85 posts categorized "Ann Hutchison"

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.


May We Cling Tenaciously to Jesus

Dear friends, Ann here. Alpha omega

With only a couple of days until Christmas I wanted to wish you a special time with your loved ones. And I know I speak on behalf of the rest of the team -- Lynn, Ian, and Tiffany -- in saying a heartfelt 'Merry Christmas' from us!

Here is a beautiful verse to settle our gaze upwards:

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” (Isaiah 26:3, NLT)

One way of keeping our thoughts fixed on Jesus is to look back on some moments in our faith life that have been especially important to us. So with that in mind I thought I would share one such moment that I've been thinking about today.

A few years ago, I went through a patch where I spent a lot of time asking God ‘What is true?’ By that, I wanted to know where to align my most basic beliefs. I was driven to ask this because there were so many opinions out there, and Bryce wasn't in a believing place at all, so that brought many questions.

Anyway, when we genuinely ask 'What is true?' God loves to answer us. And indeed he did. One night he woke me with a very strong phrase in my spirit. BAM! It was so strong that I went from deeply asleep to sitting up with a pounding heart in the dark. It was this:

Cling tenaciously to the risen Jesus Christ, your Savior.

That was God's answer to my question. Since then, when I have thought about that phrase it's been a reminder that it is Him -- Jesus -- who is to be my focus.

Looking back now, I can say that God has done many things to show me that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and the Door to my eternal inheritance. He has also shown me that what I have here on earth is not my identity. What is in Heaven is. It's mind-stretching, but I know how much that matters.

So, one of the things I want to say to any non-believer in my life (when the opportunity is ripe), is this:

“How you respond to Jesus Christ is the most important thing you will ever decide in your life.”

End of story. Yes. But still, it's the work of a lifetime to understand what the message of Jesus means to us. Even though I have been a believer for some time, every December looks different as I learn different aspects of the Gospel and its personal relevance to me.

This particular December, for example, I have been reflecting on the simple fact that God came to earth. And earth was the most difficult place to be. It is a hard, hard life here on earth, but how much harder would it have been for Jesus -- God -- in that state of perpetual rejection, eyeballing the darkness when his very nature could not co-exist with it? Besides the cross, a lifetime's worth of the most intense kind of warfare on earth would have been pure pain. I imagine.

It's all too easy to treat this fact lightly; but how profound it is. It’s beyond what we would think or imagine; and it is simply amazing that he did it for us.

SUMites, thank you for your friendship as we constantly fix our eyes together on Jesus and cheer each other on. You are a special breed of people, and with that I say .. Happy Christmas!

Ann

 


Oh, the Sweetness of a Friend!

Hi everyone -- Ann here, and a happy Advent season to you all! Christmas 4

In the spirit of Christmas, I'd wanted to pick one of the stories from the Gospels to talk about today, but which one to choose? These stories are all so full of wonder. After some thought, I finally landed on a favorite of mine: The story where God gives Mary a friend. Elizabeth.

I just find that detail really sweet: God gave her a friend.

And he will do the same for us; when we need it.

Like Mary, many of us SUMites battle a strange kind of loneliness. We have an unusual circumstance to live with; and, like Mary, we don’t ‘tick the boxes’. She was made pregnant out of wedlock but in a Holy way. There's nothing conventional about that. And not much is conventional about us, either.

“Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.’ " (Luke 1:30-31, NKJV)

Then Mary said to the angel, How can this be, since I do not know a man? And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy one who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (v. 34-35)

I've been thinking about this passage, and I suspect that Mary's first concern would have been her sanity. She must, surely, have asked herself whether she was crazy! If we ever encounter the supernatural, that’s the obvious question. Did I really experience that?! Well, she really did -- So somehow God had to help her believe it.

In a similar way, when we are the only Christians in our marriage, we face big reasons to doubt this supernatural belief of ours. Can I really believe Jesus was resurrected? Can I really? Or am I nuts?

And so ... God sends us friends to help us face those doubts.

I love the fact that the angel Gabriel gives Mary an instant way of verifying the seemingly crazy thing she was hearing. He says this:

"Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren." (v. 36)

Then, of course, Mary made haste to visit and find out if Elizabeth really was pregnant. But most importantly, when she tumbled through Elizabeth's door she found herself face-to-face with one sweet friend who was able to say 'YES' to her. 'Yes, it is ok for you to believe this -- You are not crazy!' And that would have made Mary feel a whole lot less alone.

I often think that’s what happens here even with this community. We ‘get’ each other. We are each other's flesh-and-blood helpers. But even beyond that, I know that God sends us help in the form of other Christian friends here and there: Friends who simply help us believe.

There's one noticeable element in this story, and it’s this: Mary wasn’t given a crowd. She was only given one lady. And that’s how it often is for us. I look back on my Christian journey so far and realize that God has given me some quality people to help me carry my cross. Each of these people, for me, have been like Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus a little way, just to help him keep going (Mark 15:21). But they have been small in number. And sometimes they've only stayed for a season.

I guess our job is to recognize who those people are. To recognize who it is that we CAN safely share the contents of our heart with; just like Mary shared her heart with Elizabeth. 

If you are feeling lonely right now because of your SUM, a great prayer would be to ask the Lord for an Elizabeth. Wouldn't that be wonderful! Or, if you are feeling like you have energy to give to another, an equally good prayer would be: 'Send me to someone who needs my friendship, Lord.'

As for you, how are you finding the situation with Christian friendships at the moment? Perhaps we can share a little in the comments.

With love,

Ann


A Donovan Clan Update - Thanksgiving 2020

Hi My SUMite Family,

I’m so proud of Ann Hutchison and how she has stepped up to help me with the blogging. She really filled in a space that was desperately needed when Dineen stepped out.

Mike & LynnToday, I feel like it’s time for a Donovan Clan update. The last update was Thanksgiving 2019 when Mike had been unemployed for months and I was so desperate for your financial support to keep this little place on the web alive.

TRULY, if you hadn’t helped the SUM blog and ministries would have closed down. Your great generosity revealed God’s hand in this place. God LOVES our space here. He knows the thousands that visit here need a word of hope for their faith and marriage. I’m so humbled to be part of the voices of hope here at SUM.

Thank you as so many of you donated and many became recurring monthly givers. I lack language to adequately express how your gifts reached people and brought truth and hope to them!!!

The Donovan update is this. Interestingly following Mike’s baptism not much more has changed with regard to his faith journey. I’m still wrangling with this, but the Father has told me to leave it alone. Jesus is working there, and I must pray and believe.

As far as our finances, we aren’t in the same place as we were prior to last year’s unemployment. But when I look at so many who became unemployed this year, I’m so utterly thankful Mike is working. I’m deeply grieved for those who are truly in need.

Yet, I’ll be vulnerable, without you there isn’t enough to pay all the expenses. And trust me I’m absolutely frugal with the funds of this ministry. NOTHING is used but to support the online presence and to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, I’ve prayed a lot about all of this. And decided to participate in Giving Tuesday again this year. But I hope to offer some incentives that I couldn’t offer last year.

Stay tuned because your giving will also be giving back to you!

Elise & Avery & NanaAs far as my family. My son remarried in August. His family is precious, and I love them so much. They are well and prospering in Las Vegas.

My daughter, Caitie, is now 25! SAY WHAT?? How many of you remember her as a little girl? We packed up her LA apartment in September and she moved to Portland. She is very happy there and her apartment is absolutely quaint. She lives in the same building as her BIOLA roommate and her husband. She’s doing well.

Mike and I are empty nesters and loving our life with our crazy and barkety-bark-bark dogs!

I love the many ministries I’m involved in.

My friends, my testimony is your testimony. You can find love, peace, and joy in a marriage that turned out very different than you thought or dreamed.

It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about OUR faith. It’s all about living the truth of the Word of God. We can do all things because of Christ Jesus who is our strength.

Keep marching. Keep believing. Keep coming here and finding encouragement with others on the journey. Your life and faith matter so much in this world.

Know that I truly love you. You are my brothers and sisters with whom I will live forever. And that thought gives me great JOY!

Hugs, Lynn


When a Spouse Leaves the Faith -- Part 3

Hi friends, Ann here! Tears

When a spouse leaves the faith -- part 1

When spouse leaves the faith – part 2

I’d like to thank those SUMites whose stories have helped inform the last two posts on this topic. It is an intensely difficult path.

The grief of a lost shared faith in marriage is an extreme thing to live with, but several of the SUMites I talked to said they can look back and see how much they have learned through it all. So I thought it might be nice to finish with a few ‘tips’, or insights, from these SUMite soldiers.

If I can summarize, what most said – in one way or another -- is this:

Once you realize the battle is spiritual, a shift takes place.

Once you realize that it's a blinding of your spouse's heart, the fight changes its flavor.

Once you realize that your spouse is not the enemy but the prize worth fighting for, then you begin to battle as an overcomer.

I guess those comments point to this well-known verse:

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NKJV)

With that in mind, here are some final insights -- pieces of wisdom -- from those SUMites:

(1) Winning without words is the way to go.

Yes, 'Winning him without words' is one of our favorite mottos, from 1 Peter 3:1. In this scenario, it most likely means not bashing the faithless spouse over the head with arguments. In fact, those ones who have lost their faith probably know every argument there is and will not appreciate a head-walloping. A couple of our SUMites said they tried hurling apologetics at their spouse for a good few months; then gave up. It didn't do any good. A gentle and quiet spirit was the better formula.

(2) Upgrade your spiritual warfare

Several SUMites said how much their journey changed once they enhanced their understanding of spiritual warfare. There are quite a few resources out there, and several mentioned the book Marching around Jericho had been a big help. Many of our blog posts on here in the archives also cover the topic of warfare.

(3) Fight for that marriage

Said one SUMite: "I learned how to fight for my marriage. I learned that the entire situation was because the enemy wanted to destroy my marriage and destroy our family. I stopped contending for my husband's soul with angst because, frankly, it was exhausting, and it wasn't MY JOB to save him!”

(4) Your faith will never be the same again – And it's a good thing!

Several SUMites said this situation has changed their relationship with God for the better. This statement was pretty powerful:

“If God gave me the choice for my husband and I to each go back to the faith we had before all this, I wouldn't choose that. My husband's faith was obviously lacking and built on shifting sand, and my relationship with God was also lacking. So, if I don't want to go back, then the only way to go is forward, and God's already there.”

(5) Finally, God is not surprised by any of this!

It's true -- He knows. He knows all about it. And he will use it. In the words of one SUMite:

“And then it dropped that He is good and this is not a surprise or an 'oh crap, I didn't see that coming' moment for Him. And that was a turning point for me.”

So, my friends, that brings our series on this topic to an end for now. I can't help but feel there's so much more we could say. For example, what is it like for the spouse who loses their faith? How can we walk it with compassion? I'm sure we will be back to revisit this. But for now, we'll leave it there. 

To conclude, are there any other key tips that you would share with someone walking behind you on this path?

Till next time,

Ann


When a Spouse Leaves the Faith -- Part 2

Ann here again! Tears

When a spouse leaves the faith, Part 1

Today we're going to continue with the above topic, and I thought I would start with a little story:

Last year, I attended a ministry conference. We were a small group, perhaps 100 in the room, and Auckland is a small place so we often see family faces. There we were in an interactive session, when the conference leader asked a question. A man on the far left of the room shot up his hand as if to say ‘Over here! I have something to say!’ The mic was carried to him, and for the third time that day he spoke something super insightful into it. All the while, his wife sat beside him, nodding. 

I looked over at this couple from over on my side and quietly did a happy dance (inside!) In fact, I just kept on looking over, grinning. See, I knew their story. He was one of those husbands who’d fallen away. For eight years, in fact, he’d stayed home every Sunday while his wife carried on -- Dismayed, determined, confused. But now he was back -- And honestly, everything he said into that mic was so good.

The Come-Back Kid!

My friends, this isn’t the only story I know of a spouse coming back to faith. It might be natural to think that this situation looks particularly impossible. If we're going to really not sugar-coat this thing, you might even fear what your spouse has done. For sure, we know free will is a big part of this, and this thing is no game.

But there's also this: The fruits of the Holy Spirit are joy and peace. This alone tells me that God -- who grows these fruits within us -- will be encouraging us to NOT walk through this situation peace-less. Only God knows the destination of a given soul, but if our spouse has fallen away He actively encourages us to grow joy and peace. Somehow we have to let God bring peace to this terribly difficult situation, but of course fruit grows slowly and usually within the opposite circumstances.

The Lord led me to this amazing verse this morning, which speaks of how He sometimes works two or three times in a person’s life to bring them back from the pit.

“Yes, his soul draws near the Pit, and his life to the executioners.

If there is a messenger for him, a mediator, one among a thousand, to show man His uprightness, then He is gracious to him, and says, ‘deliver him from going down to the Pit; I have found a ‘ransom’;

His flesh shall be young like a child’s, he shall return to the days of his youth. He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him, he shall see His face with joy, for He restores to man His righteousness. Then he looks at men and says, ‘I have sinned, and perverted what was right, and it did not profit me.’

He will redeem his soul from going down to the Pit, and his life shall see the light.

Behold, God works all these things, twice, in fact, three times with a man, to bring back his soul from the Pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life.” Job 33:23-30 (NKJV):

What a wonderful verse for those who are hoping for a ‘fallen-away’ spouse to be restored! I guess it tells me that this thing is far from impossible, and these spouses are certainly not the 'least likely' or a hopeless case. In fact, I will say that I also feel my husband is the least likely to convert, and he's never yet been a Christian. So perhaps we all feel it: 'Mine is the least likely!'

Least likely does not mean impossible!

Ultimately, God has given us a tremendous shared testimony here in this community. This blog has over one thousand readers, and many were once prodigals. Even Lynn, our founder, describes herself as the ultimate prodigal child, and now she is one on-fire Christian. We know from the parable of the prodigal son what kind of excitement lands on the one who comes back. And so many of the SUMites themselves are living, breathing, walking examples of God's miraculous restoration.

It's hard huh? We will carry on with this topic on Monday. But in the meantime, if you would like to share any thoughts in the comments, please do!


When A Spouse Leaves Their Faith -- Part 1

Ann here! Tears

Today I want to talk about a path that is walked by so many here, and it's a really difficult one: ‘When a Spouse Leaves the Faith’.

In our community we have many a story to tell about how we found ourselves in a SUM. In my case, for example, I was far from God when I married, then turned and changed. That's a common scenario. But there’s another story within our ranks that seems especially weighty: The situation where one spouse falls away. 

It looks something like this: A husband and wife intimately share their relationship with Jesus. They pray together, dream together, and serve together. Faith is the bedrock of their shared life and they are wedded to church. Then, out of left field one loses their faith and the other has to stand by and watch. The sense of loss is profound.  

In these next couple of posts I'm going to write about that. It’s not my path, so I asked several other SUMites for help with this. The following words come from their shared stories. And, as I have written it up I realize all over again what brave soldiers they are.

Why is it so hard when a spouse leaves the faith?

Most challenges in a spiritually unequal marriage are commonly experienced. For example, almost all of us battle loneliness, find it difficult to be open about faith at home, and church is complicated. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But when a spouse loses their faith there’s something extra: Grief.

These are seriously lost dreams. The spouse who leaves their faith might have been a vibrant disciple of Jesus at one time. That is perfectly possible, it happens. So, the remaining one knows what it is to be spiritually matched. And they cry tears of grief -- Tears that may well be mixed with a bitter sense of betrayal.

Then it happens: Their spouse’s character begins to change before their eyes, and this can happen quite quickly once they've decided they no longer believe. Their priorities shift and it can extend into some quite contrasting areas of behavior and opinion. They might even start to despise their prior faith.

“This isn’t the person I married”, sobs the believing spouse into their pillow at night.

The unbelieving spouse may or may not question the marriage itself. In most cases they will still love and want their spouse. And if that's so they'll just want to be loved back. “Just love me please, the way I now am.” Alternatively, they might actively despise their old life including everything the believing spouse now stands for. In that case it's more precarious. Or there’ll be some mixture of hostility and love. Either way, it’s tumultuous change. 

In terms of their mindset, the unbelieving spouse might hold a strong belief that they have excellent ‘insider knowledge’ of Christianity. If that's the case, Christian apologetics arguments, or even testimony, will be especially unlikely to help. Intellectual debate is futile, and testimonies are rejected. Possibly these spouses have had testimonies of their own and now somehow those testimonies have become a distant memory. "What will it take to change their mind?" one wonders.

Well, is it their mind, or is it their heart? So much of this is about the heart.

Meanwhile, Christian friends will treat the unbelieving spouse (their friend) as a ‘fix-it’ project that they most likely can’t fix as easily as they hope. And it’s hard to stay connected to these friends because the dynamic has changed and they probably don't really understand the full story. The couple might slowly lose their friends, bit by bit. By bit.

Of course, it looks different in different couples. Some have spouses who now are active atheists after having been elders. For others, it's simply a case of the spouse having gone quietly lukewarm. That one is a more placid situation and perhaps slightly easier to handle than a full-on missionary-turned-atheist who has 'all the answers' (I know one of those myself, he lives down the road and remains married to a very strong Christian lady!)

So what would God say to us about this particular path? And what practical tips are helpful here? There is more to share so we will continue in the next post. And, again, I thank the SUMites who have helped with this post -- so much.

In the meantime, if you are walking this particular path, what is the hardest part for you?


Church, We Are Crossing Over!

Dear friends, Ann here! Crossing the Jordan

I had a different post planned today, but that can wait until next week. Instead, I thought I'd share a few impromptu thoughts given the present events. We're watching wide-eyed as the US election plays out, and then across the Atlantic many Europeans are entering their second lockdown. It's all pretty intense.

However, many believers - friends of God -- across the world will be sitting in their living rooms asking, “What does this mean, Lord? What do you want us to know?”

Sitting … waiting … watching … seeking Him. 

"I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected."

(Habakkuk 2:1, NKJV)

We hear in part, and we put the pieces together as a body. So, in that spirit I thought I might share what I've been hearing from God these past few months. And when I say 'hearing', I can say He has spoken this particular thing to me quite a few times this past year (even before COVID began), and quite clearly. The hard part is believing it (because it feels abstract) and knowing what to do with it. It's along these lines:

The Church is crossing over to a new era like the Israelites crossed the Jordan. 

This crossing over involves moving from one era to another. From one way of being, to another. From old routines, old ways of doing church, and old mindsets to a brand new 'thing'.

Specifically, the Lord has led me repeatedly to the story of Joshua and the Israelites who crossed the Jordan river collectively. They crossed over from the wilderness to the promised land (Joshua 1:1-3:17) and this involved them completely leaving their old place. Even though it was the dysfunctional wilderness, it was what they knew so there was comfort there. The wilderness had a certain set of routines: They ate manna, for example, and they were led by Moses. In the new land, the manna stopped and Moses died just before they crossed. Their main focus was now to follow the 'new' -- Joshua -- into new battles. The whole package was completely different. And the process of crossing over took months, the river being only a small part of it.

The good part was that once they had crossed over, they experienced victory - Well, as long as they were obedient and listened to God's voice.

I believe what God is saying is that we are moving, and we need to be prepared for the same magnitude of change as the Israelites had, unbelievable as that might sound. When we emerge from this pandemic, things will be different in our faith lives and perhaps in the Church. I have no idea how, but I do believe God is asking us to prepare our hearts for that. He is asking us to be open-hearted to change, be prepared to embrace something new, be prepared to be obedient, and hold on tight to him.

Right now, the year 2020 is an experience that feels something like walking through the riverbed of the Jordan. It's hard to be straddling this in-between place, this 'no-man's land'. But in that story of the crossing over, the Ark of the Covenant went ahead to show God's people where to put their footing, for they had not been that way before (Joshua 3:3-4). In the same way, God will be leading us through this. We just need to keep talking to him -- And listening.

Here is the key scripture God has been giving me for this time, and I love it. It fills me with hope!

"But the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year."

(Deuteronomy 11:11-12, NKJV)

SUM family, let's be strong and of good courage, for God is doing something new in our midst. Hold on tight, he has us buckled in and safe!

In the meantime, how are you doing? I'd love to hear, even if you are finding it tough. Let's pull together as a community.

Love to you all,

Ann


On Shedding the 'Unequally Yoked' Badge

Hello friends, Ann here!Badge

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

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

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

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

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

Beloved SUMites:

Your marriages are not mismatched or unequally yoked.

Your marriages are Mine.

Your husbands are Mine.

They are Mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I liked that.

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

Your marriage is not mismatched. It is Mine.

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

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

Ann


Taking Off the Badge

Hi friends, Ann here!Record

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

Part one - 'Museum of SUM'

Part two - 'God is Calling our Spouses'

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

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

**

Lynn's Story, 2 November 2012

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

Ya? 

Glad it’s not just me. 

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

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

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

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

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

I’m unequally yoked. 

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

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

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

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

“Ya, I thought I did.” 

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

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

Gulp! 

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

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

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

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

Pain. O, the pain. 

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

Ann


Waging War With God's Words

Hi SUMites, Ann here!  Rings

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

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

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

He is calling our pre-believers with His salvation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Psalm 68:11-14, NKJV)

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

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

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

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

Ann


A Word: God is Calling our Spouses.

Hello friends, Ann here.Record

Today I’m continuing from my post last week about this blog being like a wonderful museum of God stories. If you missed it you can catch up here. In that post, I described how God has given our community the occasional prophetic word over the years: words of wisdom or promises specifically for us, the SUM Nation.

It’s such encouraging stuff. We have the Bible, but we also have access to hearing his voice. When we do receive a word from the Holy Spirit, it’s helpful to go back and re-examine it. For example, there might be an instruction for us in there that we'd forgotten and by reviewing his words we can make sure we're doing all we can to partner with him. 

I guess it’s all part of what it means to be in relationship with him. What an adventure!

Today, I’m smiling so much as I share with you the first prophetic word I could find on this blog. It’s from 2012, and it’s just a few words that the Lord spoke to Dineen; in fact, it was shortly before the turning point that I mentioned last week. Here are the words:

Tell the SUMites that I am calling their spouses.

You can read Dineen’s explanation more fully here. But, very simply, this is his promise to us: He is calling them. He is calling them.

Now we might be bouncing up and down, thinking, "Yes, but I’d like to know whether my spouse is going to become a Christian any time soon?" [laughing] It’s as if God asks us instead to pause, take a breath, and just listen to what he wants us to know. He wants us to know that he is calling them. [Deep breath]. So what does that mean?

As I read Dineen's write-up of the word, I understand from it that we are to trust and rest. We know that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them, and this thing is in motion. Our response can be: “Thank you, Father. You are calling them. And I know that in time your voice will become louder, your knock will become louder.”

The Lord will often leave space for mystery when he speaks. But sometimes he will give us a bit (as he did here) and then more later. Indeed, a few years later he gave us some clearer promises about our spouses' salvation and I will pull those out soon.

Back to 2012, a most curious thing happened next: Just three weeks after writing up that word, Dineen was driving in the center lane of an 8-lane road at 8am when out of the corner of her eye she saw a man cross the road from the opposite side. He stopped in the middle of the road, fell to his knees and lifted his arms in a gesture of worship. Here's the story. It was totally startling and strange. Could it be that it was a little extra confirmation as we look back? It was primarily a personal blessing for Dineen at the time, but for us SUMites I wonder if we could also use it as a visual of a spouse crossing over, from unbelief to belief.

All I know is that God is calling. 

Now, there was a second part to this word about God calling, an instruction for us:

Lift up your faces!

“Lift up your eyes, and look to the heavens” (Isaiah 40:26, NIV)

My friends, this is to be our way of walking, to lift up our faces and look at Heavenly things. That is something for us to ask God's help with, and perhaps we can linger there by re-reading Dineen's posts above. For now, here are some fitting words from those posts:

“What if that lift of our eyes is a constant state of awareness – constantly looking for God in our everyday lives? What if we looked for God’s hand and provision each day for the prayers we sent up just that morning. What if we waited expectantly for God to just show up in some way each and every day?”

I will leave it there. I guess I take from this that we are to marinate in the idea that God is calling our spouses, and we are to lift our faces. And perhaps we are to take a little time to chew over these two ideas. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Nice chatting!

Ann


Our Coatings of Protection

Hi SUM family, Ann here. Coat

Last week I had a ‘moment’ in my SUM life, as we do, that turned into a good wisdom lesson for me, so I'm going to share it today. It was about God's protection.

I was reclining in my favorite armchair before bed one night, cocoa in hand, when something occurred to me and my face fell.

It was this: Recently I’ve developed a routine where, once dinner is in the oven at about 5 or 6pm, I go to my bedroom and pray for my family. That includes Bryce, and I’ve been praying various things for him with gusto. I like that new routine, it's a happy one; but on this day a thought struck:

“I would love it if it was the other way round. I'd love it if he prayed for me.”

Aggh, and that thought snowballed. I got thinking about the fact that a praying spouse would be a strong source of protection and I'm perhaps missing some kind of 'protective coat'. Or am I?

To be fair, my family has plenty of people praying for us. And actually, it's possible my husband prays more than I realize. His levels of belief have inched up lately, and I do believe there is a quiet blooming that I shouldn't be quick to disregard. But that evening I got tangled. I eventually went to bed, and the next morning the Lord seemed to want to correct my thinking. He said this to me:

Ann, go to the Bible and look at what coatings of protection you currently have.

I love it when God gives me something to explore, so the minute the boys left for school I made myself an enormous pot of coffee and rolled up my sleeves, ready to take a look at what it was he wanted me to see. 

My pen scribbled furiously that morning. I came up with quite a few forms of protection that I have, but here - listed below - are four of the key ones. And these apply to all of us SUMites. In fact, once I had finished working through that task I quickly realized that I had no need to fret whatsover. And I should leave my husband to go at his own pace when it comes to his own prayer life. Here, then, are some of the ways in which we are protected:

Layer of protection #1:

The shadow of Almighty God is so powerful we may as well be sitting under a nuclear bomb. If we make every effort to stay in that secret place, there's this:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

“He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
 You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day.” (Psalm 91:1, 3, NKJV)

Layer of protection #2:

The blood of Jesus Christ is our source of victory. I imagine it sprinkled on our homes like the Israelites smeared lamb's blood on their doorposts.

"They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11, NKJV)

Layer of protection #3:

Head to toe, we wear special spiritual armour at all times. This includes a helmet, a breastplate, a shield, a tool belt, and strong shoes (Ephesians 6). This keeps us safe and sound, and then we easily fight for our families.

Layer of protection #4:

The many prayers of other saints, past and present, is a force-field. This includes those who sowed seeds in times past, some in our ancestry, some who are now in the cloud of witnesses, and some who are currently shepherds to us -- And those shepherds who are in our lives know their authority and pray powerful prayers. All these prayers protect us and our homes from the enemy and plant faith seeds that will surely grow.

**

With these coatings of protection, then, we never need to worry about being victorious in our own lives. In turn, as fighters we are equipped to care for our families. And, of course, a big protective mechanism is this community, and its many prayers for each other. 

Friends, in that spirit, if you'd like prayer today, put a post in the comments, and we'll gather round you. In the meantime, here's to fewer and fewer of those wobbly 'moments'!