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Focus: Decluttering the Mind

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.

Philippians 4:8 NASB

About the time I sensed that God was leading me to focus on Philippians 4:8 in 2018, I thought, Huh, I wonder if God wants me to learn more about the fourth chapter of Philippians? I don’t recall seeking out this passage so much as that it came to mind. But, I knew when I read it, I needed to apply it to my life in a deeper way.

My mind was cluttered. I was dwelling on many things best left in the past. I tend to be a forward-thinking person, yet I was focusing on what needed to be put away from me so that I would be the person I was supposed to be as a believer in Jesus Christ.

My basement was cluttered, too. I set out to fix this issue in my life once and for all. My youngest son was scheduled to begin a new phase of his home education that would require less of my time. So I was ready. I had plans. This was going to be the decluttering year of the basement and of my mind.

But, plans changed.

The education framework not only shifted back into my sphere of influence, but required more of it. Looking back, that decluttering focus became the catalyst for our learning track that year. I wrote most of the curriculum myself and turned to tried-and-true authors and texts from “the abyss” known as my basement. At the time, I didn’t know where my youngest would be going to college since the trajectory of his high school education had changed. So, I threw at him every book that impacted his dad and me when we were in college. We blew the dust off many forgotten book jackets that year. We gave away the curriculum that no longer suited our needs. We kept what remained valuable to our family. We removed these books from their sagging, water-stained boxes and redisplayed them. We still return to them for further insight. But, most important was the emphasis on reading the Old and New Testaments and studying Christian theology. Seeing that formidable year’s impact on my son’s faith made the change in my plans all the more worth it.

My plans did change. I recall feeling as if God was redirecting every step. I envisioned it like moving through those walls and piles of boxes in my basement and God saying, Not that one. This one. And I imagined Him handing me the specific boxes I was to focus on during that time.

Bottom line, my basement is still cluttered. I hope I will get it into better shape sooner rather than later. But, there are some battles in our lives that continue to require our attention. They are not desirable because we know we have to fight ourselves to get into the right frame of mind to tackle the chaos. One box at a time, we sort. Some things we discover we need to keep. Sometimes we share what we no longer need with others because there is some benefit to them. Some things we realize are better discarded.

I learned that year the same was true of my thoughts. I am not a proponent of emptying the mind. I believe that our minds ought to be filled. But, the filling must be beneficial to ourselves and others. When I began to turn my focus on Philippians 4:8, I realized that I needed to discard the opposites of these attributes. Nobody needed those bitter, angry, and maligning things within me. But, I could share the true, the honorable, the right, the pure, the lovely, the reputable, the excellent and the praiseworthy things in my life. Yet, only if I myself dwelled on those same things.

This decluttering of the mind is an ongoing process. I know I have not mastered it any more than is representative of the state of my basement or the messy attitudes that invade my heart, mind, and soul on a daily basis. Yet, I desire to look forward and not look back. Except to focus on what God has done in spite of me.

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