Saturday, December 13, 2014

Feeling Lonely? Why Connection is So Important




So it’s the holidays, a time when many people feel lonely. Alone. Disconnected.  

It’s “the most wonderful time of the year” or so the Christmas carol lyrics tell us. But in the months between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, there seems to be a great emphasis on families and couples. And for those who are not coupled—or don’t have a family (or one they want to be around)—it can be the most difficult time of year.

The truth is that we live in society that is more disconnected than ever. The Internet has radically changed how we do ‘people connection.’ On one hand’s it’s a fantastic tool. From my living room in Colorado, I can email my Dad in Minnesota or Facebook with readers in Brazil.  

Love it! 

Other the other hand, technology can limit one’s face-to-face-interactions and in-person friendships because he or she chooses screen time over face time (and I don’t mean the Mac app, I mean talking with someone in person). On Facebook, for example, they may go wide (have a lot of ‘friends’) but not go deep (as in having meaningful relationships with good friends).  

Connecting is vital to our emotional health. Building friendships and living connected increases our joy. We were created to need each other and to serve each other’s needs.  

In fact, you can build connections in all different areas of life:

  • Spiritual community with people at church, or in a small group, Bible study, missions team, serving opportunity or one-on-one.
  • Social community through a shared hobby, a singles group, local theatre group or coffee with friends.
  • Intellectual community with people from work, a book group or other group with shared interests.
  • Physical community in joining a sports team, dance class or getting workout partner for the gym.
  • Neighborhood or city community can be built be showing up at your local playground, a neighborhood block party, or mentoring a disadvantaged youth.
  • Virtual community is a way to connect with others, but make sure it’s not your only connection with other people.
Of course, the first person to make a connection with is the most important one. Through prayer and our relationship with God we have the most primary and meaningful connection possible. Even when you don’t know what to say, the simple prayer of, "Help!" will reach the loving ears of God.  

To overcome loneliness, you may want to start by asking yourself why you feel lonely. Ask God to make His presence real and close to you today. Ask Him to help you have hope things really can change in your life.  

You can also ask God to give you courage to reach out to another person today or to bring caring relationships—like friends, family, or other new people into your life.  

Lastly, ask what is one thing you can do today to build a bridge to another person? Those ideas may help you get started as you pray about overcoming loneliness and learning to live better connected.  

Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). When you know God, you are never alone.  

Prayer
Lord, I feel so empty and alone. I know I’ve been isolated and need contact with other people, but sometimes it’s hard to change. Will you help me learn how to build bridges to other people? What a comfort it is to know that You are always with me, and that You never leave. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
 
 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Learning from Loss


A Lesson from a Redwood Tree

The redwood trees in California have a secret. These centuries-old giants—three hundred feet or taller—have a unique ability to withstand fire. In addition to their high branches and the dense bark that provides protection, redwood trees lack a flammable resin on their bark (which most other types of trees have), rendering them almost fireproof.
 
Even if the heat of a forest fire becomes so intense it does burn the tree, the roots often survive because they are buried in the cool, moist soil. And in time, new sprouts begin to appear.
 
Triumph after tragedy.

You may have suffered unspeakable losses; you may feel as if your life will never be the same. But as with the redwoods, new life—a different life—can sprout again.
 
As you get back to the roots of truth in your life, regrowth comes. The heart is surprisingly resilient. Remember, you are God’s child. He is with you always. God loves you with an everlasting love. He is your comfort, and he will work out all things for good.
 
Trust God for new hope—and healing.
 
 

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.
 
Bleh.  

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.

Amen."

-- 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)
 
 
 
Enjoy!
 
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!
Jackie


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.