50 posts categorized "Ann Hutchison"

A Royal Wedding and Our Earthly Marriages

Hi friends, Ann here.

I remember, as a 5-year-old girl, being mesmerized by the wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles of England in 1981. Little girls are funny like that. They can be the ultimate dreamers. Knowing this, my mum bought me a little hard-backed book about the wedding and I would pore over it.  Ladybird book

Now, sometimes God romances us. I’d forgotten about that little book, but last night he brought it back to me by popping images of Lady Di's dress into my head. He seemed to be saying, “Remember this? Remember how much you liked it?” It was a sweet Father-God moment. "You're still that little girl to me."

Every detail of Lady Di's preparation was exquisite. It surely brings to life what it means when the Bible says Jesus is preparing for himself a glorious 'bride' (Ephesians 5:25-27).

It also brings to life a lesser known passage in scripture that has recently caught my attention. Ezekiel 16:9-13 describes the care that God takes when he is preparing a people who are his. It's worth reading a few times over: 

“ ‘I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine’ says the Lord God. 'Then I washed you in water; yes I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil. I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty' ” (Ezekiel 16:9-13, NKJV)

Sadly, this passage is followed by a description of how God’s people turned their back and it is yet another caution to us. As I said on Monday, 'Help us, Jesus!' But for today's post I think this scripture is a great one for illustrating the amount of effort and care Jesus puts into our beauty.

Often we won't see what Jesus is doing. During this COVID time, for example, we're having tough tests. But in it I am sure he is adorning us in different ways. He might be strengthening our faith, sharpening our eyes, refining our tongues, softening us in our mercy towards others, or making us more obedient. All of this happens through a shaking. Whatever needs doing in our faith lives, he will be doing it. If we yield to it, we will come out more beautiful than before.

As for our marriages, is there a lesson there? Well, it tells me that if Jesus makes that much effort to make me beautiful, shouldn't I also put the same effort into my husband?

What effort can I make? Here are a few thoughts that spring to my mind from scripture:

1. Pray for him every single day (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

2. Respect him with the words I speak to and about him (1 Peter 3:1-2)

3. Bless him with the words I speak about him (James 3:1-10)

4. Bring him truth with wisdom and kindness (Proverbs 31:14 & 26)

For sure, none of these points are easy because marriage is a place of growth. But with Jesus Christ adorning us and propping us up, we can give this thing a good go. 

How else can we put effort into our spouse’s spiritual life?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments.


Jesus and the Church: The Ultimate Marriage Story

Hi friends, Ann here!Bride of Christ

I hope you've enjoyed our race through different Bible marriages this summer. We had much to look at and there were some marriages we didn’t even cover, such as Hosea's. Alas, summer is nearly over.

In the middle of this summer study I received a message from one of our friends, Libby Finan. Libby often has great words for this community, and what she said was this (paraphrased by me):

“I think I hear the Holy Spirit say that Jesus and the church are the ultimate unequal relationship. You could write about that next?”

“Sounds great!” I responded, ready to rise to the challenge. But where could I start? The one question I have is, "Lord, what are you wanting us to know?"

In scripture, as you know, there are a few passages about our Lord, Jesus, and his church, but we'll start with this one:

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to Himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church." Ephesians 5:25-33 (ESV)

Marriage, the joining of a man and woman surely is a mystery. It's delicious and difficult all in one go. But Jesus and the church being unequal? That is an interesting truth: Positionally, we are sanctified through our union with him. But in practice we might not always walk in line. Help us, Jesus! 

In our summer study we've considered different kinds of spiritual mismatch. We’ve noticed a mismatch can be nuanced or extreme. Sometimes it is simply that one partner is quicker to recognize the Holy Spirit than the other. Other times it’s more extreme. Perhaps it is like that for Jesus in his relationship with different Christians.

Jesus loves us. And he is not going anywhere. That we know. But just because he loves us it doesn’t mean he isn't grieved by some of his church's choices. This is hard to say, but in the New Testament it is a clear message. Revelation chapters 2 and 3, for example, set out various problems in the church, from being 'lukewarm' to 'loveless' to 'lawless' to 'dead'. It is a hard truth. In the midst of all this, Jesus wants a spotless bride. 

“Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8, KJV)

If I reflect on this, I think about our heavenly bridegroom being delighted by parts of the church's progress, but also feeling her faithlessness in other parts. At times he will sit back, watch the church face the consequences of its choices, and grieve. 

And so, my friends, could it be that our experience of tenderly caring for a ‘more worldly spouse’ is exactly what Jesus does with his church? Does Jesus watch his church and think “I love them so much. I'm fully committed. But I wish their focus would be adjusted?” 

That’s convicting. In fact, when I started writing this post I didn't quite expect it would turn out this way. But hey. I will listen for more of his voice. Truly, listening is the best thing we can do, especially at this time when the world is going through something of a wake-up call and we need to represent him.

My prayer today, then, is this:

Lord Jesus, help me take care how I hear. Create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit in me. And Lord, make me the bride you want me to be. Always yours. Amen.

I'll be back on Friday, to talk about a different facet of Jesus and his church. Meanwhile, feel free to share in the comments any thoughts that come to mind. 

Ann


This Woman in the Bible is a One-Hit Wonder

Hello friends, Ann here! Sumites in the Bible

Today I’m going to write something different than what we hinted at in the last post. The Holy Spirit changes our plans sometimes, and I believe he wanted us to look at this Bible character next.

Are you ready to meet her, this next one, this dark horse? Well, here we go: It’s Jael, who hammered a tent peg into the head of Sisera, Israel’s enemy, in the book of Judges.

Let’s read her story in Judges 4:1-24. The setting is Israel and it’s a dark time. It’s like the time we’re in now, actually, in that village life has ceased and the highways are empty (Judges 5:6-7). That’s eerily close to home. The evil King Jabin has oppressed Israel for some time but God’s servants are going into battle against the commander, Sisera, and they know they’ll win.

Now, the prophet Deborah foretells something sharp and curious:

“The Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” (Judges 4:9, NKJV)

It is unlikely she had any idea what this meant. But it was Jael. She was the one. And she was a SUMite.

Here’s how we know Jael was in a SUM: Scripture says specifically there was peace between the house of Jael’s husband and the evil king. To be fair to her husband, we can understand his choice. Alignment with Canaan seemed the safer option. But Jael’s heart held quiet allegiance to beloved Israel. 

Because her husband had aligned his house with the enemy, this made Jael a hidden weapon. My friends, have you ever thought of yourself that way? As a hidden weapon?

Here’s what happened next:

“Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Hebert the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.” (Judges 4:17)

Having the army general Sisera arrive would have been crazily intimidating. I'm picturing a big guy with muscles, uniform, and a hard attitude. But Jael was on the winning side and had three humble tools: (1) a bowl of milk, (2) a blanket, and (3) a tent peg.

At this point it's like a riddle: How can a bowl of milk, a blanket and a tent peg win the battle?

Here’s how. Sisera, having been drawn to her home, thinks he can camp there. Jael knows this and goes straight out to ensnare him. He comes in, she gives him the milk, and he’s like a cat with cream. Purrr. Her blanket comes out, and she covers him gently: "Here -- Hide here." THEN the time is right. Her shaking hands reach ... softly, softly ... (oh Lord God, I'm scared) ... for the tent peg and SMASH!! Her blow is targeted and the tent peg drives through his head into the ground.

This woman of power made impact. Through her tools and her courage.

SMASH.

What does the Lord say next? Not only is she blessed among women, but she is most blessed (5:24). Blessed is she among women in tents (v. 24) It’s similar to the words spoken to Mary: ‘Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ (Luke 1:28).

My friends, this speaks volumes about our strength as SUMites. And perhaps these lessons apply:

  1. Sometimes it’s because of the placement of your spouse that you can rescue more than just your household.
  1. You can become a hidden weapon against the enemy.
  1. Spiritual warfare involves us recognizing simple and humble tools. 

I’ll finish with the following song verse about Jael, which celebrates her. There is much to celebrate. My prayer right now is, "Lord, make me like her when I grow up!"

“Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; Blessed is she among women in tents. He asked for water, she gave milk; She brought out cream in a lordly bowl. She stretched her hand to the tent peg, her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; she pounded Sisera, she pierced his head, she split and struck through his temple. At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still; at her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell dead.” (Judges 5:24-27)

Now for your comments: Do you relate to Jael? What speaks to you in this story today?


The Story of David and Michal

A warm welcome to any new readers of the blog today! My name's Ann, and we are in the middle of a study of marriages in the Bible with a faith difference. I hope you enjoy it as you read along.
Sumites in the Bible

As for our regular readers, I so enjoyed reading your comments and insights on Monday's post. Keep them coming!

Now, today's couple is David and Michal. Unlike Elizabeth and Zacharias (from Monday's post), David and Michal seem to be a classic couple with a clear faith difference. If we turn to 2 Samuel 6:16-23, we see David dance to the Lord, a whirling passion that came straight from his hunger for his Lord. Michal, meanwhile, looks out of an upstairs window and despises his faith. I wrote a little about that back in March -- You can re-revisit it here.

Essentially, Michal sees David dance and comes out with a cutting comment about his worship. She was not right to do so. But today I wanted to ask the question: Could it have been avoided?

Here's the thing: Michal had a raw deal. Her relationship history with David is shown in the Bible, and we can see that somewhere along the way it turned into a bit of a disaster. The day she looked out of the window and despised David might have been the culmination of a few things.

Early on she loved David (1 Samuel 18:20). These are sweet words. Perhaps he loved her too: To win her hand he was asked by King Saul (her father) for 100 Philistine foreskins (1 Samuel 18:25-27). That's some commitment. 

They started out settled, but then disaster struck: David had to go on the run from Saul; Saul married off Michal to another man. David was busy surviving for so many years, and then when he became King there were wars to fight, alliances to make. Years went by before he saw Michal again, and by that time he'd married six new wives!

Only AFTER marrying the six wives does David manage to get Michal back, snatching her from her new husband who follows her weeping (2 Samuel 3:13-16). We don't know if she loved the second husband, or what her will was; but as I write this I think to myself, 'Would any woman be happy to be one of seven, when previously she was the only one?' Biblical times were different, but I just can't imagine this being fun.

The thing is, men were meant to be husbands of one wife. God gave Adam one woman: Eve. It wasn't Adam and six women. Centuries later, admittedly the heroes of faith like David and Jacob did have more than one wife; but while God honored them for their open hearts of faith and their many acts of obedience, their sexual actions did have some dysfunctional consequences. Perhaps it was simply that they were products of their society.

My hunch, in any case, is that all this drama that Michal went through didn't help.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself." Ephesians 5:25-28 (NKJV)

Could it be possible that Michal's heart may have been hardened more than it otherwise would have been? She had the choice to receive God or reject him, as we all do, and scripture makes it clear that God made her barren because she rejected David's worship (2 Samuel 6:23). She was certainly in the wrong. But, could it have looked different?

As a man after God's own heart I imagine that David constantly grew in his honor of others, including his wives. After all, in this very story he moved straight away to bless his house after dancing for the Lord (2 Samuel 6:20). But I just wonder about that history and the brokenness it might have caused Michal. For me, I guess it's a reminder to cherish my own husband at every single turn, so that nothing I do -- oh I hope nothing -- gets in the way of his ability to love God.

Over to you, friends, for your insights. I'm looking forward to chatting more.


Summer Study: Let's Look at Elizabeth and Zacharias

Hello SUM family, welcome to our summer study! Sumites in the Bible

It’s Ann here, and this whole month we’re going to be looking at different couples in the Bible who had a faith difference. Today, I have the pleasure of kicking it off, and so let’s turn to Luke 1 to meet our first couple: Mr and Mrs Zacharias – That is, Elizabeth and Zacharias. We know the story well, but is there a SUM twist to it?

We find them living a settled life with friends and neighbors. Having each grown up in tradition they were always on the same page (Luke 1:6), but one day – Oh SHOCK– the power of the Kingdom broke in and divided them. Aggh!

That 'breaking in' involved the barren and elderly Elizabeth receiving a miracle pregnancy. The Lord put a seed of faith inside her, she conceived and, SUMites, we all know what happens next. A seed of faith comes into a marriage and it does interesting things – One spouse can respond quite differently to the other, which then has different consequences for each.

Now, Elizabeth and Zechariah were each given the opportunity to believe this miracle, but faith is belief in things unseen (Hebrews 11:1) and for Zacharias it was just such a stretch. His go-to response was to say a ‘logical’ “Yeah? ... er....  Nah.” An angel was right in front of him telling him the GOOD NEWS, and yet he questioned it. Not even the visible presence of the supernatural could crack him. I'm smiling a little at that because I know what that looks like.  

He says: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” And he receives a response:

“I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” (Luke 1:19-20; NKJV)

Now, here's the SUM part: In the same passage, Elizabeth’s response is pointedly different. She says, “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” (v. 25), choosing to hide herself -- go deep with God -- for five months in wonder. Although it is unclear what then happened with Zacharias, the contrast between the two of them is a symbolic part of the story.

Elizabeth and Zacharias are then catapulted into strange things, and who knows how much is seen by the relatives and neighbors. Often a SUM situation is kept quietly in a home, a deeply private thing between man and wife. It’s something you often can’t explain to others. All the while, Elizabeth endures a spiritually intense time: Five months of believing something with no physical evidence is probably very difficult but does something profound to her. Emerging from her secret place (Psalm 91:1), she eventually begins to pour out the Holy Spirit:

“ ... and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice –" (Luke 1:41-42)

She speaks. He stays mute. My friends, how much is this like our life? But then the effortless way in which the Holy Spirit pours out of her is her visible reward for time spent believing.

The words Elizabeth spoke, in turn, were a banquet for the lonely teenage Mary, who had herself been divinely connected to Elizabeth for Kingdom purposes (Luke 1:26-36). Elizabeth’s faith propelled Mary into being able to understand her own difficult walk and to say: “My soul magnifies the Lord!” or, "Oh, Praise God!"

It occurs to me that God took Elizabeth on this lonely path so that she could support another. And so I ask, today, “Who am I here for, Lord, during this SUM time?” It doesn’t matter that my beloved Zacharias is on his own path; God has stuff for him ahead, but he also has stuff me to do so I will roll up my sleeves and get on with it.

I love this story and hope you enjoyed this first post in our study. Now over to you -- It would be great to chat in the comments. What thoughts would you like to share?


How God Stretches Us!

Hi friends, Ann here. Fire 2

We’ve just had Pentecost, a day when the Holy Spirit came with power upon the early church. What a moment! I can only imagine what those disciples felt when they saw fire on each other. They must have surely been scared but excited.

One time I had an experience in a church that left me scared-but-excited. It was a memorable moment. Here's what happened:

It was an evening in Auckland and I'd gone to hear a visiting missionary speak at a little-known church. I arrived alone and settled into the worship. So far, so good. The gentle presence of God was lovely and the worship went late. Eventually, the host stood up to close the meeting.

“Most of you will want to go home now to your families, and we say goodbye. I hope you’ve enjoyed this evening --”

“It is late,” I thought to myself. “I’d better get home to Bryce --”

But the host continued –

“And there are some here who will want to stay. Because you’re hungry. And if that’s you, you can come to the front and we’ll continue …”

Now, I fully intended to walk out the door but for some strange reason I found myself instead drifting to the front with the ‘hungry ones’. There they gathered to continue worshipping. I stood about ten rows back, watching. I was no longer worshipping but something held me there.

Well blow me down, I was not ready for what happened next. My friends, what I describe may or may not be new to you, but it was to me. Like a mighty rush, the power of the Holy Spirit hit the room and the row of people at the front fell to the ground in one swoop as if they’d been hit by volts of power.

SMASH! The power hit the second row. People began to fall to their knees like dominoes: crying, worshipping, utterly wrecked by his love.

WHAM! The Spirit of God hit the third row. Wave upon wave of love, crashing down.

At this point my face took on a deer-in-the-headlights look. Never had I seen this before.

The fourth row, the fifth row, it was nearing me. It was like a tidal wave heading straight for me. An internal whimper bubbled up.

I looked left and right as those beside me began to fall, and I took a step back. I looked again and took another as people were moving chairs to make way for the power. Soon my feet were stepping back very quickly. Then I paused: Should I? before I turned and ran. Here's what was top of my mind:

“I don't want to do this without Bryce.”

And so I left. I ran to my car, flung myself into the driver's seat, then sat in the dark with a beating heart and shaking hands. After a while I started the ignition and decided that if ever there was a time to gorge myself on a McDonald's super-sized meal this was it. So I pulled into a drive-through, bought up large and sat in the carpark shoving handfuls of salty fries into my mouth while digesting what I'd just seen. 

Glug glug went the sucking of my straw as I gulped down the sugary coke. Glug glug. 

Oh God, it was You.

Oh God, I wish I’d stayed.

I’ve since come to understand what happens to people when they are the ones getting hit by the power. It is beautiful, life-changing, and it's something to which I now say a huge yes. Further, this is the very thing that happened very personally to our leader, Lynn, in October 2012. She has written honestly about it in the book Marching Around Jericho, and it was a turning-point for this ministry. 

So today I celebrate those disciples and that radical Pentecost.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4, NIV)

Lord, we ask for more. Give us the ability to receive your love, your power, your character, your heart, your wisdom, your majesty, your signs and your wonders. In Jesus' Name, Amen.


Am I Hearing God or Is It My Imagination?

Ann here! Purple rose 3

Today I thought I would chat a little about hearing God's voice as a whisper. Often the way God speaks is through the softest of moments, much like the everyday companionship of a good friend. 

Even the prophet Elijah heard God in the still small voice rather than a dramatic fanfare (1 Kings 19:12), and that's usually how it is. The hard thing is, we have to believe it's Him, and that takes a leap.

With this in mind, I thought I'd share a testimony. So settle in, grab a drink, and enjoy. Even writing it today has warmed my spirit, so I hope it does the same for you. Here goes ...

One Easter I was walking up the hill near my house. Suddenly it seemed that every purple flower I saw was grabbing my attention. Was it my imagination? I shook my head quickly, “Don’t be stupid, Ann.” 

That was that. But later I was lying in bed and found myself thinking about my faith difference: “I’m scared Bryce’ll go off me if I go further with God --” Suddenly, a purple rose flashed across my mind. It could have been my imagination. But was it God saying, "Do not fear"?

Weeks later, it happened again. I was swimming in a pool this time and a thought came: "People think I'm nuts believing in Jesus --” Swoosh, a purple clover came across my mind. Was it God? Was He once again saying “Do not fear”?

It happened more. Different purple flowers would land in my head, interrupting my thoughts (usually when I was thinking an anxious thought): Thistles, forget-me-nots, bushes of small dark purple things. I began to believe it was God.

One day, I was sprawled on my floor having cleared out a cupboard. A mysterious wooden box sat in front of me. I hadn’t seen this box for years, and as I lifted its lid I smiled to see piles of letters from childhood pen-pals. But there was something else tucked in there. I reached for it and pulled it out. It was a faded piece of paper from my last day of primary school in 1987, with names and addresses of friends; It was lovely to remember them but then I stopped in my tracks. Something was written in thick black crayon in the corner of that page. It was this: Purple flowers sprouting

"And little purple flowers were sprouting."

Oh God!! I sat back, stunned. It's You. What was He saying to me through this? Perhaps that He was always there.

Fast-forward a few years and we come to my kitchen renovation which I mentioned in my last post. There, God had the sweetest purple flower waiting. But first, let me backtrack:

It sounds strange, but as a child I would daydream about having a secret room. I loved the idea of having a space within a house that was hidden. Well, now I’m grown up but I’m still that same person.

After buying our house, Bryce and I realized that our house had a hidden pocket of space behind a wall. We knew because there was a stained-glass window on the outside that wasn't on the inside. Just before the renovation, then, we said to one another "Let’s get the wall knocked down and see what’s in there!" This was last July, just as I was leaving my job, something I’d felt God wanted me to do. The day we knocked the wall down was the day I waved goodbye to colleagues and closed a 10-year chapter in my life.

Honestly, friends, my heart pounds at this one. When we knocked down the wall, guess what we found: A little secret room! And what’s more, the stained-glass window was revealed: A purple flower. Here's a photo of it. That day it was as if God said, “I love you, Ann, and I’m here as you leave your job.” All day I couldn't concentrate; I just had to keep staring at that room and window, captivated. Purple flower window

That stained glass window was put there decades ago, as was the piece of paper in that wooden box. But God knew I’d be coming across it now. The moral of the story? God speaks in mysterious ways, and life with Him is ... well ... fun!

I would so love to hear anything you would like to share about hearing God, so please, go for it in the comments. And I say let's pray for more!

Ann


Locked-Down Life: It's Renovation Time

Dear friends, Ann here! Door SUM logo

Today, as we enter our umpteenth week of staying home I thought I would share a personal story. I think I got an inkling last year about this whole Coronavirus thing, but didn't understand it. I know a couple of others who had the same thing happen. See what you think of this:

It all began when my kitchen got ripped out last October. This old kitchen was in a shocking state. Bryce and I had allowed it to go too far. However, we finally got ourselves moving, made our plans, and the day came. Builders arrived and within hours the kitchen was gone. Left in its place was a cold, dusty hole. That same day, Bryce had to leave on a week-long work trip.

“I’ll be fine without the kitchen!” I thought. After all, how hard could it be?

Day one progressed with no sink, dishwasher, or oven. Within hours this was no fun. By day two, I’m sorry to say I was unhinged. The continual rounds of washing-up water I was lugging from the bathtub did it. I'm sure many of you have been there. It is surprisingly difficult to live without a kitchen.

“I’m sorry boys,” I would say to my two kids as I tucked them in, day after day, a less-than-perfect mother. “It’s the kitchen, it's making me feel so unhinged!!”

I kept trying to remember that compared to women in centuries past I was fortunate to have running water. This should have helped, but it didn't. I really was not prepared, then, to hear the following whisper from God:

“Ann, in the near future your home is going to be spiritually renovated and you're going to feel like this for a while. Be prepared.”

Gah! Really? My reaction was "Whatever You say Lord, I'll accept it!" But my mind began to wonder and I began to ask Him more. What did it mean? A couple of days later, this came to me:

“This coming change is about people being fed.

There are many, many people to be fed.

Like a new kitchen, this new thing will give you fresh ability to feed others.”

We don’t always understand what God is saying until we look back. I carried this sense of impending change for months, but I look back today and think perhaps it was about this lock-down season. Whatever it meant, this mysterious kitchen analogy gave me a sense that a new thing was occurring. And that I would feel the same as I did during that renovation -- Under some pressure. 

So here we are, friends. Under pressure. We've all had things ripped away from us, much like the kitchen. For me it’s my freedom. How about you? I’m quickly learning to let go, and I'm understanding that I need to let God work in me during this pivotal time. All the while, my eyes are on Him. I can't take them off Him.

I say that last bit because the above words weren’t the only ones I heard. I don’t think God gives us a heads-up about tough stuff without also giving a promise. So here’s what I heard next:

You’ll cope, Ann; you have people on your side, and you have all you need: Sweet words and soothing medicine.

Sweet words. Soothing medicine. God. His words are sweet like honey is sweet and they are life. As for the new thing ahead, I think of it like my new kitchen which is now in place. Earlier today, Bryce and I were pottering there and he smiled at me, "It’s worked out, this kitchen, hasn’t it?" My reply: "I love it!"

Friends, I believe there is new stuff ahead and it's something sparkly. Will it make our hearts leap with joy? Is it Revival? Will it be our family and friends turning to God? How amazing would that be! We may well be saying, "I love it, I love it!"

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).

Bless you, SUM family! How are you doing, and what are you learning to ‘let go’ of at this time?


About Our Homes...The Heavenly Perspective

Hi friends, Ann here.Sparkly nest


Today I want to share something that God showed me about the homes within this community: the Spiritually Unequal Marriage community. These homes are deeply special to Him, and although they are unconventional in Christian terms, what He showed me is that they 'sit under an open heaven'.

That's a great promise; I'll take it! But what does that mean?

To give you some background, most of you will know that my boys are teens and I have struggled to bring faith to them. Not all of us struggle with that, but some do. For those of us who do, it can feel overwhelming. Overwhelming, that is, until we have one of those moments where we stop and say "Nope, God's got this!"

A couple of days ago, against this backdrop of yet again wondering about my boys' faith, God showed me a picture that illustrated my home. It was pretty cool, and it cheered me along so much that I share it now with a smile.

What I saw was a nest, and inside sat two baby birds. “Those are your two boys,” I felt God say. These two babies had their mouths wide open, waiting to be filled.

The nest didn’t look a plain brown nest. Instead it had heavenly sparkles around it, within it, and above it. I sensed these sparkles were diamonds.

Then, in contrast, I saw a different house. That house was an actual house. It had a roof, thick walls, but its walls were also made of diamonds. I sensed my house was the nest; the other house was another kind of believer’s house. This other kind was one where there was a roof, where both parents were actively bringing their children up in faith, providing safe cover together (illustrated by the roof and walls). I actually sensed God was saying that my home will look like that eventually but, for now, it's the nest version.

Each house had its own strengths; neither was better than the other. They were both beautiful. In fact, both were adorned with Heavenly jewels (the diamonds). However, they looked totally different to each other, so to compare them would be like comparing apples and oranges. 

Back to the nest -- The SUM home. This kind of home can seem roof-less, lacking protection. It might appear far too exposed to the elements. For example, media might come into our home that we hope wouldn’t, or other influences. The diamond-walled house in the other scenario with its thick roof and walls appears safer to the eye. But the truth is, our own homes have safety too: It takes the form of an open heaven above us; and a God who takes care of His wee birds (Matthew 6:26). 

An open heaven was what the prophet Isaiah cried out for in desperation:

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!” Isaiah 64:1 (NIV)

Friends, I love that image of God rending the heavens open above us and bringing His presence. Like Isaiah, we can say to God, "Oh please, rend the heavens, come down into my home, and let all the mountains I’m facing tremble before you!" 

HeavensIn our open nest, while we gaze at the stars, our beautiful babies (children, teenagers, adult children) sit under that open heaven with a protective parent -- God -- hovering above them.
The fact we’ve built our house with such care on the rock of Jesus Christ looks something like the carefully crafted nest they now sit in. It means they have a great foundation as well as an exciting Heavenly life directly above. The Spirit of God hovers and broods, like a protective bird of prey. 

Finally, in this nest picture it's worth noticing that the baby birds’ mouths were wide open. This tells me that our children – The children of this SUM Nation – will surely open their mouths and receive God’s food. Perhaps it will be God who feeds them directly, more than us parents.

So with this beautiful picture, I rest. And I hope this post helps you along in that sense of rest too. As I said earlier, God's got this.

How are those of you who are parents finding it, bringing your children up in faith? If you'd like prayer for this, post a comment and our community will pray for you.

Ann


Let the Fragrance of Worship Fill My House

Hi friends, Ann here! Perfume

During this time of incubation in my home, I've been reflecting on what I'm to focus my energy on. I sense it's this simple thing: Lock my eyes onto Jesus. As far as I can, I need to fix my eyes firmly on Him and steadily hold that gaze. This week, with that in mind, I’ve been marinating in small verses from the Gospels.

Today I thought I would share one little Gospel moment: The time when Jesus visited His special friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

The reason that I was drawn to this passage is that Good Friday is in a week’s time, and I noticed that the last thing Jesus did before embarking on that dramatic last week in Jerusalem was pay a visit to His friends. Maybe He just needed some camaraderie. 

“Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. They prepared a supper for Him there. Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pint of very costly ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.” John 12:1-3

This event followed the resurrection of Lazarus. Having a grateful heart fit to burst, Mary could do nothing else but show her love for Jesus, for ALL He had done.

SUMites, let that be us!

The ointment she broke was a heartfelt act of worship. Worship doesn’t have to involve music, it’s just absolute adoration. It's casting our crowns of glory at His feet, like Mary did with her hair. When we worship Jesus, the fragrance can fill a house.

SUMites, let the fragrance of our worship fill our homes during this time!

To Jesus those girls – Mary and Martha – had many titles. They were His close friends, His collective bride, His daughters, Princesses of the Kingdom of Heaven, Priests (Revelation 1:6), and more. How many titles do we hold in His eyes, and in His name?

Then there's Judas, who stands by sneering, nitpicking Mary for her devotion. We know what his end is to be. Nitpicking another person for their hunger is easy to do, but Jesus says this:

“Leave her alone. She has kept this for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” (v. 7-8).

The poor are a-plenty out there – And today that word 'poor' makes me think of those who don’t know God today in this hard situation. It’s hard to reach those poor at this present moment while we're house-bound. What we do have is an opportunity for time with Him, to focus on His presence within us, in our home, and we can break open the very best of what we own, especially for Him.

SUMites, may you find treasures this coming week as we commemorate His death, burial, and resurrection!


What Happens While We're Locked In?

Hi friends, Ann here! Door SUM logo

How are you all doing, I wonder?

Well, here we are with a new normal that has been thrust upon us: That of being house-bound with all regular routines interrupted.

As far as I’m concerned everything has been interrupted, including my routine with God. And that last part is the hardest. Because right now I need my time with God.

Here’s the thing: Lately I'd developed a lovely routine of waving my family off to work and school, making myself an enormous pot of coffee and settling in for a couple of hours with God. I had time for prayer, reading scripture, and recording any things I seemed to hear from Him. It felt oh so healthy. I relished those times of stillness, it can get addictive being with God. In fact, I wanted more. What would happen, I thought, if I gave God my entire morning every day?

Well, some can now do that more than they could before, which is a beautiful treasure. But here in my home it's not quite so. The pandemic struck, and suddenly my family and I found ourselves together in our tiny little house, 24-7. When I say tiny house, we really do have a tiny little house. We’re talking one living area, and a small TV room off the living room.

For me, at points in this pandemic story the world's situation has felt intense. At times I've needed to do battle with fear and, to do that, I've been retreating into my precious prayer room (TV room). However, it quickly became clear this was not going to work. My family wants me around. And my husband wants me. He doesn’t want me sitting in that room being a hermit. He doesn't even want me 'mentally checking out' by spending too much headspace on spiritual matters. He's noticing my mind is elsewhere and he wants me to be present. This is a new challenge.

This is just one way that our faith difference is bubbling to the surface within this situation. We have different ideas about how useful my ‘quiet time with God’ is.  And hey, we have completely different responses to the whole situation. This could lead to frustration, and I’m battling that too.

What's the solution? Stay … Happily married. Be kind. Work hard on my family life. But also somehow carve out some time for stillness. Through it all, be kind, be kind. 

Love is patient; love is kind … (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Meanwhile, what is God saying to me during this time? He has been gently present, showing me that it’s all ok, it's all part of some grand renovation. This is a potentially strenuous time, but He knows it. If I can paraphrase what I’ve heard over the last few days, it’s something like this:

Ann, focus your eyes entirely on Me now, make that your strategy. It's ok to keep it simple.

Ann, yes it’s a dark period but My kindness is coming.

Why don’t you pause your usual scripture reading? How about instead you feed on parts I give you from the Gospels?

On that last point, over the last few days He has pointed me to little gems in the gospels here and there. He is speaking to me about the word ‘Abide’, calling me to consider what it means to 'Abide in Him' now. Perhaps in this current lockdown situation, where I am a busy Mum, 'abiding' doesn’t require me to fight my husband for quiet time but instead it means walking in a posture of trust, awareness, and waiting, through every hour of every day. While closed in my home, I can be closed in with Jesus.

This means I invite Him in while I’m washing up, I chat to Him under my breath while tucking my kids into bed; I acknowledge Him while I play with my kids, I wait on Him and stand still whenever I see a faith difference emerge, I acknowledge His presence while I’m watching the news, I stay believing, I remain hopeful and fearless, I last this thing out, and I dip into Gospel material – Because, after all, that is the good news. Who wants to watch the bad news when I’ve got the Good News -- Jesus -- in front of me?

So, friends, that’s me. How are you doing, and how is your faith routine changing during this period of staying at home?


Keep Playing The Christian Music

Hi friends, Ann here! Dance

If there's one passage in the Bible that brings a SUM moment to life, it's the one where David dances to the Lord, his wife Michal sees him through a window, and she 'despises him in her heart'. Gulp -- Let's take a look:

“Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet. Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart."

(2 Samuel 6:14-16, NKJV)

David then returns 'to bless his household', and Michal is not feeling it:

“How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (v.20)

We don’t know what marriages were like in those days, but David must have felt sorely misunderstood. Nevertheless, his response shows determination:

“It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore, I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.” (v. 21-22).

To leap and dance for God like David is akin to the intimacy with God that we're currently talking about in our community. I think we all have a leap to take when it comes to intimacy, and for my own part I can say I found it ever so risky to leap towards God and trust he would catch me. Specifically, I struggled to trust that I would not lose Bryce's favor. That was a biggie.

I was helped in this area by a friend whose Dad was a pastor. I wrote to this friend one day when it was all feeling too hard. My words went something along the lines of, "I think Bryce will go off me if I keep going." My friend duly consulted the Dad, who was old and wise, then flicked me an email:

“Ann, with God, the only way to go is forward. Now that you know that God is real, what else are you going to do? Sit in a dark room with a blindfold on? The fence is too sharp to sit on. But here’s what my Dad says: The closer you get to God, the more Bryce will see the spiritual bloom on your cheek. So keep going!”

This was great advice in theory, but I struggled to believe that Bryce would see this elusive 'spiritual bloom on my cheek'. My friend was saying, “Take the leap, Ann. God will catch you!” but the lie I was believing was “If I move any closer to God I'll lose out.” 

To cut a long story short, eventually I let go of the lie. Having leapt into God's arms I truly believe now that the more you love Jesus … Well, everything blooms. As David said to Michal, God has shown himself faithful.

David's response is a good one for us. Essentially he says to Michal, “Look, there is good reason I dance for him the way I do. I am going to carry on, and I will be playing my Christian music.”

Friends, did you catch that? Michal doesn't like his Christian music! I'm laughing as I type and I can't help but wonder if God slipped that part in for humor for us. Even in David’s day, Christian music was hard to play in front of the less believing spouse. Well, nothing there has changed. Eventually, like David, perhaps we stop caring and just play it. In fact, that's been a shift for me only in the last few weeks: I slip the Christian music on, Bryce laughs but doesn't really mind, I keep it on, and as I listen to it I leap -- In my heart.

Well on that happy note, I think the story got a bit more cheerful than at first it seemed. So keep on with that Christian music, friends. And perhaps we can chat in the comments: Has intimacy with God involved a leap for you?


Salvations in Our Community: What's Next?

Hi friends, Ann here! Kid gloves

There’s a curious thing happening in our ministry right now: We're seeing significantly more spouse salvations than we have before. For years we’ve known it would happen, and now it's visible. We’re seeing it mentioned in emails or on closed Facebook groups; that's how we know.

It started about a year ago. Before then, we’d had the occasional salvation posted on here, and often it was a story with a wow factor. Those stories helped us keep going, which we badly needed. But what we're now seeing is a quieter kind of conversion.

What’s happening with the current shift is that the stories are not being posted because the process is intense and private. One SUMite described it as feeling like she’d finally made fire, and now she needed to cup her hands around it and protect it at all costs. 

The shift comes at an interesting time. It’s a time where many are hearing God say He is bringing global revival and doing a new thing in the church. It occurs to me that revival might not be instantly visible because it happens first within hearts. For a community like ours we might be some of the first to see it because we have this online ministry and recognize change easily. What we’re seeing right now is spouses begin to turn their hearts, and a few have already been baptized. Others have publicly accepted Jesus.

From this steady trickle of salvations, I’m learning some lessons. The first is that I may have dearly wanted salvation, but it might not be as I expect. I should prepare for hiccups, stops and starts. Here's an analogy I keep thinking of:

If salvation is like a baby being born (John 3:3-5), the last bit where the baby passes through is especially tough for all involved; and then there’s the afterbirth. If we’re the midwives catching the baby, we’ll have to get to work: check the baby is breathing, give it its injections, make sure it can feed, clean up the mess. It’s serious.

On that point (thinking of midwives and their equipment), I hear God say this for us:

I’m giving you new kid gloves.

Yes, kid gloves are what we’ve used while 'winning without words' but now perhaps it’s a time for a new set that look more like pragmatic midwife gloves. Our new season will require delicacy, but instead of delicate evangelism it’s now to be delicate discipleship. Because many of our spouses are natural skeptics, it might be harder than discipling an eager churchgoer. There may also be the mess of spiritual battle. Well, friends, we are duly equipped with new kid gloves! Gloves for His new kids.

I'll share this: My own adult conversion was hard, so I feel for anyone who changes late in life. I myself faced intense doubt to the point of torment. I struggled with church culture. I had to handle issues like, "That Christian over there behaves really badly!" And then, the topic of Satan did it for me: In my mind it was just too far-fetched. However, then I realized Satan was real, and that was even worse. The day I realized demons existed was a bad day in the office. At that point I wanted to jump on the nearest boat, like Jonah, and sail away (Jonah 1:3). Except I couldn’t, which made it all the worse.

My conversion involved things like going to church, seeing people abandon their dignity just like King David did in heartfelt worship (2 Samuel 6:14) and thinking to myself, "If I go any further with God, I’ll be that.” All of these mental complexities happened while I had a prayer life with God, but it was just such a leap to go further with Him.

So as I write I'm sitting here thinking this thing won’t be a walk in the park. After all, when a person turns to God they have to respond to a call to bow their knee and to do that they have to decide if they believe it enough and want it enough. This means that they might stop for a while before carrying on. Salvation is a deep matter of the heart, and the path may be winding.

Nevertheless, it's a very exciting time for us. Now I'd love to hear from you, SUM friends -- Are you seeing it too? What do you think we can expect?

Nice chatting!

Ann


I Asked God Some Questions ...

Hi friends, Ann here!Close to God

We're spending time talking over on Facebook about intimacy with God, so I thought I would follow suit in today's post. Many years ago, I observed another Christian's intimacy with God, and it was so eye-catching that it kick-started my own relationship with Him. Here’s what happened:

I was at my parents’ table in Reading, England. I live in New Zealand, so only visit once a year. On this visit I noticed that in their home ‘everything felt nice’. Even the coffee had that little ‘something special’.

Are you suspecting something? Yep, my parents were both growing in their connection with Jesus. As a non-Jesus-lover, I didn’t recognize the atmosphere for what it was, but I did notice my Dad seemed to spend a lot of time in his study. The door was closed for one or two hours, then he’d emerge for a late breakfast, cheerful.

Huh?!!

One morning at the table, I said to him: “What do you spend your time on?”

He cast me a secret smile: “Well, Ann, the only thing that matters to me these days is my relationship with God.”

Huh?!! I pulled a face but eyed him up quietly. Never heard such a thing.

Well, um, as you can tell, these days I’m a closed-door kinda girl myself with that same secret smile; it's the kind of smile that says ‘God is exciting!’ It’s funny how these things are catching. Couch

Yes, a while after asking my Dad that question, my heart got stirred and I began to do business with God on the couch in my living room. I am a couch potato, so can do time on the couch very easily, and this is where my relationship with God has happened. That couch is so meaningful to me now it’s like a family treasure. It's in the TV room, which I now term 'the prayer room' (much to the laughter of my family) and I retreat to it throughout the day -- Especially when life as a Mum gets intense.

Those years ago, on that very couch, I began to ask God some direct questions. The first one was ‘Um God, Do You Exist?’ Blow me down, He answered over a period of weeks with some extraordinary occurrences. Oh. Next question: ‘What is True?’ At this point, I bought a special notebook and started to record these questions, documenting my blossoming relationship with Him. One notebook led to another, and these days I have a pile of them. The questions seemed to open up closeness. Journals

After asking ‘What is true?’ God started to show me it was Jesus who was the Way, and there was no other. It was so compelling that all I could say was ‘Ok, this is true – I’m in.’

Then came a time I prayed a dangerous prayer, without realizing it was dangerous. By dangerous, I mean it was the kind of prayer that brings the Kingdom of Heaven near because it is completely in line with His will and you end up never the same again. Dangerous, but exciting. The prayer I prayed was this:

Align my desires with yours Lord.

I've heard of others praying something like this (e.g., Let me really know you, Lord), and I've heard them say 'Sometimes I wish I hadn't prayed that prayer because it’s not been easy.’ That's a little of how I feel about that prayer though I would never, ever want it to be different. See, after praying that prayer, I could never get God out of my head again, and then I noticed how far from Him our culture is. That was the difficult part. My head and my heart became filled to the point that I felt constantly aware of Him. It felt like He had become as real to me as the person in front of me. Real.

Align my desires with yours, God.

Align my desires with yours.

This request, simple as it was, helped me draw closer to Him. 

I've been helped vastly in years past by others on this blog -- Not only the writers but also those in the comments who've shared how they get close to God; so I hope you enjoyed this one little piece of my own story. But now I'd love to hear your stories: How much do you ask God questions, and what other things do you do to draw close to Him?


To Cherish ...

Hi friends, Ann here! Cherish

The other day I noticed something new about marriage in scripture. It was like a big flashing light going off in my mind, so I thought I'd share. See what you think of this:

In the Bible there are a few key scriptures about marriage, as we know. But what I noticed this week is that in two of those scriptures (one from the Old Testament and one from the New), it says that your treatment of your spouse determines whether your prayers will be heard.

What a thought!

Here are the scriptures in question, and I've highlighted the parts about prayer:

1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV):

“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”

And

Malachi 2:12-15 (NKJV):

“May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob the man who does this, being awake and aware, yet who brings an offering to the Lord of Hosts.

And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.

But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.” 

**

All of this got me thinking: I often have to guard my heart to stay good to my husband in relation to our faith difference. The spiritually mismatched nature of our marriage raises particular challenges that other couples might not have. I have to make sure I don't hold negative attitudes about certain things. I also have to guard my mouth to make sure when I talk about him my words are good words. The bar is high and I'm a total work-in-progress. 

The Old Testament passage in Malachi might have been addressing the letter of the law, perhaps physical infidelity; but we go beyond that in the spirit of the law, mirroring God's character and trying to be faithful in wider things, like our words. 

This thought takes me meandering back to a moment in 1999, when Bryce and I were getting married. In our heady twenties it was all fun fun fun. But, when we booked in a minister to officiate at our wedding he told us it was his code to give us marriage counselling and we agreed. There was not much that was sensible about the two of us so it was all we could do to stop ourselves losing it in giggles at various points -- Especially when the session turned to the topic of sex. It was all so serious -- Did we really have to be talking about this?! 

But, here's the golden question this minister asked us: “What does it mean to CHERISH someone? Your vows include the word cherish. What does that look like?” This man in his sixties knew what he was talking about. 

Fast-forward twenty years and here we are living with a faith difference that - if we aren't careful to cherish - could fracture us. Yikes, it's not exactly small stuff. What does it look like now for us to cherish each other?

Here's what my favorite old dictionary says about Cherish: "To protect and treat with affection: to nurture, nurse; to entertain in the mind." 

Honestly, I can think of many points where I have not been the shining star at cherishing Bryce. But what I’d like to do is treat him as my most treasured one. This is my heart, so I say 'Help me, God!' My marriage is entwined with the Kingdom. It’s part of that thing I want to seek first. And as I cherish him, then when I march in prayer around my 'Jericho' could it be that those walls of unbelief have a greater chance of falling? The above scriptures suggest perhaps so.

Do you have any thoughts on the concept of cherishing our spouse? We'll chat in the comments!


Jericho -- Coming Soon!

Hi friends, Ann here! Coming soon  SUM

Like many of us, I’ve been watching the launch of Lynn’s new book, Marching around Jericho, with interest and am looking forward to cracking open its fresh pages.

Today, I thought I would tell you some of what I’ve seen from the side-lines. I want to attest to this book, as I've come to believe it’s a water-shed book for us, meaning it can mark a change or turning point. I believe it can change a season, and I say that because I’ve had some moments of hearing God about it. One of the things I have heard Him say is this:

A book has the power to change a season.

That's a big statement, and one I'm curious about. But there's more. Two years ago, before the book was even conceived in Lynn's mind, I think God told me about this book as if to say He is in it. It was February 2018, and I woke one morning with these words:

Coming Soon – Lynn Donovan!

These words seemed to be almost my imagination but, nevertheless, I wrote them in my journal with a date beside them. I wrote, “I think maybe this morning I heard Lynn Donovan, coming soon! Maybe?"

What did it mean, I then wondered. Her husband -- Becoming Christian? As per usual, that thought sent me bouncing up and down mentally. I have quite the imagination so I thought, hey, let's believe it. Coming soon - yes.

Well blow me down, 2019 rolled round and he did. He got baptized. But is that what these words were for? I'm sure they were in part, but as soon as Mike got baptized Lynn felt God pulling her to write a book about the seven-year journey that led to that baptism. Year by year, there would be seven sections to the book. It was as if God handed her the structure on a plate and all she had to do was pick up a pen. The book was to be called Marching around Jericho.

Watching from the sidelines, then, I knew she was starting on it. As time passed, she produced a cover design, and then eventually she put an automatic footer on her emails with a photo of said cover. I’ve pasted it here – Lynn Donovan - coming soon

As you can see, on the cover were the words Lynn Donovan, Coming Soon! So, every time I got an email from her over the last few months those big words have popped out at me -- Coming soon! It seemed to me that God had given me a heads-up about the book. Why? Perhaps so I could write this blog post.

At the end of the book Lynn describes how the walls of Jericho finally fell before her eyes. I won’t spoil it for you. From an early draft I read, it’s a good scene and the best ending. Lynn has shared a little of the timing -- dates and so on -- and by my reckoning those final events occurred exactly a year after I saw the words Lynn Donovan, Coming Soon.

So now we have this book. I can’t wait to work with it, and I want to say a huge 'well done' to Lynn on behalf of us all. Those who've followed this blog for a while have cheered her on from the sidelines and we’ll continue to do so.

Here's my prayer, then:

May this book be a blessing, and may it bring change to the lives of those who wait for their spouses to believe in Jesus.

Jericho might seem walled up so that no-one can come in or go out, but we see things differently.

Those walls are fragile and the fiery faith of a believing spouse who walks in partnership with Jesus brings power to the impossible.

Amen!

Perhaps, like me, you'd like to share a prayer or some other thoughts about the book below. We'll chat in the comments.

 


SUM Fast Day 4 - Promises and Memories

Ann here!

We have reached day 4 of the fast. It’s Thursday afternoon here in New Zealand and, remarkably, I’m still going foodless. I'm pinching myself as this is officially the longest I’ve managed to go without food. I'm praying that I can inch across the finish line tomorrow. Fasting photo 2020

I will say that past fasts have resulted in many times where I've just needed to stop. If that's you just treat the next day as a fresh start and carry on as you are led. It's certainly an adventure.

Now to us: I have my communion cup and cracker at the ready, and in taking communion I'd like to share a thought about God’s faithfulness.

Recently, I searched for ‘Abraham’ in the Bible. I look at his life sometimes because he’s the ultimate promise-carrier. I relate in some ways to his process; maybe you do too.

It was fascinating to me to discover that across both the Old and New Testaments God repeatedly makes the statement ‘Because of the covenant I made with Abraham’. Centuries pass and still this covenant is raised at unexpected points within scripture. The lesson: God has a very, very long memory, and He is faithful.

Abraham’s promise came in stages. It was like unwrapping layers of a pass-the-parcel game, except every layer was a treat that was specifically made for Abraham. First he was told only a little -- "I will make you a great nation;" (Genesis 12:1-3). A few years later he was told a bit more, and so on. The story unfolded and became more specific, culminating in the ridiculous: Elderly Sarah conceiving a baby.

In the midst of that 25-year process, we see a curious anecdote: A king and priest called Melchizadek appears with bread and wine (Genesis 14:18), and Abraham is captivated enough by this encounter to give Melchizadek one tenth of all he owns. As a rich man, this would have been an astounding amount. I find myself raising my eyebrows, wondering why. Perhaps it was simply that Abraham heard God say "I want you to do this".  

Straight after that radical act, Abraham heard God accurately and clearly, a blessing for his obedience: “Abraham, the heir will come from your own body” (Genesis 15:4). It's an impossible promise, as always. As for Melchizadek, that is a part of the plot that only God could have thought up. Melchizedek foreshadows Jesus (our King and Priest) offering communion. 

Here are the words that Melchizadek spoke to Abraham. Perhaps as we take communion today we can receive this same blessing:

“Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God most High who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” (Genesis 14:19-20, NKJV).

Friends, we are blessed, and God will deliver our enemies into our hand. Our promises will come, and hopefully will be talked about after we’ve passed from this earth, especially if we leave a record of them. As an encouragement, we only have to look as far as Israel where many of Abraham's descendants live.

On the topic of promises, Lynn mentioned asking for a word for 2020. Like her, I always ask but usually don’t hear anything clearly. However, this time I did hear an unmistakable word. On 1 January I heard God whisper to me: ‘Lydia’. Later that morning I looked up Lydia in Acts 16. She was an early convert in Philippi. These words are about her: “And when she and her household were baptized…”  (Acts 16:15) What a wonderful word to start the year off and, as you can imagine, I was encouraged. So, yes please, Lord, I’ll take it. Who knows what that means for 2020 specifically, but I will digest the life of Lydia this year and meditate on it.

How about you -- What promises are you believing? Did you receive a word for 2020, and/or what are you hoping for this coming year?

It's been nice sharing this journey with you this week. Lynn will be back for our final post tomorrow.

Ann


SUM Fast Day 3: He Gathers and Covers Us

Hi friends, Ann here. Fasting photo 2020

It is day three of our fast and we're halfway through! How is it going with you? I began the fast while on holiday with friends so ate with them on Monday evening, but apart from that I've been food-free. I’m trying to go without food until Friday, my approach being to 'just give it a go'. We'll see!

As for us all, I can’t wait to hear about your experiences. Those experiences in the comments are often my favorite part of the January fast. It is always an adventure hearing about the ups and downs of fasting and the wonderful things that follow.

Now to communion today:

I would say us SUMites identify strongly as people of covenant. We’re intentional about our connection with our spouse and with God, and the whole concept of covenant drives us deeply. Our faith difference necessitates it.

This covenant mindset helps us sympathize with Jesus’ covenant that He carried so deeply. In His case, He carried a deep commitment to His future church. In giving us His body and blood, He offered an unbreakable promise to us -- A covenant of salvation and protection.

Yesterday, in thinking about 'covenant', God seemed to point me to the passage where Jesus famously looked at Jerusalem like a mother hen:

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' " (Matthew 23:37-39, NIV).

It took a while for me to link this to covenant and communion, but now I’ve sat with it I see Jesus anticipating two core aspects of His covenant: Gathering and covering.

My beloved children, how I long to gather you!

My beloved children, how I long to cover you!

In communion He gathers us to partake, and He offers His blood as a covering of protection. We have every opportunity to reject it. But we receive it, say ‘yes’ and shout in our hearts, like the people who welcomed Him with palm leaves on Palm Sunday.

This particular fast, one of my personal learnings has been just how fiercely protective God is of me. When He says He covers me, He really does mean that His wings and eyes are on my family. It also means He will do what it takes to make sure our spiritual lives are healthy and our souls are saved. He does that because I've invited Him in and said 'Your will be done in my family'. Because of the ways in which He has been speaking to me about covering, at this point I can say I've reached complete peace about my family's salvation: Bryce my husband, Travis my 15 year old, and Miles my little one at 13.

So, in reflecting on all this, I take my cup right now – as this post goes live - and am thinking of you all. I eat His Body and drink His Blood and I say this:

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

(Luke 19:38, NKJV).

Let's enjoy our communion today and thank God for His gathering of us and His covering.

Now over to you: How is your fast going and what you are learning?


God's Voice: The Faintest Whisper

Hi friends, Ann here! Still small voice

Two Christmases ago, I was sitting alone in a spacious old church in Edinburgh enjoying a family service. I'd been visiting that city on a solo trip and it was a treat to go to a new church. I chose one to visit and as I took my seat it warmed my heart to be surrounded by a hall full of believers, though I knew none of them.

As the singing began, I got the faintest thought that there might be someone there whose spouse did not yet believe – Someone there whom, maybe, I could help. I brushed it off but as the singing continued the thought came back. I brushed it aside again and carried on singing.

Another song passed, and the tiny thought came back, now niggling me. Eventually I turned to the lady next to me and asked: “Is there someone here whose spouse doesn’t believe?” I mean there are usually plenty in churches, so there would be. I just wondered if it was someone she could point out.

Her eyes scanned the hall, going left, going right. Nope, couldn’t see anyone. She looked behind, but still couldn’t see anyone. Her brow was furrowed by this point, “I’m sure there are, I just can’t think …” And then she looked in front of her: “OH, yes –”, and pointed to the lady right in front of me, on the floor alongside her husband, watching the kids in the nativity play. “Yes, there she is with her husband. He’s very good, he comes to church with her but doesn't believe.”    

“Is it hard for her?” I asked.

“It is.” She said.

I watched this beautiful couple during that service, thinking “I feel I would know how to encourage you, if we ever chatted.”

Then another thought came: “I should tell her she’s not a second-class Christian.” It really was a fleeting thought, one that could have been my own, certainly no thunderbolt. But equally, perhaps it was the Holy Spirit. So I did it. I walked over to her straight after the service, crouched down by her seat, and told her that I just wanted to encourage her. I didn’t mention the spiritually mismatched part. I just told her that what she was doing for her family by carrying her faith strongly was making such an impact, that it was a difficult faith road she walked, and that God is pleased with her. 

Hearing God in our day-to-day is hardly ever a thunderbolt, and it is the still small voice. Nevertheless, as I walked out of the church that day I felt I wanted to know: “Was that really you speaking to me, Lord, or am I on a wild walk of the imagination here?!”

What happened next was more educative for me than I might have thought. 

Two days later I was sitting on a bus travelling through a completely different part of Edinburgh from that church. The bus stopped at a red light, and I absentmindedly watched the crowds pass on the pavement.  In my daydreaming state, however, I was suddenly startled to see none other than that lady’s husband standing on the pavement! I did the most enormous double take. What was interesting about the scene was that everyone around him was in grey or beige, but this guy, he looked so colorful – I think he was wearing a crisp yellow and the brightest blue. He stood out from the crowd.

It seemed God was saying to me there, "Yes, you did hear my voice that day."

The reason it was educative was it confirmed to me that I should probably take note of these gentle whispers more than I do. It also showed me that if I ask God for help in figuring out whether I'm hearing Him He will come through for me.

So that's my story. What are your experiences or thoughts about hearing the still small voice even when it seems faint? I look forward to chatting in the comments.


When God gives us a Promise

Hi friends, Ann here.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of Elizabeth (Luke chapter 1). Blessed is she who has believedM Her story gets told each Christmas, but this year I'm noticing a curious detail: Her promise had a plot twist. Her baby had a surprise name. And it was this surprise that made her friends and neighbours marvel.

“When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” (Luke 1:57-63, NIV).

Elizabeth’s promise was different to what she, or anyone, guessed: The conventional name would have been Zechariah. Instead, the name was John, and he was a wild man who wandered the desert eating locusts and honey.

So far so good.

Now for us, and our promises. I wonder how many of you are believing a promise from God? If so, I imagine it relates to your spouse or, perhaps, children getting to know Jesus? That is certainly the case for me. It might be a promise we've taken from scripture, or it may even be a promise that we've heard the Holy Spirit speak to us.

If you do have a promise you're believing, I wonder if, like me, you have preconceived ideas about what it will look like? For example, my own imagination takes me on adventures. I've imagined my husband suddenly deciding he’s super interested in God. Or, perhaps he will wake to see an angel at the bottom of his bed (I say that laughing). Or, it'll be some dramatic encounter with the Holy Spirit.

Well, I'm realizing I need to think again. God is the storyteller of our lives, and He is fabulously creative. Whatever I’ve imagined won’t be what it looks like. There’s a precedent to this: The greatly anticipated messiah came, but he did so as a baby, then a carpenter in Nazareth, then an itinerant wanderer. Was that expected?

With that in mind, now I have a story to tell: Recently, I heard God say: “Ann, be prepared for your promise to not look how you expect.” 

It was curious to me that something strange happened in my home the very same week: My oldest son, Travis, woke in the middle of the night to feel an earthquake. In the morning, he got up and looked online to see what magnitude it had been. To his surprise he discovered there was no earthquake that night. 

This might have been considered chance, but we had a similar experience when I converted. Several years ago just before my own conversion, Bryce woke in the night with the same thing. He was asleep in a hotel when an ‘earthquake’ shook him awake. He turned on the TV expecting to see a news report and there was no earthquake. Shortly after that my conversion happened and it certainly caused a shaking in our home. It knocked me to my knees, shook everything that could be shaken and left only the important things in my own heart: Faith, hope, and love. 

So, friends, watch this space -- Something could be upon my home again. Elizabeth’s name means ‘God has promised’ and like her I believe that Life is coming. I'm just quietly prepared for the unexpected.

How about you -- What promise(s) are you carrying right now? I enjoy hearing 'promise' stories, so share away in the comments.

Nice chatting,

Ann


Some Thoughts on Arguments Against the Bible

Ann here! Ask God about the Bible

Recently a reader posted a question for the SUM community that many of us would relate to. It seems a good one to share here, and I wonder if we could add any answers to her question in the comments?

Her question was this (paraphrased slightly):

“My husband is reading and using a particular anti-Christian book to ‘convince’ me the Bible is not the truth. Does anyone have any input, or has anyone read this book?”

The book that she attached to her question (in a photo) had words splashed across the cover, proclaiming in big letters that the Bible was full of absurdities, contradictions, and other things 'wrong'.

I spotted her question and dived in. I’ve never been an atheist, but I have been in the shoes of one reading such a book, having been agnostic and difficult to persuade. Quite honestly, it took a lot to get me over the line into full belief in God. Given that experience, here’s what I wrote back:

“Hi! 

During my process of conversion I read a lot of atheist/anti-Christian arguments and looked into them. My biggest thing to say in response to a book like this is that people can intellectualize themselves into any corner, but the only way to know what is true is to straight-out ask God if He is real and, if so, what is true. Unless people have asked that question of God directly, they haven't been sufficiently thorough. Really, they often don't want to know.

The Bible does stand up to scrutiny perfectly well, but in certain parts one has to have the Holy Spirit when reading it. Without the Holy Spirit something might appear to be an absurdity or a contradiction. WITH the Holy Spirit, that same 'absurdity' or 'contradiction' becomes a work of genius where all you can do is fall on your knees because it's so clever.”

In our current culture there’s a lot of clamor against the Bible. It can be loud and dominating (Proverbs 9:13-15). However, my question to a clamorous one would be: “Yes, but have you asked God?” After all, He promises in scripture that those who seek Him will find answers.

That process of asking God is something that takes effort, will, and integrity. It takes time on our knees. It takes thought. It is something quite different to picking a popular book off the shelf and believing one author's personal argument that God is a 'delusion' without properly questioning God open-heartedly. This effort is captured in Proverbs 9's description of wisdom, showing that there's a lot of work that goes in -- Perhaps years of work:

Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars; she has slaughtered her meat, she has mixed her wine, she has also furnished her table. She has sent out her maidens, she cries out from the highest places of the city, 'Whoever is simple let him turn in here!' As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, 'Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding'.

Proverbs 9:1-6, NKJV.

At this point I might hand over to everyone else to add their thoughts. It'd be interesting to hear your comments on the following:

  • Does your spouse read these atheist books?
  • If so, how do you handle that?

Thanks everyone, and have a great weekend!

Ann


The Day My Church Friends Came to Dinner

By Ann Hutchison

“How would you and your husband like to come for dinner?” A dear church friend threw her arm around my shoulder one Sunday, extending her hospitality. You prepare a table for me

My heart began to pound. Not this again. Inwardly, one word hit my brain. “Nooooooo!”

I smiled as best I could and said, “That’s really nice. Um. Can I just think about it?” She looked puzzled. “Sure.”

Here’s my deal: My husband loves people, and we don’t find it difficult to talk to strangers. But, when it comes to church I personally have a mountain of complexities in my head. Truth be told, the idea of us going to a church friend’s house made me feel sick with nerves. Why on earth, I wonder? This needed to be analysed, and so here’s what I realized:

‘Church’ represented something that came between me and Bryce to such a degree that it jeopardized our marriage. Since then I’ve feared bringing church people into our lives in case it jeopardizes ‘us’ again.

That’s what’s been in my head; and consequently I’ve kept that part of my life neatly separate. Non-Christians have long been my preferred dinner guests because that felt more comfortable. I always thought it was for him, but perhaps it was really about my comfort levels.

That was until a few weeks ago when a chain of events led to us welcoming into our home the pastor and his wife for dinner. This was certainly the crossing of a new frontier, and as they say in space terms, ‘a giant leap for Ann-kind’. Or SUM-kind.

The leap was sparked one night after we’d come home from dinner out with our usual friends. As always, I felt slightly sad from the evening, purely because of the unbelief. You know how it is. It’s normal these days so I didn’t say anything to Bryce, but he could tell. This particular evening, he watched me from across the kitchen and seemed to resonate more than usual. Eventually, he came out with a suggestion:

“I think we should hang out with a wider variety of people. Different kinds of people.”

Wary of seeming like I didn’t love our friends I began to protest, but he pressed me again, suggesting I invite someone new over, and then these words came:

“Why don’t you ask someone from church? Just make sure it’s no one weird, ok?”

Even though I myself am reasonably weird, weirdness seems to be his main concern. So, ok, it seemed we had a deal. And I laughed.

My task was thus set and I thought I’d better do it quickly before I freak and back out. But who at church should I ask? Well, one couple seemed obvious. They had boys the same ages as ours, and the male of the family likes sport, as does my hubby. Importantly, there wasn’t a shred of weirdness there. “Right then,” I decided, drew my phone to me, and did it quickly. I texted an invite and clicked SEND.

Here’s the fun bit: That couple also happen to be the pastors of my little church. So, after they’d texted back “Yes!” I realized this could go one of two ways: Very well, or quite awkwardly.

As I write, the dinner has come and gone, and I’m pleased to report I have a smile on my face. Here’s my spiritual observation of the day: When God gave pastors to the church, they were a gift from Christ. I hadn’t really thought of this before, but on the night it was clear that these two were the perfect ones to be sitting at our table. Pastors have strong, sensitive hearts for people. They were to my right at the table. To my left, there sat Bryce, relaxed and, in true extravert form, enjoying the fact there were some new and interesting people at his table.  

Indeed, on the night of the dinner, with so many boisterous boys in the room, our guests, and my cheery husband, the air was filled with chatter. I was left feeling that ‘the church’ had done us some good. In closing, I will say I couldn’t imagine this happening any earlier. However, in God’s perfect timing things happen seamlessly. What a relief!

Now your turn: Have you socialized yet with church friends?


Spiritually Mismatched: Been There, Got the Shirt

Ann here!Sumerfly

On this blog, we’ve been through many an adventure. Well, today, I'd like to share an insight God gave me about some of the purpose. I hope what I share will spur you on.

The insight came in the form of a dream I had in 2016. At the time I was a regular here, as were many others we still see here. Lynn and Dineen were our beloved pastors and we leaned on them heavily. That's how it looked in October 2016. Now for my dream:

I saw the SUMites walking forward as a group, wearing matching red t-shirts.

Lynn was walking in the front and middle, championing the group.

On each SUMite's t-shirt was a white butterfly, above the right breast.

The scene shifted to a room where the SUMites were gathered around a table, making these t-shirts for others.

It might seem flaky to talk about dreams, and some are definitely just our brains being silly; but this one felt different and scripture does attest that God uses dreams to convey mysteries. Well, this dream of the red t-shirts did something for me. I'll share a little now of what that was.

First, the dream showed Lynn championing us alone, which I didn't think much of at the time. However, a year later Dineen was called to exciting new pastures. As it was actually quite hard to wave goodbye to Dineen, this aspect of the dream opened my eyes that it was an OK new season.

Second, the dream showed SUMites in matching t-shirts -- Like the phrase, 'Been there, got the T-shirt'. I don't know about you, but I can certainly say that about this walk. Funnily enough, I found a 2011 video clip of Lynn and Dineen looking into the camera, smiling and saying to their audience: “Whatever you’re going through, know that we’ve been through it and got the shirt!” It makes me smile. A decade on, I believe many of us can say to those on the path behind us: "Whatever you're facing, I've been there". It feels so rewarding when I reach out my hand to another and say that. 

But there’s more. In the dream we are wearing red. To me, that speaks of love all over us. How brightly does the fire of the Lord, forged in hard circumstances, burn on us now? I like to think it's visible. And I can't resist telling you that these red t-shirts of love were even pointed to back in 2007 when Lynn, in an October post, posed the question 'What T-shirt are you wearing?' accompanied by a picture of a woman in a red T-shirt deciding whether her T-shirt would be the T-shirt of love. I hope I'm not jumping about too much here for you as readers, but I thought that was cool. 

As for the white butterfly on our right breast, I believe that represents the spouses carried fiercely on our hearts, in the right place. My love for my husband and my knowledge of his Life in Christ is the badge I wear. In fact, I took a trip through my laptop to find a picture of me in a red shirt for this post; and the one photo I found was this one, here. It stood out to me how much I hold him tight.11 IMG_0293

Finally, the dream showed us making t-shirts for others. I believe this to be a key purpose now. In time we reach the point of helping others clothe themselves with love. I wonder if you're finding this? That you're reaching out your strong hands to people who are just beginning their season of being spiritually mismatched? 

Today, here we are three years on from that dream. After 13 years of posts filled with hope, Lynn's husband got baptized in March. The week of that baptism a huge swarm of butterflies migrated across southern California, where Lynn and Mike live. Likewise, a swarm of transformation blows across us.

Foreseeing this transformation back in 2016, Dineen designed the graphic you see on this post. Called the SUMerfly, it represents the change that this community champions. I love it. I love it all.

So, friends, we are growing love, we are carrying transformation, and eventually we will pass that on!

Now for a question: What experiences are you having of encouraging others?


One Flesh: Stop Tugging Me!

By Ann Hutchison One flesh  SUM

I have an analogy that I often use when I begin to feel challenged by spiritual difference in marriage. It’s this: My husband and I are like conjoined twins. We're one flesh.

Does that resonate with you? I pull in one direction, spiritually; he might say ‘No!’ and before we know it we’re yanking and straining, stretched beyond possibility. Sometimes it gets too much; then one of us will yell: “Stop it! Ouch!” Being one flesh, we are knit together intensively.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 (NKJV)

Thinking about this whole 'one flesh' thing, I decided to watch a documentary on conjoined twins. It might sound bonkers, but that is genuinely how I feel in spiritual terms. He is my other half. Anyway, others’ paths are good to watch, and wow what a path. In this documentary I was struck by one particular pair who were middle-aged and clearly different to each other. In the documentary, it interested me that they have taken decades to work together. I think a SUM can follow this progression too: with time we get a little gentler.

For example, I look back and cringe thinking about the time I said to my husband, “I’m so lonely being a Christian!” Good one, Ann, how did that make him feel? He threw a shocker back: “You’re a supernatural junkie!” At that, I bawled. These were not our finest days.

There are many curious ways ‘one-flesh’ plays out in a spiritually different marriage. There's the fact our resources are joint. If I spend my time on anything related to God, something at home gets waylaid. Often, the washing up or laundry. We all know that it’s busy running a home, so my use of time matters. Essentially, my stewardship of what God has given me affects my husband.

This one flesh thing is shown here, also:

The wife hath not power of her own body but the husband: and likewise also, the husband hath not power of his own body but the wife. 1 Corinthians 7:4 (KJV)

Although that verse is about sexual intimacy, it does reveal our conjoined condition.

So far, ok. But now here’s the added curve-ball that has – at points – sent me over the edge: We’re also one with the church (Ephesians 4:16). And how on earth does that work, when our partner doesn’t want in? I genuinely feel a connection with other believers, but it is Catch 22. Are we conjoined triplets: husband, wife, church? One thing's for sure, it's not comfy. Is three a crowd, or a three-fold cord?

Here's one little way I tense up: I can talk about God with other believers until the cows come home. But, when that happens there’s sometimes a check into my spirit. I become mindful of not being too tight with Christian friends at the expense of my husband. I suppose I make sure those friendships fit into my life with him, and this is a balancing act that I think carefully about.

On the topic of Christian friendships, though, I did have an a-ha moment that helped me. It came from Genesis 1:24: God designed a man to leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. From this verse I was able to see that my Christian friends are brothers and sisters, but like father and mother they are secondary family compared to my husband. My relationship with him is tops. After God, of course.

Another thing that helped me was this: God made the wife-husband relationship to be physically intimate, which is something no other relationship has. That intimacy tells me something about the degree to which my relationship with my hubby is beyond any other. It’s in my power to protect that secret place that mirrors the intimacy we have with God (Psalm 91:1). And, if I protect that secret place in marriage, I’m honoring God’s design.

So, those are my musings today. I will be the first to say I have made many silly mistakes in my marriage. Bryce and I have been married twenty years now, which is ample time to accumulate successes and some less fine moments. But one flesh we are, and we try to walk it well.

Now over to you, my SUM friends: What challenges does the 'one flesh' condition raise for you, and how do you tackle them?


A Shiny New Legacy

Hi friends, Ann here! God what's on your heart

It’s my turn to write this week and I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell you a crazy story. I hope it makes you smile.  

Back in April, after our ‘Hear the Roar’ conference, I landed home with a spinning head. So much had happened, and I had a sense that it was truly a new season in this ministry. I was also unwell during that time, so once home I spent hours in bed. Those sick days turned into quality time with God, and I lay with three great things: prayer, pen, and notepad.

On one such day I lay pondering and scribbling when suddenly God interrupted me with the most random phrase. Call me nuts, but this is what I heard:

He was called Snake but his legacy is different.

I’m smiling (Crazy or God?!) It was so random I thought I’d better write the phrase down. In fact, I wrote the phrase slap-bang in the middle of the page, surrounded by other thoughts about the new season and how we are hope carriers. 

Looking at that page now I can see I was, indeed, extremely excited. I don’t normally sit there writing random words onto a blank sheet of paper in such an enthused manner. BUT, I’d just had a free trip to California and ended up hearing Lynn’s testimony. It was a full-on time. The page had words of hope scribbled all over it and, right in the middle, that strange sentence about a changed legacy.

Back to my story. Shortly after writing that phrase down, I turned the page and promptly forgot about it. Forgot, that was, until two days later when a delightful ‘coincidence’ occurred.

I was on Facebook, accepting a friend request from a fellow believer. I closed Facebook straight after that, but then opened it later. When I opened it, there was an article she had shared, staring me in the face. I did a double take. The words in front of me said this:

“They used to call him Snake – Not any more!”

My mouth dropped open, eyebrows shot up. I shook my head, blinked, and then thought I’d better read. I carried on to see this:

“Snake Colson: Proof God can do anything. How God transformed a mean, no-good drunk into a mighty man of God.”

At this point I was beaming. This was becoming a super-cool God moment. In fact, I’m posting the link to it the article itself, so you can read it. It's a goodie: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?id=1905811983070894&story_fbid=2278722972446458

“Snake Colson” was, in fact, Donnie Colson, a pastor from Community Chapel Church, Illinois. “Snake” was his nickname from his years of adulthood as a troubled drunk. He was bad news, and known for it. But then he encountered Jesus, and became good news. Now he is widely loved as a mighty man of prayer.

What a great reminder that no situation is beyond change. But, dusting off my piece of paper, I wonder if there is more to learn from this? The phrase I heard from God specifically pointed me to the issue of legacy. In writing today’s post, then, it occurred to me to go back to the Facebook article and see what people had to say about Donnie Colson. Their comments reveal a man’s beautiful legacy, and one that’s celebrated. Here are a few comments, copied:

“I absolutely love him!!! He baptised me.”

“He used to drink with my dad many, many years ago and led my dad to the Lord. I just love him.”

“He is simply and quietly there for so many. His prayers are often answered.”

“He’s a fine person. He does a lot. Hospital. Daily or Weekly. He’s always there. God made him special.”

“What a man of God!”

“I’ve known this man all my life. I’m proud to be able to call him my Brother in Christ, and proud to say he is my cousin!”

“Love this pastor so much. Once had a pastor tell me no matter what time I get to the hospital to pray for the sick Donnie has already been there.”

All I can say is, Praise God! And, there are even more legacy comments on that Facebook link. When God comes into someone's life it's a new day and their whole legacy is made new. Reading his story thoroughly inspired me -- Inspired me to run this race ever better.  

How about you? How does this story speak to you?

Nice chatting!

Ann