My One Word for 2018: Re-engage

In the fall of 2008, I gave a series of sermon to the congregation I still serve today, on creating margin in life. A theme for that series was Learning to say “no” so that I can say “yes” to God, and, as I was to discover, yes to life.

Thus began a journey in which I started letting go of many involvements in my state and national church circles and the community in which I live. It took me nearly three years to let go of all of them but I finally did it!

Since then I have had some minimal involvement in my state and national church work and my community. But in the latter part of 2017, I began to sense that it was time to

re-engage!

 

As I have read posts by others on this one word journey over the years, a common refrain I have heard from those sharing their One Word for the New Year is:

“My word found me. I did not find my word.”

I have found this to be true, especially this year’s word as I began to experience re-engagement in the final months of last year.

But this new word, this new focus, does NOT mean that I am going to sign up for anything and everything!

I am going to keep it simple and focused in the following ways:

In community service…

A single community service focus which I believe has found me is being part of a team of people to help my community effectively deal with mental health. A conference called “Speak-Up,” organized by the Lutheran Foundation of Ft Wayne, Indiana, back in November, revealed to me that the issue of mental health and the church was vital importance. As the speakers shared, I realized that I needed to address this issue with the congregation I serve.

 

In personal relationships…

The opportunity to meet with small groups of people this next year to discuss life and faith and whatever else comes up has presented itself. I am looking forward to getting out of my office and meet in local coffee shops and perhaps elsewhere.

 

Through Social Media…

I have been a user of social media for the past 10 years and, while I have dropped off Twitter and Facebook at times in the past, I am still “on” them. Twitter has been the place where I spent time engaged in a caregiver’s #carechat and now I am planning to join a Mental Health twitter chat this year.

 

As with my other words, it will be an interesting journey this year.

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“Practice Leaping” My Year with “Silence” My One Word 2017

Silence is like a river of grace inviting us to leap unafraid into its beckoning depths. It is dark and mysterious in the waters of grace. Yet in the silent darkness we are given new eyes. In the heart of the divine we can see more clearly who we are. We are renewed and cleansed in this river of silence. There are those among you who fear the Great Silence. It is a foreign land to you. Sometimes it is good to leap into the unknown.

Practice leaping.

Macrina Wiederkehr, Seven Sacred Pauses

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I practiced leaping this year, into silence, into what Wiederkehr calls the dark and mysterious “waters of grace.”

 

What I leaped into, what I found, what I experienced, and am still experiencing,

has been grace, change, transformation, life…in a painfully slow way…at times

But, at other times, a “renewed and cleansed” experience that has melted the iceberg of frozen emotions in a frozen and numbed soul.

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My numbed soul

 

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The silence has yielded to a clarity about myself that has  necessitated, required ending my self-imposed isolation and withdrawal and required and entry into a community of people, who hears, has heard, and continues to hear, the thawing emotions, words and world that I have inhabited for several years.

 

Imposed by self-will, self-sufficiency.

 

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This journey continues, and will for a long-time, but it began with silence, a silence that has forced me to get out of myself

 

 

and into the arms of Grace, the arms of God

The Path of Silence in the Midst of Noise: Reflection on Lent 2017

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When the word silence entered my conscious thought late last year as my One Word for 2017, I did not know nor even dream about where that word would lead me.

Correction, I had no idea where God would take me with this word.

But during the season of Lent, and really in the month before Lent began, God was already at work in requiring me

to be silent,

to live in silence in the midst of so much noise.

A hard, but necessary, even God directed conversation with my wife started the journey that took me into Lent and into the noisy wilderness

which in part, for me, required a going silent on social media.

silent as in, “no posting by me on any platform” (which I did except for a kuddos tweet and quirky photo on IG)

and a wrestling, as Jesus wrestled (well, like Jesus wrestled?), with anxiety, fear, resentment and a few other well-known (to me at least) travelers in my soul

Yet, the silence I encountered was golden

I would not, will not, trade for anything,  the insight, the peace, the clarity, even the healing pain, that I have experienced during this time.

I have begun to see with new eyes, hear with new ears, feel with a new heart, realize with a new soul…

And I cannot, WILL NOT, go back…

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My One Word for 2017: Silence

For the past four years, I have participated in a focusing on one word for an entire year.

In 2013 that word was Empower

In 2014 it was Listen

In 2015 it was Fast

And last year, 2016 it was Simplify

This year’s word is SILENCE…

 

Silence?

Does this mean Jim that you are going to stop talking for an entire year?

Noooooo!

What it does mean is that I am going to be incorporating periods of silence each day and on a weekly basis for the purpose of listening to God…

It also means that I will be taking at least one 48 hour retreat where I will unplug from my phone, computer, social media, etc and spend time alone and with others.

As with the other words I have attempted to incorporate into my life during the past four years, this one is not for me to disengage from life but to re-engage with a clarity that I think is important and necessary.

Maybe there is a word that you have been thinking about this past year, I encourage you to consider focusing on that word.

Some helpful websites are:

http://oneword365.com/

Another one is

http://myoneword.org/

If you have questions about this, please post one in the space below and I will do my best to answer them!

Happy New Year!

 

 

A Review of My One Word for 2016: Simplify

As 2016 comes to an end this is what I have learned and experienced as I have focused on my One Word for this year: Simplify

… to simplify is a difficult thing- the pace and demands of life make it easy to add more complexity and that makes it harder to experience the peace of God in daily living and a quality of life with family, friends, and self.

… to simplify is scary- to simplify, to let go of, creates the very real feeling of being left behind as you let go of over commitments that crowd your calendar and your soul; of being left out of the latest news as you over post on social media or fail to stay up on what is going on; of being considered irrelevant as you stop being involved in so much

…to simplify is strange- the peace which comes as you begin to really simplify, by saying ‘no,’ by letting go and letting others, by slowing down and listening and watching for what is most important- faith, hope, and love- is at first very unsettling but then a joy and a necessity

…to simplify is to focus on what is important and let go of what is not, it is to center, to listen, to hear, God, others in a way that has never been experienced.

This is the fourth year I have done a One Word focus, it has been the most enriching experience so far.

My One Word: The Solitude and Silence of Simplify

 

This journey, which it has truly turned out to be, into simplify, has been unexpected in one way and expected in another.

The unexpected part has to do with encountering and then experiencing solitude and silence. Two practices that I thought simplify would NOT involve.

The expected part has to do with the beginning of the empty nest process that took place last month as my wife and I dropped off our youngest son at university.

I had the feeling, an inner sense, earlier this year that life would simplify for a while once the fall came and that would open up a whole host of possibilities for new things, and … the need to revisit and re-prioritize some current things by letting go of things that were no longer needed nor required.

So what did I need to do to discern what things needed to go, what things needed to stay, and what things in my life needed to be added?

This is when/where the unexpected showed up…

… be silent

…be still

…listen

The intersection of expected and unexpected created an awareness in me that I need to simply spend time alone with God in silence.  I needed to ‘go simple’ to simplify…

Seeking a guide in this journey to spend more time in silence and solitude, I found Ruth Haley Barton via a link in social media… which led me to her books…

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Her first book I read was Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. It was not just informational but also inspirational and encouraging.  I have long read and heard about the need for taking care of soul as a leader.  The time was now present as life had simplified to do just that… start taking better care of myself

This book became a good long drink of cold water for my soul…

“What would it look like for me to lead more consistently from my soul-the place of my own encounter with God-rather than leading primarily from my head, my unbridled activism, or my performance-oriented drivenness? What would it be like to find God in the context of my leadership rather that miss God in the context of my leadership?’

This is where I have been… and this is where I cannot stay.

Simplify…

delegate…

give away…

pray…

listen…

empower…

A process, a journey to be sure…

 

83000The second book Invitation to Solitude and Silence (which I am still reading as of this post) began to peel back layers of life and allowed me to start sitting quietly at a consistent time during the day  listen for and to God. It is not an easy thing to do.

But as I read this book the simplicity of sitting and being silent before the Lord has become something that I want to do.

 

We are starved for quiet, to hear the sound of sheer silence that is the presence of God himself.

Yes… that is me…

So my journey continues into this time of life called ‘the empty nest.’ I am on the front end of it.  How am I to handle it?

Simply…

Silently…

Expectantly…

listening for the Lord out of the abundance of silence and not the abundance of noise…

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My One Word: The Disconcertedness of Simplify

It has been interesting that this word, simplify

has become disconcerting,

it has upset my soul

But that’s a good thing, right?

I am learning that to simplify is to

…leave the highway of busyness and journey on the road of necessary clarity

… requiring me to turn off the societal noises that make me want to do all sorts of

grandstanding that will attract attention with me shouting “Hear me!”

and force me to take off the “headphones” that pipe in the noise and start to listen

first to the silence, that is a needed, much needed, corrective to the noise…

… and then to listen to and for The Voice in the wilderness in which I find myself (and its seems like a wilderness off the big noisy highway) which says to me…

What are you doing here?

and so somewhat like Elijah I must acknowledge the intensity of my passionate pursuit and commitments which causes life to become complex as I try to keep all the balls in the air but instead

simply listen for that still, small, hope-filled voice…

as I hear all the hot air leaving my soul,  my ego

and I seek to humbly, very humbly became

simple

It feels like I am being left behind…

that is disconcerting

but oh how blessed it is!