How I Read my Bible - Tiffany's Favorite

How I read my Bible 2Hey SUM Family, Tiffany here!

I love seeing how other people read their Bible. I have seen some things that I would really like to try! Isn't it great how together we sharpen one another! ::grin::

I have talked before about the power of praise. I love to listen to worship songs and praise God with my voice and dance. So, it is no surprise to me that Holy Spirit gave me the idea "Connecting Verses" several years ago.

The idea is to take worship music and use it as a "blueprint" if you will to search the Bible.  Connecting Verses is a place where music and scripture collide.

I've noticed that the more I would dig into scripture, especially the Psalms, the more that I would be reminded of songs as the words would "leap off the pages."

Last week, I was able to carve out some worship time with my kids. My husband was out for the evening. I put on worship songs and encouraged the kids to read their Bibles or worship with flags. My daughter, she went to singing and dancing. My son, sat on the couch with his Bible.

I felt directed to lead Easton to the Psalms. After a while, as I laid down on the floor with my Bible opened, my son came and laid on the floor next to me with his Bible. As I was flipping through the Psalms, Easton looked at my Bible and said, "This one is my favorite Psalm." I said, "Oh? Psalm 40?" I looked at the verses on the page:

1I waited patiently for the Lord; Connecting Verses Collage
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.

In the margin of my Bible, I had written: Hillsong Worship - Jesus Lover of my Soul. I said, "You know Easton, there is a song that I loved growing up about these verses in Psalm 40. At the time I couldn't remember the tune so I looked it up on YouTube. As soon as the music began, I instantly remembered. I sang it over my kids as they laid their heads on my lap. It was one of the most beautiful moments I've had with my children. I have had moments like this when they were smaller. But now, there is something so sweet when children are at that age when they know how to read, they know how to process the moment, and will remember these times.

What I think will be really fun, is if we work through a song together. Meditate on the song, "I Am Not Alone" by Kari Jobe (Click the song title for a lyric video).

When I walk through deep watersI know that You will be with meWhen I'm standing in the fireI will not be overcomeThrough the valley of the shadowI will not fear
 
I am not aloneI am not aloneYou will go before meYou will never leave me
 
I am not aloneI am not aloneYou will go before meYou will never leave me
 
In the midst of deep sorrowI see Your light is breaking throughThe dark of night will not overtake meI am pressing into You
 
Lord, You fight my every battleOh, and I will not fear
 
I am not aloneI am not aloneYou will go before meYou will never leave me
 
I am not aloneI am not aloneYou will go before meYou will never leave me
 
You amaze meRedeem meYou call me as Your ownYou amaze meRedeem meYou call me as Your own
 
You're my strengthYou're my defenderYou're my refuge in the stormThrough these trialsYou've always been faithfulYou bring healing to my soul
 
I am not aloneI am not aloneYou will go before meYou will never leave me
 
I am not alone (no)I am not aloneYou will go before meYou will never leave me
 
I am not aloneI am not aloneYou will go before meYou will never leave me
Listen to the song, meditate on the words. Ask the Holy Spirit to recall to your mind verses that match the lyrics. If you are not able to recall from memory, do an online search. I like to type in part of the lyric and add "Bible" to the search. For example: "Bible You will never leave me". Scroll through the search results and write down the scripture verses next to the song verses.
 
Let's discuss this song in the comments. How amazing to study the Bible and interact together using this song as a study guide. I can't wait to see what you come up with. Let's worship the Lord together today in spirit and in truth. I'll post one in the comments for an example.
 
Be blessed!

How I Read My Bible

How I read my Bible 2Hello my lovely SUMites, Amanda here! I have loved reading Ian and Ann’s posts on how they read their bibles! It is always inspiring to me to hear or read how other believers like to study Gods word. 

I have loved bibles since I was a teenager. I wanted the one with the trendy cover or cool maps inside. I ended up with several bibles in a variety of styles over the years. Sadly, I was more interested in the look of them than actually reading them.

You see, I struggled badly with condemnation in my teens. I felt I could only study when I was “being good”, once I stumbled and did something that wasn’t good, I would feel too guilty to keep studying. This was a cycle that repeated itself into my early twenties. The Bible, especially the New Testament, was a book of rules in my eyes. It was a list of all the things I would never be and could never do. The enemy had twisted my mind into being afraid to open the word! I was completely missing out on Gods grace and denying myself His forgiveness and mercy! That all started to change when I was introduced to two things: a fantastic couple of local pastors, and page on YouTube called The Bible Project.

I have so much to share so I will keep this part brief. I started regularly attending church alone when I was 25. I met the sweetest couple who were joint pastors of this precious little church. This husband and wife opened my eyes to Gods grace. I specifically remember the wife preaching on grace one Sunday and at just the mention of it she was close to tears. I remember her voice trembling, and how passionately she spoke to the congregation. Her message that day was a big step towards me believing that I was worthy of it too! And so, opening my bible got a little easier.

A few years later, my younger sister introduced me to these guys on YouTube who called their page The Bible Project. I had never seen videos like these before, and soon I was hooked! Not only were their videos beautifully done, but they were FILLED with the goodness and truth of Gods word. They helped me begin to understand the importance of context; the when, where, and why a book was written. And the creators of the page were so passionate and excited about the Word that I began to feel excited too! I ate it up like candy! It replaced my condemnation and fear with joy and hunger! I began to read my bible even more ;).

Fast forward to now, in my early thirties, the condemnation still tries to see where it can creep in, but I know how to kick it so it doesn’t stick around long. The way I prefer to read currently is one book at a time. I like to start by watching a Bible Project video on the book and learning as much context as I can beforehand. My favorite mornings start with me grabbing my bible and journal as soon as I wake up. I write down 5 things I am thankful for, a declaration for that day (something like “I will speak lovingly all day” or “Today I will walk in health and peace”), I pray, and I read. I typically read one or two chapters at a time. After that it is time to get up with my littles and start our day. My kiddos are still pretty young (7 and 10), so not all mornings are this peaceful! But I can definitely tell the difference between when I start my days this way and when I don’t. 

I also really enjoy reading with my kids! I usually stick with one chapter, or even half a chapter, and make sure it is something I know well enough so I can answer questions (ALWAYS pray for wisdom before you start answering questions!). My daughter is very inquisitive and asks all the hard questions, which I love! It was this very thing that lead to her asking to get baptized a few weeks ago! Praise God! Even if you never get quiet time, read the Word to your kids in the noise. It plants a seed, even if you can’t see it!

That’s all for me folks! I would love to hear about your favorite ways to study in the comments! 


How I Read My Bible: Ann's Story

By Ann Hutchison How I read my Bible 2

When I was 19, I was at University in Texas. My parents, who were in England, sent me money from home: "Go and buy a Bible, our gift," they said. 

So I did. I chose a beautiful leather-bound New King James Bible in a box.

Well, that box sat mostly unopened for the next nineteen years. But now I'm now going to fast-forward to myself as a 38-year old agnostic, living in New Zealand:

I had met Bryce in Texas shortly after buying that Bible, and moved to New Zealand, his homeland. The Bible moved with me. And one day while my two children were at school, in my house in Auckland I knelt down beside a cupboard to retrieve that precious box.

A golden moment!

Setting the box on my bed, I peeled back its lid and withdrew the treasure within. I ran my hand over the red-brown leather, fingering the gold leafed pages. Would I find the Bible to be supernatural, or the hand of man? Bible in a box

And so I carried it over to an armchair, settled in and started to read. The house was peaceful. Genesis 1:1 'In the beginning...'

Well, once I opened that book, I can tell you, something happened to me. All the way through the laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy I read with fascination. The minor prophets felt like gripping page-turners. I realized there was a man called Paul who wrote much of the New Testament -- who knew? And by the time I reached Revelation 22, I sat back and closed its pages. "WOW", was my reaction.

That first time through I googled as I read. For example, I looked up the historicity of every king in Kings and Chronicles. The empires in the book of Daniel, I googled. I asked God questions throughout, sticking those questions on post-it notes into the Bible. My mind and heart were hungry. It was a highly personal experience.

And needless to say, by the fact I'm writing this, it's clear that I decided the Bible was supernatural. After that, it became my daily food.

Now I'm going to fast-forward to 2022: Old Bible

I rise with bleary eyes, throw on a robe and brew a cup of tea. I grab Bible, ruler and pen, and carry all that 'equipment' to my bed. I prop the pillow up, throw myself back into bed and read, luxuriously. I underline things and write prayers, thoughts and questions in the margin.

Bryce potters in the kitchen or gets dressed while I'm reading.

After that, the Bible and I move into the main area of the house, where I carry on reading, this time with the boys pottering around me, getting ready for school.

And then after they've gone and the house is peaceful, I read a little more.

How do I do it now? I read all sixty-six books of the Bible in no particular order, and tick off every book once I've read it so that I give all the books attention. I say to God, 'which book shall I read next?' and then I dive in, letting it speak to me. I've just finished Judges, and then jumped into Philippians today.

Why do I read all of it rather than just the New Testament? I feel that the whole thing is God's love letter to humanity. What's more, the Old Testament tells me just as many valuable things as the New Testament does about how God works with people, and about Jesus.

I write lots of questions for God as I read, but I don't mind mystery either.

And what I love is that the Bible I bought all those years ago was so fit for purpose -- God knew exactly what I'd need and like. It has wide margins for all my questions, and references to show where the same word or idea is found in other verses. I use those references daily, looking up linkages across the Bible and seeing how the different parts link to each other.

Wow... I could write so much more, but my word count's up. Funnily, I wrote this before I read Ian's post on Wednesday, and it delighted me to read his version. Amanda is next -- I can't wait to see her take on it.

In the meantime, have our two posts so far brought anything to mind for you? Share away in the comments!

Ann


How I Read My Bible

How I read my Bible 2Hello, everyone and welcome to this short series on reading the Bible. I’m excited to learn as much as I can and have the honour of kicking us off with my own Bible-reading habits.

I would suggest my Bible reading is a little eclectic. I read passages from the Bible every day in some form or other. These days, I rarely read a book of the Bible from start to finish (with one exception) tending to focus on specific topics or passages that my other reading has led me to.

The Psalms

The one exception is the Book of Psalms which I tend to continuously read from start to finish using some form of ‘guide’ to prompt my reading. At present, I’m working through a book called “Openings” which each day introduces the reader to a saint or sage and works through the 150 Psalms over the course of a year. Previously, I listened to the Psalms read by Dane Ortlund in his podcast series based on his book “In the Lord I Take Refuge”

Why the continual focus on the Psalms? I just love them as they are so expressive of the human situation. All our emotions are on show, and I feel I get to encounter God when I read them.

Information or Encounter

I’m a learner. In all those personality strength tests ‘learning’ comes out top or near top for me. It’s a family trait, all my siblings possess it; we’re constant learners. When I had my wakeup call over 10 years ago about not knowing God well enough (He prompted me), I dived into reading the Bible and acquiring knowledge. I’d study the Bible, research things, read commentaries, and so on which was all wonderful for the learner in me. My mind was filled with all good things.

Knowing God is very important. But interestingly, when the Bible refers to knowing God it often refers to an experiential knowledge of God. God doesn’t want us to just have an intellectual knowledge of Him but to experience Him, paralleling this nuance of ‘know’ (‘oida’ in Greek) with sexual intimacy. In John 14:7, Jesus says, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” Jesus and the Father had a very intimate relationship, one that we too can learn to develop.

Bible reading is a way of developing that intimate knowledge of Jesus. Remember, Jesus is the Word (as described in John 1). God has given us the Word, both the written and Jesus, to encounter, to experience. Not just to gain head knowledge.

Around five years ago I began reading the Psalms. And I haven’t stopped. I found in reading the Psalms that I began to develop an experience of God through my emotions. I praised, I cried, I lamented, I got mad, sad and happy all through reading the Psalms. Typically, I did this through putting myself into the Psalm. Psalm 23 is a beauty as I visualised myself with the Shepherd as I prayed each of the six verses. Try it.

Encountering Jesus

I was challenged a few months ago by God to go deeper in the gospels. As a friend of mine wrote, “… if I want to interact with Jesus as His disciple, I must keep company with him in the gospels.” Trevor goes on to say,” The Gospels offer us far more than information and inspiration. When read with expectant trust and faith, they make interaction with the living Jesus a living reality.”1

It prompted me to read ‘John’ slowly and mindfully. And now I want to continue with reading the other three gospels. Jesus is there in the gospels. We can encounter him, God, each time we read the Word.

Well, that’s me. Love to read any insights, thoughts you might have about your own Bible reading habits in the comments below.

Grace and peace,

Note: 1. Trevor Hudson, "Seeking God" (NavPress, Illinois, 2022)


Tablecloth of Thanks -From the Archives

Hi friends, Lynn Donovan here on this brilliant November 1st as we all step into a season of giving thanks. I'm writing to you from my new home. I am so very thankful for all the Lord has provided. Below is my annual Thanksgiving tablecloth post:

Every year I share this post in November. I wrote it at 15 years of marriage. We are now married for more than 30 years. This tradition is priceless in our family. I pray all of you have one or will make one for your family this year!

Happy Thanksgiving! Love, Lynn

Imported Photos 00008Tablecloth of Thanks 

Many of you know that I am married to an unbeliever. This past March we celebrated 15 years of marriage. Our unequally yoked marriage has had its challenges to say the least. Over the years, however, our ingenious God has maneuvered us through many touchy issues. 

Our disparity becomes more apparent during the holidays. Giving thanks to our Lord in November is a treasured time for me. I name my blessings one-by-one in prayer, thanking God for His lavish abundance poured into our lives. 

Like most wives living in an unequally yoked marriage, I long for my spouse to understand there is a God. To know He is intricately involved in our lives and everything we have is provision of our creator. I have also learned that forcing God upon my husband is a surefire way to push him away. I am careful to respect my husband and simply trust Jesus to reach him in his perfect timing. 

In spite of my husband’s unbelief, I discovered a unique way to draw him into the celebration of thanks, besides through his stomach. He loves turkey. 

Four years ago, I threw a new, pristine-white tablecloth across our dinning room table two weeks prior to Thanksgiving. I purchased several colored pens and placed them on top. A new tradition was born, a Tablecloth of Thanks. It began with my daughter. I told her, “I WANT you to write on this tablecloth.” She looked at me with skepticism in her eyes, wondering if her mother had lost her mind. 

“Really,” my smiled reassured. “Write down what you are most thankful for this year. Then write the year, 2004, near your name.” 

She grinned and began to write using several different colors. I joined in and wrote my thanks directly on the beautiful tablecloth. 

Later that evening my husband noticed the scribbles on the tablecloth. I watched as he walked over to read our words. I walked to his side and took his hand. I subtly asked him if he would also write down his thanks. He smiled and said maybe later. 

Finally on the evening of Thanksgiving Day, my husband picked up a pen and wrote; I am thankful for my wonderful family, great friends, and a very happy life. 

Wow! Was he giving thanks to our Lord? I am not sure. However, every year since he has continued to write a thankful list. Last year’s entry reads; I am thankful for all of my blessings…family, friends, and the dogs. 


What? Did he use the word blessings? Small steps such as these lead to the Savior. I can’t wait to read his thankful list this year. 

The Thankful Tablecloth is one of my most prized possessions. Everyone who visits our home during the Thanksgiving holiday contributes to this permanent memorial of thanks. It is a visible praise to the King displayed in our unequally yoked home each November. 

One of my favorite thanks is this: 

2006
I am thankful
to be able to sit
on the couch and have
my people pet me.
Peanut 

Hmmmm, I wonder how the dog grew fingers and learned to write???? 

Psalm 69:30 (NIV)
I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.

 

Lord God, I will name my blessings one-by-one….. Jesus… eternal life…. clean water to drink…..capacity to love…..empowerment to forgive….. just for a start….. 

It is never too late to start a new tradition. If you want to start your Tablecloth of Thanks, I have a few helpful hints.

  1. Place a sheet of butcher paper under your tablecloth. (I have a permanent smiley face on my dinning room table from the year 2005)
  2. Use colorfast fabric pens.
  3. Store your tablecloth in an airtight Ziploc bag. 

Thank you my friends for sharing this Holiday treasure with me. I wish you were with me today and could share your thankful heart on the Tablecloth of Thanks.


It's Halloween. What is a Christian to Do?

HalloweenI received a call last week from a frantic young mother who was desperate to receive help and deliverance for her very young daughter. After her description of the frightening things going on in her home and with her daughter, I lay awake most of the night praying and interceding for her child.

This child sees bugs in the bathroom and is terrified and refuses to shower. She has been drooling and talking to people who aren't there. She is under tremendous oppression and needs freedom from the Lord Jesus so much. I’ve prayed with her mother and the author of My Child Sees Monsters, has also prayed with her. I’ve referred her to a deliverance ministry in her city.

As I’ve considered this child’s terrible plight, I grow increasingly outraged with the devil.

My friends, the primary tool of the devil is FEAR. So as we are surrounded by aspects of fear in the stores, in the windows and yards of our neighbors, our children’s Halloween costumes, please consider how fear enters your life and that of your child.

Fear is a REAL spirit and at the root of so much demonic activity.

So, some quick notes of advice this Halloween.

  1. Don’t ever force your children to do something that is frightening. What I mean by this is if there is a haunted house on your block and child is afraid, don’t take them into it. Even if you believe it’s just for fun.
  2. Monitor their screen time. SERIOUSLY. I was visiting my sister last week and she put on the new Hocus Pocus movie. I had to get up a leave. The REAL witchcraft going on in that movie was too much for me.
  3. Don’t take your kids to scary movies. IN FACT, don’t YOU go to scary movies. Watching fright blocks the Holy Spirit.
  4. Pray, pray and pray on Halloween because the absolute wickedness that occurs in the early morning hours is very real.

I’m sure you can offer some advice to our community. Share in the comments. And if you have time, read what a former satanist, John Rameriz, says about Halloween.

Blessings and hugs, Lynn Donovan


New Series: How I Read My Bible

Hello SUMites How I read my Bible 2

It's Ann here and I want to quickly tell you about our next series, starting next week: How I read my Bible. The writers here at SUM are each going to take it in turns to share our personal stories about what the Bible means to us and how we go about reading it. 

I feel like I can't wait to hear what my fellow writers have to say... I've never asked them that question.

Maybe you'd like to share in the comments how you go about reading your Bible? What routines do you have? How do you tackle the trickier passages? The more comments, the merrier, we say!

Anyway, Ian will be kicking us off with that next Wednesday, so tune in for that.

I also want to say a big thank you for your survey responses so far -- I will write more on that later. It's been a joy to read your input. And, if any of you still want to complete the survey you can do so by clicking here.

That's all for today, much love,

Ann


What I Would Tell My Younger, Unequally Yoked, Self

Dear Younger SelfWhat I would tell my 30-year-old self as a newly unequally yoked woman.

My friends, Lynn Donovan, here with you for a few posts. I’ve been pondering what was the most difficult part of my loooooong unequally yoked marriage. And viewing it from 30 years of experience now, I have concluded a few things that I wish I would have known when my unequally yoked marriage began.

I believe the greatest struggle for me was dispelling all the lies I believed about faith in God. Your story may be a bit different but for me I had to struggle, alone, wrangling with doubt, unbelief and the truth. Not only did I have my own doubts about God, the Bible, Jesus and faith when I was a young woman, but I also had to fight against my husband’s unbelief.

So for many years I would make small gains in belief through my church attendance and Bible reading. And then something would happen (an evil assignment) to make me doubt that God was real. And after fighting that doubt, then to fight against the thoughts that God wasn’t really good. And on and on. Three steps forward, two back. Then forward and back.

I think many young people go through this when figuring out their faith. For many who have believing husbands, they have a partner to hold them up when they are in doubt or struggle. They have a voice in their home that is strong in faith when they feel weak. But for us who are married to unbelievers, we lack the support AND we face their doubts and unbelief as well as our own.

Would you agree with this?

Their unbelief is a double smack down to our floundering faith life.

I know for me; Mike would ask difficult questions. And I lacked answers. Or for many of us, accusations come at us like we are God and must answer for him. For example, “If God is good, then why …….. (insert a number of things here). Or I received several statements such as:

  • The Bible is a flawed ancient book. It’s been misinterpreted.
  • God isn’t real. He is only a figment of imagination that weak people need to explain the unexplainable.
  • Jesus was only a man. How could a man be God?
  • Science will one day explain away these things you believe are supernatural.

Can any of you relate?

As I consider all of these statements, I wish I could put my arms around my younger self and whisper in her confused ears. “Lynn, just chuckle at these statements. The Bible is absolutely true. It is the voice of God. The Words in it will lead you to a life of abundance and utter fulfilment. Lynn, you are stronger than you know. And God is always with you. Jesus adores you and the Holy Spirit is standing by to empower your beliefs.”

My young friends who are in the trenches, please feel my arms around you today. Be empowered by what I am about to speak to you.

You are stronger that you know. Pursue God as He will take care of you. He is real. He is absolutely good. His plan for your life will give you the highest and best experience here on earth. You will live a life of goodness and walk in miracles. Believe the Bible. It is true and God is all around you, every day. Choose to do the right thing and live always in hope. Pray and pray and pray because He hears and moves upon your words of faith.

Laugh at the enemy and command him out of your life, home, marriage and relationships. Stand in faith because Jesus is real. He has everything you need and more. He is glorified when you live your best life now.

I love you, my friends. Take this advice deep into your heart. It’s absolutely true and it will change your life. Blessings, Lynn


Sorry, What Did You Just Say??

By Ann Hutchison You prepare a table for me

Friends, have you ever had a moment in your SUM when your spouse says something that makes you stop in your tracks, because it shows something has shifted?

They say something, and you think to yourself 'Sorry, what did you just say??'

Well, something like that happened to me this week.

Bryce and I have a couple in our life whom we've known for decades: Bryce grew up in church with the guy and has known him all his life. They live in a different part of the city to us so we see them rarely, but they are Christian.

Because Bryce grew up with this guy, it is normal to bring God, church, and faith into the conversation when we are together, and those sorts of conversations happen reasonably naturally. 

Anyway, on Saturday night this couple came over. Chat chat chat, we went, enjoying catching up. Then it was time to make coffee for everyone, so I left the table to go into the kitchen round the corner. As I did so I heard the guy saying something to Bryce about "Satan...." 

Now, for someone who struggles to believe, it's one leap to believe in God, but it's a whole other thing to believe in Satan. And Bryce, though growing up in church, never really believed as a teenager, so this whole thing has been a long road from teenagehood to now. "Ridiculous", I could picture him thinking. Ridiculous.

Still, I kinda grinned as I poured that coffee, thinking "Ah well, it wasn't me who raised it."

We waved goodbye to our friends eventually and looked forward to seeing them again in another six months or so. 

The next day, I noticed Bryce had headphones on while he pottered around the house doing DIY. "What are you listening to?" I asked. He told me he was listening to a particular radio host who challenges popular mindsets in today's society. Bryce has taken an interest in listening to this radio host recently.

All day he had those headphones on. I watched, affectionately. But here's where the moment came:

That night in bed he started talking to me about something this radio host had said, challenging a popular view about something. He was intrigued by seeing that so many people had a false belief about something (I can't remember what) yet they followed the crowd. And then, out of the blue, he said this:

"Satan stops people from seeing truth."

Sorry, what???

I raised my eyes and pulled a stunned face in the dark. Then a most relaxed comment seemed to come out of my mouth so naturally and calmly that perhaps it was the Holy Spirit. I said:

"Yes, Satan does use a lot of different techniques to distract people from God."

At that, my husband nodded and mm-hmmed in agreement.

I lay there in the dark after that thinking "What just happened there?!" This comment of my husband's was a new step. He had just expressed something that meant we weren't so misaligned in our beliefs. 

Having reflected on this, I note that we do have many of these sorry, what??' moments as a community. I can remember so many times that someone here at SUM has shared a moment like this - A moment of wonder. Each time it happens we know that it is a sign that something has shifted. 

Amazing.

One final note: As I was writing this post it occured to me to use a photo I had downloaded a few years ago. A photo of a dinner table. When I found it I saw that I'd labelled it 'You prepare a table for me,' from Psalm 23. Well, I can say this story speaks to me of that verse most ironically, and so here is that verse for us today --

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows (Psalm 23:5, KJV).

My friends, hope you liked that story. Have you had a similar moment you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear in the comments!

Ann

 


Are You Emotionally Mature? Your Spouse?

Emotional MaturityHi SUM Nation,

Lynn Donovan here today for a chat.

I have a question to get started. Have you ever looked at someone (meaning your spouse :grin:) and wanted to say, “Grow up already!”

Ahem!

I’ve been doing a bit of research about emotional maturity, and it’s been enlightening. As I consider marriage relationships, I want to point out what Psychology Today considers markers of emotional maturity:

  1. A mature person is able to keep long-term commitments.
  2. A mature person is unshaken by flattery or criticism.
  3. A mature person possesses a spirit of humility.
  4. A mature person’s decisions are based on character, not feelings.
  5. A mature person expresses gratitude consistently.
  6. A mature person knows how to prioritize others before themselves.
  7. A mature person seeks wisdom before acting. A mature person is teachable.

As I read through this list, I realized that an emotionally mature individual is living out Biblical principles. Each of these maturity markers are biblically based.

Now here is a way to gage your emotional maturity and that of others with whom you are in relationship.

Maturity fills the salt-shakers and it wipes down the shelves in the fridge when they’re sticky. It empties the kitty litter before stalagmites form. Maturity understands that there can be one junk drawer in a house, but not 27.

Maturity doesn’t text, type, game or take calls when in conversation with others.

Maturity backs up its files, goes to a doctor or a clinic when it’s in pain, and picks up the tab when it goes out to dinner with its parents.

Maturity understands that nobody wants the back story of why something didn’t get done because it knows that what matters is the effective completion of a task.

In contrast, immaturity has an extensive list of prefab excuses for why it couldn’t make its deadline. Immaturity uses every tummy ache, flu, headache, fallen arch, hangnail or breakup as an excuse to slip the knot of accountability. Immaturity, then, doesn’t understand why life is always “so unfair, like, always” when it offers criticism instead of condolences for failure.

Immaturity whines; immaturity rolls its eyes; immaturity takes everything personally; immaturity accepts no responsibility; immaturity sprays Febreze on clothes instead of washing them; immaturity shows up late and leaves early.

In short, immaturity is spoiled. And what is spoiled doesn’t ripen. It goes bad early, gets bitter and withers on the vine. (G. Barreca at Psychology Today)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

As believers when we choose to follow the precepts from the Word, we will walk as mature sons and daughters. THAT is the entire purpose of our life on earth. Mature sons and daughters of the Most High God.

I’m so glad to have grown up with you, my friends.

If you are dealing with an immature spouse, get help. Talk with a counselor and gain skills, gain boundaries with consequences, gain confidence in your maturity. And you can stand firm in your identity that you are emotionally mature because of your faith in Christ.

Love you my friends. I bless you today. In Jesus name. Hugs, Lynn


It's Time for a SUM Community Survey!

Hello SUM family, SUM survey

One of the things we like best here at SUM is getting to know YOU, our community.

And so... we've put together a survey that we're hoping you might complete? This survey will help us get to know you and serve you by focusing our ministry on the areas you need.

Would you take a few minutes of your time to take this survey for us? If so, click on the link here to take it: 

SUM Community Survey

It will take about 5 minutes, and if you complete it you will go into a draw to win a free book of your choice from our ministry -- Either Winning Him Without Words, Raising Godly Kids, or Marching Around Jericho. The draw will be done on 31 October 2022.

We really look forward to receiving your responses, and a big thanks to you all in advance for your input, which we can't wait to read.

Love from us,

Ann, Lynn, Amanda, Ian, and Tiffany


A Culture of Honor

Happy Friday, SUM friends! Compass 2

In my last post I mulled over the difference between judging and discerning. Well, today I want to add one final layer:

Love.

I heard a minister of the Gospel once say the biggest thing God will ask you when you finally meet him face-to-face is this: "Did you learn to love?"

It could be so. There is so much about love in the New Testament.

There's a lot of crazy stuff going on in the world, and sometimes in the church too. This means that we surely do need eyes of discernment so that we can keep going in the right direction. We need to keep following our true north (God), as if we're holding a compass and trying to constantly gauge his direction.

But, equally, when we discern we have to discern lovingly. And what does love look like when we're trying to discern things? Here are a few thoughts:

  • In the church, uphold a culture of honor in our interactions with others.
  • When thinking or speaking, we can ask: Am I being honoring in my tone and attitude?
  • Look first for the good in others' hearts. 
  • Remember that people are growing 
  • And finally, don't speak bad things about another Christian to their fellow brothers and sisters. It puts a wedge between relationships in the church.

If we do the above, we'll do a better job at navigating some of those tricky things that happen in churches. Churches are messy, not perfect, so we are given plenty of opportunity to practice the above.

All the while, we're meant to not condone sin as Christians, and that's a biggie. Sometimes we'll see ministers step in, for example, and stop certain behaviors in the church for the sake of the wider flock. But overall we can all still uphold a love for God in a way that is gentle and kind in manner, as far as possible.

So that was a final thought. I'd love to hear any further thoughts in the comments; and let's pray:

Lord God, help us to get a good balance in our lives between standing for truth and loving people lavishly. Give us more wisdom on this one in our personal lives, and Lord help us relate to people in the way you would have related to them when you were on earth. We love you, Jesus, thank you for being here and being ours. In Your name, we pray. Amen.

Love,

Ann


Judging vs Discerning: What's the Difference?

Ann here! Compass

Today I want to chew over a question we discussed in last week's Zoom session on the Book of James: What is the difference between 'Judging' and 'Discerning' when it comes to other people?

Have you wrestled with that one at all? 

Perhaps we can all think of times we've been faced with a Christian who's behaving in a way we wouldn't, or saying things that are harmful. Perhaps you feel they are saying things that are untrue, for example. And then you think, "Why are they saying that?" Before you know it, you're kinda judging them ...

Well, I've been there, anyway.

There are circumstances that call for discernment. For example, I've had a couple of Christians in my extended family whose words have not been right, and those words affected me. To keep my own faith on track, I had to try to discern what was going on -- With them, with me.

This is hard stuff.

If we walk round trying to be 'discerning' it can be faulty if we're not walking closely with God. Some people are downright suspicious of everything, thinking they're discerning, but suspicion and discernment are not the same thing. Any of us can also be wrong when discerning, and it's possible to be judging someone under the guise of 'discerning'. Gulp!

However, discernment is critical and valid in the Body of Christ. So, how do we figure it out? Perhaps the first step is that love must be our motive.

James says:

Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver who is able to save and destroy. Who are you to judge another? (James 4:11-12, NKJV).

And Jesus says:

Judge not that you be not judged, for with what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured back to you (Matthew 7:1-2, NKJV).

Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye (v. 5).

We start from a place of humility. Laid on the floor we say "Lord, help me see this right."

The Bible does speak of discernment as important, and we certainly see the Apostle Paul and Jesus calling people out for things that are wrong. Here are a couple of things about discernment:

(1) Sometimes God gives you the ability to discern the spirit behind something (1 Corinthians 12:10).  Namely, he will show you whether the Holy Spirit is guiding this person's words/actions, or if there is some other demonic spirit or simply their broken flesh.

The purpose of showing you that is so that you yourself can stay your course, and possibly also pray for the person. You have to know his voice to walk in this, and usually it's not to be spoken out to others. Use it instead for your prayer time, between you and God.

(2) We learn to discern good and evil, naturally, as we mature as Christians and go through various situations.

Hebrews 5:13-14 talks about mature Christians who "by reason of use have had their senses exercised to discern both good and evil". From walking with God and going through various difficult situations we get used to analyzing good vs evil, truth vs lies, and then we can look at a given situation that comes up and be discerning.

One of our SUMites, Roselind, said something helpful on last week's Zoom call. She said (I'm paraphrasing), "Judging is where you align with the accuser and start accusing the other person, whereas discernment is often used to pray for the person."

That was a great comment. Judging does not have love at its core, but discernment should, keeping the Body of Christ in truth and safety.

It is still hard to work out, but perhaps some of the above ideas can help us navigate this tricky one. And above all, we must watch those thoughts and words of ours so that everything we speak builds up the Body of Christ.

I'll continue in my next post with one more thing that we need to remember. But for now, here's a question:

Have you been in a situation where you've been tempted to judge, and/or have found yourself discerning?

Looking forward to chatting more.

Ann


Time for Rest

 

44567A4C-B159-4529-98EE-9775428692ABHello beloved SUMites! This month while I was asking God what he wanted me to write about I felt him say “REST”. I believe he is leading some of us into a time of deep rest, I know he is me! So today I am going to share with you a few things our Father has been showing me about rest. I hope it blesses you as it has me!

When our children are small we prioritize their rest. I don’t know about you, but nap time was taken pretty seriously when my kids were babies! Most days we would arrange our schedule around “rest time” to make sure we were home. During those times my house was transitioned into rest mode. I turned all the lights down low, my phone sound off, and all noise had to be kept at a low volume. Then I would read and sing to my babies while we snuggled up. They didn’t have to sleep, but they had to stay quiet and rest for some time. This was also a big part of how I maintained my sanity in those days! Haha!

So why was rest time so important? Because I knew what would happen if my babies did not get the rest they needed! The longer they went without resting the moodier, more irritable, and downright meaner they became! They would be unable to find joy in the things that usually made them happy, and they would make things harder on the people around them (ahem, me and their dad!). Rest was vital for us!

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1

We are not so different from children in our need for rest. Our bodies often crave it, but we continually deny it in an effort to be the most productive. Why don’t we prioritize rest? Why don’t we make it a point to shut off all the outside noise and just sit in silence with the Father for a few minutes each day? I believe even a small change like this could drastically change our spiritual health!

Our Heavenly Father wants rest for us in the same way an earthly parent wants rest for their baby. He sees us overloading our schedules and overstimulating our senses, and he is asking us to stop and sit with him. Just take a few moments each day to rest in him! Just as we brush our teeth every morning, resting in him should be part of our daily routine. We can steal a few moments on our lunch breaks, during the babies nap time, or even in the shower if you find that is the only place you are alone! Once you do make it a part of daily life, I believe you will start to notice a shift in your mind and spirit!

God has been calling me to a place of rest over this last year. And let me tell you, it has been  much harder than I thought it would be! I had not realized how much I had bought into the worlds idea that in order to be successful you had to “hustle”. Your schedule should be packed. That’s how you know you are doing something worth while. Oh man was I wrong! He has slowly been leading me out of my own chaos and into HIS calm. And what I am experiencing is so sweet and so precious. It took months for me to finally listen, to start lightening the load that I had burdened myself with, and fill those spaces with quiet and rest in him. 

I believe with all my heart that this is what he is calling a few of to do as well! Maybe there are some things you need to let go of, maybe you need to get better at saying “no” (this was me!). Whatever it is, I pray that you can make time for your rest with him. He sees how bad you need it, he is just waiting for you to snuggle up next to him and REST!

I would love to hear from you in the comments! What do you feel you need to change in your life in order to make room for rest? 

Love you all, Amanda 


An Escape Clause?

Hi family, Ann here.

I found this article in our archives this week, and it was so good that I decided to make it today's post. It addresses the issue of 'what if you want to escape?' The article is written by Lynn, and here it is. Hope it helps you along, and I'd love to hear your comments as always:

**

"We are going to discuss a very interesting verse, its interpretation and implications.  Line by line  precept upon precept

Are you ready??? 

But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. —1 Corinthians 7:15 

So let’s get our head back into our discussion of this passage. Remember the Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth in reply to some of their questions. Many members of the Corinthian church were recently idol worshipers and now they are brand-new Christians. They find themselves all of a sudden in a marriage where their faith and their old life collides. And specifically, this is very apparent and difficult in their marriage where their spouse has not come to faith. 

Oh how things change and yet they stay the same even 2,000 years later. 

Many of us in this family of SUM are walking this exact scenario. And many more of us are living with a spouse who proclaims faith but there is little to zero fruit or transformation in their lives. It’s difficult and painful. We become a believer and our world-view shifts. Our spouse’s world view continues to be worldly driven and shaped often through the media. Am I right in this? 

I wonder if we can be honest here with ourselves. Have you ever wished this verse was written like this: But if the believer wants to leave, let it be so……. 

I bet if you are honest there were days when you peaked in your Bible hoping to find a possible escape clause. But can I ask you this: If God included an easy way out. If He allowed us to abandon our unbeliever, wouldn’t you be disappointed in God? Wouldn’t it make God small and powerless? 

Why would you want to worship and serve a God like that? 

You know, for me, every hard thing, every struggle, every maddening challenge in my life has been met with God’s power and love. It’s in these struggles that my faith grew, I saw miracles, powerful answers to prayer and His Presence proved strong in my life and relationships. Yes, our High and Holy calling of marriage and parenting isn’t supposed to be easy. I really believe these ministries of our home are difficult on purpose. 

Think about this: We live for only a breath of time on this planet. But eternity is forever. And I believe with all of my heart, so fully, so boldly, that I stake my life upon it; My husband, Mike, will be saved and he will spend eternity in God’s love and presence because I chose to do the HARD things. I chose to obey God. I choose every day to love this man even when he’s unlovely, to pray for him without ceasing and to live with grace, forgiveness and hope. To live with him as his wife for as long as we both shall live. 

Any you know why? Let’s look at the very next verse. 

How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? —1 Corinthians 7:16 

That’s why! 

Eternity is a very long time. And if you have ever read anything about the horror of hell, it will move you to pray harder. For our spouse, kids and friends. 

Now don’t heap condemnation upon yourself if you struggle with the “want to.” I don’t want to stay married to this man. I don’t want to pray for him. 

I lived in that season for awhile myself…. And there were days I didn’t want to either. But on those days I prayed something like this. 

O Jesus, today I’m so very heartbroken. My dreams of a life I have held in my heart aren’t happening. They may never come true. I hurt. I have pain in my heart. So I give it all to you. Jesus come and hold me. Just hold me. Take away my pain. Make me stronger than I am to walk into my marriage with hope. Grant me Your Presence and ability to see the good and the gifts I have in this relationship. Don’t let me compare but look fully into Your face. Help me to want to love this man and remain strong and hopeful. Let me see where You are working in me and continue to change me. I love you Jesus. Fill me with more love for You and for people, especially my spouse and children. In Your powerful name, Jesus. Amen."

In his grace  Lynn


Today I Can Boldly Approach

My friends, Ann here. Boldly I approach

In this community we have times in this blog where we pause deliberately and turn our faces to JESUS. 

That is our lifeline -- Our way of surviving some of the intense things we face in a spiritually mismatched marriage.

Jesus.

Well, one way of fixing our eyes on him is to commemorate important markers in the year. We have the Christian liturgical calendar that formed in the early centuries of the church. That calendar helped early Christians commemorate the life and message of Jesus. Lent and Advent, for example, are helpful seasons there.

But then there are the Jewish holidays detailed in the Old Testament (e.g., Exodus 12, Leviticus 23), and these days symbolized what was to come. Oh, how I love those. When I look at those days I also see 'Jesus' all over them.

Today is the Day of Atonement, known as Yom Kippur by the Jews. It is all about Jesus. So I thought we could look at some aspects of that today:

The Day of Atonement, described in Leviticus 16, was a day given to the Israelites by God when they were in the wilderness, after they left Egypt, and they were told to keep it forever. It occurs once a year, and on this day the High Priest, Aaron (Moses' brother), enters the tabernacle and sacrifices a series of burnt offerings, first to clean himself, and then to 'atone' for all the people. 

Atone: To make reparation or amends as for injury done; reconcile.

There were some extensive rituals prescribed for Aaron here. One of those things was he was to put his hand on a goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and then release it into the wilderness.

Another is that he goes alone into the tabernacle to offer the burnt sacrifices, and no other man is present. That speaks very much of the aloneness of what Jesus did.

If you have the energy, you might like to read the account of the Day of Atonement today, and see Jesus in it? It's in Leviticus 16:1-34, and it is richly symbolic.

For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.

And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father's place, shall make atonement (Leviticus 16:30 & 32, NKJV)

So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins (v. 16)

My friends, as I read the above today, I thought how grateful I am, and thought "Jesus was a high priest who was human like me, like Aaron. He knows exactly what he's interceding for on my behalf. I do not have a high priest who can't sympathize with all my weaknesses, problems and things I'm tempted by".

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:14-16, NKJV).

If we know the above passage, we likely know what comes next: We can therefore boldly approach the throne of grace in our times of need, to find mercy from God.

Thank you, Jesus.

With that in mind, here's a beautiful worship song that speaks of that ability we have to approach God because of what our high priest, Jesus, did on the cross.

Love to you all,

Ann

 


That Difficult-to-Tame Tongue

By Ann Hutchison  Tongue

"I have a husband at home, and he's not a Christian." I was standing opposite a man at church whom I'd never met. "It's all a bit new to us this whole church thing," I said, munching away on a biscuit. My companion nodded sympathetically.

It was a couple of years into my spiritual mismatch in marriage, and I was in full SUM-pain-mode, talking far too much about it to anyone who would listen. Yak yak yak, I continued, telling this man all about the situation, and how hard it was.

A short time after that God whispered to me, "Ann do you realize what you did there?" And he showed me something:

He gave me a vision of a view that you would see if you held a piece of paper up between your two eyes and then looked at the view using both eyes. Perhaps you could try it now to see what I mean? What you see with a piece of paper between your eyes is two different things at the same time, and a blur -- - Your eyes do not work together.

God explained the vision to me:

"Ann, what you've done in speaking those words about your husband to another person is construct a spiritual barrier in your marriage. By putting that barrier in place with your tongue, you have prevented Bryce from seeing spiritual truth jointly with you. Watch every word you speak about him from now on. Only speak life, not death. Then, if you do that, you will eventually see as one." Declaration Sep 1

I put my head in my hands and groaned. And I believe that as I repented that barrier dissolved. Thank God for Jesus, and the power of his restoration. Still, I learnt a serious lesson.

That vision was so instructive for me, in fact, that from then on I watched every single word I spoke about Bryce, and militantly so.

Every. single. word. My prayer is this: Lord, let my tongue promote health!

I wanted to share that story because last week in our study of the Book of James we reached the famous passage on the untamable tongue:

We put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so, the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:3-8, NKJV).

In that study Lynn shared a true story: There was a man whose way of hearing God was that he would sometimes see things in the spirit realm with his natural eyes. He was having an argument with his wife one day, spoke some thoughtless words to her that labelled her in some way, and as he did he saw a cut appear on her face as a result of his words. That's how stark this thing is. Ann and Bryce

In our marriages, this means that we have the power to speak life or death over our spouse. We want to bring life to them -- We're desperate for that -- so we need to put our tongues into the right kind of action. 

Instead of a cut on the face, I wonder what kind of visual it would be if we used words of blessing over someone. God showed me once that when I bless people with my words, it's like rainbows come out of my mouth and hit those people. I like that image!

So these days, instead of referring to someone -- anyone -- as 'atheist', 'not a Christian', 'narcissistic', 'addicted to xyz', or any other kind of label, I'll stop and think quite carefully about what I say. For that little tongue of mine is a powerful little thing.

How easy or difficult do you find it to watch the words you speak about your spouse?   

Love you all,

Ann


Jesus Took Back the Keys from Hell? What Does That Have to do With Me?

Hey SUM Family, Tiffany here!

I recently got to speak on spiritual warfare in the SUMite Sister's Facebook page. My topic was "The accomplishment of the cross gave us victory over the battles of life." What a great IMG_20180301_054353_620 subject! If there is anything that I have been learning over the last 4-5 years, it has been this. We have authority because of Jesus Christ's sacrifice to advance against the kingdom of darkness.

We hear passages such as put on the full armor of God in Ephesians 6. We hear that God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). 

What does this mean exactly? How do we have authority? What does this victory look like?

Do you remember the movie The Passion of the Christ, that Mel Gibson directed? Do you remember the horrifice scene of our Lord and Savior being beaten, whipped, spit upon, screamed at? Remember in the midst of the crowd, a figure dressed in a black hooded robe? The smugness, the arrogance, the pleasure in Christ's suffering. I imagine that this is much like what Satan looked like - he was so proud of it all. When Jesus died on the cross and was buried, Satan was sure he had won!

Stick with me here, I promise it will all connect by the end. In ancient times, when soldiers came back home from war, they had a big procession. These soldiers would ride (or march) in carrying the spoils of war - gold, silver, captives, possessions. All of these spoils were on full display to show what was taken in battle. What celebration and comradery as they are welcomed home.

Imagine with me, Jesus is in the tomb. He descends into hell. Satan takes it upon himself to lead this grandiose triumphal procession. I can almost see Jesus being lead around all of hell with chains on His hands and feet. The demons point and laugh. Satan in his arrogance scoffing in Jesus' face. "Hey Jesus, I thought you were all powerful! You had your chance to save yourself. Remember when you were supposed to crush my head? Here it is...no? I didn't think so." On and on for 2 whole (earthly ::grin::) days. Day three, Satan brings Jesus up on center stage, another day of mockery and slandering. Jesus since arrival was quiet, reserved, not a word.

And then SUDDENLY! All of hell begins to shake, a mighty trembling, a flash of great light. The chains explode off of Jesus, knocking Satan and the demonic to the ground with it's brute force. All of hell in chaos. The demons begin to shriek as the beautiful jewels and diamonds from Heaven are ripped off of Lucifer, the once beloved son of the morning. Scared, all of hell tries to flee. Jesus, taking back the keys of authority and the Kingdom, Satan  and all the kingdom of darkness is left in waste.

When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. -- Colossians 2:15 (NASB)

Victorious, He rises from the grave. He dwells with his disciples for a short time and then to His followers' dismay - it's time for Him to go. BUT there is HOPE. A Helper will come in His place! On Pentecost, enter the Holy Spirit. Not just available for those disciples but for all of us who accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:13). He is constantly interceding for us in Heaven (Romans 8:26). He is our ever present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1). He is our Teacher and reminds us of God's word (John 14:26).

It is through the Holy Spirit that we tap into the power and treasury of Heaven. He is our DEPOSIT (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5).

So what does it look like in our lives?

Prayer - we now have all access to the Throne Room. We can approach our Daddy without shame or fear. We should come BOLDLY to Him (Hebrews 4:16). When we do not know what to pray, remember the Holy Spirit intercedes with groans that we cannot express (Romans 8:26).

If you have received your prayer language (some call it speaking in tongues), this is great when we don't have the words to say. I also love that God knows what we need and even when we don't have the words to approach Him with, our prayer can be as simple as our tears or our sighing (Psalm 38:9).

Proclaim - speak God's Word! The Sword of the Spirit is the only piece of the armor of God that is used in offense. The rest is to protect us (defense). When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He was able to combat the devil with God's Word - the Truth.

Jude 1:20 tells us to build ourselves up in the most holy faith. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God.

A common strategy of attack from the demonic realm, at least in my life, is whispering lies. I got up in the middle of the night recently to go to the bathroom. On my way there, I clearly heard in my mind, a demeaning word. I could have gotten upset, believed the lie, and allowed a foothold. But, as I am learning about how God sees me, I thought, "Really, you think I'm ____? I would actually say, 'loved, favored, seated in Heaven with Jesus, victorious." I heard nothing else - the attack was thwarted.

I explain it to my children like this. Every thought that comes into your head. Example, thoughts about yourself. Think about the thought that just came. Is it what God would say about you? If not, it is a lie from the pit of hell and you don't believe it. If so, than believe it because God is speaking to you through the Holy Spirit.

Praise - Ever notice that when you put on worship music, you hum, sing, dance and praise Him with instruments that the atmosphere around you shifts? There is a break in the warfare. Things seem lighter or small? God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). Your praise and worship is an invitation for Heaven to come into the room.

In His shelter in the day of trouble, that's where you'll find me, for He hides me there in His holiness. He has smuggled me into his secret place, where I'm kept safe and secure - out of reach from all my enemies. Triumphant now, I'll bring Him my offerings of praise, singing and shouting with ecstatic joy! Yes, listen and you can hear the fanfare of my shouts of praise to the Lord! -- Psalm 27:5-6

Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly. The strong right arm of the Lord as done glorious things! -- Psalm 118:15

Promote - Your testimony WILL BECOME someone else's breakthrough (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

I hope that you've gotten something out of this. I tend to get nervous on camera (God is working on me ::grin::) so this was a chance to better flesh out the message.

I bless you with the knowledge of your authority because of Jesus Christ. I bless you to take up your sword and wield it! I bless you with confidence and assurance that you are powerful. You will advance the Kingdom of God in your life, over you family. Decree and declare the goodness of God! Let's talk in the comments. 


A Holy Moment. Don't Miss It!

We Are in the In-between

It’s likely you have read or heard me speak about the Jewish holidays and specifically, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

I want to take a minute to remind you to be observant in this in-between week. I’ve found that decade after decade many things will come to an end or close out in the month of September leading up to Rosh Hashana. Then in October new relationships, adventures and holy assignments arrive that I’m to participate and further for the next 12 months.

This is why.

The The Inbetween SUMHolidays were God’s idea. He instituted them and they aren’t any less valid to Him today than the first time they were observed thousands of years ago.

Rosh Hashana is the start of the Jewish calendar, New Year. That was Sunday here in the United States. Yom Kippur, a most holy day, is Tuesday, October 4th, here in America. We are in this precious in-between period.

Anything is possible!

As I consider how many things happened in my life last year, I’m undone. It was last October (new year) that Mike and I moved from our So Cal home of 22 years and started our new adventure. We didn’t know we would face cancer, home buying challenges, find ourselves actually staying and buying in No Cal. But, as I look back on SO MUCH that happened, I see God in it.

God knew my deepest desires and brought me to a new home I couldn’t even dream up in my wildest dreams. Mike and I stared down cancer and today he is healed and whole. CANCER FREE! I learned I can do hard things. In this past 12 months I received more direct revelation from God than in any other years. And I began this week to receive the chapters of my new book about spiritual gifts.

It’s been three years since this has happened to me.

I have an important question for you: What is closings out of your life? Sometimes it’s a job, a marriage, a relationship, a home, etc. Even things we don’t want to let go. BUT, our good Father ALWAYS has something better ahead. It’s simply His character.

So, in this in-between, I’m praying and expecting BIG THINGS…. REALLY BIG THINGS! Bigger than I’ve ever asked for and I wait expectantly.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, talk to me.

In the comments, tell my what you have noticed that has closed out of your life and what are the really big things you are praying for. Let me be part of this amazing journey of faith.

I will believe with you.

I love you. With a full heart, Lynn Donovan


Rosh Hashanah 2022 - Happy New Year!

Rosh Hashanah SUM 2022 (1)
Hey SUM family, Tiffany here!

This year has flown by. I can't believe the year is nearly over. As I sit to write to you this week, I cannot help but think about Rosh Hashanah. I am not a Bible scholar by any means. However, I do know that this time of year, this celebration, is about turning from your old ways and beginning anew.

Are any of you participating in the James Study that Lynn and Ann are leading? Even if not "live," but the play backs? Something really struck me about what Lynn said in the first lesson. She mentioned a story of going to the house of a Jewish person for dinner. She went into the garage to grab something and the light was on. When she was coming back into the house, she turned the light off. The man of the house wanted the light on but he couldn't ask her to sin by turning the light back on. It was the sabbath. This man was bound by the law. She asked us if we could imagine having to follow every command, every law in Jewish custom. How burdening!

This is not what I am referring to in regards to Rosh Hashanah. How beautiful to have a Savior in Jesus Christ that fulfilled the law on our behalf! As Christ followers, we don't have to reflect on how many ways we screwed up and hope and pray that we have done enough good to maintain favor with God. NO!

How precious the blood of Christ! How glorious His presence! How sweet it is to live in communion with Him - sons and daughters. Seated in the Heavenlies! Hallelujah!

I am sure there may be some in our community who still struggle with thoughts of guilt, shame and regret. We do not walk the easiest road. Know this, as we come into this Rosh Hashanah season - you do NOT have to earn favor and love from God. You already have it!

For me, I reflect on how quickly this year has gone and I think, "How refreshing to begin anew." My new beginning is to recommit to God's Word...not just what He has spoken over me through others...but His WRITTEN Word. I could get hung up on all the should have, could haves. But now, now is the time, to begin again.

Is there something in your life that keeps tripping you up? Is there something that the Lord has been calling you to do but you haven't done it? Is there something that He has called you to quit doing? Is there something that you wish you were doing better for the Kingdom? Don't view this as a chance for the devil to "lay one on you." View this as a chance to recommit - to your relationship with Him, your devotion and commitment to Him, your first love and admiration for Him.

I bless you with the highest admiration from God the Father. I bless you to know and understand that you are truly forgiven, valued, loved, blessed, favored, and seated next to Jesus in Heaven. I bless you to know and understand your authority in Jesus Christ. I bless you to know your worth. I bless you to straighten up your crown, take out your signet ring and robe of righteousness from Heaven and wield your precious Heavenly sword. I bless you with strength and stamina to stand in the gap for your families. Interceding on their behalf. Wisdom and discernment belong to you. Filled with the Holy Spirit, you have all of Heaven's resources living inside of you. I bless you to shine brightly, unashamed, unconfused, unapologetic in your convictions. I bless your marriage, your parenting, you household, your job, your health, your finances and your season. Walk in the purpose, plan and calling from the Most High.

Here is to this beautiful season! Let's chat in the comments. Happy New Year!

Remember the word to Your servant,

Upon which You have called me to hope.

This is my comfort in my affliction,

For Your Word has given me life.

-- Psalm 119:49-50


The Conference Army in My City

My brothers and sisters in SUM-hood, hello! Jesus belongs in my city

It's Friday here, I'm sitting in my lounge, and I thought I might tell you about something really boosting that I did last week.

I went to a conference called Sistas, an annual women's conference run in my city. Because of the pandemic, there've been no conferences for the last two years. However, this year we have been let out (woohoo!) and it was on. What's more, for the first time the conference was being held in my suburb, Mt Eden.

Now, I had never been to this conference before; but at the last minute I discovered that two friends, both in SUMs, were to be there. Realizing I would get FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) if I didn't go, I umm-ed, ahh-ed, then splashed out on a ticket.

Thursday evening came. I walked through my suburb, entered an auditorium, and came upon about a thousand women gathered in one space!!! My eyes widened. It was a veritable army.

The Lord gave the word; Great was the company of those who proclaimed it: Kings of armies flee, they flee, and she who remains at home divides the spoil (Psalm 68:12, NKJV)

My friends, can I tell you how encouraging it was to see that sight? I don't know about you, but I spend a lot of time with non-Christians. To walk into a room with a thousand Christians flooded my heart with such hope. I looked around that room and thought to myself "This army is in my city." Paula and Ann

Not just that. "This army is in my suburb!"

That wasn't all, though. Something else happened ... With Bryce. Previously, I've found conferences difficult: they take me away from my family at the weekend for a purpose Bryce is not bought into. I do go to conferences, but Christian activities like that always take some thought as I balance it with where Bryce is at.

For that reason I was going to forego the weekend parts, but this time Bryce said out of the blue, "You're going to a conference? That's nice. Make sure you go every day. You've spent the money so you want to enjoy it. Go on Saturday -- You will, won't you?"

((Sorry, what?))

I hesitated, "But it's the weekend and it'd mean leaving you and the boys ..." See, I've got memories from years ago of stuff like this causing conflict. Jess and Ann 3 

"Oh don't worry about us. GO." 

He released me to go. And so I did. I hung out with my two fellow SUM friends -- Paula and Jess (pictured here) -- and had a blast.

One final beautiful thing occurred in the last session I attended: People were invited to come forward for prayer that the voice of God will always be clear in their lives, and the voice of the enemy will dissipate. I just thought of us all, myself included, and so I went down to the front, carrying the SUM community down to the front with me (metaphorically). As one of the prayer team prayed over me, she said: "Marriage is so important in the kingdom," and as she said those particular words, I shook under the power of the Holy Spirit.

I walked home thinking that very thing --

"Marriage is so important in the Kingdom", and

"We, the SUMites, have a purpose; and we must keep listening to God's voice, not the enemy's."

What an encouraging few days. To be through the pandemic and to be with a thousand Christians I was truly refreshed and ready for whatever next thing we are to do as part of the army.

I hope that encouraged you too. How about you, do you go to conferences?

Love you all,

Ann


Child of an Unequally Yoked Marriage: Part Two

Betty Higginbotham is continuing her story today. You can find part one here. On Monday Betty described how she married and had four children, but her husband wasn't a believer. So, we'll let her continue -- Betty Higginbotham

"Oh I tried. I would start going to church and tell myself "I got this", "I got it this time", just to be dragged back down. I did this many times. Never feeling accepted. Loved. My husband and I then got into a lifestyle I'm not proud of. I won't speak of it here. I will say it all but destroyed our marriage.

I battled again. For three years. Spoke of wanting to get back to God, but I didn’t know how. I couldn't just tell my friends or stop the lifestyle. Leave what I thought made my husband happy? No, I couldn't. I didn't know how. But, driving on my way to work one morning I spoke the simplest words. “God if that’s you, if you are calling my name, you and you alone will have to get me out. Because I don't know how to walk away.”

I woke up from a dream one night. It was so vivid and surreal. I was in a deep dirty hole, as if standing at the bottom of a water well. I could see all my sin around me. It was sickeningly scary, filthy. At the top of this deep, deep hole there was a light! A very small light. Oh! If I could just reach that light I would be out of here! Now imagine looking through a toy kaleidoscope, the image of the light getting brighter and brighter before bursting open with magnificent bold bright most beautiful colors like a turning kaleidoscope. I was getting out! I awoke. 

About a year later in the same lifestyle we were drinking and partying as usual, but in a split second a series of events happened that made my whole world blow up. It left me with no one. No friends. On the verge of divorce. I cried. I cried so hard. I didn't understand! But in my total brokenness, I heard a still soft voice. "Yet I am still here. Never to leave you nor forsake you."

From then on, I committed to follow God. I was 44 and have not looked back or missed one minute of that life since. It's taken a lot of healing. Rekindled relationships with family. Renewed friendships with my sisters, a closer bond like never before. I'm still with my husband of 34 years. We have much more of an understanding and are a lot more in tune with one another.

I struggled so long trying to "ride the fence". I knew the truth from a young age. I saw miracles at young ages. I heard God's voice. I used his power. Why did I struggle so? Well, my mother told me when I was 8: “They are battling for your life BUT satan will not win!” She claimed my victory in Jesus’ name from the very beginning. She had so much more faith in God and his promise (Acts 16:31 Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household!) than she did in the path I was taking. She did not sway nor waver. She only believed God’s word was true. She knew that day 10 years ago would come. She believed what God said was the end result would come to pass. To this day, all her children have accepted and are living for Jesus Christ.

I tell you all of this to pass along the hope and faith my mother had. No matter the road your children take, or are now on, it is not the end of their story! Satan may win some battles but the war is won only by the one who shed his blood for me, for you and your household, the one who stomps the serpent's head!

Now for things you did not see in my story.

  1. I was never physically abused even though I had an abusive alcoholic father.
  2. I didn't die nor have any effect of my overdose. Not even long term. I'm still healthy today.
  3. I was never addicted to drugs or alcohol. I could always take it or leave it.
  4. God saved my marriage. More than once. My husband is still not saved but God has a plan for his life.

Throughout my life God was there. Covering me. Protecting me. When you see your daughter or son taking a different path, stop. Look through the eyes of our Savior and see his end result, his promise that is written in Acts 16:31.

I pray this gives someone, just one, encouragement that the lost child will return home to Christ. As parents we are the seed planters. It may take others to water that seed for its growth. Much love to you all and God bless.

Hi. I am Betty Higginbotham from Southwest Louisiana where I work as a geriatric nurse. I have been a believer all my life but I have known Christ for the last 10 years. I am 53 years old and have been married for 34 years with 4 beautiful daughters.


A Child of an Unequally Yoked Marriage: Part One

We're privileged today to have a guest post from fellow SUMite, Betty Higginbotham. Betty is going to share her testimony of growing up in an unequally yoked home - And, wow, what a testimony. 

The testimony will be in two parts -- Part one today, and part two on Wednesday. Now, over to Betty -- Betty Higginbotham

"First I want everyone to understand what you see is not what will be. It will be what God says. Nothing less. Never ever stop praying for your children. Never give up and ALWAYS cover them in the blood of Jesus. As I tell my story of a child growing up in an unequally yoked marriage, pay attention to things that did not happen. I'll explain later.

I was the youngest daughter of five, born to a Spirit-filled praying mother. One who never lied to me and always told me basic need-to-know details of what was happening in the spirit realm of my life. My father was as good as gold. A wonderful man who did whatever it took to make sure his family was fed. Until he drank. He was an alcoholic. It took over most of his very being. He tried hard to fight his personal demons to no avail, he always lost. He would curse God. He was abusive to my mother but for some reason I was protected.

As a very little girl he would take me to bars. Back then it wasn't uncommon. I would drink cokes and eat chips while he visited and flirted. Mother would let me go for two reasons. 1. He came home earlier than normal. 2. He wouldn't drink whiskey thus no physical harm to her would be done. She told me one time "I always cover you in the blood." I quickly learned to do as Mom says, do as Dad says, do as sis says and just keep everyone pleased. It’ll be ok then. So I became a people pleaser.

I remember when I was around 8 years old, I must have passed out, unresponsive. I was taken to the hospital, and tests were run to find nothing. When I woke and Mother and I were leaving she looked me in the eyes, saying: "They are battling for your life but satan can't have you".

Mother always took me to church. She was so faithful to God and his house. When I was 12 years old I received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I was in bed asleep one night, my bed facing two windows on each side of one wall with a box fan in the left window. A very real greyish/green image crawled through my window and fan, touching and shaking my right big toe speaking to me saying "Get up! Get up Betty! Come with me". I sprung up standing on my bed shouting "Rebuke! In the name of Jesus. Now go!" It quickly fled. My mother standing in the doorway said "do you know what you did?" I answered yes. This is where the real battle begins.

At the age of 14 we finally left my father, moving states away, in with my oldest sister and her family. At this point I felt I belonged nowhere. On either side. I was quickly introduced to drugs and alcohol for myself. It escalated so fast. My 'friends' did it so here I was, pleasing them by joining in. This new introduction led to a date rape by my boyfriend. This was before date rape was a spoken thing. He broke up with me after that. I tried overdosing on my mother’s pills. In the ER they pumped my stomach to find nothing. Not one piece of evidence that I had just swallowed over a hundred little pills. (See what God did there?)

I moved back to my home state in with a friend and her family just before age 15 and rekindled a somewhat relationship with my father. It was ok. This family protected me from much of his alcoholism.

At age 18 I met the man I would marry. Still a people pleaser, I forgot everything to create a life with him. With a stepdaughter and three of our own we had a beautiful unsaved family" ... 

That's where we pause the story, and Betty will continue on Wednesday. 

Hi. I am Betty Higginbotham from Southwest Louisiana where I work as a geriatric nurse. I have been a believer all my life but I have known Christ for the last 10 years. I am 53 years old and have been married for 34 years with 4 beautiful daughters.


Trials -- Count it all Joy?!

Dear friends, Ann here. His word 2

Sigh, my heart is full! Yesterday morning I got up, made a pot of coffee, opened Zoom and there was Lynn along with a screen full of other SUM faces. Most were from America, one from England, and another from New Zealand.

When I see the SUM community in person like that I want to reach through the screen, pull you into my living room, and say a big hello. There's a lot of love here for you.

Most enjoyably, we sat with the Word of God for 40 minutes, then broke off into discussion groups.

My friends, if you want to join in next week or any of the following weeks, for as much or little as you can, please do. Email me at annhutch42@gmail.com. I might even be able to send you a recording of this last session (we're still working that out). I can certainly send you the Zoom link for upcoming sessions. 3pm Pacific, Wednesdays.

The Word of God. Isn't it wonderful! Since we're in the Book of James, can I encourage you to read it, even if you're not able to join on Zoom? I also will write the odd post about James on the blog as we focus on that book. Today, I want to do that, so here's a little introductory thought:

This week, a long-time friend of our community, Jim Edwards, sent me some writing that he had done about the Book of James. He wrote a book called Living and Breathing Hebrews to Jude (2008), and it's a paraphrase of the New Testament's epistles. I read the James segment and absolutely loved it. (Man, how I love the creative things God births through people in our community!) From that, here's something Jim wrote --

"James is full of one-liners: some seriously tough sound-bites. As sound-bites they can easily be misunderstood, and easily produce condemnation—beware! Each chapter has at least one. I’ve highlighted them in the notes, but you are likely to hardly notice them in my translation.

Most, however, are wonderful, direct, hard-hitting promises, where direct simple language helps the memory and adds power to the simple statement."

I'd never thought of the Book of James like that, but it's true. As you read it, you do get pummeled by the occasional 'oomph' verse that makes you gulp.

So I wanted to share the first one of those today, right from chapter 1:2. Are you ready? Here we go:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2, NKJV).

Really?

The verse continues:

.. knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing

My friends, what are the trials you've been through as part of your faith walk? How hard have they been? For me, certain trials have been almost unbearable; others not quite so stark, but still trials. Today I wrote in the margin five key trials I've been through since being a Christian. One of those is the SUM. At points in my SUM I have thought "Nothing could be as hard as this." There's something about the SUM walk that is so very difficult because it involves deeply spiritual issues.

Another trial I faced was a nine-month period of illness last year - Illness that was mysterious to the doctors, and for which there was no apparent solution. That was no light thing to walk through either. Almost every day during those nine months I had a little cry to myself. It was a different kind of battle to the SUM.

Count it joy? That I can do when I'm through the battle. It's harder to do when in the battle. But I can certainly engage with the concept and think about what it means.

Here's something intriguing Lynn said today on Zoom. She said (I'm paraphrasing): "Trials show you what lies you've been believing, and help you break those lies." Not that God brings us our trials, but he uses them mightily.

So, here's a discussion question: Think back on a trial you have faced. What lies did it bring to light?

Wow, that's a deep question. I might need some time to think on that myself. I'll leave you with it, and here's to us enjoying the Book of James these next few weeks. If you want to post your answer to the question in the comments, please do!

Love you all,

Ann