THIS MAY STING! Sorry... Ahem, not sorry????

So, ya….. This post may sting. This is an area that I have confronted over and over again throughout my life.

Bitterness

How do we walk through life and handle the disappointments, the let downs, the betrayals without slipping down the slippery slope into the dark abyss of bitterness?

My friends, I’m telling you, this sly root of the dark realm can destroy a life, a home, a marriage, a child, a church,……. A city, how about a nation???

Recently I’ve been reading a book by Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, and I was taken back by this short sentence:

Bitterness is unfulfilled revenge!

Wow, gulp.

ForgiveWoundedness from others, if left to fester in unforgiveness, will sink into dark bitterness. I’ve seen what this looks like in the spirit. It’s a grayish, festering, dead looking part of a person’s soul. Light goes in but doesn’t reflect back. It’s a pit of endless negative thought cycles. It’s leads a soul to where our love grows cold or non-existent.

The cure for bitterness is the love of Jesus. Honestly, we can’t forgive others from within our own strength. Some of us have been through such horrendous things that true forgiveness is impossible outside of the supernatural power and love of Jesus Christ.

I’ll tell you that through all the years of my spiritually mismatched marriage, I could have held a long list of disappointments against my husband. And they may have even been justified. But, unforgiveness is a prison of our own creation. And it’s through unforgiveness that the demonic realm seizes their greatest strongholds in our lives.

What’s fascinating to me is that many Christians think they have done the work of forgiveness but they aren’t truly free. If they were, the persistent ugly thought cycles would diminish and disappear. Now there is no condemnation here. THIS IS A MOMENT to take a pause and consider your thought cycles. Are they lining up with heaven are they:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. —Philippians 4:8

If we find ourselves standing on the event horizon of the black hole of bitterness, we MUST take action immediately. Repent, ask someone to pray with you. Confess your sins to one another ( James 5:16). Find an accountability partner to help you walk into spiritual health. Spend time with a CHRISTIAN counselor. Schedule a prayer session. Ask Jesus if there is any area where unforgiveness, cold-love or bitterness lingers. Lean on His Supernatural strength, love, and power to bring you into freedom.

Bitterness within a marriage is one of the last nails……

Now I’m not just preaching. Gang, I’ve had to live this out in my own life. With that said, it’s not easy but doable. I know it is because I was especially vulnerable to disappointment. But through the blood and love of Jesus Christ, I can forgive ALL offenses and I walk in powerful faith today.

If Jesus will do this for me, He will do it for you as well. And when you couple forgiveness with love, something wonderful lives in you! It’s the spirit of the Lord! Hallelujah! 

So, my friends, pray in the comments a simple prayer to release yourself. Or pray in the comments that your spouse is released, a child, co-workers, boss, etc. These prayers of forgiveness are absolutely the first step toward wholeness in Christ. I will echo each one.

The opposite of bitterness is:

  • magnanimity
  • sweetness
  • contentment
  • delight
  • balminess
  • warmth

Claim one of these attributes and ask the Lord to immediately supply it into your life as an affirmation of your prayer of faith.

I adore you, Lynn!


Taking Off the Badge

Hi friends, Ann here!Record

We’re currently looking at past words that God has spoken to our community. To catch up, here are the recent posts:

Part one - 'Museum of SUM'

Part two - 'God is Calling our Spouses'

Now, this next word I’m going to share is one where the Lord gave us an adjustment. In it he was encouraging us to adjust a particular aspect of our walk. It’s shared with warm humor by Lynn but when I read it I did nod and say all over again, 'Yes, Lord.' 

It happened at the conference that Lynn and Dineen attended on 12 October 2012. Lynn tells the story, which I’ve copied below. It's a longer one, so perhaps make a drink and settle in ... Then we can chat in the comments.

**

Lynn's Story, 2 November 2012

"Sometimes are you overcome and overwhelmed with the sheer love and patience God bestows upon you? 

Ya? 

Glad it’s not just me. 

His relentless persistence to get through to my heart and more, my thick-head, is astounding. In the weeks since the conference, I feel like I’m reading scripture for the first time. I’m in love with the book of Luke right now and can’t get enough. I’m reading that book like it was personally written for me. Scripture verses have new meaning, depth and POWER in my life. 

I’m not sure how long this post will be but I’m writing until the entire story is out. Because it is HIS-story and all for His glory. 

I think I mentioned in the post about Maria that God was intentionally selective about the conferees that He placed around us during the three day event. Our God did not waste one minute of the conference. He sent Helen to us at lunch and Maria next to me in the audience and Laura prayed with us in the bathroom. That story still makes me chuckle (a tale for another day, I promise). 

But God also used Heidi, Dineen and me as we spoke truth and love into each other’s lives. A bond of love formed between the three of us that is impenetrable, powerful, perfect and sealed in eternal love. I hope all of you experience this kind of Kingdom friendship and love. 

Onward. It was the last day of the conference and all throughout the day, through people like Laura, Darlene, and Helen God was trying to talk to Dineen and I. He wanted to speak about something Dineen and I wear. You see we kinda promote this badge on our chest. I’m still struggling to figure out how it comes to rest on my chest and why. But the badge we wear says this: 

I’m unequally yoked. 

Truly we have moved past wearing this badge as martyrs. It’s just easy to say, “I’m unequally yoked” because in Christian circles people always reply to our declaration with a serious nod of understanding accompanied by eyes full of concern or pity and they utter one word, “Oh.” As if to say, I see, I get it, poor you. 

Sheesh, just writing that makes my stomach turn. Onward. 

Well after three days of proudly wearing our invisible but very discernible badges around the place and after God sending people to us to speak gently about our malady of unequalness, God was sick of us. So He sent in Heidi. 

We were walking along the road to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Now I don’t recall the conversation specifics at the moment. I think we were talking about Laura and the words she prayed over us in the women’s restroom. And Heidi with trepidation in her voice says, “Did you hear what she was saying to you?” 

“Ya, I thought I did.” 

Heidi looked at me and Dineen with uncertainty in her eyes and then she ventured, “I really don’t know how to say this and I’m not saying this to be hurtful or anything but I don’t think you are hearing what God is saying to you.” 

I froze in my tracks on the side of the road with cars passing by. I stared at Heidi and Dineen was standing right there frozen as well. “I just hear God telling me to tell you this. ‘Your marriages are not mismatched or unequally yoked. Your marriages are mine. Your husbands are mine.’” 

Gulp! 

Instantly I felt chastised by our most loving and Holy God. 

Heidi rushed on, “Please don’t be mad but I hear God telling me to say to you, ‘They are mine.” 

That instant my heart broke wide open. I felt ashamed that I had not believed God about this and even more shame that for so, so long I’ve worn this stupid “spiritually mismatched” badge about my person. 

She said, “Your words have created a prison where you have held your husband in a cell.”

Pain. O, the pain. 

However the pain and shame instantly left me as I said to Heidi, “Oh Heidi, you are right. God is so right.” 

It was at the moment that I opened the doors of the prison. I tore off the badge and I surrendered it to God. I remember saying to Heidi and Dineen, “This changes everything. Even our ministry. Perhaps we are to even change our ministry name?” A million thoughts rushed into my head. And those thoughts Dineen and I are still wrangling with today. 

Out of this entire exchange what has remained profound and clear to me are three words that the Father spoke to me and Dineen, “They are mine.” 

My friends, deep calls to deep. Step into this deep with me and see if you can uncover the truth of those three words in your life. What are the implications? Why it is God would say this to Dineen and I, “They (our husbands) are mine.” 

Now I have to also be clear in this. Heidi spoke these words as they were placed upon her through the Holy Spirit and they were intended for Dineen and I. However, I also believe they are intended for our community. But there is a progression or a spiritual shift that happens within us that allows God to speak these words to those of us who live with an unsaved spouse. And it’s this development, this shift that changes everything. And I’m desperate to share this with you so that you don’t have to be hit upside the head from a close friend on the side of the road."

**

Well, that’s the story! We'll build on it in a future post, but in the meantime I'd love to hear your thoughts. See you in the comments.

Ann


Waging War With God's Words

Hi SUMites, Ann here!  Rings

As you know, we’re currently looking at past words that the Holy Spirit has spoken to this community. In our archives there are places where the Lord has said something specific to equip us, and I’m in the process of pulling these words out, in date order, to see how the Lord has progressively spoken to us as a body.

What does God want us to know? Where does he want us to focus our minds? What wisdom does he have for us?

On Monday I shared the first of these words. It was the simplest of words that the Lord gave Dineen for this community but sometimes he gives us simple truths to digest, especially as a first step. Dineen described the word as this:

He is calling our pre-believers with His salvation.

We need only lift our face to Him and trust that He is doing it.

When we receive such a word, our role is then to engage with it. Believe it. Turn it over in our minds. For example, we could go about our week asking 'What does it mean or look like for the Lord to be ‘calling’ my spouse?'

One way of engaging with a word from the Holy Spirit is to write it up and pop it somewhere accessible, at least for a little while. So today I have a post-it stuck on the wall by my washing-up sink. It says:

“He is calling my husband. Keep lifting my eyes heavenward!”

This is what Paul advised his younger believer, Timothy, to do in 1 Timothy 1:18: Wage war with a prophetic word. Speak it out in faith. God has said he is 'calling', and so we can align our thoughts with it and consider it carefully.

There is a scripture in the Psalms that vividly depicts how a body of people, like us SUMites, can 'wage war' with God's words. That scripture is super interesting, and I might unpack it a little. It says this:

"The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those who proclaimed it:

‘Kings of armies flee, they flee, and she who remains at home divides the spoil. Though you lie down among the sheepfolds, you will be like the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.'

When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Zalmon."

(Psalm 68:11-14, NKJV)

What’s interesting here is that the first sentence uses the Hebrew word o'mer for ‘word’, which can mean promise. In other words, the Lord gave a promise and then a company of people proclaimed that very promise themselves. They were a great company too: Like the SUMites!

The middle lines are the promise itself: That kings of armies would flee, and it has a wonderful air of mystery with visions of gold and silver feathers. When God speaks, there may well be some mystery included. Anyway, it is this promise that the company of people declared. And then the final line (verse 14) documents that the Almighty did scatter the kings, just as he had promised. Exactly as the company of people had proclaimed.

SUMites, we are like that great company of people in Psalm 68 who received promises straight from the Lord, declared them, and eventually would see victory. Let’s keep on waging war with the things he has shown us.

On Friday I will share another word from the archives. Lovely chatting, and see you then! 

Ann


A Word: God is Calling our Spouses.

Hello friends, Ann here.Record

Today I’m continuing from my post last week about this blog being like a wonderful museum of God stories. If you missed it you can catch up here. In that post, I described how God has given our community the occasional prophetic word over the years: words of wisdom or promises specifically for us, the SUM Nation.

It’s such encouraging stuff. We have the Bible, but we also have access to hearing his voice. When we do receive a word from the Holy Spirit, it’s helpful to go back and re-examine it. For example, there might be an instruction for us in there that we'd forgotten and by reviewing his words we can make sure we're doing all we can to partner with him. 

I guess it’s all part of what it means to be in relationship with him. What an adventure!

Today, I’m smiling so much as I share with you the first prophetic word I could find on this blog. It’s from 2012, and it’s just a few words that the Lord spoke to Dineen; in fact, it was shortly before the turning point that I mentioned last week. Here are the words:

Tell the SUMites that I am calling their spouses.

You can read Dineen’s explanation more fully here. But, very simply, this is his promise to us: He is calling them. He is calling them.

Now we might be bouncing up and down, thinking, "Yes, but I’d like to know whether my spouse is going to become a Christian any time soon?" [laughing] It’s as if God asks us instead to pause, take a breath, and just listen to what he wants us to know. He wants us to know that he is calling them. [Deep breath]. So what does that mean?

As I read Dineen's write-up of the word, I understand from it that we are to trust and rest. We know that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them, and this thing is in motion. Our response can be: “Thank you, Father. You are calling them. And I know that in time your voice will become louder, your knock will become louder.”

The Lord will often leave space for mystery when he speaks. But sometimes he will give us a bit (as he did here) and then more later. Indeed, a few years later he gave us some clearer promises about our spouses' salvation and I will pull those out soon.

Back to 2012, a most curious thing happened next: Just three weeks after writing up that word, Dineen was driving in the center lane of an 8-lane road at 8am when out of the corner of her eye she saw a man cross the road from the opposite side. He stopped in the middle of the road, fell to his knees and lifted his arms in a gesture of worship. Here's the story. It was totally startling and strange. Could it be that it was a little extra confirmation as we look back? It was primarily a personal blessing for Dineen at the time, but for us SUMites I wonder if we could also use it as a visual of a spouse crossing over, from unbelief to belief.

All I know is that God is calling. 

Now, there was a second part to this word about God calling, an instruction for us:

Lift up your faces!

“Lift up your eyes, and look to the heavens” (Isaiah 40:26, NIV)

My friends, this is to be our way of walking, to lift up our faces and look at Heavenly things. That is something for us to ask God's help with, and perhaps we can linger there by re-reading Dineen's posts above. For now, here are some fitting words from those posts:

“What if that lift of our eyes is a constant state of awareness – constantly looking for God in our everyday lives? What if we looked for God’s hand and provision each day for the prayers we sent up just that morning. What if we waited expectantly for God to just show up in some way each and every day?”

I will leave it there. I guess I take from this that we are to marinate in the idea that God is calling our spouses, and we are to lift our faces. And perhaps we are to take a little time to chew over these two ideas. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Nice chatting!

Ann


Our Coatings of Protection

Hi SUM family, Ann here. Coat

Last week I had a ‘moment’ in my SUM life, as we do, that turned into a good wisdom lesson for me, so I'm going to share it today. It was about God's protection.

I was reclining in my favorite armchair before bed one night, cocoa in hand, when something occurred to me and my face fell.

It was this: Recently I’ve developed a routine where, once dinner is in the oven at about 5 or 6pm, I go to my bedroom and pray for my family. That includes Bryce, and I’ve been praying various things for him with gusto. I like that new routine, it's a happy one; but on this day a thought struck:

“I would love it if it was the other way round. I'd love it if he prayed for me.”

Aggh, and that thought snowballed. I got thinking about the fact that a praying spouse would be a strong source of protection and I'm perhaps missing some kind of 'protective coat'. Or am I?

To be fair, my family has plenty of people praying for us. And actually, it's possible my husband prays more than I realize. His levels of belief have inched up lately, and I do believe there is a quiet blooming that I shouldn't be quick to disregard. But that evening I got tangled. I eventually went to bed, and the next morning the Lord seemed to want to correct my thinking. He said this to me:

Ann, go to the Bible and look at what coatings of protection you currently have.

I love it when God gives me something to explore, so the minute the boys left for school I made myself an enormous pot of coffee and rolled up my sleeves, ready to take a look at what it was he wanted me to see. 

My pen scribbled furiously that morning. I came up with quite a few forms of protection that I have, but here - listed below - are four of the key ones. And these apply to all of us SUMites. In fact, once I had finished working through that task I quickly realized that I had no need to fret whatsover. And I should leave my husband to go at his own pace when it comes to his own prayer life. Here, then, are some of the ways in which we are protected:

Layer of protection #1:

The shadow of Almighty God is so powerful we may as well be sitting under a nuclear bomb. If we make every effort to stay in that secret place, there's this:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

“He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
 You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day.” (Psalm 91:1, 3, NKJV)

Layer of protection #2:

The blood of Jesus Christ is our source of victory. I imagine it sprinkled on our homes like the Israelites smeared lamb's blood on their doorposts.

"They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11, NKJV)

Layer of protection #3:

Head to toe, we wear special spiritual armour at all times. This includes a helmet, a breastplate, a shield, a tool belt, and strong shoes (Ephesians 6). This keeps us safe and sound, and then we easily fight for our families.

Layer of protection #4:

The many prayers of other saints, past and present, is a force-field. This includes those who sowed seeds in times past, some in our ancestry, some who are now in the cloud of witnesses, and some who are currently shepherds to us -- And those shepherds who are in our lives know their authority and pray powerful prayers. All these prayers protect us and our homes from the enemy and plant faith seeds that will surely grow.

**

With these coatings of protection, then, we never need to worry about being victorious in our own lives. In turn, as fighters we are equipped to care for our families. And, of course, a big protective mechanism is this community, and its many prayers for each other. 

Friends, in that spirit, if you'd like prayer today, put a post in the comments, and we'll gather round you. In the meantime, here's to fewer and fewer of those wobbly 'moments'! 


Divine Connections

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Photo courtesy of Multipedia and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hello, Ian from Down Under here. I was fascinated to read Ann's Monday post about the history of SUM. And it brought back so many memories for me that I thought I'd go back in time and share my SUM beginnings.

It was September 2012. I had always wanted to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference and having a publisher for Angelguard I thought it a useful way of building some momentum for its release a few months later.

My wife and I combined it with a holiday to the US with the plan to attend the conference in DFW on our final leg before heading home. The conference had started and I was having a ball meeting lots of fascinating authors including some of my heroes plus gaining a lot of useful information. There was one particular workshop titled “How to Market Your Fiction Like a non-Fiction Pro” that featured four presenters: an agent who I knew of, an author who I was a fan of and two other authors who I didn’t know.

It was an excellent workshop spread over two sessions. One of the non-fiction authors shared a little of their journey on writing a non-fiction book about being married to a pre-believer. All of a sudden this workshop now had added meaning.

Yes, you guessed it that author was none other than our own, Dineen. Dineen, of course, is a rarity in publishing, being both an author of non-fiction and fiction. Her award-winning novel, The Soul Saver, is tremendous.

On the workshop ending, I was on my way to an appointment with an editor when I happened to notice Dineen waiting in the same area. She was by herself so I introduced myself and shared how I too was married to a pre-believer. We chatted very briefly, Dineen mentioned the SUM community and to my delight gave me a copy of “Winning Him Without Words”. She only brought two to the conference and I was the fortunate one to receive the second one. Talk about a blessing.

The Lies of the Enemy

Up to that time, one of my struggles in church life and faith was a belief that any ministry I undertook including through my writing would not be blessed because I was in a spiritually mismatched marriage.

As I sat in the workshop listening to Dineen, I was struck by the revelation that what I’d believed for so long was a lie. The scales of deceit shattered on reading the first few chapters of Lynn and Dineen’s book.

A few weeks later having read both books and explored this community’s blog, I genuinely felt a changed man. Have you ever experienced that? Having a lie that you convinced yourself for years being zapped.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
 and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov 3:5-6 NKJV)

The above verse took on new meaning and continues to. Our perceptions can be so misleading. Hey, I’d carried that chestnut around for many years. In some ways I had come to believe my marriage, and I, didn’t deserve to be blessed.

God is good. Meeting Dineen and the Lord using her in that workshop and enabling us to bump into each other so soon afterwards was one of those moments I so cherish.

He certainly is mysterious. I was struck reading Ann's post that it was only a few weeks after my meeting with Dineen that both she and Lynn had special revelations about SUM. 

Look Up for those Divine Appointments

Interestingly, I've now attended that conference four times and each time I experience some sort of divine appointment with another person that I wasn't anticipating. It's one of the reasons I continue to want to go back each year. Besides the entire event being bathed in prayer, the Holy Spirit is always moving and I get excited seeking to participate in some small way in whatever He's doing.

“Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.” - Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I heard this quote the other day and it made with reflect on the fact that, like Moses (I presume that's the inspiration behind the burning bush reference) we all need to 'look up' (or 'take off our shoes') because God is continually at work all around us.  When you get a little nudge that might or might not be from the Holy Spirit, may I encourage you to 'look up' because it's a good chance the Lord is inviting you to participate in something He's doing. I'm continually amazed how often when I pray the Lord puts specific people on my heart, so I pray for them and then usually text or call them, even if it's a simple word of encouragement.

May I encourage us to share in the comments any divine appointments or moments you've experienced (especially if they're SUM-related) by listening to the nudge and choosing to 'look up'.

Grace and peace, dear SUMite friends


The Museum of SUM

Hi SUMites, Ann here! Museum

Lately, I've been thinking about how much this blog is a museum full of interesting stories. I wonder if any of you find it so? And, within it there are places where God has answered some of those questions we talked about in our last post. That's what I wanted to share today. Hope you can follow me as we take a little walk through the SUM community's story.

Most of us will know this ministry was started by Lynn as just a little blog. Her time of being spiritually mismatched had only just become easier when God nudged her to start writing publicly about this sensitive topic. This was a huge ask: Would her husband mind? Miraculously, Mike said yes, and fourteen years later here we are. Mike's baptism last year brought us full circle. It is truly one of my favorite stories ever.

This blog, for me, is a treasure trove of God stories. It's a living, breathing parable. A record of God's faithfulness. A story of a little one becoming a thousand (Isaiah 60:22). And, a story of a nation that God loves deeply: The SUM nation.

Last year, I decided to read through the SUM nation's story from the very beginning, starting with Lynn’s maiden post on 1 May 2006. With the spiritual equivalent of museum-curator gloves, I read carefully, post by post, turning the events over. It was as if certain threads were like specific exhibits. Hindsight adds extra insight to some of these threads.

I noticed quite a few things. One part I love is that when Dineen joined soon after the blog started, she instantly brought a strong message about Jericho. She wrote about that a lot. It was as if the Marching Around Jericho book and testimony was foreshadowed in some of her posts. God had a story here that he was writing, and we were all along for the ride. 

As I scrolled through, I was keen to read any words from the Holy Spirit that had featured in past posts. By that, I mean directly spoken words or visions that God had given to the leaders for this community. But as I read, from 2006 onwards I could not find much. In 2012 that changed. It was only after October 2012, a personal turning point where Lynn and Dineen each had a deep encounter with the Lord, that they began to receive clearer promises from the Holy Spirit for this community. They would pen these words, turning them into posts. As a reader at that time I recall how strengthening those posts were.

Hearing God speak, and then conveying his words to others, is a huge learning curve. Looking at this blog I can see that God used many ways to teach us to hear his voice. He would usually speak in the still, small whisper, a barely-there conviction; but sometimes he would give Dineen a dream, vision, or a picture; or Lynn would hear a phrase drop into her spirit. It was exciting. They grew in hearing God's voice, and so did we.

Paul said we should use these kinds of words as part of our spiritual battle:

"This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare" (1 Timothy 1:18, NKJV)

These words, then -- words from the Holy Spirit -- are powerful tools. They might include promises and/or direction and strategy, and they can completely change our outlook. Importantly, they can also answer some of those questions we have.

So with this in mind, I’m going to dig out some of these prophetic words that are sitting in our archives, some from as early as 2012. They are words of wisdom and/or prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:8-9), and their purpose is to edify, exhort and comfort us (1 Corinthians 14:3). I would describe them as gifts to help us. So, I'd like to dust them off and take a look at them again. Would you be keen? I’ll start with a couple next week, and then will revisit others here and there over the months as time permits.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your story: How long have you been reading this blog, and what has been your most memorable post, topic, or series of posts?


What's Your Biggest Question for Jesus About Your Marriage?

Hello friends, Ann here. Question

Recently, I popped a question onto our Facebook page, asking ‘What’s your biggest question for Jesus right now concerning your spiritual mismatch?’

Many of you will have seen that post, but some won’t. I found the responses so helpful in relation to my own path, that I thought you might too. I guess I realized I have asked God every single one of those questions. And when we see others face the exact same things, we remember we are not alone.

So, here goes. From our beautiful community, here are the biggest questions we SUMites wrestle with:

How long, Lord? How much longer? When? When, Lord? I’m waiting!

Why doesn’t my spouse come back to you? What is standing in the way?

Why me?

Will my spouse ever choose you? Or, am I always to be in an unequally yoked marriage?

Show me please, what I need to do? Do I need to do anything different?

How do I know when to submit and when to stand my ground on gray areas?

How do I disciple my children in this situation?

We’re so different, how can this work?

What can I do better to sow good seed into my spouse’s life? How do I witness? How can I speak to their heart about you, Lord?

How do I wait well?

How do I love my spouse unconditionally?

***

This is just a condensed version of those questions. They represent an awful lot of 'stuff', and we can all nod our heads at the many, many topic areas that a SUM raises. I imagine any Christian who is not in our shoes would be surprised how much there is to this situation. It touches almost every area of our life.

As for questions, I believe God loves them because that's where we begin to try to hear his voice. Like a questioning child, I do go there with the Lord. In fact, it's a daily thing here: Question question question question. Question diary 2

In fact, I’ve even got a ‘question diary’. Having been given a lovely hardback diary for Christmas a couple of years ago, I thought I would use it to jot some key questions for the Lord as a record of my relationship with him. It sits on my shelf and sometimes I scribble a question in there and pop it straight back. Other times I pick it off my shelf and flick through. It’s amazing how many answers I’ve received to the quirkiest questions!

However, God sometimes leaves a question unanswered. There are some pieces of information that are just not in our best interests to know. We understand only in part. Sometimes, perhaps the Lord wants us to pursue the answer and grow wisdom rather than receiving a thunderclap response from him. He knows what is best for our souls.

My friends, it’s these questions that lead us to pursue Him. And though the above cries for answers are birthed out of our serious wilderness season, they propel us into greater wisdom.

On Monday I want to share one way that God answers questions that is specific to us as a community. I’ll be back then to chat about that - I'm looking forward to it.

In the meantime, which question is your biggest one right now?


The Day God Surprised Me

Hi friends, Ann here! Man photo

We can walk through this SUM path feeling weary, right? But there are moments where God brings us a surprise gift to cheer us up. Today I want to encourage you with a little story: It's about the day I discovered Bryce’s favorite friend had unexpectedly become Christian. If you need a boost I hope you enjoy this one!

Now, this guy was unusual in that I never would have imagined it. Not because he was off the rails. I just wouldn't have picked it. I’ll call him David.

Bryce and I were friends with Dave in our early twenties. He was one who lived life hedonistically and he became unusually successful in the business world. He is very funny, with a dry wit that my Bryce particularly enjoys. Over the years the two of them would laugh their way across the golf course, squash court and pub.

Eventually, he moved away. Then, a spiritual earthquake hit our home: I turned to follow Jesus, Bryce wasn't thrilled, and our spiritually-mismatched situation began. Aggh! In those years, I desperately craved Christian friends but had few. It was in this miserable condition that God landed me with a surprise: Dave had converted.

I found out on the day of Dave’s mum’s funeral. His mother was a lovely Christian, and we set out that sunny morning to farewell her. Dave lived in another country by then but had come home to nurse his Mum; and now on this day he gave her an honoring eulogy. He took to the podium and in true form had us even laughing at points with his humor, but then I nearly fell off my seat at what came next:

“I know I will see Mum again because she is in the arms of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour. And that is all that matters.”

What?

My wide eyes followed Dave as he left the podium and sat back down, head heavy. I watched the back of his head, curiously, wondering about what I’d just heard.

Later, Bryce and I stood opposite Dave and his wife, cups of coffee in hand. The conversation was light and warm, but suddenly Dave cut across us with a strange focus in his eyes: “Ann, are you still reading the Bible?” My eyebrows raised, and I was just about to answer when Bryce spoke for me: “Yes she IS! She certainly is!” He followed this by saying: “And she can’t put it down.” Perfectly cheerful, he was, biting into a sandwich. Given our tension about faith I was pleasantly surprised, even by that. Dave’s eyes stayed on mine and he said quietly: “I’m so happy about that, Ann.”

There was no opportunity to say more. But did I possibly have a friend there in Dave?

After that, I so wanted to text him. I badly wanted to know more. What's more, I wanted to text him to say ‘Can you convert my husband please?’ (I’m laughing). But no. I didn’t. I left him be.

It was months before we saw Dave again. There at a dinner table one evening he shared his conversion, his wife by his side chiming in just like Bryce did at the funeral. Bryce and I sat listening. We talked about church. Dave’s wife piped up at that point: ‘I hate going to church!’ I cast her a sideways glance and thought ‘Ok, I know all about that.’ Clearly they had the exact same dynamic as us. And hard as it was for Dave it made me feel a bit better. I guess I saw it was a normal outworking of this difficult situation.

Since then, Dave and I have snatched the odd faith conversation. He moves in a friendship group that is entirely non-Christian; and in his professional life he is a rare believer. It is not easy being an adult convert: You end up being lonely in your social world. But I look at his conversion story and know he will make a difference to his wife, colleagues and friends. It's easier to see that bigger picture in someone else's life than it is in your own.

As for Bryce, well, it's all part of God's planning. I imagine the two of them walking across the golf course or at the pub sharing their faith as friends someday. Wouldn't that be interesting? For now, I just enjoy it as the gift that I know will keep on giving.


Wrapping Up Our Series on LOVE

Dear friends, Ann here. Did I learn to love

Today we wrap up our series on love. 

Here in our SUM community there are many different marriages. Some have spouses who are easy to love; others have extremely challenging situations. But in every relationship – easy or hard – love is not easy. Nor is it simple. And even with the easiest marriage a faith difference brings a huge challenge.

Our love challenge is not just about loving our spouse. It can be equally hard to love those who are an extended part of our SUM situation. For example, I’ve been frustrated at times with Christian family members and the church because they don't understand. It's all been one massive exercise in love.

Love is, to me, like the diamond engagement ring on my finger. I hold it up in front of my eyes and examine it from different angles, for there are different facets to it. ‘Love’ looks kind and gentle on the one hand, but if I hold it up again I can see it also involves obedience, which might mean speaking truth or walking forward into a specific call from God (as Tiffany shared). 

Love is also a learning curve with inevitable failures or humbling experiences. As Lynn said, at 3am in the morning it might not go so well. 

And then we know that God is love. So we can take 1 Corinthians 13, hold it up like that diamond and ask ourselves 'What is God like?' Except there are tensions. Love is not easily provoked, and yet we see Jesus was provoked to anger. To delve deep into love, then, involves examining these tensions carefully.

When it comes to my marriage, I often think about the end game. I imagine coming face-to-face with Jesus, and being asked: ‘Did you love your husband well?’ When I think about that question, it’s less relevant to me what my husband is doing than what I am doing. 1 Corinthians 13 is the blueprint. And, I guess I hope the Lord will say this when we review my marriage and family:

‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ (Matthew 25:23, NLT)

There is lots to think about. Personally, I’ve loved hearing from Ian, Tiffany and Lynn with their love insights this month, and have enjoyed writing my bits too. Now, it's time to move on to some new topics on this blog, so I will be back on Wednesday with something different.

My friends, it's been great journeying on you through 1 Corinthians 13. What has spoken to you most in this love series?