faith, Pandemic Wisdom

A Focusing Word: Time

Have you ever allowed one word to shape your year? For some of us, this practice began because of the work of Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen with their book, My One Word, see also

We all need guidance. For sure we need something positive to focus on right now. Choosing a life giving focus word can change us, the situations we face and even guide us through the toughest trials.

When I was undergoing breast cancer treatment in 2012, I purposely chose the word radiate that year. I chose it not just because I was undergoing radiation to save me, but because I also wanted reframe radiation to focus on radiating healing light in myself, in our home and in ministry.

There are various methods for choosing a guiding word, prayer is a big part of it.

The last few years, one of my clergy friends, Rev. Jenn Pick, has given words to her congregants at the beginning of each year. She has also opened up that offer to her Facebook friends as well. It is amazing how many of us beg her for a word. To date she has given out hundreds of words each year.

Jenn knows me, she knows my heart and I love trusting her and the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit to choose a word for me. She told me she prays over each person as she chooses their word. She lays word cards before her and there is always one word that she comes back to for each person. She said, Every single time, I doubt there is just one word, but there always is.

She sent me my 2021 word with this text: Ponder this word in your heart. Let it unfold the new possibilities that await you. Trusting God. Light from light Eternal, let this “star word” guide you on your journey. All of us need a friend like Jenn. Truly.

Last year (2020) my star word was Celebrate. Our son was getting married in March. Celebrate seemed an appropriate word. Little did I know that on the very the day of his wedding, life as we know it would shut down. With the pandemic our later celebrations became virtual, socially distanced, outside, masked, limited and fearful. But guess what? Celebrate we did in 2020. Celebrating took on a new tone and we savored each minute that we were able to do it.

We celebrated everyone’s birthday, all the holidays, a new surprise baby, my in-laws 60th wedding anniversary, our college son’s milestones. We celebrated each carefully calculated time we were able to be with anyone we loved. We celebrated the surprising gifts of the pandemic, like new kinds of togetherness, the faithfulness and beauty of nature, the security of home and all the small gifts that were interspersed in the chaos, anxiety and change.

This year, I had to beg Jenn for a word long after she’d offered. I’d been distracted for a while by Covid in our home. I guess you’re out of words by now? I texted her. She quickly replied, Oh no, I have words.

When she delivered the word for 2021, along with the prayer, my word was Time.

Time. What in the world kind of guiding word was that? I wrote it in the front of my journal. I spelled it out in Scrabble letters that I have on a bookshelf. I know enough by now to let a word simmer and unfold. I am confidant it will grow on me as the year goes on.

What I’ve noticed so far: I’m a planner, a somewhat impatient person, a person who tends to always be projecting ahead to what’s next. My new word is already challenging me to stay in this time.

I can already look backwards in 2021 and see that we’d just had a time when I needed to only focus on sickness, cooking, disinfecting, caregiving, trying to keep one family member safe from the other. It was a time of lockdown, testing, retesting and waiting.

On my early morning cold January/February walks, my word tells me just to be present for the walking time. Notice the sky. Pray for your neighbors. Be present for this.

On Zoom yoga, my word says, focus on yoga time. Feel the stretch. Feel the strength. Notice and show up for your practice.

Each meal, my word says, be present in this time to this food, your gratitude and who you are with.

When our son and daughter-in-law asked for help with their newborn son, River. My word said, this is when for a few precious weeks you get to do River time.

When the call came from women wanting to figure out how to do a later spring, safe virtual and in person women’s retreat, my word said, it is time to learn a different way to lead retreats. Embrace this challenge.

Every week at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays, I am blessed to gather with people from all over the nation on the Jesus Calling Weekly Prayer Call where I get to bring a good Word and pray. I’ve learned to savor the gift of each week’s holy prayer call time.

I told my friend Jenn that I am amazed by the power of the one word, it is like we each need guidance and focus and if we just ask, God will give it. God will specifically, personally deliver just what we need.

She said, isn’t it sad that we usually don’t ask? And, even when we do, we have zero faith that God will give us an answer. And then, as always, God provides.

As my friend Jenn texted then, God never gives up on us. God troubles our waters with grace. She just says things like this. It’s the last line from Wade in the Water, an old African American spiritual. God’s going to trouble the water. She added in the grace on her own based on John 5 where the angel troubles/stirs the waters of healing. She reminded me that the the first person in, after the angel touches the water, is healed. And that’s why everyone needs a friend like Jenn who says things like this and gives out good words. God troubles our waters with grace, with healing. God always guides.

Have you asked for a guiding word this year? It’s not too late.

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…. Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV)

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. To read more blogs, see upcoming events, learn about the weekly Jesus Calling Prayer Call or sign up for Cindy’s Inner Circle emails, go to

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