5 posts categorized "A Great Company Of Women"

On Shedding the 'Unequally Yoked' Badge

Hello friends, Ann here!Badge

It's been a couple of weeks since I last wrote, but in my last post I shared a story from our archives where the Holy Spirit had given us a caution about using the ‘unequally yoked’ label too much. To catch up, you can read that post here. Today I'm interested in chatting a bit more about that -- the 'unequally-yoked' badge.

I certainly can relate to the issue of using the 'spiritually mismatched' label a little much. As a woman, I share my feelings easily with others, and when I’m with other Christians I talk about my faith challenges. Well, the spiritual mismatch is the major challenge, right?

Except … it’s easy to mention this thing to any Tom, Dick or Harry at church and suddenly we’re allowing them into our marriage, which is a private space. That thought makes me sad. I think my husband would hope that doesn't happen.

I guess over the years I’ve become more wary about sharing this precious and difficult thing that Bryce and I walk. But guarding the tongue takes practice, especially if you are naturally a bit talkative!

As for the label itself, which we do use in the SUM community, what are we to make of the words that the Holy Spirit gave us (mentioned in my last post)? Let's take another look at those beautiful -- and perspective-changing -- words:

Beloved SUMites:

Your marriages are not mismatched or unequally yoked.

Your marriages are Mine.

Your husbands are Mine.

They are Mine.

Words like these are designed by the Lord to give us the mind of Christ. He always sees things differently to the way we naturally do and he will often ask us to lift our eyes above the circumstances. He wants us to walk in hope, peace and joy!

Of course, we can't deny the battle. If we were too euphemistic in our words, people wouldn't be able to find this blog and know we're here to help them deal with spiritual mismatch in marriage. The Bible uses the term ‘unbelieving wife’ and ‘unbelieving husband’ (1 Corinthians 7:14) with honesty. So, we do the same in this ministry to articulate the challenge for others who need help. Even then, I have to say I use the label cautiously (Proverbs 18:21).

Perhaps the issue is not so much about using the label as much as it's about our hearts. If the label is used to minister to other SUMites it's a different thing to us using the label widely and without respect for our spouse. So, while I'm open with SUMites I've become much more guarded when talking with other Christians. If I do talk about it I'll say something like this:

"My husband and I do have a difference in what we believe, but we're still happily married."

“My husband doesn’t go to church with me, so I tend to do that side of things by myself.”

In fact, I had this role-modelled to me a few years ago when I sidled up to an older woman at church. I wanted to ask her about her non-attending husband. All she said was this, smiling:

“You're right, he doesn't come to church. But you know what, he is the most amazing man. It's not ideal, but he's a fantastic husband.” 

I liked that.

Ultimately, what I know is that God sees the end from the beginning. This present moment is not the final answer and when God looks at our marriage he sees its final day and every day leading up to that. As he sees the bigger picture, his word on the matter is this:

Your marriage is not mismatched. It is Mine.

If we can believe these words, our job is then to 'call things that are not as though they were' (Romans 4:17). That is, we can go so far as to say verbally to others: "My husband -- He belongs to the Lord", or "My marriage -- It belongs to God", or perhaps we can even smile to ourselves and think about that declaration of the Holy Spirit: Not mismatched.

My friends, I hope you've found that interesting -- It's been food for thought for me. For now, here's a question: How do you approach this issue when talking with other Christians about your situation and your life? We'll chat in the comments.

Ann


Taking Off the Badge

Hi friends, Ann here!Record

We’re currently looking at past words that God has spoken to our community. To catch up, here are the recent posts:

Part one - 'Museum of SUM'

Part two - 'God is Calling our Spouses'

Now, this next word I’m going to share is one where the Lord gave us an adjustment. In it he was encouraging us to adjust a particular aspect of our walk. It’s shared with warm humor by Lynn but when I read it I did nod and say all over again, 'Yes, Lord.' 

It happened at the conference that Lynn and Dineen attended on 12 October 2012. Lynn tells the story, which I’ve copied below. It's a longer one, so perhaps make a drink and settle in ... Then we can chat in the comments.

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Lynn's Story, 2 November 2012

"Sometimes are you overcome and overwhelmed with the sheer love and patience God bestows upon you? 

Ya? 

Glad it’s not just me. 

His relentless persistence to get through to my heart and more, my thick-head, is astounding. In the weeks since the conference, I feel like I’m reading scripture for the first time. I’m in love with the book of Luke right now and can’t get enough. I’m reading that book like it was personally written for me. Scripture verses have new meaning, depth and POWER in my life. 

I’m not sure how long this post will be but I’m writing until the entire story is out. Because it is HIS-story and all for His glory. 

I think I mentioned in the post about Maria that God was intentionally selective about the conferees that He placed around us during the three day event. Our God did not waste one minute of the conference. He sent Helen to us at lunch and Maria next to me in the audience and Laura prayed with us in the bathroom. That story still makes me chuckle (a tale for another day, I promise). 

But God also used Heidi, Dineen and me as we spoke truth and love into each other’s lives. A bond of love formed between the three of us that is impenetrable, powerful, perfect and sealed in eternal love. I hope all of you experience this kind of Kingdom friendship and love. 

Onward. It was the last day of the conference and all throughout the day, through people like Laura, Darlene, and Helen God was trying to talk to Dineen and I. He wanted to speak about something Dineen and I wear. You see we kinda promote this badge on our chest. I’m still struggling to figure out how it comes to rest on my chest and why. But the badge we wear says this: 

I’m unequally yoked. 

Truly we have moved past wearing this badge as martyrs. It’s just easy to say, “I’m unequally yoked” because in Christian circles people always reply to our declaration with a serious nod of understanding accompanied by eyes full of concern or pity and they utter one word, “Oh.” As if to say, I see, I get it, poor you. 

Sheesh, just writing that makes my stomach turn. Onward. 

Well after three days of proudly wearing our invisible but very discernible badges around the place and after God sending people to us to speak gently about our malady of unequalness, God was sick of us. So He sent in Heidi. 

We were walking along the road to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Now I don’t recall the conversation specifics at the moment. I think we were talking about Laura and the words she prayed over us in the women’s restroom. And Heidi with trepidation in her voice says, “Did you hear what she was saying to you?” 

“Ya, I thought I did.” 

Heidi looked at me and Dineen with uncertainty in her eyes and then she ventured, “I really don’t know how to say this and I’m not saying this to be hurtful or anything but I don’t think you are hearing what God is saying to you.” 

I froze in my tracks on the side of the road with cars passing by. I stared at Heidi and Dineen was standing right there frozen as well. “I just hear God telling me to tell you this. ‘Your marriages are not mismatched or unequally yoked. Your marriages are mine. Your husbands are mine.’” 

Gulp! 

Instantly I felt chastised by our most loving and Holy God. 

Heidi rushed on, “Please don’t be mad but I hear God telling me to say to you, ‘They are mine.” 

That instant my heart broke wide open. I felt ashamed that I had not believed God about this and even more shame that for so, so long I’ve worn this stupid “spiritually mismatched” badge about my person. 

She said, “Your words have created a prison where you have held your husband in a cell.”

Pain. O, the pain. 

However the pain and shame instantly left me as I said to Heidi, “Oh Heidi, you are right. God is so right.” 

It was at the moment that I opened the doors of the prison. I tore off the badge and I surrendered it to God. I remember saying to Heidi and Dineen, “This changes everything. Even our ministry. Perhaps we are to even change our ministry name?” A million thoughts rushed into my head. And those thoughts Dineen and I are still wrangling with today. 

Out of this entire exchange what has remained profound and clear to me are three words that the Father spoke to me and Dineen, “They are mine.” 

My friends, deep calls to deep. Step into this deep with me and see if you can uncover the truth of those three words in your life. What are the implications? Why it is God would say this to Dineen and I, “They (our husbands) are mine.” 

Now I have to also be clear in this. Heidi spoke these words as they were placed upon her through the Holy Spirit and they were intended for Dineen and I. However, I also believe they are intended for our community. But there is a progression or a spiritual shift that happens within us that allows God to speak these words to those of us who live with an unsaved spouse. And it’s this development, this shift that changes everything. And I’m desperate to share this with you so that you don’t have to be hit upside the head from a close friend on the side of the road."

**

Well, that’s the story! We'll build on it in a future post, but in the meantime I'd love to hear your thoughts. See you in the comments.

Ann


Waging War With God's Words

Hi SUMites, Ann here!  Rings

As you know, we’re currently looking at past words that the Holy Spirit has spoken to this community. In our archives there are places where the Lord has said something specific to equip us, and I’m in the process of pulling these words out, in date order, to see how the Lord has progressively spoken to us as a body.

What does God want us to know? Where does he want us to focus our minds? What wisdom does he have for us?

On Monday I shared the first of these words. It was the simplest of words that the Lord gave Dineen for this community but sometimes he gives us simple truths to digest, especially as a first step. Dineen described the word as this:

He is calling our pre-believers with His salvation.

We need only lift our face to Him and trust that He is doing it.

When we receive such a word, our role is then to engage with it. Believe it. Turn it over in our minds. For example, we could go about our week asking 'What does it mean or look like for the Lord to be ‘calling’ my spouse?'

One way of engaging with a word from the Holy Spirit is to write it up and pop it somewhere accessible, at least for a little while. So today I have a post-it stuck on the wall by my washing-up sink. It says:

“He is calling my husband. Keep lifting my eyes heavenward!”

This is what Paul advised his younger believer, Timothy, to do in 1 Timothy 1:18: Wage war with a prophetic word. Speak it out in faith. God has said he is 'calling', and so we can align our thoughts with it and consider it carefully.

There is a scripture in the Psalms that vividly depicts how a body of people, like us SUMites, can 'wage war' with God's words. That scripture is super interesting, and I might unpack it a little. It says this:

"The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those who proclaimed it:

‘Kings of armies flee, they flee, and she who remains at home divides the spoil. Though you lie down among the sheepfolds, you will be like the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.'

When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Zalmon."

(Psalm 68:11-14, NKJV)

What’s interesting here is that the first sentence uses the Hebrew word o'mer for ‘word’, which can mean promise. In other words, the Lord gave a promise and then a company of people proclaimed that very promise themselves. They were a great company too: Like the SUMites!

The middle lines are the promise itself: That kings of armies would flee, and it has a wonderful air of mystery with visions of gold and silver feathers. When God speaks, there may well be some mystery included. Anyway, it is this promise that the company of people declared. And then the final line (verse 14) documents that the Almighty did scatter the kings, just as he had promised. Exactly as the company of people had proclaimed.

SUMites, we are like that great company of people in Psalm 68 who received promises straight from the Lord, declared them, and eventually would see victory. Let’s keep on waging war with the things he has shown us.

On Friday I will share another word from the archives. Lovely chatting, and see you then! 

Ann


Esther Summer Study: A Seed of Strength

Ann here!  Esther

Oh, I enjoyed the story of the crazy King and Vashti on Monday. Now, let’s hurtle towards chapter 2, where we meet Esther, this “lovely and beautiful” daughter of God. She carries an intense cocktail of pain and growing strength.

What is it we ourselves carry? Something similar I’d say, even though different. I see Esther as a fragile baby bird: Orphaned and snatched. But I also see her as strong as an ox. The 'ox' part comes later.

Putting ourselves in her shoes, can you imagine being taken hostage for the sole purpose of a King's pleasure? It makes me inwardly choke. I wonder how she would have felt; I really don’t know. There was an honor to it, but a powerlessness. After her night with the King, in my mind it gets worse: She was shifted to a different house (v.14). No longer a virgin, she was now an on-demand concubine. Uggh. It seems her husband celebrates her, but after his big Feast of Esther (v.18), the very next verse tells us he gathers a new wave of virgins, a faithless husband.

He might be a King but he’s a distorted one. It goes on today, distortions of relationships. Our world and its ways are so far from God’s heart, we cannot conceptualize the chasm between what we are now and what we should have been. To adapt the words of a Beatles song:

Yesterday.

How I wish it were yesterday.

In the Garden of Eden.

I’m not half the man I was meant to be.

As a refreshing breath, I like looking at Jesus, the human God meant us to be. He was radical. He was homeless, for a start -- Voluntarily. That alone captures His difference. I also like to look at his deep love for women, opposite to King Xerxes. 

To sit with Jesus, for a minute, I see He had special moments with His male disciples: John leaned on His chest, Peter breakfasted with Him; but there was also VIP treatment for women. The women’s moments are poignant: It was the girls who were the first to preach the Gospel of His Resurrection Life at dawn, and the first to care for his bruised body. Symbolically, this tells me of His honor for women.

Beautiful Esther is not just a champion for women. She represents anyone on the back foot, the weaker vessel; and she shows that such a person can walk with the strength of an ox. Her point of difference is Mordecai. He quietly speaks, speaks into her ear. With that gift – Like the Holy Spirit -- she is as strong as an ox, able to plough the toughest heart soil. The Apostle Paul received that very same whisper:

“And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' ” 2 Corinthians 12:9, NKJV.

I look at her early life and think “Esther, you have no idea yet how much strength you carry.” Indeed, we know the full story. We can see her strength with the King in later chapters, but for now – as a newlywed – that strength is only a seed. Her story mirrors Joseph’s: There is a pit before the favor comes in prison.

Like Joseph, Esther’s favor explodes: She ends up second in the Kingdom, signet rings are distributed, and God’s people (the Jews) are kept safe as a result. In verses 9-10 she pleases the eunuch Hegai so much she is given every provision she could possibly hope for. Why this favor? Could it be that her ancestral promise from Jacob kicks in? She is a Benjamite, and long ago he blessed her:

“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.” Genesis 49:27, NKJV.

This blessing means she carries a seed of power. Hers is a conquering kind of strength. And, what else does she carry? A scriptural gem within her very name, Hadassah (v.7), which means ‘myrtle’.

“And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree.” Isaiah 55:13.

That verse -- the myrtle verse -- sits within the wider, well known Isaiah 55. It’s a chapter worth revisiting with Esther, and perhaps ourselves, in mind. It makes me want to shout from the rooftops that we can dream big, because that is what both Isaiah 55 and the book of Esther tell us!

SUMites, I can’t wait to chat more in the comments.


The Summit

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After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.

10 And they were shouting with a GREAT ROAR:

“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
    and from the Lamb!”

 

The Next SUMMIT. Perhaps in Florida, New Zealand, England, Canada? Jesus, we will go where you send. Thank you Lord for this amazing experience together under your love and grace. AMEN