“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) This is one of my favorite verses for a new year. Actually, it’s a verse, a life-goal, a mental-health axiom, and a prayer, all in one enchilada! Lemme break it down…*For I KNOW* God already knows what 2020 has for you and I. The bible teaches he’s recorded our days, before our very first day. So if God KNOWS what 2020 holds, I release myself from being a predictor of it. I don’t need a horoscope, an appointment, a dream-weaver or a fortuneteller. I have everything I need in God KNOWING and I don’t have to pay him. He paid his life for me. He made me, He knows me, I trust Him. *They ARE Plans For GOOD* Does this mean that in 2020 bad things can happen? Yep. And if I were a betting man, I’d say bad things will. But with God and this promise, bad can happen but good can come from it. How? By sticking with God. When we stick with God, God can bring good from bad. How? He is God, He is love, that is what love does. God already wrote my story. Until my story ends, it doesn’t mean I won’t have bad chapters, it just means bad chapters will someday end in good results. God is good, and if we are with God, we are in His goodness. I hope this encourages you in your new year.
It’s no contest, my #1 favorite Christmas song is “O Holy Night.” This holiday season, my church has performed it twice—thank you, Amy Evans and Anthony Evans! This line gets me every time, “Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the Angels’ voices.” To fall on your knees to adore, catch your balance or pray is not a comfortable posture. It isn’t attractive and it’s kinda awkward. Perhaps because it shows humility, desperation or both. In 2010, I battled through multiple valleys of depression. Ugh. I hate to even revisit it. Among the things it adversely affected, was my morning quiet time. That daily discipline rendered futile because I didn’t know what to pray and didn’t feel like reading my Bible. My journal would go weeks without entries. But like praying on your knees can appear desperate, I was desperate. It’s during this season, I began to pray on my knees. It was weird at first, but I slowly found it to be the most comforting moment in my day. Sometimes, the sunbeams would radiate through the window just right that I could feel them on my back while praying on my knees. It felt like God was hugging me. Though depression can debilitate us horizontal in bed, praying on my knees got me half way to standing up into a new day. This Christmas, if it’s hard to sing “Fa La La La La, La La La La” take a line from “O Holy Night” and try it. Maybe it’s just the Christmas gift you needed.
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! But this time of year can also yield bouts of depression, or “blues.” I’ve had the Christmas blues before. I truly am thankful for this time of year. As a Christian, it’s monumental gratitude to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Relationally, it’s a season of gratitude for kids, family, and church. My Christmas Blues were just a funky cocktail of thankfulness and sadness. If you are having the blues, here are three things I’ve done. I am not a professional, just on a journey, sharing my story.
1️⃣ December Christian Therapy. If you go once a week, that equates to four sessions. It’s probably the best Christmas gift you can give yourself because you’re gifting yourself purge and peace. Don’t have the resources for that this time of year? One idea: when asked what you want for Christmas, say, “a 4-pack counseling session.” If it will bring joy to you, it will bring joy to them to give it.
2️⃣ Go to Church. One of the hardest things to see is someone who tells me they can’t go to church because they’re not in the mood (ie, the Christmas blues). This can not be because that is a lie being whispered to your soul! The FIRST place we should run to in our blues is God’s hospital, the church. There is a supernatural, healing, holistic experience awaiting you there, that ONLY God can offer. Yes you will have to miserably drag yourself there, but I promise, you will leave better than you came.
3️⃣ GIVE. Give old clothes to the homeless, give donations to your church, give time to the elderly, give free babysitting to a single mom, give your time to people in the hospital or at halfway houses in addiction recovery. It’s true that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I would also add, it’s more healing. It’s the ultimate paradox: giving. away. fills. up. And that’s what a blue-depleted soul needs: a fill-up. I hope this encourages someone today. May you know His peace. And Merry Christmas.
Once upon a time, when I was four, my Dad tucked me into my Raggedy Ann sheets and asked if I wanted to invite Jesus into my heart. That’s how he explained it. That’s how I understood it. So I said, “YES!” But when I invited Jesus into my heart, I actually invited him into all of my life. Lever 2000 used to have a commercial saying their soap was for all “2000 parts.” Yea, Jesus is like that. When we invite him into our hearts, we invite His perfect, holy, forgiving, forever presence into all of our 2000 parts. But Jesus is a gentleman. He stands at the door of your life and waits for your invitation to enter. At your invite, the bible teaches He comes into your life entirely, leaving no part out. Back to me: later in my college years, I wanted (and needed) to rededicate my life to Jesus. I had accumulated a lot of bad parts: eyes that saw things I shouldn’t have seen; mouth that regularly lied; mind that coveted and connived; feet that wandered into regrettable places. But the bible teaches perfect Jesus left Heaven to die on the cross for ALL my imperfect parts. Yours too. He was our substitute. The bible says the wages of sin is death. But Jesus took on death for us when we didn’t even know Him yet. It’s THAT ultimate, unconditional love that has sustained me since 1977. I hope you know that no part of you is bad enough for Jesus. He loves all 2000 parts of you. And every day, He stands at the door of your life waiting for your invitation.
Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High. That is why he broke them with hard labor; they fell, and no one was there to help them. “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains. Psalm 107
PS – I’d like to thank Fozzy (ie dingus) for sneezing at just the wrong time, here. SMH.
When we choose solitude it is a good thing (Jesus himself chose time for solitude). But sometimes life will give us seasons of un-chosen loneliness. During these seasons, you feel like “they” (whoever your “they” is) isn’t texting you, “liking” your posts, including you in group-chats, including you in the plan, or all of the above. It’s your world yet you feel like the invisible one in it. Jesus experienced this too. He had friends, family, and a following. But when He hung by nails on a cross, He was separated from it all. The bible tells us what he did in this extreme-lonely moment: he cried to God and he talked to God. If all we depend on is encouragement from “our world”–what will we do when our world isn’t there? With a mind like mine, there are seasons where people around me can’t be sources of encouragement to me. During bouts of depression or “lows,” (i.e., un-chosen loneliness) it’s forced me to look within (not around) for encouragement. Seeking encouragement from within, I discovered there was a bounty of encouragement there. A “still, small voice” reminds me that I’m God’s royalty! His heir! His favorite Heather Michelle Funk Palacios! My soul whispers to my loneliness that my Master-Artist still believes in me, His masterpiece. When I invited Jesus into my life, He moved into my heart. You honestly can’t get ANY closer [to encourage someone] than from within their heart. I learned to encourage myself by His presence in my heart, and His promises in His book. Today, if you are in a season of unchosen loneliness, seek encouragement from within. They say it’s lonely at the top–your Savior would know…He was alone atop a cross. He gets you. And right now, he’s ready to encourage you, from within.
I often troll the bible looking for mental-verses. It is the book of LIFE. It is a “double-edge sword” against thoughts of death. It is a book that–-when opened—sinks itself like treasure in your belly, NEVER to return void. It is the book that—when stored in your heart and uttered aloud—will make the enemy flee. It is a powerful mental-health remedy, and it’s free and accessible to all. So I was thrilled when I came across Isaiah 61:3 that says God can give, “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” This verse tells me that God can exchange my bouts of wet-wool-blanket heaviness for his garments of light, uplifting praise. How? By praising Him! This sounds super-spiritual, but I’m not super spiritual. If I do it, anyone can. I’ve learned praising God isn’t bound by church services or pitch-perfect voices. On a jog one morning, I passed a lady praising God while walking. Praising God is sometimes in song, sometimes at church, but it’s also when we’re driving, walking, exercising, working, crying, falling asleep, waking up, writing, praying, rueing or reflecting. It’s simply giving God props in a reverent way, from wherever we are. It’s telling Him how good He is, no matter how bad we are. It’s taking our focus off our heaviness and putting it on His holiness. If you are in a spirit of heaviness, try putting on the garment of praise. There’s nothing to lose…and a garment to gain.
Sometimes we get down because we don’t know who we are. We don’t know where we belong. We wonder why we are here. This confidence-injury needs First Aid! Let me preempt this by saying there is only one First Aid that has stood the test of time. It is the only First Aid that has sold the most “kits” of itself, the most often. It is the only First Aid you will find in every hotel room. It is the only First Aid prescribed by a Doctor who created every patient and can heal any wound. This First Aid is the bible. And it is the greatest remedy for a confidence-injury. On its “Rx Script,” it says YOU ARE…
A – Accepted, Romans 15:4, 13
B – Beautiful, Isaiah 61:10
C – Chosen, Colossians 3:12
D – Delivered, 2 Timothy 4:18
E – Empowered to obey, Philippians 2:13
F – Free, Romans 8:2
G – Granted grace, Romans 5:17, 20
H – His, Isaiah 43:1
I – Inseparable from His love, Romans 8:35
J – Joint heir, Romans 8:17
K – Kept, 1 Peter 1:5
L – Lacking no wisdom, James 1:5
M – Made alive, Ephesians 2:5
N – Not given a spirit of fear, 2 Timothy 1:7
O – Overcomer, 1 John 5:4-5
P – Purposeful, Psalm 138:8
Q – Qualified, Colossians 1:2
R – Renewed, 2 Corinthians 4:16
S – Strengthened in Him, Ephesians 3:16
T – Thought about, Psalm 139:17-18
U – Useful, Isaiah 43:7
V – Victorious, 1 Corinthians 15:57
W – Washed, sanctified, justified, 1 Corinthians 6:11
Y – Yielded to God, Romans 6:13