Practice Makes Progress

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” – Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

“Again,” coach yelled from the sidelines. “Do it again.”

I placed my soccer ball at the corner of the field, took two giant steps back, and charged like a bull at a rodeo clown, launching the ball in an arc toward the net.

“Don’t forget to lean back,” my coach shouted as our goalie caught the ball and prevented the point.

“It takes practice,” he said. 

So, I did it again. And again. Until I made progress.

A really cool benefit to practice is muscle memory, or “the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement” by dictionary definition. The more I repeat the item in which I am trying to improve, the more my muscles remember how to execute it without even thinking about it.

Hope is the same way. We make progress and build muscle memory, creating a habit of hope, when we practice it on a consistent basis. The more we practice looking to and relying on the hope we have in Jesus, the more we approach relationships, circumstances, decisions, and actions from a place of hope – or confident expectation.

Philippians 4:8 outlines a thought practice, and in the repetition, we can confidently expect our Lord to meet us moment by moment.

FIX YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT IS…

TRUE: When times are tough – fix your thoughts on truth.

HONORABLE: When you face temptation – think about the honorable path, your way out.

RIGHT: When no one is looking – dwell on right instead of wrong.

PURE: When the world around you is distracted by darkness – meditate on wholesome things.

LOVELY: When you don’t get your way – renew your mind with appreciation for the beauty of God’s creation.

ADMIRABLE: When someone is suffering – remember how it feels and empathize.

EXCELLENT: When you achieve a goal you set – consider all it took to get there and be grateful.

WORTHY OF PRAISE: When you receive new mercy every morning, reflect on the goodness of God and praise His name.

I’m exchanging perfect for progress, one thought at a time. Wanna practice with me?

Advertisement

Heavenly Hope and Practice

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again…Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  – Philippians 4:10-13

“I’m grateful for the beautiful mountains, fresh air, and healthy children,” I texted.

“You’re it,” I said, submitting to a virtual game of gratitude tag my co-ed daughter challenged me to yesterday.

We had finished a socially distant walk with her border collie, Buddy, and she indulged my weekly COVID vent session when her piercing crystal eyes cut to my soul. Or maybe it was her words.

“You need to be grateful, mom,” she implored.

“I am, baby girl,” I pleaded, searching her gaze for understanding before I continued.

“And…I am on six or seven hours of meetings every day, balancing home school, which takes five minutes instead of five hours, and then I try to keep the boys from melting their brains on video games all day.”

I was out of breath, not hot air.

Her eyes were still intent, expression soft.

“You’re gonna get through it,” she said, cocking her head to the side for emphasis like an exclamation point.

“I want you to be happy,” she continued.

Burning. Welling. Rushing physical pain invaded my chest.

Conviction.

I want to be happy…even when middle school moves into my dining room.

I want to practice gratefulness…even when my desk is my lap and my office is an unmade bed.

I want to hope in God alone…even when my circumstances do not match my desires.

She called it.

“I’m thankful for my family, my animals, and Netflix haha,” she texted.

Amanda and Buddy

Hope takes practice. Gratitude takes practice. Contentment takes practice.

Thank you, Lord for the reminder that with You, I can do it. And thank you for the opportunity to practice.

I am grateful for a daughter whose perspective encourages me back to You.