Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus
About the Guest
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Laura Story talks about life with her husband Martin, who suffers from a memory deficit due to a brain tumor. Although challenging, Story sees his disability as God’s means of grace.
Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus
Bob: Singer/songwriter Laura Story has come to realize there is a difference between trying to be in control of your own life and living a surrendered life. Any time she forgets that, she says she just goes back to the Bible.
Laura: I keep going back to the Psalms/the Psalms talking about the greatness of God: “What is man that He would be mindful of us?” Once we realize, “It’s kind of silly for us to be co-ruling with Him.” It’s not that He doesn’t invite us into it; because He’s constantly, in His Word, talking about us being part of His work—but it’s us laying down/we’re part of it by laying down our desires, like Jesus in the Garden, says, “Not My will, but Yours be done,”—that’s the posture we need to take as believers.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, December 23rd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamliyLifeToday.com. Do you ever have a problem with surrendering?—with letting go?—releasing your grip on life and following God’s agenda? We’re going to hear more about that today from Laura Story. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We had a treat when Laura Story, the Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter, who has written such songs as Indescribable and the song, Blessings, and other songs, stopped by our headquarters, here, at FamilyLife®. We got the staff together, and we talked with her. She sang some songs for us. It was a delightful time; wasn’t it?
Ann: She’s amazing, and she’s so great—she pulls in—in this van. [Laughter] Her kids all come out, and she comes out. She’s honest and real. I think listeners are going to love this today.
Dave: As you’ll hear, there’s a depth to her life and her soul.
Dave: I mean, it was funny, watching her roll out. [Laughter] The kids just sort of plopped out and rolled all over. They ran into the childcare, and then she walks in and shares her heart. It was beautiful.
Before we hear from her, this is, of course, Christmas week. Next week is the last week of the year. David Robbins, the president of FamilyLife®, has got a reminder for FamilyLife Today listeners. David—
David: I want to start off by saying, “Thank you!” You’ve invested time; and many of you have invested, financially, with our ministry; you’ve made FamilyLife Today possible for, truly, millions of people, who are tuned in each week to find help and hope for their family. In fact, I’ve got to share with you a message that I received from Jane, who’s one of our regular listeners. She told us, “FamilyLife Today was so encouraging at one of the most difficult times in my marriage. I felt so isolated and weary. The episode, ‘Hope Isn’t Canceled,’ was truly a Godsend when I needed it most when COVID-19 was at its peak.”
It is truly a blessing to hear the specific ways God meets His people and uses FamilyLife. If you want to help create and spread hope like this, I encourage you to consider donating to FamilyLife. As we’re nearing the end of December and 2020, we’re watching the donations coming in right now. We’re running behind where we need to be. With our donation match this month, your dollars will be doubled in impact. Thank you for considering a gift of any amount to help. Each and every gift will help us meet our goal and will help us continue to minister to families in the year ahead.
Bob: Yes; thank you, David. I hope our listeners will go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and make a generous yearend donation; or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Pray for us that our needs will be met in the year to come.
Now, let’s turn to the conversation we had recently with Laura Story. We talked with her about the theme of surrender, which is a theme of a book she’s written called I Give Up.
In our conversation, I asked her a question about her book.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Interview before FamilyLife® Staff]
Bob: I think I found a mistake.
Laura: Uh-oh! [Laughter]
Bob: On the back cover, it says, “Laura no longer wants to control her life.”
Laura: What it meant to say is, “Laura has found that trying to control her life is futile.” [Laughter]
Bob: It does go on to say, “She wants to be rooted in the God who is in control.” That’s true.
Bob: The idea of surrender—we tend to think of somebody coming to faith in Christ—that’s what they do; they surrender to God.
Ann: Yes, a one-time thing.
Bob: Then it’s over, and then you move on. Surrender is a daily process.
Laura: Absolutely. It’s constantly choosing surrender with/for every moment—always with our time, with our money, with our family, with our children, with our job—whatever it is—whatever it is that God begins to eliminate in your life, that you’re holding too tightly to.
For me, if there is something I find myself frustrated—that it’s just not working out the way I think it should—usually, it’s God showing me that my grip on that thing or that person that I’m trying to manage—[Laughter]—that grip is a little too tight.
Dave: I hate that; don’t you? [Laughter]
Laura: Oh, yes!
Dave: I want the other one: “I surrender once. It’s done. You know, there are no more trials.” Yet, every day—
Dave: —is a little bit of prying the hand off of something I’m trying to control.
Bob: Here’s what I find myself wrestling with: the difference between surrender and passivity—
Bob: —trying to figure out: “When am I supposed to yield?” and “When am I supposed to step forward, and not yield, and push back?”
Bob: Do you have an answer for me on that?
Laura: Well, I think surrender—really, what we’re asking—or what God is asking—is for us to surrender the things that He is supposed to be in control of that we’re trying to be in control of.
There are a ton of things that are our jobs. Let’s say the person that’s unemployed: if they just sit in bed every day and watch television, because they’re just going to surrender that to the Lord. [Laughter]
Ann: —and say, “God, bring me the job.”
Laura: Actually, there are so many things that we can—in most of these arenas, there are so many things that we can be doing—but at the end of the day, we have to come to the point of saying, “I have done my job, but I am going to trust Him.” What that looks like, in a very tangible/practical way, is I can go to bed at night and sleep peacefully. I don’t have to be up, wringing my hands over whether or not God is going to come through on His part.
Bob: Throughout the book, you’ve got “White Flag Prayers.”
Bob: Did the prayers come first before the chapters came? I kind of read these and thought, “I bet these are prayers that you’ve prayed over and over again.”
Ann: Let me give you an example of one of those prayers: White Flag Prayer
Number 2: “God, I don’t want to compete with You for control of my life. You know me—all my fears, impatience, and, at times, even my unbelief. Holy God, Creator of the universe, help me to daily surrender to You as the Lord of my life.”
As to Bob’s question, “Did the prayer come first, or the chapter come first?”
Laura: Well, the chapters came first. Each chapter presents everything from reasons why we should surrender to how to surrender. I think, at the end of each chapter—if you, as a reader, could look back and go, “Yes, I think I agree with that. I think I agree with God being trustworthy enough for me to surrender,”—I wanted to give the reader a step that they could do in that very moment, you know? Nothing that would take more than 15 seconds. All of it is supposed to be like a thousand little steps.
Surrender—if it’s not this—it’s like surrender and forgiveness are like second cousins—where forgiveness;: you can say, “Oh, I forgive that person.”
Laura: But really, what it is—is you saying, “I forgive that person, and I’m going to make the choice, every time they come to mind, to forgive them a thousand little times.” That’s what surrender looks like; it’s saying, “I want to want to surrender.” And those White Flag Prayers, I’m hoping, are going to be a thousand little steps towards that.
Bob: The filling of the Holy Spirit is a continuous activity; right?
Bob: We are to be continuously being filled with the Spirit. In the same way that, every moment, we’re to walk in the power of the Spirit, every moment we’re to be forgiving/every moment we’re to be surrendering.
Bob: And it is an ongoing process. That White Flag Prayer comes at the end of
Chapter 2. Can I just read the title of Chapter 2? [Laughter] “Dear God, Let’s Be Co-rulers. [Laughter] Love, Me.”
Laura: I told you it’s a very vulnerable book, because I live that way. I am totally fine with surrendering to God if He is doing it my way.
Laura: I am really good. [Laughter] I’m like that passenger that—like, I really like to drive. I feel like I’m kind of a guy in that sense, where I really want to drive.
Ann: Me too.
Laura: I have trouble trusting the person who’s driving. I’m always looking over their shoulder, saying, “Hey! You know, you could take that way, and it would be a little bit quicker,” or “Don’t you think, maybe, we should…?”
Ann: Are you saying you have a control problem?
Laura: Slightly, slightly. [Laughter]
Dave: My wife never does that.
Ann: I do.
Laura: No, never ever!
Dave: No, never; I don’t know where you’d get that. [Laughter]
Laura: The truth is: the only reason why we’d be that way toward God is if we really believed that He needed our help.
Bob: —that we know better than He does.
Laura: Yes, which shows both an inflated view of self—
Laura: —and a deflated view of God. If we really saw—I keep going back to the Psalms, because so much of this book, especially as a worship leader, I’m just kind of enamored with the Psalms. The Psalms, talking about the greatness of God: “What is man that He would be mindful of us?”
Once we realize that, really, it’s kind of silly for us to be co-ruling with Him. It’s not that He doesn’t invite us into it; because He constantly, in His Word, is talking about us being part of His work—but it’s us laying down/we’re part of it by laying down our desires, like Jesus in the Garden, says, “Not My will, but Yours be done,”—that’s the posture we need to take as believers.
Ann: That’s not always easy. I think it looks different sometimes. Sometimes, it’s emotional. I remember the first time I told Jesus, “I am all in. I surrender everything. I will go.” It’s this passion like, “I’m going to follow You.”
There are other times—my sister died when I was 39; my best friend; she left four boys—it was one of those times where I knelt before God and I said, “I see no sense in this. This is the dumbest thing. Why would You do this?”
Ann: So, that surrender was, “I will follow You as an act of my will, not because I’m feeling so great about You. I will follow You because I know You’re faithful. I can trust You, even when it doesn’t feel like it right now.”
Ann: And so, it can be different times, but it’s still that act of surrender.
Bob: I think about, when the crowds went away from Jesus, and He looked at the disciples and said, “Are you leaving too?”
Bob: And they said, “Where else do we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”
In those moments, where we look and we say, “I don’t get this,” and “This does not make sense to me,” we also find ourselves saying, “Where else do we go?”
Ann: Where else would I go?
Bob: “Who else can we follow? You have been so gracious, in the midst, that even in adversity, there’s no place else to go where life has purpose, or meaning, or makes any sense. So, even though this doesn’t make sense, You make more sense than anything else we know.”
Dave: And yet, in the middle of that, as we all know, it’s still hard to pick up that white flag.
Dave: It’s like I still want to maintain a sense of “I can…” Yet, this move, at the end of each chapter, is a surrender move: “I am surrendering my will to Your will.”
Bob: Tell Laura about what you did at church, a couple of months ago, related to control issues and the bicycle.
Dave: I didn’t do anything, Bob. My wife did this. We were doing a message together; and she says, “We have to bring the tandem bike to church.” We have this bike that hangs in our garage; it’s never been ridden in 25 years.
Ann: I bought it when I was 12 years old with my pennies.
Dave: I always want to sell it; she will not let me sell it—
Dave: —“It’s a relic.” So I have to pull this thing down.
Ann: I said, “Honey, can you bring the tandem to church today?” He goes, “Why?!” I said, “I feel like I have this idea of what I would like to—
Dave: I’ve learned: “Just do it.”
Ann: I’m a visual learner.
Dave: “Surrender.” [Laughter]
Ann: I brought this tandem on the stage; and I said, “I didn’t grow up in church. My sister came home and told me about Jesus. She said, ‘Ann, like this is how we receive eternal life. God longs for us to have a relationship with Him.’”
I got on the tandem bike—on the front of it—and I said, “Jesus! Get on! Get on the back!” That’s what I said. [Laughter]
Dave: So I’m Jesus—I find out during the sermon—[Laughter]—so I get on the back to pretend I’m Jesus.
Ann: I go the same ways I’ve always gone, and I’ve done the same things I always did. Now, I’m feeling guilty, because Jesus is on the back, and He sees me. [Laughter] I feel like He’s saying, “Let Me take you. Let Me in the front. Let Me guide your life and take you on this journey.” That’s a fearful thing—to let Him take us somewhere; because we don’t know where He’s going to take us. We could marry a pastor! [Laughter]
Laura: I know!
Ann: We could live in Detroit, Michigan!
Laura: —or find yourself on a radio show! [Laughter]
Ann: Exactly! [Laughter] “When I let Jesus get on the front and take my life, at first, it was like, “This is amazing! Look! He’s leading me. He’s guiding me. I’m going to follow Him!” But then He takes us on some paths that we never expected or wanted.
Ann: Then, on the tandem bike, I get on those handlebars—on my handlebars—and I start leaning over Jesus, trying to get those handlebars, and saying, “Don’t go this way!” I’m trying—
Dave: She actually sat on my head, trying to control me. [Laughter]
Ann: That’s the hardest thing—to let Him have that driver’s seat.
Laura: Yes, yes; and believing that surrender isn’t supposed to be this frustrating thing. It really is a freeing thing.
Laura: I think one of the things about surrender—people have this image of surrender being like Elsa, on the mountainside—[singing] “Let it go!” [Laughter] As if we throw our problems into thin air and everything just gets better. The truth is that is not biblical surrender at all.
Laura: First of all, the things in our lives, they’re not these light things that we can just throw up into thin air and they disappear: things like cancer, things like infertility, things like addictions; those are weighty things.
What biblical surrender actually looks like is looking at the things in our life that we try to carry that are heavy—and looking at our hands and seeing these frail, selfish hands that often fumble—and making a conscious choice/a very rational choice—to trust those things into greater, stronger, more trustworthy, more loving hands. That really is more what a biblical picture of surrender looks like.
Bob: You wrote a song about this recently, and Mac Powell sang it with you.
Laura: Yes, this was the beginning of the Lord doing this painful work in my life. [Laughter]
Bob: I listened to this last night, and I thought, “Oh, we’ll have Laura do it. I’ll do the Mac Powell part.”
Dave: No, no, no, no. [Laughter]
Bob: Then I played it and said, “No, I won’t do the Mac Powell part.” I tried to do the Mac Powell part, but it was a train wreck. [Laughter] So, you’ll do the whole thing, okay?
Laura: Okay, we can do that.
Bob: Yes, let’s do that.
Laura: [Playing piano and singing Open Hands] [Applause]
Bob: Laura, take a minute here and just pray for those who need to surrender today; who are trying to climb over from the back seat into the steering position, and say, “I want control;” and who need to let go and let the Lord direct their lives. Would you pray for them?
Father, we acknowledge that too often we buy into the lie of the world that tells us that we must be independent and self-sufficient; that we must be strong. We acknowledge now that what we have in You, because of Your Son, we are able to be weak. You call us to dependence, and You call us to surrender.
For each person who struggles now, trying to carry something weighty that they were never meant to bear, give us the faith in You, our trustworthy God, to lay it down. We visualize it now, going from our hands to Yours, God. We trust You. We thank You that You are a God who delights in doing exceedingly more than we could ever ask or imagine for our good and for Your greater glory. We pray it in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Bob: Would you guys thank Laura Story? [Applause]
Laura: Thank you, guys!
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening back to an interview with Laura Story, done with our staff, here at FamilyLife. I think there are a lot of people, who can relate to the need to surrender/to give up the desire to want to control all the details of your life. Do you deal with that—control issues?
Ann: I keep waiting for my desire to control to go away; but it never seems to, Bob. [Laughter]
Bob: I think that’s part of the human condition. I think all of us feel safer if we feel like we’re in control, but control is an illusion; isn’t it?
Dave: Yes; and you know, I love the line in the song, Open Hands, she just sang. It’s the line: “a clenching-fist, a life of fear.” I’m a clenching-fist guy. You know, I hold on; and I want to hold on. It’s really hard to open the hand and say, “Okay; I’m going to trust God.”
Dave: He can be trusted, but it’s really difficult.
Ann: I don’t think we can experience all God has for us until we do unclench that fist and give Him everything, because that’s when the journey really begins and the adventure with God.
Bob: Well, I think there are times God says, “Okay; if you want to hang on, hang on. We’ll see where this goes.” The life of surrender—it’s a little like skydiving, which I’ve never done—have you ever skydived?
Dave: Never have; I sort of want to—
Ann: I want to, too.
Dave: —but I’m holding onto my fist of not—[Laughter]—“I’m not going to do that. I’m going to hold onto the plane; I’m going to hold onto that anchor!” [Laughter]
Bob: I think God says, “When you let go, where I’m going to take you is going to be glorious. Yes, it may be scary for a while.”
Ann: — “and not always easy.”
Dave: I’ve said this—and I’ve seen this written—the visual of: “If you have your fist closed, you can’t put anything into it.”
Dave: And it really is true. Until you let go and trust God, you don’t know what He might have for you; it just might be peace.
Bob: Yes; and I think that’s the conclusion that Laura comes to in the book that she has written called I Give Up. The subtitle is: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life. There is peace when you surrender to God, and to His purposes, and His will. We’ve got copies of Laura’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Let me encourage you to go online to order your copy. Again, the title is I Give Up, by Laura Story. Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
©Song: Open Hands
Artist: Laura Story
Album: Open Hands ©2017, Laura Story Music
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