Grace around the table…by Cleavy McKnight

November 5, 2010

By Cleavy McKnight, South Main Member

On the evening of December 23rd, 2009, South Main hosted a dinner in the church gym for some of our less-fortunate midtown neighbors. Church members prepared delicious barbecue, and many South Main members spent the afternoon and evening preparing plates of meats, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and dessert. The line of guests snaked its way out the door of the Activity Center and down the sidewalk to the street. We served over 100 visitors.

While the warm meal was doubtless appreciated, there was another aspect of the event that, I believe, was even more significant to our guests. Members of the South Main family sat at the tables with our guests during dinner. We listened to their stories and shared some of our own. We talked and laughed and shed a few tears. For that evening, we made our guests a part of our family.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the evening was the broad range of South Main members who participated, from children in elementary school all the way up to senior adults. Our visitors learned that South Main is a place of people who care. Our members were reminded of the grace we have received, and the joy of sharing that grace in the simplest of ways. We recalled Christ’s words that “whenever you have done these things for one of the least of these, you have done these things for me.”

As the meal ended, we gave our guests small backpacks, packed leftovers for them to take away and share, and gave them warm sleeping bags to combat the night chill. With gratitude, they shook our hands. With hugs, and a few more tears, we accompanied them back out onto the streets.

I thought about the many blessings I have received – blessings unearned, blessings given me through grace. I thought about what my children might have learned from joining in the evening’s meal and fellowship. I prayed that our visitors had felt, and would continue to feel, “our love, our care, our kinship, and our hopes.” I gave thanks for grace received, and for the joy of grace shared.

I look forward to new opportunities for this mission-minded church to give grace.

Give Grace.


Give Grace…by Hart Brupbacher

November 2, 2010

By Hart Brupbacher, South Main Member

On Sunday mornings I am a part of South Main extending God’s grace to the homeless community through the Manna Ministry. We provide a warm welcome, a friendly and caring ear to prayerfully listen, a little food and coffee, a bag of essentials (like soap, razors, sewing kits and other miscellaneous essential items), and a brief devotional that includes reading a Bible passage and providing a brief commentary on the passage. Every week we touch the lives of between 20 and 50 homeless people.

We give the gift of true caring and in return we often receive a gift grace. An example: a conversation that has become permanently engraved in my memory. One of the men told me that at one time he had a much better life than he has now. Things turned bad, and he found himself homeless and on the street. Then he shared this insight: “Everything that has happened to me is a result of my own choices. I know that I’ve done wrong, and I know what I need to do to change. I pray to God for the strength to make the change”. His honesty, insight and faith seemed to provide a lesson many of us need to hear: a wonderful perspective and a gift of grace to me.

Our pastor, Steve Wells, sometimes says that “the ground is level at the base of the cross”. My experiences in the Manna ministry are proving that to be true – as we share grace (each of us both giving and receiving grace).

Give Grace.

 


Grace Remembered…by Amy Grizzle Kane

October 20, 2010

By Amy Grizzle Kane, Minister to Adults

Will Kona remember us? I was worried our own dog wouldn’t remember us after we sent her to four weeks of obedience camp in Brenham. We’d owned her only a month before we knew we needed help training her and found puppy camp heaven.  She loves playing with other dogs, gets to chase chickens every now and then, and is learning so fast she’s at the head of her class. That’s our girl.  So on our way to visit Kona we discussed, not our worry at how she is, but our worry that she had forgotten us.

We arrived and watched with beaming doggie parent pride as they showed us everything Kona learned.  After she had done everything they asked of her, they let her free to come see us.  We were standing with a few other doggie parents and she approached slowly and with caution.  She sniffed the couple next to us with a bit of disinterest, keeping her distance.  Next, she moved towards us.

My heart sank as it was obvious she didn’t recognize us immediately.  I knelt down so she could smell my hand… a quick sniff and instantly the world changed. Her ears and tail perked up and happy wagging, excited jumping, and joyful licking pursued.  She’s not lapdog size, but she bounced between my lap and Sean’s, covering us with happy doggie kisses.  Even after weeks of separation, she remembers us!  A week later, I’m still happy and smiling like a goof, telling everyone who will listen that my dog remembered me.  I know it’s silly and I know she’s “just” a dog; yet, when my dog remembering me brings a smile to my face weeks later…it makes me realize how much that joy multiplies when humans remember each other…and when we are reminded that God remembers us.

There is powerful grace in remembering and being remembered. I wonder who in our lives needs to experience the grace of being remembered?  A loved one who feels taken for granted, a church member in a care facility, an employee who feels unnoticed, a newcomer who feels out of place?  Some of us may think grace is always as big as the story of the Prodigal Son.  Grace, even when it seems “little,” is just as powerful.  Whether someone remembers your birthday or that it was a year ago today you lost a loved one.  Whether a friend remembers and shows up with your favorite ice cream flavor after a bad day or a “stranger” remembers your name.  Take note of when you feel the grace and joy of being remembered and find ways to share it with others.  The hearts and lives we touch, and even God, may still be smiling weeks later.

Give Grace.


Give Grace…by Claire Hein

October 17, 2010

By Claire Hein, South Main Member and student at Baylor’s Truett Seminary

“The beauty of grace is that it makes life unfair,” this lyric from Relient K tags along with every e-mail I send.  We like unfairness when it is directed to us, and we often disdain it when we end up on the losing side of it. But grace calls us to be unfair- unfair to ourselves that is.

Seminary is a hard place to find grace sometimes. The stress of the big questions (and Hebrew!) makes us forget the communal act of grace at times. Oddly enough, this is also the place I see grace the most.

This past summer we lost our parking lot at Truett Seminary. Most students now have to park a mile away and grab a “Truett” shuttle that runs every 10 minutes. This inherently means waking up earlier and arriving at the parking lot precisely in time to catch the shuttle. But no one is perfect. Everyday someone pulls into the parking lot just as the bus is beginning to leave. We’ve each been there, and no one ever objects to waiting an extra 30 seconds to depart. Our schedules are malleable and even though every person on that shuttle planned their life around that schedule, we whole-heartedly make our life less fair and make someone else’s life more fair, if only for 30 seconds.

I’ve been on both ends and been happy to hold the bus and thrilled when the bus is held for me. Grace really is that simple. God made life wholly fairer for us than we deserve. Should we not extend that gift and remember that grace makes life less fair, not begrudgingly but joyously?

Give Grace.


Give Grace…by Thomas Coker

October 15, 2010

By Thomas Coker, Minister of Music

This is a story of how grace is given and received in unexpected ways when one is following the Spirit through inspiration – in this case, the inspiration of text and music written by John Rutter and being rehearsed by the South Main Sanctuary Choir.

At the end of July this year, I completed a two year stint as Church Vice President of the Texas Choral Directors Association, a wonderful organization which brings together choral directors from all over the state and beyond to encourage choral singing in our state.

One of the duties of the Church Vice President is to plan and execute a worship service for the convention.  We were remarkably fortunate this past year to have Mr. John Rutter of London, England reprise his visit of 30 years ago to TCDA.  We built that worship service around the three anthems, For the Beauty of the Earth, Open Thou My Eyes, & Lord, Make Me an Instrument Mr. Rutter had written for TCDA in 1980.  I asked Mr. Rutter if he would be so good as to write a new anthem for us in 2010 to complete the service we were planning.  Mr. Rutter agreed to this even though he no longer accepts commissions and keeps an incredibly busy schedule as composer/producer/arranger.  The anthem he wrote for us, With heart and hands is being prepared in October and November for the South Main worship service November 21 just before Thanksgiving.  Our choir loves it, and you will too.

A little background for those who do not know Bruce and Kristy Wade and the twins, John and Christian:  Kristy lost her husband, Bruce, to brain cancer – the same kind of brain cancer that took Senator Ted Kennedy.  Bruce was in his early 40’s and in spite of his relatively young age, had accomplished much.  He was a geo-physicist who was a very important part of the discovery teams for Exxon (10 years) and Shell (13 years).  He was instrumental in uncovering oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, in Oman, and natural gas reserves in Malaysia.  These discoveries have helped make energy reserves available to many more people in different parts of the globe.

In 2008, Bruce’s cancer was discovered and the Wades relocated to Houston – Shell’s US headquarters and the location of the Texas Medical Center’s MD Anderson hospital, one of the world’s finest cancer treatment hospitals.  Just before the cancer was diagnosed, Bruce & Kristy had decided to begin their family.  Bruce’s very first question to his neuro-oncologist after arriving in Houston concerned the effects of the chemo and radiation on fathering a child.  In the midst of beginning treatment, the plan to start a family paralleled the treatment.  Following several disappointments, Kristy and Bruce wound up with “a miracle or two.”  Kristy conceived twins!  She was “great with child” – children actually – as Bruce was rapidly declining.  The twin boys (Christian and John) were born shortly before Bruce died.   We (South Main) and numerous friends from across the globe walked with them through this terrible and blessed time.  I remember Bruce’s coming to the Christmas Eve Choir rehearsal with Kristy last year and sitting on the side near the tenor section.  It was to be the last time he would do that.  During Bruce’s illness, Kristy chronicled his progress and her thoughts on the Caringbridge web site during treatment.  She continues to post her thoughts there following Bruce’s death.

Fast forward to this month and the choir’s rehearsing With heart and hands. I had noticed three weeks ago that Kristy left rehearsal when we began rehearsing the anthem.  The next week she remained in the room and wept and sang when she could.  That night, she talked with me following rehearsal and told me part of what she would post later that evening.  Below is an excerpt of Kristy Wade’s post in Caringbridge September 29, 2010.

So…after all that, tonight at choir rehearsal we practiced a piece composed by John Rutter, With heart and hands, for the Texas Choral Directors Association Convention in July of this year.  Last week I only tried to sing the first two lines before exiting the room for the duration.  This week I stayed and listened — and occasionally tried to sing a line here or there.  Hopefully I’m not infringing on any copyrights or anything, but Rutter’s text is as follows:

“For all the blessings you have granted us, Lord, give us thankful hearts, we pray:  For life and health and happiness, And for the gift of each new day;  For all our families and loved ones, The friends we meet along our way, We thank you, Lord, they are your gifts: Lord, we praise you, In your service let us all your love repay.

“Look all around you:  You’ll see a miracle or two; Ev’ry valley, hill and mountain is calling to you.  For all the wonders of creation, a world whose marvels we behold:  Where winter turns to spring again; The changing scenes of life unfold, But there is One who never changes:  Through all eternity the same:  Be with us, Lord, for evermore, alleluia, Lord, we praise your Holy Name.”

That first section is like going back in time and hearing again nearly every prayer I and others heard Bruce say from the time of his diagnosis until his death.  And the second part is like hearing his voice right now.

Yours,
Kristy

I have written Mr. Rutter to let him know of the grace given and received through his text and music.  My prayers are that grace will continue to abound through the life of Kristy, Christian and John and the music and life of Mr. Rutter.

Give Grace.

 

 

 


Grace…by Charis Smith

October 11, 2010

By Charis Smith, South Main Member

Grace is a strong, theological, abstract word that we who have always been in church use freely.  Defined it means a gift that wasn’t deserved.  For me to notice moments of grace takes really paying attention.  My Tecoma Stans bush, also known as Esperanza or hope, froze to the ground last winter.  About May, in a moment of grace, a very tiny green leaf appeared.  Thank you, God for tiny graces.  As a family we once thought we had a solution to a financial problem, but our idea failed.  Five years down the road we were so glad it had. Thank you, God, for the grace that prevents.  Our forty-seven year old son is marrying this year, adding a gracious woman and her family to our circle.  Thank up, God, for the grace that answers our desires.

Grace, like the stained glass in our sanctuary, is always there with the possibility of breath catching brilliance added to my life.  Sometimes I miss grace light because my back is turned; sometimes I miss it because “fullness of time” hasn’t come, and all I can see is a dark outline.  In an unsuspecting moment, the light of God shines from outside of me and bathes me in the colors and glory of grace.  Then I stop, and with thankfulness, really pay attention.

Give Grace.


A Measure of Grace

October 7, 2010

By Tom Williams, Church Administrator and Minister to Senior Adults

I admit that it is difficult to think of ourselves as graceful in our daily life.  It is easy to assign gracefulness to a woman but not easily applicable to men.  Therefore, we are challenged to think of gracefulness as an action word and not just a visual practice.  Also, it is hard for us to recognize our own gracefulness because it feel uncomfortable and a bit self glorifying.


So, perhaps one way that we as Christians can”Give Grace” is to state and applauded it in the lives of others.  Let us commit to acknowledge gracefulness in the life of others and tell them what a blessing it was to see me sharing, caring and giving.

Each day we are blessed by seeing others live a graceful life in front of us.  Let them them of their gracefulness so that they are encouraged to continue to be God’s channel of grace to others.

Have a graceful day!