Read Luke 1 in your Bible. Or you can also read it here.
Luke 1 gives us a lot of details that lead up to Jesus’ birth, details which we do not see in the other gospels. It talks about the foretelling of two births – John the Baptist and Jesus.
First, we read about the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist. John’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were old and had no children. Zechariah was a priest. Both he and Elizabeth were “righteous in the sight of God” (Luke 1:6). One day Zechariah “was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” (v 9)
This was a special day for Zechariah. Not only because of the duties he was to perform that day, but also because of something extraordinary that happened while he was in the temple. The angel, Gabriel, appeared to Zechariah while he was inside and told him that Elizabeth would soon bear a son.
What an amazing promise this must have been. Was hope bubbling up inside of Zechariah? We don’t have the answer. But as the story unfolds, it does appear that doubt had creeped in. “Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.’” (v. 18)
Due to Zechariah’s questioning, things take a slight turn. Gabriel tells him, “…you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” (v. 20) Yikes. How scary it must have been to not be able to speak for many months.
Later in this chapter we read about the foretelling of Jesus’ birth. The same angel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary and tells her that she too will have a son. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (v 32)
I wonder what emotions ran through Mary when she heard this news. Was she fearful or hopeful? Was she in awe or confused? In verse 34, Mary does question Gabriel by asking how this can happen since she is a young, unmarried girl.
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. …For no word from God will ever fail.” (v 35,37)
How did Mary reply to that? I am amazed by her response. In verse 38 Mary says, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary’s words are inspiring. Would any of us have been able to submit to the Lord in this situation? Do we submit to the Lord this easily in less consequential situations? How I wish I always had this attitude. In fact, this story makes me cringe at my reaction to much smaller circumstances, when something comes my way that I did not plan for.
And reading through this chapter in Luke, I am struck by the contrast in these two different stories. Zechariah who doubted versus Mary who surrendered. Reading this shows me the importance of speaking faith with our words. It is not always easy to speak faith, but it is possible because we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. It must start in our hearts. We must fully trust in the Lord first, and then our words will better reflect our faith. May the words that come out of our mouths be pleasing to the Lord. May our words show God, ourselves, and those around us that we have strong faith in our trustworthy Father.
If you are also participating in the Gratitude Challenge, today is day 72 of 100. Keep up the good work!
© Bridget A. Thomas. Adapted from original post on Christians Read entitled Speak Faith by Bridget A. Thomas on December 10, 2020.
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States of America, so I want to take a moment to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! Even if you are not in the U.S.A. I hope you will take time today to thank God for all the blessings in your life. Our Father is so very good to us, each and every day. We have so much to be thankful for. We just have to take the time to stop and look around. When we do, we will see how blessed we are. And we will see that every day is a gift from God!
I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for being here and for walking by my side. This Thanksgiving I am so grateful for you and I can never tell you how much your presence means to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I pray you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving!
I will leave you with some music. Enjoy! Thanksgiving Medley by Saddleback Worship
I hope you are continuing with the Gratitude Challenge. Don’t forget to write down at least ten things you are thankful for today.
And don’t forget we have the Luke Bible study starting on December 1st. See you then!
© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas
Are you a cynical person? If you would have asked me this, I would have emphatically said, “NO!” Then I read a book by Jennie Allen called “Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts.” In this book Allen writes:
“Here are some questions to ask yourself to see whether cynicism has invaded your headspace:
Wow! These questions stunned me. What about you? Can you say yes to many of these? Surprisingly, I can. But I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised because of the culture we live in. We are surrounded by negativity and complaining at every turn. And in fact, it is actually encouraged and applauded.
It is no secret that living with toxic thoughts is bad for our mental health. According to Cleveland Clinic, “Psychologists link negative thinking to depression, anxiety, chronic worry and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).”
But it might surprise some to hear that negativity is also bad for our physical health as well. According to the University of Minnesota, “Negative attitudes and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can create chronic stress, which upsets the body’s hormone balance, depletes the brain chemicals required for happiness, and damages the immune system.”
However, I have some good news that will fight this downward spiral. Gratitude can help turn all that around! According to the Mayo Clinic, “A daily gratitude practice has been shown to significantly increase your happiness — and your physical health. Practicing gratitude improves sleep, boosts immunity and decreases the risk of disease.”
In other words … Gratitude is medicine for the soul.
Our mental and physical well-being should prompt us to choose gratitude. We have this one body for our entire lives. And we have to live with ourselves for decades. So why not take care of yourself, for your own health’s sake, and choose gratitude?
(Side note: I realize some of you might be dealing with difficult situations or grief and cannot focus on gratitude right now. That is understandable. We all need to evaluate what works for us in different seasons. Personally, I needed to do this gratitude challenge to help my heart and soul to stay in a positive direction. And I encourage you to prayerfully seek God’s guidance and assess what things might benefit you in the current season that you are in.)
… Don’t forget we have the Luke Bible study starting on December 1st! I hope you will join in!
My heart and soul explode with joy—full of glory! Even my body will rest confident and secure. – Psalm 16:9 TPT
© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas
If you have been following along for the past few weeks and decided to join in on the Gratitude Challenge which started on September 21, then you might be happy to know if that we are halfway there! Today is day 50 of 100 days of gratitude.
How have you been doing? If you have fallen behind, that’s ok. You can pick back up now. If you record 10 blessings each day, from now until December 29, you will have 500 gifts in your basket of goodness. And for those who have been consistent since we started, you already have 500 gifts written down.
On this gratitude walk we are disciplining our minds. It can be all too easy to let our focus look at the negative things in life. But Jesus came so that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Jesus wants us to have peace, contentment, and joy. The only way to truly obtain those things is through a relationship with Him.
As Martin Luther said, “The heart overflows with gladness, and leaps and dances for the joy it has found in God. In this experience the Holy Spirit is active, and has taught us in the flash of a moment the deep secret of joy. You will have as much joy and laughter in life as you have faith in God.”
But even when we commit our lives to Him, we still might not find happiness if we allow our minds to be filled with negative and worldly things. So we have to make an effort to discipline our minds on the positive things. We have to choose gratitude each day. When we wake up we can choose to thank God for a new day instead of grumbling about our shrilling alarm clock. When we go to bed we can choose to thank God for the blessings that we found in our day instead of focusing on the things that went wrong.
God created this earth, the mountains, the oceans, the animals, the birds, the fish, and even the bugs. But when He made human beings there was a big difference in our creation – our mind. We were given an amazing brain that we can use and steer each day. We don’t have to be victims of our thoughts. We have an opportunity to choose positive thoughts. And that is what gratitude is all about. Making a choice each day. I know it’s not always easy, but it is possible. I hope that whether you have been following along or not, that you will get back in the game now and continue for the next 50 days. I am praying for you along this journey.
… And don’t forget we have the Luke Bible study starting on December 1st!
© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas
I have an exciting announcement! And you already know what it is by the title of this post! Ha! Yes during the month of December I will host a Bible study going through the book of Luke. There are 24 chapters in this book of the Bible. So starting on December 1 and reading one chapter a day means we will complete the book on Christmas Eve.
A couple of years ago, my friend Renee did something similar on social media. Each day she tagged all of her friends to get them in on the action. She asked each of us to comment on a verse that spoke to us. I loved this idea, and since then I have heard of others doing something similar.
Last year I had thought about hosting something here on my blog. However, since we all went through a Gratitude Challenge for 30 days in November, I wasn’t sure if everyone would have the energy to participate. So that is why I am doing it this year instead.
Therefore, December 1-24 we will read through the book of Luke. We will read one chapter a day. And then each day I will have a blog post here with a takeaway from that chapter. I hope you will join in on the fun. You are welcome to comment on the posts with your takeaway from the chapter we read that day. Some of the posts will be longer, some shorter. Most posts will contain new content. However, in some cases I might pull something from the archives, if I have an old post that fits.
Why am I doing this? It is no secret that the past two years have been a challenge for all of us. With the pandemic, all the terrible things we hear about in the news, and challenges in our personal lives, things have been tough. I think taking some time to sit with our Savior every day will do all of our hearts some good. No matter what we are facing in life, Jesus is there for us. He can help us with the challenges we face and He can help us to regain some perspective.
Also, during the Christmas season, with the hustle and bustle, we tend to lose sight of the reason for the season. We stay busy shopping for the perfect Christmas gifts, planning the perfect menus, and focusing on all the festivities. December seems to come and go so fast. And then when it is over we realize we didn’t take time to focus on the true meaning of Christmas – Jesus.
So I hope you will join me for this Bible study. I am looking forward to spending time with Jesus and with each of you next month.
If you are also participating in the Gratitude Challenge, I hope you will continue that as well. It only takes a couple of minutes to jot down ten things you are thankful for. And I hope that you have already been seeing how this one habit can help transform your life.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. – Psalm 34:8
When starting this 100 days of gratitude someone asked me about the items that I write down on my gratitude list. They can vary, but mainly I try to focus on good things that happened during my day. This is why I often write items on my list in the evening. I try to look back at my day and see what good things occurred.
It’s like a scavenger hunt. God sprinkles so many blessings in our day. But how many do we notice and how many do we miss? I fear that we miss a lot of those good things, simply because we are not looking for them.
Did God wake you up this morning? Did God get you to work safely? Did God help you complete a project you have been working on? Did God paint a beautiful sunrise? Did God give you eyes to see and ears to hear? Did you feel God’s peace when you prayed? Did God send a friend your way with a kind word? Did a stranger pay for your coffee? Did God remind you of an errand you needed to run? Did you stumble across a Bible verse that spoke to you today?
There are tons of blessings throughout our day that display the goodness of God. Some are big, and some are small. But they are there.
One day my husband told his son that he would change his oil in his car for him. Normally his son would’ve driven his car to our house. But on this particular occasion, my husband picked up his son’s car. However, the car was low on gas. It was so low that my husband didn’t want to turn the AC on, so he drove with the windows down. Because the windows were down, my husband could hear that the tires didn’t sound right. When he got to the gas station, he looked at the tires and confirmed they were in bad shape. Many people might chalk this up to coincidence. But I call this the goodness of God. All of these events happened just right.
In Psalm 34:8 we are reminded to taste and see that the Lord is good. Have you ever eaten something, but you didn’t really taste it? Your mind was elsewhere, so you weren’t necessarily paying attention to the taste of the food. When I read this verse I picture someone who is more like a connoisseur. They take the time to taste the different flavors and ingredients in their food or drink. They savor each bite or sip. And similarly we too should savor the goodness of God.
Today as you proceed through your day, look around for the goodness of God. You will be amazed at all of the blessings that appear.
But you also have to be open to the right perspective. One person might get annoyed that the sunrise is so bright. Meanwhile the person standing next to them might pull out their phone to take a picture. Let us be the latter, always looking for the goodness around us.
For further insight, I wanted to share a post written by Gail Johnson called Great Things. I love how Gail mentions “celebrating the goodness of God.” Such a beautiful thought! And isn’t that what gratitude is all about?
I also wanted to share one more thing. I absolutely love this song “Goodness of God” by Jenn Johnson. Some days I will just listen to this song over and over on my commute. Enjoy!
© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas
Any time of day or night
With the Lord we meet
We find ourselves eager
For moments so sweet
He is ready to receive
The burdens we lift
Our time with God
What a precious gift
The Spirit greets us
And we feel peace
We never want
The feeling to cease
As we sit with Him
We feel His love flow
In God’s presence
Is where we grow
There is so much
He willingly gives
And we can give back
This one life we live
In the throne room
We have a place to hide
We linger there because
It is in Jesus we abide
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. – Psalm 91:1 NLT
Last week we talked about how spending time with God helps our gratitude walk. Today I wanted to share a post regarding Spending Quiet Time With God, written by friend Alicia over at For His Purpose. She gives tips on how to begin your day with Jesus. And she provides further insight on how this time with the Lord satisfies a longing that we have within.
© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas
Something that helps me tremendously when it comes to having a grateful heart is when I am consistent with spending time with God. If we start our mornings with the Lord, this will help set the tone for the day. When we read our Bibles and pray first thing, this truly helps start each day off on the right foot.
Spending time with God is powerful. There is power in His Holy Word, the Bible. And there
Is power in prayer. Any time spent with God helps usher in His supernatural power.
I have at times heard people complain that God has forgotten about them or doesn’t listen to them. But some of these same people don’t bother giving God any of their time until they want something from Him.
When we truly care about someone, we make an effort to strengthen that relationship. When we love something, we make it a priority in our lives. And so it should be with the Lord. We should treasure our time with Him. He shouldn’t neglect it or abuse it.
Our minds are going to be filled with something. We can decide what we will fill it with. If we don’t fill it with things of God, then it will be filled with things of the world. Thoughts of this world lead to complaining and dishonesty. Thoughts of God lead to gratitude and truth.
The more time we spend with God, the better we feel. We have more peace, joy, and gratitude in our hearts.
This is because when we spend time with the Lord, we are building a beautiful relationship. When we build that relationship, we are building our trust. And when we build our trust, we know that God is always there for us and we have nothing to fear. This, in turn, helps us to have more gratitude for all that the Lord has done for us.
On the other hand, the more grateful we are for all the blessing in our lives, the more trust we have in God because we see just how much He truly does care for us. When we take note of the gifts He bestows upon us, our hearts find an unexplainable peace.
So you see, God and gratitude go hand in hand, creating a comforting circle of love. Trust leads to gratitude and gratitude leads to trust.
If you don’t feel like spending time with God, then pray about it! Ask God to give you a desire for Him. Ask God to help you understand the Bible. Ask God to help you be a prayer warrior.
I pray we all cling to the Lord in these last few months of the year. I pray we all can find a new vision. I pray we all overflow with gratitude, joy, and peace.
Some Bible verses to meditate on:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105 NKJV
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. – Mark 11:24 NKJV
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he… – Proverbs 23:7a NKJV
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:2 NKJV
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. – Philippians 4:8 NKJV
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. – Romans 8:5-6 NLT
© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas
We think life should have been different
We expect things to go a certain way
But then the circumstances change
And we allow this to ruin our days
We hold on tightly to our plans
And this makes us feel distraught
But in the grand scheme of things
Perhaps we need to release our oughts
Some interruptions that come our way
Are divine blessings to embrace
Perhaps God put them in our path
As a gift of His goodness and grace
When we learn to trust God
Amidst many stops and starts
We finally begin to understand
He has our best interest at heart
Letting go of our rules and plans
We have a whole new attitude
Our stress level melts away
And we look at life with gratitude
One thing that trips me up when it comes to having an attitude of gratitude is when I am stressed and overwhelmed. That is when I find myself complaining a lot. My life has had a lot of that lately and I have been trying to dig deep to see why I get so anxious during those times.
A pattern I am seeing in my own life has to do with “interruptions.” These are small things in our day or large things in our lives that send us in a different direction. I see them as things that upset my “expectations,” even if these expectations are subconscious. Big or small, if things don’t go the way we planned or expect, it can ruin our attitude.
For example, perhaps your child forgot their lunch at home and you had to bring it to them at school. You didn’t plan for this, you didn’t expect this to happen, your day was interrupted, and it caused you stress. Or perhaps you expected to get a certain project accomplished on a particular day, but you were interrupted. You didn’t get to focus on what you wanted to focus on and had to change paths. You didn’t plan for this. And the new assignment brings more stress.
For me, these little things cause me to complain, especially if my stress level is already high.
What messes our life up most is the expectation of what our life is supposed to look like. – Ann Voskamp
(Yes, I realize I have mentioned Ann Voskamp three weeks in a row!)
I’ve been thinking about the stress, the interruptions and the expectations recently and I can see another layer as to why these things bother me. Let’s take the second example from above. Why am I so frustrated about having to change tasks? Because subconsciously I equate this to not being enough. I wasn’t able to accomplish what I set out to accomplish. I will complain about the change of plans, when truly, I just want to prove that I can do it all. And we have come around full circle because this points to perfectionism and our high expectations for ourselves. We think that if we were better, smarter, or more efficient, then we could do it all. But the truth is that none of us are enough. But God is! (I might write more on this concept in a future post?)
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
And perhaps we have high expectations for other people too. Like the kid who forgot his lunch. It was an honest mistake (in all likelihood). Yet we allow it to rattle us.
Recently this is how I have felt a lot. Overwhelmed and stressed, with many things coming at me. I don’t have the time or ability to do everything. And I see how this directly impacts my attitude of gratitude. So I am trying to let my expectations go. I am trying to gracefully allow interruptions in my day. I am trying to remember that everything that comes into my life is not a surprise to God.
And maybe these interruptions in our days are divinely orchestrated. Do you remember one of the many survival stories we heard from September 11, 2001? There was a guy who was wearing a new pair of shoes that day, and they gave him a blister. I could imagine at the time many of us would have been frustrated because we were late for work. Well this guy had to stop for a Band-aid, and that ultimately saved his life. May this story help us to humbly embrace the unexpected things that come our way.
If minor inconveniences, interruptions, high expectations, or even the feeling of not enough tend to cause you stress and thus take away your joy, then I am with you. But I am learning to hand these things over to God. He is in full control. We are not. When we hold our plans loosely in our hands and allow Him to take the wheel, we will have so much more peace. And this will remove a roadblock on our path to gratitude.
Perhaps the examples in this post didn’t resonate with you, but you are having trouble embracing gratitude? If so, then you might have to take time to see what particular roadblocks are in your way. Prayerfully seek God’s guidance. It is possible to pave a new path and it is worth it.
For further insight, check out these posts:
© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas
For those of you who missed last week’s post, I encouraged you to join a gratitude challenge. With the time remaining in 2021, write down at least 10 things that you are thankful for each day. Then at the end of the year, I bet you will feel happier and more blessed.
(Ironically, I later learned that September 21, the day of that post, was World Gratitude Day!)
Today I want to offer a few suggestions on how to make gratitude a habit. These are things that have helped me. I hope you can glean some insight out of them…
1 – Start your day with a thankful heart
When you wake up in the morning, thank God for a new day. Thank Him for waking you up. I know not everyone is a morning person. But even if you are tired and weary, you can still muster up a “thank you” because God allowed you to see a new day on this earth. And hand your day over to Him. Tell the Lord that you are choosing gratitude today. And you are choosing Him.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. – Psalm 143:8 NIV
2 – Don’t let the enemy steal your joy
We are faced with so many things throughout our day that cause us to complain. But I am convinced that in many cases, the enemy is trying to steal our joy. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV) When the enemy tries to take your joy away, you can choose otherwise. Remind yourself that you will not fall for his tactics. Remind yourself that Jesus came to bring you a full life. Remind yourself that every day is a gift from God.
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24 ESV
3 – Look for the good
Too often in our culture we are trained to see the negative in every situation and in every person. But as Christians, we have a supernatural power that can help us break this cycle. Let’s be radically different from those around us. Let’s look around for the good in people and the good in the circumstances we face. Let’s look for God’s goodness all around us. You can listen to all the motivational videos you want, but the truth is that being grateful starts with a decision. You get to choose how you will face every moment of every day.
If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you! – Proverbs 11:27 NIV
4 – Find Your Strength in God
I am not naive and I do know that sometimes we will still face difficult moments. But in those moments we can choose to hold tightly to God. We can rely on His strength. We have nothing to fear when Almighty God is beside us. Reading your Bible and praying will strengthen your relationship with Him. Spending time with The Lord is vital. I have seen in my own life when I let these daily habits slide, I also feel much more negativity inside me.
The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? – Psalm 27:1 NIV
5 – End your day with a grateful heart
Evening is often the time I write down the things I am thankful for. This is because I like to look back at my day and see all the good things that occurred. Even if I felt I had a “bad” day, I can find blessings from the Lord. If you don’t want to write down the gifts in your life, another option is to think about things you are grateful for as you drift off to sleep. And this will help to end your day on a peaceful note.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. – Psalm 4:8 NIV
These are things that have helped me to cultivate a thankful heart. Many of them boil down to our habits. We all will have an array of daily habits, no matter who we are. But we can choose to make them good ones and make them work in our favor. When you first start down this path, you might find yourself forgetting to make gratitude a habit. So you could post sticky notes or some other sort of reminders in different places as triggers. If you have any of your own tips on how to stay grateful, feel free to share in the comments.
And I also want to share some bonuses to help you find gratitude today…
1 – Poem by a fellow blogger
Last week Daryl Madden shared a moving poem when he reblogged my post. Please check it out here. I was so touched! This poem immediately went down on my gratitude list!
2 – A quote that will give you perspective
Last week I mentioned the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Today I want to reference a quote from a different book of hers, The Greatest Gift. If you are complaining or feeling sorry for yourself, perhaps these words will help flip a switch.
“If you have any food in your fridge, any clothes in your closet, any small roof, rented or owned, over your head, you are richer than 75 percent of the world… If you have anything saved in the bank, any bills in your wallet, any spare change in a jar, you are one of the top 8 percent wealthiest people in the world… If you can read these words right now, you have a gift three billion people right now don’t. If your stomach isn’t twisted in hunger pangs, you have a gift that one billion people right now don’t. If you know Christ as the greatest Gift, you have a gift that untold millions of people right now don’t…”
I am praying for each of you throughout this journey. I hope we can all find a more positive outlook and wrap up 2021 with a grateful heart.
© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas