Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fasting and feast

"Jesus, may there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom. I will reduce, so He can increase."


This is the basic premise of Jen Hatmaker's book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Hatmaker, her family, and "The Council", a group of close friends and advisors, embarked on a seven-month experiment against waste in their households.  Hatmaker chose seven areas in which to reduce:  food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress.  

Hatmaker writes journal-style about her real struggles and successes giving up what we would consider common American comforts while working through her desire to follow Christ's teachings about possessions. For example, during the food month she and her family chose seven foods to eat.  That's it: chicken, eggs, whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, and apples. During the clothing month she chose and wore only seven articles of clothing.  She gave away much of what remained in her closet.  The possessions month went the same way: she gave away seven items she owned each day

The media month shut down seven screens including TV, gaming, Facebook, Twitter, and radio with very limited access to cell phones for emergencies and only Internet use necessary for jobs/schoolwork. They learned to recycle, compost, and garden during waste month. They drove only one car and bought only local or thrifted goods.  Spending month had them funnel their money to only seven vendors like a gas station, farmer's market, online bill pay and Target (because DUH).  During stress month they kept a family sabbath and followed Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr, pausing to pray seven times a day.  

Take a moment to absorb all that. And this was all just to see what would happen to her heart, her family, and her close friends by living with less. This was not for a reality TV show, folks.   

Hatmaker asserts that the American Christian church is very good at preparing the feast: words, prayers, programs, sermons, Bible classes, seminars.  And she is thankful for such things, as they bring many closer to God and share Jesus' message of everlasting love and redemption.  But she worries that the partner to the feast, the fast, is not as equally represented.  Throughout the Bible many of our heroes, like Esther, David, John the Baptist, and Jesus, fasted to gain clarity and understand the plight of the poor.  The early church, followers of The Way, sold their possessions and lived communally.  They practiced radical generosity.  How would one of those followers, if she stumbled into 2013 America, reconcile Jesus' New Testament message with our actual lifestyle?

"If we ignored the current framework of the church and instead opened the Bible for a definition, we find Christ followers adopting the fast simultaneously with the feast. We don't see the New Testament church hoarding the feast, gorging, getting fatter and fatter and asking for more; more Bible studies, more sermons, more programs, classes, training, conferences, information, more feasting for us. At some point the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts. We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully disregarding the costly discipleship after consuming.  The feast is supposed to sustain the fast, but we go back for seconds and thirds and fourths, stuffed to the brim and fat with inactivity."

She quotes Gandhi as saying, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."  Ouch.  Hatmaker keeps going: "Would Jesus overindulge on garbage food while climbing out of a debt hole from buying things He couldn't afford to keep up with neighbors He couldn't impress? In so many ways I am the opposite of Jesus' lifestyle. This keeps me up at night. I can't have authentic communion with Him while mired in the trappings He begged me to avoid."

Preach it, girl. 

I suppose I was mentally ready to take on this book as I begin to prepare myself for the new baby.  It's nesting time, and I want to get rid of anything unnecessary to make way for the new stuff I'll need.  A large part of this preparation will be about "stuff", but it will also be about my heart and mind.  And who else out there couldn't use a little spiritual reorganization?  I  highly recommend this book.  It's funny, an easy read, and deeply meaningful.  


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