Tuesday, January 9, 2018

First Runner-up: Expectancy

Last week I blogged about joy, the word that would direct my mind set for 2018. I explained in that post I’d decided upon the word during Advent when I read in Philippians 4:4 that uplifting command to "Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again--rejoice!” 

...an intriguing combination
of allegory and analysis
Until that time, I’d had another strong contender: expectancy. I’d begun considering it early in the fall, after reading Allen Arnold’s The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, and Create,  

While reading this book, a section of it gave me pause because it seemed to go against so much of what I’d been told all my life about having expectations. I’d always considered expectations desirable things. What happened to "setting our expectations high" or "living up to high expectations"? When we complete any task, we have certain outcomes we want our work to achieve. What’s wrong with that?
But while Arnold doesn’t encourage having expectations, he does recommend living with expectancy. And he explains there is a vast difference.

Expectations are what we think should happen. They lead us to think we should be in control. And when our expectations are unmet--which often happens--it leads to disappointment, disillusionment, and discouragement.

Living with a sense of expectancy accomplishes the opposite. Expectancy is being open and prepared to accept what does happen.  Living with expectancy keeps us in a state of readiness or anticipation for what comes our way—whether good or bad. Expectancy leaves room for God to take our lives, our work, our situations far beyond what we would have ever imagined.

I'll admit it took me a while to wrap my mind around this idea. But after giving it considerable thought, it began to make sense. And it gave me an entire new way of looking at the book I would soon be releasing. What freedom there was in letting go of expectations for Some Form of Grace! I sent my best writing, publishing, and marketing efforts into the world and let go of expectations for reviews or awards or financial success. I could live in expectancy of what God would do with my book. 

Both joy and expectancy would make excellent focus words for the year. In choosing between them, the struggle was real. For various reasons, joy won out, but that doesn't mean I won't be living in expectancy of what God will do with my choice. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I Chose "Joy"

The odds of my sticking to a New Year’s resolution are about the same as an egg sticking to a brand new Teflon skillet. So a couple of years ago, I jumped at the idea of picking an idea or word to focus on for the new year rather than making a resolution I would never keep. Whoever came up with this brilliant idea, I thank you from the bottom of my undisciplined heart.

The word I chose for 2018 is joy. Please bear with me as I explain how I arrived at it. A few years ago (I’m still not sure how this happened), I became the “co-facilitator” of an adult Sunday school class at my church. After a study of the book of Acts, we decided to embark on a study of the letters of Paul. We figured it would take us about a year or so to work through them but soon discovered the Apostle had a lot more to say to Christians of the first century than we’d originally thought. We also discovered he has a lot to say to Christians today. So after three years of diligent study (with an occasional break and a few rabbit trails thrown in), last fall we were ready to tackle the book of Philippians. Chronologically, Philippians is near the last of Paul’s letters, so like a horse who senses he’s near the end of a journey and starts trotting for the barn, we charged full steam ahead, not even planning to break for an Advent study. But as so often happens with God’s “mysterious ways,” Philippians turned out to be a perfect study for Advent. The last Sunday in Advent found us at Philippians, Chapter 4, which includes that beautiful commandment (notice it's a command, not a suggestion) for Christians to be joyful.  “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (v.4)  And what is Advent if not a time of joy? 

Of course, a Christian’s joy shouldn’t be limited to the season of Advent. It should be continuous. And that is why I chose the word joy for 2018. Through the good times and happy experiences and even through the hurts and disappointments, I want to be mindful of and dependent on the deep-seated joy God provides for those that know him.  I want to always be aware that “ache is not the last word for those who believe God” (Ann Voskamp) and that “Joy…is the gigantic secret of the Christian” (G. K. Chesterton).

For my favorite video of 2017 and a demonstration of pure, unadulterated joy click here. If you can watch this and your spirits aren't lifted, you might want to check if you're alive. 

                      Wishing you and your loved ones unlimited joy in 2018!