Saturday, December 13, 2014

Feeling Lonely? Why Connection is So Important




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

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

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

Love it! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Learning from Loss


A Lesson from a Redwood Tree

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

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve felt like that at times.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freedom is calling. How will you reply?

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

 


 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

When You Feel Discouraged: A Prayer for New Joy


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

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

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

Amen."

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

Sunday, November 9, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. Thankfully, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

LIVING SINGLE: A New Blog for Singles of All Ages



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


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Feeling Discouraged? Finding Hope in All Seasons


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvest time is coming.

 

Friday, September 19, 2014

When Life is a Mess



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Help for Breakup Pain


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

It was devastating.

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

So it’s over. Then what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summertime and Raspberry Memories

Here's one of my classic posts. It's a perfect summer read.


I ate a bowl of fresh raspberries this morning. And when I took the very first bite of the little red fruit, I was suddenly eight-years old again.

I could see my younger self walking across the gravel road outside my grandparent’s cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin (what we called "Up North"). A patch of wild raspberries grew along that road and, most summer mornings, we'd pick them and eat them with cereal or right from the vine.

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!

We'd take drives in the pine-covered countryside, 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. Leisurely strolling down the main street, we’d stop to buy trinkets with our allowance. Grandma would always want to look at fall clothes, and we couldn't image why anyone could even THINK about autumn when summer was right here, ripe for the picking.

I wanted to stay in my summer state of mind forever.

I remember the aroma of Folgers’s coffee brewing early in the morning. As I chomped on Frosted Flakes, I wondered why grownups drank the stuff when it tasted so bitter.

Most days Grandpa would take us for a boat ride on the lake. He taught us to fish (and made us bait our own hooks) and clean our catch. Then Grandma would fry up a fresh perch or bluegill dinner, complete with a baked potato and big green salad. Yum.

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

But back to the raspberries.

Funny how a taste can incite a memory. Good memories. What foods bring you good memories?

Today mine was a bowl of red raspberries. It sure felt good to be eight again.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Are We DATING or JUST FRIENDS?

One of the most popular questions I get asked from readers is, "How do I know if we are dating or just friends?" This post, one of the most well-read on A New Day Café blog, is listed below. May it give you insight and hope. -- Jackie M. Johnson


“Where do I stand? Are we dating or just friends?

If you've ever wondered about an ambiguous relationship with a member of the opposite sex, you are not alone. 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.

Sure, you hang out. He comes over. You go out to eat. You talk or text--a lot. Or just sometimes. It may turn into something real and lasting, but 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.”

Big idea. Don't miss that 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.’”

You're not really in a real relationship and you're full of uncertainty and angst. That's a hard place to be: relationship limbo. 

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 of the "thread" of a relationship. 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.

You are worth being loved well.
Don't let him or her toy with your emotions and your time.

When the right one for you comes along, you’ll know—-because he will show you and tell you. That, my friend, is worth waiting for.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Feeling Discouraged? There's HOPE Ahead


 

Life is full of challenges. Busy, broke or barely living, you see overwhelmed and errand-weary people every day. Perhaps you are one of them.  

Whether you’re coping with sudden trauma or dealing with the frustrations of everyday life, you know too well the realities of disappointment, uncertainty, longing or lack.  

Maybe you’re stressed from trying to balance work and home life. Or you’ve been unemployed for months and the stack of unpaid bills is piling higher than snow in the Rockies. Could it be that someone you love has left you, or passed on, and you haven’t a clue how life will ever work again? Maybe you’re in desperate need and there never seems to be enough, enough money, enough love, enough time, and you’re simply tired of it.  

Everyone faces hardship in life. How do you deal with it? When tough times get you down, how do you cope? 

Focused solely on our circumstances our view becomes myopic; we see only part of the picture. For example, if you took a photograph of a desert landscape, all you’d see in the four-by-six inch photo would be your perspective from one viewpoint: some sand, cactus and a bit of tumbleweed blowing in the distance.  

But the picture doesn’t tell the whole story. What you couldn’t see beyond the edges of your snapshot was an oasis just ahead, or the desert’s end.  

There’s more to the landscape, and more to your life. 

Beyond the snapshot in your mind of how you feel at this moment, beyond your discouragement or desperation, there is more 

There is hope ahead.  

You can have hope in hard times—in all times—when you know more fully the One in whom we put our hope. Jesus Christ, is our Wild Hope. He is “wild” in the sense that He is passionate and powerful—adoring and authoritative—yet often unpredictable. Hope that is wild is extravagant; it is beyond your wildest dreams. 

Isaiah 55:8 reminds us, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.”  

While His ways are often surprising, Jesus Christ acts out of ultimate love 

When you pray, when you talk to God in a natural conversation, things begin to change. Perhaps suddenly or maybe later on, but things always change. And when you pray, you can find greater peace, restored hope, and more freedom.  

Wild hope is a hope so unexpected yet so wonderfully good, that when you begin to grasp it your life just may be transformed into one of startling kindness, lavish love, and limitless possibilities.  

The economy may fluctuate, your bank balance may rise and fall, and your emotions may ebb and flow like the ocean tide, but one thing is true: the word of the Lord stands forever. God keeps His promises. He will take care of you.  

He is totally reliable, willing and able to meet your needs more than you can ever imagine—wildly more, extravagantly more.
 

Excerpted from Powerful Prayers for Challenging Times (Revell/Baker) by Jackie M. Johnson


Saturday, May 17, 2014

When Life Is Hard: There Is Hope



 
You’re sad. Broke. Frustrated. Stressed out. Angry. Hurt. Someone has done you wrong—or you’ve done something stupid, and you know it.  You just want to give up. To quit.

Whether you’re dealing with a breakup, unemployment, a person who drives you crazy or something else, life can be just, plain hard sometimes.  

Maybe you’re in desperate need and there never seems to be enough—enough money, enough love, enough time—and you’re simply tired of it.  

Everyone faces adversity. How do you deal with it? When tough times get you down, how do you cope? 

The good news?  

You can have hope in hard times—in all times—when you know more fully the One in whom we put our hope: Jesus Christ. 

He is “wild” in the sense that He is passionate and powerful, adoring and authoritative, yet often unpredictable.
 
Isaiah 55:8 reminds us, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.” Hope that is wild is extravagant; it is beyond your wildest dreams.  

While His ways are often surprising, God acts out of ultimate love.

Even when you haven’t a clue as to how things will ever change, you can have hope for the future and for this very moment because:  

·       God is sovereign. He is in control and you can trust Him even when you do not understand.  

·       God is loving. He accepts you unconditionally, despite your circumstances or poor choices. He’s chosen you; He’s just waiting for you to choose Him back.  

·       God is wise. He knows what He’s doing and His wisdom and ways are far beyond our comprehension.  

·       God keeps His promises. He is trustworthy to do what He says He will do, and that strengthens your faith.

·       God is faithful. He is totally reliable and utterly dependable.

God will provide. He is with you and He is for you.  

And, get this—the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is available to you and me today, and we access His power through prayer.  

A prayer-filled life is a powerful life. It will help you to stand strong in tough times. 

When you pray, your life—and the lives of those around you—will be forever changed. You will be inspired to live with greater peace, restored hope, and more freedom. You will discover wild hope through Jesus Christ, a hope so unexpected yet so wonderfully good, that when you begin to grasp it your life just may be transformed into one of startling kindness, lavish love, and limitless possibilities.  

The economy may fluctuate, your bank balance may rise and fall, and your emotions may ebb and flow like the ocean tide, but one thing is true: the word of the Lord stands forever.  

God will take care of you. He is totally reliable, willing and able to meet your needs more than you can ever imagine—wildly more, extravagantly more.

 
For more information about Jackie M. Johnson, visit www.jackiejohnsoncreative.com.
 
 
 

Friday, May 16, 2014

When Life Is A Mess: A Helpful Prayer


 
Cleanse My Heart, Lord
 
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart
and with the full assurance that faith brings,
 having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty
conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 10:22

 
When you feel like life is falling apart...or you don't know what to do...or you need a fresh cleansing and healing from God, here's a short prayer:

Lord, I humbly come before You. My life is a mess right now and I need Your help. You know all the circumstances, and you know how I feel. I ask for forgiveness of my sins and wrongdoings. I am sorry. Will you please cleanse me from the inside out? I want to be right with You. By faith I believe that You take away my guilt and shame. Thank you. I ask in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.

 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

After a Breakup: Dealing With Emotional Pain




The start of a new relationship is often bliss. You’re energized, excited and happy.  You think about the other person all the time and you can’t wait to be near him or her again.

It feels so wonderfully good to have that air of anticipation and expectancy as you wonder what’s going to happen next.

You soon discover that you really enjoy each other, and maybe you even begin to envision a life together.  I think Robert Browning must have been in love when the poet penned, “God’s in his heaven—all’s right with the world.”

Then Cloud 9 bursts.

Instead of walking on sunshine, you can hardly slug through the day because longing and loss are weighing you down. Or you’re a bundle of nerves, you’re totally confused or you’re mad as a hornet.

Breaking up produces a multitude of emotions. What do you do with them? Or should you do anything with 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 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 will look weak or stupid, even to yourself.

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

In fact, identifying, expressing and releasing emotions are essential because the emotion itself isn’t that important. It’s what you do with it that matters.

Left untreated or unexpressed, emotional pain can wreak havoc in your love life. You may sabotage a perfectly food relationship because of your own commitment fears. Or, you may withhold affection and trust because others have wounded you deeply.

The good news is you can get rid of emotional pain. In time, night will give way to day, and then a brand new day—your new beginning!  


Excerpt from When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton IsEmpty by Jackie M. Johnson
 
 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Center of God's Will


 
The planet we live on is immense. I don’t know what scientists used for a scale, but they say Earth is 8,000 miles in diameter and weighs roughly 6.6 x 1021 tons. In addition, the sun rotates on its axis, turning and spinning as we live, work and play some 93 million miles away.
 
Wow. 
 
I have always been fascinated by the way God has revealed his remarkable wisdom in how Earth is in perfect orbit. Absolutely perfect. If our home planet was too close to the sun, we’d fry; too far away, we’d freeze. Either way, the results would extinguish life.
 
Instead, we are exactly where we’re supposed to be in our place in space.
 
Think about the implications for your personal life. We are exactly where we are supposed to be. We revolve around God, just as the earth orbits the sun--not the other way around.
 
Most importantly, ask God to keep you in the center of His will, in your own personal orbit around the One who loves you most—not too far and always closer still.
 
Jackie M. Johnson is an author and freelance writer in Colorado. Her books include: Power Prayers for Women, When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty, and Powerful Prayers for Challenging Times. Visit and like her author Facebook page.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Friday, March 28, 2014

After the Fire: A Lesson from the Redwoods


 
It’s fire season where I live in Colorado. Our state often suffers from less-than-average snowfall so the land in very dry.  

Most likely you heard about the Black Forest Fire last year, or the devastating Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 that moved stealthily over the foothills and into our city (see photo). Most everyone in Colorado Springs can tell you exactly where they were when the news of that first devastating fire destroyed hundreds of homes and business in the northwest part of town.   

Fire can be devastating. And after it’s over, the landscape shows some trees that are completely destroyed while others are left standing—yet these once flourishing trees bear the markings of the disaster by their missing or charred limbs. 

It makes me wonder how the giant redwood trees in California have lasted for almost 2000 years.  We know that California’s had their share of forest fires, so how are those giant trees still standing?  

Recently, a friend told me about the redwood’s unique ability to withstand fire. First, their branches are about 100 feet and higher so the fire cannot reach them. Most importantly, these enormous trees do not have a certain flammable resin on their bark like most other types of trees.  That factor makes them mostly fireproof. 

If a fire is very hot, however, flames will burn into the trunk. But the tree immediately begins to repair the damage. After the fire, the tree grows a thicker bark around that area to cover over the burned portion.

Like these grand, tall trees, we need protection to keep us from “burning up” emotionally when the fires of anger, criticism, fear or doubt surround us. 
 

The evil one shoots his arrows (of lies and deception) at us and, if we are not protected, we will be hurt. We can become more protected as we put on the full armor of God and live in His presence and protection. Ephesians 6 in the Bible’s New Testament explains: 

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17, NIV).

We need God’s protection against the rampant lies and half-truths in our culture that seek to destroy marriages, tear apart families and keep people shackled to discouragement and hopelessness. As we read the truth and seek to live it out, we get stronger on the inside. We have more joy. 

We need God’s strength in us to live godly lives with courage in a world that depends more on self and less on the One who created us and loves us most 

God never said life would be easy, but He said that He would be with us. That’s a relief.  

With God’s power and his close presence we can rest in His protection.
 
 
 
Jackie M. Johnson is an author, freelance writer and book publishing consultant in Colorado. Previously, she worked at the premiere literary agency, Alive Communications, and the CBA-publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Visit her website.
 

 

Monday, March 3, 2014

After a Loss or Breakup: Transforming Your Heart and Finding Joy Again


Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19
 
After a loss of significance, after a relationship breakup or divorce, after all the pain and sadness, better days return. Isn’t it good to know that day always follows night? That winter’s icy blasts always give way to the freshness of spring?  

Joy comes after sorrow. 

Healing is coming and bit by bit. Even the shape of your life is changing. The physician-poet Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.”  I believe the same is true of love—all kinds of love:  

The heart, once expanded to encompass the breadth of love, is never the same again.  

You have changed. And, like re-growth comes after a forest fire, restoration comes after a loss or breakup. Ruin can be restored. As you walk forward by faith, you discover new companions, like inner strength and unexpected joy. Hope arises. Things start to get better.  

Surprisingly, the human heart is quite flexible and resilient; it has the ability to bounce back from difficulties. But you’re really not bouncing “back,” you’re bouncing forward—from darkness to light, deadness to life, brokenness to greater wholeness, fear to courage, and so much more.   

God is all about transformation. “I will guide you,” He says Isaiah 42:16, “I will turn darkness into light before you and make the rough places smooth.”  

Sure, maybe someone has done you wrong. Or, you are astonished that you are still single after all these years. But no matter what your situation, God is still sovereign. He has not forgotten about you.   

Focus forward, read and absorb God’s truths.  As you do, you experience new aspects of God’s character. Faith increases and, over time, you begin to find victory; you are less fearful and more confident. You believe that God has the power to handle your pain and help you make wiser choices. 

Love extravagantly. Love bravely. Love courageously. God’s commandments to love one another are not reserved for just a special man or woman in your life—not just romantic love. No matter what your marital status, you can share the love you have with everyone, and experience all kinds of love in your life.   

Change is coming, and has come. You may not see it, but often others do; they see a difference in your countenance as you get farther from the land of loss and deeper into the delight of a new day. You begin to have a lighter heart, and a sunnier countenance. You seem happier. So celebrate all He has done for you in this journey.  

Enjoy God. Enjoy your life. 

 

Excerpted from When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty by Jackie M. Johnson