Anna: Memorial Fund and Eulogy (in her own words)

*A Memorial Fund has been set up in honor of Anna’s life. See below for details.

Anna, in one sense, wrote her own Eulogy years ago with the help of the Lord. She called it her “Personal Declaration.”

After a decade of feeling alone, distant from God, and negatively impacted by the lies of unworthiness, Anna had been actively pursuing wholeness and healing in her life since 2010. She did this through learning to hear the voice of Jesus, receiving counseling/emotional healing, deep friendships, and spiritual direction.

Here is her declaration…

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God you are my comforter, my living hope, and I claim victory and freedom today in the name of Jesus. You are powerful and loving, my daily hope and salvation, the author of my story.

I, Anna Petree, claim my identity as your beloved daughter. Thank you for your constant care of me and our family. You are a good and faithful Father. I know that I am unconditionally loved and completely forgiven for all the times I’ve chosen my own way instead of Your best for me. 

Satan, you have no power over me! I renounce all fear and shame, claiming God’s love, mercy and healing power over my body, mind, and spirit in the name of Jesus!

Today I choose to believe that my face and body are beautiful and perfectly designed by You, God. That I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” You know me intricately, and have a wonderful plan for my life. You are my refuge and strength, my hope, a very present help in times of trouble.

Father, I know that as I surrender everything into Your hands, You are trustworthy. You direct my steps and have my best interest in mind. I believe in Your awesome power to restore and heal any part of me that You desire.

May my life today be a reflection of your love, grace, mercy, and hope as I seek to love myself, my husband, our children, friends, and neighbors today. You, Father, are the primary focus of my affection. I believe today that I am enough, that I am worthy of love and belonging.

I am a courageous warrior. I will not succumb to fear or despair! Thank you, Father, that your mercies are new every morning. You are by my side every step of this day. I am Yours.                                                                               (excerpt taken from Am I Loved?) 

Anna read and proclaimed these words out loud many days the past decade. As we reflect on Anna might we each consider what is true about ourselves and God.

If you would like to give a gift in honor of Anna’s life, please consider donating to Soul Formation. Anna went through four years of spiritual training through Soul Formation and received her certificate of Spiritual Direction through this wonderful ministry in 2019. Click here to give a gift in honor of Anna’s life.

With gratitude,

The Petrees

Anna Update: “You’re Blessed…”

Our tradition of “Lectio Walking” began six years ago when Anna and I spent time alone on Maui celebrating our 15th anniversary. “Lectio Walking” involves selecting a few verses of scripture, reading them aloud, then pausing for a few minutes to let the words sink in. The reading is repeated four times, with a pause between each reading. After the fourth reading, each of us has a chance to say a word or phrase that stands out, and then we talk about the passage. As we returned home from Maui, we committed to making this our new rhythm. So for the past six years, Anna and I have shared “Lectio Walks” together.

A few hours after Anna went to be with Jesus on Tuesday morning, Art and our pastor Jack said, “Shawn, let’s get you some exercise and fresh air.” As Art, Jack and I walked, we decided to share in a “Lectio Walk” in her honor. Jack asked what text she and I began with six years ago on Maui. It was Matthew 5. Jack pulled out his phone and read these verses from The Message version:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

 You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. (Matt 5:3-4) 

As we walked the ravine, Jack reflected on the words of Jesus about being at the end of our rope with the image of trapeze in mind. He said, “What if the end of your rope is not the bottom of a pit but the pinnacle of our flying through life? What if it’s the point when you can let go, soar and be caught?”

Over the past week, the Lord graciously placed an image on the hearts of three of our dear friends. It started with Anna’s spiritual director. The Father gave her the vision of Anna as a trapeze artist, flying through the air into the arms of Jesus, her Catcher. In the following days, two other beloved friends independently shared a similar vision, drawing us into Henri Nouwen’s story of the flyer and the catcher.

“The Flying Rodleighs are trapeze artists who perform in the German circus Simoneit-Barum. When the circus came to Freiburg two years ago, my friends Franz and Reny invited me and my father to see the show. I will never forget how enraptured I became when I first saw the Rodleighs move through the air, flying and catching as elegant dancers.
The next day, I returned to the circus to see them again and introduced myself to them as one of their great fans. They invited me to attend their practice sessions, gave me free tickets, asked me to dinner, and suggested I travel with them for a week in the near future. I did, and we became good friends.
“One day, I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying. He said, ‘As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.’
‘How does it work?’ I asked.
‘The secret,’ Rodleigh said, ‘is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar.’
‘You do nothing!’ I said, surprised.
‘Nothing,’ Rodleigh repeated. ‘The worst thing the flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It’s Joe’s task to catch me. If I grabbed Joe’s wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end for both of us. A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.’
“When Rodleigh said this with so much conviction, the words of Jesus flashed through my mind: ‘Father into your hands I commend my Spirit.’ Dying is trusting in the catcher. To care for the dying is to say, ‘Don’t be afraid. Remember that you are the beloved child of God. He will be there when you make your long jump. Don’t try to grab him; he will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.’ “
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With this sweet image on Anna on my heart, I was then able to read the next verse with new eyes during our fourth Lectio reading…

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

The kids and I have lost what is most dear to us, our beloved Anna. Anna has lost what it most dear to her, her family. And yet somehow mysteriously we are all being embraced by the One most dear – the ultimate Catcher.

Know that you are participating with the Catcher as you have been there for us and will continue to be with us in the moments, hours, days, months and years ahead. The kids and I feel held and trust that you will continue to hold us and participate in the Father’s embrace of us all.

 

Anna Update: Tired of waiting

We are tired of waiting. Anna and I wrote on this blog at the beginning of the journey three years ago that we believed we were being asked to wait.

 Isaiah the prophet speaks about waiting in a passage that is familiar to many:

“But those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”Is 40:31

Often the verse is seen on a picture much like this one:

The verse that gets less notice is perhaps spoken in the same breath by Isaiah,

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29

Anna and I, along with our kids find ourselves in verse 29 desperately wanting to live in verse 31. We desire to have our strength renewed. We want to be compared to an eagle. We want to run, to not be weary. We want to walk and not faint. The reality, however, is that Anna can hardly walk right now due to physical pain. She has nearly fainted on a few occasions getting from one place to another in our home. Anna dreams of running one day again, unsure if she ever will.

We feel like we have waited on the Lord, as Isaiah instructs at the beginning of verse 31. The word from the Lord three years ago to wait was real, and yet here we are still waiting. I get it, God is not a “do this and you will get this outcome” God, but I sure want him to be, we want him to be. Instead, we find ourselves  living verse 29 day after day. Anna barely having the strength not to faint, not sure if the promises of verse 31 will come.

That is where we are today, waiting.

Isaiah ends verse 31 with the words, “They will walk and not faint” We’ll take even Isaiah final promise at this point, a shift from fainting to walking.

 

Anna Update: “We do not know what to do…”

A few days ago Anna and I listened to a teaching on Jehoshaphat from 2 Chronicles 20. Neither Anna nor I were very familiar with this story, but since Jehoshaphat was someone in the Bible who was up against a battle he could not fight on his own, we thought we would see what we could learn from his approach. We were surprised by the “strategies” of Jehoshaphat.

In the scene of the story Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, is up against three armies at once. There is no way he and his army can defeat even one of the armies, much less three. When Jehoshaphat realizes there is no hope he turns to God and begins to remind God of who God is and what He has done. That’s an interesting strategy, reminding God of who He is and what He has done in the past:

Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7 Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

Then Jehoshaphat makes this incredible statement of trust:

For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (v 12) What a posture of humility and trust, “we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

After Jehoshaphat‘s prayer, a prophet speaks up and says this to Jehoshaphat and all of the people of Judah in earshot:

This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”

What stands out in the story to Anna and me is that it’s not about power, it’s about position. “Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you.”  

So Jehoshaphat and his people took the advise of the prophet and got into position, the position was worship:

And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshiping the Lord.

Their next strategy seemed like madness:

And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying:

“Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.”

As we read further in the story we realized that God wasn’t asking Jehoshaphat and his army to get into position to fight, He was getting them into position to worship and watch God fight the battle for them. The three armies that were coming against Jehoshaphat ended up fighting each other and Jehoshaphat and his people were rescued.

As you think about Anna and are family during these hard days, consider worshiping with us. Our understanding of worship is that it is way beyond singing. Worship is anything that shifts our focus from a problem or situation to God. Gratitude seems to be the most practical “action” of worship these days. Worship with us. Echo these words of Jehoshaphat alongside us, “we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

We remain grateful for you.

Is Our World Repenting?

Throughout Lent we have been unpacking one statement of the prophet Isaiah:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” ((Is 30:15)

I’ve been wondering off and on the past few weeks, is our world repenting right now? Most of us have been conditioned to think of repentance as a bad word. Feel bad about yourself, say your sorry for the same mistakes over and over again! That is not repentance, not even close. Repentance is re-evaluation that leads to action. With that definition in mind, is this a season that is causing us to re-evaluate our lives? To re-evaluate what matters, how we spend our time, what we spend our moments doing and thinking about?

In the midst of a crisis we can actually go further down the road that Isaiah and Jesus warn against. Isaiah’s observation of the people he was speaking to, “but you would have none of it.”  Jesus seems to have similar language to Isaiah when asked a question by the Pharisees,

1Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”(Lk 13:1-5)

The temptation when crisis hits is not to repent, not to re-think our lives or re-evaluate, we don’t have time for it. We have to try to figure out how to do life amidst the latest crisis. But isn’t that really what we were trying to do before the crisis, trying to figure out, mostly on our own terms, how to do life given whatever was in front of us that day? What if Isaiah and Jesus are inviting us into something more?

Repentance seems to be an invitation to live life with a whole new outlook. It is an opportunity to value both God and people above all else. From my perspective, Jesus answered the question of repentance most clearly with these timeless words: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the first and great commandment. And there is a second like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

As our world seems to get more and more chaotic each day will we hear the words of Isaiah and Jesus? Neither sound condemning to me. They both are offering a different perspective, a new way, and alternative pathway that leads to life.

Believing that God is With Us Today

Each of us has a way of making life work that doesn’t involve Jesus. That is the case whether we are attempting to follow Jesus or want nothing to do with him. Because of the incredible freedom that God gives us to chose, we can do today with or without Jesus. As we continue to explore repentance through Lent, what if repentance is choosing to do the day with Jesus? With that perspective, repentance is being aware of our freedom, realizing our propensity to do life on our own terms and then choosing to walk through this day, this hour, this moment with Jesus.

“The next hour, the next moment, is a much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away.  Worry about the next minute is just as foolish as worry about tomorrow, or for a day in the next thousand years—in neither can we do anything.  In both God is doing everything.”  An Anthology of George MacDonald

I love that last line from MacDonald, “In both God is doing everything.” Do we believe that? Perhaps that is at the heart of repentance. It is so easy to think that we are on our own, that today is up to us. We get into a situation real time, and for most of us our knee jerk reaction is, “What am I going to do now?” or “What am I going to do about this?” Perhaps the repentance that Jesus invites his follower to over and over in the Gospels is a lifestyle of believing that God is with them, that they are not on their own. I believe Jesus’ message is the same for all who seek to follow Jesus.

As we walk through the uncertainty of today, may we see repentance as an invitation to believe that God is with us, that we are indeed not on our own.

Advent Week 3: Digging In, Holding On

I read this great article about shepherds.

“You need to be tough as old boots. Imagine working for weeks on end in the rain, and then snow, and lambs dying of hypothermia, with the difference between life and death being you and your knowledge. Even if you do your best they still die, and you will need to keep going. The romance wears off after a few weeks, believe me, and you will be left standing cold and lonely on a mountain. It is all about endurance. Digging in. Holding on.”

Reading about what is required as a shepherd is giving me a little more insight into why the first group of people to get a visit from the angels were shepherds. According to Luke there were four visits from angels, possibly the same angel. Zacharias, then Mary, then Joseph, then shepherds. So a devout old priest, the mother of Jesus, the father of Jesus and shepherds. (One of these things is not like the other…) That song from Sesame Street just came played in my head.

Back to the shepherds. I love that line from the article, “It’s all about endurance. Digging in. Holding on.” I can’t read that enough or say it enough to myself this morning. It’s true. The shepherds knew that. Zacharias knew that from his long life as a priest. Mary and Joseph had a glimpse of this truth through having a child out of wedlock and making the journey to Bethlehem. They would learn this truth more and more as they raised Jesus and his siblings. It is all about endurance. Digging in. Holding on.

Shepherds knew this truth all too well. They were at the bottom of the social rung, outcasts, you might even say homeless since they primarily slept outside with their flock. There was a strong prejudice against them, especially from rabbi’s and religion leaders. They would have not only felt the pain of their occupation, but also the internal pain of their position in society. If anyone near the birthplace of Jesus needed saving it was the shepherds. Into that context Luke writes:

“There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country, keeping guard throughout the night over their flocks in the open fields. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendour of the Lord blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them,

“Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all the people. This very day, in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby, wrapped up and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)

Three statements stand out to me:

all people; Savior; has been born for you

Some might say these shepherds were the most human, the most real of all those living around Bethlehem. They knew pain, joy, loss, sacrifice, friendship, wonder. They were not only the ones to first hear the news of the baby being born, but they were the first ones to tell others. Their message was about a Savior being born just down the road from where they were tending their sheep. These men who brought this message of hope understood, it is all about endurance. Digging in. Holding on.

The message of the shepherds was that a baby had come into the world. This baby would  learn that it’s all about endurance. Digging in. Holding on. Not only would baby Jesus learn this as he grew, but he would eventually embody this message as a man, showing all who dare to follow him that it is all about endurance. Digging in. Holding on.

Maybe that is why Jesus calls himself the good shepherd.