Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Joy

Elliana Joy Houge
Denver, Colorado (2008)

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished! --Luke 1:45

He came!

And every year we celebrate Jesus Christ’s coming to earth over 2,000 years ago. A baby…a newborn…Our Savior of the world. Love came to show us what love really is. He healed the sick, comforted the lonely, cared for the uncared for, shattered prejudice, and stood up for justice. He made a way for us, all of us who believe, to know Him, love Him and one day, live with Him forever.

Mary was a young teenager when an angel appeared to her and told her she would carry a child—the Messiah. She hurried to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant at the time with John the Baptist. Elizabeth was an old woman; her time had passed. Or so she thought. But God can do anything. And in his grace and power He made it possible for a woman well passed child-bearing years to bear a child. He made a way for a virgin, Mary, to carry a baby, too. A miracle.

I love how radically good God is! He loves to surprise us in ways we could never have imagined.

Young Mary believed what the angel said to her that day. And it all came true. My friend, Tammy and her husband longed for a baby for years. After multitudes of test and surgeries it seemed that her dream of a child would never come true. So they started adoption procedures for a baby girl from China. And, lo and behold, she finally got pregnant! Tammy and Paul are the wonderfully delighted parents of almost-eight week old, Elliana Joy. Miracles still happen today. And yes, they are still looking to adopt a girl from China.

The angel told Mary, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1: 37) I believe it. Do you?

Merry Christmas! May you have peace and deep, abiding joy—and Believe.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Preparing for Christmas

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:46)

It’s coming—and soon. Yep, Christmas is just around the corner. Are you ready? Are you ready on the inside?

Most people have their “to do” lists of gifts to buy, baking, decorating, card sending, arranging for travel or overnight guests, and more. There’s the company party and the neighbors annual gathering, and oh—your five-year-old niece’s concert to attend, and your singles group potluck, and….Did I forget something? You can see the glazed look in the eyes of many shoppers as they scuttle from one store to the next looking for the perfect gift two days before the Big Day. Perhaps it’s the plethora of holiday treats that has others in high gear from the sugar overload. Christmas doesn’t just happen, they say, there’s a lot to do—planning, organizing, and setting up to make sure you are ready, prepared, for that special time.

Amidst the holiday bustle and rush, there is a still small voice that urges you to “prepare Him room.” You prepare everything else, how about your heart? Isaac Watts’ familiar carol admonishes us:

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let Earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room…”

Remember the holiday classic, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?” The grumpy Grinch discovered a priceless lesson about Christmas. It isn’t about the stuff; it’s a heart attitude. “Christmas,” he learned, “doesn’t come from a store.” Despite the fact that this mean green man took all their gifts, decorations, bangles, and baubles, Christmas came anyways. And the Whos down in Who-ville were still joyful despite their lack! They gathered Christmas morning in a circle, holding hands and singing. Stuff or no stuff, they created community and celebrated!

In these last few days before Christmas, take some time to prepare your heart not just your home to receive the One who came to change everything. Some people light an Advent wreath to remember. Others read special books on the season or the Luke 1 account of how Jesus Christ came as a baby, an infant, to a cold, lonely place to save the world. I enjoy sitting by a warm fire or candles and listening to Christmas music to relax and remember.

Light came into darkness.
Love came to save.

Come, let us adore Him.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pounded for a Purpose

Surrender is one of those words you love to hate. On one hand it implies that you give in or give up. You admit defeat, usually by waving a large white flag like they do in the movies. But in real life, in my life, I am coming to love the word surrender. Perhaps because I better understand what it means.

First, you have to know to whom you are surrendering and why…and how the results can be infinitely good. I'm talking about surrendering to God. Laying down my plans, my agendas, and my will. Yeah, that stuff. It can be brutally hard to “give it to God” as they say. Prying away every finger from what you hold tightly is not easy.

Perhaps it’s a dream…you lay down wanting to get married, or have a child, or be in the career you always wanted. Perhaps it’s a bad habit or addiction that you want to get rid of, but it has a vice grip on your life.

I am learning that to surrender is to yield—like when you yield right of way on the road to a truck that is larger than your car so it doesn’t crush you. Knowing to whom you yield makes all the difference. The God I serve, God Almighty, is kind, loving, so much wiser than me. He is good. Knowing that He acts for my ultimate good and His greatest glory helps me to be able to defer to a higher purpose, a bigger plan. Father really does know best. And I can trust Him.

It took me a long time to learn that lesson. I’d often thought that things in my life were being “crushed,”or my hopes dashed because I had done something wrong. I had fallen out of His good graces. Or maybe He wasn’t really “good” after all. Maybe I had misplaced hope and it really was all up to me to make things happen.

But none of that is true.

The truth is sometimes things are crushed for a reason. Take the process of making bread. It all starts with tall stalks of wheat swaying in a field, most likely on the Kansas prairie. Mr. Farmer harvests the wheat and it gets crushed into flour. Surrender. Then Ms. Baker uses the wheat flour to make dough. She pounds it and lets it rise; pounds it and lets it rises again. Another crushing. But pounded for a purpose. She puts it in an excruciatingly hot oven and finally, after a very long journey: transformation. The delightful smell of fresh baked bread fills the room. And the crushed little heads of wheat finally know the purpose for which they were intended, and it is very good! Fresh baked bread, pass it around!

Here’s what Jesus himself said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”(John 6:35)

I am Wheat

I am wheat,
willowy, golden brown stalks
swaying gently in the breeze,
basking in the amber glow of twilight.
I live
because a seed first died --
a small, hard piece of potential
buried in the soil of opportunity
I thrive,
through summer storms and sunshine,
delighting the prairie.
Harvest time:
From kernels gathered and crushed,
flour becomes dough,
kneaded with skillful hands,
pounded for a purpose.
I wait
and wait to rise and bake,
for timing is essential.
I am a crusty loaf,
carrying the delightful aroma
of fresh baked bread to the world
for the One who said, “I am the bread of life.”

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thankful Hearts

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

Thank you Lord, for all You are and all You have done for us. May my family, friends and readers be filled with joy and abundance during this season of thankfulness.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dare to Hope

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

This has been a week of challenges and cheers, trials and triumphs. In the past seven days, I've had reason to celebrate. My Dad had serious heart problems, was hospitalized and had surgery to open up 95% blockage. He is home recovering and we expect him to live many years to come. I am deeply thankful. A dear friend in Denver had her first baby, a girl. She and her husband have been trying to get pregnant for nearly five years. Finally, a baby! I am joyful with Tammy and Paul for the new baby, Ellianna Joy.

On the other hand, a woman I know from back home in Milwaukee lost her husband from a sudden heart attack in the middle of the night. He was only in his early 50s. Ed leaves a wife, two kids and a large extended family. A business associate's son, a 20-year old Nothwestern University student, has been missing for over a week. They found some of his belongings near Lake Michigan, but not him.

How do we cope? In the middle of our circumstances we can thank God for his blessings, and we can cry out for his healing hand to help us and those we love.

We can also have hope.

In Joyce Meyer's "The Allure of Hope," she explains that we need more than perspective, we need a new vision. "Perspective helps us cope, but coping is so much less than what our lives were made for. I can't imaging Jesus looking around at His twelve friends at the Last Supper and saying, 'You can have the peace I leave with you if you work really hard at keeping a good perspective on things.' No. He invites them to see differently, to see beyond. He says, 'My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.' (John 14:27)."

Hope runs to the heavenly Father, and holds on. Hope embraces His close presence and finds comfort in his nearness. Hope means less striving and more trust. Trust in the only One who has the power to make real changes and bring healing and life. Hope builds strength of character and changes us from the inside out.

Are you rejoicing today? Are you hurting today? Either way, take time to listen to God today. In the stillness, you find the "Trust Me" you need to find courage and strength in your time of need...and always.

Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for. Job 6:8

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

God Bless America

God Bless America!

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Finding Solid Ground in a Shaky World

Today at church our pastor talked about God’s steady faithfulness. In a world that is uncertain, unstable and shaky, he said we can “settle the issue” of where our strength and solid ground is found. Then we sang this song; it’s one of my favorites. Read the words, or listen to a few lines of it by clicking on the title of this post.

And remember the love…and power…and strength available to you that helps us to stand firm. No matter what.

In Christ alone…I will stand.

"In Christ Alone"

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

Friday, October 24, 2008

7 Ways to Change Your Life

They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. Psalm 145:6

Okay, so you want to lose weight but it just never seems to happen. Or you try to get out of debt, but your checkbook just isn't cooperating. Maybe you REALLY want to get rid of that bad habit that's been plaguing you for years, but like an unwelcome guest, it never quite leaves. Why is change so hard?

Whether you feel stuck in a job that no longer suits you, you're getting over a relationship that’s ended, adjusting to a new baby (or empty nest) or something else, change is not always easy. In fact, it can seem downright impossible.

I believe that real change is possible. Difficult, but not impossible.

Change is in the air here in Colorado as summer's green leaves show off their new fall fashions in crimson red, burnt orange and vivid yellow. This week it was warm and sunny one day, and another day it snowed. In mid-October! Abrupt changes are common here at the foothills of the Rockies. In fact, some say, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute."

Weather changes we may tolerate. Other changes not so much. We want things to be different, we really do. But whether you use the word change, alter, modify, vary, transform, or revolutionize, we often resist the very things that could help us, heal us or make our life better.


We resist change for myriad reasons: because we like things the way they are, because it takes effort, because we have no motivation or incentive, because we don’t think it’s in our best interest—or even if we do, we feel selfish, lazy, or we lack willpower. Sometimes we simply don’t want to attempt to change because we think we may fail, or we don’t have the energy, time, money, resources, (fill in the blank with your excuse of choice).

Say you really want to lose weight, for example, but you don’t want to give up your treats. Salty or sweet, you just don’t want to. So the number on the scale never budges--or it gets higher and higher. Argh!

Nothing changes if nothings changes. Yep, we've all heard that before. Here are some things I’ve learned about altering my life:

1) Do something, even if it's a small thing. Change often comes in baby steps. Just do ONE THING differently today, and then build on that momentum. Like eat a green vegetable with your French fries. Add healthy food to your diet, then takeaway the bad stuff. One thing.

2) Get motivated. I’ve heard that the two main motivations in life are FEAR and DESIRE. Going back to the losing weight example, we can choose to make changes in our eating and exercise level out of fear (I may get a major disease and die early, or worse), or desire (I want to be healthy, I want to look good and feel good about myself, or whatever the reason). What motivates you to make changes? Who can you ask—a trusted friend or family member—to help you stay accountable to making the step-by-step changes in your life?

3) Get inspired.
Chuck Swindoll once said that self discipline is “doing what you don’t want to do, so you can have what you’ve always wanted.” Hmm. I may not want to walk, go to the gym, or eat a lot of green stuff, but I really want to be healthy, fit into clothes I haven’t worn in years, avoid disease, and have more energy. It’s like the old saying “short term pain for long term gain.”

4) Choose wisely. Actions have consequences. If you don’t send out resumes or make phone calls, you’ll never get another job. If you don’t move your body and get some exercise, the shape stays the same. Someone I know once told me, “Everything is a choice, so choose wisely.”

5) Pray! Give your struggles to God and ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to help you. He is the only one who can make real and lasting changes in your life. When we are weak, He is strong in us. Prayer is the most important thing you can ever do to change your life.

6) Take a risk.
Behold the turtle who only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.

7) Perspective. Take a long view. The growing pains of change may seem hard, but they won’t last forever. It’s like being “under construction” in your life. When a road is being repaired, workers put up signs and orange safety cones. It looks like a total mess for a few weeks or months. But eventually, the work is done; and when it’s over, things run a lot more smoothly.

Change can be good. Moment by moment, and choice by choice it happens.

And then you start seeing positive results, and you feel really good. Success! Victory! Overcoming! Things really can be different. Even for you. I can almost see it now…just stay connected to the One who never changes and see what He can do.

You are the God who performs miracles;you display your power among the peoples. Psalm 77:14

Friday, October 17, 2008

Raspberry Memories

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

I had a bowl of fresh raspberries this morning. And when I took the very first bite of the little red fruit suddenly I was eight-years old again. I could see my younger self walking across the gravel road outside my grandparent’s cabin in the Wisconsin Northwoods toward a long patch of wild raspberries. We'd pick them and eat them with cereal or right from the vine when we just couldn't wait. I can still remember those long summer days of freedom and adventure--just me and my two sisters at my grandparent’s lake cottage every two weeks, every summer. Bliss!

I remember swimming in the lake until "our lips turned blue" as grandma would say. Walking through the woods with my nature-loving grandfather was a given; he’d point out different kinds of birds, plants and animals. He knew a lot and longed to share his knowledge of the land with us, but most of it didn't sink in. We were kids; we just wanted to have fun. However, I’ll never forget one important plant, the wintergreen. When you snap the firm leaf in two and it smells like gum! That one I can identify!

We'd take drives in the pine-covered countryside, visit animal farms, go horseback riding, or go into town for supplies. Minocqua was a quaint nearby tourist town with water-ski shows and Mass on the lake. Good little Catholic girls couldn't miss Mass, even in summer. Then we'd look at the shops lining the main street and buy trinkets with our allowances. Grandma would always want to stop and look at fall clothes and we just couldn't image why anyone could even THINK about autumn when summer was right here and ripe for the picking. I wanted to stay in my summer state of mind forever.

I remember the smell of Folgers’s coffee brewing early in the morning. As I chomped on my Frosted Flakes, I wondered why grownups drank the stuff when it tasted so bitter. Grandpa took us for boat rides on the lake, taught us to fish (he made us bait our own hooks, of course) and clean our catch. Grandma would fry them up for a fresh perch or bluegill dinner, complete with a baked potato and green salad. Yum.

After dinner we might take a short walk down the peninsula that jetted out into the water. As night fell, we could hear the distant sound of a loon singing his own unique tune and return, walking on a soft bed of pine needles and mossy green ground, to the cabin.

But back to the raspberries. Funny how a taste can incite a memory. Good memories. What foods give you good memories? What could you taste right now that would transport you back to a time that was happy, carefree, and wonder-filled? Today mine was a bowl of red raspberries. It sure felt good to be eight again.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Season of Surrender

"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

Autumn is a time of surrender. Green aspen leaves give way to bright yellow ones, which turn brown and waft slowly to the ground. The earth seems to close up shop as winter approaches.

Maybe it's a time of surrender in your life, too. You want something really badly and it just does not come. Perhaps it's a different job...or a special someone in your life...or a health concern you want to just go away...or even letting go of fear, doubt and worry.

Letting go is not natural for most of us. We keep tightly clenched fists around what we think we want. But that doesn't keep it from happening, or not happening.

Surrender is about opening each finger and holding, finally, open hands toward God. Only then can he fill them with the best things. In order to surrender, we must trust. Trust the One to whom you are giving all you hold most dear. In order to trust, we must KNOW and BELIEVE that the One we are trusting is good, and faithul...that He really does have in mind our good and does all for His glory.

The cool thing about surrender, is that you don't stay in that place forever. For after surrender comes resurection. A seed in the soil dies, and one day grows to be a beautiful, colorful flower. Likewise, all that seems dead in our lives (our hopes and dreams, or other things) may actually be merely dormant. Autumns losses turn to gain in the Spring when the world blooms again.

God didn't bring you this far just to leave you. He never leaves! He who began a good work will complete it. He finishes what he starts. Always.

What will you let go of in your life today? What will you surrender with open, trusting hands to God?

The answer He gives, may just surprise you.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Choosing Joy

I am happy today. On a Monday, at that. Driving home for lunch on this sunny-blue-sky autumn day I am content, peaceful. Not that I don’t have problems, mind you. Many things swirl in my head without answers or clear direction. But today it doesn’t seem to matter. Today I am happy.

Maybe it was last night’s good night’s sleep. Or maybe it was the refreshing joy of going to the mountains on Saturday and seeing the fall colors—groves of bright yellow aspen leaves dotting the evergreen covered landscapes. Perhaps it was the new worship CD my friend Tammy gave me that has me smiling today. (It’s called “Counting on God” from New Life Worship and its amazing!)

I have learned that the elusive “happiness” that everyone seeks is not a constant in life. It’s not a state one attains and camps at forever. Life happens. We have triumphs and tragedies, success and sadness. But in between the endless cycle of work, chores and errands, “happiness moments” come—big and small, surreal and tender, and oh so very good.

Happiness comes and goes, but only joy lasts.

No matter what direction the stock market goes, how the economy fares, what happens at work or with your relationships, health and finances, joy can still be present. You may not always feel like smiling. Laughter may not come. But real, deep-seated contentment joy can arise in any circumstance.

A long time ago, the prophet Habakkuk penned these words...

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the
stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17, 18 (italics mine)

While most of us are not farmers, we could still adapt the same idea for our world today. Though my checkbook is low on funds, though my retirement plan savings fluctuate with world events, though gas is so expensive and many things uncertain….I will be joyful.

I choose Joy.

What will you do?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Certainty in an Uncertain World

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." (Jeremiah 33:3)

One thing I have learned in this life is that God is smarter than me...He knows everything--even when I do not, even when there seems to be no way out. His wisdom is more vast than I can ever comprehend.

And that's okay with me!

In these uncertain times....the economy, the election, the high cost of living, and everything that's going on in your life and mine, these things I know for certain: that God is good and that He is faithful. He keeps His promises--all of them, all the time.

He has good plans for us (Jer. 29:11)

He longs to retore our health and bring healing (Jer. 30:17)

He gives comfort and joy from our sorrow (Jer. 31:13)

He provides HOPE (Jer. 31:17)

He loves us, cares for us, longs to be close to us more than we know (Jer. 31:3,4)

Whatever you are facing today, may God give you strength. Because you know what? Nothing is too hard for him. He said it Himself, "I am the LORD, the God of all mankind, is anything too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:27)

Stand strong, and know (whether you feel it or not), that all will be well. All will be well.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Unchangeable One

It's a season of change. The last days of summer are waving goodbye as autumn approaches next week. Seasons change, life changes. People move away. Start new jobs. Enter new relationships. Lose weight, gain weight. Birth babies. Send kids to college. End tours of duty. Begin again.

Our political climate is changing. And wildly. Things will be significantly different a few months from now. Wall Street is a roller coaster this week. And many people I know are having significant changes in their lives. A friend's husband dies at age 42. Another friend learns she has a life-altering illness. Still another decides to move to another state.

Thankfully, God never changes. He is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow. May He be our steady rock, the One we can lean on and count on through all life's changes and transitions.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Good Quote

"I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God; first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done." Hudson Taylor

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Rest of God -- An Excellent Read

Need rest? I mean real, deep, soul-satisfying rest? Here's an excellent book by Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (W Publishing Group).

When it comes to a word we don't use often these days like Sabbath, some explanation is needed. Buchanan says that it's more than a day we set aside, it's "an attitude to nurture such stillness." It's rest that is physical, mental, spiritual, but also "the rest of God--the things of God's nature and presence that we miss in our busyness." Rest, he continues, is as essential to our well-being as food and water. That gives me pause to think. Without food and water I will die. Without rest, I will die on the inside.

What if?

What if the rest God gives us changed everything? What if we decided to take time to change our thinking about real rest? Buchanan says:

"It's spend most of your life breaking Sabbath and never figure out that this is part of the reason your work's unsatisfying, your friendships patchy, your leisure threadbare, your cavations exhausting.

"We simply haven't taken time. We've not been still long enough, often enough, to know ourselves, our friends, our family. Our God. Indeed, the worst hallucination busyness conjures is the conviction that I am God. All depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I'm not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying?

"Sabbath-keeping requires two orientations. One is Godward. The other is timeward. To keep Sabbath well--as both a day and an attitude--we have to think clearly about God and freshly about time...Unless we trust God's sovereignty, we won't dare risk Sabbath. And unless we receive time as abundance and gift, not as ration and burden, we'll never develop a capacity to savor Sabbath."

Rest comes for those who have confidence and trust, and know deep down that God really is good. He really is in control and He, not us, makes the world turn every day.

Check out this book at your library or bookstore. It could change your life. It certainly changed mine.

"Be still, and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Is a Balanced Life Really Possible?

Life can be hectic. For many of us, there always seems to be a lot to do and never enough time. We take pride in getting stuff done—the more the better. The daily cycle of work, chores, and errands can seem endless. We want things to be different, but we don’t know how to get to a better place. So we press on, Starbucks in hand, while the long hours and stress begin to take their toll on our life, health and emotions.

For others, days are empty, long and monotonously boring, with a lack of life purpose or vision. Either way, we can be out of balance. Yet, the question remains:

Amidst the busyness of life, is it really possible to find balance?

The concept of “balance” is often portrayed with the old-fashioned weighing scale. Tipped to one side, unbalanced; perfectly level, the scales are balanced. But if your life was like a scale, how often would it be perfectly perfect? An hour, a moment, a few short seconds?

Indeed, perhaps there is another way.

Jill Briscoe once told me that we should strive for a life that is CENTERED, not BALANCED. Centered on God, we discover who we are. A daughter, a son, a child of God. Centered on God, we find our purpose, our callings in life. We find freedom, hope, identity, peace. We find a faithful God who helps us sort out priorities and have the power and energy to be the best person we can possibly be. We find real rest.

Work is good, but we also need time for cultivating relationships, enjoying life, having fun, serving others, knowing God, and yes, time for taking care of ourselves. Someone once told me, “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

The truth is you only have so much time and energy, what are you going to use it on? What are your priorities? What plumps up your soul and nourishes your life? Do you have space—some time in your life—to think, ponder, or to just “be”?

Why not take some time this weekend to renew and energize. When you do, you’ll be able to get more done and feel refreshed, when you get back to it. If you take the time to take time, the results could be positively life-changing: a heart at peace, more joy, increased energy, better relationships, more productivity at work and ministry, and more.

Pray. Rest. Talk to God—and go get your life back.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Boundaries in Nature

I live in the land-locked state of Colorado and sometimes I miss the water. Before I moved here I lived six blocks from Lake Michigan, our own little ocean. From my east side house, I could easily walk to the beach and feel my feet on the wet sand, hear the soothing lilt of the waves and the caw of the seagulls overhead.

Today I walked on the beach in Denver. Weird, huh? Yep, there’s a place—Cherry Creek Reservoir—with water, sand and mountains in the distance. I enjoyed the familiar hum of motor boats and jet skis. I smiled at the sailboats drifting along on a Sunday afternoon. As I breathed in the fresh air and felt the warm sun on my shoulders, I noticed a few aspens leaves turning gold on a trees replete with green ones. Can it really be September already?

I love watching the rhythmic cadence of the waves. In and out, in and out. It never ceases. How, wondered, do the waves know when to stop? Why don’t they keep going farther up the shoreline?

Then I remembered…

In his dialogue with Job (as in my-life-is-totally-falling-apart Job of the Old Testament), God reminded him that He was the one who created and commanded nature. God is the one who said, “…This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt?” (Job 38:11)

Boundaries in nature.

It comforts me to know that God is in control. That there is order, structure, and design in nature, as well as freedom, creativity and beauty. May your life resonate with the sights and sounds of God’s handiwork in your life—as Keats says, “a thing of beauty and a joy forever.”

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Trusting When You Cannot See the Way

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5, 6

Someone very wise penned those words thousands of years ago and they still apply today. So many times in life we ask, "What am I doing?" or "Where am I going with my life?" Like a path set before us with no end in sight, we often stand there, frozen. What causes us to feel stuck? Why is it so hard to move forward sometimes?


Maybe we're afraid we will make the wrong choice, take the wrong path and miss it. Maybe we are afraid of success. Maybe uncertainty has us in its ugly grip and we just don't know how to let go.

First, Joyce Meyer has a great saying. When we worry and fret about thinking "What if I miss God? What if I make the wrong decision?" She says with a smile, "If you miss God, He'll find you!"

God is smarter than us, wiser, totally in control and never drops the ball. We can rest secure in knowing that if we surrender, obey and trust Him. He will lead and guide our lives. He does it. We do our part; He does his part. Our part is to trust and obey.

Trust. Release. Surrender. Let go of fear, worry, doubt. Unwrap each finger and hold open hands upward to God. And He will fill them with the blessings of heaven...and all He has for you.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Learning to Rest

Life can be crazy. Many people’s to-do list is never ending: work, errands, chores, family, friends, hobbies, ministry, and more. Is it possible, amidst the frenzy of life, to learn to enjoy the fruits of our labor?

How do you balance rest and work?For me, it’s being in the beauty of nature, God’s creation, and being with those I love most. I find my soul calms and worries fade when I:

see the afternoon sunlight dancing like diamonds on the lake,
or a full, white moon rise in the night sky...
or laugh with friends.

Jesus sees, hears and knows our needs. He calls, beckons us from busyness to come and rest. Sometimes we just need to listen…and follow.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Are You Living Your Dreams?

Last night I went to a "Dream Dinner" at my friend Judy's house. Ten of us were gathered around a table on her deck looking out at multi-colored wildflowers, a collection of bird feeders and the late summer sun saying goodnight over the mountains.

We gathered to talk about our dreams and goals...what we wanted to do when we were kids, if we'd achieved some of those dreams or not--and why. I shared how I wanted to be a writer and live in Colorado, and now I do. Another woman shared how she had always wanted to go to seminary, and she did. Others had dreams deferred or broken. Like marriages ended or careers changed in midstream due to circumstances beyond their control

Sometimes we think our dreams are DEAD. Game over. The End. But often, our dreams are merely DORMANT, like a seed in the soil which has not yet grown above the surface. Here's a poem I wrote about dormant dreams that turn into dreams realized:

Dormant Dreams

Desires and dreams encased in a seed,
Released in the black earth of faith.
Time to let go of what I think I need,
And hold on to the hope of His grace.

Longingly gazing at empty brown dirt,
Can’t make your dreams grow any faster.
For the seed in the soil is dormant, not dead.
Look up, to the face of the Master.

Call out for courage, have patience, have faith!
A mystery’s unveiling, my friend.
For a small, simple seed can yield sunflower gold.
Surely, this isn’t the end.

In the fullness of time, resurrection.
The earth births a tender young shoot.
Nurtured and tended with strong, loving hands
The flower grows deep, solid roots.

And the seedling unfolds to a blossom,
Pure artistry formed in the dark.
In His perfect timing the Harvester brings
Fruition to desires of the heart.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

What are your dreams and goals for your life? Are you living them? What's blocking you? Take some time to ponder and pray this weekend. Remember, God is always at work in our lives and He finishes what He starts!

...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -- Philippians 1:6

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Endings and New Beginnings

Summer is slowly fading like the evening sun behind the Rocky Mountains. One season is ending and another beginning. I've never been good with endings, especially in relationships. But I've learned a lot over the years and I'm writing a book to help others like me. It's called, "When Love Ends" and it's geared for singles of all ages. I'm creating a new website for it now.

So, what's worked for you? What are some ways you've coped with a breakup?

Be encouraged. It may feel like the darkest night, but your New Day will come. "the LORD turns my darkness into light." 2 Samuel 22:29

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sunrise: A Reminder of God's Faithfulness

Every morning it happens. Here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the first fingers of sunlight inch across the prairie and turn on the footlights to light up the day. The sun’s rays beam from the east illuminating snow-capped Pikes Peak, revealing (most days) a clear blue sky, and always...a new beginning.

The recurrent sunrise reminds us of God’s faithfulness. Day after day, season after season He is with you. He goes before you. He loves you. More than you know. He takes care of your every need. Maybe not in your way or in your timing, but faithful He is. And always will be. “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:9, emphasis added).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's a Brand New Day!

Welcome to A New Day Cafe....

It's a place to feed your soul and refresh your life. Just like your favorite cafe where you can find fresh hot coffee, home-baked muffins, chocolate treats and even delicious meals that satisfy, A New Day Cafe is a place to get fed every day.

Here, you'll find encouragement to feed your spirit...uplifting verses and quotes...thoughts for the day...and other words and images to get you going! Every day is a new day to find more JOY, PEACE and POWER to live this life. Start here.

A cafe is also a place to gather, to build community and find connection and friendship. I hope you'll find warmth and welcome here. for more to come.