Eyes of Hope

December 16, 2009

By Angela Holder

I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys.  I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. Isaiah 41:18

Soaring live oak branches surround the raised walkway that connects the Loessner and Chafin buildings.  I always enjoy the feeling of walking through a forest canopy.  The foliage is always lush and green, even during Houston’s hot, dry summer.

But the elegant curve of the branches is marred by shriveled brown patches.  I used to wonder why our landscapers left the ugly clumps in place.  Shouldn’t they clean off the dead growth to better display the beauty of the living plants?

Then I went on a tour of the Houston Arboretum.  At one point our guide showed us some familiar patches on an oak branch.  Resurrection Fern, he called it.  When moisture is plentiful, the delicate fronds thrive and spread.  As the weather grows hotter and drier, the ferns wilt, turn brown, and curl up.  If you don’t know better, they appear dead.  But when dark clouds fill the sky and rain pours down, then the ferns uncurl, flush green, and begin to grow again.  They were never really dead, only dormant.  Their seeming death is an adaptation that allows them to survive the extremes of our weather.

After the next rainstorm, I went up to the church walkway and looked.  All the ugly dead patches had transformed into beautiful green ferns.  Ever since then, those withered brown clumps look different to me.  Where I used to see unsightly trash cluttering my pretty view, now I see a marvel of God’s creation, and a reminder of faith.

When the hope of Christ is in our hearts, we see the world with different eyes.  What looks like despair and death can really be hope and life, waiting for the right time to emerge.  An unwed pregnancy can conceal a miracle.  A makeshift bed in an animal’s feed trough can become a sign proclaimed by angels.  An unjust execution and a Messiah’s grave can lead to an empty tomb.

Lord, help us to see through eyes of hope.  Help us see your hand at work even in dry and withered times, and keep hope alive while we wait for rain.  Amen.

Angela Holder came to South Main in 1987.  She sings in the sanctuary choir and helps teach Music Makers II.


Weeds and Paper Towels

December 15, 2009

Amy Grizzle, Minister to Adults

I pulled weeds the other day.  A lot of them.  It’s a long story… the not so happy ending being that I was sore the day after.  But that’s beside the point.  Pulling weeds made me think about paper towels.

As I sat in the dirt mingling with the ants, I cleaned out flowerbeds and my mind drifted back to the course I had in seminary: Biblical Ecology: A Theology of Responsible Relationship to the Earth. An article of Dr. Davis’ summarizes a tenet of it best:

“The theological significance of soil starts in the Garden of Eden. The first task with which the humans are charged is “to work and to keep it” (Genesis 3:15). That might also be translated, “to serve and to preserve it.” The word “serve” suggests that the fertile soil retains a kind of priority. We humans owe something to the humus from which we were made (the pun works in Hebrew, too: Adam from adamah, “fertile soil”). We owe it to God to serve the interests of the soil. So care of the Earth is a primary religious responsibility for Jews and Christians–even though the biblical writers are careful to distinguish faith in the One God who made heaven and Earth from pagan worship of the Earth itself, or the elements thereof.”

So what do weeds have to do with paper towels?  My grandfather worked for the National Forest Service so caring for the earth has been a part of my family for a long time.  I have long been the family nag about recycling, not because of a political motivation, but because I do believe God cares about our being good stewards of God’s creation—every part of it.  Sitting in the dirt, my mind somehow drifted back to the statistics and conversation around paper towels and how costly using paper towels is for Creation as well as our pocketbooks.  Using cloths at home or only one paper towel in public restrooms (not 3) saves a lot of money and a lot of trees.  I won’t bore you with stats but you can find them.

So I hereby issue the challenge I have given myself: the great paper towel challenge.  Can you use just one?  Every time you wash your hands in public restrooms, at work, at church, can you use just one?  If you give your hands a good shake and use the paper towel corners too, it works.  Just one paper towel…start somewhere in being a good steward of God’s creation.  Whether it’s wrapping Christmas presents in recycled paper, buying fair trade Christmas presents, remembering your reusable grocery bags, or simply using one paper towel, can you do something you’re not to help care for and preserve God’s Creation?  It’s not a political cause, it’s a way to say thank you to God for all God has given.  Just One Paper Towel.  You can do it.

How Much Does God Love Me?

December 11, 2009

By Dolores Rader, Minister to Children

Since the time my girls were very young I have followed the same “Good Night” ritual. When all of the necessary preparations are complete and we have said our prayers, I kiss them and whisper in each of their ears as if it is a really big secret, “I love you all the way to the stars and the moon and the sky and heaven, all day long, every day, no matter what.” With a vocabulary that seems to fall short when searching for mere words to describe the depth of my love for the sweet girls I adore with every fiber of my being, I attempt to string together words that convey my love to them. It seems weak and insufficient, but between the words they understand and the words I know, it seems to be the best I can do.

Not long ago, one of my girls asked me, “How much does God love me?” After a moment I had it, “Do you know how much I love you?” “Yes, Mommy. All the way to the stars and the moon and the sky and heaven, all day long, every day, no matter what” she replied. “Well, honey, God loves you so much more than that. I love you as much as words can describe, but God loves you so much more there aren’t even words to describe it.” And with the simple and pure beauty of a child, she smiled and skipped off to play.