Philippians 4:8-9 MSG Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Sermons are sometimes tremendously insufficient for exploring all the great stuff that’s in the words of the Bible. Last Sunday I preached on Philippians 4 with the emphasis on verses six and seven. If there’d been unlimited time, I would have talked more about verses eight and nine, about the things we let fill our minds, the things we look for, the things on which we meditate.
We’re in the middle of a series on growing in gratitude, in which I’ve been encouraging people to practice being thankful, to take time to notice and seek out things for which to thank God. Think on these things. We talked last Sunday about how easily we instead meditate on our worries. God
|1 Peter 5:7|
DeWitt Jones, a photographer for National Geographic, tells about his efforts in his work to photograph the best and the beautiful, often in the midst of the ordinary. He say,“In 2012, I gave myself the challenge of finding and photographing something to celebrate every day, and then share those photos on Facebook.” His motto is “celebrate what’s right in the world.” What a great way to “think on these things”!
Writer Melody Beattie’s reflections on gratitude resonate with Paul’s words to the Philippians. She says, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Gratitude directed to our creator God does this even more.
Finding ways to be thankful in the midst of worries, finding the good in the midst of the bad, happens in an exercise I’ve used as a group icebreaker, and some families use to prompt dinner table conversation, that I’ve heard called various names. I know it as “rose and thorn,” sharing something good (a "rose") that happened today or this week, and something bad (a "thorn"). Acknowledging the bad along with the good. Think on these things.
Sometimes finding the good, the beautiful, the things for which to be thankful is incredibly hard, and sometimes on those days I'll admit that I do it grudgingly. I know I'm supposed to. I know it's good for me. But sometimes I just don't want to. And then on other days I just can't say it enough and my heart is overflowing with gratitude, so much that if I were to let it go, I'd sound like Buddy the Elf.
Today didn't start out to be an overflowing-with-thankfulness day. It started out as a grudgingly thankful day. But a song was nagging at me from the recesses of my mind, and gradually its words began to take hold of me.
Think on these things.....
To your name, I give all the glory.
To your name, I give all my praise.
Thinking today about the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that my friends post on Facebook, the fun family photos that get shared there, the dreaming and planning that was happening in my living room this morning, the amazing ways God keeps reminding me of his presence and his goodness through songs, Bible verses, and people, and I'm so thankful for signs of hope in the midst of pain.
What about you? What good and beautiful and praiseworthy things are you thinking on? What are you thanking God for today?