187 posts categorized "Unequally Yoked"

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


Meet our Community

Happy Friday, everyone -- Ann here.

We are truly blessed to have a community of inspiring, strong, faith-filled men and women here at SUM, and I'm really looking forward to more of the upcoming Let's Talk Live videos where we will get to hear some of their voices. Some weeks we'll have a guest, and some weeks it will just be me.

This week was our first one, and I had the pleasure of talking to Gladys Rosario Arias. If you missed it here it is:

I won't always manage to put the video on the blog afterwards, depending on what else there is to share in a given week; but you'll be able to find each one on our YouTube channel after we've gone live. 

Hope you have a good weekend, and we'll see you on Monday.

Ann


Let's Talk Live this week

Hello friends, Ann here. Let's Talk Live

We have some nice news this week: Many of you will remember we used to do a weekly live chat on our Facebook page. Well, we're going to start that up again.

So, each Wednesday at 3pm Pacific time, I'll be hopping on to do a Live video, which will stream on our Facebook page and our YouTube channel. You'll be able to comment if you like, and we should be able to make it a little interactive. Exciting!

We'll sometimes have guests come on over the coming weeks, and we'll cover a different topic each week relating to spiritually mismatched marriage.

So, with that, I'm pleased to announce our very first guest who has kindly agreed to come online and share a little. Gladys picMany of you will have heard us mention Gladys Rosario Arias, who has been a great help to us behind the scenes and inspired a few of our events such as the 24-hour worship event. She is a long-time member of this community and an encourager to many. I can't wait to chat with her. She lives in Florida, and has a large family of adult children and grandchildren for whom she prays like crazy. Our topic for Wednesday is going to be thriving in your own faith rather than just surviving when married to a non-believing spouse.

While we're on the topic of live connection, we also want to thank you for all your feedback about our proposed Bible Study on Zoom. Lynn is going to do some planning for that, and we will keep you posted.

For now, I've got a question to ask and would love some more feedback from you: What topics would you like to see us talk about on these upcoming live videos?

Thanks in advance for your answers, and looking forward to seeing some of you in the video comments on Wednesday.

Ann


Prayer Strategies from the Parable of the Sower

By Ann Hutchison Sword bird

I often think it's great to use scripture in our prayers sometimes. That way we know that the words we speak in prayer are spot-on. 

Of course, there are many other ways to pray too, like having a big heart-to-heart chat with God. But using scripture is one creative little thing we can do; it's a specific prayer strategy.

With scripture, what we can do is take certain truths, turns of phrase, or key words, and speak them out. It is powerful to do that.

I remember once in church a minister came up to me and spoke a single line of scripture over me as a prayer. I fell over there and then!! Literally, the power of the Holy Spirit knocked me to my knees. All she did was speak a line of scripture. 

That has never happened to me before or since, but it taught me a big lesson about just how powerful the word of God is.

Anyway, there are all kinds of scriptures that can be used creatively as a basis for a prayer and today I thought I would look at a particular passage that applies to our unsaved loved ones: The Parable of the Sower. 

I say that parable is appropriate to our loved ones because it's all about what's going on in people's hearts when they don't believe. That parable explains why some people don't receive the Gospel, and why some people fall away even after they have been strong Christians. That last one is sobering. I often come back to this parable and re-read it, just to help myself understand.

The parable goes like this --

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9, NIV)

Then Jesus interpreted that story:

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:8-23, NIV)

It's such a helpful parable, I love it. But it's even richer when we turn it into a prayer strategy. If we take the above truths and turn them into prayer for our spouse, we can pray like this:

"In the Name of Jesus:

  • I declare with absolute authority that the enemy will not be allowed to snatch away the message of the Kingdom that is sown in my spouse's heart.
  • I pray for a deep root of belief to grow in my spouse so that when they do finally have faith it will withstand trouble and persecution.
  • I declare that the deceitfulness of wealth and the worries of this life must not be allowed to choke the word of God in my spouse's life.
  • I pray that my spouse will hear the word, understand it and produce a crop that yields much."

Amen!

Dear friends, how about we pray these things for our spouses and children this weekend?

Ann


It's a Quandary!

By Ann Hutchison Disco ball

Often-times a spiritually mismatched marriage can make us feel we're in a real quandary. I wonder if that's how you'd describe it too?

Dictionary definitions of the word 'quandary' include:

A state of perplexity

A hard plight

A state of difficulty

A state of perplexity or uncertainty over what to do in a difficult situation.

Yes, I'd say that's how it's often been. But today I'd like to share something that God seemed to show me about that state of quandary. What he seemed to say is that a quandary has its purposes Here's the story:

Three years ago I was sat in my church's Easter service. The pastor put on some music and said "Let's sit and reflect for a while." The soft music played.

Gazing down, my eyes began to wander. They wandered over to a certain molded indentation on the plastic seat beside me, where my husband should have been sat. And still the music played. Instead of thinking about the empty tomb I began to think about a different empty thing: That empty seat, and my absent-from-church husband.

"He is not here," I thought to myself. And I wasn't thinking about Jesus now.

One thing led to another then, and yes this may sound dramatic but I threw myself forward, hurled my head into my hands, and let my shoulders heave in quiet sobs.

He is not here. He is not here.

Meanwhile, the reflection music just kept on playing.

It was at that moment that little thoughts came to me that seemed to perfectly articulate my problem, like some kind of 'eureka' moment. I grabbed my phone and began to type. Here's what I wrote:

"I can't do faith without you, Bryce.

You won't do it with me.

I can't be without you.

I can't not do faith."

"Wow" I thought, clicking the save button with a sense of resolution. "That there is what's going on. I'm in a constant quandary." Indeed, what I realized from writing those four statements is that this SUM situation was bringing me a set of tensions that seemed impossible to hold. Well, at least that's how it felt.

At that moment, however, God seemed to give me the following as a way of countering the problem I had just typed out. It landed in my heart as an analogy, a quiet answer from the Holy Spirit:

"Ann, there are numerous facets to your character, just like a glitter ball has many facets. These tensions in your life enable the different facets of your character to be examined by Me. These tensions have their purpose: They enable Me to test your heart. Know this, then: Every time you hold two contradictory things in tension in your marriage, you are being tested and refined. I am watching to see how you navigate it and what choices you will make."

Amazing. "I think I understand, Lord," I said, and I have thought a lot about that image of the glitter ball and its facets ever since. Is this whole SUM situation one big set of tests, even?

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts. (Proverbs 17:3)

Well, that was three years ago and of course I've had numerous thoughts about spiritually mismatched marriage since, just like I imagine many of you do. But, three years on, some of those things I'm holding in tension don't seem so hard to combine any more. I can't say why exactly. Perhaps it's that Jesus has come into the middle of it and brought ease.

There is one part to that quandary that I can say has actively changed, though. My first statement that Easter three years ago was this: "I can't do faith without you, Bryce." Well, I have learned that I can do faith without him, and I do. For, after all, though I am one flesh with my husband, I do stand on my own two feet before God.

Overall, then, perhaps our lesson is today is that we mustn't despise the quandary, but instead see it for what it is: a tool for us to draw closer to God, and a tool for him to refine our characters.

Do you have a quandary you're wrestling with at the moment?

Let's chat in the comments!

Ann


What Does Victory Look Like?

Hello SUMite Nation, our Church without Walls,

Lynn Donovan here. Years ago, at a writer's conference, I heard the Lord say to me, "Yes, you are going to do this." The reference was to start this ministry and hopefully help one other person who was on the road with me in an unequally yoked marriage.

And here we are years later. So many of you have followed my story, read the books I wrote and those I wrote with Dineen Miller. Our story is HIStory. It's a story of how an ordinary woman had a distant hope in a great BIG God.

I want to share the END OF THE STORY with you today.

March 14 was our THIRTY year wedding anniversary. WOW! Thirty years of ups and downs, fights and makeup mooching, laughing, crying, gain and loss, faith and doubt. We have lived through a life. On this 30th, Mike and I are about to close on our dream home in our New Promised Land. We found a home in a small country community in Northern California. We will move in May 1st. Just in time for my birthday. Papa is just soooo good.

I feel as though all the sacrifice and what seemed like a distant hope for years is now being fulfilled. Thirty years, a lifetime with one man. And more than that, this thirty years led me to the most important aspect of my entire existence. A powerful faith life and an intimate and consuming relationship with Father, Son and Spirit. 

I take into this new Promised Land everything I fought for. All my years of prayers and petitions and the fruits of decades of practice, belief and hope.

My friends..... This is the end game of a faithful God AND a faithful servant of Christ. There is goodness in the land of the living for the faithful. You do your part and God will do His. I KNOW it's difficult and this powerful faith isn't for the faint-of-heart, but for Kingdom children of the Most High.

After 30 years, this is the secret: Don't ever give up on the Lord. Never stop praying and believing. Always grow in faith. Let love change you, then your spouse and your family. Partner with the Lord in all you do and He will show up with miracles.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I'm humbled to think I shared a tiny part of your life and faith. I'm truly thankful. Thank you for celebrating with me. 

And for all of you still in the trenches, I now get to continually pray for you and your family. Leave your name and those you want me to bring before our Lord. I will do it with great gladness and exuberant expectation for YOUR MIRACLES!

I love you, Lynn

Photos from our new place: 

RM 3 14 2022
RM 3 14 2022
RM 3 14 2022

Lynn New Home RM 3 14 2022


The Unbelieving Spouse's Perspective

By Ann Hutchison Husband wife chat

"Can I ask you something..?" I said to Bryce a few weekends ago at the breakfast table.

He gave one of those smiles where he could see a wifely deep-and-meaningful talk coming. In true male style he braced himself. "Go on then." 

I took a deep breath:

"You really didn't like my faith a few years ago. And now you don't mind it. What made you change your mind?"

He thought for a minute.

"Well .... Over time, you showed me you still loved me. Even though I wasn't Christian."

That was interesting. See, I wasn't sure how good a job I'd done at this. I mean it's hard being married, and it's hard being spiritually mismatched. But clearly something had worked there and had made an impact on him. What an encouragement!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9, NIV)

We continued talking, and what he said next was somewhat harder to hear. 

"Look, when you became Christian, all of a sudden that was the only thing that was shiny to you. Everything and everyone else stopped being so interesting to you. Including me. It was hard."

Ouch.

But, if that was his experience I needed to listen. Did he have a point? I think he did. The things in the world do grow strangely dim when we find out that Jesus is real. And God is shiny. He is glorious, he radiates love, and he is immensely attractive. It's understandable to find God the most interesting one in your life. He is matchless. But it shouldn't mean you stop cherishing your spouse.

... and the wife [must see to it] that she respects and delights in her husband [that she notices him and prefers him and treats him with loving concern, treasuring him, honoring him, and holding him dear] (Ephesians 5:33, Amplified)

These days I know I do better at this, thanks in big part to this community and all the conversations we've had here about thriving in a spiritually mismatched marriage. I think that was confirmed by Bryce's final comment --

"Now you're more low key about it. You're not so obsessed any more. I suppose God is your top thing still, but you handle it better."

He smiled at this. Clearly the topic was not too painful anymore.

I smiled too, inside. I am just as fervent now as I was then. I guess I just carry it a little differently now.

I reached out my hand to him. "It's definitely hard being different like this, isn't it?" He nodded completely in agreement. And then we changed the subject.

Phew. My friends, I don't find it easy having those conversations and I know it's the same for many of you. It's often sensitive to raise. But on that occasion I'm glad I asked. For one thing, I'm going to see what I can do to make my husband feel more 'shiny' ((smiling)).

Have you ever asked your spouse what their experience of your faith is? Or, what do you think they'd say?

Lovely chatting and have a great weekend,

Ann


From Spiritually Mismatched to Jointly Present

By Ann Hutchison Tea and biscuits

Dear friends, I shared last week about the small group I've been attending. Well, today I want to share a very encouraging story from that group.

There's a man in that group who's a great sharer. He's jolly, enthusiastic, and loves God. He brings plenty of ideas about faith to our group chats. He's in his sixties, and he and his wife have adult children. 

One night the group was mingling as the evening was wrapping up. Some were in the kitchen, others were in the living room, and I was sat on a couch beside this particular man and his wife. She was next to me, he was on the other side of her talking to someone else, and so she and I got quietly talking.

She began to tell me her story. It went like this:

"I actually went to church on my own for years. He wasn't interested, he never came with me. I was on my own in my faith for a long time."

She smiled at me.

I peeked around her to take another look at her hubby, a bemused look on my face. Are we talking about the same man? Then I focused on her again.

"Was that hard for you?" I asked. 

"Was it ever!" she rolled her eyes.

We shared a cheeky smile.

"So what happened next?" 

"Oh, he just gradually got there. Bit by bit, slowly things changed. He's only just started coming to this group. He would never have gone to something like this before."

I peered around her discreetly at him again.

"Amazing." I said with a big smile.

"Yes, amazing." She grinned back.

Looking at that man today, all I can see is one who loves being with God first thing in the morning, attends church, reads Christian books, plays worship music in the home for his own enjoyment, and gets his wife to do devotionals with him in the morning.

Well there we go. The joy of this story is that I will get to see this visible example weekly from now on at my small group, and they are a living breathing example of a spiritually mismatched couple who had one season then another season. 

In this ministry we need these examples, as hope is an important element of our spiritually mismatched walk. God wants us to hope because he doesn't want us to label our spouse as an impossible case (he wants us to bless our spouse not curse them, James 3:10) and he wants us to believe in His magnitude. 

It's summed up well here:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7, NKJV)

So, while we must learn to be content in our circumstance (very important) and love our spouse exactly where they are (also very important), hey let's seize stories like this so that we can hope and believe that there is a bigger possibility beyond what our circumstance looks like today.

Hope you liked that story. Love you all,

Ann


The Day My Husband Entered the Small Group Scene

Ann here, and I thought the title would make you smile. Yes indeed, I have a little story to tell today. Welcome

In Monday's post I left off where my small group had said: "Do invite your husband to the Christmas dinner, we would love to meet him."

Gulp!

Now, Bryce has said to me on a number of occasions that he finds the whole 'small group' concept difficult. He has a bad experience of growing up in an unhealthy and spiritually controlling church, and from that experience he was concerned that any small group I joined would be 'cultish and weird'. Those were hard words to hear, but hey, if this is how our spouse sees these things it's probably helpful to know. If we know, then we can try to understand and try to address it. Anyway, given all of that historical 'stuff' the thought of now inviting him to a small group Christmas dinner was not easy!

I wonder, though, whether at some point we all turn a corner where things become different? Where faith or church are not so contentious any more? Anyway, the long and short of it is that I plucked up the courage and asked him.

And ..... 

He said yes. No problem at all. Just like that. He said his 'yes' so easily, in fact, that I had to leave the room to process this massive new development, which felt like breaking news.

Now here's that same scene I described on Monday where I stand at a closed front door, behind which lies a small group, and I'm wondering how on earth this thing is going to go. Except this time my husband is standing by my side.

I hold a salad, he's carrying wine, and we're ready for a good time. He's perfectly cheerful but I've got a pounding heart. Why? It's the first time we've gone through the doors of church together since those difficult church days of his. Yes, it's only a small-group dinner, but it's the church.

We enter, join the chattering crowd on the back patio of the house, and before I can barely introduce him ... off he goes. Into a happy crowd and away from my side. And so the evening continued. Ann Bryce

Later, as the sun set, he and I were sat in a circle of comfy outdoor armchairs chatting with some of the others about church and other things. He liked them, they liked him. At that moment I looked up to see a beautiful rainbow in the dusky sunset. I took it as a wink from God and thanked Him -- Seriously, seriously thanked Him -- for this moment.

Oh my dear SUM friends, it was a fascinating turning of a corner, and I know you understand the emotions around this sort of thing. It was indeed 'breaking news' for it broke some kind of barrier. It also broke away some of my own lingering angst about our spiritual mismatch, bringing us together and showing me all over again 'God's got this'.

Some of us have spouses who do visit church or its social events; others of us find that area more tricky. But however it looks now, things can always change --

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

Does your spouse come to church or social events or not? Let's chat more in the comments.

Love you loads,

Ann


Need Godly Counsel for Your Marriage? THIS IS IT!

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General Conference Information: The Thrive Christian Marriage Conference is a 4-day LIVE online conference happening February 15-18, 2022 featuring 25 professional Christian counselors, bestselling authors, speakers, bloggers, and more.

Thrive Marriage Conference - FB (3)

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  • An estimated 4 out of 10 U.S. adults are currently struggling with anxiety or depression (Source).
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So whether you're dealing with job loss, the loss of a loved one, strained relationships, mental health issues, or any number of issues the recent pandemic has caused...

It's definitely not just you. These last couple of years have been tough on us all.

That's why, at this year's Thrive Christian Marriage Conference, we're bringing in 25 licensed counselors, bestselling authors, professional speakers (and more) to share their best advice on:

  • How to talk so your spouse will listen
  • How to turn your greatest differences into your greatest strengths
  • What to do if your partner has an affair, watches pornography, or wants a divorce
  • How to know when to get help (what's normal and what's not)
  • How to keep the romance alive - no matter how long you've been married
  • and much, much more.

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Speaker Pannel:

Thrive marriage Conference Speakers

 


Lynn Donovan Speaking at Marriage Conference

Hi SUMite Nation. Lynn Donovan here.

I was asked to speak to at the Equipping Godly Women Conference this year. The lineup of speakers is amazing. I'm humbled to be part of it. This is an online, three-day conference, February 15-18, 2022.

Right now the conference is offering quite an incentive to register. 

Equipping Godly Women Conference Giveaway 2022

For more information and to register, visit: Thrive Marriage Conference. I'll see you there. Hugs, Lynn


There Once Was A Man Who Didn't Believe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Author Unknown

 


The 'Unequally Yoked' Are Dancers!

By Ann Hutchison Dance

Hi SUM family!

I said that today I would share another word from the Lord about how he sees our carrying of the Gospel in our homes. Well, I have to say what I'm going to share next has warmed my heart over the last few days. 

The word that follows was given to me a few years ago by the Holy Spirit, but I never understood it at the time. That's because it was for today, not then. It came to me as a phrase that landed in my head, I wrote it down straight away and pondered it, but then forgot all about it. Forgot, that was, until I started writing this series on the Gospel.

The phrase was this:

The unequally yoked can dance the true Gospel.

And yes, what a cryptic word indeed! But as I've sat with it this past week, here's what I've come to understand:

In this series we've discussed whether we use words to preach the Gospel in our homes. We agreed that mostly we live it out quietly in front of our spouse. Mostly the Gospel message is 'preached' quietly. And, it's the choices we make that will get our spouse thinking.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been asking myself this: "What has Bryce seen in my choices that tell him about the Gospel over the last few years?"

The answer to that would be "quite a lot"!

And you too, I know. Even if you think you're not being effective enough. It might even be a fun exercise to take a piece of paper and jot down all the things your spouse has seen in you that tells them something about the Gospel, and, importantly, challenges them as to its truth.

In this way, the Gospel is something we dance. We make daily movements in tandem with Jesus to mime it all out. We don't stand up in front of a microphone and preach at our spouses. No, instead we dance it ... Day in, day out. 

Dance can tell a story.

Dance is mesmerizing.

Dance is visible rather than noisy.

Dance is beautiful.

And what's more, the Lord made it clear in the above word that it's not just the Gospel, it is truth. For, however much we are told by our spouse "It's not true," it is true. It is the truest thing in the world.

No one can take that truth away from us. And so, we dance. 

Now, I know nothing about dancing, but this week I spent some time on Youtube looking for examples of expressive dances that tell stories without using words (which is what dance does). I have no discernment as to what makes good dancing vs bad dancing, it is not my area, but spending time on Youtube just watching the beautiful art of dance I could appreciate a little of what it means to 'dance' the Gospel out in front of another person. 

You might like to do the same, look on Youtube at some dancing? Anyway, I say let's pick up our metaphorical dance shoes and keep on dancing that Gospel in our homes, with gusto, and in full view of our spouses!

My friends, this wraps up our time of looking at the Gospel. It's been lovely thinking about this together, and next week it's time for something new. See you on Monday!

Ann