Truly Thankful

As we enter a season where we celebrate not only our national Thanksgiving but also our worldwide thanksgiving at Christmas, we are moved to think about so much and so many people for which we are thankful. Even as I write this, the news is full of those who are thankful for police officers who have laid down their lives to save them in the midst of crime and crisis; soldiers who risk their lives around the world to safeguard not only our basic right, but to also help us get relief from oppression and tyranny. 

Most notably this last week we witnessed firemen all over California who are risking everything to save the lives and homes of countless thousands—while over 50 firemen in northern California lost their homes even as they worked to save those of others.

This is what makes America strong and even unique—we risk ourselves to protect and help others. Let us all take time this season to be thankful and express thankfulness to those who work to serve, help, and protect us.

Some roles, like firemen, soldiers, and police are obvious in their sacrificial impact on society and when they succeed, we are deeply thankful—when they fail, we are deeply troubled. There are, however, roles that we don’t often see noticed for the role they play in our lives and souls. This last month, many churches and Christians took time to thank their pastors. The Cornerstone family was hugely expressive of this thanks, and your pastors are deeply appreciative of your expressions!

But pastors are often up front and visible; it is easy to see what they do. At the same time, however, there are many servants that are not easily seen and often are missed in our times of thankfulness and thanksgiving.

Every Sunday, and literally every day of the week, we have Cornerstone family that serve others—from Small Group and Bible Study leaders to Deaconesses that visit the sick and homebound; from those who volunteer with the children and youth to those who help feed and care for the poor and needy in this valley. Each of these people serves others to have a chance to draw them closer to a rich and vital relationship with Jesus Christ our Savior.

And our family at Cornerstone doesn’t just stop with the “normal” things that churches do. They go the extra mile on a regular basis to show the love and grace of Christ to a lost and needy world. One such instance was Trunk or Treat at the end of October.

In preparation, dozens and dozens gave even more dozens of bags of candy to be given away to children and youth. Equally, dozens of us came early that day to spend a couple of hours to set up the grounds for hosting the neighborhood in our Trunk or Treat outreach. And after donating candy and spending time setting up, many of us drove our cars to the grassy play area and set up games and trunks to not only distribute cavity-assisting nuggets of pleasure, but also to create a carnival of fun, joy, love, and peace. 

Those people made my year, and that night was my favorite in all the time I have been at Cornerstone. As I walked through the very crowded play area, I saw families from the neighborhood enjoying time with their kids as their kids were being blessed and encouraged by our folks. As people stood in line with their neighbors, people they saw regularly but probably never have spoken to, uncrossed their arms and began to enjoy a fellowship they probably never thought possible. God used our people to create an atmosphere of love, joy, and peace to bring joy and peace amongst strangers who often see little of it during their daily lives.

Fathers who didn’t want to spend ten minutes at this event ended up enjoying Trunk or Treat until it closed. And hundreds didn’t want it to end and spent an extra half-hour just trying to soak up the last little bit of fun and fellowship that God had blessed them with. Young men who would have been enemies or rivals on their street were now playing and laughing together and seeing each other for who they really were—maybe for the first time.

Without a doubt, that evening was rich in the power of God, and, yes, our neighbors got to taste a bunch of candy, but most of all through our faithful servants they got to taste the awesome love of Christ. Nothing can diminish the heroism of our firefighters who save us from the fires of this world, but I know that heaven itself is applauding those unseen and unnoticed servants who help save those around us who are stepping towards the fires of hell. And, as for this pastor, I have so very much to be thankful for this season in the beautiful congregation I am honored to serve.