American life can be excessive, to say the least. That’s what Jen Hatmaker had to admit after taking in hurricane victims who commented on the extravagance of her family’s upper middle class home. She once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called “rich” by an undeniably poor child, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual was born.
7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.
Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. They would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.” So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased God—a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better existence.
JEN HATMAKER is the New York Times bestselling author of For the Love and Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, along with twelve other books. She hosts the award-winning For the Love podcast, is the delighted curator of the Jen Hatmaker Book Club, and leader of a tightly knit online community where she reaches millions of people each week. Jen is a co-founder of Legacy Collective, a giving organization that grants millions of dollars toward sustainable projects around the world. She is a mom to five kids and lives happily just outside Austin, Texas.
This book was quite a mixed bag for me. While I admire Hatmaker's heart and her decision to drastically simplify her lifestyle, the chummy/overly self-deprecating/oh-little-ol'-me? tone of her authorial voice really grated on my nerves. It was difficult at times not to feel like "7" was just a vanity project for Hatmaker -- many of the changes she implemented for each of her 7 focused months (i.e. eating only 7 foods, unplugging from all media) were simply unsustainable over the longterm or did little by way of addressing systemic issues of poverty, over-consumption, and inequality. The way she publicized her fasts seems antithetical to core Christian commands about the discipline and her at times weirdly over-aggressive tone when addressing her readers ("I'm just like you! Except I'm different! I'm an Austin weird chick! Don't judge me!") was a huge turn off for me.
Having said that, I feel the best parts of "7" were the reflections at the end of each chapter/month where Hatmaker writes less about her own experience and instead connects her fasts with Biblical injunctions and reflections on the state of the modern American church. These paragraphs, with their earnest, humble pleas to her readers to take a look at the state of their own hearts, were much more personable and effective to me than the blog-like recounting of what she'd given up for the month and how difficult it was for her.
In all, I think "7" is probably most valuable as a resource for people in Hatmaker's own demographic -- upper middle class suburban Christian parents who feel that their lives have been overrun by stuff and spending. For readers who are already involved with ministries that emphasize social justice, Hatmaker's book doesn't really break any new ground.
Oh this book. This book took me completely and utterly by surprise. A friend gave it to me for Christmas because she thought I'd like what she took to be the general theme of the book from the blurb in the back-- this lady scales back in 7 aspects of her material life. Yeah I love that stuff. What is not glaringly obvious from the main blurb in the back is that this book is written by a pastor's wife who's also a speaker on Christianity. You have to look at the fine print for that pattern and then it's like "How in the hell did I miss that?"
When I started the book, this was an unpleasant surprise. Holy bible quotes everywhere. Not to mention the fact that God, Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Lord, Holy Spirit, etc. get mentioned about 5 times per page. Usually bible quotes with a zealous use of Jesus name drops is not a good thing for me. My hypocrisy senses start tingling and I usually back away as quickly as possible without drawing attention to myself.
But this is a book, not a person, and there WAS the whole thing about cutting back the excess in the seven areas of her life: Food, Clothes, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste, and Stress. And she even broke it down into monthly projects. Which I always am a sucker for.
Oddly enough, I had lately been thinking about the Republicans and the huge conservative shove to strip down "entitlement" programs in favor of a smaller government and more money in their pockets in the form of lower taxes that they have somehow mixed up with a fervent "We love Jesus and the Bible and truly want to protect Christianity" message.
And I kept thinking about how damn hypocritical it was because even though I don't practice anymore, I sure as heck know all about "Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ" thanks to being raised by a really strict Catholic family and going through Catholic education from Kinder through High School. I've read the Bible front to back . Heck I even used to read the Bible as I was one of the lecterns at Church. And if there's one thing I know about the Jesus that is in the Bible I read over and over again, it's that he can't possibly be the same Jesus Republicans vow to love and protect.
It turns out Jen Hatmaker apparently sees a lot of the glaring hypocrisies in American Christian churches today that I do. I can't stand churches and I can't stand the Christians that practice this hypocritical Capitalism is Awesome form of Christianity.
Let's face it guys, Jesus was a dirty homeless hippie. And if you really think the same dude who gave away free wine for his first miracle and later sat on a mountain giving away fish and bread all day would be against programs like Food Stamps or WIC, you're wrong. And if you think the same guy who made it a point to always seek out and include society's shunned ones would be against extending this sort of assistance to as many people as possible, you'd also be wrong. If you really think the same guy who walked around healing lepers, restoring sight to the blind, and even raising people from the dead would be against free health care for everyone, you'd be totally and completely wrong yet again.
Jen Hatmaker turned my insides cold when she made an observation that speaking on a personal finance level, you could interpret "Love your neighbor as you love yourself" into an equation where you live off 50% of your income and use the other %50 to love all of your neighbors. It was sort of a huge DUH moment and gave me so much to consider.
Jen's story is inspiring, moving, and interesting. Lots of people do projects where they eliminate this, that, and the other from their lives in big ways. But until Jen's book, I was yet to read someone who took the experience and turned it into a call to action to help those around her. De-cluttering is only half the battle.
Personally, I don't think you need to be associated with a faith or a church or anything to look around you and do good for the world but I would likely be very interested in at least linking up with a church like Jen's because it would give me an excellent way to lend my helping hand to the community. That moves me greatly. Personally I found that my favorite thing about the book was the fact that I would read her experiences and think, "That is a brilliant idea. I want to do that for someone. How would I even start to do something like that?" Her book is at the same time a reflection and a call to action. A really loud, persistent one that somehow manages to remain humble and honest at the same time.
I strongly recommend the book even if you're like me and things like churches and Jesus Christ give you the Hypocrisy Heebie Jeebies. Because I actually think Jen Hatmaker might be authentic. What she is teaching and what she is practicing makes more sense to me as an example of a true Christian than the classic modern representations of Christians today.
If you feel there is just TOO MUCH in your life-- too much crap, too much stress, too much noise, too much madness, too much sadness, too much to deal with-- grab this book. I think you'll be moved.
I'm torn about this book. On the one hand, I don't think I like Jen Hatmaker all that much. It may be that folksy on this level just doesn't do it for me, but when you start talking about chips & salsa as a food you'd be willing to "commit actual murder for," that's just too much needless hyperbole for a book that's supposed to about living a more Godly life.
On the other hand, reading this made me quite uncomfortable in what I assume is a good way. Beyond the novelty of wearing only a certain number of clothes a month or eating the same few foods for 30 days, the basic message of this book as I take it seems to be that there's always someone who is worse off than you, so what are you doing to help them? My family & I are pretty easy with our level of prosperity, or lack thereof; we don't have any scratch left over at the end of the month, but we do have a wee savings & we get all our bills paid. But how are we assisting anyone who has it worse off than we do? Wouldn't we like to have help from others if, god forbid, one of us loses a job or we have a medical emergency or whatever terrible contingency you can dream up befalls us? Rather than throwing money at some charity, shouldn't we be actively trying to help in a more tangible way? I have a lot of thinking to do now.
I can't believe this is the ninth book written by this woman. NINTH!! Surely they can't all be like this, or publishers wouldn't keep publishing them, right??
The writing is atrocious, and completely overwhelms what I'm sure is a very sincere message. What is meant to seem self-deprecating comes off as self-absorbed and annoying. Other reviewers have described her and her as hilarious, but I could not disagree more. Her efforts in the 7 project may have been to draw her closer to God in some way, (I can't actually tell if it worked, because she is not a particularly insightful or reflective writer) but the book did not do the same for me. P.S. Is every book by a Christian author obligated to do free-advertising for Chick-Fil-A?
This book came highly recommended but I failed to see what was so great about it. Eager to hear of this amazing experiment and life changing book, I waited patiently by the door, waiting for the Amazon santa clause to deliver my gift. Once it came, I ripped it open and voraciously read chapter one. The excitement fizzled and I was left with nothing. So I read chapter two...and three...waiting for something.
Basically, the book is about learning to live with less. The author takes seven months, each month being a different experiment in how she can limit the excess in her life. For example, one month was labeled food, so she only ate seven types of food. One month was clothing, so she only allowed herself to wear seven articles of clothing. Perhaps it caused her to be more grateful for what she had, but I failed to see the long term effects of this experiment. In my opinion, the experiments were just that. Experiments. What good does it do to limit yourself to eating seven types of food or wearing seven articles of clothing if in the next month you go back to normal? This book was not life changing for me and it lacked the depth and interest I was expecting.
Ok. So, she is funny. She has a fun way with words and can write a little conversation into something that is fun to read. I'd love for my students to be able to do this. But I couldn't even get myself to finish this book. It is just not my style. When I read a book, I want a book, not something that reads like a bunch of blog posts. Even in her mutiny against excess, I saw excess. It was like reading, "Hey look at me. Look at what I'm doing. I'm this great famous person so I can limit my consumption of things and people will pay me to write a book about it." As a society, we seem to be obsessed by ourselves and take on crazy projects just so we can boast about it. Even as we claim to want to help the poor, the spotlight is shining brightly on us and the appearance of doing good. This book reminded me why I had vowed to stop reading the "experiment" type of books that are so popular right now.
I can understand others giving this book a high rating, but for me personally I struggled through it. I think most of this was due to the style and tone of the writer which I just didn't like on a simple personality basis, which may be my fault as much as the author's agreeably. I also thought some of the arguments and data peppered through out the prose were trite, presented one-sided, and not subjected to the proper judiciousness of the journalism she was bordering on. Finally, some of the seven fasts were lived through and discussed too shallowly. I got the feeling she was playing games with the whole thing more than doing real soul searching and testing. Again though, I do think she was being genuine and it is very possible that others reading this book would likely not sense much of what I am complaining about.
I gathered from the book that it was written after several successes and was squeezed between other books she was wrapping up and starting, and it felt just like that, meaning it lacked the freshness, rawness, and gravity that a freshman publishing effort might have produced... All that to say, I hope to see someone else write this book instead at some point.
NOTE: not so much a review as a place-to-put-the-quotes-I-don't-want-to-forget-before-I-return-this-to-the-library.
*"The careful study of the Word has a goal, which is not the careful study of the Word. The objective is to discover Jesus and allow Him to change our trajectory. Meaning, a genuine study of the Word results in believers who feed poor people and open up their guest rooms; they're adopting and sharing, mentoring and intervening. Show me a Bible teacher off mission, and I'll show you someone with no concept of the gospel he is studying" (4).
*"May my privileges continue to drive me downward to my brothers and sisters without. Greater yet, I'm tired of calling the suffering 'brothers and sisters' when I'd never allow my biological siblings to suffer likewise. That's just hypocrisy veiled in altruism. I won't defile my blessings by imagining that I deserve them. Until every human receives the dignity I casually enjoy, I pray my heart aches with tension and my belly rumbles for injustice" (51).
*"Scripture describes the people who drew Jesus' eye: the poor widow, lepers, the lost and hungry, adulterers, the outcast, the sick and dying. The already dead. Finery and opulence never impressed Jesus; quite the opposite" (52-3).
*"When we hear 'fast,' we put on a yoke of self-denial. When God said 'fast,' He meant to take off the yoke of oppression. The Isaiah 58 fast is not about the mechanics of abstinence; it is a fast from self-obsession, greed, apathy, and elitism. When it becomes more about me than the marginalized I've been charged to serve, I become the confused voice in this passage: 'Why have I fasted and you have not seen it?' (57)
*"With my genuine needs met but so many dollars yet unspent, shopping has become a stronger marker of freedom than voting, and what we spend in the mall matters more than what we're accomplishing together as the church. I am a part of the problem, a contributing member of inequality. Every time I buy another shirt I don't need or a seventh pair of shoes for my daughter, I redirect my powerful dollar to the pockets of consumerism, fueling my own greed and widening the gap. Why? Because I like it. Because those are cute. Because I want that. "These thoughts burden me holistically, but the trouble is, I can rationalize them individually. This one pair of shoes? Big deal. This little outfit? It was on sale. This micro-justification easily translates to nearly every purchase I've made. Alone, each item is reduced to an easy explanation, a harmless transaction. But all together, we've spent enough to irrevocably change the lives of a hundred thousand people. What did I get for that budgeting displacement? Closets full of clothes we barely wear and enough luxuries to outfit twenty families" (65).
*"Jesus' kingdom continues in the same manner it was launched; through humility, subversion, love, sacrifice; through calling empty religion to reform and behaving like we believe the meek will indeed inherit the earth. We cannot carry the gospel to the poor and lowly while emulating the practices of the rich and powerful" (68).
*"Please, don't miss it [the Kingdom] because the American Dream seems a reasonable substitute, countering the apparent downside to living simply so others can live at all. Do not be fooled by the luxuries of this world; they cripple our faith. As Jesus explained, the right things have to die so the right things can live--we die to selfishness, greed, power, accumulation, prestige, and self-preservation, giving life to community, generosity, compassion, mercy, brotherhood, kindness, and love" (91).
*"The gospel will die in the toxic soil of self" (91).
*"[T]he gospel is neutered until it grows hands and feet and actually becomes good news to someone" (107).
*"So we spend, spend; amass, amass; indulge, indulge, item by item, growing increasingly deaf to Jesus who described a simple life marked by generosity and underconsumption. Over time a new compartment develops in our spending habits, safely distanced from the other drawers like 'discipleship' and 'stewardship'" (157).
*"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 discarding the costly discipleship required 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. All this is for me. My goodness, my blessings, my privileges, my happiness, my success. Just one more plate" (172).
*"When the fast, the death, the sacrifice of the gospel is omitted from the Christian life, then it isn't Christian at all. Not only that, it's boring. If I just want to feel good or get self-help, I'll buy a $12 book from Borders and join a gym. The church the Bible described is exciting and adventurous and wrought with sacrifice. It cost believers everything and they still came. It was good news to the poor and stumped its enemies. The church was patterned after a Savior who had no place to lay his head and voluntarily died a brutal death, even knowing we would reduce the gospel to a self-serving personal improvement program where people were encouraged to make a truce witht heir Maker and stop sinning and join the church, when in fact the gospel does not call for a truce but a complete surrender" (174).
I finished it this morning and felt like I had just had a really long weekend with a best friend. First of all, she's hilarious. I started following her on twitter which is equally hilarious, btw. I laughed several times out loud reading this...and sometimes I cried. Often, it was on the same page. What I loved the most is that this is her experience, not her preaching. She wrote in a kind of blog format, taking you with her through everyday of this experiment. Some days were deep and brooding and revelational. Other days she laments over how dry chicken breast is and what she had to wear during a speaking engagement) I love Chan and Chandler and Piper, and she has some very similar things to say about how we live, but never, ever did I feel judged (not that I felt judged by the others) because she's struggling just like me and makes that known. I didn't walk away with guilt either, which is usually my response to books like this. Instead I feel so encouraged and empowered to, as she says, "just do the next right thing." Loved it, loved it.
It pains me to not give 7 a higher rating. After all, it's filled with ideas I admire, strive to, and do in my daily life. Jen Hatmaker's writing style, though, gets in her way. She spends too much time on cultural cliches and mentions that are downright uncomfortable. It's distracting and completely unnecessary when she refers to her adopted children as "brown," or her favorite restaurant as "worth murdering for." It's a turnoff when she describes "First (Insert Denomination) Church" as full of well-dressed people who will judge her... isn't that a judgment in itself? As a life-long mainline church member, I could care less if she has a wrist tattoo or wears jeans; I do mind that she makes assumptions about a large percentage of the Body of Christ that aren't really Kingdom-building. I had to really push through my own prejudices of starting a spiritual discipline when you're already under a book contract to write about it (knowing I'd already watched an entire HGTV show centered on her home renovation!). I found her to be helpful when she sticks to facts and gives thoughtful suggestions for ways to cut down on consumerism. I appreciated when she candidly discussed times when she "broke the rules," even if I don't understand the necessity for some of her rules (after all, those who have less wouldn't get to choose 7 nutritious foods they already enjoy to limit themselves to). This topic deserves more conversation than it's getting, but I would rather know about how she implemented these ideas for her family in the long run, not just before the draft was due.
I'll be honest, I grudgingly started this book. I downloaded the book on my kindle and strapped myself in for one of those self help/loathing books that makes you feel like a piece of crap because you aren't a better person and doing all you can for your fellow man......
My husband asked me what I was reading when I started and I gave him a grotesque look and told him it was a book for book club that I HAD to read and Misty (who recommended the book) owed me and I was going to put her to work scrubbing my bathrooms AFTER she scrubbed all of the dirt that is embedded in the cracks of my feet that I can't seem to get to come clean for reading her book. Gosh! I am SO nice for reading her suggested book!!!
I finished the book and dare I admit............. I don't feel self loathing and like crap after all and I actually enjoyed the book and it isn't all about Hail Mary and Praise Jesus and if you don't give up everything in your life to the poor you're going straight to hell!!!
Here's the real shocker! I want my husband to read it! I want my friends to read it! Why? To see if I'm totally crackers or not! (Friends... don't answer that).
Proof that I am crackers. I want to do what is suggested in this book. Sort of. Maybe. There are a few things I want to hurry and buy first. (Blushing and not looking at anyone reading this.)
Just finished this incredible book, and believe me...it's shaken me. Through this book, I have had a major change in perspective. I cringe to see my sin revealed....the sin of self-pity and feeling sorry for myself for our money struggles, all while the air conditioner cools my home to a comfy 74 degrees.
What would I be willing to give up for my children? Everything, duh. What about my sister's baby? Or my brother's children? If I knew that they were in need, hungry, unclothed, motherless....what would stand in my way of meeting those needs? Absolutely NOTHING would stop me from caring for these precious little ones. I certainly wouldn't be whining if I had to give up my morning coffee, camping trips with my family, good sleep, the internet, or luxury purchases like skin care, more stylish or better fitting clothes, or make-up. All these things are trash compared to the children who need me.
So why the disconnect? We prattle on about the global church, and our "brothers and sisters in Christ" around the world, yet we go on living our cushy, luxurious lives (even in the working lower class, we are RICH compared to most of the world...we have CLEAN running water, for goodness sake!!) and neglect the widows and orphans. It's time to take Jesus at his word, and do unto the least of these little ones, as for him.
Yeah, this book has me riled up. Want everyone I know to read it!!
I really didn't want to read this book. A member of my mission team in Africa this June recommended the book to me. But my world had already been turned upside down by the beautifully broken country called Sierra Leone, not to mention my heart had been stolen by several of it's orphans.... so I fought reading this book upon my return home. Once I realized that I would never be the same, and trying to come to terms with living in 'The States' while half my heart longs for Africa and a more simple life I figured this book might just help me discern how to do that.
I love this book! I laughed, I cried, I read sections over and over again but most of all I realized that I take myself WAY to seriously and I really need to lighten up a bit. My goal is to live simply, love with abandon and laugh until my stomach aches or I pee (I have four kids people, you figure out which one will happen first!).
I think I highlighted half the book on my kindle, just reading through them makes me laugh all over again while at the same time realizing I need to purge the house and fill the rooms and my heart back up with Gods word and his love.
We've never gone a day without health insurance. Our closets are overflowing. We throw away food we didn't eat, clothes we barely wore, trash that will never disintegrate, stuff that fell out of fashion. And I was so blinded I didn't even know we were rich. How can I be socially responsible if unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the world? (You probably do too: Make $35,000 a year? Top 4 percent. $50,000? Top 1 percent.) Excess has impaired perspective in America.
Total immersion is the only medium that can tame me.
As I reduce, He is enough. As I simplify, He is enough. He is my portion where food and clothes and comfort fall woefully short. He can heal me from greed and excess, materialism and pride, selfishness and envy. While my earthly treasures and creature comforts will fail me, Jesus is more than enough. In my privileged world where "need" and "want" have become indistinguishable, my only true requirement is the sweet presence of Jesus.
(and this is my favorite and one of the reasons it is easy for me to not eat meat!!)
Hey, guess who I hate? That's right, you, Chicken Breast. I can't believe I ever had feelings for you. You're so dry, and you only taste good when someone covers up your blahness. Salt and pepper is just lipstick on a pig, or in this case, a fowl. I spent forever making a sweet potato and apple hash and stuffing it into your innards, only to be sorely disappointed by the Sahara Desert dryness of your boob meat. You need to be breaded, coated, injected, and smothered to be decent. We're going to have to part ways.
But for the last three years Jesus has messed with me. Frankly, He's hijacked all my holiday endeavors. I've always celebrated holidays with a cultural major and a spiritual minor. Take Christmas, for example. I endlessly spent on garbage no one needed and worked myself into a December frenzy and oh well. La de da. Now I'm overwhelmed by the poor and disgusting consumerism cycle and the heinous neglect of Jesus and the appalling nature of it all.
Jesus is the redeemer, a restore in every way. His day on the cross looked like a colossal failure, but it was His finest moment. he launched a kingdom where the least will be the greatest and the last will be first, where the poor will be comforted and the meek will inherit the earth. Jesus brought together the homeless with the privileged and said, "You're all poor, you're all beautiful." The cross leveled the playing field, and no earthly distinction is valid anymore. There is a new "us" - people rescued by the Passover Lamb, adopted into the family and transformed into saints. It is the most epic miracle in history. That is why we celebrate. May we never become so enamored by the substitutions of this world that we forget.
Reads like a blog, which is mostly okay--I like reading blogs. That said, Ms. Hatmaker's copyeditor seriously let her down. The author tells us that she is a word person who corrects misspelled words in text messages, yet we see such errors as "sheek" instead of "chic" and, in a sentence in which the author declares that "there aren't words to express [her] devotion to Paula Dean" she shows that her devotion does not extend to correctly spelling Ms. Deen's last name. There are enough such occurrences that they become distracting. I might have rated it higher, perhaps four stars, but I was annoyed enough at the lack of care in the writing and editing that I couldn't do it.
I also think Ms. Hatmaker may have a tiny issue with stereotyping people. For example, when discussing her trip to the Sunset Valley Farmer's Market she describes the "exciting contingency of granola people, which made for excellent people watching ("Mom! That lady's nursing her baby while she's walking around!")." As someone who has nursed my baby while walking around on more than one occasion (discreetly, in a carrier, but still) I found myself a bit miffed. I don't consider myself a "granola person" but even if I were, complete with T-shirt reading "tree-hugging dirt-worshipping hippie," it's rude to label a group like that and imply that they're a freak show at the market for the entertainment of the author and her family.
Overall, though, her message is worthwhile and it's interesting to see how she and her family and friends chose to take a step or seven back from the egregious excesses that seem to be the hallmark of American life these days. There was certainly food for thought here and I find myself contemplating much of what she said, particularly "Just because I can have it doesn't mean I should." This sums up much of what she says in the book, and it's a good mantra to apply to daily life.
As the clock ticked past midnight, I was finishing up the last chapter of "Seven- an experimental mutiny against excess". I read the whole book yesterday and found it inspiring and a good way to start my 36th year. I'm thinking about the different categories that she fasted in: food- 7 foods for a month, clothes: 7 items of clothing for a month, Possessions: giving away 7 items everyday, Media: most of it except email, phone calls and some texting, Waste: begin gardening, composting, conserving energy & water, recycling everything, driving only 1 car, shopping thrift and 2nd hand, buying only local; Spending: at only 7 vendors for the month, and month 7... Stress: this was my favorite and lasting impression. Guided by "Seven Sacred Pauses" by Macrina Wiederkehr, the goal was to pause 7 times daily, "a breathing spell for the soul", and pray.
Most impactful passage of the book: pg 159
"What if we are actually called to a radical life? What if Jesus knew our Christian culture would design a lovely life template complete with all the privileges and exemptions we want, but even with that widespread approval, He still expected radical simplicity, radical generosity, radical obedience from those with ears to hear, eyes to see? What if we are camels, on this side of the needle, dangerously content with our fake gospel and avoiding the actual Christian life described in Scripture? What if the number of Christ followers is a fraction of those who claim to be? What if only some have ears to hear and eyes to see, and Jesus was not exaggerating when He predicted few would choose this narrow path and folks will be shocked on judgment day?"
Almost 5 stars, but too religious. Of course, that is her POINT, but still.
I just LOVE reading other people's experiences with downsizing and minimalism. I absolutely devoured this book in less than 24 hours, even reading by flashlight while our power was out.
Minimalism is almost a religion for me. It makes life so much better. It is such a relief to get rid of possessions. The author learned those lessons and many more as she worked through 7 months of doing without in seven different categories. I love challenges like this and I think I will do a 7 challenge of my own. I am tempted by the "spend money in only 7 paces for 1 month", "give 7 things away every day for 30 days", and "eat only 7 things for 1 month". I think those would all be a good, fun challenge. I totally get why she does these things - you learn so much about yourself when you challenge yourself like this. I can't tell you how much I learned about myself the first time I gave u sugar for 30 days. Plus, "fasting" resets your spirit like nothing else.
I laughed out loud and really just loved the author, funny and relatable. Please read this book!
Last night I finished reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Every once in awhile I read a book that really affects me. This is one of those books.
The author, Jen Hatmaker, takes 7 months to focus on 7 different areas of excess in her life.
You see, Jen Hatmaker is rich.
She's rich, just like you are.
Just like I am.
Yup, I just called myself rich.
I just called you rich too.
If you are reading this review, you are rich. If you make $35,000 a year, you are in the top 4% of the wealthiest people in the world. If you make $50,000, you are in the top 1%.
"What does it communicate when HALF THE GLOBAL POPULATION lives on less than $2 a day, and we can't manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five times that amount? Fifty thousand times that?"
Month 1-Food: Hatmaker ate only 7 foods for one month. I must admit I was shocked to read 25,000 people die of starvation every single day. My children have never gone hungry for a day. They've never even missed a meal. This chapter really affected me.
"I wept for all children tonight, my Ethiopian children (she was adopting 2) orphaned by disease or hunger or poverty who will go to bed with no mother tonight and my biological children who will battle American complacency and overindulgence for the rest of their lives. I don't know who I feel worse for."
Month 2-Clothes: Hatmaker had 327 clothing items in her closest. When I read that I thought, "327?!?!" Then I counted my clothing items. I stopped at 300 because I could see where it was going. She selected 7 clothing items and wore only those items for one month.
Month 3-Possessions: Hatmaker gave away 7 items. Every single day.
Month 4-Media: Her family eliminated 7 sources of media.
Month 5-Waste: They began gardening, recycling, composting, driving one car, buying local and buying used. This chapter made me realize recycling isn't enough. After you buy something much of the damage is already done. The footprint from the process of making a product, packaging and shipping is already left.
Month 6-Spending: Americans spent $8 billion dollars a year on cosmetics. While $6 billion dollars is spent on education for children globally. Americans and Europeans spent $12 billion dollars on perfume while clean water for global citizens gets $9 billion. I just about want to vomit thinking of a $100 bottle of perfume I bought back in the day.
I loved this, "If you think you want something, wait a month. One of three things will happen. One: You will forget. Two: You will no longer need it. Or three: You will need it more. Most often, numbers one and two will happen."
After reading this chapter I can't stop wondering how many of my clothing and household items were made by children. You know how you get excited about getting a great deal? I've never even thought that a $5 shirt probably costs $5 because someone was paid .10 to make it. And it could have been a child.
Month 7-Stress: This chapter resonated the least with me. She prayed 7 times a day at certain times and recited scripture at each prayer. I'm sure it was wonderful for her, it's just not my thing.
Someone recently connected me with the most hilarious end-of-the-school-year complaint I had ever read, written by blogger Jen Hatmaker. After scrolling through her blog a little, I discovered she had written a few books. One of the most recent was this one, where she led her family to disconnect themselves from the stuff threatening to take over their lives. The plan was to identify seven areas of excess and cut things out of her own life. Her husband and children participated in varying degrees during certain months. Her areas of focus included food, clothing, general possessions, media, stress, and a few others. The book is written like a journal, with entries every few days discussing how she's doing and including research and statistics of how other people in the world live on so little, or what such constant media consumption is doing to our brains. She is a gifted and funny writer, with a self-deprecating style that made this a really quick read. There were times where I thought she was a little heavy-handed at coming down on churches who choose to build a new building rather than giving their money away, or people who don't bring home homeless people, but I don't think it was intentional. The journal/blog style of the book was made for quick thoughts on various topics, so I got the impression that if you could sit and dialog with her she wouldn't be as judgmental as she sometimes sounded. My favorite part of the book was the way she set up a council of friends to keep her accountable, and sometimes participate with her during certain months. The seven friends sound like they deserve their own television show.
Just finished the book "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" by Jen Hatmaker. The book came highly recommended by friends who are familiar with my tastes and the season of life in which I find myself, and it did not disappoint. Hatmaker recounts her "journey of less" as she pares down areas of her life where she believes she has substituted the American Dream for God's kingdom.
Reminiscent of David Platt's, "Radical," and Francis Chan's, "Forgotten God," this book invokes self-reflection, and it inspires a liberating turn from the pursuit of more. Hatmaker describes her approach as being, "in the spirit of a fast: an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God's movement in my life." After reading it, I too want less of me and my junk, and more of Him.
I highly recommend it to anyone that is heartbroken by the depravity of this world, is frustrated with the inability to fix it, or is suspicious that their life of excess somehow contributes to the problem. It's not a book about self-deprecation or guilt, but instead a motivational challenge to deconstruct our lives and then experience "the thrill of reconstruction."
Still on the fence? At least take five minutes to read the short conclusion while you sip your double grande mocha at Barnes and Noble.
Oh. My. Gosh. This was a very good book. Why didn't I give it five stars? Because I'm not really into the whole Christian peptalk part of it, but, hey, the author is in women's ministry, so it's not like I wasn't expecting that.
Jen Hatmaker is very amusing, and her smartass voice is clear in her writing. By the time I was finished with her book, I wanted to be her friend. I'll bet she'd be fun at a Bunko gathering. This is the part where I over-generalize, so here's my apology in advance. *Sorry.* So, I thought it was refreshing that she's an evangelical Christian AND she's kind of a granola. Those don't often happen at the same time. Did I offend my evangelical friends by saying that? I'm sorry again. I never understood why Christians so frequently reside in the "God made the earth for us to exploit" camp. They believe their bodies are God's temples, which should be cared for, but pissing on God's playground is cool? Whatever. I'll go ahead and be sorry a third time. I'm sorry I don't like those people's attitudes.
Okay, but anyway, Jen Hatmaker is not like that. She conducted her "Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" in the spirit of fasting. For my non-religious amigos, fasting is going without food ON PURPOSE, and substituting prayer. So, in seven months, Jen chose seven areas of excess to restrict, and then she wrote about it. Yeah, she complained too, which made her more real and lovable because if she survived at the end all cheerful, enlightened, peppy, and whatever without caffeine I'd probably burn the book out of principle, even though it belongs to Denver Public Library.
Here's her format, which is essentially the table of contents plus parameters: Month 1: Food Rationale- We have so much food that we waste it because it has no value AND the stuff we eat is processed crap that's bad for us AND we use food as a distraction. (Bitch is a spy, I tell you.) Rules- Seven foods - chicken, eggs, whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, and apples - are on the menu. So is salt, pepper, olive oil, and water. And that's it. Let the caffeine withdrawal and ranting begin.
Month 2: Clothes Rationale- She has 327 articles of clothing (I'm sure I can beat that) and she wastes tons of money accumulating more and since she obsesses about gaining the approval of others, clothing is kind of a fixation. Reducing the options should be, um, humbling. Rules- Seven articles of clothing - jeans, a pair of capris, three tee-shirts, a dress shirt, and shoes make up her wardrobe. Underwear and socks are permitted, but jewelry and accessories are not. I feel like she gets away with that in Austin, but if she did this in Denver in February, she'd have to exempt outerwear.
Month 3: Possessions Rationale- We've got a lot of stuff. Some people don't have enough. Fix that. Rules- Give seven things you own away every day. Clothes can count as only one week's worth because it's too easy to just give away some clothes and books and be done; we have THAT much stuff. The stuff's supposed to find the best recipient; you're not supposed to just dump your trash on a thrift store. No room/cabinet/drawer is safe. Give 'til it hurts a little. You still have more than ninety-nine percent of the world. With just my husband's teacher salary, WE are part of the one percent, and we accumulate accordingly doggone it.
Month 4: Media Rationale: It's usually self-centered and it eats your family time. Say goodbye to seven of them. Rules: No TV, gaming, Facebook/Twitter, iApps, radio, texting, internet. I think this one would actually kill me. Radio? C'mon radio???
Month 5: Waste Rationale: We throw stuff away as if it actually GOES AWAY. Adopt seven green habits to tread more lightly on the planet. Rules: Gardening, composting, conserving energy and water, recycling, driving only one car, shopping second-hand, buying only local are her new Seven Habits of Highly Environmental People -notify Stephen Covey. This doesn't actually bode well for her as she once killed a cactus because she forgot to water it; "green" does not come naturally to her.
Month 6: Spending Rationale: We casually, almost without even thinking, spend money all the time. She calls it nickel and diming the paycheck to death. If she were only allowed to spend money in seven locations, she wouldn't spend so casually. Rules: Spending is permitted in only seven locations this month: the farmers' market, a gas station, online bill pay, kids' school, limited travel fund (she speaks at conventions for a living), emergency medical, and Target. This practice may be bad for the economic slump, but it's good for the family budget.
Month 7: Stress Rationale: We overextend ourselves and fill our calendars to overflowing and don't take time to relax. We don't honor the Sabbath by resting either. Rules: Stop and pray (read: meditate, do deep-breathing exercises, throw down a sun salutation, whatever) seven times a day: midnight, dawn, midmorning, noon, midafternoon, early evening, and bedtime. Oh yeah, and pick a day to be your Sabbath and actually rest on that day.
It should be stated that these are the Seven concepts tailored to Jen Hatmaker's life. She devised the rules for herself and her friends developed various versions for their own situations. She encourages adaptations, and she's just experimenting and writing about it. She's not actually telling readers to do this.
Yeah, this book has a lot of religion going on, and I'm probably an agnostic, if not an atheist, but just because I'm not praying for mercy when I'm uncomfortable doesn't mean I get nothing from a fast. I have a lot. A LOT. A LOT!!! I have more clothes in my closet than some people ever wear in their entire lives, and it does nothing to make me a happier person. On the contrary. My drawers bursting with clothing, my refrigerator packed with food we can't possibly consume before it goes bad, my home overflowing with STUFF, our money thrown away on stupid things we don't need all just stress me more. There is something to simplicity, I just don't know if I have the guts to try it her way. I'm thinking about it though. Closet, beware!
Oh, and if you're kind of granola-y, you should read this book. And if you're a Christian, you should probably read this book. And if you like authors who are funny, you should read this book.
This is not a drill. Stop whatever you're doing (reading this), drop everything (your phone/computer/whatever else you may be holding at the moment) and read this book immediately. When I say this book wrecked me, i mean it ran me over and then proceeded to back up and run me over again at least 10 more times. Seriously, I cannot think of a more influential book that I have read, outside of the Bible ofc. It's just, aah, it's so good I have no words. I wish I could memorize this entire book and remember it forever. So much goodness contained in one book. Jen please be my friend. Nothing is perfect in this life, including this book. A few questionable language choices made me a lil squirmy during reading but out of a spirit of grace am not letting those tarnish the book in my mind. Y'all please read this book, you have to, I promise you won't regret it, trust me. It's fun to read AND impactful, what more could you ask for? Please please please read it and then let's talk. Okay? Good, can't wait.
I was given this book as a gift and read it more out of obligation to the friend who gifted it rather than my own interest. Sociologists, of which I am one, hate self-help books as a matter of principle for reasons too lengthy to go into here. Of course, that means I have friends who regularly want to prove me wrong and repeatedly suggest or gift me self-help books that will change my mind. Part of their argument is that Christian self-help is completely different than secular self-help. Not true (mostly). Both have strong elements of "me" fixing "me" by doing _________________, in this case experimenting against excess. Admittedly, some are better than others. . Honestly, I find the focus on "me" the antithesis of Christian ideals, even if purely motivated as I think Hatmaker probably is. You may argue this isn't self-help but rather a book about the author's experiences over the course of a 7 month variable fast. I would counter that it goes into the realm of self-help by the numerous times the reader is instructed to do these things too in order to be a better person. While I had problems with the book on principle, I also had a negative reaction to the way it is written. It is simply numerous blog posts copy and pasted into published form. That's it.
Before I get a lot of comments on how my negativity must come from conviction, please understand that I am this book's target audience. I'm middle-aged, white, Christian, church attending and volunteering. I ardently recycle, take measure to reduce food waste and donate to food and clothing pantries. I get the points Hatmaker is making. I just strongly dislike the way she is making them.
This is a part of the book description on Goodreads: "Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. They would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.” So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased God—a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better existence."
The author is a mom in Texas who becomes disgusted by all of the "stuff" in their lives and starts this experiment to try to eliminate excess and live more simply. I loved it. She's originally a blogger, so she kind of writes like one (think exclamation points,) which I would have thought would bother me, but I loved her writing. She's hilarious and I laughed out loud several times--on the plane to Utah.
She's also a leader in her church and the book was much more religious than I expected, but I loved her perspective and reasoning for doing everything.
This really opened my eyes to how much excess we really have. Even as "poor medical students" we have SO much. I've since gone on a rampage and taken at least 6 garbage bags to Goodwill and recommitted to living more frugally. Very interesting read.
I'm going to be honest and say that sometimes I can let the "pretty" things in life distract me. We are surrounded by a society that can be selfish, always craving the "best", wanting more, and all the while thinking we are entitled to it.
Why was this book just what I needed? For some reason in the weeks/months leading up to reading this book, I got off track with my priorities. Somehow, I got off track in a big way only thinking of myself and all of the materialistic items that I could (or could not) have.
Reading Jen Hatmaker's point of view while fasting on each of these components was refreshing. She was relatable and she was funny, allowing some humor while showing how some of these things end up controlling us.
As well, this may be a bit controversial, but sometimes I can find similar books almost "too preacher-y" which can make a book hard to enjoy and hard to take away concepts. This book was not like this. Yes, this book does have a religious, Christianity based centre but personally, I think this book is beneficial no matter your religion. I think it really is what we need to be reading in a society that has gotten way off track.
Have already ordered 'For the Love' by Jen Hatmaker and cannot wait to read!
I really wanted to like this book and I just could not make myself read anymore. The author's idea is great - 7 months of cutting back on excesses in 7 areas of life - food, clothing, media, possessions, waste, shopping, and stress. Take one area for one month and concentrate on that issue while using the experience as a spiritual fast. A truly great idea, but the super jokey tone of the book got on my nerves from the first page. I only made it through chapter 3 before I couldn't take anymore. I really hoped I would like this book because even though I'm a Christian I don't read a lot of Christian books (other than the Bible), but I was very disappointed and I know it's time to put a book down when I find myself dreading reading it whereas when I'm loving a book I just can't put it down and can't wait to pick it up again. So, as much as I wanted to like this one I didn't and I definitely wouldn't recommend it to anyone either.
7 has a good big-picture message of moral and social responsibility, gratitude, intentionally simple living, and self-denial for the sake of others, plus Jen Hatmaker is funny and self-deprecating, but I got the feeling she was just doing a "crazy" project to sell another book, and was surprised that it turned out so challenging and profoundly productive. The slangy vernacular in which it was written came across as trying too hard to avoid the appearance of sanctimony, talking down to her readers, but that said, I'm really glad I read the book, and I would recommend it. Good writing it is not, and the grammar in chapter 7 distracted me and made me wonder about her editor, but good insights are there and her points are well taken.
My favorite line in the book, in the chapter "Possessions": "We're... deceived by the treasures of the world, imagining them to be the key when they are actually the lock." p.93
Ok. So I actually really recommend this book and love the concept. My husband and I read this together, and we both felt like her topic got lost in the rambling several times. The rambling made the book feel too long in those parts. Hence the three stars. The author’s honesty was sometimes quite moving, and the concept is completely appealing. I loved the way she asked for her friends to form a committee of sorts to keep her honest. We will be trying our own similar fast for Lent.
This book is disconcerting and as such ranks high with me. The author who is trying, in her own way, to come to terms with consumerism, chooses seven areas of focus in her own personal life to address excess. She experiments with abundance in the areas of: food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending and stress.
The book reads much like a blog. She is casual, honesty, witty and reflective. There were times when I wanted to ask, "So what?" Will there be long-lasting changes in her life as a result of these seven months? Only she can determine that. This is her reflective journey - almost an action research project.
I would not necessarily "follow" her model, nor does she encourage that. She writes, "You have a different set of factors. I have no idea what this may look like in your life, nor do I want that job....I use words, you use a hammer."
Here are her objectives and insights:
Love God most. Love your neighbor as yourself. This is everything.
What we treasure reveals what we love.
Money and stuff have the power to ruin us.
Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God.
I agree with her tenets. Her theme is similar to an excellent television program I watched probably twenty years ago entitled "Affluenza".
This author was willing to ruthlessly count every item of clothing in her closets, etc. Perhaps I am coming from denial, but I definitely do not want to count my books or the remaining clothes in my closets. Years ago I weeded 800 books from my shelves, and I am certain, because of my current lack of space, that I have replaced them. I know what I need to "purge" and I know that I will live lighter, happier and more contentedly with a simpler homefront.
The question is, "Once I deconstruct, will I be able to reconstruct a different pattern?" Definitely I would like to hope so.
I know that my eating beliefs and practices have changed drastically in the last two years. Hatmaker, the author, references Michael Pollan, and I am currently eating similarily to what he recommends. There has been a lasting transformation in my life. I always liked natural foods, but now I savor the simplest vegetables and greens. There is hope.
The author is a religious writer and speaker. As such, she continually references God in her work. She genuinely seems to hunger for direction and guidance in her life and the lives of her husband and children. I commend her for her courage to "fast" as she calls it so that she can grow.
This book in its own way is another "whack on the side of the head" for my own personal reflection as to changes I can make in my own life. Perhaps this will be a catalyst for personal enlightenment. Tomorrow begins a new day and today I plan to be reflective on how I can make personal positive application from reading this work.
This book has been waiting on my "to read" shelf for months while I finished other things. It's another "extreme living experiment." (How many of these can one person read? I think I'm going for some kind of record.) Anyway, Hatmaker takes her family on a 7-month journey of reduction in the areas of Food, Clothes, Possessions, Media, Waste, Spending, and Stress. For example, she eats only 7 foods in the Food month, wears only 7 articles of clothing in the Clothes month, gives away 7 things per day in the Possessions month...you get the idea.
I really enjoy her writing. She's funny (even Scott thinks so, and his standards are exceptionally high in this area) and honest. You should read her book if for no other reason than to have a good laugh.
The thing is, our family is already on a journey to reduce and live more simply. So a lot of this was not earth shattering territory for us. (I think we're already doing 6 of the 7 things in the Waste chapter.) We shop thrift, we think hard about where we spend money, we limit the influence of media in our lives. Still, there's always more we could do and the thing that we keep coming back to and the thing I think Hatmaker does a good job at emphasizing is this: Why should we?
"7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God's kingdom to break through. I approach this project in the spirit of a fast: an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God's movement in my life. A fast creates margin for God to move. Temporarily changing our routine of comfort jars us off high center. A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves."
Yes. It's a heart issue, not just fasting for the sake of fasting. In so many ways, it's easier to check off the boxes--Hey, look at me! I'm fasting! I'm so spiritual! But that can't be the point. Hatmaker says this about fasting, "It isn't just the experience; it's the discipline. It changes us. 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 behavior, so it is with us. Believe it or not, God can still change us. Not just our habits but our hearts."
And eventually, once the experiment is over, Hatmaker gets to the real point: deconstruction is not the end of it either. It's in clearing out space, in our heads, in our hearts, that we can make room for something new and different and not at all focused on ourselves. Here is the inspiration. It comes at the back of the hard work that discipline requires.
I highly recommend this book--it's engaging, thought-provoking, and (did I say this already?) funny.