(Go here for part one)
I love Jen Hatmaker. How can you not love Jen Hatmaker? Hilariously self-deprecating, sarcastic (so, so sarcastic) and deeply passionate. Her parenting style is so fabulous that I want to move in with her (just kidding. not.) and I think that needs to be the topic of her next book.
I have just finished Jen Hatmaker's latest book "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess."
I talked about the first four chapters/months in my first post, so I'm going to dive in with month five, waste. This month involved seven habits for a greener life: gardening (growing their own vegetables); composting; conserving energy and water; recycling; driving only one car; shopping thrift and handmade; buying only local. I love how Jen talked about our responsibility to the earth. God charged man with looking after His creation, the earth and everything in it, that He called "good."
Month six, spending. They cut their spending to only seven locations. This is down from their usual monthly average number of spending locations of 66. This was spending on themselves though, I should add, charitable spending was an exemption. They continued to tithe, and support their sponsor children. Best quote from this month, "just because I can have it, doesn't mean I should." Ouch.
In month seven Jen and the rest of the Hatmaker clan were all about reducing stress. She did so many fabulous things in this month to find rest in each day, to observe the sabbath, and to reduce stress in their lives. I cannot wait to get a hold of a copy of Seven Sacred Pauses. Yowser! And don't even get me started on the idea of observing a traditional Shabbat. I did always want to be Jewish.
What I loved about this book is that it wasn't just a social experiment to get rid of stuff from her family's life. It was a fast, with the intent being that excess was removed in order that there be more room for God in their life.
"A fast is not something we offer to God, but it is assists us in offering ourselves."
I sensed that month number 3, possessions, was a real turning point in this experiment. There just seemed to be a shift in Jen's writing, in the way she became intensely passionate about how she (or we) had been putting her "needs" (read: wants) ahead of the real needs of others, others that God clearly calls us to take care of. That chapter really took the experiment up a notch for me. I identified so easily with the overabundance of stuff, and the ridiculousness of it all. So much stuff that just junks up and clutters my home, my mind and my life. Stuff that crowds out what is really important, stuff that crowds out God's still, small voice.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the questions she asked, which resulted in me asking myself a lot of questions, and continuing too.
"If we ignored the current framework of the church and instead opened the Bible for a definition, we find Christ followers adopting the fast simultaneously with the feast. We don't see the New Testament church hoarding the feast for themselves, gorging, getting fatter and fatter and asking for more; more Bible studies, more sermons, more programs, classes, training, conferences, information, more feasting for us.
At some point, the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts. We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the costly discipleship required after consuming. The feast is supposed to maintain the fast, but we go back for seconds and thirds and fourths, stuffed to the brim and fat with inactivity. All this is for me. My goodness, my blessing, my privileges, my happiness, my success. Just one more plate.
Not so with the early church who stunned their Roman neighbours and leaders with generosity, curbing their own appetites for the mission of Jesus.
What would the early church think if they walked into some of our building today, looked through our church Web sites, talked to an average attender? Would they be so confused? Would they wonder why we all had empty bedrooms and uneaten food in our trash cans? Would they regard our hoarded wealth with shock? Would they observe orphan statistics with disbelief since Christians outnumber orphans 7 to 1? Would they be stunned most of us don't feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, care for the sick, or protect the widow? Would they see the spending on church buildings and ourselves as extravagantly wasteful while twenty-five thousand people die every day from starvation?"
What would they think of me?
What does Jesus think of me?
I know that I closed the final pages of "7" with a changed perspective and a whole lot of ideas to get me started and motivated to make some changes in my life. I'm looking forward to doing my own experiment against excess. Anyone else been inspired by this book? Anyone been inspired to get this book and see for yourself what the fuss is all about? Get on it! Let's change the world!