Tuesday, March 20, 2012

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Aghhhhh!!! Here we go.  I like to take time to process.  Ask my husband.  After reading Brandon and Jen Hatmaker's books last month, I frankly just had to take time to get over myself.  Talk about reading stuff that makes you VERY uncomfortable with your life.  The ease of having all this "stuff".  As Jen puts it- the excess.

Jen targets specific areas in her book, Seven:  An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  Those areas are clothes, shopping, waste, stress, media, possessions, and food.  Six friends were "the council", consulted on many matters to keep Jen from getting off course. 

In the introduction, Jen begins with a story about housing refugees from a hurricane.  This quote is long, and I don't want to get in trouble with copyright laws, but I didn't feel I could just cut it off without finishing it. One boy walked in to the Hatmaker home and exclaimed, "Dad!  This white dude is RICH!"

Jen writes, "We are.  For years I didn't realize this because so many others had more.  We were surrounded by extreme affluence, which tricks you into thinking you're in the middle of the pack.  I mean, sure, we have twenty-four hundred square feet for only five humans to live in, but our kids have never been on an airplane, so how rich could we be?  We haven't traveled to Italy, my kids are in public schools, and we don't even own a time-share. (Roll eyes here.)

But it gets fuzzy once you spend time with people below your rung.  I started seeing my stuff with fresh eyes, realizing we had everything.  I mean everything.  We've never missed a meal or even skimped on one.  We have a beautiful home in a great neighborhood.  Our kids are in a Texas exemplary school.  We drive two cars under warranty.  We've never gone a day without health insurance.  Our closets are overflowing.  We throw away food we didn't eat, clothes we barely wore, trash that will never disintegrate, stuff that fell out of fashion.

And I was so blinded I didn't even know we were rich.
How can I be socially responsible if unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the word? (You probably do too: make $35,000 a year?  Top 4 percent.  $50,000? Top 1 percent.)  Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer.  We're tangled in unmanageable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more.  What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can't manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount?  Fifty thousand times that amount? 

It says we have too much, and it is ruining us.

It was certainly ruining me.  The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change.  I couldn't escape the excess or see beyond my comforts though.  I wrung my hands and commiserated with Brandon but couldn't fathom an avenue out.  we'd done some first-tier reductions, freeing up excess to share, but still... the white dude was really rich."

Whew!  That was long.  But, see what I mean about cutting it off?  That's just a little of the introduction, people. Wait until you get to the meat. 

For month one, Jen picked 7 foods to eat.  7 foods.  For a whole month.  Only 7.  Nothing else.  Have you ever done that before?  Me neither.  Our culture revolves around food.  We're the exception, not the rule. Over half the world has about that much variety in their food choices, though.   Beans and rice and fruit.  Fruit and beans and millet.  Take your pick. You get the picture.  The day that moved me the most had actually nothing to do with food.  It had everything to do with taking God's word to heart.  Day 7 had me crying.  Read it to find out why.  The rest of the days had me rolling I was laughing so hard.  This girl is funny, ya'll.  One of the only people you'll meet who can create 30 days of jokes out of eating 7 foods. 

Month two found Jen cutting her wardrobe down to 7 pieces of clothing.  This month got to me because in my teen years and early 20's, I could have been the poster-child for the Shopaholic series.  That is, until Crown Ministries and Dave Ramsey entered my life.  Oh, wait, this isn't just about me.  Let's get back to the book.  It was interesting to notice in chapter two the justification Jen felt she owed people as to why she wore the same things over again or felt she wasn't dressed appropriately.  She politely ruined shopping excursions for the rest of my life.  Thanks, Jen (yes, that was sarcastic).

Possessions were the focus of month three.  Every day for a month the Hatmakers gave away 7 things they owned.  The Council decided, after Jen purged over 200 items from her closet, that Hatmaker clothing could only account for one week's worth of give-aways.  Some of the ideas she came up with in this chapter for sharing and swapping were inspiring.  

The fourth month's fast was media.  The Hatmakers gave up their 7 most prevalent forms of media for 30 days.  Guess what they found?  Each other!  Like, they really, like, like each other.  (Did anyone else growing up in the 80's understand what I just said?)  And they really, like, got stuff done.  We could all use some fasting from technology.

Month five was waste.  No, they didn't waste things for 30 days.  They used 7 prevalent forms of reducing waste in their lives.  Don't worry, Jen didn't get all hippie, do yoga while standing on her head, refuse to eat another animal in her life, or anything like that.  She did manage to point out that God's people should be first on the list of humans trying to "go green".  Why?  Because our first job was taking care of this Earth.  He hasn't told us to stop yet. 

Say goodbye to frivolous spending.  That's what the Hatmakers did during month 6.  They chose 7 places they could spend money for a month.  Think about how many places you spend money in a month.  Could you narrow it down to 7? 

The last month was about stress. It was actually a really thought-provoking chapter (okay, ditto for the whole book).  Jen's family instituted the Sabbath.  The real deal, people.  Complete with rest, 7 pauses and prayer times, and observation of the Sabbath from sundown on Saturday to sundown on Sunday.  During this month's journaling, Brandon and Jen received their referral for adoption.  I have to throw that in there.  For those of you who don't already know, Brandon and Jen brought home two beauties from Ethiopia this past year. 

I'm not sure how to summarize everything in Seven.  It is a life changing book.  But, like anything else, you have to let it change your life.  You have to ask yourself what God is showing you through this author's words.  Does what she's saying line up with Scripture?  I believe it does.  She's trying to get you to think outside the box.  Think outside of the walls of your house.  Think outside the borders of your town, your state, and your country.  I do want to clarify that she's not saying to quit work, don't make any money, and spend all your days volunteering.  If you make good money, it's great.  It just comes with heavy responsibility.  Christians should be the ones using their wealth to share with the needy.  Giving out of our surplus.  Realizing how much we've been blessed, and using that to bless others.

As she says in the conclusion, "Love God most.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  This is everything."  She goes on to say why.  Read it.  I can't do it justice and I feel inadequate trying to review it.  Just read it.  You can click on the book on the right hand side of my blog and order it from Amazon.  See?  I made it easy for you.

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