Nothing is Impossible -- A Testimony

Ann here,

A few years ago a friend at church told me how she and her husband used to be unequally yoked, but then he became a believer. "He did?!" I gasped. "How? How?" At the time her story really helped me.

Well, this week that friend came to my house and recorded her story on video, especially for our community. Here it is for your viewing pleasure, and may it spur you on.

"For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37, ESV)


Moving!

Hi,

I'm sitting outside in our new backyard as I write to you. This past weekend my daughter, Caitie, flew in from Portland to celebrate my birthday and to see the new house. 

I'm a bit overwhelmed by how many boxes and just "stuff" that I still have waiting for me to sort and put away. I suspect I'll be unpacking for several months. In the last several months I've been learning a great deal about healing and praying for others who need physical healing. I know that in the future I'll be offering a LIVE teaching about what the Lord is showing me. AND I've been practicing on myself. 

Interesting.

Anyhoo, here is a "hello" from me, Mike and Caitie. Be patient with me as I try to get back to some rhythm and normalcy. I will hope to have things together enough to reengage with my prayer ministry in June.

I love you all. Thanks for walking this journey with me. Hugs, Lynn

Mike Lynn Caitie 5 16 2022

 


The GREAT Power of Our Warfare

Jesus Names of SUMThe name of Jesus.

His name can launch a war, seal the fate of nations, change the destiny of a thousand generations. His name can cast out legions of devils and free captives from the darkest depression. His name heals the blind and destroys cancer. His name can bring freedom, deliverance, new destinies and fortunes.

For an entire season of my life, I would mumble around whispering the name of Jesus. Over and over, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. His name spoken aloud changes my heart and my home. Can I share something with you that is a peek into my life? Well, ahem, even today when I wake in the night and make a trip to the bathroom, without being aware, the name of Jesus still slips from my lips. “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, you are my King. Jesus, I adore you. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

Oh, that we would all have the name of Jesus continually tumbling from our lips.

Everything changed for me when I came to wrap my mind, heart and spirit around three passages of scripture and how Jesus is at the core.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. —Ephesians 2: 6-7

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. — Colossians 1:27

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. —Colossians 3:3

SUMite Nation, come to the truth and grips with these passages. Let them dwell in you and you in them. We are seated with Christ in heaven. Christ is IN US, the hope of glory. We are hidden in Christ in God.

Who could ever touch us if these are true?

Jesus, Prince of Peace
Jesus, Prince of Peace

The weapons of our warfare: The Word of God, Worship, Blood of Jesus, The name of Jesus. And our offensive weapon is our Sword. 

Take care. I adore you. Lynn Donovan

(From the archives as I'm STILL unpacking!  grin)


When There is Abuse in a Marriage

Hi SUM family,Abuse

It's Ann here, and today I want to talk about a topic that perhaps needs to be talked about more in the church: Abuse in marriage.

I'll start by talking about our approach to normal marriages, and then will switch tack. So, on the topic of a normal marriage, first this:

Here at SUM we are covenant people, and that very much guides our writing. We love the institution of marriage, and we fight collectively for the wholeness and health of our marriages. So, for that reason you'll see us write a lot here about loving our spouses with gusto.

We also follow the principle that we stay in our marriages, if it is at all possible. That's scriptural guidance in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, and we believe in that. We know that some here are in very difficult marriages, while others are in easier ones. For those in difficult marriages, we know many have felt God has asked them to persevere and those of you in that boat have our respect: It is no light feat.

However, there is a time and place in a marriage where it looks different to just being a 'difficult marriage'. And then we have to reexamine that concept of covenant. If a spouse is being abusive, other spiritual principles apply too.

If you are in a situation where you fear for your physical or emotional safety, or that of your children, if you are being isolated by your spouse and repeatedly controlled, or if your spouse is oppressing you emotionally in a way that is making you feel enslaved, then it is not the case that you need to hold onto your marriage just for the sake of honoring a covenant. It is also not the case that you need to stay in order to enhance your chances of your spouse's salvation. 

There will be other forms of abuse too, besides what I've written above. You know your situation and if something is 'really not right' as opposed to just being 'pretty difficult', do seek help.

What is God's heart here? Well, I'd say God takes oppression and abuse of the vulnerable extremely seriously and does not allow it to go unchecked. We see that repeatedly in scripture (e.g., Isaiah 3:13-15; Exodus 22:21-24). Further, he views the oppression of another person to be an utterly wicked thing (Jeremiah 22:17; Jeremiah 9:9). The wrath of God is no light thing. Meanwhile, his heart is for you, his beloved, and he does not want you in unnecessary bondage.

Arguably, abuse breaks one side of the marriage covenant and then the abuser is like the unbeliever in Paul's words who has left their marriage (1 Corinthians 7:15). God does not expect you to keep turning the other cheek to this, or to try to pray your way into changing the abuser while staying in a scary or crushing situation. 

So, that's our heart too for anyone in an abusive marriage. We love covenant, but we stand against abuse.

There is so much more that could be said about abuse. It is complicated to be in it, and there are many resources written by Christians that are of help. But, all we want to say here is that if any of this is applying to you, then reach out to someone who works with domestic abuse, or a local organization that specializes in this. Keep praying, keep seeking God's voice and his help, and please know that you're always welcome to reach out to us too for prayer or counsel too.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NIV)

Much love, 

Ann


The Different Kinds of Spiritually Mismatched Marriage

Ann here! Couple

Over recent years I've really enjoyed finding out about our community, and how different people found themselves in a spiritually mismatched situation. We truly have a vibrant mix among our readership, and you can be sure that if you're feeling alone there is someone else here who is going through the same thing as you!

There are different ways in which people suddenly find themselves 'spiritually mismatched', and I thought it might be interesting to look at those today. After all, everything we learn about spiritually mismatched marriage from each other helps us minister to others who come up behind us on the path.

So, here we go: Broadly, people get into a spiritually mismatched situation usually through one of five ways:

  1. They were a Christian who married an unbeliever.
  2. Their spouse was Christian when they married but then left the faith.
  3. They and their spouse have always been Christians, but one person's growth took off after marrying, or one became lukewarm.
  4. They married someone they thought was Christian, then found out that person wasn't.
  5. They became a Christian after getting married.

Have I missed any? Let me know if your circumstance isn't covered in the above, I'd love to hear it. 

In terms of the prevalence of this among males and females, we all know by now that it is more common for women to be the believers in a spiritually mismatched marriage. But there certainly are men too. In our readership, we do have men as well as women. The men comment less, but we meet them behind the scenes in emails.

There are specific kinds of pain that apply to each of the above cases. For example, if someone has a spouse who is outwardly Christian but behind closed doors it seems they might not be (i.e., nominally Christian but no fruit), that can be particularly lonely. It's impossible to explain to the church without 'outing' the spouse, and then that becomes a question of 'where do I find friendship and support?'

For those who chose to marry an unbeliever, many struggle with guilt and/or regret. They have to work through the question of 'What is God's view of this now?' We'll write a post on that soon.

For those whose spouses leave the faith, there is deep, almost unbearable grief, and they are forced to get used to having a completely new person as their spouse: One who is now welcoming new things into the home (often atheism), and a spouse who is particularly resistant to being persuaded that Jesus is true.

Finally, those who convert after marriage find it extremely difficult to move forward in their new faith. Their spouse is part of their old life, they are now a new creation, and so they must navigate how to build a new life with their spouse, who is often unhappy: A 'new normal' that fits them both.

What an interesting mix of things there. But, there are commonalities that apply to most, if not all, of us who are spiritually mismatched:

  • There is an aloneness in our walk. 
  • We build our relationship with Jesus by ourselves, not with our spouse.
  • We have the responsibility to lead our family spiritually, regardless of our gender.
  • It's difficult for us to connect with the church, and yet we must.
  • The spiritual warfare of our particular situation is intense, and so we are frequently embattled.
  • We must learn to forgive our spouse for their unbelief.
  • We focus deeply on the covenant of marriage.

So all in all, that's our picture. That's our community. And what an adventure to journey together in it. Despite the above challenges, I know that many of us reach the point where we say "I wouldn't change it for the world, because of what it's done for my relationship with Jesus."

In the comments I'd love to hear how you got into a spiritually mismatched marriage - And what challenges does that specifically bring?

Much love to you all,

Ann


Do Nothing?

  Ocean Hello my lovely SUMites! I have a little story God put on my heart recently. It is a little bit intense, but I think it is the perfect metaphor for how some of us may be feeling in this season of life. I hope it speaks to you as much as it spoke to me. Then I will share one of my own experiences with letting go.

  Imagine yourself hanging over the edge of a high cliff. All you can see below your dangling feet is a dense fog. You have no idea if the ground is 2 feet or 200 feet away.  You start to panic! Your mind is racing, your breathing quickens, your heart is pounding in your chest. You are completely terrified of the unknown. As your mind races, questions arise, "How did I let myself get here? What happens next? How can I get myself out of this? Will I be stuck here forever? What am I going to do?". You start to feel hopeless, weak, embarrassed, and maybe even angry at yourself and the situation. Then, as gentle and quiet as a soft breeze, you hear a voice. The softest whisper calls out to you, "Trust me, and let go". This voice is so sure, so comforting, and so familiar! It is your father! THE Father! Calling out from somewhere just out of sight. Asking you to trust him enough, to love him enough, to have enough reckless faith to LET GO! Can you do that? Can you let go of what you have been clutching and let yourself fall into the Father's waiting arms?

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding" Proverbs 3:5 CSB

The first half of this year has been full of lessons and trials for me and my family. And it all came to a head at a weekend ladies retreat with my church. The weekend was full of wonderful words and worship. On our last night there one of the pastors said she had a word from God for all of us in attendance. He told her that he knew we had been struggling with battles we didn't know how to fight anymore. And when we took communion that night our eyes would be opened and we would know exactly what we were supposed to do. Now there had been some serious struggles in my marriage and I was getting tired. I had been trying to fix everything for so long, and now I was at the end of my rope.

"You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace" Isaiah 26:3 CSB

So, as I waited in line for communion I prayed and I praised. We each took turns walking under an altar that represented his protection and love. Afterwards I found a quiet corner and stayed in worship mode. The Lord kept saying "Let go...let go...let go". I just couldn't understand that. I am a "fixer"! I like to get elbow deep into the issues and work them out! How can he be telling ME to let go?

Then, a woman I had just recently met, who had no idea about my situation came up to me. We prayed for each other. And right after she told me she felt like God wanted me to do...nothing. NOTHING! Whaaaaaat? I have no training for doing nothing! haha! This scared me and gave me peace all at once.

Later that night while I was in bed, God clarified by telling me it was time to have reckless faith! The faith that trusts enough to LET GO. Pray of course, walk in faith daily! But stop trying to make things happen on my own time. To loosen my chokehold on life, on my family, and on my marriage. To trust him like I never have before. This is a new and foreign place to me. I am still working it out. And some days I fail, but that is when I lean on his grace and start over. God has been so good and so patient as I fumble my way through this new season of faith!

What are some things God wants you to let go of? To step back and do nothing so that he can work? Let's discuss it together in the comments!

Amanda


Meet our Community

Happy Friday, everyone -- Ann here.

We are truly blessed to have a community of inspiring, strong, faith-filled men and women here at SUM, and I'm really looking forward to more of the upcoming Let's Talk Live videos where we will get to hear some of their voices. Some weeks we'll have a guest, and some weeks it will just be me.

This week was our first one, and I had the pleasure of talking to Gladys Rosario Arias. If you missed it here it is:

I won't always manage to put the video on the blog afterwards, depending on what else there is to share in a given week; but you'll be able to find each one on our YouTube channel after we've gone live. 

Hope you have a good weekend, and we'll see you on Monday.

Ann


Shifting our Focus: Part 3 - Slow Down

Pexels-ron-lach-9578721
Photos courtesy of Pexels.com/ron-lach

Over the past couple of months I’ve been sharing some thoughts on how we shift our focus away from our busyness and ourselves to refocus on Jesus. In my first post, we shared about meditating on Scripture and the second one in Holy Week was about the power and wonder of Stillness.

This time around I wanted to share about a practice that I’ve taken on more conscientiously this year … Sabbath rest.

“Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life” (Dallas Willard)

I’ve read that quote from Dallas Willard, one of my favourite teachers, many times. Willard believed that hurry was “the great enemy of the spiritual life.” I think we can all testify to how challenging busyness is and how it can limit our time with God, and Christian friends. How frequently do you respond when someone asks ‘how are you’ with something along the lines of ‘good … just very busy’ or that’s the response you get when you ask similarly?

We live in a busy world. There are many people who believe it’s the enemy’s greatest weapon in keeping believers away from God: just keep them busy.

I only noticed the other day how I was feeling out of kilter. It didn’t take me long to appreciate why. I had been running around for several days being very busy and hadn’t spent sufficient time with God. I hadn’t refuelled. I was doing everything out of my own strength.

Jesus Walked

Yes, I know, Jesus lived in a time when there were no cars and really the only way to commute was by walking. But it’s fair to stay Jesus did a lot of it.

Jesus never hurried. Read that again.

Why should we?

Rest Day

We’re all familiar with the notion of the Sabbath. I’ll be honest I probably haven’t ever strictly adopted a practice of setting aside a day to rest. Be with God, celebrate with family and friends and try to do no work, even household chores.

But I’ve been trying to do it this year. And even then, I still seem to do one load of washing. But I’m not going to beat myself up about that.

We were designed to rest. Why? Besides the obvious physical and mental benefits of rest, Krispin Mayfield shares another practical benefit:

“... it is when we rest and cease our striving that we experience God’s presence more consistently.”

And that’s what we’re trying to do here, isn’t it? Shift our focus increasingly towards Jesus more consistently.

Practicalities

I don’t think Sabbath has to be Sunday. Many people do it on Saturday. I do sometimes. As life tends to be so different for each one of us, there’s no reason it can’t be any day of the week really. It’s more what we do with our time that’s more the issue, not what day we do it.

It's challenging with a household of kids, chores, kids sport, music lessons, and so on to be able to set aside a whole day to not do any form or work or anything. What about making lunch and dinner? That’s part of the feasting so I reckon that’s okay. (I really appreciated this during Lent. Fast for 6 days and Sunday is feast day. So no fasting! Woohoo!)

For we SUMites it can be even more challenging because our partner might not get the concept of Sabbath and expect weekends to be about household projects.

We can get very legalistic about it but like all things spiritual it's more about what’s going on in our hearts and our attitude towards such a practice. It’s about letting go for a while, resting, relaxing, loving and feasting. Not about ticking boxes off.

Remember, God knows our situations. He understands. He appreciates that our Sabbath might be a couple of hours here, a couple there. Just talk to Him, involve Him in it. Ask Him to reveal His passion for it and how He can assist you to introduce/practice it. His way is the gentle way; the easy yoke. No stressing allowed.

Next time, I’ll share some more on simplifying our days. In the meantime, be great if we could have a conversation in the comments about our Sabbath’s. Do we practice it? How do we do it? Once again, no guilt here, no condemnation. It’s only something I’ve finally started taking seriously. Let’s love each other in the comments.

Grace and peace.

 


Let's Talk Live this week

Hello friends, Ann here. Let's Talk Live

We have some nice news this week: Many of you will remember we used to do a weekly live chat on our Facebook page. Well, we're going to start that up again.

So, each Wednesday at 3pm Pacific time, I'll be hopping on to do a Live video, which will stream on our Facebook page and our YouTube channel. You'll be able to comment if you like, and we should be able to make it a little interactive. Exciting!

We'll sometimes have guests come on over the coming weeks, and we'll cover a different topic each week relating to spiritually mismatched marriage.

So, with that, I'm pleased to announce our very first guest who has kindly agreed to come online and share a little. Gladys picMany of you will have heard us mention Gladys Rosario Arias, who has been a great help to us behind the scenes and inspired a few of our events such as the 24-hour worship event. She is a long-time member of this community and an encourager to many. I can't wait to chat with her. She lives in Florida, and has a large family of adult children and grandchildren for whom she prays like crazy. Our topic for Wednesday is going to be thriving in your own faith rather than just surviving when married to a non-believing spouse.

While we're on the topic of live connection, we also want to thank you for all your feedback about our proposed Bible Study on Zoom. Lynn is going to do some planning for that, and we will keep you posted.

For now, I've got a question to ask and would love some more feedback from you: What topics would you like to see us talk about on these upcoming live videos?

Thanks in advance for your answers, and looking forward to seeing some of you in the video comments on Wednesday.

Ann


Prayer Strategies from the Parable of the Sower

By Ann Hutchison Sword bird

I often think it's great to use scripture in our prayers sometimes. That way we know that the words we speak in prayer are spot-on. 

Of course, there are many other ways to pray too, like having a big heart-to-heart chat with God. But using scripture is one creative little thing we can do; it's a specific prayer strategy.

With scripture, what we can do is take certain truths, turns of phrase, or key words, and speak them out. It is powerful to do that.

I remember once in church a minister came up to me and spoke a single line of scripture over me as a prayer. I fell over there and then!! Literally, the power of the Holy Spirit knocked me to my knees. All she did was speak a line of scripture. 

That has never happened to me before or since, but it taught me a big lesson about just how powerful the word of God is.

Anyway, there are all kinds of scriptures that can be used creatively as a basis for a prayer and today I thought I would look at a particular passage that applies to our unsaved loved ones: The Parable of the Sower. 

I say that parable is appropriate to our loved ones because it's all about what's going on in people's hearts when they don't believe. That parable explains why some people don't receive the Gospel, and why some people fall away even after they have been strong Christians. That last one is sobering. I often come back to this parable and re-read it, just to help myself understand.

The parable goes like this --

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9, NIV)

Then Jesus interpreted that story:

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:8-23, NIV)

It's such a helpful parable, I love it. But it's even richer when we turn it into a prayer strategy. If we take the above truths and turn them into prayer for our spouse, we can pray like this:

"In the Name of Jesus:

  • I declare with absolute authority that the enemy will not be allowed to snatch away the message of the Kingdom that is sown in my spouse's heart.
  • I pray for a deep root of belief to grow in my spouse so that when they do finally have faith it will withstand trouble and persecution.
  • I declare that the deceitfulness of wealth and the worries of this life must not be allowed to choke the word of God in my spouse's life.
  • I pray that my spouse will hear the word, understand it and produce a crop that yields much."

Amen!

Dear friends, how about we pray these things for our spouses and children this weekend?

Ann