What we allow into our minds really does matter. If you have ever tried to NOT think about something, like that catchy jingle to some commercial that got deep inside your head and you find yourself humming it repeatedly, you know how what you did not "purposefully" set out to "learn" has become ingrained in your mind! If I were to just put a few out there right now, you'd be able to equate them to some "branded" business or product, right? "Like a good neighbor...." - who would be there? State Farm, right? "You cannot eat just one..." of what? Lay's Potato Chips, right? "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is..." - what gives the relief? Alka Seltzer! Now, I just put three of those catchy little tunes or phrases into your brain and you will be dissing me later as you won't be able to get them out of there! Teehee! This illustration is important because what we allow into our minds actually becomes "fodder" for future thought. So, it stands to reason that the right stuff in will lead to better thoughts, wrong stuff in will lead to not so rewarding thoughts. We have to learn to let the right stuff in, limit the wrong stuff, and "re-think" the right stuff in place of the wrong!
Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 CEV)
The passage today implies our minds have a tendency to wander into territory they'd be better off avoiding - otherwise we wouldn't be reminded to "keep" our minds on these things! To need to "keep" something as significant as our minds focused on things such as truth, purity, and worthwhile for us to be listening to is indeed a reminder that other things will attempt to creep in which will destroy our appreciation of truth, impair our ability to remain pure, and give us pause to consider the worth of some repeated activity. Yesterday, I took mom to get her manicure. She likes this treat once a week, so we accomplished it early in the day after laundry and ironing was finished. While she has this done, I sit and read or play a game on my tablet. I wanted a haircut, but the salon next door was busy, so I couldn't "double-up" on my errands like I hoped to. As I brought her home after the manicure, I told her my hairdresser (who had moved salons) was working and could take me in about 40 minutes. She announced she'd be ready to leave in 10 minutes! What I said next actually opened a flood-gate of irritation which had been brewing for sometime in mom's mind - unknown to me! I asked why she was going with me to my haircut as I'd be home right afterwards. Eesh! The flood-gate opened and out came all kinds of words about how I never tell her the plans, don't care about her, and the like! Aye! Now where did that come from?
You see, in her mind, I hadn't said much that morning. Mom had bathed, received a long distance phone call from a friend out of state, and we had said a few things along the way while I made her breakfast, did the laundry, ironed, and the like. I usually don't say much in the mornings until her hearing aides are in because she hears poorly without them. Once they were in, I didn't think we were off to a "bad start" to the day, but I guess I didn't realize she had been "brewing" on the "lack of words" we had shared that morning! In fact, because I had told her on Friday that I wanted a haircut this weekend, I guessed she already knew my intention. My mistake! I didn't prepare her for the day by telling her in full detail all the "errands" I needed to accomplish. So, when she went off in a flurry to her room, uttering all kinds of words about how "left out" she is and how I don't talk to her, I just shrank away inside. I hadn't meant to leave her out, but obviously this was the "story" she was telling herself and I couldn't do much to change it now as the story had already been brewing for a while deep within. It took me a little while to help her realize I had not meant to exclude her from the day's plans. Something I realized is how frequently I have to "re-tell" mom the "story of the day" - even when I think she already knows it. As she is aging, she wants to feel included in the decisions and to know the plans. Even if it means waiting in the car while I get a haircut, she wants to be there - this is important to her. So, I have to "re-think" how I plan these "errands" and what it is I communicate with her about the day.
What we allow in becomes fodder for future thought, and future thought often becomes the fuel which gives expression in our words and deeds later on! Truth is, we all do this to some extent or another. This is why it is so important to allow the "right stuff" to invade our thoughts, so there is no room for the stuff which will give us problems later on. The very first thing we allow into our minds is truth. Should this come as a surprise to any of us? I don't think so! If truth becomes the first thing we dwell upon, then all the rest of the stuff we are bombarded with throughout the course of the day will be "filtered" through the "truth-filter". Truth helps us see what is pure and right. It helps us recognize what will produce wholesome outcomes. It also guides us into kind actions and words. The evident display of proper behavior is based upon the frequent and consistent intake of truth first and foremost in our minds. This then becomes "fodder" for future actions!
The command to think upon these things is not just a suggested action - it is an expected behavior. Don't ever stop is also a reminder that we cannot just consider truth one time and expect it to take root. Truth takes root as we ruminate on it over and over again. This is why we may not see something in scripture the first time we read it, but when we come to it again, it sounds a different chord within. It has had a chance to take root as we have considered it a little while and now it has a chance to begin to bud from that root. I cannot emphasize this point enough - truth has to be the first thing IN if it is to guide what is going to come OUT in the long run. Truth IN may not insure we consistently never "cross the line" as it applies to living upright lives, but it certainly begins to guide us away from areas of thought which just won't be rewarding or fruitful! Just sayin!