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365 Meditations For Women By Women
By Kelly Clem, Hilda Davis, Sallie Dye, Cynthia Gadsden, Monica Johnson, Ellen Mohney, Nell W. Mohney, Nancy Nikolai, HiRho Park, Marie Schockey, Lillian C. Smith Anne, Hagerman Wilcox, Sally D. Sharpe
Dimensions for LivingCopyright © 2004 Dimensions for Living
All rights reserved.
Past, Present, and Future
Nell W. Mohney
January 1 A New Beginning
"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:19 NIV)
When January first arrives each year, I think of the words of Louise Fletcher Tarkington: "I wish there were some wonderful place, called the land of beginning again." In a very real sense, there is such a place–the gift of a brand new year. It is a gift from God. What we do with it will be our gift to God.
As I enter this new beginning, there are three things I will do–one thing to cover each of the three "time zones" of my life. First, I will rid myself of some old things–things from the past. For example, I will clear my closet of things that have been hurriedly placed there in preparation for the holiday celebration, and, with God's help, I will clear my soul of any unresolved resentments or anxieties so that I may be open to receive God's message of love and direction. Second, I will live joyfully in the present day, remembering that each day is a precious gift from God. And third, I will walk confidently into the future, knowing that my trust is in Christ Jesus.
There are three "time zones" in each of our lives: past, present, and future–or, if you prefer, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This month we will explore how we should learn from the past, but not live there; live fully in the present; and trust that the future is in God's hands.
Eternal God, thank you for the blessings of the past year and the possibilities of the new one. Help me walk confidently in faith. Amen.
January 2 Rejoice in the Day
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24 NIV)
It was three days before Christmas, and the store was packed with last-minute shoppers. It sounded as if we had had a simultaneous drop in blood sugar. People were impatient, irritable, and pushy. Then it happened! A fatigued saleslady handed a package to the young shopper ahead of me and said woodenly, "Merry Christmas and happy new year."
"Oh, it is going to be!" replied the cheery customer.
"How do you know that?" asked the surprised salesperson.
"Well, there will be 365 days in the new year. If we live each of them in the spirit of the One whose birthday we are celebrating, it will be a happy new year," declared the young shopper as she jauntily walked away.
"She's right, you know," I said as I walked to the counter.
"I know," the saleslady replied. "Now, if I can only remember that for two more days!"
Loving and merciful God, thank you for your faithfulness in the past, and for your love made most evident through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Enable me to live each day through his power, rejoicing in your gift. Amen.
January 3 Live Fully Today
Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day." (Exodus 16:4a NIV)
The young woman in the department store at Christmas was right! Our time to live fully is today–not in worry about yesterday or in anxiety about tomorrow. I like the popular quotation attributed to African musician Babatunde Olatunji that says: "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present" (African Music Encyclopedia).
God really taught us this lesson through the children of Israel during their days in the wilderness. Exodus 16:19-20 tells us that each morning manna was provided for their food. They couldn't save it for the following day or week because it would spoil. In a similar manner, we are given the gift oftime in twenty-four-hour segments. Our supply for the day must be used by midnight tonight. We can't hold over a few hours until next week. How imperative it is for us to see each day as an incredible gift from God and to use it for God's glory.
Eternal God, thank you for the fresh mercies that come from your hand each day. Help me live fully in your Presence this day. Amen.
January 4 Look in Both Directions
Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life." (John 14:5-6a NIV)
"Stop and look in both directions before you cross the street." These were the clear directions my mother gave me each morning before I left for elementary school. They are good directions for all of us as we begin a new year. After all, the month of January is named for Janus, who, according to the Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion, and the Unknown, was a two-faced Roman god of gateways and passageways who was able to look in both directions. He was also the supposed protector of new beginnings.
Of course, as Christians, we serve the true God of new beginnings. As the apostle Paul reminds us, "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NRSV). So, early in this month, let us look in both directions, leaving behind the old tired thoughts and actions and walking buoyantly into newness of life through the power of the One who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life."
O God, who renews and refreshes our world with sunshine and rain, renew my wilted spirit. Amen.
January 5 Leaving Nonessentials Behind
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)
The year was 1980, and I was packing for a month away from home. My husband, Ralph, and I were taking two groups to see the Passion Play inOberammergau, Germany. Realizing that we likely would encounter all kinds of weather, I was packing for every emergency. My suitcase was bulging! Even when I sat on it, it wouldn't fasten. Suddenly, I knew that the overstuffed suitcase was analogous to my overstuffed life. It was full of "stuff" and hectic activities. I was leaving little room for the spirit of Christ to cleanse, forgive, and empower me.
In the quietness of my bedroom, I stilled my spirit and prayed that as I removed the physical items from my suitcase, God would show me what needed to be removed and replaced in my spiritual life. In the next few days, I will discuss some of my confrontations. Perhaps they will trigger a response in your own life. Let's not be weighted down, so that we can "run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
May the Christ who has set me free through his death and resurrection enable me to remain free through his grace and forgiveness. Amen.
January 6 Throw Out Fear
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV)
Just as we remove items from an overstuffed suitcase, let us be willing to remove some harmful habits from our lives as we enter this new year.
In 1980, I knew that I needed to confront my fear of flying. I flew when necessary, but always fearfully, and often holding up my seat as if that small gesture would ensure safety. When I finally confronted my fear, I decided to do two things: (1) to follow Ralph Waldo Emerson's advice to "do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain," and (2) to increase my faith. Just as I trusted water to hold me up while swimming, more and more I began to trust Christ to be with me in life's difficult places. He stilled the troubled waters of my mind as he called to my remembrance this verse: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
Since fear can block the power and presence of God in our lives, I challenge you to confront your fears. In the stillness of your quiet time, make a plan of action, and with the help of Christ, follow it.
Loving and most merciful God, thank you for being ever present in my life, bringing comfort and assurance. Amen.
January 7 Eliminate Worry
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)
The Anglo-Saxon root word for worry means "to strangle." If you've ever been really worried about something, you know how right on target that description truly is! You feel as if you can't breathe. Worry is a misuse of the imagination.
When I was a small child, my family had a wonderful woman who worked as a housekeeper and cook. As far as I could tell, she had only one fault–she worried about everything. One day, my mother said to her, "Willie Mae, you shouldn't worry so much. You should trust God more." Her reply: "Mrs. Webb, Jesus told us that we would have tribulation in this world. When mine comes, I think He expects me to tribulate." And tribulate she did!
Rather than have my own mind go like a broken record in the same groove, I try to look at a problem or concern objectively, making a list of things I can do. Then, I follow the apostle Paul's suggestion to make my requests known to God, with thanksgiving. You see, when we pray with thanksgiving, we begin to trust God with our future, and there is no room for worry.
Eternal God, I'm so thankful that you are in charge of the universe! Enable me to trust you with the details. Amen.
January 8 Don't Linger in the Past
In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:6 NKJV)
Do you remember the story of Lot's wife in the book of Genesis (chapter 19)? Once when I told the story to some inner-city children, I ended by saying, "Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt." An eight-year-old boy raised his hand and said, "My mama looked back to the backseat to see what we were doing, and she turned into a telephone pole." Though we won't turn into salt or a telephone pole if we linger too long in the past, we will miss out on becoming all that God created us to be.
This week we will continue to look at some destructive habits we need toleave in the past. What is keeping you from being the new creation that Christ is calling you to be?
In my experience, when I acknowledge God in all my ways, I see God's faithfulness. Then I don't have to live in the past for security. I can walk confidently into today and trust God for tomorrow.
Merciful God, enable me to see the masterful plan you have in mind for me, and empower me to fulfill it. Amen.
January 9 Negate Negativism
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable ... think about these things. (Philippians 4:8 NRSV)
Do you know anyone you hope you don't see until after you've had a strong cup of coffee? Do others hope they won't see you until they've been fortified with caffeine? Actually, we produce climates wherever we go–in our homes, careers, churches, and social groups. Is the climate you create positive or negative?
Negativism begins with a thought that, left unchecked, becomes an attitude and then a habit. Most people don't plan to be negative. They simply don't stand guard over their thoughts, and soon their thoughts control them. This must be why Paul warned the Christians in Philippi, and us through them, to stay focused on things that are true, honest, pure, just, pleasing, and commendable.
In 1991, when I was recovering from cancer surgery, a woman I barely knew came to see me in the hospital. Her conversation was almost totally negative, including a recounting of the number of people with my kind of cancer who had died. Every ounce of strength I needed for recovery was sapped by negativism.
During the half hour after the woman's visit, I deliberately gave thanks for all my blessings. Seeing God's faithfulness changed my climate from negative to positive.
Is your climate positive or negative?
O Christ, keep us pure, loving, truthful, and obedient in our thoughts and in our actions. Amen.
January 10 Alter Anger
One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city. (Proverbs 16:32 NRSV)
The maÎtre d' in a local restaurant was leading my husband, Ralph, and me to our table when Ralph stopped to ask a friend about his recent surgery. I followed the young maÎtre d' to the table, where he whispered to me, "Will you call me at home and suggest some books on anger management? I am having problems!" I nodded as he walked stiffly away. I realized that his request was prompted by my newspaper column "Anger Management," carried that morning in our local paper.
Months later, when we returned to the restaurant, the young man looked much more relaxed. He told us that he had read the books, had attended an anger management clinic, and had kept a journal to alert him to the causes of his anger.
When Jesus became angry and drove the money changers out of the Temple (Luke 19:45-46), he was not acting out of personal hurt but out of a righteous desire to change an evil system. When our anger is out of control, it hurts and destroys. When it is Christ controlled, then it can make a difference for good in our world.
Eternal God, endow me with your wisdom and love so that I may constructively channel my anger to enlarge your purposes rather than destroy them. Amen.
January 11 Resist Resentments
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." (Mark 11:25 NIV)
Resentment, a feeling of indignation over perceived hurts and offenses, is like a splinter that gets under your skin. If it isn't removed, it produces infection.
Several years ago, I was presenting some seminars at a bank when an employee came to talk with me. Basically, she was complaining about being left out of the office camaraderie. As I probed a little deeper, I discovered a long-held resentment that was infecting her physical health and her relationships.
Her sister had received a bit more of the family inheritance than she, and she hadn't spoken to her sister in the twenty years since. She wasn't hurting her sister, but she was destroying herself. The only way out was to forgive her sister and close the door on the past. She resisted the idea and probably is still clutching the grudge while spending far more each year on medical bills than her sister inherited.
As you enter this new year, do you need to seek forgiveness and reconciliation? Freedom is yours for the choosing!
Loving God, you have provided an escape for my hurts and traumas. Enable me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. Amen.
January 12 Banish Bad Attitudes
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5 NIV)
"Boy, you need an attitude adjustment!" Those words from a woman's strident voice seemed to fill the gate area of a large airport where two hundred people had been waiting for more than an hour for a delayed flight. I knew they were coming from the exasperated mother of a teenage son, because I had heard his complaints about making the trip with his mother and little sister. Suddenly, I thought that God often must have felt like saying to me, "Woman, you need an attitude adjustment!"
An attitude is a thought that is consistently held so that it shapes our actions. The late William James wrote: "The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind." I agree. I'm convinced that attitudes can make or break a marriage, friendship, business, church, or community.
This week we will look at bad attitudes in light of Paul's admonition, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
Forgive me, O God, for allowing my attitude to be shaped by my feelings rather than by your purposes. Give me the attitude of Christ Jesus. Amen.
January 13 Don't Play the Blame Game
Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." (Genesis 3:13 NIV)
Since the Garden of Eden, when God confronted Adam and Eve about their disobedience, and Adam blamed Eve, and she blamed the serpent, we have been tempted to blame others when we have done wrong. We blame our genes, our environment, our spouses, our bosses, our rebellious teenagers, and on and on. A big step toward spiritual maturity is to take full responsibility for our lives. We must admit our mistakes.
I once heard a psychologist say there is one type of person who is hopeless in counseling: the one who blames others for his or her problems. Such a person chooses to be a victim. We must admit our mistakes, seek forgiveness, and, through Christ, return to the One who created us.
The book of 1 John reminds us, "If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1:9-10 NRSV). Let's never play the blame game!
Excerpted from 365 Meditations For Women By Women by Kelly Clem, Hilda Davis, Sallie Dye, Cynthia Gadsden, Monica Johnson, Ellen Mohney, Nell W. Mohney, Nancy Nikolai, HiRho Park, Marie Schockey, Lillian C. Smith Anne, Hagerman Wilcox, Sally D. Sharpe. Copyright © 2004 Dimensions for Living. Excerpted by permission of Dimensions for Living.
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