God’s Faithfulness in the Gathering

Well folks, ready or not, the holiday season is upon us. As much as I love my family and friends, this season can also be immensely stressful and draining for me, the introvertiest of introverts. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the festivities and the people that I get to celebrate with, but I also cherish the times of solitude, rest, and recharging that I plan for myself before and after holiday get togethers.

While it’s easy, especially this time of year, to get caught up in the fanfare of the large gatherings, or conversely spending too much time in solitude, God has been faithful to show me the sweet spot in between. As King David declares in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

It is often in these times of dwelling, that in the background of the merriment and crowds, God uses a gathering within the gathering of just one or two other people to encourage me in my faith. In these small moments of big events, God reminds me of who He is and who He has created me to be.

Gather Karly Grant

While many of these experiences happen with good friends and family, one-on-one or in a small group, one time that sticks out to me happened just recently in a large church gathering. It was a Sunday morning and I was feeling particularly down. I almost didn’t go to church that day, feeling full of self-pity and loneliness. I was struggling with where I was at in life and feeling like God wasn’t hearing my prayers or at least not answering them in the way that I thought he should be. I couldn’t see his direction to a clear path. Not one part of my humanity wanted to go to church that morning, but that’s precisely why I knew I needed to be with God’s people.

As I was sitting in church, feeling sorry for myself, I cried out to God. I couldn’t tell you what the sermon was about that day, but I was praying prayers truer than I had allowed myself to say in a while. There having a personal moment amongst hundreds of people, I   felt alone and unseen by God as I desperately tried to trust. As service dismissed, I began to wonder why I had even bothered going to church that day. Couldn’t I have prayed the same prayer in the comfort of sweats at home? Then a young woman approached me. I had never seen her before.

She had been sitting a few people down from me in the pew. She seemed nervous but said that she had noticed me during the service and had been lead to pray for me. She told me that she felt like God was urging her to let me know that He saw me, He hadn’t forgotten about me, and He had a plan for my life. She then handed me a prayer that she had written for me and told me I could read it later if I wanted and asked if she could pray for me right then. This was exactly what I needed that day. I haven’t seen that girl again since, but that “chance” encounter, that small gathering of just two people inside the clearly seen larger gathering of the church service, was orchestrated by God and blessed me more than that lady will ever know.

I am one who too easily retreats to solitude when times are tough. While some alone time is good and healthy, it is the sweet moments of being real with friends and allowing God to speak to and through me in day to day life that have the largest impact.

Karly Grant Gather

There is a reason we have the church, that God has called us to gather, and it’s not just spiritual, it’s scientific too. The New York Times posted an article in December of 2016 titled, How Social Isolation Is Killing Us. They reported that research shows all kinds of ways that isolation negatively affects us, makes death come more quickly for those who are sick, and greatly increases chances for things like heart disease.

God created us for one another, this is why he reminds us in Hebrews 10:24-25 to, “… consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

What does all this mean for us, for me? As this season of celebration approaches, I will still have times of introversion, but I will also relish the gatherings. And in the chaos of them look for ways to have smaller gatherings as I pray that God will speak to and through me as we celebrate. For there, his faithfulness is palatable and present. In a world that tempts us to feel alone, God reminds us we never are.

Karly Grant headshotKarly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm of adoption.


Dear Sunday School Teacher

Author: Chara Donahue

Dear Sunday School Teacher,

I recently told my children that we would be transitioning away from our home church in order to multiply the ministry we are a part of.

Two kids cried and one outright refused to leave. She declared that we could drop her off on our way to wherever we were going. She is five, and she loves fiercely. The other, well, the other told us he would miss his best friend—Han Solo. He is three so… peace be with him.

Their grief made me sorrowful as well. I know we, as those who have been chosen to parent them, are making the right choice. But seeing them mourn – while still processing the change myself – threatened the peace I have about the decision.

Then a friend said to me, “You must be doing something right, for your kids to love the church so much.”

I hadn’t even considered that. All I could see were little eyes welling up with petite tears. This valuable outside perspective gave me great joy because my kids are learning to love the family of Christ as much as we do. Apparently, they also love Star Wars. Anyway, the better of the two, the church, even with all its failures, fragility, and faults is seen as beautiful through the eyes of my little ones. They cried tears, had big feelings, and asked God for help. They have learned something bigger than their dad and I could ever teach.

Maybe we are doing something right, but it’s not just us. It’s also YOU. It’s us working together as God intended to teach the next generation, Jesus loves you.

I want you to know that I am not oblivious to the way you have impacted my children, and neither are they. Your names were brought up in the midst of their lamenting along with the names of their peers.

You have changed their nasty diapers and fed their tiny mouths, so my hungry soul could be fed spiritually.

You have shown them mercy when they outright challenged your authority.

You have wiped their noses and been infected with the plagues that have swept through kids ministry.

You have managed conflict, drama, and outright insanity, and helped these children love each other as they formed their own rich, child-like, Christ-centered community.

You have shown them courage when you diligently served in a ministry that was being developed. When you stepped into a class filled with 3 to 10-year-olds who needed your care.

You have stepped up to serve the Lord and teach the word to children who can’t read the words but will listen to your grace-filled voice.

You, who on Sunday Morning find the energy to make exuberant arm motions, dance to loud, cheerful music, and be undignified in order to lead littles in praise to a God who is big, strong, and mighty.

You, who handle the aftermath when my child makes sure the whole class knows David, of slaying Goliath fame, was spying on Bathsheba while she was naked.

You, who persevered year after year, holding and walking alongside my child as they grew from baby into toddler, into preschooler, into elementarian.

You, who stayed late so we could pray with those walking through awkward times and deep waters.

You, who come to their parties to cheer them on. Who rejoiced with me when they experienced success, showed growing character, and began knowing God in new ways. Who celebrated as they were baptized.

You, who pray for their hearts, souls, and minds, while developing lessons, when you could be doing something, anything else.

You loved my children well. They know Jesus more because of you. Thank you feels too small, but I mean it from the core of who I am.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Our culture is wondering if the church is dying. They don’t know people like you.

Much love and gratitude,

The Parents of the Kids Whose Lives You Have Changed

Readers do you have a Sunday School teacher you love and appreciate. Let them know; they are more precious to us than they realize.