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The posts below were submitted and curated by members of our congregation as part of the Lenten Devotional 2022. This year, our Lenten devotionals feature written, visual and digital submissions from members of the St. Thomas community about their varied experiences, and struggles, with the seven deadly sins and their corresponding virtues. Our...

The posts below were submitted and curated by members of our congregation as part of the Lenten Devotional 2022. This year, our Lenten devotionals feature written, visual and digital submissions from members of the St. Thomas community about their varied experiences, and struggles, with the seven deadly sins and their corresponding virtues. Our hope is that by sharing our experiences we will encourage one another to draw closer to Christ.


The Sound of Silence

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

Zuzana Steen Overlooking the Mountains

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking Solitude in a Noisy World

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. – Psalm 62:1

 Wisconsin Sunset – Picture by Matthew and Sarah HammackOn the web page “The Spiritual Disciplines: Solitude and Silence,” the authors posit that these disciplines are “…the most intriguing and compelling of the spiritual disciplines, and yet also seem the hardest to come by in our crowded, noisy, modern world.”  They continue, that while silence might make it easier to achieve and maintain a state of solitude, it is not absolutely required.  The authors argue that solitude can be achieved any time our mental focus enables us to disengage from others and when we ourselves are silent.  I’m not sure how good I’d be at achieving solitude in a noisy environment, but it reminded me of the following anecdote.

Years ago, I attended a museum event and there was an exhibit called “The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art.”  While admiring the artwork, I thought to myself that “The Singing and the Silence” would also make a great song title.  As I am not a songwriter, I passed my observation on to my daughter who loves to write songs.  About a year later, she sent me the following lyrics.

Singing & Silence
Though the storms are stretching on
And the horizon seems further every day
I will raise my head and not forget
The promise that was made

Like a lantern in the dark
Shining through a broken heart
When this life is done there is still one
Hope that cannot fade

- refrain -
So in the singing, in the silence
I will not be overwhelmed
Through the chaos and the quiet
In this refuge I will dwell

In the choice we make, the risks we take
It's certain that our hearts will break
But I'd rather live than hide from this
Numb in my escape

- refrain -
In the noise I will listen
For words unspoken
In the quiet I will wait
Like an anchor in the waves
I will not be dismayed

- refrain -

© 2016 Rorie

Father, strengthen me to seek solitude with you and patiently wait to hear what you might say, no matter if I am surrounded by noise or silence.

About Dave Rea
Dave and Kathy started worshiping at St Thomas at the Westmoreland campus prior to the merger with Manassas UMC.  We feel very Blessed to have raised our children in the STUMC community.  Dave likes serving where he can keep his hands busy.

Don't Run from Silence

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” 

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1 Kings 19:11 - 13

Roslyn Retreat Center.  Host site of Spiritual Formation Academy – Photo by Abi Foerster

The first time she asked me to participate, I flat out said, “No!” The second time she extended an invitation, I gave her a slightly more theologically informed answer, “Let me pray about it and get back to you,” knowing I was really just trying to dodge the question. The third time, I began to warm up to the possibility and said, “Okay, tell me more about the Spiritual Formation Academy.” 

It’s a good thing that parishioners are patient with their pastors. You see Cathy Bowen, the dean of the Spiritual Formation Academy in Virginia and a member of the church where I served on staff, she knew all too well the tactics we take to avoid silence and solitude before a holy God. So, she smiled and kindly explained to me more about the 5-day Academy that she and others were planning:

“Well, the Academy invites participants to spend time apart in a Christian retreat setting with worship at the center. Faculty present on a particular theme and participants are offered time and space to respond to this theme through silence, written and spoken word, prayer, worship, and community sharing. In general, we follow the rhythm of monastic life with 12 hours of engagement and 12 hours of silence.” 

Then we sat there in silence for a good long while. She waited patiently for me to respond. I fidgeted and looked off into the distance. Clearly, one of us was more comfortable with silence! When I gained my composure, I asked, “What in God’s name do you do during the 12 hours of silence? Honestly, that sounds awful.” She responded, “You pray. You walk in nature. You sleep. You listen for God to speak… I know it might seem foreign to you now, but you’ll actually learn to love it, and maybe even long for it when you return home.” 

Of course, she was right. The fourth time she asked, I relented and said, “Okay. I will try it. But, I doubt I’ll like it.” As it turns out, the 5-Day Academy was exactly what my soul needed. Silence. Solitude. Time away from all the noise to ponder the goodness of the Almighty. An invitation for me to stop talking long enough that the Lord might get a word in edgewise. To remember fully that I am beloved as a child of God, worthy of the life and family and church that God has blessed me with every day.

I wonder when was the last time you sought out a place to be still and quiet before God. For it is often here, like the prophet Elijah, that we discover God speaks to us most clearly in a gentle whisper. 

Dear God, help me to seek the quiet places where I may hear your voice speaking directly to me. I know that if I can sit still long enough by myself, I might discover healing and new life indeed! Amen.

To learn more about The Academy for Spiritual Formation, go to

About Rev. Abi Foerster
Abi serves as the senior pastor of St. Thomas, is married to Lacy, and is an unashamed "work in progress." She is an avid reader, enjoys traveling, and catching the Wahoos play sports with her family.

Embracing Solitude

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. – Luke 5:16

Photo of Mt. Rainier by Matthew and Sarah Hammack

There are many instances in the Bible where Jesus goes off alone to pray.  Even Jesus needed to get away from others and everyday life in order to communicate with God.  

For the longest time, I struggled to find the perfect place for me to communicate with God.  A few years back, I finally realized that my best connection speed was while hiking.  It’s like going from a dial-up to a fiber-optic connection.  I love to hike and often feel close to God while hiking. The outside world melts away as I hike and experience God’s wonderful creations. I see, feel, and smell incredible things while hiking.  I thank God for what I experience while hiking.  

I find it extremely easy to pray while hiking.  I know that God is with me with every step I take.  I have had numerous moments of extreme clarity and epiphanies while hiking. I know that these are thanks to our Father. 

I encourage each one to find and embrace your special place or moment when you are closest to God.  

About Joe Steen
Having recently retired, Joe spends his time hiking and volunteering as well as cooking for his lovely bride and two teenage sons.

My Big Water Fix

To You, O God, silence is praise. – Psalm 65:1


About Pat Brown
I am a retired educator and long-time member of St. Thomas. I am currently one of the Lay Leaders, serve on SPRC, and volunteer in the church office. In December I was blessed to become a great-grandmother to an adorable baby girl.

Let go! Let God!

So we fasted and prayed about these concerns. And he listened. – Ezra 8:23 (The Message)

Photo of Hawaiian sunset by Matt & Sarah Hammack.

I can honestly say I have experienced a very special “God moment” in my life. 

The year was 1972, the year I turned 18. 

I awoke early on a winter Sunday morning and found myself unable to eat breakfast AND restless. I put on my robe and fuzzy slippers and headed down to the quiet basement of my loving, Christian home. I turned the TV on to a low volume and found my own United Methodist pastor was giving a televised sermon. I was drawn in to the worship and his words. At the end of the sermon, the Reverend encouraged his viewers to seek God through prayer and petition.   

WOW! I asked myself, “When was the last time I prayed?” I wondered, “Did I even have a relationship with Christ?” (At Methodist Youth Fellowship, we teenagers affectionately called ourselves “warm, fuzzy” Christians in jest!) I believed I could take on life by myself. I thought I had, maybe, a mustard seed of faith. Christianity was truly being challenged in the late ’60s/early ’70s and I was “fasting” – I was  taking a break from Jesus to conform with the world I had come to know and love!

But, in that quiet Sunday space and time, I realized something very painful — my heart was so heavy with some very personal decisions I had, for months, struggled and struggled to make. I just could NOT wait any longer. All of a sudden, I yearned for Him.

I prayed and silently called out to Him.

In response, He spoke to me.

I listened and valued the plans He had for me. 

We — He and I together — set in place a simple, love-filled path for me. 

I trusted in Him. 

I followed Him.

My faith in Him did not waiver.

I did not disobey. 

Even today, a warm glow of God’s love washes over me as I think back to this very special turning point in my life. 

I will forever be grateful. Let go! Let God!

In our home, we have a print up on a wall. This message of simple words still rings true; He remains a present and patient Father in our lives.

“Make time for quiet moments, for God whispers and the world is loud.” (Author unknown). 

Let us ALWAYS remember and use the AWESOME power of prayer!       

About Diane Ameen
Where have the years gone? I have personally grown so much in my 25 year faith walk here at STUMC!

Time Well Spent?

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. – Luke 5:16     

Original art by Jennifer LewisI’ve fasted before, with varying degrees of success, but wasn’t sure I had anything meaningful to say about it. I trusted God had something in mind for me when this topic fell in my lap, but being unsure where to start, I decided to read up on biblical fasting and I’m glad I did.

Fasting isn’t just about abstaining from food, but isn’t that what most of us think about when we hear the word? There are many ways to fast, and the Bible has much to say about it. A biblical fast is a matter of giving up something that satisfies you in order to pursue a deeper relationship with God.  As Christians, I think we know that, but how often do we think about it?

As I read, it occurred to me that I’ve missed out on an opportunity this past year. We’re living in a very different time, which has created many challenges. Not being able to get out much has been difficult, and boredom has set in for many of us. I spent a good deal of time in 2020 working on my house. I purged a great many belongings that no longer brought me joy. I painted, updated, renovated, and redecorated several rooms in my home and felt good about my results, but it was only a superficial victory. I failed to view this as a gift of time to be spent with God.

COVID has taken much from us, but it has also given us the perfect opportunity for an Isolation Fast. Think about it. Instead of binge-watching something on Netflix, Hulu, or any number of viewing options, turn off the TV.  Let’s turn off our radios and podcasts, close our books – other than the Bible, and take a break from the Internet.

Luke 5:16 says, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” While we are social distancing, God is inviting us to spend more time alone with him. I plan to accept that invitation and pray you do as well.

Love and HUGS to all!

About Deb Crawford
I think I’m fairly well known to most folks as your former Lay Leader (2019-2020). I am also part of the team bringing you our livestreaming services and am the current chair of the Worship Committee. I’m married to Gary and mom to Kara.

Do You Want to Fast This Lent?

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? – Isaiah 58:6-7

The central idea in fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function or activity for the sake of drawing closer to Christ. In the Bible, fasting is always associated with prayer and food. However, as Pope Francis points out, there are many things we can “fast” from in order to be closer to Christ – especially during the season of Lent. Richard Foster, in his book “Celebration of Discipline,” encourages Christians to fast from the following:

People – we have a tendency to devour people.  Silence and solitude (disciplines we will explore later) can actually help us love people more. 

Media – and the constant barrage of endless noise.

Cell phones – you do not have to answer every time someone calls or texts.

Billboards and Advertising – who determines what you need in this life to feel happy?

Consumer Culture – Consider using your buying power to do without and instead bless those in greatest need.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline ordained by God for the good of Christian fellowship. May God find our hearts open to his means of receiving grace.

Here are a few questions to ponder today:

1. What is the primary purpose of fasting?

2. How can fasting reveal what controls your life?

3. What is most difficult about fasting for you?

About Paula Renfro
Paula is the newest Lay Leader (2023) and serves as the Head of the Altar Guild.

Given Up for Lent

Photo by Sarah BrunThis devotion is comprised of excerpts from the book 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole.

What might be the fruit of fasting stinginess?  What might occur if our families fasted accumulation?

Though what is specifically “given up for Lent” shifts from generation to generation, the broad categories of entertainment, pleasure and food have remained constant throughout the centuries — caffeine, chocolate, designer coffee, carbs, and social media rank among the more popular offerings.  Can such polite fasts alone truly prepare us to be awed by Christ’s resurrection?  God seems more interested in what we are becoming rather than what we are giving up.

Faith, in general, is less about the sacrifice of stuff, and more about the surrender of our souls.  

Consider fasting these things:

1. Regret – do not feed it.  Do not give it space. Let it go.

2. Speeding past sorrow – honor the losses in your life.  Instead of speeding past sadness, slow down and be present in your emotions.  With Jesus, sit with your sorrow and let loss do its eternal work in your soul.

3. Avoidance – pay attention to avoidance mechanisms that surface when you face the unknown, unknowable, uncomfortable or unavoidable.

4. Leavened bread (hypocrisy) – with Israel’s exodus from Egypt yeast became a symbol of what was left behind: hypocrisy, corruption and bondage. Jesus used leaven as a metaphor of false teaching and hypocrisy (Luke 12:1)

5. Addition – fast adding anything to your life. Try to spend a day without spending money. Let each choice not to buy remind you of what you could not purchase: your pardon.

6. Withholding – Ask God to reveal any area in which you are withholding love from Him, others, or yourself.  

…in the words of Orthodox Reverend Alexander Schermann, “The purpose of Lent is not to force on us a few formal obligations, but to ‘soften’ our heart so that it may open itself to the realities of the spirit, to experience the hidden ‘thirst and hunger’ for communication with God.”

Reflect upon your personal preparation for Easter. Why are you setting aside forty days to honor Jesus’ death and resurrection this year?

Submitted by the Lay Leaders

First Time Fasting

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. – Nehemiah 1:4

Fasting – Painting by Deb BarnardMuch like Nehemiah, there have been times where I have been so distraught over current events that I have figuratively (or literally) sat down and wept. Often these events are ones where I feel I have little control or influence. A couple of years ago, one such event happened and I felt compelled to go beyond my usual manner of prayer and try fasting. I thought that maybe if I tried a deeper form of prayer and connection with God, my prayers would be heard and the outcome I desired achieved. 

I had recently learned about the Wesleyan fast, which seemed like a good place for a beginner to start: You fast from sundown one day until 3 p.m. the next day. I didn’t know what to expect, but decided to give it a shot. 

The experience was eye-opening. I went to work as usual that day and found myself thinking of God during moments I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Every time my stomach grumbled, it was a reminder of what I was doing. I prayed a lot that day — in my car, during my lunch break, walking to a meeting — I felt closer to God that day than I may have ever felt before. 

I went home and checked the news to see if my day of prayer and fasting had worked. Had I somehow changed the outcome of an event I had little influence on? No. I remember staring at my phone, disappointed that I didn’t get what I wanted. I went to God in prayer again and this time, He answered. “Not yet. Maybe some day, but not yet.”

Fasting not only drew me into closer step with God, it also reminded me that God’s timing is perfect. He hears our prayers, but answers them according to His perfect plan. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for spiritual disciplines that draw us closer to You. Help us to understand that Your plans and timing are perfect. Amen. 

About Roxanne Sutton
Roxanne Sutton is mom to Parker (5) and Mitchell (3), wife to Brodie, chair of the St. Thomas UMC Communications Committee, part of the behind-the-scenes Sunday morning livestream team, coffee lover and hobbyist baker. 

The Benefit of Fasting

Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. – Matthew 4:4

Where my treasure is, there  my heart will be also. – Matthew 6:21

So what does my mind dwell on; what makes my heart warm; what is my treasure? Fasting is directing me to introspection. Anything that controls my mind and blocks me from God’s leading in my life needs to be rebalanced in my heart.  This is the conversation I need to have with God.  I need to let go of the physical, emotional and spiritual drain and give it to Him. Fasting helps me do this – rebalances my life and puts our Lord back where He needs to be – First.

Have I tried fasting?  Yes.  Sometimes it is very hard because my mind keeps going back to things I want or I should be doing.  It is easier for me if I concentrate on God’s Word — read scripture, read devotions, pray or sing hymns. Doing these things keeps my mind on spiritual things. ‘ Lectio 365’ is a good devotion to start your day.  You can read it or listen to it and pray as you get centered in God for the day ahead.  I usually need to physically remove myself — go for a walk in Manassas Battlefield, leave my books at home, turn off my phone and listen to what He has been trying to teach me.  I need to relax with Him, love Him and let His love fill me. God does not force Himself on me.  He waits for me to invite Him in.  So I invite Jesus in and pray he will empty me in preparation for His indwelling. 

If I am full of the ‘world’ there is no room for Him.

Praise God in all things, in feast and in famine (Fast)

 – Give Him the Glory.

About Marian Ludlow
I have been a member of St. Thomas since 1998 and many folks know me from helping to coordinate the OWLS (Older, Wiser, Livelier Seniors). I am new to SPRC this year and volunteer in the church office on Tuesdays. I enjoy painting and being a gram.

Studying the Bible Is Good for All Seasons

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. – Matthew 18:20

Paintings of Four Seasons by Marian LudlowSeveral times in my life, I've had to move to a new place where I knew almost no one. Thankfully, I've found that one of the best ways to get plugged in to a new area is to find a church and join a small group or regular Bible study.

Through studying His word, I was able to make friends and become involved in communities when I was starting out in sports journalism in the Virginia towns of Culpeper and Martinsville. Even since my teenage years, I've gained so much from being parts of groups at various stages of my walk with the Lord.

A Bible study with my church basketball team helped me turn my life over to God and stay at peace through major hip surgery. Later, a young men's group provided accountability. More recently, a parenting group made me realize that the challenges I was facing weren't so different from everybody else's.

Now at St. Thomas, I'm blessed to attend Bible studies led by Pat Dodson and by the Miller family. Even through Zoom and without meeting face to face, these provide key checkpoints to help me stay focused on God. He has put so many wonderful people in my life, and for that I'm always thankful.

About Lacy Lusk
Lacy is the husband of senior pastor Abi Foerster. He serves on the Communications Committee and enjoys ushering. In non-pandemic times, their family loves attending sporting events, movies, concerts and plays.

Scripture and Study

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. – 2 Timothy 3:16

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. – Acts 17:11

“Dad’s Bible” - Painting my Marian Ludlow

Most Christians would agree that it is important to know Scripture.  If that is a correct statement, then it is also important to study Scripture.  How else will you learn and know the truth about Scripture unless you study Scripture.    

Just because you hear someone say something (like on the TV news) or read it in print (newspaper or social media) does that make it true?  No.  You have to “study” the issue or what is being said or is being presented to you.  So it is with Scripture.  Some parts of Scripture are easier to understand than others.  Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean that you toss it aside and ignore it.  That is why it is important to listen to others and their understanding of Scripture.  

Anything that is worthwhile takes effort and work.  If you are not willing to put forth the effort, or at least attempt to make the effort, then there's no reason to even begin.  The two Scripture passages presented above are important to begin the effort.  First – you need to accept and believe that “All Scripture is God-breathed”, whether or not you understand all Scripture.  You will not find anyone that understands all Scripture.  Reading Scripture is good and is the absolute first part, which leads to the study part.  This then brings us to the second Scripture passage from Acts: We should do as the Bereans did, to see if what is said is true. See what other past Bible scholars have said, read the Bible footnotes, check other Bible commentaries on the passages of Scripture. 

Don’t do it alone.  As you begin your reading and study, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your understanding of the Word.  Join a study group that looks at God’s Word so that we “may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Holy Spirit, put a desire and hunger in my heart to learn and know your Word.  Be my guide as I open Scripture, study your Word and apply it to the way I live, so that my life will glorify Jesus.

About Earl Amstutz
I'm an Adult Sunday School Teacher, help at the food pantry, sing in the choir and participate in other activities in the church.  I’ve been married to my wife, Jane, for fifty-two years and am a long-standing member of St. Thomas (joined in 1978).

His Burden is Light despite the Plentiful Harvest

Matthew 11:28 - 30Painting By Deb Barnard

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 In the past, I travelled along with others on a mission trip.  Leading up to the trip, I always tried to imagine the work I would be doing while I was there to prepare myself mentally and physically.  All this imagining was fine, but it was nothing compared to the reality of seeing a truckload of one thousand cinder blocks pull up to a job site or 50-pound bags of cement ready for mixing.  The thought of having to help unload the blocks or mix the cement made me feel a little heavy-laden.

Despite this, I thought of the reasons He called me to join the mission team: provide much-needed manual labor to the construction crew, spread the Word in a different part of the world, and attempt to change some stereotypes held by people.  I turned to the Gospel of Matthew for scripture to bring the situation into perspective.  To hear Jesus say to us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light -- all the time knowing that He was going to face torture and die -- helped me focus.  It helped me realize that however difficult my labors may seem, following Jesus’ example and taking up His yoke will provide the rest that my soul needs to carry out a life devoted to Him and His message.

Each time we started the mission trip, the missionary we worked with emphasized we would not finish the project and we should keep this in perspective.  I often thought and prayed for the Lord to touch others’ hearts and lead them to work with us on this mission.  At these times, I would turn to Matthew and pray for more workers to the harvest.

Lord, we pray that we always remember the words of your Son who reminded us that taking up His yoke would give us rest from the labors of everyday life and the things of this world.  Lord, I ask that you reach into our souls and lead us to work on Your plentiful harvest.

About Rich Banner

I live in Manassas with my wife and three children.  We all enjoy cooking and travelling.  I also serve as the Chair of the Finance Committee.

My First Bible and a Plan

Listening to the sermon series, Bible 101, a question was posed asking when people received their first Bible. When did YOU receive yours? During that series my children and I drove through the Parking Lot Party and I was given a few papers. One in particular looked useful and in a layout that I could uphold. 5x5x5 New Testament Reading Plan was printed near the top.

Over the next couple of weeks I felt nudged to go out and gift myself the Bible that was never gifted. I browsed websites and tried small businesses to no avail. Finally, I masked up to enter Barnes and Noble. Several mounds began to pile up around me as I sat on the floor and flipped through various translations, versions, types, colors, themes, etc. I didn't really know what I was searching for but I finally made my purchase, feeling content with my choice. Back home, one of my children showed interest and curiosity towards my purchase and asked that I read my book to them. Bedtime was upon us but after reading a chapter from Isaiah they asked if I could read another. I happily obliged. After finishing a chapter from Romans they sweetly cooed, "I really like listening to you read it." A few days later I found the note that I've attached. I began using the New Testament Reading Plan on the date of my anniversary, the day after I purchased my first Bible. The 5x5x5 plan helps keep me on track without stressing and the Bible version I selected reflects an endearing stage of my life.

The responses of my children conjured up a memory of phrases mentioned during two different church services. 1."Many people will never open a Bible, but they WILL meet you."  2."The Bible was meant to be Daily Bread, not cake for special occasions." May you feel that nudge to feed your soul and be a model through your actions.

About Vicki Schoch
Vicki Schoch [shuck], member for 10+ years, wife of Eric for 15+ years, mother to Laney, Sabrina, Josephine, and Giovanni. Favorite to-dos: jigsaw puzzles, food as nutrition, nature, and informational texts. Life-long passion: observing children in their natural state to create simple strategies for families to increase their potential for success.

Studying Scripture and the Bible with Children

Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. - Luke 2:47

Josephine and Giovanni share the lessons they've learned in Sunday School. 

About Josephine and Giovanni
Josephine(6) and Giovanni(4) virtually attend King's Kids on Sundays. (Josephine)-I love storytelling and using humor to make others happy. (Giovanni)-I love learning and using new information(especially Math and dinosaurs), surprising people, and having fun. Our favorite prayers are (J)"Angel of God" and (G)"The Lord's Prayer".

The Benefits of Reading the Entire Bible

Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105

Photo of Mount St Helens by Sarah & Matt Hammack ‘A Path Unto My Feet’When I was in the 9th grade, I decided to read the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.  When I finished, I read it again.  Although I did not understand much of what I read, I was able to pick out things that meant something to me.  And of course, there were stories I was familiar with from Sunday School and youth group.  The gospels were easier to understand, and I enjoyed the beauty of some of the psalms.  After the second time through, I didn’t start a third time, focusing my reading more on the New Testament.  I attended church regularly, including through college and during my first job after graduation.  And then I gradually fell away from church.  A few years later, married and with a toddler and a newborn, my husband (also a lifelong Methodist) and I realized we needed to go back to church – so we started attending St. Thomas.  We faithfully attended both church and adult Sunday school.  When an evening Bible Study, “Through the Bible in a Year”, was offered, we found a weekly babysitter and signed up.  That marked the beginning of a more serious effort on my part to study and understand God’s Holy word.  It was so good to go through the Bible again, this time with a leader, a workbook, and group discussions.  I found I was able to build on my earlier study, as I attained a better understanding of God’s character, and what He was saying to us.  My faith was growing and maturing.  The Bible is how God shows each of us how he wants us to live.

After this study, I signed up for other Bible studies, each one giving me new insights. Study into God’s word has deepened my faith, increased my understanding of God’s power and love, and helped me live a more God centered life.  My faith is what helps me through life’s hard times and what increases my joy during the good times.  I’m so grateful that I’m able to study God’s word through the scriptures.  

About Janie Russell
I have been a member of St. Thomas for 42 years, which means I’ve spent over half my life at this church!  I currently serve as the chair of the Sunbeam Children’s Center Board and I am also on the Church Council, Finance Committee, and Mission Council.  I have two adult children and two grandsons, whom I love dearly.

Need Answers? Pray!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3: 5-6)

Photo by Sarah BrunMany, many years ago, Gary and I lived in New York. (Both of us were small-town, county people).  Gary eventually got a transfer to National Airport, so we started looking for a home in the D.C. metro area.  Gary moved to Alexandria while the boys and I stayed in Levittown until we could sell that house and find a new place to live.  

We looked and looked.  We looked in Prince George’s County, Frederick County, and Prince William County.  We had to consider commute, schools, county/city reputations, and cost of living in the areas as well as the cost of the house.  We saw so many homes.  Some we immediately eliminated while some were on the short list. We just didn’t know where to live

At the same time, I was participating in a devotion/faith/action based program through our church.  Each week we had to do specific things, one of which was a daily devotion time at 5:00 AM.  We were all doing this devotion at the same time in our homes, sort of together-apart.  Sounds like the way we do things right now because of Covid.  The devotion time consisted of Bible reading, meditation, and prayer.  

One morning, as I was doing the devotion, I was VERY distracted because all I could think about was “where are we going to live?”  I couldn’t concentrate at all, so I just stopped and did what I should have done weeks before: I prayed.

I poured out my house-hunting frustrations to God.  I laid it all at His feet.  I told God to make it very clear where He wanted us to live.  

I’m sure you have all heard that God answers prayers!  Well, He does!  

Within two days, God had eliminated all options except the house where I currently live and have lived in for 43 years.  God answered our prayers and brought us to Manassas, VA.  

His plans are perfect!

Prayer:  Most precious Lord, please help us to turn to you first.  Please help us to listen to You and trust that You will put us right where we are supposed to be.  And, God, thank You for sending us to Manassas and to St. Thomas UMC. Amen

About Lynn Furlong
Lynn attends the traditional service, sings in the choir and loves going on START trips.  She also serves as the Vice Chair of the Trustees.

Fervent Prayer

The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. – Psalm 28:7

Through the years, the majority of my prayer life has been focused on praying for my family and friends. For their health and well-being and that they would draw close to the Lord. In October of 2014, I found myself turning my prayers inward. I was told that I needed "Whipple Surgery" to remove a growth in my small intestine. My surgeon told me that it was a "big surgery" with a difficult recovery, I would likely be in the hospital for 10 days, and to expect to feel "lousy" for at least 8 weeks, after which, I would slowly start to get my strength back.

I walked out of his office feeling anxious, to say the least.

As I started to process what he had said, I realized I wasn't anxious about the outcome of the surgery. The outcome was not in my control. It was in God’s hands, and I trusted Him with it.

What was in my control was how I would handle the pain and feeling "lousy" for so long. I had never experienced pain or feeling "lousy" for more than a few days at a time. I was afraid I would be a "big baby,” be "mean", or become discouraged. This is not how I wanted to react.

My desire was to handle the recovery in a way that would honor God and please Him. It became clear to me that I could trust Him with my recovery just as I was trusting Him with the surgery. I began praying fervently that the Lord would help me keep a faithful attitude. I prayed that He would keep reminding me to turn to Him for strength.

My fear faded as I trusted that He had heard my prayer and that He would be with me through it all.

The surgeon was right. It was very difficult, but the Lord carried me through. He gave me peace, and I didn't become discouraged. My family will have to attest to whether I was a "big baby" or if I got "mean." Thanks be to God.

About Cheryl Rosko
I began attending St. Thomas UMC with my husband, son and daughter about 25 years ago. I love spending time with my family, including my two beautiful granddaughters. I enjoy vacationing at the beach and enjoying the view from an ocean-front deck.

Pray with Simplicity

Great Reasons to PrayTake a moment to read and reflect on the passage of Scripture below from the Gospel of Matthew 6:5 - 15 (The Message, Eugene Peterson):

 5 “And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for fifteen minutes of fame! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

6 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

7-13 “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

14-15 “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.

As you read this passage, where was God speaking to you?

Richard Foster, author of the Celebration of Discipline says, "To pray is to change."

Do you believe this? Have you ever experienced this in your own life? How might you simply come before God so that you can experience the adventure of prayer more this week?

Dear Lord, I come before you this day seeking your grace and love.  Help me to turn to you in all things, to quiet my own voice in my head, and instead to listen to what you are saying to me.  I love you, Lord.  Amen.


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St. Thomas UMC
8899 Sudley Road
Manassas, VA 20110

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