A Semi-Silent Pause

For the month of February, I have severely reduced my media intake by cutting out TV, Facebook, and Twitter and reducing internet, music, and iPhone ap use (For those of your familiar with 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I’m doing media month along with Justin, my sister, and some friends). It has been an amazing time of the Lord speaking and revealing Himself, and although I feel a little disconnected from people, I have also made some incredible connections.

For example, tonight I spoke on the phone with a woman from Indiana who is helping start a school in Ethiopia, and who the Lord allowed me to “meet” through my blog. Incredible. I have a feeling as this relationship continues to develop, I’ll be blogging about it (A chance to help love, support and encourage little school kids in Ethiopia? I know about 87% of you will be ALL over it with me). That’s pretty amazing, right?

I’ve found that although I can’t FB stalk people I love – I can pray for them and that helps me feel connected. A friend going through an insanely difficult trial, friends experiencing great difficulty with one of their children, friends adopting from China this week, and another friend adopting a sweet baby girl domestically that was fraught with uncertainty until the Lord moved and opened doors – all chances for me to join with these people in prayer. I’ve tried to pray for friends when they come to my mind and heart and I miss them, instead of logging on a leaving them a wall post, like I would have done pre-media month. I will confess that I have “cheated” a few times and logged on because I didn’t realize how many people I only communicate with through Facebook, even to the point that I don’t have their phone number and email in my contacts. I must get better at transitioning Facebook friends to real friends. Some of you may start getting random phone calls from me in an effort to do that. 🙂

During this month I’ve read so much and studied and gotten clarity on some things, and dreamed of big God things and started to pray for the Lord to do more through me than I could do on my own without Him. I’ve said before that the Lord works in my life by stringing together little threads and this past month has felt more like three months as dozens and dozens of threads have come together to show me that He is working out something amazing just under the surface of my seemingly mundane life.

I’m telling you – the men in the Bible who advocated fasts weren’t just trying to make us miserable – something special happens when we do with less to leave room for God to speak. He is definitely speaking.

And not only to me – He’s speaking to my kids (who have watched a tiny fraction of TV this month compared to “normal”). So they’re playing more and asking more questions and having more fun, really. And I, not being as distracted, am listening to their questions and responding. I have loved it. Grace is really processing the idea of Jesus (she’s like me – such a little processor) and she’s trying to figure Him out. These are a few of the hilarious things she’s said this month:

“Mommy – if Jesus is in my heart but He tries to come out, will he break my throat?”

“Mommy – how can Jesus be in your heart and my heart at the same time?”

“Mommy – how can we hear Jesus talk because He is WAY down in our hearts and our ears are up here?”

Today, she wanted me to show her pictures of our blood and our hearts from my anatomy textbook because we’ve been talking about blood after Bekah cut her leg. I’m the kind of mom who thinks that is fun – so I broke out my book and gave them both a little anatomy lesson. So Grace is looking at a picture of the heart, and she says, “OK, then where is Jesus in this picture?” and looked up at me with those big blue eyes.

“Uhhh. Well honey that’s hard to explain… Anybody hungry?”

Yep – it’s pretty much Stump the Mommy all day everyday at our house. But it’s sweet too. It reminds me that we accept Jesus at the level we understand. She doesn’t have to understand all of this (How can she? God is so big none of us fully can). But in her own little way, she trusts. She believes. She loves Jesus. It makes me so happy and hopeful for her.

It also makes me want to hold her and tell her that I don’t understand all of this God stuff either, sweet girl, but we’ll learn together. I don’t understand what God will do with us in the future, but I know He’s good. I don’t understand how my heart for kids and my heart for Africa and our heart for the Lord all will come together – but I feel assured that they will.

All of this stuff makes me excited for the future. It makes my hope rise. I’m excited to see all of the threads come together into a picture when He allows it. I just hope that after this month, as we add media back into our lives, that we will remember to leave time for silence, for learning, for listening to the Lord and our kids, for prayer, for thinking, and for studying. I don’t want the noise of our world to drown out what really matters.

Because although I do love TV (Downton Abbey, anyone?) and Twitter and Facebook, it’s all so loud and so predominately silly. There are redemptive aspects, of course, but it’s easy for me to allow it to suck away hours and hours and hours in insignificance. And I think that’s the lesson of this month. There are important eternal things I can do with my time if I’ll allow them in. Looking into my kids’ eyes and discussing anything – that’s big. Praying through something hard and interceding with passion – that’s real. Reading eternal truths and attempting to apply them – that can change me.

So I think that’s the lesson of the silent pause I’ve been on in February (and it’s only been about half-silent really – imagine if I was more disciplined to cut out all media!) If any of you want to join us in the rest of our 7 experiments, send me a note. Month one has been fun and it’s been great doing them together to encourage as we go.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Blog Book Review

A few months ago I started telling my family about this writer and pastor’s wife from Austin and how every.single.word she wrote on her blog and books seemed to be written for exactly where I was at that moment. Plus they were in the process of adopting from Ethiopia and you know me – that is the desire of my heart. So I kinda social media stalked her. A little. After several weeks of this, my sister started calling me out and I laughingly agreed, but I kept reading and kept sending because everything I read was simultaneously revolutionary and stupid simple (so simple because it is the way Jesus taught us to live 2000 years ago but somehow is a way of life we have talked ourselves out of following).

Last night, I ordered the latest book from this author, Jen Hatmaker  7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. I read it in less than 24 hours. I have bought it for many of my friends, and recommended it to the rest. It has torn me up. I am eyeing our closets and pantry, praying and asking the Lord to show me where to give all of the stuff that has sat there since we moved here 3 years ago, but can be treasures to a family in need. I am waking Justin up quoting parts of the book and following him around proposing things like “What if we ate just on the food in our home right now for the next 30 days?” and “So how hard would it be to cut out TV for a month with a 4 and 2-year-old?”

I am changed.

7 is a journal of sorts of a series of seven experiments where the author and her husband, and in some cases their children, intentionally lived with less for 30 days to change their dependence on stuff, and leave room for God to teach them things and grow them to be more like Jesus. These were fasts, and yes, they were hard. Jesus himself fasted because sometimes discomfort is good for our souls.

If a fast doesn’t include any sacrifices, then it’s not a fast. The discomfort is where the magic happens. Life zips along, unchecked and automatic. We default to our lifestyle, enjoying our privileges tra la la, but a fast interrupts that rote trajectory. Jesus gets a fresh platform in the empty space where indulgence resided. (7, p 161)

  • One month she and her husband lived on just 7 foods (different combinations each meal) for a month.
  • One month they lived in only 7 pieces of clothing (not counting underwear).
  • One month they intentional gave away 7 items each day (and actually in the end gave away over 4 times the initial goal). This month touched me because they tried to not only give this to anonymous donation places like Goodwill, but also to actually get to know the poor and hurting around them and minister while building relationships and meeting needs.
  • One month they gave up 7 media types and rediscovered long family walks, cooking together, and nights on the porch in the absence of the noise of constant stimuli.
  • One month they spent money in only 7 places.
  • One month they adopted 7 green habits, including building a family garden and giving half of the produce away through an amazing gardening co-op idea. (Read this article – so cool! If anyone in the DFW area knows of something like this, please let me know).
  • One month they entered into 7 intentional pauses in their day to reduce stress and they practiced actual sundown to sundown Sabbath as Jesus modeled and commanded.
These experiments weren’t just “let’s see how crazy we can be to make ourselves stick out like sore thumbs” – these were sustained periods of reality. The rest of the world does not live like us in America. We are incredibly wealthy people (if we make 35,000 a year we are in the top 2% of the world, if we make 50,000 we are in the top 1% of the world) praying for more wealth and feeling sorry for ourselves as if we are impoverished. But we are not impoverished. Even if we were to each undertake every one of these experiments simultaneously in the same month we would still have more, eat more, and waste more than a vast majority of the people in the world. These experiments simply make us think about the things we numbly take for granted in our culture and get us closer to what the rest of the planet experiences so that we can relate and empathize and love and feel something besides a constant greed for more.more.more.
This challenges me. This humbles me. This excites me. I want to be a part of this.

I don’t know where we fit into this. I don’t know how much my practical rational thoughtful husband can take before he ships me off to live in a bungalow somewhere with my sister (who he also deems a hippy). I don’t know how our “experiments” will look or how they will change us beyond the short period we undertake them, but I pray they will drastically change the way we react and interact with the world around us. And I know that this shift will be received by people in my world with one of two reactions. Half of the people in my world will be intrigued by this idea, and maybe enter into it with us. These people have a distinct feeling we are strangers in a strange world. They already are broken for the hurting, the poor, and the orphan, and they think that the world seems to have gone a bit mad, so they try to see the world through the lens of Scripture. They feel things and then they do something about it. They inspire me with the ways they are different from the culture around them. They act like the church was designed to act. I love it.

But I also know this will be too much for some people in my world. This will place me firmly into the “extreme” camp. Some will go from wondering if I’m a hippy or involved with a cult, to flat-out believing that I have become some self-righteous freak who would be better off living in Africa or in the 1800s with Laura Ingalls. And I need to be okay with that perception. Because I know the tension I live with each day, the discomfort I feel even around Christmas when faced with the excess in our culture and in our home, and this book has defined that feeling for me and given me a plan for releasing that tension from my heart and mind. In one part of the book Jen talks to herself in 2004, and I related to that section more than she can know. In my 20s I lived in excess and competition and insecurity and somehow stuff and food and clothes was what I used to fill the empty places in my heart and define who I was. But I wasn’t fulfilled. If I could go back I would tell myself to relax, to stop buying and shopping and straining and trying so hard. I would explain the love of my Father and the rest and joy to be found in Him. I would encourage that version of me to live differently and take seriously the life of Christ.

I follow a Savior who was a revolutionary and who said and did pretty maddening things. The things He said and did that made me furious and uncomfortable in my 20s is the stuff that resonates with and comforts me today. Sabbath is serious. Family is in the body of Christ. The more we give the less attached we are to this world. This is not our home. I would, if I could, go back and encourage myself to look more like Him, and blend into this world around me less. Blending in is boring.

So at the risk of alienating many of the people who are important to me and who love me, I had to write about this book and what it is teaching me. Because I have many people in my world who are in their 20s, just starting out and defining who they are. And if I can impact even one to be thoughtful and prayerful about even the small decisions like the daily Starbucks habit (or Anthropology, or iTunes), maybe I can make a difference in how they live at 35 in their home with their kids. And many of my friends are like me, still in the defining process of life despite our age. This book cuts through the junk and gets to the real, and it’s a game changer.

Get the book. It’s funny. It’s challenging.

Get ready to be inspired.