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Colossian Blog
December 2, 2019 | Michael Gulker

Advent Greetings – November/December Prayer Letter

Advent greetings from The Colossian Forum! Since Advent is the celebration of the incarnation of Christ, we thought we would try something slightly more incarnational than our usual email prayer letter. We hope you enjoy this experiment and the video. As always, we welcome your feedback. Please email me at mgulker@colossianforum.org with your comments, suggestions or questions. 

Please join us at The Colossian Forum in giving thanks for:

· You. As we come to the end of 2019, we are so grateful for our partners, participants, Leaders, and supporters, who make our work not only possible but joyful. Thanks to your steadfast commitment and support, we’ve been able to share the gifts of hope and healing with more people than we ever imagined through The Colossian Way. This year, 115 people have become Colossian Way Leaders, and 29 TCW groups have occurred, representing nearly 350 participants. In our Fall Cohort alone, 144 people are running groups (12 on Sexuality). We couldn’t be more thankful for or encouraged by this engagement!   

· Linda Gulker and Christine Pohl, who have volunteered to help us expand our reach on Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is an international movement of generosity, hope, and celebration that invites people to give small donations to organizations they already love. To get involved, please contact Emily Stroble at estroble@colossianforum.org

· A diverse, well-attended Colossian Way Leader Training last month. Christians from all over the country blessed us with their rich stories of personal and spiritual conflict that led them to TCF. We pray they returned home feeling encouraged and empowered to help their churches become places of reconciliation.  

· The opportunity to gather with many of you at our upcoming annual Christmas celebration on Dec. 12. We pray our time together blesses you as it will surely bless us. If you haven’t registered already, please RSVP by Dec. 5th.

This month, please join us in praying for the following:

· God’s wisdom and guidance as we work strategically to expanding our offerings.

· A fruitful experience for those participating in upcoming pilot Leader Training and small groups for our forthcoming Colossian Way series on gender. Their feedback will be essential as we shape the final curriculum.

· A productive Giving Tuesday on December 3. Please watch your inbox, our website and TCF social media channels for special video content, stories, and posts. We invite you to share your stories of impact and generosity with TCF’s hashtag, #ForgivingTuesday!

· Our many friends who faithfully offer their gifts toward our work. We have been uniquely blessed with a $25,000 matching gift to double the amount and impact of donations received before December 31. Each gift supports training leaders in the U.S. and beyond and builds a clearer picture of TCF’s future work in the Church. Please join us in praying for God’s continued sustainment and growth of this vision. If you would like to participate in the match, please visit www.colossianforum.org/give. Should you have questions, please contact Emily Stroble at estroble@colossianforum.org

· Broad awareness for our Political Talk curriculum as we work toward launching our Political Talk curriculum in an election year. We pray it will guide churches nationwide toward hope in a polarized world.

Upcoming Events:

· Please join us Thursday, December 12th from 5 – 8 p.m. for our annual Christmas Celebration! We invite you for fellowship and to receive a “first taste” activity from our Political Talk curriculum launching soon to churches around the country. To help us gauge catering needs, please RSVP by Dec. 5th.  

· The January Series: Moving Beyond Labels to a Christian Dialogue about Creation and Evolution with Todd Charles Wood & Darrel R. Falk. Please join these gentlemen, the authors of our latest book, The Fool and the Heretic, on January 9 as they discuss their unique, Christ-filled journey to love and friendship amid deep disagreement. TCF’s Dr. Rob Barrett will moderate the session. We hope you can join us onsite, at any one of 50+ remote sites, or online for LIVE audio streaming! Be sure to stop by our table as well. We’d love to hear about any conflicts your church is facing. Admission is free.

Thank you for your faithful prayers.

We are comforted and encouraged by your ongoing partnership in prayer.  It would be our privilege to lift up your needs and praises as we gather each morning for prayer.  Please take a moment to email us any intercessions or thanksgivings at info@colossianforum.org.

Suggested Posts
Praying with the City in View
December 31, 2019 | Emily Stroble
Praying with the City in View
I’ve never experienced peace as acutely than when I visited the tiny town of Assisi, Italy three years ago. The path that winds across the steep hillside behind the city takes hikers through olive groves, which give way to brush and cypress trees that frame a honeycomb of caves. In mid-January, early in the morning, even the light seemed to move gently. I was happy to be outside and excited to be traveling, and I smiled to myself as I made my way up the slope. I found it funny that I should be walking through olive branches in a little forest of peace when, in the village below, I could hardly order coffee in my American accent without receiving quips and comments about the recent 2016 U.S. presidential election. The monastery above Assisi has a remarkable story. Monks still live and worship there, and they always have, despite the rise and fall of the empires, kings, and dictators. The monks come from all over to live in this little cluster of low-ceilinged cells and chapels. As I walked up the hill toward the monastery with my tour group, the monastic life seemed an appealing path. How rich to walk up a mountain to sit in the presence of God and never go back to the noise and confusion of politics and the rest of civil life. As we arrived, a tall monk greeted us warmly. He motioned us out of the wind. He was shyly apologetic for his English, which was clear as a bell against the wind. He spoke softly, telling us the history of the monastery. I don’t remember whether someone asked him about the monastic life or if he was reacting to the curiosity in our faces. He said something to the effect of, “People seem confused about monks. We live apart from the city, it’s true. We devote our time to prayer. But we are not completely severed from the world. We are not ignorant of what is going on. We care deeply for our city. We chose this place to pray here for the city.” He straightened his hunched shoulders and swept a long arm across the valley with its steeples, farms, and domed basilicas. “We live apart from the city to pray with the city in view,” he said. That sentence has echoed in my head ever since. As we all can, I’ve grappled for years with the command to be “in the world and not of it.” And, in the political tension that’s defined the last few years, my uncertainty around what faith calls me to do politically has needled me more urgently. Yet, in all my wrestling, arguing, doubt, and looking for the petition I could sign or the party I could join that would align me with “Christian Politics,” it never occurred to me to pray for anything other than my preferred outcome in an election or vote. I think praying with the city in view is something different from praying for the city. First, when you are apart from the city but keep it in view, it’s easier to remember to which kingdom you belong, and you can care for the city in its proper place as a part of God’s kingdom. When you are in the city, the dramas and concerns of the human world fill your whole field of vision. When we stand apart from the city, we gain some perspective, and our desires align more closely to a sincere prayer of “on earth as it is in Heaven.” Second, the practice of prayer, rather than the desired outcome, becomes our path to closer relationship with God. Rather than getting to God through praying about politics, we become people primarily of prayer who are better formed to face political conflicts. What place should intercession have in our politics? It is a beautiful act of Christ-imitation. And if monastic prayer can inform politics, what other practices might hold us together as we wade through the muck of our most divisive issues, like immigration, recreational marijuana, and who should lead? These are some of the questions we begin with in The Colossian Forum’s Political Talk curriculum, launching in early February. You can visit colossianforum.org/politicaltalk for more information and to pre-order your copy. As we head into a year when politicians and parties will be competing vigorously for our allegiance, and political conversations have the potential to escalate and drive wedges between even longtime friends and close family, I humbly invite you to consider a set-apart posture like the one I learned in Assisi. In 2020, may you pray with the city in view and find hope in the opportunity for reconciliation that our conflicts – no matter their context – offer us.
The Vulnerability of God
December 24, 2019 | Chris De Vos
The Vulnerability of God
Upon being born, a baby presents problems—problems that seem so manageable during the nine months of pregnancy. Rude cries for food in the night, raw soiling of blankets throughout the day, and utter dependency upon us in each passing moment drain our energy and, for some, test the limits of our patience. Although we are programmed to respond a certain way when a baby smiles (a gesture that releases pleasant chemicals into our central nervous systems), her piercing cries have the power to render nothing short of sheer frustration from the best of us. For me, it was the daily, unrelenting dependence upon my wife and me that led me to wonder what we were thinking when we decided to have a child. Well, we thought about the future. About the future of this world. After all, there is no future without babies. As grandparents now, we see this even more profoundly. I wonder whether Mary and Joseph had similar reflections. After all, the birth of Christ was always about the future. From the moment Adam and Eve acted in self-defiance against God’s wishes, the future of creation itself was in question. God spoke of the future when blessing the nations through Abraham, when establishing a throne for David, and when anointing a suffering servant king that Isaiah foretold. The future of everything hinged upon God’s decision to conceive a child in Mary. The logistics of all this have produced stretch marks in the minds of the best thinkers in history, and many have rejected the reality or deconstructed its power.  But the message proclaimed in Christ’s birth begins with the reality of God, incarnate in a baby. God, emptied, to some extent, of God’s pure divinity, born as any human baby is born – to a woman crying out in labor and a father pained by the agony in his wife‘s face. A child, smeared with bluish-white goo, wiped perhaps by a rough muslin rag and washed while breathing in his first breath of air. A couple questioning the sense of having a child in this world, let alone one with such strange prophecies about it. God took a chance at the right time, we’re told. But it all seems so full of vulnerability, ready to fall apart at any moment. Salvation depended on Joseph and Mary trusting in God’s idea of the future. The whole plan rested upon those two parents and their openness to the possibility of Jesus -- “God with us.” And to a great extent, the future still does. My theological muscles are not strong enough to understand the fine points of human-divine natures co-mingling in the person of Jesus, but I do believe it and believe that Jesus’ birth is our greatest hope for the future. For to deny it, or turn from it, or go about life as if it didn’t happen means to turn life over to ourselves. It means to say that God never has come to live in our skin. That God is distant, uninvolved. It means to say that God does not exist, or if he does, he does not understand us. To trust in this story is to keep the door open for new possibilities for the future, despite our fears, doubts, weaknesses, and divisions. To believe this story is to accept vulnerability as the starting point for new life. In our cultural moment, in which we’re so deeply polarized, this hope for renewal and reconciliation is more meaningful to me than ever. At Christmas, we reverently and joyfully remember that the vulnerability of God leads to the viability of a renewed creation – a new you, a new me, and a new relationship, even with our enemies!

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