Sunday, June 28, 2020

Thessalonians Words Challenge

Thessalonians Words Challenge

July 6 - August 5, 2020

It's been a while since I did a summer Words Challenge and the time just felt right to take one on. A friend at church asked me to do a Bible study with her this summer to help refresh her memory on study methods as well as to keep her accountable in the Word. So, since I am doing that study I thought I would turn it into a Words Challenge as well!

We will use 31 significant words to guide us through 1 & 2 Thessalonians from July 6 - August 5. In these two letters Paul writes to Christ-followers who are struggling to hold onto their faith in a time of great trial and suffering. He uses these letters to help encourage them to focus on Jesus and the hope of His return as an anchor during the trials they face. He calls them to a right perspective about how to live life as Christ-followers while holding onto the hope of Christ. Fitting topics for us in our current times while we live through a pandemic. May we also find encouragement for our faith from Paul's letters to the Thessalonians.

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The words of this challenge will provide us with opportunities to dig deeper into these books and inspiration to express what we discover through art journaling or other creative practices. That's my whole desire for Words Challenges. Daily devotions will be posted here on my blog and you can share your art and insights in a private Facebook group, while building community with others who enjoy Bible study and art. To join the Facebook community click the link here or on the button in the side bar.

With this Words Challenge I would also like to challenge anyone who is up for it to go deeper than simply reading my Bible Study Devotions. I have created a page with my Bible study tips and techniques. I would love it if you joined me in studying these letters as we go through the challenge. I have morphed together my own style of doing an inductive style discovery study and I will post different tools I use as the challenge progresses. Why not follow along! The Bible Study Tips and Techniques page can be found here or you can access it through the menu at the top of the page. I love to study the Bible and to teach others to study it as well. True spiritual transformation comes as we intimately connect with God through His Word and His Spirit, yet many Christ-followers are intimidated by study skills or feel they need seminary degrees to wade through study resources. This was not God's plan! We need to know how to study the Word of God for ourselves. How else can we grow deeply and understand how to live as a Christ-follower? How else can we know how to identify false teaching?  I have already loaded the first two pages of tips and techniques to get you started in advance. You may already know how to use the inductive study method, if so, join me in this study with your preferred method and give my techniques a try as well if you like.

Below is the calendar for the Words Challenge. Each word has a theme verse. Use these verses or content from your study to help you respond creatively. Creative responses can be anything you choose - art journal, collage, photography, poetry, Bible journaling, visual study pages...anything you choose! Taking what we have read or studied and adding a creative response is a way to meditate on the word - we take it from our minds to our hearts and our hands and visually express it to the world!

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Use #thessalonianswords on Instagram.

Friday, June 19, 2020



Living with a pandemic these past few months has changed so much about our lives. I imagine for many of us it may have changed how we have interacted with our word of the year and the intentions or goals we set at the beginning of the year. That is what we are exploring this month in our Living Your Word of the Year group. This week we are specifically going to explore the intentions or goals we set early on and see if they are still relevant in our "new normal". My original post about my intentions can be found here.

A while back I read a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that has become the basis for my prayers lately. Bonhoeffer said,
"May God in His mercy lead us through these times; but above all, may He lead us to Himself."
Times like these can test us. They can test the depths of our faith and may force us to ask deep questions about our walk with Christ. Has fear of the virus or the economic changes it has brought caused fear to shake our trust in Jesus? Or have you been surprised to find your faith is greater than you had previously thought; that the years of time in God's Word and prayer, of faithfully walking with Him day-by-day have resulted in a foundation of trust that is not being shaken? Or maybe you're somewhere in between. As Bonhoeffer said, we can make a choice at any point in life to ask God to "lead us to Himself" and filter how we see life and our current circumstances through His lens of faith. We can ask God to "lead us to Himself for the first time or for a mid-course correction at any time.

I want to encourage you to spend some time reviewing the intentions or goals you set for your word. Reflect and pray. Our question/prompt this week is:
Has my connection with my word or my intentions changed as a result of current situations?
Here are a few more questions to help in reflection: 
  • In light of the changes we have experienced over the past few months, do I feel God moving me away from any of the intentions I originally set for the year? 
  • Do I feel Him moving me deeper into any of my intentions?
  • Do I need to make any mid-course corrections to my intentions for the year?
  • What do I want for my word in the last half of the year?
My word is fruit. I started out the year wanting to focus on the fact that fruit is a by-product of something else. Spiritually, fruit is the result of walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. Fruit, such as those listed in Galatians 5:22-23, is not something we can produce ourselves. It comes as a result of positioning ourselves under Christ and practicing spiritual disciplines such as Bible study, sacred reading, prayer, meditation, solitude, journaling, etc., in order to live a life that is led by God's Spirit.

But fruit is also something that can be borne through our lives into the lives of others as we live that Spirit-led life. As we love and serve and have a heart that seeks good for others  prompted by the call of Jesus through His words throughout Scripture. As I reflected on the changes in life brought about by the pandemic over the past few months, and more recently by issues of racial injustice, I found a resolve in me to continue serving in the community as I have been. To be wise in how I practiced in order to stay healthy, but to not back down on serving or being generous, and in this way to continue to bear fruit even though serving looks different in many ways now. And so, I feel just as connected, and maybe even a little more connected, to my word and my intentions. I find encouragement in the stories of our Christian heritage in centuries past of how Christ-followers acted and served in times of plague and famine, or in times of war and injustice as in Bonhoeffer's days. They are the "great cloud of witnesses" as Hebrews 12:1 calls the lives of those before us who lived by faith. So, while many things are different, and the ways in which we are able to do them have changed, for me, I find that I am to press on. My intentions of positioning myself before God and practicing spiritual disciplines that tend my soul and produce the fruit of faith within still serve to lead me through the rest of the year. As well as diligently serving that resolve I feel to bear fruit by serving in the community and using what God has planted in me and blessed me with to be used as an instrument of His blessing to others.

How about you? Where are you at right now? We are all at different phases in our spiritual journey and in our life situations, and it's fine wherever you're at.

"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Living Your Word 2020 Opportunity!

My friends Bernice Hopper, and Valerie Sjodin, and I share insights through blog posts for creatively living a word of the year. In our Facebook group, we encourage one another by posting questions and prompts to inspire living out a word focus, keeping a journal etc. It is a safe place to ask for prayer and support. If you would like to connect with others in creative ways about living your word, you can ask to join our Living Your Word of the Year 2020 by clicking on the link below.

Hashtag for Instagram:  #livingyourword2020
Check out their blogs:

Friday, June 12, 2020

2020 Vision Board & Moving Forward

2020 Vision Board & Moving Forward

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."                   Soren Kierkegaard
Generally I make a vision board for my word of the year earlier in the season, usually in February or March. It's a way of visualizing my intentions for my word through the year. But this has not been anything like a normal year. So, instead of just a board looking at the year ahead, I am both looking back  to see how I have lived out my word, and then looking ahead at where I feel called to go in the rest of the year. This is our theme this month in our Living Your Word of the Year Facebook Group, looking back in order to move forward. This is a regular practice for me. A few times a year at least, I will read back through my written journals and my art journals to see where I am in this journey of spiritual transformation. And generally, God will use this time of looking back as a time for me to reflect and evaluate where I need to focus. I wrote about the start of this looking back process in my post two weeks ago, which you can read here

I have made a vision board for my word of the year for quite a few years. In fact, it's one of my favorite practices of the year. I usually put them on an artist canvas and display them in my home studio/office. They are visual reminders of my journey.

I begin by going through my collection of magazine pages and other ephemera that I have torn out and saved because the image or words stood out. I enjoy going through my magazines every few months and tearing out the pages, and the bonus is it keeps my magazine baskets from overflowing! Even though I read a lot online these days, I have not lost the enjoyment of holding a magazine in my hand and leafing through it.

Next I like to cover the edges of my canvas with gesso covered book pages. I do this in part because I don't frame the canvases and the papers add a subtle decoration to the edges.

Over the past few weeks I have looked back over the beginning of the year, and especially the months since we began experiencing the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks the horrifying events of racial injustice that have taken place have been added to my time of reflection. All of this is in my heart and mind as I began to think about what the future may look like. There is so much to think about right now and so much that is unknown about how life will be lived in the months, and maybe even years, ahead of us. Below I have some reflection questions that helped me and that may be of use for you as well.

  • Re-connect with your "why" for selecting your word for this year. Have the circumstances of the past few months changed your "why" at all?
  • How have your life values led you through this time?
  • What have you held onto? What have you had to let go of?
  • As you look ahead, what are you sensing God calling you to? What might He be calling you to leave behind as you move forward? What might He be calling you to keep in your future life from these days?
  • What have you been thankful for?
  • What has brought joy? What has caused fear or disappointment?
  • What do you need more of? What do you need less of?
  • Are there areas in your life right now that require more trust in God and His promises?
  • How has your faith been? On shaky ground? On a firm foundation? What has this time of crisis shown you about your relationship with God?
Let me also offer two great questions I read recently. The first was in a newsletter from Shelly Miller. She is an author and has an online group called The Sabbath Society. Here is her question for reflection:
"If the previous chapters of your life prepare you for what lies ahead, how might God be using your right now circumstances as preparation for what comes next?"
The other question was posted in our Facebook group last week and comes from Suzi Stringfield Denis.
"How is God using this time to transform me?" 
This week our prompt in our Living Your Word of the Year group is to spend some time reflecting on the past few months and thinking about where God may be leading you now with your word. Try making a vision board from that time of reflection. This project may take some time to work through. In the next few weeks we will offer more reflection questions that will help us evaluate the goals and intentions we set at the beginning of the year, and seeking God, will help us move forward in the second half of the year.

My vision board process surprises me each time. As I go through the process of cutting out letters and leafing through magazine pages I don't immediately see how they will come together. But once I start laying things out on the canvas the pieces start to fall nicely into place.

I hope you'll give a vision board for your word of the year a try. If you do, please share it in our Facebook group and/or on Instagram with the hashtag #livingyourword2020.

Join us in the Living Your Word Community
My friends Bernice Hopper, and Valerie Sjodin, and I share insights through blog posts for creatively living a word of the year. In our Facebook group, we encourage one another by posting questions and prompts to inspire living out a word focus, keeping a journal etc. It is a safe place to ask for prayer and support. If you would like to connect with others in creative ways about living your word, you can ask to join our Living Your Word of the Year 2020 by clicking on the link below.

Hashtag for Instagram:  #livingyourword2020
Check out their blogs: