A (Realistic) Thanksgiving Prayer

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This is my prayer for you and your family this Thanksgiving: 

I pray good tidings on your week of feasting and fellowship! 

May your turkeys thaw properly, and may your congealed salads set correctly. 

May traffic be light and your GPS apps effective.  

I pray that you are blessed by the presence of family and friends this week. May disagreements be few, and may common ground be vast.  

I pray that the temptations of Black Friday will not cut short the valuable commodity of your time with family and loved ones.  

I ask God to protect you and yours from envy, strife, communicable diseases, cranky in-laws and the antics of sleep-deprived children.  

May last minute runs to the store be unnecessary and may the dishwasher be fully operational. 

I pray that God grants you Sabbath in the midst of chaos, and peace in the presence of rowdy grandchildren.  

I pray that you are mindful of your loved ones and that you tell them of your affection in person, and by text, phone, social media, Skype and Facetime.  

May you pace yourself as you eat so as to avoid bloating, reflux and other gastric unpleasantness.  

May the weather be good so that your gatherings can spill out onto the porch, the meadow, the driveway and yard.  

May God bless you with special skills to beat your brother-in-law in Gin Rummy. May you be able to prove your worth in touch football games, and with your three-point jump shot.  

(With that in mind, may your muscles, back, tendons, wrists, ankles, knees and necks be guarded from injury. And your nose. And hips.)  

May your conversations be deeper and more meaningful than the idle banter that you’ve become accustomed to at previous holiday gatherings.  

I pray that God is able to give you patience, compassion, awareness and wisdom. 

I pray that you will allow yourself a moment to remember those you miss most dearly, and that you will permit yourself to laugh and to cry as you recall holidays of old.  

I pray for a meaningful Thanksgiving, and that you will be quick to say thank you, and reluctant to rush away from your family too quickly.  

May your Thanksgiving be rich and your joy complete, for our God is the giver of all good gifts. 

Amen.  

Little things can make all the difference

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As Rev. Lorenzo Ortiz, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel in Laredo, tries to coordinate assistance to the daily 200 deportees from the U.S. to Nuevo Laredo just across the border, he came upon a need he wasn’t thinking of.

While being held in detention centers, the people have to relinquish their belts and shoelaces. After being bused to the border crossing and then walked to the Mexican processing office, they sit waiting to either be released in the city or be bused to another area of Mexico.

Have you ever tried to walk with shoes and no laces? They usually flop around and make it difficult even to walk.

As we were sharing some bags of snacks with them, they began to ask about shoelaces. Pastor Ortiz decided to go pick some up at one of the local churches he has been partnering with.

When he returned with the shoelaces, everyone flocked to him and requested some. They immediately began lacing their shoes. Now at least one worry was checked off their mental lists.

Please continue to pray for the immigration and border situation. Pray for those like Pastor Ortiz who are trying to show the love of Christ to so many people who are searching for hope.

Butch and Nell Green, CBF field personnel in Houston, Texas

Why I Serve...

November always provides the opportunity of us to take the time to reflect on what we are thankful for. I’m most thankful for our families and staff that are part of the 1st Explorers community. We’re continually learning, sharing, and growing together here. Over the next few weeks, our newsletters will have a brief note from staff members sharing about why they serve in 1st Explorers. I hope you will take the time to read these and pray for our staff as they serve.
- Kelly Brown

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Cenyu Yang is a Group Leader in our After School Ministry. She is from Conover, N.C and is majoring in Health and Physical Education at Western Carolina University. 

I serve in 1st Explorers because I love working with children and adolescents. Therefore, I am serving 1st Explorers as a mentor, teacher, and a friend to help guide these kids so that they can go do great things in the future by giving them the educational and enrichment activities that they need to be successful. 

Christmas Decorating

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On Sunday, November 25th, the Decorating Team is asking for volunteers to help decorate the church for the Christmas season. Decorating will begin after worship on the 25th, and a free lunch will be provided for everyone who comes out to help. If you have any questions, please contact Gwen Messer, 586-9416.

Five Seasons, Not Four

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“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” 
-Ecclesiastes 3:1 

November is a month of Birthday Bonanza! for the Mathises. All told, three of us will celebrate our birthdays within the span of a couple of weeks.  

It’s a sweet, though hectic, few weeks as we scurry for party dates, gifts, and family visits. Oh, and then there’s this gathering at the end of the month that demands travel, cooking and feasting—perhaps you’ve heard about it? Although November unfolds at a frantic pace, it also proves to be a time to reflect and to consider the changing landscape of our lives. The timing of our Birthday Bonanza! is fitting as one season fades into another.  

This year’s transition from summer to fall, and from fall to winter has felt schizophrenic. It’s as though summer overstayed its welcome, and autumn could hardly get in the front door. And once autumn did arrive, it had just hung up its jacket when winter arrived on the scene shoving it out the door.  

The fall foliage has been the victim of our seasonal tug of war.  Many leaves fast-forwarded their explosive yellows and reds and simply turned brown. Other trees dropped their green leaves as though they were surrendering to a summer tripped up on steroids. Yes, there was color in our mountains. But it was spotty and short-lived.  

So, by my count, autumn lasted about three weeks. Hope you like winter!  

But few of us do.  

While winter brings beauty of its own, it is also marked by long stretches of grey, drizzly, oatmeal colored skies. Oh, and then there’s the cold.  

The author of Ecclesiastes knows that the seasons can be a helpful a way to understand and to think about our lives. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” In addition to the multitude of seasons that we face in our lives, we can also see how our lives fall into the broader seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter.  

In which season do you find yourself?  

Those of us in springtime are enthralled with the newness of life—of growth and of promise. It’s important to note that springtime is not all sunshine and daffodils. Spring, like this season in our lives, can be marked by violent change and tumultuous events. In addition to the lovely warmth, springtime is the season of dramatic and ferocious thunderstorms. 

Summer is a time of putting down roots, of settling, and of tending to the fruits of our labors. It can be a delightfully rich season in our lives. But it can also be demanding and hard. The days are longer, the sun is higher and hotter; our work can exhaust us.  

Autumn can be a golden stretch in our lives. The change of wind brings any number of changes; most of which are bountiful and good. We have a renewed energy. The absence of summertime haze means that visibility improves. And the world is transformed by color each autumn—even if for a few weeks.  

But we know that autumn inevitably fades, and that the wind will scurry the leaves from the trees. The ground will alternate between soggy and frosty. Illnesses, aches and pains reveal new fault lines in our frames and in our bones. Yes, snow will deck the trees and branches and we will gasp in astonishment at what God is able to accomplish even when everything seems dormant. But we know that’s fleeting. Winter means loss. Winter means hardship. Winter means death.  

Not all of us will experience each season in succession. Some of our lives will tragically be cut short. But many of us will be blessed to travel through each stretch of the path.  

Each season has its beauty, its trials and its terrors. We cannot change that. Frequently we stand in two seasons, if not three or even four. Like the summers of England, you can sometimes experience all four seasons in one single day. We get to rub elbows with other seasons because the ones we love often occupy different places on the journey. We are parents to those in springtime and summer. We are children to those experiencing autumn and winter. This is what life looks like. And it can be beautiful and terrible at the same time.  

The challenge for us is to be gracious with ourselves and with those who accompany us along the way. The more we fight and tussle and resist the inevitable markers of each season, the more difficult the journey will be; for us and for our loved ones. We know this to be true.  

But the good news is that we do not get four seasons—we get five! We begin our lives in springtime and it blossoms into a summer of adulthood. Autumn emerges as we are blessed to age and winter signals the end of our journeys. Each season can be short. Each season can be long. But winter is not the end. Four seasons are not enough. 

In Christ Jesus, and because we have been baptized into a death like his, we will experience a resurrection like his!  

And that springtime, that moment and season of rebirth, will be like no other. We get five seasons, friends, not four. This is our everlasting hope, and the source of our joy.

Why I Serve...

November always provides the opportunity of us to take the time to reflect on what we are thankful for. I’m most thankful for our families and staff that are part of the 1st Explorers community. We’re continually learning, sharing, and growing together here. Over the next few weeks, our newsletters will have a brief note from staff members sharing about why they serve in 1st Explorers. I hope you will take the time to read these and pray for our staff as they serve.
- Kelly Brown

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Kayle Starnes, K-1 Group Leader from Hickory, N.C. Majoring in History at Western Carolina University 

Why I serve in First Explorers is an easy question: the kids! I enjoy seeing their eyes light up when they know an answer about The Bible and I love watching them grow as children of God and help their friends out no matter their need!