Thursday, September 12, 2013

Month 2: Possessions

         So it’s actually Day 12 of Month 2, Possessions Month, but it’s been crazy hectic at school the past couple of weeks and I haven’t had time to post!

So this is a thing that happened in the past two weeks.
I was blessed to join the most amazing sisterhood on campus!
 I am so thankful for my sisters in Zeta Tau Alpha! 

However, I digress. Okay I’ll admit it. I pre-hoarded items to give away during Possessions Month before I even officially started 7. But I do have a pretty good case:

1.                    Possessions Month falls in September, right when I get back to college, and I only take to college what I absolutely cannot live without. There’s barely room for a bed in that dorm room, much less a college-aged girl and all of her clothes. (You really should see those closets. They give “microscopic” a whole new meaning.)
2.                    It wouldn’t be very feasible to have to come back home and clean out 210 items from my room to give away while I am working toward my (very expensive) college degree. (And while I’m supposed to be studying, of course.)
3.                    It is currently summer and I have nothing else to do.
4.                    Therefore, I decided to go on a major cleaning spree in July to prepare for Possessions Month.

If this goes against the rules of 7, then indict me. I’m guilty. I’ve failed. But the way I see it, as long as someone who needs the things that I rarely use gets them, then the point of this experiment is still perfectly intact.
            So far, I have cleaned out my (very large) clothes closet, from which I extricated 94 articles of clothing, and my dresser, from which I took 68 articles. I’ve only been cleaning for two days, and I already have 162 items to give away. Needless to say, this is a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. When I thought about giving away 7 possessions every day for a month, I imagined that at the end of the month I would be laying on my bare bedroom floor with nothing but the clothes on my back to call my own.
            The funny thing is, I have A LOT more stuff than I thought that I did. And when I say stuff, that’s all that it is! STUFF! Meaningless things that lay around, cluttering up my room and closets, never to be used. I’d never really thought about that “stuff” before I read 7. And if I had, my thoughts would have ran something along the lines of: So what if I have two closets full of things that I rarely wear or use? Who doesn’t?
            Who doesn’t?
            And there is the real question that I—and I dare say ALL American Christians—should be asking. Who doesn’t have the things that they need to live from day to day? Who doesn’t have a spare pair of jeans to wear? Or a pair of jeans at all? What little girl goes to school wishing she had a pretty outfit like the other little girls? What woman wishes she had a bag to carry the few things that she owns in? When most of the American church has TEN spare pairs of jeans. TEN pretty outfits they can’t wear anymore. TEN designer handbags that sit in the back of their closets.
            What is wrong with this picture? I’d like to think, in my naivety, that it’s simply because the American church does not know the people who need these things. Shane Claiborne, author of “The Irresistible Revolution,” puts it this way:

"I had come to see that the great tragedy within the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor... I long for the Calcutta slums to meet the Chicago suburbs, for lepers to meet landowners and for each to see God's image in the other... I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end." 

Sounds ideal, right? If we knew the people who were poor, I’d like to believe that we’d be more than willing to help them, to share our excess with them. So why aren’t we doing just that? The problem is that we surround ourselves with people like us. We sit on our rung of the ladder of success and look up: Look at that new house they bought—we could never afford that. Did you hear about the vacation they took this year? That must be nice. Did you know that he bought himself a new car? I wish we were fortunate enough to be able to do that.
            And there we are, sitting on the top 1% of that ladder with all of the other people who are “so much more fortunate than us” and we want more! We have everything we could ever need, and yet we crave more! We are so fixated on the top rung of that ladder (which can never be reached, by the way) that we never stop and look down. And why should we? The people at the bottom can in no way help us reach our American Dream.
            But isn’t that what Jesus was so focused on in His earthly ministry? “The last shall be first.” “The poor shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.” “Whatever you do unto the least of these you do unto me.” Sound familiar? It was only the driving force behind all that Jesus said and did. And as the American Church at large, I believe that we’re missing the boat. The problem isn’t that we’re not willing (or at least I would like to think so). The problem is that we’re being lazy (how hard is it to pick up the phone and call a local school guidance counselor and ask if there are any children who need clothes?). We’re being content where we are—why not form relationships with homeless men and women and get to know what their needs are? We’re not being the hands and the feet of Christ… and if we’re not doing that, dare I ask it, are we even part of the Body of Christ at all?
            I recently saw a tweet from Louie Giglio that said, “It’s tough to make the case that Jesus is in your heart if the poor are not on your mind.” Man is that convicting. Because before I read this book, I can honestly say that the poor weren’t on my mind a whole lot. And when they were, I never felt like there was anything I could do about the fact that they had exponentially less than I did.
            And so, that is what I set out to do this month. My mission is to think about the poor and make myself and my possessions I rarely use accessible to them. Who knows? Maybe someone will recognize their spiritual need as their physical needs are being met. And then maybe I’ll have the opportunity to share “the reason for the hope that I have” in Christ (1 Pet. 3:15)!
To Him be the glory.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Day 30: Media/Technology Conclusion

Well, the fast from media and technology is drawing to a close! Having decided that the last day of each month will be a neutral day to relax and regroup before starting the next fast for the next month, today was my last day! I thought it might be good for me to summarize a few things that this month has taught me. First, I found that since I didn’t have TV or social media, I was more aware of everyone around me and therefore more aware of how I could serve them. In me, TV and social media fostered laziness both physically and mentally. In my spare time I never thought of anyone but myself, and therefore never did anything for anyone but myself (Ouch. This was hard to admit. But it’s true!). Being so saturated in media causes both laziness and apathy, both of which are forms of what I like to call spiritual poverty.
However, being free from media and technology this month has enlightened me to that laziness (and self-centeredness) and begun a change that hopefully will carry over into my day to day life. For example, before school started back and all I did all day was sit around and watch TV, I found that I WILLINGLY cleaned the house for my Mom and didn’t feel bitter about it while I was doing it! Usually, I know that Mom expects me to have the house clean when she gets home, and I’m almost always bitter about it because it cuts into “my time” to watch TV or surf the internet (sorry, Mom). But this month not having TV or social media has made me realize that no time is “my” time, and ALL the time that I have should be time spent loving my “neighbor” as myself and seeking out ways that I can serve those who are around me. Social media is so self-centered that most of the time it blinds us from seeing the needs of those around us.
            This month I also struggled with whether or not to delete my social media accounts altogether. However, in “The Seven Experiment” study guide, Jen Hatmaker explains a little bit about the relationship between social media and being “in the world but not of it.” She points out that as Christians, we have to be proactively intelligent about what we allow into our minds (especially when it comes to provocative advertisements and such). We must always be seeking out the truth. Jen says, “Truth turns us into wise teachers, not simply avoiders.” You know what’s better than avoiding social media? Being smart, speaking and seeking out truth, and engaging the culture where it’s at in order to leverage it for the good of the kingdom.
            Will I be setting boundaries for the amount of time I spend using social media/technology after this month? You bet I will. But will I be more aware about leveraging my social media for Christ from now on? You bet I will. When it comes to TV and media, instead of “checking my brain at the door,” as Jen puts it, I will be intentional about seeking out what is true, noble, and righteous. I pray that God continues to convict me and teach me about how to use well the time that He grants me each and every day. I pray that for you, as well.

Lord, teach us to seek first Your Kingdom in all that we do, so that Your name might be magnified in all the earth!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dear Jesus, I missed a retweet from Katy Perry... all for You.

Sooo… for those of you who don’t know, Katy Perry has a new album coming out this October. For publicity for Katy Perry’s new albums, she has a gold 18-Wheeler truck drive through all 50 states in America. If you happen to spot it, get a picture of it, and tweet it at Katy Perry, then she has promised to retweet you on Twitter.
Is it not just my OUTSTANDING luck that I would see this truck WHILE I’M FASTING FROM SOCIAL MEDIA. What is this?! A cruel joke of some sort? A test to see just how committed I am to this whole “7 Experiment” thing? Well, God, I hope I passed. Because I missed a retweet from Katy Perry… all for You.

On a lighter note, I still got pictures of (and with) the 18-Wheeler.

These are two random strangers whose dad asked if they could get a picture with us,
after he asked which one of us was Katy Perry.
Summer and I both raised our hands. 

P.S. I may or may not have tagged Katy Perry in the tweet that I shared the link to this blog in. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Seven Months of "7"

Photo from Jen Hatmaker's Bible Study Guide,
"The 7 Experiment"

          I’ve had a couple of friends ask me what the other things are that I’ll be fasting from for the other six months. I haven’t decided yet what order I’ll be doing them in, but here’s the list of the seven areas of excess I’m setting out to simplify:


There's also been a bit of confusion about the books:

          There are two books, "7" by Jen Hatmaker, and "The 7 Experiment" by Jen Hatmaker. "7" is just the book, and I read it first. You CAN read it without actually doing the fast, and I highly suggest that you do so, even if you're skeptical. It does not "guilt you" into anything. It does, however, open your eyes to many things that we've become blind to as Americans and especially as American Christians. 
          "The 7 Experiment" is the actual Bible Study that leads you through a 7 WEEK journey of decreasing excess. I am using the book to keep my head in the game as to WHY I'm doing this fast (because it'd be all to easy for me just to do it and not really think about the deeper reasons as to why I'm doing it), but I'm actually doing the full 7 months instead of the 7 week program it leads you through. 
          Either way, LifeWay has both and I'm sure they'd be more than happy to sell you a copy. $15 well spent!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day 7: Media/Technology

          So, it’s day 7 now of the media/technology fast, and I have to say: I’m kind of enjoying it, actually. I really kind of wish that I could COMPLETELY unplug for the month (well, I might make it a couple of days. A month is a LONG time). You know, where I turn off my cell phone and toss it in the bottom of my closet, don't touch a computer, and don't even look at a TV. Unfortunately, though, I have to stay connected to civilization digitally because I have things like school that I have to prepare for this month. I actually feel like I’m cheating because I had to order textbooks online. YUCK. (Oh, who am I kidding. I actually love getting my textbooks because I’m a nerd. And, no, I’m actually not being sarcastic about this.) And after I wrote this paragraph I realized that I said “actually” four times. I could have changed it, but I *actually* decided to let you laugh at me instead. Go ahead.
A couple of my textbooks that've already come in!!!
I cannot WAIT for school to start back!
So what if I am a nerd.

            But I digress. Back to how I’m guilty of cheating with the media/tech fast. I’ve caught myself sitting down in my living room watching the Today Show, suddenly realizing what I’m doing, and then jumping up, sprinting around my living room to find the remote, and turning that sneaky little thing off. It was all its fault.
            I also have to admit that I now check my email about 25 times every day because it’s the only app on my iPhone that’s legal for me to check. I’m trying, okay? I’m now revising that rule to checking my email ONCE a day. (And let me tell you. This is going to be a struggle.) Why is checking my phone for some new little tidbit of information such an addiction? It’s so hard to shake.
            Enough with my failure, though. It really has been nice not having Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, radio, television, and other things to distract me throughout the day. Just in this week alone I’ve finished two books and have started a third. I have come to realize that I have so much down time that I usually use social media to fill, while I really could be doing something worthwhile. It’s safe to say that I’ve definitely kept things cleaner this week (like my room--well, sort of...), and I’ve also been craftier because I’ve had more time on my hands. Well, really, I’ve had the same amount of time on my hands, but I’ve been using that time to do things that are a whole heck of a lot more enjoyable and beneficial than sitting around scrolling through social media sites. Social media just really isn’t that interesting, people.
            I keep thinking back to the first day that I started this fast. I shut my computer, turned off the TV, and then proceeded to delete all of the unnecessary apps on my iPhone. If you don’t have an iPhone/aren’t familiar with how they work, then you won’t get this. But, if you are, then you’ll understand:
            I began to delete my apps, and almost started laughing out loud—because there all my cute little apps were, shaking before me, almost begging me not to delete them. They looked so sad, shivering like they do. But as I hit the little “x” in the top-left corner of almost half of my applications, I felt almost free. It was a relief to not have them there, demanding me to check them every five minutes. And it was nice to know that this month I wouldn’t have to worry about what they had to say to me or what I had to post in order to make myself look the absolute best that I can. Because, if we’re honest, that’s 90% of what social media is—an outlet for us to put our best foot forward. A place that’s easy for us to make people “like us”  (no pun intended) because we only post what we want people to see.
            And I hate saying that because I know that THIS will be going on my Facebook and I don’t necessarily want people to know that I struggle with pleasing others and with wanting them to think well of me. But it’s time for me to start breaking out of that mold. As Christians we’re called to confess our sins if we want to be healed. 

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."
James 5:16, ESV

          Transparency brings healing, and it also takes the focus (and the pressure) off of trying to be perfect all the time.
          NEWSFLASH: I am not perfect. You are not perfect. And this life isn’t about us, and it’s not about us trying to BE perfect, either. This life is about loving Christ and serving others, and when we try and appear perfect, never confessing our struggles with each other, it’s very easy for the world to point fingers at us and call us hypocrites when it becomes obvious that we’re NOT all that we appear that we are. And it WILL become obvious. 
            But what would happen if we started letting brothers and sisters in Christ (or, better, nonbelievers) in on our dirt? What if we were a little bit vulnerable and shared the struggles that we were going through, no matter how “bad” they might make us look? Chances are, they’re struggling or have struggled in the past with the same issues. God purposefully put us here together, to hold each other up and push us on toward glorifying Him each and every day. And instead of coming across as trying to be "holier than thou" (which is the rep that most Christians get these days), maybe a nonbeliever might see that though you don't have it all together, God still loves, forgives, upholds, and is in the process of sanctifying you.
          I can tell you that every time I’ve been vulnerable, I haven’t been disappointed—and I’ve actually seen God work in my life (and heal me!) because of it. There’s just something about letting go of your pride and being broken before a brother, and ultimately the Lord. 
          Somehow I think that’s what He wants from us, anyway.