Don't miss today
November 2, 2018 • Dr. Tom Pace
A PERSONAL PRAYER God of love, I have been thinking that today might be my last day on earth. Who knows what today, or tomorrow, or the next day will bring? I might have 10,000 days left in my life, and I might have just this one. I don’t want to throw today away or miss the experience of this hour or even this minute. And yet, I am always hurrying on to the next thing, always running from one thing to the next, living in tomorrow, regretting what I missed or did yesterday, reminiscing about the good old days, dreaming about the future, and griping about what is going on around me today. How sad to miss so much. You have prepared for me a table of experiences at which to feast, and you are willing to sit with me at that table, to join me in each of the experiences of my life. You want to laugh with me and cry with me and work beside me. Sometimes, I don’t even recognize that you are there. I find myself searching for you in my yesterdays and hoping for you in my tomorrows, all the while missing your presence in the here and now. I can’t be contented with yesterday’s glory. I can’t live on promises winter to spring. Today is my moment, and now is my story, I’ll laugh and I’ll cry and I’ll sing…. Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine, I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine. A million tomorrows shall all pass away, ‘ere I forget all the joy that is mine, today. (Randy Sparks, New Christy Minstrels, 1963) Thank you God, for today. And open my eyes and ears and heart to your presence in this very moment. In the name of Christ, I pray… Amen. SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE Thanks to all of you who last week made a commitment or recommitment of your life to Christ, and to his ministries in and through St. Luke’s. It was a wonderful worship experience for me personally, and I personally felt God’s challenge renewed in my life, hearing his call again to live my life and use my time and resources for his ministry. We currently have received 653 commitments toward our goal of 1320 for 2019. We are halfway there! If you are a member of St. Luke’s and have not had a chance to make your commitment, you can view some important information and make a commitment online here. We use all of the information to make decisions about ministries and projects we want to undertake, and we very much want this to be a time in which we are all working together to accomplish our goals. This Sunday, November 4, we begin a new sermon series titled “Stop It!” and talk together about slowing our lives down so that we can experience the presence of God. During the month of November, we will look at four habits that rob our lives of both meaning and joy and consider how we might replace them with something positive. We can stop running, avoiding, worrying, and grumbling, and replace those habits with experiencing, facing, trusting, and thanking. This Sunday is also All Saints Sunday, and at all of our morning worship services we will read the names of members of St. Luke’s who have gone on to be a part of the church triumphant over the past year, and give thanks to God for their witness among us. Please join us. We grieve the killings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last weekend. The loss of these wonderful people, the stories of whom are so touching and so human, wrench our hearts. And the loss is beyond that – the event further chips away at our own sense of security and the sanctity of our houses of worship. At St. Luke’s, we have a team continuing to improve and update our security plan, to help us all feel safe as we worship. Please be assured that we have four armed off-duty officers on campus every Sunday, and our staff has been trained in security response. Last January St. Luke’s sponsored active shooter response training for our congregation conducted by Stephen Daniel of the Houston Police Department. This training was extremely well received by our congregation, and it remains available on our website. We encourage every member to watch and share this link with loved ones, so we can all learn how to best respond if faced with such a situation. Watch the video and read the handout here. For information, contact Jack Vaughan or Dr. Linda Christians. PRAYER CALENDAR Sunday, November 4 Lord, thank you for the many blessings that you bestow in our everyday lives. Help us to see you in the minute details of each day and use our gratitude to shape how we see things. Fill us with a gracious heart so that we can then turn around and be a blessing to others. Amen. -Prayer by Rev. Thomas Harper Monday, November 5 God, we are very thankful for the St. Luke’s Day School and the teachers, parents, and staff as they work diligently to raise up our children in grace, faith, and love. Amen. -Prayer from Koinonia Tuesday, November 6 Heavenly Father, we are thankful for our church, its staff, and the ministers. We are also thankful that we live in a country where we can worship freely as we wish unlike many other Christians around the world. We pray for them also. Amen. -Prayer from Koinonia Wednesday, November 7 God, thank you for the students at St. Luke’s. Thank you for their energy, excitement, and desire to know you more. I pray that you guide them in their Faith Journey and continue to mold them into disciples as they grow. Amen. -Prayer by Colby Biberstein Thursday, November 8 Dear Father, Thank you that your plans for me are good. I am so glad that you are my Father and I am thankful that, because of this, I can always trust you to take care of me. Thank you that I do not have to struggle and worry about things that are beyond my control because you always have my back! Amen. Friday, November 9 We thank you, Lord, for the gift of family, friends, and for all those who love and support us through our ups and downs, who help us in our times of need, who celebrate with us in times of joy. Please bless them, Lord, as they have blessed us with their love. Amen. Saturday, November 10 Heavenly Father, Thank you so much for this beautiful time of year. Thank you for family and friendships and time together to celebrate all that we have. Bless all who come to St. Luke’s and help them to feel your love. Amen. -Prayer from Koinonia
Glorifying God in Generosity
October 28, 2018 • Elizabeth and Ross King
My grandfather had a tradition of giving a gold dollar to every young child he saw for almost twenty years. While this could be embarrassing when he would interrupt a dinner out to give coins to complete strangers, it was wonderful to see the joy he had in his heart every time he gave one away, especially to a child at church. Most Sundays, Granddad stood at the back of the church, collected the offering trays and counted the money. He would be overwhelmed when he would come across one of those gold dollars that a child had donated. His generous gift was returned with selfless giving to Christ and nothing could make him prouder. It was his example I wanted to follow with my own generosity. Ross and I both grew up attending church and giving weekly offerings based on the example set by our families. While our small gifts as children may have not made a large impact on the church, it created a habit that we continue now. We try to instill those values in our children from an early age so that they may understand the importance of a generous heart. We’ve been members of St. Luke’s since moving to Houston and have gotten involved with The Hub Sunday School class, multiple small groups, volunteering with Student Ministries and other service projects. Our two year old loves her Sunday School class, and we know our two week old will benefit from Children’s Ministries for years to come. Through these programs we’ve made many close friends and mentors and grown in our faith. These ministries mean so much to us, and we know they are only possible because of our church’s generosity. When we think of glorifying God in generosity, we aspire to use our gifts as a way to fulfill God’s mission on earth. It is amazing how our contributions, no matter how small, can become life-changing in God’s hands. From Sunday worship to service projects around Houston and the world, the incredible gifts from St Luke’s members are transforming lives.
It is amazing what commitment will do
October 26, 2018 • Dr. Tom Pace
A PERSONAL PRAYER Jesus, This Sunday, I will recommit my life to being your follower. I pray that you will show me the steps I need to take to follow you. You know my desire to live the way you taught us to live. You know my desire to be an instrument of your love. But too often, my desire remains just that – a desire only. I know what I am to do, but I don’t do it. Forgive me. Fill me with your Spirit that I might walk the walk, one step at a time. Show me what is the next best step for me; then give me the courage to commit to that step and take it. And then, O God, let me take another and another and another, persevering in faithfulness. When I fall short and fail, draw me gently back to that journey, knowing you will not abandon me no matter what. You promise me that I will be blessed if I will just give it a try. Amen. SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE This Sunday is Commitment Sunday at St. Luke’s. In our morning worship services, we will have a time of recommitment of our lives to following Christ and advancing his Kingdom. If you are a member of St. Luke’s, you should have received a packet titled “Glorifying God through Generosity.” Inside is a booklet with some important information and a commitment card to support St. Luke’s ministries in 2019. You can also look at the information and make a commitment online here. Please take a look, and prayerfully consider your giving to St. Luke’s in the upcoming year. We use all of the information to make decisions about ministries and projects we want to undertake. This Sunday, we will dedicate those commitment cards at the altar in all of our worship services. If you are not ready to make a financial commitment, or have done so online, please come to worship anyway and let this week be a time for a commitment or recommitment of your life. I believe that commitment will make all the difference. This Sunday, we conclude our series of sermons “Show Me: the Letter of James,” with a message called “Be A Doer.” We will consider how important it is to actually take some action as Christians. If you are ready to take some action, here are some important possible ways to serve. Click here and scroll down. This Sunday night, October 28, at 5:00 pm in the Sanctuary, Jim Roman, St. Luke’s new associate organist, and his wife Grace, will present their recital of “And Music Shall Untune the Sky.” (This was postponed a few weeks ago when the organ was out of commission!) It’s free, with a goodwill offering that benefits Friends of Music. PRAYER CALENDAR Sunday, October 28 Heavenly Father, Scripture tells us that you have great plans for us, but sometimes we choose a different path. Forgive us, Father, when we fail to do what you have called us to do. Help us to learn from our past mistakes, and give us the courage to step out in faith to follow the path you have laid out for us. Strengthen us to move out of our comfortable habits and to make the most of the opportunities that you place before us. Amen. Monday, October 29 Loving God, we spend a lot of our prayer time telling you our needs for ourselves or for others. Today, I am going to spend time being still and listening for your voice. Speak to me, O Lord. Amen. Tuesday, October 30 Almighty God, we sometimes get weary and overwhelmed with the things of the world. Give us your strength and power to make a difference, and renew our spiritual fervor each day. Amen. Wednesday, October 31 Heavenly Father, we pray that you would protect us from the evil in the world. Help us to seek you and your ways, and help us to always look for ways to make the world a better place. Amen. Thursday, November 1 Heavenly Father, I come to you in thanks for all your blessings, the ways you love us, your mercy, and the gift of your forgiveness. I am thankful for your unconditional loving kindness. Father, please give me the insight and awareness to find you in each of my days. In your Holy name I pray, Amen. -Prayer from Koinonia Friday, November 2 Dear God, thank you for all the blessings that you provide to us every day. It is through the sacrifice of your Son that we are able to find grace and forgiveness in you. Thank you for this church and the people who attend it. The people and the church make a huge difference in the lives of people. Please open our minds and soften our hearts so that we might be more in touch with your will. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. Saturday, November 3 Heavenly Father, we thank you for the abundant blessings we enjoy in America. We thank you for freedom, opportunity and the ability to worship you. We ask for wisdom and your guidance that we may make the most of these blessings. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
October 21, 2018 • Babs Smith
As a typical Methodist child of the early 1930s, my first prayers likely began “Now I lay me down to sleep.” Children tend to mimic and absorb that which they see repeatedly, and my parents were a praying pair that left a mark on my heart and head… prayers are powerful. Experiencing others praying for me through several very critical illnesses in childhood left no doubt that prayers were answered. I knew I had been blessed by those prayers. I also began to recognize that sometimes God’s answers are not ones we expect or want to hear, much less accept, and often the answers are not as swift as we hope. Having felt the power of answered payer, my personal prayer life grew—and with it, frequent God “lessons.” They didn’t always come easily, however. Unless or until we are faced with unmanageable human situations, are we forced to examine our level of trust in God’s goodness. Are we willing to truly believe that God’s hand and His plan will see us through any valley of darkness? In our humanness we want answers yesterday – patience is a tough lesson to learn. Ed and I were both only children and after being married a year, we began to talk “family.” After seven months, my prayers become more demanding and frankly, more frustrated. I specifically recall kneeling, willing to leave the decision to God – a prayer of simple resignation; “Lord, if there is a baby we need to adopt, that’s okay, I give up.” I released my problem and 10 months later, His answer was to give us Scooter, our first “prayer baby.” That was only the beginning of His miracles. We were blessed with Cissy two years later. Then, fast forward 16 years, (God must have a sense of humor) along came Charlie! We always wanted three children, but it was in God’s time, not ours. Faith in prayer becomes clear not just by recognizing answered prayers, but in clinging to that innocent, child-like trust that God listens to our requests, our concerns, and our need for His guidance. Yet, He expects us to release our prayers into His care, confident His is the best plan. Having an active prayer life is necessary to gain that sought-after level of comforting, confident, constant communication with the Lord. My prayers always begin by giving thanks for the opportunities to share the gift of prayer. We have the freedom to pray privately, to pray with others and to pray for others. The freedom to practice our faith through prayer is a treasured responsibility, and a source of strength and hope. “Trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him. God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8
October 19, 2018 • Dr. Tom Pace
A PERSONAL PRAYER God, I know we talk, but sometimes I think I am doing it wrong. Sometimes I feel like I am just talking to the wall. Sometimes I feel like I am faking it. Sometimes my prayers are just ramblings in my head. Sometimes I can’t even concentrate long enough to think of what to say. Sometimes I forget to intentionally pray. Sometimes I just repeat words I know from memory, because it is all I can come up with. Does this actually do anything? I confess that I get frustrated when the things I pray for don’t come to pass, when the problem doesn’t magically go away, when the person isn’t automatically made well, when the conflict isn’t instantly solved, and when the answer and direction isn’t made clear. Your word says you will give me wisdom generously if I just ask, as long as I ask in faith. Perhaps I am double minded, and so I can’t seem to grasp the wisdom you are trying to share. But somehow, when I pray persistently, I find that I am changed. I find that I am drawn into the current of you, the Holy Spirit, at work in the world. What I want is to be led by you, transformed by you, used by you. I want to be clear about your purpose in my life, and to accomplish that purpose, even if the direction forward seems foggy. So let’s talk often God. Hear the deepest, most fervent prayer of my heart, that greatest desire, even when I cannot find the words to express it. And answer me with yourself, with your very presence. In the name of Christ, I pray. Amen. SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE Do you ever wonder why you bother praying? Does it really make any difference? What is the point? This Sunday, we will continue our series of sermons, “Show Me: The Letter of James,” and will talk together about the purpose and the power of prayer. The title is “No Just About It.” If you are a member of St. Luke’s, you should have received a packet titled “Glorifying God through Generosity.” Inside is a booklet with some important information and a commitment card to support St. Luke’s ministries in 2019. Please take a look, and prayerfully consider your giving to St. Luke’s in the upcoming year. We use all of the information to make decisions about ministries and projects we want to undertake. Commitment Sunday is October 28, and we will dedicate our cards at the altar in all of our worship services that day. Thanks for your generosity in helping us pay it forward to persons impacted by Hurricane Michael in Chipley, Florida and nearby Panama City. We are partnering with First Baptist Church Chipley to provide recovery and relief to their area. Please keep Pastor Bobby Pletcher and the entire church staff in your prayers as they embark on this task. Stay tuned for more information regarding ways we can help. Last week, we began Children’s Church at our 11:00 hour on the second floor of the Johnson Education Building. Forty-two kids were present for an awesome start. Yay! For children in K-grade 3, Children’s Church provides an age appropriate worship experience with live music and other activities as well. Find answers to your FAQ’s here. PRAYER CALENDAR Sunday, October 21 God, we thank you for the gift of Scripture. Your written word speaks guidance and power into our lives. Help us to create time in our day to study your word and seek your presence. Grow us as your disciples. Amen. Monday, October 22 Heavenly Father, we ask that you would walk beside us throughout our day today. Guide our steps to your paths of righteousness, and protect us from falling. Amen. Tuesday, October 23 God of all things good, we thank you for the many blessings that you give to us every day. We pray that you would open our eyes, and help us to look for the good things even in hard times. We pray that you would open our minds, and keep our focus on positive things. Give us a peace that transcends all understanding. Amen. Wednesday, October 24 Lord Jesus, give us courage to reach out to our friends who don’t know you yet. Speak through our words and actions so that they may see your love and want to come to know you. When the opportunity arises, let us invite them to St. Luke’s to worship you with us. Amen. Thursday, October 25 Jesus, we admit that following you is not always easy, and it is often inconvenient. Create in us a desire to follow you wholeheartedly so that we no longer see the cost of discipleship. Amen. Friday, October 26 Heavenly Father, you know our hearts and our struggles, and you know where we need the most help. Grant us wisdom and strength to change for the better, and help us to see beyond our human limitations. Amen. Saturday, October 27 God, we pray that you would prepare our hearts to worship you tomorrow. Help us to work hard today so that we may “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” Grant us the full power of your Holy Spirit in worship. Amen.
Giving Ourselves Away
October 14, 2018 • Kristin and Lance Reynolds
Giving ourselves away in generosity and service can be a difficult calling to fulfill. Like most families, our family faces challenging demands on our time and financial resources. At times it can be a daunting task to meet all of our obligations, and the thought of adding more demands can be overwhelming. When Kristin and I think about generosity, we try to stay grounded with one simple word… gratitude. Growing up we were blessed with parents who lived their lives full of gratitude. Each Sunday we would watch our parents put a check in the offering plate regardless of the financial challenges they were facing at home. Like many other families, our families experienced difficult periods of financial stress but they would continue to tithe despite the uncertainty. I remember wondering why my father would not hold off on the tithing check until he found more certain financial footing. I asked him about it once and he simply responded, “Son, everything that we have is a blessing, no matter how much or how little, and I feel blessed to have something to give back.” It was a short but powerful message that Kristin and I both learned from our parents and it is what fills our hearts with gratitude when we think about Glorifying God in generosity. Any time we think about tithing, volunteering or giving back in any way, we reflect on our blessings and feel grateful that we have something to give back. We pray as parents that we can be the example to our children that our parents were to us. Being a part of the St. Luke’s family is one of the most special blessings in our lives. Our family has developed lifelong relationships that we cherish dearly. We feel blessed in so many ways and we are honored to give ourselves away in generosity and service.
Show Me... The Money
October 12, 2018 • Dr. Tom Pace
A PERSONAL PRAYER God, you seem to be meddling in every single part of my life. First how I spend my time and talent. Then my relationships. Now it is my money. And there is something about Jesus talking about my finances that really makes me uncomfortable. What does that say about me? I’m not sure I want to know. Perhaps I am the “rich young man who went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Instead, I want to be the one who searched for the “pearl of great price,” and traded everything he had for that one pearl of being used by you for your purposes. OK, then, so let’s have a conversation about my money… What is that I hear you say? It isn’t mine? It’s yours? I thought 10% was yours and the rest was mine. Well, that could be the problem God. I keep thinking it is mine. OK, then, if it is yours, what do you want me to do with it? … What do you mean “figure it out?” I guess that is what it means to be a steward. We have to do the management of all of it. Won’t you tell me the specifics, make it easy for me? … What do you mean I wouldn’t do it if you told me? Sigh. You probably are right. God, thank you for your provision, for providing everything I need to accomplish your purposes for me… everything I need to be a good father and husband and son and friend and teacher and citizen and pastor. And you have even gone farther than that. You have given me more than enough. You have poured out life on me abundantly. I want to use it all for your glory. In the name of Christ, I pray, Amen. SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE In last week’s sermon, I made reference to an op-ed I read five years ago by Rabbi David Wolpe on being spiritual but not religious. If you are interested, you can read it here. This Sunday, we will continue our sermon series, “Show Me: The Letter of James,” and will talk together about where we put our trust, and how our use of money is both an indicator and a stimulus for trust in God. The title is “Your Money or Your Life.” If you are a member of St. Luke’s, next week you should receive a packet titled “Glorifying God through Generosity.” Inside is a booklet with some important information, and a commitment card to support St. Luke’s ministries in 2019. Please take a look, and prayerfully consider your giving to St. Luke’s in the upcoming year. We use all of the information to make decisions about ministries and projects we want to undertake. Commitment Sunday is October 28, and we will dedicate our cards at the altar in all of our worship services that day. This week, Children’s Church begins at our 11:00 hour on the second floor of the Johnson Education building. For children in K-grade 3, children’s church provides an age appropriate worship experience with live music and other activities as well. Find FAQ’s here. You can still join Scripture + Shared, starting and finishing the series on James and 1 and 2 Peter at your own speed and convenience. There are daily Bible readings, commentary and explanation, and reflection and discussion questions on the Scripture + Shared app and St. Luke’s website. The video curriculum (also on the app and website) includes conversational lessons in which I visit with other St. Luke’s pastors and staff about the letters. Find a group and learn how to download the app at stlukesmethodist.org/bible. Who would have thunk it that we would have over 100 dogs come for the Blessing of the Animals last Sunday in the Activity Center? The event corresponded with the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. We were surprised at no cats, and no reptiles or other slimy creatures. But it was a great event celebrating God’s gift of creation and man’s best friend. PRAYER CALENDAR Sunday, October 14 God, we desire to be closer in relationship with you. We want to hear you speak to us. Please draw us close to you, and guide us to your good, pleasing, and perfect will. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. Monday, October 15 Lord, we confess that we do not always make good decisions in life. We pray that you would give us strength to do what is right and good in your eyes so that we can find our place in your Kingdom. Amen. Tuesday, October 16 God, we pray for strength when we go through difficult times. Help us to focus on you so that we may persevere and fight the good fight. Please surround us with loving friends who will point us towards you and keep us grounded in your ways. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. Wednesday, October 17 Lord, “treat me according to your constant love, and teach me your commands. I am your servant; give me understanding, so that I may know your teachings.” Amen. -Psalm 119:124-125 Thursday, October 18 Lord, we pray for those who have lost loved ones unexpectedly. God, we don’t understand why these loved ones are suddenly gone without even a chance to say goodbye. Provide comfort for those who are grieving and remind them of the hope of eternal salvation through your son, Jesus Christ. Amen. Friday, October 19 Heavenly Father, we pray for those who are without adequate food and shelter. We ask that you would be at work in our church and in our community to provide for them. Protect them from harm, and improve their living conditions. Amen. Saturday, October 20 Heavenly Father, today we lift up to you the injustices of the world. Help us to seek justice, and open our eyes to new opportunities to serve you. Equip us to make a difference in your world. Amen.
Do This in Remembrance of Me
October 7, 2018 • Ann Pierce Arnett
When the disciples gathered with Jesus for the Passover meal, Jesus surprised them by washing their feet as if he were their servant. It didn’t seem right. That wasn’t what their Messiah should be doing. Then, as they were eating and praying, Jesus changed the traditional words and told them that every time they shared the bread and drank the wine, they should remember him. And there was that time Jesus asked the disciples to feed all those people on the hillside who had come to hear him speak. Not only did they have to share their friend with all those unknown crowds of people, but feed them as well. Amazingly they were all fed, with some food left over! Oh, yes, they remembered that day. It changed their hearts and minds forever. For the disciples, Jesus was their whole world. But he never allowed that world to remain small. He showed them time after time how God loved the whole world. I remember going to Athens to clean a refugee camp and being invited to sit down with a Muslim family to share their crackers and juice in gratitude for our help. I didn’t expect that. I remember my husband traveling in China and eating with a tour group who came from all over and were sharing their stories around a Lazy Susan filled with exotic and unknown delicious treats. That changed him. I remember my housekeeper who went to Guatemala this summer to visit her family and how her three young daughters told her that they wanted to leave their full suitcases for their cousins who had so little. And they did. Each time I remember, my heart becomes softer and my mind is less narrow. So, this World Communion Sunday I will receive communion with a wider vision. I will bring my memories with me and I will do it in remembrance of Jesus who, as Dr. Pace reminds us, bears witness to the love of God in this world. May we all do so as well so that those to whom love is a stranger will find in us generous friends.
Together is Better
October 5, 2018 • Dr. Tom Pace
A PERSONAL PRAYER It is time for confession, God – sometimes people bug me. The ongoing give and take of life, negotiating the agendas of other folks, taking the time to listen to different opinions, turning the other cheek and forgiving and peacemaking and all that – it can get exhausting. God, can’t you make all the people who disagree with me move away? Can’t you make everyone else change? It is so hard to work together… in our world, in our country, in the workplace, in the family, even in the church. Sometimes I think I should just move away by myself, a Henry David Thoreau sort of existence… “I will arise now, and go to Innisfree…” as Yeats puts it. But God, what I would miss! I would love doing without the annoyance and irritation, but I would also miss the love. And when I really think about it, I couldn’t get much accomplished for you by myself. Besides, I recognize that the problem isn’t really them; it is me. And if I went away I would still have to take myself along. So God, keep me engaged with others. Show me how to be slow to speak and quick to listen. Make me willing to yield when the time is right, and willing to push and lean in when it is necessary. Help me to see the good in others, and seek to learn from them. And open me to change, so that together, we might change the world on your behalf. Amen. SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE This Sunday, we will continue our series, “Show Me: The Letter of James,” and we will talk together about the importance of community, and the challenges of getting along with others. The title is “Better Together.” As the first Sunday in October is World Communion Sunday, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper together in all of our services. Scripture + Shared is here! I have been studying the letters of James and 1 and 2 Peter this summer, and am anxious to teach it to you in our eight session study this fall. There are daily Bible readings, commentary and explanation, and reflection and discussion questions on the Scripture + Shared app and St. Luke’s website. The video curriculum (also on the app and website) includes conversational lessons in which I visit with other St. Luke’s pastors and staff about the letters. Find a group and learn how to download the app at stlukesmethodist.org/bible. PRAYER CALENDAR Sunday, October 7 Gracious God, you have blessed us with a strong community of faith here at St. Luke’s. Give us strength and self-discipline to develop our Five Habits: We Pray, We Study the Bible, We Make Friends, We Tell Our Stories, and We Give Ourselves Away in Generosity and Service so that we may move forward in our journey of faith. Give us the courage to take the next step to move closer to you. Fill us with your loving, peaceful Holy Spirit. Amen. Monday, October 8 Lord God, we pray for comfort and peace for those who have lost their spouse over the past few years. Remind them of your presence during the times of loneliness and pain. Help us all to find new joy in your redemption. Amen. Tuesday, October 9 Heavenly Father, we pray for strength, serenity, and guidance to deal with what weighs heavily on our minds. We will trust in your ways, O Lord. Amen. Wednesday, October 10 Lord, we pray for those who need reconciliation and healing in their marriage. Please restore relationships, and help them grow close to one another again. Amen. Thursday, October 11 Heavenly Father, we pray for our children who have wandered away. Put people in their lives who will lovingly draw them back to you. Help us to have the discernment to know when to press and when to pull back our words of encouragement. Amen. Friday, October 12 Lord, be with those who are taking care of elderly parents. Please give them wisdom and discernment as they make decisions about their parents’ care. Amen. Saturday, October 13 God, you created a beautiful world for us to live in, but often we are too busy to enjoy your majestic creation. We ask, God, that you would help us to be present in the moment and to enjoy all of the beauty that surrounds us. Help us to see the beauty that we haven’t seen before, and quiet our minds to hear your symphony played out by nature. Thank you, God, for the gift of creation. Amen.
Commit to Community
September 23, 2018 • Maureen Paxson
I’ve always had a sense of belonging. I was raised by loving parents who made sure I was in Scouts, ballet, regular attendance at church, and a myriad of other activities. But THEY were the ones who made those commitments for me. As an adult, I was busy raising children and pursuing a career. All extremely satisfying, but not a voluntary commitment to a community. Something was missing. I do remember one day stepping out of my comfort zone. I walked in to a theater stage production company in Albuquerque and said, “I would like to help”. “Great”, was the reply.” “Do you sing, dance, act, or play an instrument?” I told her I did none of those, but still wanted to help. I was handed a stack of white fabric and some patterns and told, “We need aprons made for Oliver”. I made one dozen aprons. When the show opened, I went and loved seeing my 12 aprons dancing across the stage. It was a great feeling to belong to a community. In 2009 I began dating Steve, my future husband. I came to Houston often and began to experience the absolute JOY of attending St. Luke’s. It was like a gigantic hug. Everyone, it seemed, was reaching out to me. What I needed to do was meet them halfway. So, tentatively, I decided to step out in faith. My first foray into community was with Gayle Eury, the Wedding Coordinator, who said, “After YOUR wedding is over, I want you on the Wedding Guild”. I joined the Guild and loved it. Then came the opportunity to join a small group Bible study. What a loving experience of sharing, listening and making friends! I joined the Baptism Guild at the invitation of Noralyn Carpenter. It’s delightful to be around sweet babies and their families on that very important day in all their lives. And now I manage the schedule of the Baptism Guild volunteers. Jump right in, Maureen. Truth was, it was getting easier. Though I still cannot sing, I’ve brought a treat or two for the 90-100 choir members who meet on Wednesday for rehearsal. I love supporting Steve’s commitment to his choir community. None of these activities take much time. Really. All of these activities are fulfilling. I encourage you to consider joining one of the many +1 opportunities at St. Luke’s. It will make your heart sing!
September 21, 2018 • Dr. Tom Pace
A PERSONAL PRAYER I love you, God. So thank you today for people to love, as I act out my love for you. Thank you today for people who love me. Thank you for a place to belong, a community where I am welcomed, pursued, valued. Thank you for showing up in our midst, the Holy Spirit binding us together. I confess, God, that sometimes I get confused about what matters. I find myself focusing on tasks to be done, milestones to be reached, instead of the people who join me in the work. Too often, I look at people as tools to accomplish an agenda, build a program, grow a ministry, rather than understanding that the people are the ministry itself. When Jesus saw the multitudes who came to him, he "had compassion on them." Loving them in concrete ways was the mission. One at a time, he loved them. Caring for them each as his sister or brother. So God, I pray that I will see your face on the people you have put in my path today, and that I might love you by loving them. In the name of Jesus, who was a person himself, and who showed us what love looks like. Amen. SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE This Sunday, we conclude our series on Starting with Middle C. We have talked about convictions - having something to believe in, the rock in which to anchor your life, and about commitment - having something to anchor your life to, or for. This Sunday we will deal with the third essential C - community - having some people to love. Come and worship! Scripture + Shared is here! I have been studying the letters of James and 1 and 2 Peter this summer, and am anxious to teach it to you in our eight session study this fall. Groups will begin meeting this coming week, beginning September 23, and I will begin a sermon series on September 30 covering the letter of James. There are daily Bible readings, commentary and explanation, and reflection and discussion questions on the Scripture + Shared app and St. Luke's website. The video curriculum (also on the app and website) includes conversational lessons in which I visit with other St. Luke's pastors and staff about the letters. Find a group and learn how to download the app at stlukesmethodist.org/bible. At St. Luke's, we pray! Join us this Sunday night, September 23, 4:00 p.m., for Fall Prayer Harvest Service in the Fellowship Hall. The whole church family is coming together for a special time of prayer as we harvest the leaves from the prayer tree and begin anew as we turn our hearts back toward God. I will share a brief devotional on prayer, and we will practice it together. When Hurricane Harvey hit, staff and members from Broadmoor UMC in Baton Rouge and many others went above and beyond to help us and our city. We are eager to pay their generosity forward as persons impacted from Hurricane Florence struggle to recover. St. Luke's is partnering with Myers Park UMC in Charlotte, NC to support this effort. Please visit www.myersparkumc.org/disasterrelief if you'd like to contribute and don't forget to pray for those in the affected area. PRAYER CALENDAR Sunday, September 23 Heavenly Father, we look back over the past year with gratitude for all that has happened in the life of our church. Thank you for the ministries, people, and moments where we saw your Spirit move among us. As we look forward to the future we pray for your guidance to follow in the path that you have for us, both as your church and as individuals. May we have a front row seat to the work of your Holy Spirit in 2019. Amen. -Prayer by Rev. Thomas Harper Monday, September 24 God, thank you for the gift of this new day. Fill it with opportunities to serve you and share your love with others. Show us how to be a blessing to those who need it most. Amen. Tuesday, September 25 Lord help us to focus on what is beautiful and not what is ugly in our lives. Help us to see other people as you do and give us more capacity and patience to love others better than we do now, Amen. Wednesday, September 26 God of love, thank you for redeeming us through the gift of your son, Jesus. Thank you for restoring us and making us whole again. Help us to focus on our new life in Christ. Amen. Thursday, September 27 Loving God, sometimes things in life are hard, and I need some encouragement. I pray that you would bless me and encourage me today as I persevere. Give me what I need to run the race you have set before me. Amen. Friday, September 28 God, I know that true freedom is found in your truth and not in the lies of the world. Help me to live by your standards and not those of the world. Hold me in the palm of your hand, and keep me close in relationship to you all the days of my life. Amen. Saturday, September 29 Thank you, God, for the community of faith here at St. Luke's. Thank you for the clergy who guide us on our journey of faith, thank you for the staff who support our journey of faith, and thank you for church friends who walk beside us on our journey of faith. Amen.
Making the Move
September 16, 2018 • Gwen & Ken Ennis
We were scared and anxious. Would we be able to make any friends or enjoy fellowship at another church, in another city, in our 60’s no less?! There were so many unknowns in our future life. We had decided to move to Houston from Memphis, Tennessee, where we had always lived and where we attended the same church for over 40 years. What would our life be like? Were we making a mistake? With a prayer and a plan we visited St. Luke’s Methodist and quickly knew we wanted to become part of the St. Luke’s family. On our first visit, we were welcomed by greeters outside the church saying, “We are glad you are here!” After visiting for a couple of months we attended Coffee with the Pastor. We then joined the church in September 2017 and enrolled in an Inside-Out Habits class. Both the Coffee and the IOH class helped us to get to know other newcomers and also some of the staff of St. Luke’s. The staff and our class leaders were so welcoming, answered lots of questions, and made us begin to feel part of this family. We had a desire to be more than just Sunday service worshippers, so next for us was finding a Sunday school class. We visited several wonderful classes and settled on one that we felt was our best fit. It was threatening to visit Sunday school class not knowing one person, but there was always someone who took us under his or her wing and introduced us to others. In addition, we joined a LIFT (Living in Faith Together) group in our neighborhood for Bible study and fellowship in a small group home setting. We have been inspired by the opportunities for service here and have enjoyed serving on the Houston Project Committee and leading an Inside-Out Habits group for other new members. We look forward to continued involvement in our community and helping others in our adopted city. We were intentional in our decision to become active members of St. Luke’s. What we did not anticipate was the magnitude of blessings we have received from becoming a part of this church. We are amazed at the opportunities for spiritual growth, service and friendship. We are glad we made the move!
What will you die (or live) for?
September 14, 2018 • Dr. Tom Pace
Please come this Sunday, September 16, to our Fall Gathering: Catch the Vision event in the Fellowship Hall at 6:30 p.m. The Get Connected Fair will be held just before and after, beginning and 5:30 p.m. We will be looking together at St. Luke’s dreams and goals for 2019, praying together about God’s purpose for us and considering ways we can join in the work together. Please come! A PERSONAL PRAYER God, The alarm went off this morning and I was excited to get out of bed. I knew there was work to do. I felt an urgency, a calling, a sense of purpose. But it isn’t always that way, O God. Sometimes, I get out of bed and don’t feel your call on my life. But no matter… it isn’t all about what I feel, whether I am motivated or unmotivated, the fickle ups and downs of my emotional state. No, it is about your purpose, your desire that your creation would be put right. So whether I feel it or not, I pray that you might put me work. So today, I pray that your mission might be fully accomplished, that your kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven. When you walked among us, you demonstrated the signs of that Kingdom. The blind could see. The sick were healed. The lame could walk. The oppressed were set free. The poor were lifted up. The hungry were fed. The marginalized were included. The lonely were visited. The sad were comforted. The unloved were loved. The stuck were mobilized. The ignorant were enlightened. The estranged were reconciled. The sinners were forgiven. God, I pray that you would bring your kingdom into its fullest realization. And let me join you in that work. Let me put my shoulder to the plow, my mind to the problem, my feet to the pavement, my heart to the challenges, my resources to the work. Lead me to do the work, because that is the work that you are doing, and in doing it, I get to be with you. Show me how to give my life away for your purposes, that I might discover that only in doing so do I find the life that truly is life. In the name of Christ, who gave his life away for me, I pray. Amen. SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE When Hurricane Harvey hit, Broadmoor UMC in Baton Rouge showed up and taught us how to respond to a flood disaster. So many other churches and people also went above and beyond to help. We are anxious to pay it forward now, as Hurricane Florence bears down on the East Coast. St. Luke’s is partnering with Myers Park UMC in Charlotte, NC. They are using the disaster guide manual developed by St. Luke’s and an Amazon wish list has been set up so that we can support their recovery efforts to hardest hit areas. And don’t forget to pray for the people of the Carolinas. More information: MyersParkUMC.org/mission/disasterrelief. Scripture+Shared is here! I have been studying the letters of James and 1 and 2 Peter this summer, and am anxious to teach it to you in our eight session study this fall. Groups will begin meeting the week of September 23, and I will begin a sermon series on September 30 covering the letter of James. There are daily Bible readings, commentary and explanation, and reflection and discussion questions on the Scripture+Shared app or St. Luke’s website. The video curriculum (also on the app or website) includes conversational lessons in which I visit with other St. Luke’s pastors and staff about the letters. Find a group and learn how to download the app at stlukesmethodist.org/bible. The Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church Core Leadership Team invites you to attend Heart & Mind Listening Sessions. These listening sessions, approved by the body of the 2018 Annual Conference, are presented to help you to discern the issues before our February 2019 General Conference dealing with matters of human sexuality. These sessions invite you to engage in “Holy Conferencing” with guided discussions about the various plans before the General Conference. The session for our area will be held on Sunday, September 23, from 4:00-6:00 pm at First UMC-Westchase, 3663 Westcenter Dr, Houston, 77042. PRAYER CALENDAR Sunday, September 16 God, thank you for the gift of your written word to guide us. Cultivate in us a habit of reading Scripture daily so that we may grow closer to you and follow the ways you have shown us. Move us forward on our journey of faith. Amen. Monday, September 17 Loving Father, we face many challenges in this world, and we ask that you would guide us through the storms of life. Give us strength when we are weak, give us rest when we are weary, give us perseverance when we are tempted to quit, and give us hope when we can’t see a way forward. Amen. Tuesday, September 18 Lord, in the busyness of this world, we oftentimes miss opportunities to see you and to serve you. Help us to slow down and focus on you so that we are fully present in the moment, ready to join you in serving others. Amen. Wednesday, September 19 God, we ask that you would help us to step out in faith and find new ways to serve you. Open our minds and clear our schedules so that we may use our gifts and talents to make the world a better place. In Jesus’ name, Amen. Thursday, September 20 Heavenly Father, my hope is in you. I thank you that you are almighty and that you love me unconditionally. I take comfort in knowing that there is nothing that you cannot handle for me. Amen. Friday, September 21 Heavenly Father, give me an opportunity today to share the Good News of Jesus with someone who needs to know him. Give me the courage to bear witness of your love. Let my words be pleasing to you. Amen. Saturday, September 22 Heavenly Father, today I lift up to you my most fervent prayer. You know my heart and how this burdens me. I pray, God, for your Divine intervention in this situation, and I trust that you will provide for me in amazing ways. Amen.
September 9, 2018 • Jennifer Gould
I have such vivid memories from my childhood of the end of summer and preparing to go back to school. New school clothes, new shoes (just one pair—imagine that!), new school supplies, new classroom, new teacher, sometimes even a new school. I remember being so excited for that first day of school that I would lay out my new outfit to wear the night before. Beginnings are exciting. While my daughters were school-aged, I continued to experience the excitement of starting a new school year and all the activity that went along with it. I was excited for them and, if I’m honest, excited for me and the fact that ironically, there is a strange freedom in returning to routine. I always thought that once my nest was empty that the back-to-school phenomenon would lose some of its appeal. I believed that the end of summer would feel like any other time of the year. But it really doesn’t, does it? Even those of us who did not have to run around in the last few weeks buying new school clothes, new school shoes or new school supplies still feel the shift. It feels like a new beginning for us too. Perhaps it is a subtler shift for those of us without school-aged children, but it is still there—a yearning to begin something new somewhere in our lives. What if this fall we all make a commitment to dig a little deeper in our faith? How can you commit to praying more or in a new way? Or maybe your new beginning is to study the Bible with a new small group? How can you make new friends so you can tell the story of what God is doing in your life? How might you might serve in a new way so that you can give yourself away generously? If you are looking for ways to start something new this fall, I hope you will join us next Sunday, September 16, for the Get Connected Fair in the Hines Baker Room. All morning long and then again before the Fall Gathering in the evening, we will have information on the many, many ways you can begin something new at St. Luke’s this fall. Let’s not let the kids have all the fun of new beginnings!
September 7, 2018 • Dr. Tom Pace
Our inside-out habits: We pray. We study the Bible. We make friends. We tell our stories. We give ourselves away in generosity and service. Friends, It's Fall Kickoff Sunday at St. Luke's! (Cheers from the crowd.) I hope you plan to be here. I am beginning a new sermon series aimed at building your life and your family on a solid foundation - "Starting with Middle C." Over the next three weeks, we will be going to the basics. Convictions - in what do you believe with all your heart? Commitment - for what are you willing to sacrifice? Community - with whom do you want to spend your life? In addition, our children will be moving up to their new class grades. Our contemporary service will be moving into our newly remodeled Fellowship Hall (yay!). But wait, there's more! We will all gather for an all church lunch from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. There are activities for the kids (and it's free!), just come on down after worship/Sunday school. A PERSONAL PRAYER God, Sometimes I feel like I am being tossed and turned by the winds of the world. The television and internet bombard me with all sorts of options about what is good and right and acceptable. Friends and acquaintances are vehement in their beliefs about right and wrong, good and bad. And with the people I meet, everything is nuanced. Very seldom is there a simple answer to their struggles, their questions, their decisions. But God, I thank you that I am convinced beyond a doubt that you love me unconditionally, and that Jesus demonstrated that love for me on the cross, and that God guaranteed our future in the resurrection. So God, in all times, good and bad, I will anchor my life in these convictions. I heard again today, God, the great gospel anthem: I realize that sometimes in this life You're gonna be tossed by the waves And the currents that seem so fierce But in the word of God I've got an anchor; And it keeps me steadfast and unmovable Despite the tide But if the storms don't cease But in case the wind keeps on blowing, (in my life) My soul has been anchored in the Lord My soul has been anchored in the Lord In the name of Christ, who holds me fast in his love, I pray. Amen. (Listen to Douglas Miller sing "Anchored in the Lord" here) SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE Last week, we heard a wonderful message from Dr. Maria Dixon Hall on building bridges across race and culture. If you weren't present, you can watch the sermon here. If it speaks to your heart, send it to a friend. Men's Life begins this coming Wednesday, September 12 at 6:30 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall. Our topic this semester is The Passionate Jesus, and we will be discussing the personality of Jesus and how it differs from the Jesus we may have learned about in Sunday School. All men are welcome. You can sign up here. The Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church Core Leadership Team invites you to attend Heart & Mind Listening Sessions. These listening sessions, approved by the body of the 2018 Annual Conference, are presented to help you to discern the issues before our February 2019 General Conference dealing with matters of human sexuality. These sessions invite you to engage in "Holy Conferencing" with guided discussions about the various plans before the General Conference. The session for our area will be held on Sunday, September 23, from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at First UMC-Westchase, 3663 Westcenter Dr, Houston, 77042. PRAYER CALENDAR Sunday, September 9 God of forgiveness and power, Thank you for fresh starts and new beginnings. Work within me and this congregation that we might forget what lies behind and press forward toward the high calling you have for us. Make us a better reflection of your truth and grace. Amen. -Prayer by Dr. Tom Pace Monday, September 10 God of all things good, open our eyes so that we might see the beauty that surrounds us. Open our minds so that we might seek to find higher, better thoughts. Open our hearts so that we might feel your great love. Let us see your kingdom here on earth. Amen. Tuesday, September 11 - Patriot Day Heavenly Father, we pray that you would be with all of those who serve as first responders and those who serve in the military. Protect them as they protect and care for us. Bless them and their families always. Amen. Wednesday, September 12 Almighty God, you have blessed us each with unique gifts and talents to be used for your Kingdom. Unite us in your church to use these gifts and talents to show the world your love. Amen. Thursday, September 13 Heavenly Father, we ask for the gift of your presence. We pray that your presence would be with us so that everyone we meet will see your love in us, will know that you are with us, and will want to come to know you also. Amen. Friday, September 14 Omnipresent God, you see our actions, you know our thoughts, you hear our words, and you love us anyway. Create in us a desire to please you in all that we do, think, and say so that we may bear the fruit of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Amen. Saturday, September 15 Merciful God, help us to keep our eyes on you and not look back on sins of the past. Teach us to trust you and to fully accept your gift of forgiveness. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
A Bridge Across Faiths
August 26, 2018 • Shelby Olive
Tina Melo left Houston in late August to watch the solar eclipse in Tennessee. That’s also where she watched Hurricane Harvey tear through Houston. Filled with survivor’s guilt, she returned to a damage-free home. She and her daughter signed up for a shift volunteering at St. Luke’s to support the Red Cross. Days later, the Red Cross moved on to the next location, and Tina went back to work, but there was so much more to be done. What else could she do? Her childhood friend, Debra, called from Seattle where she sits on the board for the Jewish Federation. She was coming to Houston to support the Jewish Family Center with hurricane recovery and needed a place to stay. Tina opened her home and lent Debra a car. During her stay, Debra worked as a case manager for flood victims and volunteered with Nechama, a Jewish disaster relief organization that later partnered in Harvey recovery with St. Luke’s. The Jewish Family Center asked her stay longer and offered to pay for her hotel and car rental, but Tina continued to host Debra for a total of two months. Doing so allowed the Jewish Family Center to reallocate those funds to disaster relief. Partnering in God’s work does not require sameness. The reality is, we live in one of the most diverse cities in the nation. A unified body doesn’t mean we ignore diversity; it means we embrace it. By working with people across faiths, we can learn how to better support each other. It’s how we recover. Tina says, “Sometimes the opportunity to do ‘God’s work’ arrives in a totally unexpected way. In my case, a dear friend who had the chance to come to Houston to help and I happened to have an extra bedroom! And we just need to say yes and embrace and rejoice!”