Sunday, 27 July 2014

Book Review: "Interrupted" by Jen Hatmaker

Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith
(revised and expanded)
By Jen Hatmaker

Publisher’s Synopsis:
Interrupted follows the author’s messy journey through life and church and into living on mission. Snatching Jen from the grip of her consumer life, God began asking her questions like, “What is really the point of My Church? What have I really asked of you?” She was far too busy doing church than being church, even as a pastor’s wife, an author of five Christian books, and a committed believer for 26 years. She discovered she had missed the point.

Christ brought Jen and her family to a place of living on mission by asking them tough questions, leading them through Scripture, and walking together with them on the path. Interrupted invites readers to take a similar journey.

What I thought: 
Are you a Christ-follower who feels tired and dry?  Who wonders if there is more to living a life of faith than attending a church that meets your needs?  Yes?  Then Interrupted is the book for you.  Oozing with her unique down-to-earth style, humour and wit Jen will guide you through the dry spell towards a love-first way to live your faith.  This book is about Jen’s journey through the dry, the questions, the heart change and a way to doing life the way Jesus modelled for us.  Our stories will look different, but Jen is the friend who will offer you wise counsel, Biblical principles and a way forward to radical faith.


This revised and expanded edition of Interrupted brings the book from being about one woman’s journey and story to ensuring the message will remain the timeless encouragement it needs to be.  Rather than being organised in the seasons in which this story occurred it is now organised into the phases of the journey.  This edition also begins with an introduction to the new-look version and Jen’s encouragement for those of us beginning our own season of wrestling: “don’t you dare identify with the message but feel alone”.  Even if you’ve already read Interrupted, the introduction to this edition, alone, is worth buying the book again.

Jen Hatmaker is a woman of integrity and one of this generation's faith heroes who will challenge and inspire you to life a different version of Christianity.  As you read Interrupted you will feel like you're hanging out with your best friend whilst being challenged to the very heart of everything you thought you knew about church.  She will give voice and language to your questions and gently guide you, with Biblical authority, through the journey to living a life committed to being poured out for the people outside the walls of the church:  the unsaved, the hopeless, the last, the least and the poor.

Interrupted is not an ‘easy’ book to read.  I cried my way through the entire thing this second time through!  It touched the very nerve of how I was feeling and showed me a different way to live my faith.  I have underlined half the book!  This may well be the most significant, game-changer you will ever lay your hands on!

With thanks to Tyndale Publishing for my review copy.
This review is my own opinion.  I have not received payment, nor been coerced to provide a particular view of this book. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Three Things You Should Never Say to God (there are probably more!)

Have you ever had an experience where you said something to God and He did the exact opposite?  Or He took you seriously?  Or He listened to what you said and not what you meant?

Yeah.  It's something no one warns you about.

So here are some things you should never say to God:
  1. I never want to live in [insert name of place].
    We ended up living in all of the places a certain adult in my family named (I was a child.  It wasn't me).  It turned out pretty well in the end but....well...you should never say those things if you actually don't want to go somewhere.  I stupidly repeated this error myself, as an adult, and here I live in the very town I didn't want to move to.  And like my parents, we've ended up loving being here.  OK, so maybe this is a prayer worth praying.  The results are surprisingly good.  It won't seem like it at the time though.
  2. I never want to marry [insert name].
    Can't tell you how many people I know who said they would never marry a certain person and then ended up marrying that exact person.  Sense of humour anyone?  Mr Busy assures me he will never marry the girl I adore in his class.  He's doomed.
  3. Break my heart for what breaks Yours.
    Never, never say this out loud to God if what you mean is "give me a special thing to do that is meaningful to me.  And You".
Over the summer I read Jen Hatmaker's "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" and "Interrupted".  That began a bit of a ... I don't know what to call it.  A shift?  A crack?  A dislodging of something quite deep?  I don't know.  But something.  After some really hard work in the past few months and busting through a ridiculously stubborn wall, spiritually, I got to the point where I wanted God to put a passion for something in my heart.  But that's not what I said.  What I said was "break my heart for what breaks Yours".  So, so not smart.  It's not pretty.  It's not easy.  And it hurts when your heart breaks.  Why on earth did I pray that prayer?

Over the past two weeks I've been reading blog posts from a group of women (including Jen Hatmaker) who have just been on a trip to Rwanda, called "Style for Justice" (click on the link for links to each of the stories).  This group of women told heartbreaking stories from Rwanda.  The injustices.  The challenges.  The unspeakable atrocities endured by these people who have lost so much.  And they told stories of hope.  Strength.  Determination.  Faith.

I cried an ocean for the week. 

Then I began reading "Dear Mr Knightly" by Katherine Reay.  More heartbreak as I read about a young woman trying to overcome her coping mechanisms and insecurities developed through years in the foster care system.

More heartbroken oceans of tears.

At one point I just had to put the book down and walk away to have a chat with God.  "What do I do with all this  now that You've broken my heart?  I don't have a 'thing' I'm  passionate about.  I can't even buy Noonday jewellery because they won't ship to Australia...and now I feel guilty because I'm meant to do something about and for the poor, the homeless, the widowed, the orphaned and the oppressed.  What do I do?" I asked.

"I want you to teach", blew quietly across my heart.

Oh.  That's right.  I am passionate about that!

I'm too scared to ask what that will look like.  My heart is for Christian education...I don't think I want to know if that's not my path!!!  Maybe I'll just focus on finishing my degree. Eleven and a half weeks to go.

Just so you know - word your prayers carefully.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Parenting Files: When Little Boys Get Big

When Mr Busy was just a teeny little thing - which is a relative term because all my children were very long,and then tall - he used to spend a lot of time snuggled up on my lap.  When he was around 7 or 8 years old I lamented that one day he wouldn't fit on my lap.  His immediate response was "Don't worry, Mum.  When I don't fit anymore you can sit on my lap".  So, so sweet.

Fast forward a few years and this last baby of mine is at least four inches taller than me and he really no longer fits on my lap.  He refuses to even give his offer a go (and that's just fine with me.  That would be super weird and he might get crushed). 

We now have a more pressing challenge to work out.  How do you hug a tall boy?  He's taken to draping himself over my shoulders, which is somewhat like being overwhelmed by an oversized puppy dog.  I am completely enveloped by this 'thing' that just comes at me from above.  He used to be able to put his head on my chest.  And then my shoulder.  And then he was even with my head.  This being at some lofty height above me isn't working for him anymore.  Or me. 

I think we're going to have to swap to me putting my head on his shoulder.  Before it shoots up into the stratosphere.  And that feels weird too, because he is still the boy who likes to hug his Mum.  Having my head on his shoulder is a shift I'm not sure if I'm ready to embrace.  It means another step towards Mr Busy being all grown up (not just his body!).

I don't think I'll ever be found on his knee - although a generous offer - but we'll have to experiment with hugs.  Because this boy would shrivel up and cease to thrive without them.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Faith Files: Who is our Family?

I was reading Mark 3:22-34 this morning.  In this passage the teachers of the law are indignant.  They began to say horrible things about Jesus.  Things like "He is of Beelzebub" and that he was driving out demons because he was the prince of demons.  I don't know how we jumped from calling the disciples and being in a house so crowded he couldn't even eat.  Jesus' family called him "out of his mind" just for that little event.  That's pretty heavy criticism just for being in a crowded house and preferring people over food.  It's one thing, though, to have your family call you crazy.  It's entirely another to have people say you are Satan incarnate when in fact you are God.  I can't even imagine a deeper, more wounding offense.

Jesus tells these ignorant teachers of the law why he couldn't possibly be Satan.  How he would be defeating himself and bringing down his own house if that was indeed who he was?  He says, in verse 29, that those who blaspheme against the Spirit (ie. those who call God a follower of Satan, or Satan himself) will have committed an eternal sin; one that cannot be forgiven.

When Jesus' mother and brothers finally arrive at the house they send someone to call Jesus out to them.  I always thought this next bit was odd.  I didn't understand what was really going on.  When told his mother and brothers are looking for him Jesus says "who are my mother and my brothers?"  At this point Jesus looks around him at all the people sitting nearby and tells the crowd that it is whoever does the will of God that are his "brother and sister and mother".  I think I get this now.  This offers up a beautiful picture of identity, for me.  I picture family in terms of a little (or sometimes big, as in Dh's case!) huddle of people who would do anything to defend and protect one another.  Jesus gives us that identity when he calls us, those who do God's will, his family.  And Jesus ended up going to the cross for us, his family.

As I travel through Mark I will no doubt come nose-to-nose with the radical side of Jesus.  For now I am wrapped in the knowledge that Jesus calls those who do God's will his family.  I can't imagine a more significant place to stand.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Teaching is about People

The constant theme for my yesterday, all day was this:  Teaching is about people.

One of the "big questions" of my degree has been "what is education for?"  You know, I thought I could answer that question until I took the philosophy subject for my course.  I loved the unit coordinator but that question turned everything I thought I knew upside down in my head.  I have told the UC he has a lot to answer for in the scrambling of my brain!  He is still one of my favourite UC's because who could have bad feelings towards a man who begins every lecture with "I hope you have your cup of tea by your side....".  There, my friends, is a good reason to study online!  A cup of tea and a comfy chair while your brain is turned inside out.

One of my fellow students responded to the question "what is education for?" this week, in reference to one of the readings we could choose from, with the simple and beautiful beginning point that education is about people.  Of course you can go all kinds of ways from that start, but for me that focused in on the important thing.  Education is for the gorgeous, precious little people (they are little in Primary school!) who bound into our classrooms each morning with untethered enthusiasm.  It is for the children who come to school escaping from whatever is going on at home.  It is for the children who need their teacher to be the one person in their life who believes in them and encourages them to be the best person they can be; the person God created them to be.

The VCE Coordinator at Our School took our staff devotions yesterday and she reminded us of the power of our influence.  As Christ's image bearers.  As teachers who are Christ's image bearers.  We have the ability to speak over our students words of Truth and to call out of our students the things we see in them.  Their gifts.  Their talents.  Their perseverance when they have struggled to pass a subject that gives them nothing but trouble.  To call them young men and young women while they are still children because words have the power to build up.  To instill in our children the belief that they will not be difference makers in the future, but that they are difference makers now.  That they can make choices that can change things around them for the good of others.  That they can be children who consider the plight and needs of others and find ways to contribute to justice for the oppressed and care for the downtrodden.

My colleague showed us a clip from TED Talks that had us laughing, and me trying to blink back tears, because "every kid needs a champion".  I loved this presenter's honesty, humour and the truth she spoke about the importance of teachers in the lives of children.

Education is all about people.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Lot of Book Love

I am doing a unit, this semester, on children's literature.  I had to do a little bit of serious advocacy on my own behalf to convince the course coordinator that a fourth year student should be allowed to do a first year elective.  But if you're been reading here for even a little while you'll know books are my "jam" (thanks for that lingo Lego Movie!).  My children often roll their eyes because I am shameless when it comes to drooling over and fondling beautiful children's books wherever I happen to find them.

So this semester I "have to" read all the books pictured above.  Finally - a unit I can just immerse myself in purely for the fun of it.  Oh, there will be academic essays to be done but it'll be so worth it!

I have actually read a number of this already.  "Clancy the Courageous Cow" (top right corner) was written by a Year 7 student for a school project.  Two of the books are illustrated by Shaun Tan and "The Red Wind" is apparently well loved by our library tech and the girl I want Mr Busy to marry.  I want this beautifully gentle, kind-hearted girl for myself and that's the only legal way it can happen.  Mr Busy insists he will not marry her.  I insist that God scoffs at those statements and that he probably will end up marrying her because that's what happens to people who say "I'm never going to marry -----".  We'll see.  They're only 14 so I guess there's time....

In the meantime lots of book love is going on over here.

What's your favourite children's picture book a) from your childhood and b) to read to your children?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

That Sinking Feeling...in Shoe Mourning

I had a great week last week, cleaning the laundry from top to bottom and clearing out my wardrobe.  Yesterday morning I went looking for my favourite work shoes for my first day back at work (ohhhh the denial Miss Sunshine and I engaged in.  Yr12's are back too and neither of us wanted to begin what will be a crazy-busy term).  I have adored these shoes (pictured above).  They are so comfortable I could wear them all day long, a little bit feminine and just incredibly sturdy when you're dashing after children all day long.  They are the perfect 'teacher shoe', especially when you work in quite a bushy setting.

Yesterday morning my shoes had disappeared.  They were in none of the 'usual' places.  And none of the unusual ones either.  At this point I started to get a sinking feeling.  I threw on another pair of black flats and went off to work.  Dh looked about when we got home and eventually conceded the same result.  They were gone.  Somehow.

And then I remembered.  I wore these shoes three days last week.  On Thursday I cleaned my wardrobe out and hadn't needed these shoes in the following days.  The only possible scenario I can come up with is that these were under the pile of things I had set aside to throw away and they must have been scooped up into the rubbish bag.  The rubbish was collected on Friday morning.

I am devastated.  And cross.  I can't get this style anymore.  Tomorrow I'll have to go find the Sketchers store and see if there is anything close to these ones that have been so perfect.

I am in mourning.