Monday, December 31, 2012

I Committed Myself!

Some of the St. Mark Virtual Training Partners before the Go!StLouis 2012
I know I am crazy.  I just registered minutes ago for the Go!StLouis half marathon.  Fees go up tomorrow January 1 for all races - Mature Mile, 5K (3.1 miles), half (13.1 miles) and full marathon (26.2 miles).

The Mature Mile and 5K races are on SATURDAY, April 6 and the longer races on Sunday, April 7.  More details:  

Racing isn't about beating other people; it is about bettering yourself.  "Bettering," in this case, means stimulating your physical body so you are equipped to do whatever work God has for you.  "Use it, or lose it".

With age we all slow down.  But how much and how quickly we slow down highly correlates to our daily/weekly  consistency of exercise.  Walking with NO running is just fine even in a race.

DECIDE....WILL YOU BE A DOER and do it or a fence sitter and just think about it? 

Fourteen weeks until Race Weekend.  5K and Mature Mile races need to commit to walking three times a week beginning within a couple of weeks. Half marathoners need to begin the training this week. (Remember, begin gradually.  First week - 30 minutes each for 3 to 4 days of walking or running).  

Watch for more emails about training schedules and if you want to be a Virtual Training Partner (train on your own time as you 'partner' in spirit with others).

Victoria Sherman
Nina, Dick, Brian, Victoria, Bertha and Liz after race 2012
Last year, these folks were ready to go, but the race was called off because of lightening.  Not pictured are Shirley and Ron Goff.  They actually walked the course in spite of the weather.

For more information on training with a partner in the same time or space or in virtual time or space, please contact the St. Mark Presbyterian Church office at 636-394-2233.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Maple Pork Tenderloin

Maple Pork Tenderloin, served with rolls, broccoli, corn and salad
1/3 c. diced onion
1/4 c. orange juice, divided
1/2 c. maple syrup, divide
2T low-sodium soy sauce
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. pork tenderloin
1/3 c. chicken broth

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Time Table

Scripture:  II Peter 3: 8-14

When the yesterday snow fell
In silent waltz time
And stars winked in night sky,
Love began in this world of man.

As the today snow came
With slender sunrays
And stars slid in morning sky,
Love reached for the hand of man.

Should the tomorrow snow be
For held thoughts of hope
And stars but wait so wise,
Love can be a part of man.

Love is coming as before,
Waiting patiently at the door.
Let Him enter once more

Written by Skip Johnson for St. Mark Presbyterian's 1984 Advent Book Thoughts on Advent

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Anytime Day

Scripture  I Corinthians 1:3-9

It's just a good feeling when you know
That someone, somewhere, cares for you somehow,
No matter where you've been or where you'll go
Or what you were or what you are now.

It's not the season that you need to know,
It's not the many gifts you'll receive.
It's the taking of time to hold on so
To something that you need to believe.

This one day will eventually end
And be set aside until next year
But why not keep it nearby, my friend?
You see, God always keeps you quite near.

--Skip Johnson, from the St. Mark Advent book Thoughts on Advent, 1984

Friday, December 21, 2012

On One's Own Accord

Scripture:  Romans 15: 4-9
Sometimes a word
May be a thought
Forth in writing
Fighting for its birth
Show or know. . .
This was written by Skip Johnson for St. Mark Presbyterian's Advent booklet in 1984.  We welcome any former or current members to share their writing and thoughts about Advent and Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Candle

Scripture  Isaiah 11:1-10

Shadows of the past are now
Pushed aside to corners, dark and old
And the light of a golden flame
Has found a forever place to hold

A magical halo that stays
To keep a new Faith for tomorrow. . .
There is no wind of yet-to-be
That can put out this light nor borrow

This flame which has been lit from above
By a hand of wisdom and care. . .
Though time will have its way with life,
The warmth of love will still be there.
Thoughts on Advent 
December 1984
Written by Skip Johnson, a former member, this appeared in St. Mark Presbyterian's Advent Book in 1984.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Oh, Christmas Tree

From "Thoughts of Advent"
December 14, 1984
Scripture:  Isaiah 61: 3-4, 11

When our children were younger and our yards were bare, we decided to have living Christmas trees to plant and enjoy for many years.  It seemed the perfect solution for my allergy to cut trees, for our lack of trees in the yard, and for the problems of toddlers grabbing at tottering, towering, dried out trees laden with ornaments.  Also, it was in keeping with my fundamental belief in conservation and recycling.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Dinner

From St. Mark's booklet "Thoughts on Advent"
December 22, 1984
Scripture:  Romans 16:25-27
Christmas dinner was a plate of spaghetti at 8:00 p.m. in a bamboo busha mess hall after a long, grueling day of unloading truck parts from the rail siding--parts desperately needed to build the Ledo Road into China.

The other lieutenant with me looked at the spaghetti and with ample sarcasm said, "Oh, this is great! This is what we always have at home on Christmas Day!"

This was Christmas, 1943 in Assam, a northeastern province of India.  We had waited for weeks for this shipment of parts, while more and more vehicles broke down in the mud and muck.  Since Christmas was expected to be a casual day of light duty, the arrival of our so-called presents was not a time of cheer.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Midweek Recipe for Salad 12-12-12

Almost every Wednesday, our Fellowship Committee, sponsors a dinner.  Recently, we added on-line sign up (Click Here).  Adults are $6, Children $3---on Dec. 12, 2012, we had cheddar chicken, green beans, rice, roll, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake and a salad.

Everyone at Midweek Dinner was raving about the salad which Amy had prepared. The recipe appears in the 50th Anniversary Cookbook given out last May.  But, for those who don't have that cookbook, here is the recipe:

Mandarin Orange-Romaine Salad with Pine Nuts
1 lb. Romaine lettuce, chopped
8 scallions, sliced
1 (11 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 c. pine nuts toasted

1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 T. malt vinegar
2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously or blend all ingredients except oil in a food processor.  Add oil slowly to dressing while food processor is running to emulsify the dressing.  Refrigerate any left over dressing.  Toss the salad ingredients and the dressing together.

While many of Amy's wonderful recipes are in that cookbook, it is more fun to come to Midweek to enjoy the fellowship of church friends

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday House Tour

One of the homes on St. Mark's Holiday House Tour was energy efficient and environmentally friendly.  The landscaping was all Missouri native plants and it used geo-thermal heating and cooling.

 A beautiful mural was painted on one of the walls---the owner had small signs explaining things like the kind of paint, flooring (bamboo and re-processed carpet) that was used and why it was better for the environment.  And, all of it elegant!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday House Tour Decorations

This year's St. Mark House Tour featured homes decorated inside and outside.

Holiday House Tour: Brunch and Christmas Trees

 This was St. Mark Presbyterian's Fourth House Tour (proceeds go to Lydia's House), but just the second brunch.  Click Here to see the past two year's houses.

Everything was decorated beautifully!  With women outnumbering men about 10-1, we even commandeered the Men's Room near Gleason Hall.  We had juice, fruit, egg casserole, fruit breads, coffee, tea.  This year we served about 170 people before they headed out for the House Tour. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Thoughts

 Reprinted from St. Mark's 1984 booklet Thoughts on Advent
December 11, 1984 "Christmas Thoughts"
Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11

For the season
 Which proclaims a new birth
The holly remembers enduring love--

Bethlehem--a small town
The eyes of the world focus 
On a humble birth.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Caregiver's Luncheon

 Our Caregiver's Luncheon at St. Mark Presbyterian Church began with the Claymont Pre-school entertaining us with holiday songs.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thoughts on Advent

 From the 1984 booklet "Thoughts on Advent" which was prepared by the Worship Committee at St. Mark Presbyterian:
 "The Mystery of Christmas"
Scripture Matthew 2:1-10

With all of the mystery and excitement at Christmas, it's easy for children to forget about Jesus.  One of the ways our family puts the season more in focus is by creating a little mystery with our Nativity scene.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent Devotions

 Almost 30 years ago, St. Mark Presbyterian Church put together devotion books largely written by members of the church.  Although those books are hard to find today, we will be re-writing many of them in a series of Advent devotions, here.  But, if you want something more tangible, the Children's Ministry has put together a small booklet which can be found at the Welcome Center in the Narthex.
 The introduction by Diane Brown: "Advent is a time of joyful anticipation of the birth of Christ.  It is also a time of reflection about what His birth means to each of us as Christians and how he fits into our lives. . .We hope that spending some time with their [the selections] thoughts and with the suggested scripture selections will help you put Advent into perspective and increase your enjoyment of this special season and your excitement about the miracle that came to pass in a lowly stable long ago. . ."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mary and Billy

Luke 1:26-38

            Tony Compalo's tells a story about a week he spent as a counselor at a Jr. High camp. He said that he learned that one of the things that Jr. High boys are good at is making fun of other boys, especially a boy named Billy. Billy had cerebral palsy. Because of that, he had difficulty walking, speaking and a variety of other physical activities. Tony watched as the boys would mimic his walk and stammer when they would talk to him. I seemed they looked for any opportunity to make fun of him. On Thursday, Billy’s cabin was responsible for devotions. They picked Billy to be the speaker, no doubt a way to further humiliate him. As he shuffled to the front, Tony could hear the snickers of the boys. As Billy turned and addressed the chapel, he stammered out seven words. “I l-o-v-e J-e-s-u-s a-n-d J-e-s-u-s l-o-v-e-s m-e.” there was silence in the hall, and Tony looked around and saw tears streaming down the faces of many of the boys. The rest of that week was different. God moved in that camp. Tony says that in the course of his travels around the country and the world, he regularly runs into someone who tells him that they were at that camp and that Billy’s words transformed their life. (Stories for the Heart P. 62)
            God used Billy in an amazing way to change the lives of so many of those kids at that camp.  He was a special instrument of God, not because of any special quality that he had, but because he was willing to be used by God and God chose to use him.  He was used
            Mary a young woman, probably in her early teens, who's life was planned out  like most of the girls of her time.  She was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter, who had convinced her father that he could provide for her.  After the appropriate time she would marry him, have a family and fulfill her role in Jewish society.  Life would be hard, but probably relatively un-eventful.
            All of the sudden there was an angel standing before her, telling her that she was favored of God.  As we look at the passage, it does not spell out why she was favored, other than the fact that God had chosen her.  Her family was not influential or overly wealthy.  They did not have special spiritual standing in the community.  The was no earthly reason why Mary should be considered favored above other people.  The reality is that she was favored because God had chosen her.
            The angel went on to inform her that she was going to have a son and that he was the Messiah that had been foretold for generations.  There are several things in this announcement that would come as quite a shock.  There was the issue that the Messiah was coming.  In that day and age the idea of the Messiah was something that had grown into this mythical thing.  No one was really looking for a Messiah to come.  They had heard the story for so long that it had become like a fairy tale to them.  Another amazing thing was that Mary would have a child that would be a king.  Sure she was from the tribe of David, but she was nothing special.
            But probably the most shocking thing in this declaration was the fact that SHE was going to have a baby.  She was just a girl, probably in her early teens.  She was not married.  She was engaged, but she had never known a man in the way necessary to have a baby.  Now this angel was telling her that she was going to be pregnant.  Who would believe this story?  Joseph her fiancĂ©, probably wouldn’t.  Her parents probably wouldn’t.  Everyone would think that she was either crazy or just making up this story to cover up her sin.  She went from a fairly normal future for a girl of her time to one that made her an outcast that would be the subject of much gossip and derision.
            She had a choice in this matter.  That is why this Angel had come to her.  Not to tell her that she was pregnant, but to invite her to be part of God’s plan.  She could have said let me think it over.  She could have said no, I don’t think I want to put myself through the pain and emotional turmoil I would have to go through to be part of this.  She could have said to the angel, like Scrooge said to Marley when he first appeared to him, no thanks I would rather not.  She could have done like the people of Israel had done for so long and turned her back on the whole plan.
            We don’t know how long this encounter took.  But after considering the consequences of what was about to take place, she said, yes I am willing to do what ever God asks of me, even if it means losing Joseph and being the topic of gossip and scorn all over town.  I will do what God asks.  What an amazing answer.  “Here am I the servant of the Lord.  Let it be with me according to your word.”

            Because Mary and Billy were willing to be used by God, the world was changed.  God worked through them to introduce people to His love.  Through Mary, God was able to bring His Son into the World.  The one who would show us the very heart of God.  Through Billy, God was able to show a group of mean and spiteful Junior Highers  how His love could fill all that was missing in their lives.
            As I look around our world, I see that there are a lot of people like the people in Mary’s time. They wander through life oblivious to the fact that God longs for them to know Him and for them to allow Him to walk through life with them.  God longs for each person to know the depth of God’s love for them. 
            And just like then, God is looking for servants who are willing to allow God to work through them to show God’s love to them.  People like the insecure loud obnoxious person at work that no one can stand or the lonely William Vandervoorts of the world.  People like the neighbor who never seems to respond to your greetings or the person you do business with who acts like they have it all together.  There is a world full of people who we come in contact with every day that God wants to reach out too.  What God needs is people who will say, like Mary “Here am I the servant of the Lord.  Let it be with me according to your word.”
            In our preparation for the coming of the Christ child anew into our lives, let us include two things.  Let us ask God to show us those people that he wants to reach out to through us, and let us say to God, as Mary did “Here am I your Servant Lord.  Let it be with me according to your word.”

The sermon was given on Dec. 1 and 2, 2012 at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Ballwin, MO. The image can be found at

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Voices of Christmas

The Advent season is upon us, and the St Mark Chancel Choir would like to extend a special invitation to celebrate the joy and true meaning of Christmas through song, as we present “The Voices of Christmas” by Joseph Martin. The cantata will be performed at both the 8:30 and 10:30 service, on Sunday, December 16. Please spread the word to friends and neighbors!!
Joseph Martin, the composer of “The Voices of Christmas” gives us insight into his thoughts in creating this cantata: “...our goal is to convey the message that because Christ was born to everyone (past, present and future) we are all, in some sense, connected to the manger. We are all witnesses to and voices of the Good News of his birth.”

The songs within the cantata represent voices from all the people: past, present and future:
The voice of all who wait alone: the prisoner, the oppressed, the outcast, the persecuted, the refugee, the grieving.
The voice of all who encourage others: the volunteer, the therapist, the pastor, the counselor.
The voice of all messengers: the clergy, the missionary, the hospital chaplain.
The voice of all who are filled with wonder: the new mother, the child playing in his first snowfall, the bridegroom singing a love song to his bride, the earth as it wakes from the slumber of winter to the birth of spring.
The voice of the common man: the farmer, the nurse, the teacher, the businessman.
The voice of all that God has made: the heavens, declaring God’s glory; the skies, proclaiming the work of his hands; the ocean waves, thunderously applauding God’s Might; the lion, the eagle, the whale, and the whisper of the butterfly.
The voice of those who seek guidance: the parents caring for the physically challenged child; the college student leaving home for the first time; the crucially ill facing decision about treatment; the unemployed trying to pay bills; the widow facing loneliness.
The voice of all who quiet their hearts and worship the Lord: the voice so easily drowned out by the clamor of everyday life; the voice ignored by those who fill their ears with the noise of this world; the voice that can only be heard when the soul is still; the voice from above, heard from within.
These are the voices of Christmas. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Architectural Drawings of St. Mark Presbyterian

 This was one of the architectural concept drawings of what St. Mark Presbyterian Church could look like.  These drawings were probably by architect Kenneth Wischmeyer in 1963.
That drawing appears to have been done at the same time as this one which shows our current Fellowship Hall (our first sanctuary) built in 1964.  Note the bell carillon which was never actually built.  When we outgrew what is now Fellowship Hall, a new building committee was formed in 1970.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Psalm 100

It's a Matter of Faith---How to Give Thanks

            Two years and one week ago, Chaney and I were on our way home from church, when the song Feliz Navidad came on the radio. I love that song. It is so joyful and full of good cheer that I almost always sing along. I tried to get Chaney to sing with me, but she refused. “Why?” I asked her and she replied “it is not even Thanksgiving yet.” Nothing I did could get her to change her mind.
            As I reflected on that encounter, I began to realize that what she was telling me that I was getting things out of order. To really enjoy the gift of Christmas, the greatest gift we as a human race have ever received, God come in the flesh, I need to put it in context of all that I have to be thankful for.
            As I look forward to this afternoon and then Thursday, I think of the meal and the variety of foods, including Brussel sprouts. I will spend time with my family and enjoy football games, and the throwing there of. I will look forward to spending time with my granddaughter, and my daughter-in-law and my sons of course. And I will come back, hopefully rested, for the busyness of the next month.
            What is missing from my list of things to do? Giving thanks. So much so, that I could be accused of looking at this holiday as just the beginning of the Christmas season. It seems, especially this year, that the purpose of the day has been overlooked. Black Friday sales starting early, Christmas music on the radio already, I guess we just have given up on giving thanks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Job 19:13-27

It's a Matter of Faith---I Don't Want to Give Thanks

Life just isn't fair.  How many of us here today have used that phrase when confronted by a young child or a teenager who is demanding to be treated by their definition of fairness.  We use that phrase to help prepare our children for the inevitable fact that life is full of ups and downs and we need to learn to deal with the downs when they come our way.  Some of those downs come because of our own stupidity, like the day described in this song.
            Some of those downs come because of things others do to us.  Like a friend letting us down, not getting a job or promotion at work that you know you deserve, seeing others given awards for relatively minor contributions to society when you have sacrificed in anonymity, facing a bout of sickness, troubles at work, living with two year old and teenager children.  You know the normal down points in life.  We try to let our children know that things will happen to us that we just don't deserve and we need to hang in there and make the most of it.
            But then there are those people leave us wondering "what did they ever do to deserve what happened to them?"  Like a dear friend of mine who is one of the kindest and nicest people you would want to meet.  I count it an honor to know him and his wife, let alone to be thought of as his friend.  He has a son who refuses to talk to him.  A year and a half ago, he shared with me what happened the last time he had tried to contact his son, who is living in another country.  He said that when he called, his son answered, and after greetings were exchanged, the son asked who is this.  My friend replied, "It's your dad."  Click.  The son simply hung up the phone.  There are no words to describe the pain that the man felt.
            Or like Thomas and Elizabeth Mc Millan who are buried near the street, who saw six of his seven children die before they reached their 21st birthday.
            And then there are those who leave us wondering how in the world do they carry on with life, like Mary Verghese.
            Mary Verghese had dedicated her life to God's service and she was looking forward to a life full of service and meaning.  She had completed medical school and had begun her residency in India with Dr. Paul Brand, a pioneer in leprosy research and treatment.  She was preparing to spend her life fulfilling Christ's instruction in Matthew 25, to care for the "least of these."  These people truly were.  They were outcasts.  How better could she spend her life? 
            Mary showed great promise as a doctor and everything was progressing well in her work.  One afternoon, while she was riding in a station wagon, the young driver, impatient with the bus that was poking along in front of him, pulled out to pass.  When he saw the on coming car, he tried to step on the brake and accidentally stepped on the gas pedal.  The car veered off of a bridge and down a steep embankment.  It was at the bottom of this embankment that all of Mary's dreams were destroyed.  She had a deep gash that ran from her cheek to her chin and her legs lay useless. 
            The next few months were pure torture.  Mary lay in a hospital bed, in traction, sweating through the 110-degree days asking why?  Why did this happen to her?  What had she done?  Why was God not healing her?  Why had God forsaken her?  Then despair set in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving at Preschool

Our Preschool children had their special school-time Thanksgiving experiences.  All classes participated in a food collection.  147 food items were collected and donated to the Circle of Concern food pantry.  We talked with the children about the fact that some families do not have enough food to eat and we can help them, similar to the way the Native Americans helped the pilgrims. The Pre-K classes also had a Thanksgiving feast.  We read the book, Stone Soup, a popular European folktale, and cooked our own stone soup in a modern crock pot.  One class thought the soup tasted great; the other, not so much, although we followed the same recipe.  We made butter from whipping cream and ate it on crackers.  The children chose and made pilgrim or Native American hats. It was a lot of fun!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dinners---Mission and Giving Thanks

 St. Mark Presbyterian Church was very fortunate to have Hunter Farrell, Director of Presbyterian World Missions speak to us on Saturday Nov. 17 followed by a dinner provided by our Mission Committee.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Preschool Donates Easel to Old Ballwin Schoolhouse

Our wooden easel, made by Wray Johanning 50 years ago when Claymont Preschool at St. Mark was founded and named Claymont Nursery School, has been donated to the City of Ballwin for display in the Old Ballwin Schoolhouse. We are thrilled to donate this easel which was been useful and very well loved for so many years and by hundreds of our preschool children, to Ballwin for their historical purposes.  The Old Ballwin Schoolhouse is on Jefferson Avenue, just east of Ballwin Elementary School and behind Lowe's. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

It's a Matter of Faith: Mary Jo's Lunch

John 6:1-14

            “Are you OK?” Tim looked up to see his boss Mary Jo, standing in his doorway. “Why do you ask?” Tim responded. “You were very quiet during the status meeting?” she said. “I know the company is a little down right now, but we really are making progress in turning things around. We are actually doing OK, considering the state of the economy.”
            “I know, I know” Tim replied. “I am not worried about the company. In fact, you have really kept us from getting into the trouble a lot of financial institutions have gotten in to. No, when you were talking about the economic forecast, I started thinking about something I heard in church yesterday.”
            “What happened?” Mary Jo asked.
            “Well it’s that time of year when the church is talking about money.” Tim said.
            “It’s that way at my church too.” Mary Jo replied.
            “Well, Pastor Kim was saying how important it was that we grow to the point where we are giving God 10% of our income, because it shows that we trust God to provide for us and that we love God more than money. This kind of made me angry.”
            “Why?” Mary Jo asked.
            “Well you know what a mess the world is in. Europe is in trouble. The middle east is even worse than it was when I was a kid. Crazy people are working on getting nuclear weapons. Who knows what Russia and China are going to do? The price of Gold keeps going up, which means people are afraid. And you remember a few years ago, when the bottom dropped out of the market. Nobody saw that coming. So, even if things get better, we don’t know what the future holds. I can’t afford to be giving away that much money.”
            “I know how you feel.” Mary Jo responded. “I used to think that way too.”
            “What?” Tim said.
            “I used to think that I needed to hang on to my money.” Mary Jo said.
            “You’re not one of those tither’s, are you?” Tim said looking shocked.
            “Yes, I am” Mary Jo said with a smile on her face, “and I would highly recommend it.”
            “Why?” Tim asked, looking puzzled.
            “Because I missed out on so much when I didn’t.” Mary Jo said.
            “That doesn’t make sense.” Tim said.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fall Festival

Susan Hayes face-painting

Claymont Preschool Booth

Crafts Booth (Communication Committee)