Ann Spangler

Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and speaker.

Cumber

A stick figure man trying to pull a heavy loadEver try running when you’re overweight? No fun, is it? The same is true when you’re running the spiritual race Paul speaks of. Imagine trying to run the Boston Marathon in a fat suit while dragging everything you own along with you, and you will get a sense of what I’m talking about. The problem comes down to what the Quakers call “cumber”—the unnecessary accumulation of material goods that clutter our lives and distract us from the things of God.

I like the way Paul speaks about running straight to the goal and having “purpose in every step.” What a way to think about our lives! To be honest, I don’t often think that way. I’m guessing you don’t either. But I want to.

How can we get rid of things that encumber us, that keep us from focusing more of our time and energy on seeking first the Kingdom of God? We can begin by taking time to identify and deal with the things in our lives that make us feel spiritually flabby and overweight.

Even if you only have time for a tiny step today, take it. Do something small—clean out a drawer, give away some clothes; just begin the process. As you lighten your load, you may find it easier to run the spiritual race. Ask God today to help you aim straight at the goal, with purpose in every step.

(Image courtesy of nkzs at freeimages.com.)

 

The Speak Wall

A student reading posts covering the "Speak Wall""’m lonelier than you might think.”

“My smile hides a lot about me.”

“I have attempted suicide.”

“All I want is to be loved.”

Students at Grand Rapids Christian High School have posted these and other messages on something called the “Speak Wall.” Unlike social networking sites such as Facebook, this is a literal wall—a place where they can tack up an anonymous note telling the truth about themselves without anyone knowing who they are. Students can also post notes of encouragement in response to another’s gutsy self-disclosure. The story of the eight-hundred-foot wall recently made front-page news in the Grand Rapids Press.(1)

But what is so newsworthy about teenage angst? Perhaps the story hit the press because it occurred at a school with the reputation of catering to students who already have it made. The Speak Wall gives voice to the widespread brokenness of even the most privileged among us.

I wonder what would happen were we to construct a Speak Wall in our churches and workplaces. Would we find similar brokenness? I suspect we would. We might even add our own plaintive notes to the wall.

However you are feeling right now, know that you are not the only one who struggles. Join me in crying out to God, letting prayer become your personal Speak Wall. Pray honestly and with hope for yourself and for others. And then do your best to forge connections with other believers so you can say what’s on your heart—and listen to what’s on theirs.

(1) Tom Rademacher, “Students Share All on ‘Speak Wall,’” Grand Rapids Press, May 6, 2011.

(See The Grand Rapids Press story and more images at http://photos.mlive.com/grandrapidspress/2011/05/the_speak_wall.html).

 

Don't Give Up!

A wheelbarrow full of gardening toolsLast spring a friend of mine was going through a tough time. So she asked some of her friends to pray, throwing in the request that perhaps we could also pray for a neighbor whose house and yard were an ever-present eyesore. One week later, when I asked how she was doing, she said that the gorgeous spring weather was lifting her mood. Then she added this comment:

I asked for prayers that our crazy neighbor would clean up her trashed house and yard. This, after almost thirty years of frustration. Well, the day after I asked for prayers, this very neighbor started to rake, trim, and plant new bushes in her yard. It was so unbelievable that my husband and I reasoned she was getting ready to sell. That’s when I remembered my prayer request. Wow!

Yesterday my friend’s nonbelieving husband remarked, “I don’t know what you did to Janine [not her real name], but now she’s outside painting her rusty railing!”

Chuckling, my friend told me her neighbor has been up at the crack of dawn every day working on her yard. “I laughed,” she said, “as I confessed to my husband that our group has been praying for Janine to clean up her act.”

Though my dear friend still struggles with various challenges, it seemed as though God was saying, “Hey, if I can work through your neighbor, I can do anything. Don’t give up.” I think she got the message.

Just Let It Go!

An open palmA friend of mine enjoys being with elderly people. It’s a good thing, because she spends several hours a week working in a nursing home. One of her favorite people there is a woman by the name of Mabel. Recently Mabel was sitting across the table from someone who suffers from dementia. The poor woman was perseverating, going over and over incidents from the past that still bothered her. Though her conversation was garbled and hard to follow, she seemed tormented by her thoughts.

So Mabel went into action. Looking the woman straight in the eye, and with all the force of her personality, she offered the best advice she could give: “Just let it go! Let it go!” A little confused herself, Mabel didn’t realize the woman she was talking to no longer had the mental capacity to follow her sage advice.

But Mabel’s words still found their mark. In the days and weeks that followed, my friend kept remembering the scene. Whenever she faced circumstances she couldn’t control, she could almost hear Mabel exhorting her, “Just let it go! Let it go!”

What is it that you are having trouble letting go of? Is it a situation with your family? Is it a comment your friend made? Is it a frustrating coworker? Is it a nagging memory that has you in its grasp? Whatever it is, it’s time to hand it over to God.

Today, let’s praise God and thank him that we are still in our right minds. And let us also ask him to send us his Spirit so we can let go of the things we cannot control in order to take hold of the help he gives.

(Image courtesy of leocub at freeimages.com)

About Ann Spangler

Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and speaker. Her best-selling books include Praying the Names of God, Praying the Names of Jesus, Women of the Bible (coauthored with Jean Syswerda) and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus (coauthored with Lois Tverberg).

Praised for the freshness, depth, and honesty of her writing, Ann writes in ways that reveal not just her intellectual curiosity but her desire for a deeper connection with God.  Her fascination with and love of Scripture have resulted in books that have opened the Bible to a wide range of readers. Together, her books have sold nearly 3 million copies.

For the chance to win a free copy of one of Ann's books visit her website at: annspangler.com

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