My 2018 One Word, er, Phrase

Last year was the first time I decided to have a word for the year. It worked out well. I fully understand if it’s not something that you do; 2017 just seemed like a good year for it. This year seems good, too, as something came up in our family over and over last month as a theme, and I decided to carry it make it my watermark for this year.

Use it up.

We have a lot of good and great things. Over the years we’ve just simply gathered things, kept stuff, accumulated items. I’m not sure why – I know lots of people do it. I think it’s because of a poverty mentality, feeling that “If I throw it away I’ll never have another chance.” There are certainly things to think about when there’s extra or interesting stuff – creative (or craftsy) people never know when their craft will need such-and-such; mechanics never know when they’ll need this fastener or that tool; Sunday school teachers never know (or, rather, always know) when they’ll need to re-use or rejuvenate a former lesson. BTW – our family consists of creative people, always thinking of ways to reuse or repurpose things.

Following up on last year’s word of “Why?,” it flows into “Use It Up.” While our creativity, home education, and parenting call for a lot of resources, by investigating our Why, we realized that we are often just simply hoarding with propriety. We aren’t outwardly hoarders – no trash piled up, no garbage hanging around, no newspapers filling boxes that are stacked to the ceiling. But inwardly we are hoarding – we want our stuff around us to make us feel safe and prosperous.

It’s one of those silent and invisible tricks of the soul – we talk against consumerism and materialism and we demonstrate our spiritual growth by getting rid of stuff (either giving to charity or the landfill), yet, internally, we KNOW that we haven’t arrived yet. We still hold on to our “stuff” security blanket. It just happens that no one sees it.

We have learned Why, and we have gotten rid of a lot of extra (things that were treasures, but are now, to us, trash – which may become someone else’s treasure), but now we have a lot of really useful things. And our struggle now is to use it. We hold on to this-and-that because we don’t want it to go away.

How ridiculous is that? Things are made for us to use – that’s their purpose. And yet, here we are, subjected to them. Why is that? (again, back to Why?)

Things are to be used. People are to be loved. Not vice versa. Things are for our enjoyment and use – and they are temporal. Material is transient, the spiritual is transcendent.

Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.””

Luke 12:15 says, “And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

2018 is our year to use up what we’ve been given. Much of life is education of some form – simply growing up to be an adult, learning what food is good to eat, the right exercises for our body type, how to do our best at our job, how to be a better spouse or child…on and on the examples could go. In the process of growing, things need to be used up. Books are to be read (digested?); food needs to be cooked and eaten consistently (ever felt that it’s seems a waste to spend an hour on a meal, only to have it eaten in 5 minutes?); computers need to be used to their fullest and then trashed when you’re done. We just don’t really want to get to that “trashed” or “cooked” or “completed” part – I want stuff to last forever, not having to bother with spending more money and time on something else or the next thing.

But only 2 things last forever – the Word of God, and people. These are the 2 long-lasting entities on which I should spend my time. And in the process, I need to accept that using up temporal resources – time, money, energy – is the way to grow, minister, and live.

(Photo by Oziel Gómez on Unsplash)

In Search of Irene

It’s that time of year – decorations, parties, presents, travels, coordinating with coworkers for time off…and each of those in abundance. During this time of the hope of and increased search for peace, many are busier than ever. And the situation isn’t helped by having to be wary of people stealing your gifts while they’re sitting in your car, or thinking of how to deal with THAT relative at the get-together…or a thousand other things that could go wrong.


Our language is infused with idioms dealing with peace – peace and quiet, leave someone in peace, no peace for the wicked, peace offering. Beyond just the words and phrases using the English “peace,” there are other not-so-obvious “peaceful” words. The Pacific Ocean is named because it’s relatively smooth sailing. Irenic efforts seek peaceful reconciliation.  The name Irene means peace; similar to the church father Irenaeus. Shalom is the Hebrew word and concept of peace (though it means much more than just that). Jerusalem means City of Peace (or it could mean Possession of Peace, or Foundation of Peace).


Despite this constant desire and search for peace, this world is not peaceful. Peace today seems to be thought of in a couple different ways by the world (meaning, the non-Christian world). One way is a personal tranquil state of being – harmony with other individuals; personal security and safety. The second way is on a group, even a national, level – national safety and security; group rights to prevent bullying; organizations devoted to human rights.


The world has the concept partly right – true biblical peace applies to both the individual and group level, and it is a state of tranquility, harmony, and safety. What the world has wrong, though, is that it seeks peace only on a horizontal level, only on a human-to-human level. The Bible’s concept of peace includes a harmonious and tranquil relationship with the Triune God.


The world sometimes has the strategy for peace half right – they fight for it. The Bible calls for Christians to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers. “Keeping the peace” means that one doesn’t rock the boat; one doesn’t mess with the establishment – in many cases, things are OK, so one shouldn’t do anything to make it worse (it’s not a matter of making things better, but of keeping the status quo because upheaval and disruption are painful).


But the Christian is to, in a certain instances, fight for peace. We are to be at peace, but peaceful is not the same as passive. Jesus brought the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God), and with that we are to make peace. True biblical peace often entails some kind of confrontation. Confrontation isn’t just simply fighting with someone; it can be as simple as “I’d like to talk about something you said the other day.”


The Bible tells us to live a quiet life, so there’s an aspect of being a pacifist (different than a passivist). But that exhortation is prepended with “as far as it depends on you.” Sometimes, we have to struggle for peace. The Holy Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control to deal with otherwise fearful situations (this explains why the non-Christian typically enacts “peace” by using fear-filled tactics).


You can win the struggle for peace during the holidays by being the one to choose. An oft-neglected word, which is a compete sentence, is “No.”  (though there’s no requirement to be a jerk about it – search for ’50 Ways to Say No’ and you’ll find plenty of options for saying No without being rude). It’s OK to say No. It’s OK to stay home. It’s OK to opt-out…not just this year, but every year.  If you go to a party, then you be the one who chose to go. If you travel for family, then you be the one who chose to take that invitation. If you don’t go or don’t give, it’s your choice which you made based on your current situation for you and your family.


In the end, the biblical idea of peace is that of wholeness. It’s a wholeness of relationship with Christ and wholeness with other people. And just as the Magi in their search for the Holy Child, the search for peace can entail intense preparation and hard work.

We need to spend more time learning from Jesus, the Prince of Peace. This idea is succinctly and emotionally shown in the story of Martha and Mary. It’s not a story pitting spiritual education against “grunt work.” It’s a story of the heart. It’s a story about anxiety vs. tranquility, about etiquette vs. righteousness, about being perturbed vs. being at peace.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Choose and Make a Merry New Year!