The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

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Children have such a unique way of looking at the world, especially in matters of faith. This summer, we have been exploring what it means to have "Faith like a Child," as Saint Luke members introduce faith topics through children’s literature.

We continue this series with special guest, Carol Koup. Let your inner child out to be swept away as Carol shares with us from one of her favorite children’s books.


The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied, stole, smoked cigars (even the girls), talked dirty, hit little kids, cussed their teachers, and took the name of the Lord in vain. They were just so all around awful you could hardly believe they were real! Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie and Gladys. They lived over a garage and their pet cat was the meanest looking animal- short legs, broken tail, and missing one eye. We figured they were headed straight to hell by the way of the state penitentiary - until the got themselves mixed up with the church and our Christmas pageant.

Our pageant isn’t what you’d call four star entertainment. The script is standard and so are the costumes and the castings. Primary kids are angels, intermediate kids are shepherds, the big boys are wise men, the ministers son was Joseph, and Alice was Mary because she is so smart, neat, clean, and most of all, holy looking. The rest of the kids are in the angel choir.

One day at school, Leroy Herdman stole dessert from my brother, Charlie’s lunch box. Charlie said, “Go ahead and take it. I can get all I want at church.” The following Sunday, the Herdman’s showed up with eyes peeled for refreshments. The Herdmans heard about the Christmas play that day.

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About 35 years ago, I was looking for a meaningful book to read to my boys about Christmas. A librarian pointed me to Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

When my boys and I curled up in Mark’s bed to read it, we laughed so hard I had tears running down m cheeks (at times I had tears from the poignancy of the story as well). It is now one of my all time favorite books, which says something about me, I guess there is so much to love and learn from children’s books.

As an added bonus, Barbara Robinson was a Berwyn resident and I used to chat with her in the Acme!

 

When the director, Mrs. Armstrong, broke her leg, mother got stuck with the job. She asked for volunteers to be Mary. Imogene raised her hand and said she would be Mary and Ralph would be Joseph. No one volunteered for wise men, so Leroy, Claude, and Ollie became wise men. By default, Gladys would be the angel of the Lord. Alice, who was always Mary, was threatened by Imogene. She was threatened by Gladys to have pussy willows shoved so far down her ear that they would sprout and Alice would spend the rest of her life with a pussy willow growing out of her ear.

My father said someone should lock up the silver service. The pastor, after listening to all the complaints, reminded the members of the congregation that Jesus said, “Suffer the little children…all children including the Herdmans.”

Yay for the Pastor!

At the first rehearsal, my mother read the Christmas story since the Heardmans had never heard it. When Imogene heard that there was no room at the inn, she said, “Not even for Jesus?” Leroy asked, “What was that they laid him in - a bed? Mother explained that was the point- there was no bed. Leroy asked, “What were waddled up clothes?” Swadling clothes, mother explained. Imogene was incredulous. “You mean they tied him up and put him in a feed box? Where was child welfare?” Gladys piped up, “Shazam!” Gladys, exclaimed “Shazam!… Out of nowhere, in the back night- with horrible vengeance- the Might Warrior!” Ollie piped in, “Wise men- were they like school teachers?” Claude said, “No dumbbelll, it’s like the US president.” “Very close,” said mother, “actually they were kings.” Imogene burst in, “Well it’s about time! Maybe they’ll tell the innkeeper where to get off and get the baby out of the barn.” Mother continued, “The wise men presented gold, frankencense,, and myrrh.” “What’s that?” Leroy wanted to know. “Precious oils and fragrant resins,” my mother explained. Imogene shouted, “Oil? What kind of cheap king hands out oil for a present? You get better presents from the firemen.” Imogene said, “My God, he just got born and already they are out to kill him.”

When we got home, Dad asked about the rehearsal. Mother said, “Suppose you had never heard the story, what would you think?” “I guess I’d think it was pretty disgraceful that they could not find a room for a pregnant woman except in a stable.”

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In her book, Accidental Saints, Nadia Bolz Weber commented, “The world in which Christ was born was certainly not a Normal Rockwell painting. God did not enter the world of our own nostalgic, silent night, snow blanketed peace on earth suspended reality of Christmas. Instead God slipped into the vulnerability of skin and entered our violent and disturbing world…So here we have a girl likely between 13 and 15, a peasant, to be married to a pretty religious guy. Here’s where Mary had some real chops. She heard outrageous things from the Angel and said let it be with me according to your will. Maybe the really outrageous act of faith on Mary’s part was trusting that she had found favor with God.” I appreciate Nadia’s perspective- fighting the ‘not good enough’ talk in my head, as my childhood consisted of a vengeful God who would strike us down for infractions - akin to Gladys’ SHAZAM!

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Our story continues on the night of the pageant…

All players were in their positions - except for Imogene and Ralph. Suddenly the came in, not pushing and shoving - just standing there looking like people on the 6 o’clock news": refugees sent to wait in some ugly place. It must have been like this for the Holy Family- stuck away in a barn by people who did not much care what happened to them.

Eerie how this sounds so familiar to the flight of refugees today…

Ralph, with his hair sticking out all around his ears, with Imogene whose veil was cockeyed, and who thumped the baby twice before putting him in the manger made quite the unusual scene. Alice, who watched intently so she could report every infraction to her mother and the pastor, thought it was wrong to be burping the baby Jesus. She mused, “Do you think He had colic?”

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The whole point is that He did not come down on a cloud. He was born and lived a real person…

Gladys entered next, stepping on people as she came on stage. As she was the only one with a speaking part, she yelled. Gladys, with her skinny legs and her dirty sneakers sticking out from under her robe, yelling at all of us, everywhere:

“Hey! Unto YOU a child is born!”

Amen, Gladys.

May our hearts be stirred awake by the call. Hey! Unto YOU a child is born! Help us to live in this reality both as children and adults, in christmas time and throughout the year. Amen.


Special thanks to today’s guest Carol Koup. She has been a member of Saint Luke since 1971. Her and her husband Rick were married at Saint Luke, Rick’s childhood church. Together, they raised their sons at Saint Luke. Over the years, Carol has been involved in everything from Sunday School, Confirmation, and Christmas Pageants. Most recently, she immensely enjoyed helping out at VBS.

Horton Hears a Who

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Today, we continue our series Faith Like A Child with thoughts from special guest, Ian Roth. In this series, we have been exploring faith lessons through popular children’s literature. Many of the books shared are ones that you may recognize from your own childhood, or thanks to your children or grandchildren. Whether you have never read them or read them a hundred times, these fresh perspectives on faith are sure to spark your thinking and bless your heart. Enjoy!


Who is the greatest?

Believe it or not, it’s actually the 2nd book to feature Horton the Elephant, the first being Horton Hatches the Egg. But most know Horton from his efforts in convincing the Jungle of Nool of a simple message: “A person is a person no matter how small”. Splashing around in a pool of water, Horton hears a cry for help coming from a speck of dust. Even though he can’t see anyone on the speck, he decides to help it. As it turns out, the speck of dust is home to the Whos, who live in their city of Whoville. Horton strives to help protect the Whos and their home but is questioned, mocked, and tortured by his neighbors in the Jungle who refuse to believe that anything could survive on the speck. Still, Horton persists, and stands by that motto: "After all, a person is a person, no matter how small." Eventually, the Kangaroos and Monkeys of the Jungle can hear the Whos thanks to a big “Yopp!” from JoJo, the mayor’s son, and from then on they all vow to protect the Whos with Horton.

In today’s Scripture Reading the disciples are arguing as to “who is the greatest”. I mean come on, in a group of Jesus’ followers, there has to be a favorite, right? But Jesus, seeing where this argument was leading, showed the disciples a little child and says “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

A person is a person, no matter how small.

Now in this instance, we see “small” in the literal sense of a little child, but our culture tries to make us ignore the small people. We give recognition to those people or groups who are big and dominant. Whether it’s big figures in pop culture, high job titles, or those who belong to a cultural majority group, we have been trained, in subtle ways, to fixate on superiority. “They don’t believe like us.” “They don’t dress like us.” “They don’t talk like us.” And we think less of them. Sometimes we don’t treat others differently---but we think it. In God’s eye, the least are the most important. The poor, marginalized, abused and downtrodden are given God’s favor over the important, or wealthy, or famous. A person is a person, no matter how small.

In today’s hymn, “All are Welcome”, we see a similar message. “Let Us Build a House Where Love Can Dwell, And ALL can safely live”. Let us build a house where prophets speak, a place where ALL God’s children dare to seek. We don’t sing “Some are Welcome in this place” but, rather, “All are welcome”. If this is a hymn we are singing in our churches, then the church on earth needs to reflect this. A person is a person, no matter how small.

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No matter how insignificant, alone, or degraded someone might feel due to the world around them, here at Saint Luke a person is a person no matter how small. Every Sunday, you hear the phrase “All are welcome, no exceptions”. I experienced this personally almost 4 years ago coming to this church for the first time as one of the only college students in the sanctuary. If you want to get literal by considering age and height, we saw this recently at a Vacation Bible School that welcomed children for a week to celebrate and grow the next generation. Saint Luke ministries, such as Rejoicing Spirits, Appalachia Service Project, and Feeding Thousands provide a sense of welcoming and hope to those who might not receive it on a day to day basis. I could go on and on about Saint Luke, where a person is a person, no matter how small.

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, a person is a person, no matter how small. This can be seen in our denomination’s recent decision to become the first church in America to be a “sanctuary church body” for undocumented immigrants. Check out this excerpt on Diversity and Inclusion from the ELCA’s Mission and Values:

“As Christ’s church, we value the richness of God’s creation and offer a radical welcome to all people, appreciating our common humanity and our differences. We are a church that does not view diversity as a barrier to unity. We recognize and will challenge dynamics of power and privilege that create barriers to participation and equity in this church and society – for women, people of color, minority ethnic groups, people with disabilities, people who are marginalized or living in poverty, and the LGBTQ community.

In the ELCA…..a person is a person no matter how small.

But how can we live out this mission in our daily interactions? I could go on and on about ways we could improve as a society, but I think this starts through community. Avoid the presumptions and pre-judgments of the people around you. Validate others; greet and acknowledge them. If you only interact with those you know, share characteristics with, or feel “comfortable around” then you are only welcoming some. A person is a person, no matter how small. Such a simple, childhood lesson we learn from an Elephant in the Jungle of Nool, but one we can learn and grow from daily.

Listen & Learn

I’d like you to listen to a song from Seussical the Musical called “Alone in the Universe”. I think this musical number between Horton the Elephant and JoJo the Who is a perfect depiction of God’s Kingdom. It shows the powerful community we can find in God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom in which a “Person is a Person, no matter how small”. Take this time to relax, reflect, and experience your faith like a child.

God of all, big and small, may we celebrate diversity and extend radical welcome to each person. May we recognize that we are not alone in the universe, but instead experience kingdom community. And May we live our days remembering the simple truth that a persons a person no matter how small. Amen.


Special thanks to Ian Roth. Ian is a graduate of Eastern University and is an active member at Saint Luke. You can often find him singing in our choir or hanging out with the Spark Students.

Rainbow Fish

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I love children’s books. I love their large size and bright colors. I love that the pictures are almost always bigger than the words. And I love that, for the most part, the messages offered by the authors of children’s books are easy to understand. There is very little ambiguity in children’s literature because a young child’s mind hasn’t developed enough to understand subtleties of language and thought. Children’s books are filled with simple words and simple ideas. That’s another reason I love children’s books: many of the better ones are written to help children learn right from wrong. In other words, they help build character by helping children become better people.

 

Lessons from a Rainbow Fish

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In the story Rainbow Fish, author Marcus Pfister is simply that sharing what you have with others will lead to happiness. Or, to put it in childlike terms, sharing is good, vanity is bad. It seems very cut and dried, right? But are there other lessons to be learned here? Does this story offer shades of gray to consider? I believe we, as adults, can find a different message in the story of Rainbow Fish.

In tonight’s gospel, Mark 10: 17-22, a rich man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to follow the commandments, which the rich man says he has always done. I imagine the rich man getting his hopes up about making it to heaven. After all, he has kept the commandments, he has wealth and presumably status in his community. But then Jesus drops the hammer. Mark says,

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”

Although this story appears in the gospels of Matthew and Luke as well as Mark, I like this version best because it’s the only one that says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Jesus knew this man was not going to be able to trade his earthly riches for heavenly treasure. Jesus knew this man was not going to follow him. But he loved him just the same. I can easily see the rich man sadly walking away, hanging his head, realizing he would never inherit eternal life.

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By contrast, Rainbow Fish is a similar story with a different ending. Rainbow Fish’s treasures are his beautiful, shiny scales. He displays them proudly, expecting all the other fish to admire his beauty. When the other fish start to ignore him, Rainbow Fish becomes unhappy, and he asks the octopus what he should do to find happiness. The octopus tells him to share his shiny scales with the other fishes. Unlike the rich man in the gospel, Rainbow Fish doesn’t swim away sadly, knowing he could never share his wealth with others. Rainbow Fish decides to give away all but one shiny scale. The other fish are so grateful for Rainbow Fish’s kindness that they welcome him into their community and they all become friends. Rainbow Fish finds happiness by giving away the very things he thought made him happy.

I wish that the rich man in Mark’s gospel had reconsidered his decision to walk away from Jesus. I wish he had waited a little longer to hear what Jesus said to the disciples after he had left. Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” It’s strange that this is the part of the story we remember, maybe because it seems so absurd. Or maybe it’s because we all worry that we are much more like the rich man than we wish we were. For whatever reason, we tend to forget the next part of this passage, the most important part. Mark tells us, “The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’”

 

All things are possible with God

The rich man should have stayed to hear these words. They would have given him the courage to make changes in his life, to share his wealth with the poor, to follow Jesus’ teachings. All things are possible with God, especially those things that turn our eyes toward heaven and away from earthly matters.

Questions to ponder….

  • What might you have to share with others?

  • What could happen if you choose to share with others?

  • What holds you back from being a Rainbow Fish?

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I chose Rainbow Fish for tonight’s sermon because I have been working on VBS preparations for the past month or so. I have been involved in VBS at Saint Luke for about the 15 years. It’s a big job for everyone involved, and it takes many hours of planning, many volunteers, and quite a bit of money and resources to ensure a successful week of faith and fun for about 100 children each summer. We run one of the larger VBS programs in the area, and we are one of the few that doesn’t charge children for attending.

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Years ago, when my children we young and attended VBS here, most of the students were from our congregation. Today, most of the students come from our greater community. They attend other churches in the area, or they do not attend church at all. Most of the families who send their children to VBS here simply want them to spend a few hours having fun in a safe environment where they will learn about God’s love for them. That’s it. Some of these families send their children from VBS to VBS, from one church to another, throughout the summer. Most of these families will not join St. Luke because they have their own church homes.

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So why do we spend so much time and so many resources on this ministry year after year? Because we choose to be Rainbow Fish, sharing our wealth of resources, our abundance of talent, our depth of compassion, with the children of our community. We choose to share our shiny scales every time we share the love of Christ with our neighbors by welcoming them into our church for a week of Bible stories, games, and crafts. We make this choice, year after year, because we want to follow Jesus and we know that we can’t do that if our doors are closed. We choose to open our church, and our hearts, to everyone who wants to know about God’s love for them.

Lord, when the choice is hard. When it seems like it’s not worth it. When we just want to close the doors of our hearts and keep our shiny scales to ourselves. Give us the boldness to choose to share. We know that all things are possible with You. Amen.


Special thanks to our guest Roberta Menapace. Roberta is a long time member of Saint Luke. This week you will find her with our kids at VBS. During the rest of the year, she is involved in many different ministries around Saint Luke.

Angelina Ballerina

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The theme for our Wednesday evening worship this summer is “Faith Like a Child” and we are invited to reflect on children’s stories in literature, film and television as they illustrate this. As the husband of a Children’s Librarian, I’d have a lot of ‘splainin to do if I didn’t draw a beloved children’s book into this message, and as the father of two girls, I can tell you that a simple tenet of their faiths, and I suspect of many little girls’, was that they would someday wind up as either a princess or a ballerina. When they were very young, say 4, 5, 6 years of age, the preferred career choices of my two, Jessi and Dana, definitely tended towards being a prima ballerina. Katherine Holabird’s Angelina Ballerina with these lovely illustrations by Helen Craig, was dear to their hearts and so also, to mine and Maureen’s.

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Angelina Ballerina is about a little girl mouse, one Angelina Mousling, who shared my daughters’ dreams of one day being a real ballerina. So, fixated on her goal was Angelina, that she often lost track of everyday things like getting dressed for breakfast. Now Mr. and Mrs. Mousling, exasperated as they could be with Angelina about things like this, nevertheless deeply treasured her excitement and enthusiasm about ballet and they admired her simple faith that one day she would be a real ballerina. And so, one morning, when Angelina finally did appear at breakfast, there was a beautifully wrapped present for her at the breakfast table. With none of the “Oh you shouldn’t haves” that adult mice would mutter at such a time, Angelina pounces on the gift and tears into the wrapping with a relish that resulted in her upsetting Mrs. Mousling’s sewing basket. She dons the beautiful tutu that was inside the present box and starts right in to dancing. It seems that Angelina never stopped dancing, and soon she found herself enrolled in the class of the great ballet instructor, Miss Lilly. Under Miss Lilly’s gentle and patient guidance, Angelina continued to nurture her childlike faith in becoming a real ballerina, but she also put away childish ways in a sense, focusing her energies on hard work, and so was less disruptive to Mousling family life. Later on, Miss Lilly gave Angelina that gift of encouragement that can often change the course of a young person’s life and, in the happiest of endings, Angelina actually does realize her dream of being a real ballerina and we see her here in the leading role in a grand ballet presented in what kind of looks like a mousey Academy of Music.

What is Faith like a Child?

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People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” -Luke 18:15-17

I’m a pushover for the kinds of color plates one finds in Bibles of a couple of generations ago, and in this one from my old Sunday School Bible the artist illustrates the Gospel lesson found in Luke 18, and captures the quality of childlike faith in a way that goes straight to the heart just as Angelina’s story does. It’s as if we say about Faith Like a Child that we may not be able to define it, but we know it when we see it. We see this image as revealing not only the faith of children, but also the way that Jesus regards these little ones. It’s worth noting that it was commonplace in ancient Palestine, long before the time of Jesus, for women to bring their little children to gatherings where priests and prophets were holding forth. Motivated by a mix of faith and superstition, they sought a blessing for their little ones and also, perhaps, hoped that a little bit of that mystical good stuff that the holy one supposedly had would rub off on them and their tykes. Knowing this, the impatience of the disciples may be a little easier to understand. It’s as if they were thinking “Oye, here we go again! Always with the kids! Take ‘em away; give the Master a break!!” But Jesus shuts the disciples down, welcomes these little guys and holds them up as an example of how faith should be. What, do you suppose, are the characteristics of children and children’s faith that Jesus cherishes?

A Few Misconceptions

One of the things most people love about children is their innocence. Could that be it? Well, I don’t think so, because Jesus so often held up in parables and in Gospel accounts, people who were regarded in the world as sinners and outcasts. As Nadia Bolz-Weber pointed out in her electrifying sermon to the youth Gathering in New Orleans in 2010, and as I firmly believe, Jesus knows we are not innocent and loves us nonetheless, going so far as to actually use our hurts and flaws as well as our gifts to build the Kingdom.

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Many of us, I suspect, take Faith Like a Child to mean unquestioning faith. However, as Rachel Held Evans pointed out in her wonderful book Inspired, anyone who thinks children are unquestioning hasn’t spent much time around little kids. They are always asking questions “What’s that?”, “Why?” and “Are we there yet?”. Inspired is a wonderful account of a young woman’s continuing quest to reconcile all the complexities and contradictions we find in scripture. Like old Jacob, who wrestled with God, Evans wrestled with questions like how do we reconcile a loving God and the admonitions of Jesus to love our enemies with the many Old Testament accounts of the armies of Israel putting entire populations, including children, to the sword following their God-given victories. If you doubt that such things are there in scripture, just read the account of the aftermath of the Battle of Jericho in Joshua 6:21.

So, if it’s not innocence or an unquestioning nature, what is it about children that is exemplary of the kind of faith that will bring us into the Kingdom?

Ready to Receive Again & Again

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One quality that children have, almost without fail, is their readiness to accept gifts without second thoughts. We certainly saw that in the story of Angelina when she joyfully received the gift of her ballet dress and slippers. It’s that childlike quality that could allow us at any time of life to accept the greatest gift of all, God’s grace. We need it every day, and we only have to do as Angelina did with her new dress and accept it as the free love gift that it is, with gratitude but no second thoughts about trying to earn it, and then try live as one who has been so gifted should live. Another quality that we see in these images of children with their mothers, is that children may be rambunctious and prone to getting into trouble, but they also cling on. They hold on tight. Any one of these children might have been, in the moments before these images were captured or imagined, questioning to the point of being a nuisance, or getting into some mischief, but in the end, they always end back up in their parents’ arms. So it could be for us. As adults, as much as we are in sin or doubt, and as much as our faith may mature to the journey, or even the wrestling match that it usually is, that faith like a child is what will cause us to accept grace and keep us coming back and holding on to God for dear life again and again and again.

Lord, only you can give us hands both open to receive every gift and clinging to You tightly. We find peace in your arms. We discover you to be the constant give. In our all mischief, through our incessant questions, Your love remains. Amen.


Sparky Lok has been a member of Saint Luke since 1996. He teaches the 6th Grade Sunday School class, and is a member of the Mutual Ministry and Pastoral Sabbatical Planning Teams. You may also find him helping out as a Stephen Minister, at Feast Incarnate, or as a worship assistant on Sunday mornings.

Runaway Bunny

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Children enter each day with openness, ready for whatever it might bring. Unlike many adults, they embrace each moment with imagination, wonder, and laughter. This is true too in matters of faith. This summer, we are exploring what it means to have "Faith like a Child," as Saint Luke members introduce faith topics through children’s literature.

This week, Amanda Heintzelman helps us explore faith through the lens of a child with the help of a runaway bunny.


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Margaret Wise Brown published her classic children’s book, The Runaway Bunny, in 1942. More than 76 years ago, and during that time it has never gone out of print and remains one of the best-selling children’s books of all time. Margaret Wise Brown died more than 65 years ago, so we cannot ask her what influenced her writing The Runaway Bunny, but each of the dozens of times I reread it, I am reminded of Psalm 139.

Psalm 139: 1-16

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.

Oddly, I did not become acquainted with this classic children’s tale until I was a young adult taking a college English class called “Critical Theory Since Plato”. Despite its grim sounding title, it is a class I remember fondly as one of the best courses I’ve ever taken. It consisted of less than 10 students and it was taught by my favorite professor and mentor, Dr. Betsy Morgan. At one point during the course we watched a made for television movie based on the Pulitzer prize winning play, Wit. The plot of the movie follows Vivian Bearing who is a professor of English literature known for her expertise in metaphysical poetry. Her life takes a turn when she is diagnosed with metastic Stage IV ovarian cancer. Late in Vivian’s illness, the only visitor she receives in the hospital is her former professor and dissertation advisor, Evelyn Ashford. Evelyn is in town visiting her grandchildren, when she hears that Vivian is in the hospital. In a powerful scene of compassion and deep, tender love, Evelyn takes off her shoes and gets into the hospital bed with tearful and suffering Vivian to comfort her. Evelyn reaches into the bag she has brought and pulls out a copy of The Runaway Bunny. She begins to read Vivian excerpts from the book in the calm soothing voice that a loving parent would use to comfort a frightened, vulnerable child, and as she pauses to reflect, Evelyn states, “Ah! Look at that, Vivian, a little allegory of the soul. Wherever it hides, God will find it.”

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The Mother said, “If you become a bird and fly away from me, I will become a tree that you come home to.”

God’s presence and love are inescapable. Even when we runaway, God pursues us. Think of the opening lines of the story. “I am running away,” the little bunny says. “I will run after you, for you are my little bunny,” the mother says. This is the story at the center of the Bible. It’s our story. From Adam and Eve hiding from God in the Garden of Eden, to Jonah fleeing from God’s call, to Peter denying Jesus after the crucifixion. We run, and God finds us. God is in the garden calling out, “where are you?” to Adam and Eve. He takes the form of a great fish and swallows Jonah up out of love for him, and Jesus appears in resurrected form to Peter and invites him back into relationship with Him, “Peter do you love me? … Feed my sheep.”

Reasons We Run

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Another thing that always struck me about this story is that we are never told why the bunny is running away. We are left to guess whether the little bunny feels he has been subjected to some parental tyranny or injustice or whether he simply wishes to assert his independence and have an adventure. Young children love to run away. They do it because they’re feeling angry, or brave, or neglected, or proud, or sometimes just because they can. Some of the same reasons we run away from God. Who among us doesn’t have a childhood memory of announcing to our family that we were going to run away? I vividly remember getting angry with my mom at around the age of 7, announcing that if no one appreciated me, I was just going to leave, and marching up to my room to pack my little green suitcase. I was going to show her. She would be sorry she treated me this way. Much to my surprise, my own mother followed me up to my room and called my bluff. “Okay, if you’re going to run away, at least let me help you pack. You’re going to need at least 3 pairs of clean underwear.” By the time we had finished packing, I had changed my mind.

Have A Carrot

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Tonight I chose to pair our Psalm and New testament reading with Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, because this is where Jesus himself teaches on the theme of God’s persistent, steadfast, and pursuing love. The shepherd goes in search of the sheep “until he finds it.” Jesus tells us that the love of God is like that shepherd who always goes in search of those who have run away or wandered away, and when he finds them, He invites us all to rejoice.

God knows us completely – and loves us anyway. This is the great truth of good and simple faith that sometimes even great theologians need to remember – that God is always with us and for us, no matter how dire the circumstances of our lives may be. God is there in comfort and sorrow – in floods and natural disasters, in the streets of Kensington where an addict tries to numb his pain the best way he knows how, in the VA hospital where a homeless veteran dies alone, in the doctor’s office where a couple learns they’ve had a miscarriage, in prisons and mental health facilities, in times and places of great joy and great despair.

There is no escaping God. We are never alone – runaway bunnies or runaway Christians. Every night before bed I tell Laura, “I love you to the moon and back, forever and always, no matter what.” I want her to have that daily reminder that my love for her is immeasurable, has no expiration date, and is absolutely unconditional. Just like God’s love for us.

In the story, the little bunny finally concludes, “Shucks, I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.” And the mother bunny simply replies, “Have a carrot.” If that isn’t grace, the opportunity to experience God in spite of yourself, then I don’t know what is.

God of inescapable love, there is no out running your affections. Your love is immeasurable! Whatever our reason to run and hide, you unconditionally seek us out. Help us to remember that we will always be “your little bunny” and to be filled with gladness as you continue to offer us grace upon grace. We praise you for knowing us, loving us, for always having a place at your table for us, and of course for all of the “carrots.” Amen.

Special thanks to Amanda for sharing this great story with us. Amanda married into Saint Luke 11 years ago when she and Matt got hitched. Fun fact: they were the first wedding reception hosted in the newly renovated Schlack Hall! Amanda serves on the worship committee, but is probably best known at Saint Luke as Mint's (the service dog) handler and Laura Jane's mom.

The Monster at the End of this Book

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Children have such a unique way of looking at the world, especially in matters of faith. This summer, we will explore what it means to have "Faith like a Child," as Saint Luke members introduce faith topics through children’s literature.

We kick off this series with special guest, Emily Fowler. Let your inner child out to enjoy these spiritual truths expressed through one of Emily’s childhood favorites.


Am I going to catch my flight?

Will my daughter be okay in college?

Am I going to be late to the meeting because of traffic?

Will my nephew go to rehab?

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The list continues. There is and always will be something to worry about. In fact, 84% of us have lost sleep due to worrying. 

Even Sesame Street’s beloved Grover worries!

In the book, “The Monster at the end of this Book,” Grover hears that there is a monster at the end of the book. He is scared of monsters, so he asks you to not turn the page. Every time you turn the page, you are getting closer to the monster. Grover tries to tie the pages together, nail them together, and even builds a brick wall. But, you keep turning the pages. Finally, you get to the second to last page, and he is so scared…

Facing the Monster of Worry

Many of us have felt like Grover…scared, terrified, worried. Yet, God tells us not to worry!

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” -Matthew 6:34

Now, maybe it is just me…but that seems pretty impossible to not worry. I do not think anyone can NOT worry. But, here is the thing… We need to read the verse before it says “do not worry”

“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” -Matthew 6:33

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When you are worried or anxious about something, do not fret. When you think about your life, health, food, clothes, money, etc. hand the situation over to God. Have confidence that He will meet your needs. Jesus made himself king over us to take away our worries! When we seek the kingship of God first, we will have a life full of freedom, peace, joy, and adventure.

Now, that still may seem impossible or at least very hard. We do not always give our worries to God. We fight, we push, we drag our feet, we worry that God will not do what we want.  And when we do worry, we usually end up making things worse. We try to distract ourselves with other things. This can lead to addictions- drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, etc. We break away from our support system, becoming isolated from family and friends. We sink into a deep depression. Remember: You are allowed to be scared. You are allowed to be worried and anxious. But, you cannot let those feelings control you. In the end, God does have a plan and he will take care of you.


The End of the Story

Our story does not end in worry & fear.

Now, going back to Grover…Let’s see what he is so scared of!

The monster at the end of the book was himself! He realized he was scared for nothing. Everything worked out and he was okay. I know it is hard, but we must let God take the wheel. 

Two Things to do when you’re Afraid

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1. Seek His kingdom AND change your own views.

  • Does my hair look okay? I did my best.

  • Will we have enough money for the bills? I think I need to back off the Starbucks…we will make it.

  • Will my friend survive their cancer treatment? I will be there to support and love them every step of the way. 

  • Am I going to get laid off? I am thankful I have a job.

2. Meditate on the truth as you hand your worries over to God.

I love creating art and I made this one especially for you. Put this somewhere special to remind you of His love and His plans. Download it and set it as the wallpaper on your phone, set it as your screen saver, print it off and tape it on your mirror. Look at it and imagine God saying this to you as your worries are weighing you down…

“My Child…you worry too much. I’ve got this, remember? Love, God”


God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. You hold the whole world in your hands. You always have and always will. Calm our troubled minds that so easily get stuck in the past and borrow trouble from the future. Empower us to see You and Your many blessings, present with us each day. Amen.



Emily Fowler is a member of Saint Luke and an artist. Her goal is to spread love, kindness, and acceptance for all through her creations. Check them out online!

Why We Spend A Week of Summer Vacation Working

Summer is almost here, and while many are planning vacations, preparing their pools, and looking forward to relaxing in the warm sunshine, others are dusting off their tool belts for a week making homes warmer, safer, and drier with Appalachia Service Project.

Why you might ask? Why are some choosing a week in West Virginia instead of a week in the tropics? Why are these people perfecting their use of a power drill or circular saw when they could be not working at all or at most just working on their tan? Why on earth would a teenager choose early mornings that turn into long days ending with blistered fingers and mud caked knees, over the alternative of sleeping in, hanging out with friends, and surfing the internet? Why you ask?

John & Elizabeth Muir can tell you why. They could start explaining that during the week they get back more than they ever give, then go on to share about how much they learn, and finally finish explaining what a blast they have in the midst of the work. However, when it comes down to it, the most important “whys” have a name. Why do they spend a week of their summer making homes warmer, safer, and drier? Here’s what they had to say…


We do it….

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1. Because of David

We have met so many wonderful homeowners over the years. The first home we worked on was a family with a 16 year old daughter and a 10 year old son. Our son Sam was just 14 on that trip and struck up a friendship with the son, David. The differences in their lives melted away and they were just children. David wanted to help as much as possible in the repair of his home and we used him. He and Sam were put under the house to put in insulation! By the end of the project, we all felt that we had really helped them to be warmer the next winter.

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2. Because of Stanley

During our second trip, our homeowner’s father Stanley invited us to join him at his family’s 4th of July Celebration. Our team members followed Stanley out to Cleveland, Virgina, a little town with a population of 128. However, that small town was overflowing with fun! We were shown an amazing evening of local pride, blue grass music and fireworks. Stanley introduced us to everyone we came near and was so proud to show us a good time. We were astounded and humbled at the hospitality and fellowship that we were given. After a day of festivities, John remarked on the drive back that it was truly a night none of us would ever forget. We still receive Christmas cards from those homeowners.

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3. Because of Bennie

Our homeowner last year was Bennie. Bennie was a 60 year old bachelor who had not had schooling past 5th grade. It was an eye opening experience for our youth to learn that he was illiterate. Coming from an area where educational opportunities abound, our students saw a different life experience. Together, we were able to not only get to learn from Bennie, but to fix his leaking shower and toilet that had rotted the bathroom floor. After all our work was through, he was so moved that he could not thank us enough. We felt the same.

David, Stanley, and Bennie are just a few of the reasons why people like John and Elizabeth choose to spend a week of their summer working with an organization like ASP. There are countless others whose lives have been mutually impacted.

The students who have been participating in ASP with the Muir over the years return each summer with skills that they have learned. It is so rewarding to know that these skills will be with them for the rest of their lives. Watching them come into a project without knowing how to complete it and then seeing the finished product is amazing! Similarly, the adults who make the trip also can be a surprise. On the final night of the trip, at the center where volunteers stay for the week, they are all asked to share their favorite God moment of the week. The adults in the group, in particular the big, strong, men more often than not cannot make it through their thoughts without choking and tearing up. It is a powerful week, full of life changing moments and memories that change you to the core.

God, we thank you and praise you that you are at work in the world and that you give us the opportunity to participate in that work with our own two hands.


Special thanks to John & Elizabeth Muir for sharing their ASP stories! John & Elizabeth are long time members of Saint Luke and are especially active with ASP. If you are interested in joining a future trip, feel free to chat with them. They are happy to share about their experiences!

Healing & Wholeness in Christ: Social & Interpersonal Wellness

The world is a broken place in need of healing. We seek health and wholeness in our personal lives, in our bodies, in our relationships. We all want to move from dis-ease into a life of wellness and God wants that for us too! During Lent this year, we have been focusing on how we can find such health and wholeness in all aspects of our lives. Using the Wellness Wheel as our guide, and trusting that our baptism is at the core of all healing, we will pursue health of body, mind and spirit in various areas of life. This week we conclude our journey by taking a closer look at social and interpersonal wellness.


We are created by God to be social beings, living in community and instructed to help and love each other. Yet, at times, this is easier said than done. Social and interpersonal wellness requires hard work and determination. However, the benefits to not only our relationships but overall health are incredible.

Close relationships positively impact your health

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According to Mayo Clinic, having close friends and family on whom you can count has far-reaching benefits for your health. A strong social support network can be critical to helping you through the stress of tough times, whether you’ve had a bad day at work or a year filled with loss or chronic illness.

The positive effects of a support network include:

• Sense of belonging. Spending time with people helps ward off loneliness. Whether it’s other new moms, dog lovers, fishing buddies, or siblings, just knowing you’re not alone can go a long way toward coping with stress.

• Increased sense of self-worth. Having people who call you a friend reinforces the idea that you’re a good person to be around.

• Feeling of security. By reaching out and sharing yourself with others, you have the added security of knowing that if you start to show signs of depression or exhibit unhealthy lifestyle habits, your friends can help alert you to the problem.

While we may recognize that maintaining social well-being is beneficial to our health and overall wellness, it can be difficult to know what steps to take to grow in this area. Social relationships are all different and complex, as is each individual. However, we all can improve our social well-being through interaction, play and forgiveness.

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1. Interaction

Take time to nurture your relationships with family, friends, congregation and co-workers. Whether it is a phone call, writing a letter, or setting aside time to be together, little steps of intentional interaction can help a relationship blossom, and in turn improve your social well-being. As you seek to build new friendships or reconnect with old pals, keep in mind that relational growth does not happen overnight. A recent study in the 'Journal of Social and Personal Relationships' found that, on average, it takes about “50 hours of time with someone before you consider them a casual friend, 90 hours before you become real friends, and about 200 hours to become close friends.” Simply put, relationships take time and intentionality.

2. Play

When was the last time you really played, let loose and got swept away in some joyous fun? For many adults, it has been a really long time since we have let our imaginations run wild and engaged in a playful act. Dr Stuart Brown, the founder of National Institute for Play, believes that we are wired up for play and that we grow through play. Play energizes us, relieves tension, births optimism, and catapults us to new behaviors and ideas. In his famous TED talk, he reminds us that “the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.” With all of that in mind, play can be a catalyst for creativity, joy and relationships. Give yourself permission to play- tell a joke to a friend, join a team, work on a puzzle with a family member, or hang out with your pets. Let yourself play and laugh with others, and you are bound to feel a closer connection to them.

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3. Forgiveness

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” If we want to develop healthy and loving relationships, forgiveness is an inevitable part of it. According to Kathi Norman of the University of Pennsylvania, failing to forgive has negative outcomes such as increased anxiety, depression, elevated blood pressure, vascular resistance, decreased immune response, and more. She concludes that “forgiveness, then, is a pathway to psychological well-being and health outcomes.” As we forgive, we free ourselves up to love others and to be loved. In forgiving, our wellness physiologically, physically, relationally and spiritually can all be improved. As we extend grace to others we are reminded of the incredible grace that has been extended to us.

Lord, help us to love like we have been loved, and forgive the way we have been forgiven. Open our eyes to the great blessings we have in one another. We long to experience freedom in our laughter, unhindered joy in our play, and health in our relationships. Amen.

Special thanks to all of our guest writers and Portico for their contributions during this Lenten journey towards health.

Healing & Wholeness in Christ: Spiritual Wellness

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As we continue our lenten journey towards healing and wholeness in Christ, we turn our attention towards spiritual health.

Using the Wholeness/Wellness Wheel as our guide, we have been exploring the various areas of health over the past weeks. Yet, this week’s focus is unique. Spiritual wholeness is not just another spoke on the wheel, but rather encircles all of the other areas of wellness.

According to the creators of the Wholeness Wheel, living a centered life focused on God affects each aspect of our well-being. We have the opportunity to turn to God for strength as we seek to live well in Christ. By nurturing our relationships with God through prayer, devotions, worship, nature, art, and music, we can take steps towards spiritual health. You will never regret taking time explore who you are and to know whose you are.

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As shown on the Wholeness Wheel, spiritual well-being is woven in through every area of our lives. At the center of the wheel, we are remember that we are a new creation through the waters of baptism. Christ lives in us and through us and calls us out to love and serve one another. What does it mean to be a new creation? We have received the gift of grace through Christ, who came that we might have abundant life. Abundant life is living as a new creation, being grounded and centered in Christ, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Living centered, we’re best equipped to do Christ’s work in this world.

There are many ways to grow in these areas of health. Local churches, like Saint Luke, offer opportunities for weekly worship and faith formation. However, spiritual health is not reserved for just Sundays. Here are some things you can try out today to take steps towards healing and wholeness in Christ:

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1. Explore Ways to Commune with God

Being spiritually grounded enables you to find balance in other dimensions of the Wholeness Wheel. Nurturing your relationship with God through daily prayer or devotion can be a great first step.

To commune with God:

  • Build rhythms into your daily life that provide opportunities to be in tune with Him.

  • Create a space that invites you into prayer and time of devotion: a room, corner or favorite chair.

  • Find the time of day that provides you with quiet, private time with God .

Prayer Practice & Meditation

Taking time to center yourself can offer the respite and inner strength a healthy person needs. As you seek to make space in your life for God’s renewing presence, meditation and prayer practices can be helpful tools. For those that live locally, we create space for stillness, quiet, and the practice of these disciplines at our monthly First Wednesday gatherings. Just last week, we explored prayer focused on our breathing. For those that missed it or would like to further explore similar practices, try out the video below.

“Be still, and know that I am God!”
— Psalm 46:10a

Mantra Meditation

Another practice to explore is meditation. To encourage self reflection, try mantra meditation.

Mantra involves repeating a phrase or thought of God while keeping your mind focused on God. This is a way to center and ground yourself, prepare your mind for a meeting or relax before you go to sleep.

An example might be: “Lord Jesus Christ be present now,” “Be still and know that I am God,” or “Yahweh.”

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2. Grow in Community

No matter what you choose to do, know that we are praying for you on your journey towards spiritual health. You are not alone. Finding others that are also on this journey is an important part of growth. At Saint Luke, we believe that we grow best in community. If you are near the Devon, PA area, feel free to reach out to us. All are welcome, no exceptions.

Looking for a church near you? Check out churches in your area.

May Christ make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. May your roots grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. In Christ, may you find the love you desire, the healing you need, and the wholeness you crave. Amen.


Special thanks to Portico, a ministry of the ELCA for many of these great insights and tools to help us lead healthier lives for the sake of the world.

Healing & Wholeness in Christ: Financial Wellness

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As the season of Lent continues so too does our journey towards healing and wholeness in Christ. Recognizing that wellness is multi-dimensional, we have been exploring the various areas of well-being. During the first week we took a closer look at vocational wellness with the help of Sparky and last week Amanda guided us through an exploration of emotional well-being.

This week we continue our series by taking a closer look at financial wellness. Money is often a topic that people feel guarded about or uncomfortable discussing. Yet, if we avoid learning, examining, and growing in this important area of our life, other areas of our well-being will be affect. According to the America Psycological Association, “Concerns about money, work and the economy top the list of most frequently cited sources of stress.” This stress is bound to impact our health, relationships, and/or emotional well-being. Luckily, we do not need to stay in that place. With God’s help, we can pursue wellness in all areas of our life, even our finances. Let’s journey together.


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According the designers of the Wholeness Wheel, a learning and discernment tool that illustrates multi-dimensional health, “being financially well involves making decisions based on our values, as reflected in the way we save, spend, and share. Tending to one’s financial well-being in this way requires us to be resilient, generous, and focused on sustainability.” Financial health is a marathon, not a sprint.

Identify Your Values & Priorities"

You’ve may have heard the verse in the Bible that says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Or perhaps you have heard other quotes related to the connection between our money and our values or priorities. It seems these areas can be closely connected. Identifying what you value can guide your financial journey.

Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.
— James W. Frick

Free Yourself to be Generous

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When we choose to organize our financial lives to focus on resilience, we are financially well. We cannot control the vagaries of the economy, the viability of our congregations, or the health of those we love, including ourselves. Things happen. Our most deeply held assumptions and plans can be disrupted in a moment. That’s why positioning ourselves to be resilient is so powerful for our well-being. Because if we trust that we can recover from anything that comes our way, if our objective is not a bank account total, then we are freed to be generous with the world around us. If we can trust that “God will provide” because we know our financial house is in order and our basic needs can be met, then we can set about to be agents of God’s provision for others whose basic needs may not be met, whether our currency is time, talent, or treasure.

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Many of us have not been taught the basics of personal finance. As stewards, perhaps we are called to enter into that world far enough to free ourselves for generosity. Sometimes, being faithful is about doing the math. Perhaps a step towards health includes reaching out to a trusted friend or even a financial advisor.

Take Time of Reflect on Your Finances

It is easy to earn and spend money without much thought. It is often such a normal part of life that it can become automatic. However, pausing to think and pray about your financial situation can help you take a step in the right direction towards financial well-being.

Some questions to consider:

  1.  How does the way I live my financial life reflect my own deepest values? In what areas is my financial life not well aligned with my values?

  2. “Financial health is not about being rich. It’s about being resilient.” How is this true in my life? What have I done to improve my financial resilience?

  3. What kind of a financial example am I? What kind of financial legacy do I want to leave (think in terms of financial behaviors rather than dollar amounts)?

  4. How does caring for your financial well-being affect other areas of your life?

 

Great Provider, we praise you for all that you have given us, recognizing that every good gift comes from You. Teach us to manage our blessings with wisdom, resilience, and generosity. Use us as a conduit to share your love with the world around us. Amen.


Special thanks to Portico, a ministry of the ELCA for many of these great insights and tools to help us lead healthier lives for the sake of the world.

Healing & Wholeness in Christ: Emotional Wellness

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Ever wish you were healthier?

Long to live a more balanced life?

Desire a sense of wholeness?

This Lent, using the Wellness/Wholeness Wheel as our guide, and trusting that our baptism is at the core of all healing, we are exploring health of body, mind and spirit.

Last week Sparky Lok shared about vocational wellness. This week, we continue our journey with Amanda Heintzelman as our guide, leading us into an exploration of emotional wellness.

Being emotionally well will help you live life abundantly. It may not be an easy path, but it is worth it. Let’s journey towards healing and wholeness together!


Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
— Mark 12:28b-31
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We can all benefit from intentional focus on emotional literacy as a building block of our ability to love God with all of our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our minds, and with all our strength.  And it’s so crucial to understand that in order to love our neighbor as ourselves, we need to start with ourselves. The authors of the wholeness wheel state that “being emotionally well means feeling the full range of human emotions and expressing them appropriately. Self-awareness is the first step. Recognizing and honoring your own feelings and those of others.” Being emotionally well is what allows us to develop and express empathy. It allows us to connect with God and with others, and at the heart of the wholeness wheel we see that we are physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection. Mr. Rogers knew a thing or two about emotional wellness when he taught us that “anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

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Pretty much everything I know about emotional wellness I learned from Mister Rogers and a vulnerability researcher at the University of Houston, Dr. Brene Brown. I’m not going to be able to do justice to all the material and insights from a 31 season 865 episode legendary children’s TV series and a New York Times best selling author, academic, researcher, and viral TED talk speaker in one short reflection, but I would like to share some of their thoughts. I particularly want to focus tonight on what I would consider to be public enemy number 1 to our emotional wholeness, and that is shame.

Shame: Public Enemy Number 1

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Shame is often referred to as the “master emotion” by researchers. It is the “never good enough” emotion that has the power to make us believe that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of connection, belonging, or even love. Shame is the fear of disconnection. Dr. Brown describes three points that are key in understanding shame:

1) “We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame are those who lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. Here’s your choice: ‘Fess up to experiencing shame or admit that you’re a sociopath.

2) We’re all afraid to talk about shame. Just the word is uncomfortable.

3) The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.”

Empathy: the antidote

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Shame is often confused with guilt, but there is a very important distinction. Guilt says “I’ve done something bad.” Shame says “I am bad.” You see, guilt can be a constructive emotion that drives us to apologize, make amends, change our behavior, and grow. Shame on the other hand drives us to disconnect, hide, or lash out. Shame is “not a compass for moral behavior. It’s much more likely to drive destructive, hurtful, immoral, and self-aggrandizing behavior than it is to heal it. Why? Because where shame exists, empathy is almost always absent.” Empathy is the hallmark of emotional wellness. Just as your physical wellness can be measured by your blood pressure and heart rate, your emotional wellness can be measured by your capacity for empathy. Empathy is the antidote to shame.

Loving God, you are our hope for healing and wholeness. Free us from the shackles of shame. Fill us with empathy as we recognize and honor our own feelings and those of others. In your love, lead us in the way of life abundant.


Amanda married into Saint Luke 11 years ago when she and Matt got hitched. Fun fact: they were the first wedding reception hosted in the newly renovated Schlack Hall! Amanda serves on the worship committee, but is probably best known at Saint Luke as Mint's (the service dog) handler and Laura Jane's mom.

Healing & Wholeness in Christ: Vocational Wellness

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The world is a broken place in need of healing. We seek health and wholeness in our personal lives, in our bodies, in our relationships. We all want to move from dis-ease into a life of wellness and God wants that for us too! During Lent this year, we are focusing on how we can find such health and wholeness in all aspects of our lives. Using the Wellness Wheel as our guide, and trusting that our baptism is at the core of all healing, we will pursue health of body, mind and spirit in various areas of life. This first week we are grateful to have special guest Sparky Lok sharing regarding vocational wellness.

We all have a calling — a vocation — to follow Christ’s example by living a life of meaning, purpose and service to our neighbor. Our vocations make up our life’s work and passions — they are the everyday roles through which God calls us to help make this world a better place. Those who are well vocationally are faithful stewards of their talents and abilities, and find opportunities to build and use them.


In secular terms, vocation could be defined simply as our job or main occupation; the way we bring home the bacon. In schools and colleges we talk about “vocational training” as the kind that gets you gainful employment.  But in Christian life, that vocation is no less than our calling from God.  It is that meaningful thing that we know, in the depths of our being, that we are especially gifted by God with the ability to do and that will help build God’s kingdom on Earth. The two main questions I’ve wrestled with are:

  1. How does each of us discern what that personal calling is?

  2. How we should act when, with God’s help, that discernment comes?

Say YES

The Bible holds up lots of examples of how holy people sought, recognized and acted upon their callings to say a very big YES. The story of the boy Samuel in the temple holds up an example of how the mind and attitude of a trusting child reacts to a call from God, simply saying without deliberation “here I am”; “speak Lord, I am listening”. For those of us who feel a call to Christian education, the example of old Eli, with all his flaws and baggage, shows how a holy mentor, an elder in the faith, can be so important in helping such a youth to recognize and respond to a call from God.  

There is another character in Samuel’s story who reminds us of the often undervalued vocation of holy parenthood….Parents, of faith, nurturing their families/children into living their calling. Samuel’s mother Hannah had been barren all her adult life, but she nevertheless feels a calling, a vocation for motherhood.  She prays to the Lord and ultimately her prayers are answered; she conceives and bears a son, Samuel, named she says in 1 Samuel 1 because “I have asked him of the Lord.”   Later she pledges that “I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there forever.”

We can read Hannah’s prayer of joy and thanks for the gift of her first son:

“My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies because I rejoice in my victory. There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” -1 Samuel 2:1-2

To me, this joyful prayer sounds remarkably like another very young parent-to-be, who, when she learned of the special child she would bear proclaims, like young Samuel,

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” -Luke 1:38

Later on, in answer to her cousin Elizabeth’s salutation, Mary, like old Hannah almost millennium earlier, sings a song of praise that’s so striking in its similarity. 

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.

 

Answer with your feet

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If poetry and song aren’t your strong suits, you can also say “Yes” to a vocation with your feet. Jesus’ other parent, the silent old carpenter, Joseph, the man of not few but of no words, answers his angels not with song, but with forbearance and with action (Matthew 1:18-24).

Later on, as Herod the psychopath, resolves to kill the baby Jesus by any means necessary, good and faithful Joseph once again answers an angel’s warning with action and, again, without words (Matthew 2:13-15). 

The fishermen and the tax collector in our Gospel readings also answered Jesus call with their feet. Saying not a word but dropping their nets and setting aside their ledgers to follow Him.

Small Acts Matter

Are we all to drop our nets, so to speak, and forsake our families and all else that’s familiar as the disciples did? There are certainly some examples of high calling and ultimate sacrifice in our life and times. Dr. Martin Luther King answered his call to lead a non-violent movement, even revolution, for justice and civil rights in a thoroughly Christian way, ultimately and willingly paying the ultimate price for his vocation. I’m now reading a biography of theologian and Lutheran pastor Detrich Bonhoffer, and there too was a holy vocation, a life of devotion, and ultimate sacrifice. Bonhoffer, keenly aware of the Cost of Discipleship (the title of one of his great books), went willingly to his execution in a Nazi prison scant weeks before the collapse of that evil regime at the end of the second World War.

Are we all called to vocations and sacrifices like these? I do not believe so. A few will answer a call to a life of ministry or mission in the Church, and a few will lead a life of complete devotion, to the exclusion of all else, and extreme sacrifice. It is truly wonderful when this happens, but I think that a Christian can easily fall into frustration and guilt if they believe that is the only standard that’s acceptable to God. No…I think that if we only let it, if we only acknowledge that our abilities are gifts from God, our faith as Christians can enlighten and ennoble the work that each of us does from day to day, here within the Church for sure, but also out there in the wider world, transforming what would otherwise be mere jobs, housework or child care into holy vocations, done to the glory of God.

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Recently, Pastor Sue distributed a figure called the Circle of Wellness or the Wholeness Wheel. Around the edge of this circle are arranged the many aspects of life in which we strive for Wellness. These are essentially the same as are highlighted by secular “Wellness Programs”, and the pursuit of those is truly laudable. But what changes everything for us here is what’s at the center of this circle- our Baptism as Christians. it’s that God has claimed us as His children. We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Because of this, work that would otherwise ordinary, can become a true vocation in the Lord, one that bears witness to Him whenever we do it, whatever it may be, in God’s name. These days, the smallest acts of Christian love kindness and concern can transform a home or a workplace into something far better than what they were, even something extraordinary.

May each of us go about our daily work or avocation recognizing the special light that our lives as baptized Christians can bring to them, and when that is done, let us each recognize the result, which is a holy calling, a holy vocation. Amen.


Sparky Lok has been a member of Saint Luke since 1996. He teaches the 6th Grade Sunday School class, and is a member of the Mutual Ministry and Pastoral Sabbatical Planning Teams. You may also find him helping out as a Stephen Minister, at Feast Incarnate, or as a worship assistant on Sunday mornings.

Helping Young People Navigate Emotions

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“Three things amaze me, no, four things I'll never understand— how an eagle flies so high in the sky, how a snake glides over a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, why adolescents act the way they do.” -Proverbs 30:18 (MSG)

Earlier this month, Saint Luke had the opportunity to learn from Eastern University Psychology professor Tara M. Stoppa, Ph.D. on the often confusing topic of emotional intelligence of adolescents. Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions accurately and use emotions to facilitate thinking and reasoning. This is a difficult task for many, including young people. For those who are raising, working with or caring for adolescents, here are some tips for helping them navigate the often turbulent world of emotions.


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Remember that adolescence is a process

The word “adolescence” literally means: “to grow into adulthood.” This growing does not happen overnight. It truly is a process. Preteen, teen, and even young adult brains are still developing. (Check out Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s TED talk on teen brains!) The portion of the brain that controls “executive function” including weighing long-term consequences and controlling impulses is the last part to come to maturity. As teenagers are maturing it is not uncommon for them to be egocentric, to feel like all eyes are on them, or to feel like what happens to others will not happen to them.

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Older doesn’t always mean better choices.

Even though older teens have the potential for higher order reasoning, this does NOT mean that they always use these skills when making every day choices. Why? Research says that experience matters. Emotions matter. And concern with perception also matter.

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They still need you, despite what they may say.

As young people enter adolescence, we often assume that they need less support and that they can handle situations independently. While that is true for some areas of life, teenagers still need loving support and wisdom from caring adults. Some ways you can support adolescents include:

  • Include adolescents in discussions about a variety of topics and use active-listening.

  • Assist adolescents in setting their own goals.

  • Stimulate adolescents to think about possibilities for the future.

  • Assist adolescents in re-evaluating poorly made decisions.

  • Assist adolescents in developing emotional intelligence skills.

 
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Additional Resources:

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How to Help Teens Weather Their Emotional Storms- A D.I.Y. snow globe full of glitter is an apt metaphor for the emotional chaos of the adolescent brain.

How to Wrap Advice as a Gift a Teenager Might Open- Perfect for when parents have something to say that they really want teenagers to hear, these approaches can help get the message across.

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May the teenagers in our lives find peace in the emotional chaos of this world, grow in wisdom, trust your guidance, and know our love. Amen.

3 Reasons Why a Teenager Goes to Church

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Teenagers often get a bad reputation. There are stereotypes telling us that young people are entitled, lazy, self-absorbed, and reckless. While adolescence can be a turbulent time, there are many teenagers making the most of these years, choosing to pursue excellence and growth academically, socially, emotionally, and even spiritually. There are many incredible young people contributing to our churches and making a positive difference in communities around the world!

At Saint Luke, we have recently added one of these great young people, Anna Donohue, as a Youth Councilor. We look forward to her sharing her perspective, ideas and insight with our Council, but Anna was also willing to share with all of us what it’s like being a teenager in the local church.

Some teenagers and parents might wonder to themselves if there is a place for today’s adolescent in the local church. Anna answers that question with not one, but three resounding YES’s. Here is why she has decided to be a part of the local church during her teenage years…


3 Reasons Why I Go To Church…

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I go to church because I want to be a part of something bigger than myself

I’ve always seen my local church first and foremost, as a community. No matter what else is happening in my life, I always know that my church will be there on Sunday morning, with all it's smiling faces, coffee, and doughnut holes. I was baptized here, communed here, and confirmed here. I feel a great connection to everything and everyone at my church, Saint Luke.

 

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I go to church because friendships deepen there

Traveling to Houston and Kentucky with my church youth group this past summer, I was able to connect with a lot of people that I normally did not interact with.  Not only did I meet people from all over the country at these events, but I also got to get closer to people within my own confirmation group. I had sat in confirmation class with many of these same students, but I really got to know them on those two trips. I am happy to say that it has improved the youth group and our relationships as a whole. Spending time outside of the Sunday school hour was really beneficial to the strength of the students in that age group. Now we are more than just classmates, we are friends.

 

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I am a part of a church because I want to make a difference in the world

What has always been my attraction to my church has been its strong action in making a difference in the community. I have been lucky enough to travel with the ASP work trip for the past two years, making homes warmer, safer, and drier. This is always the most rewarding part of my summer.   It's not very often you get to see your actions making a difference right before your eyes. Teenagers and children in general are known for being restless and hard to handle, but I think putting young people to work, whether it be sending them on a work trip like ASP, packaging meals, or making cards to send to students at Silver Springs Martin Luther School, really helps grow their faith and compassion for others. They don’t just hear the change they are making. They see it, and that has always been my reason for keeping my church, Saint Luke, in my life at the level it is.

 

Thinking of Going to Church?

1. What’s your advice for the teen who has never been to church or who is contemplating visiting a local church?

It isn’t as scary as it might seem. Everyone is really friendly and welcoming. They don’t expect you to walk in with the Bible memorized, and there isn’t any pressure for you to do something you don’t want to do. Whether or not you are at church for the first time or you are returning after a while, the members will most likely just be happy to see you.

2. What’s your advice for the parent of a teen who wonders if the church has anything to offer for today’s teenager?

If your teenager is interested in going to church, research some churches in your area with your teen to figure out what best suits your family. Every church is different, so visit some churches in your area and help your teen and/or your family make the right decision for you.

God of vibrant life, we praise you for teenagers. For their tenacity, creativity, and boldness. For their humor, energy, and courage. Give them passion and purpose, that they may be a generation that lives and loves fully for You. Amen.


Anna is currently a Junior at West Chester East High School. She is involved in many activities at Saint Luke, including the Spark Student Ministries Band, Rejoicing Spirits, Hand Bell Choir, Small Group, and the Youth Evening Service.


 

Five Lessons I Learned from Fifty Years of Marriage

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Love is in the air. On Valentine’s Day, we take time to celebrate the love in our lives. Yet love, and especially marriage, is so much more than chocolate hearts and roses. Today, special guest Donna Daly reminds us of some important life lessons that she has acquired during 50 years of marriage to her husband, Ken. Happy Valentine’s Day.


A lovely friend recently referred to Ken and me as a “regular couple”.  While we appreciated the positive title, we chuckled that we view ourselves as an “irregular couple”.  We agree that we are still a long-term couple because we are somewhat a product of our generation, our families, and mostly because of God’s strong hand in our loving relationship.

Here are 5 lessons learned in our fifty years of marriage:

1. Love isn’t always stars, butterflies and bells. 

While that magical spark is surely a gift from God to be cherished and enjoyed, true long-term love is much more.  Not only is it honoring the marriage but also the personhood, the individuality of the other, as well as the self.

2.  “Most people are doing the best they can most of the time.”

In Ken’s and my younger days, the movie, “Love Story”, was popular.  One of the famous lines is, “Love means you never have to say, I’m sorry.”  Well, sorry movie lovers but Ken and I believe that saying “I’m sorry” and forgiving is important.  We believe that each of us is a fallen person, redeemed by Christ’s love.  Anyone can have an “off-day” or “off-time” in their lives when they aren’t their true selves.  When that‘s happened to either of us, we have reminded ourselves to, “Hang in there, Charlie Brown.”  Sharing  feelings and perceptions while accepting another’s viewpoint is important and can be challenging.  As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are doing the best they can most of the time.”  I’ve learned the importance of good communication skills.  And I’m still learning!

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3.  Learn to dance.

As a dear, perceptive friend observed, Ken and I have learned “our dance” very well.  We still giggle about the time early on in our marriage when, together, we made our bed.  Ken observed my side of the bed with its wrinkles and bumps while I saw the imperfections on his side.  While not mentioning it to one another, we simultaneously passed each other at the foot of the bed to fix the other person’s mistakes.  Now, I let him make the bed while I’m the designated sheet changer. 😊 Obviously, this is a metaphor for focusing on “the splinter in your neighbor’s eye while overlooking the plank in your own.”  Humor is so important, too!

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4. It takes two wholes to make a marriage.

We knew our marriage was a sacred vow when we received premarital counseling from our pastor and are even more convinced fifty years later.  Because Ken and I wanted our marriage to last, we had to let it be a fluid, evolving relationship.  While remaining faithful to one another, we learned that we each needed to have the freedom to be who God called us to be.  As my wise Aunt Billie shared, “God is first in our lives and then comes our spouse and family.”  A marriage relationship is much richer and more fun when two whole people form a union.  It’s a great thing to support your loved one in happiness and success.

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5. Grow together with God.      

Couples devotions, even if only for ten or fifteen minutes a day, as well as regular church attendance are very important to our marriage.  We need and cherish the opportunity to be grounded in God’s love, grace, and community.

It seems I overflow with clichés.  Anyway, here goes another…  “Come grow old(er!) with me, the best is yet to be.”  Ken and I are amazed by how fast the years have flown.  We feel that while our marriage hasn’t been perfect, here we are.  As we like to say to one another, “You’re still the one!”  We feel so blessed and look forward to making even more joyful memories.

Lord of love, lead us in the dance of marriage. May we be grateful for the gift of such love and recognize the masterpiece you have created in our spouse. Give us the courage to apologize boldly and the grace to extend forgiveness generously. May every year our love for you and one another grow as our hearts proclaim “you’re still the one.” Amen.

Donna Daly, guest author, has served in a wide variety of roles at Saint Luke from Sunday School to the Prayer team. She is also an active member of our senior and bell choir. Kenneth Daly, encourager and listener, too has served in a variety of ways. He participates in Donuts & Discussions regularly, and you are sure to be warmly welcomed by him on your way into Saint Luke, as he serves as a “grinner and greeter.”

 

 

Cutting Through the Clutter: Christian Minimalism

After the holiday season has passed, our focus seems to shift to managing all of our “stuff.” It fills our closets, clutters our drawers, takes over our calendars, and can downright overwhelm us. No longer does it seem as if we own our stuff, but rather it owns us. Guest speaker and pastor Becca Ehrlich recently shared about her life as a Christian minimalist, and how paring down our possessions can free us to live the abundant, full life Jesus wants for us. Here are some of the things we learned...


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Minimalism is not just about having less material goods, but instead it is a larger shift in focus. Minimalism holds a focus on the aspects of life that matter most, and intentionally removes everything else that could get in the way. For each person, these valued aspects of life may be slightly different, but often areas such as health, relationships, passion, growth, or meaningful contribution rise to the top. Similarly, while the roadblocks to minimalism might vary from person to person, there seems to be a trend among the top things that get in the way of us focusing on the aspects of life that matter most. Some of the most common include material possessions and upkeep, money spending habits, time and energy spending habits, and taking on too much.

For those looking to cut through the clutter in 2019 and start the year off refocused on what really matters, try out these 3 simple steps.

 

Step 1: Identify what’s most important

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Picture it. What does this abundant life look like for you? Perhaps make a list of some of the most important aspects in your life. Writing them down can be a powerful and clarifying exercise.

Step 2: Intentionally remove everything else

Minimize/declutter/get rid of stuff & commitments that keep you from an abundant life. This requires bravery and determination, but you can do it. Remember that there is no “right” way to be a minimalist. It is prescriptive rather than restrictive. It is a lifestyle that can be adjusted for your personal context and current life situation. What might be of high value in this season may not fit for the next.

Step 3: Thoughtfully consume goods, time, energy, and money

Being thoughtful about what we use, how we spend our time, where we expend our physical and emotional energy, and where we spend our money will have an impact on our hearts. In Luke 12:23, Jesus shared, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” As we purposefully engage in the world, rather than mindfully consume, we will discover more opportunities for fellowship, stewardship, self-care, spiritual growth, vocation, and service than we ever imagined possible. 


The Results: Freedom!

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Enjoy the freedom of more time, energy, and financial resources to focus on what matters most! Imagine what you might do to love and serve God and others with that extra energy, extra hour, extra financial cushion? You can make an impact in the kingdom of God.

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As Christians, we are called to be counter-cultural and we can strive to be minimalists in a consumer society—because we know that our life’s meaning is not wrapped up in material things, wealth, fame, fortune, or human accomplishments/accolades.

It is through Jesus Christ, and what he did for us by dying on the cross and his resurrection, that our lives have meaning. We have one life (YOLO!). How can we focus on what matters most to love and serve God and others?

God will help us. Let’s do it together!

 

Grant us, O God, the desire to live simply, unhindered by the compulsion for more. Give us clarity of mind so that we might see what truly matters. Teach us to treasure what Your heart treasures, for we know that only in You will we find abundant life. Amen.

Special thanks to Becca Ehrlich for her insight into Christian Minimalism. You can learn more about this great topic and Becca on her website.

Toolbox of Faith: Two Cents Worth

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Special guest, Pastor Larry Smoose joined Saint Luke last month to discuss the important topic of finances and how we can help our children develop healthy, faith-based attitudes about money.

Quotes to Consider:

  • “Jesus talked more about money than any other topic except heaven (kingdom of God)…When people got to know Jesus and hear his teachings, their attitude about money often changed.”

  • “God understands that money is neither good nor evil, but has the potential for both.”

  • “Our culture’s mantra about money is spend, spend, spend…Newest. Biggest. Better. More! Christianity’s mantra about money is save (Joseph principle -7 good years, 7 bad years so save), share (II Cor. 9:8), & spend (You will have enough – sufficiency).

  • “Our example of generosity, sufficiency and living within our means teaches our children and youth. They learn by our example.”

Question of the Week:

Pastor Larry asked those at his forum to complete a personal money autobiography. In doing so, they reflected on what they want their children to know and think about money. They also considered how the church can help them with money issues and concerns. Here are the questions he posed:

  1. Did you parents talk about money when you were growing up?

  2. How were your attitudes and behaviors about money shaped by your mother, father or grandparents?

  3. How does your present financial status compare to that of your parents at this time in their lives?

  4. If applicable, how does your children’s financial status compare with yours when you were their age?

  5. How does your faith guide you in your use of money?

  6. What do you want your children to know/think about money?

  7. What will you do with your money as you approach the end of this life?

  8. How can the church help you with any issues or concerns you have about money?

Resources:

Looking to dive deeper into the topic of finances with your kids and students this week? Check out these resources:

1. Explore the ELCA Resources “Kids, Money, & Stuff” - Looking to learn as a family or maybe with a group? Check out the ELCA resource, “Kid’s, Money, and Stuff.” Not only is there a printable participant guide, but there is also a leaders guide to help you shape the experience.

2. Get a 3 Stage Piggy Bank - Consider making or purchasing a three section bank system for your kids. As they earn or receive money, they can see the three separate areas and designate their money as share, save, or spend. A simple search online will result in many options for various age ranges.

3. Look for a course on finances for your teen - Some schools and communities offer programs specifically on managing finances for teenagers. Adolescence is a great time for young people to learn about things such as handling money, banking, credit cards, phone financial apps, etc. Can’t find one locally? Check out Thrivent for educational articles in their magazine, local workshops, and invaluable information for all life stages.

Toolbox of Faith: Its OK to not be OK

As our series “Toolbox of Faith” concludes, we reflect back on the great tools we have placed in our toolboxes and the ways they can be put to work in our daily life. In this final week, we are reminded that we are not meant to be alone in the work of building lasting faith. Together, with God and one another, we are sure to build something great!


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This week, Pastor Sue reminds us that often our most important tools are not even in our toolbox- they are the people we call when we need help. You can listen to the whole message here or an abbreviated version in this week’s Morning Drive.

Quotes to Consider:

  • “The more closely entwined with our image or sense of self, the harder it is to say we’re not ok, and ask for help”

  • The God who created us to need help from one another is with us to help us ask for it.”

  • “Humility and courage are the two necessary attributes that enable us to admit things are not ok, ask for help and receive it.”

  • “You were created to need help as well as to give it.”

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Question of the Week:

Pastor Sue asked us to consider with this week’s question. She reminds us that until we identify the barriers, we can’t develop strategies to get around them. If you need someone to process this question with, consider reaching out to a pastor, counselor, or friend. Together, we can learn to both accept and give help to one another.

Resources:

Looking to dive deeper into the tool of expectations this week? Check out these resources:

1. Find a Listening Ear - You can always talk with one of our pastors. It is also possible to connect with a Stephen Minister, a trained lay person who becomes a confidential companion on your faith journey. Stephen Ministers don’t give advice, but listen, pray and with you look for signs of God’s presence. If you are interested in Stephen Ministry, talk with one of the pastors. If you do not live near Saint Luke, consider reaching out to a local church, a friend, or a counselor for support.

2. Seek Help with Sexual Assault - the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE is always available to talk your call. You can also find a large variety of support online.

3. Remember the Benefits of Help - Sometimes we need a little reminder of all of the good that can come from asking for help. Check out this post to remind yourself of all the benefits.

Toolbox of Faith: Great Expectations

Let's see what God will build as we put our tools to work! As our series “Toolbox of Faith” enters week 3, we continue to fill our toolboxes with tools that help empower us to build lasting faith. Beyond the weekly message, each week here on our blog we share additional reflections and resources.


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This week, Pastor Matt explores the tool of expectation by challenging us to rethink how we measure success. You can listen to the whole message here or an abbreviated version in this week’s Morning Drive.

Quotes to Consider:

  • “We are in constant pursuit of our own high expectations or the external expectations we feel pressured to meet every day and we lose sight of God’s great expectations that lead us on a path to the greatest, most true success: success that brings you into abundant life.”

  • “That question—“who is the greatest?”—pulls at us. It changes the way we live and it changes the way we relate to our neighbor.”

  • “Jesus teaches us, just as he taught the twelve disciples, that, in God’s new reality, ‘the greatest success’ is measured differently.”

  • “Jesus invites you to pursue God’s definition of great expectations by comparing yourself to a different kind of neighbor: to the neighbor with less. And in doing so, you discover the path to deeper gratitude you walk God’s path toward compassion, toward generosity, toward God’s definition of the “greatest success.”

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Question of the Week:

Pastor Matt asked us to live with this week’s question. He encouraged us to think about it, pray about it, share about it with him online, and most importantly act on it. We look forward to hearing about what the “greatest success” looks like in your life and our community.

Resources:

Looking to dive deeper into the tool of expectations this week? Check out these resources:

1. Build A Saint Luke Connection - We live out Jesus’ call to welcome children through our partnership and support of Silver Springs-Martin Luther School. Visit them online and see how you can be a part of the mission to serve and support children as they recover from crisis and experience the love that God intends for them.

2. Learn More Through Great Books - Reading is a great way to explore “greatest success” by God’s standards. Some books that are sure to get you thinking include:

Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals By Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

"Prayer is not so much about convincing God to do what we want God to do as it is about convincing ourselves to do what God wants us to do."

Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks By Diana Butler Bass

“Gratitude and fear cannot exist at the same time…gratitude actually processes fear: effectively driving fear out, taming it, giving us human beings the possibility of acting with courage, hope, joy, compassion.”

3. Visit Christian Simplicity: Conversations About God, Money and Trust - It is packed with knowledge, ideas, and inspiration for those looking to live a different way.

Toolbox of Faith: Business of Blessing

Grab your toolbox! In this special series, we continue to fill our toolboxes with tools that help empower us to build lasting faith. Beyond the weekly message, each week here on our blog we will be sharing additional reflections and resources.


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Continuing our series, Pastor Sue introduced us to the useful tool of blessing. You can listen to the whole message here or an abbreviated version in this week’s Morning Drive.

Quotes to Consider:

  • “Mean and unkind words give us the illusion of superiority and invincibility. None of us wants to relinquish that. But equating meanness with cleverness, rudeness with free speech, and hatred with “just speaking our mind,” will send the world up in smoke and us with it.”

  • “If Jesus can forgive me, if grace can create in me a clean heart, I trust Christ can work in me and give me clean lips to go with it..”

  • “We can choose to bless God instead. All that means is to give God a shout out. Thank and praise God for who God is and what God has done and is doing.”

  • “All of us are longing for words of acceptance, love and blessing. So let’s give them to one another. The words can be as simple as “God bless you. “God loves you.” “You are a child of God.”

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Question of the Week:

Pastor Sue challenged us to consider blessing as a tool to help us curb our tongues. We have all heard it said, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice…..don’t say nothin’ at all,” but we can do even better than that. We can choose to use our tongues to bless God and one another. Pause to consider this week’s question. Chat with a friend, spouse, or your children. If you are on social media, share your answer with our community. Together, we can put the tool of blessing to great use!

Resources:

Looking to explore the tool of blessing a little more this week? Check out this resource:

Faith5 Bless - Receiving a blessing is a powerful experience, but the one receiving is not the only one affected. Those blessing also experience the transformational power of blessing. Faith5 includes the tool of blessing and is a wonderful way to incorporate faith into your daily life.


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Forums

Another exciting component of our Toolbox of Faith series are our monthly forums. In this month’s forum, Growing Together in Faith, we explored the challenge of how to raise children in faith. There are other parents right there in the trenches with you, as well as others that have walked the path of parenthood and have wisdom to share. In this forum, a panel of parents from Saint Luke shared their practical ideas on faith-filled parenting.

Resources:

  1. Make Faith Fun- There are so many practical ideas to make faith a fun part of your family’s daily life. Try a few out this week.

  2. Learn from other parents- Below are two families sharing about their faith practices. Listen to what they have to say and consider asking another family about the ways they incorporate faith into their daily life.