Tag Archives: Andy Stanley

Come with Me to France…(Managing Your Margin: Part 1 of 4)

Ahhh, a big bonjour to you, dear friends! John and I are just back from a wonderful trip to France. We were blessed to celebrate his 55th birthday and our soon-to-be-30th anniversary on a river cruise on the Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne Rivers.

I’ll be sharing highlights from our trip with you as we spend the month of May managing our margins (oh yes, I’ll explain), which translates into a huge benefit for our health and well-being.

The below photo was taken on a night-time walking tour in Bordeaux…

john and eliz in Bordeaux

It occurred to me, while on vacation, where one would certainly hope to have mega-margin, we still may not have any due to our over-worked and frazzled brains. Our world tends to encourage us to never shut down.

I love the Speed Bump comic where the Mom comes in and proclaims to her daughter, “There aren’t many nice days left—why don’t you go outside and text?” Sad, but true…..

Social media icons on smartphone

Unbelievably, while en France, I did manage to shut my cell phone down for eleven days! (Granted John’s phone stayed on, so we could call home, and I could get emails on my iPad, so don’t be too impressed, but you get the idea…)

My new favorite awe-inspiring, life-giving book is by Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. (It came highly recommended.) We will learn ways to enhance not only our Sabbath, but our margin as well.

The Rest of God

I confess I’m obsessed with margin, and securing more of it. This should come highly amusing to those of you who know me. I’d say you had no idea of my obsession as I’m sorely lacking in managing my margin. Daily.

After soaking in some of Mark Buchanan’s much-needed points on Sabbath, my “aha” moment hit. We can do this together, friends!!! Mark says, “I believe the Spirit has brought us into each other’s company for just such a time as this, that together we might discover Jesus in the midst of our busyness.”

Well, what is margin? Margin is the space between our load and our limits.


Andy Stanley, in his Bible study Take It to the Limit Study Guide: How to Get the Most Out of Life (North Point Resources) says it best: “All good things happen within margin…such as your relationships with others and God. 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.” (DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!!!)

take it to the limit

Anybody good at spreading themselves too thin? ‘Tis one of my terrible “talents”…as my crammed calendar can testify. Sigh…

On our trip to France, however, we had no agenda. We simply did most of what Viking offered, which were wonderfully educational and enlightening experiences, beautiful scenery, and meeting fun people from all over the world.

Our ship’s Chef delighted us foodies with homemade soups, sauces, fresh seafood, steaks, lamb, bread, a boatload of butter (pun intended), a wide variety of cheeses, and desserts-to-die-for. Think of these meals for lunch and dinner, not to mention melt-in-your-mouth-clog-your-arteries Eggs Benedict for breakfast!!!

chocolate mousse and coffee

This was a favorite dessert served after lunch one day at Chateau Siaurac: chocolate mousse, a petite cookie and hot coffee. What a presentation!

While we did stroll thru’ the towns of Bordeaux, Paulliac, Blaye, Bourg, Libourne, St. Emilion and Arcachon, strolling is the operative word. Boat Blobs would be the end result.

We had glorious days to soak in the French culture, walking the cobblestone streets while viewing twelfth and thirteenth century churches. (Next week, we’ll also talk about the breath-taking countryside.)

Tower in St Emilion

This is the bell tower in St. Emilion

Back to the book, Mark lays out the importance of Sabbath, the gift of Sabbath and the challenge of Sabbath. Choosing to experience the Sabbath equals managing your margin.

For all you cat and dog lovers out there, Mark reminisces from his childhood days when his parents had multitudes of cats. He said they all would find warm, sunny spots in their home to curl up for a long winter’s nap. Our dog, Gracie, is also quite adept at this:


kitty on roof

This little cat (if you can spot her!) chose to sun herself on a roof in Blaye, France…

Visually and poetically gifted as a writer, Mark offers this image after the cat nap story: “I think of Sabbath as a patch of sunlight falling thru’ a window on a winter’s day…In it, you can lie down and rest. From it, you can rise up and go—stronger, lighter, ready to work again with vigor and a clear mind.”

Mark confesses he was purpose-driven to a fault. He said he once went  forty days straight without taking a day off. (Never mind he’s a pastor!) He was squandering time. Bitter, impatient, easily irritable, and worse character traits suddenly crept into his soul causing all of his relationships to suffer. He realized, “I learned to keep Sabbath in the crucible of breaking it.” 

Running Out Of Time

Mark gives us several ways to understand Sabbath: “Sabbath imparts the rest of God: practical, physical, mental and spiritual rest…but also the rest of God: the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness.” His goal for us readers is: ”to awaken in yourself wonder and expectancy, that Sabbath in the long-run is as essential to your well-being as food and water.”

We must look at Sabbath in two ways, also a key to managing your margin:

–         Set apart portions of a day, working up to an entire day: Realize it’s a gift from God, not something to feel guilty about. If an entire day is too extreme for you, start out slowly. (*See end of post for ideas.)

–         Sabbath is also an attitude: A Sabbath heart “is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval. It is attentive to the presence of God.” And don’t miss this warning: “You will never enter the Sabbath day without a Sabbath heart.”

Lovely little girl playing with red heart shaped balloon

One Scripture I’m always drawn to is Jesus’ invitation to us all: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

The Life Application Bible says, “The rest that Jesus promises is love, healing, and peace with God, not the end of all labor. A relationship with God changes meaningless, wearisome toil into spiritual productivity and purpose.” 

The ESV Study Bible says, “Come to me is an invitation to trust Jesus personally, not merely to believe historical facts about him. ..The wider application is that Jesus provides ‘rest for our souls’(v. 29)—that is eternal rest for all who seek forgiveness of their sins and freedom from the crushing legalistic burden and guilt of trying to earn salvation by good works.” 

Enjoy these pictures of doors from all over France.  When thinking of an invitation, especially at Jesus’ prompting,  how lovely to enter via a beautiful door…

cool door in st emilion

black iron door w topiaries

picturesque door in Blaye

fancy wooden door in paris

teal and brass ornate door

Wooden Door w brass knobs and lion heads

maison du commander door


So, for any of us who are tired and worn out, this is not God-intended. What can we do this week to manage our margin? (*No need to stress over jumping in to a full day, start out slowly…)

Take a walk

Take a nap

Sip and savor a cup of coffee or tea


Meditate on God’s Word

Go for a bike ride

Listen to music



Call a friend for no reason

Write a hand-written letter


Luxembourg Gardens

On one of our days walking thru’ Paris, (we had three nights there after the river cruise) John and I happened upon the Luxembourg Gardens. While it rained off and on that day, we were blessed to have clear skies and sit and rest and enjoy the beauty of the gardens, children playing with boats, people having a picnic, etc. Pure margin!

We’ve just barely touched the tip of the Sabbath/Margin iceberg. More to follow this month when  I’ll take you to more picturesque scenes from France.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with our last day’s adventure to the resort town of Arcachon. Oyster fishermen were plentiful and John and I tasted our very first raw oyster!

Forever fearful of these marvelous molluscs, I emphatically stated, “Well, we certainly can’t come all the way to this seaside town in France and hurt the feelings of this brave oyster fisherman, now then, can we???”

oyster farmer explains to our guide

Without further ado, our group very bravely sucked-n-swallowed the salty, slimy things, fully doused with lemon juice, followed by a large slice of bread and salty butter. No problem… (Note John is quite triumphant while I opened my mouth as wide as possible in hopes I wouldn’t taste it so much….Crazy tourists….)

John Swallows an oyster

Eliz eating oyster

Our moments of margin that day were on the boat ride across the beautiful bay. Our French-speaking captain showed us the oyster beds and the remarkable high, high sand dunes near the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean. This was truly a lovely, soul-replenishing day.


Sand Dunes and oysters

(These sand dunes are the largest in Europe. They are so tall, there are stairs you can climb to the top which is about 360 feet. It’s about 9 football fields wide and 1.86 miles long and get this: it moves about 16 feet a year! Incroyable!!!)

I pray our journey thru’ Mark Buchanan’s book will bless you and afford you a little more time to rest, savor the Sabbath, and manage your margin.

‘Til next time!

This week’s post is dedicated to all you Moms. Grandmothers, and Great Grandmothers out there with Mother’s Day fast approaching. May you find some moments of margin and savor the Sabbath. Happy Mother’s Day!



Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Margin, Travel, Uncategorized

But I Don’t Have TIME for a Bible Study! (Beating Busyness – Part 1 of 4)

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.

Eliz and her parents

At Mom & Dad’s 50th Anniversary Brunch, 2002


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)

Resolution for Women

*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:

Jesus Calling

“…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.

Embrace Grace Bible Study BLOG 450x150

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 2:2-3By 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 23:1-3The 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 3:16All 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:

Bad Girls of the BibleThe Girls still got it

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

James Mercy TriumphsDavid Seeking a Heartbelieving god  Stepping Up

James: Mercy Triumphs; David: Seeking a Heart Like His; Believing God; and Stepping Up–A Journey through the Psalms of Ascent all by Beth Moore


Brave — Honest Questions Women Ask by Angela Thomas


Jonah: Navigating Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer

No other GodsNehemiah

No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols; and Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break by Kelly Minter


Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons, Margin, Scripture