My One Word for 2017

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to do this again. Last year, my word was Restoration and although in some areas the restoration process has started, I didn’t leave 2016 feeling completely restored.

Taking a brief look at last year’s post, activity-wise, I mentioned I wanted to do more outside the house and try to organise something different once a month. Well, nine out of twelve ain’t bad. Some particular highlights were the Stuart Townend concert in April, my meeting with Damon Hill in June, the first-ever ChristianityWorks conference in October (shared between ChristianityWorks and GNBA), and my Christmas present to Mum – a trip to York in December for the carol concert at Yorkminster.

When it came to community, I was finding it difficult at my church with the size of its congregation. I did celebrate their move to new premises, but left halfway through the year to try a smaller church. This is a better fit for me – much easier to figure out who’s who, and where they are. Meeting new people and opening up to them can be hard. I want to be known and respected, even though I haven’t been there long enough to earn their respect, but I’m grateful for their patience and the way they’ve welcomed me.

I also touched on exercise, but I’m not back into a good exercise routine yet. I did join a gym, but the pain I sometimes experience meant I was having to finish early, which didn’t work well with taxies etc. I’m still working on this.

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So that’s why I was unsure about a word for 2017, but I prayed God would show me if He wanted me to have one. At church on Sunday, I got my word. And it is?

Shelter

During the worship, my friend felt God was saying we were a shelter for many. 2017 would be a year of shifting sand for people, but our dependence on God and His Word could be an anchor for them.

Can you picture it – people coming to us because they see Jesus living in us? “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:3). This was a challenge, and made me see the importance of staying strong in God. Who wants to come to a crumbling shelter? I’m thankful that in Christ all things hold together, but I need to take responsibility too. As Paul says to the church at Colosse: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6).

I’m a shelter for God (a place where He lives through His Spirit), I’m a shelter for others, and God is a shelter for me. “He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17).

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Our Father, my Shepherd: “21 Seconds to Change Your World” Book-Review

This was marketed as a book on the Lord’s prayer – how the 21 seconds it takes to say it can benefit us, so I was surprised to discover it included the 23rd Psalm as well. Part one gives an introduction to their authors, Jesus and David. Part two is the substance of the book, where Mark Rutland breaks down the prayer and the Psalm phrase by phrase, and part three lists some ways we can use them in our lives.

I would say this is a worthwhile read for pastors and those in positions of leadership within the church, as well as for Christians in general. One thing that slightly bothered me was the author’s encouraging non-Christians to use the Lord’s prayer. If he believes Jesus’ words in John’s gospel that the Way to the Father is through Him, I don’t know how he can expect those who don’t believe in Jesus to address God as ‘Father’ and be heard, but if you can look past that, “21 Seconds to Change Your World” tells us a lot about these passages of Scripture. I think I’ll be using them more in my prayer-life. I’m grateful to Bethany House for giving me a free copy to review.

Restoration is ACE

I said I’d write about my word for 2016, and this week, Bonnie started her OneWordCoffee series. Similar to OneWordAdvent, it’s an opportunity to focus on a one-word prompt each week, and how that word might be speaking to us. She asked on Wednesday: “What’s your one word for 2016?” so:

Restoration.

There’s room for improvement in some areas of my life, but rather than having one big lofty goal that’s maybe a bit vague, it’s helpful to break it down into more manageable chunks. So, restoration is ACE.

Activity: A lot of the voluntary work I now do is done from home – typing, book-reviewing etc. As a blind person, it is much easier in familiar surroundings, but I would like to do more outside the house, so I’m trying to organise something different at least once a month.

Community: I have some lovely community around me – the Open the Book team I go into schools with, my friend Chris’s fortnightly Bible-study group, and the family and friends who live nearby. I’m very aware that God tells us not to give up meeting together. Some use this verse to put the case for weekly church-attendance. It actually ends with a plea for Christians to encourage one another more and more as we see the second-coming of Christ approaching. That could be every week or every day, face-to-face or online. Having said that, I’ve attended meetings where we’ve had some very special worship-times and God’s presence was tangible, so I wouldn’t discount church. Depending on the condition of people’s hearts, it can be a place that really equips you to go deeper in your walk with the Lord. I find it difficult in my current church. With such a large congregation, there are so many I don’t know well and don’t feel connected with. We’re in the process of getting a new building (they’ve knocked down the previous one and are expanding). I haven’t been much while we’ve been off-site, but perhaps in the new building with more space to move around, it’ll be easier. I’m looking forward to getting back there regularly. I know it takes about a month to formulate a habit, so perhaps after a month in the new building, I’ll take stock and see if it’s working for me.

Exercise: If you’ve read this blog for a while, you might remember I wrote a few years ago about adjusting to a change in my finances. The UK-government brought in a law that if you were single and between 25 and 34, you were only entitled to the shared rate of Housing Benefit, even if it was a one-bedroom flat you lived in. I saved money by stopping my twice-weekly trips to the gym, but I definitely don’t feel as good as I did when I used to go. Well, now I’m 35! So I’ve come through that season, and I think it’s time to join a gym again. I want to get this sorted by the end of January.

“Turn your ear to My words … for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body” (Proverbs 4:20, 22). To me, physical health is important, but without God’s strength, I wouldn’t have any health at all. I aim to keep up my physical and my spiritual health in 2016. I’ve started reading the Bible in a year again, this time with the help of Victory Church. You can sign up to get an Email in your inbox with the day’s Bible-reading and a short devotional on one aspect of it, to make you think. I’m enjoying them so far.

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I don’t often pray on the blog, but I liked how Bonnie ended her post with a one-word prayer. Pray this with me if you want God to do a work of restoration in your life:

Father God, thank You that You’re the One who can restore our souls. Please restore all that You need to in 2016, so I can be a good steward of the body and mind You’ve given me. Please carry out Your plan for my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

God is There

This last chapter of Amos is a reminder of God’s mercy and compassion, even though when you read the start, it might not seem like it.  ‘Israel will be Destroyed’?  “If they dig down as deep as the place of the dead, I will pull them up from there.  If they climb up into heaven, I will bring them down from there.”  Where’s the mercy and compassion in that?  Well, it reminds me of Psalm 139:8:  “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

 

God is there.  He’s for us – not against us, and the end of Amos 9 talks not about total annihilation, but restoration.  He talks about bringing Israel back from captivity and planting them in their own land, never to be uprooted as they were before (Amos 9:14-15).

 

Perhaps your life feels a bit of a tangled mess.  Will you trust God to restore it?

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Thanks if you’ve read through the book of Amos with me.  I had hoped to finish it by the end of June; better late than never.  Are there any other challenges you’d like to see here on the blog?