“…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.”(Phil. 4:8, NIV)
Friends across a continent for more than two decades, we relished this rare week, far from the tangle of strained relations, finances, and obligations. Our daily duels with contentment-stealing vultures gradually faded as she basked in sketches, paintings and collages. I bathed in words, watercolors and photographs. She read. I wrote. We walked, prayed, talked, and made sense of the year’s triumphs and tumults. Until Wednesday, when all creativity ground to a screeching halt.
Stretching after an unproductive morning tussling with recalcitrant words, I peeked into the prayer room door. My friend sighed and looked up from her book. “I’m caught in a cauldron of negative emotions,” she mourned, shaking her head. “Yesterday was so good…”
She wondered how yesterday’s joy revelation disappeared. “It was so easy! I learned I could start from where the Lord was. I could start over. I could join Him in creativity. I didn’t have to climb out of my well of pain. Now I’m back to falling in my pit of thorns,” she lamented.
I nodded. This tale was all too familiar. I, too, was mired in reactions, irritations and offense-taking prickled by the petty barbs of everyday relationships.
Suddenly, my brain jumped ahead. Intuitively, I seized the hard-learned gem from a year of lessons.
I grabbed a chair and faced her couch by the window. Locking eyes, I inserted the thought like a morsel of fine meat for our hungry souls. “Appreciations,” I said. “Tell me an appreciation story about your husband. What are you thankful for?”
She looked down at the floor intently. “He supports me. He encouraged me to come on this week. He wanted me to find creativity again. And he GETS this stuff we’re discovering. He’s eager and he wants to learn!” Every word pushed out despair. More than simple appreciation this was a sword of hope slashing through negativity. Hopelessness fizzled to the floor like a balloon out of air.
“That’s IT!” Her voice was low, but her eyes shouted. Appreciations for our spouses tumbled out, multiplying as we voiced them “He’s so on my side, he believes in me when I don’t,” I said. “He went to the session last night because he wanted to, even without me,” she responded. Delight came with the words.
“In everything give thanks,” the Scripture proved itself again. Appreciation opened the door to relationship and the realm where the Holy Spirit could operate. We could only get back to God –and anyone else– through that opening.
Irritations disappeared and expectancy bubbled. Surprisingly, our appreciations climbed upon one another, cheering us on. Hope built on recollection, love settled on gratitude, faith nestled atop contentment.
Sketches and essays previously buried under despair now welled up and burst out of our hearts and our hands. Our morning’s wasteland of ideas blossomed into an overflowing spring of afternoon creativity. By week’s end our refreshment was tangible. Well-stocked for the future, we drove home ready to obliterate the contentment-stealers. We had thought about the noble, excellent and praiseworthy things, and love had won.