7 read-a-long (the introduction)

Before we go even one step further, I feel like I should slap my right hand to my chest and solemnly swear, over the course of this read-a-long, not to:

1.) obnoxiously and excessively point out every piece of evidence that proves that Jen Hatmaker and I were separated at birth.

2.) gush incessantly about how awesome I think she is.

Because how annoying would that be?

Heck, I didn’t even make it past the dedication page before I started scribbling in the margins. “Love this font!” And what kind of brilliant, twisted mind comes up with “our parking lot looks like it was hit by an earthquake–and then patched up by drunken monkeys.” ?!?

Anyway.

(p.s. I love that I had already read Jen’s book, Interrupted. It really gives the back story for 7. You should read it. But first, the task at hand. But first before that, if you’re not familiar with this read-along thing, read this post.)

Now then.

On page 4, Jen says that she ruminated on the whole idea of 7 for 6 months, letting it marinate. Well, that’s great for Jen, but we don’t have that kind of time. Just kidding. Read-a-long schedule aside, we can take all the time we need. As long as we’re truly seeking God and not just putzing and procrastinating because of fear.

I’d love for us to ask ourselves some of the (scary) questions Jen asked:

What would move me closer to God’s agenda and further from mine?
How could this be meaningful, not just narcissistic and futile?
What areas need the most renovation?
How am I blind and why?
Where have I substituted The American Dream for God’s kingdom?
What in my life is just too stinking much?

So, for today’s discussion, I’d love you to answer one or more of the ^above^ questions, or give me your commentary on one of the following quotes:

“I became a girl who loved the marginalized. I couldn’t get enough of them in my personal space.” (2)

“Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer.” (3)

“The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change.” (3)

“7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.” (4)

“My children are young… It is not too late to untether them from the lie of ‘more.'” (5)

Or, if you’re feeling especially daring, I’d love for you to share a little bit of your right-now story. I opened up yesterday about the real-time struggles my family is facing, and the flood of love and support overwhelmed me to the point of tears. I think our right-now stories play a big role in how we’ll do with this untethering-from-more thing.

So.

In summary: your response can include any combination of the following things:

WHAT TO DO:

1. Answer one or more of the six questions Jen asked herself.
2. Give a little personal commentary on one of the five quotes I shared.
3. Tell us a little bit of your from-the-gut right-now story.
4. If you wrote your own post (about the intro or read-along in general), link to it below.
5. Just sit back and soak it all in.

We’ll be back here tomorrow talking about some practical application steps we hope to take in the days/weeks ahead.

118 thoughts on “7 read-a-long (the introduction)

  1. Pingback: A Raw Introduction to My Personal Excess - Picture Your Life

  2. Courtney Williams

    Hi Marla!!

    I am so thankful to have your guidance through this book!! I am so convicted by the topic of excess that I started an “after bedtime” book group to read and discuss 7. I thought for sure in our quiet little ND community that no one would be too interested in interrupting their comfort….but have 10 women on board!!!

    Our first gathering is tomorrow night to discuss the introduction. I’m wondering if there are any youtube/vimeo videos that touch on the same subject that we could watch as part of our intro to this book?

    Thanks for giving all your time…I sure appreciate reading all the comments and your posts!

  3. Pingback: Marla Taviano » life. yeah.

  4. Amanda C

    Well, I did read the intro over a week ago, but as llife goes, finally got on here to read and post.

    I find this quote all too true in life….
    “The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change.” (3).
    I often find my self focused on all I want or the world tells me I need, instead of looking at what I have already. It is difficult to balance the goals and drive for the future with appreciating all I have. I have never had to sleep without a roof over my head or gone without a meal because I couldnt afford it. The question I have for myself, is how to better myself without trying to fill my life with objects and things?

    I am new to Jen Hatmaker, yet love her humor and honesty. I am excited by this new adventure and real look at de-cluttering life.

  5. ali

    I am so late to this party. And my daughter is finally napping thus I should be doing the same, but I wanted to hop on and share my two cents before getting some shut-eye.

    Anywho, here is my greatest challenge. I’ve read several game changers in the last year – books that God has used to kick my behind: Money, Possessions, Eternity; Radical; Crazy Love . . . and now 7 (well, the first 4 chapters, so far). And I continue to be pushed and kicked and ignited by the Holy Spirit only to experience a let down several days/weeks/months later. In other words, I get so pumped up for Jesus – ready to tackle the sin and greed and consumption in my life – and then in time, I’m back to where I started.

    Maybe I’m not completely back to where I started, and that’s where I need to focus. Each time I am charged in this way, I desire so badly to change so much only to ‘fail’ in a sense. But in another sense, I (we) am/are making subtle changes along the way. I am pray pray praying that more changes will take root as I read through 7. That this wouldn’t be another emotional experience that fizzles in time. That is my prayer right now.

    I want the Holy Spirit to grip my heart – I want to grip back – and never. let. go.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Me too, friend. Me too. Just yesterday we got a hospital bill that sent me reeling. And after I cried, I asked God to forgive me and wondered why oh why oh why I do this every single time. Think that THIS time, my problems are just too big for God to solve. Ugh. UGH.

      Love you, miss you, wanna see you again soon.

  6. Jessica

    What would move me closer to God’s agenda and further from mine? Doing this is sure uncovering things in my heart and mind and body.
    How could this be meaningful, not just narcissistic and futile? Being a spiritual act of worship
    What areas need the most renovation? really feel like I need to say all of the above.
    How am I blind and why? didn’t realize I needed so much renovation, such a major overhaul.
    Where have I substituted The American Dream for God’s kingdom? Thinking I am giving God my all and not really being in a place like this experiment is taking us to and realizing He wants so much more from and for us.
    What in my life is just too stinking much? Well we have no money, and we are not spender at least in recent years. (had a kid in college, shall I say more), but I think where Jen says ‘We were surrounded by extreme affluence, which tricks you into thinking you’re in the middle of the pack.’ hits home. Raw honesty moment: sometimes jealous that we struggle (or so it seems compared to others around us.) just some thoughts. we are on day 8 of month 1. God Bless everyone. sorry I had to write this fast.

  7. Kim

    What would move me closer to God’s agenda and further from mine? I feel like 7 has pointed me in the right direction. Removing the distractions in a a genuine effort to ‘live for the audience of ONE’. I love the quote by Thomas Merton: ‘there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, and my happiness depend; to discover myself in discovering God. if I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him’ To that end I have jumped in to the seven foods for a mth and this is day eleven. I am on a journey of discovering myself without all of the excess and thrilled beyond thrilled to be using 7 as my handbook and God as my teacher. I did add lemons to Jen’s seven ( because our Meyer lemon tree is in full bloom ) but am otherwise giddy over her selections. Bless you Jen and Maria for paving the way and inspiring us. Thanks!!!!

  8. Lori Haskell

    Finally getting around to post. I read this a few days ago, trying to slow myself down and not read too far ahead. I’m one of those impossible people that hates to not know the end (I’ve been known to skim to find out what happens from time to time). I promise to try not to do that…I don’t want to miss anything God wants to speak to me about as we read through the chapters ahead!

    I loved Jen’s humor and blunt honesty! I also loved her description of her friends. Precious, and hilarious!

    Your question about what would take me closer to God’s agenda and further from mine speaks to me. That might have to do with my control freak tendencies?? Here is something Jen wrote that I highlighted in my Kindle: “A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves. ” Yep…that sums up what I feel God is saying to me. I need to offer myself up to Him and stop trying to push my own agenda.

    The other highlighted section for me was that “7 will be a tangible way to bow low and repent of greed, ungratefulness, ruined opportunities, and irresponsibility.” Ouch. That hurts, but I can identify so much right now with what Jen says after that “I’m weary of justifying it.” So, let’s get at this.

  9. Leslie

    Okay, I’ve been totally dragging my feet, but I finally read the introduction – and I’m hooked! Scared, but hooked. I guess there are a lot of different life seasons represented here, but in general, at 50 and empty nesting, I think I’m one of the older ones…which doesn’t mean I have it all together by any stretch, it’ll just be interesting how we all relate to this experiment and each other. Looking forward to it!

    Okay, one of the quotes that really resonated with me (because I have performance-oriented, good-girl, over-achiever tendencies) was this:

    “I started praying about what God wanted; what would move me closer to His agenda and farther from mine? How could this be meaningful, not just narcissistic and futile?”

    Ouch. So much of my “spiritual practices” seem to be so much more about “me” than Him. Ugh and yuck. Sorry y’all.

    Anyway, I love Jen’s way of laying it down in a very honest way. (I also loved “Now is a good time to stop allowing words to flow out of your mouth.” Anybody? Um, I relate, Jen.)

    I’m in a place and time where it has become easier for me to give financially to kingdom causes – and we’ve done so — and it has been *embarrassingly* easy and painless. Not enough. So not enough. So I’m looking forward to learning how to “create more space for God’s kingdom to break through.”

    Thankful for this community…

    1. Valerie

      Leslie, I am getting to where you are. I am 51, and my three daughters are all in college. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten to the place where it’s easy and painless to give to kingdom causes (see above three daughters in college statement), it’s not like I’ve given up any of my comforts in order to give more. I also relate the most to the statement about not making it all about me! Glad to be in this community with you!

      1. Leslie

        Whoa – three in college? And daughters, which means there are probably three weddings in your future! Bless your heart! Glad to be traveling this road with you!

        1. Valerie

          Yep! Fortunately, the oldest is working on her Dr. Of Music degree, and I don’t pay past the Bachelor stage. One is a freshman in art school, and the other is a junior. Believe me, I’m counting the days. And there’s one wedding in the not-so-distant future, but she’d better be researching budget wedding ideas 🙂

  10. Sharon

    I am dying here. My library has 5 copies of the book so I thought I’d get it with no problem. But, I didn’t factor in the waiting list! So, I’m reading comments and blog posts and getting all fired up. I warned my husband, Ill be doing this read-a-long as well as Tsh’s annual spring cleaning (thanks for introducing me to that last year, Marla) and with that combo, there are (hopefully) going to be some big changes around our house.

    1. Leslie

      Um, Sharon, not to be presumptuous, but could I send you a copy? I’d love to, if you don’t mind! Email me your mailing address and we can get this ball rollin’!

        1. Sharon

          You are too sweet, Leslie! I just sent you an email, but realized it might go to your junk mail. It will show up as coming from: hislove endures, instead of my name.

  11. Becca

    Ugh, I’m so overwhelmed with excess right now, I dont feel like I even have the time or space to adequately think about or composes a response to what I’m feeling and learning.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Sweet girl, you just take a deep breath, love on your babies, get some sleep while you can (oh, I hurt for you and your sleep deprivation!), and ask God to speak to you in these moments. There’s plenty of time to de-clutter and save the world. And your precious family is already in the thick of some amazing justice-journey stuff. Love you!

  12. Tonia

    Well okay, I clearly am a procrastinator (which I’m learning is a neg. downfall of that other nasty P word-perfectionism). That’s what drew me to Jesus in the first place, His grace and mercy that allows me to be the imperfect being that I am.
    I was going to answer every question Marla presented because of course I have all the answers and anyone who knows me knows that I have a problem shutting my trap. Like right now…..

    Okay, so as I was getting ready to comment I read Jen’s comment which made me realize that I just need to let go of controlling this 7 “thing” and let the Holy Spirit do its work in me. So really I guess this is a tad of my “right now” story. I think I need to spend time clearing out that which really gets in the way and sucks my time from God, and really that’s the Internet and the residual effects it has on my life. The media challenge for me will be a bear.

    Oh and the quote, “My children are young… It is not too late to untether them from the lie of ‘more.’” gave me lots hope, but I do know that I can’t control my kids’ perception of life, but I definitely can lead by example which is the greatest teacher of all.

  13. Jennifer Mattox

    For me, my mind is so bogged down by excess (stuff, schedules, laundry, ect) that I can’t seem to hear what God is saying to me. Hopefully, my heart and mind will open to him during this journey.
    My husband travels quite a bit and sometimes just daily life (raising 4 kids – 12, 9, 6 and 3) is too stinking much. Some days I think I have made my children tethered to the lie of “more.” For example, my 3 yr old (well, really all of them) can’t seem to be in any store without saying “I want….” Are they still young enough to be untethered when it seems they are consumed by the want/need for more? I suppose this is my bit of my right-now story.

    1. Marla Taviano

      This is such a tough one. Maybe just pray for God to work in their hearts and model for them what a I-don’t-need-more life looks like. Wish I had some practical ideas, but nothing is coming to me at the moment!

  14. Nicky

    Okay, I’m not really all that sure on what I want to or can answer for this introduction week…so this is what I’ve got…

    * I have attended 3 Sunday services at church over the past 5 weeks (i attended Mass at my husbands church last week instead of my church) and the Pastor was talking about Strongholds. I’m not sure how many weeks he plans on talking about this, but he has caught my attention (I was very sad that I couldn’t attend last week because of a time conflict with said Mass services). While reflecting on the 3 services I have attended I have been able to really think about what has pulled me away from Church and what I need to change in my life.

    *Then Marla started talking about this read-along…and I thought “wow, maybe I really need to read this book”…and decided, that it would be a great idea… I have thought about mentioning it to the Pastor of my Church and maybe seeing if any of the adults would like to read the book as well…. Hopefully some more people will get on board and read!

    * I read the introduction a week ago, but can’t remember much about it now, other then I like the way the book is set up and her humor. I will be re-reading tomorrow and making notes so that I can fully participate in the discussions.

    * I think I need the most renovation in spending time with God… I need to take out my Bible and dust it off…I need to read it, and actually put into practice what has been taught to us through the Bible…I need to learn to be a better Christian and not just think that I’m living a life that is pleasing to God- I need to KNOW that it’s pleasing to Him….Okay, maybe I just NEED an all around Makeover, centered on what GOD wants for me instead of what I want for me. I just have some serious control issues, and need to really work on that also…Let go and Let GOD!

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thanks for being so honest, Nicky. I’ve been thinking about strongholds this week too, since Gabe has been struggling with anxiety and panic.

      I’m going to pray God shows you just how much he loves and misses you this week!

  15. Lori Mercer

    So much to write, so little time. Great book idea Marla. Thank you!
    So far, I’m off to a roaring, raw, unfiltered start. I’m afraid we could be the poster child for American excess. Then I’m more afraid that there are people far worse than us in these ‘burbs and they don’t even know Jesus loves them. Excited to see where this is going to go. (A little concerned my hubby may take away my blogging privileges 🙂 Praying for healed hearts!

    1. Danielle

      Lori, thank you so much for sharing honestly about where you are. We live in a 1300 sq ft house just the 2 of us and I’ve toyed with the idea of downsizing, but I don’t want to share a wall with neighbors. But what I loved most about your post is how willing you seem to just jump into what God has for you and enjoy the ride. Looking forward to hearing more from you!

    2. Marla Taviano

      You ain’t kidding about the roaring and raw! I think we all need to work on being a little less refined, a little more unfiltered. At least when it comes to dealing with our own junk. Thanks for sharing, friend! I’ll pray your hubby gives you a little leeway. 🙂

  16. Tara

    Hello All!
    Thanks to my sweet friend TS…I am joining this great group to dive deep in God’s word and allow Him to have His way with me. Boy do I need it. For years I’ve struggled with the tug of “if you keep serving the saved…you’ll never reach the lost.” But quite frankly the thought of getting out of my circle of saved friends…scares the P-Waddin’ outta me. I know it’s what we are called to do. The quote that challenges me is “My children are young… It is not too late to untether them from the lie of ‘more.’” (5) I’m in that boat with my young one and want so much for him to not be caught up in the NEED/WANT material zone.

    Looking forward to all God has to teach us and hope it’s not totally painful…but no pain no gain right?
    Blessings All as we walk this journey together.

  17. Pingback: A Raw Introduction to My Personal Excess :: Picture Your Life

  18. Teresa Henry

    Today I am an emotional mess for several reasons…so who knows where this comment will go! Just a quick “where I am right now” moment…my friend had an aneurism and they are taking her off life support later…and my heart hurts so bad I can physically feel it. I think I am ruining my kids with my inablity to homeschool and I am a certified teacher. I want to do so much more with my life and I am a little mad at myself right now…which I hope motivates me and not depresses me. Okay…with that out of the way…Forgive Lord for complaining…no pity wanted…I have just only talked to children today so you are my adult community today.

    How could this be meaningful, not just narcissistic and futile?
    I love this question because it reminds me so much of me and how I go to church, read a book, a scripture that moves me, or go to a conference…get super excited and motivated…think I am going to make changes and then a week later I forgot I even read the book or went to the conference or opened my b-i-b-l-e. So how do I make this meaningful and not just an “activity” that I do? How do I allow God in where I haven’t? How do I change the way I think and the way I live my life so that I can do what God has actually called me to do? I don’t know. But this weekend I was downtown Seattle, WA praying with some homeless people and there was a man telling people the message of salvation by using this big poster board sitting on a big easel. He basically was talking to himself…drawing… and saying “life with sin…life with Jesus”…how the only way to the other side is the bridge called Salvation…Okay I listened for a second while I was waiting for the light to turn so I could cross the street. But everyone else just walked on by. But do you know that all he had to do was to take his poster board down and look to the other side of the road and there he would find his mission field. There were at least 8-10 homeless people…lost and brokenhearted that could hear “you have value..you are special…God loves you”. So his effort…yet well meaning…wasn’t meaningful. I want to be able to take down the posterboard that is covering my view of what God is calling me…my family…to do and see the mission field. I want this to be meaningful…not to me…but to God….for God. Can you tell my heart is a little on the beating at a thousand miles a minute speed?
    So on Thursday March 1st when I start my 7 foods venture…I pray it is not just some 31 day thing I do…but a bridge that brings me closer to God. I really really pray this.

    While reading this book I laughed so hard one day that my daughter asked me if I was okay…(pg 34…sorry to jump ahead).

    Okay…I better be done. I am sorry you got me in the depths of my emotional state.

    Please pray for my friend’s family as they let their sweet momma go to see Jesus…this woman…she touched many many many people. Love her.

    1. Valerie

      I am so sorry for your loss. I will be praying for you and for all who love your friend.

      I have a cat on my lap, so I can’t disturb her to go get my copy of the book, but I was wondering what made you laugh out loud. The thing that cracks me up every time I read it is in the clothing chapter, when she describes how when Stephen comes to check out her yard for the garden, and she talks about the dog poop situation. SOOOO funny!

      1. Teresa Henry

        Thank you so much for praying. She went to be with the Lord late last night. She is dancing with Jesus. She lived an amazing life for the Lord. Our whole community is grieving losing her. She literally impacted thousands by her loving, giving, caring, full of life spirit. She lived life with her eyes on Jesus. Her family prayed, worshiped and told stories in her room with her as she left earth and went to rejoice with Jesus.

      1. Teresa Henry

        Thank you so much for praying. She went to be with the Lord late last night. She is dancing with Jesus. She lived an amazing life for the Lord. Our whole community is grieving losing her. She literally impacted thousands by her loving, giving, caring, full of life spirit. She lived life with her eyes on Jesus. Her family prayed, worshiped and told stories in her room with her as she left earth and went to rejoice with Jesus.

  19. Ellen R.

    I’m joining your read-along, although I did introduce myself this weekend like you asked us to. I started reading 7 a couple of weeks ago, then stopped when you announced your read along so that I could join in on the fun at the same pace as the other readers.

    I’m really excited to see what God is going to do in or family’s life during this read-along.

    I loved this quote: “My children are young… It is not too late to untether them from the lie of ‘more.’” I chose to really contemplate on this quote even though we don’t have children, however feel like I’m still young (31) and can counteract the lie of more, more, more.

  20. Shawna Benedict

    Here is my right now story – from a blog article I wrote yesterday. http://words-on-the-way.blogspot.com/

    How could this be meaningful, not just narcissistic and futile?
    I want to let the unnecessary in my life fall away, leaving only the path God intends for me to walk.

    Give a little personal commentary on one of the five quotes I shared.

    “The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change.”
    The life God has blessed me with is so good. Life for me is safe and peaceful. I have a husband and children who love me and we find joy in each other. We have financial security and freedom. I want never to take this for granted but to live each day recognizing that most of the world does not have this. My favorite quote is from Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” I want to live this. I want to help others live this.

    1. Valerie

      You should be so proud. Thank God for people like your son, and praying for God’s protection for all of our servicemen and women.

      LOVE that quote!

  21. beth lehman

    I have been pouring through the book – loving it as I did Interrupted. Her writing is so easy to read – I GET it! Never sung Sandi Patti, I was singing Amy Grant and going to Petra and Whiteheart concerts.

    I grew up a Presbyterian pastor’s daughter – and my mother was a teacher. We lived simply. We had enough. But as the oldest I knew when things were tight financially. I also knew God would provide.

    Fast forward – My husband and I have always tried to live simply. We’re Mennonite for pete’s sake! But now we live in a big house, with three kids and their stuff… Our stuff is unorganized and overwhelming to me. It has been for some time, now.

    But, I’m seeing my heart is cluttered, too. I know about some of the injustices out there – I’ve been to third world countries. I vowed I would never be the complacent person I am today.

    So, always, NOW WHAT?? There is a lot that is preventing me from being closer to God and may things fall into Jen’s categories…

    My daughter has finished the book (11 yo – devours all books) and I can’t wait to talk to her about it. Although we don’t lack in this house I don’t think our kids are super pampered either.

    Looking forward to hearing/reading more and thinking/praying more. Thanks, Marla.

    b

      1. Sharon

        No way! My sister and some friends sang that song at a talent show when we were kids. Can’t wait to tell her that I know the niece of the guy who co-wrote it!

  22. Amy

    Let me first say that I could talk for days, weeks, months about each of these subjects she’s mentioned, but I’ll stick with the glaring ones for me right now.

    How am I blind and why?
    I think that I’m blind because I’m surrounded by, even saturated in, materialism on every side and inside my own life also. I think what’s making me the sickest at this point is seeing how it’s influencing my children and having a huge impact on their thoughts not only about life, but themselves. This has got to change and it can only begin by my example as a parent. They learn life from us and if we just show them their own simple box and nothing outside of that, how are they going to learn anything new or different?

    “Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer.”
    While I could go on and on about my own handicap in this impaired perspective department, I have been grossly disgusted as of late with what I’m hearing in my own church. It’s not horrible things that we “need” to raise money for, but things that I just don’t understand. That cost thousands & thousands of dollars. Why do we need a nice brick sign w/ landscaping? What’s wrong with our banner sign that even stands up in the gusting winds & thunderstorms? Why do we need sound filters (and a presentation of why we need them) when I love the rocking sound of our worship team? These things are seriously sickening me. And we look really weird to our fellow believers when we think (or even say) these things just don’t make sense. How have we become convinced that we need or even want these things? Excess has not just impaired perspective in America, I think it’s impaired perspective in our own minds, lives & hearts. We’ve somehow been convinced we must have more, be more, do more, get more, etc.

    1. Marla Taviano

      That makes me sad about your church, friend. I’m praying God gives you wisdom–stand up and say something? Find another church home? Just pray for change?

      That’s some tough stuff.

    2. Bethany Peters

      Hopefully the reason these “needs” were raised during the service is because they are not funded by the general giving (i.e. your tithe) and people will have to specifically give toward that fund in order to purchase the new brick sign, etc.

      Some people always want to upgrade (some people remodel their perfectly functioning kitchen and those same people think the church needs a remodel as well). It’s amazing the things people complain about and want to change about the church (you can’t imagine how many people complain to our audio visual team about how loud our band is–hence the “need” for a sound filter). So maybe there are disgruntled church members who want the church to look nicer or the band to be quieter and the pastor has said–If you want it, then you can pay for it?

      I’m sure there are lots of debates and discussions going on behind the scenes. Please be in prayer for the leadership of your church. Perhaps you could share another need (an actual one) in front of your church soon (like sponsoring orphans for example) and maybe next to each other your church will see how silly those first “needs” were.

      1. Marla Taviano

        This is such a good point, Bethany. Not to jump to conclusions that the church leadership is selfish and self-centered.

        I love your advice to pray for the leaders and to share some alternatives for the church’s $.

  23. Jen Hatmaker

    Welcome, readers! I just read all your comments and I am super, over-the-top thrilled about what the next few weeks hold! MARLA, thank you for this space to process and dream. It’s so necessary and good. Gals (and a few guys), I’ll be lurking and popping in with you, praying and cheering you on from Texas. Much love to you.

    Remember: This is not a formula. Please resist the urge to compare. Our stories are different. The end. Let God have His way with you, in the way He wants to have it. It may look totally different from mine or Marla’s or anyone else’s here. Fine, good, wonderful, grand.

    Last point: This is way more about your heart than your stuff. The stuff gets in the way, but the heart is what Jesus is after. So try not to get too bogged down in the mechanics or the reductions without also offering Jesus space, time, communion, your love. Don’t leave Him out of the story (it’s actually easy to do because fasting requires so much emotional mastery).

    Off you go. You are loved by this author.

  24. Carla Gain

    I am seeking what the Lord wants for me in this season of my life as a retired teacher, wife, mom, and grandma. I have lots of interests and things I love to do and my initial desire is branch out to see how the Lord will speak to me through Jen’s words and the discussions in this group.

  25. Sarah Farish

    Honestly, I’m scared to truly reflect on the excess in my life – maybe because I secretly know how much is there. [Insert big ‘ole sigh here.]

    I considered all of the questions. However, one jumped out at me: How am I blind and why? In fact, I feel as if this question underlies all the other questions. If I ask God where and how and why I am blind to certain excesses or sins or thought patterns in my life, I will (hopefully) move closer to God’s agenda, renovate my life and views, and reduce my excess.

    I don’t think the process of discovering my blind spots will be easy or fun. I don’t like being told I am wrong, so I am pretty sure when God begins revealing my blindness I will kick and scream and justify for a few days – at the least.

    But, I am willing to take this journey because I am tired. Tired of living in a cultural whirlwind of Facebook statuses, tweets, bills, expectations, and keeping up with those proverbial Jones. After all, what has the American Dream done for any of us lately besides cause us to feel as if we can’t measure up?

    I see broken people, broken families, broken organizations all around me. I don’t want to join them, but I have a feeling if I don’t keep in stride with God’s agenda and sprint from my own, I will end up caving to a culture that has little true joy to give.

    Why would I cave? Because I have an addictive personality. I easily jump on bandwagons. When I have a new idea, project, or membership, I jump in head first and rarely come up for air. Whatever I do, I overdo. If I commit, I begin to live and breathe the commitment and expect everyone else around me to get as excited and “all-in” as I am.

    Luckily, I have some amazing friends who aren’t afraid to say, “Ah-hem. Slow down. Think. Stay close to God. Don’t decide without Him. Remember, He’s in control.”

    That’s another issue I have that I hope the 7 journey will help me with: Control. I like to be in control. Right now I am in the midst of some situations in which I have no control – zip, zero, zilch. And, it’s driving me nuts, so I am praying God reveals my blindness (or stubbornness) in this area and helps me pass control of all things over to Him.

    I also considered the quotes. Most of them spoke to me, but one jumped off the page: “7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.”

    That’s what I desire most – for God to reveal His kingdom to me in new ways. To have space in my life and my family’s lives to steep in His love; to learn more about Him, His word, and His ways; and to grow closer to one another and those in our community as an outpouring of His love for us.

    I’m done with complicated and keeping up.

    I’m ready for simple and slowing down.

    The journey won’t be easy – more of a roller coaster or tilt-a-whirl than a merry-go-round. But, I am buckling down excitedly and expectantly as I anticipate how God will reveal himself and his ways over the next few weeks.

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  27. Dena Tromp

    WOW! I am an oddity…. I actually do NOT have a blog, and I am not a writer…and oddity also that I also have been happily married for 12 years, move frequently, have no children (and am often confused me when people say “I am sorry” to that one..hmm, do I look upset?), foster animals, volunteer as a child advocate for Compassion Int , and work as Director in the health field.

    Hopeful, Hesitant and Skeptical (and, hehe, highly doubtful anyone is reading this, and that is ok, there are a lot of these!

    I am reading this for a couple reasons: I love to read, and read anything people I respect recommend (Thanks Marla!)
    I want to learn/grow obviously, to continue to find out “How have I been blinded and why?” .

    To continue to make Christ the center of my life , to find out what is next on the ” I can do more” calender, and to continue to allow people to see the real me…but ALSO to be a better, more informed and educated citizen in the country that God allowed me to be born into. To make it better. Not to tear it down verbally, or in my actions, or wallow in it’s weakness..for there is a ton, but there is also greatness. And I have firsthand seen/heard “those who gave it all up” forget that..we are here for a reason, and always should be seen as trying to make our country a better place, and (enter health skepticism here) hoping this book is not like others I have read that have used their “minimalist chosen lifestyle of late” to point fingers, and bash our “Land of the Plenty” I feel that we are to build our house not tear it down, and that House is also our country.

    Until December I lived/worked in one of the most liberal areas in the U.S (Boulder CO). My extended family consists of politicians, pastors, military, social workers, hippies, missionaries and successful business people. I witness the entire line of Christian views of extreme right to extreme left..NEVER boring. Always educational :0). I feel blessed to come from such an , uh , interesting background, because I can see both sides of many issues. In addition, I have learned a healthy respect for being both “educated” and passion-filled, bc one without the other can be detrimental. So I continue to focus on what Christ says about lifestyle, love, citizenship, etc, so that I can be passion-filled. I know Jens book will help me “de-clutter” to help accomplish that.

        1. Dena

          Yes, I do agree with you for sure! especially since I went overseas every year for 4 years and saw it and why I am a child advocate …I just want to make sure as I continue to promote and sacrifice its like you said with the proper attitude, but yet still being willing to be a voice for change…and it’s the loss of community, communication and the ‘ I deserve this stuff attitude’ etc…that makes me scream too:) so I am excited to go through this!

    1. Marla Taviano

      Welcome, Dena. I doubt you’re as “odd” as you think. 🙂 Of course, I can testify to at least a certain degree of oddness. You’re the one who kidnapped my orange Zoe doll and held her for ransom, aren’t you?? (you will never live that down)

      I can’t speak for Jen (or anyone else here), but I’ll briefly and cautiously address the tendency to bash our “Land of the Plenty” instead of “trying to make it a better place.”

      I’m definitely someone who has to be careful of this, because from what I have heard and seen in the past few years (especially after spending a total of 6 weeks in Cambodia), I see our country in a different light. Yes, we have poverty, and yes, there is so much that can be improved. But the bulk of the rest of the world (especially the developing world) looks at us as a Big, Bad, Rich Nation that hoards our excessive blessings while the rest of the planet starves to death. And it’s really hard to argue with their perception.

      I believe God absolutely put us here for a reason, but I think the biggest reason is to share with others who have so, so, so much less (but are equally loved by God).

      So, yes, here’s to educating ourselves and being passionate and making Christ the true center of our lives.

      Whether we end up agreeing more than we disagree or the other way around, I’m glad you’re here, because I like you a ton.

      1. Andrea

        I agree with you both. Another good read to ponder “Why the Rest Hates the West”. Of course we shouldn’t necessarily do things because others thinks we should, but it does offer a valuable perspective we do not often see.

        And you wondered if anyone was going to read your post 🙂

    2. Valerie Henry

      I read your post, and obviously you have a lot to offer! I think you will enjoy the book. Jen Hatmaker is not “preachy” and she freely admits her failings, which makes it hard to hate her. I don’t feel like she’s “bashing our “Land of plenty” at all, just trying to make Americans more aware of their blessings. We do live in the greatest nation on earth, and like you said, we are sl blessed that “God allowed us” to be born here!

  28. Tiffany

    I suppose I have two thoughts about two of the quotes (both of which I underlined in the book!)

    “7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.”

    My husband and I were talking about going on a Malawian diet for a month last night while entering the grocery store-we’ve been thinking about eating rice, beans, and other staples from this country that I served in. As he challenged me to purchase and prepare for the month “fast” I became hesitant; have we prayed enough about this? Are our hearts in the right place? Should we consult other people first? After thinking of a ton of excuses I jumped in the bath tub after we purchased some essential items-After reading more of Jen’s book and praying I came to the conclusion that we’ll never be “ready” for something like this-even if we feel “ready.” The word ready is often misused-I’m not sure if my heart will ever be in the place it needs to be to humble myself the way Jesus did. After discussing it I realized that giving up more in my life to allow the Holy Spirit to move is a great step and whether or not I’m “spiritually ready” Jesus will move! It would be like saying “I haven’t been reading my Bible that much so let’s skip church” that doesn’t work, so why would I say “I don’t feel spiritual enough/ready to go on a fast.” I believe we will begin on March 1st (Thursday).

    “The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change.”

    Wow. This is a very powerful statement that I’ve said a zillion times then left. How do I remind myself daily of my privileges? I thought perhaps a “thankful journal” or simply taking time to say Thank You to Jesus everyday and study up about others in third world countries….

    Just some thoughts!
    -T

    1. Marla Taviano

      I love the idea of the Malawian diet. Of course, I made beans and rice yesterday and no one in my family liked them but me. 🙂

      I think you are soooooo right about not ever being truly ready. That’s why it’s called a leap of faith. If we get all our ducks in a row first, where does trust come in?

      And I think the thankful journal is BRILLIANT. I’ve been doing that lately on a fairly-daily basis. Just writing down 5-10 things I’m thankful for that day.

      Today I’m thankful for YOU and your hubby.

  29. Loraine Erickson

    Marla, I laughed at your introduction of things you promised not to do, mainly because I feel similarly.

    Thanks for you sharing your right now story. I am grateful that our God is big enough for all of that and hope you feel loved and supported by your community. Sounds like you have some “Council Members” in your life!

    Thanks for organizing this read-a-long. 7

    I like this quote “7 will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.” (4) Goes along with her thoughts on creating margin so God can work.

    I am going to work on that this week, and most weeks after that hopefully!

    I love this

  30. Amanda Rae

    I feel like my thoughts combine a few of the prompts above. Two big things have stuck out to me.
    One being how much I have judged my employer by how much she wastes and spends. What a hypocrite! I have started to see that maybe our scale is different, but the action and the heart are the same.
    The second thing ties into the spending i mentioned before. I realize that i spend way too much on the wrong things. I love buying people gifts-especially the pricey ones they won’t get themselves. Gifting isn’t wrong..but these are people like me who have everything they need and more. I’m a little convicted that my attitude needs to change and stop spoiling myself and others to the degree I have been.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Youch. I’m a hypocrite with you, friend. Different scale, same heart. Yowza, that’s good stuff.

      The gift thing is hard. I’m still enjoying the gift you left with us when you last visited. Nina and I played it just yesterday. 🙂

      1. Jennifer Ekstrand

        I second the different scale, same heart being good stuff.

        Realizing that the real scale isn’t the difference between me and my neighbor, but me and God’s holiness… I see just how much I need Jesus.

  31. Angela Lambright

    “Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth praying to get richer.” I don’t know about you all, but my prayers for more income mostly have had to do with wanting to buy new furniture, go on nicer vacations, or be able to buy a bigger house. Not to have more to give away. I mean after all our one income is only a little above the “poverty” line, so there is nothing wrong with wanting a better life right? …And then my husband and I went with a group of teenagers from his school on a missions trip to the Dominican Republic where we went to a village of Haitian refugees who work for rich Dominican plantation owners and the idea of the “poverty” line changed drastically. But the thing that blew my mind the most was how content they were!! Even the kids!!! And these people had next to nothing. Not even enough food to always be able to have one meal a day. And they were content. God’s been working in my life alot since our trip last summer, and this book fits right in with some of what He’s been showing me. So I’m excited to see how this all pans out!!! So glad to be able to read it along with others!! 🙂

    1. Marla Taviano

      You and me both, sister. After spending time in Cambodia with friends who have next to nothing (literally) and yet are so content and full of love for Christ–wow. I just can’t justify all my stuff anymore. I want to transfer all the time/energy/money I’d put into financial security into helping more people over there just be able to survive long enough to know Christ (well, longer than that, but you get what I’m saying).

  32. Jennifer

    It is REALLY hard not to get caught up in the American Dream mindset. We’ve just moved from a rural small town to a major city, and it’s shocking how quickly our tastes, habits, and motivations have changed in just a few months. I really don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking we need more, more, more. Which is really easy to do when seemingly everyone around you — even the committed Christians! — have literally everything they could ever dream of owning. Fortunately, God has His own ways of pointing our faulty thinking out to us (and He’s REALLY gotten our attention lately, which is another story in and of itself), and we’re trying to figure out how to live missionally, even in a place of great excess.

    1. Marla Taviano

      This is hard, hard, hard stuff. Some of my most favorite people in the world have SO MUCH. I know it’s not my place to tell someone else that she has excess, so I’ll just keep working on my own crap and go from there. 🙂

      Can’t wait to hear more of your story. friend.

  33. Diane

    Wanting God’s agenda and mine to gel is where I’m at and it’s slowly happening in a lot of different arenas: social justice, decluttering, giving, not wasting etc. but I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface. I am looking forward to the Read-A-Long and seeing how the Spirit will nudge me more.

  34. HopefulLeigh

    I haven’t read the intro yet but I did order my book the other day, thanks to the affiliate gift certificate I remembered.

    The last few days I’ve been wrestling with the beast of comparison and feeling left out. I don’t put a ton of stock in blog stats but I do stay abreast of them to get a sense of whether my blog is growing and where traffic is coming from, etc. In the back of my mind is this knowledge that if I want to be a published author, my platform has to continually grow. Even though I’ve been blogging for years, the numbers don’t reflect that. I recently learned some of the numbers for friends that have been blogging for less than a year. That’s all it took for me to feel insecure and wonder what I’m doing wrong which naturally led to thinking that I’ll never be published and how if I was married my blog would have more readers (this does appear true: single bloggers, even if their blog isn’t about singleness, tend to have a lower readership) and so on.

    All this to say, last night I decided it would be good for me to stay off Twitter this week, given where my head is at. Outside of linking to posts, responding to any @s, and one Twitter “party” Wednesday night, I’m not going to look at the feed. It’s going to be hard because I love Twitter but it also will enable me to separate myself from the things that would feed discontentment. I’m fairly certain I’ll have more time to do other things, too. I hadn’t even thought of this in connection with 7 so reading the quote about simplicity was another confirmation of this step.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Oh, sweet friend. I have so, so, so much to say about this. Too much in fact. I’ve already been writing a blog post about it in my head.

      I’ll say one thing to encourage you (okay, 2). 1.) fiction writers don’t need nearly the “platform” as non-fiction writers. and 2.) you’ve got a clean slate–many of my recent struggles with publishing have come because of 2 failed books (no publisher wants to take a chance on me after that).

      I’m so thankful for your honesty.

      1. HopefulLeigh

        Sometimes I wish I was a little less honest. 🙂 The blogging/writing stuff is easy to tell but getting into matters of the heart (friendship, singleness, faith) is another matter. Always glad to hear your perspective. I do hope you’ll write that blog post! God will redeem this period in your life, Marla. I have no doubt.

  35. Valerie Henry

    Real Life Story: I had this morning marked down on my planner, dedicated to this very discussion. I was going to dust off my blog and opine at length about “7”. Then, out of the blue, two little old ladies called me.

    The first Little Old Lady is deaf, and I would guess pushing 90. She wanted to know if I would take her to visit her niece in town today. Now, this lady has never asked me to do anything more for her than picking up her church envelope on the odd Sunday morning.

    Little Old Lady #2 is one I haven’t heard from in probably a year! She wanted to know if I could meet her son at my mother-in-law’s house so he could bring her a couch my MIL is giving away, as her couch is broken down in several places and she doesn’t have the money for a new one.

    So there goes my morning. I can either say no to these two Little Old Ladies and have fun talking about “7”, or I can blow hours helping these two senior citizens. WWJD?

    God has such a sense of humor.

      1. Valerie Henry

        Well, one LOL (Little Old Lady) down, and one to go. I said she was pushing 90…..Lordy, she told me today she’s 93! And still living all alone. She was so grateful that I took her out that she had tears in her eyes. It made me feel good (but also worried that I’ve started something that I’m going to have to keep up……oh boy.)

        On to LOL #2…….

  36. Kim

    Where have I substituted the American Dream for God’s Kingdom? Ouch, this phrasing really hurts because it makes me see with eyes wide open just exactly what it is I am doing. Every time I mindlessly shop (to fill the emotional hole), I am choosing to slip further from His Kingdom. It is time to start dealing with the root causes and quit putting a band-aid over the top.

  37. Nadia

    “Just for the record, Mom,” my teen clarified, “I never asked to go on that mission trip in June.” This was my sweet boy’s response to my talking with him about upcoming adventures (and expenses) that we are budgeting for right now. As these innocent (he was not being that snarky, truly) words came from his mouth, I looked around at the houses surrounding his high school. I looked at us. And gently broached the topic of excess with my boy. I referenced the book and went on to explain that we have a lot to learn… about the world… about how much we have, even with our tight and miserable budget. When we got to school, I prayed with my son and watched him walk, coatless by choice, into his amazing school. I cannot let him think that this life, this full-of-material-abundance life, is what life really looks like for all. We need our eyes opened. Our hearts readied. And we need less.

    1. Valerie Henry

      Amen! That brought tears to my eyes God bless you, Nadia! You are raising your son in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

  38. Pingback: My Now Story - Kinda | Living the Life of a Frugal Trophy Wife

  39. Jen Hanson

    “Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer.”

    That impaired perspective has been causing me a lot of tension lately. Because my little family is now living on one modest income (since I started staying home with the twins), it’s easy to feel suddenly “poor”. But good grief, we still have SO MUCH MORE than most people in the world. I have zero reason to feel like the martyr over our budget.

    I feel so sick to my stomach over the excess (possessions/spending mainly). The hardest thing is not being surrounded by people who see what I’m seeing. Glad to have the read-a-long to know that I’m not loosing my mind.

    1. Kim

      Jen — I’m feeling that tension too. Wondering why no one else “seems” to get it.

      I am so thankful for this read-along. It is joy untold to know others are walking with me.

    2. Marla Taviano

      If you’re losing your mind, it’s the twin infants, not the justice journey. I love how she said in the acknowledgements, “I’m not even a weird girl around you people.” You’re not weird here, friend. 🙂

  40. Amy

    I haven’t read the book but this quote keeps me coming back:

    “Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer.”

    Ouch!

      1. Amy

        It’s way, way down the list. I just got done reading the Bible in 90 days and my stack of books is huge.

        I’ll definitely be reading your posts though until then.

        1. Marla Taviano

          Yeah, about that reading the Bible in 90 days… I’m pretty sure I was a little over-ambitious to try to do it right before I left for Cambodia for 5 weeks and then came home to stress and jet lag. Hooray for you though!! That’s so awesome!

  41. Melissa

    I think I need to move closer to God’s agenda and further from mine. All these areas in my life need a renovation…even though I think I am pretty good at getting rid of stuff and not wanting stuff (I had to clean out 30+ years of my parents stuff), I still struggle with the need for “useful” stuff to make my life easier. But yet I identify with the last quote in wanting to teach my kids that stuff isn’t important. I do purge their toys and make them share everything, but I don’t know if I’m modeling it very well in my life.
    On another note, this book is already convicting me in other areas, specifically as we are looking for a new church home after our move.

  42. Andrea

    What in my life is too much?! How to even choose…I think my right-now answer is the stress, activities and never-ending set of committees, meetings, etc to attend. I need time to sit and ponder and reflect and pray and I get none of that rushing here and there. My blog post about the book and intro should be linked to my name. Marla, thanks for coordinating this. I look forward to hearing others’ take as we move through.

  43. Ruth

    This is going to be a great read for sure. I have to comment on the last quote – about it not being too late to untether my kids from the lie of “more”. I really needed that. I feel like I screw up my kids a lot. And I cringe whenever I hear any of them saying “I want this; I want that”. I don’t give in & they usually only get things on their birthdays and Christmas, but they still can have the attitude & it’s a heart issue. I’m glad it’s not too late. For the sake of my kids & the generation they will reach, I must do even more to change my mindset and habits in regards to excess.

    I have to be honest. I am overwhelmed because I’ve BEEN wanting to declutter, live on less, give more, etc, but I don’t know HOW. So I’m looking forward to learning what Jen learned through this process. Her statement stuck out to me when she said she didn’t want to do this just to do it, but to do it right & make a difference. She is inspiring & I am ready to read, learn, & do!

    1. Marla Taviano

      That one’s big for me too. And just some encouragement–your kiddos are still little. I wasn’t even thinking about this kind of stuff when mine were your kids’ ages. And I’m amazed at how God has worked in their hearts in this area. He’s bigger than our “screw-ups.”

    2. valerie (in TX)

      Ah, Ruth, can I just say, “Ditto, ditto, and um, yeah…ditto.” I could not say Amen loud enough to your statement, “I am overwhelmed because I’ve BEEN wanting to declutter, live on less, give more, etc, but I don’t know HOW,” and, I might add, “!!!!!!” I know this is an excuse, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how to do all this stuff while working outside the home. WHEN do you find the time to do it?? Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus! 🙂

      1. Marla Taviano

        I don’t have any awesome answers for you, Valerie. But I know for me that a BIG key is just to STOP bringing any more junk in. Even while I was purging, I was horrified at my tendency to just load up on stuff at the thrift store two minutes after I got rid of a ton of it.

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