Thursday, March 31, 2011

Courage When You Need it Most


Have courage,
Have faith!
For God has a plan.
Don’t the sun, moon and stars
Heed the Master’s command?

His plan’s not to harm you,
But help you succeed,
To guide you and heal you
And give what you need.

Don’t worry, don’t doubt.
Just simply believe,
By the power of the Spirit
Who wants you to live.

Remember the good things
He’s done in the past,
For you and for others;
Let go of your grasp --
That things should turn out
The way you think they’ll be.
For His plans are much greater,
Though now you can’t see.

Yes, walking by faith
Is hard for the blind.
But He’ll lead you to good things
And in time you will find
That the King of the heavens
And Lord of the earth
Will give you the best things
When you put Him first.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Light in the Darkness: Finding Hope After a Relationship Breakup

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 story has a beginning and an end, and often the healing process is like the cycle of a day.

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 and learn 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? If so, “When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty” (Moody Publishing) can help you to get through the pain and find life—and joy—again.

The hopeful truth is God heals brokenness; He 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.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Freedom and Peace on the Road of Life

No matter what you are going through--or have just come through--there is hope. Hope that one day things will be better. More joy, less pain. More freedom and peace.

There is a new road: Following God's path instead of going the way of what we think will satisfy. It may be unfamiliar at first, maybe a bit different than what you're used to, but ultimately...satisfying...good...very good.

Be encouraged, the journey of life takes many twists and turns, but if you're following the One who loves you most, all will be well in the end.

A New Road to Follow

Come forth from the darkness and into the sun.
My child, do you know that a new day has dawned?
The chains that have held you are loose; you are free!
Go forth on a new path. Get up; follow Me.

For I’ll show you a new way, a new road to trod.
It’s long and it’s winding and, at first, may seem odd.
But I will be with you. Child, come take my hand.
Get ready to enter the new Promised Land.

I know you have been in your Egypt too long.
In bondage, oppression and not very strong.
Throw off your sadness, your fear and distress.
It’s time to be different, it’s time to be blessed.

To know the truth and to be set free,
To learn and become all that you’re meant to be.
To walk in a new way – in freedom and might.
To walk daily by faith and not by sight.

The desert will bloom once again and rejoice!
But remember, my child, that you have a choice:
To live by My words; to trust and obey.
In step with the Spirit, I’ll show you the way.

With power and purpose your life will be strong,
For the joy of the Lord will be your new song.
Come forth from the darkness and into the sun.
My child, it is true – a new day has dawned!

-- --Jackie M. Johnson

Friday, March 25, 2011

Are We Dating or Just Friends? Discerning the Difference

Have you ever wondered, “Where do I stand?” Are we dating or just friends? I call it “The Unknown Zone,” the peculiar place between friendship and dating where you don’t really know what your relationship is—it hasn’t been defined.

Not really. It may turn into something real and lasting, or it may not. How can you know when he doesn’t communicate or his signals are mixed?

Michelle McKinney Hammond gets to the heart of the matter in The Unspoken Rules of Love. “If he does not ask you to have an exclusive relationship with him, assume that you are not in one.”

The guy needs to be initiating and pursuing you. If not, she continues, “Consider and enjoy your other options. Do not behave as if you are in a committed relationship when you are not. Doing so will only entangle your heart and set you up for disappointment and heartbreak. If he doesn’t tell you he wants to be in a committed relationship, consider yourself officially ‘just a friend.’”

Entangled. Yikes. That’s a hard place to be—not really in a real relationship and full of uncertainty.

A pastor I know once said, “The proof of desire is in the pursuit.” If a man wants to get to know you, you will know his intentions. You won’t have to guess. Don’t give him excuses like maybe he’s busy, maybe he’s shy, maybe he’s had a family crisis, or maybe (fill in the blank).

Bottom line: For whatever reason (you don’t even have to know what it is) if he is not pursuing you, then you need to let it go. March forward with your life and trust God for the right man for you.

Sure, it may be hard to let go. But when you do, you free yourself up for the Real Thing. Don’t settle for something, don’t even settle for “sorta good” when God want the very BEST for you.

And when the right one for you comes along, you’ll know—-because he will show you and tell you.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dating Again: The Adventure of New Beginnings

"A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are meant for.”

Ships are designed to go somewhere; they are for adventures, not dry dock.

Certainly, ships may need to be pulled out of the water for needed repairs at times. But the vessel doesn’t stay in the quiet harbor forever. It was designed for much greater purposes. In stormy weather or smooth seas, it sails on.

Yet people who’ve had their heart broken often want to stay in the safety of the harbor of isolation or not pursuing new relationships. They don’t want to set sail in the high seas of love again. It’s too scary. I might get hurt. I don’t want to start all over again.

Yeah, I’ve heard all the excuses. I’ve even made a few myself.

Sure, beginning again can be challenging. You’ve been hurt and you don’t want to risk having your heart broken again. You’ve gotten used to the still waters of the harbor; it’s quiet, comfortable and safe.

But it’s existing, not living.

And it takes a leap of faith to put the boat out to sea again. Here’s a good way to look at it: “The leap of faith always means loving without expecting to be loved in return, giving without wanting to receive, inviting without hoping to be invited, holding without asking to be held,” said Henri Nouwen in The Return of the Prodigal Son.

Instead of a blind leap, you take an informed leap of faith when you know who is steering the ship of your life. If God is your Captain, then trust is built and fear subsides because you know that He is entirely reliable, dependable and true. And He is yours.

As you learn to trust again, and take purposeful and prayerful risks, things will change. And maybe this time, it will be different. Journey on. With your competent and seasoned Captain, who knows what adventures await?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reconnecting with Vision and Purpose for Your Life

God has uniquely crafted you to fulfill His good purposes. In addition to serving others, we were made to enjoy God and find and fulfill our callings in work, ministry, and life.

But sometimes we can be weighed down with the heavy rocks of grief, anger or unresolved conflict. We may be carrying a grudge, feelings of inferiority, or a self-centered versus and other-centered orientation. Whatever the rocks are that you carry, they may be holding you back from moving forward.

Maybe you think you’re not good at anything. You may think you don't have any special talents-—at least ones that have not yet been recognized. When you think you can’t, when you think that you have nothing to offer, remember what someone told me recently, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”

When God calls you to do something, you can either hang up and ignore it, or you can listen, step out in faith, and allow Him to furnish the resources you’ll need to get the job done.

You were created by God and for Him. (Colossians 2:16). He crafted you with your unique intellect, creativity, and personality to use your talents and develop your gifts. “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:4-8).

I’ve heard that baseball players mentally prepare themselves for a game by picturing in their mind the steps they will take during the game to win it. They see themselves winning it. What do you envision for the next stage of your life? For years down the road? Why not picture yourself joyful. Envision laughing with friends, enjoying family, and doing what you love best.

What is your passion? What do you dream of doing in life, work or ministry? Take some time to find out what your spiritual gifts are so you can use them. Consider getting a life coach to help you sort out your choices. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

God is calling you to something new in this next season of your life, what will your answer be?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top 5 Lessons from “The Bachelor”

Well, this season of “The Bachelor” on ABC is over, but the emotions can linger for days. Whether you wanted Emily Maynard (the Southern blonde) or Chantal O’Brien (the Seattle brunette) to win, there was a lot of drama in the season finale this week.

Every time I watch this show I notice something about human nature. Many times, I want to walk right up to the women who are rejected and say, “Sure you feel lousy right now. Rejection hurts. But it’s what you DO with your emotions that will make the difference.”

I want to tell them a whole lot more, mind you, but instead I will share my observations with you. Here are five life lessons we can apply to our own lives gleaned from the women who put theirs on national television.

1)Handling rejection. Most of the rejected women riding away from the mansion in the limo often say, “What is wrong with me?” When the real question is: What are you telling yourself about this situation? Whether it was love or like, or just a crush, when the guy rejects you it’s not always about you. He is just trying to find the person who’s the “best fit” for him. Just as you should be looking for the best fit for your needs, personality, lifestyle and more. You can sob and tell yourself, “No one wants to be with me.” or you can say, “Wow, that hurt. But some day someone will appreciate all that I have to offer. I am worth being loved well!”

Say it with me, “I am worth being loved well.”

2)Deception. Okay, if you have watched this show or the companion show, “The Bachelorette” for any length of time you know that a modicum of deception is part of the show. When Chantal said, “How could I be so deceived?” I feel for her. She was in love with Brad Wommack. But, she didn’t know how he felt about the other person left at the end of the show. That’s because, on some level, Brad had to keep showing both women affection and attention when he knew in his heart he was gaga in love with Emily.

It’s a TV show, and Mike Fleiss (the producer) has to make “good television.” That means drama. And that means the bachelor has to play the game until the very end, even if it means hurting someone like lovely Chantal.

To his credit, Brad doesn’t seem to want to hurt anyone, but it’s part of the show. You have to play the game. And he did.

3)Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to. At the “After the Final Rose” show Chantal asked Brad, “When did you know you wanted to be with her?” (meaning Emily, the woman he proposed to). He paused. Yep, he liked (or loved) Emily for a bajillion episodes, and Chantal had no idea. Notice how he didn’t really answer her. Enough said.

4)Always carry a purse. Did you ever notice how these women on “The Bachelor” never carry a purse! Perfect hair, makeup, and stunning dress, but no place to put the Kleenex you will need later on. Most women I know ALWAYS carry a purse, unless they are being wheeled into major surgery.

5)Know that there are different kinds of love and love does not always lead to marriage. Our American culture has only one word for love, while the Greeks had quite a few. Like PHILEO, which means “friendship love.” Can you say, Ashley H. She was fun and playful and it seemed like she was more of a good, close friend to Brad. How about AGAPE, that’s deep love but not marriage love. Enter Chantal. Brad loved her, but he had EROS love, “romantic love” with Emily.

Even though love does not always lead to marriage, it’s worth loving others. Don’t close your heart even when you’ve been hurt. Because one day, maybe soon, the right one for YOU will pursue you, will want you….and if you keep your heart open, and be ready, it might just be something great.

Chantal said, “Everything happens for a reason.” I couldn’t’ agree more. Have faith. Believe.

And watch what happens!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Feeling Blue? Cheer Yourself up By Serving Others

I think it was Mark Twain who said, “The best way to cheer your self up is to try to cheer somebody else up."

Barbara found that to be true after a relationship ended in her life. She discovered that serving others took the focus off herself and her own problems while also building God’s kingdom. She said, “It felt right, and it gave me purpose.”

Despite her circumstances Barbara found that when she was blessing others with acts of service and kindness, God blessed her with joy. Instead of waiting for another man to come around, she could “wait on” or serve others. “Like a waitress who serves other people, I can wait on God while waiting on God.” she concluded.

The Bible says that whatever we do for others, we essentially do for Jesus Christ. (Matt. 25:40) I have to remember that my life is not just about me. It’s more than that. God created us for Himself and part of that is serving other people.

The reason we serve, though, is not because good works will save our souls. No, God gave us grace for that. It’s not to earn points for favor with God. We serve others because God asks us to, and because He has done so much for us. It is out of a heart of delight, not just duty that we choose to serve others.

So we go on mission trips, not just to tell, but to demonstrate love to a ten-year-old boy in the Czech Republic who has never heard of God’s love. We show up on Saturday mornings at the rescue mission to serve food to those who don’t have enough eat. Or even, like my friend Anne, offer to drive our non-churched friends to church so they can hear the truth and be forever changed.

“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10)

Think of the Christian life as a two-sided sponge—the spongy side absorbs the water and the rough, green side scrubs. Likewise, we absorb God’s truth (through reading the Bible, hearing a speaker, or reading a book, for example) and then we go out and serve. First the Word, then the work.

You may be surprised at the divine appointments God puts in your path as you open your eyes to the needs around you. It doesn’t even have to be an organized service project. Serving can include something as simple as being kind to the woman behind the counter at the dry cleaners. When you take the time to say “hello” and smile, even when you think you are in too much of a hurry, it can make a difference in one person’s day.

Dwight L. Moody once said "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And that which I can do, by the grace of God, I will do."

What are you willing to do to serve God by serving others today? Joy is just around the corner…I can see it coming.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How About More JOY in Your Life?

As you get further down the heart healing road from breakup pain to brighter days, joy returns. You remember how good it feels to laugh again.

You awaken from the dark times that have been consuming you, and you remember what you really enjoy—like listening to jazz music, spending more time outdoors, or riding your bike—whatever lifts your spirits.

For me, a delight is like a “raspberry moment.” It happens when I eat fresh raspberries because I have good memories associated with eating them.

It’s funny how one bite of the little red fruit and suddenly I am eight-years old again. I can see my little girl self walking across the gravel road in front of my grandparent’s summer cabin in the Wisconsin north woods toward a long patch of wild raspberries.

We'd pick them and eat them on cereal or right from the vine when we just couldn't wait. I can get lost in thinking about those long summer days of freedom and adventure--just me and my two sisters with my maternal grandparent’s every two weeks, every summer.


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.

We’d swim in the lake for hours and go on nature hikes with my grandpa. He’d take us for boat rides, and teach us to fish and clean our catch. Grandma would fry up the fresh perch or bluegill for dinner.

Then we might take a short walk down to the peninsula that jetted out into the lake on soft ground covered with pine needles and moss. As night fell, you could hear the distant sound of a loon singing his own unique tune.

Good memories.

But back to the raspberries. Is there something in your life that’s a “raspberry moment” for you? Is there something that makes you feel really good when you think about it and fills you with joy?

It's time to find your bliss.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Waking Up to the Rest of Your Life: Gratitude

Your breakup is over. You’ve been processing the pain, feeling your feelings, forgiving, letting go, and more. Now what?

It’s time to “wake up” to the rest of your life.

In the last blog post we talked about rebuilding connection and community, not being isolated and finding friendships again.

You’ve been through a lot to get from darkness to day in your journey from breakup to better days. You’ve survived disappointment, discouragement and maybe even depression. When you arise to gratitude, your heart soars higher than your circumstances.

“Thank you for all you have done for me, Lord!” is the cry of a grateful heart.

As you chart a new course in life, remember the darkness from which you came and thank God for the light—the goodness, peace and joy—you finally have in your heart. Even if all the hurt has not yet been loved away, thank Him for how far you’ve come.

Here are some good verses to remember about thankfulness:

Give thanks always.
“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:20)

Give thanks because God is good.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1)

Give thanks for God’s unfailing love.
“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.” (Psalm 107:13-15)

Give thanks because we have victory. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Lord, thank you for a new day. In this new season of my life, help me learn to live “beyond the breakup” and move forward. You have done so much for me and I am truly thankful. Will you help me to wake up to the rest of my life and build community and friendships, find more joy, serve others, awaken to vision and purpose for my life, and trust again. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

After a Breakup: Finding Connection and Community Again

After a breakup singles often feel lonely or disconnected from other people. Isolation can lead to a lack of motivation, and a lot less joy. Instead of trying to be tough and self-sufficient, it’s important to realize that it’s okay to rely on others, especially people who are affirming, accepting, and trustworthy.

We were created for connection. Yet oftentimes we don’t have the energy for it if we are too focused on our own problems, or we haven’t taken the time to develop quality friendships.

Sadly, TV shows can become a quick fix for company since these people show up in your living room at least once a week. But TV is only a one-way connection.

Our pastor once said that if God can separate you from authentic community then you are easy prey for the enemy because you are isolated and alone. Whether it’s with your family, friends, church, book club, Bible study, sports team, community theatre group, scrapbooking club, or other types of community, we all need real, live human contact.

Of course, solitude can be healing and we all need some time to ourselves, but we need to find a balance between being alone and being with other people—-not just with online friends, but face-to-face personal interaction.

Indeed, restoration often comes within relationships. Being in healthy and supportive relationship other than dating connections can be very healing. As people treat you with kindness and treat you well they reinforce the truths you’ve learned that you are worthy and have infinite value.

We get stronger and sharper as we connect with others, and follow Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Plus, you may be able to help someone else in their time of need after their breakup because you can relate and empathize. You can offer them hope and comfort, and help bring healing to others from your own wounding and heart healing path.

When Erica went through a painful divorce she was fortunate to have church members who provided practical help as well as a lot of support and encouragement.

People were constantly giving her invitations to their home for meals and fellowship. It helped her to feel less sad and alone, and very loved by her church community as they modeled Christ to her.

Some of the men in the church volunteered to work on her home (which was in disrepair) and mow her lawn. One of the deacons was a CPA and he helped her with financial planning after the divorce. In addition, she received lots of prayer and letters of encouragement. Erica was extremely grateful as her church loved her in a way she’d never felt loved before.

In fact, what the church did for Erica was a testimony to the community. As she went through the grieving process and was supported in such tangible and kind ways, those outside the church looked on in wonder and amazement.

It kind of makes me want to cry tears of joy for the help and support she received.

Bottom line: Don’t try to do this life on your own. Connect, and you will find much more joy and satisfaction in life!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Breakup Repair: Spring Cleaning Your Heart

Recently I was driving downtown and spotted the city's old train station across the street. It had once been a bustling transportation hub, but over time the facility was abandoned and fell into disrepair.

Years later someone had the bright idea to renovate the old building, and now the once defunct train station has been transformed into offices and stylish lofts.

Transformation. Change.

Hmmm…It was time for some fixing up in my own life too.

After a breakup a few years ago, I had been so consumed with my own misery and getting over a guy that I almost forgot who I was and what I wanted-—and what God wanted for me.

Slowly I began to wake up and remember that, among other things, I wanted to write, to travel, and to get my finances in order so I could be a generous giver. I wanted to feel joy again.

I could tell a fresh wind of change was blowing in my life because as I emerged from the breakup blues, I suddenly got the urge to spring clean everything-—and it wasn’t even springtime!

I got rid of clothes that no longer fit or were no longer in style. I wanted to redecorate and did a few small things to my place. I was changing and I wanted my environment around me to change too.

Is it time for new purposes, new visions, and new dreams in your life?

Are there things you want to change? Like a winter coat in July, it may be time to shed some old ways of thinking, like negative self talk or put downs. Maybe you want to lose weight or take a class—not because some guy is telling you to change, but because you want to do it for yourself.

Take this time to focus on what you want to be different in your life: get in touch with friends, learn more about how men work, or update your wardrobe. Out with the old, in with the new!

No matter what you discard, don’t ever throw away the outfit that looks good on everyone and never goes out of style: “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14, emphasis mine)

Moving forward, making changes, and living beyond your breakup begins as you wake up to the rest of your life, and arise to:




serving others,

vision and purpose, and

adventure—learning to trust again and take risks.

There is more, and the rest of your life is waiting!