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A couple of months ago I read The 100 Thing Challenge: How I got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul by Dave Bruno. Dave lived for a year with less than 100 personal items. He is married and has kids so he didn’t count shared goods like the kitchen table and he lumped “socks” and counted them as one of his hundred things.

Ironically, the part that has stayed with me is not the number of shirts he had or what he did for fun during that year. No. It was his pen. Yes, you read that right. His pen. Not his penS, said with an exaggerated “S” to be sure you’ve got the extremeness of it. He lived for a full year with one pen. Would you like to know how many pens I have? Neither would I! But, I’m kind of a pen hound. As long as I over-collect on a small thing, it’s OK. Right?! Right? I can’t hear you over those crickets chirping.

Enter Jen Hatmaker’s chapter three stage left: Possessions. (I’ve already looked at ‘food’ here and ‘clothing’ here). Her plan was to get rid of seven things each day for a grand total of 210 items. Which sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Jen thought so too. It ended up being a drop in the bucket. Even by the end, after giving away far more, there they had more to move on.

I don’t think possessions are the problem. It’s more a matter of who is possessing whom. Do I own something, or does it own me? Am I blessed to be a blessing or am I blessed to be a socially-appropriate-hoarder (a phrase you won’t find in the Bible because, well, it’s not Biblical!).

If Jen entered stage left, Haggai enters stage right. He’s visiting the Israelites who have finally returned home after 70 years in captivity. And by “home” I mean to a destroyed city, temple, and long-lost way of life. They set about to rebuild with an enthusiasm that would impress anyone (as did I after reading The 100 Thing Challenge). In a Maslow’s Hierarchy of safety way of deciding what to do first, they rebuilt the city wall. Next they turned to their houses. Not a bad choice. Except that they kind of stalled out and didn’t get to work on rebuilding the temple.

I keep hoping that this scene will play out in flannel graphs across the world:

“Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?’

“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.'”

Can’t you just picture this reenacted on a flannel graph? Their houses look a little bit like Elvis’ house. At least in my mind. I know that panelling circa BC looks different than circa 70s US, but the point is the same. WHY ARE YOU GATHERING PENS. This is not why I have you here! You were made for so much more, but you settle for … pens. We, like the Israelites, have gotten distracted. We started off well (the city wall IS done), but somehow we have stalled out.

We all need a Haggai to show up and gently say: GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER. Nice paneling, by the way, but do not stop here!

In response to Jen’s chapter I’ve decided to clean out seven drawers. I started with, you guessed it, my office supply drawer. How about you? Are there seven things you can share or give away as a gesture that, you too, have heard Haggai?

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