For the last several years, a small group of my friends have gathered just after the turn of the New Year for a “Word Party.” Every year the party looks a little different. We let the kids (12 among the 5 of us) run wild in the yard or jump on the trampoline or play sardines in the bedrooms while the mamas gather around the table. My friend Amy is a tea connoisseur so she’s particular about getting the chai brewed just right, and it’s heavenly. Carla is sure to be in the kitchen cooking up something like a frittata with garden-fresh vegetables. Yasmin typically brings something with brie because we all know that brie makes everything better.
Terry and I are usually given special assignments. She’s the queen of homemade mango salsa and always brings those amazing tortilla chips from the corner store. The mamas text me early to make sure I’ll bring my famous Chicken Salad Wonton Cups – a recipe I created years ago for a contest at The Big Fresno Fair. One year we even incorporated an art project. Terry brought old wood pallets and Amy brought out her treasure box of paints and brushes so we could all create a piece of art for our home with our One Word on it.
Beyond the excuse for delectable food and heavenly chai, our Word parties are a chance to reflect on the past year and to look into the future with eager eyes. We each choose One Word to embody our year. We commit to studying, cradling, following, contemplating, dwelling on that word for the entire 365 days, until we meet again. Some of us journal our discoveries. Others peck out late-night text messages to the group with discoveries throughout the year.
At the party, we each have the assignment of tracing what God has taught us about that word theme in the past year. With great anticipation, we also reveal our word for the coming year and pray over them together. This gathering has become sacred through the years. When I say “sacred,” I don’t mean quiet and perfect like stepping into an ornate church somewhere in Europe flanked with breathtaking stain-glassed windows. Our “sacred” generally includes a noisily nursing baby, the sounds of Minecraft piping through the living room and a dog barking at the side door. This time is sacred because, in the original sense of the word, it is “set apart,” “holy,” a chance to share our faith stories in community, an opportunity to offer up tearful reflections and spur each other on to greater things.
At the close of 2013, I started thinking about my word. I started thinking and praying and pondering. When the word “Glory” wormed its way into my heart I was surprised. Glory? It didn’t seem to flow with the words from years past. I had already chosen “Thanksgiving,” then “Joy,” and one year I had two words: “Grace” and “Mercy.” My friends were choosing words like “Worship” and “Humility.” How did “Glory” fit there? At first blush, “Glory” conjured up images of war heroes and athletes defying great odds to gain victory. Somehow it didn’t speak of the quiet meditation I’d experienced before.
I tried to dismiss it. Maybe I could choose a nicer word. Love? Peace? Simplicity? Rest? Words I could feel good about plastering on my wall and exploring with my heart. Somehow that crazy word “Glory” just kept coming back to me. Every song, every billboard, every sermon, every movie seemed to incorporate that word somehow. I was surprised, intrigued. I needed to know more. What did it even mean? Why was “Glory” important to the gospel? How was it pertinent to me?
Little did I know that this single, 5-letter word would be the thing God would use to transform me, inspire me, lift me and carry me through the most difficult year of my life. This would be the beginning of tracing His “glory story” in the most unexpected narrative. God has shown me this past year that Glory is the very beginning of the story and also the grand finale. This One Word is used throughout the Bible as another word for His presence, majesty, beauty, creation, and heaven. Many of the heroes of our faith from Moses to Mary, from Isaiah to Paul, come to understand His Glory in profound ways.
I believe His Glory is a frame, a way for us to view the Bible and, more importantly, our lives. Jesus tells Martha in Luke 11:40, “Have I not told you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” I believe this is his way of urging her to seek His Glory. We are to be Glory-chasers. If we tune our hearts daily to the music God is creating in our lives, we will actively seek His Glory in all things. We will discover His presence in the good and the hard gifts. As I focused on Glory in 2014, it was a training of sorts. I had to train myself to see Glory. I had to train myself to seek Glory. I had to train myself to reflect His Glory to others.
Now when I am overwhelmed by the breathtaking colors of a sunset dancing over ocean waves, I count it a picture of His Glory. When I see the intricate beauty of a snowflake, I name it as His Glory. When I am caught up in a heart-talk with a dear friend, I believe the encouragement I find there is just another tangible example of His Glory. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer in May, I had to believe that even that hard gift was going to be for His Glory. When the meals, cards and financial support flooded in from our community, I understood that it was His Glory. When I knelt by the graveside hugging my three young daughters tight, I knew deep in my heart that this was for His Glory. When I read the letters and heard the stories unfolding of lives changed by his life, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that all of it – the joy and pain dancing right there – was about His Glory.
Glory-chasing has become habit for me. It’s the way I breathe. It’s the way I move forward one step at a time. It’s my new life purpose. I find myself framing everything by these few questions: How can I trace God working for His Glory in my present circumstances? How can I reflect His Glory in my actions and attitude today?
That one word – Glory – has changed me. As I enter a new year, I continue the journey in search of His Glory in unexpected places. I look eagerly to 2015 to see how He will use my new word – REDEEM – to bring new value to my story for His GLORY.
Image Credit: Mark Stevens, Creative Commons
Some changes made.