Fresh-picked peaches in a basket

Fix your thoughts on what’s going right

I don’t mean to eavesdrop. I really don’t. Sometimes people’s conversations just pop out at me. And I generally try not to pay attention because you can’t generalize. You can’t (well, you shouldn’t) judge a situation based on a small exchange you overhear between two people.

But some conversations strike you as so strange you can’t ignore them. That’s what I heard yesterday morning.

“What was the worst part of your week?”

That question wouldn’t normally stop me. It’s not that unusual of a question. But when it’s coming from a motherly figure to her little girl, I had to take a moment to process.

Why would a mother ask her child that as they’re walking out of church? First off, I might be wrong. It might be an aunt. It might even be a grandmother for all I saw of the woman’s face. But either way, coming out of Kidzworld at NewSpring Church, why would you steer the conversation that direction?

If you aren’t from Kansas, you probably don’t know about Kidzworld. So let me be the one to tell you it’s a children’s ministry that makes you want to be a child again. Let’s be honest, grown ups, there aren’t many things that can do that. Kidzworld makes me wish I was a kid again. Children come out of this crazy ministry with life lessons and examples of how to use them in their schools and in their homes, and if you ask them, they’ll tell you exactly what they learned. It’s ridiculous!

And, honestly, that’s what I thought this mom was asking. And that’s why I stopped to listen because there’s nothing more exhilarating to be able to hear a  little kid explain a biblical principle in his or her own words.

What was the best thing you learned today? Or what was the lesson about today? Or what did you learn in Kidzworld today?

But no. That wasn’t the question.

“What was the worst part of your week?”

Again, I’m trying not to be judgmental. I could be jumping to a wrong conclusion. There could be a perfectly rational and logical and reasonable explanation.

What I think upsets me more than anything is the question of whether or not that’s my reaction to life. When I talk to someone, older or younger or peer, is my first thought to ask them what made their week rotten? Am I quick to jump to the negative? Do I direct the conversation to what’s wrong in life instead of what’s going right?

Fresh-picked peaches in a basket

Fresh-picked peaches in a basket

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:8.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

How often do you fix your thoughts on what God is doing in the world? And when I say fix your thoughts, I mean focus on it. I mean take a moment to sit back and think about all the amazing, miraculous, incredible things God is doing around the world and in your own life.

When was the last time you did that? I wish I could tell you I did it more often, but I don’t. I get too busy with life. I get so crazy running around trying to get so many things accomplished on time that I don’t take the time I need to reflect on what God is doing. And as a result, I stop seeing what He’s doing in my life and instead start seeing all the things He’s not doing that I wanted.

People have called Philippians 4:8 a filter for your mind. It’s the verse you’re supposed to use when you’re thinking about anything. Run your thoughts and your conversations through the filter of Philippians 4:8 and see if they hold up.

I’m not saying that we should live in denial. We can’t ignore the fact that the world is broken. We can’t ignore the fact that our lives aren’t what they should be or that we make mistakes. That’s true. All of those things are true.

But there are other true things.

God loves you enough to sacrifice for you. God wants a relationship with you. God cares about what happens in your life. He cares about the choices you make.

All of those things are true too. So why don’t we focus on those things instead of how broken the world is? Why don’t see how much God loves us instead of how flawed other people are? Why don’t we start a conversation by asking what’s the best thing God did for you this week… instead of what’s the worst part of it?

It’s more than a filter. Philippians 4:8 is a lifestyle, and it’s not as simple as seeing the glass as half full instead of half empty. It’s not about optimists and pessimists.

It’s about making the choice to fix your thoughts on the parts of your life that make God happy and leading others–your friends, your coworkers, your children–to do the same. It won’t make the broken parts go away, but you’ll realize that the broken pieces aren’t as much of an obstacle in your path as you think because all you’ll see is how big God is in comparison.

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Blossoming rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden - Colorado Springs, CO

Watch what you think

Everyone knows the danger in spouting off. It’s easy to say something that offends someone else. It’s easy to hurt peoples’ feelings. It’s easy to say something you wish you’d never said. So a lot of times, people will just filter what they say. But how many people realize that what you allow yourself to think about can be just as damaging as what you say out loud?

Blossoming rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden - Colorado Springs, CO

Blossoming rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Psalm 19:14.

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

My brain runs constantly. It never shuts off. It never slows down. It’s always going. Going going going, worse and faster than the Energizer Bunny. There’s always something to think about. There’s always something to plan. If I ever stopped thinking about stuff, I might just collapse.

But if I don’t watch the content of what I’m thinking about, I can get myself in serious trouble.

People talk about the importance of a positive thought life, and that’s probably a good thing to strive for. Thinking positively has a lot to do with your outlook, and it can help in difficult circumstances to keep seeing life on the bright side. But positive thinking will only get you so far, and it’s not something that you can easily dredge up if you don’t already have a Godly perspective. But even people who know God and try to follow Him often have trouble thinking about the good things God has done.

Is that important?

Well, yes. This Psalm is saying that not only do the words we say out loud need to please God, but the things we think about too.

This was a concept that hit the Pharisees upside the head when Jesus was alive on Earth. Jesus told people that, yes, adultery is wrong, but that even if you lusted after someone in your heart, you were just as guilty as if you had committed adultery. Yes, murder is wrong, but even if you hate someone in your heart, it’s just as bad as if you had killed them. Jesus explained to people that what you think about is just as important as what you say out loud.

So knowing that, how do we handle our thought lives? How can I — with my overactive, over-abundance of brain function — keep a handle on what I think about? After all, it’s a lot easier to put a filter on your mouth than it is to put a filter on your brain.

Maybe this is silly, but we need to think about what we think about. Philippians 4:8 gives a list of things that believers should think about.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

People sometimes call this verse a “filter.” If you run your thoughts through this filter, do they work? Does the caliber of what you’re thinking about match with these qualities? If not, you probably shouldn’t be thinking about it.

So how do you stop thinking about something you shouldn’t be thinking about?

For me, that’s the hard part. When my brain gets stuck in a rut, it’s the hardest thing in the world to get out of it. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Remember, if you are a follower of Christ, you have the Holy Spirit inside your heart. He’s there to help you. So don’t be afraid to ask.

You have a choice in what to think about. Just because a thought appears in your head doesn’t mean you have to spend an hour thinking about it. No. If it’s not a thought that you should have, drop it. Don’t think about it. Or stand up to it. Realize and recognize that it’s not an excellent thought, that it’s not worthy of praise, that it’s not true or honorable or right or pure or lovely. And choose to not think about it again. Ask God to help you. And if you keep struggling, find an accountability partner.

Eventually, what is in your mind will come out of your mouth. Maybe you can keep them separate at first, but eventually what is going on in your heart is going to happen in your life. We may think we can compartmentalize forever, but that’s a lie Satan tells us. The best defense is to be genuine, inside and out.

I think therefore I am

What do you spend your time thinking about? Everybody thinks about something and it’s usually all the time. Your brain is constantly moving, constantly thinking, always working, never stopping. Granted, there are times when your brains takes over and starts thinking for you, but when you are awake and have the choice about what to think, what do you choose to think about?

For me, I’m usually trying to remember and plan my day at work. And if it’s not that, then I’m brainstorming plot lines or skits. Or, I could be thinking about a book I’ve read or a movie I’ve seen. Or I could be thinking about what I’m going to cook for dinner.

How many of you know people who think negatively all the time? They’re so sad and grouchy all the time that it seems there isn’t a positive bone in their body? All they think about is how unfair life is or how they’ve been mistreated or how people around them have been mistreated or how they don’t have any friends. Those are the people you avoid at work and at church and at family reunions, right?

Negative thinking is a vicious cycle. And it’s silly. Because what do we have to be negative about anyway? I mean, those negative thinkers can always find something to complain about, but in the grand scheme of things, how can we complain about anything?

The verse for the day made me think of all this.

Philippians 4:8

 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

 A lot of people call this the “filter verse” and say it should be used to determine what you watch on television or at the movie theatre or what you read, and I’m sure that’s a perfectly good use for this verse. But a lot of times people don’t apply it to their own personal unending mental conversation.

Fix your thoughts on what is true.

What is true? God loves you. That’s true. In the face of something like that, how can we complain about the weather?

Think about things that are exellent and worthy of praise. That doesn’t sound negative to me.

But it’s so much easier to be negative. It’s easier to focus on the downside of life. Honestly, life does have a lot of downs, but it also has a lot of ups. If you choose to focus on the ups and truly believe that God knows what He’s doing, you’ll find your outlook on life turning a bit sunnier. And as soon as you have some sun shining, it’s not long until everything else starts to brighten up too.

I remember a cartoon show when I was young called Rainbow Brite. I adored that show. I actually have the movie they made. It’s total 80’s awesomeness. Rainbow Brite is the main character and she brings light and color to the world; she’s this genuinely happy little girl who laughs a lot (I know; I think the creators were on crack). The main antagonists (read that bad guys) of the show are these two creepy guys who live in a cave; one is really stupid and the other one is a really stupid schemer. Their names are Murky and Lurky Dismal, and they don’t like color or rainbows or happiness or anything cheerful. That’s basically the show.

Not a lot of redeeming qualities other than demonstrating to kids that being grouchy and sad isn’t a good way to make friends. Well . . . maybe it had redeeming qualities after all then.

We can choose what we think about. Even in countries where we can speak our minds out loud, our minds can still work in silence. So I say it’s better to think positively. God has everything under control, so why be a Gloomy Gus (or a Murky Dismal)?

Murky Dismal

Murky Dismal