What do we do with our Star Words?
This year all our Star Words at UniPlace are nouns. They are nouns that appear in scripture.
The spiritual practice of walking through the year with a focus word is an exercise in paying attention. We know that Jesus was fully present and attentive throughout his ministry. Just a walk through the countryside became an opportunity to notice life pulsing all about them. He often commented on God’s mercy present in the world: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they neither toil nor spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed as one of these.” (Matthew 6:28)
The best starting place for engaging with your Star Word in 2020 is to pay attention to the world. I am often surprised in the month of January how quickly and frequently my new word appears in my daily life. When that happens for you, pause and wonder about it. If bread is your word, it will jump out at you as we say the Lord’s Prayer, then catch your eye when the waiter at O’Charley’s brings you a basket of piping hot rolls. Easter will be rich for the one who has the word lily.
Another way of engaging with your new word is to seek more experience with it. The person who has the word tree can explore it by visiting the arboretum on campus, reading a novel like The Overstory this year, watching a PBS documentary related to forestry or silvopasture or agroforestry, or maybe just going out into the yard and hugging a tree! Those who drew words like plumb line, foundation, wall, cornerstone or door might visit a building site or talk to someone in the construction business.
An obvious question is what do these words have to do with spiritual growth? So, let’s explore our words in scripture. You can visit a good bible browser (the link to the left is Oremus) and scroll down to the word search box. This one allows you to choose a range of books, like Matthew-John if you just want to see what’s in the gospels, or Genesis-Revelation if you want to search the whole Bible. All the verses that use this word will appear. And to the right of the specific verse is a link to that passage in context. (One small caveat: it is a British site, so you will need to spell words like neighbor as neighbour! That is my Star Word this year and I was scratching my head when the result said no matches. I got my Downton Abbey on and 204 matches immediately appeared!)
On Star Sunday, Jess Trefzger and I shared a laugh about her word, fragrance, (a funny one when you are holding a diapered baby). The Bible search, however, brought up several passages from the erotic love poetry Song of Songs. There are many beautifully sensuous verses about the lovers breathing in the glorious scents of one another and the world around them as they revel in their shared passion. (Yes, I know, this behavior can lead to holding a diapered baby.) Other results from the Wisdom literature of the Bible included the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus, where holy Wisdom is personified as a woman whose sensuous fragrance fills the Temple and perfumes the world. And of course, there is reference in the Gospels to Mary washing Jesus’ feet with costly perfume and the fragrance filling the house. I love this word because it reminds me to look for God with all my senses, not just to stay in my head, limiting my exploration of the Word to an intellectual exercise. This year I intend to knead bread dough, knock on my neighbor’s door, inhale the fragrance of the woods, gaze at the glory of sunrise, listen to the songs of sparrows, taste the saltiness of the sea, and embrace the evidence of God’s grace in the world. I hope you will, too.