For roughly one-hundred days I’m going to let fifty specific words speak their unique language and world of meaning into me. Day after day I’ll meet up with one specific word and for that day and the day following I’ll let that word shape and frame my thinking and my conversations. It’s a bit of a discipline. But when I’ve done this in the past, the yield has been remarkable.
Over on Instagram I’ll be posting a word each day (one word every two days) and with it a picture of something that strikes me as a bit of connective tissue between the word verbally spoken and the word come to life in an image. The hashtag is, of course, #100days50words.
So where did this all come from?
During the summer of 2015, Nancy Lee and I spent a week on the Superior Hiking Trail together. Of all the things we packed for that trip, one of the most important items was a little piece of paper on which I’d written a handful of words. Both Nancy Lee and I are, among other things, readers, writers and speakers, so words carry quite a bit of freight for us. That we had this list of words was really Nancy Lee’s idea and I’m so grateful for her prompting on this.
So what we did was choose one word for each day of the hike. Beginning somewhere around the first cup of coffee in the morning, we’d toss out the word and let it settle in us while we got ready for that day’s hike. For each morning of that hiking trip, the word became the starting point. The word became a focal point for thinking and chatting it up as we hiked through meadows and forests and along Lake Superior. It was especially helpful to have a particular word to get us going when the going, you know, got tough. We chose words like Travel, Threshold, Embrace and Essential and what they had to do with a hike in the woods. We talked about how words like Expansive and Rendezvous, Growing and Opening had everything to do with the journey of life. It was a rewarding experience as each word brought anticipation, focus and inspiration to each day. And since those days on the trail, I’ve made it a habit to dwell on particular words on particular days.
Fast forward to all of this:
The sabbatical journey that we’re on is roughly 100 days. And If I’m doing the math right, I’ve got 50 words… I’ll spend a couple of days “dwelling” “being present” to each of the 50 words – sort of letting it unfold over the 100 days. Those 50 words each fit into one of the 7 rhythms that I’m living with: you already may know them if you’ve been keeping up with me here:
spirited | creative | connected | present | grateful | generous| missional
For each of the seven rhythms, I’ve created a statement that captures what it means to thrive in those rhythms. The first two podcasts dealt with the words “thrive” and then “rhythms”. Those two podcast are kind of an intro to all of this. So if you haven’t listened to them, you might want to jump back. In episode 3 of my podcast I deal mostly with the idea of sabbatical in general.
Today I want to quickly walk you through the 50 words and then briefly talk about how they fit into the seven rhythms. And while I’m doing that, I want you to think about how each rhythm and the statement about how that rhythm helps you thrive. It will make good sense when we get going.
The First Rhythm: “Spirited”
We thrive as spirited people by affirming that we are inspired, animated and enthused by the Source of all life, and that every breath is a gift. If you were to break that down, you would discover six key words: Inspire, Animate, Enthuse, Source, Breath, and Gift.
I’ll spend a couple of days dwelling on what it means to be inspired, animated and enthused. I’ll ask some important questions: where does that inspiration come from? How does animation work in our lives? What, really, does it mean to be “en-thused?” And when we acknowledge that all of that comes from our Source, our ground of being, from God—however we understand God, then we have a deepened sense of how each breath is a gift. So we really do thrive as spirited people by affirming that we are inspired, animated and enthused by the Source of all life, and that every breath is a gift. Do you see how that works?
The Second Rhythm: “Creative”
We thrive as creative people through the discovery of our identity and purpose in the world, exploring our creative impulse, delighting in the wonder of imagination and the power of innovation. Again, if you were to break that down, you would discover six key words: discovery, identity, purpose, impulse, imagination, and innovation. And during the two weeks that we’ll be dwelling in this rhythm, we’ll explore what it means to discover our identity and purpose and why that’s important; where the impulse for creativity comes from and the wonder and power of imagination and innovation.
The Third Rhythm: “Connected”
We thrive as connected people by nurturing healthy relationships, practicing intentional acts of kindness and showing hospitality as ways of creating trust and building respect which sustains community. We’ll focus on these words: relationship, kindness, hospitality, trust, respect, and community.
The Fourth Rhythm: “Present”
We thrive in the present as people who welcome sabbath, immerse in silence, and commit to being awake, becoming aware and making ourselves available to what each moment has to teach. We’ll dwell in several word, asking what it means to practice sabbath, how to immerse in the present moment, and how to become comfortable with silence. We’ll explore what it means to be not only awake and aware of others, but what it means to be available.
The Fifth Rhythm: “Grateful”
We thrive as grateful people who practice gratitude as a spiritual discipline, remembering with joy and thanksgiving that all we have is a gift of grace, The key words here are practice, discipline, remembering, joy, thanksgiving and gift.
The Sixth Rhythm: “Generous”
We thrive as generous people by seeking lavish interactions with the world so that the abundance of the few can transform the scarcity of the many into a feast of blessing where all have enough. The core of practicing the rhythm of generosity in our lives has everything to do with how we understand our interactions with others, our sense of our own abundance, and what the mindset of scarcity does to a person. We’ll also consider feast and blessing and how much enough really is.
Finally, the Seventh Rhythm: “Missional”
We thrive as missional people who embrace a vision of life and aliveness by creating a momentum of healing and unity by pursuing movements of hope and wholeness. We’ll think together about life and aliveness, healing and unity, and about hope and wholeness.
But first, a bit about the word ‘sabbath.’
I understand that sabbath means rest. I know it has much to do with ceasing and stepping out of the ordinary and familiar rhythms in order to see differently, hear more clearly, taste more completely, touch with more awareness, and to appreciate more robustly the aroma of a fuller life. I understand that.
For some, sabbath includes setting things aside: unplugging from technology, abandoning schedules, disconnecting from routines. For others it’s about emptying in order to be eventually filled. It’s about leaving room in order to find some room. It’s about losing and finding. It’s about emptying in order to experience filling. It’s about letting the ordinary be overwhelmed with the extraordinary and about walking away from excess and stepping into the essential.
No one writes about that quite the way Ted Loder does in his book “Guerillas of Grace.” Here’s how Ted articulates it:
let something essential happen to me,
something more than interesting
let something essential happen to me,
Speak to my condition, Lord,
and change me somewhere inside where it matters,
a change that will burn and tremble and heal
and explode me into tears
or love that throbs or screams
or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence
and dares the dangerous deeds.
Let something happen in me
which is my real self, God….
let something essential and joyful happen in me now,
something like the blooming of hope and faith,
like a grateful heart,
like a surge of awareness
of how precious each moment is,
that now, not next time,
now is the occasion
to take off my shoes
to see every bush afire,
to leap and whirl with neighbor,
to gulp the air as sweet wine
until I’ve drunk enough
to dare to speak the tender word:
“I love you”
“Let’s live forever beginning now”
and “I’m a fool for Christ’s sake.”
~ Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace
That is about as good a place to end – and begin as possible. So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
And now my friends as you move through the day, may you thrive as spirited person by affirming that you are inspired, animated and enthused by the Source of all life, and that every breath is a gift…
May you thrive as creative person by discovering your identity and purpose in the world, exploring your creative impulse, delighting in the wonder of your imagination and the power of innovation.
May you thrive as a connected person by nurturing healthy relationships, practicing intentional acts of kindness and by showing hospitality as ways of creating trust and building respect which sustains community…
May you thrive in the present as a person who welcomes sabbath, immerses in silence, and commits to being awake, becoming aware and making yourself available to what each moment has to teach…
May you thrive as a grateful person who practices gratitude as a spiritual discipline, remembering with joy and thanksgiving that all you have is a gift of grace…
May you thrive as a generous person who seeks lavish interactions with the world around you so that the abundance of the few can transform the scarcity of the many into a feast of blessing where all have enough…
And may you thrive as a missional person who embraces a vision of life and aliveness by creating a momentum of healing and unity by pursuing movements of hope and wholeness.
And remember the words of Thomas Merton: “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony…”