Metairie Baptist Missive for April 15, 2015

Metairie Baptist Missive

April 15, 2015

“So the world will know, the saved will grow, and the church will go.”

               We have had a small glimpse of what Noah must have felt like during those initial days of rain! I am thankful for the rain that refreshes the ground, but I am thankful also that the rain has slowed down (at least for the moment). My heart does grieve over the three who lost their lives in the city due to rain related accidents yesterday, and I know you join me in praying for their families.

Rain or not, we are having Bible Study tonight at 6:10 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. For the next three weeks, we are going to be led on Wednesday night by some of our seminary students. Dale Garvin will be leading the Bible Study tonight with Patrick Weaver and Craig Warren following the next two Wednesday nights. These three are men that God has used in various ways as a part of the ministry of MBC. Join us not only as we support these men, but join us as we come ready to hear from God as they lead us in our study. Bring your Bible tonight!

Three major events/happenings will occur at Metairie Baptist this weekend in addition to our time of worship and Bible study on Sunday morning which is always the major event of the weekend. First, On Saturday, join a group that will be gathering for Helping Hands, which will begin at 8:00 a.m. Be certain to wear your painting and planting clothes as the group will be doing some needed work around the church facilities. All are welcome to come and be a part of this event.

Second, the Youth Jambalaya Fundraiser will occur immediately following the morning service. If you have not purchased your tickets yet, you can still do so today at the church. The meals cost $8 each with the proceeds going to supporting the youth as they prepare for Centrifuge this summer. You can also contact Daniel for more information: Daniel.guagliardo@metairiebc.org or 504-835-2611.

Third, don’t forget that Business Meeting/Church Council is this Sunday at 5:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. Among other matters, we will be discussing the adoption of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a church doctrinal statement. Copies are available in the Orion Foyer or online at sbc.net if you would like to look over the statement before Business Meeting.

FAMILY MINISTRY DAY IS A LITTLE OVER A WEEK AWAY! On April 25, we are inviting and encouraging all members of MBC to join us at 8:30 as we begin a morning of ministry to those in our area. You can participate in this day by helping with the free car wash for our neighbors, ministering to the homeless of our city, visiting our homebound, or compiling compassion kits. There is an opportunity for everyone – all ages! If you have not signed up yet, we encourage you to do so in order that we can prepare adequately. A small breakfast will be available for all those participating and a fellowship lunch afterwards.

As we prepare for Family Ministry Day, we also need your help by donating needed items for the Compassion Kits. If you aren’t familiar with these kits, they are Ziploc bags filled with food items that can be given to those who are hungry in our city as an opportunity to demonstrate love and kindness towards them. We need these items:

Bottled water
Small bags of chips (individual size)
Applesauce (individual size)
Fruit cups (individual size)
Beef jerky
Snack crackers such as peanut butter or cheese crackers
Raisins (individual boxes)
Individually wrapped hard candy
Wet wipes (small packages)

Thank you for your help in donating these. You can leave them in the Orion Foyer or church office. During Family Ministry Day, the kits will be assembled and made available to be given to those in need.

I am thankful for you and rejoice greatly in what God is doing in and through Metairie Baptist. Keep up the good progress as you allow Christ to shape you continually into His image.

On the journey,
Thomas
Thomas Strong III, Ph.D.

Senior Pastor

Metairie Baptist Church

401 Codifer Blvd.

Metairie, LA  70005

504-835-2611

thomas.strong@metairiebc.org

Metairie Baptist Missive for April 8, 2015

Metairie Baptist Missive

April 8, 2015

“So the world will know, the saved will grow, and the church will go.”

Good morning!  What a wonderful time of worship we had at Metairie Baptist Church on Easter Sunday as we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus!  The Lord is risen indeed!  My prayer is that we have all been reminded consistently throughout this week of the great gift of our salvation.  Throughout the week I have been singing songs like “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Up From the Grave,” “In Christ Alone,” and “Victory in Jesus.”  Thank you to all who helped lead in worship on Sunday, especially our Youth (KG2 – Kristin, Song, and Lillian).  The day was meaningful!

Tonight is an important night as we begin the final phase of our planning for Family Ministry Day.  Please join us in the Fellowship Hall at 6:10 p.m. as we talk through the details of the upcoming day.  Dale Garvin and Patrick Weaver will be leading us as we plan, pray, and organize.  This is a great time to get the big picture of the day and then discover where God would have you involved.  I believe that tonight will help us as we move towards Family Ministry Day (April 25) to be better prepared for the day.  Join us tonight!

As a part of Family Ministry Day, a group will be making Compassion Kits.  These are packages of food items that can be given to those on the street who are in need and hungry.  You can help by bringing the items that will be utilized for these packages.  Please bring any of the following during the next two weeks and leave in the Orion Foyer boxes:

Bottled water
Small bags of chips (lunch size)
Applesauce (lunch size)
Fruit cups (lunch size)
Beef jerky
Snack crackers such as peanut butter or cheese crackers
Raisins (individual boxes)
Individually wrapped hard candy
Wet wipes (small packages)

Thank you for your help in collecting these.  During Family Ministry Day, the kits will be assembled and made available to be given to those in need.

At the March Business Meeting, the church decided to consider adopting the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as the doctrinal statement of the church.  Currently, the church does not have an adopted doctrinal statement.  We will begin the process of discussing this matter at the Business Meeting on Sunday, April 19, at 5:00.  You can pick up a copy of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 in the Orion Foyer if you would like to review it.  It is also available online at www.sbc.net.  Take the opportunity to read through this statement and come prepared to discuss this matter at the upcoming Business Meeting/Church Council.  Please be aware that since this is a matter of great importance (and a constitutional amendment) the discussion will take place over the next weeks ahead.

I wanted to share with you some great news from Carol Wilken.  Carol wrote:  “We are very excited to welcome Donna Settoon on board in our music ministry as MBC’s new pianist!  Donna comes to us with a great deal of experience in piano performance, piano instruction, and church accompanying with both piano and organ.  She came to know Christ at the young age of eight years old and desires to serve the Lord fully with her talents. You will enjoy getting to know Donna, and I hope you will give her a great big MBC welcome!”  I join Carol in welcoming Donna to our ministry team and am excited about the days ahead.  Join me in not only welcoming Donna but in praying for her and all involved in the worship ministry at Metairie Baptist.

Vacation Bible School will be happening at Metairie Baptist before we know it!  This Sunday (April 12) a meeting will be held at 4:00 p.m. for all interested in VBS.  Makes plans to join Leah Weaver and Kathryn Burns as they unveil the theme, the plans, and how you can be a part of this exciting time.

Remember these other upcoming happenings at MBC:

*  Deacons Meeting will be held this Sunday, April 12, at 5 p.m.

*  ”Brown Bags and Books” will meet in the Fellowship Hall on Tuesday, April 14 at 11:30 a.m.

*  Helping Hands will meet on Saturday, April 18 beginning at 9 a.m. to give some attention to areas around the church that need painting and cleaning.  All are invited to be a part of this!

*  A Youth Jambalaya Fundraiser for Centrifuge Sunday will be held on April 19 after the morning worship service. The deadline to buy tickets is Wednesday, April 15. Cost is $8.00 per dinner.

The next few weeks are going to be busy at Metairie Baptist.  Pray about what God would have you to be a part of – and make plans now.  I personally want to encourage you to be a part of the Family Ministry Day.  This has always been a special day as we come together as a church to do ministry to those around us.  It is a great time of encouragement and a great time of fellowship.   Remember – Saturday, April 25 is the day!

I look forward to seeing you tonight.  Be certain of my prayers for you.  I am excited about God’s working in our midst – don’t miss what He is trying to do within you and through you!  “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” (Rom 12:1-3)

On the journey,
Thomas

Metairie Baptist Missive for April 1, 2015

Metairie Baptist Missive

April 1, 2015

“So the world will know, the saved will grow, and the church will go.”

Each morning that we teach at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the faculty gathers for a time of prayer and devotion.  Dr. Jeff Griffin, a former member of Metairie Baptist who now lives on the Northshore, is leading the devotion this week.  He began by reminding us, “In history, this was a week that changed everything.”  What an incredible reminder that because of God’s great love for us everything changed the week He sent His Son to the cross for us!  My prayer has been that this would be a week in which we would know God better and understand His love for us more fully with the result that this would be a week that changed everything in our lives as well.

As you know, this is my favorite time of the year to preach.  I love preaching about God’s love for us, His act of grace of our behalf since we are undeserving, and His victory which is secured forever.  Please make plans to join us on Sunday as we celebrate this victory found in Christ.  This is a great week to invite your family and friends to join you for the time of worship on Sunday.  Also, take the opportunity this week to pass out TrueLife cards to invite.  I think one of the ways that we can express our gratitude to God for His gift of salvation is by allowing others to know of that salvation – invite others!  On Sunday morning, we are going to celebrate the risen Lord!

This past Sunday was a great day at Metairie Baptist.  We rejoiced over the baptism of David Normann.  I am rejoicing over his decision and I know you will join me in praying for his continued walk with Christ.  The time of worship was wonderful with a special thanks to the choir and Carol for their leadership.  Also, the observance of the Lord’s Supper gave us a great time to set our hearts on the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Thank you to the Deacons for their servant hearts as they organized and participated in the Lord’s Supper.  The day was a great day!

Thank you as well to all those who helped with the Easter Blitz.  A great group of willing individuals showed up to make certain those around us are invited to join us on Easter Sunday.  We accomplished a lot by putting invitations on the doors of many of our neighbors.  Several groups of invitations are left that need to be put out. If you are able to help, pick up a bag tonight or see Mitch.  We hope to have all the invitations distributed in time for individuals to make a decision about attending the service.  Included in the invitation packet is a TrueLife card which will also give the recipients an opportunity to view the videos and website.  Pray for these seeds that are being sown each day.

Tonight is the last night for our small group studies.  Thanks to all who have led these studies and for all who attended. I hear continually how God has used this time to encourage a deeper walk with Christ.  Plan are being made now for our next set of small group studies which will begin in August!  In the meantime, we have some exciting and special plans for our Wednesday night study time.

Next Wednesday night, April 8, we will meet as a group in the Fellowship Hall at our regular study time – 6:10 p.m.  The purpose of the time together is to prepare for the Family Ministry Day.  Dale Garvin and Patrick Weaver will be leading us so that we will all know of the plan for the day, how we can participate in the day, and how we can utilize the opportunities given to us as an encouragement to others.  Please make plans to join us on this most important night.

A special thank you to Ronnie and Margaret Harrison.  The flower beds in the front of the church look great thanks to their work.  Take time to look at the beautiful flowers and then take time to express your thanks to Ronnie and Margaret.

Let’s use the rest of this week as an opportunity to reflect upon God’s great gift of salvation.  This truly was a week in history that changed everything.  As mentioned on Sunday, I love the synopsis of the happenings of this week as found in the song:  “Living he loved me, dying he saved me, buried he carried my sins far away, rising he justified freely forever, one day he’s coming, o glorious day!”  Jesus who died for our sins, who was buried, and who was raised from the dead will one day be coming back!  In the meantime, be reminded that He is victoriously reigning!  He lives!  He lives!

On the journey,
Thomas

BTW, I realize that today is April Fool’s Day.  Think on this quote by Jim Elliot:  “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.”

thomas.strong@metairiebc.org

Metairie Baptist Missive for March 25, 2015

Metairie Baptist Missive

March 25, 2015

“So the world will know, the saved will grow, and the church will go.”

               Paul stated it best:  “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you!” (Phil. 1:3) From the opening words today, I want you to know how grateful I am that God has given me the opportunity to be your pastor for these last 10 years – and I am looking forward to the years ahead.  Thank you to those who helped with the reception.  Your efforts made the afternoon greatly enjoyable.  Thank you to all who attended.  Your words of encouragement and friendship mean more than words can express.  Thank you for the gifts.  I greatly appreciate the books and the clock!  The clock is on my desk already and I have started through the books.  All of these are reminders of you.  Thank you for all who have been a part of the journey.  I am excited to see all that God has done and continues to do.  As mentioned at the reception, a special thanks goes to Jana, as well as our children, Nathan, Kathryn, and Andrew.  They have stood with me, prayed for me, and been a constant source of encouragement.  They have also been active in the ministry as a result of their personal walks with Christ.  One of the most rewarding and encouraging happenings in life is having a family that loves God!

I have been asked more than once, “So what’s next?”  For me, the answer is simply, “I desire to do what God requests of my life.”  I am looking forward to the journey continuing.  God has done many great things both in and through Metairie Baptist, but I am absolutely convinced that He isn’t finished.  To the future we turn our eyes as we continue on the journey.

We need your help with the ministry.  On Sunday afternoon (March 29) at 3:30, we are going to invite approximately 2,000 people to Metairie Baptist by placing invitations to Easter Sunday on the doors of their homes.  Join us that afternoon in the Fellowship Hall.  You will receive instructions that will include a map of the area you are assigned to invite.  During that time, you will also be paired up with someone in order that you will not be out by yourself (and you can enjoy the fellowship with someone while doing the inviting).  All that will be involved is placing an invitation on the door – very simple. Our goal is that the community around us would be reminded of our ministry and know that they are welcome to join us as we celebrate our hope that is found in Jesus.

During the morning worship service on this Sunday (March 29), our children will be participating as we celebrate Palm Sunday.  Also, during the service we will observe the baptism of David Normann.  The conclusion of the service will be the opportunity to participate in the Lord’s Supper.  This is going to be a great Sunday of worship and celebration!  All of these elements of the service will help prepare us for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday on April 5.

Thank you to all who were able to be a part of the discussions at the Business Meeting/Church Council on Sunday night.  We approved a new wedding policy (which is available in the office if you would like to view it).  In addition, we started the discussion concerning the adoption of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a statement of our beliefs.  Copies of this statement are available on the table in the Orion Foyer.  Please take a copy, read through it, and come ready at the next business meeting to talk further about this matter.  I am more than happy to talk with you if you would like to do so prior to the meeting.

I am looking forward to small groups tonight.  We only have two weeks left of this series.  Personally, the time has been both challenging and enriching.  If you haven’t been able to be a part of the studies, I encourage you to take advantage of the upcoming opportunities.

Our Wednesday nights for the next few months will include:

>March 25 and April 1 – We will continue with our present small groups which will conclude on April 1.

>April 8 – All are invited to join us in the fellowship for a time of discussion, prayer, and preparation for Family Ministry Day.

>April 15 – Dale Garvin will be leading our Bible Study for all the adults in the Fellowship Hall.

>April 22 – Patrick Weaver will be leading our Bible Study for all the adults in the Fellowship Hall.

>April 29 – Craig Warren will be leading our Bible Study for all the adults in the Fellowship Hall.

>May 6, 13, 20, and 17 – Dr. Mike Edens will be leading a study on Islam and an appropriate response to those who hold these beliefs.  All are invited to join us!

All of these will start at 6:10 on Wednesday nights.  Come join us for the fellowship and for the growth opportunity.

My prayer for you today is that you would know God better.  Also, I pray that God would use you to help someone know Him better today as well.  I look forward to seeing you tonight!

On the journey,
Thomas
Thomas Strong III, Ph.D.

Senior Pastor

Metairie Baptist Church

401 Codifer Blvd.

Metairie, LA  70005

504-835-2611

thomas.strong@metairiebc.org

Metairie Baptist Missive for March 18, 2015

Good morning. I trust you have had time with God this morning – just the two of you as you read His word and pray/fellowship with Him. If you haven’t had time yet, I encourage you to find a few moments before the day slips away. Personally, I have discovered a great difference in the day when I begin it with God – just the two of us as I read and experience His presence. Suddenly, I find direction and courage for the day. Embrace the day as you live for Him!

In the upcoming weeks, we have several ministry events/opportunities that will be occurring. Consider the following happenings:

*.   Join us tonight at 6:10 for Bible Study/Small Groups. We continue to work our way through various studies. You can chose which you would like to join – and you will be challenged in your walk with Christ. In addition, you’ll enjoy a great time of fellowship. It still isn’t too late to join.

*. Parent’s Night Out is this Friday night beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the church. Leah Weaver is organizing a great night for the children grades 1-6. Make plans to bring your children; they will enjoy the time with friends.

*. Business Meeting/Church Council will take place this Sunday night at 5:00 p.m. We have two very important matters of business to discuss so come and be a part of the discussion. In addition, we will be discussing our regular matters during this time.

*. The Evergreens’ Meeting will be on Tuesday, March 24 at 10:15 p.m. I plan on being there – join us for a great time of fellowship – all members with maturity are encouraged to attend (senior adults).

*. Worship on Palm Sunday, March 29, will be a great time. During the morning service, we will celebrate and be reminded of God’s work through the observance of baptism and the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Our children will be participating in the morning service as well.

*. Easter Blitz begins at 3:30 on Sunday, March 29. Join us in the Fellowship Hall as we meet, receive assignments, and head into the community to place invitations on the doors of 2,500 of our church neighbors. We are inviting them specifically to our Resurrection Worship Service on Easter Sunday, April 5. Your help is great needed to accomplish this ministry task.

*. Easter Sunday is April 5. Join us as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and what that means specifically to us. Invite your family and friends to join us for this special time of worship.

Immediately after Easter, we will begin to focus on Family Ministry Day. Remember that we have set April 25th as our day to encourage the entire church to be involved in ministry. During the day we will be doing such ministry activities as hosting a free car wash for the neighborhood, visiting the homebound, providing a breakfast for the homeless, and preparing “compassion kits.” Other activities will be occurring, all of which will provide you with the opportunity to be involved in ministry. On Wednesday night, April 8, at 6:10 we will meet as a church family to begin the process of organizing and preparing for the day.

Don’t forget to encourage others to explore the hope that is found in Christ by utilizing the TrueLife.org cards. I encourage you as well to visit the website in order to view some of the videos. I believe you’ll find them helpful and encouraging. Above all, we want to get the message of Christ Jesus out to those who need to hear – so pass out a card!

I look forward to seeing you tonight. May God bless you.

On the journey,
Thomas

Metairie Baptist Missive

Metairie Baptist Missive

March 11, 2015

“So the world will know, the saved will grow, and the church will go.”

I started the missive last week by mentioning how the weather has changed again – well . . . .  Looks like it is going to be another rainy day.  I was reminded this morning how we can and should give thanks to God in the midst of the rain.  Perspective often helps us – at least it isn’t snow!  And no one in New Orleans has the fear of a fire due to a drought. The best perspective, though, is not found in comparing ourselves to those who are seemingly less fortunate.  Our best perspective is seen through understanding that this day, regardless of the weather, is a great gift from God.  So, let’s rejoice in it, seek to use it for His honor, and see what He is going to do through us in this day.  Embrace the day, rain and all!

I continue to hear great stories from those who are continuing to give out the TrueLife cards.  Each card given is an opportunity for someone to be invited to church and to hear of the good news of Jesus. By the way, the website (TrueLife.org) will provide videos of questions that many of your friends/family may be asking.  Questions such as:  What happens when I die?  Is there a God?  Why does God allow abuse?  How did we get the New Testament?  I would encourage you to take a few minutes to look around the site – it will give you a better understanding of what you are inviting people to view.  Plus, you will probably find some videos of interest to yourself that you would enjoy watching.  You can view the site as often as you like.  Don’t forget to give the card – to someone standing beside you in line, to someone who took care of you at a restaurant, to a friend, to someone to whom you are sending a card/note to encourage them, to anyone!  We have plenty of cards available for you; you can pick them up at church anytime!  By the way, if you have a story about utilizing these cards, please let us hear from you.

Tonight the small groups continue!  Join us at 5:00 – 5:45 for supper and stay for the group studies.  These groups begin at 6:10, and various options are offered.  Remember that there are activities for all ages from birth to life with much seniority.  The small groups are followed by choir practice at 7:00 p.m.  Come and join the choir to become a part of this vital ministry of worship leadership.

Our Business Meeting/Church Council for this month has been postponed until March 22.  We have done so because of the parade on Metairie Road this Sunday.  Make plans to be a part of the meeting on the 22nd – we have some important information to discuss regarding new policies and plans for the future.

Remember to put these important dates on your calendar:

>March 29 – Easter Blitz.  We are asking all who are able to join us at 3:30 on Sunday afternoon to place invitations to our Easter Sunday Worship on the doors of 2500 of our neighbors.  You are definitely needed!

>April 5 – Easter Sunday.  This is always a great time of worship – join us and invite your friends/family to join us for this special time of celebrating the fact that Jesus is alive!

>April 8 – Family Ministry Day Preparation.  During our regular study time on Wednesday night (6:10 p.m.), we will be meeting as a church (all are invited and encouraged to attend) to organize for the upcoming Family Ministry Day.  This will give us all a chance to hear of the various ministry opportunities, to provide your input, and to receive a brief training so we will be ready for Family Ministry Day.

>April 25 – Family Ministry Day.  We are encouraging our entire church family to gather at Metairie Baptist Church on Saturday morning for a day of ministry.  You will have the opportunity to participate in various ministries – and something will be available for all ages.  Come ready to be a part of the effort and to enjoy the fellowship.

I am thankful for you and have been praying daily for you.  My continued prayer is the same as Paul prayed for the Philippians:  “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.” (Phil 1:9-10)

I look forward to seeing you tonight and Sunday!

Blessings,
Thomas

  1. Thomas Strong III, Ph.D.

Senior Pastor

Metairie Baptist Church

401 Codifer Blvd.

Metairie, LA  70005

504-835-2611

thomas.strong@metairiebc.org

Metairie Baptist Missive for March 5, 2015

Metairie Baptist Missive

March 5, 2015

“So the world will know, the saved will grow, and the church will go.”

Good morning!  I find it hard to believe how much the weather has changed overnight – again.  This Missive is coming to you a day late but it actually has nothing to do with the weather.  I found myself in meetings most of the day yesterday – but I did want to touch base with you on some important matters.

Remember that time change is this Saturday night.  You’ll want to move your clocks forward an hour; otherwise, you will show up at unexpected times at church on Sunday.  Spring forward!  Go ahead now and make your plans to be at church on Sunday ready to hear from God.

One of the many joys I experience as a pastor and member of Metairie Baptist is the opportunity to be a part of the small group studies on Wednesday night.  We had a great time last night filled with encouragement and challenge.  God is doing a great work in and through these groups.  It still isn’t too late to join us next week.  All of these groups are based upon the truth that we believe God wants to have a relationship with us that is alive and vibrant.  The groups meet at 6:10 p.m. on Wednesday (with a Ladies group that also meets on Sunday at 5:00 p.m.) – several options exist so come try one.  For those of you who have been attending, keep up the good progress!

As a part of your walk with Christ, I encourage you to be reading the Bible on a regular basis.  LifeWay Research recently released a survey that indicated that one in five churchgoers read the Bible daily.  About 60% read the Bible at least once a week.  Make a commitment to “get into the Word” daily as you seek direction and encouragement – and as you take the opportunity to learn more about the great God we serve and the wonderful salvation we have received.  We are glad to give you some hints about how to get started if you need them – just let us know.

As you may know, Sunday was my 10th Anniversary as your pastor at Metairie Baptist.  Thank you for all your kind expressions of friendship, prayer, and encouragement.  I am overwhelmingly blessed that God has given me this opportunity.  I do take it serious, and I am also reminded that it is totally because of His grace.  As mentioned Sunday, I am thankful as well to a tremendous family who has prayed for me and continues to be a significant part of the ministry – Jana, Kathryn, Nathan, and Andrew.  They have stood with me, and I love going to church with my family.  As I preached on Sunday, I look forward to the years ahead because I know the God we serve – that He is faithful.  My prayer is that God would be honored in our ministry at MBC and that He would find us faithful – and to that end I will continue to preach and to lead.

Don’t forget to keep passing out TrueLife cards and invite those you encounter to church.

May God bless you today with a deeper understanding of His love for you.

On the journey (still),
Thomas