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I like taking down my Christmas decorations more than I like putting them up.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the nostalgia, tradition, and extra coziness the decorations create when the stockings are hung on the mantle and the lights blink on the tree, but I still look forward to taking them down at the start of each year. Some people make resolutions to help them jump start new habits and routines, but I’ve learned the hard way that my perfectionist tendencies make that a problematic practice for me, tied up in legalism and a crippling pass/fail mindset. So instead of behavioral overhauls, I make a fresh start in my home.

Once all of the holiday decor has been returned to the attic, I have newly blank space and a pile of my regular decorations just waiting for their next placement. Some will end up where I’ve always put them — if a table needs some greenery and something with height, who am I to argue with it? — while I’ll discover fresh uses for well-loved picture frames, lamps, and candlesticks. Inevitably there are some decorations that no longer make sense within my home’s new arrangement and those will either be stored so I can reassess their place in the future, or I’ll donate them, knowing that their time of usefulness in my home has passed. Sometimes I find that I’d prefer to try something completely new, but most often what I already have still works, it just needs some reimagining, rearranging, or I need to give myself permission to put it away for a while and see what my home feels like without it. The end result is always a new, fresh start made up of things I already had on hand. 

This year at Grace, we’re starting fresh with a new series looking at Sabbath and its role in our lives. For some of us, this will be experienced as a welcome reminder at the start of a new year. For others of us, while we know intellectually that discussions of Sabbath should bring feelings of restfulness and peace, we cannot help but experience some tightening in our chest and maybe even feel an eye twitch coming on. When Sabbath has been taught with the same rigor and regulations I used to apply to my impossible-to-achieve resolutions, it can be hard to shake that and instead lean into the truth of its connectedness and restoration. And we can’t forget those who have no strong feelings about Sabbath—it’s not triggering nor does it hold any affinity—who will help balance our community.

Community is really the key. Whether you’re able to remind us of the deep-breath-feeling Sabbath can bring, to help ensure that as we’re discussing Sabbath we don’t do so in a regimented way, or to ask good questions that aren’t driven by any preconceived ideas, discussing Sabbath in community can bring about healing and wholeness, while providing a safe place to practice the new practices and habits we’re learning about each week. We know all the hope that Sabbath can hold, and recognize all the baggage that others have heaped onto it, so this spring our Table Groups will incorporate some of the practices and teachings so that we can apply them within a safe community. Doing so can help strengthen our commitment to what we’re trying, while also strengthening our relationships with one another.

And while trying something new, who better than a safe community to help you look with a fresh eye at the pile of regular practices you’ve already accumulated to help you reimagine, rearrange, or receive permission to put them away for a while if they no longer fit? Because like my home decorations, the practices we’ll be learning about and being encouraged to try during the Sabbath sermon series are most likely made up of things you’re already doing and already know. Instead of approaching it as new things to try or incorporate, it can help to reframe it as “not new, just different.” Is it possible that you’ll feel the need to try something completely new? Sure. But I trust that you’ll find you already have most of what you need.

Happy New Year, Grace Church. I’m so grateful for a community that is a safe place to learn and practice, reimagine and rearrange, and I’m looking forward to doing so this year with each of you.

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Grace Church of Northwest Arkansas is a nondenominational community of Christ-followers committed to loving others, living out the Gospel and serving in Jesus’ name. We stand with the marginalized and welcome folks of all races, genders, and sexual orientations.

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