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Grace when I need it most

In watching one of those shows set back in the 'old country' of Scottish history, I observed as these homeowners kept their sheep 'penned in' within stone walls they'd erect from stones found right there in their own fields. It didn't have to be high - just about the same height at the sheep. They'd graze along until they came to this stone enclosure, then they'd almost turn around and graze in another direction. These small, but quite effective boundaries actually kept the sheep from wandering willy-nilly off into pastures not theirs to graze upon, or into areas where harm would await them. The Word of God presents a wide variety of "boundaries" that actually act quite similarly. Those boundaries actually serve to give us a sense of safety - we stay within them and we are safe - we step outside of them and no telling what will happen. One of those 'boundary areas' should be in our thought life. Our thoughts are not really all that "right" or "good" without boundaries. Eventually an uncontrolled thought life will begin to display in our words. 

Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action. (James 1:22-25)

It is by the intake of his Word that we are able to begin to get control over the outflow of words, and eventually those actions that flow from our mindset. We may find that we have engaged in wrong thought patterns and therefore, the actions behind those thoughts are being displayed, despite our efforts to not display those actions. An example of this is when I begin to formulate thoughts that someone is just being selfish in their demands of my time. When I entertain this thought over and over again, I begin to resent every action I take to fulfill that person's desires. My speech may be a good warning sign of what is actually going on in my mind - those subtle jabs and snippy answers tell me a lot about what I am really thinking!

Thought has power - it is that which is the "igniting" source for what it is that we say and do. Thoughts can be creative, or entirely destructive. They can be edifying, or spoken in such a way that they almost carry a damning effect to them. They can be spoken in such a way that they are instructive, or they can be so frivolous that people wonder why you are even speaking them at all! They also can be challenging, moving us ahead in relationship, or complacent, keeping us in a rut. They can be ruminated upon, giving them an acidic taint - so be careful with your thoughts! Lest you think that there is no hope for "unbridled" thoughts - those that are really given no real boundaries to stay within - I want to point remind us we are all given "filters" by which we can "test" each thought before it ever has a chance to become an action or a spoken word. Those filters come to us through the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the intake of the Word of God, and the development of our conscience. It only takes ONE tiny seed thought to change the entire course of our actions! The exact change you so desperately desire in your heart begins with that one tiny seed thought placed there by the intake of the Word, the urging of the Holy Spirit, or the niggling of our conscience.

Did you know that if you rehearse even the smallest "good" thought, it has the potential to become the greatest influence over the rest of your thoughts? It is true. Begin to entertain just one good thought about something you are struggling with today in a relationship you are engaged in and then keep rehearsing that thought. Then look specifically for insight from the Word of God as it relates to that "good thought" and allow it to fertilize that thought. Eventually, it will grow and begin to become pervasive in your mind. That one "seed thought" begins to "over-grow" the other less edifying thoughts you might have been entertaining about that relationship. It isn't always the bad stuff we see in each other that we should be rehearsing - it is the good. There is safety in setting boundaries in our thought life. When we begin to exercise the authority over what it is that we allow into our minds, we begin to form the right mindsets. Boundaries have a two-fold purpose: They keep us in the right mindset, and they keep the wrong thoughts out! When we begin to set the right boundaries, we begin to reap the benefits of a more controlled mindset and a more fruitful display of God's grace in our lives. Grace that actually 'gives grace' when others need it most. Just sayin!

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