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.



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,



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.

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.


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 – 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.

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

God’s Hand Revealed – By Susan Moore

October 10, 2009
By Susan Moore

By Susan Moore

Sometimes I have to search for what I discern is God’s plan for me and other times, God makes it so plain that I stumble across it! My family had the latter experience last week….

Day 1

First thing in the morning, my husband, Bill, is unexpectedly laid off from his job after 17 years with the same company. As we deal with the shock, God first reveals His hand through the overwhelming outpouring of love and support from family and friends. A peaceful calmness pervades our home as folks all over the country are praying for us, strengthening us. We go through the motions of getting through the first day and figuring out what this means for us in the coming days.

Day 2

Bill realizes he cannot make progress on finding a new job until he updates his resume. He works on this all day except for making one phone call to a contact in the procurement world. His friend, Joe, sympathizes with the situation and tells him that he has just hired someone to fill what would have been the perfect job for Bill. Frustrating, but encouraging at the same time! At least someone is hiring in this economy….

Day 3

Bill’s birthday. I’m trying hard to be supportive but secretly complain to God how completely unfair it is that these two events are in the same week! Bill is finalizing his resume when the phone rings. Joe is calling back with the news that the job he just filled is open again as the employee has quit that very morning. “Could Bill come for an interview this afternoon at 2:00 pm? Don’t worry about polishing your resume; just bring what you have!” We finish his birthday with a verbal offer of a job.

We don’t yet know why God wants Bill serving Him in a different job with a different company. However, I love the adventure of trusting that His hand will continue to be revealed.

God’s Hand Revealed

October 9, 2009
By Charis Smith

By Charis Smith

God sometimes reveals himself in mighty miracles of healings and disasters averted, and those moments have come in my life. My most  cherished  moment, though, of an outstretched hand  is His answering a listed prayer with a tweak of humor at the end.  After staying home with a third child, I was anxious to get back to a classroom, my vocation.  I laid out a fleece with three requests.

First:  Maybe a part time job so I could readjust to routine balancing family and job.

Second: Close to home so I didn’t worry about children at end of day.

Three:  Let it be a challenge.

I had an offer in the middle of the summer.

First:  Teach two classes and finish at noon.  – Check and praise!

Two:  A school four miles from home – Check and praise!

Third: Answered  with a holy chuckle in the background. I, who had an elementary background and a degree in language and reading, was given a math and science class of 7th graders in an emerging junior high. Humph!

So, I re-entered the work force.  I had an afternoon to plan classes and tend to home issues.  The youngest could go to school with me, and I was free to pick up junior high carpool in the afternoons. I deepened friendships and expanded knowledge as anybody who could helped me with content in science and math.  God revealed is to see Him more clearly. I saw a God who knew what I needed and gave me a cheerful nudge toward the place he intended me to be the next twenty- eight years.