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
 
 

Monday, February 17, 2014

When You Feel Lonely: Getting Connected


Wayne has a solitary life. Every day he sits behind a computer, alone in a small cubicle at work. At night he sinks into the couch in front of the TV to unwind. He spends much of his free time online and has a sense of “virtual community” but not many friends with whom he interacts in person. Because of his lack of social skills, Wayne is often lonely.
Kate is a new mom who’s home all day with a newborn. She loves her baby girl, but she misses the companionship and conversation of her colleagues at the office.
And Paige, a marketing manager, just moved eight hundred miles across the country to start a new job in a city where she knows no one. She feels a bit lost and disconnected from her friends back home.
No matter what the reason, it hurts to feel isolated, disconnected, or unnoticed.
Sometimes we need the peace and quiet time alone brings; other times we need connection with others. But there’s a difference between loneliness and solitude.
Solitude can be replenishing after a hard week at work or in our prayer time with God. With the One who loves us most we can pour out our problems, ask for help, and thank him for all he has done for us. We can also learn to listen. In the stillness, in the quiet, we can hear what God is trying to communicate to us. Away from noise and distractions, we can absorb truth in new ways.
Loneliness is different. One definition says that “loneliness is a painful awareness that we lack close and meaningful contact with others. It involves a feeling of inner emptiness, isolation, and intense longing.” You may also feel sad, anxious, or inferior because you are unable to connect with people—or connect with a certain person.
We all need to connect with other people. We were created to need each other and to serve each other’s needs. Indeed, our longing for love, friendship, and close friends is real. Such things are vital to our emotional well-being.
Just as a bridge links one place to another, friendships connects one isolated person to another, and soon community is built. You can build connections in all areas of life. For example, build:
 spiritual community with people at church or a small group, prayer group, missions team, or one-on-one with someone like-minded

 social community through a bowling league, moms group, singles group, or coffee with friends

 intellectual community with people from work, a book group, or other group with shared interests

 physical community through a sports team, dance class, or workout partner for the gym

neighborhood or city community through a local playground, neighborhood block party, or mentoring a disadvantaged youth

virtual community, but make sure social media connections are not your only connections with other people.

With God, we have the most primary and meaningful connection possible. And that comes in prayer as we talk and listen. Ask God to make his presence real to you today. Ask him to help you to have hope that things can change in your life.  

You can also ask God to give you courage to reach out to another person or to bring caring relationships—with friends, family, or other new peopleinto your life. Finally, ask what you can do today to build a bridge to another person. 

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

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

Monday, February 10, 2014

Beauty in Brokenness: Lesson from a Geode



You may have heard the expression, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That popular saying couldn’t be truer than for a geode.
 
This melon-shaped rock, dull on the outside, is generally gray brown and nondescript. But crack it open with a rock saw, and the ordinary rock reveals on the inside an extraordinary display of colorful quartz crystals and calcite, handmade by the Creator of the universe.
 
Unexpected splendor!
 
Likewise, some days you may feel like the outside of a geode—plain and ordinary—but the truth is there is a treasure within. When Christ lives in you, He can give you confidence on the inside—where it counts.
 
When life’s pressures come and you feel broken in two, God reveals the beauty of brokenness.
 
Excerpted from Powerful Prayers for Challenging Times (Revell/Baker) by Jackie M. Johnson 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Love Lesson from "Sense and Sensibility"



I've always liked the movie, "Sense and Sensibility" based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name. Maybe it's because of the close relationship of the two sisters, which I am grateful to have in my own life.

Or, the beautiful English countryside. Or, the handsome men and how they break women's hearts. I can relate to that.

Today, I'm posting on a blog for single women called Girls Night In. Check out the link below and find out how two characters in this movie, Elinor and Marianne, reveal an important love lesson.

It's an interesting twist on our most important love relationship. Here's the post.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Discouraged? Here's Wild Hope for Hard Times


Garden of the Gods Park, Colorado Springs

Where I live in Colorado there’s an extraordinary park with gigantic natural red rocks called Garden of the Gods. Some areas are not open to the public because they need repair. A sign posted there reads, “Area Under Reclamation.” In other words, “Don’t walk here; we’re fixing this section.”  

Just as the land needs ecological restoration, the landscape of your heart may need some spiritual restoration—and often emotional and physical changes as well. The good news is that both landscapes and lives be transformed.  

Restoration is possible, but often we lose sight of how it happens. We lose sight of hope.  
 
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 there’s more to your life. Beyond the snapshot in your mind of how you feel at this moment—beyond your discouragement or desperation—there is hope ahead.  

You can have hope in hard times, and in all times, when you know more fully the One in whom we put our hope. Jesus Christ, our Wild Hope. 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.” While His ways are often surprising, He acts out of ultimate love. Hope that is wild is extravagant; it is beyond your wildest dreams.  

Restoring the landscape of your life and getting through tough times comes through prayer. Talking with God, and listening. A simple, but holy, conversation.  

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 your connection with 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.  

Now that’s the kind of hope I can hold onto. How about you?