I never won any prizes for the peas I grew in my mom's garden, but my sister once won a blue ribbon for her green beans. Her plants were huge. And so heavy with beans!
It was fun to grow our own plants and to help my mom with some of hers. But my favorite part was gathering the vegetables that were ready, and then eating them. On a good day, here's what you might have found in my basket: tomatoes, carrots, radishes, peas, green beans, and squash.
Now that I live in the city, I don't have a place to have a garden. But I've learned that there is something I can plant - and harvest - anyway. Here's what I'm talking about: Not a garden in the ground, but a thought-garden. The Bible puts it this way, "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy" (Hos. 10:12).
So how do you sow, or plant, righteousness? And how do you reap, or harvest, mercy? Well, if you think of righteousness as right thinking, then you're following what the Bible says every time you let a good thought take root in your thinking and then give it the care and attention it needs.
Let's say one of the thoughts you'd like to grow is love. How do you care for it? Maybe by thinking loving thoughts about yourself and others. Maybe by remembering love when your mom or dad asks you to help out, even though you'd rather be doing something else. Or maybe by thinking about how God is Love itself, so any love you see or feel must mean God, divine Love, is present and active in your life.
Good gardening also involves weeding, getting rid of what doesn't belong. So if you want to have a thought-garden where love grows lushly, you should watch out for weeds like hatred, criticism, and jealousy. All of those would try to take up room so that love can't grow as easily.
But that's where you come in. As a good gardener, you know the difference between the plants you want growing in your garden and the weeds you don't. You know that good thoughts come from God, so they must be the "right thinking" you want to sow and grow. Weed thoughts are the ones that don't come from God, and you can get rid of them just as quickly as you'd yank a weed out of the ground.
What happens when you do this? Not only do you end up with a beautiful garden, but you also have lots of goodness to harvest. For example, you have patience for your younger brother or sister, even if he or she has just gotten into your stuff. You have the courage to stand up for what's right, even if no one else does.
When I was having problems with a friend, I found that the more I cultivated kind, loving, and compassionate thoughts, the less likely I was to feel hurt or frustrated by the way she was acting. This wasn't always easy, but the biggest thing I realized was that even though I wished she were nicer, I could only control what was growing in my own thought- garden - and I did want that garden to be beautiful.
So I grew love until love was all I could feel toward her. I grew kindness until being kind didn't seem hard anymore, but came naturally. Before long, not only did I feel better, but I think the beauty of all those good thoughts from God touched her, too. Our relationship improved. We were friends again.
The best thing about having your own thought-garden is that these good thoughts you're growing come from God, so you can never run out of them.
God is always giving you thoughts of enthusiasm, love, beauty, and joy. And winter, spring, summer, or fall, this right thinking will bloom and grow into lots of good things to harvest. Things that are sweeter, even, than those vegetables you used to find in my basket.