God’s Hand Revealed – By Carol Shattuck

October 30, 2009

5 Shattuck I0004230In July 2008, my husband, Dave, and I taught a Sunday School class lesson, titled, Jesus Christ – Master Communicator. The lesson was about the incredible skills Jesus displayed when communicating with “outcasts” of his day, as well as the Pharisees and his disciples. When Jesus talked with the outcasts – people with leprosy, people with mental disorders, the sick and the poor — his goal was to accept them and love them, heal them and to give them “sight.” He did something that was profound to the recipient: he looked at them, listened to them, and touched them. He met them where they were, did not judge them and created an opportunity for them to change their lives.

At a point in the lesson when participants were asked to share with the group an experience of personally reaching out to someone in need or of observing such a situation, Jaclanel McFarland shared with the group what was happening on Sunday morning at Peggy’s Point Park in Houston. She and Keith had been stopping at the park on their way to church and talking with the people that appeared to be sleeping at the park. Over time, what had been coffee and a conversation with a few people had expanded to sharing breakfast with 20-30 people followed by a short worship service including singing, scripture and prayer.

A few weeks later, I stopped Jaclanel and Keith and asked about what they were doing at Peggy’s Point and whether they needed any more volunteers. They invited Dave and me to join them on Sunday morning at the park. We began assisting them the next Sunday, helping with serving breakfast, talking with the people and participating in the worship. The numbers grew and by the spring, we were meeting, serving and worshiping with over 120 people on Sunday mornings.

In February 2009, we began distributing cards and pencils for people to write down a prayer request while they were waiting in line for breakfast. Those who chose to do this turned their cards in when they got to the head of the line. Their prayer requests spoke of their daily challenges with joblessness, drug addiction, problems with relationships, fears for their unborn child and illness. Even in their dire circumstances, some focused on the needs of others – family members, friends, the poor, our country’s leaders. Some offered up praise for their first steps toward sobriety and for the food that morning.

What I found most Sunday mornings, is that my faith was strengthened by the utter dependence many of the homeless had for God to provide their next meal, shelter from the elements, protection from harm. Many knew and understood how their choices had contributed to their circumstances, others saw themselves as victims. I often wondered aloud to God, if I had had the same challenges in my life with respect to family instability, poor education, negative community surroundings, what my life would be like today. Without a doubt, most of our Peggy’s Point friends appreciated an opportunity on Sunday mornings to be a part of a community where people would look you in eye, shake your hand, welcome you and pray for your recovery.

While we are in the midst of reinventing the homeless ministry at South Main, I trust that its new iteration will give more South Mainers an opportunity to see God hand revealed to us through the simple offer of a listening ear, a hand outstretched in welcome and a willingness to offer prayer for a new beginning.

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God’s Hand Revealed – By Estela Cavignac

October 27, 2009

God's Hand Revealed (72 dpi)Having been raised in a traditional Southern Baptist home and church, I have always been aware of God’s presence in my life. But never in my life has God’s hand been more clearly revealed than over the course of this last year.

It started at 2:30am on Sept 13th, with Hurricane Ike. That night, I saw God’s hand revealed not only through the power of that storm, but also through God’s ability to protect and comfort me, as all alone in the dark, I faced fear for the first time in my life. It was my experience that night that led me to finally listen to God’s call, and join South Main on October 5, 2008.

Was it a coincidence that exactly four months later, on February 13th, I would find myself in a situation with my son that I just couldn’t control or fix by myself? Was it a coincidence that I joined a church that promises to be the family of God for us? I am confident that once again, it was God’s Hand being revealed and that He knew that we were going to need a family of grace to see us through that very difficult time.

Was it a coincidence that I didn’t know that my best friend of sixteen years has only one sister whose husband is an attorney for Houston Independent School District who wrote the HISD Student Code of Conduct? Or that she just happened to be at their house on the day I had gone to speak to her about this very difficult situation? I know for a fact that it was God’s Hand at work because he pulled into his driveway just as I finished explaining my situation to my best friend and he was leaving for Navy Reserve training in four days; the same day we had a meeting scheduled with the school’s Dean of Students. That is GOD!

I also had no way of knowing that going through that very difficult situation with my son would lead to his and his friend’s public profession of faith on Easter Sunday, and their baptism on Mother’s Day! But I do know that it, too, was God’s Hand at work.

Believe me, I could write a book about the way God’s Hand has been revealed to me over the course of this last year. From my truck being stolen on Sunday, August 2nd  and recovered on Sunday, August 16th during our Companions in Christ study of the Beatitudes; to the Financial Aid Adjuster who gave me an instant $900 grant on August 13th so I could start school on August 24th; to Diana Cardenas, the body shop receptionist who talked her boss into waiving the $500 deductible for the repairs to my stolen truck. Only God can reveal His strong, loving hands in our lives by “taking the impossible, making it harder, and then getting it done!”

Thank you, God, for always revealing yourself to us, if we only look for You.


God’s Hand in the Common – A Prayer

October 26, 2009
Dolores Rader-web-0678-thumb

By Dolores Rader, Minister to Children

We have a sense that there is something great waiting for us. A particular event or opportunity which when unveiled will enable us to change the world. Are we not meant to make a singular difference – amazing and incredible? Were we not born to accomplish the impressive and grand? We carry inside us a burden – our children’s children and their children’s children as well should know of our deeds and our deeds should be big.

But does the anticipation of greatness, the expectation of hand waving and pomp blind us to our true calling? Like Naaman, do we stand at the door of God’s word angry, disenfranchised, and oblivious to the ordinary? Lord of wisdom and vision, reveal to us the healing powers of the common. Humble us to the menial and grant us the peace to experience the joy and curative powers that accompany the everyday.

Is there anything more restorative than:

  • rocking a sleeping baby
  • causing a child to giggle
  • seeing a caterpillar change into a butterfly
  • waking to see a sunrise
  • hearing the crashing waves of the ocean
  • preparing a meal
  • doing satisfying work
  • reading a worn bible

Each of these happens everyday across the globe , many in our own homes. Lord, open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts so we will not miss You in our midst and spur us to follow your commands, no matter the scale.

Amen.


God’s Hand Revealed – By Maggie Hill

October 25, 2009

Shoe pileKatrina had just ripped through New Orleans and many survivors were camped out in Reliant Stadium. My husband Henry contacted Mike Williams of St. Lukes Hospital. He was in charge of the “goings on” at Reliant. Henry ask if they had a need for shoes for the children. Mike assured us that there was.

Henry and I rented a truck and drove to Dallas to the Buckner  Ministries shoe distribution center. The workers filled the truck with new shoes, socks and teddy bears.
The next morning when we arrived at Reliant we noticed signs on the fence stating that no more donations were needed. Henry called Mike and he said that there was still a big need for shoes and directed us through several check points to the gate that would lead to a loading dock. He met us there and invited us in to see the sorry selection of shoes available. I declined and said I would wait with the truck.
As I waited, a lady pushing a cart came up to me and ask if we might have some ladies underwear in our truck. She shared with me that she was from California and that her husband was a medical doctor. When he heard about the situation in Houston he had decided to come to Houston and see how they could help.  That morning he was working in triage and after treating a patient all bedding and clothing were discarded. She had been sent out to collect things they needed and she had been successful in her search except for the womans underwear.

As she was talking I was watching a black limo pull up to an unmaned gate. I was puzzled as the driver got out, opened the gate and drove over to the loading dock.  Two men in black suits and sunglasses with large shopping bags under their arms walked over to us and one said, “I don’t know what this is about but as I left home this morning my wife gave me these and told me to bring them to Reliant.”  We opened the bags and found they were filled with ladies underwear.

My new friend and I did not miss this GOD WINK.

Since her mission was complete she moved on her way.

The next morning on the front page on the Houston Chronicle was a picture of a little girl boarding the school bus at Reliant with a teddy bear in her arms.  I couldn’t see her feet, but I am sure she was wearing new shoes.


God’s Hand Revealed – By Chelsea Wade

October 24, 2009

By Chelsea Wade, Buckner Ministries Coordinator

By Chelsea Wade, Buckner Ministries Coordinator

Some of the best things about walking on this Earth are the extraordinary moments that result from ordinary events. I have the opportunity to work with a great group of high school students three days a week. My duties each day include: mediator, snack-server, listening ear, and even proofreader.

Each day brings a new challenge and a new breakthrough so I always look forward to the next one. When the students are content they exude immense amounts of excitement. The consistency provided contributes to their comfort as well. Classes might be difficult and dynamics with friends may change but the After School Program has smiling faces and activities.

I feel particularly connected to the students because I can understand what high school was like. I am proud that they could be anywhere else but they look forward to “the church”. This moniker captures all that South Main is for these students. We are “the church” where students race to arrive. This is “the church” that students tell their friends about.

When I think about my vision for the program I hope to create a strong support system with resources and activities that students look forward to. I also hope that students can reflect on their time at the After School Program with fond memories. I also plan to reflect on the reminders of God’s presence.

Around 6:45 p.m. on a Thursday the last few students were headed out the door. I heard a combination of the phrases “Have a good weekend!” and “Bye, Miss Chelsea!” before one student said “God bless you, Chelsea.” I must have paused for at least ten seconds. He and I have never had a single discussion about God but I do not doubt his sincerity. The words seemed to linger in the air after everyone left. I smiled because the progress made is undeniable. This program exists for a reason and the students are grasping our mission of love. That day I received a blessing that I never expected: assurance.  Every student may not have a strong understanding of what faith is but they certainly know that we care.


God’s Hand Revealed – by Anne Tulek

October 23, 2009

By Anne Tulek

By Anne Tulek

I had travelled home from my surreal expatriate life in 1992-era Eastern Europe for Thanksgiving holiday week to see my close-knit family and friends.  On this particular evening, I was with my sister Tanya Marie (aka Pham Thi Than Nga), whom my parents of five children had adopted when she and I were eight years old.  When she joined the family I went from being the youngest of five kids to being the youngest of 6 (by 2 months!).  The story of her journey from war-torn Vietnam as a young child is an amazing story about God’s Hand being revealed through the unselfish and risky actions of many people across numerous time zones and cultures…but I digress.

On this night in particular, we were in Tanya Marie’s apartment, watching a video that she and her husband had taken during a trip to see her biological family in Vietnam, with whom she had made successful contact many years prior.  She and her Vietnamese siblings had planned this trip carefully.  It was her first trip home since being taken away at the age of five with a group of 80 school children whose administrators thought were going to be killed for learning about Jesus.  They thought this was their only chance to stay alive, and Tanya Marie was charged with the responsibility of keeping her two younger (!) siblings together and safe.  Although these many years later her parents knew that she was alive and well as a 26 year-old American, they had no idea that she was coming to see them.

The video frame bounced along in the van, showing the dirt road for one minute, the silk worm farm landscape the next, followed by my sister’s anxious and excited face — close up with hand rapidly waving saying something like “Hi honey!”.  (Reality TV before that cultural movement was born!)  A small shack appeared on the left horizon and eventually the van slowed to a halt in front of it.  Tanya Marie got out and knocked on the home’s door.  What followed brings me to tears every single time I contemplate it.

Her mother, so many years after having her 3 youngest children sent away to avoid the certain death all feared was ahead of them, opened the door and stood there, hands over her face and screaming.  It was a piercing guttural moan, really, that seemed that it would never stop.  She was expressing what?  Joy?  Pain?  Guilt?  Shock?  As a mother who cannot for a second imagine my own children being torn from me and raised on the other side of the world by complete strangers, I’m sure that at least one of the things she was expressing was deep and abiding love for this beloved child of hers.

I sat, glued to the home-made video sobbing, aching, and rejoicing with my brave and resilient sister.  I was struck by so much about this scene:  her mother’s joy, her father’s hugs, her siblings’ proud chatter about what they had successfully orchestrated, the kitchen wall plastered with every picture, drawing, and letter Marie had mailed to them over the years…all amidst the rustic beauty of the silk worm farm.

But I was most deeply struck by the raw expression of love in this miracle I had just witnessed on video:  the tender reunification of a mother and her daughter, long separated by the sin and hate of war.

There are moments when my intellect challenges my heart to doubt God’s capacity to love each and every one of us as his precious child.  And then I remember my sister’s journey and this video scene that is so deeply burned into my memory.  To me it is one of the times that God has revealed His hand in a way that none of us could miss.  And it is a key reminder that God wants to hold us – His unique and special creations – safely in His arms every day.  All we have to do is knock on that simple door.


God’s Hand Revealed – The Girl Effect

October 19, 2009
By Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

By Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

One of my favorite metaphors for Christian living comes from the great thinker-theologian-pastor, St. Augustine of Hippo (The dude that wrote Confessions and City of God, yes, the very same). Augustine said that sin is like have a crooked back…huh? The unrepentant sinner (that’s just highfalutin’ language for all of us when we are up to no good and refuse to admit it to ourselves, each other, and God) is like a man with a crooked spine who is bent forward so he only looks inward towards himself. When Christ, as Paul says, “sets us free from the law of sin and death,” we are not only forgiven of our sin but we are spiritually liberated from egotism and self-centeredness. Our self-centeredness is replaced with Christ-centeredness, and our egotism is transformed in the love of neighbor and enemy.

As the love of Christ and the winds of the Holy Spirit heal our bodies riddled and twisted with the violence of sin and egotism, we begin to look out, around, forward, up, down, and even behind. We are able to see the beauty of creation, the good in each other, but also the reality of suffering and evil around us. This deep-seated sense of anxiety that the world is not how God hopes it to be is most tangibly and meaningfully manifest in what we has the Church of Jesus Christ call “Mission.” It is our call by Christ to not only “do” missions but to be “missional people,” a people who are defined by their sense of calling, vocation, and purpose that live out the Great Commission in word, deed, and heart.

I have been thinking about this since I watched this video the other day. Often times when we think of mission we think of building a house, handing out a sandwich to a neighbor without a roof to call their own, or sharing the love of God with a friend drowning in hopelessness and hurt. This video reminded me of the chain reactions that occur when we stop looking at ourselves and look at our neighbors and enemies. The difference a little bit can make in the lives of another can be astronomical and eternal. Watch this video, it’s only 2 minutes and 19 seconds, and allow yourself to dream. Set aside your pragmatic, cynical side for just a brief moment and dream of a world where every human, even a little girl, can live, eat, play, love, work, and grow exactly how God intended. Then, let’s all together continue asking God to reveal what God’s hand is already up to in this world all around us at each and every moment of our lives.

Watch. Dream. Do.

www.girleffect.org

-K


God’s Hand Revealed – By Jim H. Barkley

October 17, 2009

helping handI see God’s hand revealed in many ways. I sometimes sense it in a string of events that seem too coordinated to be purely coincidental. I have seen God’s handiwork laid bare in sunsets so stunningly beautiful they would make Monet feel like an amateur, paint-by-number artist.

Most often, however, when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am witnessing God’s hand revealed, that hand is firmly attached to a human arm. A hand on my shoulder in a hospital waiting room brings God’s comfort. A hand that holds mine in a moment of prayer brings confidence that God is present and listening. Hands that provide food offer not only physical sustenance, but also fellowship that reminds me I am part of God’s family. Hands that tie together and box up thousands of pairs of shoes assure me of God’s love for and ability to help the poor. In years past, a hand firmly applied to my backside reminded me that God is just and demands my obedience.

Our faith is unique in its promise of a personal relationship with our God. I believe that God uses each of us to fulfill that promise to each other. “Whenever you did it for the least of these, you did it for me.” When we feed others, we feed Christ. When we visit others, we visit Christ. Jesus made this point clear. I believe, however, that he meant even more. I am convinced that when I am fed and visited by others, I am also being fed and visited by Christ. As I have often heard others express it, God holds us in the arms of others. Through our relationships with each other, we experience in a real and powerful way our relationship with God.

And here’s the great part. When we learn to recognize God’s hand revealed in the helping hand of a friend or neighbor, we’re more likely to recognize God’s face in the face of that friend or neighbor. And once we have recognized God in the faces of others, it becomes much easier to treat them as God has called us to and much harder to devalue or ignore them.


Encounter with an Angel – By Cindy Hippel

October 15, 2009

praying-angel-bwDriving east on I-10 that summer day seven years ago, I would never have guessed that I would meet an angel.  I was on my way to Baton Rouge to join my sister and help her chaperone 18 high school cheerleaders who were attending cheerleader camp in Florida.  A few miles from Lafayette, driving in the passing lane, I sensed that an SUV was edging over a bit too close.  I moved over, but the SUV kept coming, eventually edging me off the shoulder and onto the soft median.

I turned the wheel too sharply, overcorrected, and began whirling in a 180 degree spin. Knowing I was out of control, I remember grasping the wheel, holding on, and then covering my face with both hands, waiting for the eventual impact.  Finally my car stopped spinning.  I slowly uncovered my face and found myself in the middle of Interstate 10 facing the oncoming traffic.

Miraculously every car and 18 wheeler was stopped dead still, blocked by a pick-up truck which was stopped at an angle between me and all the traffic.  At that moment a short man, with red hair and a bushy beard appeared at my driver’s side window and asked, “Are you all right?  I’ll help you turn back around.”  Obediently following his directions, I maneuvered my car to the eastbound shoulder, and sat motionless, as the busy traffic continued on its way.

Finally the little red haired man questioned me about where I was from and where I was going, and then he asked, “Are you a Christian?”  When I answered yes, he said, “Well, we’re just going to pray right here.”  As the traffic roared past he prayed the most beautiful prayer, thanking God that I was unharmed, and asking that I have a safe journey.  Then he offered to wait in his truck, which was parked behind me, until I was ready to return to the road.  “Take your time. It will be all right,”  he assured me.  I sat there for a few minutes regaining my composure, and then ever so carefully returned to the highway, arriving safely in Baton Rouge later that afternoon. I saw an angel on the road that summer day that brought God’s message, “Do not be afraid.”


Bringing Black Back

October 13, 2009
By Erin Conaway, Associate Pastor

By Erin Conaway, Associate Pastor

I went to a seminar last week about grief. The room was filled with clergy and funeral directors. It seemed like the start of a terrific joke, but nothing ever materialized. The speaker was incredible: Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt who has done extensive work and writing with and about grief (he’s even been on Oprah!). Dr. Wolfelt talked about several aspects of grief and mourning and the difference between the two. One of the things he said was that grief was something that happened internally while mourning was something that was external. He talked about how lousy we are at mourning—how we try to stuff it away and hide it from our friends and the people around us because it makes them and us feel uncomfortable. He lamented the fact that we have lost the practice of wearing mourning clothes. Used to, when a person died, we would wear all black as a part of our mourning and a sign of our grief. That let people know we were grieving the loss of a loved one and they were invited to share in our mourning and would do so by asking, “who died?” That would allow us to tell our story to different people who were thoughtful enough to ask and it gave us an avenue to keep our grief open through our mourning. He noted that when you don’t allow yourself to feel a feeling, you become closed and “stuck;” unable to be changed by it or to use it or to allow God to touch it in some way.

We have so many wonderful things happening right now in the life of the church, but at the same time, we are missing the presence of people we loved and walked with for many years. We are also walking with people who are trudging through various illnesses and limitations and fears and doubts. I worry that in the midst of celebrating what is wonderful, we will further cast into the shadows the broken parts and render them hidden from one another and from the kind of transformation that can happen to us when we share one another’s burdens. So I hope we bring black back—maybe literally, but maybe just figuratively and we talk to each other about our grief and we mourn with one another without shame or fear of marginalization. I think when we do that, we come to realize God’s hand in our midst, working and moving in our stories as we share them together, to bring comfort and peace and most importantly…redemption.

South Main Baptist Church