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Word of the Year

How to Grow in 2024

Instead of resolutions, I like to have a theme for the year. A couple days ago, I was admittedly feeling low key panicked that on January 1 I still didn't have my word. As I tried to listen, what kept coming was patience. For sad and obvious reasons (a tendency toward impatience??), I felt like that word wasn’t rich or full enough or something enough; meekness made an appearance, but felt the same way about that one. It just seemed like there was something more.

Driving two and a half hours home after the fun holiday weekend, letting myself be still and think about it (because riding in cars, airplanes, or taking showers=good inspo), it came in its glory, my word for 2024: GRACE. But it didn’t come in all caps, it came as grace does, as a gentle obviousness, a jasmine blossom on a breeze, a softly glowing dawning. As a descending that lifts me to meet it, but not halfway…all the way home. And here’s the beauty of the concept and how I know it’s the right one. This was my next thought:

“What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy)

Did you see ‘em? Patience and meekness. They’re in there. And did you catch this, “what we most need.” What we most need isn’t protection, affirmation, abundance or supply, inspiration; not even health. What we most need is the desire for growth in grace

What must a mental state be like that is longing to grow in grace? What must the effect, the demonstration of that desire be? (I’m guessing, and this is an educated guess: protection, affirmation, abundance and supply, inspiration; even health.)

“Desire is that internal act, which, by influencing the will, makes us proceed to action. [It is] a prayer or request to obtain…” (Webster's 1828 Dictionary)

The Old Testament frequently uses the Hebrew word chesed (or checed), translated into English as mercy, tender mercies, kindness, loving-kindness, loyalty. As in these verses:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” (Psalm 23:6)
“… with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:8)
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)

But “Biblical scholars have often complained that the word chesed in the Hebrew Bible is difficult to translate into English, because it really has no precise equivalent in our language…. the full meaning of the word cannot be conveyed without an explanation” ( “The nearest New Testament equivalent to the Hebrew chesed is charis (grace), as [Martin] Luther realized when he used the German Gnade for both words.” (A Theological Word Book of the Bible, edited by Alan Richardson (New York: MacMillan, 1951))

I just wanted to mention the Old Testament’s use of the word grace (though not translated in English as grace) in case we think it is limited to the New Testament. [Yes, the coming of Christ Jesus is the epitome of grace, but how would we have recognized that if we weren’t at least introduced to the concept prior to his advent in the flesh?] That brings us to the Greek (N.T.) definition of grace [charis], which is so beautiful it makes me want to cry:  “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.” (Dummelow’s)

Who wouldn’t want to grow (increase, multiply, expand, flourish) in having their heart divinely influenced? And the “reflection in life” = “expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds”?

The pinnacle (structurally, at least) of the Lord’s Prayer is the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” 

Interesting that the first use of the word bread in the Bible is when Adam is cursed,

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:19)

Could it be that the prayer Jesus gave us is to forever banish that curse? That instead of the curse of dust-bread, we have the grace of daily bread?

In fact, Mary Baker Eddy’s spiritual translation of “daily bread” is “grace for to-day”:

Give us this day our daily bread;

Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections;

(Science and Health, 17:4)

(You gotta read this poem about daily bread.)

Famish: “to suffer, or die, from lack of nourishment; starve; also, distress by depriving of necessary things” (Funk and Wagnalls College Standard Dictionary)

[Sidenote, in case anyone else finds this interesting,—but it confirms for me there’s a divine plan—my word for 2023 was nourish.]

Famished affections are those motives, feelings, sentiments, heart’s desires that are “deprived of necessary things” (like “patience, meekness, love, and good deeds”?).

Our Master—maybe we could call him personified grace? (I don’t know, I’m still thinking about that)— said in his Sermon on the Mount,

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Hunger and thirst, “fervent desire,” this mental state is deemed blessed. Accompanying this prayerful longing is its fulfillment:

“And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” (John 1:16)

What will bring you fullness and growth in the coming year?

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