Mrs. G’s Bookclub, Interrupted, Meeting #2, Chapters 2-3

OH my goodness. DO forgive me for my tardiness in publishing our bookclub meetings. I’m still working out the details of this venture, plus I’m reading The Pilgrim’s Progress with our church’s bookclub, plus I’m reading The Excellent Wife with a bride-to-be, plus I’m blogging and pinning and sleeping and eating and raising three ragamuffins and watching “American Idol.” I will do my best to spit these out a bit faster in the future. In the meantime, go ahead and start reading Section 2 of the book if you are ready to do so – but please take time to share your comments or thoughts below and in the coming posts on Section 1!

~ a continuation of Meeting #2: our collective musings on section 1 (pp.1-42) ~

Winter 2007, Chapter 2 and 3 (pp.22-28): Reader, Beware: Life-Altering Prayer Ahead

“Why did I feel so dry?”

Many of us may be asking the same question. We go to church three times a week, we meet with small groups of believers, we pray for the lost, we raise our children in the fear and knowledge of God, we faithfully tithe and we read our Bibles every day (“we” meaning everyone but me…I’m still working on the Bible reading). Sometimes we even memorize the verses we read!

We have it all. We do it all. So…what’s missing?

Jen shares this quotation from Shane Claiborne: “I had gorged myself on all the products of the Christian industrial complex but was spiritually starving to death. I was marked by an overconsumption but malnourished spiritually, suffocated by Christianity but thirsty for God.”

I am so blessed to be a part of a fellowship and under the shepherding of a church and pastors who are diligently seeking the Word – we are slowly being changed drastically from what we were a decade ago – but I distinctly remember a time when my weeks were stuffed full of meetings and “ministries” and fellowships and conferences. My hands were busy, busy, busy, but underneath it all, my heart was confused, full of doubts and questions and painfully aware of what I was lacking. I admitted to myself – and only myself – very often that I just didn’t “get” Jesus – He confused me. He scared me. He threatened all the things I cherished most in my life. His call to leave everything to follow Him just didn’t match up with my devotion. But I got pretty good at ignoring this tension…

Until it became obvious to me that I really had to choose my Master.

Like, for real.

I’m still figuring out the implications of that choice.

Jen’s prayer “God, raise up in me a holy passion” resulted in a lifestyle revolution. It began with a flicker, she says…

~

And then in the next chapter, Jen catalogues the sacred meeting she had with the Spirit where God exposed her “devoted but selfish, committed but misguided” lifestyle and laid on her heart the ones who were literally starving while she spent her time “blessing blessed people and dreaming about (her) next house.”

That line really got to me. Not that blessing blessed people is a sin…not that dreaming about a house is a sin…but an entire lifespan devoted solely to ourselves, our kids, our education, our surroundings, our possessions, our church buildings, our circle of friends and our dreams while turning a completely blind eye to the suffering not only in the world but in our small town is what? A big fat sin.

Not to mention that fact that among the body of Christ, we have spent years munching on cotton candy and letting the richest feast of the unadulterated Word — that leads to church unity and discipleship and unconditional love — decay and crumble beneath our feet.

I don’t want to reside in gluttony anymore – I feel obese and spoiled and ready to turn my eyes outward. I want to be transparent with my the flock I am a part of, I want to love them forever, and I want to join hands with them and help change the world. God, give us grace. I am so excited about our future together.

~

Questions for thought or discussion:

Have you gorged on the Christian industrial complex? Have you been suffocated by an over-consumption of a man-made form of Christianity?

Have you overlooked the true feast?

Have you spent more time making plans for your own comfort than living a gospel-centered life?

~ mull it over or share below ~

Mrs. G’s Bookclub: Interrupted, Meeting #2, Chapter 1

~ Meeting #2: our collective musings on section 1 (pp.1-42) ~

Well…what did you think?

Does Mrs. Gore’s Bookclub feature amazing books or what?! (I’m sorry. I’ve tried to stop with the bratty and boastful comments, but…I just can’t. Don’t squash my spirit).

Reading the first section, I was reminded again why I have become such a huge fan of Jen Hatmaker. Honest but funny, challenging but encouraging, she is the picture of what a “churchwoman” should look like as she confesses her sins, displays transparency and humility and spurs her readers on to love and good works as she invites us to grow along with her. I only hope to be such a voice in a church age that has slipped into a complacency where we “show love” by keeping to ourselves, staying mum about the elephants in the room.

So here’s how I’ve decided to split this up, because I want you all to feel free to share your thoughts and/or questions from each chapter rather than skim over it all too quickly: So…imagine that we are sitting in a cozy semicircle, drinking coffee (or hot chocolate, Amy) and eating some kind of delicious cookie, going over the pages we read since we last met together. We would start at the beginning and go through each chapter, discussing its main points, sharing our favorite parts and asking questions of one another before moving on to the next chapter. Then we would be dismissed to read the next section before our next meeting. That’s exactly what we’re going to do here. Meeting #2 will cover the entire section that we read last week, but I will dedicate a post to each chapter of that section so you can share your specific comments before we move on to the next chappter. Savvy? Hope so.

One more note of importance: I will not be sharing all of the bookclub posts on my personal facebook page, so if you are not subscribed to this blog but want bookclub updates, find Mrs. Gore’s Diary on facebook, “like” the page and then “like” one of my posts or links to show facebook that you want to receive my updates in your newsfeed. If you don’t “like” something on the actual page, my updates will not appear in your feed. Savvy? Hope so.

Now. Let’s get this party started. (Oh, and thank you kindly for joining us – it truly thrills my heart to have you along).

~

Winter 2007, Chapter 1 (pp.19-21)

Jen discusses her son misunderstanding the main point of racism and civil rights before saying…

“Likewise I still can’t believe it, but I managed to attend church three times a week as a fetus, fulfill the pastor’s kid role, observe every form and function of church, get swallowed whole by Christian subculture, graduate from a Baptist college, wed a pastor, serve in full-time ministry for twelve years, become a Christian author and speaker — and I misunderstood the main point. I am still stunned by my capacity to spin Scripture, see what I wanted, ignore what I didn’t, and use the Word to defend my life rather than define it.”

If you can identify, please raise your hand.

Yes, I am typing one-handed right now.

Okay, now I’m not. But my hand is still raised, in my head, because I can identify. During my last years of college and that year that my husband hauled me off to seminary, I had a bit of a spiritual identity crisis. God had kind of brought me to the end of myself and I was questioning everything because that stuff up there – routine church attendance, youth group awesomeness and checking the boxes of my daily disciplines – just wasn’t cutting the mustard. I had begun to realize that much of what I had committed my life to was a fabrication of spirituality that was quite extra-Biblical. When it wasn’t being plain ol’ unbiblical. Scripture had been spun amok, resulting in a really prettied-up and comfortable version of what it should have been; the pilgrimage had been morphed into a 20th Century entourage, with lots of tents and bling and like, 18 suitcases full of crap.

Where was Christ? Where was my love for the Word? How was I really different from the ones I was evangelizing, once you got past the moral exterior? As Jen says…

“Until two years ago, my life resembled the basic pursuit of the American Dream; it just occurred in a church setting.”

She then details that American Dream, the “commonly agreed-upon life route” that we all know very well — marriage, children, house, collections, two (or three) cars, safety, education, church involvement, retirement — ending with this summation of her worldview: “…I could live an ‘obedient life’ without sacrificing the lifestyle I craved.”

And that just says it all, if you ask me. We tried to have it all, one arm around the world, one arm around Christianity, but in our ladder-climbing, we lost the gospel. That “no man can serve two masters” stuff was really true, after all. Huh…

And I have to be honest with you guys – I am still in the midst of this major worldview upheaval. I am questioning so many things. I am reevaulating my goals, my possessions, my lifestyle, my schedule…everything. Jen wrote this book a few years ago; my story is just now being written. So its not like I have even fully awakened from the Dream that I now seem to scorn…I’m still groggy. I’m wiping the sleep out of my eyes but my glasses are on my bedside table and I’m feeling around for them and I’m putting them on and the room is coming into focus but…I can’t see everything yet. I just didn’t want you to think that I had arrived, because actually, I’m just now kinda sorta leaving.

Jen ends this first little chapter with the question “Why did I feel so dry?” If you are feeling the same way, I hope this book points you to some answers.

~

Questions for thought or discussion:

Evaluate your schedule: are you committing your life to things that don’t matter? Are even your church activities usurping all of your time and energy?

Are you living a life that is counter-culture? How do our lives blend in with our culture today?

“Why do I feel so dry?” Can you identify with this statement?

~ mull it over or share below ~

Mrs. G’s Bookclub: Interrupted, Meeting #1

Hello dear Bookclub members!

The time has finally come to begin our first bookclub reading – Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted.

I hope everyone has secured a copy of the book and is as ready to embark on this adventure as I am – if not, you still have time, but…spit spot! Shoo – go get your book. Right now. Godspeed.

I suppose there is no better way to begin than by using some of the words from Brandon and Jen Hatmaker themselves, taken from the Foreword and Introduction of the book.

In the foreword, Brandon says that “most of us look at change as a threat” as it “makes the consistent inconsistent” and “removes comfort”.

I am much inclined to agree. Life is kind of easy, isn’t it, when everything stays just so? We are lulled into a comfortable snooze when the rhythm of our days in unchanging. We go to church, we teach a class, we go home, we buy groceries, we watch television after putting the children to bed, we go out to eat a couple of times a week, we celebrate a holiday, we recover from the holiday, we celebrate the next holiday…

And so on and so forth until something unexpected happens. It could be a tragedy that turns our world on end, it could be a change in occupation that upsets our balance, it could be a sickness, a church split, a graduation, a marriage, a pregnancy…

Good or bad, change is always on the horizon whether we accept it with open arms or lock our doors from its presence.

But Brandon goes on to say that “the good news is that God can be found right in the middle of it as well. God does not change, but He uses change — to change us. He sends us on journeys that bring us to the end of ourselves. We often feel out of control, yet if we embrace His leading, we may find ourselves on the ride of our lives.”

And that’s what I love so much about this book. It does not document the kind of change that leaves a mother bereft or a family torn apart; rather, it tells the story of the best kind of change that can happen, a change that takes place when God condescends to wake His children up from their slumber, when He reveals the nakedness of the pious and tells them where to find real clothes, when He has mercy on a church that has been asleep but didn’t even know it. This is the story of Brandon and Jen Hatmaker’s life interruption, but it is a story that our Maker is telling nationwide:

“There is a change happening in our generation marked by a shift in thinking, a shift central to the missional church.”

I have felt this shift, long before I heard of the Hatmakers, which tells me that God is indeed working in our nation, all the way down to Mrs. Gore of Main Street, Oklahoma. Might a widespread revival of old be in our future? Is the Spirit of God really being so kind to pull us from the mediocrity of a comfortable and consumer-driven existence?

Hasten, Lord. (But be gentle, please. You are dealing with the biggest babies in the history of the earth. Especially the boss of this bookclub).

Brandon wraps up his foreword with this: “Our hope is that through our story, you might identify where God is leading you, that you might read something that helps you overcome what is holding you back, and that you might receive permission to chase after it.”

That’s my hope, too, that as we read this book together, we might feel those shackles begin to fall off. I was lying in bed the other night, trying to take in all the things God is doing in my heart and reforming in my mind, and I kid you not, it took everything I had to lie still and go to sleep. I wanted to hop up and run or write or pray or call somebody or something. I was so excited. And it made me think that finally, 20-something years after I “walked the aisle” I might be at the starting line of this race that God has so graciously called me to. I think I’m finally ready to run, bookclub.

Sort of. (What? Running scares the bojangles out of me. I’ve been on the couch for a long time, eating potato chips and potluck leftovers).

I’ll end with these words from Jen in the book’s introduction: “…if you’re navigating the tension between your Bible and your life, or Jesus’ ancient ideas and the modern wayward church, or God’s kingdom on earth and reality, then welcome…I may not offer resolution, but I will humbly and gratefully enter the conversation with you. If you have looked at the church at large, the current presentation of “a good, obedient life,” or the Christian effect on culture and asked, ‘Is this all there is?’ then you’re in the right place.”

I’ve gotta say…I think this is one change that we don’t want to miss.

Glad you’re along for the ride.

This week, please read the Foreword, the Introduction and the section titled “Winter 2007″ (ending on p. 43).

~

Questions for thought or discussion:

Have you felt this shift in our generation, an awakening to our sin and a call to mission?

Has the modern-day church caused you to ask the question Jen poses: “Is this all there is?”

Do you feel any trepidation about what lies ahead for your church or for yourself?

~ mull it over or share below ~

Mrs. Gore is in “Seven” Heaven

I know we have yet to start our bookclub on Jen Hatmaker’s “Interrupted”, but this is important BREAKING bookclub news…

~

I have spent many of my 30 years on this earth acquiring.

Shoes…

Pretty dishes…

Coats…

Books…

Movies…

Games…

Music…

Antiques…

Dresses…

And then my kids came along, and things began to quickly get out of hand. Not only were my closets and private rooms overflowing with comforts and beauty, but my entire house was following suit. Shoes everywhere, buckets of Little Golden Books, a coatrack full of diaper bags, shelves of puzzles, every Disney movie every made, 12 hairbows for every color of the rainbow, and enough tiny, plastic toys to supplement McDonald’s Happy Meals for at least 2000 orders. And the clothes…

Having a fancy dress at Christmas used to be pretty simple. Now, however, I had to find 4 other outfits to match mine in hue and quality, with accessories and shoes and outerwear to match. (Because it is imperative that we get a family picture in our finery to post on facebook, yes?). The same went for fall pictures, Valentine pictures, Easter pictures, Fourth of July pictures, the first OU game, and so on and so forth until my house was (is) bursting at the seams with STUFF, most of which will be obsolete in a few months as my children continue to grow at the rate of…well, growing children. And heaven forbid that Rebekah have the same Valentine shirt in 2012 that she had in 2011.

I have slowly been becoming aware of this never-ending cycle of insatiability that both traps and burdens the consumer (me) for a couple of years now. In fact, I came very close to sitting down and weeping last Christmas after we unloaded all of our new gifts from the car. There was a veritable mountain of shiny new stuff to find hidey-holes for, and guess what? All the hidey-holes were taken. There was no room in the inn and Mrs. Gore had a major first world problem on her hands.

I was spending so much of my time putting away “things” and toys and clothes and it had become glaringly clear to me that most of my day’s work was absolutely unnecessary. If I could just find it in me, I thought, to purge our home of all the junk, I might actually have the freedom to do what I LONG to do…sit in the floor with my kids and play in a house that stays tidy enough for our current situation (i.e. 3 kids under the age of 5). But as it was, I was too busy putting away the gazillion puzzle pieces that were played with for 5 minutes and the ten thousand articles of clothing that I brought into our “haven of rest” with my own hands and the bath toys and the outdoor toys and the kitchen toys and the boxes (and boxes) of snacks and the craft supplies and the…well, you get the point.

Our possessions had become a volatile and high-maintenance machine that needed to be tended to day and night; ignore it for a moment and it would spew its innards all over our home, robbing the matriarch of her peace and joy as she shoved her children aside to make way for the beast.

And sadder still is that fact that I was bound to these things.

I have been in a two-year pickle, hating the burden of a house full of waste and junk but loving (and craving) the new waste and junk that lined the shelves of my favorite stores. My heart was saying “Wait a minute…” but my hands were too busy grabbing to give a listen.

It no longer felt comfortable to me to live the kind of life I was accustomed to, but those consumer-driven chains were (are) so tightly wrapped around me, binding up the way I see, the way I think, the way I plan. Outside of the “machine”, I don’t really know who I am or what I believe or what I’m supposed to do with my time and money and interest. I wanted to break free of whatever it was that was so thoroughly bugging me, but…I didn’t really know how to do it.

I can look back now and see how God has been working on me for a near decade, slowly sanctifying me and pulling off the blinders to this unholy and confusing lifestyle…

There was the time 12 years ago that my youth minister challenged us to let go of “the American Dream” and truly follow Jesus (and isn’t it convenient that I do distinctly remember thinking he was out of line – there wasn’t any way I was going to give up the vision of me, vacuuming my house in high heels and pearls before hosting afternoon tea with my friends).

There was the year that God threw me a major curve-ball and kept asking me to spend my “egg money” earned from cleaning my brother’s house on other people. It was so weird and so unlike me to obey, but I felt a hint of freedom that shocked me when I gave those pretties up (although I will never forget the “Doris shirtdress” that I wanted to purchase from Anthropologie for my very first Mother’s Day church service – I’m sure my missionary friends in SE Asia appreciated being able to eat, though).

There was the constant challenge of my husband who gave us a budget (that he renamed “fund” for me because it had the word “fun” in it) that he persistently cut down so we could give more to others, after we gave our tithe. Unheard of.

There was the time I told my husband “I am so glad that God gave us this house (meaning my new shiny white farmhouse)” and he replied “God didn’t give us this house, Lesley. He gave us the money and we chose to build a house with it.” Huh?…that guy is crazy.  Or so I thought.

There was the time I heard Dr. Russell Moore talk about adopting his boys from a horrific orphanage in Russia and I sobbed my eyes out in front of the entire Southern Baptist Convention while pledging to sell all my possessions and save a child tomorrow.

And then there was the day right after that that I heard David Platt speak for the first time about the dangerous idol of the American Dream and I was riveted and further undone and wished I had paid more attention to my youth minister 12 years ago.

And then there was that airplane ride home the next day where I read David Platt’s book “Radical” from cover to cover with a growing sense of conviction and trepidation and horror and sadness.

And then my beloved friend, Charlotte, told me about Jen Hatmaker.

And then I became Jen Hatmaker’s friend on facebook.

And I read her book “Interrupted” and was shocked to find my story written inside.

And then I read her new book “7: an experimental mutiny against excess“…

And wow. This is it. Now I feel as if the years and the convictions and the burdens leading up to this point are coming to a head and life is about to really and truly change for Mrs. Gore, the former shoe expert of Smalltown, Oklahoma.

I know we’re starting our bookclub on Interrupted next week (and again, I urge you to read Interrupted before reading Seven), but let me just take a minute to tell you about this book that has captured my  heart and my soul and my brain and my imagination.

Seven chronicles Jen Hatmaker’s struggles with the very things I have just mentioned. Her struggles were unique to her, just as mine are to me, but the root of those struggles is universal…greed, insatiability, discontentment, pride, love of money, love of prestige, love of self, and the saddest of all, a jaded and ridiculous view of the gospel of Jesus Christ by the American church that claims to “take up our cross and follow Him”…right after we spend 90% of our income on ourselves.

But unlike me, Jen doesn’t stop at the struggle and just hope that things get better. God leads her to do something so exciting and radical about it and the result is off-the-charts captivating: seven months of Jen’s life are dedicated to seven unique and challenging fasts that tackle excessive (but oh so typical) consumption…

Food. Clothes. Possessions. Media. Waste. Spending. Stress.

It goes a little something like this: Jen eats seven foods only for the first month, wears a wardrobe of seven articles of clothing for the second month, gives away seven possessions a day for the third month, abstains from seven forms of media for the fourth month, adopts seven “green” practices for the fifth month, spends money in only seven places for the sixth month, and practices seven “sacred pauses” a day for the seventh month.

It is important to note that her initial goal is not to organize her life or become a more earth-friendly person, but to repent from her excessive lifestyle and deny herself  those comforts that kept her from whole-heartedly seeking the face of God and the simple (and self-sacrificing) lifestyle of Jesus.

If you are anything like me, this book will inspire you to break free of those shackles of consumerism you felt but couldn’t see. With careful research and no-nonsense dialogue, Jen illuminates, through her own personal story, the excessive lifestyles of even the most seemingly devout American Christians; her story is your story is my story is his story is her story. And true to her style, she does so with just the right amount of levity and humor, causing you to cry one minute and burst out laughing the next.

I will warn you, this awakening might hurt a little and it might hound you until no stone is left unturned – all of a sudden, you will look at your closet full of clothes, your bursting at the seams pantry, your state-of-the-art media, and your jam-packed schedule with fresh (and perhaps convicted) eyes – but at the end of the mutiny there is great freedom and joy. I can feel it. I can taste it. And I am so excited to begin my own personal mutiny against excess. It might look different than Jen’s, but that’s the beauty of Seven. It is not a guidebook to fasting or a list of objectives that will buy your freedom when done in sequential order.

Its just a brilliantly catalogued wake-up call that says “This is what God is doing in my life and it is the adventure of a lifetime. Why don’t you give it a try and see where it leads you?”

I feel quite compelled to join in.

I hope you do, too.

~

P.S. And so it is with great excitement that I announce that Mrs. Gore’s Bookclub will be launching an in-depth study of “7” at the completion of “Interrupted”. Hand-in-hand with one another, this experiment won’t hurt so badly, don’t you think?

P.S.S.

Only one item was purchased for this year's Christmas photo - my new dress! - and it was my birthday gift. Old dogs really can learn new tricks...

Mrs. Gore’s Diary gets Interrupted

The New Year is upon us, and no one loves a good resolution like I do.

Thus, I hereby resolve to begin a new section on my blog that shall go by the fancy title of…

Mrs. Gore’s Bookclub for Those Interested in Reading a Book with Mrs. Gore that She Picks Out Because She is Bossy and a Brat and Because this is Her Blog.

But we’ll just call it Mrs. Gore’s Bookclub.

On January 1st or shortly thereafter, we will begin reading Jen Hatmaker’s outstanding book “Interrupted.” All joking aside, this book could very well change your life – it certainly did mine. Jen’s journey so closely mirrors my own, but she is about 5 thousand million steps ahead, blazing a path that both thrills and terrifies me ~ I feel very much like I am the girl she used to be. And today she is absolutely the type of woman that I want to become.

This book chronicles how her normal American church life got totally flipped upside down, and serves as a major wake-up call to those of us who have somehow confused the American Dream with the Great Commission. It also acts as a great precursor to her upcoming book release “7:  An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess”, another book I will certainly be featuring on my blog and in Mrs. Gore’s Bookclub in the very near future. Perhaps we will even go through the “experiment” together sometime in 2012.

Anyhow, it would absolutely thrill my heart to know you will be reading alongside me.

All you have to do right this instant is order the book. (click on the book below to purchase it at Amazon):

Next, make it official by subscribing to this blog so that you can receive updates and leave comments and questions when the time comes.

Then, when your book arrives in the mail, set it on your nightstand and await your next instructions. I’ll try to give you a couple of weeks to procure your copy of the book, but do hurry. (Told you. I’m bossy!)

I look very much forward to reading with you and receiving your insight in return.

Oh, and welcome to Mrs. Gore’s Bookclub. Won’t it be so nice to hear from someone besides Mrs. Gore?

(Don’t answer that).