32 posts categorized "Communication"

The Power of Prayer

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Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re a praying SUMite army, aren’t we, dear friends? Ian from freezing cold Sydney here. I trust those of you in the northern hemisphere are enjoying the warmer temperatures and having fun on summer vacations.

Prayer. It’s one of those little words that we’re all familiar with, it’s a practice we all do, some of us I expect more than others and for most, if not all of us, it can be hard work.

And it’s powerful. Really powerful. It changes hearts, saves people, heals people, restores people and most significantly it connects our hearts with God. The triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

“Through relationship, we carry and release the Kingdom onto the earth. This is what joy-filled prayer looks like.” – Beni Johnson

Prayer is Relational

It’s completely relational and usually reflects the state of our connection with God. If you’re finding your prayer life has become transactional (‘Help me, God!’ Thanks, God! etc) it probably reflects one’s relationship isn’t very tight, that there’s some distance between you. But if you find you’re always dialoguing with God throughout your day it more than likely reflects a strong relationship that is growing deeper.

Prayer is simply that … communicating with God. Most often it’s just us and God, other times, it’s with two or three of us and God, and other times it’s in bigger groups, like a Church Prayer meeting. 

It’s often hard because of its relational nature with someone invisible. But it becomes easier when our heart desires to be connected to God's heart. He wants to share His heart with us. 

Three Keys

There are lots of great stories in the Bible that provide us with examples of how to posture ourselves in our communications with God. Here are three thoughts that I’ve gleaned through my readings.

  1. Seek to know God’s Will

“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10.

We all know this verse from The Lord’s Prayer. God invites us into His Kingdom, there’s stuff going on that He wants us to participate in, so the more we seek after knowing His will the greater the intimacy we’ll develop with Him. Often we’re guilty of asking for our plans and our desires to be approved by God rather than coming to God and dialoguing with Him about what’s on His heart about a certain matter. Jesus provides the great example of this: at the Garden of Gethsemane the night He is betrayed He pleads with His Father to be freed of His responsibility (“if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me?”). But moments later Jesus determined that His Father’s way was best for him (“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”)

Praying God's Word is a great way of praying His Will. I start many mornings praying Psalm 23 over myself and over others the Lord puts upon my heart.

  1. Praise God Always

“pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of Godin Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 (NKJV)

Did you catch those words I underlined: “for this is the will of God”. What is? To pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything. Start thanking God immediately, praising Him for the outcome of the prayer you’ve just prayed even though it hasn’t happened yet. Praise God before you receive the answer.

Remember when Paul and Silas were chained up in prison (Acts 16)? What did they do? They sang praises to God. What happened? An earthquake that shook the foundations, doors and chains keeping everyone captive, happened. Paul and Silas were freed.

  1. Continue to Stay Close to God and Follow His Ways

Like any relationship, our connection with God can experience peaks and valleys. Hey, we get distracted. Sometimes very easily. I know I do.

Daniel trusted God even when he had to spend a night in a den full of lions. God rescued Daniel and he continued to follow God’s ways rather than the King’s and we’re told he “prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” (Daniel 6: 28)

The more time we spend with God, in reading His Word, and fellowshipping with other believers, we gain greater understanding of His heart, His mission and His ways. His desire is for us to join Him. But the world has it’s own ways and it’s natural for us to follow those ways. But we’re told in Isaiah 35 that there is a highway called the “Way of Holiness” (v8) and is available for all of us who follow God’s ways. There is neither lion nor ravenous beast to be found on this Way. And those who follow it will “enter Zion with singing and everlasting joy will crown our heads, gladness and joy will overtake us and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (v 10)

Follow His Way and we will pray prayers that reflect both God’s desires and ours.

 

May we encourage each other in our prayer walks by sharing a little in the comments about what works for us in staying connected with God throughout our busy day.

Blessings my friends.


Slay The Marriage Killers - The In-Laws

Slay The Marriage KillersMarriage Killers. How do we slay them?

Today, I want to talk about …

The in-laws.

Every marriage brings with it an extended family. My experience with in-laws was a good one. They weren’t intrusive. At the time I married Mike, he had lived on his own for years. He had a health relationship with his parents, and they lived in another state. Their involvement in our lives centered about holiday visits and trips to visit their place in the summer. And on occasion, a trip to the Santa Cruz where his parents and their friends and family would vacation every year.

Marriages struggle when either spouse fails to become fully liberated from their parents. This is often an issue with your spouse’s maturity and also a proximity issue.

I can tell you from many emails to this ministry that dealing with in-laws is a REAL thing that challenges marriages. I will also tell you that as a mother of an adult son, there is a very special and unbreakable bond between the two that is a life-long reality. (We have a healthy relationship and I live in five hours from him.)

So, what to do if your spouse is still linked to home and Mom-in-law or dad-in-law interferes with decisions and the direction of your family?

If you are dealing with an overbearing, and ridiculously interfering family member, of course, conversation with your spouse is where you start. Pray and ask Jesus to create a perfect opportunity to talk about extended family. Gang, BATHE this conversation, before it takes place, in prayer. Ask the Lord for the right words. Leave accusation and ridicule of the family member out of the discussion. Take about the issues and how the meddling creates strife and leads to conflict and unhealthy boundaries and decisions. Offense will arise quickly in a spouse when talking about a mom or a dad. Tread carefully but with sound examples and SOLUTIONS that would have made for a better outcome.

Listen. Listen. Listen.

Forgive, forgive, forgive.

Love, love, love.

Determine to set healthy boundaries. In an overbearing situation, space is the only way to gain autonomy. And finally moving a distance away may become your only viable option.

Okay, I need help here. What are the in-law’s dynamics in your home? How have you handled interference? OR better yet, how have you and your spouse set healthy boundaries with the in-laws.

How to you restrain your own mother or father from interfering with your family? I’ll see you in the comments.

LOVE loudly this week. Love and bless your in-laws in your prayer time. Let’s see what happens by Friday? Perhaps a few tiny miracles in the extended family. Hugs, Lynn


The Destroyer Has Arrived. Do You Know Its Name?

Love over fearLove vs. Fear

Choose wisely.

SUMites, I’ve been in a new classroom with Jesus. Wow has it been interesting. ….. and timely.

And since the beginning of this blog in 2006 the Lord instructed me to share what I’m learning. So, in the next few weeks we are going to look as several aspects of our society and church relationships. We will examine conflict resolution, restoration and honor. We will look at the spiritual realm in light of the teaching and perhaps touch on a few more issues as the Lord leads.

Additionally, all of the teaching and skills we acquire through this series will have a wide affect on our homes, our church life, our social constructs, marriages but mostly in our personal relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Today, I’m just gonna jump into the deep end of the pool and hope I don’t drown or loose you. Because when you wrap you mind and heart around what is at the heart of conflict in this current season, the perspective changes your thoughts, challenges powerless faith, and realigns your prayers to become truly powerful and effective (James 5:1).

In my last post I shared how I sensed that the “Church” began to move into a new season, the Kingdom Era, here on earth. This dispensation of the Kingdom will include the fulfilment of passages such as Hebrews 2:4, Acts 4:30, Acts 14:13, & Mark 16:17-18 just to mention a few. However, the demonic realm also unleashed its weaponry to defeat the church and hold it captive. And this is what I believe has also occurred in the last couple of years.

Witchcraft through blood sacrifice and unholy covenants spoken by covens and sorcerers all over America and all western nations has stirred up an assignment of division. This is a Principality that has been released with a specific mission to divide and destroy. Its purpose is to fulfill one of the three main ministry arms of the devil; to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). It is intent to destroy any possible unification of the church, it is relentless to destroy any and all Godly identity, and to further destroy the centrality of the Kingdom which is family and marriage.

Duh! Like you didn’t already know this. But what you may not perceive is the devices the devil is using to make this happen.

Offense.

And the playground of this principality: ALL social media platforms.

The attacks are proficiently active on social media. I think that you can catch it in operation almost hour-by-hour when opening up a social media app or flicking on the news. Although I’ve seen it in churches within leadership, I see it in companies and in schools. How about our governments? Ugh!

Let me be clear here. This is a direct assault via witchcraft upon the land. And right now I see little response from the Kingdom of God. In fact, the people of God are the main targets of this black, slippery eel that nips at your nose and will lead you along until, wham, you gulped down the bait and you are tagged and bagged.

The enemy is doing everything within it’s power to cause believers to become offended. Satan broadcasts lies, scenes of hate, inflated accusations and more to cause a reaction. The enemy works relentlessly in Facebook posts, groups and messages. Twitter is a blaze with the political spirit and fueled by offense. Television, magazines, the pulpit???? Every platform where Christians gather, there is likely an assignment of the enemy and in many cases ,a real live person who is a witch, fueling the conversation and looking for a reaction. And a reaction fueled by offense quickly spirals into anger and then into hatred. It can happen so fast you don’t even know what hit you. (BTW, I’ve seen witches in church services, it’s a for real thing. I will get a pounding headache when witchcraft is active.)

However, again, I will state clearly that 75% of our victory in spiritual warfare is awareness. You are now aware. Now here is the remaining 25% to help you catch yourself and keep yourself from offense.

Several years ago, when I was learning and reading books about offense, I became very intentional in my life to start to catch myself when I felt the sting or anger of an offense rising up in me. Any area of offense is ungodly. ANY AREA. So, I would immediately realize the feeling of offense. With great determination, I would take my feelings in prayer to the Lord and then surrender, ask for forgiveness, and seek the Lord to help me navigate the situation/interaction/words with this person or persons. I would seek the Lord for HIS truthful explanations in the situation, even asking Him to show me where I failed in the scenario and where others failed. (I wrote a great deal about recovering from emotional wounding and escaping offense a few years ago. Here is a link to the first post: OFFENDED

I realize that people do things that hurt us, that are ugly, black, and from the pit-of-hell, evil. But I also know that these offenses by others are often occupied by demons of unforgiveness and bitterness. And these two actors open the door for oppression. I don’t want to be ruled by demonic lies. So, I willingly take my hurts, offenses, sins against me to my Father. I surrender them. I FORGIVE THE PERSON. I receive the healing forgiveness of Jesus and ask the Lord to help me make things as right as they can be. Restoration is broad and looks different for each situation. This is not an easy process but necessary. For more recovery tips, read the post mentioned above.

It’s time church.

We have the mind of Christ. We can choose to refuse to be offended. We can choose to stop going to places and people who stir you up. AND you can pray. Our prayers can absolutely defeat the witchcraft, the demonic realm and destroy every assignment of the devil. I know emphatically this is true.

We MUST stop playing the game. Immediately when you feel offense rising, shut it off, take it to the cross, seek forgiveness and ask the Lord for full restoration. When we stop being offended by one another this GREAT, BIG GIANT CHANCE for unity might really happen. It must start with the church.

We can be an activist. We can stand for what we believe. We can express our views in many different aspects and forums. I believe the Lord desires this of His people, but we must live above annoyance, offense, and the hatred of the world.

Because:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. —John 13:35

And this kind of love will change a spouse, a house, a region, light revival, unify the church and usher in the greatest era of the Kingdom of God….. Heaven on Earth!!!

HALLELUJAH!

On Friday, I want to share some specifics about conflict resolution based on Matthew 18. On down the road we will look at how we develop a culture of honor. How we honor one another when we don’t agree. We will look at restitution vs. punishment and more.

Monday's Question: Who is brave enough to share how offense happened in your life and how the Lord helped you to escape?

LOVE YOU, Lynn


#fingerprintrevelations

Hey SUMnation! Tiffany here.

Some of you have heard me talk about this unique journey that the Lord has me on right now with my job. I shared this on the SUM sisters in Christ group on Facebook but wanted to reach out and share here as some of you (especially the men) may have questions about what I do as a job and how God is gifting me for ministry. I wanted to give you a quick snap shot into where I spend 40 hours a week and when my heart is prepped right and my mind focusing on the Lord I am given insight that can only come from the Holy Spirit.

 

FPWelcome to my fingerprinting station (picture left). There are two other girls that I work with in my office and we each have our own computer/desk and our own fingerprint station. For the most part my day is split between this view and the view of my desk and computer. This machine has become my "buddy" over the last year. We spend a lot of time together. Maybe I should name it. ::grin:: I have to say I have done a lot of contemplating and talking with the Lord here. In thinking of Moses and the burning bush...if I had the ability to take my shoes off here...I would. This is holy ground. Before I begin to sound sacrilegious I will continue the tour and you will see why I feel this way.

FP2Step on up to the machine! I tried to capture this as best as possible but just imagine this view from your own eyes (picture right).When I fingerprint people we are up close and personal so to speak. The customer stands in front of the fingerprinting machine called Livescan and I stand to the left of the machine. I use gloves during the time of fingerprinting someone but I essentially am holding hands with each person I print. I wish I could tell you how or when this started but my first conscious recollection was feeling a tingling sensation in my hands when fingerprinting someone when I first started doing this job over 2 years ago. I didn't understand at the time. There wasn't any actual guiding from the Holy Spirit at that point just a realization that this feeling in my hands was different than I'd ever experienced before. Eventually I had caught on that it wasn't with everyone I printed and so in the secret of my mind I would pray for those people.

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Placing hand on the Livescan brings a digital print onto the screen

I began to be amazed at how much a stranger would open up to someone like me - a fingerprinter who spends maybe 10 or 15 minutes with you. The crazy thing is they had no idea that I was willing to pray for them and yet the Holy Spirit would open up this close space and meet us there. Where 2 or more are gathered together in Jesus' name - He is there. In doing this job (please let me know if this is not biblically sound) I am beginning to feel as though the where 2 or more are gathered together in His name doesn't have to mean consciously. I mean look at our community. Some of our spouses are willing to allow us to gather together in Jesus name - when our spouses let us pray over them and with them. But, for those of you who have to be more secretive about your prayer life because of hostile spouses - when you intercede on their behalf and they are in the room...my friends...Jesus still shows up whether they know it or not! As I have grown and matured (though only a small amount) in my job I have begun to view this as a ministry. When people open up it could be as simple as they need fingerprinted because they just got a new job that requires a background check. It can also be as complicated and broken as a man getting fingerprinted for a step-parent adoption. He married the love of his life who happened to be a sex abuse victim in her teens from her step-father (close to home or what??). Cancer and chemo. Military veteran who was having a second surgery on his shoulder. Widows. Gender-identity confused individuals. A man with a tattoo behind his ear with the number 666 and cartoonish devil horns and tail. Sex offenders who have been convicted of some really atrocious things. I could go on and on...and that is just from either conversation that was opened up or earthly (physical) observation/knowledge.

I have seen some really amazing things during this fascinating season of work but I have to be completely honest with you. I am sure you can relate when ministering to others that it can be really exhausting. You know that God has called you to help and has brought people into your life that you are supposed to pour into and be a light and example to...to train up and disciple...to intercede for - even for just a moment in time. It is so hard to be vulnerable because it opens up your heart to rejoice and mourn with those around you (Romans 12:15). In the past having issues with depression and anxiety I often times get overwhelmed and it is almost like a defense mechanism goes off inside of me and it says - back away, you aren't equipped to handle this. I get in slumps where I think if I avoid God than He won't ask me to do it anymore. I know this is ugly and wrong. I am the only one (that I know of...it's not like I talk to fingerprinters other than my co-workers) equipped to THIS calling. I have to press in and keep fighting. I have to keep leaning in to the Father who has gifted me for such a time as this and such a WAY as this. I have to stand in the gap for those who come my way because I may be the ONLY one who will.

I've gone a little longer than anticipated and so I want to stop here but next time I will continue on with this #fingerprintrevelations story. So much more to share as God allows. I want to talk about the amazing post and work from Libby recently.

In the comments, can you share some tips that help you overcome the heavy burden of ministering to others? Any Bible verse(s) that keep you going? Also, how has God positioned you in your own specific, unique, and powerful way to minister to those around you everyday?

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

--Isaiah 43:19


Men Stuff ... Part 2

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mage courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ian here again. Firstly, thank you for your engagement in the first of this occasional series of posts. I loved seeing the discussion and responding to the comments that were made.

I hadn’t planned on writing another such post so soon but the universe conspired (ie the power of 3 made me sit up and take notice) to bring some thoughts to bear that I thought might serve as a useful discussion. Firstly, I was chatting with a couple of wise men last week and we were particularly discussing how men communicate. Secondly, we’re all aware of the #metoo dialogue that has had significant airplay over the past few months. I recently read a fascinating article written by a bloke who explored how this predatory side of men had evolved and finally, one of my favourite authors, Tim Winton (an Aussie National Treasure) released his latest novel that explores the “toxic state of masculinity”.

I’m going to try to stick to the topic of communication but there are so many contributing factors that play a part in impacting how we communicate (both men and women) that I may touch on some of them.

Who Made Us

I’ve always found it fascinating that we often generalize between genders by saying women are more naturally better communicators. And in my experience I’d say that is a reasonable truism. But what is interesting is we all have been made in the image of a very relational Triune God. It’s inherent in His nature. And we’ve been made in His image: a God who passionately loves to communicate with His creation. So why do so many men, well perhaps, more significantly women, struggle with how we blokes communicate?

Brevity

When I was in my twenties and married, my common response to the question “How was your day, dear?” was typically single worded: “Okay,” “Fine” or “Good.”

I’d head off to change and after doing that would be back and was now home and it was time to talk about something else. Sound familiar?

It frustrated my wife no end.

I was reminded of this when one of those wise men expressed the view that often men appear a little “numb” when it comes to expressing how they feel. And this drives our ladies crazy, as you want to get inside and understand the how and what your man thinks and feels.

Think with our Heads

Because of the way we’ve generally been raised we weren’t taught to share how we felt. Put aside all the bloke-ish ‘man up’, ‘boys don’t cry’ talk, we typically talked about what we saw, what we did, what we learnt, etc. Yes, we would often be asked “what we enjoyed” but once again we described it in terms of what we accomplished and such. So we may not have got to really discuss why we might be feeling happy or sad and what was behind those feelings.

Often our fathers had been raised through the same style of communicating. There has been a lack of good role modeling and mentoring for boys and young men, probably for generations, which has perpetrated the shaming language of boys don’t cry, don’t show fear and so on. So notions of gentleness, compassion and kindness (yes, yes, the fruits of the Spirit) have been labeled as soft traits that a strong man shouldn’t show.

This Winton novel I’m reading “The Shepherd’s Hut” provides a severe example of what happens to a young boy who is treated badly by an abusive father. He struggles to express himself well and as an escape has moments where he explodes because he isn’t sure how he should respond, doesn’t know what the right words are for how he is feeling and life for him is reflected by violence and ignorance.

Men mostly learnt to think with our heads. And emotions were something we experienced but would often struggle to understand why we were feeling a particular emotion at any point in time. It wasn’t important to us when we related with mates or work colleagues.

But it did become important when we started to get serious about a girl. However, we still would often lack the know how of how to express our feelings.

We get married and life goes on.

Interesting, I believe this cycle is changing as we see more and more younger men grappling with emotions a lot more these days for a variety of reasons, eg, more attentive fathers, family breakups. 

Remember the mission

Our work or purpose dominates us and even though we might be starving for deeper connection we simply keep on keeping on. With life. With our purpose. And admitting that we might need that deeper connection can be terrifying too. But we still relegate relationships behind our mission.

As discussed last time often it’s when something goes awry with our purpose/job that all of a sudden we begin to sense those pesky emotions.

What’s the Answer?

Interestedly, a post a couple of months ago now by Lynn’s hubby, Mike, provided tremendous insights. This statement particularly grabbed me: “Also, be intentional to understand who he is and what is important to him.” Listening, more than talking. (you've probably all heard the old “we’ve been given 2 ears and 1 mouth and that should reflect how we communicate”)

Something I’ve found is invaluable to a good marriage (and I’ve learnt from hard experience) is for both husband and wife to be actively interested in each other’s vocation. If it is the enemy then there will always be tension. Get engaged in talking about the people your bloke works with, some of the decisions he has to make and how he arrived at it. Allowing each other to de-brief at the end of a day is both soothing and practically helpful. My wife is working overseas at present but we make sure we talk on FaceTime twice a day to allow each of us to de-brief each other’s days. 

And pray. Pray some more. For great Christian men to come into your man’s life. We all need a Paul and a Timothy, a great mentor and someone we can take under our wing.

What about My Sons?

Allow them to hurt, to cry, to enjoy hugs from both mom and dad. Don’t shame them for expressing emotions. I heard Tim Winton speak two weeks ago and he said this beautiful thing about boys: they’re all born gentle and tender but somewhere along the way they lose that. Why?

One of the strongest impressions I have of Jesus is His gentleness. With Mary of Bethany, the woman caught in adultery, washing His disciples feet, allowing John to lounge on Him at the Last Supper. Jesus, is our Saviour and Lord but also our role model. He asks us everyday to “Come, follow Me.”

Sorry. I’ve gone on for too long even though there's so much more that could be said.

I do hope this has been of some use. I’m always a bit nervous about writing such posts as I can only share from my experience. And as always please do share what’s on your heart in the comments. 

Grace and peace, dear friends.


Choosing to Remember

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Image courtesy of Supertrooper at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m fascinated by how often we allow sweeping generalizations to satisfy us. One area we often use them is in comparing the sexes. How often do we hear the statements of the ilk, “Women are more relational,” and “Men need time in their caves”? I know I’ve been guilty of believing and saying the first one. I heard the second one in a sermon yesterday; however, I’m not a great believer in it as I think the cave notion for men is often a form of escape. Positive, yes. But not always.

A Relational God 

The more I read the Word and especially spend time in Genesis understanding the ramifications of the Fall I’m amazed how relational God is. The mystery of the trinity in its most basic form is relational: 3-in-1. And how God walked in the garden communing with Adam and Eve is such a wonderful picture to imagine.

Being created in His image; He breathed His life force into us (Genesis 2:7) and so we all were made relational beings. 

Adam’s Silence

Men are often silent. How often, ladies, is the simple question to your hubby at the end of the day, “How was you day, dear?” answered with “Fine”? I know I’ve used that response many times. And been brought to account the majority of times for using it. However, its only as I’ve grown older that I’ve been able to better understand the state of my feelings and be able to provide a better response. 

I read recently that the word “male” in Hebrew is “zakar” and one of its meanings is “to remember.”

“It means first that we have something important to remember; second, it suggests we have a reason to remember.”1

Crabb goes on to state: “We are the remembering ones. We are created to remember the words of God and the works of God.”2

I think we’re all familiar with the notion that it was Adam who received the specific instruction from God not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The crafty enemy chose to tempt Eve, but Adam was “with her” and elected to do nothing. He chose to forget God’s instruction. He chose the passive option of silence.

Some commentators believe this was the beginning of man’s willingness to choose silence over remembering God.

The Lord’s Supper

Perhaps the most well known statement of remembrance in the Bible is when, on the night before He was crucified, Jesus institutes the Lord’s supper. On breaking the bread and sharing it with each of the disciples, He says “… do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19 NKJV)

We have a sacramental ceremony of remembrance. I love communion for this reason: I cannot not think about what Jesus did for us. 

Fascinating how only hours after sharing such an intimate moment with Jesus, the disciples chose to forget and abandoned him, terrified that they too would meet the same fate.

Sinful choices are a choice to ‘not remember’ how much God loves us and is enough. Choosing to remember helps to resist temptation when it strikes. This is why I find memorization of Scripture so powerful; it helps me remember. It helps us to “walk in the Spirit” rather than choosing to “walk in the flesh.”

Knowledge empowers us

The more we know the Word, the greater understanding we gain of God, His mission and how we can participate. It also opens our eyes to “stuff” that we may have accepted as being “normal” and the way God made us when in fact it may be more a reflection of how we have evolved as humans.

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledgeto knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7 NKJV)

Further, look at the attribute that comes immediately after knowledge: self-control. Knowing God and His Word helps us to exercise self-control so we can resist temptation to sin.

Grace and peace, dear friends.

Notes: 1. The Silence of Adam. Dr Larry Crabb with Don Hudson and Al Andrews; Zondervan, 1995, pg 79. 2. Ibid, pg 81


Change of Seasons

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Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We hit winter last week. Here in Australia, winter officially starts 1 June. We've had a mild autumn (or 'fall' for you North American folks) and it's only in the last two weeks when the temperature at night has fallen below ten degrees celsius. I typically enjoy winter as here in Sydney it's mostly mild and relatively dry. 

As I’ve grown older I’ve come to appreciate our lives, like the weather, can be full of different seasons. Typically, a new season starts when there’s a change in our circumstances. Generally, the new season comes about through some major change.

What I find interesting about such new seasons is the impact they can have on our conversations and areas of interest.

For the first time in our almost 25 years together, both my wife and I are not working in the Corporate world. We met, came to know each other and fell in love as employees of Big Business. I’ve been out of full time Corporate life for a few years now but Fiona recently elected to take some time out due to a couple of particularly difficult years with her employers.

Conversation starters

Interestingly but not surprisingly, much of our conversation involved business, Fi’s work, her challenges, employees, bosses and so on. And now for the past few months that part of our conversation has ceased.

Our sons are now young men, the eldest is married and now a dad, and I’ve noticed once again that in the past few years the boys don’t feature as much in our conversations. There are no longer the day-to-day happenings that fill a conversation.

We’re almost empty nesters, our youngest stays with us on weekends, and I see now why many couples can struggle once the children leave home. A new season of life requires new conversations.

Unprepared

The full extent of the changes a new season brings on can rarely be planned. Yes, we were able to plan for the reduced income, adjustment to morning routines and other physical aspects associated with the change. But such things as our conversations were harder to pre-empt.

Even though the physical changes are immediate, the ‘under-the-surface’ ones, like new conversations, can take a little longer to be discovered. Sometimes they become apparent as a result of unwelcome emotions.

We bumped into ours last week. And it was my grumpiness that initiated it. We’d had a few situations over a series of days where I’d got snappy about certain things and I had sensed in myself dissatisfaction about “stuff”. And then I brought it to ahead as I never enjoy it when things are strained between us.

Bring it into the light

We had a wonderful conversation about just that: the change in our conversation. Well, it took a little while to get to the “wonderful” but it was one of those wide-ranging chats that ended very positively. We shared the loss we are both grieving (hey, we both acknowledged “we still love the business world”) and recognized the need to add fresh content. 

I feel very fortunate that even though we might have disparate views on our individual purpose in life, Fi and I are able to actively engage in sharing what’s on our heart and constructively move forward. 

What we initiated the other day has provided fresh impetus and has enabled us to keep discussing what this new season has in store for us. 

How do you manage a change in seasons in your relationship or simply a change in your conversation? Be lovely to start a discussion where we can encourage each other in our various situations. 

Grace and peace dear SUMite friends,


Broadening our Horizons

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Image courtesy of namakuki at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Being a SUMITE is full of interesting conundrums that can at times lead to much discouragement. One of these conundrums is our commitment to various Christian communities. I use the plural here to reflect both the church we attend plus other relationships (one-on-one and group) that we may partake in.

As we’ve discussed before, sometimes our commitments can have a significant impact on our partners. Frustration, discouragement, isolation and sheer anger are some of the feelings our partners experience. These emotions naturally flow into our marriages and can cause our partners and us much stress. 

Lack of Interest

A common refrain we often hear from our partners is a lack of interest in our faith journey. So our church attendance, content shared at meetings, etc just aren’t of interest. There’s a chunk of our lives that is pivotal to us that our partners are not really interested in.

A natural flow on to this is that our partners may not enthusiastically support us in developing friendships with Christian couples, even though we may be keen to do so.

Is this something you’ve found? 

It’s another trick of the enemy. For whatever reason it’s part of the continuing blindfold that he places over our pre-believing partners eyes.

This results in the ongoing conundrum of doing life in our Christian communities in isolation to some extent. Certainly we can walk side-by-side with individuals but so much of life is done in a coupled environment, especially as we get older. 

Christian bubble

We can get caught in up in a lifestyle where all the people we associate with and conversations and so on are all Christian related. My wife raised this with me the other day. It concerns her because a big chunk of my life doesn’t involve and/or interest her. 

And I get it. So much of my time, people, books I read, the study and (at present) vocation, are to do with my faith.

So how do we ensure we don’t unknowingly ostracize our partner?

Fix our eyes on Jesus

Huh? 

But aren’t I saying I’m doing too much of that?

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God…” (Hebrews 12: 1b-2 MSG)

Jesus spent a lot of time with His disciples but we also see how much time He spent in the world. He didn’t hang around in a Christian bubble, He went out amongst the people and associated with people that many in church frowned upon: the lepers, the prostitutes, etc.

Further, Jesus will provide us with the wisdom and discernment in our discussions with our partners and in the steps we take to manage this challenge.

It goes without saying that we also need to prioritise our time with our partners. Recently my church held its annual conference and I felt it best to not physically attend so I could be present with my wife. Yes, there were times I popped onto the live internet feed but I had discussed this with her ahead of time.

I’m not sure what changes I’ll make but I’m appreciative that my wife shared her concern and it has stimulated an ongoing dialogue about it and how we can manage a balance that both glorifies the Lord and help honor our marriage in the process.

How do you and your partner manage this balance?

Please leave your thoughts as I hope we can stimulate a really positive discussion on a tricky and at times contentious subject.

Grace and peace dear friends,


Guest Post: Perceptions by Dee Rusnak

Happy New Year, SUMites! So good to be back with you! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas filled with special moments of delight and love. I'm so glad my daughters and son-in-love were with us this year. Our Christmas was busy and fun!

As we walk into 2017 together, my friends, I want to encourage you to press into your relationship with God even deeper, to sit with Him quietly and begin asking Him what He wants to do and be for you in 2017. This is a great way to get ready for our praying and fasting next week.

I keep hearing God say, "I want to do something different." I don't fully understand what that is yet, as I've been very distracted with the holidays and family, but I'm trusting He will show me. I'm so ready for "different"! How about you?

Here's a wonderful post by our very own Dee Rusnak (thank you, Dee!) to help us reflect upon the lens we're looking through and ask God for wisdom and alignment with His lens. I love you, SUMites! And I'm walking expectantly into 2017 with you. ~Dineen

Perception
by Dee Rusnak

Dee and Jerry“Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:2-5

There’s a commercial on television for a product that can reduce the effects of a migraine headache. The mother in this piece wants desperately to understand what her daughter suffers during her migraine. Hence, the makers of this product developed a virtual reality simulation of a migraine and placed the device over the mother’s eyes so she, too, can experience what her daughter endures. Understanding immediately consumed this mother’s heart as she finally saw what her daughter sees, and her daughter was filled with great relief. Mom gets it. “How much better it is to acquire wisdom than gold; to acquire understanding is more desirable than silver.” Proverbs 16:16

I, too, have suffered with ocular (or visual) migraines since I was 13, which went undiagnosed until I was in my late 40’s. That is when I returned to the workforce and they became more frequent. I mentioned it to my family doctor who said, “Oh, I get those. They’re visual migraines.” What??? I did some investigating online and what I found was astounding. Much like the mother in the commercial, I saw on my screen the actual pictures of what I see during my migraine episodes. I learned what triggers them and what to avoid to deter them. Sharing this with my family finally brought understanding to all of us. We get it. “Wisdom is of utmost importance, therefore get wisdom, and with all your effort work to acquire understanding.” Proverbs 4:7

Being misunderstood is quite frustrating and causes division. No matter how much we try to explain, people still don’t get it and can be coldly dismissive. We’re not much better. We expect certain responses and judge others for failing to live up to them. But, God doesn’t ask us to pray to be understood. He asks us to pray to understand…understand Him and others. In his book Love and Respect, (you gotta read this book!) Dr. Emerson Eggerichs explains when God created men and women, He wired us differently and gave us distinctive roles. We both can experience, see, and hear the same situation, yet are at odds as to what we perceive. We each have our own lenses and grow angry because the other person is coming from the opposite pole. We fail to want to see the whole picture, to go see it from their side. Once we begin to understand this fundamental principle, then a light begins to shine. Oh, now I think I get it. “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” Proverbs 14:29

Because we and our pre-believing spouses are unequal spiritually, the condition becomes more complex. As we try to talk to them about Jesus or His Word or anything about God, to them we are talking gibberish. We want so desperately for them to see what we see, but their lenses are still very much distorted and they cannot comprehend without God’s intervention. When my grandkids were toddlers, they often spoke unintelligibly and demanded that I repeat what they said, confirming they were understood. More often than not they cried out in frustration because I wasn’t getting it. I had to quickly set aside all logic and enter their world to see things as they see them. Perhaps we need to do the same for our spouses. What's more, we were once where they are. I get where they are. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

Removing my glasses and making the effort to see through someone else’s lenses is what the Lord has been teaching me this season. Not only wanting to see their side of things, but God’s perception of it as well. The Lord isn’t asking me to ditch my glasses, but merely trying on someone else’s, helping me to meet them where they are. After all, how often has God met me with His grace, patience and love to bring me into His understanding? Often this effort can result in correcting my own vision, causing me to see things more clearly. In addition, attempting to understand another’s perspective commonly initiates that same effort from the other person. Let’s help each other get it. “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” 2 Timothy 2:7

Understanding is a tremendously blessed relief. That is why God refers to it as “better than gold.” Our world today certainly needs it, as do our households. We seek God first, for there is no better wisdom than from Him. He will give us the discernment to understand what appears confusing, and give us direction on how to proceed. Imagine how many chasms can be narrowed, walls dismantled, and divisions eliminated if we only make the attempt to try to see things from someone else’s perception.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” Ephesians 1:17

Dee Rusnak and her husband, both retired, live in Westerville, Ohio. They have three grown sons and four adorable grandchildren (with another on the way this summer)!


Foundations Series: GOD'S LOVE

God's love is complete. Jesus made sure of that at the cross. So if God did that in order to love us that way, why would He be angry with us or withhold His goodness from us? Something to think about. The truth always turns the lie upside down.
Love you, my friends!
Dineen


How do you "hear God? (part 3)

IStock_000001262149XSmallMy friends, in light of some of the questions generated by my post yesterday, Lynn and I swapped days so I can address some of those today, specifically the mention of fortune cookies. 

First, I want you to know that my heart is for every one of you to walk in deep intimacy with God and hear His voice clearly. I want His very best for you, because I love you so much and we are family. And having that kind of relationship with God makes all the difference in our lives and especially our marriages. When we put God first, He brings order and peace to our lives even in the midst of the storms in our lives and marriages. I know I would not have the marriage I have today had I not made the decision twenty plus years ago to put God first.

But I want to clarify something. My relationship with God and how I hear Him has come from years of studying His Word, sitting under the teaching of trusted leaders, Stephen Ministry and healing rooms training, and, most importantly, a daily commitment to spend time in His presence in prayer, reading the Bible and worship. At this point in my faith journey, this can be an hour or more daily. Usually as much as two hours or more at times. This is what God has called me to do.

I'm not sharing this to brag, but to help you understand the foundation I've built with God to discern and recognize His voice. Along with my continual heart cry to know Him better, I've asked Him to keep me from being deceived in any way. 

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. — Psalms 32:8

So if I seemed casual about the fortune cookie discussion, please understand I am very careful about things like this. When I am in doubt, I am quick to seek God for wisdom or confirmation. If it doesn’t line up with God’s Word, then it’s not truth and needs to be discarded and ignored. Especially if you are just starting on this path, it’s even more important to be filling and transforming your mind with God’s Word. 

As I replied to Taylor, my goal was to generate some conversation so we could cover those "gray" areas. I think it's important that we carefully guard our minds and hearts. Anything that can create an open door for the enemy needs to be avoided. That is something each of us has to decide for ourselves, with the leading of the Holy Spirit, as we have similar and different areas of vulnerability.

The message Tiffany's shared clearly spoke the truth of Phil 4:19 to her heart, that God would provide for her every need. She received this in the light of the truth Jesus, and what she knew to be true biblically. The confirmations I received were for moves already in place that I knew God had set in place. It was like a love nod from God saying, "you're on the right track!" 

Some things are very clearly not of God, and we can make a clear decision. Other times it’s important that we take it right to Abba and ask for clarity, confirmation, or conviction. And His answer will always be filled with His love and direction, not condemnation (Romans 8:1). Even Jesus did this.

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” — John 5:30

This is why it's so important that we are constantly reading our Bibles and spending time with God. Our spiritual foundation needs to be strong so that we know the difference between God's voice and the enemy’s.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. — Isaiah 30:21

My friends, Lynn will continue her story about her mother next Tuesday and as this post is long already, I will save my story for next Thursday. Please keep sharing how you are hearing God. The are wonderful and so encouraging! I find myself nodding as I read them and saying, “yes, yes!” SUMites, you are amazing. I know it’s challenging being the spiritual leaders in our homes, which requires us to be more diligent, but look at how much you are growing and living stronger in your faith. God is so faithful!

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. — 1 Cor 16:13-14
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How do you "hear God? (part 2)

IStock_000014889792XSmallWhen I opened my email early this morning, one of the first headlines I read was an article on Spirit Led Woman, entitled "Why You May Not Recognize God Speaking to You." I had to smile—one, because here we are talking about the very same,-much needed subject, and two, because I recognized God speaking to me indirectly at that very moment in what I like to call "a confirmation."

How so? Here's the path to this recognition:

  1. I always pray and ask Holy Spirit to tell me what I need to write about for our blog based upon what YOU, our readers need. His leading reminded me of this exercise He'd led me to just weeks earlier, which started with a Scriptural instruction from the Bible.
  2. Yesterday Lynn and I discussed the need for more teaching on this subject and decided that in May we would make this one of the topics we will cover in four one hour online teaching seminars we've already had in the works. (More information and sign-up details to come so stay tuned! We are so excited about launching this!)
  3. Then I see this article on Spirit Led Woman. Thank You, Lord, for Your leading!

By experience, I've learned to recognize this kind of confirmation as following God's lead for the universal church. Last year, His leading was focused on knowing His love. This year seems to be starting off with a clear message about knowing His voice. The Holy Spirit, Who connects us all is communicating the Father's heart in a broad spectrum for His children to hear.

And this is just one way of communication. Over the last few weeks God has used the following ways to communicate with me:

•His still small voice

•Scripture

•The counsel of a trusted friend

•Several devotionals 

•Ian's post about Lent

•Your comments on our blog

•A song on K-LOVE (a single line carried the same message I felt God impress upon my heart that morning.

•Waking up with a particular song repeating in my mind (this usually tells me what God wants me to focus on that day)

•A dream in answer to a prayer for specific wisdom and insight

•A prophetic word confirmed by the "coming soon" sign in the front yard of my CA house.

And there are even more that I could draw upon from past events and experiences. In the Bible you will see God communicating through dreams, visions, animals, rainbows, people, and more. Very often these come in combinations. For example, I will sense God's heart in my morning quiet time, telling me something specific. Then I will get a devotional or an email from a friend on that very same topic. Then on Sunday, my pastor will speak on the very same subject.

Sometimes it can be very clear to us, like a friend reaching out saying God put us on their heart and they just want us to know they're praying for us. What they don't know is that very morning we cried out to God for help because something in our life has just fallen apart. Can you relate?

Or you sense God leading you in a direction to do something that is way out of your comfort zone. Then suddenly the training, the invitation, or the steps to move forward are presented to you in an undeniable way that you know deep in your spirit that is the next step.

Lynn has shared how Mylar balloons have shown up for her and even her husband with a word so specific you just can't miss it! Tiffany shared on my Tuesday post about fortune cookie messages, which I've experienced too. (God has confirmed every one of our major moves with a cookie message. I just giggle and enjoy God’s ways.)

God has even used feathers for many of us. Sometimes these can push the boundaries of what we are comfortable with, but nothing is off limits for God to use. However, it is up to us to test what we hear and discern against the truth of God’s Word, to prayerfully consider and ask God for confirmation if we’re unsure, and to discern the source (spirit) of the word as Scripture tells us (1 John 4:1). 

The most important key to hearing God's voice, my friends, is your relationship with Him. Our intimacy with God is what opens our eyes, ears, heart and spirit to discerning, hearing and recognizing when He is speaking to us. Thus the more we seek to know Him and spend time with Him, the more you will hear Him and recognize when He is speaking because of the past experiences you are building upon.

Our daily time with Him isn't about fulfilling a duty. It's about building a relationship with our Father God, our best friend Jesus, our comforter Holy Spirit so that we KNOW Him, recognize His presence and voice, and can follow and receive from Him. 

We won't get this perfect every time. It's a trial and error learning process for sure. And thus why I so diligently (and vocally) express the importance of journaling. But it is worth the effort, my dear friends. At one dark point in this shoulder recovery the Holy Spirit told me to reread my journal. I did and was reminded of all the things God had spoken to me recently and was greatly encouraged.

I hope you’ll share in the comments how God has been speaking to you these last two days AND continue to keep a log for a couple of weeks—I have a feeling Abba is going to give you some very special words and confirmations that will increase your faith to hear more. 

Next week I will share a couple stories of how God used imagery to show me very specific details for a person I was praying for. Trust me, this blew my mind completely, yet the facts were undeniable…

And now, SUMites, let’s pray. Father God, we are Your SUMites and we stand humbly before You with a burning hunger and desire to hear and see You more. Lord, You created us to be in an intimate relationship with You, to walk in friendship with You as Abraham did. You created our senses to perceive not just the natural but the supernatural as well. Give us eyes and ears to see and hear You. Increase our faith, Lord, to hear and recognize Your holy voice, presence and intervention more and more. We love You, Lord Jesus! Thank You for sitting at the right hand of the Father and interceding for us every moment. We are so grateful. Lift our hearts, minds, and spirit to the heavenly realms so we are focused on You. In the name of Jesus, amen!

Love you, my friends. So much. Praying for you!
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How do you "hear" God?

41250080_sOver the last several weeks I’ve been following along with the Lenten reading on Margaret Feinberg’s site that Ian shared with us. I feel like I’m taking a walk with Luke through his testimony of his time with Jesus and what happened after the cross. It's a fascinating way to follow the progression of events. Thank you for the recommendation, Ian!

What I want to share with you today is one verse in particular that a stopped me in my reading and became an assignment I gave myself and a few dear friends. It’s a verse I know I’ve read many times, but you know how that happens, when a verse just grabs you, one know you’ve read many a time but in that moment, Holy Spirit is saying, “pay attention to this!”?

And He literally meant “pay attention…”

“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” — Luke 8:18 NLT

The ESV translations reads like this:

Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away. — Luke 8:18

The first part of this verse about paying attention to how you hear God kind of surprised me, because I think most of us would express some kind of frustration or concern about hearing God. I know I have. Did I hear Him correctly? Was that Him or was that me I heard? Or we question the method or venue, wondering if God would actually communicate with us in such a way. How about you?

My friends, you know me well enough by now to know that I’m going to dig into the Greek and Hebrew meanings of words, and I did just that. As usual this one small verse holds some very fascinating gems.

The Greek word for pay attention or take care is blepō and has a long list of general meanings, such as to turn the thoughts or direct the mind to a thing, to consider, contemplate, to look at, to weigh carefully, examine. This is wise instruction for us, of course, but the one that stood our for me was to discover by use, to know by experience. The “how” part.

Over the last several years as I’ve gone deeper with God, I’ve discovered there are so many ways that God communicates with us. And sometimes I think He changes things up so we continue to seek and depend upon Him for His leading and learn more about Him and His ways. Which brings to mind another AMAZING verse:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. — Proverbs 3:5-6

But let’s go back to that meaning, to discover by use, to know by experience—the how. The “assignment” I felt Holy Spirit impressing upon me was to keep a log of all the ways I hear God. That’s exactly what this verse is telling us to do—to pay attention to how we hear God. Not just to the what, but to the how. The amazing this is, the more you pay attention the more you will discover other ways God is speaking to you as you experience communication with Him.

For the last several weeks I’ve simply jotted down when I heard something from God, and how He communicated it with me. It’s been a fascinating observation.

My dear SUM family, I’d like to give this assignment to you. For at least a week, simply note each time you feel God has spoken to you and how He did so. It can be something you hear, read, see, feel, smell, taste, sense, or just know. And can even be a combination of these too. On Thursday I will share some of the ways I’ve sensed and heard God speaking to me. And I hope you’ll share some of yours too!

So how about it? Are you in? Leave me a comment so I can pray for you to have “eyes to see and ears to hear” everything our precious Lord wants to tell you! And have fun, my friends! God loves to speak to us! 

Love you and praying for you every day, my SUM family!
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Copyright: neyro2008 / 123RF Stock Photo


Let's Talk About Lies

Greetings My SUM Family, 

My heart has received such encouragement and joy from your words and prayers on Monday. God has worked out some amazing things in this difficult time. We are now moving forward. I’m excited to see what the Lord has for my son and our family. 

I Heart you! 

DonotlieToday however, I want to talk about lies. In the last month I’ve had to deal a lot with lies and deception. And what I’ve learned is how easily lies can trip and flow from lips. Fortunately for me God has given me a powerful discernment when someone is lying to me. I quickly recognize when I’m not getting the full or correct story. It’s like a spiritual gut check and I immediately know some things are just not right. 

My daughter has even said to her friends, in front of me, “I never lie to my mom. She ALWAYS finds out.” Well, I don’t know if she has never told me a lie but most of the time we have a very honest and open relationship. I have given her permission to tell me anything, no matter how horrible, and I will not get angry or punish her. I’ve promised that if she is honest I would want to approach the problem with full truth and would help her through it. Same goes with my son and husband. 

I also know that so many people don’t have this kind of trust. And so many of us were raised in environments where lying seemed the only way to keep yourself safe or out of trouble. So we learned as youngsters to lie to keep the peace. We lie to save ourselves from pain and difficulty. 

But, as believers we must step into God’s calling for us. He is a God of truth. Lies are from the enemy. 

So today can we be honest here? Can we have a real conversation of how we escape a lifestyle of lies? Can we ask the question is a white lie really a lie? Is it possible to break a lifetime of deceit and live in truth and peace? 

My friends, I have some thoughts to share on how I’ve escaped lies. For example, the phone rings. My husband says, “I’m not home.” I answer the phone and say hello. The caller asks for Mike. What do I reply? 

Do I say, “He’s not here?” Does it matter?? 

I would be really interested to hear someone’s story that grew up in a household where everyone lies to one another. I’ve come to realize this is actually common in family dynamics. And if you are in this kind of dynamic and want to stop the cycle of lies, will someone who has had victory in this area, PLEASE HELP US. What did you do? 

I’m looking forward to some great comments of wisdom and help. There is NO judgment in this House of SUM. If you are struggling in this area, tell us, tell me and I will earnestly pray for your transformation. 

See you my friends in the comments. Should be a really great conversation. 

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.com
 


New Series For July

Hi SUMite Family. 

Lynn Donovan here. Question: Can you believe half of 2014 is over??? We are jumping into the last half of the year and I still have so much I want to accomplish and even more I’m waiting for many, many prayers to be answered.

So as we jump into July Dineen and I were thinking that we will take the first week of July off. So many of us are traveling, attending BBQ’s and just darn busy. We will pick up again on Monday, July 7th. I would like to take a quick study of the book, The Five Love Languages (in our sidebar). 

Five-love-languages

So SUMites, what is your love language? What is your spouse’s love language? Share on Facebook or in the comments. Can you guess mine? Dineen’s? What is the love language of Jesus? Hmmmm. Things to ponder. We will tackle this next week. For now. Have a great week off and thank you for loving God and people. Hugs, Lynn

 

 


The Movie: NOAH

Noah
Well, I don’t know about you but this past few days I’ve been reading some reviews and reports about the movie, Noah, that opened on Friday. It’s fascinating to me how many differing views there are from the Christian population alone. Honestly, I’ve been disappointed to read some of them. I will state here I haven’t yet watched the film but I’m sharing only my thoughts and perspective regarding all the hoopla! 

First, let me acknowledge that there are many who bristle that the movie is not a perfect depiction of scripture. It’s not even close as I understand. But I wonder why that gets so many people turned inside out. Many of the Christian fictions books we read by the millions also are filled with a large amount of creative license. But, that’s not what I want to consider today. 

For all of us who are married to Pre-believers, this movie may be the one movie our spouses will attend with us. I see this as an enormous opportunity to open up discussion about the real story with our spouse. This may be a chance to have an honest conversation, without fighting, about our faith. 

So, while the Christian community debate one another on this subject (which adds fuel to the atheists perspectives on Christians and our spouses, I might add), I wonder if we might have been given a gift to use to draw our faith and our spouse closer together? 

On Saturday I asked my husband if he would attend the film with me. 

“Why would I want to see that?” Ahem, yep, he’s blunt. *grin* 

I pray that some of us will give grace to the creators of the film and perhaps one spouse in our House of SUM will experience a stirring in his/her heart.

Thoughts? 

Love and hugs, Lynn 

*Please share your thoughts, even if you disagree with me, with grace and love in the comments.

 

** Congrats to Anel R. You were the winner of the Audio Book drawing. I emailed you.

Watch for another drawing soon.

 

 


Preparing Elevator Speeches

 

In last Wednesday's post, I opened a dialog about apologetics (the practice of Elevator

presenting rational explanations for our faith in response to objections against Christianity). Thank you to all to shared comments. There is a lot of wisdom, power and diversity in our SUMite community. I find such value in reading the comments.

Let’s explore an additional piece of advice when speaking of spiritual matters. Consider this whether sharing with your loved one, a co-worker or a stranger. 

Be consciously prepared to speak with truth and spirit. 

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24

Several people shared that they think of the perfect thing to say … AFTER a conversation is over. We’ve all been there. Wouldn’t it be empowering to have already thought-out responses to frequently heard questions and challenges to our faith? At work, we call these “elevator speeches” which are intended to convey a powerful message in the brief time it takes to make a trip on an elevator. 

Picture getting up in the morning and putting on your spiritual armor. (Ephesians 6:13-17) These elevator speeches can be arrows in our quiver.  “Prepared” is in quotes because we should tailor how we phrase the response to have the most impact for the situation.

Let us reason together...Isaiah 1:18

This community loves God and His word. We all know that we are to study the word and contemplate how it applies to us. (Matthew 7:24, 2 Timothy 3:16…) What I am suggesting is to think through a list of commonly heard questions and complaints. Think how you would like to respond, having at least one way to explain your stand – using both truth and spirit together. 

  • How do you know there is a God?
  • You can’t prove God scientifically. (I can’t play a Mozart concerto using a slide rule either. It isn’t the right tool!)
  • If there is a God, why does He let horrible things happen?
  • If God loved you, the car would not have broken down.
  • Etc.

Truth

Our comments have to honor the truth as God defines truth. Are you prepared to back your beliefs with scripture? Do you know why you believe what you do? Or have you held your beliefs so long that you no longer remember where you picked them up? Skeptics will jump on anything they believe to be a weakness. 

Be cautious of truth without spirit. In the Bible, the Pharisees, got all twisted around rites and rituals. Whacking people on the head with rules is not persuasive. In every day life, this might come across as avoiding or belittling someone who has a reputation of being “loose.” Yes. We are called to live a moral life. That’s truth. Jesus set the example of listening to prostitutes and drawing them to a better way. That’s truth and spirit.

Spirit

As it relates to our testimony, this is where we can include our own passion, personality and experiences. “I believe in God, because he has made these changes in my life….” 

I can be inspired by someone else’s explanation. To be authentic, I have to listen to the Spirit and share my own witness. 

A caution is to not get so caught up in feelings that we wander away from truth.  When we do that, we make ourselves a god. We can make opinions and feelings into a god. It might sound something like this. “If God is loving, he would want EVERYONE to go to heaven. Hell would not even exist.” The speaker desires others to be blessed, but isn’t standing in agreement with scripture. Frankly, some scripture can carry a hard truth. Are we ready to discuss those topics? 

I’ve tried to concisely make a case for us to think through spiritual matters, preparing ourselves to explain our positions with truth and spirit.  Please help me out by expanding the conversation in the comments. 

To inspire you, here is a short video (courtesy of FallingPlates.com) that does an awesome job of conveying the gospel message in truth and spirit. Have a tissue ready. 

 

Prayer

Abba. We love You. We want to grow in Your way. We want to know You better. Guide our thoughts and speech so that they bring honor to You and truth to the world. Open doors and put us in situations in which we can share Your message. Amen.

Conversation

So, what do you think? What are some frequently heard questions or challenges that you’ve heard? Isn’t the video moving? In England, do they call these “lift speeches?” :-)


Weekend Worship — Jesus Gives Us the Words

20067644_sHello my friends! I hope your week has been full of God encounters and sweet moments in His Word. I have a nugget to share with you before we launch into worship. I just looooooooove this one too, because even though Jesus told this to the disciples, explaining the resistance and persecution they would come against as they shared the gospel, it applies to us today. Take a look:

"And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict." — Luke 21:12-19

SUMites, I have found this to be true. I love the first part where Jesus tells them NOT to figure out how they will defend themselves ahead of time. Think about that a moment. Logic tells us to be prepared, right? But Jesus is saying don't. He, through His Holy Spirit, would give the disciples words and wisdom and He does this for us today as well. It's up to us to trust Him for this and ask for it. And He will give us the words we need!

King Jesus, we want to follow You and do what You say, just as You did with the Father. Give us words and wisdom in our marriages, at work, with friends—any place we encounter resistance to You and our faith. We love You so much, Jesus, and our hearts desire is to share Your love with others as You guide us to do so. In Your Holy and abundant name, amen!

If you haven't checked out our new forums at our new MismatchedandThriving.com site, please do. Teresa is leading a Bible study there for us, using our book, Winning Him Without Words, to launch from. It's a great place to join discussions and grow in faith! Her first question is a great one! Click HERE to check it out.

Have an amazing weekend, my friends! Remember, trust and believe!
Dineen 

Image credit: pupess / 123RF Stock Photo 


What Do You Need?

My friends,

It's been quite a few adventurous weeks. And now as I sit down to visit with you, I'm thinking it;s time to turn to some practical topics. Topics such as how to THRIVE in your spiritually mismatched marriage.

So today, I would like your ideas and opinions as to what topcis you would like to visit in the next few weeks. I know so often we seem overwhelmed with difficulties in our marriages. I would like to take the power of God and turn to the positives that we as the believing spouse can bring about in our love relationship with our husbands.

What would you like to talk about? Let me know in the comments and let's grow our marriages through the power and love of Jesus.

Have an amazing week. I love you, Lynn


Special Guest Today! Please Welcome Suzie Eller!

My precious friends, today I want to introduce you to Susanne (Suzie) Eller. She's been a great support to the SUM ministry and now we get to share her with you! Suzie's message of forgiveness in her book, The Unburdened Heart is desperately needed today and by so many. I hope you find answers and comfort in her words below. 

Feel free to leave comments and pray for each other. This is a tough topic. And we'll do a random drawing from the comments for a book winner, who will receive a copy of her book.

Love you all dearly and know you are in my heart and prayers!
Hugs!
Dineen

SE13-1060-682x1024Suzanne (Suzie) Eller is a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and author. She’s written six books, hundreds of articles, and writes devos with Encouragement for Today that reaches over 500,000 women. Suzie is a radio co-host with Luann Prater at Encouragement Cafe Joy FM. She encourages women through two Facebook communities reaching over 20,000 five days a week. She’s been featured on TV and radio such as Focus on the Family, Aspiring Women, 100 Huntley Street, KLOVE, MidDay Connection, The Harvest Show, and many others. Most importantly, she is a wife, mom, and “Gaga” to four beautiful grandbabies. Connect with Suzie at www.tsuzanneeller.com

 

Suzie, you’ve been listening to many stories from women who struggle to forgive. How many women struggle with forgiveness in their marriages?
 
Nearly 50% of the women who share their stories on my blog, or in person, say that their biggest struggle to forgive is in their marriage.
 
For many, it’s when a spouse is continually unkind, or says words that diminish her.
 
In this instance, many women bear their soul and are told either to get out, to seek counsel, or to submit.
 
The first leaves a woman who desires to stay and work things out because she loves her husband and wants her marriage to succeed, with a heavier burden. 
 
In the second, seeking counsel is wise advice, as long as it’s counsel that is skilled in helping a couple, with God’s help, find new ground in their marriage. Many times “counsel” can be someone who do not have those skills.
 
The third, to submit, is often shared without proper context. The word “submit” is thrown out without the beautiful framework of instructing husbands to love their wives as “Christ loved the church”. This is why wise counsel is key. Submission is respect, it’s great love, it’s working through the harder spots.
 
So, how do you begin to forgive in this instance?
 
It’s a blend of truth, grace, and confidence.
 
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that abuse is allowed to continue. However, he’s not yours to fix, and that’s where we often spend our energies.
 
What can you do then? You can speak the truth. Truth is shared, perhaps in the setting of a counselor’s office, or perhaps in a moment where it’s not heated, after prayer and with love, and with the intent of working toward a healthier relationship. Truth is coated with grace, knowing that we all fall short. It’s shared with wisdom and without accusation. And in some instances, it’s shared with healthy boundaries, not to punish, but to work toward the healthiest relationship possible. (A great book on boundaries that is both healthy and filled with wisdom is Boundaries in Marriage by Cloud and Townsend.)
 
What about unfaithfulness?
 
A percentage of that 50% wrote in that they struggled to forgive because of unfaithfulness. I shared Carlie’s story, a woman whose husband left her after 29 years of marriage. In this case, the word forgive meant that God moved into the broken and raw places of His daughter. He knew her. He knew her heart. She intentionally walked into a relationship with God during that painful time so that He could fill up her “temple”, residing in Her, healing her, moving in her in those moments when she wanted nothing more than to take revenge, or lash out. In Carlie’s case, her husband went on with his new life, but she also had new life that filled her up in the harder months ahead. She was redefined in so many ways – single mom, single woman. But her role as God’s daughter was made that much more clear and concrete.
 
Unburdened-Heart_GrassSky_smallFor those whose spouse asked for forgiveness and who desired to change, forgiving is key as you rebuild trust. But give yourself permission to be honest with your heavenly father, with the understanding that there is nothing in scripture that condones unfaithfulness. It’s not in God’s plan or His character. If He grieves over the fallen sparrow (Matt. 10:29), then He grieves over your marriage. He is big enough to handle your honesty while leading you to a new level of spiritual intimacy with Him and even tender vulnerability in your relationship with Him as you work through this harder aspect of forgiving. At this moment, it may seem impossible to forgive on your own, but are you willing? That’s the only question that you need to answer. God is a Healer, and my prayer is that your marriage goes to a new place, but also that you sense God’s hand over you as you work through this difficult place, and that one day you look back and see His tender touch over you and your marriage.
 

Read chapter one of Suzie's book.

Listen to Suzie share her journey to forgiveness.

 


Chronicles of the Donovan Clan - Fear

What is bizarre in all this is what happened inside of me. FEAR. 

After twenty years of asking for his willingness to attend a marriage class and receiving his rejection, I was terrified to say…… YES…… 

I literally didn’t answer him because I was overwhelmed by all the fears and feelings of rejection that ran over me as I sat dumbfounded in my chair. Let me share some of the thoughts that raced through my head in the few seconds that followed. 

If I say yes and he changes his mind, it will crush me.
I should just let him off the hook; after all, he really doesn’t want to go.
I’m not sure I want to go.
Can I handle taking my unbelieving husband to church where many judgmental Christians might make him feel embarrassed?
Will I be embarrassed if he says or does the wrong thing? 

Sheesh and GOOD GRIEF!! 

What a mess.

Continued….. 

So, I sat at my desk, fear flashing across my face, thoughts screaming, hesitation gipping my heart, my hope. I looked up at my husband. And can I tell you, my friends, on his face was an expression of pure vulnerability. He was filled with uncertainty and hesitancy as well. 

Looking at him in that moment, I felt the urging ever so softly by the Holy Spirit, to just say, “Yes.” 

“Yes.” I spoke directly into his face. “Yes, I really want you to go with me.” 

There. I said it. He agreed. Hello, what is happening around here? The Apocalypse surely must be at hand because I was convinced that I would NEVER see the day my husband willingly went to a marriage class, especially a class that was faith based. I felt light headed. He smiled slightly and disappeared to his office. I think we both were in need of processing. 

My friends, get this, I still can’t believe it. I ALMOST SAID NO. Please learn from me. If your husband is willing to go to a marriage class, say yes, don’t let fear keep you bound in chains. 

Well, the day of the first class arrives. Weird. I felt uncomfortable, so did he, I can imagine for all kinds of different reasons. However, we sat down at the table together, with might I add, four other couples and one couple with which we are friends. Weird again. How can you be authentic in this kind of scenario? I wasn’t sure what was about to happen. Let me tell you, I was praying under my breath, “O God, please just help us to get through this. Help me to keep my expectations out of this evening. Help Jesus, help. Amen.” 

The speaker took the lectern and spoke about marital conflict. Oh boy, nothing like jumping right into the real “stuff” we deal with. It was fascinating content. Our homes of origin, how we grew up, and how our family handled conflict, plays an enormous role in how we navigate conflict in our marriage. Duh! But, I hadn’t though specifically in these terms. 

You can likely guess that Mike and I handle conflict vastly differently. Duh! I did know this. In fact, as we sat through the evening, it started to hit me, I already knew this about him. I already know he’s wired like that. I know I’m wild and crazy and he’s reserved. I already knew this. I knew that. I really do KNOW this man and he knows me. We aren’t such a mystery to each other after all. So why have I believed that for so long? Whoa. 

We aren’t really struggling as I presumed. In fact, as I sat there listening over several weeks, I came to several conclusions. We are in a better place in our relationship than many the other two-believing couples in that room. We are mostly past many of our conflicts and differences and we truly in love and we are a happy. 

Enlightening. 

I still don’t really know how to process all that was revealed by attending this class. It wasn’t really the material of the class that changed my perspective, it was the realization I already have what I thought I didn’t. 

Now don’t get me wrong. My husband remains an unbeliever. We are still very much mismatched about many things. But, overall, on many levels and issues, we are resolved, at peace and truly happy. 

Who knew?

Okay, I have more to tell you about this and the original conversation that started all of this. However, I'm sorry, but it's going to have to wait for a week because beginning Monday, we have a special guest joining us.

You won't want to miss our mystery guest.

As I leave you today. Can I ask you this question? Could you perhaps be like me, you already have a better marriage than you think? Can you ask God about this. Ask Him to show you what you truly have and don't be a blonde-brain, such as me, and wait nearly 20 years to have God hit you upside the head and show you. Thoughts?

Love you, Lynn


Chronicles of the Donovan Clan - Never, say Never - This is NOT about James Bond

Several months ago, I told you that God was working some new things in my husband, in us. At the time, the Lord impressed upon me to hide these things in my heart until they were settled out. 

Today, all these months later, the changes that began in January and February have reached a stall and I have learned a few things. I think it’s time to share with you what I’ve learned. 

I remember the moment distinctly. I sat in my office, frozen, fearful to say, “Yes.” 

What ensued leading up to this moment was weird filled with conflict and hurt feelings and stress. Our 20th wedding anniversary was approaching and I remember saying something to my husband that went something like this: 

“We’ve been married now for 20 years. Honey, I “get it” that you don’t embrace my faith. I really understand. But, after 20 years can you see that it is who I am. I’m not going to change. There comes a point when as a married couple you do things for the other because it’s just the right thing to do for the relationship.” 

“I believe it’s time to accept that my faith, going to church, is simply part of who I am. So perhaps, we are at a place where you join me at church because you love ME. Perhaps, it’s what you give to me to show me your love.”

 “And think about the places and the things I do for you, just because I love YOU. I choose to be part of your life and interests not because it’s what I really want for me but because I love you and it’s just what married people do. They give of themselves to bring happiness to the other and to show them love.” 

Understand this part of the conversation was still a little heated and for the life of me, I can’t remember what the issue was that started it. 

My husband turned and left me in my office. I sat staring at my computer screen, actually feeling a bit peaceful about sharing this with my husband and a bit apprehensive at the same time. I turned back to my work and like many of our conversations, I believed we would not discuss it again. 

However, to my complete surprise, an hour later my man walked back into my office, which is really just a cubby hole in the hallway. So he walked down the hall and stood by my desk. I looked up. Hesitantly he asked me a question, “Do you want me to go with you to the marriage workshops at church that start this week?” 

STUNNED….. 

Let me tell you that for all of my married life I have wanted my husband to attend any kind of marriage workshop with me. Never, I mean never, ever, has he been willing to do so. So to say I was surprised, is the understatement of the century. 

What is bizarre in all this is what happened inside of me. FEAR. 

After twenty years of asking for his willingness to attend a marriage class and receiving his rejection, I was terrified to say…… YES…… 

I literally didn’t answer him because I was overwhelmed by all the fears and feelings of rejection that ran over me as I sat dumbfounded in my chair. Let me share some of the thoughts that raced through my head in the few seconds that followed. 

If I say yes and he changes his mind, it will crush me.
I should just let him off the hook; after all, he really doesn’t want to go.
I’m not sure I want to go.
Can I handle taking my unbelieving husband to church where many judgmental Christians might make him feel embarrassed?
Will I be embarrassed if he says or does the wrong thing? 

Sheesh and GOOD GRIEF!! 

What a mess. 

My friends, even as I type this I feel my anxiety rise. And, there is a lot more to tell in this story but as usual, I’ve gone way too long. Find me Friday as I share with you what happened next and then what happened after that. Oh and one more thing then happened later. 

It’s never boring at the Donovan house and it’s absolutely an epic adventure living the believers life.

Have a great week. Humor me and let me know what you think happened. Be blessed, Lynn


How Do We Reconnect?

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Staying connected with your spouse can be a challenge. I'm finding this to be harder to do as we get older. I shared recently that we'd become empty nesters, but our status is now back to three. Here we are again, adjusting to new and old dynamics.

Here I thought my greatest challenge would be keeping myself from falling into old patterns so that the new ones my husband and I had created would remain established. I didn't stop and think what his reaction might be—that he might be the one to fall back into old patterns. So, I'm facing the challenge of reconnecting with my hubby.

Inertia
I find inertia to be one of my greatest enemies in life. I know, I know. We're human and we like our comfortable areas. But that doesn't serve me well. The "easy" thing to do right now would be to just let it be and let it happen. I liken that to the wind and reeds analogy in Ephesians 4. I don't want my marriage and other areas of my life to be "blown about" by old habits.

Awareness
I will stop here and give myself a very short and brief pat on the back. I'm aware of the situation but I can't stop there (thus the very short and brief pat :-). But I do think that awareness is a huge part of the challenge. Once we can see and identify the problem or challenge, we can seek wisdom and guidance.

Intentionality
We've talked a lot here about being intentional in our marriages. This is truly where the "rubber meets the road." James spoke of not just being readers of God's Word but doers as well. If God gives us a direction to help us in our marriage, we're foolish to not follow that leading. Being intentional in our marriages means constantly being aware of what's working and what's not in our relationships and then doing something about it. And prayer counts as doing something! Just be sure to listen for God's answer and follow through.

What I am doing to reconnect with my husband? Small things right now since I'm still in that awareness zone. I'm praying for God to show me ways to stay connected to my husband now that we're a party of three again.

My daughter's actually been great about getting us together to play games in the evenings, so we're connecting as a family.

How about you? What have you found works for you to reconnect and stay connected to your spouse?

Praying and believing,
Dineen


Talking Without Words

IStock_000012579309XSmallPart of a presentation I’m giving on Wednesday has a section about romance and romancing your guy. I love this part because I get to give a group of women some facts and tangible ideas of how to romance their husbands.

Some of this lands on communication and its vital role in any relationship. And it can be a useful tool to flirt with your spouse. But how do we really communicate?

Recent statistics show that only 7% of our communication is done with words and 38% with intonation and sound of voice. Which means over half of our communication is done with our body. Fifty-five percent to be precise and most of that is done with our eyes.

Think about that a minute. Do you look at your husband when you talk to him? Do you focus on him when he’s speaking to you? Can you remember the details of his eyes? (That one I just threw in there for fun).

How about tone? That’s probably one of the most frustrating areas that I have in my communication. My tone can sound almost angry at times when I’m actually not. I’ve had to school my voice and pay attention to how I sound.

Facial expression is a big one too. I can be lost in my thoughts (more than likely the story I’m currently working on) or trying to figure something out, and my family will think I’m upset because I look so serious.

My point is, communication isn’t just about words. It’s about our body language and our focus. Ever talked to someone who didn’t say a word to interrupt but you could clearly tell by their body language that they weren’t listening?

Think about how you communicate to your spouse and to your children. We tend to be more aware of these areas with friends and even strangers but totally “let down our hair” when it comes to our loved ones and forget to pay this simple courtesy to ones we love most.

Not sure how you communicate most? Ask your spouse. See what he or she has to say and pay attention to how your spouse communicates over the next few days. Some of my biggest eyeopeners in this area have been in the messages I didn’t realize I was sending.

Praying and believing,
Dineen


Weekend Devo — Are you listening, dear?

IStock_000005913019XSmall

This 1881 engraving appeared in Charles Dickens "Bleak House" and is actually depicting a marriage proposal. What cracks me up is the woman is oblivious to what he's doing. Even the bird on the poor guy's shoulder is more aware of what's going on than she is.

Do you do that? Sometimes I do. I'm so tuned into finishing something or distracted with something in my thoughts (we writers do that A LOT!) that I realize my poor husband has said something to me and I've missed it. What's worse is seeing his disappointed expression when he says, "You weren't listening, were you?"

Everyone wants to be heard. And more importantly, our spouses do. So here's an extra challenge for you as part of our "Out-love Your Spouse" October challenge. Listen intentionally and really pay attention when they are talking. Repeat parts back to show that you really heard them. Interact, ask questions and acknowledge what they're saying.

We wouldn't want them to do any less for us, right?

Praying and believing,
Dineen