God's Move in My Family

Dear friends, Ann Miles 2

Before I continue to share my story from Passover, I need to tell you about one of those less wondrous 'SUM moments' -- Because it forms the backdrop to what I share next.

It was one of those moments in church. All that happened was I turned around to see some kids having fun as friends. But these kids were the same age as mine. And mine were at home with their Dad. In that moment I descended into a bad space. I felt jealous of every family in that room who looked 'Christian picture-perfect' (Sorry -- I realize that's not good. Transparent post today). Oh dear!

While I've been learning to love, my children have continued to be 'unchurched' and disinterested in faith. Completely disinterested. And that's been hard.

BUT, oh what's just happened these past weeks has taken me by surprise. 

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain.” (Zechariah 4:6, NKJV).

So ... Here we go, and I hope it makes you smile:

Just before Passover, my church closed. Rather unconventionally, the pastor felt God wanted us to disband. He made a brave decision to close us, sensing that we were all to be released into somewhere new. I loved my church, but to me it felt a God thing. Certainly interesting!

At the very same time, my son Miles’s best friend Toby's family started going to a new church down the road from our house. My ears pricked up at this news, and I casually said to Miles “If I go to that church, would you go?”

“Yes.” He said.

That was the only thing we said.

Well, blow me down, I'd said nothing more, but shortly before Passover Miles spontaneously announced: “Mum, I’m going to youth group tonight, can you drive me over?”

I nearly choked on my biscuit.

(At this point my face took on a stunned expression).

A few days later the next thing happened: “Mum, can I go to Easter Camp?”

Easter camp is a nationwide Christian camp for teens. I couldn’t quite believe what was happening before my eyes … How does a teenage boy, age 15, become interested in church like this?

So we signed him up. I say ‘we’, because Bryce was part of it. And here you may be wondering what his reaction was? The answer: Happy. 

(Stunned expression, again).

The Passover lamb meal came and went, and then the day of camp came around. That morning, I went out and bought Miles a Bible, which I showed Bryce on my return. It was the last thing we got ready, and in the front cover I wrote: To Miles … I stopped. From Mum? My pen hovered. Then, I continued: From Mum and Dad.

Three days he was at camp. I drummed my fingers. The disciples’ three days of waiting were perhaps not too much more suspenseful. Well, ok, their suspense was bigger. But, would Miles be deterred or captivated at this camp? There’s free will. It could go either way.

I drove to pick him up; and there he was, cheerfully playing frisbee with Toby. Chatting with the other teens. We bundled him into the car with all his bags, and began to drive home. But within 200 metres this came:

“Mum, my favorite session was the Holy Spirit session.” And he looked over at me with seriousness in his eyes.

He continued:

“We all felt it. I mean, I got chills …”

I turned to him, taking my eyes off the road. I put my hand to my heart, and declared: “Oh Miles. I love the Holy Spirit.”

There we sat at the traffic lights, grinning at each other.

Later, he sat at the table -- Bryce on one side, me on the other -- telling Bryce about a healing he'd seen. Bryce nodded, "Some people have the gift of healing .. Don't they Ann?" "They do," I said, "But I think God invites every believer to pursue that gift."

Oh my heart.

Today's story ends here: This past Sunday, a certain teenager got himself -- quite remarkably -- out of bed early. That day I didn’t go to church on my own. No, I walked through those doors with my handsome son by my side.

And as I write those last few words ... I’m crying.

Love you all,

Ann


Introducing Jesus Round the Dinner Table

By Ann Hutchison

I lit the candles, put some serene music on, and let the aroma of lamb waft through the house. It was Passover evening, just a couple of weeks ago, and I'd made my family a special meal. Lamb meal

"Ok, family," I called out. "Let’s have dinner!"

And so my three came to the table. Bryce, Travis (16) and Miles (15). They are pretty amenable to ‘Mum’s’ quirks these days, so Passover dinner? Hey, they humored me.

They do like food. And I'd made some special Jewish cookies for afterwards. So, what with the serene atmosphere and the nice food, it was an evening that felt a little different.

I love the Jewish days and the story they tell. But what was ultimately in my head was this: I want to share Jesus with my teens. To pull out the Bible seems too much for them. To give them a talk about Jesus around the dinner table would feel like a lecture. But what we can do is eat Passover lamb! Because it’s Jewish and has a story attached it's somehow easier. 

It tells the story of Jesus right there on our table. The Lamb.

So, back to our meal, here's how it went. There we were, the four of us in our little house, with our lamb and some pita bread (unleavened bread), and we began to chat:

Bryce suddenly starts it off: “What’s the story of Passover, boys? Do you know the story of the ten plagues of Egypt?” 

“Yes we know!” Says Travis.

“You know?” I turn to him, surprised. I guess I carry a sense of wishing I'd done better to bring the Bible to my children. Some of us SUMites feel that way, I know. In my case I feel that my kids were a little too old when I turned to Jesus. But perhaps they weren't after all.

Travis says again: “I just know. I know all those Bible stories.”

Mm. Ok then, so we list off the ten plagues in Egypt.

Next we talked about Jesus. We talked about how the lamb in the Egyptian times pointed to Jesus. And he died because of sin. I can't quite remember if that was me who raised it, but I wasn't being pushy. Everyone was tucking into the delicious lamb so it was a friendly affair.

“So now, boys …” I said. “Atheists and Christians differ here. They differ in whether they think there is such a thing as sin …” And then I said one or two more sentences. It was the first time I've ever managed to talk with the boys about the cross.

The boys leave the table, and I’m left with Bryce; who then asks me again about the blood that the Jews smeared on the doorpost (Exodus 12:7-8), and what the link is again with Jesus. I said this:

“I think Jesus works in households.”

Really? He asked.

“Well, the blood on the doorpost is a household thing.” I said. “And if someone in a household is praying in the name of Jesus, I'd say the rest of the household is spiritual toast” (Smiling). "My parents prayed. And look what happened to me!"

At this point my beloved may have been concerned that he was going to be zapped by God at any moment. He was quick to gulp down his cookie before the obvious question: “There’s free will, though, isn’t there?” 

“Yes, there’s free will.” That old chestnut. "But you're still spiritual toast haha!"

This, somehow, seemed to lead into the topic of church.

“I don’t like the singing in church.” he said.

“I know you don’t like the singing." I replied. 

It was quite fascinating to me that he was open about Jesus, but Sunday church singing seemed to quickly deter him. Lots of men do not like the singing in church, I think. Was he even concerned that if he got zapped by God he'd have to sing?! Lol..

Anyway, we went on to watch the film 'Mary Magdalene' that evening. Good on the three of them for doing that. And ... When I got up the next morning I found a certain husband cheerfully pottering away to the radio. Not his normal radio station. But Christian radio. He had changed the channel.

(Here I pull a stunned face).

It gets better -- There's more. But I will have to continue with that story next time.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Ann


It's Okay to Doubt

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Image courtesy of FAVPNG and workablequantit26

Hi Sumites, Ian here.

Another Easter has passed. Ann led us through Holy Week and I thought I’d share some thoughts on one of the stories we read post Jesus’ resurrection.

Thomas and his doubts

When Jesus first appeared to the group of disciples in the Upper Room on Sunday night, Thomas was missing. Why? The Biblical accounts don’t tell us.

In the days following, Thomas catches up with his friends, only to be informed that he missed the return of Jesus. Incredibly, he doesn’t believe them. Why would his friends mislead him? Why doesn’t Thomas trust their words?

Thomas responds with his well-known statement: ““Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24 NIV)

Soon after, the disciples are all assembled in the Upper Room once again. This time, Thomas is with them. Lo and behold, Jesus turns up (not bothering to use the door. Remember, He’s fully divine now!) Jesus knows what’s going on in Thomas’ heart and not wanting him to feel left out, offers Thomas the same opportunity he gave the others the previous night: come and touch my wounds. Tellingly, he encourages Thomas to “stop doubting and believe.”

We’re all like Thomas

Jesus knew Thomas’ doubt. What does he do? Jesus knows what will eliminate that doubt: touching his wounds. Lovingly, Jesus invited Thomas to draw close, touch and believe.

We all struggle with doubt from time to time, don’t we? When will my spouse come to know the Lord? Will they ever come to know the Lord? What happens if they don’t? Why does God appear to be silent when I cry out for help: for peace in my family, for healing of an illness, for an end to this pandemic?

Like Thomas, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had doubts. Once again, Jesus gave them the best answer he could: Himself.

Jesus knows our doubts. He knows every single one of them. And like Thomas, Jesus invites us to experience … Him. Jesus asks us to do something, well, two things: act and believe.

Thomas missed the initial opportunity to stop doubting because he had separated himself from the others. I often do this too. When I’m fearful, or doubting, or simply fed up with the journey, I retreat. I shut myself off. I get lackadaisical with prayer and Bible reading. I stop listening, I allow myself to be easily distracted and stop being present.

Reading the Word, prayer and Christian community are all examples of acting. The reason these are so important are that Jesus is in all of them. He’s present. We’ll find Jesus in the Word, when we pray (and be still to listen) and when we meet with others (“when two or three are gathered”)

May I encourage each one of us to move towards Jesus. He always has open arms, inviting us to step into them, yes, to touch his wounds and simply, experience his presence. 

Which of these three activities: Bible reading, prayer, Christian community do you find most challenging when life becomes difficult? Be wonderful if we could share with each other in the comments below.

Grace and peace, my friends.


Focus on Jesus, And ... Things Bloom!

Dear SUMites, Ann here. Jesus

I hope you enjoyed our little experience of walking together through Easter. I have to say it was a great discipline for me to focus solely on Jesus that week. 

On the topic of 'focusing solely on Jesus', when I first started writing for this blog a few years ago I asked Lynn "What would you say the mission of this ministry is?" Her answer: "Point the SUM community to Jesus."

Obviously, on this blog we write about all sorts of topics around that. We try to revisit practical things like financial giving or church involvement – Things that are surprisingly common challenges for us all. And then the spiritual aspect of a SUM is also a big topic for us – Things like prayer, spiritual warfare, God’s promises and so on. But primarily the key to thriving in any hard circumstance, including a spiritually mismatched marriage, is this: Focus on Jesus.

Early on, when I was really finding it difficult having this gaping faith difference in my marriage, a friend gave me some advice:

“Ann, if you focus on Jesus, Bryce will eventually see the spiritual bloom on your cheek.”

Quite honestly, at the time I felt overwhelmed by that. Only because I was all-round 'overwhelmed' anyway. I guess it was all proving too difficult to follow Jesus when there was so much resistance. I thought if I did move forward towards Jesus any more than I already was doing, my husband might even leave me. It was incorrect thinking, but it was my fear. The whole thing seemed a massive risk, and I wondered if this advice was a little … Too simple, perhaps?

But now I look at that advice and think ‘Yep!’ Spot on. Thank you to that friend. It is simple, and it is the key. Focus on Jesus.

It’s not easy to push forward towards Jesus, but the fruits do come. The joy, the peace, the love, and eventually the power. For what happens is that the more we fill ourselves up with the Spirit of Christ, what we carry becomes far stronger than what is in the world. And that is when testimonies happen!

So now, on the topic of testimonies, I have something curious to share next time I write -- Something that has happened in my home. More on that another day (I'm smiling).

For now, how easy do you find it to 'focus on Jesus' amidst your SUM circumstances? Let’s chat!


Heavy Stones and Dry Bones – A Poem by Charumathi R. Rao  

Heavy Stones and Dry Bones – A Poem by Charumathi R. Rao

 

Stone rolled awayShe walked down the dusty path, very early on that Sunday morn,

A bag of spices in her hands, teary faced and heart forlorn.

She’d seen him stripped and beaten blue, a crown of thorns upon His head,

All He’d said had seemed so true, but then He still did end up dead.

 

A hasty burial did no justice, to a man beloved and so adored;

So, with the spices and some friends, she walked to His tomb, down that road.

A heavy stone they’d rolled across, the tomb to shut and seal it well,

They’d posted guards to add to the loss, just in case some mischief fell.

 

“Now, who shall roll that heavy stone?”, she worried as they walked along;

She knew it was a heavy stone, and they surely needed someone strong.

But when they reached the place she saw, the open tomb, an empty grave,

And in the place of a body dead, the risen Savior she found instead…!

 

A broken seal and scattered guards, the heavy stone was rolled away,

Her tears of sadness turned to gladness, joy in place of utter dismay.

Overwhelmed and hope renewed, ran Mary, to declare that day,

That no heavy stone could hold Him down, not even death could block His way…!

 

And since that day, this hopeful news, remains the same and very true;

That Christ is risen from the dead, and His love our life’s rescue…!

We too can know, as Mary learned, and John and Peter, got to glean,

Nothing can stop, our risen Lord, no matter what, the dreary scene.
 

And so, my friend, what lies upon, your burdened, weary heart today?

What is the tomb you face with fear? What worries now, hold you prey?

What heavy stone, now shuts the tomb? And in the guarded tomb what lays?

Are they crushed hopes? Dreams in repose? Or prayers that are much delayed?

 

What valley do you have to cross? What dusty dry bones do you see?

What grief has held you captive long? What cares and worries do you flee?

What red sea now, stands in your way? Or are you in, a lengthy drought?

What’s that thing, you cannot bring, yourself to hope, once more - about?

 

If He can set the captives free, the blind to see and lame to walk;

If He can calm, the stormy seas, and even cause the mute to talk;

If He can bring the kingdoms down, and sets up kings upon their thrones,

What are heavy stones for Him or a valley full of dry bones?

 

So, whatever be, the tomb you face, shut and sealed, with heavy stones,

And whatever may, your valley be – that’s now filled, with dry bones,

Come - cast your cares, upon the Lord, For He’s alive and oh so well,

He’d fight for you and guard your soul, His victories you, will live to tell.

 

If He fought for, the saints of old, and proved His power, to Ezekiel and Mary,

He’d do much more, for you and me, if we’d seek His will, pray and tarry,

For He is faithful, true, mighty and able; alive and seated on His throne;

So, what are heavy stones for Him or even a valley full of dry bones?


The Story God Writes

Hi friends, Ann here.

As we consider the story of Jesus's last week, we've reached the day after the crucifixion.

And today, I've been thinking about how God is just the best story-teller!   Story

How would the disciples have felt, I wonder, during those long, long hours when Jesus was in the grave? Trauma, no doubt. Confusion, perhaps? Fear, for sure. An inkling of something good to come next, but serious difficulty believing it. If I were in their shoes I'm not sure I'd have been able to believe the good at that point.

Little did they know that every single part of that story they were living out had been pre-planned by God down to the finest detail. Later, that story would be written as part of a wonderful and coherent book. A book that starts with 'Genesis' and ends with 'Revelation'.

When Jesus had told two disciples to go to Bethphage and untie a donkey, for example, it was so that a prophecy in the Old Testament could be fulfilled.

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9, NKJV)

When he told two of them to find him a room to eat the Passover, it was so that he could eat the lamb with them. This was something foreshadowed generations earlier by their Jewish ancestors when the Passover meal was first instituted. And when Judas sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, it had already been prophesied centuries ago (Zechariah 11:12-13).

It was all one exquisitely crafted story. A love story.

Just like those disciples, we -- Jesus's present disciples -- can't really see the story we're part of. God continues to write stories using our lives. These stories turn into testimonies but while we're in the midst of our own personal testimony it's hard to understand what on earth God is doing in our lives. Or to sit through it.

Still, for those disciples something was round the corner. The same is true for our own lives. There will always be a 'something next' that God is doing.

Back tomorrow, friends, on Resurrection Sunday!

 

 

 


Resurrection Weekend

My friends, 

Tomorrow we must bring to our remembrance ALL that was accomplished in three days by our Lord, Jesus, the Christ. Good Friday always leaves me feel somber. And it is good to feel in that way because of what happened to Jesus. 

BUT.... Of for the joy set before him.....

Tomorrow I want to share some little known information about what happened on Friday and about the blood of Jesus. Tune in for a short video and allow yourself to truly apprehend the work of the crucifixion and the Cross of Christ. Hugs, Lynn

Tomb and cross


The Slithering Snakes of Holy Week

We've now got to the middle of Holy Week. Snake

My friends, one thing we see in the Gospels is that those Pharisees were an absolute pain in the backside! No, not just a pain. It's serious. Their rejection of Jesus is really, really bad. Really bad.

Jesus shares pearls of wisdom that final week. His lips drip with honey and treasure. As he reveals parables and mysteries, there is much ground to cover.

His are beautiful, beautiful words of truth. But, the Gospels also report the crowd’s response. As readers we are meant to see that the responses are just as important as Jesus's words. And the Pharisees and Sadducees -- the religious ones -- hold an important lesson for us.

Everything Jesus says, the religious ones attack. He calls them vipers. Snakes. They’re trying to catch him out like cunning weasels. They don’t want truth and they don't want to listen, they just want to win. Yet they are blind and can't see themselves. As a psychologist might say, 'They have no insight into their own condition.'

Jesus asks them a question at one point. It shows how much their own agenda drives them:

" (Jesus asked them) 'The baptism of John - where was it from? From heaven or from men?" And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet." (Matthew 21:25-26, NKJV).

Later in the week, the Bible includes a pointed detail: The night of the crucifixion these snakes hand Jesus over to Pilate, and yet don’t want to soil themselves by going into Pilate’s area because they are about to eat the Passover! (John 18:28). In their minds they are clean and holy.

They have murdered the Passover lamb but believe themselves holy for Passover. “We are holier than thou, Jesus!” they are saying, through their actions. This is scary. They genuinely do not see it.

The point here is that many will reject Jesus. And religious ones can sometimes be as blind as those who are not yet going anywhere near a church. That is a big statement and a whole other conversation. The rejection of the Cross and the Kingdom can take a few different forms in the church (gulp!) But it's an important message from the Gospels.

So, how do we guard our own hearts? We're religious people, after all. In my mind, keep studying the words of Jesus so that we understand his whole message. Continue to seek to understand why we need the cross, and then what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like. Mm.. I quite like that advice (which I just thought up as I typed) so I'm going to take that for myself!

As an aside, I notice that over on Lynn's page there is a series on why we need the cross. I need to catch up but am looking forward to reading that.

For now, do any thoughts come to mind for you as you read this?

Till tomorrow!

Ann


"Through My Pain, Father ..."

Dear friends,

Here on the blog we're travelling through Holy Week in Jerusalem and it's a few more days until the crucifixion. Miracle

Jesus is in emotional agony. He will eventually become so distressed that he will sweat drops of blood. And yet, he submits to its purpose, and says these words:

"Father, Glorify your name."

Then a voice came from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again."

Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoke to him." (John 12:27-29, NKJV)

Those words -- Father, Glorify Your Name -- are words we can say too. It is not in any way easy being a disciple of Jesus. But in it all, we can say, 'Father, Glorify Your Name'.

It's such a powerful statement, in fact, that I lit candles on Passover night in my home and put the song 'Glorify Your Name', on repeat for the evening. The following is a beautiful rendition of it. As I listened to the song I thought about two things: (1) I imagine Jesus said this all the way to the cross, and (2) I want the Father to Glorify His Name in my life. 

So friends, enjoy this song, and I send you love today.

Ann