Practice, Practice, Practice

(I just posted this on my other blog, Hey, Friend, but I thought it was worth reposting over here, too. So if you get the feed for both, then I apologize in advance for the duplicates.)

There is a famous, oft quoted passage of scripture that I love. Philippians 4:4-7 reads,

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It is one of my favorites. Because heaven knows, as the Queen of Worry, I need the peace that passes all understanding most of the time. But as we studied this in small group Monday night, (using Matt Chandler’s study on Philippians) what resonated with me was his point on the verses that follow.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I don’t know what translation he uses in the study, but his says in verse 9, to “practice these things.” What he pointed out was that thinking on such things, things that are true and noble, right and pure, lovely and admirable, excellent and worthy of praise, are not natural to us. Therefore, doing so requires practice on our part.

Think about it. Where does your mind go most of the time? If you’re true to yourself and anything like me, it is to the critical, cynical side of things. (Read: negative. Ewww, shudder!) I hate to say that. I hate that that’s where my mind inevitably goes in most situations. I don’t think I’m generally a negative person, at least I hope not, but I can be.  It’s true.  I know, that’s very hard to believe. 🙂

So here’s an example that won’t get me into too much trouble (because, trust me, I have some that could).  I was just complaining about the fact that my house seems to be a mess most of the time and that I feel like I am always cleaning it up or picking up clutter or doing loads of laundry. Oh, woe is me, right? It’s not exactly lovely or admirable to think this way. So what do we do about it?

His suggestion was to replace one for the other. Image for image. I guess it’s what psychologists and counselors call reframing. I call it a thought makeover. Think of it as de-cluttering your brain. Cleaning out the junk and leaving the shiny, pretty stuff out for show.

So instead of being all huffy over the fact that my house needs to be cleaned, I should be thankful that I have a house to clean. I have the tools with which to clean it and am physically able to do so. And there’s stuff to pick up. I have people I love who have clothes I get to wash in my very own washer and dryer. While that sounds sarcastic, it’s really not.  No, I don’t really enjoy doing these things, but when I put in into context, I am thankful for the blessings that these chores represent. Not to mention the fact that I don’t have to schlep my laundry down to the laundromat with rolls of quarters and a toddler in tow.

So what things in your life could use a little bit of a thought makeover?  Do the things you face daily, from chores to relationships to worrying about the bills or the babies steal your peace? If so, it’s time to do some reframing. Ask yourself, what about this is true? noble? lovely? admirable? praiseworthy? excellent? If the answer is nothing, then you either need to abandon it, or give it a good polish and find the beauty in it.

It will take some work. Remember, he said to put it into practice. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. But in the end it will be worth it. Because there will be peace. And your countenance will reflect it. As your gentleness will be evident to all for the Lord is near.

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. Because this house ain’t cleaning itself. Neither are my thoughts.

So when I think of how I want my life to look, how I want my children to remember me, it’s not as the woman who complained all the time.  Who was never satisfied.  And lived in a constant state of worry. No, I want my children to remember me with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. Living my life for His glory and pointing them to Jesus.

I think that is excellent and praiseworthy and most definitely worth the effort.


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