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