Do you long for more peace in your life? Do you want to feel more of God’s presence? Do you want to hear from the Lord? If so, there are three important things we should do on a regular basis to achieve these things. We need to spend time with God by reading our Bibles, praying, and listening.
Reading the Bible
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” – Matthew 4:4
For many years I didn’t make reading my Bible a priority. I thought that reading Christian non-fiction books and listening to sermons was good enough. But I was wrong and everything in my life was proof. I made bad choices and I didn’t have any true peace. Finally about a decade ago I tried to make reading my Bible a priority. But I didn’t give it my all. I would hurry through a chapter and not necessarily retain what I read. I knew that I was still missing out on so much.
I had a longing to know God better. I had a thirst for Him. I knew there was so much more to my walk that I was missing. And I knew that digging deeper in His Word would be a big key to seeing changes in my life.
At one point, I felt God prompt me to start my day off right. This would mean getting up earlier to spend some time with Him before I did anything else. I didn’t really want to get up earlier. I already got up very early as it was for work. At this particular time, I had been tired a lot and I had even been looking for ways to get extra sleep. But the funny thing was, when I tried to sleep in later, I would still wake up early. I knew this was God, gently pushing me.
So, I finally turned back the time on my alarm. I spent time first thing in the morning focused on my Bible, trying to eliminate other distractions. Let me just tell you that I actually felt more refreshed, not tired! Amazing! And since my brain was fresh, I soaked in so much more of what He was trying to teach me. It is so important that we start our day off with the Lord. Give Him the first fruit of the day and you will be rewarded!
Bible Reading Tips
Here are some tips that I have learned along the way that have helped me with my Bible reading:
Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Have you ever thought about what a privilege it is for us to be able to speak to the King of Kings anytime we want to? And He is always there. He will never tell us He is busy. He will never ignore us. He will never say to come back another time. His door is always open. He is just waiting for us to come to Him.
In our prayers we tend to ask for things, which is fine. But I believe we should also thank God for things, and we should praise Him for how awesome He is. Some people like keeping a prayer journal. This helps them to keep their prayers focused. It also helps them to look back and see all the prayers that God has answered.
In that same light, you could also keep a gratitude journal, in which you thank God for all the good things in your life. This is something I do. And I even wrote a whole book about it! (Every Day is a Gift)
My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. – John 10:27
This one might be the hardest of all for many of us. When we pray, we tend to rattle off all of our requests. But do we ever stop and listen to what God might have to say to us? And in today’s world with so many things coming at us (emails, texts, calls, alerts, social media, instant messaging, television, radio), it can be very difficult to quiet our minds. So, quieting my mind and listening to God has been my focus for the last couple of months. And as a result, it has helped me feel more peaceful and joyful. And I am amazed at how much more I hear from God, when I actually try to hear from Him. Try to carve out a place and time in your day that works for you. Try to eliminate distractions. And ask God if there is anything He would like to tell you. You can read more on this topic HERE.
I hope you have found some of these tips to be helpful. If you have any special tips or practices that you would like to share, please leave a comment!
When my husband and I went blueberry picking a couple of weeks ago, it made me think of a particular scene in The Sound of Music. The children snuck out of the house in an attempt to visit Fräulein Maria. When they got back home, their father, Captain Von Trapp, grilled them on where they had been. The children said they had been out picking blueberries. Well their father replied that it was too early for blueberries. One of the boys then said that it was really strawberries, but it had been so cold lately that the strawberries turned blue. Everyone cringed at that silly statement. Well this caused the Captain to ask to see all the berries. But the children said that they ate them. Calling their bluff, the father then tells them that since they ate thousands of berries, they must not be hungry for dinner.
This scene makes me think of God the Father and how we sometimes try to keep things from Him. Of course we know that God is omniscient. He sees everything and He knows everything. But do we still try to hide things from Him? At times we might try to keep our true feelings and emotions hidden. Or perhaps we might tuck away some of our dreams and desires. Or maybe we try to bury our past or our scars. Maybe we think if we bring some of these things to God, it could stir up too much pain. Or it could be that we feel if we are too open with the Lord, He might strike us down.
Some of these reactions stem from our relationships with humans. When we put our hearts on the line with people, we often get hurt. If we share our dreams with our loved ones, they might shoot us down and tell us all the reasons why it won’t work. People are quick to judge others and point fingers. It can be hard for humans to extend grace and mercy.
But our Heavenly Father isn’t like that. God is love. And He loves His children. He cares about His children’s feelings. His children’s hopes and dreams matter to Him. Just like the Captain in The Sound of Music. Of course he knew all along the children weren’t berry picking, just as our Father knows how we are feeling even when we don’t come out and tell Him. And the Captain wasn’t going to punish the children for sharing the truth with him, just as our Father won’t harm us for being honest with Him.
I will leave you with Psalm 121, which is a beautiful picture of how The Lord watches over us. And the first two verses are actually mentioned towards the end of The Sound of Music. (By the way, if you have never watched The Sound of Music, please do. The 1965 version with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.)
Good Morning, Friends! Happy “Friday Eve” as my husband and I like to say. I hope you all are having a nice week. As you might know, I not only write on my own website, but I also write on the Christians Read blog. You can find a new post from me there every Thursday! Below I have shared the link for today’s post. Happy Reading!
The Gratitude Debate
Happy Saturday, Friends! I hope you are all having a nice weekend. I mentioned to you guys last week that I had my first book signing, and that it was at the Blu By U blueberry farm. But unfortunately my husband and I didn’t get to enjoy many of the fun things at the farm because we were at the book signing table the entire time. So today we went back. We picked blueberries, went in the butterfly house, breezed by the petting zoo, ate sandwiches from the food truck, and we went inside their cute little country store. One especially exciting part of the trip today was that I saw my own books on display in the country store! If you are looking for something fun to do this month, and if you live in the Jacksonville area, I recommend going by the Blu By U blueberry farm. But the blueberries are only available through the end of the month. So don’t wait too long! But you can also buy some of your own blueberry plants at the farm, as we did today! Here are a few pictures from today’s fun…
Yesterday I had my first book signing! What an exciting event, especially for a newbie like me. This is something that I looked forward to for nearly six months. Our friend, Matt, is owner and farm manager of the Blu By U blueberry farm in Jacksonville. At this farm, patrons are invited to come out and pick their own blueberries. Back in the beginning of November, Matt mentioned having a book signing when the farm opened for the season. At the time, Matt projected that the blueberry farm would open for the season in late April. So that’s what we were shooting for. But he said we’d have to play it by ear, as the blueberries began to ripen.
As time moved on, I began to prepare. I ordered copies of my books for folks to purchase if they didn’t already have one. And I ordered bookmarks to hand out as a free gift to those who stopped by. I also made a list of the things we would need – Table, Chairs, Books, Bookmarks, Pens to sign with, Sun screen, Sunglasses, Water, etc. And I created a Facebook event, inviting everyone I knew who lived in the area.
Finally in the beginning of April, Matt confirmed that the farm would open for the season on the twenty-seventh of April. It would be a fun day for the whole family. Not only would there be blueberry picking, but they also would have a butterfly exhibit, a petting zoo, corn hole, a sandbox for the kids, a food truck, and much more.
After much planning, the day finally arrived! And it was a fabulous day. If you read my first book, then you know that I find gratitude to be an important part of life. So last night, as the day was winding down, I wrote down all the things I was thankful for throughout the events of the day.
I was truly thankful for our friend, Matt, who coordinated the event, and invited me to participate in a book signing.
I was especially thankful for my husband, Mickey, my sister, Stacey, and my brother-in-law, Joe, who were by my side throughout the day. They helped load and unload the vehicle, get the table set up, greet guests, take pictures, and much more.
I was thankful that my sister has much more decorating talent than me. My table looked a bit drab under my own efforts. But my sister came along and magically transformed it into an elegant display.
I was thankful to the friends and family who came out yesterday. My nephew, his kids, and his girlfriend were among the visitors. The kids had a lot of fun playing and taking in all the attractions. I was especially appreciative considering it was my nephew’s birthday and he could’ve been doing a number of other things with his day.
Also, my husband and I were truly thankful to see some of our friends and their families, who we had not seen in many months. What a blessing to have friends who took time out of their weekend to visit with us!
The night before the event, my mother mentioned that it would be nice if I had a poster board to display the description of my books. I was thankful for the idea and for the fact that I was able to quickly put something together. I printed out the cover of each book, as well as the book descriptions found on Amazon. And my husband and I just so happened to have a poster board that we use for putting jigsaw puzzles together.
Matt also invited two other author friends of his. So I was thankful to make new friends yesterday.
I was thankful to the family member who babysat our pets. One of our dogs gets anxiety if we leave him alone for too long.
I was thankful for the beautiful weather. In Florida, there is often a chance of high temperatures and/or thunderstorms. But yesterday we had clear skies and started the morning off in the sixties. It was a beautiful day!
There were also a few prayer warriors on my side yesterday. My parents, my friend, Lorraine, and others were praying that all went well. And it did. Overall, it was a blessed day! With the Lord, my family, and my friends by my side, the day turned out to be a treasure!
Here are a few pictures from the day…
Jesus was arrested with no cause. One of His own disciples betrayed Him. They called false witnesses to testify against Him. They put a robe and a crown of thorns on His head, while mocking Him. They demanded a murderer be set free, and that Jesus be executed. They beat Him and made Him drag His own cross. They nailed His hands and His feet to the wood. They put Him up in the air so that all could ridicule Him. He face became distorted as He took on the sin of the world. He paid the penalty for every one of us.
The moment when Jesus died, the curtain in the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The curtain in the temple separated the most Holy Place and the presence of God from man. The high priest was the only one who could go beyond the curtain, and that was only once a year. Jesus’ death on the cross meant that we could now meet with God at anytime. The door was open to all who would accept the invitation.
They placed Jesus’ body in a tomb and rolled a heavy stone in front of it. But on the third day, the stone had been moved. And the tomb was empty. Jesus’ had risen from the grave. Death could not hold Him. He defeated sin, He defeated death, He saved the world. He who knew no sin, erased our sin. He did that for you, for me, and for every single human being.
Centuries before you were born, God mapped out a plan to save you. He loves you that much. He knew you would make mistakes. But He gave His one and only Son to pay the debt that you owed. I hope and pray that you have accepted Jesus into your life. If you haven’t, please go HERE. This will be the most important decision you ever make.
On the interstate the other day, I saw a big rig with mud flaps that said, “Do you follow Jesus this close?” While I got a chuckle out of it, I also thought it was a good question. Do I follow Jesus as closely as I should? I certainly try.
But do I fall short in any areas? Definitely. Every day I can find something I did “wrong.” Maybe I said something I regret. Or maybe just the opposite – I didn’t speak up when I should have. Maybe I made a hasty decision. Or maybe I didn’t make a move when I should have. I am constantly second guessing everything I do. In all honesty, it can be very exhausting living this way. Am I too hard on myself? Perhaps. But I think I would rather be this way, as opposed to someone who flippantly feels they do no wrong.
This makes me think of David in the Bible. He was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). David always tried to please the Lord, his faith was unshakably strong, and he openly praised God even when others criticized him for it. However, David was human and he did make mistakes. But he was quick to turn around when he knew he was wrong.
The bottom line comes down to our hearts. We need to allow the Lord to examine our hearts, and point out any areas that need adjusting. Handing over each day to God will ensure we are on the right path. Honoring God with our lives and actions will always lead to success. Ask yourself, do you follow Jesus this close?
I will leave you with some words written by David, found in Psalm 139…
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!
19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
for your enemies are my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
This morning I had to attend a meeting across town, so I planned to go through a drive thru for some much needed caffeine. I also planned to pay for the bill of the car in line behind me, because it is fun to anonymously bless someone.
As I turned into the parking lot, a couple of other cars hurried to be the next one in line. They thought they were getting ahead, by getting in front of me. I shook my head because I knew that they really would have benefitted to be behind me, because I would have paid for their bill.
It made me think of the Bible verse, “So those who are last will be first and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
And then I realized it is the same way with God and people. He wants to bless us and He wants the best for us. Unfortunately we tend to run ahead because we are impatient. We want what we think is the best thing. And we want it now. But God can see that we have missed out on a blessing, by not waiting for Him to work things out.
I know I personally have a bad habit in this area. I jump and think later. I know I should prayerfully seek God, His plan, and His timing first. But too often, I don’t do it. I see something shiny and I grab it.
This fast paced world we live in plays a big role in why we are this way. We have everything at our fingertips. We don’t have to wait until the weekend to go to the bookstore to buy the book we want. Instead we can download it on our tablet right now. Need something from Amazon? You can have it delivered tomorrow. Drive down any road and you will see someone who is in too big of a hurry. In our small town, my husband and I often see vehicles pass on a double yellow line, and the car they are passing isn’t going slow. We have too much on our plates and we need everything on our to-do lists done yesterday. We have too much to do at our jobs, and not enough time to do it. We run from work to home with barely enough time to throw dinner on the table before we go to bed and do it all over again the next day.
But we don’t have to fall victim to this world and its ways. And we don’t have to settle for second best. The key is to trust God and His timing. It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy. But it all comes down to a choice. Either we believe that God has our best interest in mind or we don’t.
“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” – Psalm 27:14
My husband and I enjoy seeing and taking pictures of wildlife in the mountains – bears, deer, turkey, horses, and even coyotes at times. But one of my favorite pictures is of a bird, just sitting on a fence. I think I like it so much because he seems to have it all together. He is not worried or stressed. He is confident and at peace. (See pic below.)
We can be like that too. In fact, there is even a Bible verse about this. “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” (Matthew 6:26)
From now let’s try to wait on God and His timing. Instead of running ahead towards something that we think we can’t live without, let’s wait and allow God to give us His very best.
(Picture by Bridget A. Thomas 😉)
Guess what? My first book, Every Day is a Gift, is a year old! I can’t believe it has been a year already. For more info on both of my books, go to bridgetathomas.com/books/. Below is an excerpt from Every Day is a Gift. Enjoy!
“Every day is a gift!” Since 2012 I have had that phrase as part of my email signature. That was the year when a friend from college died of sarcoma. It was only one week after Jennifer’s thirty-fourth birthday. She left behind a husband, a two-year-old daughter, loving parents, and countless friends. Jennifer had such a beautiful heart. She was always smiling, and always thinking of others.
I’ve often asked God why this had to happen. Why do some get to live and others die? Why would someone so young lose the battle? Why did a toddler have to lose her mom? Why would such a sweet spirit be chosen? This side of heaven, I might never know the answers to these questions.
Piercing moments in life like this can change us. Sometimes they will make us more resentful. But they don’t have to. We can choose to use these moments to cling to God, and ultimately to make us stronger.
When my friend died, this made me more thankful for Jesus. Why? Because Jesus gives me hope that I will see my friend again one day. And in the meantime, I want to cherish what she didn’t get – extra time on this earth. Extra time to love my family. Extra time to be a blessing to others. I want to remember that every day is a gift from God.
I have been nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award! What an honor!
“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for those who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.
– Okoto Enigma
Many thanks to Donny for nominating me. You will find many interesting travel stories and pictures at his bog – travelingpersecond.com.
Rules for the Mystery Blogger Award :
1. Put the award image in your post.
2. List the rules.
3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
4. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
5. Answer the questions you were asked.
6. Nominate at least 6-7 bloggers you want to nominate.
7. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice.
Three things about me:
1- I love Jesus!
2- My husband and I like looking for black bears in the Smoky Mountains.
3- We also enjoy watching college baseball (particularly the Florida Gators and the East Carolina Pirates).
QUESTIONS GIVEN TO ME:
1. What do you usually do after work? Spend time with my husband and two dogs.
2. What things do you like when you are traveling alone? A good book to read.
3. If you want to write a book, what will you write about in your last book? My most recent book, You Are Redeemed, was about finding our true identity in Jesus.
4. When do you like to write? Usually on the weekends.
5. If you become a tourism minister in your country, what important things will you do? Encourage people to take better care of the world that the Lord gave us.
MY QUESTION TO THE NOMINEES:
1 – What is one of your hobbies?
2 – Do you like to play or watch any sports?
3 – What good habit has helped you reach your goals?
4 – What is your favorite book?
5 – What is on the top of your bucket list?