One of the degree modules I chose was entitled ‘Not Opera’ so, as a fan of things which aren’t what you think they’re going to be, here’s not-a-review of Jen Hatmaker’s Seven, which I mentioned recently.
THIS IS NOT A REVIEW.
Why? Firstly, because you can read the reviews everywhere. They’re. All. Over. The. Web. Secondly, because perhaps more interesting than me telling you what the book is about would be for you to actually fork out nine quid, buy the book, read it, and instead let me tell you how it’s affecting me.
The deal is this: Jen Hatmaker is a NORMAL gal from Austin, Texas. Not normal in the sense of being in any way sane (for in the arena of sanity she is weird and eccentric and quirky) but normal in the sense of not Shane Claiborne. Now don’t get me wrong – I was massively influenced and challenged by The Irresistible Revolution, and strongly recommend it if you haven’t already flicked through. BUT – he’s a radical. The world I inhabit is millions of miles from his – I found it a struggle to apply his life to mine. So Jen is a mum, writer and speaker, in her 30s, living in middle-class America. I can relate to two-thirds of that, which is good enough for me.
For each of seven months, Jen cut back her life in one of seven different areas: food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending and stress. She ate only seven foods, wore only seven items of clothing, pledged to give away seven possessions each day, eliminated seven media types, adopted seven green habits, spent money in only seven places and finally, in the last month, adopted seven sacred pauses to her day. Whilst many have criticised the gimmicky nature of this experiment, what stood out for me was the thinking behind it: the theology, the research, and Jen’s thoughts on it all. It made me think. (I also quite liked the experiment bit, if I’m honest. I like that kind of thing. But my advice is: if you don’t, then don’t dwell on it. Get to the meat of the book.)
Here’s a selection of my thoughts after reading Seven. I’ve again contemplated my over-consumption, challenged by the knowledge that there’s enough food/money/clean water/education potential for everyone in the world – but that I am guilty of consuming more than my fair share. This has led to new commitments about: buying less, reusing more, buying Fairtrade wherever possible, using less packaging, wasting less food, practising self-discipline when it comes to spending. Essentially – trying to share out the earth’s resources.
I’m thinking about my media usage, whether my use of the Internet is wise or not (hello, blog), and what I’m filling my head with. My phone alarm is set to ring at various points during the day reminding me – if I choose to embrace it – that I have an opportunity to commit that part of my day to God.
I’ve realised that my musings about the Sabbath really need to be clarified, so am having a think-through that one, particularly as t’other half works Sundays.
I’m wondering whether we’re investing our money into the right people/organisations that will seek to let God’s will be done across the earth, in terms of justice and provision for all.
Pretending this is a review for a minute, let me offer two warnings: the book is very American, and very girly. These are not criticisms – I can’t criticise an American girl for being what she is – but more aspects which might irritate some. I couldn’t see hubby reading it, for example, as he’d soon get fed up with the style, much as he appreciated (I think) the huge chunks I read to him just before bed each night. And the American-ness just requires a little mental altering, to translate to the situation here in the UK. This is most noticeable in the chapter on ‘Waste’, where the lack of compulsory recycling in Austin seems very distant from our own experience.
Do you have to be a Christian to get something from this book? No, I don’t think so, as long as you’re sympathetic to where Hatmaker’s coming from and don’t mind the Bible quotes. I think anyone interested in social justice would find the book stimulating.
OK, this was a review then. Dammit.
But here’s the thing: this blog is nearing 10,000 views – something of a milestone, I feel. And what better way to celebrate a milestone than with a giveaway, a thank you to anyone who has ever read this blog? Write a comment below and when the blog has hit 10,000 (sometime mid-end of next week I estimate), I’ll pick a name from a hat, send the lucky winner a copy of Seven and he/she can write his/her own review and ignore mine. Agreed?