111 posts categorized "Guest Post"

Friendships -- A Christian Perspective. Guest Post by Jim Edwards

After our recent pair of posts on friendships, a long-time friend of this ministry, Jim Edwards, was inspired to write a third piece to it. So without further ado, I hand over to Jim --

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Friendships -- A Christian Perspective Jim pic

I’ve been much mused at Ian and Ann’s wonderful descriptions of our different friendships and conversation styles, man to man, and women to women. So I started tossing around in my mind how would Christian to Christian conversation compare…. As a man, I’m not interested in girlie things, and I struggle with many men just as Ian so beautifully describes as I’m not really interested in their things either.

But there’s a passion and intensity behind the topics that interest me such as:

  • How did you come to meet Jesus, and the wonder, the joy, and the fruit of this intimacy with Him, and just what does that looks like?
  • How do we express that, especially with our words but in wider ways too?
    •             to our spouse
    •             to our children
    •             to our friends and work colleagues
    •             to our neighbors
  • Our adoption into His family and the covenantal bond behind that adoption, and hence the power of His promises to us (Hebrews 6:16-18).

Then there’s the presence and power of Holy Spirit living in us and outworking His gifts and grace through us (Romans 8:9). This naturally spills out into topics like:

  • The power of our words, for good or for evil,
  • How prophetic words carry Holy Spirit power to bring them about.
  • The importance of our heavenly language to build up our spirit being – like an exercise machine for working out our spirits.
  • The healings we have seen or personally experienced whether they be of body, mind or spirit, and our longings to see so much more.
  • How Holy Spirit is such a comforter to us in times of loneliness hurt and pain (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
  • His destiny for each one of us, and what does that look like for you.
  • Your longings and dreams and how they align with His plans and purposes.
  • The difficulty of taking His incredible promises to heart and believing them (Ephesians 3:20).
  • How the Lord gives and never, never ever takes away – Oh that’s a fun one! Romans 11:29: “All of His gifts and callings on our lives are irrevocable.”

And how we so readily leave the most important till last – just how can I help, draw you closer to Him, and bring His healing to those sore and hurting places.

I’m looking forward to picking Ann up at SFO and driving across to Lynn’s place. I’m expecting a very animated conversation as we compare our very different experiences of the same King Jesus, from our very different backgrounds.

I saw I was mentioned in the Facebook posts on the meet-up – I’m a Brit widower, who first met Lynn on her second visit to Bethel’s Open Heaven Conference many years ago and we’ve remained good friends ever since. I’ve contributed the occasional comment to the blog posts down the years and love the many aspects of Lynn’s ministry, so some will know me.

I love Bethel so much I bought a place near the church, just last summer, so I could spend more time there and become part of the Bethel family. Jesus tells the parable of a man who found a field with some treasure in it, so he sold all that he had to buy the field. This house is my field, and Bethel the treasure – I count it a wonderful privilege to have been able to do this.

I’m a writer and will have some books to give to each of you that are coming to Lynn’s, and I’m very much looking forward to meeting you all.

If I can help any of you on your journey to Open Heaven, or your time in Redding then do please ask. I will have at least two places in the car driving up on Wednesday morning, if you’re up for 2-3 hours of animated conversation.

Jim Edwards is a long-time friend of the SUM ministry. He lives in Selsey, on the south coast of the UK, and has a beautiful family of four grown children and two grandchildren. Now retired, he enjoys writing, travelling - especially to America, where his grandchildren live -- and, of course, spending time with the Lord. His website is here - www.landbreathingt.com


Pray Instead of Complaining. A Guest Post by Lisa MacFarland

Pray Instead of Complaining Lisa Macfarland

The people started complaining to Moses, “Give us some water!”
Moses replied, “Why are you complaining to me and trying to put the Lord to the test?” Exodus 17:2 (CEV)

After reading Ann’s post recently about the “deliciousness of a wife”, I posted a comment about how easy it is to give our spouses the worst part of us, especially with complaining. The next morning when I turned to do my Bible study – guess what it was on? Praying instead of complaining! I guess God has more to teach me on this haha.

When we have a problem – our first response should be to go to God in prayer instead of complaining. A key fact: Complaining raises our stress level! But prayer quiets our thoughts and emotions and prepares our minds to listen.

Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you will be blameless and pure, children of God without any fault. Philippians 2:14-15 (ERV)

By complaining, we don’t give God a chance. It’s so important for us to pray and put our trust in Him to handle it. Otherwise, we miss out on the opportunity to see the wonderful things God has for us.

TRUST GOD! Always and in all things.

So then, as the Holy Spirit says, If you hear God's voice today, do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were when they rebelled against God, as they were that day in the desert when they put him to the test. There they put me to the test and tried me, says God, although they had seen what I did for forty years. Hebrews 3:7-9 (GNT)

Remember when we complain, we question God’s goodness. God wanted the Israelites to see that it was not water they needed, it was God they needed.

As I continued to study Exodus 17:2, I learned that God led the Israelites to this campsite for a reason. God wanted them to know that He is always in control – and we are dependent on Him for all things. Ephesians 1:11, James 4:15, Job 1:21 & Psalm 115:3. The Israelites could not humanly get out of this situation of no water. By complaining they were revealing where their hearts were – they didn’t trust God, and that He always wants good for us.

When we see no way out in our situations, let’s not harden our hearts but TRUST HIM. Look back at all the times He has blessed us in situations and seek God to intervene. Give Him a chance to show us that He will always provide for us. God wants to shine His light through us so…

Pray instead of complaining!

My name is Lisa MacFarland and I've been in a SUM relationship for 35 years. We have 4 adult children, one grandbaby and 2 more on the way. We live in sunny Florida on the East Coast. I have been following the Spiritually Unequal Marriage ministry for over 10 years and am so privileged and honored to be a guest writer. I pray that you are encouraged by this post. Thank you for the opportunity to share.


Get Over It!


Jan BSUM family, today we have a guest post from one of our long-time SUMites, Jan Bittner. I'm so happy to hear her voice on here as she has walked a great story. So now, over to Jan: 

By Jan Bittner

“Get over it,” I felt God say to me just a month after my husband revealed he no longer believed in Jesus. I remember feeling briefly amused by God’s command before pain flooded my heart again. We’d spent a long month fighting – my husband wondered why things couldn’t just continue with this one small change, and I wondered how things could possibly continue. The pain and grief were real. My marriage felt irreparably altered. Friends, it took a long time to ‘get over it,’ and in the meantime, my marriage, my children’s hearts, and my physical health were damaged as we teetered on the edge of divorce for nearly a year.

If only I’d known then what I know now! Learning that my spiritually unequal marriage is more ‘spiritual’ than anything has changed everything.

The first evidence of this was following an argument where divorce was again discussed. I prayed, “God, please give me a verse!” I felt Him say, “2 Corinthians 2:8.” “Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.” NO, I thought, I WON’T! And then…Okay, God, if I do this, you need to bless it. I then said aloud, “I affirm my love for my husband,” and within minutes, God supernaturally replaced the rage I felt with an overwhelming love for my husband! It was so remarkable, unlike anything I ever would or could have done in my own strength, that even my husband was dumbfounded. THAT IS MY GOD!

I learned that day that when I am unable to cast out bitterness, resentment, anger, and pain that I only need to be OBEDIENT to God, and He will help me. I also learned that the physical act of speaking out an affirmation of love caused a powerful shift in my heart and the spiritual atmosphere in my home.

That scripture is one that I return to, time and again, when I feel the need to set my heart right. But it's the rest of the chapter that really settles it for me:

“Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one [he] might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end also I wrote, so that I might [c] put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. (2 Cor 2:6-11 NASB)

In this letter, Paul was talking to believers who were hurt by another believer, but I think the spiritual lesson applies equally well to our SUMs. Paul basically told the believers who were hurt, “Enough is enough, get over it! If you continue to punish this person, you will cause excessive sorrow and open doors to the schemes of Satan.”

Is it possible that holding on to offense and unforgiveness against our spouses opens the door for Satan to create havoc in our families? Though we feel hurt by them, could unforgiveness cause our spouses to experience ‘excessive sorrow,’ that may spiritually manifest as sadness or depression, a desire to spend less time together, irritability, anger issues, division, self-medicating behaviors, and more? 2 Corinthians 2 8

Jesus also warns, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14–15 NLT) That’s a sobering warning. God’s forgiveness is directly related to our forgiving others. Forgiveness is that highly regarded by God, and unforgiveness is equally prized by Satan. By forgiving those who hurt us, we not only disrupt Satan’s plans, but we also wield stronger spiritual weapons. We can either partner with our Father to fight the spiritual battle for our husband’s salvation, or we can work against Him, as Paul warns, by harboring unforgiveness. 

Further, God recently revealed a bombshell! My season of unforgiveness EXTENDED my husband’s season of unbelief! Knowing this, I repented to God and apologized to my husband for my behavior. ‘Getting over it’ CAN reap supernatural rewards!

I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments.

My name is Janice Bittner, and I’ve been married to my husband for 20 years. We have two children, 19 and 15, and live in Virginia. I found the Spiritually Unequal Marriage ministry in 2014, and I am so honored to be a guest writer. I pray my story encourages you as much as the SUM ministry has blessed me.


My Trip To Israel, by Barb Twigg

Recently we shared Barb Twigg's testimony about her looking forward to the trip of a lifetime -- to Israel. Now that she has been on that trip, here's the second part of her story. Over to Barb -- Barb Twigg Israel 1

I saw my dream in person! Except it wasn’t the empty tomb opening. It was the place of the skull referenced in Luke. 

“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left." (Luke‬ ‭23‬:‭33‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬)

When we entered the Garden Tomb site we were ushered into a sit-down outdoor seating area. When I walked up to get my seat I was shocked! As I looked over the railing I saw the exact cave-like dwelling that was in my dream!

I told my sister “this is exactly what I saw in my dream”. I kinda don’t remember all what the tour guide was saying because I just couldn’t get over what I was seeing.

But I had to see the empty tomb. On we go to the tomb where Jesus was buried. It is the actual place for sure. Our pastor was adamant that if a site was 'tradition or religious' we would know it. But if it was actually verified documented and for sure Jesus was there we knew it!

In the Roman tradition they secured the tomb with a stone that had a spike hammered into it.  When the spike was pulled out they had a trough that they then could roll the stone along, with a stop at the end of the trough. BUT! The stone that was rolled away when Jesus was raised from the dead broke off the spike and the spike is still there!!  We entered the tomb and saw where He, our Savior, was laid. This was powerful. As I exited I knew for sure I didn’t see the empty tomb in my dream. I asked the pastor if we were going back to the upper level where we started, to which he said no and I cried. I never got a picture of my own. My sister said “I did! I took a picture”. What?!?! I was so excited and this is the picture that you are seeing! 

I had the trip of a lifetime. I’m not a world traveler-extravagant spender but I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. It was also good for my husband to see my joy! He truly was interested to hear about my experience. We laughed because this was clearly not the kind of trip he would enjoy! I really think he liked seeing me enjoying something so much. 

Oh and get this! We were asked at the end of the trip what was a favorite, to which I answered "Jericho and the Jordan River and of course my dream in reality!" On the way home I told Jesus I was going to read the battle of Joshua and Jericho again. Well don’t you know my daily reading plan of the old and new testaments took me straight to Luke 23 and Joshua and the battle of Jericho….I’m not kidding! Barb Twigg

I bless you as you read this to know our God delights in you and wants to give you your heart's desire! Hang on and believe because it’s coming!

Shalom! Shalom! 

Barb Twigg is wife to Rick of 33 years. They live in sunny south Florida and are enjoying retirement. She was born to teach and encourage. The Lord led her to the book 'Winning Him Without Words' and she found her beloved SUMites! She loves to encourage in the Lord and operates in the gift of faith. If you have doubt, she’ll lead you to belief! She’s always willing to learn from the Holy Spirit and God's Word then teach it to others. She is active in her church and community to reach the lost and walk out her God given assignments.


Headed to Israel! A Guest Post by Barb Twigg

Headed to Israel! Israel flag 2

I’m headed to Israel with 46 others from our church, one of which is my sister. But the fact this is happening is quite the God-orchestrated trip. 

Back in 2020 I had a dream that I was in the Oval Office with President Trump and all the secret service surrounding us. One guy asked me a question to which I answered "no"! He looked at the group and said “She’s the one”. Next thing I know I’m standing at the empty tomb! I’m on a rock ledge peering inside wearing a white shirt and black pants. There were women at the opening that appeared to be from Jesus' day. I then woke up. WOW! I had no idea what it all meant. 

January 2023 Lynn Donovan asks me if I’m going to Israel with my church. The thought never crossed my mind. But I said "No way in the world would Rick let me take a trip like that." You see without all the details my husband is a zero-risk taker-backpacking-tent-staying-frugal-no overspending-nothing fancy-kinda man!  I’m good with all that. Every now and then when I travel by myself I splurge on a Holiday Inn. So again I said "No way!" But the Holy Spirit said “Ask him”.  

Really? Did I hear you right? “Yep! Ask him!” So I did, and about a day later I asked if he had a chance to look over the travel brochure and what did he think about me going, to which he said “Yeah you can go. Are you sure it’s the best trip for the money?” HA! I fell outta my chair! He said yes, so I confirmed it! I paid my deposit that second! 

If you only knew what this means as to the condition of my husband's heart. Let’s put it this way. If my trip got cancelled for reasons beyond my control, I’d still be so happy! It’s the simple fact he said yes even though that wouldn’t be his nature for this kind of trip. For him to say yes is only because of Jesus in him.

At a very crucial time in my marriage one of my devotionals had a prayer at the end of every day. I’ll never forget these words by Kaylene Yoder. She prayed something like this “Lord, you have ways to make our husbands willing and able to do Your will”.  There is no way he came to this conclusion without divine intervention whose name is Jesus! And this Jesus of mine wanted me to be at the empty tomb in April 2023! Barb Twigg

I’ll see you next time with a recap of my trip.  In the mean time don’t underestimate what our God can do in your marriage. He’s got means and ways to make things happen for our good!  El Roi: the God who sees me.

Shalom! Shalom! 

Barb Twigg is wife to Rick of 33 years. They live in sunny south Florida and are enjoying retirement. She was born to teach and encourage. The Lord led her to the book 'Winning Him Without Words' and she found her beloved SUMites! She loves to encourage in the Lord and operates in the gift of faith. If you have doubt, she’ll lead you to belief! She’s always willing to learn from the Holy Spirit and God's Word then teach it to others. She is active in her church and community to reach the lost and walk out her God given assignments.


The Faith It Took, by Lisa MacFarland

When you think about the disciples, I wonder how hard their decision to follow the Messiah really was; the Faith it took to drop everything and go. Faith

Most of them came from nothing, or even had shady backgrounds – they were living in situations where they needed a diversion or change. They left everyone they knew, dropped everything about their life, and walked away with a man they had only heard about in their Torah or teachings. It was easy to go along and follow Jesus when they saw the miracles and the good things that were happening, but to continue on this journey when they really didn’t understand the mission must have taken a lot of Faith.

But despite their Faith, what they were learning from Jesus every day and the miracles they were seeing, they still sinned and made many mistakes along the way. When Jesus was with them, He could easily correct and coach them, but when he was off alone, they argued, and questioned why they were there; what their purpose was. Twelve men full of their own ego, pride, jealousy, and opinions yet Jesus used them. He was walking with them daily, and it was hard to believe or feel like they were accomplishing God’s will.

So, how much harder is it for us to have that kind of Faith? We may not physically see Jesus but every day but He is with us; we are guided and directed by the Holy Spirit. In time, we will know God’s plan or the mission He has for us and when that time comes, we need to be ready to adjust our lives to align with the work He is doing.

His plan is always revealed to us at the right time – we just need to be ready. He doesn’t ask for perfection – just strive to be our very best for God; to love Him with all our hearts and to be a reflection of Jesus Christ. We only need Faith the size of a mustard seed – God will grow that Faith immensely when we just entrust our entire life to Him. Lisa Macfarland

Even our prayers don’t have to be ominous or big words – just talk to God as we do our friends. He desires that friendship and relationship with Him – He wants to invite us to join Him in His work but are we ready? The closer you are to God, the better you know Him and the easier it is to see a situation where He needs to use you. 

I don’t want to miss an opportunity to serve God in His work because I’m too busy, not listening, or questioning if this is really God’s plan or not. I want to KNOW when God is speaking, and I want to have the Faith it takes to let it all go for Him.

Love to chat in the comments!

My name is Lisa MacFarland and I've been in a SUM relationship for 35 years. We have 4 adult children, one grandbaby and 2 more on the way. We live in sunny Florida on the East Coast. I have been following the Spiritually Unequal Marriage ministry for over 10 years and am so privileged and honored to be a guest writer. I pray that you are encouraged by this post. Thank you for the opportunity to share.


Get Back to Basics -- Guest Post by Lisa MacFarland

Today we have the blessing of a guest writer. Many of you will recognize Lisa MacFarland from the comments over the years, she has been such a solid encouragement to many, and we're so happy to have her hop on and write for us today. Over to Lisa --

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Hello, my name is Lisa MacFarland and I’ve been in a SUM relationship for 35 years. I have been
following the Spiritually Unequally Marriage ministry for over 10 years and I am so privileged and
honored to be a guest writer. I pray that you are encouraged by this post as much as I was when writing it. Thank you for the opportunity to share. Lisa Macfarland

Over a year ago, I wrote the phrase, “get back to the basics” and posted it on my desk corkboard at work. Lately, this phrase has been weighing heavier on my heart; sensing a strong need to get back to the basics. In many churches of today, I feel we confuse experiencing God’s love in a raw, basic way. Churches create chaos with so many programs, beautiful features, incentives, themes and hoopla to get people into the doors of church or to keep them engaged. People leave church with lessons on forgiveness or who God is but they are still empty.

Individually, we cram our own lives with constant activities, to dos, and overall chaos so we don’t have to stop and face what might be really going on in our lives. Sadly, this keeps us from truly experiencing God’s love. We miss finding our identity in Christ, true joy, and our authority given to us as heirs to the throne. This lifeless chaos will cause many to lose their passionate heart connection with Christ, missing out on the blessings He wants to give us.

Between the world, our churches, and ourselves, we can find ourselves remaining in a cycle of brokenness that keeps us from a deeper, more authentic connection with the Lord. Our hearts and mind need to be cultivated into fertile soil to that the roots of our salvation grow deep and strong. When spiritual battles; storms of life come, and they do and will, WE WILL NOT BE SHAKEN!

Revelations 2:5: So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you don’t change, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Colossians 2:6-7: You accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, so continue to live following him. You must depend on Christ only, drawing life and strength from him. Just as you were taught the truth, continue to grow stronger in your understanding of it. And never stop giving thanks to God.

John 15:9-11: I have loved you as the Father has loved me. Now continue in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commands, and he continues to love me. In the same way, if you obey my commands, I will continue to love you. I have told you these things so that you can have the true happiness that I have. I
want you to be completely happy.

I know my heart longs to get back to the foundation upon which our salvation is rooted. I don’t want to just go through the motions, or get stuck in a cycle of busyness but I want to get back to the fundamental basics and cultivate my heart soil through daily prayer, reading God’s word, serving, and sharing my story. Even when we don’t feel like it, keep showing up and eventually you will experience breakthrough of peace, authentic joy, and deep connection with God. It’s then that God can truly bless us with the fullness He created us for.

About Lisa: I’ve been married for 35 years and together with my husband, Cameron, for 36 years. Funny story…met my husband in a bank robbery! I was a bank teller that was held up and he was my knight in shining armor, aka, police officer that responded. 😊 We have 4 adult children, 1 grand baby and 2 more on the way! And I can’t forget about my empty nest 10-year-old puppy, Marley, a Chihuahua in a Rottweiler’s body, haha. I mostly was a stay-at-home mom but then started working for my church over 20 years ago as the Lead Pastor Assistant and, a few years ago, I took over as Finance Director too. I was born and raised in church, started out in a Pentecostal Assemblies of God and now the church I’m part of is Southern Baptist. I love to read, crochet, walk, swim, fish, kayak  and just plain relax. After raising 4 children, I’m finally getting to enjoy all of it. 😊


The easy yoke ...

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Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hello, dear friends. Ian from a very chilly Sydney. I’m hoping those of you in the northern hemisphere are having lovely vacation time in warmer climes.

We just finished a marvellous series from Ann on slaying giants. I was particularly grabbed by Ann’s idea of taking hold of 5 stones (like teenage David) as a weapon against our giants. In my comment to that post I mentioned my 5 stones. I wanted to explore one of them a little further in this post.

Stress and anxiety

For several years now I’ve been a significant carer for my elderly parents. They’ve both recently spent some time in hospital and delightfully were housed a few rooms away from each other. Mom is now home, and Dad is being discharged as you read this post. I’m continually surprised how draining it is. Managing the hospital staff, my siblings while acting as the go between for my parents and the staff.

And so I get quite stressed and anxious. About fixing things and getting everything sorted. Because that’s what I do. I get things done.

But God has a different approach. And He doesn’t want us to burden ourselves.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

For a while now the Lord has placed these words on my heart. As some of you will know I’m prone to anxiety and much of mine is self-induced and I’ve been asking the Lord to show me how to ‘take his easy yoke’ and let go of my need to fix everything or get it done while raising my anxiety levels.

I’m still very much on training wheels but here’s a few points that I’ve learnt about accepting/receiving the Lord’s easy yoke:

1. Be still and know that I am God

Stillness. I’m increasingly discovering how important this is. But it’s hard isn’t. When I have a racing heart, sometimes to slow down and stop is difficult. I must fight the urge to get up. Using meditations help me do this by regulating my breathing (slowing it down) and listening to particular worship songs, generally ones that have only a few words.

And then I wait and listen. ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come’ I repeat quietly and then I wait some more. And go off in my mind to a lovely spot and find Jesus where we sit down together and often just do that. Sit. Jesus might put his hand on my shoulder and we watch a beautiful sunrise or similar.

Sometimes I receive reassuring words. Often, not.

2. Surrender

And then I hand off my struggles. Solving Dad’s catheter bag issue, frustrations at my brother for not doing something, worrying mom will be sick again today. These three matters were top of mind this morning for me.

I send them down the stream that Jesus and I sit beside. Or I hand them to him.

And let go of them.

This last point is vital. We gotta let go. That doesn’t mean we do nothing. Absolutely not. We still make the phone call to the nurse to organise the bags, etc, etc. But we let go of the outcome and the stress related to getting that outcome.

I only read this yesterday: “Living a life of faith often requires us to leave things alone.” (A.B. Simpson) God can sure do a better job than we can.

And then I receive peace. Just like Paul says in this very popular passage on anxiety and peace.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Yes, it may be a day full of stress because something doesn’t work out with getting Dad discharged. But God knows. And His easy yoke is there for me to grab a hold of tomorrow. And the next day and on.

What’s one way that helps you take the ‘easy yoke’? Be lovely if we could build up our own little collection of helpful practices that will encourage all of us.

Grace and peace.


Living an Extra (Ordinary) Life

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Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hello, dear friends. Ian from sunny Sydney here. It’s a big few days in America with the election and we all around the world watch on eagerly with prayerful hearts.

Recently, I came across a little-known Saint, Alphonsus Rodriguez, who lived in Spain in the 1500s. Rodriguez was in his 40s, a widower, with no children and a bankrupt,  who on seeking to join a Jesuit monastery was told he was too old and too uneducated to become a priest. He was sent to a Jesuit College on the island of Majorca where he served as a porter and doorkeeper. He turned door-keeping into a sacramental duty. Every time the doorbell rang, he would say, “I’m coming, Lord!” and would then welcome the visitor as Christ himself.

Many brilliant young priests passed through the college. Alphonsus welcomed each one lavishly and many of them turned to him for spiritual counsel. One of them was a man named, Peter Claver, who began meeting with Alphonsus, now 72, on a daily basis. The doorkeeper encouraged the young priest to travel to South America where he devoted his life to caring for slaves, for which he was later recognized as a saint.

Alphonsus Rodriguez was also made a saint, canonized for his own brand of quiet heroism expressed in a life of humility, hospitality and friendship that impacted vast numbers of people across the globe.note

Our Little Lives

Sometimes we can question whether we’re making our lives count. We’re just going about our days as spouse, parent, employee/employer, friend, sibling, child and on wondering whether we’re really making any impact. Inherent in all of us is a desire for significance. Perhaps this drive is stronger in men, I don’t know, but we can also let it lead us astray in chasing after the ‘big’ thing that will make us feel better about ourselves and fill us with pride for being a ‘somebody’.

We’re already significant, aren’t we, in the simple fact that God, the creator of the universe has chosen to give each of one of us, life. That’s right, our God thinks we’re pretty awesome because He made us. We were significant before we were born because God thought of us before we even made an appearance in the womb.

The Great Commission

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a NIV)

We’re all familiar with these verses and for many of us we can feel burdened by thinking we’re not doing anything ‘great’ for the Kingdom. Or we might feel this is someone else’s responsibility, that is, those people specifically called to a ministry role of some description.

But, no, we are all called to make disciples. Yes. Every single one of us. But we don’t have to be burdened by it; we can in fact be playing our part by continuing to live out our own little lives. For most of us, the Great Commission will be outworked in our own homes, schoolyards, workplaces, cafes and such like.

How?

Alphonsus Rodriguez provides us with the example. “Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14 NIV). We get to choose how we treat everybody we come across today: “I’m coming, Lord!”

Like Alphonsus, we may never know the impact such an attitude might have on our legacy. He most likely had no knowledge that Peter Claver was canonized for his role in South America having passed away long before.

Just Start

Often, we get stuck in thinking we have to do something significant.

“Start where you are, where you can be of service, not a hero.” (Joan Chittister)

Start with your spouse. Start with your kids even if they’re driving you nuts. Start with your work colleagues. Choose love. Choose to think you’re addressing the King of Kings. You’ll be surprised how once you start, you’ll keep doing it. And then it spreads. Love begets love. Care begets care.

And in the ordinariness of life, something extraordinary begins to take root.

“I’m coming, Lord!”

Grace and peace, dear friends

Note: my inspiration for this post came from Lectio365 Monday 2 November 2020 Devotional titled: Alphonsus Rodriguez: Hero of Hospitality.


How to Pray Psalm 91 For Your Children's School

Vidya RodneyPraying Psalm 91 by Vidya Rodney

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished. If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

Psalms 91:1-16 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/psa.91.1-16.NLT

My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, since school has reopened and we have been navigating these uncertain times with Covid 19, I decided to write my own prayer using specific verses of psalm 91.

We are faced with challenging times, but our Abba daddy is so great and merciful. Along with Yeshua (Jesus) and Holy Spirit He has also given us the power of words to declare and decree our protection for our schools, households, families, our children etc.

Some of us were in a limbo of whether we should do virtual learning or in person. So, my husband decided that he wanted our daughter to attend in person. I was very tense and nervous at the same time, but I remembered that God meets us in whatever situations we must face.

Since I live in a spiritually unequally yoked marriage, I decided I would petition my household's safety and protection with psalm 91. So, first thing in the morning, I read psalm 91 aloud and then I say my prayer I wrote. With all my prayers I stand on 1 Corinthians 7:14 - For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy.

1 Corinthians 7:14 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/1co.7.14.NLT

So here's my prayer I wrote:

Dear Heavenly Father, I stand on the verse 1 Corinthians 7:14 on behalf of my household and I declare that You, Lord, are our refuge and our place of safety. You are our God and we trust in you (Psalm 91:2)

I thank you Lord that you will protect my child and my household from every trap and protect us from every deadly diseases that includes Covid-19 (Psalm 91: 3)

Lord I thank you that your feathers cover me, and my household and you hide us under the shelter of your wings. I thank you, Lord God, that your faithful promises are our armor and protection (Psalm 91:4)

Lord your word says " We must not be afraid of the terror of night nor the arrow that flies by day. (Psalm 91:5)

In the name of Jesus, me and my household will not dread the disease (Covid 19) that stalks in the darkness nor the disaster that strikes at midday (Psalm 91:6)

Though a thousand may fall at our sides and 10,000 are dying around us, because of your faithfulness Lord God, this evil as will not touch me or my household [ I name each person that lives in my household and you can also add other family and friends names here) - (Psalm 91:7)

Your word also says that if I make you my refuge and shelter, no evil will conquer me and my household and no plague (no coronavirus) will come near our home (Psalm 91: 9-10).

Lord God I thank you that you order your angels with special orders to protect us wherever we go. I thank you Lord God, that right now your angels are holding me and my household up in their right hands, so we will not even dash our foot against a stone (Psalm 91: 11-12)

According to Luke 10:19 and Psalm 91:13- You have given us the authority to trample upon fierce lions, cobras and serpents under our feet in Jesus name.  Therefore, we will crush coronavirus under our feet in Jesus name. Hallelujah!!!(Psalm 91:13)

Lord I pray for supernatural wisdom and strength for each and every teacher, every school official, janitors, bus drivers, bus monitors and the school staffs. I pray for a supernatural hedge of protection over the parents and the children through the blood of Jesus. I pray for a peace that surpasses all understanding over everyone of them in Jesus name.

I pray for a holy ring of fire of protection over and around the school property and around all the other schools. I plead the blood of Jesus over the school staff and all the parents and children in Jesus name.

Lord God, I especially stand in the gap and ask for supernatural protection through the blood of Jesus over both the little children and the older kids. Give them wisdom to use their hand sanitizers and practice safety at all times in Jesus name.

Lord we thank you for all answered prayers. We give the honor, the glory and the highest praise in the mighty name of Jesus.

Amen and Hallelujah!!!

*****
I am Vidya Rodney. Married to my pre-believing husband Andrew for 10 years. We have a beautiful  5 year old little girl Anya. I live in St Charles ,Missouri and first accepted Jesus in 2011 after losing our only brother to suicide. I have been a lukewarm Christian for years, but now I am stepping out to find out more of what Jesus has for me.


Learning to Love

Hello, dear Sumites. Ian from Down Under here. In this challenging year, it’s very easy to hop on the blame bandwagon and start griping about everything and anything. Life as we know it has been turned upside down and really the ‘new normal’ is still so uncertain. What will life be like in 2021, which is less than 6 months away now?

But the world has been here before. Sure, not in of our lifetimes, but in 1917-18 the Spanish flu pandemic was similarly crazy and in some places in the world, churches were shut for over a year. But they didn’t have such a thing as online church that allows us to worship at the top of our voices in our homes.

Who we are

God is love. That is His very essence. Love.

Everything God creates is out of love. And His great mission is one of love. To restore everyone to a love relationship with Him.

We’re made in His image. So that means, love is who we are. Love isn’t something we do. It’s who we are.

Accordingly, our purpose in life is simply to learn to love. Remember the two great love commands: love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And then love others as we love our self. (Matthew 22: 37-39) That’s it.

What Do we Do

Love. It’s a verb (as well as a noun). It’s an action. In these challenging times, we have the opportunity to love. To think love, speak love and do love.

It’s hard, isn’t it. Every morning we wake up and start thinking about our day. And it’s exacerbated in this season when the world’s gone crazy, our house is full of people ALL the time because of restrictions. And whenever we turn on the TV, radio, or internet, there’s some more bad news and/or someone is blaming someone for something. The extent of intolerance of people of different color, race, religion, gender, nationality is unprecedented. And in a season of COVID where mistakes have been made, people have got sick and people have died.

Before we speak, tweet, post, message, act and think, remember who we are. Love.

Agape Love

We’re all familiar with the four different ‘loves’ in the Bible. ‘Agape’ is the one perhaps most commonly used because it was what Jesus was continually demonstrating. Fundamental to its essence is its unconditional, sacrificial, putting someone else ahead of ourselves. Loving expecting nothing in return.

Jesus is ‘agape’ love. We too can learn it because we’re made in His image.

During the month of July we studied a number of SUMite women in the Bible. I’ve been reading the book of Ruth using a wonderful study by an author friend Tessa Afshar. In chapter 1 see this incredible decision by Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law. Ruth has just lost her husband. Naomi’s second son has also recently died but his widow chooses to follow Naomi’s advice and returns to her home.

Let’s see what Ruth says:

“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17 NIV)

Now remember Ruth is a Moabite, a Gentile. But she has chosen to follow Naomi, join her people and know God. She has surrendered her roots, her beliefs, her tribe, to be with her mother-in-law. Sacrificial. Unconditional.

What about Us

I’m challenged in this season to learn to love. It’s in love, we discover who we are. If the two great love commands are our life’s purpose, then learning to love is the great journey of life.

Yes, let’s get practical.

What’s it look like? Martha and I are list people so here we go. I’ll start it and perhaps we can all share in the comments how we can be learning to love.

1. Start the day praying this prayer in Ephesians 3. Pray it over yourself and pray it for your loved ones and anyone else the Spirit puts on your heart:

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (vv17-19 NIV)

2. Spend time looking at Jesus. I have a small cross by my computer which I continually look at during my day. I’m continually reminded of Jesus’s sacrifice. Let His unconditional love fill us continually during the day. As most of you know I love worship music. The song below is an oldie by one of my favourite worship singers, Christy Nockels, but it’s a beauty for getting focused on Jesus.

3. When your spouse says something hurtful, critical, offensive, don’t bite back. Stop, listen and think how best to respond. You might need to walk away. Try to be polite and come back when you’re ready and seek to engage in positive conversation trying to understand their perspective but also expressing your feelings. Ask questions and use “I feel” sentences.

4. Treat someone with kindness. Smile (might be hard with a mask) or wave to someone. Buy someone a treat. Say something nice. And don’t look to receive anything in return. That’s not the intention. The intention is to be kind.

5. Last month I mentioned the ‘everyone needs a Barnabas’ principle I live by. Every day I make sure I encourage someone with a text, a tweet, a message, a call. I don’t have to even think about it now. After doing it for so many years, it’s become normal for me.

6. Thank your spouse for something they did today. Once again, don’t do it expecting a response. This is what love is. Our hearts grow when we love. It’s one of those supernatural principles of being a spiritual being.

7. Write a letter to a friend.

8. Walk away from any blame bandwagon’s that are so prevalent at the moment. It's very human to think that everything is always someone else’s fault. What’s clear with COVID, we all have to take responsibility in making sure we don’t spread the infection. Wear a mask. If in doubt, wear a mask. Ask before you meet with someone if wearing a mask is appropriate.

I’ll stop there. Be great for us to add to the list in the comments.

May the Lord bless you, may His face shine upon you, be gracious to you and fill you with peace.

 

 


Graves into Gardens

ID-100495874
Photo courtesy of Rob D and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dear SUMite friends, Ian from wintry Sydney here. It's just turned July 1 here and it's incredible that half the year has already passed. Who could have anticipated what would go down this year? As I've mentioned previously, the Lord put on my heart the word, 'Awakening', in January but I had absolutely no sense of what that meant. Much has occurred for me personally, but it pales compared to all the global events.

Awakening

There is an awakening happening across the globe and it's important for us to hold on to the belief that God is in charge. And good has come out of these difficult times and will continue to I expect for years to come. 

Life for all of us is going to look different for a while, isn't it. Everything we're used to (outside of our homes) is having to be adjusted, whether it's the simple things like hugging friends, attending church, schooling for our kids, working out at gyms or eating at our favourite eateries. The list goes on.

Stay Connected

Even when it's challenging to be physically close, choose each day to stay connected with friends. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Schedule at least one contact per day - ring someone, Zoom/Facetime someone and be very present with them. Switch off other devices, email, clutter all around you so you can be fully focused on your friend. And be slow to share rather ask questions seeking to listen and care for your friend. Your turn will come to share, maybe not this time but the next.
  2. Embrace solitude with God - enables us to simply pause and take some time out from the world, family. Breath deeply a couple of times and try to clear your mind. There are a lot of apps that help us do this but I'll refer you once again to John Eldredge's One Minute Pause app which I and a number of my friends have found particularly beneficial in these crazy times.
  3. Encourage someone today - I have a saying that 'everyone needs a Barnabas in their life' and I try to be one every day. It can be as simple as a smile to a passer by, a quick check in to your neighbour, a text message with a heart emoji ("I'm thinking about you") or a note to say well done. Don't seek a thank you. God knows, that's all that matters. 

Worship

Who loves singing worship songs? At home? In the car? It's good isn't it! It awakens (that word again) our hearts and pours faith and belief into us.

I expect many of us will have seen the various collaborative versions of Kari Jobe/Cody Carnes "The Blessing"; the churches down under even did a version which I love. But it's this one from Elevation Church that is particularly relevant for these times.

Sing along and believe these lyrics because our Lord does indeed "turn graves into gardens, bones into armies, seas into highways and mourning to dancing" We are living in a moment in history that God has deemed for us to live in and oh, the wonder we are going to see. 

Get ready!


Want Your Spouse to Be Different? Pray Different! Pay this!

SUMites, Lynn again. Some of you know that I offer Healing Prayer and Spiritual Mentoring. I was so blessed to spend some time praying with a SUMite, Vidya Rodney. I was talking with her about the power of blessings, which I write about in Marching Around Jericho. 

She put together a prayer of blessings to pray over her husband. It's FANTASTIC. If you even speak only a few of these each day in your prayer time, you will make a significant change in the spiritual over your home, marriage and husband. Try them out. 

Vidya RodneyPrayers of blessings for my husband. By Vidya Rodney

Proverbs 18:21a- The tongue has the power of life and death.

Luke 10:19- I have given you the authority to trample on all snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

Isaiah 55:11- So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and it shall succeed in the thing in which I sent it.

Job 22:28-You shall also decide and decree a thing, and it shall be established for you; and the light (of God's favor) shall shine upon your ways.

Mark 11:23- Truly I Say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “be taken up and thrown into the sea," and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.

Romans 4:17- As it is written," I have made you a father of many nations."-in the presence of God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Ezekiel 37:4- Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say "Dry Bones hear the word of the Lord!

A couple of weeks ago , Lynn and I had a healing meeting and I was given specific prayer strategies from heaven to declare prayers of blessings over my husband and here are my prayer declarations of blessings over my husband, me (his wife) and our marriage covenant.

My dear Sumites, I believe with all my heart that we have the power to change our circumstance with our words and declarations, so almost every day I pray these prayers of blessings and I pray it would bless you. You can edit to suit your situation.

I bless my husband with a new spirit and tender, responsive heart in Jesus name.

I bless my husband with the mind, thoughts, will of the father, feelings, and purposes of Jesus Christ in Jesus name.

I bless my husband to be a man of integrity in everything he does and his hand touches in Jesus name.

I bless my husband to love me like Christ loves the church in Jesus name.

I bless my husband with the perfect love of Jesus Christ that expels all fear in Jesus name.

I Bless my husband to be the man that honors our marriage covenant in Jesus name.

I bless my husband with the fruits of the spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in Jesus name.

I bless my husband with humility and tenderhearted mercy towards me and others in Jesus name.

I bless my husband to submit his will to God the Father in Jesus name. I bless my husband to have a teachable spirit that will allow the Holy Spirit to minister to him in Jesus name.

I bless my husband to think of thoughts that are true, lovely, pure, right, honorable, admirable, and praiseworthy in Jesus name.

I bless my husband, so that his heart will be ready to receive the perfect laborer across his path in Jesus name.

I bless my husband with Godly mentors at his workplace, in his extra-curricular activities and hobbies in Jesus name.

I bless my husband to open his spiritual eyes to see how god sees and his spiritual ears to hear when Jesus speaks to him in Jesus name. I bless my husband to see Jesus at his workplace, on his YouTube videos, to encounter miraculous signs and wonders in Jesus name.

I bless his boss and his bosses’ s boss in Jesus name. I bless my husband's hands to prosper at everything he does in Jesus name. I bless him with supernatural favor at his workplace in Jesus name.

I bless my husband with the abundance of financial favor to be a cheerful giver in Jesus name.

I bless my husband with supernatural protection from any form of temptation and for his spiritual ears and eyes to be heightened to walk the righteous path in Jesus name. I bless him with the spirit of discernment in Jesus name.

I bless my husband to receive revelation knowledge of Jesus as his Lord and Savior in Jesus name.

I bless my husband to receive the kingdom of god and to participate in the works and purposes recorded in his book before time began in Jesus name.

I bless to be a man of integrity in everything he does in Jesus name.

I bless my husband with the angel armies with flaming swords to guard, protect and preserve his life in Jesus name.

I bless him with the holy ring of fire of protection surrounding him and keeping him from all forms of temptation in Jesus name.

I bless him to have a supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ that will change his life forever in Jesus name.

I bless my husband with the wisdom of Jesus to be the husband and father God has called him to be in Jesus name.

I bless my husband to let his guard down and discover the freedom in Jesus Christ that he desperately needs in Jesus name.

I bless our marriage covenant with healthy communication, mutual respect, transparency, commitment, agape love, understanding and trust and I seal it in the heavenly realms in Jesus name.

I bless our marriage covenant with the Shalom of Heaven and seal it in the heavenly realms in Jesus name.

I bless our marriage covenant with humility, selflessness, kindness, tenderhearted mercy, quick forgiveness and with cords that cannot be broken in Jesus name.

I bless our marriage bed to be kept pure with love and intimacy.

I bless my husband to desire me and find me irresistibly attractive in Jesus name.

I bless my husband to understand how high, how deep and how wide is the Love of God for him in, Jesus name.

I bless our marriage covenant between my husband and I and I seal it in the heavenly realms in Jesus name. I bless our home with the Shalom of Heaven in Jesus name.

I bless my husband with the tools, wisdom, and strength to overcome burdens and to tread on the right path in Jesus name.

I bless my husband to be a wise steward of our finances in Jesus name.

I bless my husband with the courage of Jesus to stay away from uncompromising choices. I bless him with supernatural wisdom to make right decisions in Jesus name.

I bless my husband to be a wise, good, and kind father to our child in Jesus name.

I bless myself his wife to be his help meet in Jesus name.

I bless myself his wife to honor and respect him with my words, thoughts, and actions in Jesus name.

I bless myself his wife, to do him good , and not harm, all the days of his life in Jesus name.

Be blessed and be blessing happy!

*****
I am Vidya Rodney. Married to my pre-believing husband Andrew for 10 years. We have a beautiful  5 year old little girl Anya. I live in St Charles ,Missouri and first accepted Jesus in 2011 after losing our only brother to suicide. I have been a lukewarm Christian for years, but now I am stepping out to find out more of what Jesus has for me.


Forgiveness IS Powerful by Pam Osborn

SUMites, Lynn here. I've asked one of our long time community members to share with all of you about a forgiveness model she uses that is powerful and effective. I urge you to also try this. Having a physical anchor to ta spiritual concept is keenly helpful and significant to step into spiritual reality. This is a good one. So, take it away Pam. Hugs, Lynn

*****

PamOsborneI was asked to share a little about what I have learned on the topic of Forgiveness.  It seems that there is a lot more to it than just saying you’re sorry. It is actually one step in a peace-making process.

It was helpful for me to get clarity on what Biblical forgiveness is and what it isn’t.  I feel like many of us get hung up here.

One misunderstanding I had was that forgiveness was a feeling.  That I had to feel like the person deserved forgiveness before I would grant it.  Or, that I had to have a warm fuzzy feeling, a forgive and forget attitude, to make the forgiveness authentic.  However, Biblical forgiveness is not a feeling, but an act of obedience in response to the forgiveness we received for our debts.  We are called to be peacemakers and are commanded to forgive.  Forgiveness doesn’t equal trust.  Forgiveness is a gift to the other person, but Trust must be earned.

Along these same lines, I thought forgiveness was between you and the other person.  That you would extend an apology to them, and your relationship would be reconciled.  You don’t have to reconcile a relationship with someone to forgive them.  Biblical forgiveness is between you and God alone, it’s a one-way transaction. The other person does not have to be present or even still living.

If you are in my camp, you have probably resisted forgiving someone because that would mean you are forgetting the harm or offense they did to you and you are letting them off the hook.  We want to extract justice ourselves and don’t trust anyone else to carry it out.  The Bible teaches that God hates sin.  He never EXCUSED my sin; it was nailed to the Cross with Christ.

Whenever we are harmed or wounded, the offender creates a debt that is owed to us.  I was given a simple exercise that helped me work through these offenses.  We made photocopies of a cross and were instructed to write down the name of every person who hurt, wounded, or shamed us and to also list any event.  This exercise represents the act of forgiveness in that you are releasing YOUR claim for justice to God.  They no longer owe you a debt, they owe Him. It has given me a freedom to release the person and not have to carry that weight. I kept my cross and have referred back to it any time I need a reminder that justice is His.    

***********************************************

Pam Osborne is employed at a law firm in her hometown of Greenville, S.C.  She is active in her community and Church, where she is a Coach in a 12-step program in the Care & Recovery Ministry.  Pam has been a part of the SUMite community for a number of years. Pam enjoys painting and DIY projects.  She is currently a semi empty-nester with her two adult children.


Unequally Yoked AND Infertility

SUM NATION:

Julie Nelson
Julie Nelson

Lynn here. I received the most astonishing email that past week. Julie Nelson wrote to me to share here testimony. I prayed for her in the comments.

Also, I prayed with her in a Healing Prayer Session. And God released her voice. Recently she shared her story about infertility and walking through that struggle with an unbelieving husband. Take a listen and give Jesus glory. The SUMite nation is making a way for so many to experience the love of Jesus. Hallelujah!

Thank you Julie for your faithfulness. Hugs, Lynn

The Journey I Chose and the Journey I Didn't (Julie Nelson)

 


Marriage Devotion - Patty Tower

My spouse is worthy of praise & honor

PATTY tOWER 2018I read an article about a woman in church talking to a couple members about her husband, and everything she spoke out of her mouth regarding her husband was negative. The members began to think negatively about her husband and the character of the man she married. When in reality, she married a good man, but she chose to only focus on the negative.

I reflected on my own actions and thought, “What if my husband spoke to others about me the way I spoke of him? What kind of Christian would I be?” I made a commitment to speak of my husband in a positive light in front of others. And if I ever had an issue with him, I decided I needed to talk to him respectfully about my issues or to seek counsel and wisdom.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8 

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11 

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” – Matthew 15:18

Reflection: Think of the last negative thing you said about your spouse and write them here. Ask God for forgiveness and ask him to help you speak about your spouse in a positive light. Pray you will see what God sees. Ask God to remind you that your partner was made in His image and likeness and that he crafted him with godly qualities.


Love DEFEATS Knowledge

PATTY tOWER 2018By Patty tower  

We are over a month post conference and boy…not only is God doing a work in me, but doing a work in my husband! Hallelujah and amen.

I’m excited that God is opening doors of spiritual discussions between my husband I, and I’m thrilled to see where these discussions will lead. God will pave a way for my husband’s salvation, yes, but like many other women in this community realize…it comes at a price. The price of truly getting to know myself through the Savior first.

Sometimes, I have to be careful about what I ask. When I prayed, “God give me your heart and show me your ways.” You had better believe He will show you…and sometimes, it stings.

Recently, it occurred to me during in a conversation with my close sisters in Christ, that I may be too “self-righteous,” too “passionate,” and I may come on “too strong” when I talk about Jesus. The Bible encourages us to walk in holiness and righteousness, but was I really being self-righteousness? Was my righteousness the way to go?

Some thesaurus synonyms of self-righteous includes: holier-than-thou, self-satisfied, smug, priggish, pious, moralizing, preachy, superior, and hypocritical. It’s basically the opposite of humility. It’s the opposite of Jesus and what He came to earth to fight against. Those characteristics screamed of everything the religious “Pharisees” stood for in my head.

I didn’t know this about myself until now. I was having a hard time balancing my passion and spreading the gospel in a loving way.  God wasn’t telling me to stop spreading the gospel, but in my pursuit to tell others of my Bible knowledge, I was pushing them away from Jesus ,rather than drawing them in.

Bible knowledge is great, but what good is knowledge if you’re not representing the true love of Christ?

I felt like I failed Him. I failed God and others by not reflecting the love of Christ.

I dug deep and asked my Father, Why am I like this? Where is it coming from?

God answered. The root of it was simple. I had this inner desire to be heard. Growing up in my household, I was rarely heard. The type of relationship I had with my parents was more like a dictatorship. “Do as you’re told…or else.”

I remember memories of me begging them to “hear me out.” I was constantly trying to “convince,” them why they ought to trust me with friendships at school or joining school sports. My opinions or what I had to say were not valued. It was “my way or the highway,” or “because I said so.” I intellectually fought them because I felt like it was the only way that would lead me to freedom outside of my home.

My family prided themselves on being right. And I honestly, I don’t care if you’re right or wrong…I just want to feel loved. To feel protected, honored, valuable...to be heard. Isn’t that why we all love Jesus? Because he provides all those things other people may not be able to?

I was intellectually convincing people why the Bible was the source of truth. When God’s only commandment to me is 1) Love God first. 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. I had to put myself in my neighbor’s shoes and ask, “Would I want to know more about Jesus hearing what I heard from myself?” The answer was no, probably not.

God forgives and He honors our mistakes. But really, I felt like one of those people standing with a sign at a public venue that says, “Believe in Jesus or you will go to hell!” You know what I mean.

In all thankfulness, I have people in my life who can hold me accountable. In God’s perfect timing, He also starts to open more spiritual discussions with my husband. If it weren’t for sisters in Christ, I probably would have vomited Bible knowledge to people who didn’t even care! They just need Jesus!

Jeremiah 9:23 says “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom…”

My most important question to Jesus was, “Other than prayer, how do I go about spreading your gospel now?” I’ve been confirmed in this season it is time my husband hears about the Lord. I’ve been “winning” him through my actions and now it’s through my voice.

The answer was simple. Testify.

Testify what God has done in your life.

Testify the goodness of God.

Testify how he healed you.

Testify the miracles you have witnessed because of Him.

Testify. Luke 8:39 says:

“’Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming through the whole city how much Jesus has done for him.”

I love you all and I’m thankful for a community like you who understands the growing pains of being more Christ-like. Thank you all for your words of wisdom and prayer.

I will see you in the comments!


Loving Your Separated Spouse by Linda Rooks

Fighting-for-Your-Marriage-While-Separated-Thumbnail (2)Loving Your Separated Spouse

I know in this community of unequally yoked believers, there is someone whose spouse has walked out the door and left. Your heart is breaking right now, and you don’t know what to do. Perhaps your spouse has never accepted Christ or perhaps, like my husband did many years ago, he or she walked away from their faith commitment.

Thankfully, my story has a happy ending. After three years of separation, the Lord drew my husband back into relationship with Him again. We reconciled, and have now had twenty blessed and fruitful years of marriage since that dreadful time.

If this is where you are, finding your way through this complicated and confusing period of separation poses many challenges and heartrending moments of feeling hopeless. But with God as your anchor, you can do it. He will lead you through this season one day at a time if you keep your eyes on Him.

Your faithful but patient love to your spouse while he or she is in a place of wandering will show them Jesus, but you need to be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove (Matt: 10:16) as you navigate this difficult season of your marriage. Trust God in His timing. He knows what has to happen in your spouse’s life and yours before a successful reconciliation can take place. This may mean months . . . or even a longer period of separation. But as waiting spouses, it’s important not to get in the way of the healing God wants to do in both your partner’s life and yours. Give God time to do what He wants to do.

It begins by giving space to the one who has left so they can diffuse whatever conflict is whirling around in their head and clear their mind of confusion. A spouse who leaves the home usually doesn’t know what he wants, and chasing after them with questions about “why” and “when” can drive them further away. Meanwhile, pray for them as well as yourself. While you put them on the back burner of your mind, focus your attention on God instead. Let Him strengthen you and show you what He wants to say to you. This can be a time of growing ever closer to Jesus as you allow Him to speak truth into your heart and mind.

When you do have contact with your spouse, resist the temptation to make accusations and negative comments. Instead, offer positive encouragement, which shows that you care enough to accept him where he is at the moment. Affirm her as a person even though you don’t like what she’s doing right now. Positive words throughout this season of separation can offer a healing balm for unseen wounds that have brought division between you. Using positive words to create a safe place where the two of you can interact will help to open up lines of communication at some point down the road. Pray each step of your journey before and during each contact with your spouse. Let God guide you in your words and actions.

I know what I’m suggesting runs counter to what may come natural to do in this situation. Chances are your mind is racing with negative feelings and thoughts and you want to press in to tell your mate why he or she is wrong to leave. The flesh in us wants to do what comes naturally. When Satan attacks our marriages, however, he relies on us to do what comes naturally because he knows that in our flesh we are not strong or wise enough to overcome his strategies. So this is a time when you need God’s supernatural strength and wisdom to do what is truly unnatural. Take your pain and your negative feelings to God. Let Him carry you through this time. The message of 2 Corinthians 12:10 tells us when we are weak, then God can be strong within us.

Loving your spouse during a time like this is not something the world sees as natural, but Jesus didn’t ask us to do what comes naturally. When He told us to love our enemies, that was not natural. When He said to do good to those who hate us, that was not natural. (Matt: 5:43-44) But even though Jesus may ask us to do something unnatural, He never asks us to do something impossible because His power is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9) What is impossible for us, is possible with God. (Luke 18:27) He wants us to lean on Him; He wants us to trust Him. When we look to God and rely on His Spirit to guide us during this difficult period of a marital separation, we can find the future and blessing He has planned for us. That is what I call winning. And when we win, the glory will go to God.

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Head shot Linda Rooks - blue scarfLinda W. Rooks is the author of Fighting for Your Marriage while Separated and Broken Heart on Hold, Surviving Separation. She not only writes about separation, she lived through it for three years. For the last twelve years, she and her husband have been ministering to others in broken marriages through classes in Central Florida and seen many marriages healed. You can find out more about Linda and her ministry at http://brokenheartonhold.com  or http://fightingforyourmarriage.net 

(Lynn, you can use either web address you want. They both go to the same place.)


We Raise a Hallelujah!

There has been much to celebrate in SUMite land in recent weeks. The SUMite Gathering at the beginning of April and our dear Lynn’s Mike coming to know Jesus as his Lord and Saviour being two BIG highlights.

My family received some wonderful news this morning. John, my brother, some of you may recall, has been going through treatment for lymphoma since November. Today, he received news that he is in FULL REMISSION! Hallelujah. Praise the Lord! We’re naturally excited but I’m especially pleased for my mom and dad who found the whole experience very stressful.

Like Lynn’s Mike who has stepped into a completely different ‘life’, John has also. Prior to his diagnosis he had lived a ‘quiet’ life as a Christian, so quiet that his wife and children weren’t really aware of his faith. However, in this ‘dark valley’ he discovered not just the ‘rod and staff’ of his shepherd but the Lord who led him beside still waters and to lie down in long grass. John happily told everyone who came in contact with him, whether it be the nurse administering his chemo, to the stranger who wished him well, that he simply trusted in the goodness of God.

John’s transformation has really been quite remarkable. And then my dad who I’ve never known to pray before was nightly praying with mom for healing for his eldest son.

I don’t have any real message today other than to express my heartfelt praise to our God. Who is always good, even when the news might not be. And to encourage you all to keep praying not so much for answers but to know Him better. Because when we know Him better we come to experience the Lord as our shepherd of whom we ‘shall not want’.

And to all of you who prayed for John and my family. A heartfelt thanks from us all. I wish I could hug you all. 

I’ve discovered this song recently that I keep playing and it has such a strong message about our God, who loves us so much that He simply can’t be stopped!

I hope it may uplift your spirit. Jesus tells us we are His friends and so He takes us behind the scenes of what is going on (John 15:15-17) - this is what prayer is about - praying the Father's business be done! 

Be blessed dear SUMite friends.

 

 

 


“After the Party”: A Poem Inspired by the Parable of the Prodigal Son – By Charumathi R Rao. (SUMite) 

Charu, sent this post following the Prodigal son series. Want to share it with the SUM Nation. Hugs, Lynn

Charu BIO: I live in the metro DC area. Originally from India - relocated here for my job. Have lived in the US for about 12 yrs now. Been married for 15 years this August, No kids. I have a full time job that keeps me busy. But heart is in writing, reading and teaching the Bible, and speaking about Jesus to anyone and everyone He brings my way :) I LOVE Jesus. And my life's goal and daily prayer is to point people to Jesus as long as I live - as He would so grant and enable. My husband is now saved too and got baptized over a year ago. -Charu

After the Party

He threw a party for me, to welcome me back!

After I’d gone and lost all his wealth,

I’d broken his heart, shamed his fame,

Yet here he is, calling my name.

I am worn and weary, dirty and weak,

Was hoping to quietly fall at his feet;

Pleading my faults in submission meek,

Yet I saw him, come running to greet.

My brother is angry and so are his friends,

The servants - they wonder if Dad’s lost his head!

A party?  – they said, for this one? who strayed?

A party He said – for I’d prayed and prayed.

After the party, I’ve shed many tears,

Counting the losses and the wasted years,

I battle the guilt, the fear and the shame,

Yet, once again, I hear him calling my name.

After the party, when others didn’t believe,

And when I was too afraid, to step out and live;

I see his eyes, and remember how it felt

To be back in his arms, safe and alive…!

As the years, have gone by, I no longer mope,

I’ve slowly, but surely, come to know well

That my father has a plan – a future and a hope!

As I securely, in his care and presence dwell.

I know above all, that I am my father’s child,

And that ‘He’, my lot and my portion provides.

Though trials may come, and temptations wild,

I’ll rest in peace, as his love, forever abides…!

Notes:

This is a poem inspired by one of Jesus’s well-known parables. Known as the parable of “The Prodigal Son”, this story is recorded in the Bible in the gospel of Luke chapter 15 from verses 11-32. This story revolves around a father who has two sons. The younger son demands a share of his inheritance from the father and goes away to a distant land while the older son continues to stay and work with his father. The younger son – the prodigal, wastes all his inheritance away in the distant land and gets to a point where he has nothing left and no one to help him. At his lowest point, he ends up tending pigs in the distant land and not having to eat even what the pigs have. Upon reflection, he realizes that even the servants in his father’s house were treated better than he was now, and coming to his senses, decides to go back and plead for his father to take him in – at least as a servant. He had no expectations about reclaiming his position as a son and only hoped for a servant’s place. While he was on his way back, his father sees him from a far distance and comes out running to greet him and restores him as his son. The father throws a party to celebrate this son’s return and would not look at him as anything less than his son – his dearly loved son. The story goes on to show the father dealing with the anger the older brother expresses at the father’s generous treatment of his ‘prodigal sibling’ and with the father encouraging the older son to love his prodigal brother (I recommend reading the Bible verses to have a better understanding of the parable and therefore this poem).

While the parable ends with the big party the father threw to celebrate his son’s return and his exchange with the older brother, I have often pondered what impact all this had on the prodigal son since his return and how it shaped his life going forward. This poem is partly an imagination of the son’s struggles with himself and his life ‘after the party’ and partly inspired by my own journey back to Christ after some years of living a prodigal life and the struggles I’ve faced since in my thought life and what I have learned about Our Father’s heart. You see – it doesn’t mean we have arrived, when we first come to Christ or come back to Him after going away. In fact, our journey just begins when we come to Christ i.e. when we truly, sincerely accept Him as the Lord of our life. We still must deal with the consequences of our choices during our prodigal years. This can be a hard load to bear – alone. Even after we are back in our Father’s care, even after we have been restored with blessings in our physical or material life, we may continue to struggle with our thought life – at times not being able to fully process the forgiveness and restoration He offers. Yet with Him, all things are possible. And, it is in that process of restoration, that true healing occurs, as He slowly chips away all that is ugly and unnecessary in us. He works in us and on us, until all that is left is what ‘He’ originally intended us to be – beautiful, cherished and dearly loved – His children bearing His image. Yes, He works in us and on us until we can let Him work through us to love His other children in this world.

Within the safety of our Father’s arms, we can continue to face all our struggles courageously and rest in peace knowing that we are loved by our Father. In His arms, there is peace, safety, provision, comfort, love and joy.

This poem is dedicated to each of you who face similar struggles – in your own journey with Him. This is dedicated to ‘you’, dear reader, no matter where you are on this journey, even if you haven’t taken the first step yet.

You have a Father who loves you more than you may ever understand. He longs to hold you in His arms.

Be assured that you will be “truly safe” when in His arms. Blessings…!


Abiding and Abounding

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Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hello SUMite friends, Ian from Down Under here.

I keep bumping into a recurring theme of how to do this Christian life well. I’ve probably made reference to it in previous posts. It has two elements to it, and different people use different terms to describe these elements. A nun I listened to a few years back described a typical day as consisting of time for ‘contemplation’ and then time for ‘action’ ending the day with more of the former. 

Interestingly, if you studied a typical day Jesus lived we would probably find that’s how His day would be broken into. What’s critical is that a good life includes both elements.

Recently I came across an alternative description: ‘abiding’ and ‘abounding’ which are taken from two key New Testament verses: 

John 15:4 (NRSV) – Jesus says, Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NKJV) – Paul says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

I think we all broadly understand the notion of abiding, of staying close to Jesus. The notion of abounding similarly is relatively straight forward, of doing the work of the Lord. One might suggest it’s hard to do the latter without the former but I think we all know from experience it’s often easier to do the ‘doing’ without spending any time ‘being’.

Tension Between the Two 

John Ortberg who was the one that brought this new moniker to my attention reflected on the tension between the two. It was a fact of life and we even see evidence of it in Jesus’ life when He was torn between doing more or spending time in quiet contemplation with the Father. 

We’re often implored to have ‘balance’ in life, aren’t we? Sometimes we’re even made to feel bad because life is nowhere near being balanced. Right? But I’ve been thinking that life is more about ‘seasons’. There will be ‘seasons’ when we do more of something and other ‘seasons’ when we do more of something else. Think of those weeks and months after having a baby, for example. Or those times when we had major projects to complete or exams to study for. Trying to achieve any semblance of ‘balance’ is simply not possible and why overlay ourselves with additional burden of feeling guilty about being imbalanced.

Yes, the Sabbath is very important to God and so it should be to us to. By that I mean doing it not just believing in it. So we should seek to incorporate regular times of rest in our schedules.

“Anyone seeking to have a long obedience in the same direction needs a regular rhythm of stopping.” (Rich Villodas)

Realistically there are likely to be seasons when we abide more and other seasons when we abound more. But remember there is always going to be a tension between the two and that’s okay. That’s normal. 

Systems

What I particularly appreciated in Ortberg’s outline was the importance of implementing systems in our lives to both ‘abide’ and ‘abound’.  Many of us will be more naturally inclined to do one or the other but a ‘system’ will help create healthy habits to implement the one we’re less inclined to do. 

I’m actually more inclined to spend time ‘abiding’ but am learning how to be more ‘active’ in doing the work of the Lord. BTW, I don’t think this necessarily means we need to be adding more things to our already busy schedules rather taking advantage of opportunities around us to “love in action”. Always remember the families we love are our closest “neighbors” when reflecting upon “loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.” It’s easy to forget that. Our homes are where we can actively demonstrate "love in action". 

A critical aspect to abiding is to get away from the noise within our individual worlds. That enables us to hear God. A healthy habit or discipline that enables us to disrupt all the stuff running through our minds is a positive thing.

“Uncluttered time and space to distance ourselves from the frenzy of our own activities so we can see what God has been and is doing.” (Eugene Peterson)

I walk Beanie, one of our dogs every morning and night. It’s a wonderful time for me to ‘withdraw’ and free my mind. Interestingly, in the afternoon or night it can be the most productive time for me to get new inspiration for story ideas or for work. And that’s because I’ve switched my mind off from all the other stuff and simply focused on the one thing. 

In the morning though I try to start by looking up at the sky and praising the Lord for the day. Most days it’s sunny where I am so the morning sunshine is an easy thing to praise God for. Then I will pray Psalm 23 and meditate on each line. It’s a really soothing Psalm and so powerful in drawing us close to the Lord, our Shepherd. More often than not this will lead me to start praying for people or things in my life that I sense the Lord has put on my heart. It’s quote normal for me to start conversing with the Lord where we chat. About all sorts of things. I love these times.

But what we’re trying to do is give ourselves the opportunity to hear from God.

Similarly, with abiding we need to implement a system or discipline that help us to “abound in the work of the Lord”. I’ve already gone on too long so I might leave discussion of what this looks like for next time.

Where do you find the most tension between abiding and abounding (or contemplation vs action)? How do you go about creating some space to abide with the Lord during your day?

Blessings, my friends.


MORE THAN I COULD HAVE ASKED OR IMAGINED!

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-10-21/c226824b-9256-423e-bfb7-e2ae2cfe4502.png
Shelley Cruze with Husband and Son

By  SUMite, Shelley Cruz

I was raised in a wonderful Christian home but walked away from God as a teenager because I thought that I was missing out on all the fun in life. I married, started my career, bought a home with my husband and had two babies. After 12 years of living for myself, I finally realized that the “fun” and all the other things I used to fill the void were leaving me feeling empty. I knew what I was missing was a relationship with Jesus and in 1996, I rededicated my life to Him. I wanted my children to know Jesus and began to teach them and brought them to church with me. I longed for my husband to know Christ, so I began praying for him.  

Soon after, he began coming to church with me, but it became quickly became apparent that he was only coming to make me happy and to present a unified front to our kids. It was clear that his heart was closed, and it was difficult to have hope. Thankfully, my family and the women in my small group prayed for his salvation too and encouraged me not to give up! So, I continued to pray.

Over the years, I saw seeds being planted in his life with different situations he was in and people that were put into his life; I knew God was at work. However, after many, many years of praying with no change, I would get so discouraged and I’d wonder if this prayer would ever be answered.

And yet, things got even tougher. By the time our son hit the 9th grade, he became very rebellious. At age 17, the problems had come to a climax.  He was out of control and involved all kinds of risky behavior. Our lives were in total chaos due to the constant issues that would consume us, and I felt desperate for God’s wisdom on what to do.  

Unfortunately, it is often hardship that motivates us to want to pray continually. I also was feeling frustrated and disappointed in myself in my spiritual journey. Although I was going to church regularly, involved in Bible study and ministry, I often was inwardly consumed with worry and fear about my son, and sadness and discouragement about my husband. So, I used exercise, entertainment and busyness as distractions.

God began to show me that although I was doing many of the right things as a Christian, I wasn’t doing what was most important, which was spending time every single day in prayer and reading my Bible. My spiritual “roots” were not that deep. I had allowed other things to become first place in my life.

So, I began to make prayer and Bible reading a habit, the first thing I did each morning. I journaled, even the small answers to prayer I was seeing in my life. This began to encourage me as I saw God WAS answering my prayers by giving me peace, wisdom and direction. As I began to make time for God and talk to Him regularly, I found something: my attitude about Bible reading and prayer changed. My desire for that time with the Lord became something I wanted to do instead of something I should do.

Unfortunately, things continued to spiral out of control with our son.  After trying everything we could think of, God helped lead my husband and I to the decision to send our son to a camp for struggling teens. Our hearts were completely broken. This was the most difficult decision we’ve ever had to make, and the next four months were very painful. During the time he was gone, I could see things were starting to change for my husband. His heart was softening to spiritual things. He now wanted to come to church with me regularly, he wanted to read the Purpose Driven Life book that had been sitting on our bookshelf for 10 years, and he was touched by the outpouring of prayer, love and support by the Christians that were in our life.  

Four months later, our son came back from camp and although it was stressful and there were many adjustments, it was clear that he was on a better track. I was so thankful that God had given us direction to make this huge decision. This had truly been an answer to prayer. However, now that life was manageable, it seemed like nothing was happening anymore in my husband and I again felt discouraged. 

Two months later, we were driving home from San Diego and my husband suddenly turned to me and said, “I’ve made a decision to believe”.  I was in total shock…. I asked him if he meant that he had accepted Christ into his heart, and he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “Yes, I have.” Needless to say, I could barely speak for the next 10 minutes as tears poured down my face…. WHAT A MIRACLE, AFTER 18 YEARS OF PRAYING FOR HIM. It made me realize that God had been working all along, even though most of the time, I couldn’t see anything. 

Our lives have not been the same since! God has truly transformed our marriage.  The spiritual and emotional intimacy that I had longed for all those years is finally here and God is the center of our marriage.  

I am so thankful that our prayers have been answered with our son and he has changed the direction of his life. God has healed our relationship with him, he has a job and just graduated from university in May!

Over the last five years since he made the decision to believe, I have watched God change my husband from the inside out. Although he was a good man before, I’ve seen God transform his heart, his desires, his actions and his purpose for his life. We serve in ministry together teaching spiritual growth classes at our church. We lead a small group in our home, he is part of a men’s group, serves in several other ministries at church, and we plan to go on our first mission trip together next Spring. God has answered my prayers so far above and beyond what I could have imagined! God has also given me a new ministry supporting and encouraging other women who are also in spiritually mismatched marriages.  He truly uses our pain for a purpose!

Maybe you have been praying for your husband for a very long time. Maybe you are getting discouraged and wondering if God is listening, or if anything is happening. If you are praying, please don’t give up! God is at work when we pray even if we don’t see it, miracles do happen!  

Shelley Cruze Family
Cruz Family!

God Can Change A Man's Heart!

Nicki Hathorn 10 2018

by Niki Hathorn

Hello SUMite friends!

I have some wonderful news today.

When I met my husband in our early twenties, we were both believers but not even close to walking with Jesus. Fast forward to my early thirties, we were married, and I was pregnant with our first child. It was at that time when Jesus finally got hold of me.

I found a church to attend, started reading my Bible, I became involved in community with some wonderful ladies, and really began to grow. My husband would participate once in a while - when convenient for him, but I wasn't seeing much change in his life. In fact, debauchery and anger seemed to take over any joy that he had. It's been a long and difficult road.

In August, I went to bed on a Sunday night and fell asleep telling Jesus that I didn't think I could stay much longer. The constant tension and lack of peace in my home had become too much and I felt that my prayers weren't being answered. The next morning, I found out I was pregnant (total surprise) with our third child. I thought my husband would be upset about this wrench in our plans, but he was excited - which even surprised himself.

A few days went by and I started to see a lot of his anger and anxiety melt away. A few weeks later, our friends (who have a band) were releasing their first album and putting on a concert at a performing arts center. He suggested that we get tickets and make a date night of it! But on that day, he also attended a friend's birthday party at a brewery, so he showed up to the concert pretty drunk. I was a little concerned that somehow his anger would rear its ugly head that night but guess what! He praised, he worshiped, he sang, he wept, he had joyful fellowship with the wonderful Christian's in our lives. The dark and the light collided, and the light won that night.

As I drove him home that night, he fell asleep and that's when the strange behavior began. His limbs started randomly flying around. One time, he sat up and punched the windshield. After getting home and going to bed, his arms were still thrashing around - one time accidentally hitting me in the face. He would randomly start yelling profanities as if he were angry at someone. Then he started getting out of bed and stomping around our home, yelling and cursing. I have NEVER seen anything like this from him and he drinks OFTEN.

He woke up the next morning with unexplained burns on his arm. It did not occur to me until the next morning (as I was pretty freaked out when this was happening) that what I was seeing was demonic. I think the enemy showed up at the concert that night thinking he was winning, but instead he realized how much he is losing his hold on my husband. My husband has zero recollection of any of this.

Now here's the best part. Fast forward two weeks and our church's missionaries from Nigeria came to speak at our church. They told us that they have already planted 16 churches in their people's kingdom, but until they can be educated, they will never rise up out of oppression. The first step to educating their children, is to build a school in this specific town where they can get certified by the government so that the children can then move on to college (which is free) in order to become teachers and doctors and come back to their villages to educate more and the cycle continues so that they can rise above the oppression and poverty.

They need $10k for the land to build the school and $20k for the building We left church that day and in the car on the way home, my husband said he was going to give them the money they need for the land.

SAAAAYYYY WHATTTTT??????

Here is this man who I have seen in bondage for so very long and prayed for with so many tears... He's breaking free, he's feeling the Spirit, he's giving to the Kingdom without restraint. I just can't even.

This God of ours is BIG and so much better than I could ever comprehend. My faith has turned a new corner and I cannot wait to see what the Lord Jesus does with my family. Thank you for reading if you are still here! And I sure hope that this is an encouragement to you! Please rejoice with me today :) Lynn and Dineen, I have and have read your books and they have been SUCH an encouragement to me. Thank you for this ministry!

Niki, SUMite Nation

My husband and I grew up about 20 minutes from each other in Alabama, but didn't meet until we both moved to Tampa, Florida after college. We have been married for almost 8 years and have a girl, a boy, and a surprise baby on the way! We are currently living in Apollo Beach, Florida where he built us a house.


Where Is Your Focus

The following post is by Lori Lyn Skipper.

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Where is your focus?
Pic credit: Laura Mowrey

With salty tears running down my cheeks, swallowing over the lump in my throat and my heart aching, I begin this blog. 

I learned yesterday a long-time friend and co-sharer of the Gospel passed on to Glory in the morning. Upon reading the news yesterday my mind began wandering to years past. And conviction fell. And today as I was looking at her pictures, again, conviction fell.

She was one of the most beautiful, God-fearing women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Not only was she beautiful on the outside, she genuinely had a beautiful heart and spirit.  My heart aches for her husband, her children, her brother and best friend/sister-in-law and her parents. It also aches for all those who knew her and for those that never had the great pleasure of making her acquaintance.

If you knew my friend, you would know love. Oh, she loved/loves her Lord! She loved her husband and her children, and she loved them well!! She loved her family, friends, the Body of Christ and those who have not yet made a commitment to our Savior. She exuded and amplified the Father’s love to everyone she encountered.

She was a very anointed worship leader, her and her husband. It did not matter where you would run into her, she had a genuine smile on her face. Their middle child was disabled, he was very limited in what he was able to do for himself. That in itself would have brought physical, mental and financial hardships, yet, she smiled, held onto her faith and worshipped her King through it all! (She is now reunited with him).  Even through the past months, during the battle she fought with her health, my other beautiful God-fearing friend said she still held onto faith and worshipped her King. How? Why was she able to do that? It was her focus!

It wasn’t like mine, I focused on the seasoned salt my husband left behind on the stovetop and this left me agitated. Or on the crusty food left on the counter where my husband cooked. Or the fact that my house had not been vacuumed for three weeks. Let us not forget that I had become overwhelmed with my business, home life, health and taking care of my mom. Those things became a burden for me. When in all truthfulness, they should have become a reason for me to be thankful! Why? It’s all about focus.

Shortly after I heard the news of my beloved friend, one of my clients emailed me not to worry about the $800 I still owed him. His reasoning, “What does $800 matter in the scheme of eternity?” OUCH!!

What does $800 matter in the scheme of eternity? That’ll make you put the brakes on really quick! $800 is not chump change, it could come in handy right now but when the focus is on ‘the scheme of eternity’, it means nothing!! (Matthew 6:24)

The things that matter in this life, on this side of eternity should be our focus. My focus should have been, “God, thank you that I have a husband, not just any husband, but MY husband. The one who loves to cook.” “God, thank you that I have a home to clean, when there are so many that are homeless.” “God, thank you for a business that allows me time to do what I want or the things You call me to do.” “Thank you for the food that I have to eat that I or my husband can leave a mess behind.” “Father, thank you for allowing my mom to move to Florida, that we can be reconciled together.”

There are souls to be saved for the Kingdom of God! There are millions who have not yet heard the wonderful Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are thousands upon thousands that are lost and looking to be found. How many there are that are sick, diseased and dying without any hope. We have the answer! It’s LOVE. Just as my friend exuded Love to everyone she met, I challenge all of us to become Love. (1 John 4:7-19).

I leave you with the question, “Where is your focus?”

Please leave a comment below so we can all pray for one another. May you know the Fathers love today greater than you’ve ever experienced it!

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image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.comHi, Lori Lyn Skipper here! I’m happy to say I am 51 years young, married to my husband John. We have three grown children between the two of us. I have two boys and he has a daughter as well as a granddaughter. My husband and I married in June 2016. I moved to sunny Florida in 2012. I often say I’m an Illinois girl living in a Florida world. I came to meet Jesus in mid-1996 but did not accept Him as my Lord & Savior until January 1997. Let me tell you, He’s had His work cut out since I say yes to His call. I often envision God shaking His head at my antics, you know, how we do with our own children.

I kind of resemble Paul, “the chief of sinners.” Well, I used to be, now I’m no longer a sinner, I’m a saint saved by grace that sometimes still sins. A couple of my passions are to see people healed, delivered and set free by the power of Holy Spirit and the body walking in their gifts and calling of the Lord. Getting to be a part of that is so fun and such a blessing.


Abiding leads to Transformation

6a00d83451ee9f69e2022ad3a65532200b-200piHello, Ian here once again.  As you probably have noticed in many of my posts in the last few years I’ve sought to desire more of God, to experience that oneness with the Father that Jesus prays for us about in John 17.  Hey, and isn’t it fabulous that Jesus, Himself, actively helps us in the process? Everyday. As He continually intercedes in prayer for us. This desire for more brought me, firstly, to writing a new non-fiction book, and then when I discovered I didn’t have sufficient material, secondly, to take up study again in participating in a Spiritual Formation course.  To date I marvel at what I’m both learning and experiencing.

The Heart

It’s a journey of the heart as the prophet Jeremiah declared: “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. (Jeremiah 24:7) I think for many years I treated it more as an exercise of accumulating knowledge and, being a passionate ‘Learner’[1], it was very easy for me to simply learn, fill many journals and my mind with lots of knowledge but didn’t feel any closer to experiencing an intimacy with the Lord. Also, being a routine-oriented person I had explored a myriad of ‘successful-people’ daily habits to try on to see if there was a fit. Once again, I kept hitting roadblocks. They helped me produce output but not the fruit I desired as expressed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV). It’s clear now that I was confusing measuring goals and tasks with the ways of the heart. I like how Jenn Giles Kemper describes adopting “a rule of life, on the other hand, helps you become.”[2]

The vine analogy is a powerful one about becoming. In John 15, we read Jesus’ words: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (v 4-5 ESV) Heidi Baker sums up this essence of abiding: “Time spent abiding is time spent being equipped … Abiding in the vine means we are ‘plugged in’ to the resources of heaven.”[3]Abiding requires spiritual disciplines of solitude, silence, prayer and meditation. These are the disciplines of contemplation. As we fix our eyes on God in contemplation we are equipped and guided for bearing fruit. The transformational inside-out work of these disciplines serves to enable us to be secure in obeying the Word of the Lord. Foster describes this inside-out process well: “When the branch is truly integrated into the vine – united with the vine and receiving its life from the vine – then good spiritual fruit is a natural consequence. Action follows essence.”[4] This is the life Jesus modeled for us, as did the first disciples and many of the Christian greats such as Martin Luther, who had so much business to attend to he could not get on “without spending three hours daily in prayer.”

Transforming vs Conforming

Since I can remember, perhaps my favourite verses has been the classic opening two verses of Romans 12:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformedby the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

As a teenager, I wanted not to conform to the patterns of the world. I didn’t want to chase what the world did. I figured I was a bit of a misfit anyway and these verses helped show me that Jesus had a different plan for us when we asked for Him to be Lord of our life. But it didn’t take me long to get sucked into conforming.

It was this essence I lacked. I had spent too many years being religious making sure I had my daily quiet time, read more books than I can remember on how to develop a closer relationship with God and felt guilty that I wasn’t committing to enough service in my church. Action follows essence. I appreciate that now. “The [Spiritual] Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.”[5] Transformation is a process, like any significant change activity. And it requires a degree of suffering just like adopting any new habit does. In fact, building bodily muscle requires the breaking of muscle fibres and interestingly, most of the restoring of the muscle is done when resting the muscle after a work out. It’s a good analogy for the spiritual transformation process as well: the disciplines of contemplation are when our spiritual muscles are restored and/or developed to enable us to step out into the action of performing good works.

I so love that image of Mary of Bethany simply sitting at Jesus feet in Luke 10. She simply sat at the Lord’s feet listening to Jesus. Jesus tells busy Martha that “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be take away from her.” (v42)

It is in abiding with Jesus we get to not just hear His voice, but His heartbeat. And the more we do it, the more His essence works its way into our hearts, transforming us from the inside out.

In all your busyness this week, please stop to spend some time sitting at Jesus’ feet. To be restored, to be replenished, to be cherished.

Be blessed my friends.

Notes:

1One of 34 ‘strengths’ identified in the Clifton StrengthsFinder® produced by The Gallup Organization, Washington, D.C. Jenn Giles Kemper, ‘Rule of Life’, Sacred Ordinary Days, undated, last accessed 18 August 2018, https://sacredordinarydays.com/pages/rule-of-life 3Rolland and Heidi Baker, Reckless Devotion: 365 Days of Inspiration, (Maidstone: River Publishing & Media Ltd, 2014) Day 134 4Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2017), 86 5Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2008), 7