November 17, 2016
One of the important factors in success when it comes to any athletic endeavor is muscle memory. Regardless of the sport, practicing whatever is required over and over again trains your muscles to react to the situation without having to think. Hitting a baseball thrown at 90+ miles per hour only happens with frequent repetitions. Reacting correctly to a play in football comes with constant practice. When I coached basketball, my players would sometimes complain about doing the same drills over and over again until I explained the concept of muscle memory. I wanted my players to react naturally, not think about it first.
The same is true of situations. Practicing making a putt that could win the match makes that move instinctual when you are in that situation. Sinking the winning free throw is easy in a game if you have had that kind of pressure put on you in practice over and over again.
The concept of muscle memory is also helpful in other endeavors; public speaking, performing music, sales, surgery, and being a checkout clerk at a grocery store. The more you practice, the more comfortable you become and the better you perform.
The same is true of how we live life everyday. We can train ourselves to think and react in a certain way. Thanksgiving is coming up and we will all spend some time, hopefully, thinking about that for which we are thankful. I am convinced this is why Thanksgiving is such a beloved holiday. Rather than negativity, complaining and judgmentalism, we are focused, at least for one day, on the things for which we are thankful. We are forcing ourselves to think positively.
What if we practiced that every day?
That is what Paul is recommending when he writes to the church at Philippi. “...if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 Because “anything” is too fuzzy of a word, he makes suggestions.
Whatever is true; not gossip, innuendo, accusations.
Whatever is noble; “that which has the dignity of holiness upon it.” Think about things that set us apart from the rest of the world because they are God-honoring thoughts.
Whatever is right; God’s view of people and life, rather than comfort, pleasure and ease.
Whatever is pure; those things that are in keeping with God’s standards of morality.
Whatever is lovely; rather than revenge, or criticism, or punishment, Christians should focus on what is kind, empathetic and forgiving.
Whatever is admirable; some versions translate this as gracious. Just as we have received God’s unmerited favor we should pass unmerited favor onto others.
If anything is excellent; find something positive in situations and celebrate them.
If anything is praiseworthy; a car that starts, a furnace that works, colleagues who help, children who love, spouses who care, parents who try, doctors who heal, teachers who teach, neighbors who are thoughtful. Whatever is praiseworthy in your day, and there is plenty.
If we practiced these things everyday, eventually they would become habits and the world would be a better place to live. Thanksgiving would be a regular occurrence.