One Day at a Time

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     Cristy Lane had a #1 hit in 1980 with Kris Kristofferson’s song “One Day at a Time.” The single rapidly went Gold. She continued to promote her music with lengthy TV ads and that song was ringing in the ears of Americans for at least a decade! I know you remember it, “One day at a time sweet Jesus. That’s all I’m asking from you. Just give me the strength to do every day what I have to do. Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine. Lord help me today, show me the way, one day at a time.” Sorry, now we both will have that song stuck in our heads the rest of the day.

     I like the Alcoholics Anonymous slogans, “One Day at a Time” and “Take It Easy.” They remind those overcoming addictions to stay sober by facing their challenges one day at a time. They break life into small, manageable pieces. Jesus said the same thing, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34 NLT).

     I typically juggle a lot of balls in the air. Recently, I’ve been juggling balls and trying to keep all my plates spinning in the air without any of them crashing to the floor (those of you who watched the Ed Sullivan Show know what I mean). Life can be absolutely overwhelming. I’ve been spiritually challenged lately to trust God more in my life. Psalm 37:5 NLT says, “Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.” Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a time.” I’m learning that trusting God for my future starts with trusting Him one day at a time.

     Whenever I start thinking about the things I’m facing today, tomorrow, and next month, I feel my heart and spirit rapidly sink into a pit of despair. The weight of it pushes me to my knees begging for mercy. We are not equipped to manage more than one day at a time. “Don’t worry about tomorrow” was not a suggestion from Jesus; it was a command. He knows what we are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually able to handle. I like to picture daily problems and challenges as small marble sized balls of Play-Doh. They are easy to maneuver at that size. When we worry about tomorrow’s challenges, we clump those Play-Doh balls on to today’s balls, making them larger. The further we allow our mind and emotions to worry about the future, the more Play-Doh we clump on to today’s pile. Before long we have a huge unsurmountable mountain of Play-Doh to deal with that doesn’t belong on your daily plate! To greatly paraphrase Jesus, “Leave tomorrow’s Play-Doh alone. You have enough Play-Doh to work with today.”

God promised to supply all of our needs (see Philippians 4:19). We Americans like a nice cushion of provision to fall back on, but God’s provision is often on a daily basis. The Israelites were given Manna Bread daily. If they saved any for the next day, it turned rotten. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” God said he would provide for our future. “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 NIV). He only requires us to trust Him one day at a time.

     The Lord told the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” God gives us the grace to get through life one day at a time. When feeling overwhelmed with the problems and responsibilities of your life, ask yourself these questions: Do I have enough physical, mental, and emotional strength for today? Do I have enough money to get me through today? Can I handle the stress of today? Do I have everything I need for today? If the answer is “No,” that’s when you can ask God boldly to meet all your needs according to the promises of His Word.

     We need to stop our thoughts and emotions from time traveling to far into the future. When your mind starts to wander off into the distant future to collect additional Play Doh, throw your lasso and reel it back into the corral of safety called “Today.” Keeping our mind and heart in the moment of today brings peace. Come on, sing it with me one more time, “One day at a time sweet Jesus. That’s all I’m asking from you. Lord help me today, show me the way, one day at a time.”

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The Anger Trap

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    On Sunday I sincerely prayed, “Lord, please make me a vessel of your love. Let your love flow through me.” Wednesday I was standing nose to nose with a man while we were both angrily shouting at each other ready to start fist fighting. My “Love Train” was completely derailed in three short days! I wish I could tell you this incident happen years ago and long before I became a Christian, but it was less than a year ago. Even more recently I spoke at a men’s Morning Prayer meeting and it was fantastic. I left that meeting feeling like I was ready to conquer the whole world for the Kingdom of God! However, before the morning was over I was on the phone yelling and insulting a female bill collector. Two hours after I preached I was in a full blown fit of rage.

    Growing up in a dysfunctional home instilled anger issues in me. My family had the unique ability to convert every human emotion into anger. If we were sad, we became angry. Even if we were happy, it eventually turned into anger. My parents were angry with each other and me, and I was angry with them and even myself. Some of that anger subsided when I became a Christian, but there was still a deep well within me to draw from. My recent outbursts of anger caused me to conclude that I needed to gain control in this area before serious and irreversible damage happened.

    A quick study in the scriptures convinced me that uncontrolled anger is destructive. Ephesians 4:26 NLT says, “And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ecclesiastes 7:9 NLT says, “Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.” Proverbs 29:11 NIV tells us that, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” And James 1:19-20 NIV says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

    There are various causes and origins of anger, but a deep seated fear of getting abused, misused, and ripped-off was a major issue for me. I went about my day fearing that someone out there in the big, bad world is desiring to rip me off. “Trust No One” was my inner motto. Everyone was out to get me somehow and in some way. At work I felt others just wanted to slow or stop my productivity which would make me look bad with my superiors. I suspected everyone who sold goods and services of wanting to financially rip me off. They’re just taking advantage of me was my constant belief. If you believe that the whole world is out to get you, the burning coals of anger will never extinguish.

    My anger management had to start by changing my beliefs. Meditating on scriptures that assured me of God’s daily presence and care helped ease my fears. “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NIV). “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1 NIV). Even if someone is plotting to harm to me, the Bible tells me, “’No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment, you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17 NKJV).

Even after recognizing the source of much of my anger, I still worried that once my anger was aroused, there was just no stopping it. I was convinced that once I passed a certain point in expressing my anger, there was just no turning back and I had to unleash the full measure of my wrath. I’ve since learned that is not true. Anger can be captured and put back in its cage even after it has escaped.

I was soon tested on my new belief while on a phone call with someone who completely forgot my instructions and was about to mess up all my hard work. I could feel my blood start to boil and I even stood up from chair ready to give him a piece of my mind, when the thought suddenly occurred to me that I had the power there and then to calm down, if I chose to do so. I tried it and it worked. I’ve since tried it on another call that aroused my anger and again I was able to stop and calm down where I formally believed to be the “point of no return” of anger. A couple little victories like this gave me a new confidence that I have the power to control anger and not allow it to control me. This anger management business is quite new to me, but I truly believe that God’s Word and His indwelling Spirit has the power to break anyone free from the bondage of the “anger trap” once and for all.