Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: Interrupted [Jen Hatmaker] *PLUS GIVEAWAY*

If I have to be wrecked--if I am going to read a book that's going to make me squirm--I can't think of a better travel guide than Jen Hatmaker. At the risk of sounding all fan-girl...I just love her. Fantastic sense of humor, deep love for Jesus, and her insights on the church and culture are so frequently spot on.

So when I had a chance to get a free review copy of her self-proclaimed favorite book, Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity (extensively revised and re-released), you better believe I was all over that.

This is not a feel-good story...and yet it is. Jen recounts the painful, hilarious, gut-wrenching journey of how God gave her eyes to see what had been in Scripture all along, and called her and her family out to actually live it. She could no longer be satisfied with her comfortable Christian life spent "blessing the blessed and serving the saved"--she couldn't un-see, couldn't un-know. She writes in the introduction:

“This is the story of my heart, the arc I find most relevant and vital to my generation: God plucked me and my family out of complacent, comfortable, safe Christianity and dropped us into the deep end of struggle, injustice, brokenness, and a hurting humanity. Whatever used to be soft and squishy about faith gave way to a stunning urgency and painful acknowledgement of the mission at hand.”

And yet, as she wrote in a wonderful blog post today, the life she has found on the other side is better than anything she could have imagined. So she encourages the reader:
God is not engineering a Guilt Trip. Just go ahead and knock that off. He is giving you eyes to see a little better and ears to hear a little clearer, and you wringing your hands and mourning lost years is not helping. You did the best you could with what you knew. Now God is just giving you more to know, so off you go. Don’t be guilty; be grateful, be generous, be brave. 
I so appreciate this perspective. This book is hard-hitting; Jen doesn't mince words about the seriousness of Jesus' words and the urgency of our mission. Yet she clings fiercely to the gospel as she calls us to live out its implications. She finds comfort in the midst of the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25--somewhere I've never seen it. She comes alongside you as a fellow sojourner and friend, not a preachy know-it-all who is disgusted that you just don't get it yet. She's wonderfully willing to tell you how she has stumbled along the way. And she shows you the compelling beauty of Jesus and invites you to get on mission with Him.

A few of the best bits of the material were familiar to me from her phenomenal talk at IF:Gathering last February--especially the chapter "Desiring, Doing and Remembering," a radical, fresh look at Luke 22 (Jesus at the Last Supper). I've thought about her exposition of "do this in remembrance of Me" many times since I first heard it. I will say, however, that in the book, this section included one of the only quotes that made me pause to scribble down an argument. She says: "Obedience to Jesus’ command is more than looking backward; it’s a present and continuous replication of His sacrifice. We don’t simply remember the meal; we become the meal.”

I have to raise a serious objection here. Jesus’ sacrifice cannot be replicated. Ever. Our works are not the good news—His are. Our sacrifice may save physically, but only His can bring spiritual, eternal salvation. I love what she is saying here, how honoring and remembering Jesus is so much more than a five-minute ritual during a Sunday morning service, but in our zeal for Christlikeness and Christ-honoring social justice and mercy, we cannot confuse or equate our work with Jesus’ once-for-all work. Truly, Jen knows this, and her larger point stands and is so very important--but I just couldn't let that one go without comment.

And really, on the whole, Jen does not miss that point. At all. She cautions clearly against those who focus on doing good works apart from Jesus:
"There is no back door into salvation, rerouted around the sacrifice of Christ. Otherwise, the whole earth could gain heaven by good works, and His day on the cross would be pointless.” 
I so appreciate this gospel emphasis, and it gives me hope. Could our generation be the one when the two halves of the coin come together? The church commonly drives in one ditch or the other—either a focus on right theology and doctrine to the neglect of social justice, or a focus on social justice to the abandonment of truth and the gospel. Oh, that God would raise up a generation of men and women who love Him and His Word passionately, who keep the person and work of Christ absolutely central to everything, and *in response to* that glorious gospel, are passionate about social justice and extending mercy! 

I'm tempted to copy and paste eleventy billion more quotes here, since I underlined half the book. Her actual words say it so much better than my feeble attempts to summarize...especially at 11PM when I've procrastinated writing this review for a month :P Suffice to say I loved the book and found it well worth reading. I saw in Jen's story the undercurrent of dissatisfaction in my own journey, the persistent questions of "is this all there is?," the uncomfortable acknowledgement that I am not actually spending and being spent for the things that Jesus said matter most.

I have to admit, however, that while the book resonated so deeply and was convicting to me, I also lost steam a little through the last section, and even came away feeling a little discouraged rather than energized and motivated. I suspect that a lot of that has to do with my own personal circumstances rather than with any lack in the book.

Jen is careful to note repeatedly that Austin New Church is *not* the perfect church that has all this figured out. Still, I had this sense that it would be a lot…well, “easier” isn’t the word, but realistic, maybe, or doable…if you had a body of believers with this kind of vision and commitment, rather than being “wrecked” on your own and trying to navigate what you can and should do individually. I look forward to having my husband read this so we can talk about it more, for sure. And certainly the first call is to prayer--to earnestly ask God to kindle in me a holy discontentment and produce in my heart the courage to follow where He leads.

I want to say so much more, to give you a better taste of the book...but I confess that having procrastinated so terribly, sleep wins out over a well-crafted review at this point. So I will conclude with one more quote, from Jen's blog post today--I loved her words to her "past self," the Jen who first wrote this book five or six years ago:
...This is the beginning of the rest of your life. Embrace it all – all the struggle, all the tension, all the humility, all the beauty. It is safe to be faithful to a faithful God. He loves you and is for you. He loves this world and is for it. Put that YES on the table indefinitely and, seriously, go with God.

I'm so glad that this book has been expanded and re-released for this very reason--the way the author can come back with a few years of perspective and affirm her own message from experience. And as I've revisited the book today and read through Jen's latest post, I'm inspired again and longing to press deeper into following Jesus.

GOOD NEWS: I have a copy of this book to give away to a lucky reader! Tyndale sent me both an e-version and a print copy--so I am happy to pass the print version along to someone else who wants to be wrecked in the best of ways :) Leave a comment below to enter. The winner will be chosen at random on Friday at 5:00PM (CDT). 

UPDATE 8/22, 5:10PM: We have a winner!
Comment #10 (Laura) will be receiving Interrupted next week in the mail. Thanks to all of you who read and entered!

[full disclosure: Tyndale sent me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review]

Monday, August 11, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 330

Thanking God this week for...

6363. Jude's excitement to go to preschool

6364. a neighborhood with tons of huge trees
6365. this powerful spoken word piece by a college acquaintance of mine
6366. delicious new recipes

6367. His Spirit at work in me, producing hunger and desire for His Word and prayer
6368. brothers walking to school side by side

6369. this phenomenal message from Paige Benton Brown
6370. two shirts from JCPenney for $3.24
6371. the opportunity to bless a pregnant friend by taking care of a food craving :)
6372. the privilege of voting

6373. a great meeting with Elijah's new teacher at open house
6374. Steve making progress on finish work around the stairs
6375. bags heavy with farmers' market goodness
6376. Elijah helping me make his birthday cake
6377. Steve getting creative with frosting it

6378. seven years with the sweet boy who made me a mama
6379. how completely Elijah has outgrown his communication delays
6380. his love for God's Word and for books and reading in general
6381. his creative and curious mind
6382. his affection and compliments

6383. the sprinkling of freckles across Elijah's cheeks
6384. his obedience and gratitude
6385. his excitement about the watch we gave him for his birthday

6386. our pastor equipping us to better feed ourselves from the Word
6387. the inexhaustible riches of Scripture

6388. technology that enabled us to do birthday candles and presents "with" both sides of our family
6389. all three of my guys raving about the macaroni and cheese I made at Elijah's request
6390. bedtime snuggles and prayers with the birthday boy

Monday, August 04, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 329

Thanking God this week for...

6331. juicy, sweet, local peaches
6332. Thai chicken tacos
6333. crepe myrtles

6334. Steve's ability to make analogies and bring biblical truths to a 3yo/6yo level
6335. boys encouraging me while I work out
6336. beautiful days to play at the park
6337. showing me new things in Scriptures I've read dozens of times
6338. grace to toss my to-do list aside and enjoy time with my boys

6339. the huge mosaic dragon at Fannie Mae Dees Park

6340. a dear friend meeting us there so we could chat while the boys played
6341. Elijah and Jude's over-the-top excitement when I told them she was coming
6342. Jude trying so hard to be "stwong" and carry heavy stuff
6343. painting finished upstairs, little-by-little progress

6344. immediate, lavish answers to prayer
6345. soccer cleats in Elijah's size for $10 at Play It Again Sports
6346. the means to buy school supplies
6347. a lunch date with Elijah
6348. the way he inhales pancakes

6349. friends showing up at the park unexpectedly
6350. Jude's giggles as he spun round and round on the tire swing
6351. boys being so flexible about naptimes and lunchtimes
6352. Steve suggesting our favorite Mexican restaurant for Friday night dinner
6353. the incredible busboy who balanced five plates on one arm

6354. squeaky clean boys
6355. sweet corn
6356. BLT wraps
6357. opportunities to serve in areas where I am weak and not gifted
6358. our pastor applauding and affirming women in his sermon on Exodus 1-2

6359. Elijah cheerful and excited, not nervous, about his first day at a new school

6360. only 15 kids in his class
6361. Elijah reporting that he had a great day
6362. opportunities to let go of control and learn to trust

Friday, August 01, 2014

Things I Learned in July

This month, I haven't been as good at keeping track of the little random lessons I'm learning, but here are a few...

1. If your waitress casually mentions that the dish you're ordering has "Moroccan spices" and "South African spices," you should ask for clarification and not just assume that "spices" could mean "like cinnamon" and probably just indicates "flavorful." Because if you don't, your food will be so hot it will set your throat on fire. If you are me, you will at least have cause to feel thankful because a) your husband loves spicy food and b) he will be willing to trade with you halfway through and let you finish his lobster and shrimp risotto. This lesson brought to you by our anniversary dinner at Tin Angel :)

2. I like rap. Specifically Shai Linne's album The Attributes of God. I feel a little ridiculous sometimes cruising around in my minivan jamming to a good beat...but what can I say :) We've listened to four or five of his albums and this one is definitely our favorite--all four of us have been enjoying it. I find myself frequently astounded at how he can pack so much truth into so little space, let alone how he can make it rhyme! Really incredible theology writing. 

3. I have access to a gajillion playlists through Amazon Prime. We're trying out Prime this year for the first time, and I gotta say that while the free two-day shipping has been a fabulous perk, I've been disappointed with the selection of movies to stream for free and books to borrow. Just now (literally five minutes ago) I found out there's alllll kinds of music I can download free. Looking forward to checking that out.

4. I mentioned a couple of months ago how disgusted I was with Monogrammed Cases and Skins--well, this month I found a good replacement. It's worth watching Groupon for - while I wouldn't be willing to pay full price for one of their cases, the $20 groupon I got was a great deal. Lots of great designs to choose from, all even more customizable than I thought at first, and fast service. The case looks great and has protected my phone through more than one drop already. Not sure how often they do Groupons, but it looks like they run sales occasionally (right now it is 20% off).

5. It pays to be on a favorite blogger/author/artist's email list. It seems that more and more bloggers are creating these weekly or monthly subscription lists, not just to get their posts in your inbox but to get bonus emails with exclusive content. Being on Jen Hatmaker's list snagged me a free copy of her new book (she opened the giveaway to her "Email Friends" before making it public). Plus her emails make me snort-laugh every single time. Love it.

6. That whole "bake your sweet corn in the oven, still in the husk, and it will slide right out" thing that's been going around? Yeah, that TOTALLY didn't work for me. I ended up having to go to almost as much trouble as shucking a raw ear of corn--yet having to handle it while steaming hot. Not ever doing that again.

Check out the linkup at Chatting at the Sky for more posts like this one!