Advent - A Season of Longing!

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Hello, Ian here from sunny Sydney. It’s summertime here and we’ve had a lovely few weeks of great sunny weather. It’s incredible how quickly the year has passed as we’re now only 2.5 weeks away from Christmas.

For many of us 2022 has been a tough year, perhaps another year in a long season of tough years. As a result, many of us may be simply pushing through to Christmas with gritted teeth, avoiding the shops by making their purchases online, and hanging out for the beginning of a new year wishing for a brighter new start in 2023. It may be a real struggle to experience any real joy at present.

If this is you, may I encourage you to take some time out. Close the door behind you or go out for a walk, sit on a rock looking at something beautiful, and simply reflect on how you’re feeling. Invite God to make His presence known. He’s there with you, just waiting for you to say hi and ask Him to be present with you.

Don’t deny your weariness, it’s okay …. and invite God to be near and ask Him for the strength to walk forward. One step at a time. Remember, His words in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness” Ask for His strength, not your own.

Advent and Longing

Advent started two Sundays ago. Like Lent at Easter, it’s a season of waiting and hoping. Advent simply means ‘arrival’ or ‘coming’ and alludes to both comings of Jesus, the one of 2000+ years ago when he became like us, born in a manger, and the second where we await his promised second coming.

It's a season of longing. Longing for Jesus.

For those us feeling exhausted and beaten down by life, we long for rest, for an end to the struggle. Most of us would be longing for something. We SUMites especially long for our spouses to find Jesus, don’t we? We long for many things, healing, peace in our homes, a wayward child settling down and more.

Others of us, like myself are in seasons of transition, seeking a new beginning. I’m not far off sixty and having spent the last few years caring for my parents who have both passed in the last 12 months, I am now wondering what’s next. I long for God to give me a nudge or even a BIG shove that helps me see what He’d like us to do together in this next season of my life. It’s a season of excitement wondering what might be ahead and a little frightening for the same reason.

And we long for Jesus. For the joy of the true message of Christmas that a saviour has come, and that Jesus would come again in His victory march upon the earth.

What do we do with our Longing?

A few ideas:

1. Share it with Jesus while sitting on that rock I mentioned earlier. Invite Him into it. He knows we have such a longing.

2. Share it with another. A ‘safe’ other. Someone who will listen and not just hump to ‘solve’ your longing. And who will pray with and for you.

3. Hope. Besides being a season of waiting and longing, Advent is a season of hope. I love what Kate Bowler says about hope:

“But hope isn’t wishful thinking. It’s an anchor in the future.”

Our hope has a name. Jesus. Declare this hope over yourself and your future.

4. Stay close to Jesus. Remember all the ways Jesus has been faithful to you in the past.

An old Christmas Carol

I love Carols. It reminds me of my teen years when my youth group would walk the local streets near our church on Christmas Eve and stop at houses to sing a carol or two.

In the past week, I’ve heard/read of this one written by Charles Wesley that I wasn’t familiar with. It’s a wonderful carol/hymn that expresses our longing. I thought we could ‘pray’ the lyrics as a prayer.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected JesusBorn to set Thy people free;From our fears and sins release us,Let us find our rest in Thee.Israel's strength and consolation,Hope of all the earth Thou art;Dear desire of every nation,Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,Born a child and yet a King,Born to reign in us forever,Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.By Thine own eternal SpiritRule in all our hearts alone;By Thine all sufficient merit,Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

By Thine all sufficient merit,Raise us to Thy glorious throne

In Jesus’ Loving Name. Amen

Wishing all the SUMites a very blessed, joyous , peaceful and hope-filled Christmas.

Grace and peace.


Get Back to Basics -- Guest Post by Lisa MacFarland

Today we have the blessing of a guest writer. Many of you will recognize Lisa MacFarland from the comments over the years, she has been such a solid encouragement to many, and we're so happy to have her hop on and write for us today. Over to Lisa --

**

Hello, my name is Lisa MacFarland and I’ve been in a SUM relationship for 35 years. 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 as much as I was when writing it. Thank you for the opportunity to share. Lisa Macfarland

Over a year ago, I wrote the phrase, “get back to the basics” and posted it on my desk corkboard at work. Lately, this phrase has been weighing heavier on my heart; sensing a strong need to get back to the basics. In many churches of today, I feel we confuse experiencing God’s love in a raw, basic way. Churches create chaos with so many programs, beautiful features, incentives, themes and hoopla to get people into the doors of church or to keep them engaged. People leave church with lessons on forgiveness or who God is but they are still empty.

Individually, we cram our own lives with constant activities, to dos, and overall chaos so we don’t have to stop and face what might be really going on in our lives. Sadly, this keeps us from truly experiencing God’s love. We miss finding our identity in Christ, true joy, and our authority given to us as heirs to the throne. This lifeless chaos will cause many to lose their passionate heart connection with Christ, missing out on the blessings He wants to give us.

Between the world, our churches, and ourselves, we can find ourselves remaining in a cycle of brokenness that keeps us from a deeper, more authentic connection with the Lord. Our hearts and mind need to be cultivated into fertile soil to that the roots of our salvation grow deep and strong. When spiritual battles; storms of life come, and they do and will, WE WILL NOT BE SHAKEN!

Revelations 2:5: So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you don’t change, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Colossians 2:6-7: You accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, so continue to live following him. You must depend on Christ only, drawing life and strength from him. Just as you were taught the truth, continue to grow stronger in your understanding of it. And never stop giving thanks to God.

John 15:9-11: I have loved you as the Father has loved me. Now continue in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commands, and he continues to love me. In the same way, if you obey my commands, I will continue to love you. I have told you these things so that you can have the true happiness that I have. I
want you to be completely happy.

I know my heart longs to get back to the foundation upon which our salvation is rooted. I don’t want to just go through the motions, or get stuck in a cycle of busyness but I want to get back to the fundamental basics and cultivate my heart soil through daily prayer, reading God’s word, serving, and sharing my story. Even when we don’t feel like it, keep showing up and eventually you will experience breakthrough of peace, authentic joy, and deep connection with God. It’s then that God can truly bless us with the fullness He created us for.

About Lisa: I’ve been married for 35 years and together with my husband, Cameron, for 36 years. Funny story…met my husband in a bank robbery! I was a bank teller that was held up and he was my knight in shining armor, aka, police officer that responded. 😊 We have 4 adult children, 1 grand baby and 2 more on the way! And I can’t forget about my empty nest 10-year-old puppy, Marley, a Chihuahua in a Rottweiler’s body, haha. I mostly was a stay-at-home mom but then started working for my church over 20 years ago as the Lead Pastor Assistant and, a few years ago, I took over as Finance Director too. I was born and raised in church, started out in a Pentecostal Assemblies of God and now the church I’m part of is Southern Baptist. I love to read, crochet, walk, swim, fish, kayak  and just plain relax. After raising 4 children, I’m finally getting to enjoy all of it. 😊


A Snapshot of Our Community

Dear SUMites Our church

We often describe ourselves as a church without walls -- Isn't it amazing how we manage to gather like this online? I love it!  Anyway, today I wanted to tell you a little bit about who is in our church.

As you know, we did a SUM community survey recently. Reading through those responses it was so good to see your names and a little more about your lives. 

So I thought you, too, might like to hear a little more about who your friends at SUM are. Below, I'll share a few of the questions we asked in the survey, and what the answers were.

Where does our community live?

All over! Most (70%) live in the USA, followed by a decent proportion in Europe. We have a smaller number in Australia and New Zealand, and some in Africa.  I can't express how much I love that spread -- it's so beautiful. 

And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations (Matt 24:14, NKJV)

How did our SUM community members become spiritually mismatched?

Here's what our community said:

My spouse lost their faith: 6%

I became a Christian after marrying: 27%

I thought my spouse was a Christian before marrying, but perhaps they weren't: 20%

My spouse and I have experienced different rates of spiritual growth to each other: 6%

I married a non-believer: 36%

Other: 5%

There is such a range of stories there and each of the above has its own distinct challenges, but I hope it makes you feel less alone seeing that there are at least some out there with the same story as you.

Do our spouses attend church?

About 20% of spouses do attend regularly, and a further 22% occasionally. But the rest don't, so if your spouse never attends with you, you're in good company.

How many of our spouses say they're Christian?

I was surprised by this one: 30% of spouses actually do say they're a Christian, which means that the couple is mismatched even though both are nominally Christians. The rest of the spouses, of course, don't yet say they're Christian, and we do know that quite a few spouses currently say they are atheist. I say 'currently' on purpose. These things change.

Are the spouses supportive?

Here's what our community said: 

A lot: 30%

Moderately: 40%

A little: 20%

Not at all: 10%

Again, I hadn't realized so many were that supportive. But clearly there is a need for our ministry even if an unbelieving spouse is supportive. The loneliness of the walk likely makes it so. For those whose spouses are not yet supportive I am praying for you specifically right now.

What kinds of churches do we attend?

Our community attends all kinds of denominations. The most prevalent is non-denominational or Baptist. After that, about 10% attend protestant denominations (Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Church of Ireland), 10% Pentecostal, and about 10% don't currently attend church.

How long have our people been with us?

About 15% of our readers found us less than a year ago. If that's you, welcome! This tells us it's important that we keep writing about some of those common issues such as attending church alone and raising kids in faith. However, almost half of our readers have been with us for more than five years, and many for more than ten years. Amazing! We are a community that has been together a long time.

And finally.... What does our community look like, faith-wise?

This last section really opened my eyes. We asked two questions here: Do you have regular time alone with God, and how often do you read the Bible? The vast majority of our readers said they spend daily time alone with God, and daily time reading the Bible.

That tells us something about our specific church. We are not lukewarm, we're the opposite. We are all passionate followers of Jesus Christ, and that's exactly why we need this ministry and why we gather here.

**

My friends, there's more to the survey and I'll share more eventually, but I hope that gave you more of a picture of who's here. 

What else would you like to know about us and this community? Pop any questions in the comments and I'll answer them.

We all love you!

Ann (and team)


I Have Gifts for You!!!

Giving_Tuesday 2022Friends, Lynn Donovan and Ann Hutchison here:

Do you have a mountain that MUST MOVE? (see below)

And did you find a word of hope or encouragement here in the past year? Did you discover some aspect of faith and connection with God that was new and helpful. Did you stop in and read a truth, find your heart touched by love, did you have a prayer time that changed things? Do you feel less alone in this journey?

Only once a year we bring finances before our community. It takes about $7,000 annually to pay the expenses. 

That's A LOT! 

So, Today on Giving Tuesday would you consider a one-time gift to further the ministry into 2023? More, would you consider a recurring gift.

Here is the giving breakdown and how I'm giving back to you.

Any gift of any amount and you are invited to the Zoom teaching: Five Truths Vital to every spiritually mismatched marriage. Over 30 years these are the five things we MUST know to thrive in these marriages. Donate and you are invited to the live teaching or the video.

If you give more than $100 or sign up for a recurring monthly gift, you receive a monthly email with a Ministry/Donor Update. You catch a glimpse of the behind the scenes in the ministry. I typically share the planned future training, upcoming events, some of the ministry efforts that happen that we don't write about.

AND ....If you give a one-time gift of $100 or more or create a monthly recurring gift, you will be invited to the training in January. This will cover Mark Chapter 11. Moving our mountain. I've truly learned what this passage is all about and how it's true for us now, today!

Who could do with a prayer powerful enough to move a mountain? Below is the link to give. From there you can make a one-time donation or a recurring, monthly gift. 

Donate Button

This link takes you to our not-for-profit processor, Square. 
From there you can make a one time or recurring gift. Thank you.


Give Thanks

Hi SUM Nation,

Lynn here. Take time this week to sit alone with the Lord. Write down all the good that came into your life because of His love and kindness. Thank Him for His faithfulness.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, Ephesians 1:3

Father, thank you for your goodness, faithfulness, and love. Thank you for Jesus who by His stripes heals me and my family. Thank you for every time you intervened to save me from disaster and deception. Thank you for the love of family. Thank you that you are present and care deeply about my life. I love you Love. I am humble. I am thankful. In Jesus name. AMEN

Thanksgiving 2022


Congratulations Tiffany

Hello SUMite Warriors,

Lynn Donovan here. Today I have a great honor.

Tiffany Carter 2022I'm standing in a profound moment. Because the Lord has promoted one of our own. I'm utterly thrilled to announce that our SUM writer, Tiffany Carter has some tremendous news. I'll share what she texted the team a few weeks ago:

Look at God!!! I need a lot of prayer. I've been appointed by the Governor to serve on the Nebraska Library Commission?! Like what? Is this real?!

It's real and I'm so proud of the work Tiffany has done to protect children from the evils that are encroaching on our children's education. 

Listen in as Tiffany shares:

 

Today, we congratulate her and release her from ministry here. She will be too busy in the future. We also bless and launch her forward into this new season, which is part of her divine destiny.

Would you please join me and bless and congratulate Tiffany in the comments today. 

My blessing: Jesus, in Your powerful name we stand behind Tiffany in her efforts to bring your truths to our children. Walk with her and her family as she will surly encounter opposition. Build her passion and faith to never waver in her message. We bless her with all resources, courage, energy and family support. Let her work have lasting impact on the many generations that follow. Keep her heart on fire for you and filled with love and your holiness. I pray and bless Tiffany and her family. In Jesus, Your name. Amen.


It's Ann's Birthday

Ann BirthdayLynn Donovan here.

How many of you have been touched by Ann this past year? I know I have. She pours so much time into this ministry. She truly loves this community and all of you who meet up here. She is moved by your life and is genuine to encourage you forward in faith.

She is special. So, can you leave a quick birthday message for her here today in the comments?

I know she will be touched. Thank you. 

Ann and I will be back at the end of the month after the Thanksgiving festivities here in the US. See you then. Hugs, Lynn Donovan


And Onwards We Go!

Dear friends Bible and clock

Well, we’ve reached the end of our How I read my Bible series. I hope you enjoyed it. I always say 'God made us each as unique as a snowflake'!

Some of us have a special place where we curl up to read each day …

Some of us have a favorite book of the Bible …

Some of us have a creative method we use …

And as we read, we encounter God.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)

Ahh..

Well, with that wrapped up I'd now like to share some ministry updates:

The team is going to take a couple of weeks off while our American SUMites enjoy their Thanksgiving season. We’ll pause the ‘Let’s Talk Live’ videos too, restarting early December.

While off, I'm going to be doing some planning and praying using the feedback from the SUM community survey. I want to say a huge thank you for completing that survey and sharing your hearts with us. It painted a picture of who we are writing for, and I have to say I shed a few tears reading the responses and getting to know you a little. Sometime next month I’ll share a little more about the demographics of our community, and a summary of what our survey showed us. I think you'll find it interesting like I did.

Well, that’s all. To our USA SUMites, have a wonderful thanksgiving. To the rest of you, stay standing! And we’ll see you - fresh and raring to go -- when we're back.

Ann and the team