Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Coming Out of the Dark: Dare to HOPE

Where I live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, sunrise can be spectacular.

The first light of day crawls across the eastern plains, increasing in brightness to reveal—like footlights on a stage—the splendor of the majestic snow-capped Pikes Peak.

The sun bids the darkness farewell, and the earth awakens. It is a fresh start; a new day.
Perhaps you feel like you’ve been living in the dark for some time. Or emotionally sleepwalking, going through the motions of life, but you’re not fully aware or awake on the inside. You may be physically present but not engaging conversationally with people or with life.

You don’t really want to wake up on the inside because you don’t want to feel the pain and it’s just easier to numb out. Your circumstances still seem dark so maybe you think it’s only natural to sleep on the inside.

But now, it’s time to get up. 

Choosing to have hope is a “one prayer at a time; one choice at a time” path that leads to a more whole and healthier attitude and life. You start out by taking your first steps.

As you walk on, roadblocks may come your way, but you navigate obstacles with God’s help. As you choose to follow and keep following, you learn to listen and obey God’s words, and take action.
You also have a sense of destination that you’re on your way to a better place—the abundant life—the rich, full life Jesus promised us in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  

The abundant life is not about accumulating stuff, it’s learning to walk in victory, not being a victim to circumstances, and finding satisfaction and joyful confidence because you know who you are and Whose you are.

By taking one step, and then another and another, you leave the old place of brokenness and rubble and walk with FAITH not fear into the future.

Fresh hope delivered daily

Every morning the sun rises; every day the Lord delivers fresh hope. Despite the discouragement and difficulties, you can look back at all God has done in the past in other areas of your life—how He’s kept His promises and has been faithful to keep his word—and you can look forward with hope for good things to come in the future.

A new sunrise, and bright hope.

“Yet this I call to mind
     and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
     for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
     great is your faithfulness.”             

       Lamentations 3:21-23



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The WAITING is the Hardest Part - 5 Things You Need to Know about Waiting Well

The next step in getting over a life loss or breakup has to do with a four-letter word many people don’t like to talk about: wait. Waiting—and learning to wait well.
Most of us don’t like to wait. In fact, we live in a world that promotes an instant-minded culture through commercials, radio spots and online ads. Act now! Get what you want when you want it! We are saturated with that message every day. We can fill our cupboards with instant oatmeal or instant soup, but when we try to get instant heart healing from a breakup or loss, we wind up unfulfilled and still hungry.
During seasons of waiting in our lives we learn that:
  1. Waiting is active. Waiting is more than just passing time; and it is not doing nothing. It’s trusting and having faith that the One who delights us in giving will provide what is best for each of us.
  2. We wait on God, not man. Waiting on God, not on a man, or yourself makes all the difference. God had good purposes, so your waiting is not in vain. You don’t have to be afraid that God will forget. He knows.
  3. Waiting draws us closer to God. Enduring delay builds intimacy and a closer relationship with Him. Jerome Daley in When God Waits says, “God’s greatest purpose in seasons of waiting is to draw you close to himself, to reveal the depth of his commitment to you, and to equip you for your destiny.”
  4. Waiting is for a purpose. God uses the seemingly dead times in our lives to heal, replenish and prepare our hearts for the next season in our lives.
  5. God keeps perfect time. Things unfold “in the fullness of time,” when He is ready, when circumstances are ready, or when we are ready. You can’t tell a newborn baby to run a marathon and then be disappointed when he does not. It’s not time yet. He has to grow up first, and gain strength and muscle.
Even though we don’t like to wait, we can trust that God has good reasons for delays. We may not always understand what He is doing and why, but God wants us to obey his commands—not because He is a tough taskmaster, but to protect us and guide us. In learning obedience, we also learn wisdom.

The truth is God is God, and we will never fully know His reasons. But we can take comfort in the fact that He is good, loving and faithful—and he is always at work, even in the dark, putting together the pieces of our lives for His good purposes.


Monday, January 21, 2013

The Power of Forgiveness


To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable,
because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
C.S. Lewis

Henri Nouwen once said, “When a wound is healed, there still can be some leftover pain.”

Left behind pain comes in all sorts of ways. It could be due to a divorce (your parents or your own), a death in the family, a family member’s illness, a rape, or abuse (physical, sexual or emotional).

Even if it wasn’t a traumatic experience, people hurt each other all the time in large and small ways. Often, because men and women tend to see life through completely different filters, we end up hurting each other without meaning to or knowing it. Even little hurts and repeated disappointments can pile up and turn into a mountain of resentment.

Forgiveness is the key to healing
A major key that heals brokenness (of all kinds) is forgiving past pain, either forgiving the person who hurt you or forgiving yourself—or both. 

When you feel wronged, you think the other person owes you something. They owe you an apology, an explanation, a childhood, a relationship or a marriage. Whatever it is, you are holding them prisoner, but you are the one with the pain.

Andy Stanley says that when you do not forgive, it’s as if you hold that person hostage in your heart. You take them out once in a while, beat them up, and put them back. Instead, he says, we are to, in a sense, release the person and say, “You don’t owe me.”

Easier said than done, right?

Here is the key. Forgiveness is not acting like everything is okay. It does not mean that you condone what happened, agree with it or like it.

You are not overlooking the offense or excusing it, and you are definitely not letting the offender off the hook for their words or actions. Instead, you’re putting them on God’s hook, and trusting God to deal with it fairly because He said He would.

Oh, that person is still on the hook for what they’ve done. They’re just not on YOUR hook for justice—they’re on God’s hook.

As you release the person who’s wronged you to God, He ensures justice is served; not you. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

Indeed, the God of unconditional love is also our advocate for justice.

Forgiveness comes in time, not always right away. Sometimes we have to grieve it first, and pray that we can feel it. How do you forgive?

* Acknowledge you have been hurt. “I have been wronged.”

* Receive God’s forgiveness. “I have been wrong, too. I need forgiveness.”

* Choose to forgive. “I’m wrestling with why I should I forgive him?”

* Release to God in prayer—and forgive. “Because God has forgiven me, I will forgive him.”

Because God has first forgiven us, He commands us to forgive others. Ephesians 4:31, 32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Forgiveness is an act of your will; it is a choice. And doing so releases you!

What is binding you—bitterness, anger, resentment, or offense?  Perhaps it’s time to release your vice grip hold and forgive. Give God your thirst, your ache, and your needs.

As you choose to forgive and release, you will find freedom and peace.

(To find out more about forgiveness, check out "When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty" by Jackie M. Johnson. Also available in Kindle format.)



Friday, January 18, 2013

After a Loss or Breakup: God's Love Changes Everything

Loss of any kind is difficult. But what can we learn from our losses? One of the best gifts we learn is how much God loves us.

Many, many years ago a man named Job suffered greatly. Through the losses, lack, physical pain, embarrassment, and more this good, honest man was being tested and refined. You can read the whole story in the Bible’s book of Job.

Just as gold is refined by intense heat, the heat was on in Job’s life. Finally, he prayed and poured out his heart and troubles to God. And God spoke, confronting Job’s ignorance with an amazing answer about God’s greatness.

Humbled and amazed, Job answered back. “Then Job replied to the LORD: "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted…My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you(Job 42:1-6).

Bottom line? The man had heard about God, but now Job had experienced the LORD firsthand and he was never the same again.

Love changes everything.

No matter how hard life is, we need to know “the unchanging truth of who God is and what He’s accomplished for us”—the true character of the One who “reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.” (Job 12:22)

In your own personal night time—when you feel sad, lonely, or in angst over lost love or dating defeats—God provides light for the way to your new beginning. When you know more about who God is (His character), what He has done and is doing even now, then your response to Him and to your circumstances changes dramatically.

To experience God’s amazing ways on deeper levels we need to “forget not all his benefits.” (Psalm 103:2).

Like unconditional acceptance. Despite our failures and imperfections, God accepts us. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, God’s radically good unconditional love and forgiveness reach everyone. We just need to make the choice to reach back.

Some of the other incredible characteristics about God include:

            His forgiveness (Luke 7:48)
            His mercy (Lamentations 3:22-25)
            His grace (Ephesians 2:8)

            His compassion ((Psalm 103:13)
            His comfort (Psalm 94:19)
            His wisdom (1 Corinthians 1: 20-30)
            His guidance (Psalm 43:3)

            His freedom (John 8:36)
            His healing (1 Peter 2:24)
            His goodness (Psalm 145:9)

            His holiness (Psalm 99:5)
            His majesty (Exodus 15:11)
            His hope (Psalm 62:5)

            His provision (Matthew 6:25-24)
            His protection (Psalm 4:8)
            His power and authority (Matthew 28:18, 19)
            His peace (John 14:27)

When God’s incredible love fills us first, we are not starving for love and approval from others and that helps us to make better choices in the people we date or eventually marry.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Healing Emotional Pain After a Breakup or Loss

In choosing to face the night,
I took my first steps toward the sunrise.
Gerald L. Sittser

After a large loss or a breakup, sometimes it’s hard to move on. You may feel like it’s the darkest midnight in your life, but take heart: a new day, a brighter day will come again!

The next step toward getting there is emotional healing. That is, dealing with your emotions and not ignoring them.

Dealing with emotions is essential to your emotional, physical, and spiritual health. But many people don’t always want to face how they’re feeling. Here are a few reasons why: You don’t think it matters. You’re confused by how you’re feeling and you don’t know how to handle it. You know what to do, but you don’t want to go there. You fear what others will think.  Or you may feel like you’ll look weak or stupid, even to yourself.

Yet there is immense value in dealing with your stuff. While your relationship may be over, your life isn’t. It’s time to get some life back into your life!

By identifying, expressing and releasing emotions, your heart will begin to heal. Identify your emotions. What are you feeling? Sad, angry, resentful, hurt, numb…or something else? When you acknowledge that emotion to yourself (“I am feeling ____.”). Hard as it is, feel your feelings, learn to express them in healthy ways, and you will find release, freedom and peace.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every     form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31, 32


In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Psalm 56:11

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

Whether you feel angry, rejected, fearful, or any other emotion, you can choose what you want to do with them; your feelings don’t have to control you. You can challenge false beliefs, reject lies, and choose to live in the power of God’s truth. Like the lies of: “I must have this person in order to be happy” or “I am nothing without you.” Not true!

Keep reminding yourself of the truth, because truth combats lies like light combats darkness. You matter to God, and He has unending love for you. You are the apple of his eye. He chose you. You are accepted in the Beloved. You are enough, and you are worth being loved well.

Truly, your love life matters to God. He is still in control and He is leading you on a path to good purposes.

For more on healing your heart from a relationship breakup, check out, "When Love Ends" by Jackie M. Johnson

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

After a Breakup or Loss: Healing is a Journey, Grieving Your Losses

Healing a broken heart is a journey. 

From sadness to joy, anger to peace, rejection to acceptance, and brokenness to a greater level of wholeness, the road to recovery is different for everyone. That’s because loss is different for everyone. Indeed, loss is personal. How you get over someone you once liked or loved and how long it takes will vary.

It’s important to note that the healing takes place in the journey, not at the destination. The lessons you learn along the way and the choices you make can change and transform the landscape of your heart. But remember: Healing is a process and it takes time.

One of the most essential lessons I learned in my season of desert darkness was the importance of grieving losses—going through not around the pain. It was a pivotal point in getting into freedom and joy.  

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

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.

Grieving a loss is not a linear process. There is no right or wrong order in which it must be done.  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.

What else can you do?

Acknowledge your losses. 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.

Let yourself be sad. Tears are a cleansing emotional release from a wellspring deep inside of us that need to get out; they are part of unblocking our inner stuckness and pain.

Recognize what you’ve lost and what remains. It can be helpful to make a list of your losses—and the good things you still have.

Pray. No matter what your circumstances, prayer is powerful. Prayer changes things. And it changes us.

Whether you pray alone, with friends, or a prayer partner, talking and listening with God in a holy dialog is the most important thing you can do to heal your broken heart. It doesn’t have to include elaborate words; it can be simple and heartfelt—as if you were talking to a friend, because indeed you are.


Monday, January 14, 2013

After a Breakup or Loss: Getting Comfort and Support


Breakups are painful because something has been wounded. But unlike most physical injuries, the pain is on the inside and you can’t see it. You can, however, see the effects of being left or leaving, and often you feel it.  

No matter how long you’ve been together or who broke up with whom, the stress from the emotions of rejection, shock, anger, or betrayal can be felt in a variety of ways.  

One friend of mine said that when her boyfriend told her he’d been seeing someone else she felt like he tore her heart right out of her chest. You may feel like you’ve been kicked in the stomach, or you may not feel anything at all—at least initially. You may still be in shock. Of course, these are perfectly normal reactions to bad news. But you don’t have to stay in pain.  

Here are some essential and heart-healing ways to find the comfort and support you need to start your healing process:

Let yourself cry. Crying is a normal and healthy response to a sad situation. Perhaps you’re a person who holds back tears. You may think that if you start crying you will never stop. Let yourself cry. Just let it out. Even if you have to set a time limit, getting your feelings out in this way can be extremely healing.  

Talk to God in prayer. Prayer is a vital key in your healing process. Basically, it’s about talking and listening to the One who loves you most. Why not start each day with prayer for wisdom, guidance, healing and favor and end each day with a prayer of thanks and gratitude for all He’s done for you that day (whether you enjoyed it or endured it)?  

Worship also brings healing and comfort. In worship, you’re not just singing songs. You’re focusing on God, not yourself. Give God your pain, and enter into His presence. You are communicating your love, gratitude and adoration—but you also end up receiving hope, healing, joy and a fresh encounter with God.  

Put his stuff away. It can be very helpful to put away reminders of the person who just dumped you. It’s hard to move forward into your new future when mementos of your past are pulling you back. If you’re not ready to discard them, box up the photos and treasured objects and put them in storage until the time is right to get rid of them.  

Talk with trusted friends or family members. Albert Schweitzer once said, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.We need our friends to comfort and support us in our times of need. Telling your story can help to ease your heart’s pain and bring emotional healing. 

Write your thoughts and prayers in a journal or notebook; doing so can be very beneficial. When your feelings appear on a page (or even typed online), they are no longer swirling inside your head. You can vent your emotions, release your pain and do so in the privacy of your personal journal.  

Nurture your spirit. When your heart is hurting it’s helpful to take care of yourself and remember what makes you feel good. What would best nurture your soul, mind and body right now? What brings you the most comfort when you need heart healing? 

Be encouraged. This is a time of transition.  You’re going from a being couple to a single, from a “we” to a “me.” Change takes time and we all handle it differently, so be good to your self in the process.
Prayer for heart healing
Dear Lord, I am really hurting today. How could this happen?  I simply do not understand. I am sad, and angry and hurt and heartbroken. I give you my pain and cast my cares into the ocean of your love and comfort. I choose to trust You, and remember that no matter what happens you are faithful, kind and good. Even when I do not see where the plot is going, You are still the author of my story. I need You, Lord. I need your close presence. Help me to rest in the comfort of your love. Restore my shattered heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

After a Breakup: Dealing with Endings

It’s over. Your relationship has ended. Game over. You got dumped. He left or you left—either way you broke up. Now what?

When it comes to breakups, everyone around you will most likely have an opinion. Even your most well-intentioned friends who say things like: Forget about it. There are other fish in the sea. I never liked him anyway. Just get over it. But how?  

How do you heal a broken heart? How do you get rid of the awful kicked-in-the stomach feeling and become a person of resilience, courage, and joy? How do you leave…grieve…and learn to trust and love again? How do you begin again, especially when you just don’t want to?  

It helps to have some perspective… 

Endings are a part of life. In fact, much of life is about beginnings and endings, transitions and changes, losing and finding anew. You graduate from high school or college, and start a job. You leave a job or ministry, and start another one. Sometimes you move from one part of the country to another and start all over again.  

Transition isn’t always easy. For some, adjusting to transition is smooth, for others it’s rocky and staggered. Loss and gain, good and bad, life and death are all part of life, and life has its cycles. You will not stay in this ending phase of life forever; a new beginning will come. You may not know when or how, but it will. Just like the springtime comes every year, even after the hardest of winters.

How you respond to hard times makes a difference. If you pretend life is a storybook with only happy endings, it’s not reality. Hard things happen. Sometimes we lose people or things we treasure. But it does not mean we are losers. I’ve heard that Chuck Swindoll says, “It’s not always what happens to you, it’s how you respond to it that makes a difference.”  

You have choices. You can choose to ignore your pain, numb out, try to forget about it, or do nothing. Or, in the midst of your pain and darkness, you can look to the light of God’s truth for hope, healing and wholeness.  Either way, it’s your choice. How you handle endings, or don’t, will determine how you move forward.  

Keep reading, my friend, since each of the next 12 days will provide help and hope to get you from the rejection and sadness into the light of truth and joy again.

(For more about dealing with endings from a relationship breakup, check out When Love Ends by Jackie M. Johnson.)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How to Survive the Biggest Month for Breakups

Did you know that the month when most breakups occur is January?

That’s right.

It’s after the holidays (and who wants to be alone during “the most wonderful time of the year”?), and it’s before Valentine’s Day (the traditional love holiday for couples). If you are going through a dating relationship breakup or divorce, here’s some help and hope.  

The 12 Steps of Relationship Breakup Recovery are:
1. Deal with endings
2. Get the comfort and support you need
3. Grieve your losses
4. Heal your emotional pain (sadness, anger, fear, rejection, etc.)
5. Experience God’s amazing love for you
6. Discover the power of forgiveness
7. Learn to wait well
8. Awaken hope
9. Restore your confidence and self esteem
10. Wake up to the rest of your life
11. Make healthier choices next time
12. Live in the light

But, you may ask, HOW do you accomplish those helpful steps? You are in the right place to get the answers you need because every day—for the next 12 days—I am going to post the details.

So watch this encouragement blog, A New Day Café, and get ready to heal your heart and change your life. And, if you can't wait or you want more information, get your hands on the helpful breakup book, When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty which I wrote to help readers just like you--or someone you know.

It’s time to leave the sadness behind and return to joy. You know why?

The rest of your life is waiting.