A New Year, A New Word, A New Direction

iPhotoBorderFX obedient


I’ll tell you what: I am not a fan of this whole one-word thingy.


Because for the second time now, I do.not.like the word that came.  (previous experience – 2012; word? w a i t i n g) 

Okay, so I asked. Both times.

And each time, the word is hard, complex, puzzling.

Obedient? REALLY? This argumentative, rebellious, pushy, bossy heart? 

Uh. . . that would be a YES. A great, big, gnarly YES.


But here’s a sweet and interesting piece to this story. Immediately after dropping that doozy of a word into my conscious mind, the Holy Spirit began to sing to me. Yes, you read that right.

Not actual music-music, but a sweetness, a lightness, an invitation, a softening of the shock of knowing that ‘obedient’ is the word for 2014.

“Let’s look at this word in a new way, Diana,” the song seemed to say. 

And I was reminded of the only sermon I ever preached on the topic of obedience, coming out of Hebrews 5, where we’re told that Jesus ‘learned’ obedience. The incarnate Son of God, just like the rest of us frail human creatures, had to learn what it means to be obedient. And yes, he learned through his suffering.

And I’m not terribly fond of that whole concept, you know?

But as I wrestled with that text, I did it in the context of . . . wait for it! . . .  bird-watching. I sat in my backyard and I watched the birds that flit and float and hover around us here in central California. 

And I realized something. The birds do what comes naturally — they are being birds, with their whole hearts (if birds can be said to have hearts).

Birds are obedient to who they are.

And so was Jesus. 

And I believe that I am invited to re-consider that word in that context: to be obedient to who I am,  who it is God has called and formed me to be. To be true to my gifts, to be open to the Spirit, to discover more and more about what God is whispering into my life.

Yes, that may involve suffering of a sort — occasional discomfort, maybe even downright fear, probably a lot of  truth-telling.

Toward the end of last year, I began to sense an invitation to re-think this blogging space. I’m still mulling on that and hope to soon have another post or two about where I’m headed in 2014.

Maybe it will involve things like this: wrestling with hard things, searching for answers, learning to sit with the mystery when answers aren’t easy to find, maybe even speaking the teensiest bit prophetically?


Are you sure about this, Lord?

Tune in next week. I hope to have more details for you then . . .

Adding this to the growing list over at Bonnie’s place on January 9:

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  1. Gwen Acres says

    Being obedient to who we are….now that has hope attached.

    • Oh, I hope so, Gwen (no pun intended!).

      • Gwen Acres says

        I know you will flesh out this hard word, obedient. Maybe even make it palatable in a new and fresh way. I have so often attached guilt and fear to it. I am eager to see how you work with it and make it come alive. Thanks Diana, in advance. 🙂

        • I’ll do my best, Gwen. It’s a tough word for many of us, I think, with tons of negative freight attached. Hopefully, we can unpack some of that freight over this next year and jettison it for good.

  2. My word for 2012 was Random. 2013 was a pain it did not get a word that I can remember. As 2014 dawns I am feeling Hopeful and even Optimistic as usual but all of this has all always been on top of Waiting.

    Just as I was setting up to claim Hopeful as my word for the year someone mentioned we should have three not just one. Optimistic popped up really quickly and I was struggling for #3 but your word seems to fit. hhhmmmm interesting…

    It is not so much the waiting I have come to dislike as some of the other discomfort I have been experiencing.

    We shall see how this year flows and what it has in store for us. I am excited despite the hopeless look of my circumstances. Let’s hope we do not have to wait too long for everything we are expecting and needing.

    God bless,


  3. This is beautiful Diana. Love your lesson from the birds.

    • Thanks so much, Addie – for reading in the first place and for commenting, too. Thinking of you as this heavy, hard winter moves into the northern parts of this country.

  4. Love it. Love you. And I look forward to what you will share with us here as you wrestle and flesh with what the Holy Spirit has placed on your heart. {And, of course, you KNOW I love watching birds.} xox

    • Oh, I do know you love watching birds, Patricia! And I love watching you love watching birds. We’ll see where the Spirit takes us!

  5. Oh. Diana. (that’s what I thought when I saw your word)
    But I love your spin on it and I’m sure it will continue to turn and spin in your head and heart as the year continues. Interested to see what changes are coming. It feels like so many have flown into this new year of blogging with gusto and I feel I am limping along.

    • Yup, that’s pretty much what I thought, too, kiddo!! And I’m not going anywhere with gusto – much more like trepidation, I think. I’ve got some ideas that I think are heaven sent. Time will tell.

  6. In the space in which I know you best, you already do those things quite well.

  7. You are so funny! I love your initial reaction capturing your honest aversion. As you process it, though, I’m fully engaged, and your analogy helps me grasp your view of this word, this way of living. Sounds like this will be a powerful year for you as you learn and share about obedience.

    • Thank you, Ann. And you’ve gotta know that YOU are the one through whom the Spirit spoke about changing things up a bit here at the blog. Still hammering out exactly what that looks like, but it’s taking shape much like you asked me to consider. Stay tuned.

  8. Obedient to who I am … I have been working on this, too. Brene Brown (and of course, the Holy Spirit) has been a good guide.

    I love your thinking and writing, Diana. I look forward to learning more about obedient.


    • Brene Brown is the BEST. Just listened to her interview with Krista Tippett yesterday – I’d been saving several taped interviews for a quiet day and yesterday was that day. I’m actually going to listen again, this time with pen in hand. She is so helpful – honest, rueful, real. Love to you in this new year, Glenda. SO excited you’re going to be a grandmother, my friend. NO ONE could do that job better than you.

  9. Ro elliott says

    Yes…I love the bird anaglogy….I use to think all obedience was a grit your teeth action…but I do think the transaction takes place deeper into our souls…that wrestling place sometimes…until we can flit like a bird…also this scripture …God loves a cheerful giver…I attached that one to money ….time…but now I want it to be my heart…my “obedience”… The rest of the giving will follow more naturally. Blessing to you as He unfolds all the depths of this word for you this year!

  10. I like your softer take on “obedience,” Diana – because it can be a scary, intimidating kind of word. And I like how you gleaned that insight from the backyard birds – my favorite teachers!

    • Birds are amazing, aren’t they? And yes, it can be a very intimidating word. I’m hoping this next year will be a time to re-examine that whole response and learn to embrace the whole concept a bit more wholeheartedly.

  11. Patricia Spreng says

    I love that his word and invitation came like music… how very wonderful of him to invite you this way. I’m looking forward to this one. = )

    • It was an interesting experience. I’d been asking (a bit skeptically, I hasten to add) about what word to focus on this year. Then this one just landed with a gigantic thud. And my immediate response was to push it away, to deny it, to say, “NO, thank you.” And then, there was this softness, almost immediately. It wasn’t true music – no melody as such – but maybe more like the sensation that good music can create in your spirit? It was quite lovely and very surprising. I’m hoping that is what sticks!

  12. I think you already do those things, I am excited to see what happens when you do them intentionally!

  13. Thank you Diana, this was a great blessing to me. 🙂
    love to you,

  14. I’m loving the hints you’re giving of where your blog might be headed – sounds exciting! As for obedience… I have to admit, my first thought was ‘Ouch…’ I guess because I think of obedience as something that is demanded of someone, generally over something that they don’t want to do, but is for their good. Grrrr… actually, now I think about it, my reaction to that word is very similar to my reaction to another word, which is ‘submission’. Lol!
    I love what you and the Holy Spirit are working out of this hard word, and look forward to how it will be unpacked over the year.

    • Yup, I recognize that response!! I think I’m trying to help redefine the whole idea by moving away from the verb, ‘demand,’ and opening to the verb, ‘invite.’ And yeah, submission can push some of the very same buttons! Thanks for leaving encouraging words, friend.

  15. Diana – I will love following your thought train on this in the coming year. I find more and more that when I’m obedient and doing what I’m meant to do, I become one with the work – and when I do what I think I “should” be doing, that’s when I begin gritting my teeth. It’s a great word from which you will gather much to share. No word has come to me – yet.

    • YES, yes – what you’ve described here is exactly what I think I’m being asked to work through and write about. I never got a word for last year, so sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

  16. Diana, I look forward to your next posts to learn what God is whispering to you. It may be the same thing God is whispering to others of us.

  17. Looking forward to it!

  18. Last year my word was courage. You know it takes courage to obey God. He often asked me to do the thing me would not. And he doesn’t tell often tell me ‘the why?’ By faith, and in love, I have obeyed and, for me obedience has been the sweetest release. Freedom. Joy.

    Would you pray for me Diane? About the direction of my blog…Lyla is going to revamp my place and I feel the new rising…more directed maybe, but haven’t gotten the creative flow that I need to be able to visualize or describe what is stirring. My word is Open by the way…hands up, ready to receive, humbled to be able to approach such Holiness and Beauty. Whatever He gives you …we will be gathering around.

    • Yes, of course, I will pray for you, Dea. That this openness will filter into every crevice of your soul and body, preparing you for whatever comes. Let all the creative ideas simmer for a while, Dea and see what rises.

  19. You, leaning into the tensions, longing, mystery, and writing about it with your wisdom and that prophetic voice? That sounds just like the kind of thing you’re talking about here – leaning into exactly who you’re made to be. So grateful for your voice here. Sing on, Diana.

  20. This post made my heart leap a bit. First, the sweet tenderness of God to give you a not so “fun” word in such tender way. Also, I’m excited to see what God does through you in this space here.

  21. Just a quick note, Diana, to thank you for your care and friendship and encouragement and wisdom and patience. I wish there were more like you in the blogosphere. Praying blessings over your year.

  22. Oh, I love it when you use your gifts. Cannot wait to journey beside you and read your heart in 2014.love this.

    • Thank you, dear Elizabeth. At this exact moment in time, I’m beginning to wonder how in the heck I’m going to climb into this space and do what I think is being asked. Time will tell . . .

  23. Diana, I look forward to seeing this journey unfold on your blog! (Also, quite selfishly, I hope this whole “obedient” thing involves writing a book about lament.) Your thoughts about obedience as you bird-watched resonated with me. Personally, obedience seemed like a grim (bleak?) thing–though, of course, I would have dutifully argued that it was morally glorious. But lately I’ve been thinking that as God does His gentle, transforming work in us, surely obedience must become more and more of an intrinsic response, rather than an alien mold into which we try to hammer ourselves.

    • Elena – thanks so much for these good words! I don’t know that I have an entire book about lament in me, but I might find a chapter or two somewhere. Yes, obedience does usually feel grim – perfect word! And I know ALL about the ‘morally glorious’ argument. Blech. So tired of that approach. I love how you’ve phrased it here – obedience as an intrinsic response: EXACTLY. That is what I’m coming to understand, too.

  24. I think it a very wise way to see that word. I think I see a bit of a “theme” running through all the words others have chosen (and mine as well). There seems to be a calling to come to Him with open heart and hands – just as we are – and let Him use us in His way and in His time.
    I, too, am looking forward to what you will share. You always bless.

    • Thanks, Linda – I’ve kind of noted that same idea in many of the words I’ve seen thus far. Thanks for coming by, friend.

  25. “…..to be obedient to who I am, who it is God has called and formed me to be….” and as I typed this, I thought of a blog post I have sitting in “posts”, unpublished that has to do with being present in the present….and I didn’t feeel quite like I was ready to post it. Reading and rereading this blog this morning havs helped me see the missing link – that of being present with who I AM, not what I might be when this season passes, but who I am right now.

    regarding the word for the year idea: I have been a bit (well a lot) cynical of all these “words for the year, as in will-it-really-make-a-difference kind of cynical. But after reading this post, I had visited the lake I frequent. As I was driving away from the frozen lake, I told God if he had a word for me to make it clear. I wasn’t going to try and find one. And then I heard it and knew it was for me, “Unfrozen.” I am, with some small hope, looking for that to happen. I do feeel some progress in the past couple months beecause of the work done in the group I have joined at our counseling center.

    and I continue to love coming here and seeing what you have for us that God has given you. Blessings in the new year Diana.

    • Oh, Carol!! I LOVE your word. It’s perfect. I’m looking with you for the ways in which God will move in you life, your heart and bring warmth and light and hope Thanks so much for these kind words, my friend. I’m always grateful when you drop by.