I’ve been trying to find just the right word for 2017, since I loved wonder as my word for 2016.
I read I Asked for Wonder by Abraham Joshua Heschel, and found much to ponder in his writings:
- “Prayer clarifies our hopes and intentions.”
- “To pray is to dream in league with God.”
- “Our energies are too abundant to live indifferently.”
- “The Bible insists that God is concerned with everydayness, with the trivialities of life.”
I wondered about a lot of things, like how to “bless the Lord” as in Psalm 103, about colouring as a spiritual practice, about racism, suffering, what does it mean to be a flourishing church, and much more.
I wondered more deeply about why churches and other Christian organizations seem to struggle with treating employees fairly, and my wondering led to the start of my second website, When You Work for the Church: the good, the bad and the ugly, and how we can all do better.
I wondered at God’s goodness in the brokenness of our world, in the joy of treasured friendships, in the intricate balance and beauty of nature. Wonder turned out to be a wonder-ful word for my year.
But what of 2017? In the busyness of the Christmas season and a writing deadline for mid-January, I thought of the word focus, which helped make life seem less all over the place and more, well, in focus. But I’m already focused when I need to be, and soon set that aside as too business-like anyway. Besides, sometimes I think that what I really need instead is to loosen up.
So then I went in the opposite direction, and thought about the word joy. One day when I tweeted out Psalm 28:7 as my verse of the day, a Twitter friend created this visual, and I’ve reflected on it many times since then.
I even started keeping a joy count in my journal of daily things that brought me joy or expressed joy in some way. Like being able to see a sick friend in the hospital in a neighbouring community, my new watercolour pencils that come in a neat carrying case, the soy-milk-hot-chocolate-no-whip-extra-hot that I had last week.
But joy didn’t seem quite right to me either. I felt as if I needed a bigger word somehow, one that would embrace all of life, even the painful and not-so-joyful parts. So I thought about words chosen by others: grace, write, resolve, stillness, goodness, abundance. I loved them all, and wondered, is one of these words for me?
Some might think it a waste of time to ponder over just one word. After all, what difference can one word make? But for me, the search wasn’t so much about the word itself. Choosing a word meant choosing an orientation, an attitude, a priority for the coming year. It would help provide focus without necessarily using the word focus. As I read from Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Our energies are too abundant to live indifferently.” Choosing one word was a way for me to live deliberately.
One morning I suddenly realized that my one word stood right in front of me. A dear church member and friend had given me this gift that I keep on my desk:
“It reminds me of you,” she said. “Because this is what you do, you create.” Out of all the words that I considered, this word seemed perfect: Create. It’s a big word that provides focus without being business-like, that embraces both joy and pain, that includes creating and nurturing relationships, that applies to my pastoral ministry and writing, and so much more.
I’m excited about the possibilities, about how God might use this word in my life in the coming year, about what God will create in me and through me. So I offer this prayer from Psalm 51:10-12:
Create a clean heart for me, God;
put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
Return the joy of your salvation to me
and sustain me with a willing spirit.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What’s your focus for this coming year? What one word have you chosen, and why?
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Categories: Spiritual Practice