97 posts categorized "Ann Hutchison"

SUM Community, Let's Party!

By Ann Hutchison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aggh.

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

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

He took the iPad from me and squinted to read.

“Spiritually Unequal Marriage!” He read out.

“Mm hm” I squeaked. 

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

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

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

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

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


Reflections on Attending Church Alone

Dear friends, Ann here!Church alone

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

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

Gulp!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Church is important. And so is my marriage.

Bryce knows the above.

And somehow, these days, we make it work.

Huge, huge growth over a distinct period. Huge.

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

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


Sow Bountifully, Reap Bountifully

Ann here! Seeds

I have a little thought for us today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pray lavishly for my husband!

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

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

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

In friendship,

Ann


The Curious Move of Jesus in My Home

Ann here! Globe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No.. I didn't. Mm. That’s strange!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Teenage Testimony Time Again!

My dear friends, Ann here. Teenagers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She continued:

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

I'm in awe of God. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending much love,

Ann

 


God's Move in My Family

Dear friends, Ann Miles 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.” He said.

That was the only thing we said.

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

I nearly choked on my biscuit.

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

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

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

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

(Stunned expression, again).

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

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

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

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

He continued:

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

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

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

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

Oh my heart.

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

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

Love you all,

Ann


Top Three Tips for Thriving in a Spiritually Mismatched Marriage

Ann here! Mountain

Today I had an interesting faith conversation with a man with whom I cross paths occasionally. I know him in a professional rather than social capacity, but whenever I see him we have a good chat. So, I'll call him a 'friend-acquaintance'. 

Anyway, today I saw him for the first time in a year and we found ourselves talking about one of my favorite topics (and a topic I don't talk much about): A faith difference in marriage.

Well, who would've thought it, it turns out he’s kind of there too. He is finding himself in that place at home. And so we had a light-hearted (but on-point) chat about it.

Our conversation came about because he asked me if I was still working at the university. I said “No, these days I volunteer in Christian ministry!” “Oh!” He said, “Tell me more!” And so, I told him about this little ministry of ours on the web. I said, “Bryce and I have been through a lot there – There’s a lot to it. You have to learn how to stay happily married, and not annoy each other!”

My friend then shared that he had re-entered church and reconnected with his faith in recent years. His beloved had not. He said, it’s something he’s been wrestling with, especially recently. With that, I told him we had 1,000 + readers on our blog, and I said, “It’s a big need. It’s not uncommon. And, yes, it’s hard.”

Indeed. It. Is. Hard. The church often doesn’t know how to help us. We don’t fit the mold so we stay on the periphery. But the truth is, we’re a big segment of the church -- the Body of Christ -- and we need support. Some of us have figured out how to fit church with home life, and how to follow Jesus in our home. Others of us are still working that out.

My friend/acquaintance asked me a good question today, and one that I think is valuable for anyone new to our blog. He asked: “Ok, so what would be your top three tips for someone in this situation?”

It was on the spot, but here’s what came out of my mouth:

  • Win without words – That is, live your faith out without using a whole lot of words (1 Peter 3:1). 
  • Treat your spouse as the top human in your life. Make sure they know you prioritize that relationship.
  • Pursue your relationship with God above all else, even if your spouse doesn’t like it. You’ll get the most strength and peace if you keep moving forward towards God.

Mm... Those were my thruppence, on the spot. A few hours later I look at this and obviously would put point three at the top. Pursue God -- Jesus -- above all else and everything else will follow. But apart from that, yes those remain my top three.

How about you, what would you have said when asked that question? How would you have worded it? Interested to hear your thoughts, as always.

Great chatting, and have a good weekend!

Ann


A Wave is Coming

Hello friends, Ann here!Record

I hope these recent words from the archives have been refreshing your souls. Don’t we need it right now! After a year of sitting through this pandemic, we certainly can do with a little spark of fresh stuff.

So, let's roll up our sleeves and carry on a little longer with these promises from God.

If you haven’t already, you might like to read the comments that three of our long-time SUMites wrote underneath my last post. I so loved hearing their gems of insight on the Harvest that we’ve been talking about.

Now, here's the next word:

We've been looking at how in mid 2013 the Lord spoke to us about ‘The Coming Harvest’ in several ways. This included the vision described in the last post. But after all those words about the harvest, there is now one more word that the Lord gave Dineen, and it's a mighty word for our community. You can read more about it here. The core word is this:

A great wave is coming.

Many souls to be claimed and collected.

Watch and see.

My heart is always for the many.

A great wave. A wave of the Holy Spirit, power and authority, perhaps. A wave of shaking as well. A wave. A wave crashing into our world.

Wave

That word about the wave was written by Dineen in 2013. So, are we seeing that wave now, with COVID? We can get on our knees and ask God about that. My understanding is that COVID is the first step. I've heard God say that COVID is a 'micro-wave' that is paving the way for the walls of Jericho to fall. The most important part is the wave of salvation power to follow, where things will change for unbelievers. And that is the part we must engage the most with.

Yep! The main -- most important -- part is the good stuff God is bringing next. Salvation to souls.

With that in mind, you might like to consider this next story:

Last week here in New Zealand we had a tsunami warning. I know several of you saw it on the news and you reached out and asked if we were all ok -- That was so nice, and thank you, I'm pleased to say we're all fine here. What may not have been evident to those overseas was the rarity of this tsunami warning: It was an unprecedented event in our nation.

What happened was we had three earthquakes in the ocean at about 2am, 6am, and 8am. The first and third were linked but the second was not, so scientists were scratching their heads, puzzled. I always think when scientists are puzzled there's something interesting going on. The newspaper headlines described it as a ‘Rare and noteable event’.

Much of the country went onto a tsunami alert, whole towns were evacuated and the whole coastline of New Zealand’s north island was under threat. Some parts severely, some less so, but every part was under some kind of 'alert'. All TV programmes were cancelled to make way for the ongoing civil defence updates. There were lines of traffic, crowds of people waiting on hills, and an alarm that went out on our phones from civil defence that sounded like something out of wartime. It was actually highly dramatic! So, all in all, a loud and clear ‘Tsunami Warning’.

Now, God speaks through signs and symbols throughout the Bible. And so, my very first reaction to this tsunami warning was: 'God is saying something through this.' And I believe that 'something' is that a wave of revival is coming. 

What do we do with this? The word above tells us: Watch. And See.

Pray. Be alert. See what happens next. And, in the meantime, reflect on the part what God says: My Heart is for the many.

My friends, as always I would love to hear your thoughts if anything particular springs to mind. For now, I just want to say 'Be encouraged!'

With love,

Ann


Jesus, I can't see past my SUM!

Happy Friday, friends -- Ann here!Record

Today, I’d like to share a vision that the Lord gave our community a few years ago. It was Dineen who received it, and she shared it on the blog -- The original article is here.

I hope when you read the vision below it will encourage you! Here’s the description of what the Lord showed Dineen (in her words):

“I was half awake, half asleep (it's possible it was a vision...I honestly don't know). I stood before a tall crop—corn I believe. Jesus stood next to me.

He gestured to the crop and said, "This is the Great Harvest."

I said, "Lord, I can't see past this, can you show me more?"

Suddenly I was up higher and could see tall mountains in the far distance. The crop spanned all the way to the mountains!” 

It’s a short vision, but sometimes God speaks volumes through few words. If we take the view that Dineen represents us – the SUMites – standing and looking at this, the following are some thoughts on this encouraging picture from the Lord: Corn

We know from scripture that Jesus spoke symbolically in his parables. So here we can look at the different symbols and think about what they mean:

The tall corn in our immediate view.

The fact Jesus is next to us.

The words that Jesus says: "This is the great harvest".

The fact we say: "I can’t see past this!" And then the fact that he takes us to a higher perspective and shows us what's actually beyond.

Phew!! It's a rich picture.

What do the tall mountains in the distance represent, I wonder? I’m still mulling that over, as mountains can represent a number of things in scripture. That one I will be praying about, for I know that every symbol in a vision is relevant but sometimes we don't understand instantly. Perhaps you have an instant sense of what those mountains represent? If so, do share!

What I really believe Jesus is showing us in this vision is that this harvest -- What we’re stepping into next -- is huge!

And, there's usually some kind of call to respond that's included in a word (vision) like this. In this case, I believe what Jesus might be asking us to do is listen to these words of his: 'This is the great harvest', start to allow him to take our perspective higher, and be willing to look beyond the immediate issues of our family's salvation.

It is difficult to do that -- To see past the immediate crop of our spouse and family. But there is more beyond our SUM. And our time of labor is only the beginning.

This very week, in fact, God said this to me: "You are stepping out of this season." By that, I understood that I am going to be stepping out of this time where there's been a faith difference with my husband. This is something I have known for quite some time: That the SUM season is one stage in my faith life that opens up into something quite different. I don't know the timing (I know God is leisurely about such things!) but I receive it. Given Dineen's vision, I can't help but believe this is a wider word for our community.

I'll leave it there. What do you think of this? Do any initial thoughts come to mind from reading this vision? I hope it blessed you.

Have a lovely weekend, and we'll be back on Monday.

Ann


The Harvest - The Many!

Dear friends, Ann here! Record

One of the things I’m currently thinking about is the word 'Harvest' and how it relates to all we have been through in this community.

I guess I feel we've been prepared through some pretty gruelling training (i.e., the challenges of a spiritual mismatch), and that training has equipped us to carry the Gospel outwards more -- Soon.

Here in our little home on the web, we've been learning to love. Specifically, we have learnt how to love our spouse well, and to love the church. Our SUM has been a deeply refining experience – We can all attest to that! But now it may be that we take that love and carry it outwards more.

I could write an essay on what a faith difference in marriage has done for my own character. Where would I begin? For me, perhaps the biggest thing has been to overcome cowardice when carrying the Gospel. People can be scary but I've become brave: Brave about stepping out for God (even if I am inwardly quaking!) For you it may be something else.

I can also say that I have come to understand why others don't believe or submit, and how to fight for another person’s soul. I’ve learnt to Win Without Words and to March Around Jericho. Phew, what a ride!

But now, several books and fifteen years of blog posts later, here we sit waiting for the dust to settle from a year-long pandemic; and perhaps we can say that we are now equipped to march forth. We are ready to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ forward, and to be used by God in whatever way he plans.

To that I say, ‘Here I am, Lord, send me!’ and I know the hearts of many here say the same.

With all that in mind, today I would like to share a quote from our archives. This is something that Dineen wrote a few years ago. She said:

“We have a unique calling that goes beyond us, beyond our marriages. As I’ve shared before God is a redeemer. He wastes nothing. We’ve been thinking and believing that our calling is right in our homes, in our marriages. And God is saying, that is just preparation for a greater movement that He is getting us ready for. God is calling us to believe Him like we never have before.”

I’d particularly like to grab these words and run with them:

We’ve been thinking and believing that our calling is right in our homes and our marriages. And God is saying, that is just preparation for a greater movement that he is getting us ready for.

Dineen then went on to say this:

“Early last year, we received an email from a reader that her husband had come to Jesus. A tearful and joyful moment to be sure. As I praised God, I heard Him speak to my spirit, “This is the first of many.” Harvest

That was Dineen. I always loved reading her words from the Lord as she had a beautiful relationship with Him. And now today I seize these words and say once again: "Yes, we believe there will be many!"

We’re waiting for many, many spouses here to receive Jesus; we’re also waiting for many children within our homes; and we’re waiting for friends and others in our lives. But I believe that God has promised us the many.

The harvest! It's exciting.

I'm smiling here, and cheer you on from my little corner. I know how deep you have dug and how tough the soil has been. So, for now, here's a question:

Do you look back on your SUM and recognize ways that it has made you more useable to God?

Sending you love today!

Ann


The Harvest Ahead

Dear friends, Ann here.Record

I mentioned on Monday that I would share some words from our archives that God gave our community.

These words are promises that we're dusting off now because they feel relevant for today. For the past months I've been hearing God that after this pandemic many of us are going to see more outward victory from the seeds we've sown. That's exciting to me. Does it mean salvations? Oh I hope so!

How are you feeling right now about this, I wonder? We reach a point where we settle in and become used to it 'not happening'. But we can now sit up and get a little more ready: We're watching something very unusual happen in our world, and things are moving. 

While we wait, one thing we must do is refresh our vision. And we can do this by reviewing some of the important things that God has said to us. In that spirit, then, I'm going to share a word below that God gave Lynn in April 2013.

Before I go on, that week was a significant week; but in a sad and startling way. One of our beloved writers and ministry partners died in a car crash on the way to a conference we were holding. Her name was Rosheeda Lee and I know some here will remember that. The SUM community celebrated Rosheeda being in Heaven with Jesus, but it also felt tragic. Especially for her parents.

I discovered something strange about that, however, last week. It was only days after Rosheeda went home that I (a future writer) heard God's voice in my living room for the first time. Shortly after, I was born again. Her seed fell to the ground that week but God wants us to know he is with our ministry.

Now we have Rosheeda in the cloud of witnesses helping us run this race (Hebrews 12:1). It is noteworthy that it was she who coined our name: SUMites, and so now she stands for us in Heaven. Beloved Rosheeda.

That week was important. And here is what the Lord now says as we continue to run this extreme and challenging SUM race:

SUMites, you are in training to be harvesters!

For here is what Lynn wrote that significant week (April 2013), and it is certainly worth us mulling over these words:

“In the last week I’ve talked to God a lot about our community and I keep hearing this passage that Jesus spoke in Luke. Harvest

He (Jesus) told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Luke 10:2 NIV

I’m convinced that this family at SUM is in training to be Harvesters. My friends, think about it. I’m convinced by the Spirit that this time period and this generation sits on the precipice of one of the greatest revivals the world has ever experienced. We have been chosen to take what we have gained through our community here to the communities, the individuals, the broken and bleeding souls around us, we are to take the Good News!!!

You may read this right now and begin nodding your head because you know this is true. You may read this and think, “Lynn, you’re crazy.” But I want you to know that if you are part of this community, you are being called to be a harvester. Especially if you feel ill-equipped when you read this. I always feel ill-equipped. It’s us ordinary people that bring great glory to God when we move in His love and power to accomplish His purposes. So, as we move forward in this series, I want you to pray about how God is already using you as a harvester and ask Him about what more He has for you in the days ahead.”

***

So, that was Lynn, and what a wonderful word. Can I suggest a little exercise for us? That we sit with God over this coming weekend and ask Him those two questions:

Lord, how are you already using me as a harvester?

What do you have for me in the days ahead?

Sometimes God takes a while to answer, but if you do sense an answer about this would you share in the comments below? I would love to hear it.

I'll pause there and continue next time. But what an adventure we are on, and a joy to be in this together! 

Ann


God's Promises from the SUM Archives

Ann here! Record

Dear SUMites, do you remember last year I said I would pull out some of the words that God has spoken to our community over the years? In particular I’ve been interested in key promises we have received from the Lord -- Corporate promises for us that we can look at together.

Here's the first post I wrote on that last year: God's promises for the SUMites, part one.

This ‘collating of God’s words to the SUMites’ has been a project of mine for some time now. I have been reading through the archives in date order, starting from May 2006, with the hope of sharing important words on here every now and then. It's a refreshing and remembering of what God is wanting us to know, I guess.

So this brings me to the next series. Starting on Friday I’m going to spend a few posts sharing some words from the archives on a key theme: What God has promised us and what he wants us to know. For this series I’m using the above picture of an old record, as these words are records of things God has spoken.

When we see that picture of the record player, I love the idea of us thinking, “For the record, God has said…”

To go back for a moment down memory lane, we know that in 2012 Lynn and Dineen (our then-leaders) both had a transformative experience with the Holy Spirit and after that they began to receive the occasional vision, dream, or message for our community. This was all part of God lifting us into a Kingdom lifestyle where we bravely welcomed in more of the Holy Spirit’s activity.

Prophetic words are part of that Kingdom lifestyle. By definition, a prophetic word is simply an inspired word from the Holy Spirit. It can come in a dream or a vision, or the still small voice, and we can learn to receive these things from the Lord by asking him to speak to us. Anyway, Lynn and Dineen both began to receive the occasional word for this community, and they would bravely write it up into a post saying “This is what God seems to be saying to us right now.” (I say brave because it is a responsibility and they would have thought carefully about it.)

Many of us have been readers here a long time. And we might even remember these words. They are part of the love story God has for us, and enable us to charge forth in hope. 

The hard part is that sometimes promises are given to us a long, long, LONG time before they happen! Psalm 105 talks about that: Joseph was given a promise but then ended up in prison for years. God's perspective on this? The word of the Lord tested him.

“He had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters;
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the LORD tested him.”

(Psalm 105:17-19, ESV)

So, dear friends, if you -- like me -- read promises from God on here several years ago but they haven't happened yet there's nothing wrong with that. It's just, those words have tested us. It's as if God says to us: “Will you persevere?”

Now to these upcoming posts: I’m going to share a series of words that the Lord gave to Lynn and Dineen in 2013. They wrote five posts about a particular set of promises from the Lord: Promises about where we are heading as a community, and what we are all about.

Are you ready to receive them again? I hope so. It will be exciting.

In the meantime, perhaps a question we can discuss in the comments is this: Do you have promises from God that you are holding onto tenaciously in your SUM? 

Looking forward to chatting more about this one!

Ann


Master, Are YOU Worried?

Hello friends, Ann here. Feather

I’ve had a little discovery this week that has totally made me smile, and I thought I’d share it. It’s to do with my husband:

Bryce has a trait that can teach me a lesson or two about my walk with God. It’s this: He has not an anxious bone in his body.

Oh, how I wish I had that trait myself! For me, I have to grow it with God. But for Bryce it comes easily: No matter what the situation, he will not worry about it. His view:

"It does no good to worry. So why would I?"

He is right, of course -- What good does it do? But for those of us who are naturally of a more anxious disposition, 'not worrying' is easier said than done.

There’s me, fretting about some scenario and I will ask him: “Are you worried about this situation?” His answer will be: “No, I’m not.” I take a deep breath at that. “Neither will I be, then.”

He is, essentially, my ‘worry barometer.’ My stability in a storm.

Are you worried about this situation?

No I’m not.

Neither will I be, then.

In fact, yesterday he said something even better: "Look, Ann, you can either hope for the best or fear the worst. Either is a possibility, so choose to hope for the best!" I liked that. Yes, perhaps it was a little infuriatingly pragmatic but I still liked it.

Most importantly, I realized this week that this is how Jesus would like us to be with him. After all, two of the fruits of the Spirit are peace and joy (Galatians 5:25-26), and so that is what he would like us to have in any storm. 

Are you worried about this situation, Lord?

No I'm not, My child.

Neither will I be, then.

“Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34, ESV).

Amen to that. To continue, I just love the story of when Jesus slept during a storm! There was Jesus and his disciples, one day, on a boat in a vicious storm. The disciples were beside themselves, hopping up and down in fear, but what was Jesus doing? Oh .. He was sleeping! (Matthew 8:23-27). Sleeping?

It was clearly a tough storm for these hardy fisherman who knew the waters. In fact, they would have correctly recognized the threat. But that very story tells us the contrast between Jesus' perspective and ours. Yes, it is a threat. And He is not worried. 

In that storm, Jesus rose and said to the storm, "Peace. Be still." The storm went. That's not to say the disciples didn't have to endure it. It's just, they were eventually made safe.

I know there are a few situations within this community where we are enduring some worries. In fact, COVID is not proving to be exactly fun, so that's one obvious one. And I know some are struggling with other things. But, we can practice leaning on Jesus in this way:

“Lord, are you worried about this storm?”

“No, My child, I’m not.”

“Neither will I be, then.”

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

Even writing this out has cheered me along, so I hope it has you.

Lovely chatting, and have a great weekend everyone!

Ann


Are You Weary? Let's Take Communion

My friends, Ann here. Couch

I normally try to write something on the cheery side but sat down earlier to do that and ... Mm, I'm not quite in that space. See, for the last two weeks I’ve been mostly horizontal on my couch feeling a bit physically unwell.

So that's the tone of today's post: Somewhat sedate. 

It's ok, I think -- There are a few in this community who are feeling battle-weary so perhaps this post will be for you today.

When we're feeling weary it's the perfect opportunity to do one of the most important things we can do: Take communion. So, today I would love to share communion with you! At the end of this post we'll do that so you might like to grab a wine and cracker before reading on.

These past two weeks on my couch have put on my heart those in our community who are struggling. When you're ill all you want is to be well again. And when things are tough all you want is for it to be made right straight away. There are many, many battles we face in this community and at times you do feel wiped or knocked. During those times you need to call on two or three strong friends and you need a few easy strategies of your own. Communion is perhaps the best of those strategies.

I think of communion like one of those little stones that the young David stooped to pick up, popped into a sling, and eventually used to slay an intimidating giant, Goliath. These stones were so easy to pick up and handle. God-given tools.

Then David took his shepherd’s staff, selected five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s pack, and with his sling in his hand approached Goliath. (1 Samuel 17:40, MSG)

Communion: Gentle, accessible, and yet so powerful. A smooth little stone.

In fact, however fearsome our battle we can always take a moment to grab from our cupboard a little wine (or juice), a cracker, take a knee and say to the Lord: “This I receive.”

The Lord reminded me of this important tool yesterday. I was unloading the dishwasher and saw my communion cup in there. Right then I thought to myself: “I should keep taking communion while sick. God is my medicine.” It might've just been a thought but only a few hours later a friend emailed me with that very suggestion: Take Communion. 

So, here we are. Here is my cup, and my cracker. Would you join me today? Communion 2

The body of Jesus:

I say from the bottom of my heart, “Thank you, Lord. I know you’ve walked through things worse than any of us have to endure. I receive everything you want to give me through your broken body.”

And the blood of Jesus:

“I say to the Lord: What situation in my life can that blood cover today? This blood has power over any enemy intent in my life. No weapon that's formed against me can stand.”

We thank Jesus our Savior for this precious gift of his body and his blood. And, from my couch to yours today, my friends, I link arms with you. 

Whatever battle it is you have today may the bread and wine bring you power, peace, comfort, and whatever else you need in the storm.

Can we pray for you today? If so, leave a prayer request in the comments and let's gather round each other a little.

With love,

Ann


Belief vs. Unbelief: A Final Thought

Hi SUM family, Ann here. Ingredients of belief

It’s been fun this past week thinking about the different factors that go into belief vs unbelief. Thanks for reading along, and for your comments -- Reading what you had to say was like iron-sharpening-iron!

I know theologians write about deep matters like predestination and free will. But for us SUMites, we live out those questions every day and our view will be home-spun. We tend to do a very personal analysis right in our home, asking: “What is going on here, Lord?” After all, we desperately want to understand our spouse’s story.

From writing about it this past week I am left with one main thought, which is a little humbling:

O the deepness of the riches, both of the wisdom, and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Romans 11:33, GNV)

Yep, much of it is unfathomable. In some ways that helps me sit back and rest a little. If, for example, the spiritual mismatch in my own marriage has an element of God's timing attached to it, then who am I to complain. Alternatively, if the reason for my family's unbelief is that the demonic realm is trying to thwart our faith lives, then my attitude can be: "Ok, Lord, teach me to see it and to fight."

Overall, knowing that our loved ones have free will but the demonic has a role, and (importantly) the Father has some kind of clock or plan, here is a final prayer for us today as we finish this mini-series:

Lord God. We know You are sovereign and we know You are good.

We know You have a book written about our lives. From this day forward help us to align our own feet with the book you have written for us.

Teach us how to fight the enemy for the freedom of our spouse.

Teach us how to fight the enemy for our own freedom.

Show us how to walk in a way that respects our spouse’s free will but brings them the truth You want them to know.

And please keep speaking to us, the SUM community!

In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray this. Amen.

My friends, that's all for now, and I'm praying about what to write next. I hope you are managing to keep marching and are keeping well out there.

With love,

Ann


Belief vs Unbelief: The Father's Grand Clock

Ann here! Ingredients of belief

We’ve been talking about the ingredients that go into belief vs. unbelief. In part one we talked about the power of free will. Then, in part two we talked about the influence of the demonic.

Well, today I want to talk about the Father's Grand Clock. That is, the fact that God might have specific times for specific things to happen. 

When I think about my husband, for example, even though I know free will is huge I often wonder this:

Is there a set time when his eyes are destined to be opened?

Perhaps the reason I ask that is that I feel my own conversion had an element of timing to it. I also know that it is Jesus's role to open people's eyes. The Gospels show that over and over again -- That is one of Jesus's main things he did: Open people's eyes. Physically, yes, but it seems to be a spiritual parable.

It's possible my husband’s heart is ready, but God is keeping his eyes closed for some reason. One of those reasons could be the hefty amount of improvement God needs to do on me. Amen to that, if so!

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." 

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8, NKJV) 

Grandfather clockIIn that passage there’s one phrase that seems absent in the above list: A time for a person to declare that Jesus is Lord! So I ask God, 'Where is that in this passage?' Is there a specific time for someone to believe? A time to be born again, perhaps?

Mm.. It's a teeny bit mysterious, but here's a thought:

Throughout the Bible, people have ‘moments’ in their lives where God moves them, changes them. Mostly, these are 'upgrade' moments like Paul’s flash of light on the Road to Damascus; but, there are some dark moments, such as Pharoah having a hard heart, which scripture says was part of God’s purpose (in the scripture below). Sometimes God will allow somebody to be hardened for a season for the more glorious story. Gulp.

Here's what the apostle Paul said about this:

For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." So then, it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to this Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." Therefore, He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.“ (Romans 9:15-18, NKJV)

There are days fashioned for us, as Psalm 139:16 says. A book written in Heaven about our life. And yet, and yet, and yet: The free will – the heart -- of a person interacts with that book, those days, those plans. As does the enemy.

All of this perhaps reiterates what a mystery conversion is. Yes, our spouses do not believe as strongly as we do. But this is a marathon, not a sprint. Praise God for the Holy Spirit's role in any changes we see. Our journey towards belief as couples involves us all breaking out of demonic strongholds as adults -- And somehow it must intertwine with some kind of purpose on God's part.

What a ride!

Lord, we praise you for your perfect timing, plans and purposes!

Do you see plans, timing and purpose in your own life? Any thoughts on this topic? We'll chat in the comments.


Belief vs Unbelief: The Enemy's Influence

Dear friends, Ann here. Ingredients of belief

We’re in a series about what goes into belief vs. unbelief. Part one was about free will, and I loved reading your comments. Today I want to talk about another factor: The influence of the demonic.

One of the earliest questions I had for God was, “Is Satan really real?” It was one thing to believe in God, but to believe in Satan and demons was a notch further. It raised so many questions for me.

Apart from scripture, what ultimately led me to believe Satan was real was that a few trusted people I know (seasoned Christians) have encountered demons. Plain and simple. That was a start. I've since had several times of my own where I've heard a demon speak in a particular situation. Interestingly, it’s never scared me.

I deliberately try not to give the devil glory in speaking about a situation. I'd rather talk about what Jesus is doing. However, the fact is that Satan is the god of this world, so privately I take absolute notice of his activities. "I've got my eyes on you -- I know the power of the blood of Jesus, and you're toast!" I say to him behind the scenes. When faced with an unbeliever, then, that’s where I go: What has the enemy done in this person’s life?

Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4, NLT)

These precious people who currently do not believe are clay in God’s hands. We can work on the assumption that God wants all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). What's more, although God has sovereign plans and timings for things, he might have designed someone to be a vessel of honor, and the enemy might be trying to bar the clay.

That is, in fact, a word the Holy Spirit gave me a few weeks ago: The enemy tries to bar the clay.

In this word, barring the clay, for me it brings an image to mind where the enemy is constructing prisons around people to come between them and their Kingdom destiny. To bar them from becoming what they can be: A son or daughter of God.

The Good News, of course, is that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). Hallelujah! By the power of Jesus's blood, the enemy can shrivel up into a helpless ball and disappear from a situation. IF we learn how to boot him out. Yes, Jesus asks us to cast out demons with the authority he has given us (Mark 16:17). For some seasoned ministers, this is a real calling and they understand the demonic realm and directly come against it. For the rest of us, we need to know that it can happen on the floor of our living rooms as we bind the enemy in our private prayers.

It can look like this, spoken by a humble mother on her knees:

“I know who I am in the Kingdom of Heaven. I take my authority in Jesus’ name and I bind the antichrist spirit in this particular situation.”

Then, we follow by releasing life with our very tongue:

“I pray for this person's intimacy with you Lord!

I release hope! I release faith! I release love in their life!” And so on. And so on.

My friends, that's what our prayers are doing in the Heavenly realm: Breaking those bars open, releasing people from enemy imprisonment. Hallelujah to that! 

I’ll pause there; but next time I'm going to talk about the role of God’s plan in a person’s life. 

For now, here's a question: How familiar do you feel with this area of praying against the enemy? Have you seen success when you have prayed in that way? 


Belief vs Unbelief: The Power of Free Will

Hi friends, Ann here!Ingredients of belief

I've been thinking lately about the topic of belief vs. unbelief, and all the different spiritual ingredients that go into that. Like many of you, I have a mixture of believers and unbelievers in my life, and often look at those who don't believe and wonder what is going on there. 

There are quite a few things that lead to unbelief, as we know. The influence of the enemy is one thing. The perfect timing of God is another. But one all-important ingredient is, of course, that powerful force that God designed us to have: Free will!

Free will - Gah!

Being in a SUM, most of us will find free will a frustrating thing. Because it means our spouse has complete choice to accept or reject Jesus. But, in Genesis 1:26-31, God made humankind in his own image, then said it was ‘very good’. 'Very good' must include free will, I guess. These were not robots who would automatically submit mindlessly. Rather, they were beloved children with whom God wanted a relationship.

I think quite often about how powerful free will is. Especially as it relates to my husband. It is not only powerful, but beautiful. Probably like many of you, I have questions. After all, the work of God is often unfathomable. And that topic of free will – Oh, it intrigues me!

Here in the SUM community we have many readers, and I have a sneaky feeling that each of us would say it doesn't work when we impose our own will too strongly on our spouse when it comes to faith. We can be forceful about other things, but when it comes to welcoming Jesus in, our spouse's will is their own. There is something deeply spiritual about that.

So, we learn to not force it more than God would. Then God might eventually give us a good word to speak, in season.

On speaking a word in season, I got to do that recently - And I'll share the story now. It only happened after I had learned to shut my mouth. Yep, I tried unsuccessfully to ‘convert’ my husband for a number of years, only for it to fall flat. After all this, one day we were quietly together and I got a little God-nudge (I think): “Tell Bryce that faith is a matter of choice. He is going to have to make a choice -- Yes or no.”

“Oh crikey, Lord?” I said. “Do you really want me to step out and say this?” I was so used to things falling flat. Anyway, I took a deep breath, and here’s what I said:

“Babe, when you die, it’s actually really important that you have said ‘yes’ to God. Some people reject God, and when they get to eternity it’s not a good thing that they did. Please don’t be one of those people. It actually really matters to me to know that you’ve said yes, as far as you can.”

“Really?” he said.

“Yep. I don’t fully understand it. But it is where I’m sitting these days.”

“So, what does it look like to say ‘yes’ to God?” He said.

(At that I didn't even know where to begin. What should I say?!)

 “Um ... Well .... Perhaps start with saying ‘yes’, and God will do the rest!”

“Mm..” He said (both of us thinking). Then we lay in silence. Finally, he said: “I’m not rejecting anything, you know.”

And that was it. Um, my evangelism skills still need some refining (I'm laughing). But perhaps this was the SUM version of evangelism. Gently does it. Certainly, my husband didn’t seem to mind that I’d raised it. And that reaction tells me it probably was a Holy Spirit nudge.

What a powerful force free will is! I suppose that’s love: You can’t force somebody to fall in love with you; and so God does not. He woos, he draws, and he asks his disciples to help with this process, but in ways that might be customized. A word rightly seasoned, here and there.

So, that is one ingredient: Free will. Next time I’ll talk about another ingredient that goes into belief. I'm looking forward to it!

For now, any thoughts about today's topic? How far do you go when speaking about serious matters of faith with your spouse? We'll chat in the comments.


How Do We Linger Long with the Lord?

Dear friends, Ann here. Linger

Last week I shared a story about a shift in my home. A good shift. If you missed that post, you can read it here. Essentially, a peace came and settled between me and my hubby, and we stopped having disagreements about faith or church.

Wonderful!

Perhaps at some point in a SUM, this is what happens. I would be interested to hear in the comments if any others of you have found that. I know that Lynn felt that shift one or two years before her husband, Mike, got baptized.

Now, I keep a careful diary about my life with God, and in the case of this particular shift I looked back and noticed something curious. At the very time that the shift with my husband happened, I had begun to do something new: I had begun to linger a little longer with the Lord.

It was right when I began to linger a little longer that a peace descended in my home. 

So, I'd like to share a bit about my journey with that.

Like many of us, I've had a busy life for a long time. I worked as a lecturer at the University of Auckland, a busy job. And, of course, I had my family. Despite the busyness, I would spend daily time with God, but there sometimes wasn't the capacity to spend as much time as I wanted. That is the case for many, I know. And life has seasons, God understands. 

Anyway, 2019 rolled round and God took me on a little adventure there. First, he made it clear that he had a new plan for me and that I was to leave my job. I didn’t know exactly why, but I duly waved goodbye to my colleagues, and began a time of being a housewife.

It was then that the Lord nudged me to do something rather counter-cultural. Here's what he asked:

“Ann, would you try giving me your whole morning, and see what happens?”

My whole morning? Every morning? Umm ... I'd actually like to!

So I did. It looked like this: Get up, make coffee, see the boys off to school, and then sit with God. Sit. Sit. Sit some more. Until midday. In those hours, I did nothing except chat to him, read scripture, worship, journal, look back on stories of his faithfulness in my life or others' lives, pray for others … And focus 100% on filling myself up.

Some might say to that: "Wow, that's kinda lazy!" Well, that was the question for me. Was I being lazy? I will confess to being a natural couch potato. So was it lazy, or was it the most worthwhile thing I could do? 

I had to count the cost. It meant we would not be living in a show home, for housework came second. I had less space in my diary. I didn't really get to go round the shops much that year, which I otherwise would have enjoyed. I did without some pleasures. It made me a bit serious in some ways, because matters of faith are serious if we go near the topic of others' salvation, good and evil, and so on. But, I became addicted to the Lord.

And somewhere in amongst this lingering, the presence of God came and brought some new peace. Things shifted. 

It wasn't just my marriage. It was myself. I began to feel constantly like I had been injected with happy drugs. For that is the abundant life of Jesus.

Now, to come back to earth: Yes, it was a treat, and usually it's not practical to linger that long. Especially if you work, or have toddlers. But what we can do is say this: "Lord, I'd like to give you a little bit longer than I have before" Then, "How can I rearrange my life so that I can linger with you?"

It might just be 10 minutes more than we did before. It might be one lunch-break a week at work. That is lingering … A little longer than we did before.

And, if we find it hard to concentrate, hard to linger, if we find we get distracted, we can pray for help with it: Lord, help me to linger a little longer with you!

How easy or hard do you find it to linger at the moment? What kinds of obstacles get in the way? Let's chat! 


One Big Shift In My Home

Hello friends, Ann here. Ann and Bryce

Last week, I mentioned that things had shifted in my home -- Quite a lot, in fact. Well, I want to tell you more about that.

This photo here is of Bryce and me, on a recent holiday. You wouldn't think we'd had such drama, looking at that peaceful photo! We love each other heaps. But, despite that we've had some truly difficult moments on this SUM journey. It's a journey that neither of us asked for.

Somewhere along the way, however, it settled. A peace came into that chasm between us.

I only realized this a few weeks ago. Just before Christmas I went to a hotel for a night alone and had a lot of hours to reflect on the year. It was there that I suddenly realized something:

"Oh! Bryce and I have not had a painful conversation about my faith for a very long time!"

In fact, I struggled to remember the last time we'd had one of those stomach-wrenching conflicts about faith. No wonder I’d managed to be cheery on this SUM site. Somewhere along the way, it had got better. But when and how? It fascinated me. My train of thought continued ... And I realized the moment it changed was just after the worst period of battles I'd had.

It was mid 2019, and I really was embattled -- Spiritually embattled. Sometimes these things are recognizable. Bryce and I had some major conflicts about my church involvement, then two other battles hit in quick succession – Terrible, terrible battles. Amidst them, God actually did say to me: "These are efforts of the enemy, the persecution towards you is coming in a cluster of three, and the enemy is trying to discourage you. You are in my will and you need to keep moving forward."

How helpful it is when God shows us something like that in a battle. It’s not always clear, but this time it was. So I kept stepping forward.

With these battles fresh, I found myself standing over my coffee machine one Sunday morning. I was due to be at church, but as I made my coffee my mind went to my troubles and I began to cry.

Now, a good old cry is a cathartic thing. And that soft little weep began to crank up as the coffee machine whirred away. Before long, you got it, a full-blown wail was coming from my end of the house that made my beloved stop what he was doing and come running … ‘What is it?’ ‘What’s wrong?’ 'Tell me!' ….  Wail. Wail. Wail. Then I let it out:  ‘I can’t – be – a --- Christian any morrrre! It's too hard.’ Tears splashed into the coffee, and now over his shirt.

He stood and hugged me, possibly feeling a bit bad about some of the things we’d gone through the past couple of weeks, and then spoke three, wonderful words:

"Yes you can."

Just three words. Yes you can. You can be a Christian, Ann.

Sometimes, we don’t realize the significance of what’s just happened. Sometimes a significant moment in our faith life can seem small. But in that hotel room just before Christmas I saw it: When my husband said those three words a whole year and a half ago, he said 'yes' to my faith.

And he’s continued to say yes.

I now fast forward a year and half. Over the past year, he and I have talked about God as real and personal. We've talked about prayer. We've talked about the demonic realm and how it influences people. We've talked about church life. We've even talked about his dreams at night, half-expecting that somewhere in them God speaks. In these conversations we're in agreement - Pretty much.

What does this mean for his own decisions about faith? I honestly have no idea. I'm not sure it matters for me to know that. All I know is it's gentler, better, and our marriage is not suffering.

What tickles me a little is that this is certainly not happening anywhere near a church. Which is perfectly fine. I think a few husbands out there are that way inclined, and God gets around these things. 'Church', anyway, is the one sleeping beside him every night who tries to be a good wife.

Do you have tough conversations with your spouse? Has it become gentler over time? It'd be interesting to hear how things are with you. We can be honest, we all understand.

Nice chatting!

Ann


SUM Community 2021 - Marching Forward!

Dear SUM family, Ann here.Mountain

I hope you are relishing the moments from last week's community fast. I’m still smiling at it all.

And now we turn our minds towards 2021 in earnest.

As you know, I’ve been praying about this coming year for us. But somewhat surprisingly, it seems that the word God wanted me to share for 2021 takes our minds off our families a little. Perhaps the pressing issue now is that we need to cope with a challenging year ahead regardless of what is happening with our spouses. So, here is what the Lord seems to be saying right now:

SUMites, come up higher. Come and learn more from Me about being part of My remnant!

The remnant? This one is an interesting phrase. It refers to those who keep their love for God burning (Matthew 25:1-13), and who will never allow themselves to fall asleep spiritually. They hold a fire in their hearts for Jesus, are willing to go deep with the Holy Spirit, and will always try to obey the Father, however uncomfortable. It’s a heart attitude, and from it flows a strength that will fortify us in what is going to be a turbulent year.

The way God gave me this word was through a vision, so I will share a little of that. In it I saw a bird’s-eye view of his remnant spread across the Mountain of the Lord. But they were not a congregated crowd. Instead, they were in groups of two, three, or four, scattered. Further, they were dressed in dark red, the color of Jesus’s blood.

The sense I had was that the Father smiled on these ones. In his eyes they were lovely.

Then I heard the Lord speak something else alongside this vision:

"Too many Christians do not enter the inner sanctuary of holiness. They stay in the outer court of the temple because it is comfortable there for them. They prefer their own comfort over walking with me."

My friends, it’s as if God is encouraging us today: Be My remnant. And keep going. You have come so far, beloved SUMites.

In our marriages, we’ve already been so brave. We’ve dared to be Jesus’s regardless of our spouse’s views. But I guess God is leading us towards even more. Like those little clusters of two or three people in my vision, we might find we swim upstream and/or walk alone with a few other remnant friends.

What’s more, the dark red color of the remnant says this: The blood of Jesus is the message. The message of his blood is that there is no other way to salvation but by repentance. It is his blood and sacrifice that brings abundant life. Will we stand up for it?

Finally, the Lord gave me three points to think on, things that characterize his remnant. And these have really got me thinking. They are:

  • Spend time in worship – He says if we spend time in private worship, he will bring the nets full of fish in!
  • Spend time lingering with him. It is this time that will lead to us carrying a greater measure of his presence.
  • And third, an obedient heart is one thing, but so is standing in the Lord's counsel. It’s possible for any of us, as Christians, to think we are being ‘obedient’ to something, but not be within his will (yikes). God's counsel is what directs us to speak the right words at the right time and place. So we need to practice hearing his voice as well as deeply engaging with scripture, then help others do the same.

Ahh … What a challenge.

Ultimately, perhaps a key message here is: The higher we go with him, the safer we will be. And he's got us. He is going to be holding us tight this coming year.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this remnant word when you get the chance – Whether in the comments, or by just touching base on email or Facebook messenger (feel free to friend me on Facebook.) And let’s keep praying!

With love,

Ann


SUM Fast Day Five: Walking with Jesus into 2021

Dear SUMites, SUM fast 2020

Ann here on our final day of the fast. We've made it!

It's Friday morning here and my brain is pretty foggy. Yesterday I began to find I could no longer construct proper sentences due to lack of food, which caused my boys a great deal of laughter. That's how hard this thing is.

Amazingly, I've managed these five days with no food. It has been quite the exercise: It has been tough doing all the usual 'Mum' activities (e.g., taking my kids places) in such a state. Still, fasting is a state where you 'afflict your soul' (Leviticus 16:29-31), so that's the deal.

We've talked a lot about our individual purpose this week. I've so enjoyed reading your comments - Really, really enjoyed reading them.

And now, to finish off the fast how about we take communion together? Here's a photo of mine, a little glass of juice and a cracker. Perhaps at some point today we could each make ourselves a communion meal and take it. Communion

A prayer:

Lord Jesus, you are the potter and I am the clay.

I thank you for your blood shed on the cross and your body broken.

I align myself with the words of purpose you have shown me this week, and I ask you to help me walk in them.

Finally, help me be a good ambassador for you in 2021.

My SUM friends, I send you much love. Thank you for journeying on this fast this week, what a special week. I hope you thoroughly enjoy eating food again, and we'll connect again after the weekend. In my next posts I might share a little about what I seemed to hear from the Lord for 2021.

For now, do you have any final stories to share from your week of fasting? Anything that God has shown you? We'll chat in the comments.


Fast Day Four: Which Bible Character Captures Your Journey?

Ann here today, on Thursday morning, day four of our fast. SUM fast 2020

How are you all doing?

So far, I’ve had no food since Monday sunrise and am feeling doddery. Time with the Lord at this point is simply about ‘being’. I don’t have mental sharpness so am floating around the house, popping on a bit of worship music, and doing little else.

I think Bryce secretly likes this quiet wife!

Today I wanted to float a little idea, and it comes wrapped in a story of something that happened a few years ago. It's this:

If God ever gives you the name of a Bible character, it might be an indication of how he sees you and the kinds of experiences or tasks he might have ahead for you.

Now, here’s the story. A few years ago, I woke with a phrase in my head: ‘You are specifically Elizabeth’. A phrase like this is so unusual it would seem to be God, so I duly went to the story of Elizabeth in the Bible. Mm, it didn't mean anything. So I put it on the shelf and left it.

However, weeks later I was having a sick day, lying on my couch, and I put on a podcast by Graham Cooke called ‘How God speaks through scripture’. I laid back with my eyes closed and listened while Graham recounted a personal story. In this story, God had told him he was a kind of ‘Caleb’. That was interesting, but then he said this:

“If God gives you the name of a Bible character it tells you how you are known by him. Expect to have some of the same experiences as that person.”

As he said that, I sat up -- 'Ohhh - Elizabeth!'

Speedily I lifted myself from the couch, got my Bible, and devoured her story. This time it made sense. I pulled towards me a special notebook I happened to have just received as a gift, and started to write my thoughts. Notably, Elizabeth was someone who carried a promise while keeping others company. Her name means ‘God has promised’. Importantly: She had a mute husband whose mouth later opened miraculously to declare that Jesus is Lord.

‘I’ll take that!’ I said to the Lord. And it was a moment of awe. 

Months later, Bryce and I were on a plane together, and I started to drift off to sleep. My head lolled over towards his shoulder and as it did so, I heard a phrase from the Holy Spirit: ‘God remembered.’

Once home, I looked up the meaning of the name Zacharias, Elizabeth’s husband. I didn’t know it before. It means: ‘God remembered.’

Boom!

All of this has since morphed into more of a guiding word for my life. I guess I've learned to be content while I wait for my husband's faith. But ‘Elizabeth’ has helped me understand the kinds of things I enjoy talking about, and why I get connected with certain people. Often I make friends with people who have an impossible promise, like Mary, and my job is to say 'I believe you.' I LOVE that job. Made for it.

The moral, perhaps, is that there is a lifting that comes from understanding who we are in God’s eyes. It is one thing to know our identity in Jesus Christ as a son or daughter (sonship). But it is also important to understand our unique purpose. 

“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me when as yet there were none. How precious also are your thoughts towards me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:17-18, NKJV)

So the question today, perhaps, for the Lord might be something along the above lines. Something to ponder. You could even ask him the following:

Lord, is there a particular Bible character that can tell me a little about how you see me?

I'm looking forward to chatting more in the comments. What has this week been like so far for you? Let's share!


Fast Day Two: The Tenderness of the Father

Ann here! SUM fast 2020

It’s the morning of day two here, and so far so good. Amazingly, my family are talking about ‘Mum’s fast’ and encouraging me along, which has been a new feature this year and it captures how things have shifted in my home. I have a little more to share on that shift below.

First, though, I want to say that it's common to set a goal with fasting and find you don't make it. It's just so hard to fast -- That's the truth of it. If that's you, don't beat yourself up and think it's a failure. It's not. Just get back on the horse and try again the next day. It's definitely worth continuing.

The truth is, our Father smiles on the heart of one who fasts. And this morning I'm reminded of a little story that seems to illustrate that:

Every Christmas, Bryce and I put pressies under the tree for our teenage boys, Travis and Miles, and that’s fun. But I’ve never encouraged my children to buy me a present or even buy their Dad a present. I just haven’t; and so they haven’t. Instead, the boys and I go out and buy something for Bryce from all three of us and we have fun doing it.

Anyway, this year, those two boys did something very nice.

I was sitting in the lounge when Miles (age 14) said to me “Mum, you haven’t yet noticed what’s under the tree.” So I got up and looked. There, under the tree was a little package, clearly wrapped by a teenage boy. Wrinkley, ragged edges, and Sellotape all over the place. It said, “To Mum, from Travis and Miles”. And there, next to it, another package: “To Dad …”. 

Oh my heart. I looked back at my boy and his face showed how excited he was by this little wrinkled package. Thankfully he still doesn’t mind a cuddle from his Mum, and he got one.

The two of them had clubbed together their pocket money, gone out and done it. Teenage boys aren’t always the best at this sort of thing, nor is it at all easy parenting teenagers, and so I really can’t express how it felt to see that package. It was their little gesture of love and it meant the world.

Later in bed, Bryce and I looked at each other: “How CUTE WAS THAT?” We were giggling at the wrapping job, but then we both said in all seriousness that it was pretty much the highlight of our year.

Turning back now to the heart of our Father, a friend of mine recently said to me "We may never truly understand the tenderness of the Father until we reach Heaven". Our Father is tender, and how does He feel when we – His children -- do something like fast? It’s our gesture of love, devotion, and honor to Him.

So now here's more on that shift I mentioned:

“Why do you fast?” Bryce asked me yesterday.

“Well ..  It’s a gesture of love to God. To go without food is a sacrifice.”

“Mm, now you say that I can imagine it.” he said. “Food is a big deal.”

I carried on:

“God shines his face on someone when they make a gesture like that. It might be attractive to him, so to speak. Power comes, things happen in your life then.”

And then I said a bit more:

“Jesus said certain things can only be shifted through prayer and fasting. So fasting is powerful in that way – It can help people overcome certain challenges …”

“Hmm, interesting.” He nodded and took it all in. Perfectly nice; genuine interest. What's more, I didn't feel awkward talking about it.

A lot has shifted there. We didn’t have that kind of conversation a few years ago as faith conversations used to bring this mega wedge between us. But now it’s easier. And, quite honestly, I am enthralled by that change which has happened in only the last year.

Could it be that even this conversation yesterday with my husband is a testimony that the SUM fasts have made a difference? A gentle nod from the Father's tender heart. I'll take it.

Onwards and upwards, SUM soldiers, and I wish you all the best for day two. What has day one been like for you?


Fast Day One: What is the Story God Has Written?

Dear SUMites, here we are on day one of our SUM corporate fast! SUM fast 2020

It's Ann here and I can’t help but think that this particular fast is going to be meaningful. There is so much for us to inquire from God about. Our world is literally groaning for healing, and so are we. 

So we fast.

As I write I have a cupboard and fridge full of drinks, ready to embark on a brave five days. No food from sunrise Monday to sunset Friday. I will keep you posted on how this goes. I know from our chats that many of you are doing this fast. In the spirit, then, we link arms.

During this week, one theme I hope to talk to God about is this:

Lord, what do you want the SUM community to know for this coming year?

To elaborate a little, this year the Body of Christ has been blessed by ministries that have spoken out about the time we’re in. And then, as always, there have been some counterfeit versions of that. Privately, as Christians we seek the Lord’s wisdom ourselves in prayer, and the counsel of Christian friends we trust. But the whole thing has been an exercise in discernment. It's been a year-long journey in understanding what God is asking of us.

We’ve also had to learn through our mistakes. Many of us might be looking back thinking ‘Oops – I didn’t represent Jesus accurately to every single person in my life.’ Honestly, this year has been crazily tough – Let's have grace for ourselves. Onwards.

So there’s that. 2020. In the middle of it all, we have our own little community here at SUM, and here we can ask God for a customized picture:

Lord, what is your heart for the SUM homes in 2021?

How do we walk the upcoming challenges of 2021 with our pre-believing spouses?

In my own faith life, a striking feature of 2020 has been that I have thought a lot about the story God has written for my life. He seemed to nudge me often during this COVID stress: "Come away with Me, daughter, and take your mind elsewhere for a while. Here's what I want you to think about in relation to your life." I recently chatted to Ian and know that he has been experiencing something similar. And then, over on Lynn’s new ministry blog (www.lynndonovan.org), Martha has been blogging about moving into new seasons. So, many of us are having those stirrings.

With that idea of ‘life story’ and ‘what’s next?’, I thought I might gear this week’s posts around the fact that God has a really interesting story he has written over our lives, and he wants us to find out about it.

I believe that's one of several things that Jeremiah 6:16 conveys, along with Holy living: 

Thus says the Lord: 

"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' " (NKJV)

Perhaps you think about your own life and feel you went off God's map at some point in the past as a prodigal (so many of us have that story). So then, that’s a detour and the question for God is ‘Now what?’ Somehow, because God is awesome, beyond what we can think or imagine, and blows our minds, could it be that he will bring you, through Plan B, back into his purpose for you?

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NKJV)

My friends, how about we make a point in day one of our fast to come before the Lord and ask him some of these personal, delightful questions? 

  • Lord, what are the good works you made for me to walk in? 
  • Lord, what did you make me to be from before the beginning of time?
  • What is your purpose and will in my marriage?
  • Would you tell me something new and profound about my life story?

As for the fast, what kind of fast are you doing this week and what would you like to ask the Lord? Let's share a little about what we hope this week will look like.