This morning I had a “stow away” on board,  a tiny little “friend” promenading along the brim of my baseball cap as a I sat down at my laptop. Rolling my eyes up to gaze at him directly, I could see, sure enough, that the stowaway was an ant. Where did you come from?

I had just come in from feeding the horses and  had also “mucked” the corral, where my equine pets hang out. For non-horse people, “muck” basically means “picking up poop.” Typically, after raking the horse droppings and scooping them into a large wheelbarrow, I dump the load on the manure pile.

This is no typical manure pile. It is mammoth–the mother of all manure piles. We buy a ton of hay (that is 2000 pounds!) each month for our horses and much of it comes out the other end as waste. 🙂 If you want to see this process and the manure pile, both are featured in the following very silly “Busy Horsewoman’s Workout” video…LOL!

Many of God’s creatures consider a manure pile a perfect environment in which to live. Most of these critters also serve as decomposers, helping the manure pile to become soil–which is, of course, the idea!  When I dump the wheelbarrow of manure, I have to be extremely aware of the little “animals” that make it their home.  If I am not cautious while near the pile of “meadow muffins,” however, as I march into the territory of crawly creatures, I can stir up something like…well…like an ant’s nest (or worse). If adequate caution is not exercised, however, hitch-hikers may climb aboard my body. Later, back in the house, I then may find them ambling about on my body or in my hair! Clearly, that is what happened today, as I subsequently found 3 more of Mr. Ant’s friends had also gotten on board.

In my effort to do my chores–a good thing–without proper care, I can end up taking aboard an unwelcome passenger or 12 or 20. Sometimes, these creatures bite! NOT fun!

I must confess that as I put a sudden end to the ants found on the brim of my cap and on my arm, earlier this morning, a thought struck me about life generally. Are there environments where I unwittingly allow hitch-hiking attitudes and behaviors to get on board? For instance, when I am with certain people–friends and family–or attend certain activities, do I come away with a different perspective that that which I have previously held? For example, sometimes people I am with speak poorly of others behind their backs. Do I begin to minimize the inappropriateness of this behavior or even start to carry an attitude that it is acceptable,  or, worse, even engage in this behavior myself?

Or if I am with people who are footloose and fancy-free about eating, do I then adopt their attitude toward food, figuring that if these Christian friends don’t see anything “wrong” with eating whenever and whatever they want, why should I?

I see that I must exercise due diligence when I am near the manure pile, not to allow hitch-hikers to come “on board,” but I must be even more circumspect when I am with those who embrace a different set of values–even if they are Christian folks–not to allow thoughts or attitudes that defeat my godly goals to “stow away” on board in any way, shape, or form.

There is no doubt that I will continue to do what I must in and near the manure pile. Just as there is little question that I will continue to interact with people whose values differ from my own. But it is my prayer that I will continue to grow in my awareness of the possibility of allowing inappropriate attitudes to “latch on” and maintain vigilance not to allow that to happen. Just as an ant doesn’t belong on the brim of my baseball cap, neither do many of these attitudes belong in my mind.

And, as earnest as I have been about stomping out these ants that I have found on me, today, I want to stomp out the thoughts that God calls me not to embrace.

Above all else, guard your heart,
       for it is the wellspring of life.  – Proverbs 4:23

How about you? Are there environments from which you find yourself sometimes allowing stow-away thoughts or attitudes? How can you exercise due diligence today to guard your heart and mind?