For the third year in a row, I am choosing a word for the year. The word is designed to set my intention for the year, to focus my prayers, guide me in my daily life, and deepen my relationship with God. My friend, Christine Schlink Stanton, first inspired me to choose a word. Since then I’ve read more about the practice from Christine Valters Paintner, and have witnessed many other friends doing it. Some folks call this an Epiphany or Star Word, since the word is meant to guide you in the same way the star guided the Wise Men to Jesus all those years ago.
Having done this for two years now, I can say that I love having a Star Word. I love the process of identifying the word that is specific to me for this specific year. The idea is that you don’t choose the word but rather let the word choose you. This requires listening, paying attention, being still, praying. It’s about trusting God to send the word you most need. It’s also a perfect time to use prayer beads to discern the word, lean into it, and find the one that resonates.
I also love how the Star Word teaches me about God and myself. In 2015, I chose Simplicity. I discovered the myriad ways in which God was calling me to simplicity, but most importantly, I learned I didn’t have to be perfect at being simple. It was enough to yearn for and walk towards simplicity.
For 2016, my word was Trust. When the word chose me, I thought it was perfect: I was in the process of writing my new book, and still working towards going full-time with this ministry. There were plenty of areas where I needed to learn to trust. And it’s true that I went deeper in my relationship with God, trusting God at times and in situations that had previously vexed me. And I learned to trust myself and God as I worked on the book and shared my story of trauma and healing. But I also learned to trust my body through yoga. I learned to trust others in the ups and downs of relationships. Even during a trying political season I practiced trusting people I disagreed with. The word stretched me, challenged me, guided me.
In her book, The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within, Christine Valters Paintner offers insights for going deeper in our relationship with God. One suggestion is to receive a seven-word prayer. Again, the emphasis is on receiving, rather than creating, your own prayer. She invites us to consider the grace we seek, then listen and pray for seven words that make up our prayer for this grace. I read this soon after receiving my word Trust and decided to open myself to a prayer about it. After some time of introspection, I received this prayer: I trust, and walk boldly towards God. Everyday I prayed this prayer. Often, I would repeat it, allowing the seven words to create a rhythm, a mantra. This practice really helped me stay focused on my Star Word and go deeper in my journey of trust.
Recently I spent time sitting and listening with my prayer beads, and received this word for 2017: Release. How curious! How intriguing! How scary! I am listening now for my seven-word prayer, excited to see where this word leads me. What am I being called to release? How am I being called to release? How, where, and when will I find God in release? I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, what is your Star Word for 2017? Share it with us in the comments below, or on our Facebook page. Those who share their word by Friday, January 27th, will be entered in a drawing for a set of prayer beads.