Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Reading: Radical


There’s plenty about breastfeeding not to like, but I will say that nothing else in my adult life has given me so much restful reading time.  I think breastfeeding is in part God’s plan to make sure new moms really do rest, put their feet up, bond with their babies, and even have a moment to use their mind thinking about something other than burps and diaper changes.

It was with David in the rocking chair that I finally discovered the Harry Potter series—yes, all seven books, and I liked them, and plowed through one Dorothy Sayers mystery after another, and planned two years of literature curriculum for my classes.  Once David hit a year old, stopped nursing, and started running, jumping, and needing what sometimes seems like an endless supply of meals and snacks, my reading time became way abbreviated.

Now with Elanor, I’m enjoying getting back to reading again.  I will say that my nursing time isn’t quite so uninterrupted with the second child, and I spend a fair amount of time from the rocking chair calling instructions down the hallway, monitoring mealtime, or talking with and reading to David.  But there’s still a number of hours to be spent turning the pages of books.  Breastfeeding will do that for me.  Even when the kitchen is a disaster, or I just got home from running an errand, or I really should be going through mail, even then Elanor starts crying and I get to happily return to holding her and getting lost in a book.

So here are my recent finds:

Radical by David Platt.  Several good friends of mine read this and raved about it last year, and now I know what all the fuss was about.  This is an amazing book.  David Platt could almost persuade me to move even to the deep south just to be part of his church.  So much of this book echoes and confirms what Ben and I have been thinking and praying about the last few years.  The subtitle is “taking back your faith from the American dream” and the chapters explore how we as American Christians so often settle for a comfortable, selfish Christian life, turning a blind eye to the purpose God has for us and the desperate needs around the world.  Platt instead challenges us American Christians to wake up, look around us, stop spending our lives accumulating stuff and being comfortable, and instead pursue Christ and His global purposes.

All of this sounds fine and good, but the application can be a bit tricky when contemplating it from my rocking chair.  But like a great pastor, Platt ends his book with some specific application, five things to do in the next year (parentheses are my takeaways):
  1. pray for the entire world (i.e. Operation World)
  2. read through the entire Word
  3. sacrifice your money for a specific purpose
  4. spend your time in another context (i.e. short-term missions trip, etc.—something that takes you out of your comfort zone)
  5. commit your life to a multiplying community (i.e. a good church)

I want to be praying about how specifically to apply these five points in my life right now.  Obviously an even short-term missions trip is a little unworkable with a newborn nursing around the clock.  But Ben and I have discussed wanting to raise our children with a heart for the Lord and for missions, a heart to help the fatherless and the needy, and I want to think through how we can be rightly “radical” as a family.

To be honest, I’m convicted that I’ve become much more materialistic in the past few months.  Last year I lived in a condo, about 800 square feet, and we used every square foot, usually for multiple purposes.  We owned one car, used and completely paid for, and it broke down about every three months.

Now we own a home three times the size of our condo, plus a big yard, in a much better neighborhood, and two cars, one of which happens to be a little red Ford Focus that I dearly love driving.  I don’t think any of this is wrong.  I really feel as if the Lord led us to our new home, and a lot of the reason we chose this house in particular was the opportunity it would give us to raise a larger family and to reach out to others in hospitality.  I also think buying a second and more reliable car was wise.  So I don’t regret any of that.  But it’s true that I suddenly have a pretty long wish list of things I “need” for my home—bookshelves to line the family room wall, a flat-screen TV for downstairs, curtains or valances for every room, a larger dining room set, a new couch, a fence and play set and sandbox for the back yard, and a thousand et cetera’s.  If I’m not careful, my focus quickly slips to accumulating stuff, making my family comfortable, living the American dream in our nice suburban neighborhood.  Is this what it’s all about—really?

I don’t want to buy into the lie that says selfishness is okay because my mission field is only my family—that’s so ingrown.  Besides, if my children are my only mission field, where does that leave them?  At the center of this little kingdom we are building with no vision beyond themselves?  Instead, I want to be in mission together as a family.  I know and accept that David and Elanor are a huge part of my life right now and consume almost all my energy most days.  But ultimately I want to point them beyond themselves to Jesus, and I want to be in ministry with them, opening the doors of our home and going beyond the walls of our home.

I’m not sure what all this looks like, and I know there’s nothing wrong with buying the flat-screen TV and larger dining room set that I really would like to own sometime.  But I also know the Lord wants me to pursue a bigger dream.  I do want my children to grow up in a home where we pray for the entire world, read the entire Word, give sacrificially, belong to a local church, and I do want to spend time in ministry and mission together as a family.

So, this blog post kind of evolved from breastfeeding to summer reading to a whirlwind of thoughts about materialism and missions and everything in between … (repeating to myself: it’s okay if it’s not perfect, it doesn’t have to be edited, it’s okay if it’s not perfect).  I really have been reading books other than Radical, and would be happy to pontificate about them as well.  Suffice it to say that I actually broke down and bought the Hunger Games trilogy because after reading the first book, I couldn’t wait for the library copies to be available.  Probably lame, I know.  And in fact, they just this moment arrived in the mail, which reminds me that I really should wake Elanor up to nurse again, right?  Right.

3 comments:

  1. Hey, you finished it already! And I had a feeling you would succumb to buying the Hunger Games...

    Oddly enough, one of the things this book made me reconsider was buying organic food. I've gone back and forth about organic for a while, finally started succumbing (with no reservations) and obviously spending WAY more money on food. I don't think buying organic food or paraben free products is wrong, but it made me think about our perspective on health in the US. My kids are 1000 times healthier on non-organic food than those kids who have little to no food and yet it becomes such an important hot-button issue here. I've actually stopped buying organic anything (apart from the farm share because it really is more frugal in the long run) thinking that the money we save on not buying that could be used to be given away. Of course, the giving would have to be intentionally for food for the hungry for it to actually make a difference so I'm still thinking about how to work that out.

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  2. Thanks for the reminder about Platt's book, Lisa it's so easy to read it, which i did last fall, be thoroughly convicted make a few changes, then let it all fade into the background while the immediacy of the moment takes over. but it's there, in the back of my mind and reminders like your post bring me back to an awareness of the needs outside my own walls.

    I can relate to your comment too Elizabeth,I've become a nutrition freak, not all without cause as my children's needs have warranted some of it but it is easy to get sucked into spending lots on temporary needs.

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  3. Amen Lisa! Thanks for your good thoughts on radical, I was wondering if it was as good as all the hype. And I especially appreciate your "don't edit, it's okay if it's not perfect"! because sometimes that IS perfect. getting your thoughts down and not trying to squeeze them into essay form or syllogisms. You let took captive your thoughts for Christ and... voila, they make sense! so much sense! thanks for writing them for us :)

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