Posts Tagged ‘Philippians’

“give it to God” remix

This weekend, on a retreat with our campus ministry group, I thought some more about the spiritual practice of “giving everything to God.”

Revs. Paul Lang and Jane Rose presented all kinds of great stuff for the students to take home and use in their own walk with Christ, in particular the practice of giving the day to God in your evening prayer.

In my last post on this idea, I wrestled with the question of what exactly we give when we “give it to God,” and whether we still have any role to play in the worries and situations that we give.

When we give our day (with all its successes, failures, surprises and worries) to God in the evening, I wonder if we are just handing it over for safe-keeping and re-processing.

Perhaps God will work within our dreams during the night to give us a fresh perspective in the morning.

Perhaps God will just give us rest, so that we have renewed energy to work on our projects and challenges.

Perhaps God even holds some things for a long time until the moment is right for bringing them back.  I think about Mary “treasuring all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51) and whether those things were present in her heart as she stood by her dying son.

I think our spiritual goal is to embody what Paul writes about in Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”)  Yet the goal is unreachable unless we allow all those “things” to spend some time in the workshop of the Creator.

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“give it to God”

Something weird happens when people talk to me about prayer.

Most of the time, whoever is talking to me will mention the phrase “give it to God” or “let God handle it.”  Sometimes I also hear “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle,” but that will be a subject for another post.

And when I hear the phrase “give it to God,” I nod my head.  I recall Philippians 4:6 (Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.)  Yes, as God’s children we are not left to handle everything alone.

But what do we mean when we use that phrase?  Give what to God:  the issue itself, or the anxiety over it?  And do we relinquish all responsibility for events in our lives when we give things to God?

I think there’s a great treatment of the concept “give it to God” in the movie The Dilemma, released earlier this year.  In the movie, the lead character Ronny discovers his friend’s wife in an adulterous relationship, and prays to God about the situation.  Alone in the city at night, he prays, “I know I’m supposed to give things up to you… .”

I’m not sure if the movie character realizes it, but sometimes we actually have very little to “give” to God.

In some situations, there is not much that we can control.  The character Ronny is worried about an upcoming business deal, but there is little he can do once he’s made the initial sales pitch and signed the loan papers.  The project is now in the hands of his partner the engineer, who will have to muster up enough creativity and stamina to see the project through.

What can we “give” to God when a situation is out of our hands?  It may serve us well to clarify things:  to ask God for help in letting go of anxiety, to ask God to help those whom we care about but can’t control.  Perhaps what we need to give away is the desire to control other people.

The character’s other “give it to God” struggle involves dealing with the adultery he discovered.  He begins to act like a jilted lover who is out of control.  He wants to be the judge, the lawman, the punisher (and maybe the redeemer, if people meet his qualifications) but he’s not doing a great job at any of those things.  He freely admits to God that he doesn’t quite want to let go of this situation yet.  He wants to be The One who sorts everything out in a way that makes him happy.
What he’s really asking for is a blessing — a divine OK, giving legitimacy to his vigilante justice.  Truthfully, he doesn’t want to “give” anything to God in this situation.  He wants God to well, make him God instead.   And the thing is, in the areas where he could exercise power, he doesn’t want to.  There may be a million creative ways to deal with this sticky situation, but this character doesn’t want creativity.  He wants things to be fixed, his way, now.
So I’m still stuck with the question, what does it mean to “give it to God?”  Are we giving away selfish and senseless desires?  Misguided intentions?  Misunderstandings?  I just hope we don’t give away our creativity and desire to do the right thing.

I am counting on Christ

“Christ is counting on you.”

“And I am counting on Christ.”

This short liturgy is part of our annual commissioning service for college students going on a mission trip. Near the end of the service, the leaders pass out simple wooden crosses, and the words are recited by the giver and receiver as each cross is handed out.

Over the last few years, it has been relatively easy to say these words as I gave or received a cross. In my five short years of campus ministry experience I’ve traveled to places that challenged me. And, as someone who’s both a pastor and a woman, I have an extra layer of challenge when I visit new places and need to explain who I am. On those trips, I instinctively knew I needed to count on Christ.

This year our mission trip destination is Santa Fe, New Mexico. As we passed around the crosses at our service this weekend, I felt a little weird saying the words. After all, Santa Fe is a beautiful American city. There has been no natural disaster recently, I know of no recent crisis apart from the recession, and I wonder a little bit what the challenge will be.

To be sure, there are needs in Santa Fe, and we will spend time in service helping to meet those needs. I think the challenge, and the need to count on Christ, will emerge more within the group. We have made some covenants with each other about how to live during the week, and living out those covenants may be tough.

Here’s what we have promised each other so far:

  • To go to the grocery store only once during the week.
  • To re-use materials, such as plastic sandwich bags, water bottles, and cloth lunch bags.
  • To memorize a verse from Scripture.
  • To let everyone in the group have a chance to talk before anyone gets a second turn.
  • To spend time in silent retreat at a monastery (Christ in the Desert) and working with a spiritual director near the end of the trip.

These are simple practices and probably none of this will radically change the world. But the week of practicing these disciplines could change us.

I think I will be challenged by several of these promises, particularly the re-using of materials.  I’m always in a rush and it is so easy to get water, coffee, lunch, or anything in a disposable container.  To make it through the week, to avoid falling back into old patterns of consumption and clatter, we will all need to count on Christ.  I hope that when we return we’ll be more attentive to how much we use and how much noise we make in our daily lives.

Our commissioning service also included reading Philippians 4:10-13 (” I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”)  Paul writes in chapter 4 about having experience with plenty and with want.  The Scripture just happened to be a daily Scripture reading on the Presbyterian Church (USA) daily reading site.  It was truly one of those moments when everything comes together.  I love that I’m taking a journey during Lent, and that I, a person with so much stuff, will make the choice to make do.  Furthermore, in the spirit of the letter to the Philippians, I’ll be challenged in the knowledge that everything depends on God instead of on me.

I am counting on Christ.