Spring has sprung! I love watching God’s creation spring to life. I really enjoy the warmer weather, the season change and watching as the trees bloom, flowers blossom and the green grass grows. My husband, Dan, has been faithfully watering our new grass seed and we were so glad to finally see it begin to grow. My youngest son, Zach, planted a new maple tree in his front yard last year and was excited to see the leaves begin to appear.
The spring reminds me of the importance of paying attention to and remaining diligent in regard to our own spiritual growth. God’s Word is called seed in the parable of the sower and in 1 Corinthians 3: 6-7, we are encouraged to learn “6 I (Paul) planted the seed (God’s Word), Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
It is my hope and prayer that we as the body of Christ at FPC continue ourselves to spiritually grow in the knowledge and wisdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As the seed (God’s Word) grows in our hearts and our lives are shaped by it, may we all look around us in our circle of family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to see opportunities to be used by God to plant and/or water the seed of God’s Word in others. It is God who makes the seed – the truth – grow in us and others!
In December, we are celebrating two very special occasions. The first of course is Jesus’s Birth. During the four weeks of Advent, we will center on four aspects of God’s Salvation Story. First, His plan revealed to rescue sinners. Second, the signs and preparations of God’s plan. There are over 300 promises God speaks to us about Jesus. The third week we will uncover the hope of our salvation. God made a promise to Adam and Eve and to all humanity and He disclosed it in Jesus. Lastly, we will discover our response in the songs of Christmas, particularly that of the angels. Christmas Eve we will have a service of “Lessons and Carols” with beautiful music and great masterpieces of art revealing THE STORY. The message will be proclaimed in Word and Sacrament.
The second special event is that Zeke Needham will publicly declare his love for Jesus and be baptized. With the Needham family we will celebrate this momentous event. Zeke has been nurtured by FPC through small groups, Kid’s Club, and through his interaction with the FPC family. Everyone wanted to hold him after his birth. He is not just beloved by God and the Needham family but by the congregation.
Two important events…a birth and a baptism. Without the birth of Jesus, there would be no baptism of Zeke Needham.
Please join us as we celebrate these two events in the life of FPC.
Everybody rushes the holidays. In July they are already celebrating Christmas. I do not like rushing the holidays, especially Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays. Except for all the work on the meal, it is a relatively quiet, relaxing and reflective holiday. I was reading through an article, and I found this prayer for Thanksgiving, It was written by Mary Fairchild.
Heavenly Father on Thanksgiving Day, we bow our hearts to You and pray. We give you thanks for all that You have done, especially for your gift of Jesus, Your Son. For beauty in nature, Your glory we see, for joy and health, friends and family. For daily provision. Your mercy and care. These are the blessings you graciously share. So today we offer this response of praise with a response to follow You all our days. Amen
With this newsletter is a praise booklet. It has a weekly Scripture to read, reflect and apply so that His word becomes part of our lives. Then each day in the morning and evening there is a space to reflect on God’s work in your life and to give thanks. By the end of the month, you will be able to create a wonderful thanksgiving prayer as you gather for a meal with friends and family. If you would like a copy of the booklet please contact Ilona. If you have no one to gather with please let me know or your deacon know. You need not spend this day alone.
I want to give a big shout-out and THANK YOU to the Kid’s Club volunteers and to Shelley and her coordination of this ministry. It has been a very meaningful time for me to spend time getting to know some of the children in our area. For grandparents and aunts and uncles, one of the children told me that he loves when his grandmother comes for dinner. He enjoys the meal and then when they get ready for bed she always tells them a Bible story. This young 3rd grader brought me to tears. Remember age doesn’t matter when we make ourselves available to God. Be ready to be available to young and old around us. God desires to use us.
I’m home! I was able to take a vacation to visit my family back East. It was a delayed trip due to Covid. We celebrated my younger sister Joan getting her PhD and Betty and Dave’s 51st wedding anniversary. We even celebrated Bev’s birthday. My nephew Tim and his family visited, and we went Apple picking. I can’t believe how my great nephew Nathan and his sister Leah have grown up. We were able to celebrate Erin, Tim’s wife, getting a much-coveted job as a Math Interventionist teacher. She was so excited. We had been praying about this, lots of joy and celebrating with family and new made friends.
You probably will not believe this but other than our Francine Rivers Devotional (that I hope you are enjoying) and the Bible, I only read ONE book. It was a compilation of news articles from the Lovell News (1933-1938). The newspaper editor and writers were ages 10, 11, and 12. Each edition had a weather, society, and sports section. It gave you a good picture of Lovell, Maine during those years. There were times when the writers would bemoan the fact that they couldn’t play sports or go ice fishing or swimming because the paper had to be put out that evening. It gained notoriety. The subscribers were from around the country. Rudy Vallee, who had a place in Lovell, sent the paper to the New York Times who did a piece on the Lovell News Boys.
The boys reminded me of the importance of reaching our youth. Life seemed simple back then. But those boys shared heartaches and joys. They knew pain and sorrow. To begin life with Christ at a young age can take the edge off the bumps in the road. Children find in Jesus a security, a hope, a bright future, and can experience love, joy and peace that the world cannot give them. That is why the Kids Club is essential for life in our Freeman Community.
Please join me in praying for this new ministry and for the workers and children who will be attending. Pray God softens the children’s hearts for Him. Pray for revival for our children. Thank you for joining me.
Did you take advantage of the July Sabbatical time? Do you feel more refreshed and ready to look for what God is inviting you to do with Him? I do. I have spent time with friends over a meal that I have not seen in a long time. I really enjoyed our taco bar and game Sunday as well. It was refreshing to eat, play board games, and talk with so many of you. I also liked setting apart the time I would be in group studies to be alone with God in prayer. I want to invite you to continue with me in prayer at noon each day asking God to soften our neighbor’s hearts for God and that God will knit the Christian Community together to work in one accord.
My friend Linda wrote a letter to her granddaughter who will be married this month. In her letter, she used the analogy of a brand-new car to marriage. She noted to keep a new car running you follow the manual and do all the required checkups and when you have a problem go to a professional who can help you resolve the issue; so it is with marriage when a couple comes together as husband and wife. She reminded them that as they begin life together, they need to follow the manual for a good healthy marriage which can be found in the Bible. She said to keep a car running in good conditions you need to take preventative measures to keep the car running smoothly. Take time to make sure you are doing those checks and doing all that is needed to keep the car going, if you have problems get help and always refer to the manual.
The analogy follows for us as Christians. When we come into a relationship with Jesus, we need to do checks. How are we in our walk with Jesus? Are we drifting away from Him or sticking close to Him like a child clinging to our parents? Are we living in fear or standing in awe of God? Do we have a confident faith or are we standing on shaky ground? Am I attending Sunday worship and a Small Group? Am I taking time to be with the Lord devotionally and in study? How am I doing? Do I feel distant from fellow Christians or am I being drawn closer to my Christian friends? What is my diagnosis? Remember as we evaluate our relationship with God remember to check THE MANUAL, THE BIBLE. It is Scripture that can help fine tune your walk with God.
We will continue our study in the Gospel of Mark during the months of August and September. If you do not have a book of the Bible, you are studying you might read through Mark’s gospel. It is good. It is a gospel of preparation for the church facing persecution. It is full of wonderful encounters with Jesus.
Before I end this letter, I want to remind you Small Groups resume in August. The Friday study on Mark will begin on August 13th at 10:00 am. Come join us as we study, pray, eat yummy treats, and share with one another our joys and concerns in life.
Love you all, Ilona
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood a holy nation.” 1 Peter 2:9
March continues to be a time of updating the inside and the outside of the sanctuary. Inside the sanctuary, the ceiling has been lowered and replaced, the wood floors have been refinished. There is fresh coat of paint on the walls and entrance from God’s House to the sanctuary is now handicap accessible with a new side aisle ramp. New doors will be installed soon. The outside of the building will be sided, and the steeple is being restored. Hopefully, the external work will be good for at least 10 years! I am sure many people will now want to join the Buildings and Grounds Team! Thanks to all the hard work of the B&G and many discussions over colors! Miracles still do happen.
I am glad this work is being done. It was time. There was a lot of intensive labor and cost to this project. But having two beautiful buildings means nothing if we are not inviting people to church, and, and more importantly sharing the story of Jesus with our family and neighbors. These buildings are places that are to be used to draw people closer to God through worship, fellowship, and fun. They are to be safe places.
On Sunday, March 14, I am asking people to stay after worship and to pray and make plans for ministry to begin this Summer in God’s House. We need everyone involved. For those who are homebound, I ask that you spend time in prayer for those who will be meeting and implementing these new ministries. The time is now and prayer intercessors, visionaries, and helping hands are needed, so come jump on board.
They say hindsight is always 2020. They must have known 2020 would be the “Year of Covid” and we would learn so much as we reflect on this year. Here are some cute reflections that I have seen:
If you see me talking to myself this week, mind your own business, I am having a parent-teacher conference.
The lockdown can either make you a hunk or a chunk.
A role of toilet paper is worth more than a barrel of oil.
True. But we learned more, haven’t we? Here are six things I have learned or been reminded of in 2020:
God is Sovereign and in control. He has a plan and is going to return sooner than later.
The treasure God gives to us in our families (biological and church) and friends.
Power of prayer and praying in Jesus’ Name and recognizing the Power and Authority it carries.
Plans are good to make but be flexible, not rigid, or you might miss God’s Spirit moving in your life.
Slow down and take time to appreciate everyone and everything that God has given you.
Be prepared to give witness to your faith in Christ. Life is precious but also fragile. This life is just a fleeting moment when compared with eternity.
With these observations, what difference will they make in my today and tomorrow? Reality is that the way I live my life has changed and is changing and I believe all for the better. I hope that as you take some time to reflect on 2020 you will gain insight for the joy of living for today and into the future.
I also found some Scriptures that brought me comfort.
Psalm 30:5 “For His anger lasts only a moment but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Neh. 8:10 “This day is holy to the Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Matthew 28:18 “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All Authority in heaven and earth has been given to me’”
Titus 2:15 “Then these are the things that you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.”
Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
I do not know what Scriptures the Lord brought to your mind this past year. I have so many. From Ps. 23 and John 15 to Revelation 21. Think on what God has said and welcome 2021.
I began the September Newsletter with these words: “Can you say this with David, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” The NCV translation states it plainly, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.” Do you believe that? Are they more than words? Is that your attitude in life or are you always satisfied? Are you yearning for more?
Those words have haunted me. I have recited, prayed, and meditated on the 23rd Psalm. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ is “My all in all”. How well lived is this text in my life?
When times are good is my first reaction as I wake in the morning to revel in Him? In those tough times do I go to Him first or do I seek counsel of others and then eventually meander my way to Him? Life with the Lord is a journey, an adventure. As I reflect on my life, I find that I seek Him more all the time in good seasons and in seasons of struggle and hardship. I know that I want more of Him in my life. Bob Sorge’s Book has been a tool that has helped me grow in my life with Jesus. He reminds of the basics of life with Jesus and pulls me deeper into that loving and intimate relationship with Him. Sorge writes: God feels more deeply and passionately about me than I do about Him. Even when my passions are burning hot and bright for Him, they do not approach His intensity and love for me (p. 108). WOW! So true, So true. Amen and Amen. When I accept that truth of the 23rd Psalm takes on a richer meaning. I understand the depth of God’s provisions.
God is called the “Provider” in scripture. He is also the one who Prepares us for each moment of our day. He is ever present in our lives. He prepares us for our daily living and for life eternal.
As I have mentioned in worship, I believe God is preparing His Church for some tough times of persecution. He has called the Church to follow Him and then to be leaders in our communities, country, our world. We are called to be faithful witnesses and to led people around us in tough times. In October and November, we will be studying in worship both of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. God is speaking afresh to us as He did to them. Be prepared. Be a people of prayer. Be a people of Hope. Be a persistent people pursuing Jesus. Be faithful worshippers of Jesus!
My love and prayers continue for all of you, Ilona
Prayer RequestsFriends fightingCOVID: Connie and Husband, Abby, Dick Getty, Friends fighting cancer: Lois, Dr. Polly, Amy, AJ, Tom, David (Amanda’s Uncle), General Healing Requests: Linda Sickles (back), Carole (Elaine’s sister), Loretta B (recovering from surgery, healing, freedom from pain), Tucker (custody battle), Casey (brother of David B), Jason Woodfin (Lynette’s son), Todd and Pru (Missionaries), Prayers for our country: President/Administration/Election, Supreme Court Nomination, Senators, House of Reps, Governor Parsons, Students, Teachers, Military, Police, Churches (faithful witness), Salvation of those far from God
Small Groups: Sundays at 10:00 am (all ages) Thursdays at 7:00 pm (See Jill Smith for information) Fridays at 10:00 am or 6:30 pm new study begins on Oct. 16 – Moving Mountains – Praying with Passion, Confidence and Authority. This is an 8-week DVD series on prayer led by John Eldredge. Some of the prayer topics for study are prayers of intervention, consecration, healing, listening, and warfare. We will discuss unanswered prayers. The study will be divided into four segments: DVD study, discussion, prayer, and fellowship!
On Friday, September 25th at noon we will gather at the church for a 24-hour Prayer Vigil in concert with Franklin Graham’s “Prayer March 2020” which will take place in Washington DC on Saturday, September 26th. This vigil will be a bit different than past vigils. There will be times provided for us to gather as a worshiping community at different hours of the day with specific purposes. We will have a communion and healing service, a midnight concert of prayer, early morning prayers of praise, followed by prayers for our country and the march. At noon on Saturday we will close with songs and prayers. During the vigil we would like members to take a time to pray for our country, community, and church. We would like you to join us in the sanctuary but if you cannot you can spend an hour in prayer at home. Here is the corporate worship schedule for the Prayer March Vigil 2020:
Friday September 25th
Noon – Prayers, Communion, and Healing Service
6:00 pm – Worship in songs, Prayer, and Teaching followed by a prayer caravan
Saturday September 26th
Midnight – A Concert of Prayer
6:00 am – Call to Prayer: Praying for our country and for the Prayer March
11:30 am – Closing Prayer and Worship
The sanctuary will be open for prayer from noon on Friday until 12:30 pm on Saturday. If you are interested in participating in the prayer caravan, please let me know so we can plan the routes as we pray through our communities.
I look forward to traveling with you in this prayer vigil.
Love in Christ,
“What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen for his own.” Ps. 33:12
Can you say this with David, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.”? The NCV translation states it plainly, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.” Do you believe that? Are they more than words? Is that your attitude in life? Or are you always satisfied? Or are you yearning for more? Do you desire more in your relationship with Jesus? Can you say, “I have everything I need because I have Jesus. In Christ all my needs are met. The Apostle Paul in writing to the Philippians said, “I have learned to be to be satisfied with the things that I have and everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4: 11-13). This is a powerful confession from Paul. Christ had become his all and all. This is a faith of sufficiency, a life without lack.
Are you yearning for a faith like Paul’s, or David, or Mary, or Martha’s? Is there a Christian man or woman that you see and say I wish my faith could be like? Dallas Willard in his book, Life Without Lack, writes “Seek the Lord and wait for Him to show up. Set aside time to devote yourself to prayer and other spiritual disciplines that will strengthen your faith and prepare you to receive from Him. Listen for God when you pray. Watch for Him and wait on Him throughout the day. If you want to have a deeper, more trusting faith, seek God and be prepared to go with Him. He will bring you into a faith of sufficiency as He reveals Himself uniquely to you.”
Starting September 1st and going through October 22nd, you are invited to be a part of a daily devotional reading from a book called Secrets of the Secret Place. Each family in the church will receive this book. Every day in our Facebook Messenger group (Church News Articles) I will post daily questions and thoughts to follow our readings. I hope that you will contribute to the conversation. If you prefer an email let me know. The sermon series for September and October will complement our readings. Each chapter is short but quite thought provoking. Read it by yourself, as a family, or invite a friend to read it with you even if you need to read it together over the phone. I believe this journey will strengthen and deepen your faith and bring you into a “life without lack.” Eager to begin this journey with you.