Thursday, November 20, 2014

When Willpower Is Not Enough: Help for Bad Habits and Addictions

Even good people have bad habits—or life-altering addictions sometimes.  

In fact, millions of us have cravings we want to beat but they seem to have a vice grip on our appetites and actions. Whether your craving is for drugs or donuts, whether it’s an addiction or an annoying bad habit, you’ll need more than willpower—or won’t power—to overcome and find freedom.  
Is there a way to break free? 

The reasons we choose unwise bad habits or harmful addictions are many—mainly to alleviate pain or produce pleasure. Maybe you’re depressed, or bored, or feeling huge amounts of peer pressure. You didn’t plan on getting addicted; you thought you could stop your behavior any time.  

Maybe you’re thinking right now, “It’s not that big of a deal. I’m only human. Everyone does it.” On the other hand, you may sincerely want to do the right thing then your cravings take over. You feel stuck. And sad. And hopeless.

Interestingly, doing what we don’t want to do nothing new. In fact, centuries ago the apostle Paul struggled with doing the right thing too. He made this lament in the book of Romans and I’ve commented on his thoughts with the words in italics:

“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (7:19) 

I’ve felt like that at times.  

“Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (7:20) 

Sin is trying to take over. That explains a lot. 

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (7:24)

I don’t want to be like this anymore! I need help.  

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:25) 

Help me, Lord, to shake this. Thank you for your power to do what I cannot.

Many times addictions or bad habits are attempts to fill up the “holes” in our hearts, the empty spaces where love and acceptance should be, but for whatever reason are not. We try to fill these gaping holes with massive amounts of food, way too much alcohol or our comfort item of choice. But we are never satiated; the inner emptiness remains.

Getting over a bad habit or an addiction may seem impossible. You may have been doing it for so long that it’s a part of you. But you can overcome and find victory in this extremely challenging area of life. Breaking free from the chains that bind you come through the healing power of God.

Stopping an addiction—even a bad habit—can be extrememely difficult because something wants to master us or control our lives. There is a battle raging within each of us—an internal battle between two warring factions: the flesh and the Spirit, God’s Holy Spirit. We make choices every day to either satisfy the body or the Spirit—and each of those choices have consequences.

Freedom from making bad choices comes as we pray—and take action.
The best place to start is to ask for help. Ask God to deliver you from this habit or addiction. Ask others to pray with and for you—you need reinforcements! “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Ask God for strength and courage.
It may be hard, it may be frustrating. You may take three steps forward then two steps back, but you are making progress. Plus, you’re not alone. With the One who loves you most, our great God and His unchanging promises and power, things can change.  
As you make one right choice, then another, a series of continual right choices leads to your breakthrough and beyond.  

The power of God at work in us—thanks to God’s Holy Spirit—does what we can never do on our own: He breaks the heavy chains (the bad habits and addictions) that hold you captive. He gives you strength to say, “no” to unhealthy things and “yes” to life.  

Slowly, and over time, things begin to change. You begin to realize a deep, abiding joy and peace inside that’s never been there before—and it feels really good. 

Freedom is calling. How will you reply?

Prayer for Overcoming
Lord, I want to change. But I simply cannot do it on my own. I need your mighty strength working in me and through me. Will you transform me and my bad habits? I may not do this perfectly, but I’m starting by surrendering to You. Empower me to stand strong and live a better and healthier life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”



Saturday, November 15, 2014

When You Feel Discouraged: A Prayer for New Joy

"May you rise up today with a JOYFUL heart
because God is moving on your behalf,
even when you can't see what He is up to.

May you walk forward in faith, knowing
that He's got your back and He goes before you.

May you refuse to focus on your doubts and
points discouragement because you are
blessed beyond measure and called
beyond your wildest dreams.


-- Susie Larson (author, speaker, radio host)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Best of A New Day Cafe: Light in the Darkness - Finding Hope After a Relationship Breakup

Back by popular demand, this post offers comfort, hope and helpful insight for people going through a relationship breakup. I hope it blesses you.
 Though I sit in darkness,
the LORD will be my light. Micah 7:8
Breakups are hard. Whether you’re trying to get over someone who left or you’re the one leaving, breakups are messy, complicated and often devastatingly difficult. That’s because we’re designed for attachment and connection, not separation and disconnection.

Yet, for many singles, our dating lives are a series of hello’s and goodbye’s—attaching and detaching—from our teenage years until we stand at the altar (or don’t). We date and breakup, date and breakup in a crazy-making cycle.
Often, people who marry and divorce find themselves back in the same pattern, too.

Whether you dated briefly or for a long time, the loss of love can be shattering. Your mind swirls with questions: What did I do wrong? Why did he leave? Aren’t I worth being loved well? What if I never find anyone like him again? What if I never find anyone again?

One day you’re sad, the next day you’re angry, and suddenly you’re just numb; you don’t feel anything because it just hurts too much to feel. Maybe you feel rejected, betrayed, or broken-hearted.
If you’re the one who left him, you may be suffering guilt and shame. Either way, you just want the pain to stop. You want healing and you want answers.

Is it possible to get through this fragmenting process without falling to pieces?

Yes. Thankfully, yes.

Every breakup story has a beginning and an end, and often the healing process is like the cycle of a day. To get from the darkest night of your emotional pain to the light of day--of joy again--read on:  

Twilight is a time of endings. The sun and the relationship are both disappearing, and you learn that, sadly, loss and brokenness are a part of life. Yet how you deal with endings, how you handle the emotional fallout of your breakup, in healthy or unhealthy ways, will determine the quality of your future love relationships—and your life.

Night is the darkness of grieving your losses. You’ve lost love, friendship, physical touch, and the hope of being with this person forever. You seem to have misplaced your worth and value, and your self esteem (and maybe some self respect) are hiding. Thankfully, God provides “night lights” in the darkness, like His comfort, wisdom and love, to guide the way to the daylight of joy and new beginnings.

Dawn reveals the truth as God illuminates your thinking, just as the first fingers of morning inch across the horizon. Hope awakens with the light. You begin to see God’s character (His love and protection over you, His provision and more) and you find out how he redeems losses and restores brokenness.
As you discover your true identity as a dearly loved child of God, you gain greater confidence and learn to make wiser choices in love.

Finally Day breaks and you find that letting go of the past is truly possible. It’s time to move forward into your future. As the sun’s rays shine into the dark corners of your life, you reawaken to important things you’ve forgotten or put aside, like: gratitude, serving others, building friendships and community, and maybe even living your dreams.

With renewed vision, you are no longer hiding in the shadows of yesterday. Radiance has returned, and with the light of Christ in you, you are ready to be a light to the world.

Bottom line: When you deal with emotional wounds and let God heal them, you can be better equipped to find the healthy and lasting love you truly desire.

However, instead of dealing with the emotional rubble from a broken heart, a lot of us turn to our favorite comfort foods—like ice cream, potato chips, chocolate, creamy mashed potatoes, or fresh, hot bread lathered in butter—to try and fill the emptiness and soothe the sorrow. Others loose their appetite completely.

In the long run, comfort food in moderation isn’t going to hurt you, but it’s not going to heal your broken heart. It may seem to satisfy you for a time, but the void remains—the heart holes of loss, loneliness, rejection or regret.
What are you going to do to get past the pain when the pint or plate of food is empty?

Do you need comfort and support to cope with your disappointment? Do you want to get unstuck and move forward with your life?

The hopeful truth is this: God heals brokenness; God redeems loss and pain and heals the heart to love again. He is all about restoration and transformation—from sadness to joy, from rejection to acceptance, and from brokenness to wholeness.

Indeed, The One who loves you most can help you reconnect again—to God, yourself, and others—and in the process to discover what real, healthy love looks like so you can make wiser choices next time.

You don’t have to be afraid of the dark, for you are not alone. Not ever. Even in the diffused light of dusk, when you can hardly see the way, God’s lantern of truth and His presence remain constant.
He will be with you through the night and lead you to hope, healing and brighter days ahead.

You just have to follow the Light.
For more about how to get over a breakup, check out Jackie M. Johnson's helpful book, "When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty" (Moody Publishers). Available in paperback and e-book in English and Portuguese.
Jackie also blogs for singles on the LIVING SINGLE blog on Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk website.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

LIVING SINGLE: A New Blog for Singles of All Ages

Hi friends!
Just wanted to let you in on some exciting news…
In addition to blogging here at A New Day Café, I’ve also started blogging on singles topics on the Living Single blog on Dr. James Dobson’s website.
The Living Single blog offers encouragement, insight and hope for singles of all ages. Check out some recent posts:  
6 Reasons Why You’re Not Married Yet (plus positive ideas about what to do in the meantime)
Of course, I will still be blogging here at A New Day Café for readers worldwide.
More good news: One of my books, "Powerful Prayers for Challenging Times" will be translated into the Chinese language. Today, it is available in English and Portuguese. May this book of HOPE be a blessing to many people.
Take care!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Feeling Discouraged? Finding Hope in All Seasons

The season is changing. Right now, the warm days of summer are waning as autumn approaches. Here in Colorado that means bright yellow aspens, endless blue skies and cooler days.
In nature, and in life, seasons change. Life is hard, then good, then challenging again. But no matter what season of life you’re in, you can choose to stay connected to God and have hope.
Here’s a true story that will shed some light on finding HOPE:
When I was growing up in Wisconsin, I’d often ride my bike past our neighborhood’s apple orchard. In every season I’d watch changes take place: from the sweet-smelling apple blossoms that burst forth in springtime…to the warm summer days climbing their gnarly branches…to the crisp days of autumn when we’d pick and eat fresh, ripe apples.  

All year long, we’d wait with expectancy for the fruit to come. Growing took time, but it was always worth the wait. 

As you release your cares to God, talking with Him about your worries and fears, you are planting seeds of faith in the soil of hope—faith that one day your seed prayers will grow and come to fruition. That’s the nature of hope, believing God will provide, that He will answer above and beyond what you’ve asked for.  

You just never know; you may get one fruit-bearing tree or an entire apple orchard—bushel baskets of answered prayers. Deuteronomy 16:15 encourages us, “For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”  

And so we pray. And as we wait on God, we mature. We grow up on the inside. Character is formed and trust grows. Just as we anticipate the day when round, red fruit will ripen, we look forward with hope to the moment our answers will ready for picking.  

You and I may be praying about the same thing, but our answers may look different—just like apple trees bear Braeburn, Macintosh or Red Delicious—all kinds of apples.  

We wait with hope, expectant that good things will happen. That one day things will be different, better.  

Sometimes, however, we are afraid to hope. We’ve been disappointed and we simply don’t want to be hurt again. But what makes the difference is when we know on whom we wait and to whom we give our trust—God Almighty.   

We need to know how infinitely good God is. We need to know how much he truly loves us, and that He cares, even when we don’t get what we’ve asked for. It’s not because God is mean or He is withholding from you. It’s because of His love for you that He gives you what you need; He is protecting and providing for you even when you cannot see.  

This side of heaven we live with the mystery of God’s ways. Why does He do what He does? Why didn’t he prevent that tragedy? Why, Lord, why? We can know Christ, but we cannot always be privy to His thoughts. At least, for now.  

Wild hope is planting seeds of faith and expecting orchards of blessings. It’s courageous and expectant—and celebratory—knowing that your great expectations aren’t too large for the great, big God we serve. We can have this kind of hope because of Jesus Christ, because of what He has done for us dying on a wooden cross and rising again glorious and alive!  

Jesus Christ is the true Wild Hope. Unpredictable? Yes. Unexpected? Certainly. He goes far beyond what we can imagine, and leads us into a future we never could’ve dreamed.

In times of defeat, doubt or discouragement, pray.
In times of joy and victory, pray.
Know that your prayers really do make a difference.
Trust the God of abundance, the God of so much more.  

Harvest time is coming.


Friday, September 19, 2014

When Life is a Mess

My friend Christi has been doing some extreme cleaning lately. Both of her parents have passed away, her father most recently, and she’s been charged with cleaning out the home they lived in for decades. The challenge is that both of them were hoarders; they simply could not throw anything away. Surrounded by massive clutter—with ceiling-high piles, papers, and multiples of items saved over a forty-year span—Christi feels overwhelmed.
She wonders, “How will I ever get this mess cleaned up?”
There are all kinds of messes in life: physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial. And there are different levels of messiness too, from untidiness to totally chaotic to somewhere in between.
I didn’t know much about getting organized until well into my twenties. When one of my roommates asked me why I stuffed all my papers and bills into a small nightstand, I was at a loss. I didn’t have a clue what to do with them, so I just kept stuffing until the nightstand was overflowing.
Thankfully, Marion was kind enough to tell me about file folders and how to use them. She gathered a pile of manila folders and a marker and told me to label each one, insert the corresponding papers, and put them in alphabetical order.
It all seemed so easy for her, but as a young woman, it was as foreign to me as boarding a train in Borneo and not knowing the language. Her organizing help changed my life. Once I removed the physical clutter in my room, I felt lighter inside and more at peace.
It was liberating.
Like stuffing papers in a nightstand, sometimes we stuff our emotional junk and create a heart mess. We hold in massive amounts of pain or rage until one day the emotions leak out, often at inappropriate times.
Life can be messy and often complicated. I get it. Your life may be more disorder than disaster. Your dining room table is piled high with papers and you scurry to hide them when company comes. Or, you’re running from meeting to meeting, airport to airport, and never seem to have time to organize a “real life.” Maybe you are one of those people who have a spotless home—a veritable showroom with things perfectly in place—but the one thing that matters most is askew?
Your heart.
Littered with garbage from the past or daily stresses, your inner life has been neglected. Maybe it’s time to clear away some anger or finally forgive someone. Your heart needs to be cleansed, healed, and filled on a daily basis. And you can do that every day—every moment—when you come to God in prayer. 

Prayer changes things. It changes us. It is a line of communication to God that is always open and He invites you to come and call any time.  

God can help you to:
                order your heart to make room for God;

order your emotions and clear out lingering anger, bitterness, and pride to increase your joy and contentment;

order your thoughts and get rid of mental clutter so you can focus on your priorities—like getting in shape or spending your time and money more effectively;

order your home so you can find the things you need and have more freedom and peace. 

PRAYER: “Lord, so many things clamor for my attention in life. Often, I feel pulled in a hundred different directions. How can I get it all done? Please help me to remember to put You first, to choose You, God, as my first priority, and know that from that everything else flows. I love you first. And, I ask You to direct my footsteps. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Help for Breakup Pain

A few years ago, I watched the largest wildfire in Colorado history come over the mountains and into our city. Homes were lost. Lives were lost. After the fire, all you could see for acres in one prestigious neighborhood were ashes and the remains of solid, brick chimneys.

It was devastating.

Natural disasters are harsh and hard to deal with. So are breakups. Whether you are dealing with a dating relationship breakup or a divorce, they often feel like the internal equivalent of a disaster in nature, only it's on the inside of you; it's a "emotional disaster."

So it’s over. Then what?

You start to assess your losses. You stand and look at the landscape of your life and see the loss of love, the loss of companionship, the loss of a dream. Perhaps he was the one you thought you'd marry and now that idea has died. Or, you weren't even dating that long but you really connected with this person; you wonder if you will ever find anyone like him again.

Then, there are all the emotions to deal with--sadness, anger, confusion, feelings of rejection and more.

But some people avoid their emotional pain. Why? For one thing, as Mr. Griffen said to Annie in the movie We Are Marshall, “Grief is messy.”

I agree. It is messy. Mascara runs down your face when you cry, your eyes get puffy and your nose gets red. Your emotions fluctuate like the highs, lows and unexpected turns of a roller coaster ride. It’s not pretty. But then again, neither is a rainstorm in springtime when the roads flood and the mud slides.

But grieving, like spring— the shoulder between the dead of winter and the glory of summer—lasts only for a season.

If you are going through a bad breakup and want to get over it, it’s important to know what grief is, why it’s important to process it, how to go through it.
What is grief?

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Grieving? For a breakup? What’s the big deal? I mean, you just pick up the pieces and move on, right?” I have learned that “grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind” and that it is okay; it’s necessary. Grieving a loss is not just for the loss of a loved one through death, but for other losses as well.

Why deal with breakup grief?
The pain won’t just go away if you ignore it. In fact, it is widely known that holding back emotions or not dealing with them can lead to increased physical stress and even physical illness.

You may have felt the shock of someone you loved unexpectedly decided to call it quits or numbness when you’re overloaded with emotions and seem to short circuit inside. Perhaps a feeling of denial has come over you. However grief manifests in your life, eventually the full impact of the loss will surface. But you can eventually come to terms with it and find peace.

Getting unstuck
A loss of significance—a big loss—can get stuck in your heart if it is not processed. When your self esteem falters, and you feel like it’s always midnight, and you hold it all in, the pain can pile up like emotional garbage.

It’s been said that if you don’t grieve well you grieve all the time.

While you may put on a good front for friends and coworkers, inside the lingering sadness remains. That’s why it’s so important to grieve losses—to unblock your frozen heart so you can feel better, find joy, and live a life of emotional freedom, serenity and love.

How to express your grief
Grieving a loss is not a linear process.  There is no right or wrong order in which it must be done.  Processing loss can circle around a few times or wash over you like an ocean wave. When the waves of sorrow come, ride them out; they will not destroy you. Eventually the waves that once pounded you so hard will have less and less impact, and finally recede.

Everyone heals in their own way and their own timing because love and loss is unique for each person. Here are some ideas on how to process your pain and release your sadness through grieving.

Acknowledge your loss. Getting through this season of grief and sadness begins by acknowledging that a loss has happened. Whether you left, he left, or it was a mutual agreement, something that was there is now gone.  

Ask for help. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you do what you cannot do on your own. With His power, emotions expressed will begin the flow, unclogging your blocked heart. In time you will get unstuck and move from the darkness of loss and pain into the sunlight of restoration and wholeness.  

Let yourself be sad. In his book, Broken, Tim Baker says, “Sorrow is entirely underrated.” I have to agree. “Sometimes,” he continues, “we feel that crying is showing weakness and that real Christians, if they’re truly saved, would never feel sorrow or cry…” Nothing could be further from the truth. Tears are a cleansing emotional release from a wellspring deep inside of us that need to get out. Tears are part of unblocking our inner stuckness and pain.