Waiting

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Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  
-Hebrews 11:1

I do not like to wait. Period. End of story.  

There’s no caveat, no qualification, no re-framing. I absolutely loathe waiting. I will reluctantly concede, however, that waiting is necessary. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. 

And yet, there is much waiting in life. You’d think I’d come to peace with that, but oh no.  

I remember waiting impatiently for my father to pick me up from daycare when I was small. I would watch from the corner of the playground each afternoon, anxious to see his gray Volkswagen pull in the drive. 

As an older child, I waited for school to begin in August and for school to end in June. I waited for the ice cream truck to arrive in the neighborhood. I waited for my friend to come over to play. I waited for my sister to come back from college. I waited to become a teenager, a college student, an adult.  

I’ve waited for transitions to end, for college acceptance letters to arrive, and for the pain of a break-up to subside. I’ve waited for jobs to end, job offers to be given, and for jobs to begin.  

Over the years I have sought to mitigate my waiting by being as effective or efficient as I could. “Perhaps,” I’ve often mused, “if I arrange my life by doing this or by doing that, I won’t have to wait as long as I might otherwise.” And sometimes, sometimes, this approach has worked. More often than not, though, my tinkering with things only complicates and prolongs the wait.  

As much as I’ve tried, I’ve learned that you cannot completely escape waiting. You cannot avoid waiting, because life is waiting. I know this because I’ve found myself waiting alongside you. Much of my prayers and my pastoral care for you has centered on a season of waiting in your life.  

You have waited for test results.  

You have waited for the doctor to arrive. 

You have waited for surgery, for the new treatment, for the all-clear from the lab tech. 

We wait for that phone call, that email, that text message, that conversation. Wait, wait, wait. 

You have waited for a job change. You have waited for your spouse to get well. You have waited for your adult child to come home, and for the real estate agent to call with good news. You have waited for new election cycles. You have waited for a loved one to say yes to your proposals. You have waited for your pain to ease. 

You have waited for the effects of the stroke to dissipate. You have waited for your sister to admit her addictions and to get help. You have waited for your husband to die. 

The term ‘waiting’ doesn’t capture how excruciating this experience is. The word, ‘vigil,’ however, does. The root of this word points to being ‘awake’ and connotes a period of staying up in prayer…waiting. Anticipating. Yearning.  

Waiting is central to the story of our faith, and to the story of God’s people. The writer of Hebrews tries to capture some of this, but in truth, it offers but a snapshot of a greater epic of people who have waited. 

Abraham waits for the covenant to be fulfilled. Sarah waits for a child to be born. So does Hannah, and so does Elizabeth. Joseph waits for reconciliation and redemption. The Hebrews wait for liberation. The Israelites wait for the Promised Land. They wait for effective leaders and for prophets and for hope.  

King Saul waits for his end to arrive. David, the shepherd boy, waits for the fulfillment of his anointing. In time, he awaits justice. He awaits God’s forgiveness. He awaits the consequences of his actions. 

Israel waits. And waits. And waits. They fearfully wait for His prophecies to come true. They forlornly wait for the Exile to end. They wait for the arrival of God’s promised one. They wait for Elijah to return. 

Jesus waited. He waited for his time to arrive as an adult to step in to His prophetic role and ministry. He waited for the right time to visit his friends, Mary and Martha, when their brother Lazarus died. Jesus waited in Gethsemane. Jesus waited for his death to arrive. Jesus waited in the grave.  

The early church waited for the Holy Spirit. They waited in hiding. They waited in prison. They waited for God’s Kingdom to come.  

To live, therefore, is to wait. To be a person of faith, then, is to wait. What gets us through our waiting, our vigils, our yearnings, is faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  

Faith is the confidence we have while we wait. And faith, I need not remind you, is hard, hard work.  

I am grateful, therefore, that as a people of faith, we do not have to wait alone. Faith is hard enough. Trying to have faith in isolation, however, is a terrible and lonely path. When we are alone in our vigils, the devil plays with our minds and with our imaginations. It is so easy to lose faith when doubt and despair are articulated in the myriad of possibilities that we can imagine. But if we have others to wait with, then, maybe we have a better shot of keeping the faith. 

Jesus sure thought so. Do you remember his vigil? That night when he awaited the guards, the trial, the pain, his own death? He didn’t want to wait alone. He begged his friends to wait with Him, but they could not stay awake to help him get through the interminable waiting.  

No, it doesn’t always turn out the way in which we had hoped and in the ways in which we had prayed. Jesus, and his vigil are evidence of that. But that’s not the end of the story. Jesus’s suffering and death are redeemed in his resurrection. God’s ultimate hope wins the day.  

And I believe that God’s ultimate hope will win the day for you and for me, also. I absolutely believe that what God has started, He will see through to completion. I believe that God will fulfill His promises. True, our short-term, near-term, immediate hopes often fail us. And we should rightly mourn these moments and pray that these seasons are brief. Our ultimate hope in God’s provisions, however, is not in jeopardy. These hopes have simply not been realized.  

Yet.   

So, in the mean-time, while we wait, it’s good to know we don’t have to wait alone.  

Remembering Summer Camp 2018

Summer Explorers Camp 2018 has come and gone. We now have memories of songs, time spent on field trips, memory verses from our daily and weekly chapel and bible study moments, and, most of all, the relationships that we have shared as we learned, shared and grew together this summer! This is a video of the many memories 1st Explorers shared together this summer. I hope you will enjoy this video of our summer camp memories. 
Kelly,
1st Explorers Director

A Letter from Linda Minor

To-First Baptist Family
From-Linda Minor, Deacon Chair
Subject-Remembering Summer
  -Beginning New Church Fall Programs
  -Looking Forward! 

It is hard to believe school and fall are already here.  Hopefully summer, although very wet, provided us all extra time to relax, recharge, and refocus.  Reunions with family and friends are always special as they help us remember our roots and even the “good ol’ days”.  Traveling the Parkway and even to faraway places such as the beach or out west seems to help us regroup and look forward a bit more clearly.   

In June, gathering as a church family at Deep Creek provided hiking, tubing, fellowshipping, and eating.  Several of our folks attended the July 4th Tourist’s baseball game and fireworks. Also in July, Judy Wilkey won the 2018 Best Homemade Ice Cream trophy for her Butterfinger Homemade Ice Cream.  Jeff’s gluten free ice cream won the People’s Choice Award.  However, all ice creams were awesome!  

Additionally, our deacons met with our church’s children just prior to the Ice Cream contest, and they had a time of fellowship and recreation as they got to know one another better.  

Our last summer church family outing is on Sunday, August 29th.  We will meet at East LaPorte for swimming and whiffle ball at 4:00 followed by a delicious Potluck Dinner at 5:00.  Come join the last fling of summer! 

Vacation Bible School was a joint venture again this year with our friends at the First Presbyterian Church and St. John’s Episcopal Church.  Meeting at Bridge Park gave us all opportunities to reach those who may not have come to our individual churches.  Some days there were nearly 100 children participating and learning about Jesus! 

Our youth, grades 7-12, attended Passport Missions Camp in Greensboro while our children, grades 3-6, attended Passport Missions Camp at Montreat.  Thanks to Carol Cloer, Minister of Christian Education, these groups have also been meeting at other times throughout the summer. 

Summer Explorers Camp, June 18-August 17, reached so many children and youth in our community.  At the closing Celebration, August 9th, campers and their families enjoyed dinner.  Afterwards, each group of campers presented energizing and fun filled presentations sharing the love of Jesus they had learned about during camp.  Kelly Brown, 1st Explorers Ministry Director, with several well trained, capable, and caring staff, led these children and youth every day during the summer with exciting, meaningful, and age specific adventures and learning activities both on and off church grounds.  At the Celebration, there was “standing room only” in our Mission Fellowship Center. It was amazing to see so many happy children and adults in one place.  Jeff and Carol assisted with teaching the Bible Lessons each day to each group of campers.   Children, youth, camp staff, and adults heard, saw, and felt the love of Jesus.  What a blessing!  Thank you, Kelly. 

Next week, Wednesday, August 22, our regular Wednesday night programs begin.   

***Please see other posts for description of all programs. 

During Adult Bible Study which begins at 6:00 PM after dinner, Jeff will be leading us as we study and discuss the book entitled Unafraid by Adam Hamilton.   

Our Deacons have also been busy these last few months.  In our church, Deacons are responsible for:  

Assisting the Pastor with caring for our church members.  This is known as the Deacon Family Care Ministry.  Church members have a specific Deacon whom they can call upon in time of need/assistance.  A Deacon Family Care Ministry brochure containing more information about this ministry is available in the church office for those wishing a copy.  Tia will gladly provide one for you.   

Assisting with the overall business of the church.  This includes working with committees and teams including Christian Education, budget, building and grounds, missions, and 1st Explorers, to name a few. 

A note from those who continue working on our History/Archive Room-Anyone having information about FBC Veterans, please contact Gary Frye. 

Recently, Jeff’s messages during worship on Sundays have posed the question, “How will we here at FBC reach others for Christ in the coming years?”  We are challenged to seek new, meaningful, and rich ways of sharing the Good News in our changing and diverse community and world.  1st Explorers programs are examples of such new ways of reaching out in innovative ways.  However, we just cannot and must not stop here.  Others need to hear about Jesus.  How can we help make this happen?  What would it look like?  What would it take?  These are just a few questions that come to my mind.  While I do not have any answers, I am looking forward to what’s next for us.  I am excited!  I want to be in the middle of it.  I want to help make it happen.  Please join me in praying, watching, listening, and searching as God leads us forward…to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with Him. 

Sylva 1st Wednesday Evening Programs Begins August 22

Your family is invited to come and take part in our Sylva 1st Wednesday evening programs.  There is something for everyone!  Our Wednesday night programs will resume on August 22.  Supper will be provided (youth and children eat for FREE!) at 5:30 PM followed at 6:00 PM by Mission Friends for Pre-K and Kindergarten and our SHINE ministry for grades 1-6.  7th – 12th Graders will participate in Youth Group and programs designed for their age level.

 Fun Times together! 

Fun Times together! 

SHINE, for grades 1-6, includes children’s choir, drama class and a liturgical dance class. The “SHINE” ministry is designed to help children learn to actively participate in worship through these disciplines. These groups assist in leading worship on Sunday morning from time to time as a part of their spiritual development. This is a time packed full of fellowship and working together to learn how we praise God through different elements of worship, with the focus on music, drama, creative movement and art. 

Mission Friends is a time for our Pre-K and kindergarteners to learn about how Christians are spreading God’s word around the globe and in our own country.  They will learn to pray for these missionaries and find ways that they can help with some of those ministries.  It is an opportunity for them to learn and take part in supporting mission efforts around the world. 

 Learning with friends

Learning with friends

After supper, Youth in grades 7-12 will participate in Youth Group which includes Bible Study, creative worship, game nights, discipleship, and chances to participate in ministry to others.  All this is designed to build community and provide spiritual growth for those in their teen years.  This time is informal, and questions are encouraged.  The teen years are a time of searching and becoming the adults they will be.  A safe place to ask questions about faith and spiritual growth is essential as they grow in their own walks with Christ.  

 Wrapping presents for a Christmas project

Wrapping presents for a Christmas project

And, of course, there is also an Adult Bible Study which meets in the Mission and Fellowship Center immediately following our prayer time at 6:00 PM. Our Bible Study provides parents and other adults a chance to go deeper into scripture, searching out the truths that shape our faith.  There is truly something for everyone in the family! 

We invite you to make this time a priority for your family as we grow together as a community of faith! 

Mission Education for Children & Youth Begins on August 22 at 4:30 PM!

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Mission education for our school aged children and youth begins at 4:30. R.A.s (Royal Ambassadors) is for boys in grades 1-6 and G.A.s (Girls in Action) is for girls grades 1-6. Like our Mission friends, they will be learning how to pray for and support missionaries at home and abroad.  These groups also engage in activities that allow them to participate in missions through local projects and collecting money and supplies for missionaries in other places.   

At the same 4:30 time slot, the youth participate in their own mission education experince.  Through Acteens or Youth on Mission, youth grades 7-12 learn about our mission endeavors, and how to pray for our missionaries. They will also actively participate in mission projects both local and around our state. 

Women's Community Bible Study

Ladies of all ages are invited to a community bible study! Join us as we study Priscilla Schirer's "The Armor of God." This 7-lesson study equips women to face the unseen war that rages all around us every day - the battle for our minds, our hearts, our relationships, our children, our marriages, even our resilience, our dreams and our destiny. But rest assured - the Enemy always fails when he meets a woman dressed for the occasion. Instead of being caught unaware and unarmed, equip yourself with the armor of God and develop a personalized strategy to experience victory in practical, everyday living.

An opening coffee will be held on Wednesday, September 5th at 9:00am, with a video starting at 9:45am, at First Presbyterian Church. 

Women's Community Bible Study meets each Wednesday morning from 9am - 10:30am at First Presbyterian Church, off of Grindstaff Cove Road in Sylva. WCBS is a non-denominational Bible Study open to all ladies, and childcare is provided. For more information, contact Joyce Pope at (828) 631-9496 or Tiffany Stack at (828) 293-0536.

What Lies Beneath

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You’ve probably heard by now that Europe has been scorched by a terrible heatwave these last weeks. Until the last few years, western and northern Europe had prided themselves on not needing air conditioning to cool their homes. Summers there are typically cool and often drizzly. The records that are being set there this summer, however, are proving that their climate is changing and that they might want to consider a window unit. At the very least. 

In addition to the pictures of brown lawns and sweaty Brits, another phenomenon has made headlines in Europe. The unrelenting heat and accompanying drought has revealed the secrets and scars of yesterday’s past. Visible most clearly from the air, observers are finding that the torrid summer heat is burning off the grass to reveal ancient burial grounds, the ruins of forgotten castles—even moats!--as well as mansions, gardens and even munitions from previous World Wars.  

In one fascinating instance, the letters EIRE can be seen as a ghostly script written into the fields above Ireland’s west coast. The practice of emblazoning the grass with the word EIRE—which is Gaelic for Ireland—was used in World War 1 to warn combatants in the air not to bomb the neutral nation.  

This has served to remind me that stress often reveals what’s going on beneath the surface. As we begrudgingly admit, nothing stays hidden forever. When the heat is on, we more easily see what lies beneath. 

As much as we might like to try, we cannot escape our past. The hurts and the losses, the injuries and the tragedies of yesterday are imprinted on our souls. And just when we think we had forgotten these moments and fault lines of circumstances and eras long forgotten, a merciless heatwave reveals that they are still etched on our hearts.  

Stress, then, can be the great revealer of what lies beneath.  

I came across this quote from an unknown author the other day and it has lingered with me in a way that suggests truth: 

“I sat with my anger long enough, until she told me her real name was grief.” 

The angst and anger that we feel may be masking the grief (or anticipated grief) that we feel over the losses we experience in life.  

Our anger and resentment, irritations and furies may be more than circumstantial annoyances. They may be reflective of a deeper reality that we have tried to forget and repress. But our efforts of suppression will ultimately be unsuccessful because heat and pressure reveal what we’ve tried so hard to ignore. And at its root is loss. At the heart of these scars is our grief for the way things played out in our past.  

Let’s face it. Our scars feel beyond redemption. It’s no wonder that we try and hide them. 

Thankfully, Jesus didn’t think so.  

As he revealed to his disciples, Jesus had scars. But unlike you and me, Jesus had the strength and courage to allow for his past to become part of a story that had become a sign of God’s redemptive power. In his betrayal, and in his apparent failure as God’s preeminent prophet, Jesus was a broken Messiah who was wounded by the people he had come to save. Brokenness, however, is part of the human experience. And like Christ, we are all broken in any number of real and painful ways.  

But our brokenness is not the end and it does not always have to haunt us. Our pain and our sorrows, our failures, defeats and lost-causes should not be repressed or hidden, but should rather be allowed to be mourned so that its power over us can be mitigated. This requires patience, and courage, and resolve. It requires maturity and a spirit of reflection so that we are not blindsided today by yesterday’s pain.  

Again, we cannot hide what lies beneath forever and always. It will surface; and at the most inopportune moments. But the good news is that these places of pain and sorrow will be redeemed just as God redeemed the death of his son. The more quickly we reveal our scarred pasts to God’s light, the more swiftly they will become part of our stories of redemption.  

Scorched earth requires time to heal. Christ’s own redemption took a season of darkness before his scars were able to become object lessons for hope and for God’s eternal healing. But with the waters of our baptism, God can bring new life to the most-scorched of landscapes. And where there was once pain, hope and healing can spring up.  

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Training Witnesses of God's Love

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"We were recently asked to train 100+ Ukrainian Christian school teachers. When asked about the most important problem in their classrooms, the common answers were discipline and authority. The Ukrainian educational system still uses the old Soviet system. It does not value students, practices shaming and expects authority. During the training I explained that authority delivers short-term results, but influence goes farther. We used Jesus' example with the Samaritan woman to show Jesus' focus on building relationships that lead to transformation. At the end of our teaching, unexpectedly, we were thanked with a standing ovation and an outpouring of gifts. We are thankful that through CBF we are able to fulfill our call to teach and train others to be witnesses of God's acceptance, redeeming love and abundant life."

-  Gennady and Mina Podgaisky, CBF field personnel in Kiev, Ukraine