Friday, February 26, 2021

Spiritual Practices to Accompany Your Word of the Year. And Life


Spiritual Practices to Accompany Your Word of the Year. And Life

This month we have looked at exploring our word of the year in God's Word. We have done word studies, made Bible studies for our intentions, selected a theme Bible verse or passage and looked at how to study it, and today we are going to look at developing spiritual disciplines to accompany our word.

The term spiritual disciplines has been around for a long time. Depending on your faith tradition or denomination, practicing spiritual disciplines may or may not be a familiar practice. Simply put, spiritual disciplines are the practices we take part in that draw us closer to God and that put us in a position to be transformed by God. Ruth Haley Barton puts it like this in her book, Sacred Rhythms:
"I cannot transform myself...What I can do is create the conditions in which spiritual transformation can take place, by developing and maintaining a rhythm of spiritual practices that keep me open and available to God." 

 We won't change, we won't grow more Christ-like, we won't live a holy life by doing nothing or by simply saying we are a Christian. We have to put action to our words and to our life. The actions in and of themselves do not make us holy, produce change, or transform us into Christ-likeness, but they do help open our hearts, minds and wills to God, who is the One who transforms us.  God calls us throughout the Bible to live a holy life and it takes training on our part.

"Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)

The above verse is just one example. I won't go in depth into the spiritual disciplines for there are many, many good books on them. I'll add a list of books from my library at the end of this post. 

I have practiced spiritual disciplines for years. There have been times in my life when some of the disciplines were needed more than others. Each year when I have chosen my word and set my intentions for living out my word, I begin to think about which spiritual disciplines will benefit me in relation to how I have sensed God leading me for the year. 

I do have some that have become regular parts of my everyday life for drawing me closer to the Lord. Disciplines such as Bible study, solitude and giving have become naturals for me, but I do need to be diligent in making time for them, I don't have to work hard at practicing them because they have just become vital parts in my flow of life. But there are others that God moves me towards at times that don't come as naturally to me. Disciplines such as engaging in community or practicing fasting of things that have a hold on me during Lent don't come as naturally, but are so good for stretching my faith and leaning more on Jesus. In recent years I have added times of memorizing Scripture, which is a way of meditating on God through His Word. I felt God calling me to memorize Scripture a few years ago as a way to remind me to pray more often. Prayer is another discipline that just doesn't come naturally to me. But, there is a reason why they are called disciplines, they require intention and focus and determination on our part to make them a part of our lives. And by being intentional about practicing them, God uses them to help shape and form us into righteousness and holiness.

Here is just a brief list of some of the spiritual disciplines mentioned in the Bible and in the books written on the topic: Bible intake - reading or studying, prayer, fasting, meditation, serving, solitude, silence, simplicity, giving or generosity, celebration, worship, confession, fellowship or community. And the list can go on and on. These are just some that have been written about the most.

For my word this year, rhythm, I want to actually re-connect with some of the spiritual practices I have some to rely on. It felt like the flow of my life got off-kilter during this past year of pandemic living. I need to once again be intentional about making time for those practices that keep me grounded and help me draw closer to God. I also feel God calling me to practice gratitude more and to pray more.

How about you? Are there spiritual disciplines or practices that are your naturals that you go to time and time again to draw closer to God? Are there other disciplines you sense God calling you to this year?

I hope you will join us in the Words Art & Faith Group on Facebook and join the conversation. This post wraps up our theme for February. I'm not going to have a specific theme for March as I want to take the time to prepare for a Words Challenge in April: Resurrection Words. The Resurrection Words Challenge will look at the significance of the Easter events and at the resurrection life we are called to live. I hope you'll join me. The words list will come out later in March.

Resources on spiritual disciplines: All from my library.


The above links to Amazon do provide a small affiliation percentage fee back to me which I use to offset costs of my website.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Word of the Year Theme Verse


Word of the Year Theme Verse

Each year I pick a Bible verse or passage to use as my theme for the year to accompany my word of the year. The verse or passage may or may not include my word of the year, but it will be connected to my vision for how I want to live out my word.

My 2021 word is Rhythm. My theme passage this year is Matthew 11:28-30:

There are a few reasons why I picked this passage:
  • It kept popping up last year. Seriously! As I looked through my journal for last year I found that I mentioned  or studied this passage numerous times. So it just felt like I needed to spend more time in it this year.
  • It contains my vision for this year: To learn from Jesus. Learn about His life, His words, His behavior and attitude. To study Him and to depend on Him more.
  • It also does contain my word, just not in this translation. In The Message Bible verse 29 is stated like this: "Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." There it is, the unforced rhythms of grace. It captures life dependent on following Christ. Rhythms of grace also speaks to me of the spiritual practices (disciplines or rhythms) that we engage in that help position us in Christ for spiritual transformation. We'll look more at those next week.

Once you have selected a theme verse or passage it's time to dig in and study it. For me, this is not a one and done kind of practice. I'll do some initial study, but then return to digging deeper into this passage throughout the year.

First, you will want to look at the context of the verse/passage. The simplest way to do this is to read what is around it. We always want to let the context of a verse or passage help us determine its meaning. So much false personal theology is made due to taking verses out of context. To learn more about determining context I have a tutorial: How to Determine Context. (It is also located on my site under the Bible Study tab at the top of the page.)

So for my verse I looked at Matthew chapter 11, reading the verses preceding my passage, 11:1-26. I note that my passage is at the end of topics Jesus had been preaching about in the region of Galilee. In this chapter Jesus had been approached by John the Baptist's disciples asking him if he is the Messiah who had been promised. Jesus responds using words from a passage in Isaiah (61:1) that spoke of what the Messiah would do. Jesus tells them that what he has done -the miracles, healings-  and what he has said throughout his ministry are the evidence that he is the Messiah. He goes on through this chapter to speak more of John the Baptist's ministry and of his own. Then he speaks about the judgement that will come on those who witnessed his miracles but chose not to believe in who he is. Finally in the verses right before my theme passage, Jesus declares he is the Son of God and that God has revealed all things to Him and he will reveal the things of God to his followers. He then makes the invitation in verses 28-30, to come to Him and learn from Him and find rest for your soul. So it is in the context of who Jesus is - the Messiah, the Son of God- that He invites us to come to Him and on which His promises are established.

Once you have established context, you can then begin to break down your verse/passage. I will usually do this by studying the meaning of individual words, looking at their definitions in dictionaries and in their original language - word studies come in handy here. I will look at how the verse/passage is laid out - the grammar, repeated words, commands, etc. There are many tutorials on the Bible Study Tips & Techniques page on how to do these different steps and practices. I will also look at the study notes in my Bible pertaining to my verse/passage and any references in the margins to other verses that will help me understand the meaning. Reading the verse/passage in other Bible translations or paraphrases will be helpful too. And then, finally, I will look at commentaries and read articles that relate to my passage from favorite authors and pastors.

The page I am putting in my word of the year journal reflects some of the highlights of my study into Matthew 11:28-30.

I hope you will share your theme verse or passage for your word of the year. You can leave a comment below or share it in the Words Art & Faith Group on Facebook or on Instagram with the label #wordsartandfaithgroup.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Rhythms of Daily Life February 17 Edition


Rhythms of Daily Life February 17 Edition

First up are my weekly spreads in my commonplace art journal: Weeks 5, 6 and 7. I'm enjoying journaling bits and pieces of my life this way. It helps me see the rhythm of it.

Week 5

February Cover Page

This quote fits my journaling practice so well!

Week 6

Week 7

January 31st was the start of this year's 100 Day Project. My theme this year is 100 Days of Bird Art. I am posting them daily on Instagram, but here are a few of my favorites so far.

Day 1 and my tracker

Day 5

Day 7

Days 10 & 11

Days 12 & 13

Day 14

The daily rhythms of my art life have fallen into a nice, sustainable pace.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Creating Bible Studies For Our Intentions


Creating Bible Studies For Our Intentions

We are now six weeks into 2021. Can you believe it?! Hopefully by now, you have set intentions for your word of the year. If you need to read more about setting intentions visit this post. Setting intentions gives us a framework or guideline for how we want to live out our word of the year. Another thing setting intentions provides us with is an opportunity to create numerous Bible studies to dig into throughout the year. Studying God's Word in relationship to our intentions will help ground our intentions biblically and move us deeper on the path of living out God's will and His ways.

Let me give you a few examples:
  • Let's say that one of your intentions this year is to be more grateful. An idea for a Bible study might be to start with a word study of the word thankful and get a sense of what the Bible says about having a grateful heart. You might narrow your study down to simply the Psalms and look at the ways the various Psalmists contrasted their laments with choosing to trust, praise and worship God (Read Psalm 13 for an example). Or maybe you trace being thankful simply in the New Testament letters, looking at how as God's people we are called to live as grateful people ( see 1 Thessalonians 5:18 for example). 
  • Maybe your intentions includes relating better with others or living more in community. You might study all of the "one another's" and "each other's" through the New Testament to gain an understanding of what living in community looks like biblically. 
  • Or maybe health is one of your intentions. You could do a study of the body and how God views "your body is a temple of God" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Studying what God says about how we live in our physical body may help gain a deeper understanding of stewarding the resources God has provided for us.
These are just some examples using common intentions. Make sure when you study Bible verses that you use the cross references in the margins. Following cross references will often lead me on rabbit trails that have led to some of my most enlightening Bible studies.

Examples From My Intentions

Here again are my intentions for my word Rhythm.

I actually have included some of the Bible studies I will do for some of my intentions this year, mainly around my intention to focus on the rhythms of Christ's life. Those studies will include studying the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, studying Jesus' prayer in John 17, doing a word study on 'christlike' and 'imitate' in the New Testament, reading the Gospels to look at Jesus' life and words. All of these studies will give me a picture of how Jesus lived - the rhythm of His life.

Another area that is important to me are healthy rhythms. I especially want to focus on the balance of work and rest. My Sabbath practices got a bit off-kilter this past year during the pandemic. Yet at the same time the slower pace of life has opened my eyes to a healthier pace. How will I maintain that when we return to 'normal'? What rhythms need to be in place for me to have a healthy balance of energy? In part, this will mean I re-examine past studies I have done on looking at what a Sabbath practice means in the Bible.

Under the category "Rhythms of Grace" there are things like studying my theme passage, Matthew 11:28-30. We will dig into studying our theme verse or passage next week. But also under that category you'll note there is a reference to "rule of life". This is a topic I have looked at in the past, although not too deeply. I want to dig into it more this year because when I think of rhythms I think of a "rule of life". So that is where I will start today with my Bible study.

Rule of Life

A Rule of life is traditionally thought of as the monastic order of set times for prayer and other activities designed to help monks keep their focus on God throughout the day. In modern times, a rule of life is simply creating a plan for time with God and for growing in Christlikeness.

Author, Ruth Haley Barton calls it "a way of ordering our life around the values, practices and relationships that keep us open and available for the work of spiritual transformation that only God can bring about." Another way she states it, in her book Sacred Rhythms, is that a rule of life is "cultivating rhythms for spiritual transformation". She says that developing a rule of life seeks to answer the question, "How do I want to live so I can be who I want to be?".

I find word origins and their original uses quite interesting. The word "Rule" comes from an ancient Greek word, kanon, which meant, properly, a rod (cane or reed) used as a measuring standard - what we would call a ruler. Figuratively the word was used for a rule - a standard or norm. In the early church it was used as a summary of orthodox Christian doctrine called "the rule of truth" or "rule of faith". From this we get "the canon of Scripture" which are the authorized 66 books of the Bible. This Greek word, kanon, was then translated into Latin, "regula", from which our English word "rule" comes from.

So, what I find interesting is that this Greek word, kanon, was also used to refer to a trellis, the wooden structure used to tie grapevines to in order to keep them off the ground and growing upright, so that they will be more fruitful and productive. A rule of life has often been referred to as a trellis that helps us abide in Christ and grow in Him. Like a trellis, a rule of life helps spur growth by providing structure and support to every part of our life. 

Jesus used the example of grapevines when speaking of our spiritual life in John 15:1-17. So this is where I will start, looking at how being connected to Jesus helps us grow and produce fruit. Studying and practicing spiritual disciplines (practices) will fit into this as well, which I will write about in two weeks.

I hope that my list of Bible studies that will support my intentions helps you see how to come up with your own. The word study steps and tutorial that I shared last week are a great way to start Bible studies. If you are struggling with how to create Bible studies for your intentions for your word of the year, please feel free to email your intentions to me and I will give some suggestions ( Or you can post a comment in the Words Art & Faith Facebook group and we can all help each other, supporting, encouraging and building each other up are, after all, the intent of this group.

It seems strange doing posts without art this month, but the focus this month is on exploring God's Word in order to live out our word of the year. The art will come about after the studying!

Friday, February 5, 2021

Exploring Your Word in God's Word


Exploring Your Word in God's Word

For me, having a word of the year and living out intentions must be grounded in God's Word. That requires exploring my word and intentions in the Word of God. I do that in a number of ways:

  • Doing a word study of my selected word. If my chosen word is one that is repeated throughout the Bible, such as peace or love, then doing a word study will produce a lot of verses to select from and my task is to narrow it down to those that support my reason for selecting that word. However, if my word is more of a concept then it will require more digging. This is the case for my word this year, RHYTHM.
  • Another way to explore my word in God's Word is to study areas that support the intentions I have set for living out my word.
  • I also will select a theme verse or passage to serve as a guide through the year with my word. So an in-depth study of that verse or passage will be an on-going practice through the year.
  • Then there are spiritual practices that I can use to me grow spiritually through the year. The word I choose for a particular year can help determine which practices (also know as spiritual disciplines or sacred rhythms) to engage in and explore that year. For example if I've chosen a word, such as love, which by its nature biblically calls for action to others, I may want to engage in serving practices through the year and focus on active ways  of loving others. But I will also want to engage in practices that connect me with the love of God, like Bible study, prayer and meditation.
So this will serve as our guide this month:
  • Today we will look at word studies in the Bible.
  • 2/12 Creating Bible studies for our intentions.
  • 2/19 Our theme verse or passage Bible study.
  • 2/26 Determining spiritual practices to accompany our word.

Doing A Word Study With Your Word

I am a huge fan of word studies. In fact, the Words Challenges I do are basically devotions that come out of word studies. Every year I will do a number of word studies with my word of the year. This past summer when we did the Thessalonians Words Challenge I created a document to walk people through the steps of a word study. You can click on the picture of the document below to open the full three page document as a PDF. Feel free to print it out. Also visit the Bible Study Tips & Techniques page here on my blog for other study tutorials. You can also find it in the menu at the top of my site.

Having said all that I have about my enjoyment of word studies and doing them with my word of the year, I find it is not as easy for me this year. My word, rhythm, is not actually found in the Bible, rather it is a concept. It's not as easy to do a word study with a concept. But there are ways to accomplish the same thing.

1.  A search of modern translations and paraphrases may reveal your word. For example, my word is used in The Message Bible, which is a modern paraphrase, rather than a translation. In fact, my word is found in my theme verse in The Message. 
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

2.  You can use the synonyms of your word to see if any of those words  reveal verses that will help you live out your word. Some of the synonyms for my word are flow, movement, pulse, pace, routine, balance. They didn't really produce much either. Although when I did a search on 'movement' the following verse came up for the word 'move' and I feel it fits my word well.
"For in him we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28. This verse has a sense of our life flowing with the rhythms of Christ. I may do more with that as the year progresses.

3. If searching for words does not result in much then it's time to search for concepts. We will get into this deeper next week when we explore creating Bible studies for our intentions, but let me give you a quick example of how I have started doing this. One of the ways I keep spiritually, emotionally and physically healthy is by maintaining a healthy rhythm of work and rest. Rest, for me, includes treating my body well, being creative, making space for downtime, and practicing Sabbath rest - dedicated time spent with the Lord. All of this is an on-going process that requires being intentional. The word 'rest' is also in my theme verse. While looking up the synonym words for my word I came upon the Greek word 'sunanapauomai'. It includes part of the word for rest used in Matthew 11:28 (anapauo). Sunanapauomai is a word made from the words 'sun' which means together and 'anapauo' which means to refresh or to rest. So, it is to refresh or take rest with someone. I ran across the following verses where Paul speaks of being refreshed by being with other people:
"[Pray]so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company." Romans 15:32
"...for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours." 1 Corinthians 16:18
"And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all." 2 Corinthians 7:13
"Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people." Philemon verse 7

It would appear that Paul is telling us that part of the Lord's refreshing for us comes about through other Christ-followers. I was not looking for this. In fact, if I'm really honest, I usually am refreshed the most by solitude. But I sense in this that God may be calling me to embrace something different this year - to include others in some way in my time of rest. I did something this past summer that turned out to be quite fruitful. As I began preparing for the Thessalonians Words Challenge I also began a Zoom Bible study with a few other ladies going through the Thessalonian letters. It was very beneficial. So this year I want to go through another book and have asked a friend to journey through it with me. I need the accountability of another to keep going through the book to the end. And I need the companionship of another as we dig into the book and talk through its meaning and pray together. I often do so much study by myself, and I like being by myself, maybe too much sometimes - and maybe I have overdone being by myself throughout this pandemic. Now, this doesn't appear on my intentions list that I made last month, but maybe it should. It felt like a clear directive from the Lord. It can also give me more to study in the months ahead, looking at what the Bible says about being in community together, being encouraged by one another, etc.

Last year I made a video that walks through how to use the websites I use when doing a word study.

So, now we have a few ways to get us started in exploring our word of the year through God's Word: Do a word study, study synonyms of your word, study a concept. Again, we will explore studying concepts more next week when we explore creating Bible studies from our intentions.

If you have a word that you are struggling to find in the Bible or if you have any questions about any of the steps to doing a word study, please feel free to email me, Or start a conversation in the Words Art & Faith Group on Facebook.

I hope you'll try doing a word study this week and see where God leads you!