Have you ever seen a horse wearing blinders? I remember as a young boy watching a parade and seeing horses wearing what looked to me like blindfolds. I asked my dad why they were wearing blindfolds. My father had grown up on a farm working with horses and could immediately respond. He explained that sometimes horses needed to wear blinders on the sides of their eyes to keep them focused straight ahead. This way they would not be distracted or panicked by what they might see going on behind or beside them. It calls to mind that with everything going on all around us during these confusing days of social unrest and change, it is essential for Christians to stay focused. We must not allow ourselves to be distracted or frightened.
Philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard said that the ultimate human freedom is the power to select what our minds dwell on. The important word in Willard’s statement is the word ‘dwell’; that is, what we allow our minds to focus and fixate on. Martin Luther said “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” So amid all the thoughts and ideas coming at us each day, we have in our power to select what our minds dwell on.
The apostle Paul offers great advice in Philippians 4:8 about selecting what our minds dwell on: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatsoever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.”
As the apostle Paul writes these words he is sitting in a Roman prison chained to a Roman soldier 24/7. Surely there was much adversity and hostility in the air around him as Paul writes to Christians in Phillippi who are facing persecution and poverty. There were many things that might distract and frighten both Paul and the Philippians! So Paul writes about their need to select what their minds dwell on, and then “think on these things”, i.e., things that are true, honorable, just and so on…
I am finding that this verse helps in curating my choice of television shows, reading, and conversation; it is shaping my use of spare time. What the computer revolution told us years ago, is so relevant to our circumstances today: “GIGO – Garbage In Garbage Out.” That is why the apostle Paul in Romans 12:2 urges: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” It all starts with what we select for our minds to focus and dwell on. We might not be able to prevent the coarseness and vulgarity of our culture from bombarding us, but we can daily make decisions to focus on the true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, and commendable. No garbage in!
May we pray with David about what we select our minds to dwell on: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.