"Practice Makes Perfect"

The Upper Room devotional reflection for Saturday, September 25, 2021 comes to us from Marianne Jones of Ontario, Canada


Philippians 4:4-9

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.


Practice Makes Perfect


A friend expressed surprise when I played a Chopin waltz after decades of neglecting the piano. I explained that it was muscle memory – the reason why we all can quickly recall certain abilities learned through repeated motions. “Practice makes perfect,” my mother used to say as she made sure I did my daily half hour of piano exercises — or whenever I struggled to learn a new skill. Of course, she was right. Repetitive actions become embedded in our memory until they are automatic. This explains why we can still remember multiplication tables or how to ride a bicycle, even years later. But there is also a kind of practice that makes imperfect: repeated negative thoughts.


Complaining, criticizing, and dwelling on anxious or bitter thoughts can become ingrained in our minds. God has been speaking to me about certain “thought-stopping” – rejecting such thoughts the moment they present themselves – and asking God to transform me through the renewing of my mind (see Romans 12:2), I am learning to overcome this bad habit with one that brings me closer to God instead.


Prayer Focus:

Those consumed by negative thoughts.


Thought for the Day:

Today I will practice focusing on what pleases God.


Prayer:

Dear God, thank you for your patience with us. Help us as we work to rid our minds of negative thoughts and instead focus on you. Amen. — Marianne Jones

 

Friends – I have heard another phrase about practice: “practice makes permanent” about another musician who played in a school orchestra and practiced her part at home with great discipline. The problem happened when she was rehearsing with the full orchestra. Apparently, she had misunderstood some of the timing and was confusing all the other students who were rehearsing. She had to work hard to change the “muscle memory” that she had learned so diligently, but she succeeded, and the performance was great.


I believe that the same is true of the negative thoughts that Marianne Jones writes about. We must work hard to get past the habit of negative, judgmental thoughts, whether they are related to a specific event or person or are generalized, “knee-jerk” responses to the world that surrounds us. Our lesson from Philippians reminds us that God is always near, and calling us to remember that the God of Peace is always with each of us.


--Pastor bea