Monday, August 18, 2014

Life Interrupted.

It is a privilege to share with you my thoughts on Jen Hatmaker's book, Interrupted. As a writer, responding to book reviews with positive, constructive thoughts and offering polite recommendations to buy a worthwhile read is a pleasure to do. Except when its not. When its more of a warning to proceed ahead with caution.

Don't get me wrong. I loved this book. But I am going to tell you why reading it was harder than 29 hours of childbirth without an epidural. Why I clench my jaw thinking about the moment I opened it and began a journey to where there was no going back.

At first, you might think its totally cool that someone else out there feels this way. Turns out you really aren't alone. Comforting to know some chick in Texas with a huge smile and tons of kids has put on paper what's been stirring in your soul. Jen Hatmaker describes her spiritual state of longing as a "dryness" whereas I felt more of a "restlessness." You might think a spiritual crisis is about to happen, but in the restless angst or barren dryness you slowly discover God is actively at work, shifting your focus away from bland religiosity while vividly making your heart yearn for ways to love people who are suffering, alone, hurting, hungry, neglected, shunned and marginalized. In your neighborhood and across the world. Reading this book helped me to understand that being "interrupted" is not a rally to force everyone into joining one individual's "cause" to do good, instead it is a beautiful obedience mandated repeatedly as the Bible's clear and consistent message to followers of Christ. "Love one another as I have loved you" isn't turning a blind eye to people who are in desperate situations. Ignoring the beggar that we see but want to ignore -doesn't end well. Unless we get ourselves involved in actively serving and loving others passionately as Jesus does, we are missing a huge part of living out the fullness of the Gospel. We miss grasping -to the best of our human ability- the immense depth of love and mercy Jesus has for us.

Not everyone will understand. Not everyone will be eager to embrace the changes that happen in order to interrupt life and church as we know it. To put those the world sees as being in last place -first. To embrace the least of these and glorify God by loving them as VIPs, giving compassion to their suffering, dignity to their hurting, and nourishment to their withering. It is reaching out to those who struggle with poverty, starvation, addiction, loneliness, depression, lack of shelter, disease, etc. and extending love and grace without condition or expectation. It is important to know however, that the reality and magnitude of "interrupting" the status quo hasn't caught on in all the places it needs to yet. And if you don't happen to be a best-selling author and pastor's wife -and this book happens to you- prepare yourself for the possible uncertainty that might come as a result.

Had I never read Interrupted- my life would be easier right now. My friend count and popularity on Facebook -much higher. But as the past few weeks have been challenging, they have been life-changing as well.  By the way, none of you Hatmaker book virgins should dare read anything by this lady unless of course, you want to risk disrupting Sunday mornings, sabotaging some relationships, aching for purpose, getting rid of stuff, and ending up flat on your face- begging God for direction. I'm intentionally waiting until the warranty on the BMW is over before I dare read her other killjoy, Seven.

Much like everything God uses in the Bible to move the ball forward, this book doesn't lend itself to idle people.  Instead of sitting on the sidelines handing out Gatorade, you read this book and you're forced into the game. One with competitive teams and sadly, man-made rules. But press on. Messed up, imperfect, humbled souls throughout Scripture -who didn't look or act the part- made the cut when it came to God being glorified in extraordinary ways. Jesus entered the world as a crying, pooping, babbling infant. Which just means all of us are perfect candidates for the job of being His vessel for change, insignificant as we all are. Figuring out what that looks like is hard. Really hard. Talking about it is hard. Yet dreaming about something better inevitably happens when you read Interrupted.

Here are some quotes to give you an idea what I'm talking about.

"Until we are all compelled and contributing, we're settling for an anemic faith and a church that robs Christ followers of their vitality and repels the rest of the world." - Jen Hatmaker


"If you truly love ME you will feed my sheep. My people are crumbling and dying and starving and you're blessing blessed people and serving the saved." - Jen Hatmaker

No holdin' back.

"All of a sudden I saw my exact reflection in Peter: devoted but selfish, committed but misguided. It won't suffice to claim good intentions. Not with God screaming, begging, pleading, urging us to feed the poor and orphaned, to care for the last and least in nearly every book of the Bible. It will not be enough one day to stand before Jesus and say, "Oh? Were you serious about all that?" - Jen Hatmaker

So if you dare read this be forewarned. Not everyone will understand your shift in perspective. Your character may be attacked. Gossip might abound. You might even be forced out of fellowship. And undoubtedly you can bet the word "divisive' will rear its ugly head. But don't think for a moment it is not worth reading. Don't shy away just because its hard. The tension of understanding just how important serving is to grasping the fullness of the Gospel brings about positive change. So many amazing people whose compassion for the least of these and dedication to staying humbled servants inspire me in remarkable ways.

Let me share with you Interrupted's back cover excerpt.

"Have you ever felt like you are completely missing the point? Are you one of the millions who crave a new direction in the church, fed up with religious games, empty promises, and cultural Christianity? You are not alone. You are not crazy. Maybe Jesus is ready to interrupt your life."

The effects of being Interrupted may not be visible in the place where you are right now.  Perhaps change might not look the way you hope and expect it to. This book is one of many that begs and pleads with our beloved church to examine itself. Many pastors, like Francis Chan, are showing the fruits of shifting gears towards a focus that minimizes men and uplifts a merciful God.
Mega-size is not the prize. An abundance of mercy and compassion is.
Don't get me wrong-please don't misunderstand.
I LOVE the church.
I LOVE the people within church.
I LOVE those who serve His church. There are some awesome and amazing pastors out there!
We are all on this wonderful journey together. Regardless of where we end up on Sunday mornings -in a living room, school auditorium, movie theater, private building, or in secret hiding. I trust completely in God's plan for His bride.

Pray we all experience the freedom to have honest and forthright conversations sparked by books like Interrupted, Radical, Crazy Love, etc. without the fear of being called out as "divisive" or alienated from church community. And if you don't want to be on the fringe alone, buy lots of copies of Interrupted and spread the love! Go ahead. Wreck your friends. Interrupt calm spirituality with a kick in the pants. Read this and find yourself less concerned about vindicating your name, preserving popularity, or staying comfortable. Encounter the beautiful freedom of glorifying God and boldly embracing those in need- the people Jesus passionately reached out to and repeatedly calls us to love and serve.


Oh yeah. Brandon Hatmaker mentions this incredible verse,
which I've pondered on SO much lately:
"Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice." - Jesus (Matthew 9:13)

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