A Painted House

Read this book. And then we really need to talk.

Posted on: January 27, 2012

Some of you may have seen me reference a book I was reading on Facebook last week, titled 7: An Experimenal Mutiny Against Excess.  I have never reviewed a book on my blog so this is a first.  I do read (though not as much as I’d like, post-children) but rarely (if ever?)  have I read a book that evokes the kind of response that says, “Everyone I know must hear about this.” 

This is one of those books.

I read it in three days and that’s only because I dilly-dallied through the last chapter because I didn’t want it to end. 

The above picture is of a brand new copy of 7, waiting to be gifted to someone.  The picture below is of my copy after just one reading.

Every one of these little pink tabs marks a spot where something struck me so profoundly that I wanted to mark it for easy reference later. This doesn’t include the dozens of additional places I underlined, starred, or circled sentences that *pinged* my heart.   A few sections will be printed out and posted in my home as reminders, for when the initial feelings and thoughts start to fade with time. 

7 was written by one Jen Hatmaker, the author of eight previous books.  This is the only one I’ve read but you can bet it won’t be the last.  The premise of the book is that Jen takes seven months and during each month she drastically reduces her life in an area where she feels she (and we as an American church) lives in excess.  The areas include food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, shopping, and stress.  People, it’s fascinating.  We get to follow along with the ups and downs of this experiment which is presented in a funny, earnest, and most importantly, non-judgemental way.  I was surprised and grateful that while the content of this book may be convicting as you digest and apply it, it’s not one of those books where you walk away thinking you’re the scum of the earth because you own a blowdryer. 

I walked away from this book and lived several days in a state best described as holy shell shock. In the best possible way, it wrecked me.  7 resonated more deeply with me than any book I’ve ever read. And that is probably because a few details notwithstanding, my life looks eerily similar to Jen’s as she describes it in the Introduction, from the devoutly Christian upbringing right down to the (still being saved for) double African adoption. And for some time now I’ve been wrestling with – but mostly mentally shelving – the notion that I’m far too blessed.  Too privileged.  And that giving our tithe plus a little extra to the church just isn’t cutting it. I know Jesus wants more but I just can’t (or won’t, out of fear it might hurt too much) come to any concrete conclusions what to do about that. 

I read.  I cried. I took really long showers while I asked God what I was supposed to do with this change in my heart.  We’ve already instituted some changes around here, things I’m super duper excited about because they are things that challenge me to be more like Jesus, to really DO the things Jesus told us to do while we’re here, not just nod my head in agreement when we talk about them.

And God’s sense of timing never ceases to amaze me.  I had no more finished the chapter on possessions, one which says, “John the Baptist said that if you have two coats, one belongs to the poor” and left my emotions raw and convictions overwhelming my thoughts, when a friend announced a coat drive being conducted for the homeless in our county.  People, I’m no longer too proud to tell you I spent the better part of an hour mentally wrestling with whether I really, REALLY needed to give away my favorite (and only one year old) red pea coat.  “I mean really, does a poor person need a slightly impractical but oh-so-cute red pea coat?  I’ve already given five coats to the pile, including my most versitile black one.  I could keep this one and would still have given away over half of what I have.”  Turns out Jesus really wants that pea coat (and He just wouldn’t ding-dang leave me alone about it) so in the bag it went.  I’m still smarting.  And the Casper household is down about 50% in outerwear.

I tell you that not to make myself feel better, look better, or seem more spiritual….but just because it’s a tiny fraction of the response I feel God calling from me.  I will never be quite the same.  Or at least that’s what I’m praying; that my new thought processes and understanding won’t fade after a season like a post-summer camp slump.  I don’t know when I’ve last felt quite so far from the stagnation that’s plagued my spiritual life, or quite so close to Jesus.

“I’m going to bed tonight grateful for warmth, an advantage so expected it barely registers.  May my privileges continue to drive me downward to my brothers and sisters without.  Great yet, I’m tired of calling the suffering ‘brothers and sisters’ when I’d never allow my biological siblings to suffer likewise.  That’s just hypocrisy veiled in altruism.  I won’t defile my blessings by imagining that I deserve them.  Until every human receives the dignity I casually enjoy, I pray my heart aches with tension and my belly rumbles for injustice.”  pg 51.

 Friends, get yourself a copy of 7.   I can’t wait to discuss it with you and then let’s DO something we’ve been called to do all along.

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6 Responses to "Read this book. And then we really need to talk."

I would LOVE to discuss 7 with you. I’m pretty sure it just jumped to the top of my Favorite Books Ever. I discovered Jen’s book Interrupted (you should read that one next–it’s the one right before 7) through a friend a couple years ago, marked it up like crazy, and then connected with Jen online, and she has been the HUGEST encouragement to me in the past year.

Our stories are similar (Christian author/speaker blah, blah, blah before God got a hold of us and MESSED us up). She’s just happens to be a billion times more awesome (and famous and funny). And I don’t know that I’ll even read her other books, because from what I can tell, she wrote them “pre-justice journey.”

That quote you posted is one of my favorites from the book, the last line especially. It’s a thrilling, scary ride to be on–giving sacrificially, loving the poor, and what have you, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Praying today that God fills your pea-coat-hole with something really, really special.

You know, in reading the book I was often reminded if you, Marla. 🙂 I could see your love of Cambodia and all the things you gave up to be able to take your family there, in her words. So it’s no surprise to hear that you’ve been down this road of conscience-squashing before!

AND, regarding the pea-coat-hole…..I had a playdate with a sweet friend this week who out of the blue, gifted me with her old set of Little House books. Her husband bought her a new set for Christmas (and she was simulaneously thankful and a little sad that her read and re-read and re-re-read set from childhood had been replaced). I had been looking for them forever but couldn’t find a set that was cheap enough for my liking. And just like that, a much-loved set (why are books so much better when they’re all beaten up from years of use?) is sitting on my shelf. Thanks, God.

Can’t wait to read it! It sounds AWEsome!

I just added this to my library holds list. I can’t wait to read it.

Well, someone’s birthday is coming up in a couple of months……and I happen to have a copy on hand for just such an occasion. 🙂

hi! there’s a big gaping hole in my google reader when you don’t blog! (in other words…i miss you!) and this is one of those books that i want to read, but i don’t want to be held accountable for the knowledge it provides. knowwhatimean?

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