95 posts categorized "Waiting on God"

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


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


And So .... My Dream Came True. A Salvation Testimony.

My friends Mother's Day

My dream came true.

This is actually me, Ann, writing these words. Because one of my two children gave their life to Jesus two weeks ago now:

My son, Miles, who is 17.

... And ever since then I've been pinching myself.

I don't even know how to write about it, but I'm going to try. It is a HUGE deal. As a mother, it is the hugest of deals. And it is hard to convey that in writing.

But today, I will try to tell you about it, and all I can say is that it was all God's doing. 

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubabbel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubabbel you shall become a plain! (Zechariah 4:6-7, NKJV)

If it can happen to one this miraculously it will happen to the other two too. If it can happen to my son, it can happen to my husband. This thing is that miraculous.

Two years ago Miles started attending youth group and church with me, out of the blue. That was a miracle. Prior to then I had had zero success in getting any of my three family members to church and, quite honestly, I felt like a failure on that front. Even amongst those who are SUMites I always felt like I was the one doing the worst job!

Now, I shouldn't think that way, I know that, especially amongst you guys. I don't want you to think that way about yourselves either. Please don't! For God knows how hard this thing is. It's a lie: We are enough.

With that settled, here's the story:

I delighted that Miles had begun attending church with me, but for him the drawcard was really social. I could see that. I knew that he hadn't yet had his 'moment'. 

I bought him a Bible, and I wrote in the cover of it ... JF1

To Miles, from Mum and Dad, 1st April 2021.

Yes, I wrote the words 'from Mum and Dad', not just 'Mum'. Because.

But then the Bible proceeded to stay untouched on his bedside table for another TWO YEARS! I didn't move it, nor did he. When I'd go up to clean his room there it would be week after week gathering dust. 

At church, the young people made sweatshirts that had the words 'Jesus Freak' on them. They were hip and lively, these young people, all of them were wearing those sweatshirts. So Miles and I bought one each.

Here's Miles, during lockdown, wearing said sweatshirt with his brother and Dad. And then scroll down a bit further and you'll see another photo of Miles and me wearing them too. 

Honestly, even wearing those sweatshirts in front of Bryce took serious guts on my part. You get that, I know. 

So that's where we got to: Two years of church attendance together, Miles and I; yet I knew that he hadn't yet been convicted by God. I kept it pretty easygoing: On the days he wanted to sleep in I made the choice not to push him at all. I also didn't verbalize to him what he *needed* to be doing spiritually.

I played it as cool as I have done with Bryce: Gently, gently does it with a teenager, just like with a husband.

Truthfully, it was actually too hard for me to say anything to him. The issue was too intense for me, just like it's been with Bryce. JF2

So the months raced by, and then we came to a baptism event a few weeks ago where two of Miles' young friends got baptized. The whole church gathered to watch the baptisms of those two young people, myself included. But a part of me battled difficult feelings. Out of love I deliberately celebrated those other teens and their spiritual 'success', but it was hard that my own child wasn't the one in the baptismal pool.

I stood and held my phone out to record the prayers that were spoken over those two teens that afternoon so I could send them to them later.

And God said back:

Look after My house and I'll look after yours.

Well, everything happens according to God's perfect timing.

My friends, I will continue the wonderful story on Monday. Be assured that what came next only God could have done. And for your part, thank you for joining in and listening to my story.

Ann


Where's our Focus when we Fast?

6a00d83451ee9f69e202af1c953abf200dHappy New Year, dear SUMites. I do hope you all had a blessed time with loved ones over the Christmas/New Year period.

And now we Fast. It’s become the traditional way we SUMites start our years. It’s a great way as individuals to draw closer to God and doing it together can deepen that experience and strengthen our bonds as a group.

Transition Seasons

“We become what we behold” – William Blake

I think I shared this Blake quote in a previous post as it’s become one of my favourites over the years. During Advent, I was drawn to the notion of how we spend our time while we wait; Advent, of course being a season of waiting.

I mentioned last time in my Advent post that I’m presently in a season of transition. Looking forward to what the next season in my life holds having spent much of the last few years caring for my parents.

We’re all probably familiar with the story of Anna, the prophet, who greeted Mary and Joseph when Jesus was presented in the temple. Let’s meet her, here in Luke:

“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38 NIVUK)

Anna, like we SUMites, knew a thing about waiting. She had been waiting for the redemption of Israel through the fulfilment of the OT prophecy of the Messiah. After becoming a widow, likely to have been in her early 20s assuming she married as a young teen like most women did in Biblical times, she spent around 60 years hanging out in the temple. Now that’s a lot of waiting.

And what do we read she does? She worships, fasts, and prays. Continually. Incredible, isn’t it? Her faith is extraordinary. Anna is formed in her devotion to Jesus as she waits for Him. Waiting, even though (often) uncomfortable, is a significant time for our spiritual formation.

What we look at while we’re waiting is very important. Read that again.

Focus

Increasingly, I’ve found myself being very distracted, struggling to ‘focus’ and as a result be present with God and others. Life with all the technological advancements of the past 20-30 years has made it very easy to get distracted. We’re constantly bombarded but also drawn to social media and the like. We have hundreds of streaming channels to navigate, and we can buy anything at any time of the day and night. I’m a research geek, so I can lose myself for hours on end trawling down the internet for all manner of seemingly interesting tidbits.

Late in the year, I was drawn to some writing about seeking God more intentionally and felt the nudge by the Spirit to adopt ‘focus’ as my Word for the year. What have I done to become more focused:

  • straight after Christmas by turning off social media. It’s become an easy time waster for me.
  • I’m intentionally reading the Gospels this year as my Bible study reflections. Two scribes I admire both mentioned that if we desire to seek more of Jesus in our life, starting with the four books He stars in is a good start. I like that idea. Intimacy with Jesus requires focus. Being a good friend with Jesus requires focus.
  • I’m praying specific short prayers during the day to invite God into the moment. One that I regularly pray is very simple:

“Lord, I want to know you more intimately,

So I can love you more intensely

To follow you more closely.”

  • When I’m exercising, I’m picturing Jesus doing it with me. Even the other day at the cinema, I pictured Jesus sitting in the seat next to me inviting him into the activity.

These are just some of the things I’m doing. Seeking to invite Jesus into more of my day.

And fasting requires focus too, doesn’t it? To relieve the hunger pangs, we need to focus on another. And that is the idea of fasting. We use the hunger pangs to in fact draw us closer to Jesus. We focus more on Him and invite Him into our hunger as He is able to sustain us and carry us through the day. I'm praying I might gain some greater clarity around what's next for me and where I should next step.

Do any other SUMItes have a Word for 2023 yet? It would be a wonderful discussion for us to have in the comments if we share them and perhaps provide a little background as to why this Word is significant this year.

Go well this week. We’re excited to hear of some of the fruit we may experience as a result. But do remember, that often the fruit comes later, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive a lightning bolt of inspiration during the week.

Grace and peace


Advent - A Season of Longing!

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Photo courtesy of lil artsy from Pexels.com

Hello, Ian here from sunny Sydney. It’s summertime here and we’ve had a lovely few weeks of great sunny weather. It’s incredible how quickly the year has passed as we’re now only 2.5 weeks away from Christmas.

For many of us 2022 has been a tough year, perhaps another year in a long season of tough years. As a result, many of us may be simply pushing through to Christmas with gritted teeth, avoiding the shops by making their purchases online, and hanging out for the beginning of a new year wishing for a brighter new start in 2023. It may be a real struggle to experience any real joy at present.

If this is you, may I encourage you to take some time out. Close the door behind you or go out for a walk, sit on a rock looking at something beautiful, and simply reflect on how you’re feeling. Invite God to make His presence known. He’s there with you, just waiting for you to say hi and ask Him to be present with you.

Don’t deny your weariness, it’s okay …. and invite God to be near and ask Him for the strength to walk forward. One step at a time. Remember, His words in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness” Ask for His strength, not your own.

Advent and Longing

Advent started two Sundays ago. Like Lent at Easter, it’s a season of waiting and hoping. Advent simply means ‘arrival’ or ‘coming’ and alludes to both comings of Jesus, the one of 2000+ years ago when he became like us, born in a manger, and the second where we await his promised second coming.

It's a season of longing. Longing for Jesus.

For those us feeling exhausted and beaten down by life, we long for rest, for an end to the struggle. Most of us would be longing for something. We SUMites especially long for our spouses to find Jesus, don’t we? We long for many things, healing, peace in our homes, a wayward child settling down and more.

Others of us, like myself are in seasons of transition, seeking a new beginning. I’m not far off sixty and having spent the last few years caring for my parents who have both passed in the last 12 months, I am now wondering what’s next. I long for God to give me a nudge or even a BIG shove that helps me see what He’d like us to do together in this next season of my life. It’s a season of excitement wondering what might be ahead and a little frightening for the same reason.

And we long for Jesus. For the joy of the true message of Christmas that a saviour has come, and that Jesus would come again in His victory march upon the earth.

What do we do with our Longing?

A few ideas:

1. Share it with Jesus while sitting on that rock I mentioned earlier. Invite Him into it. He knows we have such a longing.

2. Share it with another. A ‘safe’ other. Someone who will listen and not just hump to ‘solve’ your longing. And who will pray with and for you.

3. Hope. Besides being a season of waiting and longing, Advent is a season of hope. I love what Kate Bowler says about hope:

“But hope isn’t wishful thinking. It’s an anchor in the future.”

Our hope has a name. Jesus. Declare this hope over yourself and your future.

4. Stay close to Jesus. Remember all the ways Jesus has been faithful to you in the past.

An old Christmas Carol

I love Carols. It reminds me of my teen years when my youth group would walk the local streets near our church on Christmas Eve and stop at houses to sing a carol or two.

In the past week, I’ve heard/read of this one written by Charles Wesley that I wasn’t familiar with. It’s a wonderful carol/hymn that expresses our longing. I thought we could ‘pray’ the lyrics as a prayer.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected JesusBorn to set Thy people free;From our fears and sins release us,Let us find our rest in Thee.Israel's strength and consolation,Hope of all the earth Thou art;Dear desire of every nation,Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,Born a child and yet a King,Born to reign in us forever,Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.By Thine own eternal SpiritRule in all our hearts alone;By Thine all sufficient merit,Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

By Thine all sufficient merit,Raise us to Thy glorious throne

In Jesus’ Loving Name. Amen

Wishing all the SUMites a very blessed, joyous , peaceful and hope-filled Christmas.

Grace and peace.


Sorry, What Did You Just Say??

By Ann Hutchison You prepare a table for me

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

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

Well, something like that happened to me this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Satan stops people from seeing truth."

Sorry, what???

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

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

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

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

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

Amazing.

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

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

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

Ann

 


A Personal Word for Next Year

Dear SUM family, Ann here. 31 Dec

We have certain routines in this community, and one of these routines is that around this time of year many of us will ask God for a word for the year. For ourselves, that is, as individuals.

Asking God questions about our own life is such a good way of drawing near to him. He so desires to be our friend and talk to us about our unique lives.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Whenever I’ve asked God for a word for the year I've actually never received it as a solitary word, though I know that some of you have. Instead, for me it’s been a concept, a phrase, or an analogy. We're all different.

One year, for example, I asked and then later received a phrase in the night: “Jesus Christ, first and foremost, all the way for me.” That year (2018) did end up being a year where I focused on Jesus and asked a lot of questions about the Gospel.

Another year I asked for a word and the next morning had a symbolic dream in the early hours. It was about moving in a boat, along with others in the SUM community, towards a new destination. That was for 2019, and a lot happened to us that year together: Most notably, Lynn's husband's baptism and a subsequent book, 'Marching Around Jericho', which was a huge shift in our ministry.

Then this past year, the word I sensed was “Crossing over.” Crossing over into what, I still do not fully know, but I know that I am crossing over into something and it certainly has been a year of personal transition. Most of my conversations with God this year have been about preparing for the 'more' of ministry in the future, and preparing for what God wants to do beyond this COVID shaking. Our world is being shaken but when the dust settles God has work for us to do. My head has been there, in the future, and it's certainly a ‘crossing over’.

So with all that said, how about we each go ahead and ask God for a word for the year? It might not be a single word that you hear back. It might be a dream, a picture/analogy that lands in your head, a concept, a phrase, or a scripture. Just ask, and see what happens.

He may give it to you immediately if you are on your knees and being quiet. Or, he might give it to you in the night hours later, even a day or week later. But ask and see if anything does come to mind straight away. Even if it feels like a fleeting whisper, I’ve often found ‘whispers’ turn out to be accurate. God's voice is usually not a dramatic thunderclap.

I do know that when we ask he delights to answer.

If you do have a word for the year, perhaps you can share in the comments? It'd be great to hear about it.

Lots of love to you all, and I hope your Christmassy count-down is going well.

Ann


When Jesus Enters Our Home ...

By Ann Hutchison  Lion of Judah

Recently one of our SUMites sent me a lovely word that I believe is relevant to all of us and I want to share it today. It's a great analogy of the work Jesus does in our homes.

Here's what she said:

"Ann, does Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia mean anything to you?

I got a lovely picture of how he walks through and all the snow melts and things come to life. That's what I saw for your household."

That was from Libby Finan from the UK, who many of us know as she has been with our community for several years. It's always a treat when she sends something like this. Yes it was a message to me, but as I sat with it yesterday I felt "It's for us all!" So, if she's reading today, thank you Libby. And, I'm guessing most of us know the story of Aslan the lion from C S Lewis's book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe? If not, it's a great read.

As for the picture of Aslan that she shared above, isn't that a beautiful analogy of how Jesus works in our families?  We welcome him in, he enters our families, and things do start to change. Often the wait is far longer than we are comfortable with, but we start to see glimmers ... sparkles. It might be seen in the fact your marriage gets that little bit more harmonious. Or that your spouse begins to verbalize acceptance of your faith instead of the opposite. Lynn lion

Jesus is indeed to us like a strong, majestic lion, and He has the power over anything the enemy can throw at our families. Because of that, the following verse is such an important one for us:

And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Romans 16:2o, NKJV)

Indeed shortly, shortly God crushes the enemy and he turns winter into springtime for us. But 'shortly' for God can take a while. And the work of Jesus might take the form of a gentle thawing, like the dew of Heaven lightly settling onto different areas of our lives. It's a blossoming here, a blossoming there. 

Last month one of those little glimmers happened in my own household. It might seem small but it felt big to me:

It was my birthday and I'd asked God for something nice. Why not huh (I'm smiling).. And yes, something special did happen that day. That evening our son Miles decided he'd like to go to a church social event, and Bryce offered to drive him. It was a 10-minute drive. The next thing I know I get a text from the pastor's wife: "I've just met your husband."

It turns out that when they'd arrived no one was there except the pastor and his wife and so Bryce had got out of the car to meet them. They had a lovely chat and he enjoyed it. They sound to have covered a lot of ground, including his own church background and their own sense of calling, and they chatted a while.

The sweet pastor's wife (her name is Olivia, and she is 28, so young and non-threatening) then said ever so nicely, "You'd be so welcome to come to church if you like," At which point Bryce threw his head back and laughed, "Well ...."

It was all good natured and low key, but it was the first time Bryce had actually gone near a church event and got out of the car. Further, the friendliness and ease of it all felt to me like a new blossoming. That day Bryce met 'my church' and liked them. It prompted a quiet hooray in my heart, and a thawing. Just like the Aslan picture above.

Yes, when Jesus is welcomed by us into our household, things do change. Have you found that in any area yourself, I wonder? Let's chat in the comments.

Ann

p.s. The lion painting above was done by Lynn. I thought it was a good fit!


Waiting in the Dark - some thoughts on Advent

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

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

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

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

We had to wait.

The anticipation. The excitement … was electric.

A Year of Darkness

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

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

Advent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting for … Jesus.

Jesus.

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

Choose to Listen.

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

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

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

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

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

And wait. And listen.

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

Write down what you heard, how you felt.

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

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


When a Spouse Leaves the Faith -- Part 2

Ann here again! Tears

When a spouse leaves the faith, Part 1

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

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

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

The Come-Back Kid!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Least likely does not mean impossible!

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

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


Church, We Are Crossing Over!

Dear friends, Ann here! Crossing the Jordan

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

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

Sitting … waiting … watching … seeking Him. 

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

(Habakkuk 2:1, NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Deuteronomy 11:11-12, NKJV)

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

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

Love to you all,

Ann


What's Your Biggest Question for Jesus About Your Marriage?

Hello friends, Ann here. Question

Recently, I popped a question onto our Facebook page, asking ‘What’s your biggest question for Jesus right now concerning your spiritual mismatch?’

Many of you will have seen that post, but some won’t. I found the responses so helpful in relation to my own path, that I thought you might too. I guess I realized I have asked God every single one of those questions. And when we see others face the exact same things, we remember we are not alone.

So, here goes. From our beautiful community, here are the biggest questions we SUMites wrestle with:

How long, Lord? How much longer? When? When, Lord? I’m waiting!

Why doesn’t my spouse come back to you? What is standing in the way?

Why me?

Will my spouse ever choose you? Or, am I always to be in an unequally yoked marriage?

Show me please, what I need to do? Do I need to do anything different?

How do I know when to submit and when to stand my ground on gray areas?

How do I disciple my children in this situation?

We’re so different, how can this work?

What can I do better to sow good seed into my spouse’s life? How do I witness? How can I speak to their heart about you, Lord?

How do I wait well?

How do I love my spouse unconditionally?

***

This is just a condensed version of those questions. They represent an awful lot of 'stuff', and we can all nod our heads at the many, many topic areas that a SUM raises. I imagine any Christian who is not in our shoes would be surprised how much there is to this situation. It touches almost every area of our life.

As for questions, I believe God loves them because that's where we begin to try to hear his voice. Like a questioning child, I do go there with the Lord. In fact, it's a daily thing here: Question question question question. Question diary 2

In fact, I’ve even got a ‘question diary’. Having been given a lovely hardback diary for Christmas a couple of years ago, I thought I would use it to jot some key questions for the Lord as a record of my relationship with him. It sits on my shelf and sometimes I scribble a question in there and pop it straight back. Other times I pick it off my shelf and flick through. It’s amazing how many answers I’ve received to the quirkiest questions!

However, God sometimes leaves a question unanswered. There are some pieces of information that are just not in our best interests to know. We understand only in part. Sometimes, perhaps the Lord wants us to pursue the answer and grow wisdom rather than receiving a thunderclap response from him. He knows what is best for our souls.

My friends, it’s these questions that lead us to pursue Him. And though the above cries for answers are birthed out of our serious wilderness season, they propel us into greater wisdom.

On Monday I want to share one way that God answers questions that is specific to us as a community. I’ll be back then to chat about that - I'm looking forward to it.

In the meantime, which question is your biggest one right now?


Advent - An Invitation to Go Deeper

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Photo courtesy of LiturgyTools.net

The Christmas season comes around every year and for many of us it’s kind of the same-old-same-old. Yes, the specialness of the season are the traditions of it and doing the same things every year.  We put up the same tree and decorations, listen to the same Christmas music, have the same family mealtimes, attend the various end of year gatherings and church services and so on.

The busyness of it and the stress of battling through all the shopping crowds, the cooking of all the food and keeping the house clean can serve to distract us. We consciously decide to stay positive and not allow the stress to affect us or the awkward family moments we often experience.

And before we know it, it’s over for another year. We collapse on our lounges having eaten too much and exhausted from the intensity of our family gatherings. For an introvert like myself I’m hankering to get back into my cave to recharge.

Waiting

Advent can simply be another tradition. We light the candles at the appropriate times, pick up an Advent-dedicated devotional and even perhaps follow the alternate lectionaries of Bible readings. Like any ‘practice’ we can simply go through the motions. I know I’m regularly guilty of doing exactly that.

I especially love Advent. However, I need to be very intentional to ensure it’s simply not another tradition that I ‘do’ because it makes me feel good. I don’t want to simply go through the motions.

Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting for an “arrival” (which is what the word, Advent means) of the Messiah. Waiting generally is uncomfortable, isn’t it? It’s uncomfortable because it means we’re not in control. I was only sitting on a plane today thinking we were about to take off when we’re advised that three passengers hadn’t checked in. Arggh. I just want to get home. So we wait. Fifteen minutes pass (which feels like an hour) and two of the three sheepishly head down the aisle sensing the boring eyes of every passenger they pass. We wait some more. Until finally a decision is made to go without the remaining one. I wonder how many of us spared a thought for the passenger left behind or in our hearts were simply glad to be on our way?

The Israelites were used to waiting. What 400 years before the arrival of Jesus? We SUMites are used to waiting too, aren’t’ we? Waiting for the many prayed prayers for the salvation of our dearly loved spouses to be answered. We should be experts at it, shouldn’t we?

Hopeful Expectation

We can choose to walk through Advent with hopeful expectation. Maybe Christmas will be difficult for whatever reason which makes us apprehensive. But we can keep our minds and hearts on the good news of Jesus. He is the liberator, the lover of our souls and we can choose to use these days to intentionally go deeper with Him.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[it.” (John 1:4-5 NIV)

Jesus is the light. And as these verses tell us He shines in the darkness. May I encourage you to take a few moments today or tomorrow or the next day to identify the places in your life where you might be struggling to find God. Where are the places of darkness? These can be scary places because we worry that Jesus won’t show up. So here’s what we’ll do:

  1. Once you’ve identified a dark place, invite Jesus into it. Picture Him walking into the room, holding your hand. Every time you sense darkness, invite Jesus to come into. Our friend, Martha, actually spends each morning siting in the dark communing with God awaiting the light of the morning sunrise. It’s a wonderful practice to mirror this exercise.
  2. Be assured that He is with you. Be assured that He hears all of our prayers, all those prayers we’ve prayed for the salvation of our spouses and loved ones. Encourage yourself with the words of Psalm 56:8 –

“You keep track of all my sorrows.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book.”

Spending moments of stillness where it’s just you and God are particularly special in this season. I’ve recently started using an App that Ransomed Heart have released. It’s simply called “One Minute Pause”. Go check it out – it’s free. Here’s the link to the Apple version but there is also an Android one, just search for it in the Android app store: - https://apps.apple.com/app/id1471913620

Come, let us adore Him, Jesus that is, this season. Let’s be intentional with hope in our hearts. Blessing, dear friends. I’ll be checking in midway during the month with a second post on Advent.

Perhaps in the meantime let’s share with each other what we’re hoping for this Christmas. I’m hoping for complete healing for my brother, John, who is walking through a stem cell transplant to keep lymphoma at bay. Unfortunately, he will be spending Christmas in a hospital isolation ward.


Waiting Upon the Lord - Chronicles of the Donovan Clan

LoveofmoneySUMites,

Lynn here. It appears that this message, wait upon the Lord, continues to rise up before me. And I find myself, smack in the middle, of another classroom with Jesus. So, SUMers, I remain walking this faith journey out. Reaching the pinnacle, Mike’s faith in March, I believed would place me upon firm ground in the Promised Land and struggles would diminish.

Yet, here I find myself learning a number of lessons in quick succession. Most of you don’t know but Mike has been unemployed since May. And now after nearly six months of unemployment, I’ve discovered how I’ve made money a stronghold, even an idol (Forgive me, Father). I’ve looked to a steady paycheck for safety and security. Now you may be wondering over the details about our efforts to find a job. Let me assure you, we have been diligent but I find that we are lingering in this season because we both have many lessons to learn.

I DON’T LIKE WAITING! But everywhere I turn the scriptures pop up. On websites I visit, social media. There is a song on my play list right now: Let’s Wait Upon the Lord! I’ve prayed a lot about waiting and I believe I have heard from the Lord about all of this financial mess.

But, the answer I think I heard is so far out there, so impossible, that with all my years of faith, I’m struggling to grab hold….. and wait for God to move. Because His answer will take time. And I shake my head even writing this because last February when God told me Mike would be baptized, I struggled to believe.

SUMite, you aren’t alone. Waiting is the hardest part of faith. Waiting in the pain. Waiting when your husband is distant and angry at you, at God …. at himself. Waiting for your prodigals to run home. Waiting for the doctor to call. Waiting for your heart to heal. Waiting for the pain to stop.

What is it, my friends, that happens to us in the waiting? Do you know? Can you share with me? Can you encourage me. Encourage someone else. Who has overcome the classroom of waiting? Perhaps our entire journey on earth is learning to love and live…… in the waiting.

Thoughts?   Joining you today in the Marching….. Love, Lynn


It's Worth The Waiting! Chronicles of the Donovan Clan

1 Corinthians 13Hello SUMite Nation!

Lynn here. I’m coming to you from my prayer room on a beautiful and somewhat unusually cool July morning here in southern California. It’s peaceful and a breeze is drifting in the front window. Oh, how I wish you were sitting here with me. I long to sit with each of you and listen to your story. I will one day. And it will be GLORY!

I just clicked off the phone after talking to my mother who called to check in on the job search, the book progress but mainly to tell me, I love you.

But as we talked about the book she said, “Lynn, I’ve shared that story with nearly everyone I meet. I tell it over and over.” She’s talking about Mike’s baptism story. “I tell them to NEVER give up praying.”

Never give up praying.

Don’t stop hoping.

Always lean into the impossible.

Twenty-seven years. I won’t look back at the years with longing for what might have been. I look back at the decades and see Jesus in every turn along the journey. I view the Father’s hand of favor and love and I feel the peace of the Holy Spirit as the Trinity lived within.

It was worth the price of waiting.

To all the weary SUMites, who linger in prayer and continue loving Jesus and your unsaved spouse, words from my beloved mother who has lived with the Lord for nearly eighty years, “Don’t give up hope. Don’t stop praying.”

I adore you my friends. Stay tuned because God is brewing up more fantastical stories in the Donovan Clan. I feel the excitement in the air and can’t wait to share all He brings about in our immediate future.

March on Warrior!!!!  WE WIN!!

Hugs, Lynn


Advent - A Season of Waiting ...

 

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Photo courtesy of 9comeback/FreeDigitalPhotos.nety/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I received a call that I wasn’t expecting. From my sister. It was Saturday night, two weeks ago. She was relaying some information she’d received about our brother, John.

He had been admitted into hospital that afternoon, had an MRI that found he had a ‘mass’ in his head. Oh dear. Not at all what we wanted to hear.

And so the waiting began.

Over the next week John had a bunch of tests and scans. Lots of waiting for things to happen – John dubbed it “hospital time”. All confirmed there was only the one mass. Everything else was normal except that movement in both his right arm and right leg were slightly impaired. The mass was pressing on his brain impacting a signal to those limbs.

Finally, a biopsy was to be taken. But this was no simple biopsy as they had to get into his head. And therefore, there were risks involved. Because the mass was in an area of ‘high value real estate’ we were told.

The procedure went well and there were no complications. Praise God.

And then we waited. For the results.

Three days later a simple text message arrived. From John. “Diagnosed with B Cell lymphoma. Chemo starts Monday. Sorry for the curt message.”

My heart sunk.1

A Season to Wait

Advent commenced last Sunday (2 December). Advent is a time of waiting. The name Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” Beginning each year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, Advent commemorates the birth of Jesus and also anticipates His return. As Ann Voskamp says we are “perpetual Advent people” waiting on Christ’s return. I’d add that we are also waiting on Jesus to do work in our heart regarding life’s circumstances.

We SUMites are used to waiting, aren’t we?

He doesn’t always immediately respond to our heart cry – “God help us!” So we wait. “He teaches us to stay in the waiting.” (Ruth Haley Barton) We sit with our longings: for good biopsy results, for our pre-believing spouses, and so on.

It’s important for us to not run away from our longings, to spend time with the Lord expressing our worries and fears. We see throughout the Scriptures, particularly in the OT and the Psalms how many times people cry out to God, whether it’s Rachel in her desire for children (Genesis 30) or David in his lament (for example, Psalm 6).

Light and Darkness

When we wait we often linger in darkness. The future is uncertain and dark. We don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t know what the diagnosis will be or if our spouses will choose Jesus. We typically associate negative connotations with the darkness, don’t we? But a lot of good things happen in the dark. Remember we were created in the darkness of the womb.

Lingering in uncertainty with our longings can also be a positive experience. Because we linger with God. Even if He feels distant we can claim the promises that He has given us in the Bible. “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5)

Lighting candles is one of the symbols of Advent. It reflects Christ being the light of the world and coming through the darkness – “The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)

During Advent we don’t just wait, we also anticipate. We anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas. And we anticipate that He will come again to make all things new.

“Jesus Christ has come, and He is coming again. This is the heart of Advent.” (He Reads Truth)

The Branch Gives us Hope

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;


    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Advent is all about hope. In the who is coming.

We can believe in that hope. Because He did come 2,000 years ago on that Christmas morn, born in a food trough, son to a teenage mom and her husband.

We can believe in that hope. Because He has come to us. He is in us and we are in Him.

We can believe in that hope. Because He has told us He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). Even when our beloved doesn’t know Him. Even when the diagnosis isn’t good.

Often when we’re in a season of wilderness or a battle or even the 24 days of Advent our hope is in the end, the arrival, the victory. Time and time again we see in the Bible, most often the true ‘victory’ occurs during the wilderness, or struggle or suffering. This is where we discover that God wants more of us; He wants our hearts to know Him deeply and intimately. This can only come through time with Him. I've always loved the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, John the Baptist's parents, who lived in silence for 5 months of his gestation. During this period, Zechariah discovered the wonder of an intimate Father, and on John being born, as a result of his obedience in naming his son, Zechariah's tongue is freed and he opens by praising God (Luke 1:64)

Advent is counter cultural because it calls us to slow down from our busy schedules of Christmas parties and events to spend time waiting on Jesus, and leaning into Him as we discover and share the longings of our heart.  

I hope you are able to spend some time in the next few weeks reflecting on the hope of Advent. On Jesus. Allow His Words to “dwell in you richly.”

Wishing all of my SUMite friends a blessed Advent season full of childlike hope and anticipation.

Grace and peace,

1. Note: as a write this post, John is undergoing his first chemo treatment. We don't know what is going to happen this week, in the next weeks and months, but I have real comfort because John is in a great place with the Lord as he starts this challenging season. He wants to fall more in love with Him and discover all there is to life with Jesus. If you remember, we'd cherish any prayers you may utter for John. Thank you, my dear friends.


Chronicles of the Donovan Clan - God Never Relents

SUMite Nation!

Gang, can I just tell you…. I MISSED YOU. I finally am home. It’s great to travel and I have some stories to share but it’s awesome to be back at home.

I am refreshed now and feel as though God has cranked up my passion to a brand-new level for our community. Since returning, my heart is filled with the thoughts of you. I’ve been praying like a mad woman for marriages, for your hearts for you to rise up in hope and to see how Jesus is working all around you. I have prayed to defeat depression, fear and weariness. I’ve been praying for restoration, redemption and to cancel all the lies of the enemy in the homes and spouses of the SUMites… And I’ve only been home for a week!

Right now I’m in a serious season of intercession. Take comfort and hope and know that God sees you. He loves you and I’m interceding for you along with Jesus through the Spirit.

Today, I want to share a story with all of you who feel that God has disappeared or doesn’t see you. He does.

Most of you know that Mike and I traveled to Europe to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. The only way I could convince Mike to travel overseas was to add a cruise to the equation. He agreed. So, we cruised on the biggest boat I’ve ever seen. Our room was on deck 15 and wow, what a view. 3,000 guest and 2,000 crew. THAT’S a crowd.

Mike is a traditional sort of guy, so nightly we would eat dinner in the formal dining room. The first night we were seated with a young couple. But they had been separated from their family and joined them for the remainder of the cruise at their table, thus we sat alone.

But…. On night three we walked in for diner and there sat two new couples. And this is where the story becomes a God thing.

You see, the women we met have been friends for more than 40 years. The two couples are great friends. And within minutes we were chatting and laughing and having a great time. And with me around, I can’t help it but conversations always move to areas of faith. I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself.

Wouldn’t you know it, out of all the thousands of people on our ship, we were now seated with a Nazarene pastor, his wife and their best friends. After a few nights of talking, Wes, the pastor looks over at Mike and asks, “Mike can I ask a personal question?”

“Yes, sure.”

“What is it that keeps you from accepting your wife’s faith?”

I sat motionless staring at Mike. He responded honestly and with great respect for me and the pastor. And his answer was not what I expected and yet it was. 

“I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I just struggle with organized religion.”

My mouth hung open as I took in this conversation. Mike went on to explain a bit more. Pretty much what you might expect. The evil that has been perpetrated by religion, etc.

I love Wes’ rely, “What your saying isn’t anything that I haven’t thought as well. But it is also true that when people organize, pool their resources, their manpower, they bring so much good to the world. Bringing the Gospel to those who would never hear it and helping people in multiple ways.”

Gang, can I just say, Wes was born to be a pastor. His love shined from his eyes. His concern for Mike was genuine and you could just see him loving Mike without judgement. Man, when I grow up I want to be like Pastor Wes.

A funny thing about these God-incidents. One evening I didn’t attend dinner because I was still full from lunch (eating is the main sport on a cruise – sheesh, I gained five pounds) an Anglican Priest was seated at our table along with the Nazarene pastor, his wife, their best friends and Mike. HILARIOUS!!  Mike is surrounded on all side, all the time, by believers.

Don’t think for a second that God isn’t working in your life and marriage. He is. He ALWAYS is at work to bring men unto His heart through His kindness.

Keep praying. Keep believing. Keep growing in your faith. Our God is all powerful, faithful and He is moving in our lives.

I love you. Have a great week. Lynn

 

25th Wedding Anniversary Cruise
Mike, Lynn (Photo bomb), Sam, (front row) Mary, Wes, Elizabeth

 

 

 


25 Years

SUMite Nation,

This date on March 14, 1992 was the day we married. I looked through some of the photos. A couple of crazy kids. Wow, twenty five years passes quickly.

Wedding pic 1992

We have come through much and I tell you this from the bottom of my heart.

I love this man. 

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Thank you for celebrating this special anniversary with us. Mike and I will be traveling to Europe later this summer to celebrate our love and marriage.

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Stay strong SUMites. It's the journey that makes us holy! Love, Lynn


A Miller Update

Mike&Leslie
Leslie & Mike, Christmas 2016

Hello, my dear friends. I’m taking today’s post as an opportunity to update you on my daughter, Leslie. Many of you have asked me to keep you updated, which touches my heart beyond belief. Thank you. Your love and prayers fill my heart with comfort, joy and peace.

If you’re new to the site, my daughter Leslie was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at age 14 in 2008. She is 23 now and cancer free. (If you want the full story, you can do a search of her name to access the archives.) At the end of 2015 she began to exhibit side effects of her radiation treatments from 2009 and had to stop working due to pain and trembling throughout her limbs. Just as it seemed she was finally stepping into a full life, healthy.

Leslie has still not been able to go back to work. It’s been over a year now. Her pain level is still high and after a year of seeing the doctors at Stanford (not the same team who helped save her life) and not getting anywhere or any relief, she has begun to take control of her own health care.

That’s a big step. I confess that was difficult at first for this mama who can hover at times, but she has done a fabulous job pursuing her own health solutions and answers.

As a result, she’s managed to find out more with a rheumatologist nearby in just a short month. Right now the doctor’s report says she has arthritis in her tendons, her right ankle being the most damaged. 

My friends, I am going to be honest with you here. I didn’t know what to pray for as this was unfolding. I, of course, wanted a good report and prayed for that, but I was torn. I wanted answers for her so she could figure out how to manage the pain in her body and live a fuller life. 

So I am grateful for answers, but I am not coming into agreement with this diagnosis, nor will I speak it over her. I have learned in the healing rooms to pray and believe with each person at whatever level they are willing to believe God for their healing, but I have also witnessed God increase each person's faith in those moments to believe and ask God for more than they can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20).

So, I will support my sweet girl and believe with her at whatever level she is at to believe she can be restored, even through treatments and medications, which I’m not against. God clearly worked in tandem with the doctors to save her life in 2008, and it is a story full of miracles.

I believe in God’s Word that says we WERE healed by the stripes of Jesus, and that His salvation (sozo) covers our physical restoration too. And I am standing on the promise God gave me for Leslie from Isaiah:

The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. — Isaiah 58:11

My friends, I am not discouraged. Initially my heart ached, and I poured that out to my Papa God. He gave me comfort, peace and reassurance. He does not forget His promises. Quite the opposite. He constantly watches, plans and sets things in to motion to fulfill His Word out of His great compassion and in His perfect timing.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! — Isaiah 30:18

And for every promise God gives us, He gives us the provision too. So this is how I am “upgrading” how I am praying this over my daughter. 

Father God, You have given me the promise for Leslie. I speak it back to You, in faith. That You, Lord, are guiding Leslie continually, not just now but throughout her life. That you are giving her water in the dry places of her body and restoring her strength. That every provision she needs to walk in health is already in place for her. 

I declare in agreement with Your Word, Lord, that Leslie will be as a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. She will be restored in the places she has struggled and pour out great beauty, fruit and hope to others in dry places. She will be a garden that blooms and produces fruit that cries out and shouts of Your great power, love and glory, Lord. In the endless name of Jesus, amen!

SUMites, I believe now is the time for us to renew our prayers and declarations for the promises God has given us. He does not falter, nor does He step away from us. Our breakthroughs could be just a single prayer away. Let’s not give up the race now. 

Our Great God will not fail us. I believe He will move and do things in ways we have never seen before and never could have imagined. I’m already seeing Him do this in small things, and it’s absolutely stunning. I can’t even imagine what this will look like as He increases in us, our lives and circumstances and through the prayers we pray over those we uplift to Him. 

Share your hearts and thoughts in the comments, my friends. I am standing with you in prayer for every promise, every provision, every declaration.

Love you so very much,
Dineen


Grace in the Waiting

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The Israelites were a people who waited. They waited for the promise of restoration to their homeland for over 70 years. My friends, we are like the Israelites. We are also a people group united in our time of waiting as we yearn and hope for the promise of salvation. And God has given grace-filled promises for every part of it.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable. — Isaiah 40:28

Nothing is unknown to Him. Every possibility is the doorway to another, yet the ultimate goal is always the same. He is the one unchanging constant in this life, my friends. He exists beyond time as we understand, as He just is. He is our Creator, our Redeemer, our Savior—His heart is to be all things to us and His power, like His love, is more than we can comprehend. He never tires, falters, or doubts. He trusts us more than we trust ourselves. He believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. And how could He not? He knows what He has given us as a deposit, as His ultimate promise—His Spirit.

He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted; — Isaiah 40:29-30

The Hebrew word for "power" is ḵôaḥ and holds meanings such as to be firm; vigor, ability, able, chameleon, force, fruits, might, power(-ful), strength, substance and wealth. It is a "power-packed" word (yes, pun intended) that attempts encompass and define His indefinable power, presence and provision. It is who He is.

Our limited power and strength never diminish or change His plans. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Our weakness is the very condition that allows His power to be revealed and perfected (2 Cor. 12:9). And He never grows weary in His own strength and He never grows weary of helping us, providing for us, sustaining us and loving us. When we see impossible, He says possible. When we see a wall, He makes a doorway. When we see the end, He says it's just the beginning of a new time, a new season, a new opportunity...

Appointed Times and Seasons

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. — Isaiah 40:31

There are two Hebrew words here that hold vital meanings to our complete understanding. The first is "wait." Other translations use "hope." That's because the Hebrew word here, qâwâ, means both to wait and to hope. It also holds meanings such as to bind together, to expect, gather (together), look, patiently, tarry, wait (for, on, upon).

To hope in the Lord means to wait expectantly upon Him to fulfill His promises to us. He knows the times and season of our lives down to the smallest detail. He is always working to fulfill what He has promises us in the best timing and seasons possible. He wants us to have the fullest benefit. 

The second noteworthy word in these verses is "walk." The Hebrew word here, yâlaḵ, and means to walk (literally or figuratively); causatively, to carry (in various senses), bear, bring, carry (away), come (away), depart, flow, follow, grow, lead (forth), let down, march, prosper, pursue, cause to run, spread, take away. Take not of the meaning "prosper" in this definition. As His children, no matter what time or season we are in, we are intended to prosper and thrive. Even in the toughest of times, God is working to help us reap our reward as we grow more like His Son Jesus.

And perhaps I'm not far off in say that is our greatest "opportunity," dear friends, to be more and more Christ-like. Our lives are a continual journey toward Jesus, to be like Him and one with Him. I used to wonder if we had to discard all that we are in order to be like Jesus, but the reality is, in doing so we become who we truly are intended and designed to be. Our identity in Jesus is a lifetime spent in revelation of our unity and inheritance in Him. And we are provided for in every way and for every aspect of that journey.

There is so much grace for us in the waiting, my friends. Both the Hebrew and Greek words for "grace" mean kindness and favor. So know that as you wait, God's grace is there providing His power, strength, hope and provision as we dwell in His great kindness and favor.

SUMites, you are greater in and through Him than you will ever know. You are destined to soar on wings like eagles!

Love you!
Dineen


"Watch What I Do!"

IStock_000005733150MediumWhat has God promised you, my friends? That is the place I want to start today, because I’ve discovered there is a very definitive process that occurs between the promise given and the reality (or manifestation) of that promise. And it’s in the in between time that we can get confused or even lose sight of our promise.

No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back a single word I said. — Psalm 89:34 (NLT)

I believe as a community we are on this journey right now together. As I shared last week during our prayer and fasting, this is a Year of Promises. As I walk in this place of waiting and the challenges I’ve faced, I’m finding that God’s promises are designed to bring us from one point and place in time to another and it’s very much to do with our growth as believers.

We’ve talked in the past about preparation and that is part of this promise package. God always sees us according to His plan for us—who He created us to be. He sees us from our future and therefore partners with us to direct our path accordingly. Our promises are part of that future becoming our present reality. So, in everything, God is working for our good to according to that picture. 

Yes, we do have an enemy that will do whatever he can to hinder and delay that path, but ultimately, as we continue to seek God and say yes to Him, we are assured of victory, as God’s Word says. He already sees us as victorious, therefore we are. That’s an important place to walk in faith and perseverance (Romans 8). 

As God cheers us on He also works in us so that we can walk in the fullness of our callings (destiny) and many times that means we need healing. We live in the reality of good verses evil and the imperfections of this world, so it is inevitable. 

This past week God worked this in my life in a stunning way. As I mentioned God revealed some things to me, of which one part was a deep need for emotional healing. I find it so very interesting that as Lynn is about to begin this series on emotional healing, God walks me through that very thing.

So, my dear SUMites, I want to encourage you to walk this journey with us, because it is part of the revelation of your promises this year. To fully receive what these promises are we often must grow in some way to be able to walk in them. This is part of God’s upgrade or promotion process. He wants us to benefit fully from His promises. 

Think of it in a way as professional training or learning a skill. In order to function as a lawyer in a court or as a teacher in a classroom, we have to learn things in order to fully function in those places. Our “training” or teaching can be very specialized too.

I believe that God is doing much of this in us for many reasons. For me, this means I am more emotionally healthy for two reasons. One, to walk in the broader places He is taking me in ministry and to be ready for where He is taking my husband to one day be in ministry together. Yes, He has to get me ready (prepared) for what that means. Oh boy…

And sometimes it can seem messy and painful, but as we’ve used the analogy before, a wound must be cleaned for it to heal well and without infection. Think of the lies, hurts, rejections and grudges we carry as infections, that once dealt with, our emotional wounds can be healed.

The wonderful thing about this process is that it ripples out. So often we want to fix what we see on the outside, but God works from the inside out and that is what those around us begin to see as we are healed. Those places we often struggle with externally could very well be the reflection of something inside in need of healing. This applies to our spouses too, my friends. We have the benefit of the Great Physician at work in us to help us heal, yet those who don’t know Jesus yet can only rely on their own resources or that which the world offers.

My friends, whatever God did in me this week broke and released things I have carried for years. I feel lighter, stronger, and more peaceful. And I am excited to walk in this new freedom and am expectant of the ways it will show up more in my life. I’m excited to see what God does next, and I am looking forward to what He does in all of us through Lynn’s series. 

It’s going to be good. How do I know that? God told me. Since last weekend, His still soft voice has whispered over and over to me these words.

“Watch what I do.”

And He has expanded those words for our community. This is what I feel I hear Him saying for us:

Watch what I do.

In your homes and in your marriages,

Watch what I do.

In your lives and in your government,

Watch what I do.

In your nation and in your communities,

Watch what I do.

In your minds and in your hearts,

Watch what I do.

SUMites, the choice is always ours. God loves us no matter what. He is always for us and always, always, always, working for our good. So if you feel this is something you want, then I encourage you to pray something like this in your own words:

Lord, I want everything You have written on the pages of my book in heaven to become a reality in my life. I want to let go of the pain and hurts and be healed of the emotional traumas in my heart and soul. Whatever that takes and whatever that looks like, Lord, I say yes. I am ready. I trust You. I love you and I am so grateful that You love me with such a relentless and perfect love. Lord, I am watching to see what You do! In the name of Jesus, amen!

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. — 2 Cor. 1:20 (NLT)

I love you, my SUM family. I’m so blessed to walk this journey with you and stand with you in prayer.
Dineen


Waiting on the Promises with Hope

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My advent wreath—the first candle lit represents hope.

Hello, SUM Family! Life at the new Miller Home has been crazy busy and hectic to say the least.  We’re mostly settled in with just a few boxes here and there.My daughters and son-in-love will soon arrive to spend Christmas with us—our first Christmas in our new home. Needless to say hubby and I have been busy little bees getting things put in place and finishing some projects ourselves like towel bars and and a few light fixtures.

Then, of course, decorating the house for Christmas, gift shopping, social events…my list is growing, my friends. How about yours? I think we all share this common challenge of managing the business of the season while trying not to lose the heart and hope of what it truly means.

Christmas is all about promise. Our Messiah Jesus was/is the greatest promise given to us. The Old Testament is all about that promise. God moves and weaves Himself into the lives of His people with great care, often giving us just a glimpse into a picture too large for us to fully comprehend. But every story points to His faithfulness to His promises. 

Here’s are two translations of a verse that captured my heart this week:

This is why I wait upon you, expecting your breakthrough, for your word brings me hope. — Psalm 130:5 (TPT)

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; — Psalm 130:5 (ESV)

The first version from the Passion Translation brings to light the position of waiting, to wait expectantly for God to bring breakthrough. Sometimes we can get tired in this place of waiting and give up right before that breakthrough comes. The key here, my friends, is to be tenacious and one of the best ways to do this is to have a support system. This is one reason why having a church home, small group or prayer partner is vital. 

Last Sunday I went to church weary from a lot of spiritual warfare. The enemy targeted my daughters and family to try to undermine my choice to stand in a place of peace. I went up for prayer at the end of the service. A friend spoke wise words to my heart, “to speak what I know, not what I see.” 

In other words, I could speak the trouble and chaos I was witnessing in my children’s lives, or I would speak the truth of God’s Word and promises into the situations and into their lives. 

Both of these translations also contain “word,” which means promise. The Bible is God’s promise to us, and Jesus is the manifestation of those promises as He is the Word become flesh (John 1). That kind of blows me away, SUMites. That’s a huge promise and God fulfilled it. Nothing is impossible with Him.

My friends, like you there are promises that I have prayed into all year long (like my daughter’s health and restoration so she can work again) that I’m still waiting to see manifest. Those are the ones that put our faith to the test. Will we continue to contend for what God has promised us no matter how long it takes? These are the waiting places that require us to guard our hearts from doubt and encourage ourselves in the Lord. His love conquers everything! 

As Ian shared in his beautiful post Wednesday, we are a people who wait. We know this position well, my friends. SUMites, we are all standing and praying for the promise of salvation for our spouses—a promise God spoke to my heart specifically for this community at the beginning of the year. I know He continues to work in our spouses in ways we can’t even see yet. Seeds are being planted and divine appointments put in place. I believe God is “setting-up” our spouses to walk into belief in ways we can’t even imagine right now. I am contending for this for my own spouse and yours. And I have been asking God for testimonies.

Well, I have a story to share with you that I think will strengthen your faith and reenergize your prayers. Last week we received a testimony from Jamie about her marriage and her husband. This is a stunning story of God working in the most unexpected ways. All evidence pointed to this marriage ending in divorce, my friends, BUT GOD… It’s powerful, awe-inspiring and beautiful. All things are possible with God.

Read ‘God Saved Our Marriage…and My Husband’ here. I pray it encourages you and ignites a new hope in your spirit. That is the promise we hold within, the hope of Jesus, and it’s the focus of this first week of Advent.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. — Romans 5:1-5

SUMites, I bless you with a fresh anointing of hope that will ignite your faith to a whole new level as we close this year well. 

I love you all so much,
Dineen

 


The Hope in Waiting … reflections on Advent

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Photo courtesy of 9comeback/FreeDigitalPhotos.nety/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s something both exciting and tremendously nerve-wracking when an author presses the send button on the email that whisks their latest manuscript off to a publisher. Exciting? The project we’ve been working on has now reached a point of completion. In my case that project had consumed a lot of my mind space for the past three years.

Nerve-wracking? Will they like it? Enough to publish it? What if they don’t? What will I do then?

It’s a moment that is soon forgotten.

And then we wait.

And wait some more.

A few months later an email arrives outlining your manuscript is still in the game. Being reviewed by some others. They liked it sufficiently to pass onto others. Great.

And then we wait.

And wait some more.

As I shared with a writing friend recently: the Lord's got it in His big capable hands. Waiting helps us lean on Him more. And that's what I've tried to do. Keep writing, keep hoping, keep knowing He's looking after the situation irrespective of whether I receive a positive response or not.

We are People who Wait

Authors wait a lot. It’s part of the fabric of being an author. I expect it’s one of the reasons self-publishing has become so popular: the author takes greater control over the end product and can manage the timeline.

We SUMites wait. We know all those feelings that come with waiting. The frustration, angst, discouragement, hopelessness. We know the drill because it’s part of our lives. We wait for our beloved to receive the revelation that Jesus is their Lord. For some of us we’ve waited a long time and may continue to.

Advent is a time of waiting. The name Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” Beginning each year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (last Sunday), Advent commemorates the birth of Jesus and also anticipates His return. As Ann Voskamp says we are “perpetual Advent people” waiting on Christ’s return.

The Branch Gives us Hope

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;


    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Advent is all about hope. In who is coming.

We can believe in that hope. Because He did come 2,000 years ago on that Christmas morn, born in a food trough, son to a teenage mom and her husband.

We can believe in that hope. Because He has come to us. He is in us and we are in Him.

We can believe in that hope. Because He has told us He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). Even when our beloved doesn’t know Him.

Christmas can be a tough season for we SUMites because we choose to celebrate Jesus and not Santa. We pop off to church on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, alone.

But remember Jesus understands loneliness. He understands being alone. He understands rejection. He understands our SUMite situations.

He understands us. Really, truly! Because He has chosen each one of us.

Choose to remember Him when the enemy throws the darts of loneliness at you, when he tries to take away your joy in the One we celebrate. Look for the Presence of Jesus in the small moments, in the interruptions, when out shopping, wrapping those presents and chatting with your neighbour.

I hope you are able to spend some time in the next few weeks reflecting on the hope of Advent. On Jesus. Allow His Words to “dwell in your richly.”

Wishing all of my SUMite friends a blessed Advent season full of childlike hope and anticipation.

Grace and peace,


The Times They are a Changin'

My friends, I pray this video encourages you. As I suggested, read Ezra and this amazing story of how God used King Cyrus, the leaders of the Trans Eurphrates, King Artaxerxes and King Darius to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The very people and plans to stop this wound up revealing the original edict by Cyrus to rebuild the Temple. God loves to turn things on end and surprise us, SUMites. Remember, things won't look the way you expect. This is not a time of either or. It's a time of yes and both and AMEN!

So let's be in prayer together for our loved ones.

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. — 2 Kings 6:15-17

Lord Jesus, open the eyes of our spouses and loved ones that they me see YOU! In the name  of Jesus, amen!

I love you so much, SUMites! You are amazing!
Dineen