Remember that scene from “The Sound of Music,” when the children gather in Maria’s bedroom because they’re afraid of the thunderstorm outside? And she sings, “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… these are a few of my favorite things”?
Maria sings about a whole list of pleasant things for the children to think about “when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when [they’re] feeling sad.”
Apostle Paul gives us a similar list of things for us to think about, specifically “when we’re anxious about anything.”
Let’s read through the list, as we open up a series of articles that I’ll call, “Whiskers on Praiseworthy Kittens: Paul’s Favorite Anti-Anxious Things.”
A few of Paul’s favorite things
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
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.”
To kick off the series, here’s Paul’s list of things for us to think about so we may receive God’s peace in heart and mind – in exchange for our anxious feelings:
Things that are: True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, and Praiseworthy.
Note that this is the list in the New International Version of the Holy Bible. Over the course of this series, when applicable, I’ll include vocabulary comparisons with other versions. For example, the English Standard Version and the New Living Translation use “Honorable” in place of “Noble”; the New King James Version uses “Just” in place of “Right.”
Now, as a fun exercise, here’s the list from the first verse of Maria’s song from “The Sound of Music” –
Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles, warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings.
Of course, the list rhymes, and it’s, well, cute.
But we’re dealing with real life here
Correct. Our lives can feel much more anxiety-ridden and worry-filled – and legit scary – than a thunderstorm outside a grand home.
But sometimes we talk about getting through the difficult times in our lives as “weathering the storms.” When we remember to go to Scripture for guidance, we often go to passages such as Matthew 8:23-27, when Jesus calmed “a furious storm” that almost sank the boat he and his disciples were riding in.
And perhaps our own kids or nieces or nephews are afraid of thunder and have scurried into our arms for comfort. I remember hiding under my grandma’s covers when I was little and afraid.
The common thread here is having someone to run to, having arms to feel protected by, having someone tell us everything’s going to be OK.
We want a sense of safety. We want peace.
And we usually need it from someone.
Reflective Response: How to Use Paul’s Favorite Things to Receive God’s Peace
How can you receive God’s peace from a simple list of words? Especially when you’re freaking out?
Not to worry. This series will take you through each word, one at a time, prayerfully, and using Scripture. Some words may hit you differently when you’re going through different anxiety-provoking events in your life. Feel free to return to individual articles when you need to.
Ultimately, we’ll see that Paul’s list, taken as a whole, asks us to look at the One who embodies the whole list: Christ Jesus.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. For now:
- Make the effort to read through the list each day –
- And a few times each day!
- Try to commit the list to memory*
*If you’re terrible at memorizing words (like I am)… have you ever used a mnemonic to remember a list? That’s when you use the first letter of each item and substitute other words to create an easy-to-remember phrase or sentence.
For example, a well-known way to easily remember the names of the musical notes that are on the lines when you look at the upper set of lines on sheet music, is the sentence, “Every good boy does fine.” The names of the musical notes, in proper order, are E, G, B, D, F. See! I still remember that from kindergarten!
So, here are our first letters from Paul’s list (again, this exercise uses the NIV words): T, N, R, P, L, A, E, P
And here’s a sentence that I made up, that uses each of these letters:
“The naughty royal princess liked an evil prince.”
And if you’re wondering why I created a sentence featuring naughtiness and evil… it’s a reminder that we’ll be looking away from such things – and at such other things as Paul recommends.