Word of the Week: OK

Main Entry: 1OK
Variant(s): or okay \ō-ˈkā, in assenting or agreeing also ˈō-ˌkā\
Function: adverb or adjective
Etymology: abbreviation of oll korrect, facetious alteration of all correct
Date: 1839    (www.m-w.com)

You’re saying, “That’s all she’s got?” Yep, that’s all I got. But sometimes you don’t need much. I was reminded of this word recently while doing some work for someone. They specified a preference for the “OK” spelling over the “okay” variant. OK, whatever!

Later, I remembered that I was thinking about this as a “Word of the Week” some time ago. It’s a little word, to be sure, but a powerful one for me in two respects. One, “okay” is often used as the equivalent as “fine” or “good enough.” I know, we strive for excellence . . . but sometimes, at least for a recovering perfectionist like me, it’s good to be able to look at something and say “it’s okay.” Whereas I can pick apart and cut down my best efforts, it’s helpful sometimes to be satisfied with just good enough.
And then sometimes this little word just acts as a calming agent when my thoughts start to assault me.
  • When I’m running around at 5:00, scrambling to get something together for dinner because I got sidetracked, I’m learning to say “it’s okay” to myself. (That’s why you bought those frozen pizzas, remember?)
  • Oh no – I forgot the laundry I started on Sunday and it’s now Tuesday. (It’s okay. When’s the last time my husband didn’t have clean clothes to wear to work?)
  • Darn, I forgot to go to the bank while I was out today. That means another trip out. (It’s okay. There will be more errands anyways).
  • Ugh, I kind of let my day get over-scheduled and now I’m feeling stressed. (It’s okay. So look at your calendar; can you work in some breathing room in the near future?)
  • I didn’t accomplish much today. (It’s okay. In hindsight, you didn’t sleep much the past few nights and probably really needed that nap).
  • Um, I’m not nearly where I’d hoped to be business-wise by this time. (It’s okay. And look at all you’ve learned along the way).
I will say, at times I find myself using this word to convey a feeling of ambivalence. I’m really trying to curb that. But aside from that meaning, I find this little word is kind of like a pressure relief valve for me.
See, I told you. Sometimes you don’t need much. All you need is one good little word.

Word of the Week: Busy

I decided to revive this Word of the Week (WOTW) feature, with the caveat of course, that I’m under no obligation to make this a strictly weekly endeavor! I love words and this little practice encourages me to listen to the words that I’m hearing.

So this week’s word is busy:

1. actively and attentively engaged in work or a pastime: busy with her work.

2. not at leisure; otherwise engaged: He couldn’t see any visitors because he was busy.

3. full of or characterized by activity: a busy life.

4. (of a telephone line) in use by a party or parties and not immediately accessible.

5. officious; meddlesome; prying.

6. ornate, disparate, or clashing in design or colors; cluttered with small, unharmonious details; fussy: The rug is too busy for this room.

I’ll be honest and say I really dislike this word “busy.” I especially dislike when I hear myself using it. It implies that life has me in its grip, instead of acknowledging that at least a good part of my life, crazy or not, is based on my choices. It’s a subterfuge of sorts, I think; a way I can sometimes avoid facing what’s really going on inside me.

When I was little, I loved to whirl around until the room seemed to tilt and I’d fall down on the floor and exclaim to disapproving adults, “I’m busy!” What I really meant of course was that I was getting dizzy. Truth was, I loved making myself dizzy, to the dismay of watchful adults. I loved the crazy out-of-control feeling that spinning in circles brought on.

Sometimes life comes at us full speed, throwing us curve balls faster than we can handle things. I’m talking about those things that are mostly out of our control, like sick parents or children, busy seasons at work, etc. Moving, changing jobs, family obligations and just trying to maintain a household complete with laundry and three meals a day are sufficient to keep us all occupied to brimming capacity.

But then there are times when I’m feeling squished by the demands of the day or week, and upon closer inspection, I realize that my jam-packed schedule is entirely within my control. I’m the one spinning around in circles, causing all the craziness. I have said yes to too many things, often in order to satisfy my need for approval. Or I have procrastinated on too many things, perhaps believing that denial will remove responsibilities from my plate. Sometimes I am just moving mindlessly through my days, welcoming distractions that keep me from being attentive to the state of my soul and spirit. And sometimes, I’ll admit, I just plain waste time.

Remember when you used to call someone and actually got a busy signal? If they were talking to someone else, they were occupied and couldn’t speak to you. Nowadays you can’t even get a busy signal; your call either goes to voice mail or the other party has call-waiting so they can juggle several calls at once. But what if we let the word “busy” be a signal to ourselves? When we’re feeling the crush of demands on our time, what if we received that as a reminder to stop and reevaluate? Are we avoiding some aspect of our lives? Are we procrastinating or wasting time somewhere? Do we need to say “no” or “not right now” to someone or something?

How do you feel about the word “busy?”

2010 Word of the Year

I gave up on New Year’s Resolutions several years ago. It’s a good idea, but it falls short for me as a way to envision the coming year. I do set some goals though, and this year I’m going to give Donald Miller’s “Story” idea some careful consideration (thanks for the tweet, Terry!) But the most compelling idea for me in recent years has been choosing a word for the year. That’s it – just one word that I want to listen for and learn from throughout the coming year. One word in which to anchor my prayers and goals. In the past years, some of my words have been “believe,” “listen,” “obey,” and “purpose.”

This year’s word popped onto my radar weeks ago. I was reviewing my journals from the past few years, which I usually title with my word, so I guess you could say I was already listening for it. It kind of surprised me actually. It’s not one of those churchy words, and definitely not a part of my everyday vocabulary. And the multiple definitions and usages of this word kind of threw me at first and I had to clarify for myself which meaning and usage I was drawn towards.

So anyways, my word for 2010 is “Abandon.” See what I mean about the usage thing? Don’t worry – I’m not planning to run away, and I’m not looking for ways to abdicate any of my responsibilities. In fact, it’s not the verb usage but rather the noun definition that I’ve latched onto:

a complete surrender to natural impulses without restraint or moderation; freedom from inhibition or conventionality: to dance with reckless abandon. (www.dictionary.com)

I love the idea of dancing as an image of life. It implies an invitation and a response. What would it look like for me in this coming year to dance with reckless abandon? To give myself over completely to the music God is piping into my heart and dance freely, without any inhibition? To push past some of my natural reserve and step into the adventures God is inviting me to? Yes, already this word is growing on me, and I’m excited to see how it plays out through the coming year.

If you have a word for your year, I’d love to hear about it. And if you don’t, or perhaps you find yourself struggling with goals and resolutions for the coming year, I’d challenge you to consider listening for a word to live into this year and come back and share.


Word of the Week: Sustainability

This word brings back memories of dreaded piano lessons and the day my teacher decided to add in pedal work. Weren’t my hands were already busy enough, tripping over each other in an attempt to make something called music? But no, now I had to get a third appendage into the action and hey, keeping it simple here, we’ll give that little old foot a choice of just three pedals to push! Since you know, you can’t really see what’s going on down there – hopefully you’ll get lucky and pick the right one.

Can you tell I didn’t love piano lessons? Can you tell I’m NOT a concert pianist today? But I have to admit I did get a kick out of the “sustain” pedal. The one that, when you tromped down on it, caused whatever notes you were playing to keep ringing even after you lifted your fingers from the keys.

Well, now I’m all grown up – or at least I’m supposed to be! I’ve moved beyond piano lessons to just trying to navigate life. And yet sustainability is still something I get a kick out of. What am I capable of continuing? I’m coming to understand that sustainable doesn’t have to equate to forever. Our pastor asked a great question a few weeks ago: which energizes us more – change or continuity? I think I’d like to sustainability fits in there somewhere, perhaps bridging the gap between two extremes. What is sustainable? And how long do I need to sustain this activity?

  • I can sustain my flowers through the summer through faithful watering
  • I can sustain a late night schedule over a three month period in order to reach a personal goal
  • I can (and need to) buckle down to a better eating/exercise plan for a 3 month period
  • I can forgo ______ for a while in order to save money for a certain purpose
  • I can focus on finishing a reading list over a period

Most of us can do anything for a season. So perhaps as you ponder new beginnings, it might be wise to do so with the end in mind. Maybe the idea of sustainability will . . . well, help sustain your efforts!

Word of the Week: New

I love this word. It’s rich and deep and full of hidden nuances. On the surface, who doesn’t love something new? For me, there’s nothing like a brand new pair of jeans or a sweatshirt, still bearing the crease lines from shelf-sitting. Heck, I’m easily tickled with a new pair of socks!

And yet every time I come across the word “new” in the Bible, I realize it rarely means the discarding of one thing and replacing it with something entirely different. No, when God talks about “new”, it’s usually in context with his work. i.e. he makes all things new. Another word I love, closely related to the idea of new, is renovation.

renovate: to restore to good condition; make new or as if new again; repair.

I get this idea that God is about restoring things and people to their intended purpose, but not necessarily to their original state. And this process is never a one-time deal. How awesome is this God who is continually at work in our world, constantly renewing our hearts and lives, and restoring us to his purposes! New days, new hearts, new songs!

What does new mean to you?

Word of the Week: Infusion

Last fall during a morning message we were challenged from these words in Matthew 6:33-34:

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.
Don’t worry about missing out.
You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now,
and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.
God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (The Message)

I really love this word infusion. For it’s not that the bag becomes soaked with the water, but rather that every bit of the water becomes flavored and scented by the immersion of the tea bag. I’ve been drinking more tea of late, in an effort to cut back on coffee (don’t worry – it’s all decaf!) I love how the smell of a good tea fills my nostrils and somehow relaxes me even before I’ve had a sip (something coffee just doesn’t offer).

As a visual reminder, we given a tea bag and invited to imagine what it would be like if our lives were steeped in God’s truth? In God’s reality? Other versions of this passage start with this phrase: Seek first the kingdom of God. How exactly do we seek something like the kingdom of God in the first place? And how do we seek that first, above all else? I’m pretty sure of one thing: if we’re seeking something vital to our lives, the search consumes us. Which leads me back to the word “steep” and the idea of infusion. I do want my life to be all about God’s reality. God’s iniative. And God’s provisions. And ultimately I long for my life to offer an inviting fragrance to those around me of this life God offers.

Word of the Week: Okay!

Did you ever wonder about the origin of this word? I have, ever since my high school English teachers insisted it was not a word. Apparently in Boston newpapers circa 1830, it was fashionable to reduce a phrase to initials, with an explanation in parentheses. The abbreviations were sometimes purposely misspelled, to add to the humor. OK was used in 1839, short for all correct – the joke being that neither the O or K was correct. And there’s the story that President Martin Van Buren’s nickname was Old Kinderhook, which lent itself nicely to his campaign slogan!

So what does “okay” mean for me?

It’s a bridge between acceptance of and embracing change. It’s that point where I’m not exactly loving the changes, but I know things are going to be okay.

It’s when things don’t look exactly like I (or others) think they should but I remember God is nevertheless in control.

It’s when I can leave work almost on time, with a pile of things left to do, knowing it will be there tomorrow. Or knowing that, in spite of what seems like a horrible mistake, things will eventually be alright. Somehow a solution will be found and life will move on.

It’s that place where I can breathe.

I’m not talking about passivity here. My sister used to accuse me of being passive. Because little things like losing my keys (we found them in the sofa cushions in the lobby of our apartment bldg. a week later) and never having gas in my tank (hey, we’d just use her car) didn’t bother me. I think I’ve come to realize much of my passive nature was really just avoidance of the truth. Okay is not denying truth or looking the other way, but moving towards acceptance.

So what are you “okay” with today? What does “okay” look like for you? Is it a good word for you, or one that denotes something negative?