“We are all St. Peter walking on the water.”

July 25, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 1.20.38 PMReflections on of the book, How Do I Find God? by Greg Funderburk

We are reading, How Do I Find God? together as a congregation this summer. I’ve found the words within this volume help me find new doors to glimpsing a passing God. Some of the words give us a more lasting glimpse.

About three quarters through the book on page 145, Reverend John McNamee quotes philosopher, Gabriel Marcel, to say that the believer and unbeliever can communicate with each other only when the believer reveals the strains of unbelief within himself. Marcel points to Peter believing as he walks along the waves, then unbelieving, he sinks below…in a sense, faith and a lack of faith existing together in the same person at the same time.

Mcnamee picks up on this, explaining how the will nudges the intellect where the mind cannot go for want of clarity or evidence. That nudge, McNamee, says, is Grace.

How do we find God, it is asked…Reverend McNamee explains that upon entering this mystery of grace, it’s simply a matter of paying attention.

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit. – Reflections by Greg Funderburk

July 6, 2014

“You will eventually find God whether you want to or not.”

Our congregational book for the summer, How Can I Find God, keeps offering compelling thoughts about God and us. As you go this summer, wherever life takes you, stay close to your church family and to your Heavenly Father by reading along. About half way through the book, author Frederick Buechner offers the quote referenced above, taken, from all places, the stone lintel of the Swiss home of famous turn of the century psychiatrist C.G. Jung, who was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud. Buechner offers us this interesting quote, then writes, If you want to (even if you don’t happen to believe God exists) all you have to do is find some quiet place, be quiet inside yourself, and ask God to let you find Him (or Him you). As far as I know, it is a prayer that is always answered.

How Can I Find God…Reflections by Greg Funderburk

June 20, 2014

One of my favorite things to do on summer vacation used to be hitting an amusement park. I loved the roller coasters that looped and corkscrewed and turned me upside down. The forces and the the velocity-charged changes in perspective was the attraction. However, my age and the accompanying fact that the function of my inner ear balance mechanism is apparently fossilizing keeps me from riding these coasters 5 or 6 times in a row like I used to growing up.

Nevertheless, I do still enjoy being turned upside down by a writer, theologian, dramatist, or artist who dramatically changes my perspective. As together we read through our summer congregational book, How Can I Find God, I wanted to point out the perspective-changing offering of Stanley Hauerwas which appears roughly half way through the book, on page 75 and 76. Hauerwas, is a Christian ethicist, author, and professor at the Divinity School of Duke University where our own Amy Grizzle-Kane studied with him. He turns the book’s central question around writing that “God is not easily found because we cannot ‘find’ that which is so near to us as our next breath…”

He asks if perhaps the better question therefore is, “What do I do now that God has found me?”

He goes on to teach that one can fully discover that God has already found them by seeking out a person who is an adept follower of Christ, writing that such apprenticeships are readily available by simply going and getting involved at a local church. So, even as you are away this summer, stay close to your church home and your co-followers of Christ. And if you are nearby this summer,  come to church, where you will discover how near God already is as you worship each Sunday. As Professor Hauerwas puts it, “…nothing can be more important than simply turning up and placing one’s self amidst people who are praying to and praising the One know as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Stay Close.

How can I find God? Insights by Amy Grizzle Kane, Minister to Adults

June 9, 2014

Sister Helen Prejean answers the question in our summer book, How Can I Find God? and writes how she finds God in the faces of the poor and struggling people of the world.  She has spent a lifetime serving the least of these and her service has evolved into a special passion for persons on death row and in prison and their families.  Guilty or not guilty, it’s not for her to say.  It’s her calling to love no matter what. 

I have read her book, Dead Man Walking, and I have heard her speak here in Houston.  She is truly a phenomenal woman of God’s grace and strength.  I think sometimes our temptation is to almost immediately say, “well, I could never do that, so how will I find God if that’s how she did it?”

As we read through this book this summer, we might all have moments where we say, “Well, I’ve never experienced God that way” and it’s important to remember that’s ok.

Even Sister Prejean says, “I can’t function if I don’t have that sense of being at the center of myself and in the soul of my soul, so that I am truly operating from the inside out.”

She reminds us that each of us is created in the image of God and each of us has a gift and a passion that God gives us.  Perhaps in finding that and staying true to who each of us is as a child of God (operating from the inside out) is part of the journey of “finding” our God, who is, actually, always present.

Do you find you have a sense of wholeness, a centeredness in God, when you operate from the inside out?  What does that mean to you?

Fried Chicken for the Soul

June 5, 2014

By South Main Church Member, Claire Hein Blanton

My mom doesn’t realize this, but she makes the best spaghetti in the world. I’m nearly positive that Italian chefs would disagree, and perhaps they have a point. It doesn’t matter. As far as I’m concerned it’s the best spaghetti and no matter how much I try to recreate it- I can’t. That’s probably the reason I now use HEB sauce, fiber-ful pasta, and ground turkey. It’s a substitute because it’ll never be the original. In the same way, my Mimi made the best fried chicken. I hate the break the hearts of little old Baptist ladies everywhere. Asking what came first, the Baptist or the love of food is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. I’m not sure if my soul is filled with the comfort of food because I’m Baptist or the other way around. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Home is where I’m fed. When I travel, the food just isn’t the same. Jack and my go-to road trip food is beef jerky. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to subsist off of beef jerky, but it’s not the best plan. This may be in part why we don’t road trip much. When I’m away, I can love what’s put in front of me, but I know it’s not home. It’s not where I’m fed.

For the last year (I can’t believe it’s been that long), I’ve been on a diet. Not long enough that it’s just become the norm of how I eat, but long enough that I’ve realized how utterly exhausting it is to have to think that much about feeding yourself. It’s a #firstworldproblem if I’ve ever encountered one. For the last year feeding myself has been a chore before I just don’t know how to not put too much work into the details. Suddenly instead of eating what satiates and taste good, there are concerns over calories and carbs and proteins and sat fat v. trans fat v. good fat v. gluten v. Godzilla. In it’s own way it has been very rewarding. I’m physically healthier, but in overcomplicating how I’m fed, it’s lost the warmness.

This past Sunday, South Main launched its summer “As You Go, Stay Close” theme. We started it in a very meaningful way by taking the Lord’s Supper (if you aren’t Baptist, you may not know that we only do this like 4 times a year). In partaking of the bread and grape juice, I’m reminded that South Main is where I’m spiritually fed. I can go away for a bit and enjoy being in a temporary congregation, but it’s never home. As much as some people feel called to certain forms of ministry or certain countries, I feel called to be part of this family. And when I don’t try to micromanage my spiritual formation, I’m fed.

In watershed last night Greg worked through Peterson’s The Jesus Way’s chapter on the Pharisees. Serendipitously, the section of Bonhoeffer’s Ethics that I’m working through today is about the Pharisees. They miss the point not because they aren’t trying, but because they are trying too hard to qualify their spiritual life. It’s a checklist. It’s a measurement on a door post of how have I grown versus how much you have grown. And I realized today that the constant measurement and worry and comparison is like being on a spiritual diet. In the end you may be trying really hard and reap some benefits, but how much have you starved yourself out of in the process? Where did you miss being fed?

I like having objective tools to measure growth. My goodness how much I loved getting graded in school. Given the right levels of stress and self-doubt and I will starve myself and regiment myself in order to reach some level of achievement. I feed off of it, but I’m never full. Just like the Pharisees were never going to be good enough and follow the rules enough, if we don’t learn to step back and indulge ourselves and give ourselves the grace to fail, we’ll never be fed. It’s a blessing that no matter how much resistance people put up, South Main never stops trying to feed you (figuratively and literally if you’ve ever been to watershed).

I believe that the more we are fed, the more we want to feed those around us, and those checklists and rules and regiments and nutritional facts fade from the forefront. Jesus says that he’s the bread of life, because we rest in the fullness of being fed. It’s returning to our original state and being fed off of knowing that we have returned to home to a feast of fried chicken.

Our greatest gift we can give to ourselves is to allow others to feed us, to fortify us for whatever journey is upon us. I want to drink in so much of home before we leave, not because I don’t think we’ll thrive elsewhere, but I don’t think it will be as satisfying. It’ll be food, but it won’t be the food from home. Even my attempts at home-cooking look like cheap copies.

So I hope that wherever the road is taking you right now, you have some way of being fed, some home for you that can fuel you. And I hope that you’ll make it back home, whatever home is for you and wherever that is.

How Can I Find God?

June 3, 2014

How Can I Find God? is a compelling book edited by Father James Martin, a writer and Jesuit priest. Father Martin asked a number of contemporary thinkers– authors, astronomers, social workers, theologians, farmers, politicians, artists, prisoners, educators, ministers, business people, physicists, etc.– the quintessential question of life: How Can I Find God? This book is a compilation of their interesting answers to this big question. The book is an easy read, full of dynamic thoughts, most from a Christian perspective probably shared by Father Martin, but some not. All the writers give the reader something interesting to consider, including those from other faith traditions. The book is just about 200 pages and great to pick up and read in small doses as you go about your summer plans. We will be posting thoughts and responses to the book on the South Main blog and on Facebook throughout the summer as a way to stay close to one another, even as we go our separate ways for parts of the season. Please feel encouraged to contribute to the conversation which will form around this, our congregation’s summer reading.

Where Can I Find God, you ask?

God is magnetized by truth, and there you will find him, like the linnet dipping in the stream.
– Mark Helprin, author

Change…a first visit to South Main

May 15, 2014

ImageBy South Main Member Erin DuBroc

I’ve always been a lover of change.  There were no tears from me on the last day of high school — I was already half-way to College Station in my heart and mind.  Even at the conclusion of those college days my Dad told me would encompass “the best time of [my] life”, I couldn’t wait to start graduate school and get a move on.  That isn’t to say that I don’t value loyalty or enjoy nostalgia, but rarely have I experienced fear over changing circumstances.  Although, recently I started to wonder if that was wholly good.  Darn that desire to practice more self-awareness in my thirties.  

For me, change is almost always partnered with an intoxicating novelty I tend to bask in.  Novelty, that I’ve just begun to see, can do a number on my already handicapped ability to be objective.  Not that I never suffer from cynicism, but it’s not often my vice when presented with new people, a new order or way of doing things, or even a blank slate from which to create.  I usually approach change with, I admit, a fair amount of naiveté and blissful enthusiasm.  This is slightly different from my husband, of course.  How else would iron sharpen iron, right?

For example, the first Sunday we visited a new church — that I had already researched and read up on, of course — I was quickly overwhelmed with giddiness.  Rightfully so as many of the aspects of church I had deemed non-negotiable moving forward were playing out in this beautiful harmony right in front of me and to a degree I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever find in Houston.  (See, I do suffer from some cynicism.)

Between the condensed size of the congregation, inclusion of women in every aspect of the service and church leadership, emphasis on slower, more contemplative worship, and the mention of a book by one of my favorite authors being the congregational devotional for Lent (oh, and the recognition of the liturgical calendar!),  I was beside myself.  I probably teared up with joy nine times, and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if you tried.  I was not hallucinating, I was affirmed in my convictions (as opposed to feeling like an outsider, troublemaker and quasi-heretic), and that was only the first ten minutes.

The inclusion of children’s church, the thoughtful recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, the singing of the doxology, the heartfelt congregational responses to celebrations like baptism and infant dedications, the beyond-impressive number of unprompted welcomes we received from various members, and the fact that the pastor greeted us on our way out and said “let’s get lunch sometime”, nearly pushed me over my emotional limit.  On a scale of one to ten with my wedding day being a ten, I was probably at an 8.5.  I wish I could bottle that kind of enthusiasm and sell it.  If only, Shark Tank.

But if you were to look over to my husband during those first ten minutes, you’d see a more reserved portrait of a person vacillating between open-mindedness and nervous tics.  We were definitely on the same page regarding our desires for church, but our outward appearances and processing methods were polar opposite.  His right knee couldn’t stop bouncing, his eyes were slightly wide and his body a bit shifty sitting amidst the wooden pews, cathedral ceiling and breathtaking stained glass.  He couldn’t have been more supportive of my curiosity of this newly discovered egalitarian baptist church a mere fifteen minutes from our front door, but the man isn’t as much of a lover of change.  He analyzes first and feels later, is admittedly more pessimistic than me, and plays the role of devil’s advocate very well.  His overall attitude couldn’t be more gracious, but he’s a harder sell overall.  This used to drive me crazy and prompt a lecture about him being a stick-in-the-mud, but I’ve really learned to appreciate this aspect of his personality.

The balance his perspective brings challenges me to temper my assessment of newness with little less emotion and a bit more objectivity.  I’ve come to understand that’s not a proverbial wet blanket at all but rather a strength.   Plus, it leads to a lot less disappointment if something doesn’t end up being as perfect as those first few glances deem.  Thankfully, our marriage has been thriving despite this difference between us, and it’s been a real testament to our commitment to being true and mutually submissive partners.

If I’m perfectly honest, though, I have to make note of the fact that the type of change I love is usually the kind I can anticipate or control.  I don’t know many people who thrive on being blind-sided, so I’m sure this perfectly normal.  However, how I choose to respond to abrupt change is what I’ve also been working to improve.  Constructive coping skills don’t naturally bubble up when my expectations are challenged, and I’m tired of paying the price for poor ones.  Between the inevitable disappointments in relationships, the flat-out crazy throes of newborn-hood (which I can still remember and anticipate, even four years later), and minding the delicate balance between personal preference and compromise with my husband for the greater good of our family, it’s a worthy, if not crucial, endeavor.  Change, tumult, and sheer surprise will be recurrent companions as I journey through life, that’s for sure.


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