When God Answered with a Photo

by Sharon Tedford @61Things

 

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 ESV

 

After our eldest son went off to basic training for the Army, we knew we wouldn’t hear from him for many weeks. The recruits were allowed to write letters, but only after they had earned the privilege. The mail service was slow, and the letters were few. Rather surprisingly, there was also a private Facebook page where photos and brief updates of what was going on in his unit were posted. Every time there was a new FB post, I scoured the pictures of shaven-headed young men, trying to spot our blue-eyed boy. He’s always hated having his photo taken and was adept at dodging the family camera. It seemed he managed to successfully avoid the Army photographer, too. I never could find his face in those action shots.

 

One day I had reached the end of my ability to wait patiently. During my morning time with the Lord, I cried out to Him and asked Him to prompt our son to write another letter. I even asked the Lord to get our boy into an online photo, so I could at least see his face. Two requests from a mother’s heart to the Father’s heart.

 

Later that same afternoon I wandered down to the postbox with the dog at my heels. As I collected the stack of bills and circulars, I noticed a hand-written letter tucked away among the randomness. My joy overflowed. It was written in the handwriting of our soldier! I think I scared the dog as I ran back up to the house; I couldn’t get the letter open fast enough.

 

I tore it open without ceremony. Something fell out. A bookmark? Our son’s an artist and I wondered if he’d made a bookmark for me. No. What fell to the floor was a strip of selfies taken in a photo booth. Our son’s unit was rewarded with a field trip, and many of them had taken advantage of the photo booth. There, staring up at me from the floor, was a strip of our son’s hilarious expressions. 

 

I got my letter and a photo.

 

Isn’t that just like our God? I would have been pleased with a letter, but our kind Father filled my aching heart with immeasurably more than I could think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). 

 

As I write this, I am looking at that strip of comical photos of our son. Of course, I miss having him around, but I keep it close for another reason. It reminds me to have absolute confidence in a God who never fails. Our King is faithful. Our Lord is a promise-keeper. The photos are physical evidence that I can hold on tight to the hope I have in a Savior who never fails. 

 

I’ve left the best thing for last. The letter I received was sent in the mail about 10 days before I even thought to make my heart-felt plea to Jesus. He heard the cry of my heart long before I put breath behind it. He truly does know all about me. 

 

But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.   1 Corinthians 8:3 ESV

 

What are you asking the Lord for today? Let’s be those who confess hope out loud. Join me in speaking hope over every situation you find yourself in. God is on the case! He’s already working out His plan for your good.

 

There is always hope. His name is Jesus. 

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When God Answered with a Photo – encouragement from Sharon Tedford, @61Things on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Sharon tedfordAbout the author: Sharon Tedford is an experienced British storyteller who uses her gifts as a singer, author, worship leader, and speaker to connect with her listeners, inviting them into a revitalized relationship with God.  Her humorous stories always end with an invitation to action. Mother to three teenagers and the wife of an Irishman, Sharon encourages people to live a God-focused life. You can connect with her at www.61-things.com.

Sharon’s book, Stand, is a devotional based on the stories behind her songs. Readers will be drawn into a deeper personal experience with God and learn how to stand on the truth of a Heavenly Father who loves them. 

Join the conversation: How has God proven that He will never fail you?

 

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Are you Pliable?

by Sharon Tedford @61things

There was no way he was going to leave. She had brought him to the best playground in town. It had a sandpit and a slide with a tunnel. I mean, what more could a 3 year-old want? But it was time to go. His mum had tried all the usual tricks to prepare him to be ready to leave. There was the “5 minute warning”, and the “time’s nearly up”, as well as the, “say goodbye to your new friends. We will see them next time.” But he was having none of it.

An hour ago he was so happy when she said they’d head to the park for a while. But imagine his greater joy when they pulled up to this park, instead of their normal destination. This park gets top marks from all the kids in daycare! So why on earth did they have to leave already?

His mum was so embarrassed by his behavior. If you’ve ever looked after a vivaciously vigorous toddler, you will know the pain of this poor mum. Her sweet and lovable toddler turned on the “disagreeable” and made enough noise for the whole town to hear.

He seemed to have a switch where he could magnify the gravitational pull below him, and he became 40 pounds heavier when she tried to scoop him up. The soft, supple body, which had moments before been maneuvering its way through tiny tunnels and tight holes, became inflexible as he turned himself into a solid mass of straight-as-a-board kid.

And, as a child of God, I have done this too. My life was fun and successful in a certain location, and it seemed ludicrous to move on. I have felt disappointed my Father would take me out of the best place I’d ever been, and all seemingly without good reason. I have made myself stiff-necked and hard-hearted in order to ignore what my Father wanted to do, because I was sure He was mistaken.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4, ESV)

Some recent research led me to find the Hebrew word for “delight” could mean: “to be soft, delicate and pliable”. Put that implication into the verse above and it might read like this:

“Be soft and pliable before the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

If this small, feisty human had been pliable, he would have found out his mum had planned a second surprise for him. They were off to get ice cream, and in order to get ice cream, they had to leave the park! Did you hear me people? ICE CREAM! The only way to get his chubby little fingers on the creamy treat was to leave where he was. He had no idea where they were headed together, but his mum’s plans were pretty incredible!

If he had chosen to have a soft heart, he would have walked into this next part of his day much sooner and with a better attitude.

I have lived in good places filled with wonderful people and great experiences, and God has called me out. I have been this cranky child who complained, and cried, and wailed, only to be surprised once again by His goodness when He brings me to the wonder of the next adventure.

Our God is kind, faithful, and always good (Jeremiah 29:11). Let’s be pliable Jesus followers, choosing to live with soft hearts. Let’s allow Him to give us the desires of our delicate hearts.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.   Proverbs 4:23 NASB

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Learning the blessing of being “Pliable” with God – insight from Sharon Tedford, @61Things on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Sharon tedfordAbout the author: Sharon Tedford is an experienced British storyteller who uses her gifts as a singer, author, worship leader, and speaker to connect with her listeners, inviting them into a revitalized relationship with God.  Her humorous stories always end with an invitation to action. Mother to three teenagers and the wife of an Irishman, Sharon encourages people to live a God-focused life. You can connect with her at www.61-things.com.

Sharon’s book, Stand, is a devotional based on the stories behind her songs. Readers will be drawn into a deeper personal experience with God and learn how to stand on the truth of a Heavenly Father who loves them. 

Join the conversation: How do you keep yourself soft and pliable?

 

 “I hate change!”

by Sharon Tedford @61Things

I sat surrounded by piles of full cardboard boxes and wondered what on earth I’d done. I’d agreed to this move. It was a decision my husband and I made in unity, after fifty billion prayers and discussions. Yet in this moment, I questioned our decision to move four thousand miles away to America.

I was home with our youngest son, who was four at the time. There was great delight in his world. He had this empty house to play in, and three enormous cardboard boxes his big brother had built into an airplane, complete with wings and windows.

Everyone else was out, leaving me at home to unpack boxes.  I began to feel overwhelmed by questions which pushed their way to the front of my mind. “Why are you here? Are you crazy? This is too much for you!”

I flopped on the couch. “You’re right! It is too much. What was I thinking?”

Moving across the Atlantic Ocean was an opportunity too good to pass up. It was a good idea, in fact it was a great idea. But today it seemed questionable. You see, the people here drive on the wrong side of the road, and they also walk down the wrong side of corridors and staircases! They use funny money and talk in nonsensical phrases with an unusual cadence. They don’t use “tins” they use “cans”, and I can’t find a single swede, which is my favourite vegetable.

I was alone in the house with my sweet child—whose penchant for intellectual conversation had yet to develop. I had no friends and was cut off from family until our Internet connection was accessible. I couldn’t go to a local coffee shop to check my email because that would mean driving my new American car with a steering wheel on the wrong side!

It took two years before I finally recognized my problem.  We needed to repaint the inside of our home. There were swatches painted on almost every wall, and we’d finally narrowed it down to “greenish.”

So, why couldn’t I call the painters to get the project started? The day came when it dawned on me; what I feared was change.

Change.

Fear of change had been secretly impacting my life for many years.

For too long I’d allowed fear to sidle up to me and whisper nonsense in my ear. I’d let it tell me change was bad, difficult and filled with painful challenges. It was time to send this six-lettered beast on its way!

God says this about change:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)

To act on God’s will, I need to have my mind changed. If I want to be more like Jesus, I need to think differently from how I am right now, and He will use that “renewing of my mind” to change me. It became clear to me: change is a beautiful and powerful thing. It enables us to live the way Jesus called us to live. In fact, our life with Him begins with a wonderful change: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

I don’t say, “I hate change” anymore because change has led me further into the freedom only Jesus can give. Change is making me more like my King. How about you?

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 “I hate change!” Honest insight from Sharon Tedford, @61Things, on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Sharon tedfordAbout the author: Sharon Tedford is an experienced British storyteller who uses her gifts as a singer, author, worship leader, and speaker to connect with her listeners, inviting them into a revitalized relationship with God.  Her humorous stories always end with an invitation to action. Mother to three teenagers and the wife of an Irishman, Sharon encourages people to live a God-focused life. You can connect with her at www.61-things.com.

Sharon’s book, Stand, is a devotional based on the stories behind her songs. Readers will be drawn into a deeper personal experience with God and learn how to stand on the truth of a Heavenly Father who loves them. 

Join the conversation: How do you deal with change?

 

Weeding It Out

by Sharon Tedford @61Things

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

The weeds in Texas are gargantuan, and they spread like… well, weeds!

We have a beautiful back yard with lots of lawn in which the dog can scamper around. When we moved here almost ten years ago, the lawn was green and lush. Over time, the weeds have taken over, and my golfer husband is offended by the nonsense they create. Golf guys (and gals, I’m sure!) do rather enjoy a nice bit of green grass. Over the years the weeds have crept in further and spread their message of choking defiance all over the place.

Of course, we’ve tried all kinds of ways to get rid of the weeds. First, we mowed them down. They were gone but not forgotten and popped up in cheery disobedience the very next season. Then, we tried a weed killer we’d used at our previous house. Once again, it looked hopeful, but this time only some of the weeds died. The rest continued to blossom as if they were prize blooms in a flower show. Rude!

Why did these pesky plants ignore us every time we attempted to serve them notice?

One afternoon I found my husband on the horticulture pages of the internet. He wanted to know exactly what the weed in our yard was. We needed a more powerful and direct approach that would get down to the very root of the nasty pest. We needed a specific solution to a specific problem.

My clever husband identified the precise plant, found the correct chemicals for exact extermination, and we were in business! Let me tell you, we haven’t won this battle outright quite yet and will no doubt be reapplying this wonder mixture for quite some time, but we are at last on the right track. Perseverance will lead to the final elimination of this pasture of pestilence!

We needed to be specific in our attack.

In our pursuit of an answer, I was reminded that this is how I should pray over the sins and “weeds” in my life. I became aware that sometimes I pray a “blanket” prayer over the messes I see. I ask for forgiveness for the outcomes caused by my wrong behavior.

When I pray like that, it should be no surprise to me that those sins, like the weeds in our yard, may disappear for a short time but don’t get eradicated for good. In His kindness, God showed me that I ought to be specific about how I seek forgiveness.

Now, don’t get me wrong – God hears us when we call to Him and there’s not a  “right” way to pray. He loves it when we pray – period. But the Father seemed to ask me this question, “Are you more concerned with the result of the sin than the root of it?” You see, I need to spend intentional time and look for the root of my repeated wrongs. I need to seek God’s wisdom as I search to find the origin of my errors. It’s then God can bring healing on the specific issue and transform my heart and mind.

Let’s choose to ask God to examine the deepest parts of our hearts, so we can live a life of true freedom. And just like the recurrent application of the weed killer on our grass, let’s put ourselves under the repeated cleansing of God’s Word and wisdom, until the weeds that spoil will no longer have root in the lawn of our hearts.

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Weeding It Out – insight for dealing with the “weeds” in our spiritual life from Sharon Tedford, @61Things, on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Sharon tedfordAbout the author: Sharon Tedford is an experienced British storyteller who uses her gifts as a singer, author, worship leader, and speaker to connect with her listeners, inviting them into a revitalized relationship with God.  Her humorous stories always end with an invitation to action.  Her book, Stand, is a devotional based on the stories behind her songs. Mother to three teenagers and the wife of an Irishman, Sharon encourages people to live a God-focused life. You can connect with her at www.61-things.com.

Join the conversation: What is the sin that keeps reappearing in your life?

British Beasties

by Sharon Tedford @61Things

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

I loved my pet rabbit with every bit of my teenage angst emotions. He was the very large listening ear to whom I whispered my problems, and the one who paid attention to me without judgment. He never questioned my choices, and always listened when I complained.

Honey (named for his golden fur and sweet personality) lived in a once discarded, now refurbished wooden playhouse. My Dad was a whiz with tools, and he’d created this palatial bunny kingdom. It would have been perfect, had it been adjacent to our house. However, my parents saw fit to put Honey’s dwelling far, far from my house, in the dark. You see, the dark was a big problem for me.

I grew up in rural Southern England where darkness falls around 5 p.m. in the winter. Most often I didn’t get in from school much before that. Every night I had to make the trip to the bottom of the yard alone. I was always terrified. Of course I put it off, which never helped, because each minute I procrastinated, the darkness grew deeper.

I would carry the biggest flashlight I could find and hum, cough, or make other noises to announce my arrival to any other creatures who might be skulking about. I had no desire to meet up with wild animals on my nighttime foray. I was pretty sure they were just outside the beam of my flashlight, ready to pounce on me at any second. (Let’s be honest, the only creatures around would have been wild rabbits, rats, or maybe a small fox. But in my imagination there were wolves, hyenas, and lions on the prowl!)

Why does the dark cause us so much consternation? What is it, still to this day, that can make this grown woman’s stomach flip when putting the rubbish out in the dark and hearing a rustle in the bushes?

Darkness veils and conceals. Darkness hides truth. The obscurity of the shadowy gloom seems to be where the unknown shelters itself. Darkness causes fear.

God is Light. He is bright, clear, present, illuminating and warm.

“God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5b NIV)

 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7 NIV)

When I live in the pure light of Jesus, He will kindly show me where the hidden messes of my heart dwell. With gentle intentionality He will shine His light on them, so their hold over me is beaten.

When we allow the light of Jesus to radiate within us, we have no need to fear. I can walk the path of this life with every confidence that Jesus is with me; I am never alone. No eternal harm can come to me, and with Jesus I cannot be overcome. There are no unexpected events for Jesus. He sees it all.

I will choose to walk in the light by Jesus’ side, as I trust Him to lead me. I have nothing to be afraid of. Not even the British beasties!

TWEETABLE
British Beasties and Using the Light to Face Our Fears – from Sharon Tedford, @61Things on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Sharon tedfordAbout the author: Sharon Tedford is an experienced British storyteller who uses her gifts as a singer, author, worship leader, and speaker to connect with her listeners, inviting them into a revitalized relationship with God.  Her humorous stories always end with an invitation to action.  Her book, Stand, is a devotional based on the stories behind her songs. Mother to three teenagers and the wife of an Irishman, Sharon encourages people to live a God-focused life. You can connect with her at www.61-things.com.

Join the conversation: What is it about the dark that scares you?