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Archive for December, 2012

Over the holidays we’ve caught up with some friends and family – a great joy. Our old mate Grinagain, who we visited last week, has a useful phrase:

Fail to prepare…

Prepare to fail.

This is a helpful reminder in many areas, but today I’m applying it to the whole of next year. I have a few big projects on the horizon, and I want to approach them well. Today I’ve been reading through old blogposts, and came across one from January 2011 with some very helpful questions from Don Whitney. This year I’ve put pen to paper with my answers. It’s scary to hold myself accountable but also necessary – I struggle with self discipline every minute of every day. Here are those questions again for anyone else who wants to tackle 2013 before it’s upon us:

Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

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A clip of simple Christmas sand art to cheer your Christmas Eve. I love the way that the angel looks approachable when first drawn and then more and more magnificent and awe-inspiring.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjE6EYS1z8U%5D

A Merry Christmas to all of you. May you know the heavenly peace the Saviour brings. See you in 2013!

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I’m always surprised by the start of the New Year. Strange how it sneaks up just as you’re recovering from Christmas festivities, eh? It’s something I always think it would be good to plan and organise myself for, but once the frantic preparations for Christmas are finished, it’s all too easy to collapse in a heap of self-indulgence and sloth (my default mode, I fear).

But this December I want give myself a little time to think about plans for 2013. I have a BIG thing looming on the horizon for the Spring, which will means that I will need to be organised and on top of things at the beginning of January rather than sometime in mid-February. I want to make sure (as far as possible, notwishtanding my sinful slothful inclinations) that my devotional life has a good rhythm. I’m enjoying John Piper’s devotional e-book this Advent – and managing to actually read it almost every day.

Open bibleThe start of a new year always seems like a good time to think about reading through the whole bible. I am an eternal optimist in this regard. I started using the Daily Bible app on my tablet this year, and the M’Cheyne bible reading scheme that it enables you to use. I’ve found it helpful but it’s a big chunk to read – four chapters a day. Nate Treguboff has posted a good selection of whole bible plans, which includes the M’Cheyne and another for Slacker and Shirkers that I used on and off (mainly off) in 2011.

Tim Chester has just posted his bible reading scheme for 2013 which is less prescriptive than other schemes. It gives a reading for the week, rather than daily readings. I like this idea as it could be used in conjunction with a shorter devotional book. His scheme takes you through the Old Testament once every 3 years and the New Testament twice in the same time. If you’d like to start with the complete 3 year plan he’s also posted that.

So the Plan for Jan is a light devotional read in the mornings (suggestions welcome) to prompt prayer and a bible reading slot using Tim Chester’s plan at some stage in the week. I’ve thought that I could probably usefully listen to the allocated chapters using Bible Gateway’s audio facility, whilst I’m cooking or baking. I do spend a *lot* of time in my kitchen…

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I’m sure you’re all super-prepared for all the Advent happenings in your parish. But just in case you aren’t (or want to be extra-super-prepared for next year) I thought I’d share this brilliant alt.Advent series from Scripture Union that I just came across. They are posting a 2-3 minute daily animation of part of the Christmas story every day of Advent. The full animation, combining all the clips, is 47 minutes long – perhaps something to have on hand for early risers on Christmas Day…

These would be great for family devotions or to show in a service or school assembly. I might even show a few to the kids over tea this week. SU have posted a good number of other videos on their YouTube channel that would be useful for services or family bible times.

Here’s today’s lovely section of the story:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePB5LiRETkQ%5D

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Good news came in about Gone tonight. He’s been sleeping in our outside loo for over 2 weeks following a similar amount of time under our hedge during some truly atrocious weather. We’d got quite used to his taps on the kitchen window asking for a hot water bottle to be filled. More tricky to get used to was him leaning on the doorbell for far too long, usually when the kids are already in bed.

He’d managed to burn almost all his housing bridges in our area, and we were beginning to despair of finding a solution for him. Even Betel said they couldn’t take him before Christmas, when all their teams are busy fundraising, as they said they wouldn’t have the people needed to support someone so vulnerable.

But somehow Gone has managed to find some accommodation that will take him. And our friend the lovely Rev Very Benevolent spent all day today driving Gone about to find the necessary paperwork to sign into his warm new room. We are grateful to God for this provision for Gone, who we have become really quite fond of. He’s almost like an extra child – sweet and frustrating in pretty much equal measure. And now it’s time to think of some strategies to keep Gone in his new home and away from our damp and uncomfortable hedge.

We pray especially that Gone would have the support he needs to deal with his cycle of alcohol, homelessness and frustration. And that all those who have been concerned with him (there are a good many of us I can tell you, from churches, council and other agencies) will be able to get together to put some of this support in place. Next year I don’t want to be posting another pre-Christmas story of how Gone has just found somewhere to live after spending weeks sleeping in our garden.

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Christmas treeThings are gearing up for Advent activity in the parish. Tonight is our Messy Christingle service – the first that’s been held since we’ve been here. Early in Advent seems like a good time for this service and gives us an opportunity to advertise other Christmas services to our Messy Church folk, some of whom don’t attend on Sundays. We’re excited about the service and the opportunity we have to tell people the Christmas story and spend time together. I made 1.5kg of pastry this morning which this afternoon will be turned into mince pies to share afterwards.

So we’ve been in church just now, moving chairs and getting the ancient decorations out. The tree lights work, thankfully, but there is rather a lot of tinsel debris around where we’ve unravelled the silver from the gold from the red and sparkly shreds have floated to the floor. The church is not looking as ethereal as one might hope for Christmas because at the same time as we were tinselling, the builders were in knocking great lumps of plaster off the walls. They tell us the plasterers are coming on Thursday so hopefully the walls will be reinstated for the school Christmas service next week and the Infants’ Nativity the following week.

So it looks like we might have a bit of a Messy Advent here. Thankfully our God didn’t expect tidiness when he came to earth all those years ago. In fact he came *because* of the mess. That means we can wait in the mess as we look forward to his arrival.

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Good News of Great JoySo it’s actually Advent, and I only got my act together this morning to download this lovely free e-book from John Piper onto my cheap and cheerful table that I use for daily bible reading. Thankfully, the readings began today, so there’s even time for you to download it too and not be too far behind. This morning’s reflection called me to meditate on my need for a Saviour. And events during the day reminded me of that too – tired children and busy parents do not make for a godly Vicarage.

Thankfully, a large nap and answered prayer made our afternoon happier than our morning. A big Sunday lunch with parish friends was followed by a chilly walk with Dreamer and Freddie the dog. Then we decorated our Jesse Tree – only having to cover two days in one go, lit our Advent candle and thought about Jesus our Saviour, opened our chocolate Advent calendar (with extra sweeties for the non-opening children) and gave thanks for a new audio bible in Ethiopia, prompted by a lovely Bible Society calendar that came in the post.

So far so good. But it’s honestly fine if we miss a few days in the chaos. The Saviour came to forgive both messiness and missingness – our sins of commission and  those  of omission.

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