In 2014, I added a meaningful activity to my soul preparation for the new year. It involves prayer, asking the Lord to direct me to one word for the year. That one word becomes a source of inspiration and encouragement in the weeks and months ahead. At first, the word might feel uncomfortable or it might not make sense.
One year I felt that God’s word for me was “dare.” Now, I am not a risk-taker. I like my routines, and I don’t enjoy rocking the boat. However, after trying several times to pick a different word—one gentler and less in-my-face—I surrendered my own desires. “Dare” it was. And that year, the Lord empowered me to dare to believe Him for big things for the pregnancy help center I lead. Believing for big things required me to stretch and walk in new territory.
At the end of each year, I start praying and listening for my word. Some words from the past have been “virtue,” “expectation,” “listen,” and “fearless.”
This year I didn’t receive one word. I sensed there were three. Because I’m a rule follower, it felt like I was doing something wrong. I continued to seek the Lord, and the three words resonated equally. I couldn’t get rid of any of them. Pray. Wait. Trust.
There are times that we can get set in our way of doing things and our rituals lose their vibrancy. The Lord may invite us to change some elements of deeply held practices and embrace flexibility. Being flexible can be life-giving as we rely on His steadfastness when we feel shaky.
How do you like to start off a new year? What can you change to make your routines more life-giving? May you thrive in life and as a leader through Jesus in the days ahead.
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. ~Psalm 33:20-22 ESV
There is an old story about an elderly couple who was approaching their 50th wedding anniversary. They had planned a small celebration with family and close friends. As the special day approached, the wife ventured to share a concern she had about the relationship with her husband.
“You know, dear, it has been a very long time since you’ve said, ‘I love you.’ In fact, I can’t remember the last time you said it.” She held her breathe, hopeful for some sign of affection.
The husband growled, “I told you on our wedding day. If I change my mind, I will let you know!”
It’s a wonder that this couple had managed to be married for so long.
Spoken words are powerful. Words left unspoken also carry a power of their own. They morph by people’s imaginations. Assumptions run wild.
There are four phrases that should be spoken often.
I love you (or I care about you). Relationships need to be nurtured. At home and in the workplace, people need to know they matter to you. With my husband and kids, I made a commitment to say “I love you” every day before they left the house. If something unexpectedly tragic happened, I wanted my last words to be “I love you.” When spoken, the expression of affection builds others up.
I appreciate you. It’s important to mention specific actions or attributes that you appreciate. Naming somebody’s strengths and talents affirms their positive qualities and encourages them to continue expressing them. Appreciation also creates a sense of value in the hearer.
I’m sorry. Be genuine and mention what you are sorry about. Admitting that you are wrong and sorry establishes a safe environment. Mistakes are learning opportunities. By your example, others will be encouraged to take ownership for their actions and apologize for wrong-doing.
I forgive you. Embrace the humility of Jesus and be quick to forgive. Let go of pride and refuse to hold a grudge. We receive God’s forgiveness when we forgive others. The LORD has graciously forgiven us and continues to forgives, and empowers us to walk in forgiveness toward others.
Let’s bless others with our words. May we speak words of life and love, building people up and glorifying the LORD. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, NLT).
Since 1984 the month of January has been set aside to promote the Sanctity of Human Life. President Ronald Reagan established January 22 as the official day, and churches observe it on the Sunday closest to that. However, as time has gone on, the entire month of January is dedicated to focusing on the sacredness of all human life.
Society values life according to the quality of life and the contributions one can provide. Certain segments of the population value a particular skin color, ethnicity, lifestyle, or political affiliation as worth more than others. If someone doesn’t conform, they are discriminated against, ostracized, or treated with violence.
God’s standards are different than society’s standards. God loves all human life. Every human being is sacred, created in the LORD’s image.
We can go back to the beginning of creation to some of the earliest Sunday school lessons in Genesis chapter one. On the sixth day, God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us” (v. 26a, NLT). (The words “us” and “our” reference the relationship of the Trinity.)
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (v. 27).
At the end of the sixth day, “God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (v. 31, emphasis mine). At the end of the first five days of creation, God saw that it was good. But this day with the creation of human beings in God’s own image, it was very good.
Just two chapters later, the first human beings fell from God’s original intention. They opened the door to disobedience and all its consequences. Thankfully, Jesus came to redeem us and give us new life. The fall may have marred humanity; nevertheless, every person is still created in the image of God. As a result, all life—from conception until death—is sacred and worthy of respect, dignity, and protection. All human life matters to God; what matters to God must matter to us.
Psalm 139 provides beautiful imagery of God’s loving, abiding presence. He is constantly thinking about us with precious thoughts that cannot be numbered. Verse 13-16 depict the caring, skillful craftsmanship of the pre-born baby in the womb. While the words were written by David, they describe God’s relationship with every person.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Every human being is sacred and priceless. God loves each and every one of us. Nothing can diminish a person’s worth—not age, sickness, disability, hardship, oppression, or any other barrier.
With that in mind, we must embrace the beauty of life. Life becomes even more beautiful when we surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and allow Him to transform us.
Nobody is exempt from the beauty of life. In the Book of Revelation, we get a glimpse into heaven.
“There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (7:9, NIV).
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13), we ask for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Heaven establishes the pattern to follow. Heaven has a great multitude of Jesus-followers from every nation, tribe, people and language. Here on earth, despite the ugliness, messiness, and brokenness people may encounter, life is still sacred, it is still beautiful, and it has breath-taking variety.
As Christians and servant leaders, we must consider every person as created in the image of God, and we must look at them through the lens of God’s love and potential. Then, we will be prepared to truly love our neighbors—all of them.
Note: I made the words “all” and “every” bold to accentuate the point that no person is excluded from being treated as sacred and valued.