228 posts categorized "Unequally Yoked"

Spiritually Unequal Marriage: What Exactly Has God Promised? Part Two

Hi SUMites Ann Lynn

We're picking up where we left off with the question: 'What exactly has God promised us in our spiritually mismatched marriages?' 

To catch up on part one click here.

I mentioned in my last post that I believe God has promised this community 'salvations', and he is asking us to align our eyes with that promise. This has been a long-standing promise in this community.

But we are in it for the long haul: Promises from God don't happen overnight. Salvation could happen on a spouse's deathbed. God hasn't promised us instant victory, nor has he promised us an easy ride. Look at Abraham for the classic example: He was given a promise of a son, and 25 years later it happened.

Some of us have waited longer than that. So, get your marathon-running clothes on and get ready for a longggg race!

The reason God has said 'salvation' to the SUM community is, I believe, that he does not want us to walk this spiritually mismatched path in hopelessness. 

Yes, the spiritually mismatched path is thoroughly gruelling and for a season there will be tears.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: ... A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4, NKJV).

For some of us, there is also a deep wounding that has happened in our marriages. Nevertheless, in the middle of all that, God asks us to 'picture it done'; that is, picture them saved. That is what 'hope' in the Bible means: Picture it done.

As we do that, we then grow something very important: A heart full of peace. And that is a heavenly characteristic.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace ... (Galatians 5:22, NKJV)

And then, I'd like to say this:

God has given us a promise, but it won't automatically happen unless we partner with it

SUMites, I believe that's how it rolls with God's promises. Look at King Saul or King Solomon, for example, who were each given an anointing but shipwrecked themselves. We can shipwreck ourselves in a SUM if we don't partner appropriately with God's word on the matter.

We have to partner with God in this promise of our spouse's salvation, come into agreement with it, and take steps to do our bit. Read Winning Him Without Words, read Marching Around Jericho, read Lynn's upcoming book, Spiritual Enforcer, and do the things it says in there. Determine to walk this SUM walk with excellence.

Scripture says the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse. I am speculating here, but that could mean that there are certain things we do to sanctify them. It could mean our prayers, for example, sanctify them; or it could mean our love sanctifies them. Who knows!

What I do know is that God has given us the various tools we need through this ministry, but we have to choose to enact the actions.

I have a friend who Bryce and I have known for years. Currently he is hostile towards Christians and is a pain to be with. He has wounded me over the years, and I have had to put appropriate boundaries around that relationship. But God has promised me he'll turn. So however bad it looks right now I'll never lose faith in that, and I'll never stop doing my bit.

Paul pointed this out to his younger counterpart, Timothy:

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, by which some having rejected concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck (1 Tim 1:18-19, NKJV)

So yes, those are some thoughts on what God has promised us. To recap:

Point #1: God deliberately gives us mystery in our SUM walk

Point #2: Our spouse is sanctified by us

Point #3: The unbelieving spouse needs to make a choice

Point #4: God does not want us to walk in hopelessness

Point #5: God has given us a promise, but it won't automatically happen unless we partner with it

Well, as I said, we wrestle with these concepts and do our best to understand God's heart.

SUMites, of the five points here, which do you wrestle with or wonder about?

Love you all,

Ann


In a Spiritually Mismatched Marriage, What Exactly has God Promised?

Dear friends, Ann here Ann Lynn

In our spiritually mismatched marriages, what has God promised?

I thought this would be a nice follow-on from last week's posts, in which I described that a community promise of 'salvation'. Does that mean all our spouses will all be saved? 

The photo I've included here is of me and Lynn. It looks like we're asking each other, 'What do you think?' There are a lot of topics like that in SUM. We wrestle with questions.

Anyway, as I tackle this one I'm going to wind my way through thoughts that I've constructed over the years. I have three sources of information to draw from:

(1) Scriptures

(2) God's voice, and

(3) Things we've seen happen.

So let's go!

Point #1: God deliberately gives us mystery in our SUM walk

Scripture says:

How do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:16, NKJV)

I like that little scripture. It tells me clearly that there are some things in our faith walk that are deliberately mysterious, and we have to accept that. The question of an unbelieving spouse's salvation is one of those 'deliberate mysteries'. That said, we have had a 'salvation' promise as a community on a number of occasions, and God does tell his people things that are to come. So what is the posture we must take?  Do we allow mystery, or do we walk through this with absolute certainty they will be saved? 

I'd say the answer is: "Be at peace. Believe it will happen. Speak about it hopefully. And surrender it to God." I think that's what God asks of us. Certainly be at peace.

Point #2: Our spouse is sanctified by us

The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean but now they are holy (1 Cor 7:14, NKJV)

My friends, a great thing to do for anyone in a spiritually mismatched marriage is to study that word 'sanctification' (Hagiazo in Greek) and look at all the other times it is used in the Bible. Once you do that you see how huge 'sanctification' is. It means we do make our spouse holy. Wow. BUT: how far it extends remains a mystery. None of us have the answer about what sanctification looks like; well, I sure don't. So we look at God, awestruck and reverently, and whisper to him, "Lord, dare I hope that my faith will touch this beloved person with such power that they collapse in awe of you too?"

Point #3: The unbelieving spouse needs to make a choice

A big part of our spiritually mismatched walk involves our spouse making a choice, and I believe that God wants them to have that choice. 

But if the unbelieving spouse departs, let him depart... (1 Cor 7:15)

The choice our spouse makes is this: To stay in the marriage or leave. Then, to be supportive, or not. Frankly, all of us risk losing our spouse because of our faith. I hope that's not too harsh to say. But it is what it is, and it's ok: God has us, and this is a faith test for us.

We will stay with our spouse if they want us and if they are willing to honor the marriage covenant. If the marriage is abusive, then that is a broken covenant, and the believing spouse is well advised to get out. But if it's not abusive, then we stay, and we say, "I will cherish you until death parts us."

Even if they leave, however, a bowl full of prayers of the saints will have been said for them. And what power lies in that. It may be that they come to the end of their life, and on their death-bed they bow their knee. Who knows. 

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8, NKJV)

Well, my friends, I'm at the end of my word count, so I am going to pause there; but I will continue on Monday with Point #4: God does not want us to walk this in hopelessness. 

See you in the comments!

Love,

Ann


Spiritual Warfare for the Unequally Yoked

Hi SUM Nation: Important Information below the review:

Lynn Donovan here. Today I want to provide an update regarding the Spiritual warfare book for the Unequally Yoked. It is nearing completion. Here is an early review by one of our own:

“This book is exactly what I needed at the exact right time in my faith walk. So many questions I had were answered and in a way that I could comprehend. Lynn has a clear and straightforward style that is truly a gift.

I feel this book is three books in one. I went through it 3 times! The first read is a breath of air straight through to the end, the second read is to mark all the prayers and prayer prompts, the third read is to notate all of the points to use and apply to my life. I know this book will become an integral part of my faith education.  I highly recommend it to anyone who is ready to have their eyes opened. No more being blinded by the enemy.  No more!” —Karen Sadler, Clovis, CA, USA

Spiritual Enforcer is a continuation of concepts, teaching, and real tools from the book, Marching Around Jericho. If you haven't read through that book, pick up a copy and get started. The foundational concepts of identity and intimacy ARE REQUIRED in order to walk in what I share in Spiritual Enforcer. 

Enforcer is slated to launch in late February. What I share requires spiritual maturity. The concepts and truths from the Word are seldom taught from the pulpit. BUT we need these truths to effectively enforce the will of God in our faith, marriage, and family.

Marching Around Jericho Cover

 

1 med Res Enforcer Front CoverI'll share more about the book and the video teaching, I plan to offer, in the weeks ahead. I want all of you to become fully equipped because that is where Jesus is calling the church today. We must be healed, delivered, and empowered for this next great move of God!

Hallelujah! Love you. Get ready... Enforcer will change you. Hugs, Lynn

 

 

 


Guest Post by LuAnn Wendover

Hi gang LuAnn

Today we are blessed to have a guest post from long-time SUMite LuAnn Wendover. Many of you will know LuAnn as she actively serves our community by encouraging and praying for many of us. LuAnn has a strong heart for fasting and runs a weekly fast for a group of SUMites behind the scenes. So, without further ado, here's LuAnn:

**

And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22

The yearly fast for our SUM community is quickly approaching. This 5 day fast is to focus SUM for the upcoming year in direction and leading from Abba.

It is always good to examine why we do what we do as followers of Jesus, and what our expectations and hopes are from the fast.

Why do we fast? What is it about fasting that is so important? Who should fast? How do you prepare for a fast?

For me, fasting is about shutting down my flesh with its never ending demands for attention. It is a time of preparing my heart for an encounter with the one who loves me the best. For over five years, my prayer partner, Nickole, I, and other Sumites have fasted weekly. The focus on this type of fast is completely different from a yearly, corporate fast. It is a fast to intercede for the needs of others. So our focus is on denying our appetite for food to approach the throne of God with the needs of our community. 

A corporate fast should be a unity in spirit seeking Him for the good of the corporate body...ie. the SUM community as a whole. The focus is to see what he wants from us as a group. And to see and understand how we as a community can further His kingdom.

I would suggest some research into the differing types of fasts as well as asking Holy Spirit what He would have you do. 

Fasting needs to be focused. It is not simply going without food but replacing that time with prayer or reading the word or praise and worship to seek Jesus. It is denying the screaming baby (our appetite) to better hear Him. It is learning to listen. It is learning how strong our flesh is and what it takes to subdue it.

We are living in times of rapid and insidious change. We need to be closer to our savior than ever before. Fasting gives us that opportunity to seek him, draw strength from Him, and fight the good fight.

Like every spiritual discipline, fasting is like a muscle. The more it is used and exercised, the stronger and more capable it becomes as a tool. 

I would like to encourage you to take part in our yearly fast. There is something very powerful in God's people coming together to seek Him. And our community is not just the leadership. Each of us is important and vital to the success of the group. Each has gifts to share, testimonies that impact each other, support and encouragement. So please consider taking part this year.

LuAnn Wendover is from Milan, NY. She has been a member of the SUM community for several years now. She is a wife, mother of 7, and grandmother of 14. She loves to encourage others in their walk with Jesus.


Our Annual Community Fast

Dear SUMites Fast n pray

Well, it is that time of year again -- A time of year that many of us anticipate: Our annual SUM Community Fast.

The fast will commence at sunrise on Monday, January 8th and conclude at sundown on Friday January 12, 2024. 

This year we are preparing ourselves for the spiritual warfare that we will engage in beginning in February when we work our way through Lynn's new book, Spiritual Enforcer.

During this fast we will seek the Lord for any way that the enemy holds legal grounds in our personal lives and find freedom for ourselves. Our freedom empowers and enables us to effectively battle for our families beginning in February.

This is the most important fast to date. Plan to participate and let your family know you will be fasting. In the meantime, I will write a little more about it in my next post.

Hold on to your hats. We are going to stand in victory in 2024: Victory in Christ in our lives, our faith and marriages. 

In Jesus' name. AMEN.

Love,

Ann


A Husband-Wife Conversation

By Ann Hutchison Bible 2

Here's a scene from this week in our house -- It was a crazy little spiritually mismatched scene.

Bryce is sitting at the table, doing some work. I'm on the couch in my pyjamas, reading the Bible.

A song pops into my head that I really wanted to listen to. 

Me:         "Mind if I put a song on?" 

Bryce:     "Is it a Christian power ballad?" 

Me:         "Yes."

Bryce:     "Then that probably would bother me. Perhaps you can wait till I've gone?"

I think he was thinking about the noise and intensity of it interrupting his work rather than the Christian side of it. Anyway, I got up, took the portable speaker into the bathroom, started to straighten my hair and listened to the song in there with the door closed.

Turns out it was a longgggg song ... So eventually with freshly straightened hair I emerged with the speaker in hand, the song still playing, and headed into the bedroom to dress. My hubby was now there too, getting ready to leave.

The song played on .....

Open the scroll, break the seal, worthy one.

Open the scroll, break the seal, worthy one.

You are holy.

Lord God Almighty.

I could feel the gentle presence of God, like a breeze, and the song filled our bedroom.

"I love God!" I burst out to Bryce. He smiled and paused.

Bryce:     "Yeah, I just can't relate. I just can't imagine loving someone you can't actually ..... see.

Me:         "I suppose he puts it in you. It's the Holy Spirit, he deposits the love in you. He does it all, and then you can't really help feeling that way about him."

Bryce:     "I guess so."

And off he went to work.

Yep, there we have it, just a normal day in a spiritually mismatched home. Well, it was not normal because there are no normal days. What's more, when we talk about things of the Spirit with our spouse - a feat that happens rarely -- it will always be a seed that will bloom. 

Meanwhile, here's the song -- and on this lovely Friday evening I'm going to put it on now and enjoy it once again.

Love you all!

Ann


If Your Spouse Has Left the Faith, Ctd ...

Happy Friday SUM family!

On Monday I asked the question of whether there is hope when a spouse loses the faith. Can you have hope that they will return? The answer, I said, was 'Yes'.

I shared a testimony by Georgian Banov, whose wife left her faith, but then returned. Well, today I wanted to share the testimony of his wife.

Again, it is a long video, but she starts to talk about the loss of her faith at about minute 16 ... And then, how she came to find faith again.

Enjoy.

 


If Your Spouse Has Left the Faith ...

Hello SUMites, Ann here.

If your spouse was once a Christian and has since left their faith or gone cold, I want to share something encouraging with you.

Is there hope that your spouse will ever come back? My answer: Yes.

I mentioned on Monday the story of Georgian Banov, whose wife Winnie lost her faith. They were itinerant ministers at the time and he had to carry on in ministry without her by his side. They actually almost got divorced because of it.

Well, here is Georgian's story. It is a long video, and for most of it he is talking about his faith journey more widely. But just after minute 55 the video takes a SUM twist:

The interviewer says: "You and Winnie minister so powerfully now, but it wasn't always that way. What advice do you have for anyone who is on fire for the Lord and their spouse is not?"

Have a listen to what Georgian says about his time in a SUM.


Don't Wanna Do This By Myself!

There's a song that goes -- Ann alone

All by myself, don't wanna be

All by myself, any more.

My friends, that's how I've felt in a SUM. I've felt it so keenly, sometimes.

Don't wanna be, by myself, any more!

Here's a photo that my church popped onto our Facebook page a while back. It's of me, all by myself, standing at the back. A married couple is in front of me. There I am worshipping, solo.

It's a cup I drink. We all have a cup to drink, of some sort or other.

Where I have felt this keenly is in ministry. It is difficult being in ministry alone, and I have found it very comforting indeed to have Lynn, who has the strength of an ox. If I had not had her, it would have been significantly more difficult. She's strong, and you need strong people alongside you.

But, yes, it is the cup that God has asked me to drink: To be in ministry as a spiritually single woman. So, I say in response to that: "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word," (Luke 1:38, NKJV). And I mean it. It's ok. 

Now God is my awesome father and best friend, and he has not left me without encouragement in all this. So let me tell you this rather fabulous story:

One day, about four years ago, I was sitting in my prayer room (the TV room). It was my usual morning time with God, so there I sat on the couch reading the Bible and jotting thoughts down. One thought led to another, though, and I got myself into a state. 

Now, I can do drama well, LOL.

In my bad state I slid dramatically off the couch like a slinky, onto the floor on my tummy, and started to cry. The tears ramped up, and in between hot tears I cried out to God:

WHY DO I HAVE TO DO MINISTRY ON MY OWN?

I was almost angry. It felt so unfair. I think I'd also just seen on Facebook a poster going round with profile photos of lovely couples in ministry speaking at a conference. Yet there was me, having to do it on my own.

Well, at the moment a name popped into my head:

Winnie Banov.

I didn't know who she was, but I'd seen her name float around on Christian things. So, once I'd dried my eyes and pulled myself together, I got up and looked her up. And there I discovered a beautiful story. Are you ready? It will encourage you, especially if your spouse has left the faith:

  • Winnie and her husband were itinerant ministers who were both on fire for God.
  • Then she lost her faith. She was completely missing in action and didn't want a bar of it.
  • She didn't go to church, she didn't support him, she didn't care for it. So he had to carry on in ministry, and they had a big ministry which involved a lot of travel. Brave man!
  • Everyone else in his world was part of a couple, and there he was, ministering on his own. 
  • She was to him an impossible and difficult lost cause. 
  • The only thing he could do was pray, in desperation. It went on for years.
  • He would put his hand on the wall of their bedroom on the other side of the wall (like my TV room which backs onto my bedroom), and he would pray for her while she slept.
  • One day, out of the blue, WOOSH the Holy Spirit came upon her and turned it all around. Suddenly, just like that.
  • And now they're in ministry together again.

I went to see Winnie and Georgian speak in Auckland about a year after discovering that story. I loved watching them minister together as a couple, knowing that story.

Why did God show them to me, I wonder? 

I still don't quite know; but today I am doing well with my cup. It doesn't grieve me anymore. I accept God's will and timing in my life. But I also believe - fully -- that there can be a cheeky little turnaround. And who knows what God has up his sleeve next.

My friends, which parts of SUM life do you find particularly hard to do alone? 

Lovely chatting,

Ann


'How Will You Compete With Horses?'

By Ann Hutchison Horses

"Why, why, WHY does it have to be this hard?"

This question we might well ask God. In fact, I imagine most of us have asked him this at one time or another.

"Why am I having to wait this long to see my spouse turn to you, Lord?"

While we wait for our spouse to join us in faith, we often feel hard pressed on every side. But there's a verse in the Bible that I really like, a verse that speaks especially well to this anguish of ours. It's a verse that was given by God to the prophet Jeremiah, when he expressed his anguish to the Lord about the hardness of the hearts around him and the loneliness he felt.

In response to Jeremiah's anguish God said this:

If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? (Jer 12:5)

In this verse, God is saying, "See it as preparation." He is saying, "I am allowing you to be equipped in the coal face, with this hard stuff (men on foot), so that you can cope with even tougher faith fights (horses)."

So it is with us too, SUMites. Through this SUM situation, we are being equipped to 'run with horses'.

In other words, we're being equipped to be a force to be reckoned with spiritually. We're being developed by God into fast, determined, focused, ferocious faith warriors.

Do you like that scripture too? I hope it spurs you on today, pun intended.

Lord, we thank you that you're equipping us to run with horses. Make us strong, and help us see the wearying parts through your eyes. In your name, Jesus, we ask this. Amen.

Well, with that thought I'll leave it there. Have a lovely weekend, everyone.

Ann


And If They Accept Our Faith ...

Dear friends, Ann here again. Spectrum

In our community, our spouses sit on a spectrum when it comes to how much they accept our faith.

At one end of the spectrum, we have those spouses who hate our faith and fight tooth and nail against it. I'm sorry to say that: And it is so tough to walk through a season like that in your marriage.

Then, in the middle of the spectrum are those spouses who feel nothing about it. They express no interest either way and are completely ambivalent. "Meh, whatever," they'll shrug. 

Finally, on the other end of the spectrum are those spouses who are generously supportive. They welcome the concept of faith and Jesus, and they find it not unattractive in us ... At times they find it attractive, even. In this case, the spouse hasn't yet surrendered their life to Jesus, but they would be up for it if their passion or interest was ignited.

The acceptance levels of a spouse seem to evolve over time. In my own marriage that's what has happened: Bryce and I have gently, imperceptibly walked from one far end of the spectrum right to the other end.

Amazing huh! Where does your spouse sit on this spectrum right now?

It has got me thinking, and here's what I believe:

When our spouse accepts and supports our faith, it is an act of welcome to Jesus. They are welcoming Jesus in, because they have said 'yes' to it in us and therefore in THEIR life.

All along, they have had a choice. They could choose to leave, which the Bible says some do (1 Corinthians 7:15). It's a big choice for them: Are they going to leave, or are they going to stay sharing a bed and a life with someone who smells like the aroma of Jesus Christ? (2 Corinthians 2:15-17)

This decision, for them, might be one they evaluate, deep down, over months, years and decades. They are faced with us daily and therefore the decision is constant: How are you going to respond to Jesus in your spouse?

I see acceptance, therefore, as a really, really big deal. An accepting spouse might not yet have ticked the 'saved' box in terms of repenting, declaring faith in Jesus with their tongue, and getting baptized themselves, but their response outwardly tells us that in their heart they now find Jesus a sweet aroma.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV)

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.  (2 Corinthians 2:15-17, ESV)

So, if your spouse accepts your faith, celebrate it! Their heart is in the right place.

And, on the other hand, if your spouse is currently sitting on the other end of the spectrum and fighting against your faith, do not fret -- Even if it has been years. It is not over till the fat lady sings: God is fighting this battle, and there's a walk along this spectrum that your spouse is going to be taking. You may not notice the shift even; but know that many shift into a place of acceptance eventually.

On that happy note, I say goodbye for the weekend. Where are you currently sitting on the spectrum? See you in the comments.

Ann


The Emotional Toll of a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage: Staying Healthy

Ann here! Juices

Here at SUM we do make a point of making our posts positive and hopeful: that is a great characteristic that God loves.

And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love .. (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV)

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things .. (1 Corinthians 13:7, ESV)

That said, it's also important to be real and to allow each other to bleed. That is what helps us not feel alone. 

So today I wanted to talk about the emotional toll that a spiritual mismatch in marriage takes. Do you find it has left an emotional toll on you? I certainly have felt like that. I feel it less so now, thankfully, but I remember a few years ago thinking to myself, 'Wow, bringing faith into my marriage has really taken its toll.'

Some SUMites have even said they became unwell from the stress; that is, the difficulty took a physical toll for a while there. The reason it's so very difficult is it's a spiritual situation: the spiritual battle for the salvations of our families and our own spiritual health is real, and it is fierce.

So what are the specific challenges?

Sometimes it's helpful to put things into words, so I thought I might articulate a few thoughts here.

  • First of all we grieve the fracture between us and our spouse. We so badly want to be close to our spouse, but the fracture runs so deep that however hard we try to bridge it, it's there. That, in turn, causes sadness.
  • In addition to that, we cannot easily be our authentic selves in our home -- A place we should be able to be most comfortable. We suffer persecution for our faith from the person who should be our safest ally. 
  • Because our authentic self is often rejected in our home, we feel we have to hide who we are. We get lonely.
  • We wrestle with deep concern about our spouse's eternal future, and -- even worse -- deep concern about our children. We are continually convicted about their choices and intensely frustrated, yet we feel helpless to do anything about it, and susceptible to fear.
  • Some of us wrestle with huge guilt about our marriage, and then feel bad for feeling that way about our spouse. So there's a double guilt thing going on there.
  • We wrestle with envy towards other Christians who have more straightforward Christian lives. 
  • Friendships become complicated because we have different tastes in friends to our spouse. We grieve that.
  • And finally, any act of faith that we partake is in some way a battle - whether big or small -- because our spouse doesn't love it. That can get quite exhausting!

The difficulty we face is multi-faceted. And it's hard to explain to anyone who is not walking the path why it is so difficult. I have tried to explain to my parents, for example (who are Christian), and though they have always been good listeners I've never quite been able to fully convey it. 'The saint must walk alone', as A. W. Tozer said.

So that's the battle. And, what do we do with that? Well, perhaps we recognize the depth of intensity and go easy on ourselves a little. It is hard, and we can sit with that, acknowledge it as that, and keep bringing it to Jesus. "Lord, this is HARD".

And then, self-care is really important. I did a video on self-care a few months ago, here, and I noted quite a few things we can do to help ease the emotional toll. Self-care is critical for the sake of everyone involved. We spend a lot of energy working on being the best spouse we can be, because the Bible calls us to, but we mustn't forget to devote time and energy to care of ourselves as an equal priority. That's how we can be at our best for our families.

Finally, keep on taking those difficult emotions to Jesus. Lay them out on a table before him and talk through them with him one by one. He is our merciful and wise confidante - as is the Holy Spirit.

You can always reach out to this community too :-)

So, on that note I'd love to pray for you. If you feel like sharing, post in the comments what you're wrestling with at the moment, and let's gather round you.

Love you all

Ann


The Story Behind the Pair-Shaped Promise

My friends, Pair shaped

Thank you ever so much for cheering me on with this book draft I've written. I got quite a few messages from you in the comments and privately, and do you know, that really encouraged me -- To keep going, and get the story out there.

It's Friday early evening as I type, my feet are up, my worship music is on, and now I'm settled in on my couch to tell you the story behind this book. It is rather a gorgeous story.

I wrote part one of this book way back in 2017. It was my testimony: My testimony of being an adult convert, and all that came with that. I described deeply what it meant for my marriage, but also the stunning things God did to show me he was real.

Once a week while Bryce and the boys would go out to swimming lessons I would write one chapter. Chapter by chapter over the following weeks the testimony took shape. But it had a core message that was at the crux of the book:

God had given me a specific promise. Ann Bryce 3

About my husband. And more.

After writing eighteen chapters, one day I heard God say "It's a wrap". Just like that. He was saying to me "Now wrap up this book, put it away somewhere, and I'll tell you when it's time to write part two."

"Should I get it published now?" I asked him.

"No. There's definitely part two," he showed me. "Wait for it.

Wait for it.

Dot dot dot .....

And so I did just that. I decided to wait. 'Part One' of The Pair-Shaped Promise sat wrapped up under my bed while I waited for my promise to come, for six whole years. I barely told anyone about it. But sometimes I would pull the manuscript out and read it as a reminder of where God had taken me, and what I was believing for next. 

Well, my friends, after six years of waiting, God said to me in February of this year, "It's time to write Part Two". He gave me about ten confirmations that this was what I needed to do.

And so I pulled my laptop to me ... And I began to write .... About how the promise was fulfilled. 

Because, my friends, the promise was fulfilled. It did come. It surely came. And I've written barely anything about it yet on the blog, so the book is a special little surprise story for you.

I find myself bouncing on the couch as I type this, in anticipation. But what I'll also say is this: 'Does God ever do things the way we expect him to?

Well, the plan is to get the manuscript proof-read next. Ian has offered to do a read-through too as he's a writer and has judged memoirs in writing competitions: What a blessing to have him. And then I'm thinking of self-publishing it.

On that note, I'd better hurry up and get it done so you can enjoy reading it. For, somehow, I feel this story will be an enjoyable one for you SUMites. You'll 'get' it. 

Well, have a lovely weekend everyone!

Ann


What does my husband think of this blog?

Hi SUMites, Ann here. Ann Bryce 2

Sometimes we've been asked how our spouses feel about our writing. Good question!!

((Gulp!!!))

I remember when I was a reader of this blog and before I contributed any writing to it, I often used to look at Lynn and Dineen who, at the time, co-ran the blog, and thought "What on earth do their husbands think of this?"

They shared that their husbands supported their ministry, acknowledging that it was useful and needed. After many years of pain, Lynn's husband's reaction when she decided to start the blog was "Honey, if it helps one couple avoid what we've been through then do it."

That's nice.

So what about my hubby?

Truthfully, when I sensed a clear call in 2017 from God that I was to step forward into writing on here -- and it was a clear call -- it was a very, very difficult proposition for me. Until then I had been quietly reading the blog and commenting sometimes, but I used to keep my presence low key lest my husband saw and got offended.

Then I sensed that call. God told me I needed to step forward bravely, and essentially 'fall on my sword'. That is, die to myself. I understood that he wanted me to be brave, be willing to put myself and our story on here and trust him to keep me and my marriage protected.

It was hugely difficult, that step.

But what I found happened felt somewhat miraculous:

Once I stepped forward in obedience it felt to me like I got 'covered' by God; that is, hidden by him. It seemed I was being hidden and protected from my husband taking any offence, or even taking much notice of the blog and my activities at all.

First of all, what happened when I asked Bryce if I could write publicly for this blog was he shrugged and said "Why would I mind?" Then, ever since then he has taken no notice of it. He knows I write for it -- Quite often I will say to him, "I just need to go and write a blog post if that's ok", or "I just need to have a zoom call with someone related to the blog". Or, I'll tell him a little about our writing team: 'Amanda who lives in Arkansas', 'Ian who lives in Sydney', and 'Lynn who lives in California'. He nods and takes more interest in them than in anything else, knowing they are my friends and it's kind of interesting to think of where they each live. But the writing and blog itself: No engagement.

Sometimes if I do mention the blog he will say "Oh that website about all those heathen husbands" and laugh. I then say back (feeling sensitive), "No no, it's a website that helps people have GOOD MARRIAGES. It helps people!"

He nods again.

One time he discovered the adjective 'unequally yoked' in some correspondence I had. I cringed badly at that. But all he said in a dry, humorous tone, was "Hmm, Christians do like to use a good farming analogy."

LOL..

And through all this he has still never once read anything I have written on the blog.

"God keeps us covered in a weird way, doesn't he?" I said to Lynn once, having observed this almost noteworthy lack of interest on the part of Bryce.

"He does," she said. "We are covered."

And so us writers, we keep on writing, and we write smoothly and reasonably easily without it causing fracture. We do it bravely ... For each of us it will probably never stop being a leap of faith. But we know it's worth it because we know just how important it is when you're in a spiritually mismatched marriage to hear from others who are on the path.

Well, hope you liked reading that. I remain curious at God's covering, and just keep trusting that he will keep covering my marriage.

Love you all,

Ann


Summer Bible Study - Book of Ephesians- Chapter One

Letter to ephesiansBook of Ephesians

Lynn Donovan here. SUM Nation the book of Ephesians is one of my all-time favorite books of the Bible. That’s because this is a letter to the church that has overcome. This group of believers lived in the middle of a morally bankrupt society that is filled with idol worship and every kind of debauchery. However, they found Jesus. AND they have learned how to live and thrive in difficult surroundings.

Sound familiar?

What I find fascinating is this church is powerful and faith-filled body of believers, however just a mere 30 years later, the Apostle John writes to the Ephesians and reminds them of the many miraculous things they have done and how they have persevered. Yet, he calls them out in verse 4: Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

This is the call of the Ephesians letters: Never relent, persevere and LOVE. Love God. Love people in an ever-increasing capacity of the heart.

Open your Bible to Ephesians, chapter one. I’m teaching from the NKJV. We know that the Apostle Paul is writing to the believers in Ephesus and offers these believers some astonishing reminders of what belongs to them.

Read from verse one through verse twelve. This greeting and introduction is filled with promises of completeness. What IS ALREADY accomplished for our benefit through the atonement. THIS IS OUR HEAVENLY BANK ACCOUNT. Let’s take a look:

  • Every spiritual blessing
  • Chosen, before time began to be holy, blameless and in His (Christ’s) love.
  • Adopted because it pleased our Father. (If we can wrap our head around this, we will never give into the fear of man, manipulation or deception. We KNOW who we are and whose we are.)
  • Redemption from sin, transgression and iniquity. (I could write books about this stuff. What we are redeemed from is so massive and horrendous, that most believers don’t fully understand our greatest gift is redemption.)
  • Riches of grace abounding toward us in wisdom and prudence. (Does anyone want to give an explanation of these amazing attributes in the comments? I would love to read your take.)
  • Obtained and inheritance in accordance with His will and all of this to the glory of God in Christ Jesus.

These are amazing. If you dwell upon each and research their possibilities and ask God to reveal their reality in your life today, it will blow your mind. Let me give you an example.

We have every spiritual blessing. What does this mean. It means that everything in the spiritual Kingdom of God that we need or desire is already ours. It is our great privilege to learn to apprehend these spiritual blessings. Many of these blessings look like the gifts of the spirit (Galatians 5). Spiritual blessings also is angelic support and influence in the heavenly places because we are seated with Christ. It’s everything we need and more. 

Blessing aren't just spiritual. It is God's great pleasure to give us the Kingdom. Blessings in the here and now. Health, family, finances, community, weather, etc.

What does this mean practically? I don’t need to beg God for a morsel of His goodness, kindness and provision. I can believe He has provided me with all that I need to accomplish my work here on earth and thrive. I pray in support of these purposes. For example: Lord, this book I’ve been writing is creating great demonic attack, so I call upon your protection that is mine as your child. Also, Father, I need downloads of the words to write and time and the energy to write them down. I thank you that you hear my prayers as I am seated in the heavenly realms with Christ. And now I wait expectantly for your provision of words, protection and everything I need to thrive in my home and relationships as we write together. In Jesus name. AMEN

I could spend weeks unpacking all of these blessings. But alas, we must move on to the BEST PART of the entire chapter.

Paul’s prayer for the overcoming church, beginning in verse fifteen.

I’m going to pray this passage how I prayed it for months and months a number of years ago when I was in the middle of my search for my true identity and to really KNOW God. This is how I prayed this scripture:

Father, God of my Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Father of glory! I ask that you give to me the Spirit of Wisdom (read more about this spirit in Proverbs, beginning in chapter one.) that I may be wise on earth in my work, my worship, my relationship with You and others and in everything I do and say. I also ask for the Spirit of Revelation that I may really know you in a deep and abiding and powerful intimacy. Father, open my eyes to understanding and enlighten me to the amazing truth that you have a calling on my life. Reveal my calling(s) and teach me to walk in them now. Father may Your calling fill me with great hope and contentment. I also ask for understanding of the riches of glory because I have an inheritance here on earth and also in heaven. Reveal this to me.

Father, what is the exceeding greatness of power that is granted to me as a believer? Reveal this working of your mighty power in my life. This same astonishing power is made available to me which is the power that raised Christ from the dead. Teach me how to partner with Your power. And show me how to engage this power with Christ over and far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come! Hallelujah! I will defeat the Kingdom of darkness for the cause of Christ Jesus!

And I declare Jesus Christ is over all things and all things are under the power and dominion of His church AMEN and AMEN!

SUMITE, if you don’t know what to pray, pray this prayer. Open your Bible to Ephesians one and just pray the words aloud straight from the pages.

As our world darkens, I see all of us SUMites who have walked this long road of challenges to our families and faith, as Kingdom leaders who walk in all these promises of Ephesians. We, who have persevered in long crushings of worldly desires to arrive in a life of power and connection in Christ. We are those who will bring healing to many. Who will share God’s wisdom and perseverance to show the people who are deceived the truth that shall set them free.

And that truth is a person. He is Jesus.

Can I get an amen in the comments. I bless you today to perceive the spiritual blessings that are all around you and that you feel deep in your person the abiding and transforming love of our Lord and our God. Amen

I adore you, Lynn


'Dying To Self' When In A Spiritually Mismatched Marriage

Have you ever thought much about what it looks like to 'die to self' in your spiritually mismatched situation? This week in our live chat on Facebook one of our SUMites, LuAnn Wendover, shared some thoughts on that. Hope you enjoy this, there is some great wisdom here.

 


This Principle of Faith is a MUST for the Unequally Yoked

Principle of PersistenceHi Sum Nation. Lynn Donovan here.

I’ve been pondering the spiritual principals of the Kingdom of God. There are spiritual laws that are unbreakable and cannot be subverted. Just as there are laws in the natural (physical) realm there are principals set down by God, that when followed, result in a powerful life.

For example, the law of gravity governs our daily life and cannot be escaped.  Today, I want to bring understanding to the Kingdom Principle of Persistence.

Let me state some absolutes regarding this principle:

  1. The Principle of Persistence is real.
  2. This spiritual principle is powerful in two ways.
  3. It’s Biblical and was taught by Jesus.
  4. If followed, you will see results.
  5. It’s not easy. But anything worthwhile and powerful in the Kingdom isn’t for the weak of will or heart.

Let’s start with number one and number two. Persisting in faith, (faith = what you believe) is the key to breakthrough and powerfully answered prayer. Giving up is failure to see what you hoped and prayed for come to pass.

So, there is a positive outcome if we choose to remain steadfast in faith. And the opposite is true that our wishy-washy faith and belief will not accomplish much.

And my friend, this principle is available and at work in our unequally yoked marriages EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!

Take it from me, as I write to you today on my 31st wedding anniversary, my persistence to believe in Jesus and the Bible is what carried me through the early years and every struggle I have ever faced.

My bulldogged approach to faith, my bite down hard and will not release, give up, waver, nor backdown is what has led to my Promised Land years, where I now live and dwell.

So, today, it’s time to sit down with Jesus and ask for the gift of faith and belief and decide to stand in the Kingdom Principle of Persistence.

I would even dare you to post a prayer asking for this Kingdom gift right now in the comments. This sets a public statement to be read and I will agree with you. And it tells the demons that you won’t back down or give up.

Next time I share, I will show you where this principle is hidden, in plain sight, in the Word of God and what Jesus said about it.

Okay, right now go to the comments and make a statement of faith. I bless you in the name of Jesus to step into this Kingdom Principle today and to see the breakthroughs that will occur because you walk in faith. In the name of our Savior, Jesus, the Messiah, AMEN.


A Family Has the Power of a Bomb

Dear SUMites, Pews resized

Sometimes I have a pre-planned idea of what I'm going to write about in a particular series, but then God completely interrupts my well-oiled ideas! Well, that is what happened yesterday with this Navigating Church series.

I was going to write next about how to handle it when we feel jealous of Christian couples at church, followed by a post on how our spouses respond to church. But instead yesterday I got an overriding phrase from God about all this. It was a phrase where God seemed to be saying 'Take a step back and look at it differently'. The phrase was this:

A family has the power of a nuclear bomb!

If that sounds a little weird, please don't give up on reading yet! Let me carry on a little:

I think what God is saying is that when the church behaves as family to each other, there is a spiritual power that comes from that that is beyond what we can even imagine. And, like a lot of spiritual truths, we can't see it but it is there. The unity of a church as a family unit provides a spiritual power that is matchless -- A power that can overtake anything in its path. Just like a nuclear bomb, except in a good way because it's the power of the Holy Spirit.

It's the stuff that Jesus talked about when he told Peter that he was going to build his church:

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matt 16:18, NKJV)

It's like the ultimate bomb. A smart bomb.

On the other hand, if the church is not unified, and not behaving like a family to each other, they will be weak and powerless.

Now, this issues us a challenge: Can we approach the whole messy issue of 'church' in a way where our fellow churchgoers become to us like siblings, children, or parents? To do that we have to lay aside quite a lot of our own 'stuff', I think.

Yes, our church family and our blood family (especially our spouse) might not mix. So be it. But we are called to steward both things as SUMites.

For me personally, there's quite a lot more that I can do to be a good family member to those in my church. The thought of that simple action and attitude bringing power is awesome and interesting, and I am game for this challenge.

There is another scripture that alludes to this power that comes from unity. It's this one:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing -- Life forevermore (Psalm 133, NKJV)

I wonder why that scripture mentions Aaron specifically? I guess it is that Aaron, as high priest for the Israelites, had the powerful role of standing in the gap between people and God. Unity, then, brings an 'Aaron' kind of power: It's a power where God turns his ear to us. Bomb

So, if we take this word, that being a family leads to power, I wonder if we can pause now and consider this question: What does it look like to treat those in our church like family?

I would actually love to see your comments about that, so I'll pause here and see what thoughts spring to mind for you.

I think there are some complexities in it. It's not straightforward. Still, let's chat. I look forward to your comments!

Ann


Navigating Church: When We Feel Offended

By Ann Hutchison Pews resized

This week, Lynn and I had a good old chat live on Facebook, about what Jesus is doing in the world right now. It was fun! If you haven't seen it yet, you can catch up here.

In that chat, Lynn said something that I'm going to focus on today as we continue our series on navigating church.

She said: We have to let go of our offense with the church. It's really important that we do that.

Gulp. Big GULP. Can I tell you, that really convicted me? See, I still struggle with offense at the church as a SUMite. In my current church I feel lonely, like I'm 'Nelly No-Mates'. And deep in my heart I get annoyed because of that feeling.

Oh dear, this is going to be a transparent post isn't it? Is it ok to be this transparent as a leader? I think it is. We can admit a failing or a difficult emotion. But then we mustn't feed it. Admit it, but then try to change it.  

Right then, let's elaborate on this, because I know many of you experience this: I get annoyed because I feel invisible at church. It's my SUM situation that makes it so: I don't fit the mold. I am not part of the singles crowd, but I am not part of the couples crowd either. The couples crowd is tight knit and have been friends for years. It takes many hours of time spent with someone to become their friend... I'm not there yet. Central church Ann 1

For all my annoyance, there are moments of deep connection in that church building. Still, offense still tries to hit me relating to how I feel within the family. The SUM situation is a big cause of that: It just makes me different. If my husband were there with me we'd have forged friendships by now. As it is, he's not, and I haven't.

OK then. 

Now, I mustn't feed this offense in church. It's a little demon, and if I do feed it it will get bigger. I could feed it by saying things like 'I have no friends here', or 'I don't fit in.' Or, I could overcome it and say 'NO, I'm not going there with those thoughts; nor am I going to say those things out loud any more.'

It's easy to get offended. Churches are flawed, but hey so are we! They're not good at a lot of things because they're a bunch of humans, but equally we bring with us our baggage and selfish needs. Through it all, the truth is that they are still our family.

The risk is that when we get offended we then are tempted to isolate ourselves. When we isolate we risk developing unusual ideas or make ourselves too susceptible to the enemy's attack. We so need to stay connected.

But we also need to keep our hearts free from offence while we're in those connections. Here are some ideas of how to handle it when offense at the church comes knocking:

  • Say out loud 'I refuse to partner with offense'.
  • Take some time to sit quietly and put ourselves in the shoes of the people at church who we're offended at. 
  • Ask God for help healing from offense, and forgiving
  • If offence comes into our minds, straight away say 'NO!' and cast it away. 
  • Spend some time examining the beauty and positive things in our church.

If a church is particularly unhealthy there IS a place for asking God if we can leave and move into a different church. That certainly happens. But if we are in the church family God has put us into, our job is to steward that placement well, which includes honoring others and staying free of offence. It's a big task but a beautiful one. And what's more, God will love those efforts because that's what it's all about. God knows church is hard; the question is, how are we going to walk it?

This week, my friends, I am going to sit in church and reflect on some of those above bullet points. It will do good.

So that is my Friday thought. Perhaps we can be real in the comments: What have you been offended by, in the past, at church, and how might you overcome that?

Love to you all,

Ann


The Two Visitors, Part Two

My friends, Front door 2

I'm so glad you loved the two visitors randomly knocking on my door in the middle of a cyclone. If you missed part one of that story, it's here. 

Before I carry on, I need to tell you where Bryce was at this point. We had a national emergency going on in New Zealand, there was a cyclone raging outside and the government had told us all to stay at home.

This meant that Bryce was home. He was working in the shed in the back garden and could have come in at any moment to find these two sitting on my couch. 

In addition, my son Miles (age 16) was home, upstairs in his room.

So, there we were: Me and these two strangers, with Bryce and Miles also in the house. And now we continue:

It turns out the boy visitor was from California, he had a full-on American accent. And so I tell him I have been to California, to Temecula, specifically.

Now, some of you might remember that the reason I went to Temecula was that we had a SUM conference in 2019 there. It was where Lynn was living at the time. 

"I used to go to church in Temecula," says the boy. Temecula is some 10,500 km from where he and I are sitting at that moment.  Strangers 3

I look down at his hands and see that some of his fingernails are painted gold. Was he an angel? It was just so crazy.

I don't actually think he was an angel as I got his phone number later, but he might as well have been.

He continued --

"I went to a church called Providence Church," he said. "In Temecula. It's a Presbyterian church."

Hmm, I went. I didn't even register that properly.

After talking for quite some time, I said "Shall we pray for each other? I would LOVE to pray for you!"

Yes, yes, they were keen. And at this point I can say that if Bryce had walked in on me praying with two strangers in the living room he would have found that really weird. But for some reason I was ignoring that.

So we pray. You know, often when praying with others there's a pressure to speak too quickly but on this occasion it wasn't like that. We took it in turns to focus on each of the three of us. We lingered, sat in silence, lifted the person to God and listened for his heart. Then we spoke for five or ten minutes what we felt God was saying. 

As the boy and the girl together prayed for me, they prophesied over me. They got visions and words for me. God, where did you get these two????

I'll share that part in my next post. But first I need to come back to this: Temecula.

After two and half hours the visitors left. Bryce was still in the shed having missed all the action. Miles was still upstairs. Once they'd gone, it occurred to me to look up the church the boy had mentioned, Providence Church. As I typed it into my phone up popped a road called Pauba Road. 'Oh!' I thought. 'That's where we had the SUM Summit!' 

And THEN, my friends, my eyes nearly popped out of my head at what I saw next: Providence Church meets in Linfield School, which is the very school that we had our last SUM conference in.

WHAT???

Take a moment for that to sink in, and I'll recap: Linfield school

I was feeling spiritually lacklustre. A random visitor turns up at my house in a cyclone. He has gold nailpolish on. He proceeds to tell me he used to go to church in Linfield School, and I find out that's where we held our last SUM conference. All of a sudden I can tell you I am no longer lack-lustre. God is here.

My friends, that story is a gift for us. God wants us to know he's in our community, he was all over that last conference in 2019, he is all over our upcoming one in September, and he adores us, his SUM Nation. Lynfield School 2

Honestly, I feel like blowing trumpets, but instead I celebrate by sharing a little picture of SUMites sitting in the sunshine at Linfield School, on that day way over in Temecula in 2019. 

As for what those two visitors prophesied over me, oh wow that's a whole other bottle of wine. Stay tuned for that on Monday.

God is real. God is good.

Ann


Phases of Our Church Life

By Ann Hutchison  Pews resized

Attending church is quite the adventure, and I think it can look very different from season to season.

By that I mean this:

Sometimes you have a season of attending a particular church. You're there because God wants you to learn a particular thing. And then when he wants to do something different, he moves you on to a new church.

And:

In some seasons you are fed by the church, while in other seasons you're the one doing the feeding.

So I thought today I might share a little about the different seasons I've had in church.

Season One: Spectator

As a new Christian I started out attending a Bible church of 200 people. I would walk in, listen to the sermon, then walk out. I sat there and watched the body of Christ as a spectator. But the sermons fed me. Did God ever want me in that church? For that season, I think so. I heard the Gospel in that church.

Season Two: Nurtured

Quite soon after that, God seemed to show where he wanted me to attend. This new church was different in flavor. It was charismatic, and a little wild. It had 50-70 people, some of whom were homeless, and a culture of praying for each other.

I had never been in a charismatic church before. It fascinated me. And in that first service when they asked 'who needs prayer?', my hand shot up. After that, I was nurtured by that church's people week after week. I brought all my pain about my spiritual mismatch into that church and was prayed for like crazy. I was the broken and bruised one who was bandaged up and loved.

Season three: Grown up 2019_8_4-6

In that same church, I began to grow up. The pastor discipled me, others discipled me, and I grew ... into something sturdy.

Suddenly I wasn't the one wanting prayer all the time; I was praying for others.

Eventually I was prayed into the leadership team by that very same pastor who'd discipled me. Here I am on the far right of this photo, August 2019. The pastor is the guy in green.

Season four: Quiet support

Well, the above church suddenly closed, and we disbanded! Quite simply, the pastor felt we were to close, so we did, and we all got thrust into new churches. For my part, instantly God showed me a new church to attend. My son, Miles (age 16), miraculously began attending with me, and here's a photo of us on Mother's Day. Can you see my smile at having my handsome boy by my side? Miles and Ann at church  1

The adventures continued: That church then moved into the school hall where my old church had just closed!!

My place in this new church felt different to the above phases. For a start, the church was primarily young people and, I'll be honest, I've been lonely there. 

How do we deal with loneliness at church? Well in this case I've laid it aside and persevered because I have known that God wants me at this church. 

See, since joining that church I've had prophetic words about God's purpose for it. I have had a burning in my heart to see it succeed. I have prayed like crazy for it. And that's why I've labelled this season 'Quiet support'.

That church experienced a huge crisis in May last year, which nearly derailed it. The pastor left suddenly in fractious circumstances, and we had no elders in place. So, in this uncertain situation I volunteered to work on a task-force with four others to research the topic of elders and figure out how to put elders in place. That was six months of hard work. Elders

Finally, at the end of last year I stepped into leading the prayer team at this church, and in December had the joy of praying in a brand-new team of lay elders. That's me on the far right of the photo, in the very same hall as the first photo in season three above!

We're still waiting for a pastor, but our church is in good health.

So, what a ride. It has certainly not been a stagnant journey. We learn different things from church ... And then we give. But one thing I know: This present church is my church family.

Hope you like those stories. Have you been through phases in your church life?

Loads of love,

Ann


When It's Challenging to Attend Church

It's time to start our new series on navigating church, so let's roll up our sleeves and dive into this meaty topic. Pews resized

From the comments last week it's clear that many of us face challenges in relation to church, and these challenges are similar. So that's a good start: We're not alone.

For some of us we struggle to attend church in the first place. For others of us, we struggle with a range of complex emotions while there, including missing our spouse, envy of couples and families, and loneliness. 

I thought I might start today with the challenge of trying to attend in the first place. So, let's unpack this one.

As I said in the last post, that was my struggle for a while. I yearned to be at church on a Sunday, where my tribe was gathered. In fact, I needed it because the rest of the week was so secular. Yet, while I did have some strong Christian friends outside of church, I struggled to actually attend church gatherings.

The situation was complicated by the fact my kids were young, so to get there I had to drag them out of the house at an early hour of the morning, and worry about settling them in. But it was Bryce's disapproval that most influenced me and made me stay home. And on the days I stayed home I was miserable because of what I was missing. 

The problem was this:

The church was my family too. I was one flesh with them, for we are one body (1 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:16, 5:30). And we are one household (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Peter 2:5). 

So, while I was one flesh with my husband, family to him, and of the same household, I also belonged in that building, with that tribe, in the house of God on a weekend. 

In other words, I did need to be there. That's how I see it now: We do need to be there, and we do need to fight for our church attendance. The church needs us.

In a famous story from the Gospels, Jesus was with the multitudes one day when he was told 'Your mother and brother are outside looking for you.' He could have dropped everything there and then and gone off to see these important people in his life, but no, he had a job to do. Instead, he said:

"Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" And he stretched out his hand toward His disciples and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:48-50) 

And from this we are to understand that the church is our family. We know it in principle, but it's good to be reminded of it.

We don't choose our family, they're given to us. And I do believe that God puts us in a church family too. Sometimes -- always? -- that family is imperfect. Sometimes they disappoint us, and sometimes we disappoint them. Sometimes we have to put boundaries around family relationships if they're toxic. But, in general with a reasonably healthy family we identify as a unit.

I've actually been reflecting on this feature of church as family, relating it to my own family. Here's my mum, step-dad, and I at a wedding last year. I also have two younger brothers, and a sister. I love them all dearly, but it's not a perfect family. My parents got divorced when I was nine, and each remarried. Not perfect, but we are a unit, and we love each other.   Parents

Well, there's something about a church family too. It's a unit. We have big siblings and younger siblings, mothers and fathers.

That unit does look different to, say, a Christian friend who you have coffee with, as there's a Godly placement that goes along with being part of a church family. I do believe God puts you in a church family, and you serve and support them. Even just showing up is your part in spreading the Gospel.

So, it's worth persevering, and I do believe that being part of that unit -- however tough it is -- is God's design.

With all that said, the next question is how to find a healthy church, and that's a whole other bottle of wine. A topic for one of the upcoming posts.

All for now. Feel free to share any thoughts you have in the comments.

Love

Ann


Navigating Church

By Ann Hutchison Pews

My friends, it's been a while since we talked about the grand old topic of navigating church!

Yep, it's one of our favorite topics.

Navigating church is such a big issue for us. Even that topic alone has so many facets to it, and it's often one of the most challenging issues that we deal with in our spiritually mismatched marriages.

Some of us can't even get to church easily, let alone integrate into it well. That was my situation for a number of years: My attendance at church on a Sunday caused such marital disharmony that I'd attend then stop, attend then stop, attend then stop. My pastor came up to me one day and said "Everything ok?" after he hadn't seen me for weeks. The tears brimmed as I nodded and looked desperately into his eyes. What could I say?

Eventually, however, I got into a routine for somehow making church work. And I know others of us have worked out a similar kind of system. but it's still tricky.

I was talking to a lovely SUMite this week who had been spiritually mismatched for many years now. She and I both agreed that even though we are walking in a lot more peace than we used to, church remains one of our hard issues. I know the other writers in our team find this too. Will we ever stop missing having our other half by our side?

So with that in mind, I'm going to write a series next about navigating church. Specifically, the flavor I want to focus on is this:

How do we connect with the beautiful bride of Christ?

And how do we care for the broken and bruised body of Jesus?

I've phrased it that way because the minute we become mature Christians that's what one of our tasks is. There's a theological thing going on here, in that the church is a big deal: It's his bride (Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelations 19:7-9), and it's his body (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).

So, we connect with his bride and body whenever we're connecting with a fellow Christian, whether or not that's on a Sunday. But these features of the church -- His body, his bride -- in collective form make it such an important part of our faith life.

In fact, connecting with that body and helping to prepare the bride to meet Jesus again is as important as our private relationship with him that we carry out on our knees.

YET, some or all of these issues crop up and they are tough:

  • Christians at church say tactless things and don't 'get' us 
  • We often feel lonely at church
  • We often feel on the outside in the Sunday gatherings
  • We can't easily attend church activities outside of Sundays
  • We can't easily make friends with Christians, because our spouse isn't wanting to be part of it
  • Christians of the opposite sex are challenging for us to befriend, yet they're our brothers/sisters 
  • And finally, church is massively imperfect!

In addition to that, we struggle to know what to do about financial giving (thanks, Lisa, for Friday's post on that), and serving. Further, we have doctrinal differences, denominations, and strange things that go on in church that aren't always of God. So there is a discernment too that we have to bring to it.

Well, phew, there's a lot to talk about there. I could write a book and I imagine you could too!!

So let's start by chatting about this one in the comments: What are your biggest challenges with church at the moment?

See you in the comments!

Ann