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This Yeah, Whatever series is all about 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.

The intent is to think of concrete examples for each so the command does not stay abstract.

I’ve designed a note card for each word in case it’s helpful to jot down an example or thought. (Click the bolded words above in the verse to read prior posts and download prior notecards.)

Click the note card below to download the .pdf. It’s formatted to fit a 4×6 card.

Honestly, you guys? I tried to do the research. But I kept running into brick walls, er, I mean dead ends. That and it was exceptionally hard to keep my rear in gear — look! There’s a squirrel! Hopefully I’m not the only one who struggles with focusing on what’s important. (That actually is the entire point of this series.)

But it was hard to get excited about “admirable.” There isn’t anything surprising about its various definitions: deserving respect and approval, deserving highest esteem, inspiring approval, reverence, or affection. It comes from the Latin admirabilis ‘to be wondered at.’

The word in Greek euphēmos that gets translated “good report” in KJV (“admirable” in NIV) is only used once in the Bible. So…that’s helpful.

Google’s trend charts were slightly more interesting. From 1800 to 1900 mentions of “admirable” were relatively high but steadily declined from there to 2000. Currently, we’re just barely above the lowest point. Compared to 1850, “admirable” is used five times less today. I don’t know how they figure this out, but it does make an interesting question: Is “admirable” a relic of the past?

I’ll let you decide. Below are thoughts of others — some humorous, some serious. My hope is that you’ll be entertained but come away with a renewed sense of wonder for that which is truly admirable.

Keep looking up!

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When I was in second grade I spent my recesses searching the playground’s pea gravel for agates. These rocks were precious finds but not so uncommon that I didn’t often travel home with weighted coat pockets. I collected rocks at the beach and occasionally at a souvenir shop. I had a clear jar of interesting river rocks filled with water to keep the rocks colorful. It fascinated me that dry rocks looked dull until the magic of water brought their colors to life.

I remember specific rocks from my childhood collection, though I don’t have it anymore: the hotdog-shaped rock broken in two, the chair-like one with a perfectly rounded seat as if a ball were sitting on it when it was formed, a ball-like one that fit perfectly in the “chair”, a purple polished one from a friend, two that came from a neighbor girl, one green and one orange from a souvenir shop, a cube that had a streak of white across its black face that reminded me of seagull poop along the sides of an ocean cliff, the small slab of obsidian that I’d cut my finger on. Each one had its own exquisite beauty.

That’s what lovely meant when I looked up the dictionary definition – exquisite beauty.

This Yeah, Whatever series is all about 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.

The intent is to think of concrete examples for each so the command does not stay abstract. (Click the bold words to read prior posts.)

This is why I’ve designed a note card for each word so that you can take a minute to jot down an example or thought for each word and keep them in a place that will encourage you when you see them. (Or add to them as you think about it.) Click the note card below to download the .pdf. It’s formatted to fit a 4×6 card.

By thinking of specific examples, we are fulfilling the command of the verse in the present and we are helping ourselves in the future. The sunflower is in the background because it is Look Up Sometimes’ logo. Sunflower sounds a lot like Son-follower and like a sunflower looks up and follows the sun, we want to look up and follow God’s Son, Jesus.

Also, if you’re already a subscriber, you have access to the free printable I created “8 Anxiety Busters Worksheet” which is the entire Philippians 4:8 verse with a line for each of the words for you to fill in. Mine is hanging in a cheap frame in my bathroom with a dry erase marker on top. If you’re not already a subscriber, look on the right side bar and subscribe under the photo of the printable you’ll receive (along with other free printables I’ve created for you!)

Exquisite beauty sounded like newborn babies, flowers, and sunsets to me. And while those things are all great, it felt like I was just making stuff up. (That writing got round-filed.) Did it really matter that I didn’t entirely understand one of the words? There were seven others… (Tell me I’m not the only one who thinks like that.) Except then what would I share with you??

My husband handed me Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible. I’ll spare you the details, but the highlights are noteworthy. For example, this is what lovely in the context of Philippians 4:8 does not mean:

  1. Desirability. As in all the “lovely” references to queens or in Song of Solomon. *Ahem* (No further explanation needed.)
  2. Loved. There’s a reference to King Saul and his son Jonathan being lovely in 2 Samuel 1:23 (KJV) that basically meant they were greatly loved by the people. Popular royalty.
  3. Doting. This was the hardest to wrap my head around, but God tells a prophet, Ezekiel, in Ezekiel 33:32 (KJV) that the people who hear his God-given messages are enthralled with his delivery, like listening to a lovely singer or instrument player, but they’re totally ignoring the message.

What’s the point?

I think it’s that God wants us to train our thoughts to rise higher than the transience of desirability, popularity, and even skillful, doting acts of obedience. Each of the three examples above were described as “lovely” in the KJV, and each of the three examples focused on the qualities or achievements of humans. God cares too much about our mental health to want us to train our thoughts to settle on things that are fickle or fade.

The word “lovely” as it’s used in Philippians 4:13 only occurs once in the New Testament (KJV) and means: acceptable or pleasing. I think it’s safe to say that means those things which are acceptable or pleasing to God.

To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:3

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

It’s clear God is after our obedience. And we’ve all shot that opportunity to pieces somewhere along the way. Which makes the loveliness of Jesus Christ all the more magical.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

If you’ve never accepted God’s free gift to you – His Son, Jesus Christ – all you do is ask. And then let Him be in charge of your life. You’ll never regret it.

But the same helplessness we have to save ourselves is the same helplessness we have to make ourselves obedient after we’re saved. We never cease needing Jesus, our solid Rock.

From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

Does Jesus feel dull or dry to you? He did to me for a long time. I mean, I tried to be the good Sunday school girl, but in college when the good influences were few, I made a royal mess of my life. Then I started reading the Bible for myself. Suddenly parts of it felt highlighted as though they were written just for me.

That’s the power of the Holy Spirit – the Living Water. He can splash living water over the solid Rock and enliven whatever feels dry or dull into something magical.

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deuteronomy 32:4

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25

Incidentally, my favorite hymn is Christ the Solid Rock. Did you know the author Edward Mote originally titled it “The Immutable Basis for a Sinner’s Hope”? I much prefer the original title! I struggled with my salvation for a season after making that royal mess and this song embodies loveliness to me. I didn’t know the original title then, but this song helped me hang on at my lowest point.

Truly lovely helps the lowly.

How will you meditate on Christ’s loveliness this week? Do you enjoy collecting rocks? Or painting them or photographing them or climbing them? Maybe you enjoy listening to music and want to listen to On Christ the Solid Rock? (Here’s my favorite version by Arlen Salte https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6Bjoz2HdXU) Who do you know who needs a reminder or an explanation of why Jesus is so exquisitely lovely? Where in your own life do you need to ask the Holy Spirit to come and splash His Living Water on that which seems dull or dry so you can see the beauty of God in a new or renewed way?

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It’s deceptively delightful at the moment – homemade applesauce simmers on the stove permeating the house with the fragrance of cinnamon. It’s not that the applesauce isn’t delicious or that the house doesn’t smell amazing. It is, and it does. But the circumstances prompting this uncharacteristic domestic display are less than ideal.

What doom and gloom created applesauce-awesomeness-from-scratch at the Allard household? The short-ish answer is because my doctor put me on a restricted diet that is focused on whole foods, no sugar (and no lots of other things). Why snub my nose at perfectly good unsweetened store-bought applesauce? Because I’m only allowed to eat the green apples. But in two words? Lyme disease.

Isn’t it interesting that when we get sick, we need to return to the basics, the pure?

“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3

I’ve thought about hunger lately.

I won’t sugarcoat it (I’m only allowed stevia) – this hopefully temporary diet is maddeningly restrictive. My approved list, at one point, consisted of less than three dozen ingredients. And bread and cheese were not on said approved list. I haven’t eaten bread in over a year, but cheese? I’d gone without it for 3 months before, and I hated.every.moment.

I’ve gone to bed hungry because I didn’t want what I could have. After eating hardboiled eggs for several meals, it gets old. I’ve thought about the fact that it’s been a long time since I remembered what feeling hungry really felt like. And then guilt because so many in our world can’t say the same and what’s my problem, anyway?

Recently, I may or may not have lost my temper completely, screamed like a mad woman, and banged some pots and pans around in a fit of rage, scaring wide-eyed children and needing to seek forgiveness from everyone in the house before the day was over. Nothing like a restriction to bring out the true me.

Multiple times a day I’m forced to remember my dependence on food, and sometimes I just loathe that. I know God’s allowed it. It’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve endured and it’s nothing when I think of friends who are suffering far worse. So I start counting my blessings – until mealtime rolls around, the acids in my stomach churn, and I transform into an axe murderer wrestling through my limited options again until I get a meal inside my belly.

The struggle is real.

Should I despise my dependence when God built it into me? Should I despise that it’s a tool to cause me to look up sometimes? Should I resist building purity into my life, my diet, when it’s clear that’s what God is after? An integrity, a wholeness not just in spirit, but in mind and body also? Like our pastor asked on Sunday, do I magnify God in my body?

Sometimes I get it right. Often I whine and want my husband to make meals so I don’t go flying off the deep end stressing about food again.

(Side note: The Israelites knew what it was like to have a restricted diet. And we all know how well it went for them when they complained and grumbled! Ahem.)

What area of your life needs tending to? Where have you thought you’ve done well, only to be pulled up short, cut off at the knees and left lying on your back wondering what just happened?

Friend, I’m feeling your pain. But there is no punishment – only help. Our God absorbed all the wrath His justice demands so that there need be no punishment. We can come boldly asking Him to help us in our time of need whether it’s food related or something completely different.

In this series through Philippians 4:8, we’re considering whatever is true, noble, right, and now pure for the purpose of translating abstract niceties into reality. If it’s helpful, download and print the note card below to record and carry a verse with you (can’t think of anything more pure than God’s words) so you can feed your spirit throughout the day. I’m currently loving Philippians 2:13.

Purity starts with God because we can’t ever be unless He pours Himself into us, which He does when we accept Christ.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Notice how the verse both starts and ends with God? Becoming pure is about more of God in every area of my life.

I watched an amazing short clip on Instagram once. I wish I remembered who to credit. The video clip showed a glass full of dark, polluted water. Subtitles explained sin pollutes our life and we can’t ever become pure again. The only solution is God. A hand held the glass under a running faucet and as the pure water ran into the polluted glass an amazing thing happened: the pollution decreased and the purity increased. Within a short time, the glass was filled with pure water.

Purity is about more of God.

A phone conversation with a dear friend today turned my thoughts to the days when I’d understood fasting horribly wrongly, depriving myself of food until I’d nearly wasted away, trying to pay penance for my sin. Not possible. I didn’t need less food. I needed more Jesus. As I increasingly understood this, my health increased in all areas of my life. I regained the lost weight, I made healthier decisions, and I sought God because He’d sought me first.

Purity is about more of God.

Twenty years later and I have a small understanding that true fasting is not deprivation for show-and-tell. It’s to remind oneself of your dependence on God and a time to devote yourself to more of God in prayer. Purity. Because the pure in heart will see God. “And maybe you can view your restricted diet as fasting?” my wise friend suggests. Though perhaps obvious, it had never occurred to me…

This week I experienced severe weakness that left me helpless to feed myself — twice in one day. My husband (on crutches and in a leg brace due to an injured knee) hobbled over to feed me. I still ate even in my weakness. It was a humbling experience.

God humbles his people to cause them to hunger for more of Him, not so that we’ll lose our tempers and crash pots and pans around the kitchen, screaming in a fit of rage, but because He knows we need more of Him and longs to give Himself to us. I’ve been reminded anew of how desperately I need my Savior.

More of Him, less of me.

What deprivation in your life, that you’d have never chosen, might be a disguised gift to display your need for our Savior in a new way? God didn’t leave His people hungry in the wilderness – He fed them food from heaven.

I am preaching to myself and if you need this too, may God shed His grace on the both of us.

Dear Jesus, I fling myself at Your feet, sorry for the whining mess I often am when You are trying to give me something pure and good. It often doesn’t feel good. Please help me accept what You give from your love-scarred hands. Please continue the work inside me You’ve started, giving me the desires I should have, and empowering me to carry them out. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

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After the kids were tucked in, my husband and I wrapped their gifts, chuckling in hushed tones over their gift-giving gusto for us this year.

“They wrapped half their bedrooms and put it under the tree,” I said, exaggerating slightly.

“I think they used up two new rolls of scotch tape just today,” my husband observed.

“They’ve pointed out several times we’re the ones getting the most presents this year. I think what they’re really saying is: ‘Where are my presents?’”

“That’s exactly what they’re saying.” My husband shot me a knowing smile.

We had a good laugh come Christmas.

We unwrapped quite a collection of random plastic pieces, unwanted books, assorted broken pencils, scrap paper, and three pairs of gently used – but clean –  Disney princess underwear. But hey, at six and seven years old the kids were learning to give.

We discarded all but three items. (And no, they weren’t the princess underwear.)

One keeper was a package of post-its I’d bought myself and handed to my son in the midst of one of his wrapping sprees. He had happily run for yet another roll of tape.

The other two gifts were picked out with their father’s approval and paid for with their father’s money.

My kids were my gentle wake-up call.

To finish reading this post, click here and join me today at Incourage.

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If you are just joining us, welcome to the Yeah, Whatever series as we study Philippians 4:8 in a way you may have never before! (You can read the first and second posts in the series HERE and HERE.) I’ve benefitted reflecting on specific things that are true and noble. I tell you what, though, I struggled to find something to say about “right” because it’s so similar to true.

But as I typed my thoughts about a chapter I’d recently studied – 1 Samuel 17 about David and Goliath – it occurred to me that this a perfect example of thinking on “whatever is right.” I was totally pumped when I saw these new things in a familiar passage – I hope you will be too!

(To read the full story, check out 1 Samuel 17.)

#1 – Collect the facts. V.20-27

David, the youngest of eight brothers, didn’t just brandish his sling and stones and come charging onto the battlefield looking to be a hero. He was only there in the first place to deliver supplies from his father to his three oldest brothers and their commander. Then the problem with the enemy captured his attention. So he gathered the facts about the situation first. He listened to the soldiers relay their experience with the enemy’s insults and their king’s offer to reward wealth and his daughter in marriage to the soldier who could defeat their enemy.

#2 – Continue despite scorn. V.28-30

David’s oldest brother, Eliab, hears David talking, sees where this could lead, and is immediately furious with jealousy. The firstborn rips into his youngest brother slandering David’s motivation, duties, and character. You get the feeling by David’s reaction, that this isn’t the first time he’s experienced this. “Now what have I done? Can’t I even speak?” David replies. And then, as if dismissing his brother’s jealousy, he turns to talk to someone else.

I wonder if being the youngest of your siblings is a gift in this way. You’ve already practiced dealing with the scorn of those who should be protecting you. I’ll also inject that Eliab’s jealousy is a backhanded compliment of sorts, because it indicates at least a partial belief in David’s ability to disarm their national threat. I highly doubt David viewed it as such! but it’s interesting to note.

#3 – Confirm the facts. V.30

I don’t want to overlook that tucked into David’s perseverance, he also didn’t settle for what he heard once. He confirmed the facts. He didn’t allow a jealous, furious older brother from detaining him in his mission to make sure that what he thought was true was really true before considering action.

#4 – Care about God’s people v.32

This just makes me want to hug David. He tells the king of all Israel, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” Right? Like where was everyone else’s concern? Scared for themselves. David, a lowly shepherd, worries about God’s people losing heart. This people, Israel, distinct from all others, led by the highest power in the universe, considering giving up because evil looms. Even the king wasn’t brave enough to respond to Goliath’s challenge to select a representative from both sides – winner takes all.

And don’t you just love the foreshadowing of Jesus, our great Shepherd, caring for God’s people so much he volunteered to be our human representative to fight sin and death – winner took all?

#5 – Communicate with proper authorities v.31-37

David was not a renegade. The king sends for David and David takes the chance to communicate his concerns with the proper authorities in charge of this disaster. Granted, the authority is just as big a chicken as all his soldiers, so David could have been extremely depressed with the response king Saul gave, but David isn’t looking for validation – merely the legal permission to go ahead with the plan he’s formed based on the facts he’s already gathered and the faith he’s already got.

BONUS #5b – Center on God v.33

A shepherd boy not even old enough to fight in the army volunteers to get rid of a threat so large that trained soldiers and the king himself are too chicken to deal with it, and how does the king respond? Well, let’s look at how he could have responded.

“What do you know that I don’t, son? Maybe I ought to give it a go…”

“Thank you, you’ve reminded me of God’s miraculous power…”

He could have said a lot of things, but all he says is something to the effect, “Goliath’s been a warrior since before you were in diapers – I don’t think so.”

This response did not deter David, because he was centered on God and saw the situation from God’s perspective. As one woman in my Bible study group observed: David knew it was God’s reputation, not his, on the line.

#6 – Consider God’s past faithfulness v.34-37

Just a few chapters back in 1 Samuel 12:24 Samuel’s words to the nation of Israel were to “consider what great things [God] has done for you.”

When David stood before the king of Israel volunteering to fight Goliath, everyone thought he was a “nut head” as my kids would say. And he would have been, if God wasn’t part of the equation. God tips the scales and makes seemingly ridiculous nut heads into more than conquerors when they’re fighting for His glory.

David already knew this from previous battles. David had never fought wars, but he’d fought wilds beasts. Possibly alone in the fields, David triumphed over an attacking lion and bear defending his father’s sheep. These battles in private prepared David for triumphing over Goliath in public. I wonder if David’s thought was: What’s the difference between fighting something trying to kill you and someone trying to kill you? If God’s on your side, you win.

David’s present consideration of God’s past faithfulness made all the difference for his future.

#7 – Combat how you’ve been trained v.38-40

So the king says fine, you can fight. Maybe the king thought he was generous offering David his armor, but David wasn’t used to wearing it. He could barely walk let alone wage war. The lion and bear had been killed with a sling and stones, not armor and swords. David hadn’t learned how to use those tools yet. He did know how to use the sling with stones, however, and that was enough. He didn’t have to wait until he was awarded competency in the latest and greatest before he was effective.

We don't have to wait until we are awarded competency in the latest and greatest before we are effective in fulfilling God's purpose for our lives.
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#8 – Confidently trust God v.45-47

I read a quote by Abraham Lincoln today, “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” (“Just” being synonymous with “right.”)

Except in this case, David knew the real odds – defying God equals sure doom. We don’t have to be afraid of fighting against forces already doomed. And yet…

it’s one thing to say and another to hang onto when you’re staring at a 9-foot giant towering over everyone, wearing bronze armor that weighs more than you do, hefting a spear with a tip as heavy as two gallons of milk, and marching behind his shield bearer.

Picture David the shepherd boy, perhaps 15 yrs old, approaching this seasoned warrior giant. Goliath starts his usual insults, ramps them up several notches when he sees who’s coming, and then David utters these words that gave me chills:

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

#9 – Conquer the enemy!

It’s the rubber meeting the road that’s so stinking hard. Because, as I read somewhere, our beliefs are functionally on display at any given moment. And I battle to do what I say I believe. And sometimes I get it right and sometimes I end up with road rash.

This particular story ends with a happily ever after for David and that is the ultimate case for every single one of God’s children. It’s right to honestly assess our situation and that means playing it all the way out to our eventual ultimate happy ending.

Which of the 9 C’s helps you most? What right thing will you ponder? If it’s helpful, I designed a notecard especially for this purpose. CLICK HERE to download your free .pdf. (Check out previous posts HERE and HERE to print your “true” and “noble” notecards.)

You can expect to receive encouragement from me twice more this year:

  • Nov 30 – This Friday you will receive a link (only good for 24hrs) to the daily Keys for Kids devotional I wrote called “Not Beyond Repair” offering hope to anyone who’s felt like maybe this time they’ve screwed up so bad God isn’t interested in them anymore. (Spoiler alert: not true!)
    .
  • Dec 22 – You will receive a link to (in)courage’s daily devotional I wrote called “No Gift-Giving Gusto Required” offering the weary and just-trying-to-keep-it-together some much needed relief (and I’m raising my hand first). I’m SUPER EXCITED to share this with you!
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This post is part of a series called Yeah, Whatever – a reflection on Philippians 4:8. The premise for the series is that abstract concepts sound great but do us a fat lot of good unless we can start to wrap our brains around them. Therefore, each post includes a note card especially designed to help you (and me) start training our minds to think in a way that’s helpful. By taking time to think about what each of these concepts entails and jotting down an example or two, the hope is to grow in Christ-pleasing thoughts (which become actions, which become habits, which become character). What if list-making could become life-changing? Read on!

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

Cool-Looking but Kinda Useless

You know those washcloths compressed into the size of a half dollar? Magic pop-up towels? Sometimes they’re shaped into hearts, snowmen, cars, etc. (Fun gifts for kids.) The first time I bought one, I knew it was supposed to expand with water, but – while cool – its flat, shriveled state seemed useless.

That’s how I felt about approaching this topic. All I could think of was medieval aristocrats, Jesus dying on the cross for my sins, and people dying to rescue each other. I know dying to save another is the pinnacle of nobleness, but in my head, it all felt too neatly shrink-wrapped and two-dimensional. For anyone planning to live longer, what else besides dying could noble look like?

Defining Noble

I looked up the definition, pondered the synonyms, and came to two conclusions, based on the fact that noble is both a noun and an adjective.

First, considering whatever is noble (high-born, noted, titled) could very well mean considering the fact that Son-followers are heavenly nobility.

“From the distant past, [God’s] eternal love reached into the future. You see, He knew those who would be His one day, and He chose them beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of a new family of believers, all brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:29 (Voice)

Second, considering whatever is noble (virtuous, good, honorable, upright, decent, worthy, moral, ethical, unselfish, generous, magnificent, splendid, stately, imposing, dignified, striking, majestic, glorious, awesome, and regal) could very well mean to consider the price tag of love.

Considering “whatever is noble” means considering, and upholding, the price tag of love.
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Considering the Price Tag of Love

I thought of single parents breaking their backs to raise kids, parents caring for special needs children or aged parents who have been altered by Alzheimers, loving the unlovable, spouses faithfully caring for one another despite disease, singles wanting to be married but refusing to be embittered, parents bravely apologizing to their kids, children forgiving their parents, rescue efforts, law enforcement, armed forces, teachers pouring themselves into the next generation…

Each scenario comes with its price tag of attention, affection, time, money, resources, energy, words, thought, presence, giving up of dreams, etc. And the steeper the price, the higher the quality of love it displays. Whatever is noble…

Noble is not just Love 101, it’s the masters degrees and PhD levels. The highest quality of good toward another when that good necessitates great cost to oneself.

Reflecting on “whatever is noble” is reflecting on expensive love and those who have deemed it worthy to pay the price.
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And that brings me full circle back to the highest price that could possibly be paid – God giving His Son, Jesus, to meet my deepest need of forgiveness.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32 (NIV)

Reflect & Respond

When I reflect on God’s noble character and the steep price tag others have also paid to love – not just the Mother Theresas but ordinary people quietly giving themselves away every day – it kinda stops me in my tracks. I have been the recipient of some amazingly expensive expressions of love. My first reaction, honestly, is guilt. I don’t deserve them. But then grace reminds me that my opinion doesn’t matter. God says His grace has enabled my gratitude and service to Him in response.

It also reminds me that we are each stamped with the imago dei, image of God. Noble acts uphold human dignity and the worth of real love. And they inspire the possibility that if they can, maybe I can, too.

What expensive expressions of love does this bring to your mind? Ones you have witnessed? Heard about? Benefitted from? As we help each other reflect on whatever is noble, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

If it is helpful, you can download and print this note card to record your thoughts. CLICK HERE to download the .pdf

Here are a few of mine to get you jumpstarted:

  • A shut-in, single lady suffering debilitating pain prays for her friends every morning and calls to check on them.
  • A child kindly asks his mother, after the mother loses her temper and snaps at him, if she is dehydrated and offers her a glass of water.
  • A dying man uses the last of his strength to cook his sister a meal.
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Free Printable for You

Once upon a time ago, I asked you to vote on your favorite quotes from two posts celebrating two years of blogging here at Look Up Sometimes. I tallied your responses, created a printable, and FINALLY, I’m sharing it with you! You’ll also find it on the Free Tools page so you can come back anytime to download/print it.

“It’s ok to be empty. From Sarah’s empty womb to Jesus’ empty tomb, God’s master plan progresses exactly on schedule.”

Download the PDF version of “It’s Ok to Be Empty” by clicking this link.

(If you are a subscriber and forgot your password, contact me and I’m happy to send you another one. If you’re not a subscriber and would like access to the Free Tools page, subscribe in the side bar!)

How It Started

It started as a comment. Then someone suggested the comment get made into a blog post (just a fancy phrase for the writing you read on a website). And who better to do that than the person who commented in the first place, I thought? So I invited Debbie Scales to come back as a guest author again for Look Up Sometimes and share her thoughts on “empty.” What she wrote really struck a chord and is inspiring me to do my own digging into this concept. May you be blessed by the beautiful truths Debbie shares!

Empty

The first Thanksgiving dinner our family shared after my father-in-law passed away was stressful and sad. No one wanted to sit in the chair he had always occupied at the head of the table. That empty chair was the loudest thing in the room.

A special kind of emptiness hangs over those who lose loved ones. No other loss cuts so deeply.

It is this kind of emptiness we read about in the book of Ruth.

The story begins with Naomi living with her husband and two sons in Bethlehem. Because of a famine, this family moved to live for a time in Moab. Within ten years, Naomi’s husband and two sons died. Three empty chairs.

Photo Credit: Unsplash Caroline Attwood

Later, when she returned to her people in Bethlehem, Naomi said, “The Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:20-21).

Each of us who has lost someone we love can relate to Naomi’s lament. Such emptiness is profound. We believe we will never be the same, for part of us has passed too.

A different kind of emptiness exists when fulfillment has never been achieved: A love never shared; a womb, hollow as an echo.

That was the emptiness experienced by Sarah, wife of Abraham. She remained childless decade after decade. Endless months of normal menstrual cycles, and then menopause!

Childless Sarah: A candle unlit. A rosebud unopened.

Empty.

Photo Credit: Unsplash Nynne Schroder

What can God do with emptiness?

It is from emptiness that God does some of His greatest work. ~Debbie Scales
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Genesis 1:2 reads, “Now the earth was formless and empty.”

Into that great emptiness God spoke sunshine and flowers, animals and fish, people and planets and everything necessary to sustain these things. He gave each a place and a purpose and enabled each to fill its place and fulfill its purpose.

Within that marvelous universe, God continued (and continues) to use empty people and things to fulfill His purposes.

God used an empty well to play a role in transporting Joseph to Egypt, where he was able to save God’s people from starvation (Genesis 6-50).

He used empty jars in the hands of Gideon’s soldiers to bring about a miraculous triumph over the Midianites (Judges 7:1-25).

God filled empty pots with oil, so a widow could save her sons from being sold to creditors as slaves (2 Kings 4:1-7).

Photo Credit: Unsplash Jessica Ruscello

During Christ’s ministry, he filled the empty nets of fishermen, empty stomachs of crowds-people, empty wine jars for thirsty wedding guests, and the empty hearts of both a disliked tax collector and a woman taken in adultery. He even caused a coin to be found inside the empty mouth of a fish!

In fact, God’s greatest work of all was accomplished through an empty tomb.

Emptiness is no obstacle to God. It never thwarts His purposes. It doesn’t cause Him to change His mind or make new plans. ~Debbie Scales
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What an amazing and powerful God we serve! Just as He ultimately brought forth wonders from Naomi’s and Sarah’s emptiness, we know He can do the same with ours.

Our task is twofold: trust and wait. How we resist taking that route when we feel empty! We want to despair, or to take matters into our own hands and do the equivalent of shuffling off our husbands to handmaidens, so God can accomplish what He promised He would do!

Romans 8:28 reads: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

We must trust Him and wait for Him to work for our good, even through our emptiness.

After devoting years to working and childrearing, Debbie now spends her time indulging not only her grandchildren but also her passion for writing. Her articles, poems, and devotionals have appeared in various Christian publications (Christian Woman and Power for Today). Debbie is a member of Heartland Christian Writers. She lives with her husband Dan in Central Indiana. You can visit her website at www.thehappygeranium.com.

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I stumbled, completely by accident, onto the perfect song today, and I’m so glad I did! In lieu of a post this week, I’m sharing this song with you called Look Up Child by Lauren Daigle. If you need a break from the storms of life, hide in Him, and listen to the song!

I copied the lyrics from azlyrics.com (below) so you could read them as well as listen.

Lauren Daigle - Look Up Child (Audio Video) - YouTube

Look Up Child lyrics (Lauren Daigle)

Where are You now
When darkness seems to win?
Where are You now
When the world is crumbling?

Oh I, I-I-I, I hear You say
I hear You say

Look up child, hey
Look up child, hey

Where are You now
When all I feel is doubt?
Oh, where are You now
When I can’t figure it out?

Oh I, I-I-I, I hear You say
I hear You say

Look up child, hey
Look up child, hey
Look up child, hey
Look up child, hey
Look up…

You’re not threatened by the war
You’re not shaken by the storm
I know You’re in control
Even in our suffering
Even when it can’t be seen
I know You’re in control

Oh I, I-I-I, I hear You say
I hear You say

Look up child, hey
Look up child, hey
Look up child, oh-oh-oooh
I hear You say, You say, You say
(repeats for while)

Look up

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“Ready… Set… GOAT!!!” My nine year old laughed hysterically watching Nana’s false start to an impromptu family game of Birthday Limbo. (Apparently, this version came with equally impromptu rules.) There were several other false starts accompanied with bursts of laughter and good humored grandparents.

That’s what this post has felt like trying to write – many false starts. Thank you for your patience as you’ve waited to read this final installment of The Art of Living mini series nestled within the Nourish series (and the final installment of the Nourish series!). If you’re not sure what the Nourish series is all about, head over here to read the Intro. I’d also encourage you to read Part 1 and Part 2  of The Art of Living, if you haven’t already. May you be greatly encouraged!

The Art of Living – Part 3 Photo Credit: Johanna Froese Photography

We bought an art journal for our daughter once. Every single page was covered in thick black –  apparently useless, if not for the wooden instrument that came with it. The fun of the activity was scratching off the black paint to reveal the brilliance underneath. Each page a surprise – some had metallic sheen, some were glittery, and some were a rainbow of colors.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

God chose a wooden instrument to permanently scrape the thick black off any willing soul.

The interesting thing I see in this verse and others – Romans is chock full of awesomeness, for example –is that while it’s true that being made right with God is a once and done deal, it’s equally true that afterward we undergo a lifelong process of becoming who we already are.

Books abound on this subject, but for our purposes I just want to point out we don’t work to make God love us – we work to understand the love God already has for us. We aren’t working to earn the gift; we’re working to unwrap it.

We don’t work to make God love us – we work to understand the love God already has for us. We aren’t working to earn the gift; we’re working to unwrap it.
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Unwrapping the gift looks like glorifying God and enjoying Him forever by apprenticing ourselves to the Master Artist.

But before we can apprentice ourselves to the Master Artist, we need to have some vision of where He’s going. Or, for starters, a clear vision of where He’s not going.

Where We’re NOT Going Photo Credit: Johanna Froese Photography

My sin mars the underpainting of God’s holiness and goodness in my life. Left black, the art of my life only communicates the ugliness of sin.

If I mistake grace for permission to continue splashing the black of sin across the canvas of my life, then I’ve misunderstood or forgotten what grace is.

Why would I want to destroy a work of art God is currently restoring? An apprentice doesn’t destroy the work he’s seeking to emulate.

“…Grace leaves us obligated to deal rigorously with the sin that grace addresses. If God was so serious about sin that he sacrificed his own Son and filled us with his own Spirit, how can we be any less serious about our sins…?” p.216 Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp

As an apprentice to the Master Artist, I can know that His vision for the art of living will never be to add or tolerate the black of sin in my life.

 There is No Higher Joy Photo Credit: Johanna Froese Photography

So where we ARE going may initially look counterintuitive. Don’t panic, and don’t pull an Eeyore. Remember the art journal.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

What does that even mean to take up my cross? I thought this was the art of LIVING not dying!

I like the way the Billy Graham website answered this question. You can read the full answer here, but the gist was that it means we put to death our plans and desires, daily, and live by God’s because there is no higher joy.

The art of living well is the art of dying to ourselves for the purpose of living for God. “Ok, God, I’ll do things Your way.” Living for God ultimately brings joy – a deep down, indestructible kind – because God IS joy.

How Badly Do I Want It? Photo Credit: Johanna Froese Photography

C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory said this:

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

And that’s the game-changer.

It’s not so much that it’s going to hurt like heck to follow God. It’s more like I don’t have a clue what infinite joy looks like.

The motivating factor in all this scratch-and-etch surrender is the brilliance and beauty God will reveal and the joy He will give.

If we have to experience pain on this earth anyway, why not let it be the skillful scrapes of the Master Artist?

It was for the joy set before him that Jesus was willing to go to the cross for me. He saw the finished art I can only dream of.

 Like Father, Like Son-follower Photo Credit: Johanna Froese Photography

Grace is, among other things, the privilege of becoming more like my heavenly Father. Like Father, like Son-follower.

And this is how I make art in tandem with God – living life His way. Letting the One who etched me into the palm of His hand scratch away anything that mars the beauty He wants to reveal in me.

It is a privilege to be an apprentice to the Master Artist. God transforms our lives into art beyond our imagination when we follow Him. Obedience might be the most painful daily decision we ever make. But it’s the pain of healing.

After a conversation with a good friend recently, it prompted the thought that some of the pain of “losing my life” is simply in losing my desire to look like I don’t need help when I clearly do. At some point, we all need help. Some of the pain of “losing my life” is receiving His. When Jesus freely offers what I need, it takes more humility to accept it than to play the martyr.

Jesus gladly sacrificed Himself for you already. He’s got you if you’re willing to be gotten.

 

Try Again Photo Credit: Johanna Froese Photography

After looking at my mess trying to pose as art, Brittany had two words: “Try again.” Not to earn God’s love but to unwrap it. To experience the joy set before me.

We try again, because, as apprentices to the Master Artist, we’re instructed to take up the wooden instrument that will reveal beauty in our lives. We take it up, but it’s His hand around ours that does the work, like a parent guiding a toddler’s grip on a crayon.

May we continue honing the art of living by apprenticing ourselves to the Master Artist.

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