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Focus on the good (22-09-22)

A Bible Reading: Philippians 4. 8 - 9

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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. A Thought I recently received a belated birthday present from a dear clergy friend. It is a classy mug, pleasing in shape and decorated with pale blue and white vertical stripes. As you drink from it, a little phrase comes into view on the inside of the mug. In bright yellow script, it reads: ‘Focus on the good’. This immediately reminded me of the verses above from Philippians. I find these verses challenging, because my brain seems to be programmed to think more readily about the negatives in life. Let me give you an example.

I recently went to the dentist for the extraction of a broken tooth. I am not good with dentists at the best of times, but even less so when I know a tooth has got to come out. However, the dentist was amazing! I had two injections during which I was encouraged to make a variety of vocal sounds, copying the dentist. This was a new technique I had never come across before, but it worked. I was so preoccupied with trying to follow the quick moving selection of sounds, the injections were painlessly done in no time. Good psychology! The dentist is quite a character. She had obviously picked up that I was rather anxious, because several times she assured me that tooth extraction was her speciality with the reassuring comment “I’m good at this.” And she was! The tooth was out before I had even realized. She then explained the after care, which included no food other than soup or mashed potato for the rest of the day. I began to wish I had indulged in a bigger breakfast. For the rest of the day, I found it difficult not to think about the soreness as the numbness wore off and the frustrations of not being able to eat normal foods. The remarkable skill of the dentist had already faded into the background.

Paul urges the Philippians to focus on the good - 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. This requires discipline to put it into practice. I consciously tried to keep bringing myself back to a place of admiration for the dentist, her reassuring manner and her expertise both as a dentist and a psychologist. I also tried to focus on the truth, that minus the offending tooth, I was able to eat again painlessly after a few days. The dentist was excellent and praiseworthy. I did tell her as much at the time. That was the right thing to do, because she was incredibly good at her job and I was really grateful.

And then Paul slips in this little reminder that when we focus on the good, the God of peace will be with us. As I focus on the good, I’m sure I will be far more peaceful the next time I make a visit to the dentist. I am also trying to apply the principle to other areas of my life.

A Prayer Lord Jesus, you have blessed us with so much that is excellent and praiseworthy,

give us hearts full of thankfulness, that we may we focus on the good and discover your peace. Amen.

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