Book Review: Anything

Title: Anything/The prayer that unlocked my God and my soul

Overview: My story of attending IF: Local for the first time is perhaps for another time, but my life has been more shaped by IF: Gathering than perhaps anything since my salvation. Its mission is to “gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.” These women, led by Jennie Allen, are honest and insightful and gritty and spirit-filled. There is no way the revelations that they share can come from anywhere else but God. They are some of the reason I, as a woman, feel like I can dare to dream with God.

My friend Sami is a bookworm, too. She recommended Jennie Allen’s book to me at our first IF: local gathering after this year’s event, and talked about how it had changed her life. I was all-in to IF, so this was an easy trip to the bookstore.

Jennie’s story is a story I can relate to. She lived the part of the Good Christian Girl, but God didn’t really become personal to her until she was in her late teens. Despite that, she struggled with idols of approval that limited her hearing from God and using her gifts. She didn’t really fully surrender all areas of her life to Him, like comfort, need for approval, children, pride, purpose etc…just like so many of us.

My purpose in this review is just to give you a little taste of a book…not to give away all the good parts…so that if you want to read it, you can. Here are a couple excerpts from the first few chapters that really challenged me long after I had finished the book.

At the lake one weekend, I had a deep conversation with a close friend that triggered a big question for me: how does one know God? She strongly believed that the only way someone knows God is through the scripture. I agreed. We do not know God apart from Scripture, and every other revelation must be held up to it…but it seemed too simple to me…On Monday, I posed the question in class to one of my favorite theological professors.

The answer that followed went on to shape my view about God. He began by listing all the ways we grow or know God: prayer, scripture, worship, church, experiences, suffering, community and on and on. Then he said “But obviously each one 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% of the time to draw one close to the real God is risk”

Then he went on, “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.”

What’s greater than a great line or book–is that Jennie has lived this out. She RISKED in tremendous ways to start IF, and it took 7 years. She has seen God come through time and time again. I wanted that. And wanting that knowledge has helped me step out and be obedient in ways that would have felt too risky to me before.

I was teaching a roomful of college girls at the University of Texas, beautiful young girls who were smart and had every opportunity and blessing this world offers. Yet every one of them held hurts, whether it was a daddy who disappeared, a boy who had taken advantage or a friend who had cut them out…I did my best to make God big as I taught his Word, to give them hope because of Jesus and his plan for making it all right, to remind them that in a minute, we would all be in heaven…

A few minutes later, I got a call from my mom. She told me that my grandmom had just gone home to Jesus. All of a sudden, I could taste heaven. It felt so far away when we thought about it moments before. But my grandmom, with whom I had so recently shared a meal, was instantly there. If we can taste heaven, we live differently.

What Jennie Allen really did through this book and restless was give me an eternal perspective and remind me that even if we suffer for our entire lives, it is so short in comparison to eternity. And so worth suffering.

Reflection: This book was my first clue into really surrendering everything. Surrendering has shifted the ground beneath my feet. Reading this and knowing how Jennie leads really challenged me to ponder whether I was sitting in the back row of my life, too, and missing out. Jennie has made women of faith accessible to all of us, and it’s women who rest on Jesus in the midst of their trials, their failures, and their successes. It’s women who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty on the front-lines.

So, in addition to reading this book, maybe consider attending an IF:local this year…or even watching by yourself online? I can promise you, it will be worth your while.

IF: Gathering 2017

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