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11 entries from December 2023

The plan for our community fast

Hello dear SUMites, Ann here. Refreshing 2

Something amazing happened this week -- I received something from God specifically for our SUM community, and I am going to tell you about it next week when we begin our annual fast.

I'll keep you in suspense about that one :-)

But for now, this week let's get preparing for our annual SUM community fast.

Many of you have taken part in this fast before. For others of you it will be the first time. Here's how it works:

We fast from sun-up on Monday the 8th of January until sunset on Friday the 12th.

If you haven't fasted before, a good way to start would be to go without food from sun-up to sun-set each day and have a small bite to eat in the evening, while still drinking liquids throughout the day.

However, pray about it and see what the Spirit is leading you to do.

Why do we fast? It lifts us into a greater level of intimacy with God, bringing spiritual blessings and power to our situation. Things change when we fast. Honestly, we could write a book based on some of the things that have happened to SUMites in this community when fasting.

It really is a blessed time.

The first time I took part in this community fast, one of my favorite things that happened was that in the final hour -- at 6pm on the Friday -- I walked into my bedroom to find Bryce lying on the bed reading a Christian book. That was unheard of, it completely bowled me over, and I look back now and see it as a God 'wink' to show me that, yes, my fasting had done something in the heavenlies.

Fasting is not about twisting God's arm. Rather, it's about seeking him, and asking for more of him. When we make ourselves vulnerable and hungry it sends us to our knees in a way that other things don't.

So, to prepare:

  • Pray now for your ability to fast
  • Read some scriptures about fasting
  • Clear your week as much as you can, including getting your family to cook next week. or planning some meals ahead for them
  • Get juices and other nice drinks in stock to help you through
  • Consider telling your spouse/family, if you can - I do tell mine, though it wasn't easy to do at first.

Exciting! Yep, that's right, I'm excited about it. Tough as it is.

What questions do you have about fasting? Fire away!

Lots of love

Ann


Our Annual Community Fast

Dear SUMites Fast n pray

Well, it is that time of year again -- A time of year that many of us anticipate: Our annual SUM Community Fast.

The fast will commence at sunrise on Monday, January 8th and conclude at sundown on Friday January 12, 2024. 

This year we are preparing ourselves for the spiritual warfare that we will engage in beginning in February when we work our way through Lynn's new book, Spiritual Enforcer.

During this fast we will seek the Lord for any way that the enemy holds legal grounds in our personal lives and find freedom for ourselves. Our freedom empowers and enables us to effectively battle for our families beginning in February.

This is the most important fast to date. Plan to participate and let your family know you will be fasting. In the meantime, I will write a little more about it in my next post.

Hold on to your hats. We are going to stand in victory in 2024: Victory in Christ in our lives, our faith and marriages. 

In Jesus' name. AMEN.

Love,

Ann


A Husband-Wife Conversation

By Ann Hutchison Bible 2

Here's a scene from this week in our house -- It was a crazy little spiritually mismatched scene.

Bryce is sitting at the table, doing some work. I'm on the couch in my pyjamas, reading the Bible.

A song pops into my head that I really wanted to listen to. 

Me:         "Mind if I put a song on?" 

Bryce:     "Is it a Christian power ballad?" 

Me:         "Yes."

Bryce:     "Then that probably would bother me. Perhaps you can wait till I've gone?"

I think he was thinking about the noise and intensity of it interrupting his work rather than the Christian side of it. Anyway, I got up, took the portable speaker into the bathroom, started to straighten my hair and listened to the song in there with the door closed.

Turns out it was a longgggg song ... So eventually with freshly straightened hair I emerged with the speaker in hand, the song still playing, and headed into the bedroom to dress. My hubby was now there too, getting ready to leave.

The song played on .....

Open the scroll, break the seal, worthy one.

Open the scroll, break the seal, worthy one.

You are holy.

Lord God Almighty.

I could feel the gentle presence of God, like a breeze, and the song filled our bedroom.

"I love God!" I burst out to Bryce. He smiled and paused.

Bryce:     "Yeah, I just can't relate. I just can't imagine loving someone you can't actually ..... see.

Me:         "I suppose he puts it in you. It's the Holy Spirit, he deposits the love in you. He does it all, and then you can't really help feeling that way about him."

Bryce:     "I guess so."

And off he went to work.

Yep, there we have it, just a normal day in a spiritually mismatched home. Well, it was not normal because there are no normal days. What's more, when we talk about things of the Spirit with our spouse - a feat that happens rarely -- it will always be a seed that will bloom. 

Meanwhile, here's the song -- and on this lovely Friday evening I'm going to put it on now and enjoy it once again.

Love you all!

Ann


Leafing Through His Story

By Ann Hutchison Tree

My house is peaceful and quiet; everyone's still asleep. It's 6:30am, and I'm wrapped in a fluffy robe.

Time with Him. Ahhh.

I know us SUMites love our time with God, and many of us get up early to have it.

Well, I mentioned in my last post that today I would share how I connect with the story of the birth of Jesus. So here goes. But to tell the story I need to backtrack:

A few years ago, a colleague who had left his faith told me the Gospels were 'inconsistent with each other'. He suggested that because of those inconsistencies the Bible was not inerrant. I was reasonably new to my faith at the time, and I didn't particularly mind him telling me that. I thought "If he's right, then I should take notice." My primary concern was truth, and I didn't mind where that took me. So I investigated.

Were the Gospels inconsistent? I pulled them to me: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and I read them, event by event, side by side, from start to finish.

I didn't find them to be problematic. Instead, what I found was that they each provided a different piece of a puzzle. In any given story about Jesus, there are one, two, three or even four descriptions of the event (e.g., his crucifixion), and different things are highlighted in each Gospel.

The same is true with the birth of Jesus. We have different Gospel accounts that describe his birth, and we can pull them together like detectives to reconstruct a scene, a testimony, a story.

I love doing that with the Gospels: Pulling all the pieces together to reconstruct a particular story. Have you ever tried that? It's fun! 

A few years ago, then, I reconstructed the nativity story using the Gospels to determine the order in which things happened. Every December since then I have read the story in this particular order. I sit by my sparkling Christmas tree on an early December morning, morning after morning, and I read the story ... Sipping tea, and thinking about how amazing it was that God came to earth.

Fully human; fully God.

As I read, I do this:

  • I highlight in the scriptures any phrases that tell me who Jesus was, or what he was about.
  • I notice the things that were spoken about him by people like Simon, or Anna the prophetess in the temple.
  • I ask myself why we are told about his lineage twice, and why those two lineages are different. I wonder what it is God wants us to know.
  • I think about John the Baptist and what his purpose was.

And so on, and so on. It is such a rich story, I will never get bored of reading it.

So now, my friends, here's my order of reading the nativity story, and perhaps you might like to follow along with this reading plan sometime?

Luke 1:5-80: The story of Elizabeth, Zacharias, and Mary

John 1:1-14: The story of the Word becoming flesh, and John the Baptist

Matthew 1:1-25: The story of Mary and Joseph

Luke 2:1-40: The birth of Jesus

Matthew 2:1-23: A short time afterwards, the wise men, Herod's attack and the family's flight to Egypt

Well, ENJOY the nativity story!

What does it mean to you? What are you longing for this Christmas?

I'd love to hear your heart.

Ann


A Delightful Routine

Hello SUMites Lift our eyes

There's one key to my survival in a SUM, and it's this: Focus on Jesus.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3, ESV)

You know, when I first took on the task of writing for this blog back in 2017, I asked Lynn, 'What is the key purpose we're trying to achieve?' Her answer: Focus their eyes on Jesus.

What a great answer.

For that reason, there are two points in our year where we deliberately stop and do that:

  1. In March/April, we look at Jesus' death in the Gospels and walk through that story carefully.
  2. In December, we look at Jesus' birth in the Gospels and do the same.

We do that at these times of year because the rest of the church is doing it, and it's a collective effort. It's been part of the church's routine for centuries, ever since the early church was established, and ever since they put in place a liturgy for bringing the different parts of scripture to their congregations. It's an amazing thing to think of the body of Christ collectively marinating in those stories, at those times of year.

We could spend December continuing to talk about the ins and outs of spiritually mismatched life, like we do for most of the year -- honestly, that topic never gets old LOL -- But I like the idea instead of pausing, breathing, and lifting our eyes elsewhere twice a year... Deliberately, and as a group. 

Where does my help come from? Not from earth below, but from Him -- Jesus. He is my love.

So when I next write I'm going to share my own personal approach to how I connect with the birth of Jesus at this time of year.

In the meantime, how about you? Do you have any routines for how you go about connecting with the nativity story? I'd love to hear them, so let's share in the comments!

Love to you all

Ann

p.s. Sorry if I've been slow to reply to comments/messages -- I've been on a beautiful multi-day hike with my family and just got back last night. Am catching up now :-)


Christmas Traditions

  Blog image Hello  SUMite  family!  I apologize for the delay in posting. I hope you all are having a wonderful December so far! The winter chill is just starting to settle in down here in the southern U.S. It makes me want to stay cuddled up at home with my kids, our dogs, and a few good Christmas movies! Some of these movies I know by heart and watching them every December has become one of my favorite traditions. Which brings me to my topic for today, Christmas traditions!

Traditions are one way we tie the past, present, and future generations together. They are a thread which connect us to our loved ones who are in heaven, who are living, and those who are yet to be. They can be small gestures, large parties, and anything in between. Regardless of their grandeur, their importance is often paramount during the holiday season. 

The first tradition I can remember participating in as a little girl was my mom lighting a candle and having us all sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas morning. That small gesture helped us remember what we were really celebrating!

One of my favorite newer Christmas traditions is reading the gospel of Luke all through December with my kids. It often leads to deep discussions on faith and the life of Jesus. And I love it! Spending each night in the word puts our focus on the Father. Especially this time of year when the world is telling us to buy, buy, buy! The book of Luke is especially perfect for December because there are 24 Chapters! So, if you decide to get started now you could be done by Christmas if you read two chapters a night! ;)

Another favorite tradition of ours is making gingerbread houses! Each person makes their own and the designs everyone comes up with are always hilarious! I look forward every year to seeing what the kids and Daniel will come up with.

Then of course there are the gatherings with friends and family, gift exchanges, baking etc. So many beautiful experiences all packed into a short time. All of these experiences, all of these connections, are because someone somewhere in our families decided to start a tradition. And each generation held on to that thread, then passed it along to the next.  

I would love to hear about some of your favorite Christmas traditions in the comments!

P.S. I hope this Christmas season is a blessed one for you all! I hope it is filled with love, joy, and peace. Even if you are not surrounded by family. I pray you feel yourself surrounded by the love of our perfect Father, who adores you so! 

Merry Christmas to you all!

And Happy Birthday Jesus! 

 

 

.


When a Song Breaks Out

SUM family, Ann here and it's my first post for December. SONG

Woohoo!

December, for me, has a beautiful routine attached to it:

Throughout the year I keep a detailed journal of my days with God. I journal carefully about the things that happen in my life, any scriptures that I notice from the Bible that day, and anything that I sense God saying.

Well, on 1 December I always begin to re-read my journal for the past year. I sit in the early morning in my living room, before my family wake up; the lights on the tree are sparkling, and I feel at peace. As I open the journal and begin at 1st January of that year -- I embark on a big month of reflection. 

What on earth happened this year, Lord, and what did you do in my life?

What do you want me to remember?

This morning I noticed a beautiful word that I'd written in my journal. It was a word of hope that I wrote on the first day of our community fast last year, in January. I'd been chatting to God about the SUM ministry, and this is what I sensed from him: 

In places where the faithless mill around, we are going to see songs breaking out.

A song will break out.

It's going to come to our houses.

It's a song that will break out amongst the unfaithful, the really really unfaithful.

The song is this:

'Thine be the glory, risen conquering son. Endless is the victory, thou over death has won."

I notice this morning that when the shepherds saw an angel who told them about Jesus's birth, all of a sudden a song broke out there and then in the field -- Right there, in their place of daily ordinariness.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men! (Luke 2:13-14, NKJV)

I can picture that raucous breaking out -- Of song!

Hang in there SUMites, I believe that everything we stoke -- all our prayers, all our love for our family -- will result in a song of faith breaking out.

In the meantime, it is now a month to celebrate and focus on the birth of our Savior -- The risen, conquering Son.

Love you all, SUMites!

Ann


Advent - A Season of Hope!

As some of you may recall I’ve been observing the season of Advent now for many years. Hi, it’s Ian from warming up Sydney.

Pexels-lil-artsy-3440668
Photo courtesy of Lil Artsy and Pixels.com

Advent means “arrival”. Interestingly, the arrival, Jesus as a babe, occurs on the last morning of Advent, ie, Christmas morning. And then of course, the season encourages us also to reflect on the Second Coming of Christ.

How do we Wait?

We know waiting, don’t we SUMites? Besides the everyday matters on which we wait, we also wait for our partners to discover Jesus. To experience their own ‘advent’ of sorts. And we wait. For some of us, it’s been a long time.

“Every good arrival is preceded by a waiting, a suspension, a liminal moment.”1

We place our hope in that good arrival. It’s fascinating that the Gospel of Luke starts with the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. I especially love this story in Luke 1: 5-25. I’d encourage you to read it, if you haven’t recently.

Elizabeth is barren. I suspect as Zechariah was a priest, they were an esteemed couple in society. Being unable to have children would have been noticed and I imagine brought much shame upon them.

But Gabriel appears to Zechariah telling him Elizabeth will conceive and give birth to a son, whom they will name John. Gabriel’s instructions are so specific, aren’t they? The Advent story starts in darkness, in the barrenness, but God entered and healed their pain and shame.2

Darkness often gets a bad rap but remember miracles happen in the dark all the time. All of us were conceived in the dark.

Holy Anticipation

Advent reflects the hope of having a relationship with an outrageous God who comes in person, as a babe, dies after a short life, is resurrected, and walked amongst us for 40 days, before ascending to heaven. But, in leaving us, Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit and in so doing, gave us the power to co-create our futures here on earth with Him. But there’s more: we have a greater future when Jesus reigns forever more.

It's an exciting story, isn’t it? And one that fills me with great anticipation for the present, these four weeks of Advent and beyond.

What are you hoping for?

Advent coincides with the end of a year and often the beginning of a new year comes with hope for something new. We may be in our own season of darkness or a season of transition, waiting for the light to be revealed and a step into a fresh new something.

May we encourage you to reflect on this over the next days. Is there something you particularly long for God to do in your life? If yes, may we encourage you to bring that to Him. May we invite you to sit picturing Jesus with you. See the light and love brightly emanating from within Him in your direction. And simply open your heart to the lover of your soul. Sit some more and let Jesus hug you and bathe you in His inexhaustible love.

Happy Advent, dear SUMites. Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful Christmas and New Year. See you in 2024.

Notes: 1. Advent Meditations – Practicing the Way. practicingtheway.org 2. Ibid.


A GIANT THANK YOU

THANK YOULynn Donovan here.

Ann and I are overwhelmed by your support and giving. This ministry could not exist without YOU. Your giving allows us to maintain our web presence and help others on this crazy road behind us.

The book I offered with this year's giving campaign is going to change your life. I'm not kidding. This is a real book about the demons we fight and how to defeat them. 

We are going to have a blast with the video training and live demonstrations of the content.

IT'S NOT TO LATE TO GIVE and receive a book. 

Go here and read how: Giving Tuesday.

I love you. I love Jesus. May His name be glorified in our lives and this ministry! Hallelujah! 

Love and hugs, Lynn


Hi SUM Nation,

Some of you have been around here long enough to remember when Dineen Miller and I were writing together. A number of years ago Dineen began to focus on other areas of ministry in her local community. AND since leaving the non-fiction world, she has become a Rom Com fiction writer. The girl is a machine. I wanted to share with you a few of her titles. See below.

Dineen says hello to everyone here and Merry Christmas. Love you all Lynn!

Dineen Miller ROM COM 2023

The Messy Love on Mango Lane closed door romantic comedy series is full of all the swoons and feels but no explicit content or language. Just the characters you love to see fall in love with the happily-ever-after hijinks to match and can be read in any order. 

Link to series page: https://mybook.to/MessyLoveonMangoLane

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