“If you can make a pot of chili and use a cell phone, then you can create community. If you want to wait until your house is perfect and you aren’t nervous, then just forget it.”
Jen Hatmaker is a Christian inspirational writer mostly for women who are 30 or 40 something. She has five children, her husband is a pastor in a busy church, and somehow she finds time to write books. But she’s very self-deprecating and honest about how hard life can be and how much pressure we put on ourselves. Jen has a gift for writing in an uplifting way that helps you to laugh at yourself and carry on.
Her earlier book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess remains a bestseller as it chronicles her family’s 30-day fasts from seven different things, to combat excessive consumption. I loved this book. Hatmaker has a great sense of humour and her description of the journey through this experiment of living without stuff for periods of time, brought out the best in her.
For the Love was just ok for me. I found her humour a bit on the edge this time and her use of the word (Bless) as in “aw bless” about someone or something sweet but slightly misguided that has a patronizing sound to it, was irritating. (Sorry Jen, I hear that a lot in England and it bothers me there too ). She did have some good things to say about grace and wholehearted living. I especially liked some of her reflections on parenting in this day and age. She talks about allowing children to build up their own resilience. Don’t step in to cushion every blow. Hold children responsible for their own failures, don’t demand exceptions and don’t blame the teacher. And what she says to parents is, don’t think you have to be Pinterest parents…it’s exhausting. Of course children need to be loved and shielded from harm and encouraged regularly, but I think she is on to something here. These days some parents just seem too scared and over-involved to let their kids venture out and learn some valuable lessons on their own.
This was an entertaining book to read over the Christmas holiday time. Talk about a season of “excess”! Jen Hatmaker’s book is a reflection on how life would be if we dared to live with less and were less drawn into the consumerism of our culture. She dedicated herself to 7 months of fasting from things and then paid attention to how limiting certain things like food, clothing and media affected her life.
“Fasting helps us develop mastery over the competing voices in our heads that urge us toward more, toward indulgence, toward emotional volatility. Like consistent discipline eventually shapes our children’s behaviour, so it is with us. Believe it or not, God can still change us. Not just our habits but our hearts. Say “no” for a year and see for yourself.”
What I appreciated about the book is that she shares a fresh perspective without throwing around a lot of guilt. Here is what she did in the 7 months.
Month 1: Limited her eating to only 7 foods.
Month 2: Limited her clothing to 7 items.
Month 3: Gave away 7 items per day.
Month 4: Shut down 7 media screens from use.
Month 5: Adopted 7 habits for a greener life.
Month 6: Limited shopping to 7 vendors only.
Month 7: Stopped to pause for rest and prayer 7 times a day.
Hatmaker writes with a good deal of humour but also delivers some very interesting insights. One reviewer said that what Hatmaker does is “makes you laugh and then slaps you up the side of your face.” In this book she does not deliver a directive or offer a template because everyone is different and has unique lessons to learn. It’s a clear case of the questions being more important than the answers. What she does offer is an amusing challenge to “live simply so that others may simple live”. This important book underscores the message that what we do does make a difference and it is our responsibility to God and others to take our actions seriously.