Well, I wasn’t. I was well aware that I was struggling way to much in this area. I moved here at least 20pounds overweight, not exercising like I once did, wasting too much time on my computer (apart from writing my blog) and…I won’t bore you with all the details of my sorry life!
I’m sure you get the picture. Now that you can identify with me on some poinnts. Honestly, my major motivation was meet some new people here. I was hoping the guilt wasn’t going to be too impossible!
With fear and trembling, I went each Thursday morning…to a group that was studying the book 7: An Experimantal Mutiny Against Excess. It is by Jen Hatmaker, a writer and blogger who lives in Austin, TX. I think we probably have some differences in our theology, but not the kinds that will keep us out of heaven!
As you can tell, I was in major need of an anti-excess emphasis at this point in my life.
She and a group of friends did an experiment in 7 areas of their lives where they saw excess, to practice living without one of those areas of excess for a month. The book is the result of what they learned.
In the middle of a rather jumbled summer with company (good:), many changes from a move to a new part of the country and just settling in to a new house, I was trying to study and practice some of what I was learning.
7 AREAS OF EXCESS
What are the 7 areas? clothes, spending, waste, stress, media, possessions, and food. As you can see, there is a lot of overlap! They are not dealt with in that order, but those are the 7 areas she dealt with. There is nothing about drinking, dancing or smoking! …and for those of you who didn’t grow up in more legalistic backgrounds like I did, don’t worry about it…just move on.
When we think about change, those of us who have been around very long have come to realize that outward compliance when it comes to obedience, doesn’t result in a changed heart. A child or adult that merely complies outwardly to rules doesn’t change at the level where change truly happens…the heart or core of a person. The sooner we become aware of that, the better off we are…both for ourselves AND our children!
LASTING CHANGE TAKES PLACE IN THE HEART
When we start dealing with some of these areas listed, sooner or later, we come to heart issues. Asking a person to change their view of their clothes, share with the poor/less fortunate, think about the use of the money spent on said clothing, wear only 7 items, or less, in a given week to see how many people in the world live… This will get us to heart issues quickly. If it doesn’t happen in regard to clothes, it will happen quickly in regard to one of these areas…I guarantee!
Looking at what GOD’s Word has to say gives us His view on things. Then we have the ruler to compare how our viewpoint stands up His. Frequently, our attention was drawn back to Matthew 5-7, better known as the Sermon on the Mount. We all have our favorite places we like to quote from that section, but there are places in that section that make me cringe! I know I need to grow…a lot!
In our group, we have a variety of ages, incomes, marital statuses (stati?), backgrounds. For many, this fast from clothing (I won’t even go there!), to name one, made us stop and think about many aspects of how it affects us…even for those who didn’t think they were attached to their clothes in an idolic kind of way. Sadly, I don’t think I’m one of those people who doesn’t like clothes.
With all the variety, we even had some who had been on diets and lost lots of weight. They were actually at a place where they needed to get some more clothes. Their fast was done! As a group, we were able to see the different places people had come from and how it had affected them. How each family has different needs and is at different places in their lives. If we made a standard rule for everyone in these areas, it wouldn’t work. We need to trust the Holy Spirit to show others when their standard is wrong. GOD may have a different role for them to play in the Kingdom. One thing we all can do is look at ourselves and see where we can cut back on our own personal excess…and learn what He wants us to do with it. This is not a place for legalism for sure!
Giving up some of our “pleasures” and “needs” for a week wasn’t extremely painful. One thing that struck me was that I will have a difficult time looking my sisters in Christ in the eye when they stand there in heaven having lost children to hunger and I was too busy or preoccupied with myself and my concerns to give to people who were helping teach them how to produce food, care better for their children, or even to know the one true GOD.
Often, solutions aren’t complicated or even expensive per se. They do need people who know the culture and listen to the people who live in it.
Surely I could live without an extra outfit or even a new piece of luxury for my home, however small it might be, so I could help people who are genuinely hungry. Whether they are in this country or another one.
That kind of thinking put a lot in perspective. The extra time i was spending on the computer could be spent more effectively in human relationships, volunteering to help in local ministries that are helping minister effectively to the poor. Is it a drop in the bucket? In many ways it is. But lots of drops in the bucket make a big difference. GOD doesn’t minimize drops in the bucket.
NEW AREAS OF DISCIPLINE AND AVOIDING WASTE…
Disciplining myself to exercise so I can care for the body GOD has given me so it will be as healthy as I can make it. I have gotten careless in these two areas alone in the last few years. I knew I needed to be more watchful because of some of my medications but did I get on it? NO! I just sat. So I need to move.
Learning new ways to avoid waste…not necessarily all the ones she suggests, but the ones that will work for us as we consider before GOD what is best for the resouces He has given us personally and as a family, and for obeying the command to subdue the earth.
Finding ways to volunteer at some wonderful, local ministries is something I plan on doing in the Fall. The work they do include helping people start gardens so they have their own fresh food, literacy, teaching English, offering opportunities for the poor that still give them dignity without lots of handouts, etc. Don’t forget about a very important way to help, bringing the Gospel in an understandable way. Hearts don’t change without miracles that only GOD can do.
You don’t have anything like this in your community? Maybe you and some friends can get together, starting small and get something started. Yes, the need is great. But start somewhere. Learn more about effective ways to help the poor.
Meanwhile, where do I stand with Christ? Each Sunday, I am reminded that He loves me more than I can even imagine! Yes, I fail and I fail often. In this area of excess/waste and not caring enough for the poor, I have a long way to grow. But His grace is vast! As despicable as I can be, His grace is more vast than that! Does He stand there shaking His finger at me?
MY HEAVENLY FATHER DELIGHTS IN ME…IMPERFECT AS I AM!
No! I am His child and He delights in me. I don’t understand it. Logically, there is no reason He should. I don’t have enough charm. But His grace sees me, clothed in His righteousness and He delights in me. I, as His child, have a special place in His Kingdom. It is no better or worse than the next person. It just is…that place where He can use me for His glory.
As I let go of so much that ties me to this earth that I truly do not need, He will give me time I didn’t think I had to use resources I didn’t think were there with energy I was spending on things I didn’t need.
May He give us grace to change in ways that bring Him glory.
Join me as we face the future and trust GOD to help us make the needed changes so we can move forward with Him!
Sorry I waxed long here. I tried to cut it back and couldn’t figure out how to chop it up anymore. The post isn’t going anywhere so you can come back and finish reading it later:)
By the way, I recommend this book for study with a group and the workbook. The questions will help keep you on track. If you tend to be too easy on yourself, they will help keep it real. If you tend to feel too guilty, they will help you. Either way, a good group to study with is invaluable!