December 31, 2013

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GUEST POST: A Thoughtful DIY Advent Calendar [EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a guest post from our friend, Brooke Mikulas. Brooke is part of our new life downtown staff and is full of vision and creative ideas for bringing beauty and hope in practical ways. This was a fun and thoughtful creation for Advent that I thought you all may enjoy. For more Advent resources-- prayers, books, music and more-- click HERE.] A meaningful Advent Calendar anyone can make? Yes, please! Just over a year ago, my husband and I opened up our home and cottage to 9 other people. Call us crazy, but we're both extroverts, we both love people, and we both embrace the ways community can sharpen, shape and mold us. In the shared spaces of life, we discover not only who we are but also grasp the courage to embrace and live our unique identities. Not all things we do are intentional, but... For Christmas time this year, as a household I wanted to embrace Advent in a new way. How could we all be involved in a meaningful, reflective journey...that might remind us to participate in and celebrate the exuberant anticipation of Advent? I'd always wanted to make our own Advent calendar, but December always seemed to creep up so quickly. This year, December 1st rolled around and I decided this was the year. I grabbed some paper bag lunch sacks, some Christmasy tape, and ran to the store for some goodies. I imagined the calendar to have a diverse purpose by filling the baggies with challenges to stretch, Scriptures to edify, treats to enjoy, and gifts to add a sense of giddy, Christmasy wonder. I gave my housemates 2 rules after they picked random numbers for who gets what days: 1. You must complete or partake what's inside, and 2. You must...
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On the Limits of New Year's Resolutions Resolutions are powerful things. We feel all the energy of a new year rushing forward, washing over past failures or shortcomings. I like goals and fresh starts and reset buttons. But they have their limits. And as with so many things, the better we are at recognizing their limits, the more likely we are to enjoy them for what they are. Five years ago, I wrote a blog on why resolutions miss the mark. And while I may have been a little gloomy about the topic as a whole, there are a few thoughts worth repeating as we step into 2014 together. -------------------------- Why does it seem that no matter how hard we try, we can't seem to make ourselves better? If Life gave out report cards, we would be lucky to hold a B average. What if the whole approach is off target? What if life-- and life with God-- is not first about progress and improvement? The Bible has two favorite word pictures for our life with God. The first is of a potter and clay. We are reminded that God is the potter and that we are the clay. Using this imagery, God rebukes Israel for trying to take over what only God can do: "You turn things upside down as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'He did not make me'? Can the pot say of the potter, 'He knows nothing'?" (Is. 26:19) Jesus picks up on this theme by pointing out the futility of worry: "Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Matt. 6: 27) We cannot make ourselves more like Jesus any more than a lump of clay can make itself into a vase....

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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