Monday, November 11, 2013

Life Filled With Excess

     When I was about eight years old I was driving in the car with my dad. Out of the blue I told him that I wanted to donate my appendix to someone that didn't have one. He said that's not something you's not even something you need to have in your body to survive! I was bummed. I thought I could sacrifice something of mine for someone else. 
     However, I've had a recent revelation that there is a lot of other things that I can cut out of my life or trim down, in order to experience a closer walk with God and a heart more focused on others.

     Speaking of getting rid of excess in our lives, I read the book Seven by Jen Hatmaker and was left speechless. Seven is the account of Jen Hatmaker’s journey of “seven months, seven areas, reduced to seven simple choices. I’m embarking on a journey of less. It’s time to purge the junk and pare down to what is necessary, what is noble. 7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.” The seven areas she focused on per month were: food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress. Her desire to fast in each of these areas was “an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God’s movement in my life. A fast creates margin for God to move.” She also included why people fasted in the Bible. Jen said, “according to Scripture, fasting was commanded or initiated during one of six extreme circumstances: mourning, inquiry, repentance, preparation, crisis, and worship”.

Month One: Food
 Jen fasted all foods except: chicken, eggs, whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, spinach avocados, and apples (and salt, pepper, and olive oil)…and only water to drink. 

 “He can heal me from greed and excess, materialism and pride, selfishness and envy. While my earthly treasure and creature comforts will fail me, Jesus is more than enough. In my privileged world where ‘need’ and ‘want’ have become indistinguishable, my only true requirement is the sweet presence of Jesus.” And Jen concluded, “This held me fast to the heart of Jesus.”

Month Two: Clothes
Jen assessed her family’s closets and came away realizing how much they spend on clothes.  She decided to go with these seven clothing items for one month: “one pair of jeans, dark wash, kind of plain; one long-sleeved solid black T-shirt, fitted; one short-sleeved black ‘Haiti relief’ T-shirt with white print; one short-sleeved gray ‘Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop’ T-shirt with yellow print; one pair of gray drawstring knit Capri pants; one long silk brown dress shirt; shoes: cowboy boots and tennis shoes” (they are one category).

“We cannot carry the gospel to the poor and lowly while emulating the practices of the rich and powerful.”

Month Three: Possessions
In month three, Jen commits to “give seven things away that we own. Everyday.” 

“Please, don’t miss it because the American Dream seems a reasonable substitute, countering the apparent downside to living simply so others can live at all. Do not be fooled by the luxuries of this world; they cripple our faith. As Jesus explained, the right things have to die so the right things can live-we die to selfishness, greed, power, accumulation, prestige, and self=preservation, giving life to community, generosity, compassion, mercy, brotherhood, kindness, and love.”

Month Four: Media
In Month four, Jen shuts down: TV, Gaming, Facebook/Twitter,i phone apps, Radio, Texting, and Internet (texting and internet only for time saving, job, or life related)

“These don’t enrich my life in the slightest. They do, however, steal energy from my home and family, substituting face-to-face time with screens. We’re losing on this exchange, and we won’t revert to the plugged-in family we were before.”

Month Five: Waste
Jen focuses on gardening, composting, conserving energy and water, recycling, driving only one car, shopping thrift and second-hand, and buying only local

“What does it mean to be a godly consumer? What if God’s creation is more than just a commodity? If we acknowledged the sacredness of creation, I suspect it would alter the way we treated it.”

Month Six: Spending
Jen’s family only spends money for the entire month in seven places: The Sunset Valley Farmer’s Market, HEB gas station, online bill pay, kids’ school, limited travel fund, emergency medical, and target

“I’ve discovered reduced consumption doesn’t equal reduced community or reduced contentment.”

Month Seven: Sabbath
Jen honors the “Seven Sacred Pauses” written by Macrina Wiederkehr everyday: The night watch-midnight, the awakening hour- dawn, the blessing hour-mid morning, the hour of illumination-noon, the wisdom hour-mid afternoon, the twilight hour- twilight, and the great silence-bedtime

“Is it coincidental that God named every person included in the rest? Sons and daughters, servants and animals, guests and visitors; we all need this. My neglect of the Sabbath doesn’t just affect me but my entire household, my extended community. The pace we keep has jeopardized our health and happiness, our worship and rhythms. We belong to a culture that can’t catch its breath; rather, we refuse to catch our breath.”

My Thoughts:
Seven is a radical book. It presents a radical way of living. It encourages a radical overhaul of everything that is excess in my life. I realize I have so much of everything in my life.

I found Jen's book to be incredibly challenging. Really, how pathetic to realize that it's so hard to go with less, or just not as much as I'm used to (or would like to go without).

Although Jen's book was thorough and well written, I felt that there was an area that Jen didn't cover in her book that I personally could use a fast from...negative words and thoughts (words or thoughts that are negative, hold doubt, lack faith, or don't think the best of God or other people). I realized it is so easy for me to live without limits on my thoughts and words. But, God wants me to take every thought captive.

What if I only lived with 7 kinds of words? How would it change my relationship with God? How would it change my relationship with others? Maybe God would have a chance to talk?!

Jen's desire to rid her life of excess has convicted my heart. STUFF permeates my day, my thinking, my decisions, and my life. I really admire Jen’s passion to empty herself, in order for God to fill her life with Him!

*I need to include that I don't agree with the author's choices regarding alcohol. However, the book is still very challenging, and I believe it's a great read.

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