One Word


My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, James 1:19

I’ve already done a post entitled “Five Words” which discussed what five words you would use to describe your father.  I am not going to get you to trim the list down to just one word.  Instead, I thought I would come up with an idea of  a way to self-improvement which is manageable.

My post on 1 Percent was a start at that process – looking for ways to improve in areas of your life not by giant leaps but tiny steps.  Looking for a 1% improvement on a continuing basis leads to big changes.

This post was inspired by a book by Mike Ashcroft entitled My One Word.  I was intrigued by the book title.  Ashcroft starts out by describing the self-help resources which promise to help you fix your finances, your health, your marriage, your kids, etc.

Most of the resources start with the line “Seven” (or Five, or Four, or some other number) things you can do to improve. Some of the resources were scary such as “Six Health Risks Everyone Faces” and one on “Avoiding Identity Theft.”  With the advent of the internet, these resources are available at your fingertips.

But the deluge of information almost paralyzes us into inaction.   If we followed all the advice through to its logical conclusion, we would have little time for anything else other than making lists of things “to-do”.

Even the Bible has “to-do” lists. I have a written a post that has a list of “One-Anothers” that goes through the verses that describe what we to do with “one another”.   I found some 27 different passages in Scripture that talk about these actions to others – pray, love, serve, encourage, and so on.  Hard to keep up with that many.

Ashcroft pivots from his inability to accomplish a lengthy “to-do” list to his concept which is to simplify the process and select one word and use it to focus your thoughts.  Yes, just one word. That’s about as simple as you can get.

He suggests that you choose one word that describes what you hope God will accomplish in you for the next year.  The word will be with you all year – something you can focus on, meditate on.

In 2004, Ashcroft chose the word FLOW, which came from John 7:38: “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”   The word triggered something within him. He reflected on times when things from his heart flowed, but there were times when there was no flow.

Over time, he decided to use the word FLOW to judge how he was doing spiritually.  It meant a change of perspective – it was not an evaluation of what he was doing (i.e. his actions), but the condition of his heart by what was flowing out of it.

Ashcroft took his One Word concept to his church in 2007 and it had surprising results in the DNA of the members. It helped them focus on their spiritual formation and also gave them something to talk about. Conversations would start with the question “What’s your word?”

As I reflected on his concept, one word came to me for this year.  That word is LISTEN.  Again, it’s still early in the year. I want to hear God more, and listen to people better.  It’s an art, not a science, and I’ve just now begun to think of the implications for my life.

My wife will be glad to know that LISTEN is my one word for this year.  Even this past weekend, she said I was doing better at listening. Now I need to work on listening to God more.

I mentioned the theme of this post to my friend, Stacy Rinehart, at lunch yesterday.  He recalled that he had done something similar in the past where he started the year with one word to highlight during the year.  He said it was a good practice.

For those who want to learn more about the process, there is a video by Mike Ashcroft entitled “What’s Your One Word”  under FURTHER STUDY.   You can also get his book which describes the process of choosing the one word .

My challenge for you is to come up with one word for this year that will be the one thing you want to be your guide.  One word that will remind you to improve in a way you hadn’t been able to in the past.  One that will draw you closer to God.  You might even follow Mike Ashcroft’s example and take the idea to your church to see what happens.

FURTHER STUDY:  For the video What’s Your One Word:

The book My One Word is available at Amazon:

WORSHIP:   One word to describe Jesus is Cornerstone. Listen to the song by Hillsong:

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