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13 entries from April 2021

SUM Community, Let's Party!

By Ann Hutchison

My friends, today is an auspicious day: A certain someone turns fifteen. Nope, it's not one of our children, it's this ministry. Fifteen years ago today this blog had its humble beginnings with its very first post!Birthday photo

Books emerged. A YouTube channel. Friendships. Testimonies. We've seen salvations of spouses, restorations of marriages, and personal growth. Amazing miracles have happened here in this 'church without walls'. God has been good to us.

I thank him. And I thank Lynn for beginning it and all she has given.

So, for the next two weeks we’re going to reminisce. Our writing team (current and past!) are going to hop on to share, and we'd love to hear some of your own stories too.

I’ve not fully shared my own behind-the-scenes story when it comes to this ministry. It makes me smile so maybe it will do the same to you.

When I found this ministry (2014), I was extremely challenged by the spiritual mismatch, as most of us are for a season. Constantly in tears, I was a seriously unlikely candidate for writing anything encouraging to anyone. But I gained strength from the blog posts and comments here, and gradually things changed.

I was also a covert reader here in that I didn’t want to be public on this site, not even in the comments. I didn't want my husband and friends to see me reading a blog on marriage help when we had a happy marriage. So those videos you see of me on YouTube or Facebook?! How on earth we got there only God knows!

The thing is, God works with the unlikely situations, so here's what happened next:

God began to lay this ministry thickly on my heart. I would have dreams about the ministry, visions even, and I really felt a love for this community of beautiful people. Then loads of ideas began landing in my head for things I could write on the blog. In fact, I began to want to write. But how could I? I was Miss Covert. 

Well, when God decides we’re going to do something, it happens. Just as I was having these thoughts about writing, I got a message from Lynn: “Hey girl, would you like to write for the blog?”

My response was this: “It would take a miracle for me to even tell Bryce about the ministry, let alone have him say yes to that.” 

Our SUM was a topic of huge sensitivity. We were happily married, and to show Bryce a website called ‘Spiritually Unequal Marriage’ would have offended him (I thought). What’s more, to write about our personal lives on the internet was way over the line.

The thing is, this tricky area needs to be written about so that others know they are not alone. And it seemed that I was being asked to take one for the team ... Lol. That night, I heard God speak: “Ann, you are going to run with it. With My approval and with Bryce’s.”

Aggh.

Totally aggh. But it had to be done. So while in bed the next morning, I reached for my iPad and tapped hubby on the shoulder.

“Ummm … Babe … I’ve been reading this website for people like us. I’d like to write for it. Can I just show it to you, and would you mind if I wrote?”

He took the iPad from me and squinted to read.

“Spiritually Unequal Marriage!” He read out.

“Mm hm” I squeaked. 

He read it some more, perused the photos of Lynn and Mike, and the other writers with their spouses. Then handed me back the iPad. “Why would I mind?” He said. "Sure." 

The rest is history. Along the way, God injected some strength into me as I journeyed in my own SUM, and in 2018, he told me I would be “Leading worship” here. That gave me an inkling of what was to come before I stepped forward last year.

Leading worship: How I love those words, for that is really what this ministry is about. We, the SUMites, worship Jesus through daily choices. And this blog helps us all do that.

Fifteen years -- What an adventure. Thank you, Lord, and thank you also, my family of SUMites, for all the times you have shared your hearts.

Lynn will be sharing on Monday. I imagine she is looking back at those fifteen years with wonder! But for now, your turn: When did you find this ministry, and how has it changed things for you?


Reflections on Attending Church Alone

Dear friends, Ann here!Church alone

Today I want to chat about one of our topics that is an old favorite: Attending church alone. I type this with a smile, but it's a wry smile. Whether or not we've got into a routine, I think most of us would say that Church-plus-SUM is super tricky!

I shared recently that my little church closed in March. It had about 60 people, and we loved each other. But, just before Christmas two things happened: The numbers plummeted and the pastor and wife lost their vision for it. Not for pastoring, just for that place. It was as if they couldn’t help but let go.

Gulp!

It seemed God was closing a season for us all, so the pastor bravely announced “We are closing. We are so sorry … But now let's transition well.” And he cried his way through the message. What happened in the weeks since, however, is that each family went somewhere different and new things blossomed.

My Dad who is a Christian gave me a word at the time: “Whatever your reasons for joining that church initially, those reasons have now been satisfied. Allow God to do something new.”

And so I am. Happily. But I'm also reflecting on what God took me through in those six years. Because they were pretty impactful.

The day I walked through those church doors -- Well, a converted underground carpark -- I was hugged, welcomed, and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. Oh, it was wonderful, and of course I couldn’t wait to go each Sunday. But, as you know, with a less enthusiastic spouse it's not so simple: 

“Don’t tell me you can’t give it up if I ask you to!” Bryce said to me months later, fearing my absence. I guess he could see my attachment to it, and in his mind I was on my way to becoming a cult-following weirdo. Because of that comment, I became fearful myself. Fearful of what it would do to us. My attendance became sporadic and I miserably stayed home on a Sunday. Often.

“Are you alright?” My pastor asked me one day when I reappeared after about eight weeks. I whimpered back: “I just miss my husband so much …” Tears. And more tears.

He didn't say much. He just looked at me with sympathy. Bryce was the gaping, invisible hole next to me. Crap (can I say that?), this thing was hard. It was hard enough that it's making me cry to type this. That tells me how hard it was.

Time passed and I began to grow a desire to serve. “I’ve offered to go early and help on the door today ..” I said in a deliberately light-hearted voice to Bryce one Sunday. “Seriously?” He raised his eyebrows. “Why do Christians have to do that? Hellooo.” (He mimicked the sing-song voice of a Christian door-greeter, possibly teasing, but possibly not!) Maybe you can smile to read that because you know how this thing goes. But I tell you, my sense of humor had checked out. I was so sensitive to being mocked for my faith by that point, I was over it.

That was five years ago. But somehow, somewhere along the way, I began to laugh a little again. And somewhere along the way Bryce became ok with it all. Quite honestly, nothing could keep me from church anyway.

I served in different areas, but sometimes I stepped back. Sometimes I'd say, “I’m sorry – I just can’t … I have to balance it with my family.” Other times I'd say: "This I can do, yes." I followed the Holy Spirit on this one. "Yes? Or no, Lord?"

Six years in all. And by the time this little church closed I can say that, Sunday by Sunday, the whole experience grew me. God grew me, with the help of his team, his church. So, here's where I'm at now:

God is real. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Church is important. And so is my marriage.

Bryce knows the above.

And somehow, these days, we make it work.

Huge, huge growth over a distinct period. Huge.

So, if you are reading this and struggling with this whole area (gah!), I think I just want to say it’ll be ok. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, seeking wisdom with each step.

How is church involvement going for you these days? Looking forward to chatting in the comments.


Rays of Light Bursting Through for the Carter Crew

Hey there SUM family, Tiffany here!

Someone needs to hear what I have to share today. I was nearly finished writing this post, set my laptop aside for dinner, came back to finish and it was all erased. Sorry devil, you aren't going to stop us that easy! I decree and declare that our SUM community is an unstoppable force. Sharing the love and light of Jesus to our spouses, children and others in our spheres of influence! We march forth in victory, power and authority! Hallelujah! Amen!


Tuesday is my 8th wedding anniversary! I can't believe how quickly it has flown by.


I want to share two dreams that I have had over the last several years. I pray that in sharing, it will give you hope in your SUM.


I don't have an exact date but in 2011 my husband, boyfriend back then, and I were living in sin. I had just gotten my own apartment and he was staying over on a regular basis. We were alseep in bed together when I had a vivid dream.


I am not going to go into all the details but I was running into a church. My friends were trying to catch up to me. They were pleading with me to stop.


I run into the building and burst open the doors of the sanctuary. All heads turned toward me. I could feel all the eyes watching me as I rushed down the aisle onto the stage. There were a handful of men in black suits on the stage. Jason, my husband - then boyfriend, was one of them.


I grabbed his hand and was pulling his arm. To everyone in the room I looked like a fool. I didn't care. I just wanted to get us out of there.


A man was walking up to us. Jason put his other arm up as if to say, "I've got this." Jason turned to look at me fiercely and said, "I will never speak the name of Jesus." The look of horor on my face caused the entire room to erupt in laughter. This was not a house of God. This was demonic. I turned and ran out of the building as fast as I could.

I woke up crying. I had an urgency to pray for the man lying next to me. In my mind I cried out...God NO! This can't be his fate! Save him!


Fast forward to April 8, 2021.


I had a dream that Jason and I were fighting a lot. We were at odds with each other. I distanced myself from him in our bedroom and was crying. He stormed off. I can't remember what was said but he was talking to someone. They were giving him a word of knowledge. (For those of you who may not know what that means, they were ministering to Jason. They were sharing things with him that only God would know.) There was some sort of promise from the Lord in what he was told.


He came back, I was sitting on what looked like a white bench in a garden. He came and sat to my right. He was calm and put his left arm around my shoulders to pull me in closer. I remember thinking this is different. He doesn't normally do this.


We looked at each other. He said, "if you and I both work together with Jesus than things will get better. I promise. It starts now."


I looked at him and started to cry. I said, "does this mean you want to work with Jesus?" He smiled.


I woke up crying. I had an urgency to pray for the man lying next to me. In my mind I cried out...God YES! Thank You that this is his fate! Save him!


I am in a season right now of "Already, not yet." My house, my job, my parenting and my marriage. Maybe you are in that place as well. You've already heard promises from God for your future. You've already prayed. You've already cried. You've already pleaded. You've already...and still it has yet to come to pass.


This season of "Already, not yet" is like a crossroads. Which path will you take?



Robert-bahn-34LmnyX5G7Q-unsplashPathway one is that of ease. It is that of settling. Giving up hope, joy, peace and confidence in the future God has called you to. It is of ease because the devil wants to keep you complacent. A nail that is not sticking out will not get hammered. It is the road that is more often traveled.


Pathway two is that of hardship. Fighting, clinging to the promises that God has for you. Refusing to give up your blessing. It is hard because the devil doesn't want you to know your worth. He doesn't want you to know the power and authority given to you. He doesn't want you to pray. He doesn't want you to intercede.


My family I want to share with you today. I've seen too many amazing things - provision from God...even when I was too lost and bound to pray. I've seen him soften my husband's heart. I've seen what it's like to come out of a very dark time in my life...one in which I almost gave up everything.


I'm learning of the glory and goodness of a Father in heaven who has unrepentant, unquestionable, undeniable, unlimited love for me.


I never would have thought when I had that dream in 2011 that ten years later I would experience such a beautiful dream.

I could have given up back then. God knew my heart was set on this man...and I stepped onto the road less traveled.

God has given dreams, words, confirmations that Jason is already seated in Heaven. He is clothed in righteousness. He is beloved. He is powerful, sanctified, set free. He walks in power and authority of the Holy Spirit. It was set in his book before time began.

However, I am living in the not yet. So, I keep praying. I keep decreeing. I keep hoping. I keep expecting.


"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it." - 1 Corinthians 9:24
I'm running for my husband, my children, my children's children, even to the thousandth generation.


Let's talk in the comments. Who are you running for? What are you running for? It is good to remember the words of the Lord over your life. Let's stir up heaven. What can we pray and intercede with you for?


Sow Bountifully, Reap Bountifully

Ann here! Seeds

I have a little thought for us today:

“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. And he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 (NKJV)

Sowing. In a spiritually unequal marriage? Perhaps we can pause and think about this for a minute.

When we’re in a spiritually unequal marriage, one of our biggest laments (at least initially) might be that we can’t easily give -- That is, ‘sow’, into church life; into the activities of ministry. In Christian circles, the word ‘sow’ is often used for financial giving. I've often heard the phrase come from a minister, “If you would like to sow into this ministry, then …” These words can often make us gulp back some distress, because we don't have the dollars to give. If our spouse doesn't agree, and we share our money with them, we have very little to offer, financially.

In Christian circles, sowing takes other forms too: Volunteering on church rosters, making meals for the sick, and so on. Once again, those things can feel hard to us because we juggle our desire to serve with our spouse's feelings.

But, in a spiritually unequal marriage we have a beautiful and more hidden opportunity to sow. Our marriage is part and parcel of living out the life of Christ, and to sow into that is a rich thing. We can sow bountifully there in the comfort of our own home. And we will reap bountifully. In other words, it's so worth it.

Now, my pastor said an interesting thing to me last year. I'm not sure whether I can align it with scripture (let me know if you can think of where this might be in the Bible), but it's worth a thought. He said: "When you do sow into things you don’t necessarily reap in the place that you sow, but you will reap somewhere -- In some other way."

I think he was speaking more from experience, including the experience of other Christians' testimonies. So, if that is so, and if we choose to ‘sow’ enthusiastically into our marriages, we might find we don't necessarily reap there -- But will certainly reap in some way. We don't do it to reap, anyway, we do it because we love Jesus. But the encouragement is: Just go for it!! Be a bountiful sower!

So, friends, what are the ways in which we do sow into our marriages? We probably all feel we can do better at this. Well, I can anyway. Perhaps we can make a list for ourselves. Top of my list will be this:

Pray lavishly for my husband!

Bryce and I have been married a long time and sometimes it's easy to forget to do even the above so today I'm giving this a go. I'm going to find new and fresh ways to pray for my husband -- For all aspects of his life, including his health, wellness, and work.

Sowing ... Sowing ... And sowing some more.

How about you? Any good ideas for how we can sow into our marriages? We can chat in the comments.

In friendship,

Ann


The Curious Move of Jesus in My Home

Ann here! Globe

When you're driving in the dark it's a great place to talk to a teen. With both sets of eyes fixed on the road nothing too intense is going on. That's probably how a teenage boy likes it, and it's where my son and I found ourselves last night as we drove home from his third time at youth group.

(Praise God! If you haven't read it, he has recently joined in at church and the story is here.)

My friends, Miles is loving youth group -- Really loving it -- and I am pinching myself at this turn of events. He laughs at that. He knows I’m excited even though I’m trying to keep it all cool. 

Last night in the car, he and I talked about the idea that God might move at a specific time in someone’s life. We talked about his grandparents, who each became Christian in their twenties. We also talked about Bryce and me. Miles has never seen me be anything but fervent, but I told him I used to be the opposite.

"But," I said to Miles, "When God moves in your life ... It’s a very compelling thing!"

Has God moved now, with this whole youth group thing? Well, something curious happened a few weeks earlier. And this 'something' is getting me thinking. I believe the following incident was God's way of confirming that this move is His move: 

A few weeks ago, Miles came downstairs for breakfast, scratching his head.

“Mum? Umm… I woke up and my globe lamp was on the floor by my bed. Did you move it?”

“No.. I didn't. Mm. That’s strange!”

We asked Travis (his big brother) and we asked Bryce. Did any of them move the lamp? Nope. They didn’t. None of us moved it. So, somehow this lamp seemed to have moved itself from his bedside table to the floor. 

Now, it’s possible he sat up and in a sleep-walking state moved the lamp. But the thing is it sits at the back of the table, so he would have had to lift it over stuff.  Surely something would have been knocked? Further, the lamp is touch-sensitive in every part, so the minute you touch any part it turns on. If Miles had moved the lamp, it would have been on. But it wasn’t. There it sat as he woke: On the floor, right where his feet touch the ground.

We all found this odd. And, of course, I had a little sneaky thought: Is God doing something fun here?

A few days later, Miles and I were chatting about the lamp and a thought came:

“Oh Miles, the Bible says Jesus is the light of the world. And His word is a lamp to your feet!“

At that, my lovely boy gave me a grin. He seemed to think that was cool. I, meanwhile, quietly thought to myself, "That is super cool. I'll assume that was you, Lord!"

Jesus is the Light of the World. And He has moved in this boy's life.

His Word is now a lamp to my son’s feet.

It was only a few weeks later that Jesus moved. In my son’s life. And he became part of Church.

"Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12, NKJV)

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105, NKJV).

When God moved in your own life so that you believed, how old were you? And how did God show you he was real? I would love to hear any stories you have of your own move.


Teenage Testimony Time Again!

My dear friends, Ann here. Teenagers

Thank you so much for your lovely comments on Monday’s post. It was as if the whole SUM community sent up a cheer of excitement to hear that my one teenager had joined church. The Body of Christ.

And we cheered because we get it. We get the pain. We get the hope. And we relate to what it says in scripture, that angels rejoice over one soul (Luke 15:10). One!

I thank Jesus for what he has done here. So, so much.

Well, Jesus is lavish! It seems he has decided we, the SUM community, will not just have one teenager to celebrate. We will have two! Little did I know this morning when I woke that it would be testimony time all over again today.

In my last post I shared that my church had closed. Four of us attended there without our husbands and we were great friends. One of these friends reads our blog regularly and cheers us on, a fellow SUMite. She'll be reading this, so I wave at her and beam her a hug while we're on here.

Anyway, this morning, I got a text from her that made my mouth drop open all over again. Are you ready? She said this:

“It’s been amazing reading your SUM posts. The same thing has happened with (my daughter)! She went to youth group and Easter Camp and is now downloading worship songs!”

She continued:

“It’s interesting, as soon as (our pastor) announced we were closing, she (the daughter) met a new friend at school who invited her to youth group – then it has been all on!”

I'm in awe of God. 

We may think our grown children's faith lives are as ‘good as dead’. But no! I think already from this past fortnight I have learned a big lesson: God will move.

The intriguing thing is that God sometimes has to close things down to enable that. My friend and I had to say goodbye to a much-loved church. And I can tell you, there were many tears. We loved the people dearly, and it was painful. But God knew what he was doing.

My friends, I want to share the following scripture from Hebrews. It reminds us that it doesn’t matter if something is ‘as good as dead’. We all know the story of Abraham:

And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore (Hebrews 11:12, NIV).

And with that I'm going to put up a song below. It's called 'Stand in Awe'. For that's my stance right now.

Blessings to you all. Perhaps we can pray over our children collectively today? If you'd like prayer for your children, put their names in the comments and we can gather round these kids of ours. 

Sending much love,

Ann

 


God's Move in My Family

Dear friends, Ann Miles 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.” He said.

That was the only thing we said.

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

I nearly choked on my biscuit.

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

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

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

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

(Stunned expression, again).

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

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

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

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

He continued:

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

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

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

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

Oh my heart.

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

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

Love you all,

Ann


Introducing Jesus Round the Dinner Table

By Ann Hutchison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes we know!” Says Travis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I think Jesus works in households.”

Really? He asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Here I pull a stunned face).

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

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Ann


It's Okay to Doubt

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Image courtesy of FAVPNG and workablequantit26

Hi Sumites, Ian here.

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

Thomas and his doubts

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

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

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

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

We’re all like Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace and peace, my friends.


Focus on Jesus, And ... Things Bloom!

Dear SUMites, Ann here. Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


The Story God Writes

Hi friends, Ann here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back tomorrow, friends, on Resurrection Sunday!