2019 – the Year of “Growth”


Oh my…

My Star Word* for 2019 is “growth” and I don’t know whether to be excited or terrified.

The last year has been a difficult one. I don’t want to give the specific reasons air time right now, so forgive the vagueness of this post.

I know that I did the right thing by showing up and standing up for the right reasons, but the “nasty-grams” I got because of doing that really hurt. Learning to walk with integrity, and not cave from pressure and criticism was tough. I’m limping, and learning to forgive… but God’s faithfulness has carried me through.

I asked my beloved spouse what he thought my Star Word would mean. (I confess, it was in a little bit of a whiny way!) He said, “Maybe this is the year that you consolidate from all of the growth from last year.”

I think I’ll go with that. But time will tell!

*What’s a “Star Word”? Read more here!

If you still want a star word, make a comment, email me, send me a text, or catch me on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram. I’d be glad to draw one for you. There’s plenty left. Oh, and if you’re curious, they aren’t “churchy” words. They are everyday words offered for anyone who wants to meditate on a word for the year. That’s it!

It’s Star Words time!

The Three Wise Men - Matthew 2:1-12
Artist: Jesus Mafa from Cameroon.
No. Not Star Wars time. (I see you out there.)

Star Words is a concept I first learned about from Marci Glass, one of the RevGalBlogPals. She credits Reformed Worship for the seed idea.

The concept is simple: One selects (or is given) a word for the purpose of reflection and meditation for the New Year. It is based off of the story of the Magi coming to see the Christ Child. In most Christian communities, this story is part of Epiphany celebration (or the twelfth day of Christmas.) However, I think it can be part of one’s spiritual practice, regardless of your personal spirituality or religion (or lack thereof.)

Here is the text as found in Matthew 2:1-12 (CEB).

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

6 “You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
because from you will come one who governs,
who will shepherd my people Israel.”*

7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

* Matthew 2:6 Mic 5:2; 2 Sam 5:2

In choosing/giving a star word, there is an opportunity for reflection and even re-direction. After all, the Magi thought a new King would be born in a palace. Instead, the scholars in Herod’s court told them to go to Bethlehem. They also listened to the warnings of the Divine (even through dreams!) to not return and tell Herod where the Child was living with his family. How might the Divine give you re-direction or insight with your Star Word?

The gifts of the Magi were costly. Their intentions were pure. What would a poor workman and his wife do with all of these treasures? Perhaps initially, to pay their way to Egypt as refugees, and then later, to re-establish the family in Nazareth. What gift will you receive from learning about yourself and your Star Word?

I invite you to receive your own Star Word!

bagofwordsI’ll pick one at random from my bag of stars. It will be yours to contemplate in the New Year. You might not like the word you get… but eventually, there will be some sort of spiritual insight or affirmation from it. As I like to tell people, “the word chooses YOU!” Every year I have engaged in this practice, I have learned something about myself and have been encouraged in my personal spiritual practice. You can read about my reflections on my 2018 Star Word here!

To get your own star word:

  • leave me a comment (and I’ll reply with your word)
  • message me or respond to my posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr
  • just ask when you see me!

Here’s to the journey of wonder, contemplation and Light!


The Magi
by Godfrey Rust

Will you study these signs
as carefully
as you study the prices
in the Christmas catalogues?

Will you seek out the manger
as diligently
as you search for the right scarf
or this year’s toy?

Will you examine
your heart’s pilgrimage
and be sure towards what stable
it carries its precious gifts?

Will you be a wise fool
to find and follow
the strange star of truth
in a sky full of glittering lies?

© Godfrey Rust, godfrey@wordsout.co.uk. Used by permission.

2018: The year of “Balance”

Earlier this year on Epiphany Sunday, I drew my personal “star word” for 2018. I first heard of this practice from another RevGal, Rev. Marci Glass. (You can read more about it here.) For the last several years, I’ve chosen a word and used it for reflection. Just as God guided the Magi to the Christ Child, so God guides me.

This year, my word was “Balance.” My initial reaction was “very funny, God.” My second thought was, “ooohhhh, OUCH.”

This year has completely been about Balance. Balance about my health. About my family’s changing needs. About my adjustment to the day-to-day professional challenges of being a hospice chaplain. About wanting to be an advocate in the public arena. About leadership in a national non-profit. About choosing when to write and what to write about.

Balance.

You can call it “chance” that I ended up with that word. But I suspect that the Spirit knew what I needed to see hanging over my desk, day in, day out.  Do I have it all figured out? Am I now a truly “balanced” person? Well, no. But I can honestly say that I know now when I am out-of-balance and have to stop and get my equilibrium.

Recently, I made a decision to step back from a leadership role. There were many reasons, but the bottom line was that I recognized how out-of-balance the stress from that role was for me personally and spiritually. I’m not someone who backs down from a challenge! (If you know me at all, you’ve figured that out.) The health challenges of my body got my attention. The emotional stress reinforced it was the right decision. Self-care is sometimes very, very hard and I am too stubborn for my own good. (I write more about this here…)

I returned to the words of a song by Carolyn McDade which reminded me why I was out of balance. I was taking on more than God had called me to do.

“No woman is required to build the world by destroying herself.”

It’s not selfish to make choices for your own growth and self-care. It’s not irresponsible to say “no, I’m sorry, I can’t” to a request for a very good and meaningful cause. It’s not impossible to admit you can’t handle the toxic situation you stumbled into rather blindly. And most of all, it’s not a bad thing to fulfill your obligations – until you simply can’t do it any more.

And, beloved, when you find that “sweet spot” — that place of Balance — it is very, very good. Just the way we are Created to be.

 

Creating Space

It's a walk by faith and not by sight.

Rest when you’re weary.
Refresh and renew yourself,
your body, your mind, your spirit.
Then get back to work.

Ralph Marston

We are just around the corner from starting the final quarter of 2014. Almost nine months have elapsed since I received a “Star Word” – a word for reflection and application in my life for the New Year. (I write more about Star Words here – check it out!)

Now as my Jewish colleagues and friends begin the celebration of the Jewish New Year on Rosh Hashanah, I found it appropriate to reflect on my “Star Word” again. My word for 2014 is VITALITY – things that bring or encourage life and growth.

In my work as a chaplain, there are many times that I get frustrated or I am, quite simply, depleted. I have no emotional or physical reserves, because the work I do is one of listening and walking with others. I seek to bring perspective, hope, and sometimes, emotional and spiritual healing. There are days I get home and I just want to relax. But life has a way of asking more — and for the love of family and friends, I do try.

What gets me from day to day is remembering that I do NOT ever have to go, flat out, 1000%, hyper-focused on the needs of others. In fact, to be a good chaplain, I have to remember my own questions and needs. I am creating space where I can refresh and grow, and then pick up my work or my tasks.

Vitality means that I find the spark of joy and life around me. It’s learning how to see brightness on a gloomy rainy day. How to find humor in the most difficult times. And I am better at learning when to say, “I’ll be back with you in a bit” and take a breather.

As the seasons move from summer to autumn, I am spending time in my garden, weeding, raking, transplanting and trimming. I’m enjoying the last blooms on my rose bush, the end of the lush green in my yard. I’m seeing the migration of the hummingbirds begin, and the noise of the geese increasing.

I have carved out time to walk the labyrinth in our back yard. Standing or walking slowly, I note the changes that are beginning to herald the coming of autumn. It is beautiful. Refreshing. Renewing. And sobering. Wasn’t it just June, with humidity and mosquitos? I marvel at the way the months melt away.

I have a tendency to rush from one assignment to the next – when perhaps I need to stop and wind up a few thoughts first. So I invite you to watch for the signs of the turning of the season with me. And remember to REST. And then… get back to work.

In this season of refreshment, renewal and reflection, I am stopping for a moment to remember Whose I am, and Why I do the work I do. Perhaps this would be a good spiritual practice for you, too!

photo-115

To those of you who celebrate, I say, “L’shanah tovah!” May you indeed have a good year and a sweet one.

VITALITY: What has to go? Bug ugly snow!

CatnEReaderThis morning, I had time to sit on the couch, spoil a cat and read. It was a toasty, comfy, wonderful way to have my last cup of coffee before venturing out into the icy cold rain. (Literally “ice” and rain. UGH.)

I was grateful for those few extra minutes of reflection. As I finished up, I ended my prayer time with a quick phrase, just off the top of my head. Nothing profound; something like, “Lord, get my attention today.”

Well. You know God doesn’t let a prayer like that go unanswered.

I had a day of errands and meetings. Nothing earth-shattering but they were things I had postponed to the end of the week because it has been so blinking cold. And as I walked out to get in the car, I saw this:

ugh1The rest of the shovelled piles of half-melted snow, neatly draining away…

I was glad they were melting, particularly since the driveway and steps were covered with little frozen “beads” of raindrops. It is January after all. Winter weather is kind of expected. (I’ll permit all of you who live where it really snows to growl and gnash your teeth at me. As you were…)

I noted as I drove to my appointment that the only place I could see snow on the ground was on untreated surfaces and in places where where it had been allowed to pile up.

“…where it had been allowed to pile up…”

That phrase came back to me as I thought about places where I’ve let issues get “piled up” in my life. How losing weight is harder since I’ve let it sit on my body for so long. How changing habits related to studying and writing requires a crazy amount of effort to get over the inertia of just starting, for Pete’s sake!  How “the sin that trips us up” (Hebrew 12:1b) takes so much diligence!!

But progress is being made and I’m grateful. Eensy-teensy steps forward…

My star word for the year is VITALITY. And so I’ve been thinking about what that means for me in every area of my life. I’ve been filling out a “SMARTER” goal chart and doing some self-evaluation. All good stuff. And necessary.

EXCEPT… I was allowing myself to feel pretty good about “how I’m doing.” You know, thoughts like “well, I’m not as bad as I was!” Or… “At least I don’t struggle with ________ like s/he does!”

And then I saw this:

Ugh2

Well, now.

I asked God to get my attention. And this did.

I have been reading about the process of sanctification, perseverance and spiritual growth. Pondering how it all ‘works’ and digging through my own goals for 2014. And, truth be told, maybe feeling a little too comfortable with “how I’m doing.”

A big, ugly, discolored, stubborn pile of snow. That’s what sin really looks like. Not neatly shoveled snow piles on one side of the driveway, but big old, stained, discolored mounds of ugly. It’s not the kind of “snow” you think of when you think of being “pure as the driven snow.” It’s ironic that this was the picture God showed me, because I know all too well the verse from Isaiah 1:18:

“Come now, and let’s settle this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they will be white as snow.
If they are red as crimson,
they will become like wool.”

In my self-righteous or perhaps (if I want to be kind to myself) self-deluded way, I had pegged myself as “not doing that badly.” When really, ugly is ugly. Sin is sin. There’s quite a list of “what has to go” towards truly having VITALITY in my life.

The glorious truth though, about faith, confession, repentance and forgiveness is that God really and truly does wash it all away. Because I am pristine, loved and lifted out of that mucky, mushy, icy mess that I think “isn’t so bad.”

2014-01-03 08.16.52

Thanks be to God.

What gives me VITALITY

My Star Word for 2014 is “Vitality.” (You can read more about Star Words and how to get one here…). I have been thinking about what helps me maintain my vitality, particularly in terms of my emotional and and mental energy.

One of the things I realized is that I have more personal energy when I am more organized. This translates into not procrastinating!! I can find five hundred ways to NOT do the things I know need to be done. It can be a case of the “I don’t wanna’s” or just not wanting to spend the energy to start something new.

So I started a little experiment on some little tasks for cleaning up the house after Christmas, (which is something that I find very depressing.) Normally, I wait until after Epiphany to put things away and it drags out all month. I have fewer work hours this month, so I couldn’t even use that as an excuse. So with both girls gone for their job/school responsibilities, I decided to punt and GIT-ER-DONE.

In the process of packing things up, I realized that I didn’t have to keep the tangled, impossible-to-use Christmas ornament hooks.  One of our biggest frustrations when we decorate the tree is this mess of hooks that we have to painstakingly take apart. It’s not even worth the time to untangle them. So I was radical. I threw them away! Nope. Didn’t even recycle them.

What a mess!
What a mess!
Maybe there’s things in your life that are not worth exerting energy on any more. (Not people, mind you. People are deserving of our best efforts and intentions.) No, I’m talking about STUFF or ACTIVITIES or CHOICES which sap your strength and deplete your love of living.

What brings me VITALITY is knowing that I can make changes that bring life and energy in my life and the lives of others. And maybe there’s other simple things that I will learn I can release and devote my time and attention to better things. Things that are for God’s purposes and God’s people.