Extravagant Surrendered Worship

ESW2Most parents plan names for their children before they’re born. Children are named after relatives or influencers, or names are chosen because of their meaning and sound. Sometimes alternate spellings are planned to ensure that the name is pronounced correctly and the lettering is unique.

I was named after my great-grandmother who died before my birth: Anna (pronounced with a long ‘a’ European-style because my great-grandmother was Polish). I was Anna before Frozen made the name famous.

Throughout my childhood, I was usually told that my name was pretty whenever I was introduced. But I wasn’t the biggest fan of Anna; it was too simple.

Once, during a break-the-ice competition in class, a teacher asked us who could create the most words using just the letters of our names. Want to guess who lost?

After I met God, I discovered that Anna means “God is gracious.” I realized that God has already shown me, and continues to show me, incredible grace. I embraced my name and purposed to demonstrate more grace toward others.

I found out that, because of the silent “h” in Spanish, Hannah and Anna are both pronounced the same way in Spanish-speaking countries. I researched Hannah from the Bible, considering her my namesake.

Hannah’s story impacts me because of how much she shows us about prayer. I’m surprised I haven’t heard a more messages on this passage, focusing on prayer in our relationship with God.

Hannah is one several barren women God brings to our attention in the Bible. Sarah and Rachel both find alternate solutions for their lack of children (Gen. 16: 1-2; Gen. 30: 1-4), and their husbands go along with their plans. However, Hannah never creates a plan; she turns to God for her solution.

Hannah is so vulnerable – she’s crushed by Peninnah and can’t hide it. We’re often taught to conceal our emotions with sayings like, “Never let them see you cry” and “Quit being a baby.”

But Hannah? She’s destroyed by Peninnah’s comments and Elkanah’s lack of support.
Her vulnerability doesn’t stop there; she’s not a wounded animal, hiding away, hardening her heart. She goes to God.

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“Woman Grieving” by Cynthia Angeles

First, Hannah surrenders herself to God in prayer, begging Him for her desires. Eli thinks she’s drunk because of her passionate conversation with God. She freely expresses herself in prayer, being honest and intimate. She weeps.

She lays everything on the line – even what she doesn’t have – and she makes a bold promise to God.

Sometimes we have this idea that to beg God for our desires is selfish. We fail to “be who we are” with God. We forget that God tells us to ask Him for anything because He wants to give us good gifts. He is thrilled when He can shower us with gifts and fulfill the desire of our hearts.

Hannah has no problems with being who she is with God. She doesn’t even introduce her prayer with a few sentences:

“There are lots of other people in worse situations. I’m going to pray for them before I pray for myself. I know that You’re powerful and I’m lowly, so I’m not going to even bother asking. It’s been years and I haven’t had a child, so it must not be Your will for me to have a child.”

God honors Hannah’s request. He gives her a son. And Hannah gives her son right back to God.

The name that she chooses for her son reflects God’s graciousness to her: Samuel, “asked of God” or “requested from God.” She knows that she’s barren. She doesn’t think that she got lucky – she knows that Samuel is God’s miracle.

Second, Hannah doesn’t just surrender herself praying to God for her desires; she surrenders herself to God in sacrificing to Him. Her worship of God is extravagant.

Because a woman’s reputation was often unjustly measured by her ability to have children in those days, Samuel would’ve been considered proof that Hannah was finally “right with God” and “blessed by God.” Motherhood was a married woman’s identity.

By bringing Samuel to serve in the temple, Hannah was sacrificing her identity, her connection to an inheritance Elkanah would leave his sons, even her future security since a woman’s sons were tasked with providing for her after she was widowed.

Hannah gives God more than her child and her identity as a woman, both already great human sacrifices. She brings additional offerings to the temple: a bull, flour, and wine – presumably for a burnt offering, a grain offering, and a drink offering. These things are above and beyond what she would’ve already offered to God for giving her a son in the first place. Hannah’s sacrifice of herself and her son doesn’t stop her from giving materially to God – it only increases her desire to give.

When we truly sacrifice ourselves to God, our excitement to surrender everything else to Him grows.

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“At Prayer” by Edwin Long

Finally, Hannah surrenders herself in praise to God. She gives God all the credit for Samuel and for what takes place in her life after Samuel. She brags about who God is and what He’s done.

Her prayer is similar to Mary’s Magnificant. Both woman acknowledge how they feel in God’s presence, give God all the credit for what has happened in their lives, praise God in beautiful terms, talk about their humble condition, and marvel in God’s power, justice, and omnipresent control.

Glancing into Hannah’s prayer life inspires me. My desire is to emulate my namesake’s extravagant, sacrificial spirit of worship to God.

 

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For this post, I chose artwork which I felt captured Hannah’s emotions and devotion to God in worship. The pencil drawing at the top of the post is off of Pinterest, but I believe this site contains the original artwork:

http://mery.jp/41953

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My Own Ugly-Beautiful Cross

Luke 9:23 – And Jesus said to all, If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

Black Cross of New Mexico
An item placed front and center on a church altar.
A 3D bumper decal.
Stamped on a graphic tee.
Clasped in praying hands with fistfuls of beads.
On the delicate silver chain around a girl’s neck.
Dangling from a woman’s earlobe.
Captured in a gorgeous oil painting, stark onyx against the pastel lines of dawn, like Georgia O’Keeffe’s pictured “Black Cross of New Mexico”.
In today’s culture, the cross is beloved, hailed and promoted as symbolic and claimed as the icon for several different reasons and movements, even by those ignorant of its true meaning.
But it wasn’t always.
In college, I was forced to read a long, detailed article on the methods of Roman crucifixion. At the end of the article, I wanted to wrap my angry hands around the warped minds that contrived this worst-possible-way to die and choke them. Words fail to detail the pain of the crucifixion.
Yet, God created those minds that warped themselves toward the study of painful deaths. He created the mouth of the one who kissed Him in betrayal. He created the hands that nailed Him to the cross, and the hands that attempted to wash themselves of His blood. He created the people who committed the sins that killed Him, including me.
Why?
Because He loves us and hates sin and wants to make all things new.
God is occupied with the redemption of the world. Yes, He’s redeemed His people, but He’s also in the business of redeeming and remaking music, business, fashion, symbols, and more. He loves to take not just ugly, dead people that others despise and transform them, but He also loves to take ugly, dead things that others despise and transform them.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says that God loves to dumbfound people by choosing the weak, the humble, the low, the hated, even the non-existent in order to showcase His power and His message.
When I spent a summer in Mexico, I had the privilege of meeting many amazing, strong, and wonderfully transformed Christians. Because of their interest in me and their emotional openness to me, I was gifted with their stories, told by them in their own words. One amazing man possessed a story in some ways similar to mine – only he was bold enough to share it where I faltered in silence. He told me about his parent’s rough relationship and divorce, about the poverty his broken family faced, about his loneliness, about the time he spent in an orphanage.
“But, Anna,” he told me in Spanish as I barely managed a stumbling “lo siento mucho…que horrible” at the conclusion of his story, “if none of that had happened, I wouldn’t have met God at the orphanage, or learned to play guitar, or lived in this city, or met you.”
I couldn’t say anything – not in Spanish, not in English. I can still hardly say anything about the genuine glimmer in his eyes, like he honestly believed the “all things happen for good” verse in the Bible.
Up until that point (I’d only been a Christian for 2 years), I’d held to a futuristic view of Romans 8:28, a “well, in heaven when we’re with God in the very end of the world, of course all things will be good” idea.
But this man had a very present, intimate view of a God right now, right there in his life, working divorces and orphaned children and poverty out for good in his world. I feel immensely blessed to have learned a little of that present, intimate God view from him. The time he spent in my life, although brief, was ripe with spiritual growth. For that, I am forever grateful.
What he had, that I did not at the time, was a big picture view of the past. Not just the past of the world, but his own past.

Turquoise Wall Cross
My past and I have never been on good terms, partially because I remember things vividly and partially because the majority of my past was without God (yeah for the day that I’m old enough to reverse that statistic!). But I do love big pictures!
I’ve stood in the halls of museums, mesmerized by huge, intricate paintings, beckoning me to look at all the elements in all locations on the canvas. The lovely thing about those paintings is that each aspect is so detailed and planned, I hardly know where to look first. All the brush strokes and figures correspond aesthetically or uniquely within the setting, complementing the other elements. I’ve sat in gorgeous cathedrals giving myself whiplash from craning my neck to see how all the details of the painted, sculpted ceiling and walls fit together.
God loves big pictures. Since He isn’t limited by time and space, He creates some pretty long-term (to us), gorgeous, huge pictures.
Like the cross.
Many years after the crucifixion, the majority of the known world still despised the cross as ugly. In 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, Paul talks about how the cross was ridiculous and shameful to both the Jews and the Gentiles. Crucifixions were still taking place. One of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, was crucified upside down years after Jesus was, refusing to be crucified upright because he believed himself unworthy of suffering the same death Jesus had suffered. The cross remained ugly throughout the ancient world for hundreds of years.
But God is fine with waiting to develop long-term, lovely transformations. After all, He makes everything beautiful in His time, not in ours.
The cross was the ugliest, cruelest thing possible in the ancient world. Yet the cross happened to Jesus and God made it beautiful. He transformed a horrible death into a memorable, supernatural paradox that I get to see daily.
Picking up my own cross becomes something like that paradox; seeing the ugliest, cruelest thing possible that has happened to me to-date and beautifying it – yes, even publically displaying it – maybe when I have to stare at its hurtful effects daily, maybe when I have to shoulder its painful consequences daily, maybe when I still can’t even bring myself to look at it daily…
Daily.
Daily.
Daily.
And God gives more grace.
In helping us to transform our own cross experiences, God’s strength is perfected in the midst of my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I can’t look at my cross without God’s help, I can’t bear my cross without God’s help, and I definitely can’t beautify and display my cross for God’s glory without His help. My cross becomes simultaneously my lowest, ugliest, most painful moment, and a daily reminder of God’s transforming power and grace. Like looking at an orphanage and a divorce and seeing salvation, music, and precious new acquaintances. That’s beautiful. God is so beautiful.

Cross Necklace
I get to see His beauty on the golden chain around my neck, in the gruesome article about an ancient death, in a Spanish conversation with an amazing Christian, in the hall paintings in a museum, and in my sometimes ugly, painful memories – my personal cross that He promised I won’t have to bear alone.
I am with you always… Matthew 28:20