Some books you read will challenge you, stop you in your tracks, and encourage you to reflect more deeply on Jesus and how you can apply His teaching to your life and ministry. For me Jen Hatmaker’s books ‘7’ and ‘Interrupted’ did this. They are books I found to be funny, practical, and thought provoking. In fact they are books several friends, Celia from Cambridge, Nel from Sheffield and Jane from Bourne also read this year. This is what they say about the books.
Celia describes ‘7’ as a book which centres around the idea that we have lives which are way too full - full of stuff we don't need at the expense of stuff we do need. So she decided to take 7 areas of her life such as food, clothes, and possessions and cut them down to 7 for a month, so wearing just 7 items of clothing, eating 7 items of food etc. She does this alongside a group of friends who are her support group - her interactions with these friends are really interesting - I found myself questioning my attitude to being part of the body of Christ as much as anything. These friends were crucial to her experiment, she wouldn't have considered doing it without them. It made me think how often I embark on projects without the prayerful, practical and emotional support of my friends?
Interrupted is a story of a challenging 7 year journey that Jen Hatmaker and her husband Brandon went on where they were prompted by God to rethink church. Through awareness of the poverty in the area where they live in Austin New Texas they take a leap of faith which calls them to revisit scripture and to engage with Jesus who reached out to the lost and hurting people he encountered each day. Jen and Brandon put this into practice wholeheartedly in their own ministry. It is a book, which challenges deeply. As Nel discovered when she says:
‘It can be very easy and sometimes a bit trite to say that a writer has changed your life but for me this phrase is deeply true. I read 'Interrupted' first and immediately resonated with the heart of the book, thanks hugely to the honest warmth with which Jen Hatmaker writes. I prayed, repented, laughed and wept my way through the pages. I couldn't wait to read '7' and have made significant changes to my lifestyle and giving as a result. Both of these books focus on how we live as devoted, holy, missional disciples of Jesus within a consumer success driven society - drawing from Shane Claiborne her imagery of being a bare foot disciple continues to draw me back to God. I have gifted this book and quoted from it in services over the year and have seen the positive joyful impact this book has had on others - but reading Jen Hatmaker’s books does need to come with a spiritual health warning. These books will seriously challenge your spiritual health.’
For Jane It was the subtitle of Jen Hatmaker’s book ‘7’ which first drew her in, “An experimental mutiny against excess.” She says ‘It perfectly describes the conflict within me between my current indulgent time-poor lifestyle, and the call and intense desire to embrace a life of simplicity and order. It also attracts the rebel in me who is always up for a little subversive thinking!’
Reading the book I felt both comforted and challenged that the hunger for simplicity in me is also being felt by many Christians today; a longing that we ironically try to fill with new possessions, more hours of service, increased “church time”. Hatmaker engages with that desire and dares to suggest that we need to be committed and proactive…to stop acquiring, stop squandering and stop indulging ourselves. I walked away from ‘7’ knowing that I need to radically rethink the way I do ordinary daily life in order to move forward with more space and energy for my first calling, to glorify Christ and find my completeness in Him.
I wonder whether when you read these books they will radically change you, maybe challenging you to change your life style, or engage with the rebel in you. Will they draw you to be a bare foot disciple? We at Sophia would love to hear your comments as you read and reflect upon this writing.
Review by Jennie Fytche.