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May 2022

12 entries from June 2022

Trying to Raise Kids in Faith? Here's a Personal Reflection

Ann here!

My own journey of trying to raise kids in faith has had its ups, downs and edgy bits over the years. As my boys are now nearly adult I thought I would look back and share a few personal thoughts.

Grab a cuppa, have a listen... and I wish you a happy Friday.


And Finally... The Virtue of Being Considerate

My friends, Let's wash feet

It's been interesting talking about serving God when spiritually single, and I've found your comments wonderfully insightful. I have especially loved hearing your stories. Our lives certainly are different to other Christians, aren't they?

For the final post in this series, I want to finish with a story --

You might remember I'm going through the book The Love Dare, and one of the dares I had to do was ask Bryce a question, listen to his answer, and not argue back. The question was a hard one. It was this: "What three areas of my behavior do you wish I would change?"

"Do you really want me to answer this?" He said. "Are you sure you want to go there?"

"Hit me with it!" I said. Go on, just do it.

"Wellll..... I'm sorry but your driving is terrible," he said. "It really, really bothers me, your driving." That one made me laugh, even though he was being serious. 

But then he told me this, and this one didn't make me laugh. It sort of made me want to cry, but I listened: He said, he works hard bringing in the money. He works long hours and he's often tired. He comes home to see me at my computer 'blogging', and yet parts of the house-cleaning haven't been done, the laundry hasn't been folded, and sometimes important administrative things have been forgotten. He then has to spend time on those things at the weekend.

Ouch.

So the thing is, I've been serving God, but kind of neglecting other things. And that's hard because serving God sometimes takes up a chunky part of our lives.

"What do I do?" I asked God. "I can't not work on the SUM ministry, because You have called me to it and I know it's where I'm meant to be. But, I'm stumped, and I'm quite distressed now."

I reflected further and decided not to get excessively discouraged but instead work out a solution. Bryce did have a point. As the one who 'doesn't work' in his eyes, I should do my part for the family. That is, at least keep the house clean, make it a nice environment, stay on top of the dishes and do family jobs during the week so that we can both relax at the weekend.

My friends, that is the conundrum about service. And, I think the lesson is this: Even if God is calling us to serve outside our homes, we should still try to be considerate to our spouse.

Ok, here's what I did next --

I changed my daily routine. I realized my priorities are, in order: (1) My relationship with God, (2) My family, and (3) Service to others. With that in mind, I set up my daily routine to reflect that order.

I decided to:

(1) Spend the first chunk of the day with God, which I was doing anyway.

(2) Immediately after that, do a little bit of cleaning, and make sure the kitchen is tidy and laundry done.

(3) Only then, work on ministry and other service things.

(4) Each day, try to fit in some kind of task for our family, whether it's inviting some neighbors for dinner, or doing some school paperwork -- The aim being to keep our family life vibrant and running smoothly.

It's working so far. Already the home feels more orderly, and I kind of like it. I'm not a naturally neat person when it comes to my home but I'm finding this new discipline is good for me.

Ultimately, in the SUM ministry our goal is to thrive in our faith and our marriage. A big part of our marriage succeeding lies in us being considerate and kind to our spouse. In the area of service, that truth remains: It is our thoughtfulness and love that will win them over. And while God has many fabulous things for us to do, his heart is always brooding over our marriages.

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives (1 Peter 3:1, NKJV)

So, that completes our series on Serving God when Spiritually Single. I hope you've enjoyed it like I have. My friends, I would love to hear any final thoughts you have in the comments!

Sending you all love,

Ann


How Our Spouses Feel About Us Serving

Hello everyone! Let's wash feet

Serving when spiritually single, part 1

Serving when spiritually single, part 2

We're continuing the above series, and it's time to turn our attention to this difficult aspect of serving: How our spouses feel.

Gulp!

Because we are one flesh in marriage, like conjoined twins, our choice to serve often costs our spouse something. 

It's mostly our time that we give; but sometimes it's part of our heart too. And from our spouse's point of view, our time and heart could be spent on other things.

It's very difficult, and for me this continues to be a tightrope balance. My husband does miss out on certain things because of time I spend on God. That said, marriage is about two people's needs, so there's give and take here.

Several years ago, my pastor took a few of us through some conversations as a leadership team. He wanted to encourage personal integrity and so he covered a different topic with us each week. One of those topics was 'balancing ministry with your marriage.'

He shared with us that while he felt an intense call to ministry, his wife did not have the same sense of calling. While she supported him 100%, because they had that slight difference he always made sure he asked her about every single evening he was to be away from her -- "Is it ok?" he would keep on asking.

He suggested we all do the same, and I liked that. However, I did reflect that if I had asked my husband "Is it ok?" in those early days I would not be a believer or attending church by now! As a SUMite, part of our lifestyle unfortunately involves standing up to our spouse in certain areas and not always being in agreement. So, how do we strike the balance?

When we want to serve in a particular area, we can first ask this:

Lord, do you definitely want me to serve in this area? I've got a desire to do it, but is this from you? Please confirm it.

We can wait a little while to mull this one over, but if we are pretty sure it's God's will for us to serve in a particular way, we will then find one of two things happens:

EITHER:

(a) Our spouse says 'yes', and sometimes it's a miraculous 'yes' that leaves us floored at God's goodness (woohoo!)

OR:

(b) Our spouse resists us. If that happens we then have to test whether we've heard God correctly. God doesn't mind testing us either: "Are you going to follow Me, or follow man?" It's not easy, but occasionally serving becomes a matter of obedience to God. 

I've been in both of the above scenarios and I know that others in this community have too. Discerning God's voice becomes critical. And, consideration for our spouse's feelings remains important.

Amazingly, all the spouses of the writers here at Spiritually Unequal Marriage have given their blessing for us to write. They said a miraculous yes. It's truly amazing. That said, their permission is necessary given the personal nature of the writing, so God had to help us with that.

The same was true when Dineen and Lynn wrote the book Winning Him Without Words. Their husbands never read the book; yet they cheered their wives on. God has hidden us all in a very unique way there. That there is scenario (a) in big, bold miraculous form!

However, when I stepped into speaking at church, I had the opposite happen. Bryce felt I was going too far with the whole Christian thing and he resisted me strongly. We had a particularly difficult conversation one night about it. Later that night God gave me a vision of a fly aiming at my voice-box. Flies in visions often represent Satan. Through this vision God said to me, "Ann, this is an attack from the enemy; he is trying to discourage you from speaking, and you need to push through and speak anyway." After that, I kept going.

It didn't take long for Bryce to have a change of heart and within a few weeks he was even supportive. I guess every scenario is different.

I suppose the moral is that sometimes our spouse will support us, sometimes they won't, but the most important thing is to listen as best we can to God's voice. Stay considerate to our spouse, and stay obedient.

Do you have any thoughts or experiences you'd like to share about the above?

Love to you all,

Ann


Serving: What If the Church Looks at us Differently?

Hi SUM family, Ann here and we're currently in our series on Serving God while Spiritually Single. Part One is here: Let's wash feet

Serving God when Spiritually Single: Part One

Today I want to talk about how we cope when the church looks at us differently. Does it affect our opportunity to serve?

I decided to look at this because one of our SUMites recently shared that's how she feels. She said something along the lines of: "Sometimes I feel the leaders might look at me and think there's something wrong with my life because my husband isn't believing. That might make them less likely to trust me or think of me as an obvious person to serve."

Have any of you have found that?

In my experience it's certainly been harder to build social connections and trust at church, at the very least. Because my husband isn't there it takes longer for people to know me. 

That said, there's a tremendous truth here that is rather exciting: God overrides these things if he really wants you to serve in a particular area.

I experienced that in a personal way recently. Many of you know my church closed last year, and then I followed the Holy Spirit's lead in moving to a new church. The old church was mostly made up of families. The new church is mostly in their twenties. Sometimes I feel very old in this new place!

One day while back in the old church, God stirred my heart that I was to start preaching there. "Yikes, that's bold of me I thought" ((laughing)). That's not the sort of thing you put yourself forward for easily, so I didn't mention it to anybody. But, one day the leader of the preaching team came running after me as I was leaving church. "Ann, would you like to give the sermon next week?" My mouth dropped open. 

God opened that guy's heart to my desire to serve; and that's how it goes: God gives us a stirring, and then it kind of happens.

Well, I really enjoyed that season of preaching in that church. But, you know, Bryce never attended once, and I stood up there alone each time. It was tough almost as much as it was rewarding. That seems to be the nature of service, at times.

I then moved to the new church, and God said to me "Ann, now I want you to be a passenger, not a driver."  In other words, he was asking me to step back and be a behind-the-scenes support. Meanwhile, my son Miles (age 16) signed himself up for the 7:30am set-up team on a Sunday, and that's what he and I now do once a month. That too feels 'meant to be', as God also said to me "I just want you to talk to people." While setting up, that's what I do.

Now, back to our SUMite sister's comment: Yes, in my new church I'm experiencing a little of what she said. It's been difficult to get to know people. I'm looked at a little differently too, as I don't fit the mold. It's ok -- God's breath on my life has shown me where he wants me.

Overall, though, I think the following quote captures how we must walk this. It's from Dineen, our past leader, and I just happened across it yesterday. She said:

"Don’t confuse your calling or ministry or service as who you are. Those are things you do. They come from your identity in Christ. All that we do to serve must be held loosely because we really don’t know the full picture of where God plans to take us next."

A hearty amen to that. So, let's seize the adventure of where God wants to take us next. Who knows, huh! All we know is that we must do this:

Through love, serve one another (Galatians 5:13, NKJV), and --

.. in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Romans 12:10-11, NKJV) 

Now your turn: What's your favorite area to serve in at the moment? And have you found it looks different in different seasons?


God, Where Do You Want Me To Serve?

My friends, Let's wash feet

Today I want us to roll up our sleeves and thing about whose feet we're to wash and how! Yes, we're launching into a series on serving God while spiritually single.

I say 'washing feet' because when we serve the church, our family, or people outside the church that's exactly what we're doing: Putting ourselves aside, like Jesus did, to show love to others.

As Jesus said --

If I then, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet (John 13:14, NKJV).

Now, I reckon for us -- The church of the unequally yoked -- God has an absolute array of things for us to be doing. What's more, the good works he prepared you for will look completely different to the good works he prepared others for. It's exciting to find out these things.

And, God equips us. For example, God might have allowed you to walk through a particular life experience so that you can later help others, or he might have given you a particular talent or area of knowledge for others' sake. OR, he might have given you a heart for a particular issue or group of people.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

But now to the elephant in the room: It is truly difficult to serve God when our spouse is not by our side in it. Their attitude to it will impact our choices and ease there, and it's a fine balance. We'll talk about that in a later post.

Ultimately, though, nothing can stop the fact that a Christian will want to serve, and will serve. When I look at my own faith life it has three areas to which I give my heart: Faith time

(1) My personal relationship with God

(2) Washing my family's feet

(3) Washing others' feet

Those three things take up much of my energy. They are like segments of a pie.

If I was to prioritize them I would put my personal relationship with God at the top; everything flows from that. Then, I would put my family and, third, serving others. But I would never not do something to serve others outside my home - however tiny. And, that's the thing: Tiny things can be big in Kingdom terms, because often tiny things are a gesture of the heart.

'Tiny', or 'low key' service towards others can be very simple, like deciding you're going to check in on people who are house-bound, or being a deliberate and regular encourager to others.

This might look quite different to the kind of service within church that's more visible. We might look at the guitar-player at the front or the kids-church volunteer and think because we're not doing something like that we're not serving. 

But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-13, NKJV)

I love that verse, and it empowers me to turn up to church and do the quiet things too, like make sure the toilets look clean, or talk to a new person and make them feel like they're valued. That's the sort of stuff nobody notices but God. 

Washing others' feet, then, is fabulously diverse and our task is to understand where God wants our energy. I went through a season, for example, where I baked cakes and biscuits for the Sunday service. Now, (in a different church) I pray a lot for my church behind the scenes and that's where my time goes. These sorts of things we do out of a fervent love for others.

And above all things have fervent love for one another (1 Peter 4:8, NKJV)

With all that in mind, then, how about we do an exercise? 

Sit with God with a blank piece of paper and pen, and ask him what are the good works he has equipped you uniquely to be doing, and where does he want your 'serving energy'? Be prepared to think outside the box, and hear outside the box!

I'd love to hear your responses in the comments if you feel like sharing.

And .. See you next time!

Ann


Serving God When Spiritually Single

Happy Friday, everyone, Ann here. Foot washing

For many of us the desire to serve God in church or some other way outside our home runs through our veins. We want to contribute, we want to muck in. After all, that's the spirit of a Christian: We're part of a global effort to spread the Gospel.

Well... We all know that serving is a little complicated with an unbelieving spouse. It's complicated on one hand, but it can be exciting too.

With this in mind, next week we're going to start a series called 'Serving God when Spiritually Single'. To kick off you might like to watch this week's live video, below. In this video, one of our SUMites Paula Blackie shares her story about she has served in ministry despite having an unbelieving husband -- Yikes! That story got my own creative juices going, and I thought "We can definitely talk more about this," because serving takes a lot of forms.

So, I will leave you with this video, and perhaps you can share in the comments if there is anything particular you're grappling with in terms of serving? It'll help us write next week's series.

Thanks for your input, and love you loads,

Ann

 


A Backyard Miracle??

Mark 9_41
Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

Hello SUMers!!

I pray as you read this you are blessed and filled with overwhelming hope!  Jesus is King!!!!

A quick story: This morning I was sitting in my new backyard enjoying the birds and the sun. While sipping my coffee and with my Bible open on my lap, my husband emerged and sat next to me. We chatted about the millions of tasks that we are still facing as we are slowly moving in.

After that discussion, I looked down into my Bible. And I said, "Do you want me to read to you from the Word of God?"

Sheepishly, "No."

That didn't deter me. I simply began to read a passage, "Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward."

Mike then says to me, "That what you do all the time when you give a bottle of water to everyone who comes here to do any repair work on our house."

I've been doing this for years. 

I looked up, "Wow, I didn't even realize that I was doing this." I smiled BIG. It's fun to discover that God lives in you so much that you live out His will even unknowingly.

BUT, this is the BEST PART OF THE STORY: Later in the day electrician, Gregg, arrived to repair our A/C unit. We blew a fuse, darn it!

I'm in my office as Mike and Greg are chatting. Then suddenly I hear Mike say, "Can I get you a bottle of water?"

My friends, THEY ARE ALWAYS LISTENING. I took one brave moment to read the word to my husband, even when he wasn't interested.

He was listening. 

They are watching and listening. No pressure. Just live an authentic love with Jesus. THAT is all.

I adore you. Lynn


Running the Race

By Amanda Pace

Blog picWe often think of running a race as just that, running, as fast as you can and as hard as you can towards a finish line. Blood pumping, adrenaline nigh, excitement and anticipation pulsing through your body as you see your finish line getting closer and closer! Running a race you can see the end to is easy enough, and many people would even consider it enjoyable. It's exciting because you KNOW you are going to reach the end, often you can SEE it before you even start running. But what about the races we cannot see the end of?  What about those of us who feel like we have been running for months, years, or even decades? Towards a goal, a finish line, that we never seem to reach. This message today is for us. The ones soaked in sweat and tears, the ones who live our lives falling and getting back up, bruised and battered and heart broken. Yet still we run. We run through valleys of depression, mountains of adversity, deserts of hopelessness, winding trails of illnesses, and sometimes we run through utter darkness, with no light except the Fathers promises. His Word guiding us towards that place of rest and peace in him.  This is just another reminder, one we all need. He sees us!

When we run through the valleys of depression, he is right there to comfort us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

When we face mountains of adversity he is our peace. (Philippians 4:7)

When we find ourselves in the desert of hopelessness he reminds us of his goodness(1 Chronicles 16:12)

When we are wading through illness he is our healer! (Jeremiah 17:14)

And when we are running through that utter darkness, lost and terrified and confused HE IS OUR LIGHT! (John 8:12)

I don't know about all of you, but during some of my races I find myself looking for an easy way out. Any way that I can side step the path in front of me and take an easier one with less resistance. After all, none of us want to run a race with illness or depression. And there are times when God will show you a quick way out. Then there are times when God says, "I know this is hard, but we have to finish this one. We are taking the long way this time". Those are the races that test us, that push us to the very edge. But those are also the races that build the most endurance! Which leads to stronger faith and closer intimacy with our father!

Our precious and adoring father knows we will stumble, struggle, and even fail. He knows how exhausted we are, and how afraid, and even doubtful we can be. The good news is he loves us anyway! He is the perfect One, he is the love, grace, and mercy every human needs in their life. He will always be right there to help us back up, give us a drink of his living water, wipe our tears, take our hand, and shine a light in the darkness. Every time! 

I hope this encourages you this week my dear friends. That it gives you just a bit more endurance to keep running your race. I hope it reminds you that you are seen. You are seen by the one who matters most. The one whose heart yearns for closeness with us. 

So that in the end we may say "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7 NIV


March On -- We Win!

Ann here! March on

I've got a little story today that may make me sound bonkers. But I'm laughing as I write, because sometimes you've just got to die to yourself and tell the story. I hope it gives you a smile.

In my spiritually mismatched marriage, there was a real season of tears that lasted a number of years. 

To everything there is a season and a purpose under heaven: (Eccl 3:1)

A time to weep and a time to laugh (v. 4, NKJV)  

It wasn't that I didn't love my husband, but the spiritual mismatch itself was just so upsetting, uncomfortable, and stretching that I cried most days about it.

One day I was home alone thinking about it as usual and, yep, crying. I happened to put a CD on, and as I sniffled away a song began to play that was catchy. Words floated out:

Don't cry. Open up your eyes and know there's someone else out there that feels this way.

I'm singing to you 'coz I know what you've been through and it's not so long ago I felt the same.

Like soldiers, march on. If we can make it through the night we'll see the sun. March on, march on.

I leapt to my feet. "I am a soldier of Jesus Christ" I thought, and began to march on the spot. Well, I marched, marched, marched, and marched some more, snot-crying with a big man-sized hankie, and listening to those words Like soldiers, march on. The song finished, I put it on again and continued to march.

Honestly, I must have spent about twenty minutes marching on the spot in my living room. Good job no one could see me. But, bonkers as it may have seemed, it turns out it was a prophetic act.

A couple of years later Lynn Donovan, our founder of this ministry, announced that her husband Mike had got baptized after 27 years of her waiting for it. She announced it to the room at a SUM conference, and told us how the Lord had taken her on a seven-year march around Jericho before he suddenly said yes to baptism. 

That seven year march involved Lynn learning something new and specific each year in order to get the Jericho walls of her husband's unbelief to crash to the ground. What's more, God was asking her now to write a book about those seven years and call it Marching Around Jericho. Lynn with MAJ

The talk Lynn gave about her seven-year march and Mike's baptism is here. She marched .. and then Mike got baptized in March. Just because God is fun. It's as if he was saying 'Let's just have a complete marching theme here!'

When Lynn finally finished the book and had it published in December 2019, the book ended with these words on its last page:

March on, Warrior! We WIN!

March On? Well, that was the very name of the song I marched to: March On by the band Good Charlotte.

That little march in my living room was a foreshadowing of that great book and all that it has meant for our community. That book lifted our spiritual skills so that we could break through those Jericho walls. It also had - and has -- the power to change a season.

Yes, here on the blog many are still marching through that season of tears. That's why we need this ministry. But, in the words of that song, if we can make it through the night we'll see the sun. March on. March on.

Even when there's no one there for you, march on.

Even when the days are hard for you, march on.

Like soldiers, march on.

I'm going to finish with the song itself and, hey, if you're game why not have a march in your living room? It's Friday and we can be a little bonkers ((laughing)).

Ann


Sweet Gifts for a Grandmother's Faith

By Ann Hutchison  T M 2

You know, when it comes to my kids I've always found it super challenging to bring faith to them. In fact, it's no less challenging to bring faith to them as it is to bring faith to my husband.

Is it like that for many of you, I wonder?

Here's a pic of my precious two boys -- Travis and Miles. They are 17 and 16 and, like their Dad, they have not yet had a point in their life where they've said "Yes, I give my life to Jesus". That's not to say they haven't been exposed: Both boys were raised with me talking about God a lot. I would tell them God stories, I would pray for them, and I did take them to church for periods of time, but church never gelled for them and that part was a real struggle for me.

In his earlier years, my oldest used to express unbelief, or would challenge the existence of God. He's a very concrete person, geared around what he can see and touch directly. Those expressions of unbelief have now stopped, though - Interesting.

My youngest, meanwhile, joined church of his own volition a year ago too. THAT was amazing, and I shared that story here. He and I now attend church together, just the two of us. Still, with him I'm watching and wondering where he sits with it all. 

Well, two weeks ago something very special happened, because I saw a tiny shift happen separately for each boy in the space of one weekend. Glimmers of change. Mum Travis 2

I'll start with Travis. My Mum was visiting us and she and I happened to have the chance to go out for dinner on our own with Travis. It was a treat for her and I. As parents of teens know, it's nice to have the excuse to spend time talking with a willing teenager and we chatted about all sorts. Here's a nice photo from that night.

Well, partway through the evening, we started talking about Travis's friends and where they stand in their beliefs about God. He said, very casually, 'Yes, they've told me they don't believe in God, and I've told them I do believe in God.'

I've told them I believe in God.

Well that made me smile because I have never before heard him say that. And, when someone makes a statement like that it's a clear step forward to say 'My heart is open'. 

That was Friday.

Sunday rolled around, then, and my Mum and I drove with Miles (my youngest) to church. It was the first time my Mum had attended our church and she was looking forward to it. 

Our church doesn't do communion often, but they happened to have it that day. The leader said, "If you have received Jesus into your heart, then do come up and take some bread and wine". Miles was sitting on the other side of the room to us with one of his friends. I took a peek over thinking 'will he go?' and sure enough up he got, walked to the table, and took the bread and wine. He then went and sat down, and as I peeked over I could see he had his eyes closed, reflecting. It's the first time I've seen him take communion.

Like the statement his brother made - 'I believe in God' - Communion is powerful. It is the finest of feasts, and a way we can enter Him, by eating his body and drinking his blood. That day Miles took a step in the Heavenlies by receiving communion (Jesus). Mum miles 2

Later, my Mum and I were alone and I turned to her --

"Did you notice what Travis said in the restaurant?"

"Oh yes, I was going to say the same to you!" Her eyes sparkled back at me.

"And did you notice Miles took communion?"

"I DID! Yes, I noticed that too."

She and I grinned broadly.

My Mum has been a woman of faith since the 1970s, never wavering, never backsliding, and praying constantly for her family. It seemed somehow providential that she was there to witness those two new signs that my boys are getting there, that is, getting towards that momentous decision where they will say --

"Yes, I am going to give my life to Jesus."

Thanks for reading along today. For those of you who have kids, how old are they and how are things going faith-wise?

Ann