One Word

2009 is upon us. It’s time for some reflection. And some prayer.

“Seven years ago, I started the simple discipline of picking a one-word theme for the upcoming year. That is right — one word. Not a phrase, not a statement, just a single word. And to this point, it has been nothing short of life-changing.”

That’s a quote from Dan Britton, senior vice president of ministry advancement with Fellowship of Christian Athletes. And I can vouch for what he said.

I’ve been part of the annual one word posse for a few years, although I don’t know Dan, and have been amazed by how the Lord has used it in my life.

I surrendered my life to Christ in 2005, and the following year was all about obedience. That was my one word. Take ownership of the commitment I made. Surrender self. Be joyfully obedient and faithful to God’s will and Word. It was, and has been, positively liberating.

2006 was the year I met my birth father and his family — my family — for the first time. So, naturally, 2007 was about relationships. Not just with my birth father, but with Jesus as well — an ever-deepening relationship.

And relationships don’t occur in a vacuum, so as those relationships developed all my other relationships, at all levels, were changed. They are still being affected.

Picking a word for 2008 wasn’t a slam dunk like previous years. Lots of words came to mind, but they all seemed wrong. I prayed for a month and never felt like God helped me out. I felt like I just “picked” a word, instead of just “knowing” my word — just knowing the “rightness” of it.

Ultimately, I chose reconciliation because it speaks of harmony, compatibility, restoration, agreement and consistency — all things that are necessary in successful relationships. And, I have been uh-MAZED at how this word has affected me this year.

It turns out that according to Strengthsfinder 2.0 (a really cool book I highly recommend), my number one strength is . . . harmony.

What’s significant about this is that I wrote the phrase “it speaks of harmony, compatibility, restoration, agreement and consistency” — with the words in that order— last December. I took the Strengthsfinder 2.0 test in June.

In hindsight, I could add another word to that list: balance. As in balancing, or reconciling, the competing demands inherent throughout life and in love.

Another blessing of this practice is that these words build upon one another, allowing me to better see, feel and experience Jesus in my life well beyond the year the one word “applies” to.

For example, 2007 was about relationships. It was the year I started working at Compassion. I left my previous company after working there for 10 years — changing a relationship — and began working here. Now I’m in a position where I’m responsible for helping you feel more connected with your sponsored child, with our ministry and with each other. More relationships.

calendar-coverPicking one word is about picking one thing to focus on during the upcoming year. It’s not a New Year’s resolution. It’s a challenge to surrender control of our goals and ourselves and let the Lord lead.

If you get a chance, read all of Dan’s document. But don’t read it when you’re in a hurry. Read it when you have time to digest it. Then come back here and let me know what word God put on your heart for 2009.

On January 9, I’ll randomly pick five people to receive a free copy of Compassion’s 2009 calendar.

Oh yeah! My one word for 2009 is growth. Ugh! It sounds painful.

40 Comments |Add a comment

  1. todd noel December 28, 2011

    My one word is what gift God gave me. Mercy

  2. Nancy White January 5, 2011


  3. Michelle January 25, 2010

    My for for 2010 is STABLE
    God is the same yesterday, today & forever. I want this characteristic to represent my character. I pray to be stable in my emotions, finances, walk with Jesus, relationship with others & my service to Christ – remain stable during all life challenges

  4. Mikki S January 16, 2010

    My word is LISTEN

  5. frank russo January 7, 2010

    share with the poverty person given me.I wrote a to my person.When if any will I get a return her to tell me about her average day in her own words.thanks frank Russo

  6. Brianne January 13, 2009

    Hello there! Ok, I know it has taken awhile but I have my word…love! Lots of reasons why, most of them I won’t mention here. But I wanted you all to know:)

    I’ve so enjoyed watching you all comment and seeing the different ways the Lord is challenging us each. I believe He is more than capable to bring about much change and wisdom into each of our lives as we continue to pursue Him this year.

  7. Jackie Kifer January 8, 2009

    My word for this year is “ENOUGH” which is the opposite of poverty. (I learned that on my CI trip to Rwanda in Sept. 2008)

    I want to see the opposite of poverty…… ENOUGH! With God’s help, and our hard work, we CAN make it happen!

    Praying for “ENOUGH” for all the children of the world, all year!

  8. Jessica Rose January 7, 2009

    the word would be “endure”

    endure all things.
    endure through the pain.

  9. Jolanda January 7, 2009


    Many thoughts, many intentions, but only action delivers change!

  10. Jess January 7, 2009


    It’s a word that has struck me this past week and resonated in so many ways. In my life, my faith, my church, and everything happening in our country and around the world, I believe praying for a breakthrough in 2009 is something that with God’s help, can change everything!

  11. Evelyn January 7, 2009

    The word God has placed on my heart this year is “nurture”.

  12. daryl g short January 6, 2009

    my word is innocence….the world has forgotten the innocent…to many children are abused the world over…there are many ways of abuse…physical,mental,sexual,sexual exploitation,the scars last forever on these children…please think of the innocence and do everything in your GOD given power to keep children innocent…as they are in the eyes of GOD……thank you GOD bless everyone and may everyone have hope and renewed faith and prosper in the new year…..happy new year to all the children of the world.

  13. Barbara McMillan January 6, 2009

    My word is “privilege.” It is a privilege to be a part of this ministry and to share the bounty God has provided.

  14. Chris Giovagnoni January 5, 2009


    I certainly want to.

  15. Gin January 5, 2009

    I finally have my word. Dedication. I love Webster’s definition of it:
    1 : an act or rite of dedicating to a divine being or to a sacred use
    2 : a devoting or setting aside for a particular purpose
    3 : self-sacrificing devotion

    I’ll keep the rest private as Dan’s document noted but I’m excited to reflect and share how my year of dedication turns out later this year! Chris, I hope you’ll do a follow up in December for us!!! 🙂

  16. Jan January 5, 2009

    My word is Aware.

    Aware of a world beyond my own.

    Sometimes I just get so wrapped up in ME and find that ME is not so happy. It’s when I am aware of the people around me and serve them that I become genuinely filled with joy. Hmmm, imagine that? 🙂

  17. Janet Reavis January 5, 2009

    My word is “service.” I am going to focus this year (and beyond!) specifically on cultivating a servant’s heart. My sincere desire is for others to experience, through my works and actions, the love of Christ and to genuinely make a difference in the lives of others.


  18. Jennifer Bateman January 4, 2009

    This year with my husband serving for 400 days in Afghanistan, our word is JOY! In our Christmas letter we shared that our 2009 family motto is “We choose Joy!” Our Joy comes from the one who created us and the one who died on the cross for us to give us grace, peace and JOY.

  19. Rachael January 4, 2009

    One word for 2009? How about commitment? We’re committed to these kids and we won’t let them down. We’ll continue to sponsor them, write to them, pray for them, and love them. Thanks for your ministry, Compassion!

  20. Kim Gilmour January 3, 2009

    My word for 2009 is intentionality.

    I’ve found that unless I am intentional with the resources God has given me, my time, treasures, and talents end up being spent in the tyranny of the urgent – focusing too much on things that are pressing in the moment rather than things that are eternally significant.

    My verse for 2009 is James 4:17 – “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

    May we set our hearts and our minds on the purposes of God, so that we might honor Him in everything we do (Colossians 3:1-17).

  21. Holly Spiotti January 2, 2009

    My word is Emmanuel.

    God with us. God laid this word on me as Christmas came around. I carry it with me as a reminder that He is with me and I am not alone. In the past week He has shown me ways to show others He is with them also. What an awesome, powerful word.

  22. Sandee January 1, 2009

    My word is “less”. I want to be able to live on “less” so I can give more to my sponsored children (right now it’s 3).

  23. lisa December 31, 2008

    mine is Trust…

  24. adolfo lopez December 30, 2008

    My word for 2009 is “adopt”!

    Jesus wants us to be His hands and his feet. HE wants us to serve others.

    HIS love is free for us to “adopt”. We need to “adopt” Christ attitud so others can see Christ in us.

    My wife and I want to “adopt” a child. That word is in our hearts.

    God bless you all!

  25. Juli Jarvis December 26, 2008

    My word for 2009 is “Hold.”
    “Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.” Luke 2:19

    “And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it.” Philemon 6

    “And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” Hebrews 3:6

    “…let us hold fast our confession.”
    Hebrews 4:14

    “…we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…”
    Hebrews 6:1-19

    These were part of my scripture readings Christmas morning.

    Thanks Chris — love this idea–it’ll be interesting to see how God uses this in the coming year!

  26. Juli Jarvis December 23, 2008

    I love this idea — I’m waiting to see what word God comes up with for me. I have no idea yet.
    Those who already have calendars — why not post one up in your church if you end up with two?

  27. Gin December 23, 2008

    This is great, I’ve not heard of it before. I just printed the article and will read it when I’m not working so I can really focus on it. Can’t wait!

    Kees, I loved that prayer, I’ve certainly been there myself! Wonder how immediately God’s time is?! 🙂

  28. Brittany December 23, 2008


    Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

    I already got a chance to be patient this morning! My 2 1/2 year old did not want to put on her slippers…I believe “NO NO NO NO!” were her words.

    Oh- I already got the calendar too…so just pick the next person if my number is picked. 🙂

  29. Lindy December 23, 2008

    I’m with Jo. Prayerfully, my word for 2009 is Hope.

  30. Kees Boer December 22, 2008

    Hey, Brittany,

    I heard of this one person, who prayed: “Lord, give me patience, and I need it immediately.” 🙂

    You’re doing a very important work with those little children.


  31. Brittany December 22, 2008

    By the way…I DID read Dan’s document…and yes, I still want to learn to be patient…even if it means that I learn through experiences to teach me to be patient…make sense???

  32. Brittany December 22, 2008

    PATIENCE…I know, never pray for patience. But seriously, I need to remember to be patient…especially since I have three kids ages 5 and under 🙂

  33. Compassion dave December 22, 2008

    My word is still ‘OBEDIENCE’.

    (I have not had any reason to change it through the years.)

  34. Meredith Dew December 22, 2008

    My word for the upcoming year will be commitment. Committing to pray daily for my sponsored children, for my husband, and for others that God has brought into my life. Commitment to writing, to reading, to being an advocate. God has so much to teach us all about being 100% committed to whatever we put our minds and hearts to. I am so excited about how God will use this theme this year in my life and in the lives of others around me!

  35. Irene Kao December 22, 2008

    I love reflections, Chris! You’ve had some pretty huge past few years too!

    Last night in my cell group, we shared the one thing that God had taught us in 2008. Mine was surrender. Ever since I got baptised in 2004, my theme has been about obedience … 🙂 And last year relationships came into the mix …

    I love how the Lord teaches us attributes of Himself & help us weave them into our being, so that obeying Him, building Kingdom relationships, and surrendering ourselves to Him becomes our second nature. It is by seeking Him that we would learn to bring Heaven on earth – True harmony, that 🙂

  36. Mary Choi December 22, 2008

    That’s great! I actually never heard of this before. Definitely better than setting new year’s resolutions that lead to guilt and a sense of failure. Will try it for 2009.

  37. Danielle December 22, 2008

    My church has been doing this for quite awhile, I assume Dan Britton is where the idea came from. I will have to read the rest of what he wrote. My words over the last four years have been: surrender, relationships, trust, confidence/boldness. This year it wasn’t just one word and it took me awhile to figure out God didn’t make the rule of only one word, and he had two words for me. This next year I feel it might be two words as well.

    Chris, you are right, it is wonderful to see how they build upon each other.

  38. Jo December 22, 2008

    My one word would be “HOPE”

  39. Tiffany December 22, 2008

    My one word is going to be discipline…

  40. Kees Boer December 22, 2008

    It would be: “Children.”

    (I got the calendar already. 🙂 )

    Unless you can send it to one of my Compassion children. 🙂

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