One Word for 365 Days of the Year

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 joyOne 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.

Psalm 28 7 (550x461)

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.

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I keep this on my desk at home, and please know that my picture certainly doesn’t do it justice!

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: CreateIt’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.

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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

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12 replies

  1. Beautiful, April ! And, as I was writing this, it occurred to me to choose “beautiful” as my word.

  2. I really love this idea … on thinking more about it, I have chosen “Inspiration” as my one word for 2017. It not only encompasses the idea of the breath (for my various breathing /well-being practices) but the emotional uplift from images, thoughts, experiences, etc which inspire me.

    • I’ve found one word to be more helpful than a New Year’s resolution, and I like it better than the #5WordMotto practice that I’ve been seeing on Twitter this year. I love both of your words, and they go well together, don’t they, as “beautiful inspiration.” Have a beautiful and inspiring year!

  3. Great idea. I also sometimes adopt a “verse for the year” to meditate on and pray through during ‘in-between’ moments of the year. I think the two could go together. For me, 2017 is Psalms 90:17a “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands….” so I think the word is “Establish” (stability, anchor, root). 2016 was Hosea 6:3a “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord…” so the word could have been “Press on” (pursue, thirst, desire, persevere). Anyway, thanks for the prod.

    • Thank you for sharing – I love the way you put the two together, so the one word is grounded in Scripture and has some context. I’ve never deliberately chosen a verse of the year, but pondering “create” led me immediately to Psalm 51, and I’m sure that I’ll return to those verses throughout this year. May you know the Lord’s favor in 2017 and find your work well established.

  4. Oh, I love that book by Heschel. Another commonality we share, April. I look forward to watching you live your word for this new year! I’ve chosen a phrase: Squeeze the Day. (Amplectamur diem, I think, if I can trust the online translator.) I’m banking on ongoing embrace as a possible key to transfiguration . . .

    • His writing was new to me last year, and so rich that I read it slowly to savour every word. Theology as poetry, or so it seemed to me, and I can imagine you would love that book too. Your phrase is new to me–in Latin and in English!–and reminds me of freshly squeezed orange juice, so bright, refreshing, and healthy I look forward to all that it will mean to you this year….

    • Love your visual of fresh-squeezed orange juice (in a clear, thin glass with a stem)—something to toast the day with occasionally. Now you’ve got me dreaming of swapping out the Christmas reds for orange accents in my living space. You are “creating” a stir in me. 🙂

  5. Two years ago I chose a word for ministry and shared it at a ministry conference. I chose imagination. In part I said, “Yes, get drunk with spirit-inspired imagination
    and discover afresh that maybe our upbringing,
    our theological tradition, and even our confessions of faith are not equipped
    to stem the tide of what the Lord is up to in his world, in the church, or in our lives.”

  6. I had never thought of a word for the year until I connected with the Five Minute Friday writers. My word is “pause” I am always rushing. My kids are always telling me I never sit through a movie (at home).So I am going to work on being a Mary as opposed to a Martha.