WHAT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT?

Most of us have at times when we seem to be daydreaming been asked the question, “What are you thinking about?” A common answer is “nothing,” but my sense is that thinking about nothing is probably rare.

I just finished a book by Hannah Anderson entitled ALL THAT’S GOOD: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment. While she does write about discernment, six of the eleven chapters are about the six things the Apostle Paul suggests Christians should think about in Philippians 4:8, “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” (NIV).

The New Living Translation renders Paul’s challenge “Fix your thoughts and think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” In the Message Eugene Peterson paraphrases, “you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on . . . the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not to curse.”

Comparing these three translations gives us insight into the six specific areas Paul encourages us to focus on: what is true, what is noble (honorable), what is right (reputable), what is pure (authentic), what is lovely (compelling), and what is admirable (gracious).

Here are a few selections from Hannah Anderson’s explanations of things we are to think about: “honorable carries the idea that something has weight or gravity” (p. 81), “something is just (or right) when if fulfills what it is supposed to do” (p. 97), “being pure is the condition of being whole and untainted” (p. 114), “to describe something as lovely is to describe both the thing itself as well as the response it produces in us” (p. 128), and “seeking whatever is commendable means giving attention to both what we talk about and how we talk about it” (p.141).

The importance of what we think about should not be understated. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul gives us six suggestions for what we should consider and focus on.  If as believers we give much thought to the opposite of these six, let’s be challenged to replace them with what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

To conclude this post I share Hannah Anderson’s observation: “discernment simply means developing a taste for what is good” (p.13). Perhaps we need to work on being more discerning about what we think about and fully enjoy what we do think about.

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SOME THOUGHTS ON FRIENDSHIPS

Two weeks ago I learned that one of my childhood friends died and I wrote a blog about him to honor him. I concluded my thoughts about Bruce Edgecomb and another childhood friend, Charlie Bailey who passed away a couple of years earlier, with the closing line of the narrator in the movie Stand by Me: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12.”

Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about friends and friendships. I’m now 70 and agree with the narrator that neither have I had any friends later on like Chuck and Bruce. That is not to suggest, however, that I have not had close, supportive, fun, caring, and wonderful friends.

Somewhat surprising to me in thinking back is the number of friends I had who were older than me during my years in youth ministry. Most of them (called youth sponsors in those days) contributed in vital ways to our youth ministry and we became friends. What is also meaningful to me is the number of friends I have had and still have from among those young people who were participants in our youth ministry.

I was privileged to serve as the preaching pastor of two churches following my five years as a youth pastor. I served 10 years as the minister of a small congregation in the Philadelphia area from 1975 to 1984. My best and most helpful friends during my tenure there were men who were older and more mature than me who invested in my life by supporting me, advising me, challenging me, and loving me.

At the age of 33 our family moved to Southern California where we planted a church in a rapidly growing area of mostly young families. Jan and I stayed there for 30 years until we thought it was time to step down and move to Texas to be closer to our children and grandchildren.

One of the most difficult things about stepping down from Discovery Christian Church after 30 years and moving to Texas was leaving the many friends we had made and with whom we had shared life. It has not been easy to keep in touch, but we have remained in contact with several and quite a few have visited us in Amarillo.

The past four years we have become involved with a church and I am elated to have a part time position as Pastor of Senior Adult Ministry. Jan and I are certainly loved and appreciated, but we have not yet cultivated many friendships as we are busy with our grandsons. I’m hoping to nurture some more meaningful friendships both giving and receiving as real friends do.

We all need friends, don’t we? Friends make a difference in our lives. No two friendships are exactly the same, and my sense is that’s the way it should be. The loss of a friend or a friendship can be painful. I thank God for my many friendships from growing up, during high school, while in college, in the churches I’ve served, and those with whom I have connected. Friends have enriched my life in many ways and I hope that as a friend I have also enriched their lives in many ways as well. Sometimes I think back over the years and become nostalgic remembering those friends and the times we shared.

Friends and friendships are a gift from God.

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