From the first thought of the day, “I don’t feel like getting up”; to the last thought, “why can’t I fall asleep”, we are faced with thousands of thoughts. Constantly we are bombarded with our thoughts during breakfast, driving in traffic, while listening to others. Do we understand how these thoughts affect our lives, our choices, and our futures?
In the Old Testament book of Proverbs 23:7 we find these words, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” This is a powerful proverb if you reflect over its importance. Our thoughts are what shapes the real us. Our character, values, behavior, dreams, attitudes are all shaped by our thought life. Our environment and genetic makeup has a part in our development but the driving force of development is our thinking processes. This idea raises the bar on our personal responsibility if we consider the power of our thoughts.
I recently re-read a little leather bound book a friend in Chicago gave me years ago, by the writer James Allen. It is called As A Man Thinketh. You can read an online version by clicking on the preceding title. Here is a sampling of ideas from his work:
A man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.
Every thought seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit.
His analogy of the mind and life to that of a garden is important in contemplating what kind of life we want to lead. When our family visited Chicago recently I made sure we visited Chicago Botanic Gardens as my wife always enjoyed visiting there when we lived in Chicago. You can stroll through acres and acres of well manicured gardens full of flowers not weeds. The various gardens there, are a peaceful setting to appreciate a variety of flowers and plants.
Thinking back to Allen’s analogy, how do we want our lives to be? Do we want a life in disarray and a mess or a life of beauty? Deep down we want a life of beauty but moving beyond what we want; we must look at what actually is. We can ask ourselves do I have a life in disarray or a life of beauty? Our thoughts have a major effect on the outcome of our lives. It is our thinking that drives our choices for good or for bad. If we are filling our lives with negative thoughts or dwelling on how boring our lives we are not living more than ok. Weeds of life will quickly overtake our daily experience leaving us in disarray.
The Apostle Paul in the New Testament scriptures states an important point of what the focus of our thinking should be. In Philippians 4 :8&9 he says, “ 8 Finally, brethren,)whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” The focus of our thoughts should be on positive things. Our thoughts should be seeking truth with the aim for excellence. I enjoy The Message paraphrase, by Eugene Peterson of the same verse 8 Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. We need to fill our minds and reflect and ponder those thoughts that are the best and thoughts of beauty. How much could we improve our lives if we took the time to meditate on true, noble, authentic, and gracious thinking.
What would others think of us if our thoughts appeared above our heads like walking billboards. Would they see noble, gracious thoughts? Or would we be embarrassed by the negatives of unfair judgments, negative putdowns, and personal insecurities? Too often we allow cursing and negative thoughts gain control. Relationships falter as we have ungracious thinking about those around us. We limit our potential by having untruthful and ugly thoughts about ourselves. These negative thoughts work out to make our lives ugly like an overgrown weed filled garden not a peaceful garden of beauty.
Take some time at the end of the day to reflect over your thoughts of the day. Make a list of the negatives and the positives found in your thought life. . Is your list full of road rage thoughts, complaints, and personal putdowns on yourself? What can you do to change the negatives and build up reputable and authentic beautiful thoughts? We will delve more into what you can do in the next post. Until then, take thought of your thoughts.