Saturday, February 14, 2015

Single on Valentine’s Day: Take a New Look at Love

So it’s the big heart holiday and you don’t have significant other with whom to celebrate. No boyfriend or husband. No girlfriend or wife.

How will you respond?

Will you bemoan your state of singleness and complain to all your friends that there are no single men—at least good ones—left on the planet or choose to trust God for his perfect timing for whatever He has for you?

Don’t get me wrong. We all have our days. Who hasn’t grumbled with the girls about being alone? We can let our needs be known, but we don’t have to stay in a place of despair.

We have choices.  

You may want to click on my LIVING SINGLE blog post about how Cupid is a procrastinator, but God is always on time.

And, here are some other ideas:

You can choose to embrace all kinds of love on Valentine’s Day and celebrate the love of friends, family and others in your life. While you may not have eros or romantic love today, you can rejoice in the phileo or friendship love that’s all around you.  

And, of course, there’s the agape love of The One who loves you most, the One who created you, sustains you, provides for your needs and will never leave you: God Almighty.

Nothing compares. 

You can learn to become a woman of love. A woman of love makes smarter choices in relationships because she loves herself, others and God. Loving yourself means you can be yourself, not an exact replica of the man you’re dating.  

You have enough self respect not grovel when he says he no longer wants to go out with you. You say “no” when you really don’t want to spend time with a guy, instead of leading him on by trying to be nice.

You speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).   

You can have faith, despite your circumstances. Faith is confidence, trust, assurance and reliance on one who is completely reliable.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

“One way or the other,” says Susie Larson in The Uncommon Woman, “You are called to faith—the stretching, reaching, I don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this kind of faith. And when you shift all of your hopes and dreams into the arms of the Most High God, you will find Him faithful.”  

Consider praying, even now, for the spouse God has for you.  Pray for his walk with God, that he will be a man of integrity, a man of his word, communicate well, be loving and affectionate, or whatever you need. Ask God to lead and guide each of you to each other—and when you do eventually meet that He will to protect and guide your relationship.  

Remember, God has good plans for you. His word says, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).   

Hope is confident expectation. Whether your life will include marriage or not, only God knows, but you can walk on with hope knowing that He will provide for all your needs.  

Eugene Peterson says, “Hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do. It is a willingness to let God do it in his way and in his time.”  

Happy Valentine’s Day. May you have an abundance of love in your heart today and every day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

After a Breakup: 10 Things to Heal a Broken Heart

When you break up, it can feel as if the sun has set on your relationship. Goodbye day, hello dark night.

If you or someone you know are reeling from the pain of a dating relationship that has ended or a divorce, I feel for you.

And, I want to offer some hope and encouragement to help you get through it--and move forward into joy. How? Well, here's a good place to start.

Check out this post I wrote on the LIVING SINGLE blog about 10 Things to Heal a Broken Heart. And read the other posts on that blog and this blog, A NEW DAY CAFE. You'll find that you are not alone. You'll find practical help and hope from the One who loves you most, Jesus Christ.

There's hope here.

One day, maybe soon, you will find that the sadness has subsided. The anger is gone. I'm not saying it's easy, but it is truly possible to heal--and, Lord willing, find love again. Only healthier and better next time.

It's time to heal, my friend. The rest of your life is waiting...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

We All Make Mistakes: Finding Forgiveness

Intentional or unintentional, we all make mistakes; no one lives error-free. It is part of the human condition.
A few years ago utility worker in Arizona mistakenly tripped off an electric transmission line and cut power to 1.4 million homes. One small action caused an entire blackout in San Diego—and probably embarrassed the worker.
The thing is a mistake will most often cost you something—your time, your money, your reputation, or something else. If you miss one payment on your credit card bill, your rate will go up considerably. Ignore the fine print on a document, and you may wind up with results you never expected.
We all make mistakes; it’s what we do after a blunder that makes a difference.
We can wallow in regret. We can run and hide. Or, we can choose to learn from the mistake.  

Failure can turn to triumph when we ask God for forgiveness, receive it, and learn to discern the ways of wisdom. Certainly, we need wisdom to do things differently and make better choices, but first we need forgiveness. 

The mistake you made could have been a small oversight. On the other hand, it could have been willful disobedience, and you need to call it what it is: sin. It’s not a popular word today, but a wrongdoing against God is an offense toward him. Sin separates; it disconnects us from God. So in order to be right with God again, to reconnect the relationship, we need forgiveness. 

When we ask God for forgiveness, he extends it and opens the door to right standing with him again.  

First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That is very good news. 

Even when we mess up, God keeps right on loving us. He is constant and faithful, a loving God but also a God of justice.  

So when you feel like you’re being disciplined, it’s for a reason. Because he loves you, he wants things to be made right.  

After you’ve asked for forgiveness and he has given it, don’t keep beating yourself up emotionally. You may have done something bad, but you are not a bad person. God loves you—always. He may be hurt by your actions at times, but restoration is possible. That’s why grace is so amazing. In addition, when God forgives you, it paves the way for you to forgive others.  

Forgiveness is a gift. We need to receive his gift of forgiveness—to walk in it, to let go of the past, and to move forward.  

And, it you’ve hurt another person by your mistake you can ask God for the integrity and courage to say you are sorry and to ask him or her for forgiveness. 

Don’t keep mulling over the mistake in your mind. God forgives and forgets; we need to do the same by forgiving ourselves, walking in the truth, and thanking him for all he has done. It may take some time for your heart to catch up with your head and feel forgiven. But whether you feel it or not, the fact remains that God has forgiven you. The feelings will follow. 

Remind yourself how loving and gracious God is; he does not treat us as our sins or mistakes deserve. He treats us infinitely better. Read Psalm 103:8–12 for a good reminder about God’s compassionate heart.
Prayer for Forgiveness
Lord, I have messed up. I have sinned against you and others in making this mistake. What a mess. I was wrong, and I am sorry. Thank you for your faithfulness and that you never turn your back on me. I ask for your forgiveness. Help me to receive it, to walk in it, and to move forward by faith. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The JOY of Serving Others

I think it was Mark Twain who said, “The best way to cheer your self up is to try to cheer somebody else up."  

Whether you’re going through a relationship breakup, or bummed about something challenging in your life, it helps to take the focus off yourself and your her own problems.  

My friend Barbara did that. She was going through a breakup and wanted to move her perspective from self to God—and make a difference for His good purposes.  

Barbara said, “It felt right, and it gave me purpose.”  

Despite her circumstances Barbara found that when she was blessing others with acts of service and kindness, God blessed her with joy. Instead of waiting for another man to come around, she could “wait on” or serve others. “Like a waitress who serves other people, I can wait on God while waiting on God.” she concluded. Whatever we do for others, we essentially do for Jesus Christ. (Matthew 25:40).  

I have to remember that my life is not just about me. God created us for Himself and part of that is serving other people. “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)  

The reason we serve, though, is not because good works will save our souls. No, God gave us grace for that. It’s not to earn points for favor with God. We serve others because God asks us to, and because He has done so much for us.  

It is out of a heart of delight, not just duty that we choose to serve others.  

So we go across the ocean, not just to tell, but to demonstrate love to a ten-year-old boy in the Czech Republic who has never heard of God’s love. We show up on Saturday mornings at the rescue mission to serve food to those who don’t have enough eat. Or even, like my friend Anne, we offer to drive our non-churched friends to church so they can hear the truth about God’s love and forgiveness and be forever changed.  

"If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10) 

Think of the Christian life as a two-sided sponge—the yellow spongy side absorbs the water and the rough, green side scrubs. Likewise, we absorb God’s truth (through reading the Bible, hearing a speaker, or reading a book, for example) and then we go out and serve.  

First the Word, then the work.  

You may be surprised at the divine appointments God puts in your path as you open your eyes to the needs around you. It doesn’t even have to be an organized service project. Serving can include something as simple as being kind to the woman behind the counter at the dry cleaners. When you take the time to say “hello” and smile, even when you think you are in too much of a hurry, it can make a difference in one person’s day.  

Dwight L. Moody once said "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And that which I can do, by the grace of God, I will do."
What are you willing to do to serve God by serving others today?
You may just end up being, as C. S. Lewis said, “surprised by joy.”





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.  

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.

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.”