Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Club: Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker: Week 2 {pgs. 47-72}

As I read this section of the book, about living a life that esteems the weak, the poor, and the lower place of serving, so many thoughts swirled through my head. Mostly, it made me ridiculously happy.

I absolutely love Jesus, in all his odd glory. I love the way He rips down the rat race of human greed and ego. I want to kiss His feet for setting us free from the need to achieve and impress the world. I could dance a jig when I consider the beauty of living for more than my comfort, security, and fame. Self-promotion is exhausting and Jesus' brand of peace is the best thing ever.

It is for freedom that Christ set us free, and any freedom derived from sacrifice looks pretty strange in our modern world. Sometimes it looks like filling your calendar with acts of service instead of lunch with your girlfriends, spending your money to go on mission trips instead of upgrading your computer, or spending an hour praying instead of sleeping in.

Always, freedom in God's Kingdom looks like running to the cross because we are in dire need of a Savior. I am beginning to be truly thankful for the weaknesses and struggles in my own life, because my pain prioritizes my needfulness, and I can't help but run to the gospel.

My prayer and my hope is that God will redefine us, stretch us out over a hurting world, and rebuild us so we can build His kingdom and take the gospel to the ends of the earth. That we would be a different kind of people, strange in our ways of living and giving, odd in how we pour out mercy to underserving souls because we know we are among the least deserving ourselves, and completely revolutionary in how we parent our children, talk to our spouses, and view the world with a "what can I do to love more" mindset.

Here is the discussion guide for this sections. I hope God speaks to you as you read through it. Happy Wednesday. :)

Next week we will discuss pages 75-102. Until then, happy reading!

Interrupted: Week 2 {pgs. 47-72}

general summary:
This section of the book focuses on following Jesus to the lower place, serving, living broken and poured out for the sake of the gospel. Hatmaker tears down the notion that increasing power and wealth are fulfilling, pointing to the emptiness of such pursuits and the emptiness that comes with moving one more rung up a ladder that seems to have no end. Jesus calls us to live differently than the world, and cramming our Christian lives into the box that the world marks as “success” will never really get us far in His Kingdom.

Excerpts to discuss/ Discussion questions:

“The Trouble With Bananas”
{from p. 49} “Thus began a period of reorienting my mind in the redemptive mission of Christ. I was convinced of the need to change my mind, but what came next was actually changing my mind, and I didn’t envy GOd that task.”

First, let’s just all talk about how hilarious the banana story is on page 48. (I nearly died laughing.) Have you ever had a ‘banana that broke the camel’s back’ experience, in which GOd changed your mind about something? Or is He doing something like that in your life right now?

“Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks”
{from p. 51} “The part that grieved me most was the word different. Because, sure, parts of my life were different from your average Westerner, but not really….. .I realized I was completely normal.. But my Savior was the most unnormal guy ever. And it was His unnormal ideas that made everything new. Truly, Jesus never fit in. He was never the cool guy. He was always wrecking everyone’s life. I’m positive the disciples sat on pins and needles when Jesus talked to a crowd, worried what crazy thing He might say next. (Pretty talk: ‘I am the bread of life.’ Minutes later: ‘Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you have no life in you.’ Dang it!)”

Have you ever considered this concept of living differently before? What do you think about it? In what ways is your life different because of the gospel? Are there any areas that you feel GOd is pointing at, asking you to change?

“Desiring, Doing, Remembering”
{p. 54} “COmmunion is more than a memory, more than a reverent moment when we recall Jesus’ heroic sacrifice. Remembrance means honoring Jesus’ mercy mission with tangible, physical action since it was a tangible, physical sacrifice. In other words, ‘Constantly make this real.’.... Become broken and poured out for hopeless people. Become a living offering, denying yourself for the salvation and restoration of humanity. Obedience to Jesus’ command is more than looking backward; it’s a present and continuous replication of His sacrifice. We don’t simply remember the meal, we become the meal..”

“Becoming a Low Life”
{pg 60} When Jesus told us to ‘take the lowest place’ (luke 14:10). it was more than a strategy for social justice. It was even more than wooing us to the bottom for communion, since that is where He is always found. The path of descent becomes our own liberation. We are freed from the exhausting stance of defense. We are no longer compelled to be right and are thus relieved from the idols of greed, control, and status. The pressure to protect the house of cards is alleviated when we take the lowest place.”

In what ways are you making your life a living offering for Christ? How have you seen God use you to build His Kingdom by sacrificial service and love? What’s hard about this kind of life? Are there particular challenges that you fave/ have faced when you live like this? How has God used the low place to set you free?

“Get Off Your High Horse”
{p. 67-68} “If the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor, the bottom-dwellers, then rich American Christians are going to have the hardest time finding it. The whole filthy engine is designed to benefit the top, and that is our zip code…. The needy world isn’t interested in GOd because He might secure their promotion or deliver an offer on their house in a wilting market. By the millions, they are running to the cross because the love of a redeeming Savior is too intoxicating to resist….. The rest of the world struggles with hunger and sickness, but we have to conquer the diseases of greed and ego, which are notoriously harder to cure.”

Have you sought cures for the problems that naturally seem to follow those of us living comfortable, wealthy lives? How do we battle greed and ego? How do you handle the things in your life that could send you running to the cross, because you need the love of a Savior so desperately? Do you resent your struggles, or distract yourself from them, or do you embrace them as a gift that makes you worthy of receiving the gospel of grace?

{p. 71} “Jesus redefined the nature of greatness, which has always rung hollow for the least and last. He took the connotation away from power and possessions and bestowed it on the humility of a servant. The more you defer? the more you are to be broken and poured out? The more you choose servant over benefactor? The greater you are. So be it in my life, and so be it in the church. May intentional servanthood be the basis of all mission, all benevolence, all evangelism, all sacrifice.”

Where is God calling you to intentional servanthood? What would God’s church look like if all His people sought to live this way? Where are you called to do ‘small things with great love’ as Mother Teresa said?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

8 things I do to bother my husband

In the world of a real marriage, it must be admitted that although we love each other like crazy, we sort of make each other crazy sometimes, too. It's actually even a little bit fun. After all, our quirks and minuscule inconsistencies are part of that certain "je ne sais quoi" that gives life a little extra "spicy sizzle".

Truly, if I always played the part of the perfectly pleasing wife, it would be really boring around here. Mr. Fantastic loves me with an everlasting love. He is wonderful, and I love him with great big starry adoring eyes. But occasionally he is fun to bother a little bit. Just a tad. A smidgen. When I succeed at the bothering, he probably imagines how fun it would be to bounce me through some football uprights. Or not. I don't know, because he doesn't really say.

Truth be told, he does the same to me. For instance, he rips bags open in the middle like a cave man, when they clearly have a resealable end. He has also been known to pilfer thirty-eight or so of our coffee cups to the office, one at a time, and return them all at the same time in a cardboard box. It's like coffee cup Christmas/Happy Extra Load of Dishes Day when they are returned. I roll my eyes, we both laugh it off, and then I wonder how much time will pass before I am this bothersome to him. Because it's bound to happen eventually.

Bothering is a sign of true love, people. You can't take marriage too seriously all the time or you'll go crazy. And that would be truly bothersome, don't you think?

Here are 8 things I do to bother my husband:

8. Borrowing his keys and then handing him my purse when he asks for them back. It starts with me saying, "Oh, you need your keys? Here, babe, they're somewhere in my purse." He stares at me frozen, then grunts a little because looking for anything in my purse is like trying to find a rock in the Grand Canyon. But I know he likes a challenge in his day. It's like playing that claw game at the arcade, and he always finds them in the end. He wins!

7. Not "getting" sports. I was a college athlete, so it surprised Mr. Fantastic when I told him I didn't actually care how the college football championship teams are chosen. I think it may have shocked him when I gently suggested that his undying loyalty to the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers was (perhaps) a recipe for disappointment. I continue to stun him with my fair-weather-fan-status regarding all UCLA athletics. While I can't name a single player on any of their teams, I'm super happy when they win, and I barely notice when they lose. Usually, when he tells me about his teams, I try to just smile and nod if he smiles, or scowl and shake my head if he scowls. Then I text him UCLA's winning scores with lots of emoticons, because it's fun to bother him.

6. Only buying kid-oriented cereal. I don't know how this happens, but it does. And it proves a man can go to work, earn a decent paycheck, and still only have Berry Berry Kix, Organic Peanut Butter Puffs, and Puffins to choose from at 7am. Poor guy. I actually feel a little bad that this is such a common problem in our house. But it does make me a hero when I roll in from the grocery with his favorites later that day. So, maybe it's kind of strategic!

5. Singing the wrong song lyrics. Mr. Fantastic is a music person. He plays multiple instruments. He also has the best memory of any person I have ever met. He once memorized the entire book of Colossians just for fun. I am neither musical nor memorize-Colossians-smart, and he often catches me singing the wrong song lyrics with brazen confidence. I think he thought it was cute for a few years, but now it's just unfathomable to him. He doesn't understand the mental laziness that causes a person to botch the words to the Official Frozen Anthem of 2014. I don't know, "the storm never bothered me anyway" works just as well as "the cold never bothered me anyway", doesn't it???

4. Cook squash for dinner. Mr. Fantastic eats a wide array of foods, but there are some things he would rather I didn't put in the rotation. Squash is on that list. When I cook it, the kids gag and he squirms but eats it anyways because that's fatherhood. However, I really like squash, and our vegetable delivery service brings it regularly, so, bon appetit, baby! (Besides, there's a box of Berry Berry Kix in the pantry that he can eat later.)

3. Give him directions that sound more like a description of the city. Where is our daughter's ballet studio? Do you know where Phil's Ice House is- not the one that is right over here, but the older one that is down on that street that goes past Bartlett's? The studio is just down from there, towards Hey Cupcake, but not all the way to the area that feels like you're getting close to the UT campus. It's next to a shoe store. Look for the shoe store sign- it's kind of blue...I think. What? That's not good directions? Yes, it is. Just ask all my friends, they'll totally understand.

2. Park my car so close to his in the driveway that he has to climb in through the passenger side. In all honesty, I don't do this on purpose. It's what happens when you live in Los Angeles for years, parking on the street day after day at UCLA. I got really good at fitting a car into a tight spot. (Not that our driveway is a tight spot, but whatever.) Maybe I'm just lousy at parking. After all, I did once back into his car in our own driveway- but I blame temporary insanity brought on by pregnancy hormones for that one. So, that might technically be his fault.

1. Steal the covers. Apparently, I do it all. the. time. While snoozing away, I grab and roll, creating a heavenly cocoon-like comforter heaven around myself. Then he wakes up freezing cold and can't get me to budge. (Have I mentioned I am his favorite person in the whole wide world? The man is a saint for loving a comforter bandit.) I'm thinking since we have a few more years before the hot flashes kick in, I should probably just get him an extra comforter. Or not. Maybe he likes to give me the covers- because, seriously, sainthood.

Monday, April 21, 2014

5 tactics to lessen the impact of media on your family

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I am in the house washing dishes. I just kissed my husband and oldest son goodbye as they headed to the baseball field. My younger three children are in the front yard, squirting each other with the hose and squealing with joy.

Basically, it feels a lot like 1984 in our house today, except we eat balsamic reduction on our food and the kids are slathered with sunscreen.

We work hard to keep it like this.

The more we read and learn about the effects of too much tv and the addictive nature of social media and video games, the more we shove it out of our lives with passionate commitment.

Media consumption is one of the battlegrounds where our choices build the values and structure of our family. We are choosing things like books and play-doh, card games and domino tournaments, sprinklers and foosball in the garage, and the wonderful art of actual conversation in the car and at restaurant tables.

The results of these choices are simple: intentional time focused on each other makes us all happier and more whole as people.

My daughter told me all about the mean girl at the YMCA while we drove to Starbucks the other day. Five year olds navigate complex relational worlds, and they need help sorting out solutions.

Just yesterday I found out exactly how my son feels about girls on the drive to church. I won't tell you what he said, but I'll sum up my reaction in one word: Shocking.

Yes, my kids would like to play more Minecraft.

Sure, they wish they all had their own iPhones.

Absolutely, if I put Frozen and the Lego Movie on repeat in the playroom the house would be cleaner, I would be more productive, and life would be easier.

But the thing is, life wouldn't be better.

I refuse to let my goal be having an easier life. I want a good life, rich with muddy footprints, lessons in cleaning up after you're finished with something, and the sharing of deep thoughts that only come from exposure to books and ideas beyond our home, our era, and our own experiences.

So we tell our kids that video games are for special occasions and occasional indulgences. And then we engage in life with them.

In our house, cell phones are in the same category as cars and dating and kissing and miniskirts and mascara: for much later in life when you're not a kid any longer.

We are crazy and weird, I know this. But you know what? We are also a happy, tight-knit crew.

Here are a few of the strategies we use to lessen of the tug of the digital age on our lives:

1. Go off the grid for the day. Some days I leave the my phone at home and the kids and I hit the library, the park, or the grocery store. It is a glorious life in vibrant technicolor out there with no one to interact with except the four little people I love most in life.

2. Delete all games on all of our phones. No one asks to play games that don't exist. We sit and read or talk or actually exercise our patience at doctor's offices, car washes, and restaurants.

3. Make it our goal to keep the tv off. When I begin to consider a movie as a savior from the chaos, I check myself. What other options are there? How else could we solve the problem? I never regret choosing another tactic.

4. Keep an open dialogue. I tell my kids about the research connecting depression in kids to video games. We talk about my own struggle to ignore texts and notifications throughout the day. I'm open about why I leave my phone far away where it won't disturb us. What is happening here in our home is infinitely better and more important than what is happening in cyberspace. If my children ever feel otherwise, the line of communication is open for them to tell me so.

5. Clear media boundaries. My kids get 30 minutes of media time on Saturdays. They choose how they use that time. They can watch tv or play on the iPad. Recently we have faced the issue of other kids with gaming devices at baseball games and church. My kids will sit and watch other people play for hours. I asked them about it, and they said it wasn't really fun, but they couldn't help it. When I told them that screen time would count as their own, they amazingly found the willpower to go and play with their other friends instead. Our kids are stronger than we think. Sometimes they just need a little nudge in the right direction.

What about you? How does your family minimize screens and engage?