So I wrote this post about how our lives have changed in this year and as I left off before, we led a Financial Peace University class, and then went straight into a connection group using the Seven group study.
It was incredibly God-timed, because we had just gotten our spending under control and realized just how much of our paycheck we frittered away on useless things.
I’m not sure I can honestly put into words what the Seven Experience taught me, and we aren’t done learning from it yet. We plan to tackle some of the months again. But it completely changed how we view the world, our little corner of it, and what the reality for many others is.
First off, Jen Hatmaker wrote Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess as a personal record of the challenge her family under took. Then, after much popularity, they created a small group study to go along with it. While her original book is awesome (hilarious and profoundly moving!), the small group study is LIFE-CHANGING. It was simply steeped in scripture and prompted some incredible discussions, between Jace and I, and with our small group. So I highly recommend both. The book is an easier read, very enjoyable and moving. And the study will take you deeper into applying this experiment in your own life- to see where God leads.
So here are Jen’s words on Seven- then I will get into my own!
“A seven-month experimental mutiny against excess, tackling seven areas of overconsumption in the spirit of a fast; a fast from greed, irresponsibility, apathy, and insatiability. Each area boiled down to just seven choices for a month:
Food. Clothes. Possessions. Media. Waste. Spending. Stress.
Only seven foods for a month. Only seven pieces of clothes for a month. Give away seven things we own a day for a month. Eliminate seven forms of media for a month. Adopt seven substantial habits for a greener life. Spend money in only seven places. Practice “seven sacred pauses” a day and observe the Sabbath…a deeply reduced life to find a greatly increased God.”
As part of the small group study, we undertook each seven items for only one week- not the full month that Jen originally did. And oh my, that Hatmaker family
is crazy are troopers for doing these each a full month! Some of them I could have done a month, but others were so hard for even a week!
But before we get into the actual fasts. Let’s talk about fasting.
I was raised Presbyterian, and boy do I love my Presbyterians. They are a somewhat formal group, change never comes about with out several committee meetings, you won’t hear applause or a bunch of “amens!” in service, and everything is better with a potluck. But those Presbyterians do know how to love on others, and I was definitely raised with a sense of responsibility for the “least of those.”
One thing that I didn’t learn though, was fasting. (Although I doubt many churches get it biblically correct these days!) We gave soemthing up for lent, a time of sacrafice- but I think I missed the whole point.
See fasting- it’s not about giving something up. It’s about replacing that something- with God. With time with Him. With thoughts of Him. With prayers.
It’s about shaking off the ruts and expectations of culture, the things that we find begin to creep up into idol status. And instead- making room for His kingdom work.
“How has excess in your life distracted you from God’s kingdom work?”
How much do we have in this American culture? Just how rich are we compared to the rest of the population? Just how wasteful? Just how greedy?
If you get a chance tomorrow- read Matthew 19: 16- 25. It’s that little story about the man, who has followed every commandment Jesus has given and he asks Jesus what he can do to be a true follower, to be perfect. And Jesus, knowing him and loving him, he tells him to sell all he owns and follow Him. Yeah. The rich guy doesn’t do it. And as Jen Hatmaker put it, “Then Jesus told him, ‘It’s not about what you’re doing right; it’s about what you cherish.'”
Um. ouch. I mean. I feel like we are good people. We try hard to live the way Christ calls us to live.
But um. yes. I cherish some things. A. LOT.
Like my kitchen aid mixer. And this darn smart phone. And books. Lots of books. My camera. My Chemex coffee brewer. Oh yes. I could go on.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
Hm. He ends that story in Matthew though, with the reflection to the disciples that NO ONE can be saved but with God. Because even the most pious of missionaries, the most devoted of Christ-followers will never achieve what Jesus did. Perfection. But that’s not to say that we shouldn’t try. Shouldn’t aim to make a choice every.single.day to something more Christ-like.
So back to fasting.
“Fasting is an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God’s movement in our lives.”
Biblically, fasting is commanded for six extreme circumstances: Mourning. Inquiry. Repentance. Preparation. Crisis. Worship.
We decided as a couple, that our primary reasons for undergoing these fasts were for Inquiry and Preperation.
What was His call for our lives? What was our passion? Where did we need to be focusing our passion and resources? And how do we get there? What do we need to give up or take up to be prepared?
Oh. oh. oh. We were excited. One week in and we were revolutionized. And little did we know what all was in store for us.
And if you read all of that, I’m impressed. I won’t be so rambly from here on out!
Items in quotes are either scripture as noted or from The Seven Experiment by Jen Hatmaker
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