My son has been studying about Johnny Appleseed in his first grade history class. Some think that John was a fabled character who embodies the generous spirit of America. But, he was a real person. He was an entrepreneur type who loved his apple trees and made it his mission to plant nurseries of apple trees all over his part of the country. By the time he got through there were apple orchards all over the place. Johnny was a planter. And he spent his time and effort planting seeds that would blossom into trees that would provide sustenance to millions. Our topic today is not about agriculture but is neurological in nature. The question today is what kinds of seeds are you planting in your mind? What kinds of thoughts are consuming your days? There is a battle going on for the male mind and it is being lost at the seed level. We are planting the wrong kind of seeds and therefore we are growing the wrong kind of trees.
Have you ever wondered if your warped brain is worse than everybody else’s? I hear men talk all the time about how their battle for maturity is linked back to what is going on in their minds. When they say they struggle, I wonder what they mean. For me like most guys, the thoughts I am trying to rid myself of are:
1) Impure thoughts about women,
2) Concerns about what other people think of me,
3) Emotional thoughts related to my frustrations with the way other people are doing things,
4) The obsessive desires to have and accumulate things
5) And the struggle to think rightly of my abilities and myself.
Maybe there are some other bad categories but that’s a good start. Another way to categorize these thoughts is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. And of these lusts I am guilty! As a guy in my mid 40s, I have to admit it is a little discouraging that I have not made more progress in my thought life by now. When you are teenager you almost get a free pass because you are an idiot (at least I was). In your 20s you should be growing up but you are still just a young buck. By your 30s you should be making the transition toward maturity and see some signs of progress. But by your 40s we should be seeing some real victory! Right? I mean you could be President of the United States, surely you can get your mind right!
The great thing about the male mind is its ability to think segmentedly. We can be upset about something that desires to capture our attention but we can put that on the back burner for a season while we deal with the matters at hand. I think that ability to think in segments is a resource in our movement toward maturity in our thought life, if we can muster the discipline to do so. How can we harness that ability in order to have a mind that is full of decency and not depravity? The key to winning the battle for the male mind has to do with what we allow our minds to focus on. If we focus on garbage then we will plant seeds of garbage that will grow into mind-trees of garbage. If we focus on noble things then our minds will grow beautiful orchards of nobility (wouldn’t that be nice).
Paul in Philippians 4:8 gives a great list of things that we should focus our thoughts on. I have rearranged the order to spell the word PLANTER. These categories of thoughts could help you make some progress. Memorize the acronym and work systematically through the list till you are thinking rightly. When you catch yourself thinking of ignoble things you should try to shift gears to thoughts that are:
Pure and Praiseworthy
What if you and I began to evaluate our thoughts by this list? And when we begin to go down the wrong thought pattern we use this list to plant good seeds and root out the others. Let me illustrate. Let’s say I am in an argument with a friend that has more to do with a difference of opinion rather than a dispute that is a black-and-white-right-or-wrong kind of issue. My mind immediately wants to go down a path of right or wrong. But, in this case that is not TRUE or RIGHT so we pull up short of that path. Next I want to bring into play his/her weaknesses (in character, historical mistreatment of me, thinking ability, etc), but that is not ADMIRABLE on my part. So I try to regroup and make the main thing the main thing. Let’s say I want to think on things that are PRAISEWORTHY, LOVELY, TRUE AND ADMIRABLE about my opponent. All of sudden, if I can begin to populate that list, I am forced to recognize that they are not the enemy but rather another caring person who is concerned about the same issue I am. Maybe, their opinion however misguided (is that TRUE?) is just different than mine. What is PRAISEWORTHY or valid about their plan? Is there a way to embrace some of his or her basic premises and get everybody on the same page? Maybe at the end of the day my perspective is the RIGHT one (of course), but this pattern of thinking can at least move me from an unhealthy thought pattern to a constructive ones as I have BECOME A PLANTER THINKER!
If you have another plan I would love to hear about it. As men we have got to get our act together. It is not going to happen naturally, we must exert discipline and God’s strength to get to where we want to go. What if Johnny had never planted more apple trees? Think of how many would not have experience the fruit of his labor. No apple pie, no apple strudel, no apple cider or apple dumplings. We owe a lot to Johnny! If fact I would like to pay homage to him right now. Pass me some apple pie and let’s have it alamode. That is the RIGHT thing to do!
**photo by kqedquest, http://www.flickr.com/photos/kqedquest/2450337000/