Greetings to Lakewood First Church Family, in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Hope your Summer has been chock-full of rest and recreation.

How quickly time flies! It is almost two months since Essie and I arrived to serve at Lakewood First. We are already feeling right at home and enjoying the active ministries you have so successfully nurtured here. Thank you for your kindness and warm hospitality. We are thankful for the opportunity to serve such a vibrant and caring congregation.

Vacation Bible School is always a Summer delight and it was in every way this year.
Thanks to Paul Kaho and his team of energetic volunteers for presenting: “Cave Quest—Following Jesus, the Light of the World!” It was a joy to participate with the children as they enjoyed the songs, games, arts and crafts, fellowship, and refreshments. What a wonderful way to learn about Jesus, the Light of the World and to emulate his love for God and neighbor.

We thank Jackie Beery and the entire music team for beautiful and inspiring music, each Sunday of the Summer, and we look forward to the choir resuming in the Fall.

Bible Study has continued throughout the Summer and I have enjoyed leading: 9:00AM Sunday School with the study of the Book of Isaiah; and Wednesday Bible Study on the Book of John. I also participate in Thursday Upper Room Bible Study held at 10:00AM and led by Nadine Tucker. Please include these Studies on your calendar and consider visiting and sharing in this important aspect of church life. In addition to bringing friends and family to Worship, Bible Study presents a wonderful opportunity to share the Good News with others in a safe and friendly environment.

Among the many exciting programs planned for the Fall, I wish to provide you with the following updates:

On Wednesday, August 17, we began a new Disciple Bible Study: “Fast-Track Disciple Bible Study.” This is a comprehensive 25-week study of the Old and New Testaments. You are invited to contact the Church office for more information, if you have an interest in participating.

Nadine has also spear-headed pastoral visits to shut-in members. We have included offering Holy Communion. I look forward to more visitations, including visits to active members of our congregation, upon request.

New Members class began on August 14 and participants will be taken into church membership during Worship on Sunday, September 4.

Paul Kaho and I will co-lead an eight-week “Credo” Confirmation class, beginning September 4. We plan to hold a Service of Confirmation in November 2016. Please hold participating confirmands and their families in your prayers.

Resuming school and work after the Summer break usually comes with plans to work harder and smarter. We can apply the same principle to our spiritual life. A practical way to do this is to model the disciples’ yearnings in Luke 11:1, when they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.

Our Lord taught them the prayer which can easily be a part of our daily lives because, among other things, it teaches us the humble attitude of prayer, and seeks God’s will and God’s glory. Our Lord not only teaches us how to pray, but intercedes for us before God. That’s why we often use the phrase: “through Jesus Christ our Lord” when we pray. Jesus takes our prayers and makes them his own.

Remember that in this model prayer, calling God "Father" is our way of connecting with God in a filial way —in the way we know best. God sees us as a loving parent sees a daughter or a son, and we can approach God in the confident way a child would approach a loving parent.

There is no fixed way to pray. God honors each heaven-sent thoughts in whatever way we present them. Remember that the most sincere prayers are short and to the point: “Have Mercy!” “Help me!” “Protect me!” “Thank you!” “Forgive me!” These prayers come straight from the heart.

In addition, you may find the Psalms helpful as they provide us with poignant verses that touch on various phases of our daily lives: our triumphs and tribulations; our strengths and our doubts. For example, in our thirst to get closer to our Creator, we may want to read and reflect on Psalm 42:1: “As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”

With the Lectio Divina method of prayer (reading a passage of scripture repeatedly and meditating on the words and phrases), you can easily make a Scripture passage your own. You may find The Upper Room (with reflection questions for individuals or small groups appended) or a similar daily devotional guide, helpful.

Our desire to know God better is our one continuous prayer. Pray for your church; pray for yourself, your family, and each other; pray for our great Nation; pray for our Service men and women, pray for peace in our communities and the world. Pray anywhere, anytime. Even when words escape us, we can pray in silence or hum an old Hymn that may come to mind. God hears our prayer, through our tears and laughter; even through the distractions of the day.

As prayer is essential to our life of faith, let us pray without ceasing, as Saint Paul advocates. Our loving God never tires of hearing us pray.

May we strive to cherish the wonderful gift of prayer, and nurture our spiritual life by maximizing our prayer life to the fullest.

In Christ’s Service,