Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vaction Bible School Day 3


The Bible story for today was the story of John baptizing Jesus.  This story acts as a reminder of what John proclaims and God confirms:  Jesus is the chosen one - God's special gift for all humanity.  The children were encouraged to think about all of the special gifts or recognition they have received  in their life and the gifts God has offered all of us through Jesus. 
The Junior Dive Masters snorkeling at The Pointe

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vacation Bible School: Day 2

Our 14 Fleece Blankets!
On the second day of Vacation Bible School the children received a challenge:  Dare to Care!  The scripture today instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves and we were encouraged to show this love by daring to care for others.  The Junior Dive Masters, our 3rd - 5th grade group, demonstrated this today by assembling 14 fleece blankets that we will donate to the Ronald McDonald House when we go for a tour on Thursday.  This is the mission project for the Junior Dive Masters this year and how we are daring to care for others in our community.


In the aftermath of so much horror in Colorado last week, a post from The Thoughtful Christian sums up the writer's response, which includes the many people impacted by the shooting in Colorado. Including the shooter. Our prayers are lifted for all who are touched by this painful incident. Click the link shown here:
Praying Aurora

Vacation Bible School: Welcome

Music, the sound of chidren's laughter, and the flutter of activity signaled the beginning of Vacation Bible School at St. Mark on Monday Morning.  The theme this year is Operation Overboard.  Throughout the week the children will  play games, make crafts, and will also be challenged to "go deeper" in exploring God's love through Bible stories.

Monday, July 23, 2012

God's Love Language: Quality Time

Speaking God’s Love Language: Quality Time
I Kings 19:1-16

            After seeing in Luke 10 that the one thing that God longs for from us is that we love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind, we have been looking at how to love God using the five love languages described for us in the book “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman. Last week we looked at Words of Affirmations and how to say to God how much we appreciate what God has done and is doing for us.
            Today we look at Quality Time. Dr. Chapman describes this as time spent focusing on the person. Spending time with them through sitting and listening to them, doing things with them, and simply showing them through your focused attention that they are important to you. It is illustrated well by a story I ran across last week. Daddy can I buy an hour. To this boy, time with his Dad was more important than anything else. Dr. Chapman in his book, tells the story of a woman who declared that she wished that her husband would give up his career, along with all the trappings of his success so that she could have more time with him. Giving a person your time is a precious gift and for those who’s love language is quality time, it is more precious than gold. 
            Since God speaks all of the love languages, then, another way that we can love God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind is by giving God quality time. In our passage today, we see two ways that Elijah and God spend some quality time together.

The Drawing Room

 Robert Boyd Munger describes this well in his booklet, My Heart Christ’s Home. In this booklet, he describes our heart as a house that we invite Jesus into. Each room contains a part of our life. As he is showing Jesus around his house they come to the drawing room. He says this: (read "The Drawing Room").

THE DRAWING ROOM - from My Heart Christ’s Home, Robert Boyd Munger - edited
We walked next into the drawing room. This room was rather intimate and comfortable. I liked it. It had a fireplace, overstuffed chairs, a bookcase, sofa and a quiet atmosphere. He also seemed pleased with it. He said, "This is indeed a delightful room. Let us come here often...." Well, naturally, as a young Christian I was thrilled. I could not think of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes apart with Christ.... He promised, "I will be here every morning early. Meet with me here and we will start the day together." So, morning after morning, I would come downstairs to the drawing room and he would take a book of the Bible from the bookcase. He would open it and then we would read together. He would tell me of its riches and unfold to me its truth and reveal his love and grace towards me. They were wonderful hours together.

Friday, July 20, 2012

God's Love Language: Words of Affirmation

For Part II of Pastor Steve Ranney's sermon series on Speaking God's Love Language, click here to listen to "Words of Affirmation", or read below:

Psalm 89:1-18

            Last week we heard from Jesus that the one thing that God wants from us is that we love God, with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind. If we love God we will want to show it, but how? It was then that my mind was drawn to these love languages. In Genesis we learn that when God created us, God made us in God’s image. Not a physical image, but since God is a Spirit, it is our spirits that are made in God’s image. Thus, I know that God is creative, because God made us creative. I know that God is passionate because God gave us the ability, nay the desire, to be passionate about things. I know that God has a sense of humor because God gave ME a sense of humor. So how do we show our love for God?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Caregiving Committee

 Several years ago, the Deacons at St. Mark Presbyterian Church decided giving care to our congregation was more than one person could handle.  So, a committee was begun with representatives from Stephens Ministry, the Go-Getters group (older ladies going out to lunch---Click here), Deacons and other concerned individuals.
 The tasks of this committee include coordinating meals, assisting at funerals, sending greeting cards, delivering recorded worship services to homebound, working with St. Mark's Preparedness Team in event of a community disaster and. . . .
Coordinating luncheons, ice cream socials and social events for those who are often home-bound taking care of a loved one.  These social opportunities give people a chance to network and support each other in similar situations as well as provide a respite.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gardens in July

 Despite a drought and too many 100 degree days, our gardens at St. Mark Presbyterian are still beautiful with Crepe Myrtle (Crape Myrtle).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Speaking God's Love Language

Luke 10:25-29

            What does God want from me? That is a question that each of us has probably asked at some point in our lives. How can I make sure that I am on God’s good side. After all, who wants to be on God’s bad side. That is the gist of the question in our passage today.
            Our passage begins with Jesus teaching a group of people, as he often did and a lawyer stands to ask a question. This was not a lawyer as we think of lawyers. This lawyer was an expert in the Mosaic Law. This was the law that governed how they were to live their daily lives and do it in a way that got them in good with God. This person was more like John Bracke or Deborah Krause. What he probably was doing was checking to see if Jesus was orthodox in His understanding of the Law. He cuts right to the chase, “What must I do to gain eternal life?”
            This questions tells us something about the man. First it tells us that he was a Pharisee, or at least leaned that way. Of the two major schools in Judaism at that time, the Pharisees believed in life after death, and the Saducees did not. Since he was a Pharisee, then, he was looking for a list of rules. They wanted to know exactly what was expected of them. I think they would have been happy if they were given a list at the beginning of their lives that they could check off as they went. Let see, I gave alms to the poor 499 time in my life, one more and I am done with that category. I paid my tithe this year, that is done until next year. I have forgiven that neighbor of mine twice, one more and I can start holding a grudge. You get the picture.
            Jesus, realizing what he was dealing with, turns the question back on him. You are an expert, what does the law say? Here the man rattles off a formula that he had learned, kind of like the catechism that many of you learned in confirmation (he is actually loosely quoting from Duet. 6:5 and Leviticus). Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. I imagine that he did not think about it much, it just rolled off of his tongue. To his surprise, Jesus says That’s it. Do that.
            This seemed to come as a shock to the expert. Where was the list? How could he tell if he was earning enough points toward Heaven? So he goes after the one piece of the formula that he could quantify, by asking who is my neighbor? In this follow up question, he proves to us that he has learned the words and missed the point.

            By agreeing with his answer, Jesus was telling the man that what God wants is for him to love God back. You can not do this by following a list. So how do you love God as God loves you.  The word for love is that great word  that many of you have heard of, Agape.  It means unconditional love.  It is the same kind of love that God has for us.  The use of this word lets us know that the love that we are to have for God must be the kind that lasts forever.  That means that no matter what happens we love God.  When times are good, we love God.  When times go bad, we love God.  When God doesn't do what we want, we don't run away, no, we love God.  Our love for God, if it is Agape love will remain constant.  Just as God has done for us when we turned our backs on Him and rejected Him and even when we ran away ourselves, if our love is Agape, we will hang in there and love Him no matter what we see happening around us.  When we love someone like that we will make them our top priority in life.  God made us the top priority in all of creation.

Friday, July 13, 2012

ABC Sale Open For Business

Off and on for over 30 years, our church St. Mark Presbyterian  has had the ABC Sale (cleaning out Attics, Basements, Closets). Several blogs and videos have been done over the years featuring the sale.  For items in 2011, click here.  For information on the 2008 ABC Sale, click here  and here.
 So, here is our 2012 ABC Sale. We open today July 13 from 7-2 and tomorrow July 14 8-1. We seem to have a number of interesting Asian artifacts including the portfolio Alice is straightening with 10 Japanese wood block prints of Kyoto.
 We also have quite a few Boyd's Bears, designer clothes.
 A beautiful Duncan Phyfe Dining Room table and chairs as well as an ornate old bed.

 Other prints that are in demand are some Iris botanicals and more Asian, Malaysian prints below.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Churchwide Pastoral Letter from 220th General Assembly (2012)

Churchwide pastoral letter from the 220th General Assembly (2012). Read more → ✖ Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Churchwide pastoral letter from the 220th General Assembly (2012)
July 9, 2012
GA220 Communication Center
Communications Coordinator

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Earlier today, the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adjourned after a week of worship and work as the highest council of the denomination. Just under 900 elected commissioners and advisory delegates from every presbytery came from north, south, east, and west to discern together the mind of Christ for the PC(USA).
This assembly’s theme, “walking, running, soaring into hope” (Isaiah 40:31) was a fitting description of the assembly in many ways. At one level, the commissioners worked tirelessly—meeting literally well into the early morning hours today to complete their work—and doing so with much energy and passion. At a deeper level, the deliberations and discernment of this assembly reflect a church that is endeavoring to know how to demonstrate faithfully and effectively the gospel of Jesus Christ in the 21st century.
Some of the highlights:

Worship – The assembly paused daily in the midst of its business, in the same space, to worship. Each of the preachers used the same text, Mark 2:1-12, chosen by outgoing GA Moderator, Cindy Bolbach. Commissioners and advisory delegates prayed and sang often, using selections from the upcoming new hymnal from the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, Glory to God, which the assembly voted to commend to the church (available in 2013;

Community – Those who have experienced a General Assembly speak overwhelmingly of the sense of connectedness that develops over the course of the assembly, and this one was no exception. Group meals, committee work, mission tours, exhibit hall, and more provided opportunities to make new friends and reconnect with those for whom an assembly is a “family reunion.” You can get a sense of that community through the photo and video gallery and more at The community extended beyond Pittsburgh, as well—thousands gathered in this country and around the world through social media to watch the proceedings (

Business – The assembly addressed roughly 800 items of business in the form of overtures, reports, commissioner resolutions and more. We commend to you PC-biz (, the online site where you can read about each item of business. Some topics that were before the assembly are likely to draw media attention—perhaps they already have where you live. We want to highlight some of them, sharing with you the actions taken by the assembly:

Definition of marriage – The assembly chose not to change the current definition of marriage that is in the PC(USA) constitution, namely, that marriage is a civil contract “between a man and a woman.” Rather,through its action to approve a two-year study, the assembly is inviting the entire church to engage in serious, deliberate conversation on this issue. 

Middle East – The assembly chose not to divest from three companies participating in “non-peaceful pursuits” in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Rather, the assembly voted “to pursue a positive and creative course of action with respect to the current Palestinian/Israeli conflict,” and to “devise a plan of active engagement and projects that will support collaboration among Christians, Jews, and Muslims.” The assembly also approved a boycott on “all Israeli products coming from the occupied Palestinian territories.” 

1001 Movement – The assembly overwhelming supported a movement to create 1001 worshiping communities ( Those communities of faith will perhaps look much different from traditional congregations, but those that are already underway—in coffee shops, shopping malls, even on bicycles—are changing the world and the church for the sake of the gospel.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Getting Ready for the ABC Sale

We are having our ABC Sale (Attic, Basement, Closet Sale) a little earlier this year:  July 13 and 14 will be the big sale, but meanwhile, we have an army of volunteers, sorting, displaying and pricing and preparing treats for the workers.
 Starting with a little breakfast, we have a some time to socialize before beginning.
 Every year, I am amazed at the creativity for displaying our treasures.

Monday, July 9, 2012



The link above (the word "Chicken") will take you to a devotional - a quick read -  if you've ever had fears about sharing your faith. [OK, that should include just about all of us 'frozen chosen'!]

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Won't You Be My Neighbor": Butterfly People

Part IV of Susan Hayes' sermon on the Joplin Work trip held in June 2012.
In the chaotic first days after the tornado, when nothing seemed real, word of the butterfly people began to spread…The stories about butterfly people coursed through Joplin…tales describing what children reported seeing on that Sunday night last May as the tornado bore down.  The children of Joplin said the butterfly people protected them.  These tales of guardian angels could, of course, be dismissed as children’s imaginations…
the tornado killed 161 people…it shredded neighborhoods…more than 900 homes were lost…big box stores collapsed…the destruction was complete…
In the midst of this the butterfly people stories began to be shared…stories of mothers and fathers with their children in imminent harm…stories of the tornado passing over these children without harming them…”Weren’t they pretty?” one three year old asked her mother after the tornado left them in a ditch unharmed…the Mom was confused…”Didn’t you see the butterfly people?”
Butterfly people…or angels are a child’s way of understanding what happened, why some died and others lived…children cannot control whether they are caught in a tornado…but they can control the meaning they take from it…
While I would say this spirit of good, this comfort amidst tragedy is God’s doing…I would never doubt God’s power to love and protect our youngest ones…maybe even in the form of a butterfly…

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"Won't You Be My Neighbor" Part III

This is the third part of Pastor Susan Hayes' sermon preached on June 30, 2012 at St. Mark Presbyterian Church

By Wednesday we were told we had to quit by 1:00 in the afternoon…Catholic Charities worried for the safety of all those volunteers.
We had already figured out to begin our day at 7:00am while the thermostat read only 80’s…our young guys up and out without complaint or drama.

After the tornado, The Presbyterian Church had renovated a building to house volunteers.  Twin beds for 40, four showers, a large kitchen area and plenty of welcoming air conditioning…we all slept well, bone tired as we were.

  Even in the course of only four days we had our routine, pack lunches, make coffee, fill the dishwasher.  In the evenings we would fix dinner and sit “family style” to eat.  We listened to the Cardinal games, read, talked, the boys retreating to their own space where you might hear Nick strumming his guitar or wrestling or gaming or, more often, snoring.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Won't You Be My Neighbor"

This is Part II of Pastor Susan's sermon "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" based on her work trip to Joplin, Mo.  This is about their first work assignment.
Our small group gathered at the First Presbyterian housing building last Sunday evening before heading to the Olive Garden for dinner.  Four St. Mark adults, three youth and two Kirkwood Pres servants were not really acquainted but certainly held a common mission.  Olive Garden was new and fresh…part of the immediate rebuild along with WalMart and Home depot.
One year later, the devastation remains alarming…yet Joplinites are quick to say…oh, we look so much better!
         Bright, very bright and early Monday morning we received our job assignment from catholic Charities…we would be doing cement work…thankfully the men in our group as well as Liz from Kirkwood had done this work before…we met the work crew…five young Mennonite men who had quit their jobs to move to Joplin for one year to rebuild homes…they learned to build a house from nothing and we were their willing and eager students.

Our boys hoisted bags of concrete and cement, shoveled sand, inhaled all manner of nasty air born particles…we filled and emptied wheel barrels, we moved cinder blocks from here to there and back again.  It was hot…
I have no idea how much water we drank and drank and drank.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Joplin Work Trip "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

Pastor Susan just returned from Joplin; this is an excerpt from her sermon last weekend with photos from the work trip crew:

Mark 12:28-34

Don and his wife lived in their home for 50 years, the small structure received major ice damage to its roof in 2007 and Don set about the frustrating process of rebuilding.  His wife, a collector of kitchen memorabilia supervised the careful replacement of her treasures as they restored their home and continued celebrating their large family through the years…Don loved to cook every Sunday…expecting any number of folks to show up to eat…when his wife died shortly after the renovation…Don was grateful to God for her life, for their home, for their family…at age 89, he would sit out on the porch swing watching the comings and goings of his beloved Joplin neighborhood.  
On May 22, 2011 Don’s grown daughters were visiting with their dogs…Don had cooked, of course, and his daughter, Beth, was preparing to head home with her two dogs….Beth put the dogs in the car and came back into the house….the weather was shifting and the radio said a tornado was imminent…just before 5:30pm, as Beth and Don disagreed briefly about her leaving they experienced the most devastating, shocking, horrendous moments of their lives.  As the monster tornado plowed through this solid sleepy Midwestern town the windows of the house at 2322 Pennsylvania were blown to smithereens…Don grabbed Beth’s arm as her body was lifted off the floor, hurling both of them back and slamming them into the crashing walls and each other…89 year old Don then held his 70 something year old girl by her ankles fighting the monster who would send her into the depths of rubble and debris if it weren’t for this old man, this father, this survivor…they can’t remember the next moments but upon waking Beth found herself confused and disoriented…they may have been in a cabinet? A closet?...they were alive…their family home was gone…all of it…the six dogs who were in the house then appeared, shaken and filthy but alive…Don shares that he has since heard that in an emergency we humans should allow our animal friends to fend for themselves…apparently the pups found holes and hiding places…shelter from the wrath and destruction which would come to form the new identity of Joplin.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Reform School

Reformed faith, Reformed Tradition, the Reformation...what the heck are we talking about??

For many people, the term ‘Reformed’, as it relates to religion, will bring to mind Martin Luther, the German monk who questioned certain teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church during the early 1500’s. Luther’s efforts came to be known as ‘the Reformation’.  He and others, such as Huldrych Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger and John Calvin, strongly believed that every church doctrine must have its source in Scripture (the Bible)- that all other means of understanding God must be subordinate to Scripture. [sola scriptura] One key understanding of this movement is that grace is a gift from God,[sola gratia] (we can’t earn it), and is available to all by faith alone [sola fide] (not by deeds or rites).  Luther also objected to the selling of indulgences, a practice which had regressed into professional pardoners selling the ‘remission of temporal punishment’ in order to fund building projects in Rome!

Reformers like Calvin (who greatly influenced those who would later form the Presbyterian Church) - agreed with Luther’s concerns about the authority of Scripture, but disagreed on other aspects of the church, including how to understand and practice communion, and how to structure the governance of the church. Both Lutherans and Presbyterians, however, are confessing churches; in the PC [USA], we include the Book of Confessions along with our Book of Order as the basis for our Constitution.   *if you’ve never read through the Book of Confessions, you can now do so on-line. Just click the link.

Being part of the Reformed Tradition (being Protestant) does not mean that every Reformed denomination shares identical views on theology. Presbyterians differ from Lutherans, who differ from Baptists, etc.   We will review some of these differences in upcoming posts. It is important to note that all major Christian traditions--both Protestant and Catholic -- do share a common understanding of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as the Trinity.

God is love.

McKim, Donald K.  Presbyterian Beliefs. Louisville, KY:  Geneva press2003