I love God’s Word. Daily dips and long soaks in His Word invites me into new experiences of Who He is, who I am, and how I am invited to live with Him here and now.


Rereading Philippians lately has been refreshing to my mind and heart, for Paul helps me navigate the unexpected jolts of life with gentle yet firm guardrails.


I savor the life I have, yet, like all of us, it has its challenges. Worries pop up like whack-a-moles at the county fair, persistent and pesky. When you run a whitewater river in a trustworthy canoe, knowing how to read the rocks that cause turbulence in the water gives clues as to how to approach the challenge at hand and then how to navigate it.


Philippians 4:4-9 acts as a river guide in frothing waters. It takes us on path to move from what’s worried us and brought anxiety, where our breathing becomes shallow and our fists fidget in concern. These words navigate a turbulent mindset or heart concerns with some fresh navigational guides for interior adjustments. Paul’s words echo some things that St. Ignatius of Loyola taught. Ignatius believed disordered thoughts lead to disordered actions that then lead to disordered living. In the middle of whitewater moments of life, it’s all too easy to shift from gazing on God to drifting towards the rocks that bang us up, hang us up mid-river, and strand us into a disconnection with God.


Reading the Philippians passage, Paul offers hearty guidance against the whitewater of life:

    • Rejoice
    • Again, rejoice.
    • Be full of gentleness.
    • Notice God’s nearness.
    • Pray.
    • Petition.
    • Thank.
    • Present your requests to God.
    • Let peace stand as your guard, your armor, over your heart, your mind.


Then, Paul ends with a charge to shift our thinking, so it doesn’t strand us. He says think upon whatever is

    • True
    • Noble
    • Right
    • Pure
    • Lovely
    • Admirable
    • Excellent
    • Praiseworthy



LOVELY… Defined

As many times as I have read this passage (Philippians 4:4-9) since I first experienced the wonder of following Jesus, I’ve never explored one word in Paul’s well-gathered list: lovely.


Digging deeper into this one word which has riveted my attention, I looked at the definition of  “lovely” in Vines’ Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words over on the Blue Letter Bible website. A Greek word, prosphiles, this adjective means “pleasing, agreeable, lovely.” Yet the definition goes on with this note: (pros, “toward,” phileo, “to love”). Hmm.


LOVELY… In Context

I assumed this word “lovely” had the essence of inviting us to focus us on things of beauty. This teases the idea out a bit more. I’m intrigued by the way the word itself invites us towards thinking on what is lovely to move us toward love.


So, if I’m understanding this correctly, when I look upon something lovely, let’s say that’s a bluebird winging his way to his breakfast on my blueberry bush, that loveliness can also act as a force to move me towards love…love of the One who made the bluebird and me.


It can also move me towards considering what or who is the most lovely one of all. That is our wonderful, wild Jesus.


A recent study of Colossians tugs at my mind and heart. This in Colossians 1:15-20 describes who Jesus is. What a good dwelling place for my soul lately, pondering the One who is the image of the invisible God. Praying and pondering these words brings tears to my eyes and a tremble of delight, of hope, of awe to my heart.


This Jesus. This very Jesus. He’s lovely, isn’t He?


LOVELY… In Context

Again, the Word reminds me of the goodness of how I keep my mind aligned with heaven’s perspective. King David in Psalm 16:8 says, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”


Right in line with Paul’s words, as I turn towards love, thinking on what is lovely, I move away from what shakes me and find stable ground. It’s not denying that we have worries about family, friends, or finances, rather it’s letting other thoughts move us towards love. Love dissipates fears and worries, doesn’t it?


Setting the Lord, the One who is Love, the One who loved us first, loves us long, loves us best, in my line of sight, grounds me into this endless love.


By turning my mind from what is worthless, Psalm 119:37 says I will find renewed life.


Thinking upon whatever is lovely turns me towards love, yes! Then that takes me right back to the beginning of what Paul says:




I invite you to join me in spending some time dipping in God’s Word, soaking in God’s Word, praying through God’s Word in these two passages:  Philippians 4:4-9 and Colossians 1:15-20.


As you look at the lovely ways of God’s Word, may you experience Jesus gazing on you with such love. Reciprocate with gazing back on Him with great love as well. Then run the river of life of your day with a heart-deep shout:



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