201 posts categorized "Unequally Yoked"

A Snapshot of Our Community

Dear SUMites Our church

We often describe ourselves as a church without walls -- Isn't it amazing how we manage to gather like this online? I love it!  Anyway, today I wanted to tell you a little bit about who is in our church.

As you know, we did a SUM community survey recently. Reading through those responses it was so good to see your names and a little more about your lives. 

So I thought you, too, might like to hear a little more about who your friends at SUM are. Below, I'll share a few of the questions we asked in the survey, and what the answers were.

Where does our community live?

All over! Most (70%) live in the USA, followed by a decent proportion in Europe. We have a smaller number in Australia and New Zealand, and some in Africa.  I can't express how much I love that spread -- it's so beautiful. 

And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations (Matt 24:14, NKJV)

How did our SUM community members become spiritually mismatched?

Here's what our community said:

My spouse lost their faith: 6%

I became a Christian after marrying: 27%

I thought my spouse was a Christian before marrying, but perhaps they weren't: 20%

My spouse and I have experienced different rates of spiritual growth to each other: 6%

I married a non-believer: 36%

Other: 5%

There is such a range of stories there and each of the above has its own distinct challenges, but I hope it makes you feel less alone seeing that there are at least some out there with the same story as you.

Do our spouses attend church?

About 20% of spouses do attend regularly, and a further 22% occasionally. But the rest don't, so if your spouse never attends with you, you're in good company.

How many of our spouses say they're Christian?

I was surprised by this one: 30% of spouses actually do say they're a Christian, which means that the couple is mismatched even though both are nominally Christians. The rest of the spouses, of course, don't yet say they're Christian, and we do know that quite a few spouses currently say they are atheist. I say 'currently' on purpose. These things change.

Are the spouses supportive?

Here's what our community said: 

A lot: 30%

Moderately: 40%

A little: 20%

Not at all: 10%

Again, I hadn't realized so many were that supportive. But clearly there is a need for our ministry even if an unbelieving spouse is supportive. The loneliness of the walk likely makes it so. For those whose spouses are not yet supportive I am praying for you specifically right now.

What kinds of churches do we attend?

Our community attends all kinds of denominations. The most prevalent is non-denominational or Baptist. After that, about 10% attend protestant denominations (Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Church of Ireland), 10% Pentecostal, and about 10% don't currently attend church.

How long have our people been with us?

About 15% of our readers found us less than a year ago. If that's you, welcome! This tells us it's important that we keep writing about some of those common issues such as attending church alone and raising kids in faith. However, almost half of our readers have been with us for more than five years, and many for more than ten years. Amazing! We are a community that has been together a long time.

And finally.... What does our community look like, faith-wise?

This last section really opened my eyes. We asked two questions here: Do you have regular time alone with God, and how often do you read the Bible? The vast majority of our readers said they spend daily time alone with God, and daily time reading the Bible.

That tells us something about our specific church. We are not lukewarm, we're the opposite. We are all passionate followers of Jesus Christ, and that's exactly why we need this ministry and why we gather here.

**

My friends, there's more to the survey and I'll share more eventually, but I hope that gave you more of a picture of who's here. 

What else would you like to know about us and this community? Pop any questions in the comments and I'll answer them.

We all love you!

Ann (and team)


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

 


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


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


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.


For Those Battling Guilt Over A Spiritually Mismatched Marriage

By Ann Hutchison Guilt

Hi SUM family,

Different kinds of spiritually mismatched marriages come with certain challenges, and today I want to talk about the kind where a Christian married a non-believer, is now battling guilt over it, and analyzing the situation: 'What did I do, and what now?'

That's so hard, and if that's you, you have my heart.

We have readers who write in about this one, and some have shared they have a real question about whether it's OK to treasure their marriage now, or whether it's possible for their shared life with their spouse to be blessed, ever. That's on top of all the other challenges an unequally yoked marriage brings.

How many of you out there have walked this, I wonder? It's one of those questions our founding leaders, Lynn and Dineen, had to navigate early on in our ministry. And, over the subsequent sixteen years we've seen a lot of people's journeys and sought God's perspective. Based on that here's some collective wisdom on this particular topic: --

To reflect on our past choices is a good thing, so if you're going through that process now in relation to your marriage decision, it's perhaps part of your growth. As Christians, we do that on all sorts of matters. We ask "Did I submit to God there?" and repent of the times we didn't. So, that is a natural part of being a Christian and in your marriage you will likely have a period of time where you do look back on the decision you made and bring it before God.

However, then we must forgive ourselves for anything God has forgiven us of.

Repentance comes with Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10), and it's a process where we say "I would have done things differently, if I could go back". Once we have done that, if our repentant heart cry was genuine, God looks at us and doesn't see it again. Not in a condemning way, that is. He will still see the fact you made certain choices because you're navigating the consequences. However, in terms of his posture towards you, you can picture that what he sees is Jesus's blood all over this. 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, NKJV)

What now?

So now you move forward. Can you treasure your spouse? You sure can. In fact, this is now your call of obedience. You walk forward and treat your union in line with God's design for marriage: Binding. As long as there is no abuse, of course. If your spouse is abusive God does not ask you to stay, but if this is a normal marriage (with normal ups and downs) you must treat your spouse as God sees them: As your 'one' and 'the one' he is pursuing with great love himself.

This marriage is something you are to steward well and God will watch to see how you walk it. As always, you are being asked to submit to God and not sin, but this time the way you do that is by honoring your marriage covenant and walking out the unequally yoked life with wisdom.

In short:

If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him (1 Corinthians 7:12-13, NKJV)

And --

Let each one of you in particular so love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:33, NKJV)

So your challenge now is to run with that with gusto: Treat your spouse as the top person in your life, love them well, be faithful until the end, get a few good marriage books, and throw yourself into trying.

Can your marriage be blessed? Experience tells us yes, it just depends on how you walk it out from now on. Nurture your own faith life, obey God by caring for your spouse, and God will respond to that. You will still walk out the consequences of a spiritually mismatched marriage, but God will bless your household in spiritual ways through your future obedience.

So those are a few thoughts on that difficult topic. Have any of you walked this particular path, and if so, would you like to share anything in the comments?

Love to you all,

Ann


A Singing Spouse

My friends, I said I had another story to tell today .. Story

On Monday we were talking about the fact you can be blessed by having a memorable conversation with a stranger: When you visit a church, or when someone visits your church.

A few weeks ago that happened to me. A pair of girls in their twenties arrived in our church and were hanging around the coffee table, so up to them I went.

We had a great chat, and somewhere in the conversation we asked each other what we did for jobs.

When asked that, I usually tell people about the SUM ministry, and that always leads to some conversation. "Oh! Never thought of that!" most people say.

Well, on this occasion one of the girls said, "Oh, yeah, I know what that looks like. My Mum and Dad were in that situation."

"Oh really?"

"Yes. Mum went to church but Dad didn't, for quite a few years. Then one day he went to church, and in the service he got ... um... what's the word... exorcised."

"Delivered!" 

"Delivered, that's it."

Yep, we don't normally talk about edgy things like deliverance at a church coffee stand, hence the funny terminology. But, meanwhile I was thinking, "Amazing. Curious. I want to hear more."

She continued --

"From that moment on he was over the top into Jesus. He overtook everybody in his enthusiasm, including my Mum, and now all he talks about is Jesus."

"Wow, that's wonderful!" I said, feeling the joy of this situation. But she rolled her eyes in a dry British way (she's British), "Well, actually, he became quite annoying with it."

An unbelieving spouse becoming annoying about their faith? Can we just enjoy that thought for a minute, LOL. "Why was he annoying?" I was laughing by now.

"Because it was ALL he talked about. And every morning he'd be in the bathroom, booming out songs about Jesus in a loud baritone singing voice."

Now this gave me the giggles. The thought of any unbelieving husband booming out songs about Jesus in a baritone voice? What a priceless picture. In fact, I kept getting the giggles all week after that Sunday conversation, every time I thought about it.

What a blessed conversation it was. And all I can say is, we live in hope!

Dear SUMites, I hope that brought a smile to your face, and here's a prayer --

Jesus, we do pray that our spouses will sing about you! We pray they will belt out songs, loud and proud, unashamed of your Gospel, and we pray for more good stories like this to keep our joy levels up. Thank you, Jesus! Amen.


Blessed by Visiting a Church

Ann here, 
ah how good it is to be back! I arrived safely back in New Zealand after my holiday, and am so happy to be chatting with you all again - team SUM! Story

I truly had a good time in England, visiting my parents, attending my brother's wedding, and catching up with old friends. But I want to share with you one of my favorite things that happened from a spiritual point of view. In fact, it's the kind of story that makes angels sing (Luke 15:10) :--

One Sunday, I visited my Mum's church in Reading (a town in south England). A man in his seventies sat behind us. He was whispering the name Jesus under his breath and I could feel his enthusiasm during the service, as you can sometimes.

He then got up towards the end of the service, and gave a testimony from the front about a miraculous thing that happened to him as a teenager, when he wasn't a believer. Clearly it hadn't been planned, but the pastor gave him space to do it.

After the service I turned round to this man, grinned, and shook his hand, "Hello." "Hello", he smiled back, eyes sparkling. Then, leaning forward as if confiding, he said: "I just had to give that testimony because I knew there are at least three men here today who don't yet know the Lord. I hoped it would impact them."

"Ohh!" I said, "Are they husbands of believing wives?"

"They are!" his eyes gleamed. "They've only been coming a few months, each of them." Pause. 

"And are you a Christian?" he asked, in the most gentle way. I beamed: "Sure am." 

"Are you married?" He said. 

"I am! And, actually my husband is still deciding about it all. He doesn't yet come to church with me."

"Ahh, I thought you were going to say that. I know what that's like for your husband: My wife became a Christian before me, and I wasn't a believer for a while, although she was."

Really? I glanced towards his wife who was happily talking to my Mum down the row, then back to him. 

"So what happened, how did you change your mind?"

"Well.... First of all I spent time with some of her Christian friends, and realized they had something I didn't. I didn't know what to do with that. Then, about two years later I went to a Christmas event one day, went forward and accepted Jesus. That was the first step. After that it still took a while for it to become relevant to me. I had a lot of questions. Eventually I had a moment where I did surrender myself fully and got filled with the Holy Spirit."

I soaked all this up, as I always do when I hear a salvation story of a SUM kind, and as we talked further I saw he was a man of deep understanding. I was interested to hear that his story came in layers; it was a process.

As our conversation reached a natural pause he finished with this: "I was about to open a nightclub, then I became Christian!" he said, laughing. "My whole life changed!"

I laughed back, and looked over to his wife once more, thinking as always of our SUM community.

Later, I looked out of the window as Mum drove us home. As a visitor, I'd been blessed by walking through that church's doors. I reflected that all kinds of things happen to us when we enter the doors of a church: Sometimes we're the ones to bless others, but sometimes we receive. That conversation with that man spurred me on for days afterwards.

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10, NIV)

My friends, have you had a moment where you visited a church and were deeply blessed? Or were you blessed by a memorable conversation with a visitor?

Next time I want to share another short story of a similar kind. It's one that I hope will make you laugh -- For God loves us to laugh. Tune in for the next one!

Love you all,

Ann


The Power of Role-Modelling

Ann here, happy Friday everyone! Binoculars 2

The writing team is going to be taking next week off from the blog, for a little Summer break of sorts, so we'll be quiet on here. But I just wanted to leave you a short and sweet thought today, something that's been on my mind. It's this:

Don't underestimate the power of what you role-model in your home.

What does your spouse see? What do your children see? Sometimes it's difficult to tell, but you could take that question to the Lord and ask him what you role-model well.

I asked God that once. I asked him: "What do my friends see when they look at my faith?" I was up for hearing anything, whether it be positive or negative. He answered me: Courage. I was not expecting that answer. Courage, really?! Yes, courage. Well then!

What about my husband, and my kids? I have some ideas of what I think they see, but I think I might ask God that question again. I do know that walking out my daily faith must do something to their own spiritual eyes, ears, and heart; and the same is true for you and yours.

Well, I do hope you have a nice week, SUMites. If you haven't already, check out the details of our Fall Bible Study on Zoom, coming up, which we're excited about. And, we will see you the week after next.

Much love,

Ann 


Don't Let Anyone Steal Your Crown

Crown 2

Hi SUM family, it's Ann here.

I'm on holiday at the moment in England, where I've been visiting my parents in my home town (Reading), and attending my brother's wedding. I have one more week here before flying back to New Zealand. It's been special to be with my family. 

I am finishing off this post with my Mum pottering in the next room. That's nice huh!

Now for today's post:

Today I had a catch-phrase I wanted to share -- It's something that we can speak out when feeling battered by others' unbelief. The catch-phrase is this:

I'm not going to let anyone steal my crown!

Perhaps we can even take a moment to speak that out right now, in fact, before continuing to read? Here we go: I'm not going to let anyone steal my crown!

The back story to that phrase is this:

I know there are some here who became unequally yoked because their spouse used to be a Christian, but then lost their faith. In many of those cases your spouse's faith was real, even vibrant, but now that same spouse lives in unbelief. You now hear from their mouth all the many reasons they choose not to believe.

I know a little of what's that like as I used to work with a man who lost his faith, having previously been on fire for Jesus. This man was a clever man, and he would share with me on many occasions the various reasons why he had chosen to walk away from Christianity. After spending time with this man I would often feel embattled.

God would show me all over again that Christianity is true. Nevertheless that man's voice was in my ear on a regular basis. So, which voice was going to be louder: God's or this man's?

A friend who was very strong in his faith knew I had this challenge and decided to send me some words of wisdom. They were such on-point words that I wrote them down at the time. I was greatly helped by them, and discovered them again this week so thought I would share them here.

Perhaps these words are especially for you today if you're one of those whose spouse lost his/her faith. Here goes:

"Don't let anyone steal your crown.

You sit in the heavenly realms with the Lord (Ephesians 2:6); you've been lifted. So it is that you remember the incredible position of authority and respect you have right now, and in the next life as well, even if some people have forgotten their position or have chosen to lower themselves after having once been elevated."

Amen to that. For the Bible does speak of us inheriting a crown, or crowns, and phew it will be quite the inheritance. We must hold onto it like crazy, not letting the unbelief of another person steal it from us. 

In that spirit, then, let's look at the scriptures about the crown that is laid up for us:

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:4, NIV).

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8, NIV).

Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown (Revelation 2:10, ESV).

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12, NIV).

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:25, NIV)

If you would like prayer for perseverance today -- That is, if you are feeling battered by the unbelief of those around you and need prayer to keep going, leave a note in the comments and we'll pray for you.

Love,

Ann


Yvonne Swarbrick Salvation Testimony

We were sent this amazing story of how one husband turned to Jesus after many years of his wife waiting. We are so grateful to Yvonne Swarbrick for sharing it -- it is her story. Read, meet Yvonne, and be encouraged:Yvonne

"I became a Christian in 1985 , the Lord had been calling me a long time because I could trace back through my life when I had tried to find Him. I wasn’t aware I was searching for Him till I found him and a lot of people realize this after they become Christians.

I watched a program on TV called This is The Day one Sunday morning. Me and my two daughters were getting ready for a birthday party on a canal boat, it was a Sunday. In the program there was a short sketch of the crucifixion. The tv was on in the background and I only glanced at it but it got my attention like it always does when I watch the crucifixion.

We got ready to go out and I couldn’t stop thinking all day about what I’d seen on that program. I remember as we walked down the street I felt as if something was happening to me.

That night when I got home I searched the house for a Bible. I found one but couldn’t make any sense of it. The next day I went to the library and found a book in the beliefs section called 'New Life, New Lifestyle'. I stayed up that night very late and read the whole book. There was a prayer in the middle of the book about giving your life to God and asking him to come in. I prayed the prayer and went to bed thinking nothing had happened, but as the days went by I realized I was changing.

My outlook on life changed, I had this thirst to read the Bible, I had this love in me I’d never had before. I was bursting with joy and I drove everyone around me mad.

Three months after we found out my hubby Ray had Multiple Sclerosis (MS). We'd had no idea up till then there was anything wrong. They told us not to worry and take things a day at a time. Boy was I brought back down to earth! We were in shock, I knew how bad MS could get. I knew a lady that was seriously disabled with it and I immediately thought of her. I was angry with God at first but eventually I realized He had come to my rescue. Ray would have been diagnosed and I would have felt worse if the Lord hadn’t come in to my life.

I tried to tell my hubby about the Lord but he didn’t get it. He didn’t say he was an atheist he was more of an agnostic like I had been. My friends at church encouraged me to start praying for him so I did.
Our daughters were 3 and 5, it was a busy time and we just tried to carry on as positively as possible.
Seven years later when our eldest daughter was 12 she was diagnosed with type-one diabetes and we nearly lost her as she was rushed into hospital in an emergency.

They stabilized her and she had to learn to inject herself. It felt traumatic again. More stress. I ended up with depression and anxiety. Trying to cope with my hubby deteriorating in front of me and now my daughter. Then on top of that I had Christians saying you shouldn’t get depressed as a Christian. I have since learnt a lot about anxiety and depression.

In 1996 we had to have some alterations done and moved out of the house. Ray went into a disabled unit at the hospital while it was done and we stayed with friends.

When I visited him one night he said "I think I will come to church on Sunday with you" and I was amazed! It came suddenly right out of the blue, I’d had a word from someone saying it would happen suddenly. I couldn’t believe it! I had been praying for twelve years and others alongside me. 

Ray came to church that Sunday and gave his life to the Lord. It all seemed to happen so fast. I saw him change in front of me, he became alive like he’d never been before. His whole face changed, his smile changed. He started singing in the car with me and he’d never sang in all the years I’d known him!

We became intimate on a different level, we had eye contact we’d never had before and we’d been married 26 years! Then he said he wanted to renew our marriage vows as Christians, it was so beautiful. We had our ceremony and he told the congregation that he was happier than he had ever been in his life even though he was in a wheelchair with MS.  We were on cloud nine, we fell in love all over again, it was a most wonderful time.

We had a few years of feeling blissful but the disease got worse and worse. We both got a bit beaten down with it. He retreated back into his cave and I think he was protecting me. It became harder to get him to church. I was really disappointed because I thought the Lord was going to heal him. And then we got another diagnosis of leukaemia, it was a leukaemia you could have treatment for so he started the treatment.

That was another devastating blow but we held onto God and hoped the treatment would work. He did very well, he lasted six years after the diagnosis. He died in 2016, not healed but healed spiritually and he’s with the Lord now.

I was disappointed and confused because I really believed God was going to heal him, because of the transformation of God entering his life and seeing the massive change.

But the most important thing is that he found the Lord, he had joy for a few years and I hope that made up for all the pain he went through. 

I’m writing this to encourage anyone that’s praying for their hubby. Keep praying and don’t give up. I never thought it would happen. One thing I didn’t share was someone gave me a word a long time before he got saved. They said "love him into the kingdom so I tried my best." I didn’t always manage it though! God bless all you ladies and men out there.

Yvonne Swarbrick became a Christian in 1985, she has two daughters aged 42 and 40 and three grandsons aged between 10 and 14. Now retired, she spends her time singing in a gospel choir, which she loves, and doing art, especially painting with watercolors, as well as other crafts. She recently found our community and was keen to share this part of her testimony with us.


And Finally... The Virtue of Being Considerate

My friends, Let's wash feet

It's been interesting talking about serving God when spiritually single, and I've found your comments wonderfully insightful. I have especially loved hearing your stories. Our lives certainly are different to other Christians, aren't they?

For the final post in this series, I want to finish with a story --

You might remember I'm going through the book The Love Dare, and one of the dares I had to do was ask Bryce a question, listen to his answer, and not argue back. The question was a hard one. It was this: "What three areas of my behavior do you wish I would change?"

"Do you really want me to answer this?" He said. "Are you sure you want to go there?"

"Hit me with it!" I said. Go on, just do it.

"Wellll..... I'm sorry but your driving is terrible," he said. "It really, really bothers me, your driving." That one made me laugh, even though he was being serious. 

But then he told me this, and this one didn't make me laugh. It sort of made me want to cry, but I listened: He said, he works hard bringing in the money. He works long hours and he's often tired. He comes home to see me at my computer 'blogging', and yet parts of the house-cleaning haven't been done, the laundry hasn't been folded, and sometimes important administrative things have been forgotten. He then has to spend time on those things at the weekend.

Ouch.

So the thing is, I've been serving God, but kind of neglecting other things. And that's hard because serving God sometimes takes up a chunky part of our lives.

"What do I do?" I asked God. "I can't not work on the SUM ministry, because You have called me to it and I know it's where I'm meant to be. But, I'm stumped, and I'm quite distressed now."

I reflected further and decided not to get excessively discouraged but instead work out a solution. Bryce did have a point. As the one who 'doesn't work' in his eyes, I should do my part for the family. That is, at least keep the house clean, make it a nice environment, stay on top of the dishes and do family jobs during the week so that we can both relax at the weekend.

My friends, that is the conundrum about service. And, I think the lesson is this: Even if God is calling us to serve outside our homes, we can still do it in a way that's considerate to our spouse.

Ok, here's what I did next --

I changed my daily routine. I realized my priorities are, in order: (1) My relationship with God, (2) My family, and (3) Service to others. With that in mind, I set up my daily routine to reflect that order.

I decided to:

(1) Spend the first chunk of the day with God, which I was doing anyway.

(2) Immediately after that, do a little bit of cleaning, and make sure the kitchen is tidy and laundry done.

(3) Only then, work on ministry and other service things.

(4) Each day, try to fit in some kind of task for our family, whether it's inviting some neighbors for dinner, or doing some school paperwork -- The aim being to keep our family life vibrant and running smoothly.

It's working so far. Already the home feels more orderly, and I kind of like it. I'm not a naturally neat person when it comes to my home but I'm finding this new discipline is good for me.

Ultimately, in the SUM ministry our goal is to thrive in our faith and our marriage. A big part of our marriage succeeding lies in us being considerate to our spouse. In the area of service, that truth remains: It is our thoughtfulness and love that will win them over. And while God has many fabulous things for us to do, his heart is always brooding over our marriages.

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives (1 Peter 3:1, NKJV)

So, that completes our series on Serving God when Spiritually Single. I hope you've enjoyed it like I have. I would love to hear any final thoughts you have in the comments!

Love,

Ann


How Our Spouses Feel About Us Serving

Hello everyone! Let's wash feet

Serving when spiritually single, part 1

Serving when spiritually single, part 2

We're continuing the above series, and it's time to turn our attention to this difficult aspect of serving: How our spouses feel.

Gulp!

Because we are one flesh in marriage, like conjoined twins, our choice to serve often costs our spouse something. 

It's mostly our time that we give; but sometimes it's part of our heart too. And from our spouse's point of view, our time and heart could be spent on other things.

It's very difficult, and for me this continues to be a tightrope balance. My husband does miss out on certain things because of time I spend on God. That said, marriage is about two people's needs, so there's give and take here.

Several years ago, my pastor took a few of us through some conversations as a leadership team. He wanted to encourage personal integrity and so he covered a different topic with us each week. One of those topics was 'balancing ministry with your marriage.'

He shared with us that while he felt an intense call to ministry, his wife did not have the same sense of calling. While she supported him 100%, because they had that slight difference he always made sure he asked her about every single evening he was to be away from her -- "Is it ok?" he would keep on asking.

He suggested we all do the same, and I liked that. However, I did reflect that if I had asked my husband "Is it ok?" in those early days I would not be a believer or attending church by now! As a SUMite, part of our lifestyle unfortunately involves standing up to our spouse in certain areas and not always being in agreement. So, how do we strike the balance?

When we want to serve in a particular area, we can first ask this:

Lord, do you definitely want me to serve in this area? I've got a desire to do it, but is this from you? Please confirm it.

We can wait a little while to mull this one over, but if we are pretty sure it's God's will for us to serve in a particular way, we will then find one of two things happens:

EITHER:

(a) Our spouse says 'yes', and sometimes it's a miraculous 'yes' that leaves us floored at God's goodness (woohoo!)

OR:

(b) Our spouse resists us. If that happens we then have to test whether we've heard God correctly. God doesn't mind testing us either: "Are you going to follow Me, or follow man?" It's not easy, but occasionally serving becomes a matter of obedience to God. 

I've been in both of the above scenarios and I know that others in this community have too. Discerning God's voice becomes critical. And, consideration for our spouse's feelings remains important.

Amazingly, all the spouses of the writers here at Spiritually Unequal Marriage have given their blessing for us to write. They said a miraculous yes. It's truly amazing. That said, their permission is necessary given the personal nature of the writing, so God had to help us with that.

The same was true when Dineen and Lynn wrote the book Winning Him Without Words. Their husbands never read the book; yet they cheered their wives on. God has hidden us all in a very unique way there. That there is scenario (a) in big, bold miraculous form!

However, when I stepped into speaking at church, I had the opposite happen. Bryce felt I was going too far with the whole Christian thing and he resisted me strongly. We had a particularly difficult conversation one night about it. Later that night God gave me a vision of a fly aiming at my voice-box. Flies in visions often represent Satan. Through this vision God said to me, "Ann, this is an attack from the enemy; he is trying to discourage you from speaking, and you need to push through and speak anyway." After that, I kept going.

It didn't take long for Bryce to have a change of heart and within a few weeks he was even supportive. I guess every scenario is different.

I suppose the moral is that sometimes our spouse will support us, sometimes they won't, but the most important thing is to listen as best we can to God's voice. Stay considerate to our spouse, and stay obedient.

Do you have any thoughts or experiences you'd like to share about the above?

Love to you all,

Ann


Serving: What If the Church Looks at us Differently?

Hi SUM family, Ann here and we're currently in our series on Serving God while Spiritually Single. Part One is here: Let's wash feet

Serving God when Spiritually Single: Part One

Today I want to talk about how we cope when the church looks at us differently. Does it affect our opportunity to serve?

I decided to look at this because one of our SUMites recently shared that's how she feels. She said something along the lines of: "Sometimes I feel the leaders might look at me and think there's something wrong with my life because my husband isn't believing. That might make them less likely to trust me or think of me as an obvious person to serve."

Have any of you have found that?

In my experience it's certainly been harder to build social connections and trust at church, at the very least. Because my husband isn't there it takes longer for people to know me. 

That said, there's a tremendous truth here that is rather exciting: God overrides these things if he really wants you to serve in a particular area.

I experienced that in a personal way recently. Many of you know my church closed last year, and then I followed the Holy Spirit's lead in moving to a new church. The old church was mostly made up of families. The new church is mostly in their twenties. Sometimes I feel very old in this new place!

One day while back in the old church, God stirred my heart that I was to start preaching there. "Yikes, that's bold of me I thought" ((laughing)). That's not the sort of thing you put yourself forward for easily, so I didn't mention it to anybody. But, one day the leader of the preaching team came running after me as I was leaving church. "Ann, would you like to give the sermon next week?" My mouth dropped open. 

God opened that guy's heart to my desire to serve; and that's how it goes: God gives us a stirring, and then it kind of happens.

Well, I really enjoyed that season of preaching in that church. But, you know, Bryce never attended once, and I stood up there alone each time. It was tough almost as much as it was rewarding. That seems to be the nature of service, at times.

I then moved to the new church, and God said to me "Ann, now I want you to be a passenger, not a driver."  In other words, he was asking me to step back and be a behind-the-scenes support. Meanwhile, my son Miles (age 16) signed himself up for the 7:30am set-up team on a Sunday, and that's what he and I now do once a month. That too feels 'meant to be', as God also said to me "I just want you to talk to people." While setting up, that's what I do.

Now, back to our SUMite sister's comment: Yes, in my new church I'm experiencing a little of what she said. It's been difficult to get to know people. I'm looked at a little differently too, as I don't fit the mold. It's ok -- God's breath on my life has shown me where he wants me.

Overall, though, I think the following quote captures how we must walk this. It's from Dineen, our past leader, and I just happened across it yesterday. She said:

"Don’t confuse your calling or ministry or service as who you are. Those are things you do. They come from your identity in Christ. All that we do to serve must be held loosely because we really don’t know the full picture of where God plans to take us next."

A hearty amen to that. So, let's seize the adventure of where God wants to take us next. Who knows, huh! All we know is that we must do this:

Through love, serve one another (Galatians 5:13, NKJV), and --

.. in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Romans 12:10-11, NKJV) 

Now your turn: What's your favorite area to serve in at the moment? And have you found it looks different in different seasons?


God, Where Do You Want Me To Serve?

My friends, Let's wash feet

Today I want us to roll up our sleeves and thing about whose feet we're to wash and how! Yes, we're launching into a series on serving God while spiritually single.

I say 'washing feet' because when we serve the church, our family, or people outside the church that's exactly what we're doing: Putting ourselves aside, like Jesus did, to show love to others.

As Jesus said --

If I then, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet (John 13:14, NKJV).

Now, I reckon for us -- The church of the unequally yoked -- God has an absolute array of things for us to be doing. What's more, the good works he prepared you for will look completely different to the good works he prepared others for. It's exciting to find out these things.

And, God equips us. For example, God might have allowed you to walk through a particular life experience so that you can later help others, or he might have given you a particular talent or area of knowledge for others' sake. OR, he might have given you a heart for a particular issue or group of people.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

But now to the elephant in the room: It is truly difficult to serve God when our spouse is not by our side in it. Their attitude to it will impact our choices and ease there, and it's a fine balance. We'll talk about that in a later post.

Ultimately, though, nothing can stop the fact that a Christian will want to serve, and will serve. When I look at my own faith life it has three areas to which I give my heart: Faith time

(1) My personal relationship with God

(2) Washing my family's feet

(3) Washing others' feet

Those three things take up much of my energy. They are like segments of a pie.

If I was to prioritize them I would put my personal relationship with God at the top; everything flows from that. Then, I would put my family and, third, serving others. But I would never not do something to serve others outside my home - however tiny. And, that's the thing: Tiny things can be big in Kingdom terms, because often tiny things are a gesture of the heart.

'Tiny', or 'low key' service towards others can be very simple, like deciding you're going to check in on people who are house-bound, or being a deliberate and regular encourager to others.

This might look quite different to the kind of service within church that's more visible. We might look at the guitar-player at the front or the kids-church volunteer and think because we're not doing something like that we're not serving. 

But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-13, NKJV)

I love that verse, and it empowers me to turn up to church and do the quiet things too, like make sure the toilets look clean, or talk to a new person and make them feel like they're valued. That's the sort of stuff nobody notices but God. 

Washing others' feet, then, is fabulously diverse and our task is to understand where God wants our energy. I went through a season, for example, where I baked cakes and biscuits for the Sunday service. Now, (in a different church) I pray a lot for my church behind the scenes and that's where my time goes. These sorts of things we do out of a fervent love for others.

And above all things have fervent love for one another (1 Peter 4:8, NKJV)

With all that in mind, then, how about we do an exercise? 

Sit with God with a blank piece of paper and pen, and ask him what are the good works he has equipped you uniquely to be doing, and where does he want your 'serving energy'? Be prepared to think outside the box, and hear outside the box!

I'd love to hear your responses in the comments if you feel like sharing.

And .. See you next time!

Ann


Serving God When Spiritually Single

Happy Friday, everyone, Ann here. Foot washing

For many of us the desire to serve God in church or some other way outside our home runs through our veins. We want to contribute, we want to muck in. After all, that's the spirit of a Christian: We're part of a global effort to spread the Gospel.

Well... We all know that serving is a little complicated with an unbelieving spouse. It's complicated on one hand, but it can be exciting too.

With this in mind, next week we're going to start a series called 'Serving God when Spiritually Single'. To kick off you might like to watch this week's live video, below. In this video, one of our SUMites Paula Blackie shares her story about she has served in ministry despite having an unbelieving husband -- Yikes! That story got my own creative juices going, and I thought "We can definitely talk more about this," because serving takes a lot of forms.

So, I will leave you with this video, and perhaps you can share in the comments if there is anything particular you're grappling with in terms of serving? It'll help us write next week's series.

Thanks for your input, and love you loads,

Ann

 


March On -- We Win!

Ann here! March on

I've got a little story today that may make me sound bonkers. But I'm laughing as I write, because sometimes you've just got to die to yourself and tell the story. I hope it gives you a smile.

In my spiritually mismatched marriage, there was a real season of tears that lasted a number of years. 

To everything there is a season and a purpose under heaven: (Eccl 3:1)

A time to weep and a time to laugh (v. 4, NKJV)  

It wasn't that I didn't love my husband, but the spiritual mismatch itself was just so upsetting, uncomfortable, and stretching that I cried most days about it.

One day I was home alone thinking about it as usual and, yep, crying. I happened to put a CD on, and as I sniffled away a song began to play that was catchy. Words floated out:

Don't cry. Open up your eyes and know there's someone else out there that feels this way.

I'm singing to you 'coz I know what you've been through and it's not so long ago I felt the same.

Like soldiers, march on. If we can make it through the night we'll see the sun. March on, march on.

I leapt to my feet. "I am a soldier of Jesus Christ" I thought, and began to march on the spot. Well, I marched, marched, marched, and marched some more, snot-crying with a big man-sized hankie, and listening to those words Like soldiers, march on. The song finished, I put it on again and continued to march.

Honestly, I must have spent about twenty minutes marching on the spot in my living room. Good job no one could see me. But, bonkers as it may have seemed, it turns out it was a prophetic act.

A couple of years later Lynn Donovan, our founder of this ministry, announced that her husband Mike had got baptized after 27 years of her waiting for it. She announced it to the room at a SUM conference, and told us how the Lord had taken her on a seven-year march around Jericho before he suddenly said yes to baptism. 

That seven year march involved Lynn learning something new and specific each year in order to get the Jericho walls of her husband's unbelief to crash to the ground. What's more, God was asking her now to write a book about those seven years and call it Marching Around Jericho. Lynn with MAJ

The talk Lynn gave about her seven-year march and Mike's baptism is here. She marched .. and then Mike got baptized in March. Just because God is fun. It's as if he was saying 'Let's just have a complete marching theme here!'

When Lynn finally finished the book and had it published in December 2019, the book ended with these words on its last page:

March on, Warrior! We WIN!

March On? Well, that was the very name of the song I marched to: March On by the band Good Charlotte.

That little march in my living room was a foreshadowing of that great book and all that it has meant for our community. That book lifted our spiritual skills so that we could break through those Jericho walls. It also had - and has -- the power to change a season.

Yes, here on the blog many are still marching through that season of tears. That's why we need this ministry. But, in the words of that song, if we can make it through the night we'll see the sun. March on. March on.

Even when there's no one there for you, march on.

Even when the days are hard for you, march on.

Like soldiers, march on.

I'm going to finish with the song itself and, hey, if you're game why not have a march in your living room? It's Friday and we can be a little bonkers ((laughing)).

Ann


Sweet Gifts for a Grandmother's Faith

By Ann Hutchison  T M 2

You know, when it comes to my kids I've always found it super challenging to bring faith to them. In fact, it's no less challenging to bring faith to them as it is to bring faith to my husband.

Is it like that for many of you, I wonder?

Here's a pic of my precious two boys -- Travis and Miles. They are 17 and 16 and, like their Dad, they have not yet had a point in their life where they've said "Yes, I give my life to Jesus". That's not to say they haven't been exposed: Both boys were raised with me talking about God a lot. I would tell them God stories, I would pray for them, and I did take them to church for periods of time, but church never gelled for them and that part was a real struggle for me.

In his earlier years, my oldest used to express unbelief, or would challenge the existence of God. He's a very concrete person, geared around what he can see and touch directly. Those expressions of unbelief have now stopped, though - Interesting.

My youngest, meanwhile, joined church of his own volition a year ago too. THAT was amazing, and I shared that story here. He and I now attend church together, just the two of us. Still, with him I'm watching and wondering where he sits with it all. 

Well, two weeks ago something very special happened, because I saw a tiny shift happen separately for each boy in the space of one weekend. Glimmers of change. Mum Travis 2

I'll start with Travis. My Mum was visiting us and she and I happened to have the chance to go out for dinner on our own with Travis. It was a treat for her and I. As parents of teens know, it's nice to have the excuse to spend time talking with a willing teenager and we chatted about all sorts. Here's a nice photo from that night.

Well, partway through the evening, we started talking about Travis's friends and where they stand in their beliefs about God. He said, very casually, 'Yes, they've told me they don't believe in God, and I've told them I do believe in God.'

I've told them I believe in God.

Well that made me smile because I have never before heard him say that. And, when someone makes a statement like that it's a clear step forward to say 'My heart is open'. 

That was Friday.

Sunday rolled around, then, and my Mum and I drove with Miles (my youngest) to church. It was the first time my Mum had attended our church and she was looking forward to it. 

Our church doesn't do communion often, but they happened to have it that day. The leader said, "If you have received Jesus into your heart, then do come up and take some bread and wine". Miles was sitting on the other side of the room to us with one of his friends. I took a peek over thinking 'will he go?' and sure enough up he got, walked to the table, and took the bread and wine. He then went and sat down, and as I peeked over I could see he had his eyes closed, reflecting. It's the first time I've seen him take communion.

Like the statement his brother made - 'I believe in God' - Communion is powerful. It is the finest of feasts, and a way we can enter Him, by eating his body and drinking his blood. That day Miles took a step in the Heavenlies by receiving communion (Jesus). Mum miles 2

Later, my Mum and I were alone and I turned to her --

"Did you notice what Travis said in the restaurant?"

"Oh yes, I was going to say the same to you!" Her eyes sparkled back at me.

"And did you notice Miles took communion?"

"I DID! Yes, I noticed that too."

She and I grinned broadly.

My Mum has been a woman of faith since the 1970s, never wavering, never backsliding, and praying constantly for her family. It seemed somehow providential that she was there to witness those two new signs that my boys are getting there, that is, getting towards that momentous decision where they will say --

"Yes, I am going to give my life to Jesus."

Thanks for reading along today. For those of you who have kids, how old are they and how are things going faith-wise?

Ann


Nothing is Impossible -- A Testimony

Ann here,

A few years ago a friend at church told me how she and her husband used to be unequally yoked, but then he became a believer. "He did?!" I gasped. "How? How?" At the time her story really helped me.

Well, this week that friend came to my house and recorded her story on video, especially for our community. Here it is for your viewing pleasure, and may it spur you on.

"For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37, ESV)


The Different Kinds of Spiritually Mismatched Marriage

Ann here! Couple

Over recent years I've really enjoyed finding out about our community, and how different people found themselves in a spiritually mismatched situation. We truly have a vibrant mix among our readership, and you can be sure that if you're feeling alone there is someone else here who is going through the same thing as you!

There are different ways in which people suddenly find themselves 'spiritually mismatched', and I thought it might be interesting to look at those today. After all, everything we learn about spiritually mismatched marriage from each other helps us minister to others who come up behind us on the path.

So, here we go: Broadly, people get into a spiritually mismatched situation usually through one of five ways:

  1. They were a Christian who married an unbeliever.
  2. Their spouse was Christian when they married but then left the faith.
  3. They and their spouse have always been Christians, but one person's growth took off after marrying, or one became lukewarm.
  4. They married someone they thought was Christian, then found out that person wasn't.
  5. They became a Christian after getting married.

Have I missed any? Let me know if your circumstance isn't covered in the above, I'd love to hear it. 

In terms of the prevalence of this among males and females, we all know by now that it is more common for women to be the believers in a spiritually mismatched marriage. But there certainly are men too. In our readership, we do have men as well as women. The men comment less, but we meet them behind the scenes in emails.

There are specific kinds of pain that apply to each of the above cases. For example, if someone has a spouse who is outwardly Christian but behind closed doors it seems they might not be (i.e., nominally Christian but no fruit), that can be particularly lonely. It's impossible to explain to the church without 'outing' the spouse, and then that becomes a question of 'where do I find friendship and support?'

For those who chose to marry an unbeliever, many struggle with guilt and/or regret. They have to work through the question of 'What is God's view of this now?' We'll write a post on that soon.

For those whose spouses leave the faith, there is deep, almost unbearable grief, and they are forced to get used to having a completely new person as their spouse: One who is now welcoming new things into the home (often atheism), and a spouse who is particularly resistant to being persuaded that Jesus is true.

Finally, those who convert after marriage find it extremely difficult to move forward in their new faith. Their spouse is part of their old life, they are now a new creation, and so they must navigate how to build a new life with their spouse, who is often unhappy: A 'new normal' that fits them both.

What an interesting mix of things there. But, there are commonalities that apply to most, if not all, of us who are spiritually mismatched:

  • There is an aloneness in our walk. 
  • We build our relationship with Jesus by ourselves, not with our spouse.
  • We have the responsibility to lead our family spiritually, regardless of our gender.
  • It's difficult for us to connect with the church, and yet we must.
  • The spiritual warfare of our particular situation is intense, and so we are frequently embattled.
  • We must learn to forgive our spouse for their unbelief.
  • We focus deeply on the covenant of marriage.

So all in all, that's our picture. That's our community. And what an adventure to journey together in it. Despite the above challenges, I know that many of us reach the point where we say "I wouldn't change it for the world, because of what it's done for my relationship with Jesus."

In the comments I'd love to hear how you got into a spiritually mismatched marriage - And what challenges does that specifically bring?

Much love to you all,

Ann