You arrive at the feed store at ten thirty with a thermos of coffee in hand. You head straight for the gardening section in search of Aunt Loola. She's finishing up with a customer when you arrive. The customer leaves with a cartload of gardening supplies.
“Can I help you?” she says with a wink.
"You are a slick salesman," you say as she pats you on the shoulder. "Here's your jug of the addictive substance, as requested." You hand her the thermos filled with the dark caffeinated drink.
“You’re so sweet,” she says.
“But what’s in there is bitter,” you say.
She takes a long draft before nodding. “Just like I like it.” She screws the cap on. “Right, let’s get to it.” You follow her as she begins to walk at the top speed her cane will allow. She quizzes you as you walk.
“What’s the goal of the garden?”
“Fruit, abundant fruit!” you say with complete confidence.
“And what power do you have to force a tree to grow?”
“None,” you respond.
“So, what do you do?”
“Focus on the soil,” you say.
“And what do you know about good soil?" she asks.
“It’s black,” you say. She stops in the aisle.
“Nothing,” she says wryly. “‘I Know nothing about good soil,’ is what you meant to say. This will all go much quicker if you don’t pretend to know what you’re talking about.”
"Wow, you are a fantastic salesman. I bet you sell a lot of rakes with that tone," you say, trying to match her sarcasm. She giggles as she turns and begins to walk again.
"Soil plays the most important role. More than anything else, it's what determines how the plant will grow. It purifies, stores, and provides water for the plants. If your soil isn't right, then the plant won't grow."
"So, how do I get it right?" you ask.
"Not by interrupting me," she says.
“Soil has three main parts. Sand, silt, and clay.” She grabs a black water hose from the shelf and puts it into your hands.
“I already have a garden hose,” you say.
“With holes in it?”
"No, of course not."
“That’s why you need this one. It’s got holes in it,” she explains.
“I don’t—”"Depending on the proportion of sand, silt, and clay, you will have to condition the soil,” she says. "For the first growing season, you have to water consistently." She points her finger in the middle of your chest. "You water the soil, not the plant." She moves her finger down to the hole-filled hose. "This is a drip irrigation hose. It waters the—"
“Soil,” you say.
"That's right. You can't make the plant grow; you can only make the soil conditions right," she pauses next to a row of similar-looking bags. She scans them quickly before pulling one from the shelf. It has the large red words, fruit fertilizer printed across its front. She lays the large bag across your open arms before walking again. “So, I gather that I will need to fertilize,” you say.
"When needed," she says. “Put too much fertilizer on some plants, and they will leaf up but won't bear a single thing to eat. On most it just burns the foliage and ruins the crop.”
“How do I know how much to fertilize?” you ask.
"We'll get to that later.” She walks on. Around the corner, she holds up a gardening gardening hoe and shovel. "Do you have items that look anything like these?" she says.
“What are those? I’ve never seen their likeness,” you say in mock surprise. “I’m not a complete idiot, you know.”
“That wasn’t the question,” she says.
"No, I don't have a hoe,” you admit with shame. She lifts the shovel higher in question. "No, I don't have one of those mysterious items either." She lays them across your overburdened arms.
"So, to get the soil conditions right, you have to water, fertilize, and—"
“Wait?" you guess.
"No," she says. "Weed. You're going to get very good at weeding. That's what the gloves and shovel are for." You follow her to the checkout counter.
As she rings up the total, you say, "I'm not quite sure how to—"
“It’s alright, Honey. I’m off for the next few days. I’ll come by and walk you through it,” she says.
“Thanks for the help,” you say as you gather your things and begin to move toward the door.
“Hey, what would you think of taking a ride with me tomorrow morning?” she asks.
“Where to?” you ask.
“Come get me at 4:30.”
“Did you say morning?" you vacillate. “I’m not usually up by—”
"It'll be worth it, Honey. There are some things I want to show you before we go all-in on your garden."
To keep the fruit tree growing, you need to work the soil. Good soil needs water, weeding, and fertilizer. In a similar way, there are some activities that will help you keep your mental soil in good condition for spiritual growth. The sun powers the plant while the soil supports it. In the same way, the Spirit powers transformation, leading to abundant life, as your mindset supports the process. It's the Spirit's job to grow the fruit; it's your job to tend to the soil, which is your mindset.
To do that, God offers a few helpful habits. Pretty much everything that will help you stay focused fits into these three categories: 1. Prayer, 2. Scripture, and 3. Fellowship.
For the maximum crop of fruit, you have to water, weed, and fertilize. For the best mindset conditions, you need to pray, fellowship with believers, and learn from God's word. Performing these helpful habits isn't the ultimate goal; they are the methods that foster healthy spirit-oriented thinking. A spiritual thought-life releases His power into your life, which will bring abundant life.
You need to get good at keeping your mind focused on higher things. The first tool for doing this is prayer. In a later section, we will take a look at how Jesus taught us to pray.
If you only ever prayed, it would be like weeding the garden but never watering it. Scripture is a powerful tool to strengthen your mindset. We'll explore why this matters and how to use it in a forthcoming section.
There is one last category of helpful habits that will strengthen your ability to keep your mind in the right place. You need fellowship with believers. In an upcoming section, we'll take a look at what comes with fellowship and what ways you can succeed in this area of your life.
We will explore the helpful habits of prayer, fellowship, and scripture in a bit, but first, I'd like to take you through some common gardening mistakes.