I’ve been fighting sickness for nearly two weeks. It started with a cough that stole my voice and ended with a sinus infection. I tried everything to get well and stay well, but in the end I needed to go to the doctor. It seems odd that something so trivial could impact my mood, but it did! My strong immune system is something I treasure, so I get discouraged when something like this knocks me flat!
And, in spite of the lovely lights and the “cheer of the season,” I’ve struggled to keep my emotions above water. Feelings of failure, insignificance, and loneliness have dogged me these past few weeks, and were it not for this exercise of writing about what I have dubbed “the elevating eight,” I would be totally depressed. The powerful effect of God’s word never ceases to amaze me.
As I mentioned last week, I know many of you do not use Facebook, so I am sharing some of my Elevating 8 reflections here on the blog! I hope that these things will raise your spirits as they have mine, no matter how disheartened you may feel today. May the God of peace fill you with His comforting presence.
Whatever Things are of Good Report
A pound of criticism and a dose of skepticism may keep you from being played the fool, and we need these things in moderation if we are to be wise.
However, when I read the news, it overflows with bitterness, cynicism, prejudice, and negativity. If I read or listen to the news for too long, I will have a pile of things to complain about. For instance, there’s a lot of fuss about how awful our schools are. No doubt, the school system has issues and always will, but there is good to be found too!
Yesterday, on my son’s field trip to the bank, I was impressed by the parents who consistently make time to be involved with school activities. They could be doing other things, and yet they take time out to help the teachers and squeeze in a little extra time with their kids. Not everyone can because of work or other things, but I’m thankful that those who can are investing that time to be present.
AND there are teachers investing countless hours to help their kids learn the best way possible.
AND there are lots of community members who want to help our kids grown and learn about the world in which they live.
There are things worth commending if we just take time to look.
What is of good report in your corner of the world? #elevating8
If There is Any Excellence
Excellence, in the context of Philippians 4:8, refers to moral excellence or virtue. In a world overflowing with sin, these examples may be hard to find, but they are there!
When I was very young, I knew a generous and kind man who came to our house every week to study the Bible with our family. It is because of His diligent efforts that I can honestly say I’ve studied the Bible cover to cover. It took seven years, but it was worth it! His favorite verse was Micah 6:8, “And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?”
He didn’t just quote the verse, he lived it until the end of his life.
My dear brother in Christ got dementia in his later years, but his knowledge of God’s love and faithfulness never faded from his mind.
Maybe you know of someone in your life who has modeled Christ-like attitudes. Think of them today and pray for them if they are still with you.
If There is Anything Worthy of Praise
I had plenty of anxiety about sending my kids to Public school for a year. I have prayed—a lot—and I firmly believe that while it hasn’t been perfect, God has taken excellent care of them during this time. One thing I worried about was a deterioration in their faith. Again, God has watched over their little hearts and given all three of them Christian teachers.
My eight-year old is learning essay writing and the snippet in this picture is from one such exercise. It reads, “I am thankful for my bible because it helps me learn about God. It also shows me what to do.”
Not only was it neatly written, but the whole essay shows me that she hasn’t lost her love for God and Family. Her efforts are praiseworthy, as is the state of her little heart.
Sometimes I get so caught up in all the things I need to correct in my children that I don’t take time to focus on what they do well. I will complain less about and to my kids if I make an effort to find what is praiseworthy and store it in my heart.
Often, around this time of year, I hear the song, “Mary, did you know?” We could speculate a great deal on this point.
Mary, we are told, treasured the wondrous acts she observed in her heart (Luke 2:19). There is a lesson in that for us. Do we treasure God’s wondrous deeds within our hearts? Do we marvel over each one as a precious gift or do we treat them as commonplace? Each time God answers our prayers, do we lift our souls in rapturous praise or do we shrug a thanks?
The striking lesson in this simple song is not, “what did Mary know?”. The lesson lies in this: Jesus will never cease to fill us with wonder.
The Son of God, through whom the world was created, was willing to live on this earth in poverty, suffer disdain, and bear the torturous death on a cross so that we could be delivered from God’s much-deserved wrath.
Dwell on These Things
Typically, the translations of Philippians 4:8 use the words, “meditate” or “dwell” or “think on” these things. One of the many meanings in the Greek is to “take it into account.”
When we keep track of what is of value, our speech and our actions will overflow with worthiness.
What are you “taking into account” today?
Whatever is True
What better truthful meditation can I have than the Truth Himself?
A song I heard many years ago had this line:
“Pilate asked, ‘what is Truth,’
It was standing right in front of him!”
Many philosophers and scholars ignore the truth of Jesus, seeking something more self-aggrandizing or palatable to their pride. Jesus is true, honorable, just, pure, admirable, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy; the very eight qualities upon which we seek to center our minds.
He deserves the devotion of my whole heart!
Whatever is Honorable
My Father-in-law shared this video yesterday and I thought it was an amazing example of “whatever is honorable.”
I never gave much thought to “what happened to Rick Moranis.” If I had, I would have assumed that the fame became too much and he likely succumbed to drugs or alcohol. I was definitely mistaken.
In this world, we glorify people who star in movies, throw footballs, make millions, or cure diseases while ignoring the severe neglect they inflict upon their families as “collateral damage” for the greater good. This video is an example of someone who did the opposite of what the world expected, to his credit.
When asked if he missed being “creative,” Moranis replied:
“I didn’t walk away from that. I applied all of my creativity to my home life, to my kids. I didn’t change. I just shifted my focus.”
Our society may “miss out” on advances in technology or some such thing when people devote their considerable talents to their families, but I wonder if society would be more stable if we shifted our focus… I feel challenged to make the most of my circumstances instead of longing for a different set.
Whatever is Just
God meted out heaps of justice in the Old Testament. The worldwide flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt—all seem extreme to our 21st century concept of justice. Yet our societal sense of justice is imperfect, often based on social mores rather than God’s justice.
When I have disciplined my children in the past, there have been occasions when they considered the punishment “unfair” because their sense of justice had not yet developed to maturity. As they mature, they slowly begin to recognize true fairness, accepting discipline without resentment or anger. Even more powerful is their response to “grace.” When they know they deserve discipline and are given a “break,” they receive it not as an entitlement, but as a gift.
God’s justice hasn’t changed. What has changed is our access to grace through the blood of Jesus. We deserve death, but through Christ we receive mercy and grace.
Whatever is Lovely
I love the soft glow of Christmas lights and all the beautifully decorated trees at this cold time of year. Even on this shortest day and darkest day of the year, there are lovely sights to take in.
Sometimes the stress that comes with this season triggers grumbling. Take sometime with the electronics off just to take in the beauty of something. Instead of complaining about what you don’t have and give thanks for what you do have. #Elevating8
Whatever is Pure
The accomplishments of Jesus during His life on earth were so vast that the apostle John concluded, “there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25 ESV) And yet, in 1 John 4.9 only his primary purpose is listed: “that we might have eternal life.” We hear it so much that it sounds almost trivial, but the gift he has given us is one we do not deserve and couldn’t possibly repay.
The pure, selfless love of Jesus and the pure, sacrificial love of God is hard to truly fathom. There will be times in this life when we feel a deep, aching loneliness; a sense of being unwanted and unloved by the world around us. Or, perhaps the adoration we receive is so superficial that our hearts feel cavernously empty. On the good days and the dark days, remember whose you are—an adopted and longed-for child of the Lord of Creation.
The Lord loves you with fathomless love.
He will never leave you nor forsake you.