This is the fifth year in a row that I have started the new year with by choosing a specific Bible verse to focus on all year long.
I started in 2005. That year, I used my brother's Bible that Mom inherited after he died - which I then inherited after she died. It was the same Bible that she and I read from when he was newly diagnosed with cancer, and he was at rock bottom after his first chemo treatments. Mom was there nursing him, and around bedtime she invited me to his room to read their nightly Scripture. It was Isaiah 40, specifically verse 31: "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." I didn't make it through the Scripture without stopping and crying. Mom gave me "the eye" from across the bed, silently telling me to buck up and be strong for Jackson. I will never hear that verse without having flashbacks of my brother.
So... back to my story. In 2005, I started the new year knowing that my father would probably die in the coming year. Mom had just died four months earlier, so I was bracing myself for yet another shoe to drop. I sat down on New Year's Day with my brother's Bible, and said a prayer. I asked God to direct me to some of His words that would speak to me in the coming year. And, then I just flipped my Bible open and blindly pointed to a verse on a page. It was Job (of course!), chapter 33, verses 29-30: "God does all these things to a man - twice, even three times - to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him." If that wasn't directly aimed at me, I don't know what else it could be! I felt God speaking to me, acknowledging the fact that the third major loss of my life was about to happen ("twice, even three times") and He was promising me that His light would shine on me and warm me, even in the depths of my grief. I focused on that verse throughout the year, and meditated on it often.
In 2006, I did the "blindly pointing" thing again, since it worked so well in 2005. This time, God directed me to Luke 21:33: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." He was telling me that He is faithful, ever present, and the physical world that I focus my energies on is fleeting.
In 2007, I decided to focus on verses that I liked for no other reason than because I liked them. They were Job 19:25-27: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God, I myself will see him with my own eyes - I and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" Say that last sentence out loud. You can't help but say it with conviction and hope.
In 2008, I again chose a verse for myself. It was Psalm 23, but not the usual translation. This was from the Good News Translation, which starts "The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need (emphasis mine)." I really liked that version because it helped me focus on what I have instead of what I don't have. It helped me focus throughout the year, especially when I was diagnosed with lupus that September.
In 2009, I really can't recall how I chose my verse for the year. I think it was one of the little Bible verses on a card that sits in my kitchen window, but I can't be certain. It was the Good News Translation of Lamentations 3:22-23: "The Lord's unfailing love and mercy still continue. Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise." I also loved the NIV version: "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." I posted this verse so I could see it every morning while I showered. It took half the year for it to sink in to my brain. I remember one day I was showering and thinking about how the kids were smothering me with responsibilities and I literally felt like I was being consumed. I looked at the verse, and, of course, the word "consumed" jumped out at me. I knew God was telling me that no matter how exhausted I felt, I wouldn't be consumed. It was so reassuring to me.
So, here we are in 2010. A few months ago, I was looking through my Bible and read Psalm 100. I have a parallel Bible with the NIV and Message translations side by side. Verses 1 and 2 in The Message spoke straight to my heart: "On your feet now - applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence." I felt like it was such a jubilant way to approach God. I wrote the verses down on a Post-It note and stuck them on my bathroom mirror. I liked it so much that I chose it for this year's Scripture.
Are there any verses that speak to you? Which will you focus on this year?