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My One Word

“As he (a man) thinks in his heart, so is he.” 
Proverbs 23:7

Toward the end of each year, I begin to think about my one-word selection for the coming year. I’m easily distracted, and I don’t do well with lists and New Year’s resolutions, so a one-word focus suits me.

But can one word change our lives?

Absolutely.

Ask anyone who’s waited to hear “positive” or “negative” after a health exam. “Guilty” or “not” in a court of law. “Girl” or “boy” at a baby reveal. “Up” or “down” in a stock investment. “Pass” or “fail” on an academic test.

Scripture and science agree that our minds are powerful and that the things we meditate on can and will shape us. We have the power to change our reality by choosing to shift our focus.

“Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”(Romans 12:2).

My path toward my one-word journey began in 2000 when I replaced New Year’s resolutions with the prayerful selection of a scripture verse for the coming year. I’ve continued to choose focal verses annually. Then in 2013, I jumped on the one-word bandwagon via the My One Word book written by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen. I now condense my chosen verse into a single word for a more concise focus. Throughout the years, God has amazed me by repeatedly bringing to my attention my word or verse and using it to affirm and lead me through situations that arose.

In the words of Mike Ashcraft, “Wouldn’t you love to do something about one thing this year instead of nothing about everything? Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year. This single act will force clarity and concentrate your efforts. As you focus on your word over an extended period of time, you position yourself for God to form your character at a deep, sustainable level. Growth and change will result.”

Won’t you join me in the selection of a Scripture verse and one-word focus for 2020? Lose the long list of resolutions that leave you frustrated and defeated after a few weeks and embrace a single word that can transform your life. If you do, I’d love nothing more than for you to email me at starrayers@triad.rr.com with your selection. Let’s walk this out together.

“Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.”

Isaiah 55:19-11, MSG

Happy New Year!

-Starr Ayers

Houses of Bread

“The bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  
John 6:33, NIV

It wasn’t an everyday after-dinner occurrence, but there were times in my childhood when my sister and I would bundle up on a cold evening and ask our mother for bread. We’d each grab a slice, run to the large oak tree in the middle of our front yard, squat beneath it, and eat our fluffy white treat.

I know it sounds strange. And if you asked me why we did it, I wouldn’t be able to give you an answer. All I know is that when I remember those times shared with my sister, my heart smiles.

I’d almost forgotten about our odd ritual, until recently when I ran across a book written in 1995 by Dennis, Sheila, and Matthew Linn, Sleeping with Bread, Holding What Gives You Life. The Linn’s created their picture book to help families remember moments of consolation that had emerged from times of desolation and be grateful.

The book recounted the bombing raids of World War II when thousands of children were orphaned and left starving. The fortunate ones found refuge in camps where they could receive care, but fear kept many awake at night. Nothing consoled the children until someone thought to give each child a piece of bread. Holding the slice, they would fall asleep. The food reminded them, “Today I ate, and I will eat again tomorrow.”

The story of Ruth in Scripture opens during a time of famine in Israel. Elimelech had taken his wife Naomi and their two sons from their home in Bethlehem (The House of Bread) to the idolatrous region of Moab for refuge. The opening verse states, “he went to live there for a while.” Elimelech fully intended to return to Bethlehem, but he and his two sons never went back to the Promised Land. They died in the pagan land of Moab. Elimelech’s intentions were good, but leaving God’s place of provision was a bad idea.

Famine provokes movement. How many trips have you made to the refrigerator because your tummy rumbled? Or perhaps you can connect on a deeper level. How often have you jumped the fence for greener pastures only to find your “feast” short-lived?

The temptation to leave our houses of bread in times of physical or spiritual famine appeals to us, but our quick fixes are often short-lived. Jesus tells us, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

Don’t settle in a place outside of God’s will. You’ll stay longer than planned and forfeit the consolation and permanent solution that only comes from the giver and sustainer of life. Choose the bread God offers and grip it till morning comes. There in the early light, in the midst of God’s comforting presence, your heart will smile—and so will God.

Blessings,

Starr

Rainy Days and Mondays

“The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.
Psalm 145:8, NIV

For those who survived the mind-bending seventies―an era marked by anti-war protests, women’s lib, bell-bottom pants, lava lamps, and Saturday Night Fever―the soft, compelling voice of Karen Carpenter was a welcome reprieve within the psychedelic acid rock and hippie subculture of the day.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1950, Karen and her brother, Richard, released more than a dozen hit records by the time she was twenty-four. Less than ten years later she was gone. A victim of heart failure brought on by anorexia nervosa, a devastating eating disorder the general public knew little about until her death. Although known by her friends to be goofy and fun loving, inwardly she struggled to feel loved and accepted.

I write this devotion on a Monday. It’s raining—again. The words of Karen’s 1971 hit, Rainy Days and Mondays, roll through my mind. As she sings of how rainy Mondays always get her down, I note her words in the following line hold the solution to her pain. She states, “The only thing to do is run and find the one who loves me.” I wonder if she knew the One who truly loved her. If those who feel unloved and discarded in today’s society knew the One who loved them, there would be far less anxiety, depression, and suicide. God’s Word tells us that without hope, people perish (Proverbs 29:18). We see this sad conclusion play out daily in the news.

Our Heavenly Father is a God of compassion who desires to lift us above our circumstances. He encourages us to come to him when we are “weary and heavy-laden.” Walking daily by his side is where we’ll find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30).

Do you know the One who loves you? If so, are you willing to share Christ’s love with someone who hasn’t experienced this freeing reality? Psalm 145 tells us that Jesus is loving and faithful. He is our Protector, Provider, Sustainer. He is our Savior, and he is near. Believers are Christ’s hands and feet in this turbulent world. The words we speak can lift the heads of those who are down-trodden. Be Jesus with skin on.

Rainy days and Mondays don’t always have to get us down.

Blessings,

Starr