Fast Day Two: The Tenderness of the Father

Ann here! SUM fast 2020

It’s the morning of day two here, and so far so good. Amazingly, my family are talking about ‘Mum’s fast’ and encouraging me along, which has been a new feature this year and it captures how things have shifted in my home. I have a little more to share on that shift below.

First, though, I want to say that it's common to set a goal with fasting and find you don't make it. It's just so hard to fast -- That's the truth of it. If that's you, don't beat yourself up and think it's a failure. It's not. Just get back on the horse and try again the next day. It's definitely worth continuing.

The truth is, our Father smiles on the heart of one who fasts. And this morning I'm reminded of a little story that seems to illustrate that:

Every Christmas, Bryce and I put pressies under the tree for our teenage boys, Travis and Miles, and that’s fun. But I’ve never encouraged my children to buy me a present or even buy their Dad a present. I just haven’t; and so they haven’t. Instead, the boys and I go out and buy something for Bryce from all three of us and we have fun doing it.

Anyway, this year, those two boys did something very nice.

I was sitting in the lounge when Miles (age 14) said to me “Mum, you haven’t yet noticed what’s under the tree.” So I got up and looked. There, under the tree was a little package, clearly wrapped by a teenage boy. Wrinkley, ragged edges, and Sellotape all over the place. It said, “To Mum, from Travis and Miles”. And there, next to it, another package: “To Dad …”. 

Oh my heart. I looked back at my boy and his face showed how excited he was by this little wrinkled package. Thankfully he still doesn’t mind a cuddle from his Mum, and he got one.

The two of them had clubbed together their pocket money, gone out and done it. Teenage boys aren’t always the best at this sort of thing, nor is it at all easy parenting teenagers, and so I really can’t express how it felt to see that package. It was their little gesture of love and it meant the world.

Later in bed, Bryce and I looked at each other: “How CUTE WAS THAT?” We were giggling at the wrapping job, but then we both said in all seriousness that it was pretty much the highlight of our year.

Turning back now to the heart of our Father, a friend of mine recently said to me "We may never truly understand the tenderness of the Father until we reach Heaven". Our Father is tender, and how does He feel when we – His children -- do something like fast? It’s our gesture of love, devotion, and honor to Him.

So now here's more on that shift I mentioned:

“Why do you fast?” Bryce asked me yesterday.

“Well ..  It’s a gesture of love to God. To go without food is a sacrifice.”

“Mm, now you say that I can imagine it.” he said. “Food is a big deal.”

I carried on:

“God shines his face on someone when they make a gesture like that. It might be attractive to him, so to speak. Power comes, things happen in your life then.”

And then I said a bit more:

“Jesus said certain things can only be shifted through prayer and fasting. So fasting is powerful in that way – It can help people overcome certain challenges …”

“Hmm, interesting.” He nodded and took it all in. Perfectly nice; genuine interest. What's more, I didn't feel awkward talking about it.

A lot has shifted there. We didn’t have that kind of conversation a few years ago as faith conversations used to bring this mega wedge between us. But now it’s easier. And, quite honestly, I am enthralled by that change which has happened in only the last year.

Could it be that even this conversation yesterday with my husband is a testimony that the SUM fasts have made a difference? A gentle nod from the Father's tender heart. I'll take it.

Onwards and upwards, SUM soldiers, and I wish you all the best for day two. What has day one been like for you?


Fast Day One: What is the Story God Has Written?

Dear SUMites, here we are on day one of our SUM corporate fast! SUM fast 2020

It's Ann here and I can’t help but think that this particular fast is going to be meaningful. There is so much for us to inquire from God about. Our world is literally groaning for healing, and so are we. 

So we fast.

As I write I have a cupboard and fridge full of drinks, ready to embark on a brave five days. No food from sunrise Monday to sunset Friday. I will keep you posted on how this goes. I know from our chats that many of you are doing this fast. In the spirit, then, we link arms.

During this week, one theme I hope to talk to God about is this:

Lord, what do you want the SUM community to know for this coming year?

To elaborate a little, this year the Body of Christ has been blessed by ministries that have spoken out about the time we’re in. And then, as always, there have been some counterfeit versions of that. Privately, as Christians we seek the Lord’s wisdom ourselves in prayer, and the counsel of Christian friends we trust. But the whole thing has been an exercise in discernment. It's been a year-long journey in understanding what God is asking of us.

We’ve also had to learn through our mistakes. Many of us might be looking back thinking ‘Oops – I didn’t represent Jesus accurately to every single person in my life.’ Honestly, this year has been crazily tough – Let's have grace for ourselves. Onwards.

So there’s that. 2020. In the middle of it all, we have our own little community here at SUM, and here we can ask God for a customized picture:

Lord, what is your heart for the SUM homes in 2021?

How do we walk the upcoming challenges of 2021 with our pre-believing spouses?

In my own faith life, a striking feature of 2020 has been that I have thought a lot about the story God has written for my life. He seemed to nudge me often during this COVID stress: "Come away with Me, daughter, and take your mind elsewhere for a while. Here's what I want you to think about in relation to your life." I recently chatted to Ian and know that he has been experiencing something similar. And then, over on Lynn’s new ministry blog (www.lynndonovan.org), Martha has been blogging about moving into new seasons. So, many of us are having those stirrings.

With that idea of ‘life story’ and ‘what’s next?’, I thought I might gear this week’s posts around the fact that God has a really interesting story he has written over our lives, and he wants us to find out about it.

I believe that's one of several things that Jeremiah 6:16 conveys, along with Holy living: 

Thus says the Lord: 

"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' " (NKJV)

Perhaps you think about your own life and feel you went off God's map at some point in the past as a prodigal (so many of us have that story). So then, that’s a detour and the question for God is ‘Now what?’ Somehow, because God is awesome, beyond what we can think or imagine, and blows our minds, could it be that he will bring you, through Plan B, back into his purpose for you?

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NKJV)

My friends, how about we make a point in day one of our fast to come before the Lord and ask him some of these personal, delightful questions? 

  • Lord, what are the good works you made for me to walk in? 
  • Lord, what did you make me to be from before the beginning of time?
  • What is your purpose and will in my marriage?
  • Would you tell me something new and profound about my life story?

As for the fast, what kind of fast are you doing this week and what would you like to ask the Lord? Let's share a little about what we hope this week will look like.


Listen to God's Voice of Love in 2021!

My friends,

I've been so humbled by the response to the 90 day devotion, Kingdom Conversations. 

This book is a collection of the words the Lord spoke to me and that I shared in our local newspaper for a few years.

It's similar to Jesus Calling but listening to the Father's voice.

Order a copy and start your new year off by tuning into the Lord's voice for your year.

Over a three-year period, during Lynn’s morning prayer time she would sit quietly and listen as the Lord spoke to her. His voice wasn’t loud or booming, nor a burning bush, but a whisper of familiarity and love that she learned to tune in and perceive. Lynn would read a passage in the Bible, pause, then focus on the Lord’s whispers of love, affirmation, and instruction. His voice offered direction and confirmation and her soul became filled with truth, encouragement, and peace. Each morning Lynn sat readied with her pen poised and she captured the Lord’s voice and wrote down his whispers. She began sharing what she wrote through social media. Thousands would read the devotions. They would post comments that they experienced a new hope, healing, and Godly direction for their current circumstances.

As you read the devotions you will find hope and inspiration as well as encouragement in your faith. You will feel loved and seen by God. Each devotion includes a scripture verse and a prayer of faith.

Kingdom Conversations New Cover July 27 2020If any of you have read the book, would you share with me which devotion really spoke to you? I'm very curious. Hugs, Lynn

What readers say: What a wonderful way to start the day with God. Each devotion begins with scripture and ends with a prayer. In between it’s like God is speaking to you reminding you of who you are and who you belong to. They are short enough that I haven’t missed a day even on my busiest of mornings. Lynn’s writing has been such a blessing and offers reassurance of God’s love and continuous presence with us, his children.


Prepping for Our Fast

Ann here! Lynn Donovan Prayer & Fasting 2021

With Christmas festivities behind us, and hopefully some happy memories made, it’s time to turn our minds to our annual SUM Community Fast.

The fast will start in a week’s time, on Monday 4th January. If you haven't already, check out my video from last week.

Personally, I’m so in need of this year’s fast. Because of what we’ve been through with the pandemic, I have an especially strong desire to get before God and reflect on where we're at. When vulnerable from fasting, you just can’t help but hit the couch and listen to Him more than usual. And though fasting is very difficult, that is the benefit I know will come next week.

Every time we fast as this SUM community, at least a few of us will hear something from the Lord and post it in the comments. In fact, I look back on the years and remember many of the conversations or moments we’ve had together from these times.

Besides hearing God, fasting does something in the spirit realm and brings shifts in our homes. What power comes when a group of people does it together! We probably can't imagine this side of Heaven. Jesus said that some things from the enemy can only be removed through prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). These shifts aren't always noticeable straight away, but sometimes they are.

So, how do you feel about going for it this year? If you're new to it, here are some tips for preparing:

  • Ask God how he would like you to fast. You could fast each day sunrise to sunset, and then have a small dinner in the evening. This is a good challenge. Another way is to just have soup for five days -- That is harder. And, if you're a seasoned faster you could try no food for five days. This one takes some mental preparation.
  • Jot down a list of questions for God, or things you’d like to talk to him about over that week, and dig out a special notebook and pen ready for the week.
  • Make sure you have plenty of drinks in the house.
  • Pray about telling your spouse, and if you want to tell them ask for God's help. It took me a few fasts before I plucked up the courage to tell my husband -- I feared he'd find it just that little bit too weird. However, when I finally did tell him he was fine. Puzzled, but fine. Last year he even took me out for a smoothie to help me keep going!
  • If you are on holiday or have guests over, plan ahead which meals you'll fast from: Setting fasting goals ahead of time seems a good strategy.
  • Don’t plan too much exercise or activity during that week. That might send you over the edge!
  • Get yourself some super comfy clothes at the ready (e.g., track-pants) so that you can hunker on the floor or on the couch for that nice time with God. Somehow, I find comfy clothes help me get through!

As for over here, I will be home quietly with my boys who are on school holidays. I plan to tell them and Bryce so that they understand my inertia that week, and I hope to do no food at all for the five days. Having attempted this a few times it's perhaps not as intimidating as it used to be. I know its power so I’m game. I’ll still have coffee and tea, juice, protein shakes, and yoghurt drinks. Some here even go further than that, doing water only. I have to say I'm building up to that still.

So, team SUM, are we up for it? Post in the comments and share what you think you’re going to do. It’s fun doing this together and we always love seeing each other’s adventures on this week.

Lynn will be posting next on Friday, and then I'll be back on Monday to kick us off with the fast.

Ann


The Once Was A Man Who Didn't Believe

It's been a number of years since I've shared this post. But it speaks to me today. I pray it speaks to you as well. Merry Christmas, Lynn

 

There was once a man who didn't believe in God, and he didn't hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays, like Christmas. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments.

Snow_church One snowy Christmas Eve, his wife was taking their children to a Christmas Eve service in the farm community in which they lived. She asked him to come, but he refused.

"That story is nonsense!" he said. "Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That's ridiculous!" So she and the children left, and he stayed home.

A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the window. Then another thump. He looked out, but couldn't see more than a few feet.

When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn't go on. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them. The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside.

The geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn't seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them and they moved further away. He went into the house and came back out with some bread, broke it up, and made a breadcrumbs trail leading to the barn, but they still didn't catch on.

Now he was getting frustrated. He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe.

"Why don't they follow me?!" he exclaimed. "Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?" He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn't follow a human.

"If only I were a goose, then I could save them," he said out loud.Geese winter

Then he had an idea. He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese. He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn - and one by one the other geese followed it to safety!

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind:

"If only I were a goose, then I could save them!"

Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. "Why would God want to be like us? That's ridiculous!"

Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese - blind, lost, and perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us. That was the meaning of Christmas, he realized!

As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood what Christmas was all about, why Christ had come.

Years of doubt and disbelief vanished like the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer:

Mangercross "Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm!"

~Author Unknown

 


May We Cling Tenaciously to Jesus

Dear friends, Ann here. Alpha omega

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

Here is a beautiful verse to settle our gaze upwards:

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

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

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

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

Cling tenaciously to the risen Jesus Christ, your Savior.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ann

 


Annual SUM Fast, 4-8 January

Dear SUMites, Ann here.

I hope you are keeping well and finding some wonder, peace, and hope at this time of year despite everything we've walked through these past months.

I know we're mainly thinking about Advent during this week, but I just wanted to hop on and give you a heads up about our annual SUM community fast, which will be from Monday the 4th to Friday the 8th of January. This is just a 'save the date', and we'll post more about it after Christmas. If you are new to the fast, however, you might like to hear a bit more about it in the video below.

All for now, and back again on Wednesday!

Ann

 

 


New Era Up Ahead...No Turning Back Now

Hey SUM family, Tiffany here!

15 days after my 34th birthday I lie in my bed blanketed in defeat. Months of hardship at work had caused bitterness, depression and anger to become my mindset. Not just at work but at home as well. November 12, 2020 will forever be etched into my brain. I will always remember the day that the Holy Spirit lovingly walked me into a new era. 

As I stared up at the ceiling, tears falling down my face, I realized I had a choice to make. I could continue to whine and cry and hope and wish for a change. Or, I could stop feeling sorry for myself and step into healing and victory.

At the time, this decision was actually pretty difficult. I hate to admit I gave myself a pity party. Just like only the Lord can do - SUDDENLY - my sorrow turned into righteous anger. It was as if I was looking at myself from a third party perspective.

Why am I beating MYSELF up? I am not the enemy here! It was then that I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Let's get this settled once and for all.

I placed the palms of my hands over the temple areas of my head. I closed my eyes and I began to audibly decree and declare whatever the Holy Spirit prompted me. I started of slowly

You. Are. Free. ::pause in silence:: You. Are. Free. Element5-digital-WCPg9ROZbM0-unsplash

You are free from anger.

You are free from rage.

You are free from abandonment.

....

You. Are. Healed.

You. Are. Redeemed.

You. Are. Loved.

You. Are. Saved.

You. Are. Enough.

You. Are. Blessed.

You. Are. Beautiful.

You. Are. Changed.

You. Are. New.

....

You do NOT have to perform.

You do NOT have to prove anything.

You do NOT have to strive.

You are NOT a disappointment.

You are NOT going backwards.

You are NOT missing out on God's best.

You are NOT screwing everything up.

On and on I went. The more I decreed and declared, the louder I got in my bedroom. At one point I was yelling at the top of my lungs. YOU. ARE. VICTORIOUS. YOU. ARE. RIGHTEOUS. YOU. ARE. SEATED IN THE HEAVENLIES.

I honestly don't know how long I was in this session with the Lord but it had to be at least an hour. I tell you what - my dog probably thought I was looney!

The biggest struggle I have had over the years is believing this lie:

God has to do a big miraculous work so that once and for all you are instantly changed. That is the ONLY way that you will never backslide. It has to be a SUDDENLY, out of the blue, stop you in your tracks, road to Damascus encounter. THAT is the ONLY way you will never look back.

My friends, this simply is not true. After all these years, I am finally seeing how silly this is. I have gone to counseling. I have gone to pastors. I have gone to mentors. I have gone to countless people for prayer and healing and deliverance over the years. Don't get me wrong. These are good things to do. I have so many amazing words and experiences that have come from the Lord through faithful and godly vessels.

BUT...

It wasn't until November 12, 2020 that I took matters into my own hands - literally. The same Spirit living in those people is also in me. I have the Kingdom of Heaven...inside of me. Holy Spirit broke the bondage of oppression, self-hatred, self-doubt, unbelief, etc.

January of this year I got a word from the Lord. "You keep asking, how, God, can you use me? Where do you want me? He wants to use you and He will. But first, you have some healing to do." I believe that was fulfilled in this session.

What does life look like now? Am I a perfect saint who never struggles with anger anymore? Pssssh.

The difference is I have resolved in my heart to never look back. In order to seal this session I asked Jesus to do something for me.

I have control issues. I want to be in control. I want to do things my way. I want to handle it all.

Knowing this I told the Lord: I will NOT step out of this room...I won't even get out of this bed if I am going to end right back here again. I am done with yo-yo experiences. I will not be tossed about anymore.

With my hands cupped and held out before me, my eyes closed, I handed over this moment - this resolve in my heart. I asked Jesus to take it. I dropped it in His hands. I said, "You have to hold onto this for me. Keep it safe. I don't want it back until the day that you walk me into my mansion in heaven. The day when we celebrate my homecoming, sit in my library and reminisce on that one moment on earth. I can't wait to be able to put it with my alabaster jars of tears and memories from those days."

He looked at me and smiled. I was amazed to see how precious this was to Him. Like a golden heart shaped key, He wore it around His neck...so it would always be close to His heart.

I asked the Lord for a verse or passage of scripture that I can have to remember the day, 11/12/2020, I resolved in my heart to never look back again.

Psalm 119

111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
    to the very end.

Are there things that you've continued to struggle with over the years? Does it seem like you can't find or keep your healing or restoration? I'd like you to check out a post I wrote back in May. How Well Do You Know Your Counterfeits?

The devil is a liar and a deceiver. He wants nothing more than to make you believe that your deliverance, healing, restoration, salvation, transformation or freedom ever happened. Don't fall for it!

Set out in a quiet space, lay your hands over your temples, speak and bless and decree. Do so aloud. Give plenty of time for your mind to absorb it. Let it soak in.

I hope that you've gotten something out of this. Please know that if He can do it for me, He can do if for you. Blessing, honor and victory belong to you. It is your heritage.

I love you all! See you in the comments.


I Have Been Rescued And Delivered Into A New Era

Hey SUM family, Tiffany here!


I pray that this post finds you well. Today I want to share a life changing event that happened last month. I just turned 34 in October. For my year 34, the Lord gave me Psalm 34 -

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The [a]angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!
There is no [b]want to those who fear Him.
10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.

11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To [c]cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as [d]have a contrite spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He guards all his bones;
Not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous shall be [e]condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.


I was certain that this new year of living would be a game changer. However, I was so disappointed to see that I wasn't magically a new person. In fact, it seemed that things were going backward. The more I tried to press into the calling that God had for my life, the more opposition and roadblocks came along. I do understand that this is normal. I know that it is a sign that I am doing wonderful things for the Kingdom of God. However, it doesn't make it any less hard to walk through.

Ben-blennerhassett-L7JGC_bgWyU-unsplashI mentioned before that things with work have been really rough. Over the course of this season I found that my heart was hardening. I was becoming bitter, ungrateful and depressed. When the Lord gave me this Psalm for my 34th birthday it really opened my eyes. I had a lot of repenting to do. Fast forward to November 12, 2020. Just 15 days after my birthday. I had a big argument with my husband and children that morning. I sent them off to school and work. I was off of work for the day so I went back to my bed and laid down. I couldn't help the defeat and depression from rushing in. I was crying out to the Lord. I had messed up again. It was in that moment that the Holy Spirit did a great work. He broke through and did a lot of mental healing. It was a divine reversal of YEARS of damage.

Please hang in there until Friday. I want to be able to testify of His goodness as much as possible. We will talk about what the Lord showed me in combatting the darkness in my mind. I hope that in sharing my story, you will be able to find freedom and hope. If He can do it for me, He surely can do it for you.

In the mean time, please enjoy this powerful song. The visual in this music video represents mental hardship so well. The first time I saw it, I was blown away.

Much love and blessings. See you in the comments!


Oh, the Sweetness of a Friend!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love,

Ann


Waiting in the Dark - some thoughts on Advent

I’ve always loved December. Living in Australia, it’s summer, the end of the school year so we always had our long summer break over December/January. It’s also my birthday month and … it’s Christmas.

I still recall those days approaching Christmas when the presents used to begin to pile up under the tree. Most of them were for dad, he’s a doctor and all his patients bought him presents. Every year. But my sister and two brothers were more excited by what Santa would put in the pillow slips that sat at the end of our beds.

We’d struggle to sleep we were that excited. But mom always warned us that Santa wouldn’t arrive until we were fast asleep.

And then when we woke, far too early for mom and dad, we’d have to wait until they arose before we could open all the goodies in those magical pillowslips.

We had to wait.

The anticipation. The excitement … was electric.

A Year of Darkness

  1. Will live long in our memories. Mostly not for good reasons. But for the darkness that enveloped the world and continues to in so many countries.

And we’ve done a lot of waiting this year haven’t we? For test results, for lockdowns to cease, for vaccines to be produced, for election results to be finalized. And we still wait.

Advent

The season of Advent has commenced. Advent simply means: “coming” or “arrival” – of Jesus.

But as most of us know Jesus didn’t arrive without a long, long wait. Four hundred years in fact. That’s how long the Israelites had to wait. Jesus was born into a world of great darkness. Isaiah had prophesied, "the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death alight has dawned." (Matthew 4:16 referencing Isaiah 9:1-2)

The four-week season of Advent reflects a time of waiting. What, another season of waiting? Haven’t we waited enough this year?

We don’t like to wait, do we? If we didn’t know this before now, we sure do now.

“While God rarely comes at our appointed time, he comes at the right time.” (Louis Giglio)

In fact, we are experienced waiters. We wait for our spouses to come to know the Lord. How long, Lord?

We celebrate the coming of Jesus as a bub every year at Christmas, but we still wait on Him coming a second and final time. We live in Advent all the time.

Waiting for … Jesus.

Jesus.

Remember those days of childlike anticipation, the sense of wonder, on that day? Christmas Day.

Choose to Listen.

How are you feeling at the moment? Why not express it in the comments below. Get it out in writing. It’s healing.

May I encourage us all in these next few weeks to find some time to sit in the Lord’s presence. Share with Him how you're feeling in this season. And listen. Really listen. God wants to speak to us. No, it’s unlikely to be audible but He’s never stopped talking to us.

He’s coming. Jesus. For you. He’s especially chosen you. You who are holy and dearly loved.

One of the earliest recorded prayers of the Church is the Aramaic word, ‘Maranatha’. It simply means, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ (Rev 22:20)

May I encourage you to simply pray that prayer, either the Aramaic or the English.

And wait. And listen.

Perhaps also read the story of when Mary received a very special and unusual visitor, Gabriel, in Luke 1:26-38. Let go of everything else that’s going on around you. Desire to hear from God and ask the Spirit to speak to you. Picture yourself in Mary’s place. Imagine the awesomeness of the situation, listen to Gabriel’s words and what they mean.

Write down what you heard, how you felt.

We’d love to hear some of your responses in the comments.

Wishing all of my SUMite friends a joyful Advent season full of childlike wonder and anticipation.


The Soul Redeemer - A Note From Dineen Miller

Dineen Miller 2 2010Hello SUMITES!

I’m thrilled to be here today! I’ve missed you dearly and it’s been so wonderful to continue to watch this community grow under Ann’s wonderful leadership. When Lynn asked me to share my newest book release, I was overjoyed, because it’s the conclusion to Lexie and Hugh’s story.

When I wrote The Soul Saver, my heart was to write a story to compliment Winning Him Without Words, much like the movie Fireproof and the book The Love Dare were meant to compliment each other. And over the years many have asked me if I would be writing a sequel to The Soul Saver to finish Lexie and Hugh’s story.

Well, I’m happy to share with you that The Soul Redeemer has officially released. It’s a shorter book, a novella actually, that tells the rest of Lexie and Hugh’s story.

And their story is still ours, my friends. We live it every day. 

Her artwork is guided by faith. He’s a non-believer. Will their relationship survive a demon knocking at their door?

In The Soul Saver my goal was to show the spiritual warfare we deal with in our mismatched marriages. In The Soul Redeemer my goal was to show how we win! Lexie leans to step into her authority and Hugh begins to question his atheism.

I pray this story encourages you, my friends. I’m still very much in the battle with you. As I wrote this story, my husband and I hit some really rough patches of disagreement through this pandemic and the election. Once again, the enemy came to steal, kill and destroy, but he lost again as my husband and I determined to stay in a place of love. Not easy but we made the daily decision to do it.

God’s love always wins because His love is the very essence of Who He is, the Great I Am. And He never fails.

I hope you’ll check out the rest of the story, dear friends.

I have two copies of the The Soul Redeemer I’d love to give way.

Just leave a comment and Lynn will pick the winners.

Be blessed!

Dineen

The-Soul-Redeemer-Kindle (002)About The Soul Redeemer:

Tobias is back and determined to win.

Lexie has no idea why Nate is flying back from China, only that his text said it’s urgent. His face is the one God led her to sculpt. That can only mean he’s her next assignment.

Upon his arrival, Nate is stunned to see Lexie is pregnant. He knows what she and Hugh went through when they lost their  little girl several years ago, and can only imagine what lays behind the hint of fear he sees in her eyes. But a warning has brought him back to the States—one he hates to deliver but knows he must.

Tobias is back.

Though still teetering on the edge of faith, Hugh is focused on his future as Department Chair of Physics at Stanford University and the impending arrival of their daughter. Yet he finds an astonishing ability to welcome Nate back into their lives—something he didn’t think possible after what happened in the past.

Tobias is back and determined to claim Hugh’s soul. And his plan of destruction includes putting Lexie and her unborn child in jeopardy. As Lexie and her baby girl fight live, an unexpected visitation brings hope to Lexie that her baby girl will survive. But will Lexie survive to tell Hugh about it?


Giving Tuesday 2020 A SUMite Blessing

Giving hearts

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. – Luke 6:38


All of you who give even $5. I bless you in the name of Jesus.

If you donation more than $50 expect a Christmas letter from the Donovan Clan.

Kingdom Conversations cover photoAnd if you donate more than $75 I’ll send you my newest book, Kingdom Conversations.

If you donate more than $120 you will receive the book and have access to one of the video teaching sets from the Kingdom Living series. This is a video teaching series I created that comes with a guide to bring you into greater power and authority in Christ. (Remember to let me know what teaching set you want when you make your donation.)

If you donate more than $250 you will receive the book, video teaching, and a signed print from my art collection

More than $500. Free prayer session and all the rest!

I'm giving from what I have to offer. Explore the video teaching here. This is what SUMites are saying about the videos: Your videos have been life changing, life Building!  And I can't thank you enough for making those & sharing them with all of us.

Personally, the videos about the Holy Spirit and the Demonic realm..... You will NOT be the same!!!  I demonstrate the supernatural power of God in one! 

View the art pieces here. 

Daddys Girl


I adore you. Lynn
Be blessed this day!

 

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Thanksgiving & Grace

Christmas 2020 SUM (1)SUMite Nation, Lynn here.

I pray you had an amazing Thanksgiving. We put up our Christmas tree and the lights on the house. My thoughts: TAKE THAT 2020! We are spreading joy with a million twinkling lights!!  

I pray you are also moving in thankfulness and into the joyful season of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

This single man, Jesus. Born in obscurity and laid in an animal trough. Without prominence, lacking wealth, and into the hands of young parents. 

THIS SINGLE LIFE:    

Split time into from BC to AD. He transformed a nation, a world and frees the captives and heals the sick. He is the most famous man around the world and His life has impacted millions through the centuries. This one life is the most read book ever written. He is the GREATEST NEWS...

THE GOOD NEWS!  He reconnected us to the Father and we are never alone or without hope!!!  Hallelujah.

Friends, we are launching into the Christmas season. I'm hopeful that over the years you have found hope here with me, Ann and all the others who have gathered in our amazing community. If you have been encouraged here, found hope on a dark day, or found a way forward through words of life from the Giver of life here at SUM, think about sewing into this ministry so we will live on for another year. We STILL are all about encouraging and equipping the unequally yoked.

On Monday join us for Giving Tuesday. And this time, when you give, I'll be able to give back to you. Stay tuned to find out more. 

I adore you. Lynn Donovan    I bless you with Shalom of heaven and the GREATEST HOPE! In Jesus name.


A Donovan Clan Update - Thanksgiving 2020

Hi My SUMite Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love the many ministries I’m involved in.

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

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

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

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

Hugs, Lynn


Happy Thanksgiving

Family thanksgiving Table SUM

SUMites, we are taking Thanksgiving week off. You should too!!! *grin*

Spend time with your families. Eat way too much food. Enjoy a slice of pie. Kiss your husband and do something adventurous and new with your kids. 

Give Thanks! We will see you right after Thanksgiving with a few announcements. Woo Hoo!! Stay tuned!

We love you so much. Hugs, Ann, Lynn, Tiffany, & Ian

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. -Hebrews 13:15-16


A Prayer of Blessing Over Our Children

Dear SUMites, Ann here! Vidya

As a mum of two teen boys, I have to say that parenting is the biggest thing I bring to the Lord. Dare I confess that it really can send me over the edge when I think too long and hard about my precious boys and how precarious it feels to let them detach from my apron strings and fly free. Anyone else out there feel this way? These days my prayers have ramped up for that very reason and, in particular, it's their faith life that occupies me.

Yet, just like with my husband, I find I can't just make this thing happen on my own strength. And it takes a good deal of thought.

I know that many of you feel the same, and it's a big part of our SUM journey trying to figure out how to raise our children effectively in faith.

Well, today I want to share a prayer that one of our SUMites, Vidya Rodney, has written for us. She too is a mum and I always love the thoughtful prayers she contributes. This one is a great one for us this Friday.

Thanks, Vidya!

***

Blessings Over Our Children

My child is the head and not the tail. My child is above and not beneath.

I bless my child with favor, good understanding and high esteem in the sight of God and others, in Jesus' name.

I bless my child with wisdom and understanding in all study and endeavors, in Jesus' name.

I bless my child to be filled with the knowledge of the Father's will, bearing fruits in every good work, in Jesus' name.

I bless my child to prosper at everything he/she touches, in Jesus' name.

I bless my child with divine protection, to be rooted and grounded in love, in Jesus' name.

I place the whole armor of God on my child, in Jesus' name.

I charge the Angels with flaming swords and flaming wings to stand guard at my child's sides to defend, protect and preserve them, in Jesus' name.

I bless my child to be a man/woman/boy/girl of integrity in everything they do, in Jesus' name, Amen

I bless my child to be established in perfect love which casts out all fears, in Jesus' name.

Amen and Amen

**

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.


When a Spouse Leaves the Faith -- Part 3

Hi friends, Ann here! Tears

When a spouse leaves the faith -- part 1

When spouse leaves the faith – part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2) Upgrade your spiritual warfare

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

(3) Fight for that marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time,

Ann


When a Spouse Leaves the Faith -- Part 2

Ann here again! Tears

When a spouse leaves the faith, Part 1

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

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

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

The Come-Back Kid!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Least likely does not mean impossible!

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

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


When A Spouse Leaves Their Faith -- Part 1

Ann here! Tears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Church, We Are Crossing Over!

Dear friends, Ann here! Crossing the Jordan

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

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

Sitting … waiting … watching … seeking Him. 

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

(Habakkuk 2:1, NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Deuteronomy 11:11-12, NKJV)

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

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

Love to you all,

Ann


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.


On Shedding the 'Unequally Yoked' Badge

Hello friends, Ann here!Badge

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

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

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

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

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

Beloved SUMites:

Your marriages are not mismatched or unequally yoked.

Your marriages are Mine.

Your husbands are Mine.

They are Mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I liked that.

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

Your marriage is not mismatched. It is Mine.

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

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

Ann


Four Simple Things To Change Your Perspective

Hey there SUM family, Tiffany here!

On Monday I gave a little glimpse of what I have been enduring these past few months with work. I wasn’t sure how to put this into words but then I got the perfect illustration that came to me on Wednesday.

I was at work. We were short staffed and very busy. I see a gentleman at the bottom of the stairs waiting in line. He had a logo on his polo with a local grocery store name on it. In his hand was an arrangement of flowers.

I would have thought nothing of it except that day was my birthday. I got teary eyed thinking, “wow someone has acknowledged me! Did my husband get me flowers?” The gentleman comes up to the window. He says the name of my coworker. My heart sunk. Disappointment. If this was a television show, envision the moment frozen in time as it turns to black and white. The host steps into view from the side of the screen. “This is the moment we have been waiting for. What will she do?”

Instantly the flesh in me thought, “Seriously? It is MY birthday. Why does SHE get flowers?” Thank the Lord for His presence. Holy Spirit – what an amazing Guide and Friend. I don’t know how I lived before I allowed Jesus to come into my heart and life!

We always have two options. During this trying time at work I had chosen to live in the flesh. Focus on the negative. What I DIDN’T have. Complaining and bickering. I had forgotten to be grateful. I had failed to praise the Lord.

When we are faced with trial and hardship we will not weather the storm very well when we fail to trust in the Lord. Think of Jesus and the disciples in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus said, “Let’s go to the other side.” He falls asleep on the boat and a storm begins to rage. Instead of remembering what Jesus said, “Let’s go to the OTHER SIDE” they panicked in the middle of the sea. “Don’t you care, Jesus?” After rebuking the wind and commanding peace of the sea He turns to the disciples. “How is it that you have no faith?” ::GULP::

When God says something – promises and callings over our lives – it is up to US to trust and believe them to be true. The promise for the disciples was that they WOULD reach the other side of the sea. Jesus was able to sleep because He knew they would make it. He was resting in promise.

I had a choice that day. I could listen to the forces of darkness. I could allow a foothold that would open the door to bitterness, jealousy and resentment. OR I could take a step back and remind myself of the promises of God. I am beloved. I am beautiful. I am seen. I am cherished.

Thankfully I chose to laugh at the schemes of the devil. I smiled and said, “Nope. Not today!” I may not have received flowers from the local grocery store. But in subtle ways throughout the workday I got little nudges from the Lord. Two people came in that day for fingerprinting with the same birthday. I got to interact with both of them. It was fun to “celebrate” together and share a laugh. I saw a blue jay on my lunch break. This was a nod to my request for the Lord to send me a blue jay feather for my collection. *This is my equivalent to Lynn’s balloons; something fun between Daddy and I.* A woman I fingerprinted handed me a card as she was walking out the door. She said, “This is for you.” This is so much more precious than freshly cut flowers. It will last longer too. Take a look below.

102820 birthday

I didn’t look into it until I took a picture for this post. NBWC stands for New Beginnings Worship Center. What better way to begin a new year of life than with new beginnings from the Lord.

What are some things that I do to get me through hardship?

PRAY. Cry out to the Lord. Nothing is too small. There is no such thing as unimportant to Him. He cares about every little thing. What about when you just don’t have the words?

You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh. – Psalm 38:9, NLT

MEDITATE. We are what we eat. What are you feeding on? Focus on the word of the Lord. I found in these last couple of months I have had to repeat and recall to my mind Bible verses that would help me get through the day. Over and over again. Recite. Remember. Repeat. Hold fast to His word. It makes it much harder to fall into the fleshly games of the devil. After all, it is what Jesus did in the wilderness.

So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. – Philippians 4:8, TPT

WORSHIP. Music is huge in my life. I love to sing and dance and experience the Holy Spirit as I praise the Lord. From Hymns to contemporary – I enjoy it all.

 I highly suggest “Don’t Tread On Me” by We The Kingdom; “Praise Before  My Breakthrough” and “Remember” by Bryan and Katie Torwalt; and “Sing It From The Shackles” by Rend Collective.

For God is King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding. – Psalm 47:7

GIVE THANKS. It is hard to complain when you realize how blessed you are. There will always be something we can thank God for. If anything – there is breath in your lungs. You woke up today! You’ve been given more time. For me, I am now choosing to thank God that I have a job. I am choosing to thank God that I am able to contribute financially to our household. Food is on the table. We have heat, a roof over our heads, clothing, and running vehicles. All these things cost money. In thanking God, it forces me to look up. It forces me to see things from God’s perspective. Having an attitude of gratitude truly has lightened mood. It gives me hope. It gives me joy.

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. – Psalm 28:7, NLT

I bless you my friends. I am praying for you all. No matter the circumstances: God is good and His mercy endures forever.

See you in the comments.