A new year, a new word

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For this is the will of God, your sanctification.…..1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV

I’ve never chosen a ‘word’ for the new year, have you?  One of my principals, Marilyn Lane, introduced me to this concept at our first meeting of a new calendar year when teachers had returned to prepare for the new semester. Since this was a Christian school and we were a small faculty, we always began our morning with prayer. I don’t remember Marilyn’s particular word she chose, but the concept, as yet untried, has stayed with me.

Something interesting akin to the ‘word of the year’ ritual happened to me this past July, 2021.  A letter of the alphabet chose me!  Let me be more accurate. It wasn’t a single letter which happily invaded my life, but two: the prefix ‘re’.

It happened like this.  Regina and I met for a quick retreat and connect time in a town equidistant from her home and mine.  I had been struggling for some time with feeling both driven and unsettled due to an unplanned, abrupt retirement from teaching French mid-year when Mike accepted a new job here in Huntsville.  I did not know how to adjust to being at home full time.  I could have sought out another teaching job but I had actually longed to leave the classroom and pursue language interests in other more freeing and flexible ways.  The problem was I had not prepared emotionally or mentally for this transition.

I knew I was in crisis when Regina and I caught up and I shared from the heart.  That’s when my new friend re dropped into my life.  What do I mean?

During our short time together and with Regina’s patient and probing questions, the Holy Spirit gently began to invade my soul with the fresh breeze of God’s truth.  Words and concepts awakened, encourage me and gave me peace. They all happened to begin with ‘re’. I listed 31, but here are just a few. She and I both caught God’s ‘wink’, when we noticed that Regina’s name just happened to begin with ‘re!

  • Retreat
  • Release
  • Restore
  • Reset
  • Return
  • Repent
  • Rejoice
  • Revive
  • Retire
  • Rely
  • Receive

The six months’ worth of the Spirit’s counsel through ‘re’ truths have brought growth and healthy change in how to think. I can now say I am no longer driven, having set boundaries in my week in order to savor being with God and other people, as well as read for pleasure.

Now, on the cusp of a new year, some other words, not a prefix though, have percolated to the level of conscious thought. I recognized the process when ‘Purification‘(sanctification, holiness) emerged. I realize that THIS is something I want the Holy Spirit to work in me.  I’m weary of being an alloy of faith and works as well as a mix of part reliance on Jesus and part on me. I am praying that my longing and desire to be whole and genuine grow so that the pure trust and pure love and pure peace ratios increase.  Don’t some of us accept the cost we have to pay for 100% pure extra-virgin olive oil?  

That first ‘p’ word started me musing about other words that begin with the letter ‘p’, such as peace, patience, power, privilege, poor (in spirit), placed.

So, this year I’m embracing not one word, nor a prefix, but a letter of the alphabet and biblical words that begin with it.  We’ll see what the Lord Holy Spirit does next in my life.

Why is life so hard?

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Why are we surprised by hard things, by suffering? How many times have I thought, “If we can just sell the house!  Maybe when God heals Mike! Once he finds a new job!  Once I get to leave this job!”  But then, on the other side, new situations await.

I just want to be real with myself.  Life is hard because:

  • The world is broken due to sin
  • We have an evil enemy
  • God puts His family members through difficult times to burn away all that is impure, unholy and not of Him.

I am now letting it sink in that there is always another issue, a problem, a crisis, a sticky relationship.  Christianity is honest about life on Earth 1.0 but God doesn’t just leave us with truth, He reassures us that He has overcome the world and that His Spirit is with us to help us.  Remember, too, that suffering is not for naught. May we keep Romans 8:28 front and center.

I selected these two reflections from the past week, a series of days that ‘felt’ hard. But looking back, they were no more challenging and frustrating and painful than most weeks.

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Necessity teaches the naked woman to spin. Danish Proverb

God’s truth has many sources.

Roberto, a fellow language learner and friend, works on his English as I do with Spanish. But there’s a difference. Yesterday, I complimented him on his progress. He sadly demurred, adding: “I don’t need English here!”

“What do you mean?”  Listening, I realized the blessing of necessity. I volunteer weekly at the local pregnancy center. Growing numbers of Hispanic gals seek counsel and assistance. My intermediate Spanish makes a difference.  This week I spoke Spanish in all three appointments, delighting me. And I long for improvement.

Years ago, a school hired me to teach logic.  Me, a French teacher. I had never heard of logic as a subject, so I Googled it.  You can imagine how motivating a classroom of 8th-graders can be when you have to teach.  Slowly, day by day, I learned about logic and loved it.

If God is calling you to do a difficult ‘something’, about which you know nothing, thank Him!  A new skill is His gift to you.

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The LORD tests the righteous Psalm 11:5 ESV

Let’s admit it, life is very hard. 

My friend Lisa has a son undergoing a painful life experience. Her favorite promise from Jesus is: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

Today’s assurance from God is that He is going to add more pressure to the righteous, and that on top of the normal suffering on Earth 1.0. What?  Yes, as a good and wise Father, He is training us to resemble the Family. Only by treating us like precious metal needing to be rid of impurities, can we be made pure.  High temperatures!

The rest of the psalm provides two contrasts. How He reacts to the wicked is the first. He hates them!  And second, those He loves (another name for those being tested) will see His face.

Seeing God’s face is Hebrew for finding favor with God! So, take heart.

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