Category: Practices (page 2 of 24)

The Discomfort of Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, and as evidenced by my “Spring it Up” post on Monday, I’d really prefer to focus on the positive than face my sin and Jesus’ sacrifice.

I’ve shared before and before that I’m pretty much a failure at Lent. Like John says, I’m more of a Christmas than Easter girl. Could we skip over the Lent chapter please?  But there’s no rebirth without death, no salvation without facing my sin, so I continue to try to enter in, to talk to God. This is a repost from a few years ago…

As I mentioned the other day, we’re on vacation in Florida and the other morning we decided to attend an Ash Wednesday service at a lovely little Episcopal Chapel near where we’re staying.

I was on high alert from the moment we entered because I’m not Episcopalian and I was sure I was going to mess up and kneel at the wrong time, or not know the secret handshake that would get me communion, or ask forgiveness for my “debts” instead of my “trespasses”.

I took my cues from a girl across the aisle who clearly knew the liturgical ropes, bowing to the Bible when it went by and making the sign of the cross on her forehead, lips, and heart.  I was fascinated.

Like I said, I’m not Episcopalian and I’m not Catholic either, but by turns throughout my life I have been disdainful towards, curious about, and, in the past five years, enriched by many of  their practices.

When I was growing up all I knew was that the Catholic kids went to St. Petronille for church (named after a guy who must have been on the JV team of saints because I’ve never heard of him since and neither has my husband who did grow up Catholic).  They got to get out of school early on Wednesday to go to Catechism and got to eat fish on Friday.  We never had fish in my family.  So they were special and kind of mysterious to me.

On Wednesday, while I still struggled to own the words of liturgy in a way that was meaningful, I deeply appreciated the silence, the reverence, and the simplicity of a worship gathering full of Scripture.  These guys really do repentance big time!

Anyway, all this has got me thinking about Lent and the question many people ask, “What are you giving up for Lent?”

Confession:  As far as I can remember I’ve never given up anything for Lent.

It’s just not been a part of my spiritual tradition.  And frankly, when I have considered it I’ve always thought “Well I could give up Starbucks if I wanted to, but I don’t have to so I won’t.”  I am so not into sacrifice.  I realize this exposes one of the idols I daily pray to relinquish – the idol of comfort.  Ugh!

I know it’s easy to abuse this practice…make it a badge of honor, a “work of righteousness”, an end instead of a means.  But, I’ve been reading about it and I’m wondering if it might be a good spiritual practice for me, identifying with Jesus in some small way, this voluntary sacrifice stuff.  I’m cringing even as I write this.  I find myself thinking, “Could I pick something I like, but don’t like too much?  Kind of ease into this maybe?”

I want to know… What is experience with giving up something for Lent?  Does it help you to see your sin and become more like Jesus?

If you’re reading this on email or on your phone and want to comment, just click on the title and then scroll down!

Couple quotes on Lent…

“Lenten disciplines help us to abstain from the daily distractions that prevent us from seeing and naming reality correctly. As we allow some of the external trappings of our lives to be stripped away, we can return to a truer sense of ourselves and a deeper pursuit of God.” Ruth Haley Barton

“Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy.  Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”  Ann Voskamp

 Check out another great article on Lent by Ruth Haley Barton here! 

Spring It Up!

Going to college in Texas absolutely ruined March for me.

All of a sudden I discovered the secret that had been diabolically hidden from me all my life: In most of the country SPRING COMES IN MARCH!!

It is bluebonnets and cherry blossoms, lemon bars and strawberries, and the sweet aroma of honeysuckle drifting in through open windows, and THERE IS HOPE STREWN EVERYWHERE LIKE CONFETTI!

In Minnesota, March is the cruelest time of the year. It brings to mind a totally different spin on the phrase “March Madness”.

WE HAVE MORE SNOW IN MARCH THAN ANY OTHER MONTH.

WE  GIVE UP ALL HOPE OF EVER SEEING THE SUN AGAIN IN OUR LIFETIME.

via GIPHY

March is a perpetual month of Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days, which is why I decided we need a dash of inspiration and a pinch of sparkle. How about a Spring It Up Challenge to get us through March?

There are no rules, just a prompt for every day. Do one day or all. Do alone, or with friends. Get creative! Have fun!

Share on Instagram with the hashtag #springitup if you want.

Spring It Up Challenge!

  1. Wear something pink – bright pink or blush pink, lipstick or scarf, shirt or tie…anything counts.

2. Celebrate! Invite friends over for a “March will NOT defeat us!” potluck. Ask each person to bring a food that reminds them of spring (or summer) and have them share why. Choose the date today.

3. Clean out one closet, drawer, or bookshelf. Make room for Spring!

4. Be a joy-bringer. Smile at every stranger you pass. Let others go first – through doors, in lines…

5. Write a note of affirmation to someone. Add some confetti before you seal it up 🙂

6. Go shopping for one warm-weather item – sandals, swimsuit, new top, outdoor entertaining items…

7. Hug at least 3 people today.

8. Buy yourself a bunch of flowers.

9. Put on music and dance!

10. Write out Isaiah 58:11 and reflect on it. Which words do you need most?

11. Take a flower bulb to a friend who needs hope to grow.

12. Wear something the color of sky and sea.

13. Splurge on a donut with sprinkles.

14. Take a walk at sunrise or sunset. Breathe deeply.

15.   Bake something fun and springy and bring it to share with your colleagues or staff at church or a non-profit.

16. Surprise someone with a bouquet of helium balloons

17. Make a new recipe with a green ingredient – avocado, lettuce, asparagus, mint chip…

18. Find 10 things to be thankful for today. Say them out loud as you notice them. Write them in your journal.

19. Put a happy, colorful screen-saver on your phone.

20. Take a picture of one thing/person/experience that brings you joy and post it online.

21. Grab a friend or your spouse and go out for an ice cream cone.

22. Make hamburgers on the grill for dinner (no matter how cold it is!)

23. Get out colored pens or pencils! Letter and/or illustrate Psalm 36:5. Post a picture!

24. Buy a funny card to send someone.

25. Plan a dream vacation or weekend getaway. Even if it’s a hope for the future, get online and look at pretty pictures.

26. Make/eat something with strawberries today – yogurt parfait, green salad with strawberries, strawberry smoothie…

27. Create a Pandora or Spotify station of summer tunes.

28. Call a friend who is life-giving.

29. Buy a beautiful magazine on one of your passions with images that spark your imagination.

30. Buy coffee for a stranger.

31. Google  the song “Knee Deep” by the Zach Brown band featuring Jimmy Buffet – play and sing along!

Click here for a shortened version of this calendar of inspiration to print up and put on your fridge!

If you’re reading this on email or on your phone and want to comment, just click on the title and then scroll down!

Now go for it! Share on Instagram with the hashtag #springitup.

 

 

 

 

 

The Air You Breathe

Recently one of my closest friends was in a crisis situation – the worst day of her life – and in the midst of the chaos, as she was trying to make hard decisions, she had the wisdom to say, “I need to put on my own oxygen mask first.”

You’ve heard this one MILLION times on the pre-flight safety spiel, and have probably heard it as a metaphor for our spiritual rhythms.  

My friend was at a crucial juncture and knew she needed strengthening for what was ahead when family members and others would be needing a lot from her. She knew she couldn’t give what she hadn’t first received.

The other day I was feeling really down and I couldn’t figure out why. I texted a close friend who asked: “Are you tired?”

My first answer was, “No.”

After some reflection I texted, “Well, yes, but I shouldn’t be.”

And then after a little more reflection… “You know…I haven’t been doing a TON, but I realize it’s all been really draining relational stuff. Hmm…”

I realized I was just a little “out of breath”.

Our ability to give good to others comes from the good we first receive from God.

Here’s the thing… I think some of us are putting on masks that pump noxious gas into our systems. We primarily breathe in rants on social media and we absorb raunch and obscenities over TV and movies.

And some of us are putting on masks filled with sleeping gas. We inhale escapist stuff that isn’t real – isn’t pure oxygen, but rather lulls us into false complacency.

But what are the life-giving masks we need to choose?

The love of God is the oxygen we need to do good work in the world. If you want to bring heaven to earth you will need the oxygen the refreshes and renews.  Without breathing deeply of His love we are in danger of sucking in and spewing out bitterness, anger, and criticism, especially in these politically contentious days.

This is not an easy deal! Can we help each other?

What does putting on your own oxygen mask first mean for you today?  

There are a couple of apps that have been helpful to me – Centering Prayer app and Pray as You Go app. Both provide a short portion of Scripture and silence for reflection.

What are the ways you breathe deeply of life-giving relationships, experiences, and practices? 

 here

5 Strategies for Anxiety

I’ve always seen myself as a strong person.

I’m up for a challenge. I don’t get scared. I’m not timid. I travel the world, will talk to anyone, and am always up for an adventure. Given that, I was really caught off-guard a few years ago when seemingly out of nowhere, I experienced a physical feeling of absolute terror. I felt like I was hyper-ventilating…out of control…racing thoughts…A panic attack?

“This is not ME!” I wanted to shout.

As I mentor young women, the most common confession I hear from them is that they are dealing with some degree of anxiety. It is hardly surprising given the speed of our lives, the conflict in our nation, and the 24/7 bombardment of noise. Add in the gray drear of February in MN and you have a perfect depression cocktail!

I know there’s no quick fix, and I’m not a trained therapist, but I thought I’d share what I tell myself and others when anxiety or depression creep around like a stealthy jaguar waiting to pounce.

  1. Get help. You are not alone. There is no shame in what you’re feeling. Set up an appointment with your doctor and a Christian counselor. Do your part (including getting medication if that’s what your doctor recommends) and trust God to do His.
  2. Slow down – say “no”, observe Sabbath, get sleep. What are the guard rails you have in place to protect yourself?
  3. Turn off the things that amp your anxiety – news, tv. books. Pay attention to what’s going on when you are most anxious.
  4. Lean in to relationships, experiences, and practices that bring life and peace. Make a list now. Praise music, exercise, an encouraging friend, getting outside? Our friend Mark Batterson reminds me:
  5. Affirm the truth. Satan is a lying liar and can distort anything. What are the lies you hear in your head when you’re most anxious? “You’re worthless”, “You can’t do this”, “You’re all alone – this is all on you” ? List them and then go to God’s Word and write down statements of truth (1 Peter 2:6; Psalm 32:7; Psalm 3:3;  Psalm 51:12; Philippians 4:7; Psalm 71:20;  Psalm 41:11; James 1:2-5; Psalm 37:23-24; 1 John 4:4; Hebrews 4:16; 1 Kings 8:28;  Psalm 91:4; James 4:7-8)

Lastly, a couple of resources for anxiety reducing practices:

Abide is a guided prayer app that I use. You can choose the topic, choose background music (or a rushing stream like I have), and the person praying (there are definitely some I like better than others). Some of the prayers are more like Lectio Divina, and some are Examen prayers.

Breath prayer – Breathe in a name for God. Breathe out the desire of your heart. Example: Prince of Peace…Calm my anxious heart.

Those are my thoughts. What would you add? What has been helpful to you?

 

The One Practice You May Need Most This Week

How many of you are multi-tasking right now? Admit it…

You’re waiting in line at Starbucks, listening to the guy next to you talk about his favorite Super Bowl commercial, and scrolling through this post.

Or you have CNN on the TV, while you are eating a piece of toast, feeding your toddler, and clicking back and forth between this and Twitter. Right?

Me too.

I want to do and see and hear ALL OF THE THINGS. Now.

I have a busy mind and a serious case of FOMO.

Like gawkers at an accident, I’m also perversely attracted to what outrageous thing has been said or done in our unsettled (ahem…?) political climate.

The problem with this is that it makes for a lot of noise in my little brain. A lot of different voices vying for attention.

Silence may be the most important discipline you and I need this week.

No, I don’t mean not speaking up for those without a voice. I don’t mean abdicating our responsibility to speak truth.

I mean silence as in turning off the radio. Turning off the TV news. Turning away from Twitter.

I mean making space for God. Leaning in to hear His whispers instead of the shouts of the world.

The other day I was walking around Lake of the Isles at an arctic 5 degrees. I had been listening to a podcast on my phone, but all of a sudden it stopped – frozen – and I was left with a lot of white space.

The world around me was snowy and silent. The clatter in my ears was stilled.

With this space, I found myself noticing the beauty of creation and thanking God.

Several who are experiencing injustice around the world came to mind and I prayed for them.

A new idea emerged.

The Holy Spirit prompted me to reexamine how I’m viewing a relationship.

God spoke into the silence.

Some of you reading this may be genuine candle-lighting, silence-seeking contemplatives. Bless you. That would not be me.

But my frozen phone made me think about the importance of choosing this as a discipline more often. So yesterday my Sabbath included no radio, no news, no Twitter.

Less static, more stillness.

What if, this week, we set aside time to turn off the noise, and like Samuel, said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”?

3 Questions I’m Asking About Spiritual Disciplines

When Katy was about 5 years old she did something I thought deserved a “time out” so I told her to sit on the stairs. A few minutes later, I walked by and heard her mumbling something.

“What are you saying Katy?”

Scowling and with the most disgusted, put-upon tone she could muster she said, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, later on however it produces a harvest of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it!”*

So if “discipline” is unpleasant,  “spiritual disciplines” will be something I hate…a necessary burden to make me more like Jesus, right?  But then I read Matthew 11:28-30:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

And then there’s Matthew 15:8-9 where Jesus says:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’”

A spiritual practice is not an end in itself – not something we do to get spiritual brownie points, but rather, training we choose, like training for a marathon, that bit by bit, stretches our spiritual muscles, draws us closer to God, and transforms us into people who are more like Him.

In Adele Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook,** she writes, “The simple truth is that wanting to keep company with Jesus has a staying power that ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ seldom have.”

So, three questions I’m asking myself:

  1. Where is my desire and longing? Where am I least like Jesus, but long to be?
  2. How do I want or need to be with God? (For example, I am an extrovert, so the discipline of silence and solitude has been stretching, but so fruitful)
  3. What spiritual practices might the Holy Spirit be inviting me to step into? As I do, they may be hard, but do they foster love and intimacy with the Lord, or resentment? Is this something I am doing with Jesus, or something that is ill-fitting and legalistic?

The post on fasting seems to have hit a nerve!  Some of you identified with my struggle, and some of you thanked me for being authentic, but you guys are way too shy about sharing your wisdom, insights and encouragement that could benefit everyone!  So many of you respond directly to me instead of posting in the comments. I thought you’d like to see some valuable thoughts that folks sent me or posted on FB:

I trained like you would for a marathon. I started out fasting from sugar . . . the next time I added bread . . . meat . . . vegetables . . . fruits . . . juice . . . until I could just drink water. One day a week. These days I am working on fasting from all electronic devices one day a week!

My husband and I have been regularly fasting over many years. It is challenging yes, but the benefits so outweigh the discomfort, that we actually enjoy it, especially the 21 day fast Daniel fast we do at the beginning of the year. The awareness of God, how He strengthens and enables us to go through is amazing.  Starting can be difficult but when it becomes a part of your life, it’s much easier. Drawing closer to God in this way is worth it.
Fasting? You have come to the right person!
When I became Orthodox I knew right away this was not something I was going to like. We fast on Wednesdays and Fridays — Wednesdays because it was the day Christ was betrayed and Friday because that was the day Christ was crucified. It is all done to remember our Lord . These are not strict fasts– only no meat or dairy but that is bad enough for a little fat person who loves her ice cream, yogurt, cheese and COOKIES. However I’ve discovered that Oreos are legal!
 
Seriously, I have grown to look forward to the discipline especially of the 40 day fasts of Nativity and Lent. Still only no meat or dairy for those. The process has drawn me closer to my Lord and His sacrifice. Easy? No but so worthwhile and beneficial to my spiritual growth. Forgive me for sounding”preachy” but the whole experience has has been an eye- opener for me and among other things has taught me that I am never too old to learn new helps in my spiritual life.
 
Disclaimers also come with these fasts– do not make anyone else uncomfortable by fasting ( as if invited out or there is no other food available)  Thinking of someone else always comes first.
 *Hebrews 12:11 which we had memorized as a family.
** Highly recommend this book! In it there is a chapter on fasting.
Some posts on this blog contain Amazon affiliate links – I receive a tiny commission on any purchases you make from links, but I’m not paid to recommend any particular item. I’d never include a link to anything I didn’t own or feel great about endorsing.

One Thing I Don’t Want to do to Be Like Jesus

Confession: I reeeeally don’t like discomfort. (shocking, I know)

I don’t like inconvenience, or pain, or sacrifice, or waiting.

Thus, I HATE fasting.

This means that I had a little problem Monday, because part of my devotional reading was from Mark 2 on fasting.

Just the fact that Jesus brought the idea of fasting to my attention again was soooo irritating, and then actually considering it, and rationalizing with all the reasons I shouldn’t do it was…well, really uncomfortable for me.

Like all spiritual disciplines, fasting is just a means to an end – to help us become more like Jesus who is love. When we I think of “love” I like all the GOOD FEELS, and the affirmation that comes from doing kind things – you know…what I get out of it. But practicing sacrifice by fasting in order to get better at loving sacrificially? Uh, no thanks.

Fasting in order to better identify with what Jesus went through to draw me into closer relationship with Him? Gosh, isn’t there another way?

Fasting in order to get rid of extraneous (??) stuff so we can just focus on Jesus all day? Puleeze! The last thing I’m thinking about when I’m hungry is Jesus.

FISH TACOS for Pete’s sake! This is more my speed…

But I’m such a rule-follower that Monday I though OK (heavy sigh), I’ll fast til dinner.

About 11 a.m. I grabbed a handful of Craisins from the fridge trying not to think about what a Losey McLoserson I am, while rationalized that I was doing other sacrificial things so I didn’t really need to fast, and after all, I can do it any time I have to. I just don’t have to right now.

Can you give a sister some help here?

What has your experience been with fasting (or other spiritual practices you don’t like)?

Me and Mr. Trump

Kellyanne Conway (Trump advisor) : “Judge Donald Trump by “what’s in his heart [not] what’s come out of his mouth.”

Jesus: “…out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”*

Some people are so easy for me to judge. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. I compare myself with them and feel comfortably self-righteous.

“Bam! I’m better than THAT!”

“Pow! I’d never say THAT!”

Their speech, like gangrene, is so ugly and offensive it’s easy to recognize that they must have heart disease.

But then I read more of my Bible and I’m reminded:

The heart is deceitful above all things …” Jeremiah 17:9 as in “MY heart is deceitful above all things…” There is hidden heart decay that I don’t want to face. And then…

“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

That means I have heart a disease, and so do you. Even though my words may mask the condition of my heart more than others, there is pride and lack of love, and selfishness pumping through the chambers.

This weekend, John preached on the power of our words, and included an oral check-up. Some of these questions**may help you assess the condition of your heart, but then what? How do we do cardiac care?

Proverbs 4:23-24 says,

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Romans 12:2

We may hear this a lot, but do we really pay attention to it? It can be really uncomfortable, but what if we ask:

Will this…

movie…

relationship…

activity…

book…

Twitter/FB/Instagram feed…

contribute to my spiritual heart health or heart decay?

As a result will my heart be beating more in sync with the heart of Jesus and because of that will my words be more like His words? Or will I be more prone to crass language, gossip, criticism, cynicism…?

 

*Luke 6:45

**

  1. Would people say you talk too much or hold too much inside?
  2. Which is harder for you, receiving criticism, or offering it?
  3. Are you more about asking questions or giving answers?
  4. When is the last time you misrepresented/exaggerated/deceived/lied to someone?
  5. Sometimes we confuse swearing with bad language (gossip/anger/pettiness etc.) Which is more of a temptation for you?
  6. Words + faith…Is your faith a state secret? Do people see what they hear?
  7. When was the last time you resolved a conflict & strengthened a relationship?
  8. What would one who knows you say is truer: Grace over Truth or Truth over grace?
  9. In a typical conversation do you walk away feeling like the other person learned more about you, or you learned more about them?
  10. Who are the last 2 people you affirmed/blessed in a way they remember?

Two Truths and a Lie

1. My husband went to prom with a murderer.

2. I bungee jumped at Victoria Falls, Zambia

3. I received flying lessons as a wedding gift.

Two of these statements are true and one is not.* Ever play that game?

I think we play an unhealthy version of it in our heads every day.  Often we just rehearse a lie over and over again as IF it were the truth.

What should we do instead of listening to the tape in our head that says “Not good enough. Not valuable. Uninvited. Unforgivable.”?

Paul gives us some advice in 2 Corinthians.

 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Here, “Stronghold”  is like a castle with a mote, but I picture it kind of like a hologram that you can walk through – it isn’t real. The Greek word for stronghold, ochuróma can mean: “a prisoner locked by deception”.  Satan is the father of lies and he may make his castle seem impregnable, but it’s not!

In another place I found this definition:  “A stronghold is an influence by the enemy … The strength of the stronghold depends on how long and how much influence a person has allowed over themselves by listening to what the enemy is saying concerning any given situation in which the stronghold has taken root.”

We see the truth of this emphasized in Proverbs:

Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life. Prov. 4:23 CEV

Craig Groeschel says:**

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So what can we do? Replace lies with Truth and then, practice rehearsing the Truth more than the lies. 

As you speak Truth to yourself, you’ll grow in the strength of God and His thoughts about you – yay!

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What if we rehearse the truth instead of the lie? What the mind repeats it retains, right?

Think of a negative phrase you have said aloud or thought to yourself that stems from a sense of shame rather than your identity in Christ as HIs beloved child.

Turn it upside down and say, in first person, present tense, an affirmation of your God-given value. For example:

I am unlovable. . . . I am infinitely loved.
I don’t have enough. . . . I have everything I need.
I am stupid. . . . I have the mind of Christ.
I am worthless. . . . I am precious in God’s eyes, I am honored, and God loves me.

So mine would be:

I am not good enough. I don’t add value…   I am uniquely gifted by God & He has prepared good works in advance for me.

So say the positive truth aloud like it is true several time. Then rest silently in the awareness that this is you – a unique, gifted, equipped child of God, made in His image.

* Write the most common lie Satan uses to trip you up in the comments and I’ll tell you which one is the lie. 🙂

**This is adapted from Life Church. For more on this, watch “Words to Live By” by Craig Groeschel, or read this synopsis.

One Word 2017

I’m pretty type A. I like goals. I like lists. I especially like crossing things off my lists.

But for the past few New Years, instead of focusing on goals or resolutions, I’ve prayerfully chosen One Word that is both aspirational in a way, and also helps me to focus on the work of God in my life.

“Our lives move in the direction of our strongest thoughts.” Craig Groeschel

As I choose One Word each year I look back over where God has brought me, what I think He’s been birthing in me, and what lies ahead (as much as I know).

What of God’s character have I counted on?

What does God want to teach me?

What do I need more of?

What should I remember?

What do I want to learn more about?

As I look back over the trajectory of 2016 there was movement from discouraged and uncertain to stronger in Jesus. I feel grounded, equipped, empowered as I head into 2017 and I want to continue to learn more about the strength that comes only from God and isn’t blown about or vulnerable to the recognition or disapproval of others.

As I wrote yesterday, I preached on Joshua Sunday and was reminded of Joshua 1:9

“Haven’t I commanded you be strong and courageous? Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you may go.”

So I look forward to 2017 embracing my One Word – Strong.

What about you? Have you chosen a word for 2017?

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