Practice Makes Perfect

Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice! Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do. Remember that the Lord is coming soon. Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

And now, brothers, as I close this letter let me say this one more thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4: 4-9 (TLB)

Marianne Jones is from Ontario, Canada. A friend expressed surprise when Marianne played a Chopin waltz after decades of neglecting the piano. She explained that it was muscle memory - the reason why we all can quickly recall certain abilities learned through repeated motions.

"Practice makes perfect," her mother used to say as she made sure Marianne did her daily half hour of piano exercises - or whenever she struggled to learn a new skill. Of course, mother 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 Marianne about certain negative thought patterns that are not pleasing to God. By "thought-stopping" - rejecting such thoughts the moment they present themselves - and asking God to transform her through the renewing of her mind (see Romans 12:2), Marianne is learning to overcome this bad habit with one that brings her closer to God instead.

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, in Jesus' name. Amen.

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