A Mom's Faith

Hello all! Mum's Bible

Today's post was delayed due to the global IT outage – Oh dear! But thankfully the blog is up and running again, phew.

I have been, once again for a few days, staying at my parents’ house in Oxfordshire, England. Sitting at their dining table yesterday afternoon, I looked up to see my Mum’s Bible sitting open. She reads it all the time and leaves it sitting around here and there. I thought to myself, ‘That is a woman who builds her house with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.’

Later, she and I went for a walk along the River Thames, and to a pretty village. We passed a church, and it had a verse on it. She stopped me and said, ‘You know, that verse is a special verse that I pray over Travis’ (my son).

Then she spoke it out, the whole verse to me.

She then said, ‘I have a special verse for each of you – I have one for you, one for Miles, one for Travis, one for Bryce…. I feel God has given me a verse specifically for each person.'

‘Oh, what’s mine, what’s mine?’ I said, like a kid in a candy shop.

She told me…

And then –

‘What’s Bryce’s?’ Family lunch

She told me that too.

That’s one example of how you build a house with wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

Here’s a pic of us out for lunch in an English pub garden. My mum with the house she's built.

Love you all!

Ann


How Do We Build a House With Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding?

By wisdom a house is built, Front door
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.

Proverbs 24:3-4 (NIV)

SUMites, today we're going to talk about how the above verse applies to our houses.

Collectively, we each have a house that we treasure. Mine is in Auckland, New Zealand; and it consists of Bryce, my husband, and Travis and Miles, my two young adult sons.

Yours is somewhere else, in another pocket of our world. I love that about our SUM community.

We each build our 'house' carefully: We think about what we teach our children and spouse, and we think about what we allow into that house. I would say every SUMite I know thinks ever so carefully about such things. And in this way, we are each already building with wisdom.

Sometimes God will give us a blueprint as to how to build our house; sometimes he will be very specific. For example, one time he clearly asked me to remove Pokemon cards from my children. Eeek, that was hard. It was unpopular and my family still talks about it with a groan. "The time that Mum made us get rid of our Pokemon cards". I still don't understand why God asked that of me, but I did it and, in so doing, I built according to the blueprint.

At other times, we don't have a clear blueprint, so we go for it and do our best.

It's not just about what we allow in. It's more positive than that: It's equally about the encouragements we give our family, the way we conduct ourselves, the routines we build, and the things we enjoy and celebrate together.

I've been thinking about whether wisdom, understanding and knowledge are different to each other. Having studied the use of these three Hebrew words over the weekend, I don't yet grasp the difference between them. But the point is all three of these things come from God. Scripture makes it clear that it is God who gives wisdom, knowledge and understanding, and that these three things are things we are to pray for. So, a first prayer for our houses can be this:

God, give me wisdom, knowledge, and understanding so that I can build my house well.

Go into a quiet place, and deliberately pray this prayer. Find a photo of your house and/or your family, lay it mentally before him and say:

God let this house be built with wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

The next part of the scripture talks about the rooms of our house being filled with rare and beautiful treasures. I like the sound of that! But what might these rare and beautiful treasures be that come from God's hand? For me, I think of these things:

  • The ability to hear God's voice
  • Favor from God
  • Salvation
  • Knowing Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit
  • Promises from God
  • Gifts of the Spirit
  • The fruits of the Spirit.

The above list is the best thing in the world, better than any bank account full of dollars, or any material possessions. And these things are rare indeed: How many people do you know in your life who have the above? Me: Not many at all. Though I will say that through the SUM community I am blessed to know quite a few.

Next, just imagine that the 'rooms of our house' are actually our family members. Say, in my case, that one room of my house is Travis's life and legacy; another room is Miles's life and legacy; another room is Bryce's life and legacy; and another room is mine. Imagine each of those rooms being filled with the above list of rare and beautiful treasures.

Oh God, please!

So then, let us pray:

God, fill the rooms of my house with rare and beautiful treasures.

My friends, God will honor these prayers, and will make our houses richly beautiful -- Brimming with rare and beautiful treasures. Some of these rare and beautiful treasures might not be seen or perceived until we are in eternity, but they are there.

For he is faithful who promises.

Ah, what a nice thing this has been to write about today. Can you think of ways in which you have built your house with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding?

Much love

Ann


BIG BOOK SALE

SUM Nation,

Lynn Donovan here. 

I'm joining the Amazon Prime Days and ALL of my titles are on sale. $12 or less on some titles. That's it. Pick up a title you have been missing. Read it on the beach, at the lake house, read it with a group of ladies. Start your own online study.

Please be encouraged and equipped. You can walk through marriage, raising kids and a spectacular faith life!

Here is a link to the books under my name on Amazon. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your faith life. Amazon.com: Lynn Donovan: books, biography, latest update

I pray you experience freedom, hope and the power of God's love as your turn the pages this summer. Blessings and hugs, Lynn   ...-

Lynns books


By Wisdom a House is Built

Ann here, with the beginning of our series on building our house.

As a reminder: Our 'house' =our family, and our descendants. It includes ourselves, our spouse, any children and grandchildren we might have, our home, and the legacy we leave. 

So, let's go! Here is the first proverb we're going to look at:

By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4 (NIV)

I am going to pause here and ask some questions before we continue with the next blog post (which I am yet to write): Front door

  • What is the difference between 'wisdom', 'understanding', and 'knowledge'? Is there a difference?
  • What are 'rare and beautiful treasures' in Kingdom terms - what might they look like?
  • What about the different 'rooms' of our house in spiritual terms? What might that mean?

Can I suggest we all have a chat with God about these questions -- I will too -- and then perhaps you can share in the comments any insights you might have?

This is going to be fun!

Ok, catch you again next week once we've prayed into these questions.

Much love,

Ann


The Mountain of SUM

My friends, hello. Mountain of SUM

We're shortly going to be looking at the concept of our houses -- What does it look to build and care for your own house, spiritually?

But before we do, I wanted to share a visual that God gave me a while ago: He showed me that the SUM community is a collection of individual houses, all clustered together into a mountain.

Take a look, if you would, at the illustration of it that I've made here, and have a think about what this picture says to you.

Why do you think our houses are in the shape of a mountain?

For me this speaks of the sheer strength that we have in the spirit realm. You may feel like your little house, your family, is alone ... But the truth is that it is part of a gigantic force, a mountain constructed by God.

Well, I am going to keep this brief as my own little 'house' -- Bryce, me, Travis and Miles -- is off on a day out together. But feel free to share in the comments any further thoughts that you have about this picture.

Back again soon. 

In Christ,

Ann


Building our Houses

My friends, Hutchison house

Bryce and I have been joined by our children for this next month. They have flown over from New Zealand for their university holidays and we are now in Italy together.

It is precious being with them. 

This past week we have stayed in the home of an Italian family, on another house exchange. This house is in a non-touristy part of Italy, the north-east, in flat farmland. For miles and miles in every direction there has been nothing but flat fields. So we have taken bike rides to the local supermarket, enjoyed the fields of sunflowers, and driven to the places locals hang out, such as the local beach.

The house itself is a cheerful family home, rural style. On the walls, the children and family are celebrated, with many messages of love and huge home-made photos. The kitchen has a bruschetta machine in it, and a ginormous meat slicer, both of which might be Italian kitchen must-haves. For the boys, there's been table-football, and a well-worn but fabulous massage chair upstairs, which they've used every day.

We have loved being here.

I am continuing to think, therefore, about the concept of one's house. You can enter someone's house and it will have a feel to it. It might feel cosy and welcoming, or particularly orderly and serene. Or, it can be the opposite. A house contains special things and is often specially crafted or put together with love and care. Then it is opened up to others.

The book of Proverbs contains a lot of wisdom about one's house. As I mentioned last week, this doesn't mean a physical house so much as a spiritual house: Our house is our nuclear family, spouse, children, and then, in time, any descendants. We ourselves have a special job in all this: We're the spiritual leaders of our house. So, in the coming days I'm going to do a study from Proverbs on this concept -- The concept of our 'House' -- and discuss what it looks like to build our house well. When I write next I'll kick off a little series on that.

The SUM community is a house. But then we have our own individual houses too: Families of our own that we have lovingly formed.

In fact, recently God gave me a vision of the SUM community being a mountain of houses. 

What is your house like? Do you live in the city or the country? Do you put a lot of time into your physical house and space? What special things does your spiritual house have in it?

Phew, lots of questions!

Ok, back soon friends. Much love,

Ann


How do I Overcome Feelings of Regret?

Dear SUMites, Ann here. Regret

Quite often I’ll receive an email from a reader saying "Help! I am overcome by feelings of regret about having married out of disobedience to God."

For these dear ones, it is a truly difficult battle, where they are wrangling deeply with the life they've constructed; and, of course, they cannot share these feelings with their spouse.

((Hugs to you if that's you right now)).

Know this: Many in our community have battled this one, and you are not alone. Some were Christians who chose to marry a non-believing partner, suspecting deep-down that it was not God's will. Once married, and once having drawn close to God again, a period of deep reflection and regret follows.

Those who’ve gone through this have asked questions like, ‘What now?'  'Is it possible to celebrate my marriage?’ or, ‘Can my marriage still be blessed?’

Often, they love their spouse dearly; and often the marriage has resulted in beautiful children. This makes it all the more painful and complex.

So, how do we tackle feelings of shame and regret? Well, first of all we are certainly to shed them, after going through a process of reflection. But although we might know in our minds that God has forgiven us, sometimes it is easier said than done to shed intrusive thoughts.

I myself have suffered deep regret over certain things I have done in my life; and sometimes thoughts about those things continue to bubble to the surface and make me groan with regret. Does God want me to marinate in such things? Intrusive, shameful or regretful thoughts are a battle, and I know this. Yet it is hard to remove them.

Well, first of all, for those who married an unbeliever, God has shown our ministry that, although we are to understand the ramifications of that decision and repent where we believe repentance is due, we are to then to walk in our identity as a forgiven child of God. What's more, our love of covenant means that we are to cherish our spouse now -- We made a covenant with them -- and throw ourselves into being the best spouse we can possibly be. This is now what means to be Christian in our homes. It's an exciting and wonderful calling.

That last part is really important and is what it's about to walk well in a spiritually mismatched marriage. As long as our spouse is not abusive and is in the marriage, then we too honor that covenant.

However, intrusive regretful thoughts will still come, and we have to go to battle against those. It is a battle of the mind. So, practically, here's what we do:

  • When a regretful or shame-filled thought bubbles up, say out loud ‘NO! I take this thought captive in the name of Jesus!’
  • Pray each day, ‘Lord, sanctify my mind and give me the mind of Christ.’ Say it loud, for there is power in your tongue.
  • Say, each day, ‘I bless myself with the mind of Christ.’
  • Pray, ‘Jesus, heal me from shameful and intrusive thoughts.’
  • And say, each day: ‘Jesus, show me what lies I’m believing, and show me what the truth is instead.’ 

Part of the battle is having the discipline to do this as frequently as needed. It is easy for our minds to become embattled and infiltrated with ungodly thoughts that try to implant themselves. So, we have to roll up our sleeves and do battle for our minds.

It seems to me that this thing is a real process. Many who walk this particular battle do so for a season, while they grapple with the topic and learn to understand God's heart for them. But then it is done. Once the battle has passed, you can indeed relish the clean page of a new and healthy marriage, knowing that you can be blessed, and that God does honor and support your family. For now you have a new task: To stand in the gap for your family, and to build a house that stands for the Lord.

We do this last part together.

My friends, what has your own process looked like in overcoming regret?

Much love,

Ann


Summertime Stillness!

Pexels-asadphoto-457882
Photo courtesy of asadphoto and Pexels.com

I’m writing this post on a chilly winter’s afternoon here in Sydney. However, I know for most of us, it’s summer in the northern hemisphere and many of you will be enjoying long days and hopefully some down time.

Those of us in the southern hemisphere, I trust are coping with the cold and are able to enjoy some slower days in a warm home.

Leaning into God

Often these slower seasons allow us a bit more time to seek out time with the Lord. I wanted to share a few thoughts on stillness, some of which I’ve shared previously.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10)

We’re all very familiar with this verse. I’ve written on it many times but I’m increasingly discovering the wonder of its truth. Because it is in stillness and ONLY in stillness where we are able to hear God. I’m discovering this truth. We need quiet to listen to and hear God.

I consciously seek after some quiet with God most days. I frequently visit Contemplative at Home to assist me in slowing down and becoming quiet. It’s in the quiet we develop the ears to hear God. Yes, distraction is always present, but don’t fight it, simply roll with it and try to send it away. Using a word to bring you back to God is a useful practice. I typically use the phrase: “Come, Holy Spirit, come.”

Jesus and the Quiet

As we know, Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness soon after being baptised. Besides the noises of animals, birds, and insects, He would have spent those days in silence. As he didn’t eat, I expect Jesus spent much of his time simply being quiet communing with the Father.

In the quiet, we discover how to let go and surrender our hold on everything that’s going on in our worlds. We like control, don’t we. Even of bad things. God wants us to let go and discover the wonder of learning to depend on Him and Him alone.

“The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still.” (Exodus 14:14 NIV).

Its significant how Moses instructs the Israelites as they’re standing on the shore of the Red Sea, terrified that the chasing Egyptians will re-capture them. Can you image what they must have thought! “What! You want us to be still! We’re about to be overrun by those horses charging at us!”

We all know what happens next. God fulfilled his promise to the people, only when they were still. I’ve found this invaluable when anxiety strikes. For much of my life, I would hold onto Jesus, but at the same time, hold onto the ‘thing’ that’s stressing me. But Jesus says, let go of the ‘thing’, whatever it is, and then I’ll fight for you. Does that make sense?

“In repentance and rest will be your salvation;

In quietness and trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15 NIV)

“Stillness is your strength because it shows your trust in God. In your stillness, God moves.” (Ann Voskamp)

An Exercise to practice

Over the next weeks, may I encourage us all to minimise our distractions and simplify our schedule (postpone things to next week or beyond if you are able). Take some time each day to simply be still and quiet with God.

Just find a comfortable quiet spot and use a word, a phrase, for example, ‘Come Holy Spirit’, ‘Jesus, I’m here’) and listen. When a distracting thought comes (they will and that’s okay), simply say the word/phrase again.

You might hear nothing. That’s okay. Try again tomorrow.

We’d love to hear how you go.

Grace and peace.


Let My House Be A Blessing

Hello SUMites, Ann here. London house

There's been sweet aspect to my time in Europe that I thought I'd share today:

Before coming away, Bryce and I signed up to a House Exchange website and during this time in Europe we've been 'house swapping' with strangers. It has been totally fun!

It works using a points system: You let people stay in your house and you earn some points; then you can use those points to stay in someone else's house from anywhere around the world.

So, to start off, we had a lady from Iceland stay in our house, during a time when our home was going to be empty. Then a few months later, we gave a family from Tahiti our house. 

My family rolled their eyes a little at all this but went along with it - 'Mum and her crazy ideas'!!

However, this week Bryce and I reaped the blessings of this, as we had our first turn at staying in someone else's house: A beautiful family home in London.

We walked into this house in London and our jaws dropped open. It was our 25th wedding anniversary that day, and it felt like God had put his arm round us and given us a real treat.

All week, I was thrilled by this beautiful home. I ran up and down the stairs over and over again, like a little girl, just to have another excited peek at all the rooms!

Spiritually, however, this experience also made me ponder about how there's something so beautiful about the spirit of hospitality. Jesus was hospitable, and later on in Paul's letters, scripture says that a key characteristic of ministers is that they be hospitable. It is a kingdom principle.

There are numerous stories of hospitality in the Bible, and examples of where the physical or spiritual house of someone is a blessing to someone else. Perhaps we've lost that a little in our Western world compared to Biblical times. Perhaps it's something we can try to find again.

With this House Exchange thing, I've noticed how much I've wanted people to enjoy my home. When the Tahitian and Icelandic guests came to stay, I worked hard to get the house ready and I prayed for their visit. I loved the idea of them getting to experience a slice of real New Zealand. 

So, having gone through that experience, and especially having been blessed by someone else's house this week in London, I've been praying this: 'Make my house a blessing to others, Lord'.

By that, I don't just mean I want my physical house to be a blessing, although that too. I primarily mean make my family a blessing to others. For the word 'house', in scripture, means one's family.

Let my descendants be a blessing to other people, let our house be a house that serves the Lord, in ways that flow to others. 

SUMites, shall we pray the same for all our houses? Why not! Such a prayer may have surprising outcomes.

Lord, make our houses a blessing. Let our descendents be a blessing to others. Let our houses be houses that serve you, in ways that flow to others. Thank you, Lord.

I love you, SUMites!

Ann


Farewell Amanda

SUMites,

Time for a little ministry update:

Farewell Amanda

Our lovely Amanda, after writing for us for over two years, has let us know that she's needing to step down from writing to have more time to focus on her young family. Amanda and Daniel

Life is busy as a young mum, and many of us have been there -- I certainly have. So, though we will miss Amanda, we completely understand, and we wish her all the best. As it is often said, our families are our first ministry.

We're ever so thankful for the time Amanda has put in to writing on the blog, and we're thankful to Daniel, in the background, who gave his blessing for her to do this.  But Amanda will not be leaving our ministry: She will stay reading along and you'll see her in the comments every now and again.

What I've loved about Amanda's writing is she has often been an oasis of calm. When she writes, new voices have often hopped on in the comments as she has said something that has spoken particularly to their heart. God gives that kind of gift. She is one who nurtures her relationship with God as a top priority, and she is full of wisdom.

She and I have never yet had the chance to meet, despite working together on the blog. But one day I hope we will. Well, we will in eternity at the very least!

So Amanda, we wave you off with our biggest thanks, but we look forward to keeping in touch and hearing about your continued life adventures.

Lord God, we pray blessing over Amanda. We pray that all she has given to this ministry will be given back to her, and more, and overflowing! Lord, we pray life and life abundantly over Amanda, Daniel and their little ones. I pray that this new time she has will be a blessing for her family. We pray your protection over them, and that they will continue to be a family who grows together in the things of the Kingdom. In your name, Jesus, we pray. 

Amen.