Bonnie Gray is the soulful author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit Bonnie at www.thebonniegray.com and connect with her @thebonniegray on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Every year, since I was seventeen, I've made it a practice.
The day after Christmas until the New Year, I ask for a word. It's always tucked inside the envelope of Bible verse.
It might come to me through a lyric of a song, or like a dandelion wafting through the air, a thought somehow snags on a blade of an everyday moment. I may be sliding julienned leaves of bok choy from my cutting board, damp from washing, into a hot oil-dancing frying pan. I could be staring into a stretch of freeway, as I exit to pause at a traffic light. I don't know when that one word will come.
But, I always wait for it to arrive.
I'm eager to open it -- to find the note God will place on my soul for the year.
But, it's 2013. And I don't have very many words as it is.
Do I even want a one word soul resolution this year? If there ever was a time in my life I really needed a word from God, but felt too weary to receive it, this would be it.
Do you feel burdened to search your soul for more words?
Maybe you’ve strained to hear God speak for so long, you’re no longer sure if it's the wind or His whisper.
Maybe you’re afraid to seek His words, because to recognize your desire — or the silence — would be too hard to bear.
Maybe you don’t want to ask any more questions.
Either way, fellow faith traveller, you and I carry the same longing. We want to receive one word from Jesus.
I have to confess that I did receive my word for 2013. But, I haven't felt adequate enough to share it with you.
Because I don't know if I can live it out fully.
I can't even fall asleep reliably or write without deleting lines and whole paragraphs, even though I once wrote with abandon, prolifically. Daily.
When I compare myself with what I've been able to do in the past -- to what I can do now -- I feel small. Insignificant. I no longer want to write about it. Because I feel I have very little to offer.
Then one night, I read a bedtime Bible story to my three year CJ. As I sat on the floor, with my back leaning against the bed and a squirmy preschooler perched on my lap, I come across a chapter in the life of Elisha.
He meets a woman who owed a great debt, who did not have the means to pay it.
She had nothing.
Except for a jar of oil.
The scripture says she came crying to Elisha because her husband was dead.
If she could not pay the creditor, he would take her sons to become his slaves.
Elisha asked her, "Do you own anything?"
I have nothing in the house, she answers. Except a little oil.
It surprised me, but I heard my voice in the widow's answer. I have nothing to offer...
Is that true? Jesus seemed to gently ask. How about that little oil?
I immediately thought of my writing and my one word. How can I write anything of importance, when my journey feels so broken and un-newsworthy?
Maybe you feel this way about your "little oil".
Is there a desire God's placed on your heart, but you've not dared to move -- because you feel your ability to meet that passion was too "little"?
When we don't know how to meet our needs with what little we have, we can become frozen in our inadequacy.
In trauma work, they say our response to danger is fight or flight.
We can become utterly consumed with fighting our way to secure the dream we've envisioned, we can end up stressed, striving to achieve it. Or we can be flooded with fears. We can run away, to escape the encounter and avoid the ensuing conflicts that surely come with breaking free from what troubles us.
But, there's a third response. We can become frozen.
We can become so analytical about problem solving and overwhelmed by our conflicting emotions, we no longer feel. We numb ourselves from our wounds and our desires.
We go into survival mode: we perform and we produce.
As I read ahead in The Beginner's Bible to my little one, I knew this story was coming alive for me this week:
Elisha said, "Gather some empty jars from your friends.
Then go inside and pour your oil in them."
The woman obeyed and God made her tiny bit of oil fill all the jars.
She sold all the oil and paid the man back.
She took care of her family with the leftover money.
~ 2 Kings 4:17
Gather some empty jars from your friends.
For two years, readers and I respond to one writing prompt at a time. We've swapped stories, as we write about our faith journeys, over virtual cups of coffee and tea.
We offered empty jars to each other.
We poured what little oil we had -- out of the journeys of faith we have been living.
No one knows where the faith journey will lead us. But, by blogging together, we are gathering the empty jars of our souls and sharing the little oil -- words from the Holy Spirit -- that God places along our path.
So, tonight as I'm writing this post, I'm wondering if you're feeling the stir to share your little oil -- the one word God's placed on your heart -- in community too?
Will you write alongside me -- whether you're brimming with words overflowing or whether like me, the words have been too few and you've been holding your words too close because you've been afraid to let them go?
Perhaps by pouring our words into each other, we'll find the Holy Spirit miraculously filling us up with more than we started out with.
We'll read each other's journeys and find the Voice of Love, Jesus, touching us a little deeper, with a lot more grace and gentleness than we thought possible.
In the same way the sun pulls petals of flowers to turn towards its golden descent at dusk in the sky, we can simply give voice to the words we hear.
What is your One Word for 2013?
Sshh... don't tell me yours just yet.
I'll be sharing mine with you next Monday here at Crosswalk, 1/28/2013. If you are a blogger, write a post on your blog about your one word for the year.
I'll share how you can link up with me. If you don't have a blog, you can share with me via comment next Monday too.
It's will be my first Faith Jam blog link-up in months.
And I'm so grateful we can give voice to our first words in the new year. Together. Here.
What is the "little oil" -- the desire -- God's placed on your heart to pour out?
How is God encouraging you to give voice to the journey you're traveling through?
Pull up a chair. Click here to comment.
As you share, you'll be pouring a little oil here.
** 1/28/13 Update! ** So, what is my one word for 2013? I just published a new article on Crosswalk to share it with you. Click here to read about my one word and share yours! Let's encourage each other's faith journeys, through the one word God's placed on yours.
Bonnie Gray is an inspiring Christian writer and blogger, offering encouragement to keep faith fresh in the daily grind. Her writing springs from the belief that the beauty of faith often takes place when life goes off script. Bonnie is the Founder of FaithBarista.com and featured writer for Hallmark subsidiary DaySpring's (in)Courage. Bonnie is currently working on her debut book, to be published by Revell Books. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead.
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Photo credit: newbeginnings2 via Photobucket.