Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Grace, Impossible Standards, Haitian Moms, and Supper Club: For the Love Review

So, long time readers know that awhile back Peyton and I read, and blogged through the challenges, in 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. This was by no means Jen Hatmaker's first book but it was my first introduction to her. Shortly after that, I started following her blog and she's really been a writer I've respected and admired even on the relatively rare occasions I disagreed with her. 

Fast forward to this year and I was so very excited to be chosen for the launch team for Jen's new book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. It was an amazing read and honestly, in so many ways, such a good balance for 7. The thing is Jesus is often going to change us radically if we let Him, but I don't think we need to be walking around with these litmus tests for other believers. For ourselves for that matter. I mentioned when I started this book that right now I am aiming for like 75% of my reading list to be part of the genre "rest for weary souls". And this book fits the bill.

I will say, before I go any farther, that Jen has a unique writing style. It is full of humor and I love it. There are some truly random chapters in there that make it fun and quirky and just add a bit more personality to the book. The book is almost a little chaotic or something, but you know? I feel like that's sorta the point. It's packed with a lot of hysterical stuff and also a lot of deeply serious stuff. Most importantly, it's packed with a whole lot of Truth and a whole lot of Love and a whole lot of Grace. Things I'm pretty sure most of us need reminded of on the daily.

Here's a bit of a breakdown and a few of my favorite snippets:

The first section is about our "very own selves". It's a lot about compassion, priorities, and basically giving yourself permission to not excel at everything you see people around you doing (because that's impossible). It also had a good little bit about vocation, which is something I've been rolling around alot in my head lately. It was a POWERFUL reminder of letting God work in my own context. She talks about how the notion of a "calling" is honestly sort of a priviledged one but reminds us she doesn't want to "vilify [our] search for a calling", but "loosen some of it's manufactured chains" One chapter that really spoke to me was when Jenn reminds us that "theology is either true everywhere, or it isn't true anywhere".

Jen finishes up this section by talking about how we rob the dark, scary things of their power when we speak the truth about them. Of course, I found that section especially beautiful and compelling. 

The second section of the book is about "all these people who live in your house". I really loved how she spoke about parenting. I've long suspected that we haven't always parented with such...force? in previous generations as we do now and Jen speaks to that. I don't mean force as in an iron hand or stern disposition, I mean force in the sense that we are constantly guiding, directing, and navigating spaces for our children instead of letting them forge their own ways (knowing this will likely require them making some mistakes and will surely require us letting go of some control). 

Jen also takes the opportunity to once again draw us back to the real point of the whole (parenting) thing. She says "If they don't love Jesus and people, it matters zero if they remain virgins and don't say the F-word. We must shepherd their hearts, not just their hemlines". Finally, she reminds us that "God never turns away a seeker and neither should we", that "our children can press extremely hard on the gospel and it will hold". 

The third section has to do with "friends, neighbors, strangers, and enemies". This was a really beautiful look at community in a lot of different forms. I certainly don't feel like I ace it with my priorities or parenting, but this one (community, friendships, ect.) is one where I often feel even more lacking. I have some introverted tendencies and sometimes maintaining multiple friendships is hard enough, let alone nurturing them. It is good and right and in the end you feel so much better because you did it but it can be exhausting (playdates are sort of like sex in that regard, yeah? Did I just say that out loud? Whoops). And don't even get me started on the bigger "community" type group stuff. OMG. These chapters were helpful at reminding me that it really doesn't have to be as hard, or as planned, or as exciting as I think it does (hello- just go ahead and extend my metaphor there- I'll let you do it yourself). Like, you can just invite a few families over and have drinks on the porch or supper in the back yard while the kids play in the sprinkle. She talked about porches as alters and I love, love, loved that symbolism. 

This section also deals with those in our lives that are hard to be in relationship with. Jen says that "assessing a relationship as worthy of the toil is a lost skill". Frankly, that's a skill set I'm pretty confidant I never had. It was a stellar chapter on grace-filled healthy boundaries. 

The fourth and final section of the book is on "church, church people, not church people, and God". That about covers it, yeah? I don't know, it's hard to say, but this may have been my favorite section. The first chapter was about Poverty Tourism, which is basically where we (American Christians) swoop in and take charge often inadvertently costing the community something. This happens when we fail to listen to local voices and become more concerned with our own experiences. 

The next chapter is about the church. Jen really takes on the sacred cow here and I'm proud of her for it. 

She says that church has become too centralized, it's become something it was never designed to be, and it's honestly depleting folks (clergy and lay people alike). Her theory is that "the more responsibility people take for their own spiritual development and their neighbor, the healthier they become- also, less resentful of the church, less dependent on the programming, and less reliant upon pastors". She comes back around to vulnerability here and encourages it within the church.

One of the final chapters of the book is a request to church people to "stop being crappy". Nailed it. She talks about how we "formulize the mysterious" and how it's no wonder that humans prefer legalism.

She finished up with a beautiful chapter on women that spoke things I've been thinking about for years. 

All in all, it was a wonderful book and I'd reccomend it to anyone. But especially if you are feeling worn down and stretched thin, tired and disillusioned, weary and wandering. Grab a copy and dwell deeply in His grace! 

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