It's May in North Carolina, so it is very easy to find lovely things to think about: azaleas, daisies, peonies, and everything robed in a bright, fresh spring green!
We also have a lot of rain - whether it's a slow drip and drizzle, or a stormy downpour with wind and thunder. I don't like rainy days, and I'm tempted to look with a frown and a sigh at the mucky mud that will stick to my wheels, and call it ugly. But even the mud is lovely, because it will become fertile soil for the flowers and trees; and the rain is lovely, because it makes the grass and leaves so lush and green.
And as I think about these things, I realize that this part of the verse isn't about being naive or ignoring pain and suffering, it's not about always focusing on the happy and fuzzy things in life, but knowing that beauty emerges and is made more beautiful through the things that we do not call "lovely." Even our lives may look like a mess, but the Lord is so gracious, and he makes broken things beautiful. "He has made everything beautiful in its time..." (Ecc. 3:11)
Then I thought of the old Twila Paris song, "How Beautiful", and how the crucifixion of Jesus could not be called "lovely," or wonderful, or precious, or good - except to those of us who know we are redeemed through his sacrifice - "without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins" (Heb. 9:22) and "by his wounds we are healed" (Is. 43:5). Hosanna, and Hallelujah! And so, the most lovely praise and worship pours forth from this revelation. Another song comes to my mind - "Jesus, You're Beautiful," by Cece Winans.
This praise in my heart compels me to action - to tell others about Jesus and the hope and joy and life he brings. And I find that this is something else that the Bible calls lovely: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'" (Is. 52:7)
Our God reigns! What a lovely truth to think about when we are going through the storms of life and are tempted to despair.
Whatever is lovely... think about these things.