Do you also have a tendency of have an anxious mind? The practice of thinking lovely really helps me see beauty in all seasons!
Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. – Philippians 4:8
If you are anything like me, you have a tendency to see what’s going on in the world – the headlines, the bad news, the suffering, the controversy – and at times you can dwell on that and let it permeate your mind into a negative thought spiral and outlook. I think what’s hard about seeing all of that “bad” stuff is that I can be tempted to then look at the world through that lens only. All of that hard stuff becomes front of mind. It can almost become a filter. Like you begin to see the world only through the lens of the not-lovely things that are constantly happening in the world, in culture, in headlines, on Facebook comments gone toxic, instead of balancing all of that with the lovely and good things around you. Because often, the lovely is quiet, while everything else is very loud and aggressive.
This verse in Philippians has long been a favorite of mine. It is beautiful and succinct and is a great verse to apply to my mindset and thought patterns for a healthy mental state. It’s pretty practical, too. But even as the instructions seem pretty self explanatory – to “think about such things” – in practice, what does that actually look like? Because, again, if you’re anything like me, your brain and imagination can really take a thought and chase that thing all the way down a pretty negative spiral until you’re at the bottom looking up like, “how did I get here?!”
The Hebrew word for think in the text is logizomai. In the original language, this word means something so much deeper than what our word think means. Logizomai can be translated to reckon, to count, to calculate. Another definition explains that logizomai means by reckoning up all the reasons, to consider, to weigh, to meditate. Meanwhile, the English word reckon means to establish by counting or calculation; calculate.
So looking at all these underlying definitions, Paul writing that we are to think on lovely things suggests something so much deeper than just letting our minds momentarily glaze over “good things” verses “not good things.” It means a mental equation must take place. We must calculate and establish that there is lovely to dwell on and meditate on by looking at the world around us and proving the lovely despite what is not lovely. We must perform a logical thought equation so that we don’t simply suggest to ourselves that there’s also lovely in the world, but we must convince ourselves through logic and proof that we can rest in a constant state of thinking lovely, and therefore elevate our minds to a healthier, more balanced perspective.
A personal example for me would be draught. This summer, it was a challenge not to dwell on the draught because signs and reminders of it were everywhere. It was constant. We were under water restrictions. The landscape was brown. It was 100+ degrees every day. Deer would walk by my window at 10 am already panting due to the heat. And for someone who can have an anxious mind, it was important that I looked at the reality of our summer of heat and draught with a balance of thinking lovely.
In practice, this meant that I would look at the live oaks and consider how they’ve gone through so much, and yet they are still standing, still holding their leaves. I would fill up our bird baths constantly to keep our wildlife neighbors hydrated. I would put out birdseed and veggies. I would observe how nature kept going and kept surviving, despite the harsh conditions. I would look at scripture and observe that God is sovereign over all seasons, no matter how out of control they may seem to me on a human level. I had to prove the lovely that I might meditate on lovely. I observed that lovely was still happening, even in the midst of a hard season. Birds were still singing. Baby deer were still playing in the mornings. My rock rose continued to bloom and my olive trees actually thrived.
Thinking on lovely things didn’t mean that I ignored the draught, it just meant that I had to choose to also search out the lovely inside of the hard and dry season to hold the two equally. To faithfully pray for rain, but also maintain a mindset that even as we went days and days without it there was still beauty and joy and lovely all around me.
Another think I did this summer to practice lovely thinking during the draught was photography. I took my camera outside during the hottest part of the day in order to see the beauty happening all around me. This was such a good practice for me! It helped to continue to train my eyes to see the lovely all around me, even as the season was a tough one.
I hope this blog post was encouraging to you! Please feel free to follow along on my blog or my Instagram as I continue to walk through this practice of thinking lovely!
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