If my Mother were still with us on this earth, and she knew this tough topic I’m about to broach, she’d cross her arms and say, “Well now, THIS ought to be REAL interesting….”
She used to get a kick out of sitting in our kitchen, watching our three boys come and go while I attempted to feed them, put coats on, tie shoes, coordinate carpools and hunt for the next necessary piece of sports equipment. She said it was like watching a funny tennis match. Hmmmmph.
So, I confess I’m preaching to the choir. We shall get down to business. We are going to attempt to beat busyness. We will apply a little “margin”* to our lives, our calendars, our sweet, smiling faces. No frumpiness, no frowns, no frustrated sighs allowed. And yes, we do have time for a Bible study. Stick with me…
After a boatload of research from being 100% convicted, no thanks to Priscilla Shirer, I’m convinced we all need a lil’ margin. Good news? Margin beats busyness.
It all started with a conference I attended with eight thousand other women a couple of summers ago. Priscilla was one of three speakers, the other two being Kay Arthur and Beth Moore. All were powerful, but when Priscilla began to teach on margin, I felt as if I was the only one in the room. Biggest “aha moment” to date. (Her message can be found in the chapter entitled “Sabbath Spaces” in her excellent book Resolution for Women. We’ll be talking about this more in Part 4, later in the month. Meanwhile, checkout her website for more information: www.goingbeyond.com)
*What is “margin”? Margin is the space between our load and our limits. Breathing room. Best definition I’ve heard comes from Andy Stanley in his Bible study Pushing it to the Limits. He says, “All good things happen within margin…such as your relationships with others, and with God. And, because we are human, we all have limits on our time, our energy, and our money. So, if we push our limits, spreading ourselves too thin, we push out God. Therefore deleting any margin we may have had.”
Note the warning…pushing out God deletes margin. Skipping quiet times in the morning would be a good example of margin-less living. Yes, we’re getting to that excuse about Bible study…
The guru of margin, Richard A. Swenson, M.D., has written numerous books on margin. I’ll be quoting him frequently over the next few weeks. Richard opens our eyes from the get-go in his book, Margin-Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives:
“Margin-less is fatigue. Margin is energy. Margin-less is anxiety and worry.” (Worry’s one of my special sins, you? Please forgive me AGAIN, Lord.) “Margin is peace. Margin-less is our crazy culture. Margin is counterculture. Margin exists for relationship. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has time to listen, let alone love.” Ouch!
How ’bout a couple of real-life scenarios? Margin-less is hurry, frantic frenzy, speeding tickets!!! (Anybody?) Margin is slowing down, being still, being calm, basking in a bubble bath, taking a nap, reading a novel, meditating on Scripture….(Catching on now?)
Why do we need margin? Because God did not create us to be spinning in a thousand directions, out of control. He created us to yearn for more time with Him, to learn more about Him, not the world in which we live. Remember He’s the One who created rest. (See Genesis 2:2-3** below.)
In 1915, an Australian by the name of F.W. Boreham said: “I believe that a supreme goal of one’s life should be to secure a margin. A good life, like a good book, should have a good margin.” Poor man would flip over today’s culture, huh?
One of my favorite devotionals is Jesus Calling by Sara Young. Flip over to October 24th’s entry if you have a copy. Sara uses Psalm 23:1-3**, Genesis 2:2-3** and Luke 1:79** to encourage us. Remember she writes as if Jesus is speaking directly to us:
“…Learn to unwind whenever possible, resting in the Presence of your Shepherd. This electronic age keeps My children ‘wired’ much of the time, too tense to find Me in the midst of their moments. I built into your very being the need for rest. How twisted the world has become when people feel guilty about meeting this basic need! How much time and energy they waste by being always on the go, rather than taking time to seek My direction for their lives.
I have called you to walk with Me down paths of peace. I want you to blaze a trail for others who desire to live in My peaceful Presence. I have chosen you less for your strengths than for your weaknesses, which amplify your need for Me. Depend on Me more and more, and I will shower Peace on all your paths.”
Notice, He notices when we are too wired from being “always on the go”…Let’s look at one of Jesus’ invitations from Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (The Message says, “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” Love that!)
HOW can we build margin into our everyday lives? I’m going to give you a sampling of a plethora of ideas from Dr. Swenson’s book on Margin. He offers excellent details, twenty-two for example, on margin in physical energy, fourteen on margin in emotional energy, sixteen on margin in time, and sixteen on margin in finances!!! We’re going to tackle only four, one each week. These will include: Bible study, Prayer, Guarding our Calendars, and Rest (which is directly tied to keeping the Sabbath.)
This week’s answers the title of this post: “But I don’t have time to do a Bible study.” God’s Word answers: “Yes, you do.”
Are you good at coming up with excuses? I could teach a class on such. Not a boastable attribute… The first time I was invited to a Bible study, I received four invitations, three of which came from family members. Talk about pressure!
But guess what I learned? Every time I tried to study the Bible on my own, I failed. When I joined a class, with friends and accountability, Bingo.
Author and Bible study teacher Angela Thomas says Matthew 6:33 is her life-verse: “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” www.gospel.com, spells it out for us: “It’s often the case that we put our spiritual life on a lower priority than other ‘pressing concerns’…Jesus is telling us that a properly balanced life is one that puts Him above our other concerns. He’ll take care of them.”
I can’t explain it in the physical realm, but when we put God first, He somehow supernaturally, exponentially adds to our day. Don’t take my word for it. Try it.
Another cool thing happens when you read God’s Word (and we know the Bible is God-breathed from 2 Timothy 3:16**). You’ll get to know Him better and you can hear His voice speaking to you straight from Scripture.
For example, one of my dear friends y’all hear me talk about all the time is Liz Curtis Higgs. She’s written just a few books. (She’s well on her way with #31! Check her out at: www.lizcurtishiggs.com)
When I read her writing, because I’ve gotten to know her, I can hear her voice, as if she is reading to me. So it is when you study the Bible…
Robert Bugh, in his recent release, When the Bottom Drops Out—Finding Grace in the Depths of Disappointment, maintains that “long before a crisis hits, IF we’ve been deeply rooted in the Word of God, THEN we’re equipped when difficulty comes, or ‘when the bottom drops out.’” Bible study readies you for daily living.
Adding a Bible study to your calendar is just one way to build margin into your day. We’re on our way to beating busyness! (Bible study recommendations are listed at the end of this post.***) Next week we’ll talk about prayer. What an invaluable resource.
‘Til next time!
(This week’s post is dedicated to Priscilla Shirer, an amazing wife, Mom of three boys, Bible study teacher, speaker, and writer. Let’s pray for her! It’s a miracle she does all she does and she is living proof of Matthew 6:33—see above. Thank you, Priscilla, for haulin’ all those belts to Freedom Hall. You set me free! Not quite ready for a home inspection, but I’m workin’ on that 14%!!! We’ll be talking more about your inspirational message in future posts. May God bless you and your precious family.)
**Genesis 2:2-3 “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
Psalm 23:1-3 “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
Luke 1:79 “ to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
***Below are some recent Bible studies I’ve done which are well worth your time:
The Girl’s Still Got It–Take a Walk With Ruth and the God Who Changed Her World and newly revamped Bad Girls of the Bible (due out July 16th) by Liz Curtis Higgs
Brave — Honest Questions Women Ask by Angela Thomas
Jonah: Navigating Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer