Eliminating Distractions

Over the past couple of weeks I have talked about Seeking God and my July Challenge. Mainly one thing that I have been working on is eliminating distractions. I strongly believe that distractions are one of the devil’s tactics to get us Christians off course.

In today’s culture we have so many things coming at us – texts, emails, alerts, phone calls, instant messages, social media posts, etc. It can be overwhelming. It is wonderful that we can use technology to stay in touch with loved ones who live hundreds of miles away. But technology has also created a lot of distractions in our lives. You cannot go anywhere without seeing people who are glued to their phones. If you are driving in the car, you will see other drivers scrolling through Instagram posts while at a traffic light. If you go to a restaurant, you will see people at other tables scrolling on their phones as they wait for their food.

The world can distract us in many other ways, as well. Some people use alcohol or drugs to distract themselves from life. Others use shopping to give themselves momentary happiness. We often let other people influence us, which can be a distraction as well. There’s also television, video games, and so much more.

With all these distractions, we have less time to focus on the things that matter – God and our families. Could it be that we missed out on a meaningful conversation with our loved ones because we were too busy looking at Pinterest? Could it be that we missed something that God wanted to tell us because we were too distracted with a Netflix binge?

Some of these things are not necessarily bad things. It is essential to have a little down time in our lives. But I do feel that the world today does too much of these things, and misses out on so much of real life!

This is how Jennie Allen put it: “So if I were your enemy, I would make you numb and distract you from God’s story. Technology, social media, Netflix, travel, food, comfort. I would not tempt you with notably bad things, or you would get suspicious. I would distract you with everyday comforts that slowly feed you a different story and make you forget God. Then you would dismiss the Spirit leading you, loving you, and comforting you. Then you would start to love comfort more than surrender, and obedience and souls.” (Proven by Jennie Allen © 2017.)

I, for one, feel so strongly about this that I often hold fasts from these things. As I talked about in my last post, I tried to cut back significantly on these things during the month of July. It is also a normal practice for me during Lent. And on the Sabbath I try to stay off all of those things completely.

When I get to the end of my life, I would hate it if God showed me how much I missed out on because I was too distracted.

What joy overwhelms everyone who keeps the ways of God, those who seek him as their heart’s passion! – Psalm 119:2 TPT

This reminds me of the Israelites in the desert. They were distracted by a negative report from ten men and missed the positive report from two men. As a result they remained in the desert forty years longer than necessary. And the two men who gave the positive report (Joshua and Caleb) were the only two adults that made it into the Promised Land. Sadly, the rest died in the desert.

Could it be that we too will miss out on a promise or a gift from God because we allowed something else to take our focus?

Now that my July challenge is over, I do not want to forget what I learned. I do not want to fall back into a life of distraction. I want to hold tightly to the Lord and hold everything else loosely in my hands. He should be our number one priority – always. Let us look up, keep our focus on our Lord and Savior, and lay down the things that keep us from His best.

Heavenly Father, I pray that You help us to open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts today. Help us to see the things You want us to see. Help us to hear what You are trying to tell us. And help our hearts to always remain tethered to You. We know that satan wants to keep us distracted from the path You have for us. But we are taking a stand. We will not allow the enemy to get a foothold in our lives. Please give us the strength we need to cling to You – every moment of every day. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

Daily Reminders

In my last post I mentioned that in the month of July I held a personal challenge. Today I wanted to tell you exactly what that looked like. I started by making myself a list of daily reminders.

  • Pray every day – there were specific things on my prayer list that I wanted to make sure I remembered each day.
  • Do only one thing at a time – in today’s fast paced culture we pride ourselves on multitasking. But multitasking is not always a good thing.
  • Tell the Lord I love Him – this is something I forget most days. I am quick to ask Him for things, but forget to express my love.
  • Praise God – if you have been following my blog, then you know this is something I wrote about extensively as the world faced the pandemic.
  • Choose joy – too often I allow little annoyances in life to bring me down. But we have a choice. We can let irritations get to us or we can choose joy.
  • No negativity – the Lord has been reminding me a lot lately that general negativity and complaining creates a wall in my relationship with Him.
  • Slow down – I had many things on my plate and felt the stress of it all. The pandemic taught me to savor my time and everything else would fall into place.
  • Be intentional – this is a little phrase that reminds me to focus on the things in front of me. Too often we go through the motions of life, but we are not always paying attention to what is right before our eyes.
  • Be present – similar to “be intentional” and “do only one thing at a time.” Our bodies might be in one place, but our minds can often be a million miles away.
  • No expectations – as a child when my birthday rolled around, I was focused on what presents I might get. My father used to remind me that I shouldn’t expect anything. He was right. But it’s not just about birthdays or gifts. It is about every moment of every day. (I wrote more about this on a recent Christians Read blog post.)
  • Stay off phone / devices – technology is a blessing and a curse. Devices are a huge distraction in our world today. I imagine the enemy getting a good laugh at all the Christians who have their noses stuck to a phone because the more time we spend on our phones often equals less time working for the kingdom of God. I am sorry if this sounds harsh, but it’s true.
  • Check email once a day and not at all on Sundays – checking email got to be such a robotic habit. More often than not, I wasn’t expecting emails, just looking to see if anything new had come in. (I do not have notifications turned on for this on my devices because that would drive me up a wall.)
  • Do not get on Facebook except for one Bible study small group which I was a part of – I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It can be a good tool to stay in touch with people. But it can also be a pit of negativity and distraction.
  • No blogging / WordPress – Sorry to say I needed to eliminate this for a time because I allowed it to take up much of my time. Focusing on God needed to be my number one priority.
  • Words With Friends only on Friday and Saturday – in case you are not familiar, this is a scrabble type game that you can play with your friends. At one time I used to play it daily. But I have been cutting back over the past several months. So this was not a change for me. Just a reminder. It is nice to play a fun game with a friend at times. But for me, I have to limit my time on things like this because it can become too much of a habit. I want my heart tethered to the Lord and that means eliminating distractions.
  • Kneel before the Lord – every morning I take a moment to kneel before the Lord and hand my day over to Him.
  • Exercise – it is no secret that exercising is good for our physical health and mental health.
  • Amazon / General internet searches: only handle necessities. For everything else, make a list for future reference – Often times when I am looking for something on Amazon or searching the internet for something, it feels super important in the moment. I have to get this new product right now. I have to find the answer to this question right now. That is how it feels. But in reality, those things aren’t that important. I have found that if I write them down, later on I won’t care as much and will scratch it off my list.
  • Books: limit the number I read at any given time – I am always eager to start a new book, but this means whatever book(s) I was already in the middle of reading fall to the wayside.

I realize this list might seem a bit overwhelming. I am not going to lie. I did not do a great job in all of these areas. Exercise for example. My husband and I might have ridden our bicycles only once in the month of July. But having a list helped me to stay focused on the right things.

Also, some things came into play that were not on the list. For example, the Hallmark channel and the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel held Christmas in July. So, watching Christmas movies almost daily took up a lot of time. But watching these movies with my husband was a nice way for us to spend time together. And this also helped me to just “be” and not “do.”

I also returned to crocheting in July. (More on that in a future post!)

But I must say that one thing which really helped me in July was to have daily check-ins with myself. In my journal, I wrote the following questions each day: How did I do with my July challenge? What did I learn? This truly helped me to stay focused and to keep my distractions limited. If I had a bad day, I could see that right away and this helped me to refocus the following day. Mainly I tried to slow down and eliminate doing too much out of habit. I will be touching more on some of this in the weeks to come, so please be sure to stay tuned!

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. – Psalm 62:5-6

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Seeking God

Hello, my friends! Yes, I am officially back. I have missed you and our conversations. I hope you all have had a lovely July. My July was a good one, overall. My husband and I celebrated our 13th anniversary early in the month. That was wonderful. Over a long weekend we took day trips to some local places. We had fun and enjoyed the time together. Also in July I returned to the office after working remotely for three months. Some loved ones moved out of state. I am happy for them, but sad for me! (Please say a prayer for them as they embark on a new journey.) And there was another loved one in the hospital. (He is at home now, but still needs healing and recovery. A prayer for him would be appreciated.)

As you can imagine, July had its ups and downs. But the main thing I wanted to mention today was that in July I held my own challenge to help adjust my focus. Mainly what I needed to do was to draw closer to God. I wanted to take some things off my plate, so that I could spend more time with Him. But this is not something that can be checked off of our lists, because drawing closer to God is something we should do every day of our lives.

In 2019 my one word for the year was “Seek” because I wanted to seek God with all my heart, mind, and soul. As we moved into 2020 and I picked a new word for the year, “seek” moved to the back burner. So I recently picked up the word “seek” once again. But not for a month or a year, it is for life. I have said before that seeking God is a lifelong journey. But this struck me more than ever recently as I reevaluated things in my life. Seeking the Lord needs to be on our minds every moment of every day. So, that is the main reason why I took a break in the month of July. I wanted to spend more time seeking the Lord and adjusting my focus.

Why is seeking God so vital? If we don’t seek God, then our focus could drift to other things that aren’t important. Or it could be that we still go through the motions of working for God, but our motives have faltered. When we seek the Lord, it helps us to stay on the right path. It helps us to stay tethered to Him. It helps us to honor Him with our words and actions. And seeking God helps us to have peace and joy in our hearts because we know the One who holds our days.

Jesus should be our number one priority. We should seek Him diligently and passionately as we would a prized possession that was lost. Jesus is our lifeline. We should cling to Him tightly. Then no matter what we face, we can face it with strength, because we know we have the Lord by our side. We will have peace in our lives when we seek Him wholeheartedly. And having that strong relationship will flow into every area of our lives.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13

More to come on my July challenge next week!

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Offline

Hi Friends! Just a very short note to say that I will be offline over the next few weeks. I have to take some time off to get a few things situated and to refocus. More details to come at a later date! But I am looking forward to connecting with you when I return. Until then, God bless and stay safe!

Let’s Praise God Together

Over the last few weeks, I have been writing about the subject of praise. Today I wanted to praise the Lord with you. He is so worthy of our praise. But praise is something we often overlook in our daily lives. I would like to make this a habit in my life and I hope that you will too. So, let’s start today by offering God this prayer of praise.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

We humbly come before You today to offer You praise. You are so worthy, You are so glorious, You are so awesome and amazing. You are above everything we know, for You created everything we know. So how can we even come up with the words that truly describe just how magnificent You are?

We want to thank You, Lord, for all the blessings in our lives. Even through these uncertain times, You have blessed us beyond measure. You have been by our sides every day. You never left us. You have continued to provide for us and watch over us. Thank You, God.

Every single day You look out for us, protect us, and cover us. You keep a shield of protection around Your children all day and every day. There are so many things that You do in our lives each and every day. It would blow us away if we knew of the trillions of things that You did behind the scenes to protect us, to guide us, and to bless us. Lord, we thank You. We can never say “thank You” enough for all of the wonderful things that You do for us. You are our shield. You are our strength. You are our hope. You are our joy.

While it’s true that some days may be difficult, we still know that You are working all things together for good. Thank You, God. It amazes us to know that You can take the difficulties in our lives and make something beautiful out of them. You are loving and merciful and compassionate. And You love all Your children beyond measure.

Thank You, Lord. We thank You. We praise You. You are so wonderful and amazing.

Father, it brings tears of joy to think about how You hear all of our prayers. You are always there for us, Lord. When we call out to You, whether our prayers are full of praise or petitions. Thank You, Lord, for hearing us.

It is so wonderful to know that You guide us every single day. You hold our hands, guiding us like sheep, down the right path. When we are feeling down, we thank You for being there for us, for being our comforter and our friend.

You are so good to us, Lord. It says in the Bible that Your thoughts about us cannot be numbered. How amazing that is to think about! You think of us so much and so often. All day and every day. What a comfort that is to know how much You love us.

God, we thank You for adopting us into Your family. We thank You for calling us Your children. Thank You for our true inheritance. Thank You that we are now joint heirs with Jesus. When we accepted Jesus into our lives we were washed clean, we were made as white as snow. We can never express enough thanks for this precious gift.

Lord, we thank You for the Bible, Your Holy Word. What a precious gift You have given us that we can pick up and read Your words at any given time. And there’s so much power in Your word, God. We thank You for this wonderful gift You have given us.

Lord, we put our trust in You and You alone. You are the only one who can truly guide us, protect us, keeping us safe and secure. The things of this world are temporary, but You are eternal. The things of this world are weak, but You are strong. You are our strength, Father.

God, You fill our hearts with joy. Your love overflows on us, all day and every day. You shower us with love and with blessings. You fill us with peace.

We praise you. We love You, Father. We thank You for all that You are.

In Jesus’ Holy Name we pray, Amen.

 

Thank you for praying this prayer with me. I hope you enjoyed praising God. If you have anything you would like to add, please comment!

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

close up of wheat field against sky at sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

 

When to Praise God

Over the last few weeks, my posts have been about praising God. Today I want to discuss when to praise God. Many of the posts have already touched on why we should praise God. I also talked about how to praise God and where to praise God. So that left the question of when to praise God. When talking about where to praise God, before giving specific examples, I mentioned that we could really praise God anywhere. And likewise, when it comes to when to praise God, we can praise Him at any time. However, in this post, I would still like to discuss specific examples. And I will share a Psalm that will help you in these scenarios.

1 – When things are going well. It might seem obvious to praise God when things in life are going well, but I feel like this is often overlooked. When things in life are going well, many times we don’t give God a second thought. When life is good and we are being showered with blessings, we should praise Him and thank Him for all He does for us. Many of the Psalms are hymns or thanksgiving songs. So if you need a place to start, you can use an appropriate Psalm to get you on the right path. Psalm 100 is a favorite of mine.

2 – When things are not going well. I wrote about this in another post a couple of weeks ago. Many of us are quick to run to God and ask for His help when things are not going well. But we might stop short of praising Him. Praising God during difficulties is not a natural response for most of us. But as I mentioned in a prior post, praising God in our troubles will help turn our outlook around. Yes, we will face trials in life. But when we praise Him, in the midst of a storm, it helps us to remember that God is still in control and will see us through whatever we are facing. It’s also ok to cry out to God for help when we need it. Many of the Psalms are considered laments. Lamenting to the Lord helps us to pour out our concerns to Him, while it reminds us that He is still God, He is still on the throne, and He has the ability to help us with what we are facing. If you are looking for a Psalm that reminds you that God will get you through whatever you are facing, Psalm 121 is another favorite of mine.

3 – When we are repentant. If we have sinned and grieved God, it’s essential to first confess to God in prayer. But I believe thanking God for showing us that we have made a mistake and thanking God for forgiving us is important as well. Psalm 51 was written by David after he committed adultery. However, it is also a beautiful Psalm that you can read at any time when you want to draw closer to the Lord.

4 – When we are weary. Perhaps you have just been going through the motions of life, and your days are a bit humdrum. Or maybe you feel lost and don’t know which way to go. Praising God will help get you back on track. Psalm 23 is a well known Psalm and it is also very comforting when life has you feeling disoriented.

5 – When we are waiting. Whether we are sitting and waiting in a doctor’s office, or waiting for a breakthrough, I believe it’s safe to say that no one likes waiting. When we are waiting, we tend to feel restless. We might even be anxious or worried. Praising God in our waiting reminds us that He is in control and that His timing is not our timing. In these times, Psalm 27 would be a good place to start.

6 – When we need protection. If we are traveling or if we feel our safety is at risk, praising God will help us feel better about what we are facing. We will remember that God has us in the palm of His hand. And praying through Psalm 91 will also bring you comfort.

These are just a few examples. I could list out many more scenarios. But I think you get the idea. No matter what we are facing, praising God will bring joy and peace into our lives. It will help turn our monotonous moments into treasured times. Praising God draws us closer to Him and helps us to feel His presence. Who doesn’t need more of that? I hope this post helps. If you have anything to add from your own life, please share in the comments!

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

sunlight beaming on green trees
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Where to Praise God

Over the past several weeks I have been writing posts that deal with praising God. Last week I talked about how to praise God. Today I want to focus on where to praise God. The bottom line is that you can praise God anywhere, whether you are alone or with others. But I will get a little more in depth on places where I personally have been praising God.

1 – At Church. Under normal circumstances we often praise God when we are at church. Right now with the pandemic going on many of us have not been going to church on a regular basis. So during this time you can still praise God when you are attending church virtually. God designed us to fellowship with others and that is something that is emphasized a lot in the New Testament. When we are with other Christians we can encourage one another and edify one another. Praising God together with your Christian brothers and sisters will not only help you grow in your relationship with the Lord, but it will also help you grow in your relationships with those around you.

2 – At Home. Right now many of us are spending a lot of time at home. So praising God at home will definitely be something you want to seek right now. But even without a pandemic, praising God at home is still very much appropriate. Home is where we spend much of our time. We might be around family or we might be alone. If we are alone then you can feel free to praise God more comfortably. But even with other people around, praising God should still be something we do. We want to bring the Holy Spirit into our homes so that those around us will be greatly influenced by our attitude of praise.

3 – Outdoors. There is some thing about being outside in nature that is so special. When I am outside, whether I am sitting, walking, or riding a bike, I love to praise God. I love to talk with Him and spend time with Him. It feels like there is nothing blocking me from reaching Him when I only have the sky above.

4 – In Our Vehicles. I also often praise God when I am driving. I love to sing praises to the Lord, but I don’t consider myself to be a very good singer. Ha! So if I am alone, this is a perfect chance for me to sing to my heart’s content. And I also like to talk to God when I am driving. I feel I can pour my heart out to God when it is just Him and me. And a bonus to praising God when driving is that you won’t get so upset with other drivers. 🙂

Those are the places where I have been praising God the most over the past few months. I hope you found this helpful. But if you have any ideas of your own, please share!

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

How to Praise God

Over the last few weeks I have been talking about the importance of praising God. Last week I challenged you to praise God anytime you have felt down. Did you try it? If so, let me know how it went!

I haven’t specifically told you how to praise God because I initially wanted you to find your own way of doing this, a way that would come from your heart. But in case you are struggling to praise God or if you want some ideas, I felt now was a good time to share my thoughts.

1 – Praise God through prayer. You can talk to God and tell Him how amazing He is. Let your heart run over with all of His wonderful characteristics. And thank Him for all He has done for you.

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. – Psalm 17:6

2 – Praise God through journaling. Another option is to talk to God through pen and paper. Write down a list of His awesome attributes. You can also write down blessings in your life. Having a list in front of you will help you to see, all the more, how magnificent He is.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. – Psalm 9:1

3 – Praise God through singing, music, or dancing. Singing doesn’t have to be something you only do in church. You can sing to God at any given time. And don’t worry about your ability to carry a tune. I am convinced that it still sounds beautiful to God, because it is coming from your heart. If you play an instrument or like to dance, you can do that as well. We see evidence of King David playing instruments and dancing in the Bible.

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. – Psalm 95:1-2

4 – Share with others. Don’t be shy about how glorious God is. Allow God’s praises to be on your lips when you are in the company of other people.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

5 – Read the Psalms. I have mentioned the Psalms in my last several posts on praise. Reading some of the Psalms aloud to God in prayer is a great way to praise Him, especially if you are at a loss for words and need some inspiration.

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. – Psalm 145:1-3

These are just a few ways in which I have praised the Lord. I hope that these tips have helped you. If you have any insight on different ways that you like to praise the Lord, please share.

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

Photo by Bridget A. Thomas

A Secret to Praising God

Over the last several weeks I have been talking about praising God. Today I want to share a secret with you. Sometimes we might not feel like praising God. Perhaps we are anxious, worried, stressed, angry, or feeling some other negative emotion. We might be so wrapped up in an issue or circumstance we are facing, and our hearts just aren’t into praising God at the moment.

Here is a secret – that is when you need to praise God the most! Once you begin to praise Him, your heart and your mood will turn around!

I have seen this firsthand in my own life over the past several months. When I am feeling down or worried, praising God always gives me a boost. One example comes from before the pandemic, which is when God first started speaking to me about praise. It was a Monday morning. My husband had to tend to some important banking matters that day. Normally I would have asked my boss if I could take a couple of hours off so I could help my husband. But I had an important meeting that day as well. So there were two things weighing on my mind that morning. I was anxious and fretful. As I drove to work, I took the time to praise the Lord.

Then something miraculous happened. I felt peace settle over me. I was no longer worried about the big things my husband and I were facing that day. I knew God was in control and He would help us through them.

This wasn’t a coincidence or a one-time thing. Over the past several months, throughout the pandemic, or when I have been feeling down about something, I have praised God. Each time, I have felt my mood lighten. It’s an amazing feeling. You heart pours out to God, and He in turn fills your heart.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:11

Challenge: Over the next week, I challenge you to try this. When you are feeling down, worried, anxious, depressed, angry, fretful, sad, or any other negative emotion, stop what you are doing and praise God. I guarantee you will feel better. Try it for seven days and let me know how it goes!

I want to share a song that I have been LOVING these past several months. It is now an absolute favorite of mine. It is guaranteed to make you smile. Alive & Breathing by Matt Maher

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Praising God Wholeheartedly

Over the last couple of weeks I have been discussing the importance of praising God. David was a great example of someone in the Bible who praised the Lord often. In fact, David wrote 73 of the 150 Psalms. There is one particular story concerning David which illustrates the importance of praising God, and the consequences of not praising God.

In 2 Samuel 6, we read about David and his men bringing the Ark of the Lord to Jerusalem. David was “rejoicing” (v 12) and “David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets” (v 14-15). This is a beautiful picture of the king of Israel praising the Lord.

However, there is another person in this story who doesn’t have the same attitude. David had a wife named Michal, who also happened to be the daughter of Saul. Michal “watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.” While picturing David’s praise brought something sweet to the story, picturing Michal’s disgust brings a sour taste.

But the story doesn’t end there. When David arrived at home, Michal told him exactly how she felt. She said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would” (v 20). But David didn’t back down.

He replied to her, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel – I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by the slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor” (v 21-22).

The worst part of the story is yet to come. In verse 23 it says, “And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.” How very sad that the story ended this way for her.

But it is a good reminder of the importance of praising God with our whole heart. David didn’t care what other people thought of him. His eyes were on God and His opinion. That is why David was called a man after God’s own heart. The Lord wants us to seek Him wholeheartedly. And when we praise Him, He can see and feel our love pouring out.

© 2020 Bridget A. Thomas

Photo courtesy of Pexels.