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.