3 posts categorized "Ann Hutchison"

Staunch, Skeptic, and Special!

“I’ve never met a Christian I liked!” declared Seamus* to the rest of us at his table. I frowned at him quizzically. Personally, I had no problem with Christians; my thing was sheer indifference. I just couldn’t relate to their fervor. SUM Hand of friendship

By the end of the year, however, the unexpected had happened: I had gone from indifferent to fervent. Yikes!

Indeed!  It was amazing, and with it came healing, joy, and a very real experience of God; but it left me in a strange place: I was now a lone Christian in a friendship group of atheists. Seamus was one of those friends, along with his wife.

I know 'couple friends' are something to be thankful for … but … mm … it hasn’t been roses. Let’s just say that while Seamus’s wife is extremely easy-going, Seamus himself is not a tactful man, and he is convinced Christianity is untrue. This combination of traits is not easy for me. If I was atheist, of course I would enjoy Seamus’s verbosity, but I’m not.

“Do you hear this, Ann”, he recently cackled as I fetched him a beer, “People who believe in Jesus are crazy.”

I wanted to give him a smack.  

“How on earth do I handle him?” I asked God. “He’s so ANNOYING!”

Over and over I battled feelings of offense at this guy who was supposed to be my friend. Quite honestly, I wanted to leave the friendship but (oh dear!) God seemed to want me to stay. Stay, and live these words:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you… For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not the tax collectors do the same?” (Matt 5:43-44, 46, NKJV) 

I’ve only just noticed how pragmatic those words are: ‘Bless’, ‘do good’, and ‘pray for’. You don’t need to feel love to do this, you just take baby steps. And so that’s what I did, baby step by baby step. It’s been four years now.

Today, I can happily say Seamus and I remain friends. God has put other believing people in my life, but this friendship with him is, perhaps, particularly special. It’s special because it’s a friendship surviving on love. 

Bless. Pray for. Do good to him.

More recently, that love has got me thinking about what my responsibilities are as Seamus’s friend. How do I carry the gospel? He is my friend, not my spouse, so is ‘winning without words’ still applicable? Or should I be more aggressive?

As if in answer, I stumbled across a wonderful book about how skeptics convert. You may find it as interesting as I did – especially if you live right in the heart of skeptic-land.

The book is called ‘I once was lost: What post-modern skeptics taught us about their path to Jesus’. The authors, Don Everts and Doug Schaupp, interviewed numerous adult converts and found that there is a common series of thresholds that skeptics have to cross when faced with faith. What’s more, these thresholds seem to be crossed in the same order by those who do convert.

I’m guessing there are spouses in our community who are sitting at any of these five thresholds. In fact, the authors argue that someone can sit at any given threshold for years.  Too right – I myself sat somewhere between the first and the second for the first 38 years of my life.

The thresholds are:

(1) Learn to trust a Christian

(2) Move from complacent to curious

(3) Become willing to make changes to your life

(4) Become an active seeker of God, and

(5) Step into the Kingdom.

It’s possible my friend Seamus is only just crossing threshold one – trusting a Christian. Perhaps I’m the one he’ll finally bring himself to… like?!  And then perhaps I can finally use words. For now, the Holy Spirit seems to tell me to stay wordless until He tells me otherwise.

How about you? How have you handled others (besides your spouse) who struggle with your faith?  And how do we witness to those who are staunchly opposed?  I look forward to hearing your insights!

Ann 

*Seamus is a real person, but I’ve changed his name

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Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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Fellow Laborers

“It’s hard being a girl guide!”

Those words, inaudible but clear, woke me one morning, just as the birds were beginning to sing. It felt like a word from the Holy Spirit, but I struggled to understand. Only months later did a sudden ‘a-ha’ come: SUM Girl guide

I am the ‘girl who guides’ my husband, the one who spiritually leads. It’s not the way God intended. That’s why it's so hard.

God had just explained my hurting heart to me. It doesn’t sound much, but it was really helpful. 

I thought that was it, but last week, quite unexpectedly, this ‘girl guide’ word unfolded into something more: A promise for our community! I feel led to post it here, and I hope it encourages you, as it has me.

Here’s what happened:

Last week, one of our SUMites, Jan, had a dream featuring boy scouts. She described it on our Facebook group and asked, ‘Does this mean anything to anyone?’ My ears pricked up (girl guides ... boy scouts), and the minute I read it a meaning came. In fact, the dream was one of two she had:  

In the first dream, we (the SUMites) were diligently working away at desks. Lynn came in to meet with us, but first had an interview with CNN to complete. 

In the second dream, we were at an outdoor venue and were showing a movie about Jesus. One person, a spouse, was attempting to compare Jesus and a Greek god as dying on the same day. Lynn had to leave to go to another event, but we ended up having a large group of boy scouts from Maryland show up, and we began the movie again. 

The first thing I thought of was that two dreams can mean "the matter has firmly been decided by God, and God will do it soon" (Gen 41:32). Well, here we had two dreams - What fun! In both, we were working as a team, with Lynn leading us while also ministering elsewhere. These dreams, to me, seemed to address something intentional about our work.

I can't help but think we’re watching Lynn’s reach extending and expanding -- it's exciting. And perhaps these dreams suggest that the rest of us also have new work ahead! Like the outdoor movie, we evangelise outside the church walls -- and we show more than tell. We have begun that work, but our effectiveness will really bloom once our spouses join us.

Currently, our spouses issue a voice of challenge. But we do know that will change. Where the spouse in the dream was initially arguing that Jesus was no different to a myth, that sentiment can change so that our spouses declare 'the day Jesus died so did everything else false!' Just like Haman’s plans were turned (Esther 6:10-11), the voice of resistance can turn to the voice of persistence!

And the large number of boy scouts?  I believe they represent our spouses, our other halves: boy scouts joining their girl guides. They will come from a place of deep intimacy, a place where people sit at Jesus’ feet (Maryland!) And once they join us, the show will really start.

Pulling it together, then, could it be that our evangelism in the home is only the start of a bigger job -- a wider evangelism -- ahead of us? A job in which we will co-labor with our spouses?

Indeed, 2017 was to be a year of promises revealed (see 9 January) and here it feels like we've gone from being told 'it's hard being a girl guide' to being told the boy scouts are on their way!

It reminds me of this verse:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.

He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard.

He will tell you about the future (John 16:13, NLT).

As 2017 closes, have you any further thoughts on this and/or any of the other promises we've been given as a community? It'd be great to hear your thoughts! 

Ann

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Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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Martha's Vineyard

Hello everyone

It's Ann here, and I want to share something that's been sitting in my journal for some time. I loved it. I hope you do too.

It was August last year, I was sat in bed armed with a mug of cocoa, pen, and journal. Absent-mindedly, I leafed through the Bible and came across the verse, "Call to me, and I will answer you and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known" (Jer 33:3 ESV). I scribbled it down and said, "God, tell me something great that I don't already know!" SUM rocking chairs with SUM logo

That night turned out to be a little bit strange and wonderful. I could feel the Holy Spirit as I slept. I kept drifting towards wakefulness and each time it seemed He was speaking about the SUM community. There were words that I couldn't catch. Finally, as morning came a phrase landed in my head: Martha's Vineyard.

Now, I knew nothing about Martha's Vineyard. Being British and now living in New Zealand, Martha's Vineyard had never come across my path. "What is it?" I thought. Wikipedia was needed, and what did I find out?  That it is a place of mixed marriages!

Here's the story: Martha's Vineyard (a beautiful island community off the US east coast) had an especially large deaf community. They lived with an inherited deafness from generations past. The majority of these deaf were married to hearing people, hence the term 'mixed marriages'. Because of these marriages, deafness dissipated - both in the way they lived, and among future generations who now hear.

There, the deaf looked different to elsewhere. They were not treated as outcasts. Instead, they were perfectly integrated. Because of the closeness of the deaf-hearing families, sign language was spoken widely across the community, even by the hearing.

Even today, the community's citizens work hard to protect their lifestyle while extending welcome to outsiders. It is a balance that is hard to achieve. This balance makes it a warm, attractive place.  It's such a nice place that others want to live there too.

This is our SUM colony, and I think that's what this word meant -- Martha's Vineyard. I feel God wants us to celebrate our strengths and know how unique and lovely our community is. To us, those who hear less easily are not left out. We love them so much and we 'get' their perspective even though it's not ours. We use their language when speaking about faith. That skill alone is huge for the Kingdom.

Most importantly, though, Martha's Vineyard reminds us that our spouses are integral citizens. They're citizens of the SUM community, and precious citizens of God's household. They add flavor, they are sanctified, and they are part of this beautiful place.

As for us 'Marthas', the ones who work so hard to protect our own, it is interesting to me that the name Martha means 'bitter' in Hebrew and 'woman' in Aramaic - and, yes, our bitterness of soul runs deep. But I believe that God wants us to celebrate the beauty of what we're doing. If we lift our eyes we can see how lovely our island community has become. Isolated, yes, but surrounded by Him. We live in a spiritual place where the homes are beautiful, the residents are rich, and the ocean sparkles all around, bringing the promise of good things.

Lift up your eyes all around, and see:

They all gather together, they come to you;

Your sons shall come from afar, And your daughters shall be nursed at your side.

Then you shall see and become radiant,

And your heart shall swell with joy;

Because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,

The wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you.

(Isaiah 60:4-5, NKJV)

We Marthas, the SUMites, have a beautiful vineyard: It's a place where we keep tightly hold of others, where hearts turn, and where people want 'in'.

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts - especially from any who have been to Martha's Vineyard, or from those who have looked up and seen the beauty of our island community in more metaphorical terms! 

 

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Share your voice, heart and love in the comments. 

THRIVE in your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and raise your children to faith. Our books are filled with practical experience and Biblical advice. -click or tap the photo-

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