If I Were In Charge of the World

September 28, 2009

girl_and_phoneBy a Child at South Main

If I got a phone call, well, my sister would pick it up first and it would be for me, and it would be the person who controls every church and he would tell me I am in charge of the world. And I would say, “I know what I am doing. Everyone has to go to church and they would have moonbounces and a bunch of fun things.” I would do it mostly because I think everyone should know all about God and there will be some fun things for kids like me. But they still would learn about God at the same time and everyone could come. Because I think it would be good for everyone to know all about God and have fun in every church and they could start believing in stuff they didn’t a year or two ago or maybe even their whole life but they would have two major fun things and plus, I am tired of people not believing in God. And that is why I am waiting here in my bed, waiting for the person who is in charge of every church in the U.S.A. to call my home phone number xxx-xxx-xxxx. I am waiting and I know what I will answer him, “I will make everyone have to go to church and for kids to have really fun things!”

This was a school assignment in which the child was asked to pick what they would do if they were in charge of the world and who would call them to grant them their wish. If you ever felt that a moonbounce was simply an inflatable sitting on our front lawn, I hope this gives you pause to reconsider. By the way, the student received an A+!



A Confession from one who is Spiritual, AND Religious

September 24, 2009
By Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

By Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

I have a confession to make: I love being a Christian.

I know what you are thinking, “But Kevin, we live in a Post-Christian society and culture where ‘religion’ is out and ‘spirituality’ is in!” I mean, you DO have a point, reader of the blog, but that doesn’t change the fact that, when we (as the Community of Christ…the Church) are a force with which to be reckoned. We have created countless programs and institutions to care fo the poor, sick, broken-hearted, and lost in our world. The Church has discipled people like Martin Luther King, Lottie Moon, Desmond Tutu, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa, my grandmother, and so many more countless saints. Obviously, when we are at our worst we can get pretty mean, violent, greedy, and evil, but oftentimes our fallenness overcomes the God-imaged-ness with which we were endowed as human beings…and you know what they say about the biggest problem in church…it’s full of humans! But, I digress.

I love my religion, and I am proud to admit it. This doesn’t mean I need to bash, hate, or ignore other people’s religions to feel better about my own. Obviously, there are wonderful, beautiful things to be learned from each other. The Hindus teach us an appreciation and value for all created things that we often forget when we become so “Heaven-bound” that we forget our responsibilities and incarnational presence here on earth to care for God’s good creation. From Muslims we learn discipline and the sacred importance of remembrance and gratitude. My favorite lesson I learned in my world religions class was the reason why the faithful Muslim prays five times a day–to be reminded that all good gifts come from God. Muhammad taught that not pride or love of money, but forgetfulness is the root of all human evil, because when we forget who the Giver of all things is we begin to hoard, abuse, or exploit. But again, I digress.

What I love about the faith that we call “Christianity,” and being called a “Christian” (which literally means “Little Christ”), is that at the very core of our religious, theological, and communal identity is a symbol that embodies so much that I believe to be true and essential to Christian practice: the Trinity. It is in this word…this symbol…this reality, that we hear the confession from John’s first epistle: “God is love.” Love, by it’s very nature, requires a subject. Love needs expression. Love is a verb, so to speak. Eternally, God has existed in a trifolded community of love, intimacy, compassion, and honesty. The Community we share as humans is a shimmer of the divine Light that is the loving friendship of the Holy Trinity. But this love is not just some sugar-sweet, sentimental gobbledy-gook found embroidered on purses and tacky jewelry. At the heart of what we call “Orthodoxy” or the sacred traditions and teaching of our faith, is the confession that the God of the Universe, the One Source and Giver of all Good Gifts, the ineffable, majestic, mysterious God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and all his ladies, is the very same God who “became” in our world as the poor son of a day laborer and a pregnant-out-of-wedlock teenager. Not only is the Transcendant Numinous Deity our God, but that God was please for all of God’s fullness to dwell in the one we call Jesus the Christ, Our Lord.

At the heart of our faith is not a doctrine or dogma, but a friendship…a relationship…a fellowship. Trinity is what we are to emulate here on earth…in our friendships…in our relationships…in our worship, fellowship, and community. We are called God we God’s people and to be God’s people means to love God with every single drop of heart, mind, spirit, soul, and strength you have, and to love your neighbor just as we love ourselves. You see, this is not just a command with nothing to back it up. Just as we are called to love, God within Godself IS in fact the eternal source of that very same love! So, as we together are the Body of Christ, not as disjointed, disinherited members, but as brothers and sisters united through the Holy Spirit, we become shimmers off the light of the world, reflecting God’s love to all those around us. No meaningless systematic theology. No useless dogma. No burdensome moral rule. Only the Crucifed and Risen Christ, sent from the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, calling us to love. May the Holy Trinity grant us all the courage and wisdom to be who we must be to share God’s love with the world.


Finding a new rhythm

September 21, 2009

fall-walkIt is now Week 4 of school for our 3 year old daughter, Lily,  and Week 5 for our 5 year old, Ty. I am grateful that they are happy and loving their schools and teachers. However, I have found that I am missing them when they are at school more than ever before. I am so much busier with work, so I am trying to cherish the hours that I have with the kids and make them special. I am SUCH a schedule person and this whole two school, two drop off/pick up times is really thrown a wrench into my daily pattern, but I think we are finally finding a new rhythm to our lives. Thinking about how the hours, days, weeks feel different for me and our family now, made me look up a poem that I had not mulled over in a while. It struck a chord with me tonight.

This poem is by our former pastor at South Main Baptist Church, Dr. Kenneth Chafin. After he retired from being the pastor at our church, he was still around and making a difference. He was actually instrumental in getting Mark and me to attend Sunday School by inviting us to a class called the New Beginnings Class. Dr. Chafin worked hard to bring young couples together to create a small group community. And that he did.  He is one of the reasons that Mark and I are at South Main and we will be forever grateful for the part he had in changing our lives.

In the last decade of his life, Dr. Chafin published some of his poetry and this is one of his poems called “A Rhythm for My Life

Help me to find a rhythm for my life

in keeping with my strength, my gifts,

my opportunities, my commitments,

and Thy larger purpose.

Let there be a celebration of life,

the building of relationships,

and the nurturing of others.

Let there be unhurried strolls in the woods,

quiet mornings spent on the pond,

poking around country roads,

Afternoon naps in the porch swing,

leisurely meals with friends,

chickadees fed and zinnias grown.

Let there come to me a quietness of soul,

a relaxed body, an alert mind,

a gentle touch, an inner peace,

an integrity of being.

It’s time to do it.

So, I took Dr. Chafin’s advice. Mark’s company picnic/retreat was this past weekend at Crier Creek in Columbus, Texas. I took a walk in the woods. Unhurried. I enjoyed the laughter of my children and watched them play without a schedule. I cherished the feeling of a fall breeze as I strolled hand in hand with my hubby. I reminisced about how fall nights always remind me of our “college days”.  It is important for me to look at the big picture and step back from the appointments and to-do lists and see it all from above. Like God sees it.

Yes, I am finding a new rhythm for my life.

Holey house shoes

September 18, 2009

wornoutslippersBy Amy Grizzle, Minister to Adults

My college friend Katie grew up Episcopalian. She and her husband now attend a Baptist church, joined a Sunday School class, and make sure their children are in Sunday School and worship every Sunday.  They are enjoying a good church with good folks.  She calls me from time to time to ask me “Baptist questions” since I’m the homegrown Baptist she knows best.

Katie called recently to let me know she’s on bed rest late in her pregnancy with their second child and to ask a “Baptist question.”  I was expecting a doctrinal question, but Katie’s question concerned casseroles.  Members of her church surprised Katie with a meal saying they knew bed rest makes it hard on a family.  She was truly touched by their thoughtfulness, but also truly shocked.  “In our church growing up, you came to worship, you were seen, you went home, and you told people you go to church there.  Here, people showed up at my door with a casserole and I thought they were at the wrong house.  You’re a minister now, what’s up with that, Amy?”  I laughed and simply said, “we’re Baptists—food says you care.  And it means they know you.” Katie laughingly responded, “yeah, now they know I have holes in my slippers.”

Sometimes being cared for means being known.  It’s what happens when you’re invested in a community. It has nothing to do with denomination and everything to do with the heart and soul of a community of faith.  Being a Christian means we are both willing to give and willing to receive.  And sometimes that means people see the holes in your slippers…I’m just glad I’m not the only one with holey house shoes.

What a summer for music at South Main!

September 15, 2009
Thomas Coker, Minister of Music

Thomas Coker, Minister of Music

We’ve had a heck of a summer here at South Main!  We started off with Bach to Broadway auditions in April (the day after our youth choirs completed their 2nd performance of Godspell).  OK, I know April is not the summer but it was the “beginning” of what we would be doing.  Next, our Sanctuary Choir prepared for the July 1 pre-service concert for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly in Houston.  The opening missions commissioning service was held in our Sanctuary and a picture of the choir was on the cover of Baptists Today the following month.

At the end of July and first of August, music ministry personnel prayed this Minister of Music through the Texas Choral Directors Association.  Organist, Daryl Robinson was amazing as accompanist and organist for the “Hallelujah! Amen!” service held at First Baptist in San Antonio and well attended by TCDA membership.

The next week Bach to Broadway celebrated the 20th anniversary season with perhaps the finest production of the most challenging musical we’ve ever performed, Stephen Sondheim and James Levine’s incredible Into the Woods.  Kudos to director Sharna Shirl all the actors/singers/tech people for making this such a tremendous success.  The tunes and texts continue to go through our heads.

Then on to singing the National Anthem for the Astros game August 23!  What a hoot!  Many thanks to Carlos Lee for the tremendous free publicity he gave us when he decided to sing in the tenor section with us.  It was pretty fun.  By the way, the choir did a great job singing the National Anthem!  Now if only we could get Carlos to a rehearsal.  Ha!

Looking forward, our Sanctuary Choir anticipates having Dr. Michael Hawn Professor of Church Music & Director, Master of Sacred Music Program of SMU/Perkins School of Theology back with us.  The dates are September 26-27. Dr. Hawn’s interests include Global music and worship, cross-cultural worship, and enlivening congregational song.  These gifts promise to bring a special gift to our worship Sunday morning September 27th.  Anyone is welcome to join us for the retreat.  Please contact me, Thomas Coker, for more information. tcoker@smbc.org


Words can be painful

September 11, 2009

mouthBy Erin Conaway, Associate Pastor

A member of the House of Representatives yelled at the President of the United States during his speech to Congress about health care reform.  Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina yelled, “You lie!” in a moment of frustration about a point the President was making.  As I watched in disbelief and then saw it played over and over again after the speech by various news stations I was mostly sad that the level of conversation and debate in our country has sunk so terribly low.  We’ve just been screaming at each other about health care reform and the interesting thing about screaming or yelling at someone is that while it is happening, you can’t hear anything and don’t really want to—otherwise you wouldn’t be yelling.  I think about our Baptist heritage and how much yelling and screaming we’ve done at each other throughout the years about all kinds of things—some crucial Theological concepts like the way we read the Scripture and the role of women in the church, and some very petty and stupid things like trimming a tree over a playground or who gets to use our bathrooms.

Generally, we make amends and move on to different issues, but there are many times when our fights have led to painful and drawn out divorces—where alliances are formed and broken and the power and influence we had as a larger group splinters into differently effective, smaller factions.  Our words can be so painful and cause such enormous fissures in our world.  I guess that’s why the writer of the book of James says of our tongues, “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison,” (James 3:8).  James goes on to say that the same mouth we use to praise God ought not be used to curse our sisters and brothers.  Joe Wilson isn’t the only one who has said something he regretted—he just did it on TV with a lot of people watching.  All of us have said things to our children or parents or friends, in a moment of frustration that we would like to take back, and I wonder if we thought of our tongues as sacred objects of worship, used to praise God and pray prayers, would we use them more carefully with one another?

Go Green!

September 10, 2009
by Tom Williams, Church Administrator and Minister to Senior Adults

by Tom Williams, Church Administrator and Minister to Senior Adults

I would like to be more Green than I am…

I really think that all of us know a little about being Green but we are not willing to make the extra effort to be Green. It is not an all or nothing commitment. Accept the challenge to adopt one or two Green activities that you can accomplish from now until January, 2010. I am confident that you will incorporate these into your daily and weekly activities at no real cost to you.

Oh, I should remind you that even newspapers (if you still take it) are recycled at the church and the sale of the paper benefits our Missions Fund. Now that is a double challenge. Boxes (flattened) and paper of all kind are acceptable. Those cereal and all other food boxes are paper too.  Get a box, basket or paper bag and do your best to put all of the recyclable paper in it for week. I think that you will feel great when you drop it in the bin at the church. Please, not plastics in the bin!

Go Green a step at a time. It will feel great!

Judas Iscariot

September 7, 2009
By Steve Wells, Pastor

By Steve Wells, Pastor

We have been learning about the original twelve disciples in our Wednesday study this summer. Last week we learned from Judas Iscariot. Perhaps few characters are remembered more for their failure than is Judas Iscariot. And he is a Biblical character, which I take to mean that he has something to teach us.

Judas means “praise to God.” Because of that grand meaning, it was a very popular name, prior to the way Iscariot marred it. Judas betrayed Jesus. Two thousand years later, his betrayal still defines the name; even people who know little of the Gospel know that to be a “Judas” is to be a betrayer. Whatever good he did or might have done has been eclipsed by his last days. Matthew 10: 4 calls him, pointedly, “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

The truth from Judas is, Gene Kranz notwithstanding: Failure is always an option. We have it within us to live with great faith or, as my friend Joseph Kelsay said it, we have it within us “to quit before the miracle.” Judas quit before the miracle. Greatest sadness about his life is not what Judas did, but what he did not do. There was a moment during that terrible passion week in which both Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot were betrayers. Simon Peter three times denied he ever knew Jesus. Judas Iscariot sold his friend and Lord out to the Temple authorities. The difference between the two of them is that Simon Peter waited for Jesus to come to him, to forgive him,to call him back to ministry. Because Simon Peter received the grace to begin again, he preached the sermon that founded church and is remembered as a pillar of our faith. I believe that if Judas had waited, Jesus would have done the same thing for him that he did for Simon Peter. Again, the greatest tragedy in Judas’ life is not what he did, but what he did not do: he did not allow grace to work it’s way into him.

That lesson is a critical for us to learn, for, as John Claypool wrote, it is too late for innocence. If the truth were known, we have all failed. Each of us has skeletons in our closets. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And yet, the great glad good news of the Gospel is nothing less than this: God’s grace is greater than our sin. No matter how much mess we have made of our lives, it is not too much for God to forgive and redeem. God is more interested in our future than our past. God is more interested in what we can be than what we have been.

Judas never let God redeem his past, but Peter did. Judas never asked God for a better future, but Peter did. Judas never took God’s offer for a second chance; and his stubborn refusal consumed his life. Peter, on the other hand, found life, grace, peace, purpose and joy on the backside of failure and betrayal.

What do you need to ask God to forgive? to redeem? to repair? to rebuild? Have you asked God for a second chance? Are you willing to wait on Jesus, or will you quit before the miracle?

New shoes are good for the soul.

September 4, 2009

Shoes for Orphans SoulsYours and theirs.

South Main’s “Shoes for Orphan Souls” effort providing new shoes and socks to orphan children around the world is coming to an end for the year. These children are often filled with a sense of hopelessness as the years have passed and no parents have come to take them home. South Mainers have shown that they care by having sent over 55,000 pairs of new shoes the past few years (over 15,000 pairs last year alone). Every gift can make a difference in a child’s life.

We need your help in packing boxes this Sunday around noon. Please join us in the Welcome Center as we finish the shoe packing and load up the big truck!  There is a place for everyone to serve.  Please join us.

The Most Important Hour of Your Child’s Week?

September 2, 2009

Sunday sBy Dolores Rader, Minister to Children

Studies show that adults who regularly attended church as children are much more likely to be churchgoers than their counterparts who weren’t regular attendees as children.

That seems like a “duh”, but upon a minute of reflection it caused me to pause and think. It is SO easy to get caught up in the here and now urgency of raising children that sometimes as parents we lose sight of the big picture – what kind of adults are we raising our children to be? I am not sure why, but it really struck me when I realized that my children will receive over 2000 hours of math instruction by the time they are eighteen years old, and if I am not really serious about it, they will receive only 300 hours of Sunday School learning in the same timeframe. Wow.

Now, no one loves good math instruction more than I do, but when the girls are grown and on their own, will I be convicted in knowing I was as intentional in cultivating in my children a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a solid understanding of the bible, and a deep and unwavering knowledge that church is family and loves them like family, as I was in making sure they went to great schools, weren’t tardy, and did their homework on time?