119 posts categorized "Ann Hutchison"

When God Reveals the Secrets of a Heart

By Ann Hutchison Sweet cookies

Often while we're waiting for someone we love to enter the Kingdom of God, we feel we just don't have the words to convey what we want to.

Well, I often feel that way, anyway. Do you? I might know that a person needs Jesus, but my mouth seems muzzled because their heart is not ready. 

A time can come, however, when God opens a window of opportunity and gives us the perfect words to speak. When that happens it can be pretty amazing. Our job is to be ready and waiting.

A few years ago, God opened a window with someone close to me and gave me the exact words to speak. It was a WOW moment, so I'd like to tell you and I hope it encourages you. 

I have a dear friend who I knew before I turned to Jesus. She and I are close, except we're 'unequally yoked'. Still, we stay with each other. She's a wonderful friend.

What happened was my friend lost her Mum, and when someone loses a loved one it can very quickly make them re-think eternity. Which it did do in this case. 

My friend began talking to me about the question of whether there is more to this life than our time on earth. It was truly amazing to be able to talk about this with her, as we'd never done so before. But then, something more incredible happened: I woke one morning with a song in my head. It was a song from the 1970s. Along with that I seemed to get an image of a pastel-colored sweet from England where I grew up, called a 'refresher'. In the image, the sweet had a heart on it and the word Mum. It seemed God was saying, "I want you to refresh her heart, and give her this song."

"Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord." (Philemon 20, NKJV)

Now, that was easier said than done. She was still an unbeliever, so I was particularly keen to not sound weird. The song might have meant nothing to her, in which case it would all fall flat. Still, I mustered up the courage, texted her and said something like, "I think God wants to comfort you and has given me this song to give to you." 

She wrote back: "You won't believe this but that was the song my Mum used to sing to me when I was little! I then sang it to my own children. It means the world, and I was having a particularly bad day today. Thank you!"

Then, sometime later ... "What are you?!" 

That made me laugh.

I said, "A Christian." Which she knew anyway.

If I could go back and do that job even better I would have used the name of Jesus more clearly, to clearly glorify Him. I didn't want her to think this came from anywhere but him. Still, we're always learning and I'll know for next time.

That was a few years ago. Since then the window of opportunity to talk about God seems to have closed. But, the way I see it is that for someone like my friend it's one step to receive evidence that God is real. It's another step to discover that Jesus is the truth. Then, finally, it's a whole other step to bow one's knee to him.

In other words, it can be a process, not an instant change. And I stay ready and waiting for the next time a window opens.

The story above is unusual for me. I have a lot of unbelievers in my life and a willingness to listen for God's voice for them. I have not been given words like the above 'refresher word' for other unbelievers. Still, 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 says that a prophetic word given to an unbeliever can reveal the secrets of their heart and make them fall down on their face, worship God and report that God is truly among us. Our job, then, is to be ready for it. It will always require bravery, but we can ask God to help us refresh others' hearts, and then watch for those windows of opportunity.

If you'd like prayer for having the perfect words to speak to unbelievers in your life oh I'd so love to pray for you. Pop a comment in the comments if so.

With love,

Ann


Congratulations Ann Hutchison

Ann Hutchison and husbandLynn Donovan here. It is with great joy that I announce that the Board of Directors of Three Keys Ministries has agreed to ordain for ministry, Ann Hutchison. Ann has faithfully served this community now for several years. She is a woman after God's own heart, a sold-out follower of Christ, and a woman that indwells the Holy Spirit. Ann has led this amazing community and spends hours writing, praying and encouraging the believers in the faith. I could spend an hour relaying her service here at SUM! I'm so deeply thankful for Ann!

I'm so honored and privileged to serve Christ Jesus at her side. A certificate of Ordination has been sent to her in New Zealand. 

Congratulations Ann!!!

Below Ann shares her SUM journey and how she came to leadership. Please leave her a note of encouragement. Hugs. Lynn

_____

Many of you know my general story. Fourteen years into my marriage, I turned to Jesus and was plunged into being spiritually mismatched -- Aggh! Yes, those first years were extremely difficult, and I won’t ever forget how much I needed this ministry.

I was the last person who would have felt able to front a website about being mismatched in marriage – I was too shy and it was too sensitive a subject. But sometimes God has other ideas than we do.

In 2018, having volunteered for SUM for a while, I suddenly felt that God was calling me to ministry. This is an unusual thing to handle when your spouse is not a believer! It was a strong conviction and quite the surprise. I left my job, even, led by God to do so. Meanwhile over in California something was happening with Lynn: She was nurturing a surprising conviction that her husband, Mike, would be baptized soon (impossible!) and she was to hand over the baton of this ministry. 

It was amazing what happened next: Mike did get baptized, suddenly, in March 2019. And so Lynn knew the baton was to be passed. I was available, off work, and began helping her a little more.

Eventually it did seem I was to lead the ministry, and at that point I remembered God had said to me years earlier that I’d be ‘Leading worship’ here. I love that analogy. Leading SUM does mean leading worship, for we’re worshippers of God foremost. Our marriages and families seem to naturally inch towards Jesus when we make worshipping Him our everything.

As for Bryce, well this part is amazing to me too: He started to visibly accept my faith just as Lynn was steadily handing over the baton. It was as if my tough season was over so that I could at least be cheerful enough from the front. Things changed for our kids as he changed, and last year one of our two teens even started coming to church with me.

I love our community so much; I think about you all the time and I’m captivated by the story God is writing among us. We see change and we see miracles, and the above testimony is just one example. I’m also so thankful for the groundwork of Lynn and Dineen who helped many of us grow, and I cherish my fellow writers, Ian and Tiffany, and our other teammates who do much behind the scenes.

Thank you for your love, and here’s to a vibrant 2022 together!


From Spiritually Mismatched to Jointly Present

By Ann Hutchison Tea and biscuits

Dear friends, I shared last week about the small group I've been attending. Well, today I want to share a very encouraging story from that group.

There's a man in that group who's a great sharer. He's jolly, enthusiastic, and loves God. He brings plenty of ideas about faith to our group chats. He's in his sixties, and he and his wife have adult children. 

One night the group was mingling as the evening was wrapping up. Some were in the kitchen, others were in the living room, and I was sat on a couch beside this particular man and his wife. She was next to me, he was on the other side of her talking to someone else, and so she and I got quietly talking.

She began to tell me her story. It went like this:

"I actually went to church on my own for years. He wasn't interested, he never came with me. I was on my own in my faith for a long time."

She smiled at me.

I peeked around her to take another look at her hubby, a bemused look on my face. Are we talking about the same man? Then I focused on her again.

"Was that hard for you?" I asked. 

"Was it ever!" she rolled her eyes.

We shared a cheeky smile.

"So what happened next?" 

"Oh, he just gradually got there. Bit by bit, slowly things changed. He's only just started coming to this group. He would never have gone to something like this before."

I peered around her discreetly at him again.

"Amazing." I said with a big smile.

"Yes, amazing." She grinned back.

Looking at that man today, all I can see is one who loves being with God first thing in the morning, attends church, reads Christian books, plays worship music in the home for his own enjoyment, and gets his wife to do devotionals with him in the morning.

Well there we go. The joy of this story is that I will get to see this visible example weekly from now on at my small group, and they are a living breathing example of a spiritually mismatched couple who had one season then another season. 

In this ministry we need these examples, as hope is an important element of our spiritually mismatched walk. God wants us to hope because he doesn't want us to label our spouse as an impossible case (he wants us to bless our spouse not curse them, James 3:10) and he wants us to believe in His magnitude. 

It's summed up well here:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7, NKJV)

So, while we must learn to be content in our circumstance (very important) and love our spouse exactly where they are (also very important), hey let's seize stories like this so that we can hope and believe that there is a bigger possibility beyond what our circumstance looks like today.

Hope you liked that story. Love you all,

Ann


The Day My Husband Entered the Small Group Scene

Ann here, and I thought the title would make you smile. Yes indeed, I have a little story to tell today. Welcome

In Monday's post I left off where my small group had said: "Do invite your husband to the Christmas dinner, we would love to meet him."

Gulp!

Now, Bryce has said to me on a number of occasions that he finds the whole 'small group' concept difficult. He has a bad experience of growing up in an unhealthy and spiritually controlling church, and from that experience he was concerned that any small group I joined would be 'cultish and weird'. Those were hard words to hear, but hey, if this is how our spouse sees these things it's probably helpful to know. If we know, then we can try to understand and try to address it. Anyway, given all of that historical 'stuff' the thought of now inviting him to a small group Christmas dinner was not easy!

I wonder, though, whether at some point we all turn a corner where things become different? Where faith or church are not so contentious any more? Anyway, the long and short of it is that I plucked up the courage and asked him.

And ..... 

He said yes. No problem at all. Just like that. He said his 'yes' so easily, in fact, that I had to leave the room to process this massive new development, which felt like breaking news.

Now here's that same scene I described on Monday where I stand at a closed front door, behind which lies a small group, and I'm wondering how on earth this thing is going to go. Except this time my husband is standing by my side.

I hold a salad, he's carrying wine, and we're ready for a good time. He's perfectly cheerful but I've got a pounding heart. Why? It's the first time we've gone through the doors of church together since those difficult church days of his. Yes, it's only a small-group dinner, but it's the church.

We enter, join the chattering crowd on the back patio of the house, and before I can barely introduce him ... off he goes. Into a happy crowd and away from my side. And so the evening continued. Ann Bryce

Later, as the sun set, he and I were sat in a circle of comfy outdoor armchairs chatting with some of the others about church and other things. He liked them, they liked him. At that moment I looked up to see a beautiful rainbow in the dusky sunset. I took it as a wink from God and thanked Him -- Seriously, seriously thanked Him -- for this moment.

Oh my dear SUM friends, it was a fascinating turning of a corner, and I know you understand the emotions around this sort of thing. It was indeed 'breaking news' for it broke some kind of barrier. It also broke away some of my own lingering angst about our spiritual mismatch, bringing us together and showing me all over again 'God's got this'.

Some of us have spouses who do visit church or its social events; others of us find that area more tricky. But however it looks now, things can always change --

"For nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1:37, ESV)

Does your spouse come to church or social events or not? Let's chat more in the comments.

Love you loads,

Ann


The Day I Entered the 'Small Group' Scene

Ann here! Tea and biscuits

With Bryce not attending church with me, one of the questions I've often asked myself is whether it would be a good thing for me to join a small group ... Or not, given my circumstances.

Like many churches, mine has a home-group scene where people meet weekly at each other's homes. The idea is they build connections, care for each other, encourage each other, and have stimulating discussions.

It sounds great, but I can already hear a collective sigh here because it's usually not so simple for us.

First, these groups are either full of couples, or full of singles, and we struggle to fit. Second, our spouse might feel we're already leaving them on a Sunday, and now we want to leave them for an additional evening each week. That's in addition to all the other time we spend on our faith activities.

In fact, years ago when I asked Bryce if he'd mind me attending a small group it turned into one of the worst conversations we've had. He expressed very clearly that yes, he would mind very much!! I wrote about that story recently, it was not a good day. 

Difficult as it is, we do need to be with believers regularly, we do need to build Christian friendships, and we do need to fight for that. The reason we need to fight is that our spiritual survival hangs on it. That said, church community can take many forms and a 'small group' may or may not be the right format depending on where things are at in our marriage. A regular coffee with two other Christian friends might be just as good and easier to fit with your spouse.

When I joined my new church last year I was invited to a small group and, despite all the past conversations between Bryce and me about this issue, this time it seemed right.

By then Bryce was no longer appalled by the idea. I'd worked hard over a number of years to balance church and our marriage and he, in turn, had done some thinking. He didn't miss the opportunity to tease me when he heard it was a 'small group' but I said "I love you", gave him a kiss and off I went.

So now we get to me ringing the doorbell and arriving at said small group ...

The door opens, I step in, and I get hugged by everybody: Eight couples in their fifties and sixties and one other lady on her own. There is tea, coffee and food. Yum! I'm keen, but I do wonder if I'll cope being around couples. I'm not sure if I'd have coped with this until now, in fact.

Armed with our tea, and now sitting, we start to talk about Sunday's sermon topic using discussion questions. Now I'm loving it because all I want is to talk about faith, all the time, and I'm always in need of this!

That was the first taste, and I didn't fall over from 'Coupledom misery'. But over the weeks, hearing about their faith lives in detail, I did begin to see just how different a SUM walk is to a couples faith walk. It is different.

I would find myself driving home thinking two things. (1) "I'm more intense than they are because of the SUM." And, (2) "I don't fit." 

Still, I continued, and the 'not fitting' became a lie I needed to dispel. Why? I am part of the Body of Christ. I fit.

As the months went on, I actually found surprising treasures. For one, I loved getting to see guys' faith. And, second, I noticed how different the gifts and experiences within this group are. That part broadened my view, and I began to feel I was understanding the Body of Christ better... Simply by sitting with people who are different to me. 

My verdict? Being part of a small group has been beneficial and I will continue, but it's worked because the timing and fit was right. I guess, as with anything, we just have to pray about it and always follow God's lead about what's right for our circumstances.

There's part two to this story, next. Hold onto your hats:

Christmas rolled around, it was time for the group's Christmas dinner, and up came this offer "Please do invite your husband, we would love to meet him!" What happened next I will share next time... 

Do you go to a small group, or have you done? I'd love to hear.


Entering 2022 as a Community

Dear friends 2022 2

It's Ann here, and today I want to share some thoughts about 2022 for us as a community.

At this time of year I spend some time praying about the year and asking God if there are any particular themes for us as a community. For 2022, here's what seems to be on my mind:

The SUM walk is so multi-faceted in the kinds of issues we face and the skills we have to develop in order to thrive. In fact, it's not only multi-faceted, but it is long. Some SUMites do have an experience where their spouse joins them in faith quickly, but for most of us the SUM journey is like a marathon or high-altitude mountain climb. It's high-risk, tiring, and takes endurance.

This year, I think what God is saying is, hone your skills, equip each other for the climb, and persevere

Yes, persevere.

These are just some of the complex facets we have to tackle specifically because we are in a spiritually mismatched marriage:

  • Tackle our own doubts, and hold fast to our basic belief in Jesus.
  • Understand God's heart for unbelievers and his plans for humanity
  • Stay connected to church when it feels almost impossible to do so.
  • Understand Satan and demons, and know how to fight them.
  • Take on the solo responsibility for our children's faith lives
  • Learn about prayer, including using our authority in the spirit realm
  • Learn to love our spouse well and be a great marriage partner
  • Set good boundaries within and around our marriages
  • Develop a strong devotional life 
  • Learn to hear and discern God's voice
  • Build a healthy personal community around ourselves.

Phew -- There's a lot there. And though it is the spiritual equivalent of a high-altitude mountain climb, a lot of what we go through seems to be about training ourselves in the above areas over and over. 

Now, I'm not a climber myself but my Dad was (he's still alive, but older now). As a child I remember he would go off to climb mountains in Europe, taking pick axes, ropes, pulleys, crampons, pouches of dried food, compasses, maps and more. It was serious business. He would also go in a team: Mountaineers have to work together to keep each other safe. 

That's what I feel we're going to do here in SUM in 2022. We have unmovable mountains to conquer: The mountains of our spouse's and family's unbelief. So, to face those we have to dig deep, roll up our sleeves, decide we're not going to give up, and keep equipping ourselves together.  

There's a fabulous documentary on Netflix about high-altitude mountaineering called '14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible'. It's about a Nepalese man who climbed all fourteen high-altitude peaks in the world in record time -- Within a year. These were peaks over 8,000m. He took a team of fellow mountaineers and the documentary follows all of their climbs. It is an absolute inspiration to watch. The sheer grit that he displays, the skill level, the fatigue, all of it .... Amazing. He called his feat Project Possible, because people told him it was impossible. He came out victorious, and so can we. 

"For with God, nothing will be impossible" (Luke 1:37, NKJV)

Dear SUMites, this year -- 2022 -- I'm looking forward to us becoming even stronger, even more perseverant, and even more equipped to walk out our faith in our unique marriages. 

Now here's a question for you: Which of the above issues would you particularly like to see us write about this year?

Love to you all

Ann


Play with the Father -- Fasting, Day Three

Hello my fellow fasting squad! Fast and pray 2022

How are you doing? I am thinking of you all as I potter around the house.

As I write, it's day three here. So far I've had no food for the past three days. I'm pretty woolly-headed, on 'go-slow' mode. And, it's just been a gentle time with God so far. 

Yesterday I wrote about the wilderness. Well, today I want to look at something that can be experienced within our wilderness: The playful love of the Father. And I want to tell you a lovely story from last year's fast.

One morning in July 2019 I woke with a four-digit code in my head. I grabbed my phone and wrote it down. 

A year later, July 2020, I woke with a picture in my head of a wicker basket, the size and shape of a Glory Box or trunk. Again, I wrote it down.

We then came to our community fast, January 2021. The week before, I was walking with oldest son, Travis, and I said, "You know, one thing I've always wanted is a one-person teapot, I really want one of those.." at which he laughed.

The fast rolled around and on day two I was out with my boys. We came home, and there waiting for us was a big box by the front door. It was a gift from several family members in England who had clubbed together to send us something really special. It had been due to arrive before Christmas, but was late; hence its arrival on this first week of January, and my fasting week -- Perfect timing.

The boys and I carted the box into the living room and excitement hit. Forgetting my hunger completely, I started ripping open the box, with straw flying. I cried, "No no no, I get to open it!" as the boys' hands were competing with mine to get a first look. We eventually pulled apart the cardboard to discover a glorious wicker basket, the size and shape of a glory box, a trunk! 

"Ohhh, it's the wicker basket I saw," I thought to myself.

This basket was a very big food hamper from a specialty food store in London. I love food. Not only that, the last four digits of the courier code for its delivery were the same four digits I'd woken up with back in July 2019! I knew that because I'd received a text about the package already. Those four digits had remained meaningful to me and that text had given me an inkling God was in this.

That's not all, though. I then got to open the wicker trunk, and lo and behold the first item I pulled out was ........ A one-person teapot!!

Well, by this time I had truly forgotten wilderness hunger.

The items continued to come as we dived into the trunk with our hands. There in the Glory Box were tin and cardboard packages, all containing food-related goodies. It was exquisite stuff and I was in heaven. But the final moment came when I laid out all the pieces on our piano and realized the packaging was all co-ordinated in the same colors of my special journals in which I write words from God: Fuschia pink and duck-egg blue.

"The boxes are the same color as my journals!!!!" I shouted. I was beside myself. What a gift. 

The boys were so amused they grabbed a phone, took a photo, and then roared with laughter when they took a look ... It's a funny photo, and I hope it gives you a giggle. Yep, I was excited. Ann joy

That day the Father played with me and loved me. Perhaps he was even saying "You gave up food for me. Now see my heart for you."

Oh friends, today I've been reflecting on how tremendous God is. And with that in mind I want to end with an idea. I did this today myself:

Take a moment to quietly sit with the Father along with a paper and pen, and dream with him. Write a list of your dreams for your life, sitting consciously in his presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you write this list. And include your family and home in those dreams -- Well, I know you will as that is top of our minds. Keep the list somewhere special for years to come.

That's all for today. What's happened so far in your fast, and how has your day been?

Ann


December Rhythms and Routines

Hi my dear friends, it's Ann here. Writing

Well, it's December (hooray!) and today I wanted to chat about personal rhythms and routines over Advent.

With the cosiness of Christmas in the air, I just love December. And one of the reasons for that is I have a few little special things I do to connect with God. These things are special enough to me that I start to look forward to them in November!

Centuries ago, the Western church developed a liturgy to help their congregations connect through the year with the Gospel. Specific scriptures were read on certain dates, and specific stories from scripture were celebrated. I imagine that was a very helpful thing for those who loved God but couldn't necessarily read his word. Well, these days I think we can do the same in our personal lives: We can find some special personal routines throughout our year that help us remember and connect with aspects of God.

When it comes to Advent and December, I thought I might share with you my three special practices, and I'd love to hear from you in turn if you have any special Christmas faith routines. I'm sure I'll adopt more routines as the years pass, but for now here are my three:

First of all, on 1 December I pick up my heavy leather Bible, open up its beautiful pages to the nativity sections in Matthew and Luke and start to read. I say Matthew and Luke because they're the only two out of the four Gospels that cover Jesus's birth. I take my time over them, marinating in them, piecing them together like a jigsaw puzzle, and reading one section a day. 

They are fascinating narratives; they never get old. I find I look back sometimes on the Old Testament prophecies that go with certain parts. I shake my head in wonder at the Bible and this part of it -- The nativity story. It is truly a mind-blowing thing, and also a very surprising thing that God did here: A baby in a manger. A messiah born to an 'unmarried' woman? Bemusing. Mesmerizing. Full of symbolism. 

The second thing I do is crack open my own journals for the whole past year and start to re-read them over the month of December. Now this one involves a lot of sitting around with a whole lot of coffee; which, to Bryce, does look a little lazy. But it's amazing to look back on what God has done. I find I've asked God a lot of questions and have written down everything I've prayed for, so sometimes I find myself startled to see within the pages of those journals that "Wow, Lord, you really did answer that."

And finally, as Christmas approaches I book myself a hotel room for the night and take 24 hours away with God. It's indulgent, I know, but sometimes a mother's got to do what a mother's got to do. I tell my family it's 'Mum's strategic planning day', at which they burst into laughter. But truly it's to talk to God about the coming year. 

I guess I'm writing this because the success of our walk as SUMites is so heavily driven by how deep our intimacy with God is. And now, our ability to cope with this pandemic is also going to be impacted by the same. Yes, we have at least two tough things we are enduring (the SUM, the pandemic) .. And if we have tough stuff in our lives, oh how we need Jesus like we need air!

How about you? I'd love to hear of any routines you have at Christmas time. Yours might look completely different to mine but hey, variety is just great, and so I'm looking forward to chatting about this one.

Ann


A Work of God in My Home

By Ann Hutchison Central church Ann 1

Hi SUM family!

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

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

Goodness, how exciting!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At this, I sat back, gob-smacked.

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

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

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

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

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

My friends, I so hope this encouraged you. 

With love, 

Ann


Financial Giving and Your Unbelieving Spouse

By Ann Hutchison

"How can I give to the church when my spouse disagrees?" This one seems to pop up for most SUMites.Pennies

For me it was an area of challenge in my heart for a good few years. There were so many areas of disagreement already, in relation to faith, that giving ‘our’ money to church was just beyond the realms of possibility. We both had jobs at that time but our money was fully shared psychologically so to force this thing on my husband … Should I?!

Whenever the topic of financial giving was raised at the pulpit, I would sink into my seat, disheartened … It was just another area where I felt I ‘couldn’t do any of the things Christians do’ because my husband wasn't by my side in it.

Occasionally I would sneak some dollar notes into the church money box … But then, was I doing that behind my husband's back, I wondered? Not every husband would feel that, but mine would. He cares about where the pennies go. I figured then, "I have to honor him here too."

It’s hard!

Eventually, many of us work this issue out over time; but wisdom doesn’t always come quickly. Instead, it's a process. Anyway, here’s the process I went on:

I always knew God understood. In fact, I heard the Holy Spirit very clearly say to me once, “Ann, the first time you ever told me you needed me was the first time you tithed.” In other words, "I loved your contrite heart and that was more precious to me as any material thing you could give me."

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and contrite heart – These, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17, NKJV)

So, I do personally believe that when it comes to giving it is very much a case of the spirit of the law rather than the letter. It's a principle where giving comes out of a grateful heart. It's a generosity to God, and he knows we want to.

Later, the Lord gave me a further word: “Ann, like the widow with the mite in the New Testament, I know exactly what the little you give has cost. Further, I will use and multiply that little.”

That story of the widow is in Luke 12:41-44. Indeed, we may have money in the bank, but as SUMites we often do have 'only a little to give', because of our circumstances. It almost becomes the currency of our hearts then: "What little I have, Lord, I give you."

What I concluded from all this was:

  • I did need to give something.
  • It wasn’t so much about the dollar amount, but giving something to church reflected my belief in the Gospel and my investment into it.
  • It would cost courage and risk in terms of asking my husband. That was part of the package.
  • I needed to honor my husband too and show him a spirit of unity towards our marriage.

So, I prepared myself to approach my husband. He was quite against the concept of 'church', so this was no easy task; difficult enough, in fact, that I procrastinated over it. Eventually, however, I came to him and explained: “I know how you feel, but this is important to me. Can we come up with an amount that we both feel ok with?”

He thought for a moment … And then nodded, "Ok.” And so we came up with a weekly amount.

Honestly, it was a little amount. Just like the widow’s mite. Far less than what I would want to give. But, the fact is, it cost me to get there; and so you could say it was a bigger gift, in a way, than if it had been easy. What's more, it was an act of compromise for my husband, and he did it to honor our marriage too. So, there we go: This tiny amount was the currency of the heart.

Speaking of the currency of the heart, I think these words of Psalm 69 are apt:

“I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bull, which has horns and hooves.

(Psalm 69:29-31, NKJV).

Our approach to giving will change as our SUM and our faith life changes. But now I'd love to hear from you: How do you handle the issue of financial giving as a SUMite?

Nice chatting!

Ann


An Unusual Prayer

Happy Monday, SUM family!  Last week on our Facebook page I did a video about an evangelist's wife who once prayed this prayer: Help me love my husband more, but help me be less 'in love' with him!

Is that a good prayer to pray? Well, take a listen to this video about her story, see what you think, and perhaps we'll chat in the comments!

 


One Husband and his Jesus-Freak Wife

SUM family, Ann here! Hoodie right way up

It was lovely going through the Paul study with you over the past fortnight. Our final topic was that of bold speech in our homes, and we had some great comments there. Well, today I want to share a story along that same theme.

See this hooded sweatshirt with the words 'Jesus Freak' on it? Would you say it'd be a good idea to wear that at home with our spouses .... Or not?!

Most likely it depends on the spouse and where they are at. 

Well, this hoodie and I have been on a little journey. A journey where I practiced boldness.

I mentioned in my last post that us SUMites get used to 'winning our spouse without words'. We learn to be loving and -- we hope --  winsome. That part is good. But then perhaps the next part is to learn to exercise our voice all over again, this time with care. 

Many of us feel we've been knocked back verbally to such a degree that to talk about Jesus with our spouse is difficult. That's certainly how it is for me. With all that history it's not easy for me to stand up and articulate to my husband, 'This is how it is... This is who Jesus is ... This is what I stand for."

Well ... This year that situation has morphed a little in my marriage, and my new church seems to be playing a part. As many of you know, I began attending that church earlier this year and it's full of millennials. Not only that, but they are the most enthusiastic crowd of Jesus followers you could find.

As one of the older ones in the room, I watch them, mesmerized. Their gift is evangelism, which I learn from. Where I have grown weary from being knocked back by unbelievers, these young ones spur me on afresh.

One day I walked into church to see that these young leaders had made some special hooded sweatshirts. They were chocolate brown, with the words 'Jesus Freak' splashed across it. The pastor told me he wears this sweatshirt out on the street. I raised my eyebrows at that. New Zealand is not the place where that's easy to do. "You're brave and sold-out for Jesus. Good on you." I thought.

But that pastor's approach gave me pause for thought about my own faith life. "I've had enough of unbelief, and I'd like to be less silent," I concluded. And so I duly bought the sweatshirt, and on it went at home.

"Jesus Freak??" Exclaimed Bryce. "Um.... Is that not a bit weird?" He was probably hoping with every fibre of his being that I would not wear this thing out. 

"Nope." I said, gently. "Personally I find the phrase ok. It's a bit of fun and Jesus is real, so hey..."  

"But Ann ... If someone sees a Christian calling themselves that, won't it make the Christian look even weirder?"

"Look..." I said. "Society finds us unusual anyway, they dislike Jesus as it is, so what difference does it make? The fact is we are freakish to others: They used to throw us to the lions in Roman times."

Then I wandered off, to do some washing up and the usual Mum/wife bits and pieces. Wearing the hoodie, I left hubby to digest the fact that Christians like his wife were thrown to lions.

A day or so later, there I was in the confronting sweatshirt again and Bryce came up, ruffled my head, and smiled. "How's my little Jesus freak?" This time off he sauntered, non-plussed.

Did I do the right thing, or did I overstep it, I wonder? Well, it seemed strangely on point, so the sweatshirt has stayed a feature in our home - - Freakish as it is. I read a quote recently by a British evangelist's wife, Jean Rees, who said "An evangelist is one who precipitates a spiritual crisis in the life of another." Sometimes perhaps it's ok, then, to shake things up a little.

Every SUM is different. We go with the Holy Spirit as to what seems right for our particular spouse and where they're at. But I do hope this story gave you a smile today.

Let's carry on the conversation about bold speech in the comments, I would love to chat more about this one with you! 

Ann


SUM on Radio Rhema, New Zealand

Hi friends, Ann here. Ann Rhema 2

This week I did something fun: I went on the radio here in New Zealand to talk about 'How to continue to be strong in your faith when your husband or wife is not a believer.'

New Zealand, where I live, only has 4 million people, but nevertheless there are a good few SUMites who live here. Of course, most of you live in the USA, UK, South Africa, and Australia, along with other parts of the world. Isn't it just amazing how we can congregate online, despite our diversity!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this 'Kiwi' chat at Radio Rhema, with Diane Campbell who's pictured here. You can have a listen by clicking on the link below: 

https://www.rhema.co.nz/shows/show/article/spirituallyunequalmarriage

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Ann


The Ice Cream Van

Hi again dear SUMites Ice cream van

I said in my last post that the Holy Spirit had given us two playful pictures to hold at the moment. The first one I described in the last post. The second one I'm sharing today.

We are children to Jesus, and sometimes he will use playful analogies with us. What he seems to be saying to us today is this:

The way I am moving in the SUM community is like an ice-cream van.

My friends, does it mean anything to you yet? Perhaps you can see it instantly, but I couldn't. I needed a bit of help from him.

This is the fun of the Holy Spirit. He tells us something. We realize we have no idea what it means. He then gives us the interpretation when we ask for it - POW! And that's how we know it was him. 

Yep, this is how it went. Having pondered the symbol of ice cream van unsuccessfully for a day or so, I just could not figure it out. So I asked the Holy Spirit for help. 

Instantly it came:

What I am doing in the SUM community is like an ice cream van. The three testimonies you have seen are the sound of the music starting. You can hear the whisper of it, it's faint but it is a definite and clear sound in the air. You wonder if it will come to your street. You dearly hope that you will not miss out. But I am good! It's coming to you. You will not miss out. Get ready for the goodies!

With a word like this, God will often give us confirmation. In this case, so that I could be brave enough to write this he told me this: I've told you about an ice cream van before, go and look it up.

Yes, he had. I remember I had heard him say 'Ice cream van' before (That was all, just 'ice cream van', hilarious!! I could have thought I was hallucinating, but I did write it down .. Perhaps because I've been learning that hearing God speak can sometimes be a bit of a weird experience!)  Thankfully because I had written it down I could pull out my phone and search in the diary app I use for such records. 'Ice cream van', I typed ... And there it was. It was the week of the January 2019 fast. Just like the vision of the cloths that I described in the previous post. Two stories from God when we were fasting back in January 2019. Two stories from God about what we have just experienced.  Salvation testimonies. And more to come.

I even love the fact we fasted together, he gave the words then ... But they have come to life now. I suppose that's the way God works ... It's also perhaps a little nod to the fact that he honors our fasting.

Finally ... The analogy of a SUM ice cream van is such a sweet one. I guess, after all, we are his kids.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14, NIV)

Be encouraged, everyone, and have a great weekend!

Ann


I see a cloud the size of a man's hand

Hi SUM family, Ann here. Singing

Whew, it’s been an exciting week with us hearing about two spouses’ salvations in one week. If you missed those you can catch up here and here.

Well, unbelievably, there’s more! No sooner had I uploaded Monday's post about a second salvation than I got a message from another SUM friend (a local friend): Unbelievably, her husband had just responded to an altar call this past Sunday at church. 

Three in one week.

Are you pulling the same stunned face as me, I wonder?

All I could do then is play the song ‘God is on the Move’ on repeat in my living room and do some serious (uncool, Mum-looking) dancing in celebration. My teenage son, Miles, sauntered down the stairs midway through. He looked at me, smirked, shook his head, and walked on into the kitchen to get himself some toast.

So funny!

Anyway, somewhere in amongst this extreme excitement, God gave me a scripture. He said, “Go and look at the passage where Elijah prays seven times before he sees a small cloud.”

So I did; and I wondered what I would see. I suppose it’s one of those stories I’d read a few times so perhaps felt ‘old’. The thing is, scripture is so full of treasure it’s never old. I should have known better and, sure enough, I saw something brand new this time.

The story of Elijah’s cloud is in 1 Kings 18:41-46, and it goes like this: There has been a desperate drought in Israel, but then Elijah proclaims to the King that rain is coming. He says to the king, "Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the abundance of rain." In other words, "You don’t need to worry about stashing up food any more, I promise you the rain is coming!"

Truly, I feel this way about the spouses in our community. Impossible as it seems, we can know something is coming in the spirit before we see it in the natural. It's just ... There's perseverance first.

Elijah went to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.” (1 Kings 18:42-43, NKJV)

Seven times, nothing.

Isn't that just like the prayer for our spouses? We pray. Nothing. Nothing. Oh, and nothing. Nothing? Nope, nothing. Nothing. Can’t see any sign of my spouse turning…. Years pass …. Nothing.

Shall I say that again for effect? Here we go, six 'nothings': Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Ok, I now hereby sign and seal this thing as officially impossible. That's not to say it won't happen; it's just it's an impossible thing that needs God. We all look at each other, nod our heads, agreeing and understanding that it will take a miracle the size of the red sea parting. 

Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” (v. 44)

I wonder if even Elijah, let alone his companion, couldn't quite believe what he was seeing, even though he had sensed it in the spirit. After all, 'We're in a drought!'

So, with all that in mind, here's what just happened for us this past week:

One man’s hand goes up in surrender, ‘I say yes to Jesus’.

Another man’s hand goes up in surrender, ‘I say yes to Jesus’.

And a third man’s hand goes up in response to an altar call.

Oh, it's a cloud 'the size of a man’s hand' rising from the sea! A sign. A sign of more to come. We don't know how or when, but yes. More will come.

I am smiling here, and with that I’ll sign off for the weekend. Lynn will be here on Monday. In the meantime, for your pleasure here's 'God is on the Move'!

 


Thank God for Today!

Hi family, Ann here. Anniversary 2

Today marks the end of our 'battling giants' series, and we're marking it in style: With a shout-out to our God.

Here on the SUM blog, Lynn, Tiffany, Ian and I tend to write about whatever it is we're going through. Usually it aligns with 'spiritually mismatched marriage', but sometimes God takes us on other journeys.

Well, as you know, last month I wrote a series on battling giants because I was a little embattled myself with a few things. In writing the series I wanted to talk about how we fight things that we find truly tough. "In this life we will have trials", said Jesus, "But be of good cheer." (John 16:33).

Ok, Lord, I can try!

Sometimes those trials are long; sometimes they are short. 

A SUM journey, like the ones we're on, is often ... longgggg. Eight years for me, and counting. Twenty-seven years for Lynn before her hubby got baptized. But he got there! So will others. Other battles people face can be very long in years too. That doesn't mean the battle won't be over eventually. We keep praying; and we can keep asking the Lord for help.

As for the health battle? Well, I'm pleased to say I seem to be completely better! What a great encouragement that is for our other battles that we're fighting, and a great way to end the series. While I understand that many battles in life might last longer I hope this story serves to illustrate that, somehow, we can hold onto hope that in some way or other we will 'overcome'.

To finish, I'm keen to hear any final thoughts from you: Have you had a time where you faced a battle and then it was suddenly over? 

Thanks for following along with this series - Thanks for your love and friendship. And, happy 'Fourth of July' to our American friends!

Ann


The Way We Fight Giants

My friends, Ann here.

I have a problem. Here I am writing a series on how to fight giants using the example of some fear I've been battling … But this week the fear has gone completely! So, that's inconvenient because I'm trying to write about it. Maybe the giant wasn't enjoying the fight and ran away. ((Haha!)) Giant fighting

Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7, NIV)

It's true. As my fingers have typed words about how small giants are I’ve become increasingly fearless. To the point that I feel I've been injected with happy drugs!!

And, in that state, we've reached the part in our series where David picked up five stones to kill Goliath. 

“Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:40, NIV)

This passage could be seen as an analogy for spiritual warfare in a Christian’s life. It’s easy to think ‘spiritual warfare’ has to be big and dramatic, but it’s mainly fought in the secret place, the place of intimacy with God. 

It can even be a restful battle, if we can get there. The stones are smooth, after all, and manageable.

I keep a pouch of five stones in my prayer room (TV room) as a symbol, I suppose. And I have an idea of what my top five regular stones (i.e., spiritual warfare tools) are. One is fasting, another is rest. Another, taking communion in my home. Five smooth stones

But there are probably 25 'stones' (i.e., tools) available to us, not just five. And in our community others will have a different 'top five' to me because, as an army, we have different skill-sets, gifts, and experiences.

I therefore posted a question on Facebook, asking our community what their top five are. Here’s what they said, including their quotes. I personally found these wonderful to read, and I hope you do too.

The five smooth stones of the SUM community

Worship. Private time spent in worship invites in the Lord’s presence and power; but even playing worship music in the background changes the atmosphere (2 Chronicles 20:21-22).

Praise and gratitude. Speaking out or journaling such words (Psalm 100:4)

Asking for prayer and support from trusted prayer partners/friends. Sometimes we're too embattled to pray for ourselves except to eek out 'help'. A solid two or three, or a group (e.g., church home-group) who really care about your situation is like a strong, three-fold cord (Ecclesiastes 4:12). As is their emotional support.

Prayer. This is a huge topic, but it can include specific routines like praying on the armor of Ephesians 6:10-17 routinely, binding the enemy's activity and releasing glory and blessing verbally into a situation (Matthew 18:18); blessing the house, the bed, and more.

Healing prayer from a trusted source. Our battle may have at its source underlying spiritual issues (e.g., generational stuff, freemasonry in the family) that can be revealed and healed through prayer with a trained person. We're blessed to have access to that here with Lynn's healing prayer ministry.

Reading the Bible, and quoting scripture out loud, confessing God's truths and promises. Here's a great quote: "Throw a scripture stone to combat whatever battle you are currently facing. If it is healing, throw all the scriptures verses as a stone." 

Surrender to the Lord, exchanging our will for His. A couple of SUMites said here, "The fruits are like no other". 

Journaling. I loved this quote: "I put it all down on paper or computer the situation, including my feelings, and the Lord walks me through it. Then I can throw away everything except the lesson learned."

Time and intimacy with God. "Long walks outside with the Lord / Getting up early to be with him." "Walk n pray along with sitting on the beach and asking Jesus to be with me." This overlaps with other things.

And more, but I'm out of space:

Laughter

Rest

Delight in Him

Revisiting prophetic words we have received

Distraction from triggers

Fasting

Praying in tongues

SUMites, we are equipped and we're up to the task. For the stones are manageable.

Next time I write I'll continue with this series. For now: Do any of the above tools intrigue you and make you want to know more? If so, which ones?

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Eyeballing the Giant!

Dear friends,
Giant fighting

We’re continuing our series on fighting battles. I'm calling these 'spiritual battles', as most of the battles we face in life, as Christians, could be said to be spiritual even if they seem physical.

For me, the challenge of my husband’s unbelief used to be a massive spiritual battle. It was a battle to hold onto my own faith and to keep our marriage unified, a battle for his salvation, and a battle for our children's faith. Phew, that’s one enormous fight! Of course, it was mammoth, and for a long time I felt completely overwhelmed. Over time, though, I fought that ‘giant’ – The ‘giant’ of spiritually mismatched marriage – and it became smaller. In my eyes it began to look more like a locust than a giant.

That’s what overcoming looks like. Has the circumstance changed? Yes. But the bigger change has been in my resilience. Hallelujah! 

Now, with that battle under my belt, I have a new one: A health challenge. And, I’m considering anew "How do I fight this?" This time, I know that I must assess the giant, like David eyeballed Goliath in 1 Samuel 16.  

We could say that a ‘giant’ is any mammoth situation that feels overwhelming. Many of us have scary things that feel bigger than us. A hard situation can feel so intimidating, in fact, that we can barely fight. That's why we need easy tools. More on that in a later post.

For now, when we have a giant to fight it could be a good idea to pull out paper and pen and sit with the Lord to ask him questions. “Tell me about this giant, Lord?” We could ask. Even if we're bawling our eyes out and mopping our tears with tissues, we could still eek out the question: "Tell me about the giant, Lord?" And I've got four questions that spring to mind here. I'll mention two today, and two next time. 

1. Lord, what lies am I believing about this giant?

In my own present battle, the physical circumstance of sickness is definitely the giant. I'm fighting that, and my aim is healing -- yes. But, my anxiety and fear of it is possibly the bigger issue - - It's the noise in my head that the giant is causing. I’m battling lies such as, “I’m never going to get better!” And then, “I’m scared of that.” Those thoughts are not of God. So, then, the giant is not just the physical circumstance. It’s also the voice of the enemy. 

In the story of Goliath (1 Samuel 16), Goliath is a boisterous thing. He’s got a lot to say, coming out for 40 days in a row, shouting his head off about how nobody can defeat him and he’s going to make everyone his servants. The result? The Israelites are fearful and dismayed!

Well, that’s pretty much what the giant of sickness looks like -- Or any giant that is a physical circumstance of some sort. It's in your face, shouting its head off and distressing you. But to recognize that is the start of the great fight. One of my most important things, then, is to recognize the noise of the giant so that I can shut my ears to it. 

What I conclude here is that I'm fighting two things: The physical circumstance, and the noise/lies in my head that it brings.

2. What is the enemy trying to achieve using this giant?

Ultimately, the enemy wants us to be a less effective Christian all-round so, for a start, I can look at the giant with those goggles and roll up my sleeves. 

I'm considering, right now, what satan might possibly be trying to achieve through this particular giant, and I will doggedly move in the opposite spirit. "Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?" (1 Samuel 17:43) roared Goliath at David. To that I say "Yes, you are a dog, and I will doggedly move against your purposes!"

It might be that the enemy is trying to destroy a particular relationship in our lives. Or, he might be trying to discourage us from serving in a particular area. In my case an obvious one is "He's probably having a go here at stopping the SUM writing, so NO!" He's also having a go at my peace and joy to distract me. Again, NO. 

How about you? What might the giant in your life be trying to stop you from doing? 

My friends, we'll carry on chatting on Monday. In the meantime, I wish you a good weekend, and all the best with analyzing those giants!

Ann

 

 


A Continued Testimony: My Family and Church

Hi SUM family, Ann here. Sparkles over teens

A few weeks ago I shared about how my teenage son Miles is now attending church with me. Amazing, amazing, amazing!

If you missed that story, you can catch up here.

Today I want to give you an update because I know how encouraging testimonies can be. Specifically, I want to show you a photo at the end of this post. It's a photo that says it all: It shows what God can do in a spiritually mismatched home. But first, the update:

I started out this year with none of my family attending church with me. This is how it’s been for years and, as you know, it's difficult to not only wait for your spouse, but also your children. In my case it was both of my children that I couldn't seem to bring to faith. 

Somehow, God changed that in March of this year. Since then, Miles (my youngest) has gone to church youth group every week without fail, and now attends church with me. What's more, he's super enthusiastic. I think he feels he's met his 'tribe'.

This youth group and church experience gives him the messages I so badly wanted to give him myself. At youth group, for example, they have group chats. Last week it was on ‘Identity’. This week it was about the story of Daniel interpreting Belshazzar’s dream in the Book of Daniel. Amazing! 

There’s a youth leader running it who is about 22 and on fire for Jesus. Her name is Sam. She introduces herself to them as ‘Sam-dawwg’ (Sam-dog) in a rap voice. She is relatable in all the ways that I, as a 45-year-old, am not. And he listens to her. So when she says to him “You’re coming to church on Sunday aren’t you!” he gets up at 9am on a Sunday to get there.

Honestly, praise God for this girl! I want to buy her the biggest bunch of flowers. She has no idea how much it means to me. 

Fast-forward to today and Miles now attends church with me weekly -- The new church that God led us to back in March. It's full of people in their twenties, run by people in their twenties, Jesus freaks. They even have their own t-shirt that says ‘Jesus Freak’. I am one of the oldest in the room and ... I love it! There is no age in the Spirit.

The pastor gives anointed sermons, perfectly pitched for young ears, and convicting those listening to discipleship. Miles doesn’t sit with me; instead he sits with his new friends. I occasionally glance over at him and pinch myself at what God has done. Tshirt

So, to cap off this story, now let me show you the photo I mentioned. It's of my family, taken three weeks ago. Check out the t-shirt!! I did not get Miles the t-shirt - Nope, that was Sam's doing. Nor did I ask him to put it on. In fact, I couldn't quite believe my eyes when he came out wearing it.

As for my other son? And Bryce? Well, for a start Bryce didn't mind in the slightest that Miles was walking round New Zealand wearing this t-shirt for all to see. With him in this t-shirt we looked like the poster family for Christianity ((laughing)) .. And my husband did not bat an eyelid. I actually find that quite amazing. But, second, this whole story has been a lesson that I must trust God to move in the right way for the other two. And so I am learning to not strive, to keep praying, and to wait.

Thanks for sharing this ongoing story with me, my friends, and I hope you liked that!

Ann


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