Hey readers, I’ve just loved reading the work of these guest writers. So there will be guest writers today and tomorrow! Today’s guest is Rachel Garner. Rachel is a staff member at CSF and student at Asbury Theological Seminary. I can tell you from experience that doing both full throttle ain’t easy—but Rachel does it well! I’m excited to see what she has for us today.

Thanks, Derek

Hello everyone! Like Derek said, my name is Rachel and as you can tell from the cup I am drinking my coffee from, I LOVE Harry Potter – possibly more than I love coffee. My sister gave me this as a birthday gift and even had it personalized to not only our individual house colors but also our hair! (Shout out to all the Hufflepuffs out there!)

Today we are going to focus on a single verse, Philippians 4:8. Although it is just one verse, there is a lot to unpack here. Take a look!

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.

When I read this verse to write this post, I immediately felt a challenge from the Lord. What do I think about? Are my thoughts noble? Are they pure? Are they lovely?

Have you ever heard anyone say how our words and thoughts are a good indicator of what is on our hearts? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You become what you think about all day long.” If what my mind dwells on is pure and admirable, then my heart is postured in such a way as well. If my focus is spent on things of this world, then my heart does not produce what is pleasing to God.

When the self quarantine was first announced I had a couple of feuding thoughts. On the one hand, I had a lot of fear (as many of us did and still do!) about what this could mean for my relationships and how it would likely interfere with my upcoming wedding. But I also had a lot of excitement about the greater solitude I was going to have with the Lord and the time I would get to spend centering my heart on Him. Also, what a great time to get caught up on all my school work!

A lot of our aspirations for this time surround what Paul is saying in this verse. We want our focus to be on what is of God – what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Although I had high aspirations going into this new quarantine life, when I reflect back on the past month I notice I gave into a lot of distraction. These distractions are what my mind has dwelled on instead of the Lord. This is embarrassing, but remember how I said I love Harry Potter earlier? Instead of reading the book I pulled out for myself at the beginning of quarantine, I downloaded Lego Harry Potter and have spent hours trying to beat every part of the game! I’m not saying that video games are necessarily sinful, but I do admit that I quickly opened the door of distraction in my life and spent too much time in that room.

I don’t know about you, but however I end up spending my time is what my mind ends up focused on or even consumed by. Last week, Derek suggested you sit in silence for five, maybe even ten minutes. I want to invite you into such a time again where you take this extended time to focus on God alone. To start this time, pray Psalm 139:23-24 over your heart.

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

As you sit with the Lord, make a list in your journal of the things that keep distracting you from complete focus on God. What are the thoughts that keep coming up and disturbing your solitude with the Lord? Are those thoughts noble, pure, admirable, etc? Oftentimes, these thoughts show us what we idolize. Every time I do such an exercise I recognize two things. The first are things I need to cut out of my life and replace with God and the second are the fearful thoughts that I am not giving over to the Lord.

After your 5-10 minutes are up, take some time to journal through your list of distracting thoughts. Take time to give your fears over to the Lord or even repent of practices in your life that do not honor Him. Make accountability plans to get rid of bad practices, regulate distractions that aren’t inherently sinful, and make every thought captive to God.

Let’s use this time in quarantine well! My hope is that we exit this time as new people because of how deeply we have encountered the Lord through focusing on Him.

Christian Student Fellowship