Faith Adventures in France

My SUM friends Bakery

Hello!

I have now been in France for four weeks, and it's been both a curious faith adventure, and a curious marriage adventure, but I'll save the marriage part for the next post ((smiling)).

I have had serenity and plenty of time with God. Every morning, I read my Bible. Currently I am deep in the story of David's life, and his Psalms (2 Samuel, 2 Chronicles, and Psalms).

Bryce gets up and quietly potters around while I sit on the couch having my God time, wrapped in a blanket. 

But the adventures I've had have really been around the church. I noticed something curious:

The suburb where I live, in New Zealand, has 14,000 residents, and I can count six different churches of different flavors. Essentially one could 'church shop' there.

In contrast, here in Foix there are 9,000 residents, and only one church. Though there are a couple of churches that existed previously, they are not active. There was an 'apostolic' church that was advertised, which sounded like my cup of tea, but I turned up my first Sunday to find it non-existent. Dead.

That's discouraging, Lord. I was sad that day. Where are the Christians?

The only active church here seems to be the beautiful and ancient 11th-century church in the town square. It rings its bells several times a week, and a small number of Foix's residents trickle in. "Is this where I go, Lord, if I want to be where you are being talked about?"

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:25, KJV).

I pictured the New Testament church that used to eat together in small number, gathering in houses for meals. 

I pictured King David, who carried out his relationship with God in the desert and the fields; partly I felt like him, sat on my couch with God quietly connecting on my lonesome.

Then I turned my mind again to this ancient church in the town square, and contemplated the fact it represents the history of Christianity in Europe.

My Dad, who lives here, told me: "This area of France is very irreligious." Nevertheless, my heart leapt when I saw this poster displayed in a house window, in a neighboring village:Jesus in the window

Lord Jesus

I give glory to the Father and I implore your aid.

Happy are those who will have believed. Happy are those who die in the Lord.

The heavenly Father wants that all are saved. He has given us Jesus for that purpose. He was resurrected to open up the way for us. Don't ignore this essential event in the history of humanity. The consequences of sin are death. Don't delay to purify ourselves and to turn to him. He does not turn those away who come to him.

Ahhh. Even when an area seems 'irreligious', there will be a remnant.

That ancient church here in Foix runs a 'Cafe for friends' on a Wednesday and Thursday. Not only have I wanted to connect with Christians, I have also wanted to talk to French people. So, with a dose of curiosity, I went.

I walked into the room: There sat three older woman, two older men, and a younger woman. 'Welcome, welcome!' they said, in French.

I joined their table, and their chat. "Oranges?" one of them said, kindly, holding out a plate of fruit to me.

The younger woman had just become Christian the previous year. The older ones had been Christian for years, but one had converted late in life and it had changed her whole life. "Je comprends," I nodded, leaning forward, "I understand." I sure did understand that.

We sat and talked a little about what it looks like to have an encounter with God, and what it looks like to "have Jesus deeply in your heart". The young woman needed some encouragement in her faith; the older ones lent it. 

I left hopeful. Sometimes God places us in entirely new settings. And that little 'Cafe for Friends' has now become one of my little 'go-to' places in Foix.

Well, that's me. What is the church scene like where you live?

Love you all,

Ann


Prayers for Lynn and Mike

SUM family, Ann here. Our hearts go out

Our hearts are with Lynn and Mike, having heard the news that Lynn shared last week

The leaders of SUM recently wrote out some prayers for Mike and sent them via WhatsApp to Lynn. I've written these prayers out below, and if you have some time I wonder if you would speak these prayers out for the two of them?

It would be an amazing thing for us to stand as an army, speak out prayers jointly, and fill the bowl of incense of the prayers of the saints in Heaven for Mike! (Revelation 5:8).

Let's pray:

"Right now, in the authority and name of Jesus, I lift up Mike and Lynn as they stand in this place. I release shalom peace over and into them. I bind chaos and all forms of darkness coming against them. I release all provision into this situation. Peace, healing, right steps forward and His assurance that He is in control. Lord be their shield, and their faith."

"I pray that the chains of leukaemia be broken in Jesus' mighty name. I declare that Mike is a born-again son of the most high God, his name is in the book of life and he is covered by the blood of the Lamb. I speak healing miracles and divine reversal in Mike's body. I bless him with healing and health in Jesus' mighty name. I bless him with perfect peace and pray that he will experience his Father's love like never before. I lift up Lynn to the throne room of Grace, and I bless her with peace and strength, that she will hear God's voice directing her, leading her and encouraging her. I pray the Holy Spirit will fill them both to overflow. I stand with Lynn, I love her and I bless her. I stand on God's word that no weapon formed against Mike will prosper, and I speak life and love over them both.  Thank you, Lord, that you hear every prayer, even when our prayers are groans, and you collect every tear in your bottle. Lord, hold your daughter Lynn close, put your arms around her and gently rock her so that she knows she is held in tight and safe in her Daddy's arms. In your precious name, Jesus, the name above every other name. Amen."

A scripture that one of our leaders prayed over him:

"Because Mike has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver Mike; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with Mike in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy Mike And show Mike My salvation." (Psalms 91: 14-16 NJKV)

"Jesus, Jehovah Rapha ... as said above we are all in agreement with Mike living a long satisfying life, and that You Lord have heard our prayers and pleas! Prince of Peace and Mighty Warrior, fight this battle like only You can. We speak shalom over our sister. We command fear and chaos to leave her now and we bless her to be calm and full of wisdom to make needed decisions. We command all foul, unclean, demonic presence to be out of their hospital room right now in the name of Jesus. We speak Jesus over this leukaemia. It's a trespasser on Mike's holy temple. Jesus' blood flows through his body and it's healing now! We tell the mountain of sickness to be removed and cast into the sea now! Mike will live and not die and declare the works of the Lord. Amen so be it."

And finally,

"May Lynn and Mike be saturated in God's love and life. May the next steps be very clear for them and the doctors. Lord, you know what's going on in Mike's body, please pass that knowledge onto the medical team and give them the wisdom to make the right decisions in regards to treatment and next steps. May all treatments target and hit the leukaemia cells and please supernaturally protect every healthy cell in Mike's body. Lord, we love you, we're in awe of your goodness and faithfulness to Mike and Lynn. Amen."

**

Thank you SO much for praying in agreement, SUMites, and may God pour oil on the flame of these prayers!

With love and thanks to you all,

Ann


SUM Nation Lynn Donovan Here Today

Hi Everyone, TWO AWESOME THINGS TO SHARE TODAY. 

First, the Lord showed up strong and right now Mike is on his way to recovery. Hallelujah. I'll keep you posted.

Marriage initiative
Second, I want to share an interview with Amy Morgan. Her fabulous ministry is The Marriage Initiative. And it's filled with so much helpful marriage information. The link is below. But I want to share some of the feedback from a listener about the interview. I hope you are encouraged in your unequally yoked marriage. 

(From a listener)

"I wanted to thank you again for the invite to the marriage initiative presentation. It was timely and there were things that were said that I so needed to hear. Lynn Donovan's experience is so similar to mine in some ways, and it was so inspiring to hear how God used her challenges with an unbelieving husband to change not only her own marriage but to positively impact others going through the same. It was so touching. I felt so seen and so much of what she talks about I have experienced. It hits at a hard time for me. This year has been such a struggle. Homeschooling hasn't been what I had hoped and has negatively impacted my mental health and not been the best for (her daughter) either. I've been down and unmotivated for some time now, and the transitions and moving have put me in a very "sad, stuck" place. It has affected every part of my life, including my walk with God. Hearing this today, and what to do about it, was very encouraging. I loved when Lynn said to step up bravely to be the spiritual leader of your family if your husband cannot or will not. I had not heard it put like that before and I needed to hear it. I also loved how she encouraged us by saying we become strong warriors in prayer and spiritual warfare as a spouse to an unbeliever. It made me realize how important it is to stay in prayer and scripture, to not give up, that I'm not alone. (Her husband) is a very "hardened" person and I often struggle with the way he perceives life and people and purpose, and this presentation just reminded me that I'm not doing this alone, that God is with me. 

I immediately purchased a copy of Winning Him without Words and I'm looking forward to reading it. 

Here is the link to the broadcast on YouTube.


Donovan Clan Update

Thank you for your love and support of this ministry as we share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On April 27, 2024, my husband, Mike, was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with acute Leukemia. He was sent to the ICU twice two weeks ago and literally was saved on Saturday and Monday nights by the physicians, his oncologist, nurses but especially through the prayers and hands of our Lord Jesus. It’s been two weeks of overwhelming..... Everything. 

Every word I have written in my books and the Bible remain absolutely true and I stand in peace upon the truth. I’ve seen the miracles already.

Mike will remain hospitalized for a number of weeks as they treat him and sort out a long-term treatment plan. It’s very complicated. His cancer was likely the result of his treatment two years ago.

MikeWith this said, I’ll be taking a break from my prayer ministry for May and June. I hope to have a new normal by the end of June and open my calendar again the first of July.

I’m so blessed there are leaders in this ministry who can and do step up to carry the torch. THANK YOU!! 

I’ll try to write once a month with an update. As of today, Mike has received his first round of Chemo and it’s working. But he is vulnerable to infections. Every day is a roller coaster of emotions, as you might imagine. My children were here last week and were a tremendous help. My mom is here for Mother's Day and my birthday. GOD IS SOOO GOOD. 

I truly feel the love of God and his hand holding mine and Mike’s as well. Thank you for your understanding. 

Love and hugs, Lynn Donovan


Happy Mother's Day

Hey there SUMites, Amanda here! It is Mother's Day here in the U.S., so I wanted pop on here and show some love and appreciation to all of the wonderful Moms out there! Mother's day 2 

Whether you are a mom of littles, an empty nester, a grandmother, foster mother, or spiritual mother.

Whether you carried your babies inside you or met them through the miracle of adoption.

Whether your babies are here on earth or in the arms of Jesus.

You were (and are) a chosen vessel! A sacred and vital part of God's creation. You personify unconditional, sacrificial, longsuffering love!

As a mother, you are a sweet whisper of the great gift that is God's love.

As I was contemplating what to write today, I started thinking about how often mothers are mentioned in the bible. Not just specific women, but the imagery of mothers and their love, comfort, protection, and care of children. You certainly don't have to look too hard to find a reference to this kind in the word!

Isaiah 66:13 says, "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you."(NIV)

I just love how this passage uses the analogy of a mother to her child! This whole chapter in Isaiah is a really beautiful example, and worth a read! And we can see this all throughout the bible! In psalms, proverbs, Isaiah and more!

I believe that is because a mother's love is beautiful mystery.

How blessed we are to be women! To be mothers! To be chosen to bear this beautiful burden! 

Precious mommas, I hope every one of you reading this feels appreciated, seen, and loved today by those around you. If you don't, I hope you will remember how precious you are to Jesus. He counts every tear and hears every prayer.

Find time to rest in him this week. Even if it is just five minutes before you start your day.

And when the baby won't stop crying, the toddler has destroyed the living room, and the teenager won't talk to you, remember that you are a representative of God's love. You have a special calling in this life to grow disciples. You are blessed and you ARE important!!!

P.S. The picture in this post is the card my daughter made for me today :). If any mom reading this was not acknowledged in the way that you should have been, consider this your card too! It was made with love by the sweetest little hands, and you deserve it!

I love you all! Have a fantastic week!

Happy Mother's Day!


Boundaries -- A Whistle-Stop Tour

Hi SUMites Two pronged approach

Today we are wrapping up our series on boundaries. How about today we take a quick whistle-stop tour of where we've gone with this topic?

Ok, let's go!

In part one we talked about the fact we walk a two-pronged approach in our spiritually mismatched marriages. On the one hand, we throw ourselves into LOVING our spouse generously, but equally we stand up for certain non-negotiables.

In other words: We set certain boundaries in our marriage, where we don't allow our spouse to take certain important things away from us. That might sound tough but I believe it is a critical part of walking out a spiritually mismatched marriage well.

We talked about what kinds of boundaries are important to set. Here's what we agreed:

But with all that said, there's an important boundary that we, in turn, must respect in our spouse's life, and it's this: Honor their free will, and do not override it.

Well, that concludes our series on boundaries. My friends, there are a number of books on boundaries in marriage -- And while our series on this blog looked specifically at SUM-related issues, there are wider areas of marriage that call for boundaries. For example, it might be important in your marriage to set boundaries in the area of sex, verbal communication, finances, time together, friendships, addictions, extended family and so on. In some of these areas we might set boundaries naturally, but in other areas we might need to have a think. It's a big topic -- But thankfully one that these days is getting air-time. 

Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share on boundaries?

Love to you all,

Ann


An Area We Must Not Over-Step ......

Dear friends Close

Over the last week or so, we've been talking about boundaries in marriage. We've toughened ourselves up, discussing areas in which we must stand our ground.

It's important to stand our ground on certain issues, in certain ways. It's important to be strong.

However, now let's turn to a different side of this topic:

What lines must we not overstep when it comes to our spouse?

In what ways do we need to be careful not to negatively invade our spouse? 

It's worth mulling this over, as it is so tempting when we are in a SUM to try to control our spouse, especially to control their church attendance and beliefs. What about their friends or activities -- To what degree is it tempting to want to control that? To what degree is it ok to control those things for the sake of our spouse's spiritual health, and to what degree should we back off?

When we're married, we're one flesh. Whether or not we feel close to our spouse physically and emotionally, there's that spiritual truth.

... A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24, NIV).

Shared house, shared activities, shared bodies, shared life. And so that shared nature of daily, physical life, including bodily intimacy, suggests a boundaryless existence. This boundaryless existence -- if it plays out in a healthy sex life -- is illustrated here, also:

But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:2-5, NIV).

We might find when we're old we have to care for each other's bodies in other ways too -- like showering or washing the hair of an unwell spouse, acting as their eyes and ears if they go blind/deaf, or even wiping their butt!  

But even though we are one flesh, and share our bodies, we are two spirits, and this is important. We feel this keenly as SUMites, don't we? We are two separate spirits who each have free will when it comes to responding to God.

Free will is an invention of God, and one that feels a little painful, but we have to trust God knew what he was doing when he created it. If he had made us without free will, we would be like robots -- Like the movie 'The Stepford Wives' where everyone acted in submissive obedience. How boring for God that would be! No, instead, he gave us the choice to fall in love with him or walk away. And, in so doing he consciously does not overstep our free will.

He never forces us to church, he never forces us to believe, he never forces us to love him. 

And so in the same way, we are encouraged to honor our spouse's free will and allow them some leeway of their own in making a choice.

This has played out for me this week:

Right now, while Bryce and I are in France, I'd love him to come to church with me. In my mind I want him to help me meet the locals, stand by my side as my partner, and soak up the atmosphere of the worship and God's felt presence. Well, I asked him yesterday if he'd go with me, and he said 'No'. Oh. Well ((dusting myself off)), so be it. I won't guilt-trip or try to force it -- I'll leave him be, and I will do so cheerfully.

... And in that way I guess I'm respecting his free will, and a boundary of some sort.

Your thoughts? When do you think it's appropriate to control our spouses, and when is it not? 

Much love

Ann


Boundaries in Marriage, Part Five: Respect

Hello dear SUMites Boundaries 2

It's Ann here and I'm writing from France, where Bryce and I arrived yesterday. We're staying for a month in a town called Foix in the very south of France. It has always been a dream of mine to live in France, and so perhaps this is the closest I can get. 

If there are any French SUMites out there reading, please write to me, say hello and tell me where you're from! 

Our first activity in France has been to go to the supermarket to plan our next couple of days of food. We negotiated over every ... single ... item we put in the trolley LOL. Marriage! 

On the plus, this morning I got up early and went to the bakery a few doors down, to ask for "Deux croissants s'il vous plait" -- Two croissants please. I paid for them with my Euro coins and took them back for a lovely coffee-n-croissant breakfast with my hubby. Ahhh.

**

Anyway, back to SUM matters! We're talking about boundaries that are relevant to spiritually mismatched marriage, and we're now on the last boundary in this series: Respect. Today's post is about asking our spouse to respect us but, of course, it works both ways: We should make every effort to respect our spouse, which is something we've talked about a lot on this blog.

How much disrespect or criticism of our faith is too much? Well, as carriers of the Gospel we are going to have persecution. Jesus said --

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:20, NIV)

He also said some of that persecution will come from our family --

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— (Matthew 10:34-35, NIV)

And --

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:11-12, NIV)

Persecution is a natural outworking of what we carry. Our family members won't always 'get' us, and sometimes things will be said that hurt. We will feel alien, sometimes. Fine. It's the deal.

Jesus got whipped, stripped, and crucified, and, interestingly, he did not put up boundaries there. He allowed his tormentors to cross that boundary because it was God's purpose. Similarly, for a season, we may find that people make fun of our faith or are unfairly critical of it, and we might quietly ride that out until those people come to a softer place.

However, if it's happening in our marriage, and if it's happening too much, there can come a point where we say "That's enough," as a way of standing up for God's purpose in marriage. It is God's will that spouses honor each other, and that's ultimately the kind of marriage we want to fight for.

I guess what I'm saying, then, is that a little persecution will happen, but there can come a point where too much might call for a boundary to be put in place. After all, it is possible to disagree but still respect each other.

Every marriage is different, and some in our community are unfortunately in very difficult marriages. My heart goes out to you if that's the case for you - I know it is an extremely difficult path. If disrespect is part of that, it could be time to say "Stop, or I will need to remove myself from you for a time." And, of course, we encourage those who are enduring abuse of any sort -- including emotional abuse -- to seek help and not stay in that situation.

I guess it's all a balancing act, and one that takes discernment and prayer. But our hope in this community is that -- where we possibly can -- we can grow healthy marriages where there is respect despite the faith difference. 

Do any thoughts spring to mind for you about this topic? If so, I look forward to chatting in the comments. 

Much love.

Ann


The Power of Remembering!

Pexels-tara-winstead-8383448
Photo courtesy of Tara Winstead and Pexels

Hello, Ian from Sydney here.

As many of you might recall, I’ve been reading the Psalms most days for the last few years. I’ve now forgotten how long it’s been as I never tire of their goodness, wisdom, and passion.

As you’d expect, across 150 psalms, most of which are written by only a handful of people, there would be words, phrases, and concepts repeated. Two of the words I find often repeated and sometimes together are the notions of God’s ‘steadfast love’ and ‘faithfulness’. Some Psalms even repeat them several times in the same Psalm. Psalms 31, 32 and 33 in the ESV are great for the repetition of both words.

Choose to Remember

Many times in our lives we find ourselves in a similar situation to one that occurred previously. For example, a friend of mine has recently retired from teaching and is now thinking through what’s next. I asked him, how often he’d been in a similar situation during his life and to reflect on what God did in those situations.

SUMites, God is faithful. He’s demonstrated it repeatedly in our lives in a variety of ways. His faithfulness reflects His steadfast love for us.

If you find yourself in a moment of whatever, perhaps it’s in your marriage, cast your eyes back to how God acted last time you were in a similar moment. Trust that He will come through again this time. Why do I know?

Because of His faithfulness. He can’t stop loving us. He simply can’t. Because it’s His essence, it’s who He is. God is love! Choose to trust Him because He is faithful.

Go well, dear SUMites. May I encourage you to dive into a Psalm or two.

Warmest blessings.


He is Our Rewarder

Hello my friends, hope you had a nice weekend! Peak district

Bryce and I are currently in the north of England spending two days with my sister, who lives in the most delightful cottage in equally delightful countryside (the Peak District). My sister, an architect, restores ancient churches for a job -- some of which come from the Norman era, the 11th century. What an amazing job.

Speaking of old churches, in the middle of our boundaries series, I found the following comment from Ian to be a little 'oasis', and it fit with the fact I am currently visiting a lot of ancient churches -- so I wanted to pop it on here today.

Ian said, in response to my last post:

"I, you and others in this group have experienced God's faithfulness to us and our marriage when we do set the boundaries you outline.

Fi and I are home together a lot these days and my office is an 'open room' (no door), so having time with the Lord can often be interrupted. One thing I do each week is go to the prayer room at our church so I can have complete uninterrupted time with the Lord. I love Prayer Rooms. They're a liminal space, a thin place where prayers have soaked into the floorboards, walls and the soil underneath for hundreds of years (well my church that is). Fi understands how important this time is for me."

I just loved that.

It is true: If we are courageous, and fight for the things of God that are precious -- In this case, these positive boundaries -- he will reward us. 

... For he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV)

We take a lot of brave steps for God in our spiritually mismatched marriages, he is well-pleased with those acts of faith, and will reward us. Many of us in this community can attest to that.

... So let's keep making space and time for him in our marriages. Like Ian, let's seek out quiet spaces, places where we can find him -- Churches and prayer rooms included!

SUMites, may we all have a beautiful week with the Lord, seeking out the things of him that are precious; and I'll continue the boundaries series later in the week. Bye for now!

Ann