Childhood Dreams Realized

February 22, 2010

By Dolores Rader, Minister to Children

Recently I was asked, “How do you come up with the themes for Kid’s Night Out?” The answer is really quite simple…I think back to when I was a kid and what were the things I dreamed of being allowed to do – being immersed in larger than life worlds or really doing things that only grown ups are supposed to do.

As an adult I realize that these dreams were really about enjoying a sense of larger purpose, validation, and importance as a kid. When I was in sixth grade, my best friends and I wrote a movie script and attempted to shoot a mystery movie. Although we didn’t win an Oscar [matter of fact, we never finished (really we never started shooting – this was way back before camcorders so it turned out we had no way to film our film)] it was so much fun to be a part of something big like Hollywood.

When I was in ninth grade, my friends and I made another run at the “grown up” world. We started our own singing telegram business. My grandmother sewed us matching black satin jumpers with the letters “DJs” on the front bib in red. (My best friends were Jean Ann and Jeannie). We took orders. We made money. We sang in rhyme to wish people happy birthday, congratulations, and other celebratory messages. The thing is we didn’t want to be adults. What we wanted was to feel that we were capable of big things, of being valuable, of being much more than “just” kids. Who wants to be “just” anything?

Some Kid’s Night Out themes have been:

Candyland – where children were enveloped in a glittery, sweet bigger than life size Candyland game board in which they were allowed to decide how much candy was too much candy to eat

To Be An Astronaut– where we did real experiments, built real robots, and had our pictures made with the American flag and created mission patches just like real astronauts

Medieval Adventure – where we entered a world of long ago with castles, moats, jousting, and family crest making while we were dressed as lords and ladies.

Valentines Dinner for our Parents – where the children became chefs and literally prepared homemade lasagna, breadsticks, salad, and chocolate covered strawberries with menus and candle dripped bottles for centerpieces. All of which was packaged up in decorated to go bags for the children to serve to their parents on Valentines.

So how do I pick a theme for KNO? Don’t get me wrong, there certainly is the mandatory element of fun, but at the core, I guess it really is about meeting a need that kids (and adults alike) have – feeling a part of something bigger than our own lives and validating our sense of purpose. Doesn’t that feel like church?


Unpacking “I See You”

February 16, 2010

At the January 17, 2010 Golden Globe Awards, James Cameron accepted an award for the Best Director of a Motion Picture. In his acceptance speech, he quoted from the movie, “Oel ngati kameie” which in the Avatar movie-speak language of Na’vi means, “I see you.” For Cameron, saying, “I see you,” was a way to express appreciation, honor, and love to those he worked with in making the movie. While I haven’t seen the movie yet, the phrase, “I see you” jumped right out at me–I knew that wasn’t a James Cameron original. I learned about the concept of “I see you” not in the movies but in seminary.

My Duke Divinity professor Dr.Peter Storey, past president of the Methodist Church of South Africa and of the South African Council of Churches, taught us about the concept that is familiar in Africa and frankly, shouldn’t be unfamiliar to those of us who read the Bible. Desmond Mpilo Tutu, in his1999 book No Future without Forgiveness writes this of the African concept of ubuntu, “Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. It is to say, ‘my humanity is caught up, inextricably bound up, in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life…it is not, ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather: “I am human because I belong. I participate. I share.’ Dr. Storey translated ubuntu as “I see you.”

While in Africa, ubuntu may be characterized as a philosophy of life, for Christians in all the world, seeing, appreciating, and cultivating the humanity and God-created good in others around us should be a way of life. For Christians, “I see you” should mean “I love you” in the fullest capacity. Jesus prays in John 17:23, “I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” 1 John 4 writes of seeing the other in this way, “We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

A recent Avatar blog asks, “What does ‘I see you’ or Oel ngati kameie mean to you in Avatar?” I might ask, what does ‘I see you’ mean to you as a Christian who learns from Jesus that to see is to love and to love is to see?  How can you learn to see and love others around you? Not just your spouse or family or best friend…what about the person you’ve never met who is single and lives alone? What about the widow who has lost her spouse? What about the person who is homeless standing on the corner? What about the friend who is having a hard time?  Daily, may we have the courage to see others as God sees us and calls us his own beloved children.


February 10, 2010

J. D. Salinger 1919-2010

By Erin Conaway, Associate Pastor

I’m sure some of you have been thinking about J. D. Salinger lately—I have and I know that it’s terribly ironic to blog about one of the most infamous recluses of our time. He told a reporter from the New York Times “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. … It’s peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I live to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”

I heard an op-ed piece on NPR about Salinger and how no one in our culture would ever dream of something like that as we busy ourselves blogging, tweeting, and facebooking the ins and outs of our lives to anyone who will subscribe, follow, or friend us. While there is a certain romanticism about preserving the mystery of one’s inner soul—it makes for lousy community. If we all lock ourselves in a closet and try to ride out life individually, who will we talk to when our parents are falling apart and need us to parent them? Who will hold our hand when our spouse changes his or her mind about our marriage? Who will walk us through those difficult days at work when you doubt if this is what you are supposed to do? We were created to live in community and drudge it out with one another.

In the book The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caufield gets some advice from a sage with a highball in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Mr. Antolini writes this down on a piece of paper for Holden to keep and be guided by: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” I hope we are wanting to live humbly with our brothers and sisters for the various causes we get inspired to fulfill and in doing so find that the togetherness of it all is mostly the point.

God is good

February 5, 2010

By Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

The Psalmist in 34:8 implores us to “taste and see that God is good,” but how could this be possible? How are we to taste God? How are we even to see the Divine? We are taught from a young age that God is invisible, you cannot see the Divine, and we become more aware as we grow that God is ineffable, nor can you speak of the Divine, for our words will always fall short of the majesty, the beauty, the grace, and the power of the Numious, as Otto and Jung call it. We as Christians have a wholly different confession about our capacity to witness this mysterious deity, for we know and follow, “the image of the invisible God,” who is Christ Jesus, our Lord and Friend. But, this brings me back to the original question: how are we, in our limited humanity, to taste and see God?

Perhaps our ability to savor such a text discovers a grand impediment due to our Western obession with cognitive knowledge and rational proof. Do not get me wrong, there is a “thought-ful-ness” to faith. The Psalmist shares with us his love for meditating day and night of the laws and precepts of God, so that he might keep his ways pure. These ethical reflections are not merely on behavior and duty, freedom and responsibility, no…they are reflections on the very character and nature of God and the God-imaged-ness out of which we are all created–God commands us to be loving, because God is loving…God commands us to be holy because God is holy.

Nonetheless, our minds becomes polluted with the obsession and hubris to “figure out” or to “dissect” as if my ability to slice open a human cadavor and observe the complex systems of organs could in anyway explain to me how a human can show courage in the face of tragedy, or love in the face of hate. Anatomical understanding of a human does not exhaust the vastness that is the human. Why? Because we have to experience an-other to know an-other! We could spend the entirety of our lives with one other person and never know all there is to know about that person. There will always been experiences, memories, and stories that we have never heard, and there will always be experiences, memories, and stories to create with that other person. We must taste life with them to know them…we must witness and experience their goodness. Such is our life with God.

God invites us into relationship, not out of obligation, but out of devotion and compassion. God invites us to taste and see because life is more than rational proofs and cognitive propositions (How dreadfully boring God must think our droning of hymns sounds when we merely assent with the mind and tongue, but allow nothing to sink into our hearts and actions). Taste…and see…that God…is good. Remember the most delicious dish you have ever eaten? Remember how the flavors layered upon each other giving rise to new sensations of the palate? Remember the sense of satisfaction after the meal was finished, but how quickly our hunger builds again later in the day? God desires for us to desire God in such a way. God desire us to live life in this way…abundantly.

Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. So let us all together share in that life by tasting…AND seeing, that God is good.


February 3, 2010

Dolores Rader, Minister to Children

At South Main Baptist Church we have really amazing teachers leading great opportunities on Wednesday nights for children that they just won’t get anywhere else (at least not with the heart and at the price we offer).


From ages three and up, we have some of the finest musical teachers anywhere for choir, handbells (4th and 5th grade), and handchimes (1st – 3rd grade).

My oldest, Anna, started in band this year (sixth grade – ackk) playing oboe. She is required to take private lessons to supplement what she receives in school and after a few weeks, Mrs. Tice (her private teacher) emailed me to say “Somebody has already given her a really good start with music in general. Makes my job easy!” Well, that somebody was Susan Moore, Anthony Holder, Melissa Scott, Brenda Coker and a host of others here at South Main.


From age three through Kindergarten we have meaningful missions activities where our littlest ones learn how they and our church help others here in Houston and around the world. Tonight at the conference I am attending, the question was asked of the close to 1000 children’s ministers and volunteers – does your church do anything for missions and if so, what? Every answer I heard was that their kids gave money to a very worthy cause. This is great, but in most cases, it isn’t the children’s money, it’s their parents money and are they really too young to give of their time and talents and forming a servants heart? I believe the answer to that question is “no”, and I see your children embracing that ideal every Wednesday night. Wonder of Worship – in order to enhance our K-5th graders corporate worship experience on Sunday mornings, we spend 30 minutes on Wednesday night getting acquainted with hymns we will be singing, exploring an element of worship (what is an invocation prayer and why do we have one?), and sneaking a peek at the scripture that Pastor Steve will preach on (usually in the form of a skit) all with the purpose of establishing a few hooks for them to grab on to on Sunday morning and help make worship more meaningful for them. PLEASE don’t be overwhelmed by feeling that if you can’t get your child/ren to church every Wednesday night that they can’t participate. Of course, we would love them to be there every Wednesday, but understand that is not realistic for all of us. Make a good faith effort and get them here as often as you can and among many blessings you will see them lead us in worship on April 25 (a very special experience for them and our entire church family).