Creative Giving

Today we have a guest post from Lisa McFarland -- Our friend and a long-standing member of our community. Many thanks to Lisa for writing for us, and now I will hand over to her:

** Giving

A few weeks ago, my pastor (who is also my boss) spoke on Irrational Generosity. He shared, as a  pastor, he gets a front row seat on observing many people. He noticed that those who radiate authentic joy have two things in common: they passionately love Jesus and they are irrational givers.

If you are like me, you cringe at that word “giver” because many of us in a SUM relationship, when our pastor speaks on money we want to shrink into that pew.  We want to be able to financially give, but our circumstances don’t permit it. For me, this topic is really hard. I not only work for the church and the lead pastor is my boss, but I run the finance department!!!! My salary comes from those who faithfully give; yet, I’m not able to contribute. As I was listening to the message, God spoke to my heart and whispered, “I know your heart.” The Holy Spirit reminded me that we can be creative in our generosity. We are able to freely give of our time, our voice, a kind note, or even in making a meal.

It's not easy to allow our husbands to lead us when we don’t always agree with their decisions; especially when it comes to contributing to our church financially. My boss has said to me many times that my mission field is my spouse and God honors my obedience to my husband.

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives. (1 Peter 3:1, NIV)

Lynn also shared in Marching Around Jericho the freedom in letting our spouse lead us even though he may not be a Christian. This has been extremely encouraging to me and has opened up ways for me to bless the church and others differently. God knows our hearts and He will show us many ways to use our generosity. I like the way that Focus on the Family puts it: "Remember, it’s not the money but the attitude of the heart about which the Lord is most concerned.”

If financially giving is a sore point in your marriage, give it to the Lord in prayer and trust Him to work in this area of your spouse’s life. And, in the meantime, get creative! Lisa Macfarland

As a SUMite we have a passionate love for Jesus but how can we be creative with our giving? Share with me in the comments how you bless others with your “Irrational Generosity”.  

My name is Lisa MacFarland and I’ve been in a SUM relationship for 35 years. We have 4 adult children, one grandbaby and 2 more on the way. We live in sunny Florida on the East Coast. I have been following the Spiritually Unequally Marriage ministry for over 10 years, and I am so privileged and honored to be a guest writer. I pray that you are encouraged by this post. Thank you for the opportunity to share.


2023 Marriage Goals

Fish BowlHi SUM Nation:

Lynn Donovan here. The other day I read something about making marriage goals for the year. I'll be transparent here; I've never considered making marriage goals. Perhaps I should. Perhaps we all could. One of my goals is to create intimacy within our relationship. 

Today I want to share a tip to develop an intimate conversation with your spouse. I will offer this fun tool to many through my coaching ministry. I actually have used this tool with my shy husband of over 30 years. AND I learned things about him I didn't know before. We sat down at a restaurant, and I told him that this was part of our dinner experience. While munching on an appetizer, I popped out an envelope and we took turns pulling questions from it to ask the other.

It's called the Fishbowl game. 

Of course, it works better with a real fishbowl this question inside. But the envelop worked well for us and I could tuck it in my purse. Here are some questions to ask. Just print them off and cut them into strips and TaDa! Have a great date night. Hugs, Lynn

  • What do you like best about yourself?
  • What do you like best about me? Why?
  • Plan the perfect date.
  • What is one of your favorite memories about us?
  • Is there a favorite memory you remember most about our dating?
  • What do you remember most about our wedding or honeymoon?
  • Is there something I could do to please you more sexually?
  • If you could be any animal, what would you be? Why?
  • How would you like to see the household responsibilities divided?
  • What do you think heaven will be like?
  • Tell me about your salvation experience.
  • Tell me about a spiritual high point in your life.
  • What is the best advice you ever received?
  • If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
  • How can I show you that I love you?
  • Tell me about a time when God answered a prayer.
  • What makes you laugh? *

*Marriage Missions


Would You Like to Meet in Person?

Hi SUM family, we have an exciting thing to share today.Meet us in person

Would you like to meet other SUMites in person?

Well, at the end of September, we're hoping to make that happen. Read on ... 

First of all, from Wednesday 27 to Friday 29 September, Lynn and I are going to attend the Bethel Open Heavens conference in Redding, California, and would love any SUMites to join us who would like to. Would you be keen?

It would be an amazing way of us meeting face-to-face, worshipping together, and spending quality time with each other.

The conference itself is something that Lynn has attended regularly for over a decade, and it has had a marked impact on her faith life and this ministry. She has been very blessed by attending, and in past years she's sometimes had groups of friends attend with her, so we would just love to do that this year.

As for the conference itself, registration has just opened here. More details will follow soon, but it's a good idea to register early, which I'm going to do this week. I realize it costs money and spouse's support to attend, and that can feel completely impossible. However, if God wants you there, it's surprising what can happen. So, if you're reading this and would like to go start praying about it.

Wouldn't it be amazing!

The second thing is, the day before the conference, on Tuesday 26 September, Lynn would like to invite you to her house in Sacramento for a big meet-up involving food, prayer and fellowship. If you can't attend the conference, you can even still come to this.

Next Steps

If you are at all interested in attending any part of this, send me an email on annhutch42@gmail.com. You're not committing by contacting me, you're just registering interest and that way we can keep in touch. I'll then set up a chat group on WhatsApp or a closed group on Facebook for discussing travel plans.

As for God making a way, I can tell you I had to pluck up the courage to ask Bryce if I could go, which I did this weekend. As often happens I thought it was a ridiculous request on my part. He knew I had some air-points that I could use, but he didn't even ask about that. He simply said yes!

So, believe that God will make a way. We love miracles here at SUM. Be brave, and game ... And let's see where this takes us. I, for one, cannot wait to meet some of you in person, pray with you, hug you, and just generally... talk.

Are you keen to attend? If so, post in the comments and let's start praying for God to make a way.

Loads of love,

Ann


We Made a Memorial Before God

By Ann Hutchison Memorial

On Monday of this week, I rose early while everyone else slept, opened my Bible to where I'd left off the day before and began to read. I was still thinking a lot about the fast we'd just been through.

I happened to be in the book of Exodus and, as I was reading, suddenly I saw a piece of glitter sitting on a verse I had just got to. It sparkled like a shard of light, glinting. It was next to the word 'Memorial'.

"Ooh... !" I thought, excited, and strained further to see whether it could be, could be, a speck of gold dust. Of course, the more realistic explanation is that it was a piece of glitter from a Christmas decoration, but we had just fasted.

Well, as soon as I noticed it, it instantly disappeared! I had not touched the page at all, blown on it, or done anything to make it move. Where did it go? It had been a definite chink of brightness, and now it was gone. I strained and looked some more, but nope it was gone. Exodus 30

I concluded then that I had seen it in the spirit. I had no problem believing that. And then I sat back and went 'WOW'. Wow. I stared into the distance for a minute, thinking Was that because we just fasted? Then I decided I need to go back to look properly at the verse in question: Exodus 30:16. Where in the verse was the sparkle located, and why did I see it there? In other words, what was God wanting to show me?

Ok, so let's look at this verse. I'm game! It sure is a tucked-away little part of scripture. In fact, if I hadn't seen the sparkle next to it I would have skimmed over this part of the Israelites' story.

The verse is part of a passage where the Israelites each give a sum of money to the Lord, while in the wilderness. It is a specified amount: half a shekel.

The purpose of the money was so that the people wouldn't be touched by a plague. That money would be an offering to the Lord. In other words, like our fast, their offering afforded them protection.

Well, that was the very topic I wrote about on Monday. So that was interesting. But verse 16, where I saw the sparkle, then built on that:

"And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves." (Exodus 30:16, NKJV)

The sparkle was next to the word 'memorial', so this stood out to me. 

What's more, I noticed that I had previously scribbled a note in the margin, about another place in scripture where a 'memorial' to the Lord is mentioned. That place was Acts 10:4, where we see a Roman Centurion, Cornelius, who has been faithful to God. An angel appears to him and says:

"Cornelius! ... Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God." (Acts 10:4, NKJV)

My friends, I believe that God is taking us on a little journey this week to say well done for this fast, and to show us what it's done.

On Monday we talked about how the fast afforded us protection. That was a beautiful thing to know, and though we may never see on earth what that means exactly for our lives, I believe it and receive that word.

And now today it seems God is saying that our corporate fast came up as a memorial before him. What is a memorial? My dictionary tells me that it's something that preserves the memory of anything, serves to keep in remembrance.

It is that God remembers what we've done and will remember this for the rest of our earthly lives. We remember it too. We have put ourselves into God's remembrance.

That is such a simple, but new thought for me in relation to these corporate fasts. It thrills me!

Well, SUMites, wasn't it good fasting together! Let's see if God has anything else to share with us by Friday... And I close with this scripture, which seems relevant:

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him (Malachi 3:16, NKJV)

Love you all,

Ann


A Tasty Revelation About Our Recent Fast

By Ann Hutchison

Hi SUM family, Bread

We finished our fast on Friday, and WOW what an effort. I talked to a few of you over the week and know it was a special time for many of you.

I'm going to linger on this topic of fasting a little longer, if you don't mind. What did our fast do?

Personally, as a little wink from God, I've sometimes found that something happens in the last hour of our corporate fast. In one of our first fasts, for example, I walked into the bedroom in the very last hour to find Bryce lying on the bed reading a Christian book!!! 

It's as if God was saying "Yes, your fast did something in the Heavenlies. Be assured."

This year, however, nothing happened in the last hour, and I wondered... Would God show me anything about the fast? Well, roll around Saturday morning and I had a cool thing happen. That morning, I rose early. The whole house was quiet, I wrapped myself up in my cosy robe and stood in the kitchen making coffee, ready for some time with God. 

As I did so, I checked email and saw that I'd received an email from a ministry friend. The title was "Sorry, weekend note that could not wait." This man did not know I'd/we'd been fasting.

He had not wanted to disturb me on the weekend but said that he felt like a baker who had just produced a fresh warm loaf of bread and it had to be delivered NOW. As in, the Holy Spirit was prompting him to write.

Well, that was fun, as I'd been fasting for a week and now it seemed God was sending me a loaf of steaming warm bread as if to say "I'm giving you a word now in response to your hunger." Awesome!!

For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things (Psalm 107:9, NIV)

So, what was in the email? What was the loaf of steaming warm bread that God wanted to deliver to me so urgently in the form of words? Well, wouldn't you know it: The email was about fasting!

I reiterate, my friend did not know I was fasting, but in this email he had been led to tell me about a difficult fast he'd done, and how there was evidence that fast protected him from later attacks by the enemy. The crux of the email was that fasting had afforded him protection. 

Because of the timing and content of this email, I believe it was a word from God for us. And I think what God wants us to know is that our fast has afforded us protection. It might be protection we never see with our earthly eyes or understand, of course, so perhaps we just have to know it's there.

I personally had never given much thought of that outcome of fasting -- protection -- but what a great reason to fast.

It's always important to check everything against scripture, of course. And there is an example in the Bible of a corporate fast bringing protection. It's in the book of Esther, where Queen Esther asked the Jews in her city to fast for protection, and that protection does come following their fast:

Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish! (Esther 4:16, NKJV)

So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter. (Esther, 5:2, NKJV)

So, our word to take to heart and believe today is this: Our SUM corporate fast has afforded us protection. There is a massive battle in our lives. That we know. And in some form or other the Lord has decreed, "Do not touch, do not touch, my anointed." I thank him for that.

SUMites, I have another insight about our fast too that I received this morning in my prayer time. So I will share that on Wednesday. 

In the meantime, would you like to share anything else about how your fast went?

Ann


And So We Cross the Finish Line

By Ann Hutchison Hunger for God 2023

Hi everyone, we have made it to day five! It's Friday morning here in New Zealand, as I write. How has it gone for you? I can't wait to hear.

I don't feel too bad here but am slow. At points in the week, it has felt overwhelmingly long and difficult. This morning, I could finally see the end: I went out to buy a big lasagne and garlic bread for tonight... Which I cannot wait to gobble up.

But first -- before that joyous lasagne -- I am going to have the afternoon with God in my shed, and you know wha .... I'm looking forward to that more.

Sometimes our fasts go smoothly, other times less so. So don't worry if you did less than you hoped. I have had some fasts where I have given up, then re-started. One time God showed me how much he valued even those failed attempts. He smiles on our efforts.

One new thing I did this year was carve out more time for God. I've suddenly found myself at the stage of life where I can do that. The cabin in the garden was a real treat, and I even got to retreat there in the evenings this week. 

Bryce didn't seem to mind that, so I went for it. And there I would lie .... on the floor in that cabin, talking to God. Because our theme was friendship with God, I tried to just go there.

It was a gentle, quiet week with the Lord that seems apt for a week where we're trying to be God's friend. I personally didn't feel his presence more strongly than I do normally, but perhaps you did. In a way, the flavor for me was more quiet than usual. But on Thursday I was excited to receive a word from him about our community, and so I recorded that on video yesterday, and I did it from the shed, in the spirit of fasting. Here it is, and I hope it blesses you. He is good to us.

As for ending our fast, shall we do this one last thing? Just before the fast draws to an end today, let's all get a piece of bread and some wine/juice, and take communion. As we do, think of this scripture and even read it out loud:

And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." (John 6:35)

It feels especially meaningful to take communion when you're hungry, and to say "Thank you for being my bread of life, Jesus, and thank you for your blood, which also has given me life."

SUMites, we love him, and we are his army of warrior men and women. I think he would say to us, as soldiers who've gone through a lot, "I know what you fight for and what you do." As I think of those I know in this community, I find you pretty incredible.

Now, I would love to hear how your fast is going so far -- or has gone. Share in the comments, and all the very best as you cross the finish line!

Ann


Friendship With God

2023 SUM Fast (1)SUMite Nation, Lynn here.

I wrote a post for this fast last week. Today I deleted it.

I deleted it because right now, as I sit in a tire center waiting for my car to be worked on, I sense the Lord. Is that weird? I feel His presence in the middle of all this rubber smell and with a TV blaring in the background, going on and on about the Superbowl.

It's Jesus!

He's here and He's asking me, "Lynn, what does it mean to be a friend?"

"Lord, it means that I truly see people. I look beyond the surface and see their heart, their need, their fears and failures. I look into their heart and see pain and choose, in some way, to do what You would do to bring them comfort or hope or something even practical with generosity."

"That's right, Lynn. You see them with My eyes. How does friendship with Me respond," the Master continues.

"Jesus, sometimes it's as easy as a smile and a silent prayer. Jesus, sometimes it's giving a bottle of water. For me, it's often a quick declaration or blessing over them in Your name. Jesus, NO it's more than that. It's love! " I reply as I overhear the desk clerk conversing with a man at the counter.

Jesus wraps His arm about my shoulder and pulls me close. I can hear the passing traffic and then the idle chit-chat of the girls behind the counter. I also listen as He speaks again, "Lynn, every day that you choose to be compassionate, generous, loving, even in your imperfectness and failings, you are displaying for all of heaven, your friendship. Because your friendship with me, is loving others."

My eyes are tearing up now. I hope I don't have to dig out Kleenex and give a big blow in front of all these customers that are waiting for their tires. My heart responds, "Oh Jesus, help me to love more. Help me to see more. Show me how to love and pray for those whom I'm able. Help me to be Your good friend. I love you Jesus."

"I love you, Lynn. I love every SUMite who is making an effort to be my friend and love the difficult people in their life. I love them because they don't give up and they always turn to me for help and comfort. I love them because they seek Me and Father. I love to bless them because they bless others. They bless me."

I am definitely teary now, "Oh Jesus, thank you for your friendship. Keep teaching me. Keep leading all of us. We can make a difference for your Kingdom on earth. We love you and we are Your friend." 

The clerk behind the counter is calling my name. I click save on my computer. I know that Jesus is with me and as I pay, I think how amazing it is that Jesus met me in a tire center to say....... He is my friend. ....... He is your friend.

-----

Okay, my SUMite family, what is friendship with Jesus to you?


The Friend we Need

Blog PostHello all! Amanda here for day three of our fast. I hope all of you are doing well and staying hungry for more of HIM!

  As Ann mentioned in Monday's post, our theme this week is Friendship with God. I have been rolling this concept around in my head the last few days and asking myself the question "what does friendship with God look like?". I have been jotting down thoughts as they come to me and I wanted to take this time to share with you what I believe God wants us all to remember about what it means to be friends with him.

 For my side of the friendship it means I want to know him deeply. I want to know his thoughts, his desires, and what pleases him. I want to know what angers him, what he finds detestable, and what he will not tolerate.

  Friendship with God means I talk to him often. Throughout my day I have little conversations with him. I talk to him while I am doing dishes, sweeping, cooking ect. Just like I would one of my girlfriends on the phone. I chat with him about big concerns, little annoyances, and everything in between! One day I may be telling him all about how someone angered me as I furiously scrub pots and pans, another day I may just proclaim my love and thankfulness as I fold towels. No matter what I am doing I want him there with me.

  God and I being friends also means I can be REAL with him! I can let him in all the raw, ugly parts of my life and share what I am really feeling. I do not have to pretend like everything is fine when I am with him. I can let the fur fly! He already knows what I am thinking anyway so its not like any of it surprises him. He just listens patiently, as a good friend would do. He holds me as I cry, corrects me when I'm wrong, and comforts me when I hurt. Oh, what a wonderful friend he is!

  God is the kind of friend we all desperately need in our lives! Yes, he will hold you. Yes, he will comfort you. Of course he will listen to you! What he will NOT do however, is tell you what you want to hear all the time! God is that one true friend who is not afraid to tell us what we need to hear, even if it may sting a little. He is not a "yes man", he cares about us too much to feed us easy lies that may placate us for a time. He will always tell us the truth.

Here are few of the most beautiful things I learned about what this means: First, He loves us unconditionally. When we royally mess up, he loves us. When we get caught up in pride or people-pleasing, he loves us. When we say things we shouldn't, he loves us. When we are lazy, angry, or full of self pity guess what? HE LOVES US! 

Second, he knows us. He knows me. He knows exactly what shade of green is my favorite color. He knows I love the smell in the air after it rains. He knows I love music, sunrises, and lilies. He knows I love the beach, but loathe the feeling of sand between my toes. Haha! He knows my innermost thoughts and feelings. He knows exactly what comforts me as well. He knows ME. More than anyone else ever could.

The Father, our precious Lord, is closer than a brother, parent, husband, or human friend. He is the one in whom we live and breathe and have our being (Acts 17:28). And he desires oneness with us! We only have to reach out and grab hold of him!

During the last half of our fast I hope you find yourself growing closer in friendship with our Father. Even if you don't "feel" him trust that he is right there, because Matthew 28:20 says he is! Enjoy your time with him as much as you can. Let him lavish his love on you, and soak it up!

I would love to hear about how the fast is going for you in the comments!

 


Where's our Focus when we Fast?

6a00d83451ee9f69e202af1c953abf200dHappy New Year, dear SUMites. I do hope you all had a blessed time with loved ones over the Christmas/New Year period.

And now we Fast. It’s become the traditional way we SUMites start our years. It’s a great way as individuals to draw closer to God and doing it together can deepen that experience and strengthen our bonds as a group.

Transition Seasons

“We become what we behold” – William Blake

I think I shared this Blake quote in a previous post as it’s become one of my favourites over the years. During Advent, I was drawn to the notion of how we spend our time while we wait; Advent, of course being a season of waiting.

I mentioned last time in my Advent post that I’m presently in a season of transition. Looking forward to what the next season in my life holds having spent much of the last few years caring for my parents.

We’re all probably familiar with the story of Anna, the prophet, who greeted Mary and Joseph when Jesus was presented in the temple. Let’s meet her, here in Luke:

“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38 NIVUK)

Anna, like we SUMites, knew a thing about waiting. She had been waiting for the redemption of Israel through the fulfilment of the OT prophecy of the Messiah. After becoming a widow, likely to have been in her early 20s assuming she married as a young teen like most women did in Biblical times, she spent around 60 years hanging out in the temple. Now that’s a lot of waiting.

And what do we read she does? She worships, fasts, and prays. Continually. Incredible, isn’t it? Her faith is extraordinary. Anna is formed in her devotion to Jesus as she waits for Him. Waiting, even though (often) uncomfortable, is a significant time for our spiritual formation.

What we look at while we’re waiting is very important. Read that again.

Focus

Increasingly, I’ve found myself being very distracted, struggling to ‘focus’ and as a result be present with God and others. Life with all the technological advancements of the past 20-30 years has made it very easy to get distracted. We’re constantly bombarded but also drawn to social media and the like. We have hundreds of streaming channels to navigate, and we can buy anything at any time of the day and night. I’m a research geek, so I can lose myself for hours on end trawling down the internet for all manner of seemingly interesting tidbits.

Late in the year, I was drawn to some writing about seeking God more intentionally and felt the nudge by the Spirit to adopt ‘focus’ as my Word for the year. What have I done to become more focused:

  • straight after Christmas by turning off social media. It’s become an easy time waster for me.
  • I’m intentionally reading the Gospels this year as my Bible study reflections. Two scribes I admire both mentioned that if we desire to seek more of Jesus in our life, starting with the four books He stars in is a good start. I like that idea. Intimacy with Jesus requires focus. Being a good friend with Jesus requires focus.
  • I’m praying specific short prayers during the day to invite God into the moment. One that I regularly pray is very simple:

“Lord, I want to know you more intimately,

So I can love you more intensely

To follow you more closely.”

  • When I’m exercising, I’m picturing Jesus doing it with me. Even the other day at the cinema, I pictured Jesus sitting in the seat next to me inviting him into the activity.

These are just some of the things I’m doing. Seeking to invite Jesus into more of my day.

And fasting requires focus too, doesn’t it? To relieve the hunger pangs, we need to focus on another. And that is the idea of fasting. We use the hunger pangs to in fact draw us closer to Jesus. We focus more on Him and invite Him into our hunger as He is able to sustain us and carry us through the day. I'm praying I might gain some greater clarity around what's next for me and where I should next step.

Do any other SUMItes have a Word for 2023 yet? It would be a wonderful discussion for us to have in the comments if we share them and perhaps provide a little background as to why this Word is significant this year.

Go well this week. We’re excited to hear of some of the fruit we may experience as a result. But do remember, that often the fruit comes later, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive a lightning bolt of inspiration during the week.

Grace and peace