August 17, 2015

For the Love

So I mentioned several months ago that I was selected to be on the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book For the Love.  I read the book back in April and it's finally being released this week.  The official release date is Tuesday, but I know lots of people who have pre-ordered it and have been reading it... and I know it's been on shelves at Barnes and Noble for a few weeks.

I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts about the book.  I really love Jen Hatmaker, so I was excited for the opportunity to be on the launch team.  In my application for the launch team I wrote about how her book Interrupted is one of the most life-changing books I've read and I recommend it to a lot of people--so I think that's why I was chosen for this launch team.

For the Love was not like that for me.  I liked this book.  A lot.  But it was much less serious than her other 2 books that I've read (Interrupted and 7).  This book read a lot more like Jen's blog posts--which can be funny and sarcastic but also uplifting and teaching.  There were some really deep chapters in this book and I have a lot of things that I highlighted and will take away from it.  There are also entire chapters where I didn't highlight anything because they weren't "words of wisdom" as much as just funny stories.  But that doesn't mean that they weren't good chapters.  Some of them were really funny (she ends each section of her book with a chapter of "Thank You Notes" in true Jimmy Fallon Style.  she also has a chapter with her whole love story with Brandon formatted in twitter updates.) and some of them were hard for me to relate to as she talked about turning 40 and raising kids, but I still laughed as I read them and had some good takeaways.  So that's why I say it was different than her other books in my opinion.

With that said, I'll share a few of my favorite quotes and sections from For the Love to give you a taste of what I did really like and take away from the book.

1. Jen write a chapter called "Porches as Altars" and it is all about finding and creating community.  I loved this chapter.  Especially for the season of life that we are in right now of figuring out what community looks like without the structure of the Young Adults group that we've had for the last 5 years.  An excerpt from this chapter:
We [the church] try to provide structure for folks to belong, to be known.  Sometimes it works like magic and sometimes it so doesn't.  You can lead a horse to water, but sometimes the horse is awkward and weird, you know?  I've had small groups create friends for life and others that felt a teeny bit like sustained torture.
I guess I prefer something a bit more organic, less program-driven.  Instead of waiting around for church to assemble a perfect group dynamic of People Who Can Meet on Tuesdays, maybe just invite some folks over.  A shared table is the supreme expression of hospitality in every culture on earth.  When your worn-out kitchen table hosts good people and good conversation, when it provides a sage place to break bread and share wine, your house becomes a sanctuary, holy as a cathedral.  I've left a friend's table as sanctified and renewed as any church service.  If you have a porch, then you have an altar to gather around.
I love the heart behind this picture of community.  That it can be simple.  But even in the simplicity it can be life-changing.  Our new Community Group had a vision-casting meeting last Wednesday where we talked about what we want our group to be about.  This picture is a great one--gathering friends around a table, inviting people in, having conversation... that's where community is built.  But groups also need some structure.  It's a good reminder for me as we continue with this new group to find ways to be hospitable and build community outside of a set program or structured Wednesday night meeting.

2. Another chapter is called "Dear Church" in which she addresses church leaders and church people--since she has played both roles, she approaches it with love and tenderness of wanting the church to be a picture of God's kingdom.  
I am convinced we want more than church was designed to provide.  Unreasonable expectations leave pastors constantly depleted (or power drunk), and people constantly disappointed (or codependent).  The early church involved small, organic communities who gathered around tables, lived simple lives on mission, and loved God and neighbor.  That was kind of it.  The first believers assembled for renewal and teaching and dinner and togetherness.  It was so basic and lovely.  Everyone pulled weight, pitched in, pressed into God.  The early church wasn't fancy or entertaining, impressive or complicated, but it managed to take the gospel to the whole world...
You are capable of a Spirit-filled life on mission without constant church management... You've got the goods: Here is your Bible, there is your neighbor, you know the prayer words, you have eyes to see your city, and the Holy Spirit dwells within you... Life is convoluted but the kingdom is simple--a pure kingdom lived in ordinary ways by ordinary people.  Let's unshackle each other's hands a bit.  Our pastors and churches teach and gather us, challenge and launch us, but no church supersedes you living your beautiful, valuable life on mission.  You fulfill an extraordinary role through ordinary means, and no leader or church can do this for you.  There is no whole without the pieces.
I think it's easy for me to look at my church and see all the things that could be done better.  All the things that I feel are missing.  All the things I want to change.  So it's freeing to have a reminder that it's okay to want more than what church is currently "providing" and to seek God and His direction for living out His word in my life

Jen also has another chapter addressing Christians and the way we relate to one another.  Calling us to a higher standard of being thankful, committed to loving God and one another.  There's also a chapter on the role of Women in the church.  

This book covers a lot of topics.  It is at times lighthearted and funny and at times serious and convicting.  I am grateful I read it and look forward to going through it again at some point.  I just finished up an online Bible Study of Jennie Allen's Anything and in the last email they had a teaser for an online book club for For the Love that will begin September 15, so I think I will re-read the book along with that.

I also couldn't resist buying this bracelet from Noonday Collection at a party my friend hosted earlier this month. 

If you want to check out the book it can be purchased from Amazon here.

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