Thursday, January 07, 2021

Spiritual Journey Thursday: OLW

In 2020, my OLW was HOPE. I reflected on how it went here. To summarize, in spite of everything, this was a great word for the year.


This year, I've chosen the word FLOURISHING. 


In some versions of the Bible, Psalm 92:14 uses the word "flourishing." Here's the NKJV rendition. Referring to the righteous, the text says, "They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing."
Other versions replace "flourishing" with "healthy and green," "full of sap and green," even "succulent." (Hmm, maybe I should choose the word "succulent." It just sounds a little too ... fruity.)
The fruit connection, plus the etymology of the word itself that suggests flowers, makes me think biologically. I've been studying birds a lot in the past couple of years, and each species has a different set of requirements for it to be able to flourish. Its habitat must be right, and that means planted with the right trees, with the right climactic conditions, with the right food to eat. What causes one species to flourish would kill another.
What causes me to flourish, other than God's goodness? Well, it all comes from God's goodness, but I'm also responsible to arrange things in ways that make me flourish. There are going to be times and seasons that are less than optimal. I like to think of myself as a hardy plant that can survive some adversity, kind of like bougainvillea, that does better in drought than it does when the rains are good. (I played some with that idea in my poem "Self-Portrait as Bougainvillea.") I can't expect conditions to be constantly ideal. But I can make sure that I get enough sleep, that I eat right, that I exercise, that I read plenty of books and spend time with people I love and who love me back. I can make sure I am doing activities that make me feel creative. I can drink tea with friends, even if we have to be distanced from each other. (Zoom teatimes are a thing, and I have a long table too, for local friends - we sit at opposite ends of it.) I don't have to put myself continually in situations that I know are not going to be conducive to my flourishing. 
I don't want to make it sound as though flourishing means self-indulgence, or as though I will wither up and die if my wishes are crossed. Not at all. But I do a hard job, and I live in a place that can be challenging, and 2020 was only the latest in a series of difficult years. I do need to make sure that what I can control, I do. I am sometimes too invested in my self-concept of being low maintenance, so I put up with things from others that I shouldn't, or I fail to prioritize taking care of myself.
I am newly physically healthy, having just been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency in the summer, and being physically healthy has resulted in being emotionally far brighter than I was. That's one thing that made my thoughts go in the direction of this word. 

But the main thing I have to do in order to flourish, even if the environment isn't ideal and the world news continues to be full of terrible things (which it will), is to remain in the Vine. Jesus used many agricultural metaphors, and one of them is the Vine. In John 15:5 He says, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Like hope last year, flourishing isn't all, or mostly, about me.
I'm looking forward to exploring this word this year. 



Here are the lyrics to Sandra McCracken's song "Flourishing":


Teach me, oh God to follow your decrees
Give me understanding, your word, I wanna keep
Direct me in the path, of your commands
For there I find delight, my will is in your hands
Turn my heart away from worthless things
Preserve my life, according to your ways
Take away disgrace
You hold me in my place--flourishing
Fulfill your promise to the ones you love
Within your ways we walk, for your laws are good
Temptation loses pow'r, my soul's revived
In righteousness, oh God, preserve my life
Turn my heart away from worthless things
Preserve my life, according to your ways
Take away disgrace
You hold me in my place--flourishing


This post is linked to the SJT roundup here at Carol Varsalona's blog.


Karen Eastlund said...

Ruth: Thank you for this post and for your OLW: flourishing. Makes me also think about how a grapevine sends out tendrils... as if writing with a flourish. Tendrils are for grabbing on, for holding... and they obviously are part and parcel of the plant's strategy for flourishing. So... I commend you on your word and for reminding me that we must hold onto faith and God's word. Challenges will come. We can still flourish.

Fran Haley said...

An excellent word choice, knitted to Scripture. The "freshness" aspect of it is striking. What feeds our spirits and helps us grow? Mostly the same things and right conditions - and mindfulness in that responsibility you point out so well. There are conditions we can change (getting off social media, anyone)? Above all - remain in Him. Yes. We cannot flourish - or do anything - without Him. A beautiful and needed devotional, Ruth - thank you.

Linda Mitchell said...

What a beautiful post. My goodness...what it must feel like to be newly healthy. I agree that we humans sometimes put in too much effort to appease others. I know you will flourish because you are healthy and in the vine. I'm delighted to be able to walk along with you as you flourish.

Ramona said...

Just like always, I love tagging along with your posts and seeing how you fleshed out this year's word. I love the word flourishing, the agricultural associations, the realization of God's goodness in our flourishing efforts and ways you'll seek to flourish in this new year. Hopeful that things might improve in Haiti, but if not, a continuing flourishing as you remain in the Vine. Wonderful words, Ruth, and I love it when a post is accompanied by a song.