Peace, Hope and Joy in the Midst of Change

November 30, 2009

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let you’re your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

In August, we spent time at the beach.  The day in Galveston was unusual because the water was blue and fairly clear rather than brown and murky.  The pattern of the waves, however, was fairly typical: constantly changing.  We stood in the same place, and the water changed.  Gently rolling swells changed to breaking waves then almost disappeared.   Sometimes the water seemed deeper or shallower, and I’d wonder if we had unintentionally moved farther from or closer to the shore, but neither was the case.  As we stood in the same place, the pattern of the waves and the depth of the water changed.

Sometimes the breaking waves were a fun and exhilarating challenge.  Other times they seemed almost too much.  Their force nearly knocked me down, and their salt burned my eyes.   Sometimes the calm seemed peaceful and a welcome relief; other times it felt almost boring.   Sometimes the depth of the water felt good, even freeing.  Other times it made me feel somewhat unsafe, like we might have wandered out a little too far from shore.

In some ways, life is like this beach experience.  Change is inevitable and almost constant:  part of the nature of things.   Even if we continue to live in the same home, attend the same church, and work at the same job—things change.   Babies are born, children grow up, health issues arise, work and financial situations change, family members marry, and loved ones move away.   Sometimes these changes feel easy, comfortable and joyous; other times they don’t.  Nevertheless, the changes continue.

This Advent, as we prepare for Christmas in the midst of change, it seems important to claim God’s gift of inner peace along with the hope and joy that often accompany it by remembering scripture’s messages:

  • The angels saying to the shepherds, as angels said to others as well, “Do not be afraid…” (Luke 2:10);
  • Jesus saying to his disciples and us, “I will be with you always…” (Matthew 28:20); and
  • Paul in his letters wishing for believers to know the reality and power of God’s grace and peace that he experienced, even in prison.

These messages continue to be as true today as when they were initially spoken/written.  If we’ll let them, they can help us experience peace and hope and joy, even in the midst of change.

May God’s love and presence as expressed in these truths so deeply and consistently permeate our hearts and minds that peace, hope and joy become realities for each of us. Amen.

Linda Brupbacher, an education professor at HBU, is Hart’s wife, Lee and Lori’s mom, and Lauren’s mother-in-law.  At South Main, she is a Bible study teacher, a member of the Fellowship Community, the Pearland and Pasadena South Main at Home Groups, the GO Team and the Spiritual Growth Committee.


Thanksgiving to Advent

November 30, 2009

Tom Williams, Church Administrator and Minister to Senior Adults

For those of us who are Believers, the step from Thanksgiving to Advent is an easy one. I trust that you heart was blessed as you were challenged to think of all the blessings that have come our way. Let’s join together in the next step into Advent as we are reminded each step of the way whether it is a carol, a gift purchased, a gift given, a Christmas wish, a Christmas tree or an act of kindness to others. Let’s move forward as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Go ahead step forward…


The difference, it seems, is infinite.

November 23, 2009

 

Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

Back in the comfort of my apartment nestled nicely between the Medical Center and the Third Ward, I am trying to allow my memory to drift back over the course of this week, so that I might recall the soft spaces in my soul in need of kneading and coaxing so that yet even more understanding might surface. Today, a ragged band of weary missionaries, healers, builders, strugglers, saints, sinners, believers, doubters, and spiritual-paupers poured off Continental flight 590 from Peru. In the haze of this cool, sacred Houston morning, we were met by the smiling faces of friends, family, and mystical mixture of the two. Overjoyed to be greeted by one of my youth, Johnny, Susan, and I piled into the Moore’s van with Bill and Rachel. As we shared stories, I could see our breath dancing in the soft blow of the air conditioning, like the wisps and whispers of the memory and remembrances we were attempting to convey. We carried on the only kind of conversation humans are capable of after a red-eye flight and a week of immersion into another world.

 

What stories can we tell? What words can exhaust the experiences we share on this (or any) mission trip, journey, adventure, battle, struggle, retreat, etc etc etc…?

The difference, it seems, is infinite.

Experience is a powerful tool, and at times it makes all the difference between clarity and confusion. How many times have you heard someone finish a story with, once the story is met with faint chuckles, “Oh, well, I guess you had to be there…”? Yet, are those not the stories that bind groups of people together who, in fact, were there? Our experiences draw us together in a way that is very much human AND divine. I love the story of the Incarnation and how this idea becomes the fusion of flesh and Word, blood and spirit. God weaves us together into a patchwork of journeys–some victorious, some devastating–that allow us to make sense of our experiences together as friends and fellow-pilgrims on this road we call life. Such a journey was shared this week.

The heavenly sound of children playing, the crow of the roosters, busy echoes of the OSA House, the piercingly loud door-bell, the putter and cough of the exhaust pipes as our bus climbs the hills of Collique, and laughter and conversations shared by the team over Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches prepared by the loving hands of Charis Smith and company…these are the fragments of experience I brought back to Houston with me.

Nonetheless, these experiences are not enough. We must return not as weekend warriors who have done our good deed for the year, but as the Prophets and Preachers who proclaim into the darkness, “Behold, God is making all things new…” while still clutching onto the words of Saint Andrew at the feeding of the hungry multitudes, “…but, what is this among so many?” Marco told us today that we saw over 1,500 people in the clinic, and after the first day I spoke with Vince in the optometry office about how things were progressing, and he informed me that we had passed out 78 pairs of glasses. With a mixture of sincerity and levity, I said, “Wow, that is 78 people who before coming here could not see…Jesus didn’t even heal that many blind people in the Gospels!” After my somewhat flippant response I was immediately reminded of a verse that has plagued me for years:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do…” (John 14:12)

For the longest time, I thought this verse meant greater in quality (Resurrection, Miraculous Healings, etc), and as one who does not have much of a taste for the pageantry of Benny Hinn, I put these red letters aside for another day. Now, here I stand, a stranger in a strange land, nose itchy and throat hoarse from the dust of the waterless earth of Collique, this text emerged in my soul once again. When Christ left, he did not leave us to do what we could with what we have–Christ gives us himself. He gives us himself in the form of the Holy Spirit…he gives us himself in the form of Community…he gives us himself in the creativity of the God-searchers and Christ-followers who first established hospitals, orphanages, monasteries, social programs, homeless shelters, and so many more things We do when We are at Our best…he gives us himself the skillfulness and discipline of doctors and carpenters and the giftedness and compassion of teachers…he gives us everything we need to be all he calls us to be. Every eye exam Susan Young gave, and every pair of glasses Vince and Anna Beth meticulously organized before the whole team arrived, was one person…a whole, entire human being…given the gift of sight so that they like the blind man might declare, “All I know is I was blind…but now…I see.” Every pill passed out by Patti is a stepping stone on the journey to wellness for a people who otherwise have nothing. Every nail driven deep into softened lumber by Johnny is a building block of not just a home, but space for a family to discover dignity. Every craft Melissa helped the children make becomes a gift joyfully given to a friend, parent, or one of us by the children…for “it is in giving that we truly receive,” and these children–these dear, sweet, wounded, yet vibrant and bubbly children–who have quite literally nothing are the ones who had to teach us who have so much wealth, power, influence, treasure, and stuff.

So, here I sit in my comfortable apartment nestled in my soft chairs, watch my television, and wrap myself in comfort…and I can’t help but realize that “they” are where Christ is and are who Christ is in our world. But, “they” are not just in Collique. They live in Eagle Pass, Guatemala, China, Mexico, and Houston. They are sleeping on the steps of South Main. They are huddled in shelters trying to make their way home. They walk the halls of our offices and schools, devoid of love and human contact. They are in every city, every town, every village, every hamlet, in every valley, and every mountain on this big, blue planet of ours. So, even with all the good we do as the Church, there is so much left to do. Maybe we pray the words of our Lord, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few! Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the fields.” (Luke 10:2)

I leave you with the words of Dr. Luis Campos, one of the many people throughout history who have turned a listening ear to God and a discerning heart to the winds of the Spirit:

“…Give them Hope! Hope in Him who is the Maker of the Universe but, ‘…had no place in this World to lay His Head.’ He knows all about poverty…[for] ‘Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.'”

In the name of the God who Dreams the Dreams we are called to live out loud, Amen.

Grace & Peace,

Kevin

 


Miracles

November 22, 2009

This post was written on March 12, 2001 by church member John Unger.  He wrote it after Vince Smith had a brain tumor removed by a single , pretty exotic radiation treatment. I think they called the very narrow, very powerful beam of radiation a “neuron knife.”  He missed all of two days work, had no side effects or after effects and has been fine ever since. It was amazing!

At those times that your faith feels a little strained do you ever wish for a good, old-fashioned miracle?  I do.  It sometimes seems like God has chosen, for some reason, to not deal with us this way any more.  “Come on, God, there are times we could use a burning bush or a parted sea or some water/wine conversion.  Is that so much to ask?  Thomas doubted and he was given a miracle!  How about me?

Maybe the problem isn’t that God has stopped giving them but that we have forgotten how to see them when He does.

I spent some time with Vince Smith this week and realized that if what I witnessed was recorded as the biblical miracles were it would go something like this:

“A man had a tumor on his brain.  He went to the healers for help.  They affixed a halo to his head and bent over him and invoked the power of the Universe.  God had imbedded this power in the atoms at the beginning of time for our discovery and use. And with the wisdom given them by God and the knowledge given them by those who have gone before, the healers focused this power on the tumor and released it. When it was done they removed the halo and the next day the man went home, healed.”

That was it!

And I sometimes think God has stopped giving us miracles!  As the young folks would say, “Well duhh!”

I’m not going to stop asking God for miracles, but I think I will stop suggesting He ever stopped giving them.

smbc.org


Peru Mission Trip Updates

November 19, 2009

Please be praying for the OSA mission trip in Peru.  Updates are at smbc.org.  Just click on the “Peru Update” button.

Here is an excerpt from a recent update from Jill Hatcher:

“I decided to act as if this is my last trip so that I could savor every moment. All the sights on the bus. The sound of the bags clicking on the hotel tiles. The sound of the hotel door buzzer. The sounds of horns honking. You know the three short peeps to say hello. The one long horn which means to get out of the way.”

smbc.org


Bountiful Blessings

November 12, 2009

 

kaci coble

Kaci Coble

This post is from a new member to South Main Baptist Church.  This was originally posted on Kaci’s blog which can be found here. Enjoy.

 

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2009

Before I begin, know that there is a moral to this story, and that when this blog is all said and done – I’ll bring you back to the biggest lesson I’ve learned, and blessing I’ve received, in my departure from my job at lululemon.

It was probably late June/early July when Corey and I started “church shopping.” He was raised Baptist, I, non-denominational – but in our young adult lives, we had gotten far from the routine of our upbringings, so we set out with open minds and open hearts to find a place to call our church home.

We visited various churches over the course of almost two months, some too stiff, some too much of a rock band production, and some, just cold. It wasn’t until we walked into South Main Baptist Church that everything changed.

From the very second we stepped foot into that church, we knew we were home. From a merely ornamental perspective, we were in awe of the architecture and beauty of the symbolism of the Sanctuary. From there, it was kind smiles and warm hugs that greeted us into this place. It seemed as though we never went anywhere alone in that church. There were always members at every turn to make sure we felt welcomed and supported.

What we sensed and appreciated immediately was that there was no agenda. This was the feel of a small, hometown church, but in a big, beautiful midtown space. This was truly a place of genuine and authentic worship. Of people that acknowledged how difficult life can be, of how imperfect we each are, and how we all truly need that place of love, acceptance and encouragement to make it in this life.

Once we visited SMBC, we never had the slightest desire to visit another church. No matter how late we were out watching UH games (go coogs!) on Saturday nights, we were up bright and early for “big church.” It was a few months in that we decided to brave Sunday school, and it just kept getting better.

Our Sunday school teacher, Toni, is one of the coolest, realest women we’ve ever met. Her balance of life experience and biblical study makes for lessons that truly tug on your heart strings. It seems as though every Sunday, Toni and Steve (our pastor) are speaking directly to me. They know what I need to hear before I’ve even realized it.

Steve Wells, our pastor, is nothing shy of incredible. I wouldn’t even call what he does preaching, it’s more sharing. This is a man that has committed his life to doing God’s will, and we’ve felt such an incredible connection and friendship with him since day one. His passion, honesty and openness are such a rarity, something we both really strive for.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, I felt compelled to share, because we had our new member lunch today. Just about 6 weeks ago, Corey and I decided to join and become members of the South Main family. Today, we were given the opportunity to fellowship with other new members of the church and spend time with our beloved pastor after the service.

As we sat to eat, I told the members at my lunch table about my recent career changes. The votes of encouragement and prayer put my soul at ease in a way that I can’t explain. Steve immediately asks what it is I’d like to do, and begins naming members of the congregation he wants to introduce me to at Wednesday night bible study.

A few moments later, as Steve is addressing the group as a whole, a gentleman passes by in the hallway. Steve stops everything, asks him to join us, tells me that’s who he wants me to meet, then goes on with our topic of group conversation. The gentleman patiently waits during the rest of our lunch, not knowing what Steve wanted.

Upon ending with prayer, Steve introduces me to a long-time member of the church, Wade Cline. He was the former managing director & general counsel of the Enron Creditors Recovery Corp. I had mentioned to Steve in earlier conversation that I was interested in a PR Director position with an energy company. It was such a blessing to stand and speak with Wade and to realize I had so many people around me, such an extensive network, that truly cared about my happiness and well being.

As I sit here, preparing to send my resume to Wade, I have to stop and give thanks for all my blessings. South Main has become such a family to me – and to know that you have so many people that are committed to your true growth and development, and are going to pray with you and support you through all life’s stations, really moves me.

As I was driving to work last Wednesday, before my manager let me know my resignation was official immediately, I was contemplating what I should do that day.

Option 1 was go to work, put in whatever time needed to accomplish the day’s tasks, go work out, do laundry, and prepare meals for the rest of the week. These were all things pressing on my mind and that needed to be tended to much sooner than later.

Or, option 2, was the one pressing on my heart. It was to go to Corey’s little brother’s last football game. There’s no guarantee he’ll make the team next year, or ever play high school sports again, and it was important to him and his family that we be there. His mother had also prepared a meal for us to share and celebrate after the game.

Option 2 would mean I wouldn’t get to work out, the laundry would have to wait another day, I’d have no healthy meals ready for the next day, and my car would still be at work because Corey would have to pick me up promptly at 4:00 pm when I got off to make it to the 4:30 game. We’d have to make a trip back to the store to pick it up, and I’d get home with enough time to shower and get to sleep, and my stressful to-do list would continue to grow.

On my way to work that morning, I prayed. I prayed that God would show himself to me by way of helping me make the decision he’d have me make. That he would give me the strength to make the right choice and be strong in my decision.

In the previous weeks, even months, I felt guilty for leaving when I got off at 4:00 pm on Wednesdays. I felt obligated to stay and work extra hours like my store manager, and often felt looked down upon because I was unavailable for work/meetings/classes on Wednesday nights because of bible study, and Sundays for church. Though no one ever said they didn’t support me and my decisions to put church before work, I could often feel the inconvenience or displeasure it caused some.

Well, that very morning, as I said my amen and walked into the store, I was told I was free to go. If God hadn’t been more clear in my life that day than any day before, I’ve been blind. Blinded by my personal goals and obligations, by my pride and social stature – but that morning, I felt God’s hand revealed in my life.

That fateful Wednesday morning, I was given the blessing of family and the blessing of time. I was then free to go about my day, do my laundry, work out, prepare nutritious foods AND be present at Clayton’s football game. I could enjoy the fellowship of a meal with his family and not have my body at the dinner table and my mind in my daily planner. I wouldn’t stress about the next day’s 6:00am class, followed by an 8:00am manager’s meeting and a merchandising shift lasting until 9:30pm. My life and time were mine again. Mine to give to family, to give to God.

When we got to the game, I told Corey’s parents, who have been of great counsel to me, that I had been told I was no longer needed. They didn’t want to say they told me so, because they had – rather, they wanted to make sure I was OK, happy, and that I knew how much it meant to them that I was there, sharing that evening with them. They prayed for me and with me, as they have been doing for so long, and made sure I knew that I would be taken care of and provided for in bountiful and blessed ways.

During this recent transitional period, many people attributed (or even blamed) my personal changes on Corey and the progression of our relationship. While I do give him tremendous credit for helping me get clear on what is truly important in life, it’s the credit to God that I have to give. It’s the blessing of South Main Baptist Church, and Corey, that has brought me so much peace.

Per my departure from lululemon, I received numerous emails, of which brought so many tears of joy and thanks. Email from fellow ‘lemons, old classmates, even the parents of my childhood best friends. One of which, was from a current lululemon employee. I’d like to share a portion of that email with you, as it encompasses everything I’d wished to have accomplished there:

“…you have no idea how excited I am for you, Kaci. You are such an inspiration. After reading your blog, I was in total shock and awe. Not only from the situation, but from your passionate writing. I know you already know this, but you’re destined for great things. Thank you for being you and not holding back the truth. You are the breathe of fresh air that people need to ignite the fire in their life. Thank you for everything lululemon and personally related. You’ve helped me find my passion for nutrition and church again. You’re a blessing, and if you ever need ANYTHING – don’t hesitate to ask. We’re going to miss you at work! Enjoy your time off. PEACE!”

How incredible does it feel to be a “blessing” to someone? I’ve reflected back on this email so many times now – and it brings me much joy to know that I, Kaci Coble, someone that many people once thought of as being the polar opposite of the “church type” – can inspire someone to get back there. To feel the vote of confidence, encouragement and thanks from someone I worked with makes the entire experience worth it. I’m even happier to say that this person will be joining Corey and I for church next Sunday, and we couldn’t be more proud to share our church home with anyone willing to attend.

So, as I go to enjoy my day of rest, I ask that if you have the slightest interest in finding a church home, or just simply visiting to experience the joy that can be yours in that place, I openly invite you to join us anytime. South Main is a place of grace and peace, a place that I can’t give enough thanks for.

I couldn’t be more confident in my recent decision, and continue to feel the blessings God has bestowed upon me per my leap of faith. I’ve got a long journey ahead of me, in my work life, as well as my spiritual life, but I do know that as diamonds endure vigorous polishing so that they may one day shine – I too will experience tremendous adversity on my path, but it is this very adversity that will shape my character and give me the strength and wisdom to become the woman God has planned for me to become.

Grace and Peace,

Kaci


What I learned about church at the U2 concert

November 5, 2009

u2bestWednesday night Bible study may be my favorite time of the week, so something very unusual has to happen for me to miss it. A few Wednesdays ago, I was in town, but not at South Main. Instead, my wife, Missy and I joined 80,000 or so other people at Reliant Stadium for the U2 concert. It was an amazing night and an incredible concert. It was also a religious experience. If you don’t know, allow me to let you in on the worst kept secret in the music industry: U2 is a Christian band. It is not just that the members of the band are open about their Christian faith, their music is deeply informed by that faith. Many of their songs directly quote Scripture; others offer mature reflection on the Gospel. The concert in Houston began with a song about the Holy Spirit, moved through a song about Judas Iscariot, and closed with a song called “moment of surrender.”

I was at turns enthralled by the depth of the music, wowed by the technology employed for the show, and fascinated by the crowd in the stadium. I am told that many to most of U2’s fans do not know that their music is so deeply rooted in Christian faith; but the crowd clearly connected deeply to the Gospel message being offered. It says something important about the Gospel that so many people, many of who have their guard up against “Christians” and “the church,” respond to the message of Jesus when it gets past their defenses. The church has something to learn from the success of U2 in sharing the Gospel. I have been thinking about what that might be this week and here are three preliminary thoughts:

Presentation matters.

U2 puts on an incredible show. We are not going to compete with them either in razzle dazzle electronics or in musical style. But part of the band’s appeal is that they have worked to prepare a place for you. Bo Prosser at CBF says, “people go where they know they have been prepared for and are cared for;” and he is right about that. It is clear from the moment U2’s show starts to the moment it is over that a place has been prepared for the fan. They are dedicated to innovation and excellence in all that they do: the show in Houston was different because it was in Houston. They had been to NASA, they knew things about us that became a part of the experience. They were enthusiastic about Houston; they cared about us. Excellence and passion attract. They know that connecting to the fan is a part of the delivery of the message. They know that communicating that they care is part of earning the opportunity to speak. South Main has long had some of the most beautiful worship space in town – our sacred space was built on the belief that architecture and design, when done well and right, evoke worship (or hinder it when done poorly). The present renovations of our campus will bring our discipleship space into the same kind of thoughtful, functional beauty as our worship space. Our building committee is struggling over details of paint and carpet color, technology choices, and furniture selection as part of our commitment as a church to prepare a place for our guests. We are setting the table with architecture and design throughout our campus. Of course architecture and design are only the first steps, we have to continue to plan meaningful, thoughtful, and engaging worship and Bible study. And we have to demonstrate to people – new and tenured alike – that we care. All of that is to say I believe our plans to date will show themselves to be wise and strategic in the near future.

Authenticity matters.

U2 is a rock band. Their fans expect a concert, and the band delivers. More than that, their music recognizes, explores, and mines the tension between the desperation, disappointment, and confusion we experience in the world around us with the joy, grace, and love we know has been planted within us through King Jesus. We intuitively know both that the world is a mess and that it ought not e this way. They Gospel points us to the redemption of creation. The church we are called to be, like U2, attracts people with excellence and helps us to live in the tension between what is and what should be by meaningfully offering ways to fix our eyes on what is unseen and to touch for ourselves the One who was from the beginning. People in our community are looking for a church like South Main, but do not yet know what to make of us, or do not yet know we are here. We have an opportunity to honestly shape people’s expectation about us in advance of their coming. Our Outreach and Publicity committees have worked hard with our staff to succinctly and honestly capture the essence of our church so that we can intentionally communicate with the surrounding community. Our marketing campaign “Fresh Faith. Vintage church.” is our effort to do so. We want people to come expecting both a place rooted in traditions older than we are and a place of grace and truth where honest questions meet thoughtful struggle, a place where we worship God, grow in our faith, and share all we have.

A call to service matters.

U2 invites people to join the ONE campaign, a secular effort to effect political pressure in favor of the poor of the earth. U2 fans know there will be a call to action. In the same way, people coming to the church want to know not only what we believe but how we behave: what are you doing with the faith you proclaim? South Main’s long commitment to the social gospel rings true to the culture around us. A rich heritage of lay-initiated ministries bears ongoing witness to the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit in this place and our faithfulness in responding to the call.

I believe the combination of beautiful space, well-prepared time, gracious hospitality, and commitment to doing real good in the world is not only authentic to the call of Christ, but also the very thing many people in our culture are seeking. As I have reflected on the concert, I realized South Main has a long and rich tradition of doing the things that are attractive for the Gospel to the community around us today. Last month I went to a concert and came home encouraged about the church.

Grace and Peace,

Steve