The Ice Cream Van

Hi again dear SUMites Ice cream van

I said in my last post that the Holy Spirit had given us two playful pictures to hold at the moment. The first one I described in the last post. The second one I'm sharing today.

We are children to Jesus, and sometimes he will use playful analogies with us. What he seems to be saying to us today is this:

The way I am moving in the SUM community is like an ice-cream van.

My friends, does it mean anything to you yet? Perhaps you can see it instantly, but I couldn't. I needed a bit of help from him.

This is the fun of the Holy Spirit. He tells us something. We realize we have no idea what it means. He then gives us the interpretation when we ask for it - POW! And that's how we know it was him. 

Yep, this is how it went. Having pondered the symbol of ice cream van unsuccessfully for a day or so, I just could not figure it out. So I asked the Holy Spirit for help. 

Instantly it came:

What I am doing in the SUM community is like an ice cream van. The three testimonies you have seen are the sound of the music starting. You can hear the whisper of it, it's faint but it is a definite and clear sound in the air. You wonder if it will come to your street. You dearly hope that you will not miss out. But I am good! It's coming to you. You will not miss out. Get ready for the goodies!

With a word like this, God will often give us confirmation. In this case, so that I could be brave enough to write this he told me this: I've told you about an ice cream van before, go and look it up.

Yes, he had. I remember I had heard him say 'Ice cream van' before (That was all, just 'ice cream van', hilarious!! I could have thought I was hallucinating, but I did write it down .. Perhaps because I've been learning that hearing God speak can sometimes be a bit of a weird experience!)  Thankfully because I had written it down I could pull out my phone and search in the diary app I use for such records. 'Ice cream van', I typed ... And there it was. It was the week of the January 2019 fast. Just like the vision of the cloths that I described in the previous post. Two stories from God when we were fasting back in January 2019. Two stories from God about what we have just experienced.  Salvation testimonies. And more to come.

I even love the fact we fasted together, he gave the words then ... But they have come to life now. I suppose that's the way God works ... It's also perhaps a little nod to the fact that he honors our fasting.

Finally ... The analogy of a SUM ice cream van is such a sweet one. I guess, after all, we are his kids.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14, NIV)

Be encouraged, everyone, and have a great weekend!

Ann


God Says: 'Watch My Promises -- 123!'

Dear friends, Ann here. Cloths number 2

After we had  1 ... 2... 3... spouse-salvation 'events' last week, I've been praying about what to write about now. "What on earth do I write, Lord?" I guess I'm keeping an open mind, and my typing hands are at the ready. 

After asking that question I did receive two things from the Holy Spirit. They're unexpectedly playful things ... Two little stories of sweetness for us. I'm going to post one today, and the other on Friday. So, settle in and enjoy.

Both words come in the form of a story, and they both happen to have occurred back in January 2019 during our annual community fast, which is interesting.

So, let's step back to that week, in January 2019. We were fasting together as we do each year, Lynn was leading it powerfully, and I remember we had good conversations in the comments. My family and I also happened to be holiday in Japan during this particular fast .. So that added an element of color and memorability to the week.

Anyway, day three rolled around (aggh, hungry!) and as I woke that morning God gave me a set of three visions in a row. I grabbed my phone which was beside my bed, and blearily wrote them down. Here were the three (123!):

First, I saw a set of cloths, little folded cloths. Lots and lots .. and lots .. of little cloths. A set of little folded cloths, loads and loads, piles.

Second, I saw an absolute downpour of rain hitting the very place where I was fasting. And the words "1 2 3".

And third, I saw a man who was definitely and deliberately not a Christian falling to his knees very quickly and dramatically.

Cloths

It made no sense to me whatsoever, until later that day when were in a department store and there -- Lo and behold -- were the cloths I saw!

Well, blow me down. I literally jumped up and down, pointing at the cloths, thinking "Those are the cloths I saw!" Of course I had no-one to tell. So, I joyfully had my little God moment there in the flannel/towel department of this Japanese department store.

And of course, what made it particularly striking was the fact that not only was it piles of cloths. The top pile had the numbers 1 ... 2 ... 3 on it.

We need another photo of said cloths, so here's another. Cloths 3

So now here's what God said to me about these three visions, confirmed by the cloths:

The cloths that you photographed here, with '1 2 3' on top, represent the 1, 2, 3 men you've just seen turn. Those who were not aligned with Christ, but they have surrendered. Suddenly.

After that there'll be more ... 8, 9, 10, 11 (see the photo) ... and then more. A full array. A set.

Colourful, customized. Each cloth representing a spouse, and what I am going to do for them.

There is the sound of the abundance of rain; you do see a cloud the size of a man's hand, and a downpour is coming. 

Watch my promises! 

My friends, that is God's heart for our community as best as I can convey it, using a sweet story of cloths in a Japanese department store (so quirky, but how delicious). I don't know the timeframe, but I do believe that -- in principle -- we can walk in hope, and we can be excited about what's to come.

I know that sometimes these things have layers, so if there is anything else of meaning that you see in the cloths and the visions I shared, please do share -- That's how hearing from God works. We weigh and test, we might receive a word but it's often just part of the picture ... And we can enjoy the process while we do it. 

Much love,

Ann


I see a cloud the size of a man's hand

Hi SUM family, Ann here. Singing

Whew, it’s been an exciting week with us hearing about two spouses’ salvations in one week. If you missed those you can catch up here and here.

Well, unbelievably, there’s more! No sooner had I uploaded Monday's post about a second salvation than I got a message from another SUM friend (a local friend): Unbelievably, her husband had just responded to an altar call this past Sunday at church. 

Three in one week.

Are you pulling the same stunned face as me, I wonder?

All I could do then is play the song ‘God is on the Move’ on repeat in my living room and do some serious (uncool, Mum-looking) dancing in celebration. My teenage son, Miles, sauntered down the stairs midway through. He looked at me, smirked, shook his head, and walked on into the kitchen to get himself some toast.

So funny!

Anyway, somewhere in amongst this extreme excitement, God gave me a scripture. He said, “Go and look at the passage where Elijah prays seven times before he sees a small cloud.”

So I did; and I wondered what I would see. I suppose it’s one of those stories I’d read a few times so perhaps felt ‘old’. The thing is, scripture is so full of treasure it’s never old. I should have known better and, sure enough, I saw something brand new this time.

The story of Elijah’s cloud is in 1 Kings 18:41-46, and it goes like this: There has been a desperate drought in Israel, but then Elijah proclaims to the King that rain is coming. He says to the king, "Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the abundance of rain." In other words, "You don’t need to worry about stashing up food any more, I promise you the rain is coming!"

Truly, I feel this way about the spouses in our community. Impossible as it seems, we can know something is coming in the spirit before we see it in the natural. It's just ... There's perseverance first.

Elijah went to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.” (1 Kings 18:42-43, NKJV)

Seven times, nothing.

Isn't that just like the prayer for our spouses? We pray. Nothing. Nothing. Oh, and nothing. Nothing? Nope, nothing. Nothing. Can’t see any sign of my spouse turning…. Years pass …. Nothing.

Shall I say that again for effect? Here we go, six 'nothings': Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Ok, I now hereby sign and seal this thing as officially impossible. That's not to say it won't happen; it's just it's an impossible thing that needs God. We all look at each other, nod our heads, agreeing and understanding that it will take a miracle the size of the red sea parting. 

Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” (v. 44)

I wonder if even Elijah, let alone his companion, couldn't quite believe what he was seeing, even though he had sensed it in the spirit. After all, 'We're in a drought!'

So, with all that in mind, here's what just happened for us this past week:

One man’s hand goes up in surrender, ‘I say yes to Jesus’.

Another man’s hand goes up in surrender, ‘I say yes to Jesus’.

And a third man’s hand goes up in response to an altar call.

Oh, it's a cloud 'the size of a man’s hand' rising from the sea! A sign. A sign of more to come. We don't know how or when, but yes. More will come.

I am smiling here, and with that I’ll sign off for the weekend. Lynn will be here on Monday. In the meantime, for your pleasure here's 'God is on the Move'!

 


And ... Another Spouse's Salvation!

My friends, Ann here. Do it again!

It seems that it's 'miracle week' here at SUM. How amazing God is, and I can't wait to share with you this next thing that happened this past Friday after I last posted on here. All I can say is that God is lavish, full of marvels, and sometimes he does things with a little fanfare -- Just so that we know it is him.

Last Friday I shared that one of our SUMite readers' husbands had got baptized. If you missed that you can read it here.  The photo I used for that post was this one here -- I got this photo from the internet, as I usually do, but I loved the happy smile on this man's face as he's in the water, and I thought 'That's what it looks like for a spouse to be baptized'. 

Anyway, as you'll see I have included that same photo again today, this time with the words 'Do it Again' -- For that is what today's post celebrates.

When I uploaded that post last Friday, I scheduled it to go live for a few hours later. Well, in the few hours between it being uploaded and going live, another SUMite messaged me (not knowing what I'd uploaded). In her message she too told me that her husband had given his life to Jesus! It had happened a month earlier, she said, and she was now getting used to having a believing husband.

I know this particular SUMite. She lives in America, has followed this ministry for a number of years, and from the few conversations we've had in the past I know for sure what a miracle this is. If she feels ready to share it publicly, we'll look forward to that; but often people don't share immediately. What I can say is this one 'felt impossible' - like they all do - and yet it happened.

Two spouse-conversion testimonies in the space of 24 hours. I don't know about you, but I'm pinching myself ((Big smiles)). So much of what we do, what we fight for, is about this. Yes, it's about holding on to our own faith -- But it is also about theirs: The spouses.

So, friends, we'll keep on watching with interest and believing that nothing is impossible. I'll keep this one short and sweet, but I'm praying about what's next.

Much love,

Ann 


Another Spouse Gets Baptized!

Ann here!Baptism

Teehee ... I bet the title made you eagerly open this one. And, you won't be disappointed with what you read next. God glorifies His name through this community. Sometimes we have to wait a little while between testimonies, but they always come.

I remember just before COVID spread through the world I wrote a post called 'Salvations in our Community -- What's Next?' We'd had a noticeable and unusual spate of spouses' conversions in a short space of time, which had pricked up my antennae. Feeling like something was ‘in the water’, I wrote the post.

Well, something was in the water, but it wasn't what we expected. I wrote that post on 1 March 2020. By 14 March, COVID was running rampage in Italy. A week later, people everywhere were saying 'What a week this year has been'; and, by the end of the month, many of us were locked down.

We've continued to watch all this unfold, but the biggest message I've heard from God this whole year is this: Prepare to win and care for souls. I continue to believe we are going to see new Christians -- born again ones -- come into the Kingdom of Heaven when this pandemic is over.

Well, blow me down, today we got a little inkling of that again, with a testimony of a spouse's conversion that was just so encouraging. It felt, to me, like the sun was coming out again.

It was yesterday morning that I heard. I stepped out of bed and thought to myself, “We had that spate of conversions before COVID. I’d love to see some more now!” Only an hour later I checked email and there it was -- This message, from one of our dear SUMites:

“After 24 years of marriage, my husband was baptized yesterday, July 4, 2021. I am over the moon! It was a gradual process that seemed to steamroll over the last two years, during a whirlwind move to another state, and aided by circumstances beyond our control … We look to God for comfort and direction and are closer than ever in our relationship to each other as well as to our Father. Praise God, and thank you, Jesus.” 

I wrote back instantly, and she then told me something extra that was sweet: At the very moment her husband was dunked in the pastor’s swimming pool, fireworks went off in the background. Celebration, power, and God's goodness.

We all know what it takes to get there, and we can all relate to this one praying, perseverant wife saying she is 'over the moon!' On behalf of all of us, I say to her just how much we celebrate with her, and I thank her for sharing it with us.

On that happy note, have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Ann


The easy yoke ...

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Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hello, dear friends. Ian from a very chilly Sydney. I’m hoping those of you in the northern hemisphere are having lovely vacation time in warmer climes.

We just finished a marvellous series from Ann on slaying giants. I was particularly grabbed by Ann’s idea of taking hold of 5 stones (like teenage David) as a weapon against our giants. In my comment to that post I mentioned my 5 stones. I wanted to explore one of them a little further in this post.

Stress and anxiety

For several years now I’ve been a significant carer for my elderly parents. They’ve both recently spent some time in hospital and delightfully were housed a few rooms away from each other. Mom is now home, and Dad is being discharged as you read this post. I’m continually surprised how draining it is. Managing the hospital staff, my siblings while acting as the go between for my parents and the staff.

And so I get quite stressed and anxious. About fixing things and getting everything sorted. Because that’s what I do. I get things done.

But God has a different approach. And He doesn’t want us to burden ourselves.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

For a while now the Lord has placed these words on my heart. As some of you will know I’m prone to anxiety and much of mine is self-induced and I’ve been asking the Lord to show me how to ‘take his easy yoke’ and let go of my need to fix everything or get it done while raising my anxiety levels.

I’m still very much on training wheels but here’s a few points that I’ve learnt about accepting/receiving the Lord’s easy yoke:

1. Be still and know that I am God

Stillness. I’m increasingly discovering how important this is. But it’s hard isn’t. When I have a racing heart, sometimes to slow down and stop is difficult. I must fight the urge to get up. Using meditations help me do this by regulating my breathing (slowing it down) and listening to particular worship songs, generally ones that have only a few words.

And then I wait and listen. ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come’ I repeat quietly and then I wait some more. And go off in my mind to a lovely spot and find Jesus where we sit down together and often just do that. Sit. Jesus might put his hand on my shoulder and we watch a beautiful sunrise or similar.

Sometimes I receive reassuring words. Often, not.

2. Surrender

And then I hand off my struggles. Solving Dad’s catheter bag issue, frustrations at my brother for not doing something, worrying mom will be sick again today. These three matters were top of mind this morning for me.

I send them down the stream that Jesus and I sit beside. Or I hand them to him.

And let go of them.

This last point is vital. We gotta let go. That doesn’t mean we do nothing. Absolutely not. We still make the phone call to the nurse to organise the bags, etc, etc. But we let go of the outcome and the stress related to getting that outcome.

I only read this yesterday: “Living a life of faith often requires us to leave things alone.” (A.B. Simpson) God can sure do a better job than we can.

And then I receive peace. Just like Paul says in this very popular passage on anxiety and peace.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Yes, it may be a day full of stress because something doesn’t work out with getting Dad discharged. But God knows. And His easy yoke is there for me to grab a hold of tomorrow. And the next day and on.

What’s one way that helps you take the ‘easy yoke’? Be lovely if we could build up our own little collection of helpful practices that will encourage all of us.

Grace and peace.


Thank God for Today!

Hi family, Ann here. Anniversary 2

Today marks the end of our 'battling giants' series, and we're marking it in style: With a shout-out to our God.

Here on the SUM blog, Lynn, Tiffany, Ian and I tend to write about whatever it is we're going through. Usually it aligns with 'spiritually mismatched marriage', but sometimes God takes us on other journeys.

Well, as you know, last month I wrote a series on battling giants because I was a little embattled myself with a few things. In writing the series I wanted to talk about how we fight things that we find truly tough. "In this life we will have trials", said Jesus, "But be of good cheer." (John 16:33).

Ok, Lord, I can try!

Sometimes those trials are long; sometimes they are short. 

A SUM journey, like the ones we're on, is often ... longgggg. Eight years for me, and counting. Twenty-seven years for Lynn before her hubby got baptized. But he got there! So will others. Other battles people face can be very long in years too. That doesn't mean the battle won't be over eventually. We keep praying; and we can keep asking the Lord for help.

As for the health battle? Well, I'm pleased to say I seem to be completely better! What a great encouragement that is for our other battles that we're fighting, and a great way to end the series. While I understand that many battles in life might last longer I hope this story serves to illustrate that, somehow, we can hold onto hope that in some way or other we will 'overcome'.

To finish, I'm keen to hear any final thoughts from you: Have you had a time where you faced a battle and then it was suddenly over? 

Thanks for following along with this series - Thanks for your love and friendship. And, happy 'Fourth of July' to our American friends!

Ann


Fighting Giants: A Personal Look at our Weapons of Warfare

Hi SUM family, Ann here!

This month we've had an ongoing series about 'fighting giants' and I've been writing about that here and there, in between our other topics. I hope you've enjoyed the series so far, and if you want to catch up you can find the introduction here.

This week we're going to finish with three videos. In each one I'm going to share what 'fighting a giant' has looked like for me personally in recent months. So without further ado, here's the first one -- From my couch to yours, enjoy!