I love to read.
On a grey, rainy day (like today) there is nothing I feel like doing more than crawling into my p.j.’s and curling up on the couch with three pillows, a fuzzy blanket and a good book. Unfortunately, I rarely have the freedom to do this, but it’s a thought that circles through my mind constantly every time I look outside and see rain…therefore completely eliminating any shred of motivation I once had! I almost always have at least 2 or 3 books that I am in the process of reading. I like to have a few on the go, so I can choose according to my mental or emotional state at the time. Therefore, I am always on the lookout for a good book to hide on my shelf.
Recently I discovered there were numerous books in the library at church that I had never taken the advantage of borrowing. (FREE books are my favourite!)
One of those books was Seven by Jen Hatmaker. “An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.”
I am still not even half way through this book, but I just had to write about it because it is just that good! 🙂
In Seven Jen takes you on a hilarious, passionate and deeply honest journey into the materialistic chaos our western culture has become. She journals about her 7 month long experiment of giving God control over 7 very personal areas of life that we love to sweep under the carpet and say…”It doesn’t matter that much!”
I am convicted.
Jesus had no place to lay his head while here on earth, and warned us again and again about the trap our earthly possessions create. Not only that, there are people all over the world who are struggling merely to survive one day at a time…yet here I am. Overindulging, hoarding, craving. Me in all my glorious rubble. 1600 sq. feet, closets stuffed full of clothing and possessions, hundreds of dollars worth of food stocked in my fridge and pantry…yet still wanting more. Shopping for the sake of shopping. Carelessly throwing around that word ‘need’ to describe my unquenchable greed. Not that big of a deal? I challenge you to go around your house and start counting your stuff, or adding up dollars’ worth in your head as you look around your humble dwelling. You will be shocked. Guaranteed.
Unfortunately, at this point I am still mulling all this over in my mind…and planning on going scavenging other peoples’ junk at garage sales this weekend! So don’t think I’m preaching at you. Just thinking out loud. (Yes, I know that is dangerous!) Here’s a quick little summary of the experiment Jen Hatmaker describes. I may or may not choose to go on my own little experiment. Right now my flesh is screaming…please no!! Let me know what your thoughts are, or better yet read the book yourself! Keep in mind this is not some crazy idea simply relying on our own discipline to see what we can achieve. This is about decreasing ME and increasing Christ. Sacrificing stuff so that others might clearly see His Presence living in me.
Month #1 – Jen chooses to eat only 7 foods for an entire month! Yes, 7. Keep in mind that health is still important, so it needed to be foods that would sufficiently nurture her body, not just 7 of her favourites! She chose chicken, eggs, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados and apples. Water was the only acceptable fluid and salt was the only seasoning permitted. No extra sauces, no butter, no coffee…the list goes on and on. A few friends decided to join her in this little experiment but adopted their own version. They chose 7 of the world’s most impoverished countries and chose to eat as the poorest of each of those nations for three days each. While they identified with each country’s poorest they remembered to pray for and educate themselves on that country’s struggles.
Month #2 – Clothes. For one month Jen chose only 7 articles of clothing to wear. Now, to clarify…two pairs of shoes counted as one item and undergarments didn’t count at all…but still! 7 articles of clothing to mix and match for a whole month! Day in, day out! No accessories, no coat, no making exceptions for that occasion where you really want to make a good impression! I don’t know, girls. I think we’d all do well to be put on this experiment for a month and have to come face to face with our own insecurity and obsession with what everyone else is thinking of us! I know way too often I find myself looking in the mirror wondering how I’ll look to other people. Ouch.
Month #3 – Possessions. For one month Jen chose to give away 7 items she possessed…every day! Only one week of that month was allowed to be clothing…and as many of us would find, Jen ended up giving away much more than 42 articles of clothing once the closet cut occurred! Also, a rule for this month that I especially appreciated and hit me right in the gut was that the giving needed to be purposeful. No just sorting through your junk and hauling it off to Goodwill. This was not just ridding the house of extra stuff we’ve been needing to get rid of anyway, though I’m certain that would happen in the process! If that were all this consisted of, I think I’d manage just fine! I love to go through all my stuff and cart off bags stuffed with unused and unwanted items to the local Salvation Army Thrift Store. The sad part is, I usually smile gleefully to myself packing up these bags because I am looking forward to replacing my old or unwanted items with new things. It’s more like a trade off than decreasing my mound of earthly treasures. No, this month consisted of surveying the overflow and having things available to give…then looking for people who needed them. Not only did this rid the house of a bunch of stuff…this pressed Jen and her family and friends to have their eyes wide open and their hands holding loosely. If you’re looking for needs…you will find them no problem. If all you’re doing is sorting junk…you’ll probably have no clue what else to do with any of it other than dump it off at the thrift store or sell it at a garage sale. Hm.
Month #4 – I haven’t actually gotten past this point in the book but looking forward to it! Media steals the show for month 4 and with a quick peak ahead I see that Jen chooses 7 types of media to eliminate…yes, I said ELIMINATE…from her family’s time for the whole month. She chose TV, Gaming, Facebook/Twitter, iPhone apps, Radio, Texting and Internet. The last two had some exceptions. Gulp. I have thought a lot about this issue of media consumption, and have become disturbed at my own addiction to my phone and other types of media many times…but I have to admit this would be a huge stretch for me! More of Him, less of me…
Month #5 – This month focuses on waste. Jen chooses 7 habits to promote a ‘greener’ lifestyle. Say what you will about God being in control of the earth, etc. Like it or not, we are still stewards of our habitat and I believe respecting the environment and doing our best to care for it are God-honouring. The 7 new ‘green’ habits Jen began this month were: gardening, composting, conserving energy and water, recycling, driving only one car, shopping thrift and second-hand and buying local only.
Month #6 – Spending…yup you got it. 7 places to spend money for a month and that’s it. Originally I went…oh, that one’s not so bad. But think. 7 places to spend money included the grocery store, the kids’ school, gas station, online bill pay, limited travel fund, emergency medical and only as a last resort and if needed…Target. No McDonald’s. No Tim Horton’s. No shopping mall. No movie rentals. Might be harder than first expected!
Month #7 – Stress. Not sure how this all comes together yet, so maybe I’ll have to update this once I have read chapter 7. For month # 7 Jen and her family choose to reduce stress in their lives by 7 times a day taking a moment to pause from the chaos, meditate on God’s Word and pray. Sounds interesting. “Be still and know that I am God.”
I will let you know what I decide to do about all this, and would love to hear your own ideas or experiences with the fight against materialism, greed and excess in our culture.
Wishing you a blessed day that consists of more of Jesus Christ, less of you.
“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lost his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lost his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”