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seven reflections and other thoughts

Posted by on January 18, 2014

I haven’t made any New Years resolutions in years.  I did write about resolve a few years back.  This year the new year arrived and I hardly blinked.  Then my friend Jess handed me a book.  She passed it off like a relay baton. She said, “I finished this on the car ride to church so that I could give it to you.”  IMG_0350

I just finished 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  Honestly there were moments when I couldn’t put this book down and there were places I skimmed.  I like her dry humor and sarcastic tone.  The “diary style” writing was at first interesting and later got a little old.  It was really interesting and sometimes really frustrating to read about an American pastor’s wife and her self proclaimed experimental mutiny against excess while sitting in the poorest country on earth.  And that whole experience of listening to Jen and how she feels about her life of excess just hammered home the thing that keeps coming back to my mind and my heart- there is no way for us to ever truly understand how much our lives are about excess and stuff and how often we wallow in our self pity.  Even when I think I’m a hero for fasting or simplifying or giving, I’m just chipping a pea sized ice cube from the glacier of blessing that is my life.  And there is nothing I will ever be able to do about it except pray for a humble heart and grace.  I absolutely recommend this book.  Not because it was emotionally inspiring.  Not because it revolutionized who I am or how I think about the world, but because it made me think about faith and my walk with God and how I live my life.  It sharpened my senses to this really important question: “Do I love the Lord my God with all my heart and all my mind and all my soul and all my strength?  And do I love my neighbor as myself?”

My comment on fb was that my life here in Niger is like a fast.  That is sometimes true.  I didn’t feel sorry for Jen when (in her second month of fasting) she wore only seven items of clothing for four weeks.  I know many, MANY people who own seven or less clothing items.  The fact that she and her family gave up TV, Gaming, fb and tweets, iPhone apps, radio, texting, and internet for a month is honorable, but something I’m forced to do this from time to time when our power goes out.  And in the hot season we are thankful when we have electricity at all.  Tonight my seven year old came running out of the house with tears in his eyes to find me.  He cried, “I am so jealous of my cousins because they get to see Grammy and Papa so much.  And they have a huge TV and a Wii.”  I can only hope and pray that some day my son will be thankful for this life and that he will not walk into adulthood harboring resentment because he’s not a normal American kid.  I know people (and I know that there are millions of people all over the world) who have no idea what twitter or Dancing With The Stars or Angry Birds or youTube even are.

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canning tomatoes

In month five Jen and her family begin gardening, composting, conserving energy and water, recycling, shop only thrift and second hand, buy only local, and drive only one car.  We do all of these things except recycling (we can’t here), and once a year we buy clothes new (but I love Goodwill and the used clothing found here in the market), and the imported food we buy from a locally owned grocery store.  But we do know that every single plastic bottle or bit of food or bic pen we throw away gets picked up by the many people who go through our trash to see if there is some way that they can find a use for the things we don’t want anymore.  This is one of the most dramatic ways that my life has changed in the last ten years. Because of poverty or a tight budget here, people in Niger conserve, reuse, wear clothes with stains and holes, and pinch pennies (or in this case francs) any way they can.  I have learned the blessing of home cooking and home making just about everything.  It’s a joy, and I think that’s why this chapter was one of my favorites.  

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my neighbors

 I love Jen’s commentary on the church and their expensive programs and decorated buildings and starving neighbors.  It sounds like the church she and her husband pastor has some really wonderful ideas about loving their neighbors.  This revolution to live the Word is the part of 7 that challenges me the most.  And when I can let go of the details of Jen’s life of excess and look into my own heart and my own attitude, that’s where this book becomes valuable to me.  At the end of most chapters, I really wished to know what happened next. After eating only seven foods for a month, what was the first thing she ate when she broke her fast?  How did it feel to drink that first cup of coffee?  What did she do with those seven items of clothing and did she still want to wear jeans after that?

God is challenging me to take another look at my faith.  I recently found the if:Gathering.  They ask the question, “If God is real then what?”  My answer to that question is: if God is real and his word is true, I need to live every moment for him.  I need to let him shape me even when that’s hard.  I need to never think that because I sold everything I owned and moved across the world, I have it all together or don’t need His grace.  I am so glad that life is a crucible and I’m not finished yet.

In light of all of this and because of this inspiring post, I am working on driving God’s word into my heart.  I believe that He is real and His Word is true.  And I want it to saturate my soul. I want to know His Word so that it will come back to me in those moments when I struggle.  I want what Jesus thinks is important to be the guide for my behavior.  At all cost.  And that’s where Jen Hatmaker and I seem to totally agree.

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