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11 entries from October 2021

When Someone Seems Impenetrable to the Gospel

Hello friends, Ann here! Stubborn dog

After our recent series on the Gospel, this week I'd like to share two specific words that God gave me a while ago about our activity in carrying the Gospel.

I'll share one of these words today, the other on Friday, and I hope they help you along as they have done for me.

Today's word is about impenetrable people. I can imagine many of you now will be nodding and saying "Oh yes, I've got one of those!" Truly, some people are so impenetrable that there's not even a chance of conversation about the Gospel. Right?

In my life, one guy in particular stands out to me. He is someone Bryce and I have known socially for years and he openly dislikes Christians. Because of this, he is a 'very difficult person' in my life.  

I often pray, "Do you want me to stay in his life, Lord?!" Well, circumstances seem to keep me there.

What I do with this guy is stay quiet about the Gospel, but love him. And when I say 'love him', it's actions not feelings; because my feelings struggle. I don't talk to him much if we're both at a social event; but 'Love' is what I try to do: In how I speak about him, and in prayer. 

With these impenetrable ones, I've found Jesus's Parable of the Sower a great help for understanding what's happening:

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9, NIV)

Then, Jesus gives the interpretation:

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (v. 18-23)

The bolded part above tells us that what's happening when someone seems 'impenetrable': The enemy snatches the Gospel away. That's sad. But, as Jesus says, it's part of the process. Bowl of seeds

An important lesson from this parable is that the attitude of an impenetrable person is not our fault. We can too easily beat ourselves up and think we're being ineffective (I do!) But, the truth is, the seed's gone out -- It's just been snatched.

Back to the guy above, I've had heartache there. But in June God gave me a word of perspective that helped me. He said this:

"Ann, messages about the Gospel have been left with him, but never opened."

And I believe the same can be said for many others in our lives. So, to me, this is a word for us all. 

Whether those Gospel 'messages' given to this guy were quietly from me, or whether they are messages he received elsewhere, I don't know. But the point is, the Gospel has been given to him and something's stopped him -- Until now.

I actually do believe that this guy will finally open the Gospel message and take a look; but if it's the enemy snatching the message away, then I have a job to do: Pray that the enemy stops snatching the Gospel from him. 

Amen to that -- And I'll keep going! How have you carried the Gospel with an impenetrable person? Let's chat in the comments.

Ann


When The Past Comes Back To Haunt You

Hey SUM family, Tiffany here!

Today I want to talk about guilt and shame.

My children are now 7 and 8. Man how the time flies! In their earlier years (sadly even in the womb) I had some serious anger issues. I did not know how to control my temper. In many ways I was verbally abusive to my husband and children. I wouldn't call them names or intentionally tear them down. However; my volume, tone, and body language was very aggressive. I remember one day when my son was maybe 3 or 4 I yelled so loudly for him to come to me. He didn't want to because he was afraid. I continued to yell for him to "get over here right now!" He finally began walking towards me but began to cry because he was so afraid. It is in that moment that I realized that I HAD to change. I sat there crying along with him as I lovingly embraced him. It was like a shock to my system. I couldn't keep terrorizing my family anymore!

Praise God I have come a long way since then. I have repented. I have grown. I have prayed healing and pled the blood of Jesus over my children. I made many steps toward healing and healthy habits.

However, there are times when my children have some behavioral issues that guilt and shame knock me over like a huge gust of wind.

If only I wouldn't have taught them at such an early age these unhealthy behaviors. If only I was a good example for them. I'm so sorry God that I screwed up so badly. I have damaged my kids. What if they still have such deep wounds that are causing all of this? What if they struggle into adulthood because of my bad choices? Have I cursed my children to suffer and carry around wounds for the rest of their lives? God don't let them suffer for my mistakes! I pray they have a close relationship with me! I don't want them to hate or despise me.

On and on and on....

If we let them, the whispering lies of guilt and shame will "eat us alive." Every thought - every word like a stab to our heart and mind.

Rremember that it isn't Jesus that comes to steal, kill and destroy. I explain it to my children like this:

It is very important to remember what God says. If the thoughts that you have in your mind or the things that you "hear" are not what God says about you - forget it. Let it go. They are lies. Anything that goes against what God says are not from Him but from the devil.

In my last post I referenced Romans 6:14 - :For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." Let's take a look at the New Living Translation:

Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

Let's take it a little bit further:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. - Galatians 5:1

When I asked forgiveness for my sin against my husband and children and repented, Jesus took that away from me. Those thoughts that come to cripple me with guilt and shame come from a very real place. These memories were once experiences. However; if I choose to buy into the guilt trip, blame game, or woe is me routine than I am discrediting the power of God. I am putting myself back into the bondage of guilt and shame. I am giving these evil spirits authority in my life.

It is probably true that my children have some deep wounds from the trauma I submitted them to as baby/toddler. But GOD. If He has healed and strengthen me, He can do it again for my children. If He can make me whole again after years of trauma, He can do it again for my children.

I am praying for expedited healing over my children. I am praying for breakthrough in their lives at a young age. I am praying that NOTHING hinder their destiny and calling. My kids have a leg up on me because of what I've learned about intercession and prayer. Heaven is on my side - on their side.

Maybe you have been carrying around guilt and shame. Maybe your kids are young and you are worried that you have cause irreversible damage. Maybe your kids are grown and you fear that they will not come back to the Lord because they blame you for issues they have had growing up. Maybe you just can't forgive yourself for things you have done in the past.

Let me tell you that there is grace for you. There is healing for you. There is forgiveness for you. There is destiny for you. There is hope for you. There is reconciliation for you. There is peace for you. There is confidence for you. There is joy for you.

We could spend a lifetime wallowing in the past. The more we do so, the more we miss out on the opportunity to keep moving forward.

I want to end with this song. My friends, if you learn anything may it be from this song - God is TOO GOOD TO NOT BELIEVE. Do not let anyone (especially yourself) discredit the power of God.

Prayer and blessing over you. See you in the comments.

Tiffany


What Do We Do About Halloween?

Dear SUMites, Jesus defeats halloween

What do we do about Halloween? The following is a repost from Lynn, written in 2019. 

***

"For years here at SUM, I've written this post every October. And now after raising my children, I'm asking this question again. Most of you are unaware, but I've been in training, learning how to pray to help those who were traumatized and wounded through Satanic Ritual Abuse. What I've learned about the demonic realm is truly horrific. If I shared with you what I've learned about what they do to children, you would vomit.

Sorry, just being real.

So, I struggle in my heart to know what to write because this day glorifies a being that is so evil, so wicked and filled with hate for children and Christians, I cringe in revulsion.

But I know that on my refrigerator is an invitation to a local neighborhood gathering, that ensues prior to trick-or-treat. And I'll likely attend to spend some time with our neighbors. And oh, my goodness, the costumes. Some of them are just so cute, clever and fun.... some are scary. 

The way I see it, we must keep a sober mind about what happens in the wee hours of the night on October 31st. (The witchcraft is intense. I scarcely can sleep.) And make this season a time of teaching. Help our children to be aware the darkness is real and to help them to overcome their fear and call on the name of Jesus. We must check their candy bags. 

If you walk the neighborhood with your kids, pray over it. Cover the people and homes with the love of Jesus. Bless each home you approach with an awareness of Jesus. Bless the kids. Bless those who come to your door. Release the MOST POWERFUL GOD of the universe into your world this week.

I love you. March on SUMITES... We WIN! Hugs, Lynn"


But Will His Grace Cover....Me?

Hey SUM Family, Tiffany Here! KC couple photo

I was reluctant to share this with you today; however, I hope to bring encouragement to those who may be struggling as well.

I love my husband. I love my marriage. I love my SUM life. I am truly blessed!

I had lunch with someone recently who I met a couple of years ago when I was taking supernatural ministry classes in town.

When asked if my husband could meet with us - I kind of froze. I got really nervous and began to stumble with my words.

I didn't realize until that moment that I still have some issues with embarrassment.

The issue that I have isn't really about Jason. It is the fear of man and a religious spirit.

I am not embarrassed to be with my husband. He is handsome. He is sweet and compassionate. He is wise and strong.

However, I am worried about what people in the church may think when I talk about my marriage. Will they be judgmental? Will they think less of me? Will they doubt the gifts and authority that God has given me? Will they think I am living in sin?

Time and again this past week I have heard from people in a sweet reminder - 

Tiffany, you are free. Do not bind yourself into slavery. You are blessed. God did not give you a spirit of fear. You are doing a great job as a wife and mother.

All this to say, I understand how you may feel. I hear the whispering lies in my ears too. Just know that God is not surprised by your marriage. He isn't disappointed. He isn't angry. He isn't ashamed. He isn't embarrassed. And you shouldn't be either.

 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. - Romans 6:14

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. - 1 Corinthians 7:14

 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ - Acts 26:17-18

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, - Acts 17:26

When the lies come flooding in; when insecurities rage; when someone speaks contrary to God's word - remember that you do not live under the law but under grace.

Hold on to the words that the Lord has spoken over you, your spouse and your marriage.

Please be in prayer for me as I allow Holy Spirit to rout out some deep seeded things. My prayer continues to be, "Lord, these things need to die in me. I have to let everything go that hinders my purpose and destiny."

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, - Hebrews 12:1

Let us come together and pray for one another. What weight do you need to let go of? What needs can we pray for you?

Love and blessings. See you in the comments.


The Gospel -- What is it?

GospelMy friends, we're currently in a series about Carrying the Gospel in our Homes, and I've loved your input so far - Thanks!

It was particularly interesting last Friday when we chatted about 'What is the Gospel?' and we each came up with different things that it meant to us. Perhaps that shouldn't be too surprising as the Bible presents a multi-faceted picture of the Gospel too.

Anyway, today I thought it'd be interesting to chat a bit more about that question: What is the Gospel?

In the Bible the word 'Gospel' (euangelion in Greek) is used 77 times, but in different ways. Across these 77 instances, it's referred to as:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ (e.g., Romans 15:19). Gospel pic

The Gospel of the Kingdom (e.g., Matthew 4:23).

The Gospel of the Grace of God (e.g., Acts 20:24).

The Gospel of God (e.g., Romans 1:1).

The Gospel of Your Salvation (e.g., Ephesians 1:13).

The Gospel of Peace (e.g., Ephesians 6:15).

In each of these cases, the word 'Gospel' is used quickly in a sentence, and then the writer moves on. It's almost as if it's too big to describe in that moment. It is, however, described as 'truth', 'fellowship', 'glorious', and 'a mystery'. Further, that word euangelion means 'Glad Tidings', so it's really, really good!

In his own preaching of the Gospel Jesus said, "Repent", but he followed it with: "For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" So, yes, it does include a very real call to repentance. And, the stark fact is that some will reject God. But our job is to bring the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven.

And so, we carry this Good News in our homes, daily, and over long years. It's seen by our spouse all the time. Whether or not we say a word about it. It will (metaphorically) ooze out of our pores as we live out our Christian life and make all the choices we make as SUMites.

Now, here's an extra little thing: I mentioned in Monday's post that I know someone who is an evangelist. He's an older minister than me and he runs the New Zealand branch of a global ministry (Evangelism Explosion) that teaches Christians how to share the Gospel. It's a great ministry! Anyway, a few weeks ago he invited me to come on one of his courses and, as I write, we're currently midway through.

Now you'd think for a SUMite we'd know a lot about this topic ... Yes, yes we do. But, I am not an evangelist, and I believe I can benefit from putting myself in a room with those who are. Indeed, this course is turning out to be very enjoyable with plenty of new things to think about. 

One of the things my evangelist friend has given us in the course is an outline of the Gospel, showing how it has five elements to it: Heaven, Man, God, Jesus, and Faith. The idea is that we can use these five elements to think about how chat to others when sharing our faith. Here they are:

The Gospel:

"(1) Heaven is a free gift. It is not earned or deserved.

(2) Man is a sinner. He cannot save himself.

(3) God is Love and doesn't want to punish us. But God is just and must punish our sin. 

(4) Christ is both God and man. He died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase a place in Heaven for us.

(5) Faith is not just head knowledge, nor is it temporary faith. True saving faith is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for our eternal life."

(Quoted from the Evangelism Explosion manual)

Can that outline help us a little more, I wonder? I, for one, am going to blue-tack it up on my kitchen wall for a week or so and mull over how I carry these five messages.

We may find, even, that we have the opportunity to chat about one of these five areas to our spouse in the course of natural conversation. In any case, we can be sure that as carriers of this message our spouse will see it. They will see what we believe; and they will see what we stand for. And that is our great commission fulfilled.

I look forward to chatting in the comments, as always, and have a lovely weekend.

Ann


'Preaching' the Gospel -- To a Spouse?

Hi everyone, it's Ann here and I hope you've had a good weekend! Gospel

Today we'll start with these words of Jesus to his then-disciples: 

“Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” (Mark 16:15, NLT) 

"Yes, Lord", we say to that, as modern-day disciples. "In whatever way you want us to do that, here we are!" 

Yet, as a partner of an unbelieving spouse, anything to do with conveying the Gospel in our homes is far easier said than done. 

It fascinates me to look at some of the evangelists out there who have a special grace for leading people to the Lord. What a gift! A well-known example was Billy Graham, of course, who led large events. But an evangelist will also be particularly skilled at leading people to Jesus in one-on-one conversations. If this is their calling, they will live and breathe this purpose. 

Over here in Auckland I happen to know three evangelists and I watch them curiously. Two are paid ministers, and one is a guy from my past church who has a day job in I.T. but for his vacations he'll fly to refugee camps in far-flung places where he leads people to the Lord. Looking at these three I can say they have a particularly strong urge to get people across the line, they are skilled at putting the Gospel into words, and they are less fearful of rejection than the rest of us.

We need these skilled men and women -- Ministers of the Gospel -- and they're a really important branch of ministry. But perhaps why we need them the most is they can equip us, and I'm going to return to that idea in a later post.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:11-12, NIV)

Now, while the evangelists are busy leading people to the Lord in droves, we have something entirely different -- but similar -- going on: We have one spouse to win over and it seems we cannot!! Like the evangelists, we have the burning urge in us to get this happening. Yet, we can barely verbalize the Gospel to our spouse. What's more, many of our spouses have already heard the Gospel from the pulpit and said a mental 'No.' As people do.

This makes our version of evangelistic work one of high intensity. But Jesus cares about the one (Luke 15:8-10), and so do we. We care so much, in fact, that the salvation of this one spouse is our deepest desire.

It's as if we hold a precious one penny in our hands, our spouse being the one penny that Jesus wants to save. Somehow in the course of our marriage we will repeatedly sediment the Gospel into our spouse's heart. But when I say 'repeatedly', it could be a decades-long project. I personally am prepared for that now. I wasn't a few years ago. Penny

This scripture here reminds us to keep going:

For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:13-14)

In other translations the word 'preaching' is replaced with 'publishing'. In its Biblical usage the word is used to describe John the Baptist and Jesus, proclaiming the Gospel in synagogues and out on the street. 

In the SUM home, however, 'preaching' looks different. It might involve sharing (or even debating) a particular facet of the 'Gospel' during conversation. But mostly it's living it out. 

In any case, we will keep going with this task. I cheer you on, and I know you cheer me on -- And hey, we will roll up our sleeves and do this hard thing!

Let's keep chatting in the comments, but here's a question I'm curious about: Do you think your spouse has actually heard the Gospel?

Ann


Covid Craziness vs Gospel of Jesus Christ

By Ann Hutchison Gospel

My friends, there's so much COVID craziness out there at the moment, I pray a lot about where God wants us to focus our energy on this blog.

Interestingly, when I do ask him questions about what to focus on, he usually points me away from the craziness out there. Instead, he focuses me on Him; on our purpose, destiny as SUMites, and the roles we have in our homes. And on preparing to win souls in other areas of our lives too (that part is exciting!) 

Well, a few weeks ago, after yet another time of questioning the Lord ('What do you want me to write about?') I received a 'Now word' from Him to us. I've been mulling it over ever since, and it's something we're going to linger on for a week or so.

The word was this:

SUMites, you are carriers of Good News in your homes.

And then:

You are clothed in Christ. You carry My Name, and that Name will make the enemy flee in your homes.

What an encouraging reminder. Thank you, Lord. Further, what an impact we make in our homes, and what a responsibility. We must stay focused.

The phrase 'Good News' got me thinking. A lot of the time Christians seem like they're bearers of bad news, even if they're not. It's just, the message of the cross can be offensive because it requires an acknowledgement of sin. But these words 'Good News' reminded me instantly that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News that someone can have an eternity of abundant Life, because of Him. 

So then, what do we need to think about when 'Carrying the Gospel' itself in our homes?

On reflection, it seems that carrying the Gospel involves two things:

(1) Representing the character of Jesus to our loved ones; and then

(2) Articulating the Gospel itself, verbally, in the right way and at the right time.

That second one is, of course, crazily hard in our families. We know there's a difference between desperately trying to control and convert the person -- spiritually hijacking them, almost -- versus talking about the Gospel in a way that we're being Jesus's hands and feet of love. Ultimately, to convey the Gospel appropriately we have to have our ear close to God's chest, spending time in his Word, knowing his character, and then listening carefully to the Holy Spirit's promptings about what to say and what not to say.

Anyway, with these things in mind we're going to start a series on Monday on Carrying the Gospel in our Homes, especially in this challenging time of COVID. And for starters, I wondered if we could talk about the following in the comments:

How do we describe the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a few sentences? 

SUMites, I'm looking forward to us having some conversations about this topic, and see you in the comments!

Ann


Let's Go to the Rock

Dear friends, Ann here. Rock 1

Today I just wanted to post a short-n-sweet thought.

Both Ian and I wrote last week about those moments in marriage where our partner finds our faith all too much. And we chatted about how our natural response might be to withdraw a little from Jesus to ease the comfort of our partner. But, as we discussed, the real solution is to push into Jesus.

Even if it feels risky.

We still honor and devote time to our partner. But we push into Jesus.

Those who commented last week agreed; and we all said it takes some time to learn that Jesus is actually the solution here. If we keep on prioritizing him, he will bring surprising things into our marriage; and will ease the situation somehow.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

In that discussion one of our SUMites, Susan, shared in the comments a song that captures this idea perfectly. It's I Go to the Rock by Helen Shapiro, and it's so spot-on for us it could be our anthem for the moment. We, the SUM community, push into the Rock! So, on that upbeat note I'll leave you with the song. Thank you, Susan, for sharing it -- And let's keep going to the Rock!

 


A Work of God in My Home

By Ann Hutchison Central church Ann 1

Hi SUM family!

Today I'm continuing on from Monday's post, with a curious story about something God did in my home this year. It shows just how good he is, and I really do hope you enjoy this story.

As I've shared before, last year none of my family was going anywhere near church. Sigh! But one day God gave me a most unusual word. He told me I was going to be on a year-long wait for something, starting on 21 June 2020, and that something would happen at the end of that year.

Goodness, how exciting!

Over those months, then, I waited. I waited … I waited … I waited.

I kept telling myself I should not have too high an expectation about what would transpire at the end of the wait (i.e., June 2021). I figured God works mysteriously and if I were to try to guess his moves, I would almost certainly be incorrect. 

That said, I simply couldn't resist trying to guess as the wait continued and, to add to my excitement, God gave me another two things: The phrase Let’s Go, and the name of a New Zealand town Whanganui.

By now this was all feeling highly suspenseful. "Is my family going to move to Whanganui, Lord?" I wondered. I was fit to burst with anticipation.

Well, my friends, I could never have guessed what would transpire next; and it's almost a little difficult to describe. But I'll give it a go. It turns out that these mysterious words related - at least in part -- to my family's church situation.

In February (2021), my pastor told me he was going to close the church I'd been attending for the past six years. I've shared this part with you all already.

Indeed, it was a shock. But then came an immediate move of God, a swipe of his power: As I've also shared, my son Miles’s school friend suddenly began attending a new church himself and invited Miles along. A miracle, in my eyes. I began attending there too, and now here’s a photo of the three of us at church together: Me, Miles (next to me), and his best friend next to him. As I write, these two boys are now fully engaged in this church. Ann Miles at church

Well, that was amazing. Suddenly I had gone from despairing at my family's lack of church attendance to enjoying it with my son. But there’s more.

I'd not been attending my new church long when they announced this:

“We’re moving into a new venue, St Paul’s College on 20th June.”

St Paul's college? 20th June? I nearly fell off my seat. You see, St Paul's college was the venue my old church had just vacated! I would be going back there? And on 20th June? That was the date my year of waiting was to end!

"Lord? What is this about?" I whispered, sitting in my seat, there in my new church.

It could still have been a coincidence … Until I saw the Facebook announcement about the new venue, and saw what phrase they had included:

'Let’s Go' !! Central church new venue

And it got even better. That weekend I just-so-happened to look at a map and saw something I’d never noticed before: The new church venue that I was moving back to (St Paul's) sits below a road called Whanganui Street!!

At this, I sat back, gob-smacked.

All I could conclude was that this church and my family were meant to be together, and it was as if the Father had given me signposts to confirm it.

The new church's move feels like a big new season for them; but also very significant for me and my family.

How does all this relate to my SUM? Well, this move has done something curious to my family. I can’t say why, but Bryce is fully relaxed about my involvement in this new church where it wasn't like that before. It could be because it's run by young people, and he can see how they treat Miles -- They're lovely. Or, it could be the fact he is seeing Miles thrive socially there. Nevertheless, it is a clear move of God in my family, it has been a major development in my SUM, and I thank Him. 

The motto from all this: Who knows how God will move in a SUM home, but he will surely move for us. We just... Have to wait. 

(Finally, to give you a final smile after Monday's post, I have even begun attending a weekly ‘small group’. But that is another story.)

My friends, I so hope this encouraged you. 

With love, 

Ann


Loving when it's hard

ID-10038728
Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ann’s most recent post has lingered in my mind for a few days and I thought I’d reflect a little more on it. If that’s okay? Ian here from a sunny Sydney.

We have those between a rock and a hard place moments don’t we? As I think I’ve shared a few times before, one of Fiona’s biggest fears is that she’ll become a ‘church widow’. There was a time a few years back when I attended a couple of prayer meetings a week on top of my Sunday commitments and whenever you have some form of leadership responsibility, pastoring and caring for those you lead takes added time.

Crunch Time

Like Ann mentioned, our partner reaches a point when it’s all too much. And I especially feel for you ladies because as I’ve said a few times over the years, for many men, their wife is not just their best friend but often their one true friend. Yes, we may have male ‘friendships’ but they’re quite different to our life partner.

Every few years it seems Fiona will express her concern that there’s a big part of my life that she doesn’t participate in. It’s not just the physical aspects of attending church and such, she’s also aware of the time I spend with God.

How Do we Respond

Ann gave some wonderful counsel and it’s this aspect I wanted to spend a little more time on. Ann encouraged us to look to the Rock. To Jesus. Yes and Yes. Early in my relationship with Fiona, I probably didn’t do this believing it just would add to the issue at hand. It wasn’t until I came to appreciate how much I needed Jesus that in fact He would help me through the matter.

How? Because He’s love. That’s who He is, isn’t He? It’s His natural state. And I believe that’s what we most need in these ‘between a rock and hard place’ situations. Love.

“Christ is love covered over with flesh” – Thomas Goodwin

I found I needed more of His love so that I can love my bride ever more and also gain greater clarity over the situation at hand. And I believe our partners see this love.

Companionship

If we try to manage the situation in our own strength, we’re likely to exacerbate it. But if we honestly and in all humility come to Jesus and seek His love and wisdom, He will reveal them. There’s unlikely to be a lightning bolt but rather we have Jesus as our companion.

It’s in His companionship we discover more of His love which changes us from the inside and this is what our partners see. In time. The deeper we go in His love, the more our partners will experience it and I believe we have less of these ‘crunch’ situations. Remember His love is endless and wonderfully, Jesus desires to share it with us in ever increasing intensity.

I’m more convinced that life is less about having all the answers and seeking to fix everything and everyone, but rather to walk through it with Jesus and others in tight companionship. So when the dark valleys appear we have trusted companions, one of whom is ‘clothed in love’ who will walk with us. Another of course is our beloved partner in life. They’ll be with us in the thick of it. We’ll grapple the uncertainties of the valley together.

This is the life I seek.

See you in the comments, dear friends.


Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

“This isn’t what I married.” Said Bryce. “And there may come a point where I say to you enough is enough.” Rock hard place

He stood by the chest of drawers suddenly seeming distant. I sat on the bed. My heart was pounding with fear.

“Don’t you ever say to me you can’t give it up if I ask you to.”

He was talking about my church involvement. And possibly also my faith. Gulp.

One request had led to this conversation: I had told him I'd like to go to a ‘small group’ at church one evening a week. It was 2017, and I thought he was used to my faith and my church-going. But I had misread how he truly felt. As I can now see, a small group/home group is weird to someone not versed in church ways.

I was helpless and heartbroken. Helpless as to what to do; heartbroken at the fracture between us. I could not change my beliefs if he asked me to. I could change some of my behavior, but my beliefs? 

Over the next few days I scraped myself around the house, miserable. The burning in my bones wouldn’t go away. The experience of God had been too tangible for me to turn any other way except towards Him.

My friends, I'm guessing you've likely had one of these 'fracture-filled' moments at some point in your SUM? Some of us have an easier ride than others on this one, depending on how much our spouse disagrees with our faith and how much they verbalize it to us. When a spouse does verbalize displeasure at our faith it is memorably difficult and upsetting. It always calls for us to go away, think about what we can compromise on, and on what we just can't. 

Things are easier now between Bryce and me, but that day in 2017 I remember thinking to myself (crying) "I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place, the rock being Jesus and the hard place being my husband!"

What on earth do you do when you feel stuck in an impasse like this?

Well, apart from having a little cry, which is thoroughly cathartic, I'd say the most helpful thing we can do is turn our face directly towards the rock-face that is Jesus. The rock-face that our spouse is even against. There is a rock on one side, a hard place on the other. Turn our face directly towards the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4). It has to be that way. Give some time to Jesus, go for a walk, say to Jesus 'Please minister to me in my pain,' and determine that you will keep on being a Christian.

Dear friends, if we do that (turn deliberately to Jesus), He will come through for us and change something in this situation, even if it is simply to give us strength.

Love for Jesus includes love for our spouse, so then we ask Jesus: "What does loving God but loving my spouse look like in this particular circumstance?"

I suppose the words 'rock and a hard place' aren't entirely unscriptural. After all there is a verse that says that Jesus is the rock that the builders rejected, and yet that rock became the cornerstone of the church (Acts 4:11). He is also the living stone rejected by men (1 Peter 2:4). I guess, then, if we are feeling we're in between a rock and a hard place with our Rock, Christ, being rejected by our other half, we're simply living out a scriptural truth!

The good news is, this particular story about my husband, me, and church has a rather amazing ending. God moved in a way that made my eyes widen with surprise. I will share that story next time I write.

For now, do you feel you're in between a rock and a hard place at the moment? If so, feel free to share in the comments and I'd love to pray for you.

With love,

Ann