The Most ACCURATE Horoscope for 2016

Going into the new year, it is important to understand your horoscope accurately.  And the truth is….  the stars and planets do NOT determine my destiny because I am firmly placing my future in the hands of the One who breathed those stars and planets into existence!

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Make this your best year EVER, friends!

Precious In His Sight

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Because of my faithful God, some sweet friends and mentors, and my Amazing Church family speaking into my life – I am beginning to see that the parts of my story I used to view as curse, can actually become a blessing to others when shared from the viewpoint of God’s relentless grace.    So this was written for and performed as Spoken Word poetry at Christmas With The Arts this year.  I thought I would share it here, too, just in case some piece of my story helps you see God at work in your story.

PRECIOUS IN HIS SIGHT

Children…. Music…. Memories….
So many beautiful things about this season
And some funny things too
Like the things we do – songs we sing
Without really knowing what they mean
Like the profound mystery
Of what really is in that fruitcake we eat
Then there’s Rudolph – nose shining brightly
What are those games the other reindeer play?
Basketball, soccer, Monopoly??

But it’s not just Christmas songs perplexing me
Other songs, too – church songs even
I’ve basically been in church
From the moment I was breathing
“Red and yellow black and white 
They are precious in His sight”
You’ve heard that one – Right?
Strange as it seems
Understanding those words
for me has been a lifelong plight
The words didn’t match up with what was in my sight

In my Sunday school to my left… my right
What I saw was white, white, white
And yes more white
Something didn’t seem quite right
But I was young – perhaps didn’t understand
Just ’cause we’re all precious to God
Maybe it doesn’t mean we live
And worship on the same the same block??
But there wasn’t time to figure that out
‘Cause getting ready for kindergarten
That’s what I was all about
I loved to learn, already starting to read
Figured – just like home and church
School kids would love on me

So on that first day dressed in the very best
My sisters handed down to me
I skipped across the playground
Excited about the friends I would meet
But things played out a little differently
You see, I experienced a facial injury
When I was maybe 2 or 3
Had severe deformities
Of my mouth and teeth
Only close friends and family
Could understand when I would speak
So my dreams of new friends were shattered
As laughter began to shriek

And relentless bullying was there to stay
From k5 to high school graduation day
Thankfully, home and church
Provided a safe place respite from the hurt
But even knowing Jesus – the pain remained
As kids laughed, mocked, even spit in my face
And I suffered oh so silently
Not a word to church, teacher, family
After all… didn’t Sunday school songs say
Christians should be happy -“Turn the other way”?

So in about second grade
We moved to a larger town
Where faces as white as mine
Were no longer the only ones around
And in a diverse community
Now – up close – I could really see
That all (“red, yellow, black, and white”)
Are truly precious in God’s sight
Well, all “others” anyway – is what I believed
I still had a “blind side” when it came to me

As time went along things appeared fine
At least —-              on the outside
With help of intense orthodontistry
And quite a few years of speech therapy
I looked and sounded almost like a normal teen
But there was that pain…. Deep and unseen
Saturating every part of my reality
“Blending in” didn’t stop the bullying
I still thought I was worthless
And attracted what I believed
I still sang “Red, Yellow, Black, and White”
But didn’t feel precious in anybody’s sight

Fast forward to adulthood
For a while everything looked quite alright
Education, great career, & husband in my life
But behind the door of my heart – closed tight
Remained so much pain  – so much strife
As I worked hard to feel loved and get it all right
But expecting anyone or anything
To complete me besides God
Blocked me from receiving & giving out
His perfect love

While smiling on the outside
I suffered silently
Depression – thoughts of suicide
Sad old friends who wouldn’t leave
I was beginning to think
That maybe church and God
Were really just a cruel and senseless façade
So my “church hop” progressed to not going at all
Or watching “mega church” from my comfy couch
But my Sunday school upbringing
Still called out to me
So I had to go back to church
– For Easter at least

So a couple years back in the spring we received
An invite to what is now this Amazing thing
I looked around –could almost see
That song I used to sing
“Red and Yellow, Black and White”
We’d found a loving family with big vision in sight
That reflecting our city’s diversity
Is the true heartbeat Christ

But as for me…  “Precious in His Sight”
I still struggled with that lyric
I sang the words but for me… I really couldn’t hear it
The brokenness and pain
I worked lifelong to keep hidden
Were now rising to the surface
Becoming visible – unbidden

But even when I could no longer hide my mess
These amazing people stood by me
Continuing to bless
And I learned ‘though heaven-bound
I wasn’t really free
‘Til I experienced – not just sang of –
God’s amazing love for me
And as with this church I began to do LIFE
“Restoring Hope & Loving People”
Became more than just words for (one day)
Our building’s sign

Because  I stand here restored
And loved back to life
No pretense of perfection
Scars revealed only to be healed
So today… today…  I look around and see
Much more than Red and Yellow, Black and White
They…. No we… TOGETHER 
Are so precious in His site
and now…. that Sunday school song –
I finally understand it right
Thank you, my Amazing God,
   We ARE precious in Your sight.

 

 

What was Your Favorite Gift This Season?

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“God, my heart is steady. I will sing and praise You with all my being.” – Psalm 108:1

For me, my favorite gift of this season – of this year – was nothing tangible. (Although it is represented by a cute little necklace I found at the hospital gift shop where I work).

I’ve seen a post flying around Facebook asking people to describe their 2015 in one word. Well, I’m a writer… so it is difficult for me to even say “Hello” in one word. (And since Adelle and Lionel Ritchie both needed an entire sing to say “Hello”, I really don’t feel bad about that). So I will use two words to describe my 2015… and they also describe my favorite Christmas gift this year:  “Growth” and “Grounding”.

The word “growth” speaks for itself I’ve been stretched and challenged and changed this year like never before. And I needed to be stretched and challenged and changed!  I feel like I’ve lived most of my 40-something years sleepwalking through life and now I’m fully awake and loving it.

But the word “grounding” may need a little additional explanation. I’m not referring to the grounding of being sent to your room as a kid or getting the car taken away as a punishment.  Rather, I’m referring to the process of becoming grounded and centered in the peace of God in such a way that I am no longer pushed over by the strong winds of the messiness of life or situations. Rather, I now bring the strength and the peace of God into those situations.

Although some situations in my life look the same as they have for years, thanks to the faithful leading of my Amazing God and the people He’s surrounded me with to help me grow, I am facing everything with a strength and unwavering deep-down peace like I’ve never known before.  This is the first Christmas season in years that I have actually enjoyed rather than endured through a fog of depression. And that, my friends, is a beautiful gift!

Wishing you Peace that passes all understanding,

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Procrastination: When Enough REALLY is ENOUGH!

I have tried everything… and I mean everything in a lifelong struggle to become more organized, more focused, more self-disciplined and stop procrastinating!  I have quite a collection of self-help books, sermon series, house-cleaning/organizing tools, and so on and so forth.

But, lately (thanks to God’s faithfulness to surround me with amazing leaders, friends, and mentors), I’ve been learning more and more that sometimes our battles, struggles, addictions, whatever…. are really just the fruit of something not being quite right at the root of our lives.  So, this morning as I was getting ready for work – I got a glimpse into something in my “root system” that can lead to a lot of chaos and “hamster-in-a-wheel” running-hard-but-not-getting-anywhere type activity instead of the focus and productive forward motion that I long for.

I had a little more time to think because my cell phone was dead and the charger wasn’t working {insert gasp of horror here}.  So after the initial “I-cannot-survive-without-my-cell” panic passed (and “looky-there”- I lived), I started thinking:  “Wow…. I should keep my cell phone off every morning…. I’m getting so much more then and actually have time to listen to God and sort through my thoughts and feel so much more ready to tackle the day ahead.”

Then I started thinking about why all of our “smart devices” become such a tool for procrastination.  I mean, is what we happen to be scrolling through really all that interesting?  Why do I do it?  Then the phrase “Enough is enough!” kept coming to mind.   On its face, the phrase is about having”Enough of what’s wrong”.  We often hear it as a mantra to end abuse, discrimination, and so much else that is wrong in the world.  But today, those words spun around a bit differently in my head.  Here’s how it went:  Perhaps if I truly saw my “enough” (whatever is already in me, whatever I already have) as truly “enough” (exactly what I need) to accomplish all I have to do – perhaps I could end the constant search for more (more affirmation through Facebook “likes”, more information through internet searches, more entertainment through YouTube videos of puppies and such) only to discover that I have plenty of time and resources to accomplish all that I have been called to…. all that I dream of.

Even lower tech devices, like a bed/pillows/blankets, can have this pull.  Hitting the snooze button 17 times is really me saying: I don’t have enough (rest, energy, courage, whatever) to face the day yet so I need more sleep or to hide under the covers a bit longer.

So I don’t think another trying a new organization system, getting the latest Dyson and a whole army of Roomba vacuums, or reading another one of those “17 Ways to Work Smarter” articles on the internet will help me do what needs to be done. (Ironically, I’ve been guilty of putting off what I need to do now by spending hours on end reading about ways to do it better).  Even if there were a way to magically add hours in the day – I don’t believe that would help (that would just give more hours to put things off to).  But the True Helper, God’s Holy Spirit – best Counselor EVER, reminded my heart today that I am enough.  And, I’m sorry FlyLady and other organization gurus…. Although I have found you helpful at times, following your systems has never brought me lasting change. I believe finally understanding that ENOUGH is ENOUGH is what will help me conquer procrastination for good!

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I’ll let you know how it goes….     Tomorrow….  😉

Becoming Who I Already Am,

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Tired of Everybody Telling You What to Do?!?

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If you do what you need to in the first place then someone else won’t have to make you do it. Controlling yourself frees you from the control of others.

#LearningSelfDiscipline #BecomingWhoIAlreadyAm

“God is Not Dead Nor Doth He Sleep”

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So, our Amazing Church asked all the worship team members to submit favorite Christmas songs to incorporate into the worship sets as we moved toward Christmas.  I completely forgot about one of my all time favorites until the article below hit my email inbox.  “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” isn’t as catchy as some of the modern Christmas tunes (like “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer“) – but wow…. are the words powerful.  And Leslie Vernick‘s email newsletter this week reminded me that, although these words were penned in 1863, they are so very timely today. Her article below reminds of some important truths to keep us strong and centered during a time we must not allow to become a season of fear.

HOW TO REACT IN TIMES OF FEAR

This week we mourn over the hateful act of a husband and wife who forever changed the lives of the people attending a company Christmas party in San Bernardino, California.

A few weeks ago, 130 people were murdered by terrorists in Paris, France. The world is becoming a scary place. A soccer game, a pub, and a Christmas party no longer feel safe. But how do we respond? Do we stay home bunkered down in fear? Overcome by the evil around us? Or as God’s people, are we challenged anew to learn to live by faith and overcome evil with good?

Don’t get me wrong. Fear is a normal human response to evil, terrorist attacks, and anarchy. And, if we are faced with such evil, our fear response enables our body to kick into action so hopefully we can protect others and ourselves.

However, it’s tempting today to live in fear of what might happen. In addition to living in fear of what might happen, many of us also struggle with living in fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of death, fear of conflict, and fear of change. As we do that we orient our lives around avoiding what we fear rather than around serving and glorifying God. That is not how God wants us to live

The Bible repeatedly tells us to fear not. God tells us “do not be afraid.” Why? Because he knows we are naturally fearful creatures and that life can terrify us to a place of being ruled by our fears rather than the love of Christ.

It’s interesting to me that the psalmist says two seemingly contradictory things in Psalm 56 about fear. The first one is “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:11)

And then he says, “When I am afraid, I will trust God” (Psalm 56:3).

So what he tells us is that sometimes our faith is so big we don’t feel fear. Other times, we are so filled with fear we will be overwhelmed by it if we don’t trust God.

So, if you don’t want to be ruled by your fears, here are four things you can start to do.

1. Name your fear. Whatever it is, it needs to be named and faced rather than avoided or ignored. It’s only when we face our fear and move towards it in courage do we practice the faith to trust God with the outcome. For example, if you found you had a lump in your body somewhere and you feared cancer, naming your fear of the possibility of cancer and taking appropriate action will help you have the best chance of living longer if it is indeed cancer. Ignoring it or avoiding it will not make it go away. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is relying on God’s strength to walk towards your fear in faith.

2. Get some support. In our individualistic, independent society it feels shameful to admit we need help. Yet, God created human beings to need one another and to need him. We were not meant to walk through life all by ourselves. The victims of last week’s shooting will need support to process the tragedy. I needed support when I was called to write a book and feared rejection. Sometimes we need to borrow someone else’s faith so that we can face our fear and move through it.

3. Take responsibility for your life and how it’s going. Sometimes we stay victims when we do not need to. We are afraid to make a change, take a stand or speak up against what’s wrong. We allow ourselves to be mistreated, abused, terrified and feel paralyzed to get help, get support, or implement consequences including availing ourselves of the laws of our land for our protection.

4. Center yourself in God and not in fear. By practicing step 3, taking responsibility, you choose whether you are going to center yourself in love or fear, trust or unbelief, God’s truth or human reasoning. When we center ourselves in God and live by faith, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We’re not supposed to. We were not given the gift of omniscience.

But Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow today (Matthew 6:34). Tomorrow will have enough problems of it’s own. When tomorrow comes and it’s scary, then he will give you what you need tomorrow to face it with faith. Living in the “what if’s” cripples us for today.

Ask yourself the question: Today am I going to live in faith or fear? Am I going to live in faith that God knows my story, faith that God is bigger than my story? Faith that God has a plan for my life and he is my helper in times of trouble?

The psalmist reminds you that when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death – you don’t need to fear evil. Why? Because God is with you (Psalm 23:4).

As the Christmas season approaches, listen to the words of this beloved Christmas carol and allow it to speak to your heart.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Friend, you can either walk forward by faith and in faith or cower in fear. I pray you choose faith, even when you still feel fear.

(If you liked this, please explore Leslie Vernick‘s books, blog, and website).