that it was the most wonderful, challenging job with fellow Christians!

At hiring, I said I would work at least eight years, but enjoyed it so much, I figured I would work there until Matt retired. But the Holy Spirit told me things were going to change again and, at my eight-year anniversary review, my supervisor let me know that my job was going full-time. Most people would rejoice at that, but not me. Because of the Holy Spirit’s voice, I knew it was time to move on to something new and not to fight change again.  

God knows what is best for us. By submitting to Him, I had the most wonderful job ever! I was able to serve Him by doing my best by helping co-workers and customers.

About Sarah Hammack
My husband and I met at Virginia Tech and moved to Manassas after graduation. I worked in the field of microbiology and chemistry. Currently, I am a co-chair of the UMW and head of the Bazaar Crafters.

Why I Serve

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Paula Renfro with the El Salvador Mission Team from St. Thomas

Throughout my life I have been exceedingly blessed even during times when I was less than faithful. To this day I don’t understand why. But I have never questioned God’s love for me, demonstrated by those who served.

For 12 years from the time of a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, a physical therapist played praise music, encouraged Matt through his exercises and offered me encouragement and advice – she served.

When Matt had his first surgery, the doctors, nurses, therapists (OT, PT, Speech and recreational) shared laughter, ideas and encouragement – they served.

During Matt’s school years we had teachers, aides and case managers who looked past Matt’s disability and saw his strengths and helped us navigate the educational system – they served.

When I first began attending St. Thomas, someone anonymously made a mini ramp so that I could easily negotiate Matt’s wheelchair over the sill into the building where the children’s Sunday School classes were held. It was a blessing and a tangible sign of the hospitality and love I would always experience – he served.

In a year of health problems, two friends came to my house and decorated my Christmas tree when I could not. They showered me with laughter, friendship and fellowship – they served.

When I have been confused or frustrated or just needed to vent, I have friends who encourage, provide insight, lead me with love, get me back on track when I stray and make sure I don’t take life or myself too seriously – they serve.

Scripture urges us to be rich in, zealous for, devoted to and a model of good works. We are even told we are created by God to do good works. Although all of these are good reasons to serve, none are the reason I serve.

I serve because I have been abundantly blessed. I serve because God loves me and loves us all. I serve because of all the times I have been the recipient of service and of love. I serve to pass on the love and comfort I have been shown. How can I do anything less?

About Paula Renfro
I am retired, live in Haymarket and am one of the three Lay Leaders.

Let It Go and Open to God

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. – Psalm 23:1-3

Statue with a Halo - Photo by Sarah Brun


This word probably first comes to the mind of many people when they hear a word, "submission." In certain situations, like competitive sports or even wars, it is true that to submit is to lose. Similarly, to surrender is synonymous to giving up. It happens when we are weak and powerless and our capacity and the will to continue have been exhausted. 

But, in God, submission ultimately leads us to winning. 

To submit to God is to offer our total trust in God. It is to believe that God is at work to bring goodness into our lives. To surrender to God is to invite God into the moment and let God take the lead rather than to try control it by ourselves. And the shepherding God will lead us to green pastures and quiet waters and guide us along the right paths. (Psalm 23). 

This knowledge is very much engrained into my head. I can even offer numerous testimonies of my own of the times God led to goodness when I submitted to God. Still, I often find myself being caught by an anxiety in an uncertain situation and trying to make a quick turn to a direction where I think it’s the best, rather than humbly waiting for God's lead for the next step. When this temptation arises within me, I remind myself that I must submit to God by offering this prayer: 

Welcome, welcome, welcome.  
I welcome everything that comes to me today 
because I know it's for my healing,  
I welcome all thoughts, feeling, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.  
I let go of my desire for power and control.  
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure.  
I let go of my desire for survival and security.  
I let go of my desire to change my situation, condition, person or myself.  
I open to the love and presence of God and God's action within.  Amen.  

(The Welcoming Prayer by Father Thomas Keating)

My favorite part of this prayer is to “let go.” It captures the essence of what it means to submit and surrender to God and to invite God to work in us and in the moment. I have this prayer written on a piece of Post-it note placed on the edge of a computer monitor in my office. I often recite this prayer out loud with my hands open toward heaven, in a humble attempt to rid of my humane desires and to be open to welcome everything coming from God.

Today, I would like to invite you to join me in this prayer. 

About Rev. Arum Kim
Pastor Arum joined this loving St. Thomas family in June last year as an associate pastor, with her husband Joon and their two daughters, Virginia and Charlotte (who was born shortly thereafter, and now already a happy 7-month-old).

I Like to Talk

"In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.” — Isaiah 30:15

Photo credit by Frank Wald

This is an interesting topic. It is NOT something that I am known for. I like to talk, and I like other people to talk to me.

However, growing up on a farm in Midland (just down the road a piece) I would go out by myself after finishing morning chores and head to the woods. There I had a place where I could go and be alone, listening to a little creek and dreaming about going places and doing great things. I did go places (Southeast Asia) and I did do things, I don’t know how great they were!

I met Mary -- one of the smartest things that I had ever done. We had a family with two great boys. They loved to fish and I would take them out fishing. One time I had Ben out on the lake and I was talking about how great it was, how tranquil, how quiet. Then he looked at me and said, "Dad it would be if you could be quiet for a while.” I did say I liked to talk! So you know I have had this issue most of my life.

Fast-forward to present day. In August, I was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. I wasn’t too worried, I knew they could fix it and I knew that I had my church praying for me. After the operation when the surgeon removed part of my tongue, I felt like we would get on with the rest of our lives. Just pick back up. But that wasn’t to be. I was told that I needed to have 30 radiation treatments. These were to be in a tube with a form-fitting mask over my head along with a bite block in my mouth.

Wow! Did I mention I have claustrophobia? So what has this to do with silence and solitude? I go into this contraption not being able to talk and I am by myself. I find that I close my eyes and start praying. Interestingly enough, by about session 5 I was starting to work on my Lenten devotional. I find that more and more I haven’t finished my prayers when they bring me out. It took me three sessions to get my thoughts together for this devotional.

I have found that I have started doing quiet times at night before I go to bed. These times are helping me to become a stronger person in my Christian beliefs. You may not want to take the path that I took, but you may want to consider spending some time in a quiet place. Start out small. Maybe 10 minutes and then see if you don’t need more time.

I did!

Oh Lord, help me to be still and listen, help me to let go of the distractions that are encountered daily and focus on my relationship with you.  In your name I pray.  Amen

About Gordon Haines
I have been a member of STUMC since 1983. I was fortunate to have been on the original Building Committee that built our present church. I have been on almost every committee in the church life and am now serving as the Head Lay Leader.

The Sound of Silence

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” — Exodus 33:14

Zuzana Steen Overlooking the Mountains

Silence is a way to hear God’s voice but sadly our world is filled by noise.  The noise or constant distractions and busyness is what I struggle with often.  

I need to be aware of the “noise” that is pulling me away from God.  1 Kings 19:1-13 is about an encounter of the prophet Elijah with God.  Elijah knew that God was not in the loud noises but in the quite whisper.  Silence provides an opportunity to tune out the distracting world around us and focus on God.  I know it so well yet I fail to live it daily.  I even failed to submit this devotional on time because I was sucked in by this “noise”.

Last summer my Small Group studied "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis.  The Letters are written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, charged with guiding a man toward Satan and away from God.  It is about the eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil. It has been eye-opening for me to look at myself and my daily life through the lens of a devil, how pleased he must be at times.  According to the book, “the greater the noise in our life, the more Satan is pleased.  Our minds, when completely inundated with the things of this world, will eventually conform to it.  We can renew our minds each day through God’s Word. Then, we will be acting under the influence of the Spirit. We will be able to determine what is right and act upon it. By renewing our minds, we will not be drawn into worldly pleasures that distract us from God’s will for our lives.”

God, turning my heart and mind to You at this moment, may Your name be lifted high, Jesus.  May Your name be honored, God.  And I commit everything that I am to You and I reach toward You.  It is my relationship with You that I need the most in my life.  It is in You that I find peace and hope.  Amen. 

About Zuzana Steen
Zuzana is a Czech American married to Joe and mom to Pavel and Milan. In between work and volunteering, she likes to spend time in nature being active or just sitting quietly.


We offer both in-person and livestream services on Sundays at 9 am (Traditional) and 11 am (Contemporary)  Please join livestream worship here: Worship Livestream Event 


St. Thomas UMC
8899 Sudley Road
Manassas, VA 20110

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