This past week we all watched as a terrible and evil act unfolded in Sutherland Springs, Texas. We’ve also felt personal loss here in our community with two suicides.
As a pastor, my call and passion is to bring hope in the midst of these times and I have to admit that's been hard. I was struck by the honest response when a reporter asked the pastor what he would tell his congregation after this mass shooting. He responded with tears on his face, “I’m still working on that”. Remember that he had not only lost 26 members of his congregation, but also one of his own children. I so appreciated his honest response and after sitting with church members grieving the loss of someone so young the heartbreak is terrible.
As people who have walked through dark times like these, we carry them with us. As Christians we pray, we listen, we hug, we cry, and we love. Love carries us all through these moments. We know, through our faith, that the worst thing is never the last thing, but the feeling of loss and pain can be debilitating.
What I’ve learned and experienced through these moments is that we must really open our eyes (and our hearts) and we begin to see hope. We see a family (or an entire community) coming together to care deeply for one another. We see friends run to your side to serve as your “stretcher-bearers”, eating only when you eat, sleeping only when you sleep, standing together with you in worship. God reveals hope and healing through His people and we must live out that hope. The hope of Christ must be alive in us to strengthen us in these most vulnerable of times. When we feel like we don't have the strength to carry on, God provides the strength to carry us through!
One way to grow through these times together is to live with gratitude. What is it you are grateful for? Who are you grateful for? Have you taken the time to tell them? I’m grateful for connecting with an old friend over breakfast yesterday morning. He’s in town doing some ministry consulting with a nearby local church and we haven’t seen each other in over eight years (outside of the occasional Facebook viewing of one another’s lives).
On Sunday we begin a new series with the hope of discovering joy and strength through a life of gratitude and generosity. Psychological studies have shown that approaching life with a posture of gratitude changes everything, and Scripture speaks to this in Old and New Testaments.
I can’t wait to share some learnings with you of how we might live with grateful hearts, along with an invitation to our 30-day gratitude challenge. We will have a Gratitude Journal for everyone in worship on Sunday to begin this challenge, and an additional opportunity to share what you are grateful for on our "gratitude wall" and on social media! I believe these exercises will help increase our prayer life and open our eyes (and heart) to living with gratitude.
I look forward to preaching this series and taking this journey with you. If you’ve been considering inviting a friend to worship, this will be a hope-filled series, so please invite them to hear this important message of hope and faith founded in gratitude!
It's such an honor to serve God here at RezWest and the Gant family is so grateful to be a part of a faith community that seeks to bring hope in a broken world. Let’s grow together so we are ready for this important work. See you Sunday!
P.S. Oh and thanks to the 184 of you who worshiped at the 8 am (ok, really 9 am with the time change) last week. That was our biggest 8 am yet!
With a grateful heart,
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