I have promised to write a review of this book for a few months now, but I kept putting it off. Honestly, its because this book rocked my world. It had me questioning my faith and my love of God. It pushed me, and that can sometimes hurt. This book made me take a hard and honest look at our life and our church life. But I loved it. In the midst of all of the soul searching, Jennie also made me feel like I wasn't alone. There were so many instances that I felt like she took the words right out of my head. Like when she said, "I care what other think because deep down I want to be seen as great--I want to matter. I find it impossible to forgive; to truly be able to forgive people who hurt us must be one of God's greatest miracles." Or when she wrote, "There is something to humility that is costly...something resembling humiliation...an outright declaration of the wreck we are without God rather than composing a beautiful existence that barely needs a savior." Sound like you too? Ready to hear more?
Anything is a book written by Jennie Allen, the author of Restless and founder of the IF: Gathering. It is the story of her family's journey after praying, "God we will do anything. Anything." After years of doing the same thing and not feeling the passion for God that she longed for, she and her husband laid in bed one night a prayed that prayer. One of the biggest wake-up calls came to Jennie after reading a blog written by a girl that had given up her normal, American life to move to a remote village in Uganda where she had adopted thirteen African girls off of the street. Katie (the blogger) was just 21 years old. Jennie likened her experience of reading Katie's blog to sitting on a cruise ship drinking a fruity drink and then hearing someone shouting that the ship was sinking but when she looked around, no one else seemed to be phased. They all continued to drink their drinks and lounge. All of her life Jennie, continued to stay and lounge as well so that the other shipmates wouldn't think she was crazy...until she found Katie. Jennie said that Katie's blog was like a fellow shipmate waving her arms, trying to save the people on the ship. And after reading Katie's blog, "[Jennie's] vacation was over."
I resonate with Jennie feeling sometimes that God is somehow a plastic statue we place on our mantels. "When you grow up with the stories and songs and lessons, you accept everything; you aren't trying to explain God if you grew up hearing about him since birth, like Santa Claus. [...] Falling in love with God was an intangible concept to me. [...] I just didn't' know how to truly relate to the plastic statue. Even if I could look past the plastic, then he was just invisible. How do you fall in love with someone invisible?"
The book talks about the fear of of praying anything because when we offer up our anything to God, sometimes he will choose to take everything, so it is not a prayer to pray lightly. The idea is honestly terrifying to me. Jennie even says, "Following God is flat costly. It always has been." I remember Joyce Meyer once saying something to the effect that we are not held accountable for the things that we do not know, but once we learn the difference we are now responsible for our decisions. Holding that thought in my mind made me almost not finish this book because I wasn't sure I wanted to be held responsible for the knowledge it contained. I wasn't sure I could pray "anything." I like my "normal" life. I like my comfortable American life. Praying "anything" doesn't mean that God will send me to live in Africa.....but it could. That wasn't what God had in store for Jennie either.
Jennie's "anything" included adoption, becoming a writer when she was afraid and starting the IF:Gathering. It hasn't included her giving up her home, but it did include her husband giving up his job at a church he poured himself into for years to foster another vision God had. She doesn't regret her prayer. In fact she says, "I originally thought we were going to have to be such martyrs, to suffer for Christ and pour out our lives unto death. I was wrong. He was desperately pouring himself into us, his joy and passion, sustaining us each day with peace that he was real and we were exactly where he wanted us. God had wanted our hearts, not any dramatic sacrifice."
I HIGHLY recommend you read this book. I have so much more underlined in mine than what I have shared with you here (which I know is a lot). It is a book that I'm sure I will turn to often. It would also be a great book to read with a small group as there is a Bible study in the back. I read this book as part of The Influence Network's book club last fall. And if nothing else makes you want to read this book, resonating with the statement, "I am crazy screwed up. And my only hope is Jesus," will hopefully persuade you. Because we are ALL crazy screwed up human beings and we ALL need Jesus.
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