Anything

anything

I have spent the last 8 weeks on a book study/bible study based on the book “Anything” By Jennie Allen. In general, I tend to have a pretty decent awareness of living in a state of surrender to God. I mean, I have 9 children, I have to live on the edge a little bit, right? But there are always those few things…

She begins by sharing a vision she and her husband shared, and a prayer they prayed. Their vision was to live in radical surrender to God. They wrestled with it for some time and then one evening finally said:

“God we will do anything. Anything.” It didn’t feel fancy. It wasn’t even a big deal. But the prayer held in it a thousand little deaths. In saying anything, it meant we were handing him everything.

One of the things that struck me is that in my life I have not so much uttered a prayer of “anything” as much as “whatever”. And I think there is a subtle difference. “Anything” seems more like a positive movement, an action of giving my life back to God as a gift, where “whatever” feels more like a surrender borne of defeat. Of course, my life was His gift to me to begin with and “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Oswald Chambers.

I was trying to be a limp rag doll in His hands and calling that my version of Mary’s fiat, but what He was asking of my was to be a useful tool for Him. That was my difference between “anything” and “whatever”.

The biggest revelation that I found during this study was how much fear I was harboring towards surrender. Jennie writes, ” I had prayed the prayer of anything as though I were about to launch on the Superman ride at Six Flags, my eyes closed tight and fingernails digging in. I was so afraid.”

What are you most afraid of? What would be the very worst thing that God may allow you to suffer? We all would say his character is loving and good, but do we really trust that he won’t get crazy and dish out the same life he gave Job?

 

One thing that kept coming back to me as I went through this study was one of the first verses I memorized: Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, plans to give you a future and a hope.

And I really, at the core of my being, believe that anything I go through, whether brought into my life by Him or by our broken world, can be used by Him for my good. There have been plenty of rough times: being at the brink of divorce, financial troubles, a house fire, a fatal car accident, a deadly illness, not to mention the daily struggles of dying to self and living for others.  But no matter how painful, how gut wrenching those times were to live through, I can’t bring myself to wish any of them away or regret going through any of them. I came through them changed for the better every single time. Without those, I would not be who I am now.

“Anything” is not just about me being a better person. This study has hit me on other levels.  It has been about drawing closer to God, in a real communicative relationship. I learned to do a better job talking to Him.  I guess the idea of surrendering my self to Him drove me to finally have some more open honest conversations with Him. I’ve prayed all my life, but this last 8 weeks was different. (A mini silent retreat during that time helped a great deal too. Who knew I could pray for two hours straight and love every second of it?)

In “Anything”, Jennie asks a professor how someone can know God. His response was:

He began by listing all the ways we grow or know God: prayer, studying Scripture, church, worship, experiences, suffering, confession, community, and on and on. Then he said, “But obviously each of these is unpredictable . . . many people who study the Bible never find God. Many people who go to church never really know him. The only exercise that works 100 percent of the time to draw one close to the real God is risk… To risk is to willingly place your life in the hand of an unseen God and an unknown future, then to watch him come through. He starts to get real when you live like that.”

But it isn’t just the big things in which we live in a state of risk.  God isn’t calling me (at least right now) to sell all my possessions and run off to Africa. There is risk to be found even in the day to day. Sometimes the risk that is thrust upon us is in small things – a spilled bowl of cereal for example. Control is taken from me in that moment, I risk losing the momentum that I had built towards whatever else I was trying to get done. I risk my vision for that few moments. I know it sounds a little strange, but when you are really tired, momentum is a very important thing. In that moment, it is hard for me to let go and roll with it. I tend to throw a little mini-tantrum first. There are hard lessons in surrender to be learned in small moments.

Like a small child holding a puppy too tightly, God had to pry my fingers off my dreams and goals, tell me to relax a little bit and then He handed them back to let me try holding them more carefully.  At least twice in this study it looked like something I had dared to trust God with was going to be taken completely away. Once when I thought I was pregnant (I’m not.) and would have to give up my (feeble) attempts at running and losing weight. Another time when it looked like our dreams for the future were dashed. Each time I fell apart, and each time I came to a point of surrender, a point where I could trust God for either outcome. There was a rare peace there.

I have so much more to say on this but I hate to promise a series because I’m still not great on the follow through. I’ll try though!

Psalm 34:5

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Psalm 34:5
Look to Him and be radiant, so your faces shall never be ashamed.

Radiant. Doesn’t that sound beautiful?

The dictionary says “radiating rays or reflecting beams of light.” Which is a good thing because I don’t feel very radiant on my own. I feel a little used up and dull. I worry that when I get to the grocery store my face will be frozen in a mom-face scowl since I just scolded my children for fighting.

That is not radiant.

I don’t have to generate my own radiance. What a relief! He is love and light and if my face is towards Him then I will reflect it to others.

I memorized this verse because 1. it’s very short, yay! and 2. it reminds me that I am not the source of light for my family, that is far too big a job for me. I can turn to Him, and he will shine His radiance in the dark places.

 

Philippians 4:6-7

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 Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

There is just so much here. Every word in these two verses is just amazing to me.

First of all, Be anxious for nothing. How can one even do that? Anxious for nothing? I’m anxious just thinking about that. Will things still get done if I am not anxious about stuff? But in those little words, I feel like God is placing His hand on my shoulder and saying, “Just calm down now.”

But in everything – yes, everything. Yes, that other thing too.

By prayer and supplication – interesting, this separated prayer and supplication. According to the dictionary, supplicate means “to ask for earnestly and humbly” and “to make humble entreaty, to pray to God.” So prayer and supplication mean sort of the same thing, but I think that the repetition here is more to remind me to  let my prayers not only be about asking for favors. My prayer is my part in my relationship with God. Let it include true communication, sharing of my heart and reception of His. When there is asking to be done, let it be done humbly. I guess that means as part of that back and forth communication and not as bossing God around. (As a mom, I’m pretty good at directing people, a.k.a. bossing around.)

With thanksgiving – How telling is it of me that when I recite this verse I almost always forget this phrase? Then I get to the end and it feels like it was too short so I go back and realize my mistake. That about sums up my life. I always forget the thanksgiving part. But that is part of the prayer, part of the relationship laid out on this verse.

Let your requests be made known to God – There’s that praying thing again. But it restates that we can ask, request of him. Here is the tricky part for me on this one: I can pray for my children, my husband, my friends, but I slow down when it comes to my own desires. Those count too.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension – Go back to that anxiety part at the beginning of this verse. How does it feel now? God’s peace is more than we could ever understand or grasp and…

Will guard your heart and mind – The words “peace” and “guard” just don’t seem to go together well. If peace is going to be doing something, it seems like it would be a lot more passive than guarding. But this is God’s peace, which we just found out we cannot understand. This peace guards our hearts and minds when we are in communication (prayer and supplication) with God. This surrounds our hearts and keeps away the anxiety, or helps us to recognize it and hand it back over.

In Christ Jesus – Through Him, with Him, in Him. The whole of His life, death, and resurrection is here. We walk through that to communicate with Him.

 

*Just a reminder, this is no official teaching, this is just my take on one verse, how I kind of pray my way through it and meditate on it.

 

 

 

 

Memory Work

I don’t know about you, but I find it really easy to be negative. I have a bad habit of tearing myself down and pointing out the mistakes and omissions in my days. The Father of Lies sits on my shoulder and hisses poison into my soul if I let him, But I’ve never really known how to counteract that. Most books and advice I find is just “Don’t do that.”  If only it were that simple in a world where perfection is the goal and anything less is deemed completely unsatisfactory.

Recently I read – I wish I could remember where – that Jesus answered Satan’s lies with Scripture, and that the way to counteract these lies in my own mind, my own heart, was to replace them with truth, with scripture.

Memorizing verses was never my strong point back in Sunday School, and I hardly feel up to the task now. Most days I feel a little brain damaged as I try to search for words to communicate in basic conversations and with my children. (Put… that thing…. over… in that place!)

A few months ago, I started collecting verses that encouraged me. I need encouragement and comfort most in my life right now, so that is what you will find in most of these verses. I use the app Remember Me (iPhone/iPad, Android) to track my verses and to quiz myself and practice them. It has some simple memory games that help me and make it a little more interesting.

You can find the most updated list of my memory verses on the Memory Work page.

 

Isaiah 40:11

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Isaiah 40:11
He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs in His arms, He will carry them in His bosom, and He will gently lead those that are with young.

He will gently lead those that are with young.

He knows. He knows being a mom is hard and that I am trying to pray but I keep falling asleep. He will gently lead me.

He knows I lose my patience over really stupid things like only being able to find one of every pair of shoes a certain child owns when we are already late for school. He will gently lead.

He knows that I worked really hard to make a nice dinner for the family and then my husband had to work late and missed it and I had to go pick up a child from school and I missed it too. He will gently lead me.

He knows the baby is sick and just wants to be held today, and I didn’t get a chance to do my bible study. He will gently lead.

He knows that life is messy and that it is extra messy when you are “with young” and your dryer is broken.

He knows. He will slow down and wait for me. He is gently leading.