I remember the first time that I read James Allen’s book, “As A Man Thinketh.” A short book that is thought by some to be one of the foundations of the modern “self help – devotional” genre of literature that has become so popular in western culture. Throughout scripture, from the Old Testament to the New, there is a gentle admonition to give attention as to where we park our mind. Where are we in the midst of our thoughts; where are we hanging the hat of our mind when we are not occupied either with work, play, or rest.
The title of Allen’s book “As A Man Thinketh” is taken from The Book of Proverbs, 23.7:
Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:
Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.
I generally find the curating of my thoughts one of the most difficult challenges in life; there is simply so much, perhaps too much, information that sings the siren song of requesting my opinion and/or approval and/or disapproval; as though the contribution of my opinion on any number of topics makes a difference in the lives of others. However, when the challenge of curating my thoughts meets with success, and I am able for a moment or a season to untangle the web of distractions, I find the greatest experience of serenity and the promise of peace; because for a moment I catch a glimpse of how we actually can overcome the circumstances of the world and life – by not giving up our sacred interior “real estate.”
There is a message that can be discerned in scripture that we are not just “stewards” of our money – actually God’s money; we are also “stewards” of our thoughts – our consciousness as well as our conscience. We are stewards of the intimacy and relationship that we share with God in Christ.
The old saying is that no one is taken to the cemetery with a U-Haul. The point that Dallas Willard is making, along with many believers through the ages, is that what we cultivate and curate within our minds, hearts, and souls, this state of being will actually be something that we take with us beyond the cemetery. Jesus once said to his friends – The Kingdom of God is within you – meaning that how “we live and move and have our being” in this short life is the template that we carry into the life that is to come; that place where there are no U-Haul’s.
How are we spending our days – are we filling our minds with thoughts and notions that will bring joy to God? Are we being stewards of the Kingdom of God that is within us? Or is our mind simply chasing the next shiny thing? James Allen, Jesus, the Apostle Paul, Dallas Willard, and many others would have attend to the Kingdom, the real “estate.”
So the invitation is to begin our work for God now – now – in this time and place; and to find that gentle and graceful way in which we might invite the Carpenter, our Good Shepherd, to help us in the curation of our minds. We might even surprise ourselves by how well we can give our most significant attention to things in heaven. We might find that we have been hungry for a sense of purpose, a sense of hope, that all of the wonderful things in the world simply cannot give to us because of their impermanence.
In the end, as we move closer to our bodily death, it will only be the treasure of heart, mind, and soul that we have gathered with God that will be our “stake” in the dimensions that are to come in heaven. I hope that you will do some true “estate planning” today, so that you might be comforted when you leave this place.
Philippians 4:7-9 Revised Standard Version
7 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.