I've been reading Seven: An Experminental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker for my quiet times. Maybe not your normal quiet time reading but I have definitely enjoyed the book. It's along the lines of Crazy Love and Radical (which I have not read but have a pretty good idea about) except it's more practical. It is the author saying "I have been challenged to love in crazy ways, to live in radical ways and here's what I did." She is not saying everyone should do the things she did. She is not saying it makes her a better Christian because she did certain things. She is just telling her story, what she did, how it made her feel, how it affected her relationship with God and others.
It is a very conversational, "here I am, take me or leave me" read. (I have enjoyed her writing style; it's very light and has an easy pace to it. Plus her sense of humor pokes its way out every now and again.)
This book is also honest. For seven months, the author "fasted" from one area of excess. For one month, she tried to fast from her usual diet and tried to eat only seven foods. For one month, she pared down her spending and committed to only spend money (large bills like mortgage and electric aside) at seven place. For one month, she chose seven pieces of clothing from her overflowing closet and wore those items alone. She is willing to say "I broke my rules by buying my kids' new shoes." Or "I hate spinach!" because she was eating it so often.
It has intrigued me. And made me think in a lot of ways about what excess is in my life. Which has been very hard as we are building a new house which seems like complete excess to me in a lot of ways. This house building stuff? Prior to building our house, I struggled with balancing my wants with what is good stewardship with how the rest of the world lives. I was struggling with it before but building a house has really stretched me, hoping I had not let my own desire for something shiny and new override the guiding principles in my life regarding stewardship. How do you know when you are justifying something? Is it wrong to say "well, it's not like we're installing granite countertops and an in ground pool? We're going with laminate and the blow up variety of water based fun."
Regardless of my own personal conflicts, here's a few things I thought I would share, inspired by Jen's seven months of considering how might God have her live. I've got a handful of things so I'll break them up over this week.
Here's the first one:
Jen starts the book with Isaiah 58:3, "Why have I fasted and You have not seen it?" She uses this verse to frame her writing, to say this book is not my attempt to get God's attention by pointing out how pious I am. I really liked this because "fasted" is easily interchangeable with "good deeds" or "suffered" or "loved". We are like a horde of little kids, clamoring to have God notice what we've been up to so that we can get the attention we feel we deserve. It quickly becomes about us and not about the needs of those whom we may serve. This book, in Jen's words, is about simplifying for God's glory. I love that idea: simplifying for God's glory. Not so others will see and think highly of me. Not so God will see and think better of me. For His glory.