Apples and Duck Feathers

Whatever you do, don’t think about an apple! I’ll wait….

I know you just thought about an apple, so stop doing that!

No, really. Don’t think about an apple.

Impossible, right? Just by reading that sentence you had no choice but to think about an apple.

Thinking about an apple is not a harmful thing, but what happens when we find ourselves faced with attitudes and actions that are harmful? It’s difficult to not think about it. So what do we do? Paul gives us great counsel in Philippians 4:8,9:

Finally, whatever is true, whatever honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.

I (Deirdre) remember memorizing this verse when I was in the Missionette program (now called Mpact) at my church as a young girl. Memorization has always been difficult for me, but this one has stuck with me all my life.

Paul used the word dwell. If you look up that word you will find this definition: to remain for a time, to live as a resident, exist, lie (to stay at rest in a horizontal position). In the moment when forced to think of an “apple” I can very quickly choose to think of something else. I can choose to dwell (remain for a time) on something entirely different – something that is honorable, pure, worthy of praise (you get the idea).

I love how The Message paraphrases these verses:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Let’s be real a moment. Because we are human; because we are all in different places in our faith journey and growth in our spiritual (and relational) maturity things can happen during a week like KSMC that are less than lovely. Words spoken may or may not be intended to hurt, but the result is the same. Conflicts may arise. We cannot control the ACTIONS of others, but we can control our REACTION. We challenge you even now to determine to “dwell” in grace.

People have often remarked it seems that few things seem to get to me [Mark]. Truth be told, things often do but I don’t show it. In those times I will go to the Lord and ask for spiritual duck feathers. God knows what I mean. Just like water repels of a duck’s feathers, I ask the Lord to let unkind things spoken to “roll off of my back” and not penetrate my spirit. In those times, I can’t dwell on the words spoken that hurt, but choose to praise my God and remember He loves me more than anyone else.

Today, ask the Lord to give you spiritual duck feathers. Especially for the week of camp, determine to dwell in the positive, choosing to always give the benefit of the doubt to your peers and to those in authority. Assume the best, not the worst. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Pastor Mark and Deirdre Nicholson