At the end of last year, I decided to try a spiritual practice suggested by writer Christine Valters Paintner’s on her blog, “Abbey of the Arts.” One selects a single word to ponder for an entire year. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the word chooses you. As Christine explains:
In ancient times, wise men and women fled out into the desert to find a place where they could be fully present to God and to their own inner struggles at work within them. The desert became a place to enter into the refiner’s fire. . .
Many people followed these ammas and abbas, seeking their wisdom and guidance for a meaningful life. One tradition was to ask for a word – this word or phrase would be something on which to ponder for many days, weeks, months, sometimes a whole lifetime. This practice is connected to lectio divina, where we approach the sacred texts with the same request – “give me a word” we ask – something to nourish me, challenge me, a word I can wrestle with and grow into. —Abbey of the Arts, blog post of Dec.21, 2011.
Christine embraced the word “savor” one year and “sanctuary” the next, exploring layers of meaning over the course of time. She invited others to post their special words for 2011, so I posted the word “consecrate” (to dedicate something for a special purpose).
Using a personal theme word for a year was so helpful, that I’m selecting another word for 2012. Here’s what I wrote about my word on Christine’s blog:
“Co-create” — God, of course, is the Ultimate Creator, but each of us can cooperate with God’s grace to make the world a better place. I want to think about what it would mean to take seriously that God wants to lead me in my daily tasks, writing, painting, even cleaning house (something I hate) to “co-create” something positive, maybe even something graced and holy, something that maybe is a mirror of God’s love for us. Dare I dream of such a thing?
Other readers of Christine’s blog chose words such as “healing,” “birthing,” “welcoming,” “question,” “fallow,” and “loving kindness.”
Is the Spirit inviting you to ponder a word for the upcoming year? If you are not sure how to select a word, I suggest checking out the Abbey of the Arts blog of Dec. 21 for ideas. If you choose to post your special word, you may qualify for a free gift from the site’s online “abbess.”
Until next time, Amen!