Tag Archives: margins

Crazy Busy or Crazy Grateful? (With help from Kevin DeYoung) Part 2 of 2

Friends!  Last week we discussed our need for pushing pause and how to do just that, thanks to an excellent book by Shauna Niequist (Present Over Perfect—Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living).

This week, I have more good news for you!  Thanks to a lovely God-incident, I came across a skinny little book (only 118 pages long) by Kevin DeYoung.  The book?  Crazy Busy—A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem.

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The author, Kevin DeYoung, is the Senior Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan.  Kevin’s married to Trish and they are blessed with, get this:  seven children.  That is one full quiver, God bless ‘em!

You can go online to Kevin’s church’s website, www.universityreformedchurch.org and check out his sermons.  I was blessed to hear Kevin speak at a Together for the Gospel Conference (www.t4g.org ) here in Louisville a couple of years ago. (You can also go to that website and watch any of the talks from the conference.  Amazing speakers, Kevin included.)

As funny and brutally honest as Kevin is, he’s equally passionate about believing in, abiding in, and trusting in our Sovereign Lord.  For which we can thank him, because his book we’re about to talk about will steer you away from chasing unnecessary wild rabbits.

From the first word of the first chapter, Kevin pulls us readers in.  Let me show you:  Chapter One’s title: “Hello, My Name is Busy.”

Kevin begins, “I am the worst possible person to write this book. And maybe the best. My life is crazy busy. I don’t say that as a boast or a brag…How did I get this way?  How did you get this way?…There’s a pervasive sense of being unrelentingly filled up and stressed out.”

Here’s where I picture Shauna’s red wagon we talked about last week brimming over with her lugging it with great difficulty behind her.  Kevin’s been doing likewise.

donkey-carried-by-the-cart

In fact, when Kevin’s friends asked him about his next book project, upon hearing his answer about a book on busyness, they were stunned.  They reminded him his schedule was a mess and busyness was one of his biggest problems. Precisely why he took the project on.

This is the same scenario years ago for me when I began to study the meaning of margin.  (And the lack thereof, in my own calendar.)  I confessed to many of you, had my Mother been living then, she’d have howled out loud and said, “Oh, this  should be good!”

Kevin tells us upfront the layout of the book: “My outline is as simple as three numbers:  3, 7, and 1:  Three dangers to avoid (chapter 2), Seven diagnoses to consider (chapters 3-9), and One thing you must do (chapter 10).  Excellent  and succinct.  Choose your chapters per your interest. You don’t have to read them in order.

My favorites of the seven diagnoses, while all good, are “Diagnosis # 4:  You Need to Stop Freaking Out About Your Kids”, “Diagnosis #5:  You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul”,  and “Diagnosis #6:  You’d Better Rest Yourself before You Wreck Yourself.” To which I reply, “Thank you, but really: Ouch, ouch, and ouch.”

Wow. Close Up Portrait Young Woman Beautiful Girl Looking Excite

While Crazy Busy is crazy full with helpful tips, I’d like to share a couple of quotes to get your laughter endorphins cookin’.  I firmly believe, especially when we’re stressed out (a/k/a crazy busy), laughter is the best medicine.

Straight from Scripture:  Proverbs 17:22 reminds us, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  Cheerful hearts come from laughter, but crushed spirits come from being crazy busy.

proverbs-17-22

Kevin quotes Tim Chester from his book, The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness where he offers “twelve diagnostic questions to determine how ill we’ve become with ‘hurry sickness’.”  They’re all worth exploring, and I’ll tease you with just two of them:

Tim:  #6. “Do you often feel tired during the day or do you find your neck and shoulders aching?”

Kevin: “Mountain Dew, ibuprofen, not a problem.”

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 26th Oct 2016, Mountain Dew is a carbona

Tim:  #12. “Do you eat together as a family or household at least once a day?”

Kevin:  “More or less. When one person is eating, someone else is usually in the house at the same time.”

In the chapter on not freaking out about your kids, Kevin says, “Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be.  It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives.”

Babies Playing With Toys

“Now, our kids have to sleep on their backs (no, wait, their tummies; no, never mind, their backs), while listening to Baby Mozart and surrounded by scenes of Starry, Starry Night.  They have to be in piano lessons before they are five and can’t leave the car seat until they’re about five foot six.”

Hysterical and comforting… Oh my.

Kevin doesn’t promise immediate change or transformation, or a money-back guarantee (!!!) for us readers, but he does say,

“I hope you’ll find a few ways to tackle your schedule,
several suggestions for reclaiming your sanity, and
a lot of encouragement to remember your soul.”

Friends, those are some kind of powerful verbs:  tackle, reclaim, remember.

For those of us trying to do everything for everybody, this book will help us literally put those worries to bed and sleep better.  No foolin’…

Sleeping Dreaming Woman

Finally, Kevin saves the best for last in “The One Thing You Must Do.”  No spoiler alert, just a phrase or two to leave you with:

We have to believe that the most significant opportunity before us every day is the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus.”

Kevin quotes another one of my favorite authors, Paul Tripp.  Paul gifts us with a quote not just for people in pastoral ministry, but for all of us in our ministries, whether with our family, friends, small groups, the grocery store, Home Depot, wherever:

I am more and more convinced that what gives a ministry its motivations, perseverance, humility, joy, tenderness, passion and grace is the devotional life of the one doing ministry

When I daily admit how needy I am,
Daily mediate on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and
Daily feed on the restorative wisdom of His Word,
I am propelled to share with others the grace that I am daily receiving at the hands of my Savior.”

Dear friends, let’s all be more intentional about these next few weeks, to not be so crazy busy, to enjoy and savor moments with family and friends as Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches.

Thank you, Kevin, for a wonderful, helpful, and blissfully short book!

‘Til next time!

 

 

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God Sees You When You Escape from a Monastery (Part 3 of 4: Do You Know Where God Is?)

The woefully weary minister reluctantly met with his doctor.  Guessing the doctor’s diagnosis,  his ears began shutting down.  Never mind his heart had shut down months before…

“Wayne, are you listening, buddy?”

An almost undetectable nod followed.

“This is in your best interest.  Best interest for your church.  Best interest for you and your health.  Best interest for your marriage.  Your church, can survive without you for a few months.”

“But who will take my place?  Who else knows how to run our church like me?  Who cares as much as I do?”  The all-about-me questions spewed forth like rain.

Doc answered sharply, “If you want to avoid a nervous breakdown, and you are very close to it right now, you must take a season to refill and recharge.  A sabbatical is no longer a suggestion.  This is mandatory.”

Wayne soon found himself registered for a retreat at a monastery.  As he drove up the long, winding hill, two and a half hours in the middle of nowhere, doubts hovered.  He forced himself to park his car.

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He walked into the entryway.  Discovering several monks, he asked them where to register.  Funny, they didn’t answer him.  They didn’t talk at all.  Not one word.  One monk pointed to paper, the other to a map.  No talking.

Once in his cabin, Wayne also realized there were no phones, no TV, no wifi…Therefore, no checking email, no receiving texts, no voicemail, etc.  Only silence.

The monks did make some noise twice a day:  At five o’clock in the morning, they could be heard in the Chapel, singing psalms in Gregorian chants.  At five o’clock in the evening, they could be heard singing vespers.

The only time they used their voices, they were praising the Lord.  (Think about that for a minute…That very point stopped me cold.)

Day, after painful day while in the monastery, time crawled. Worse: No caffeine could be found anywhere.  By day three, Wayne’s eyes had been opened, but the pain was almost unbearable.

He was beginning to hear from God.  God was giving him a message. And he was slowly writing it down.

Yet, discontentment still gnawed at Wayne’s soul.  “If only I could escape, just for a few minutes…I’ve had enough of this place!” he told himself.

Mountains travel

Realizing the monks would be distracted while singing, Wayne made his escape during their praise time. He jumped in his car, and quickly drove to an internet café.  Ordering the biggest cup of coffee they had (!), he fired up his laptop, and placed a call to a friend.

Whispering, he informed his friend, “I’ve just escaped from the monastery!”

Can you imagine receiving such a phone call?  Can you hear God chuckling over Wayne’s efforts?

Yes, God saw Wayne escape from that monastery. And in His faithfulness, He softened Wayne’s heart, and taught him some lessons, we too, can learn.

After loading up on some of “the world” at the internet café, Wayne did in fact return to the monastery.  He finished out the week and savored the quiet.  Savored the sabbatical.  Studied God’s Word.  Filled legal pads.

Handwriting with broken pencil point on yellow pad

My husband, John, and I were blessed to hear Pastor Wayne Cordeiro, from New Hope Church in Hawaii (www.enewhope.org ), speak at the North American Christian Convention (NACC) a couple of weeks ago.  We could not take notes fast enough.  Very engaging, (the escape story was shared during his workshop) Wayne taught us how to care for our souls.

Wayne confessed to enduring “profound burnout, to the point of clinical depression.”   Years prior, he’d started a church which led to numerous church plants.  He wrote book, after book, after book.  He helped start a Bible college. He had a leadership role in every single endeavor he’d begun, squelching any ounce of free time.

He drew a huge picture of a cup.  Its’ contents were nearly at the top.  His point was, “We must be intentional about what fills our cup and what drains our cup.”

Cup with Levels

“If you keep draining your cup, physical consequences will take their toll on your body”:  an anxiety breakdown leads to an emotional breakdown which can lead to a full-blown nervous breakdown.

Wayne continued:  “Worse, these breakdowns eat up margin in our schedules.”  (Click here for more on Margins. If you want to read more from this 4-part series, click: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4)  One thing Wayne  learned to do is before he ever writes down an event or commitment on his calendar, he builds in the rests first.  MARGIN…White space in your calendar, rest notes in music, room to breathe…

 

Music sheet

 

He reminded us that God will hold us accountable for what He’s gifted us specifically to do.  It equates to five percent of your life.  He said that eighty-five percent of what you do, anybody can do.  Ten percent of what you can do, someone can do with some training.

This leaves five percent of what you, and only you can do.  Therefore, concentrate on the last five percent.  This is where the health of your soul is.  Don’t miss what God has for you.

Wayne shared several lessons he learned from his week at the monastery.  (You can hear him, or see him, depending on your preference, by going to www.catapes.com. Christian Audio Tapes is the company who made cd’s and DVD’s from the NACC.)  I’ll share three of these with you.

First was the five percent lesson.  Wayne added an exercise for us to do, suggesting we do this with our spouses.  (It can have positive results for your marriage as well.) Make a list of what fills your cup and what drains your cup.

His examples of what fills his cup are: water sports on the ocean, reading, riding horses, riding his motorcycle, and Bible study. (Let’s hope the Bible study comes before the motorcycle riding.  I’m just sayin’…) Filling vs. draining equals your passions vs. your “I-dread-this” list…

Teamwork

John and I had a hey day with this little exercise.  The next morning he scooped up our perpetual-puppy, Gracie, and said, “Gracie FILLS my cup!”  To which I retorted, “Wonderful!  Gracie DRAINS my cup!”  Get the picture from that very bad example?!!!

Remember John Piper telling us we can’t be gloomy and glorify God at the same time?  See…”God is on the Golf Course…”    Same idea.

My favorite lesson Wayne taught us is:  Refuel daily.  Be disciplined in your devotions and Bible study/reading.

He added, “By diligent daily reading, you get to know the characters in the Bible.  There’s not one scenario you’re going thru’ or will go thru’ that one of the characters in the Bible hasn’t gone thru’ already.” They’ll become your friends, divine mentors, if you will.

Divine mentor

They leave you “crumbs” to find which are the key to your sanity.   Wayne built this case beautifully and ended it with:  “If you never visit them (the characters in the Bible), how can they possibly help you?”  (Go to:  www.lifejournal.cc  for help with daily devotions.)

Hebrews 4:12 reinforces this point:  “But the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Finally, Wayne cited the second chapter of Mark,  where Jesus heals the paralyzed man.  He pointed out that the man had four friends to take him to Jesus.    Carol Kent calls these “stretcher bearers” and expounds on this concept in her compelling  book, When I Lay My Isaac Down.

When I Lay My Isaac Down

Wayne implored, “We must have friends who will take us to Jesus.” Friends who’ll take us out of harmful situations and place us in safe respites.  “No matter how sick you are, figuratively or literally, you must have friends who will care for you.  Close friends recognize your needs.”

Don’t “go it alone”…because God sees you, whether you’re escaping from a monastery (!), or just about your daily to-do’s.

Psalm 73:23 is a good reminder:  And, “yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.”

‘Til next time!

(This week’s post is dedicated to Pastor Wayne Cordeiro.  What a bummer to “have to” minister in Hawaii!  Kidding…Thanks for coming to Louisville and teaching us from your heart.   Thrilled you discovered fried green tomatoes!!! Your honesty and lessons you learned during the hard times are pure pearls for us to live by.  Blessings to you and your family and your ministry!)

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Get Over the Guilt: Grab a Nap! (Beating Busyness: Part 4 of 4)

Slinking up the stairs, barely putting one foot in front of the other, the oh-so-tired Wife/Mom/Crazy Girl crawled into bed.

Long sigh…

Buried under the covers, sleep enveloped her quickly.

Oh, but not for long.  The world pursued…  Startling her, something was ringing, and ringing, and ringing.

Eyes wide open, she snapped: “I promise, if it rings one more time, I’m chuckin’ that thing OUT the window!” …as if her cell phone could comprehend.

She’d told herself all she needed was a quick, fifteen minute power nap…

Fuming at the interruption, she climbed back out of bed and returned to the first floor, where laundry, emails, and dishes awaited.

A rather large hamster wheel comes to mind.

hamster in wheel

How does one find time for a break???

Why does the word “R-E-S-T” seem so foreign to us?  Today we’re going to address the four letters of “rest” to help us rest.  Let’s not forget how God created rest and fully intends for us to find it.

Genesis 2:2-3 says, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” NIV

R: “Remember to take a nap REGULARLYand do not, do not, do NOT feel guilty about it! Get over the guilt and get off the hamster wheel.  Remember from last week how Mary Byers taught us that even Jesus got away to rest.  (Click on Part 3 of 4 on Beating Busyness here for more information.)

So IF we are rested, we’re more apt to glorify God, as He longs for us to do.  John Piper says it best: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Please mimic our friendly polar bear below:

Sleepy Polar Bear

E : “Engage in LAUGHTER!”

Make a lunch date with your funniest friend.

Rent a funny movie.

Hang out at a preschool!  What?  Richard A. Swenson, M.D., in his book Margin–Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, shares remarkable stats:   Did you know the peak age for laughter is age four???  It’s reported that four year olds laugh once every four minutes, or four hundred times a day!

Can you guess how many times adults laugh?  An average of  fifteen times per day. (Not sure I make that on a daily basis.)  You WILL feel better if you can find the humor in your daily situations.

Dr. Swenson adds, “Perhaps the best kind of laughter is when we laugh at ourselves–we never run out of material.  After Hurricane Andrew leveled his house, a man in south Florida put out a sign reading:  ‘Open House.’  He will heal faster than his neighbors.”

Write these verses on a post-it note to take with you:  Proverbs 15:13 says, “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face, a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.” (The Message)

Proverbs 17:22 helps as well: “A cheerful heart is good medecine…” (NIV)

Kick in those endorphins!

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S:  “Sabbath Keeping”

Read, very slowly, the following phrase: “Seven FULL days makes one WEAK.” Nope, not  w-e-e-k,   w-e-a-k.

This truth hails from Lynne Baab’s excellent book Sabbath Keeping.  We read and discussed her book in Book Club a few years ago.  Sadly, not one of us at the time could honestly say we even tried to keep the Sabbath.

Sabbath Keeping

One teensy-tiny detail I believe we all overlook:  One of the Ten Commandments (not “suggestions”!) happens to be about keeping the Sabbath:  Exodus 20: 8-11 says,  “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day.” (NIV)

The word “Sabbath” is from the Hebrew word, “Shabbat”, meaning “stopping” or “ceasing.”  God’s true desire is for us to purposefully carve out time to be still and enjoy Him.

Matthew Sleeth, M.D. recently wrote   24/6—a prescription for a healthier, happier life.  (This is my new favorite book to give to people!)

Matthew shares his own discovery of the Sabbath along with his family’s journey in keeping it.  His excitement is contagious.  His medical experiences from running an Emergency Room, combined with his honesty and sense of humor, makes this book a fascinating page-turner.  What makes it unique is he backs up the cases he builds with Scripture.

24-6 Sleeth

Matthew says, “In learning how to rest, we actually gain knowledge of Christ.  We learn to be gentle and humble and to GIVE UP OUR PRIDE.  My ideal day of rest …is a day when I trust that the world can get along just fine WITHOUT Matthew.”  Hmmmm, this is a good reminder for some of us control freaks (!) to mosey on over to the passenger seat.

Removing his wristwatch, Matthew and his family’s Sabbath begins.  They are “wealthy with time”.  Give it a try!

Shutting down their computers, they remain media-free for twenty-four hours.  (No more interrupted naps from cell phones! Someone ought to notify that Wife/Mom/Crazy Girl in the beginning of our story….yeah, you guessed it, that would be me.)

A clever promotional magnet to go along with 24/6 is a prescription for us all.  The Rx reads:  “REST for 24 hrs., Dispense 1x/wk, Do NOT mix with work.  Refill:  52x/yr. “  (www.246.com )  Don’t miss that last little number:  FIFTY-TWO TIMES….That equates to FIFTY-TWO GIFTS from God.  Don’t waste these!

If an entire Sabbath seems too extreme for you right now, please allow me to share “The 14 Challenge” from Priscilla Shirer and her book Resolution for Women.  I referred to an “aha moment” when I heard Priscilla speak on this last summer.  She  opened my eyes to the concept of margin. (Click on  “But I Don’t Have Time for a Bible Study!”- Part 1 of 4 of Beating Busyness for more information.)

Resolution for Women

Priscilla occasionally finds herself in need of some “retail therapy”.  She claims she has a “shopping anointing”.  (Not sure I’d share that “gift” with my husband!)

Priscilla’s visual aid was a whole mess of belts she toted up onto stage.   Wide belts, narrow belts, belts with bling, belts  with ropes, belts with dangly-thingys, and well, you get the picture.  Some of us “collect” shoes, Priscilla obviously collects belts.

She bravely confessed to her excess purchases, remarking that clutter causes chaos.  Got clutter?  I’d be happy to share some of mine!  Big sigh…?????????????????

Let’s go back to The 14 Challenge.  Here’s how she came up with the number 14: The Sabbath, being one of seven days is fourteen percent (14%) of your week.  Start little by little.  Try fourteen minutes per day to “be still”.  Gradually, you can add more minutes.  Simple,  right? (This helpful information is in the chapter called “Sabbath Spaces”.)

Additionally, consider clearing Sabbath SPACES (or Margins) in areas of your home.  Try clearing fourteen inches of space somewhere in your living area once a week.  Think of it as an act of obedience to God to “literally give your home some BREATHING ROOM!”  These are very manageable ideas.  (As the piles on my desk are begging to be cleared…)

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Hebrews 4:9-11 says, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (NIV)

(Last but not least….)  T: “TEARS”

Seriously?  YES!!  Tears from laughter or tears from sadness, BOTH  are good for you!  Emotional tears have a therapeutic chemical consistency.  How awesome is God to hardwire us to weep when we come to the end of ourselves?

THIS week, I pray we will really make a concerted effort to REST. (R– Remember to take a nap REGULARLY, E– Engage in laughter, S-Begin this Sunday, or the day that best fits your schedule, to take steps toward keeping the Sabbath, T-Tears- Shed some!)

Priscilla’s ideas in The 14 Challenge are your first steps to reaching the Sleeth’s type of all-in Sabbath.  Again, it wasn’t their idea.  It was God who ordained it.

Beyond this week, now that we’ve completed all four parts of Beating Busyness, I pray we will be ever mindful of the meaning and blessing of margin. Let’s go back one more time to that hammock photo….Ahhhhhh…

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R-E-S-T.

Savor the Sabbath.

What have you got to lose?  Chime in and let me know if you try it.  No guilt and remember, it’s a process on this heavenward journey.

Next post, we’re going to talk about a book that’ll make you laugh and cry.  Just addin’ to those endorphins!!!

‘Til  next time!

(This week’s blog post is dedicated to Dr. Matthew Sleeth.  He and his wife Nancy are my newest and super fun discovery thanks to my friend Sherry who introduced us.  Nancy’s book, Almost Amish,  has also blessed my life.  Not converted yet, but sure am thinkin’!   Additional details can be found in a previous blog post about 3 new books & Branches Book Club…May God continue to bless you, Matthew and  Nancy, your family, and your ministry with Blessed Earth. www.blessedearth.org )

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HELP! My Calendar is Controlling ME!!! (Beating Busyness – Part 3 of 4)

Death hovered.  Old Man’s chest barely rose, each breath seeming to perhaps, be his last.

Suddenly, an irresistible aroma wafted its’ way up the stairs, straight into his bedroom.  Miraculously, bolting upright, Old Man swung his legs over the side of the bed, planted his bony feet on the cold, hardwood floor, and walked down the stairs!

There, with her old floral apron on, stood his wife of many decades, baking dozens of chocolate chip cookies.  “Am I in Heaven?”  Old Man wondered while approaching the counter.

The following sensation was not from savoring the mouth-watering aroma, but from a sharp, searing pain shooting thru’ his hand.  Seems Old Man’s wife flailed a brisk “Whack!” with the spatula across his hand!

“Stop!” she cried.  “These are for the funeral!”

(Story adapted from Overcoming Overload—Seven Ways to Find Rest in Your Chaotic World by Steve and Mary Farrar.)

Overcoming Overload

Shocked?  I’m thinking the wife can’t see the forest for the trees!  She must have been just a tad overloaded.

Poor Old Man probably died without having one last chocolate chip cookie.

Tragic.

Ironically, we find ourselves in similar scenarios without recognizing overload.  Today we’re going to address controlling our calendars vs. our calendars controlling us. 

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David C. McCasland said, “Altho’ people will pay to fix their stress, they are not about to change the lifestyle that’s causing it.”  Ouch.

Let’s try an experiment:  Picture yourself in line in the grocery store.  An elderly lady is told her total by the clerk, and then, for more than a few minutes , she hunts thru’ her purse for her checkbook.  Upon finding it, she then spends more than a few minutes hunting for a pen.  Writing in very neat, slow-but-sure cursive, she dots all her ‘i’s and crosses all her ‘t’s.  Double checking her spelling, the amount, etc., she then finally hands over the check.

Next in line, how are YOU behaving?  Are you tapping your foot impatiently, checking your watch?  That would be an affirmative from yours truly.

In our rat race, why doesn’t everyone whip out the credit card, swipe it instantaneously, grab their receipt and run?  Who has time to wait in line?  Don’t we all have people to see, places to go, hurry, hurry, hurry?

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Beth Moore just assigned a fitting Scripture to memorize on her January 25th post of her blog, www.blog.lproof.org   It’s from Isaiah 30:15-18.  Verse 15 in particular sounds like God’s been watching us scurry:  “Your salvation requires you to TURN BACK TO ME and STOP YOUR SILLY EFFORTS to save yourselves.  Your strength will come from SETTLING DOWN in COMPLETE DEPENDENCE ON ME.  The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.” (from The Message)  Anyone besides me need to just settle down?

The grocery store scenario came from Dee Brestin’s  book  Idol Lies–Facing the Truth About Our Deepest Desires.  She addresses our desperate need to recognize and squelch our idols.  For example:  “When I exaggerate to make myself look better in the eyes of others, I am bowing down to approval.  When I overeat, I’m bowing down to comfort.  When it’s more important to be a successful Christian wife, or mother, or author, I’m finding my identity in those things, not in Christ, moving me away from God and toward my crouching idols.”  Busted on all accounts.

Idol Lies

Back to the grocery store scenario, when we find ourselves irritated over having to wait, our idol is our agendas. Dee suggests, “First, confess that you are NOT more important than the elderly lady ahead of you.”

Remember, God loves that person just as much as He loves us. Sweet Dot Weaver, God rest her soul, used to always tell us:  “You may be the only Bible someone ever ‘reads’.”

Dee adds, “We must embrace BOTH parts of the gospel:  repentance and faith.  The first part of the gospel helps us see our sin, and the second part helps us move forward in faith, trusting God.”

So HOW exactly, can we control our calendars and not have them control us?  How can we ban the idol of our agendas?

Last week, I gave you a few suggestions (see info’ in post “Don’t Miss Liz Higgs.”…), one of which addresses balance in our lives.   Our margin guru, Richard A. Swenson, MD, also wrote, The Overload Syndrome—Learning to Live Within Your Limits.  This perpetual resource has a mere one hundred and seventy-five “prescriptions” for maintaining balance: controlling change and stress, hurry and fatigue, debt, possessions, work, media overload, choice and decision, active commitments, etc.!!!

The Overload Syndrom

He pleads:  “Each of us has 86,400 seconds per day. If we schedule ourselves for 90,000 seconds per day, we’re double booked, skipping lunch, dead tired at the end of the day. But, if we build some margin into the schedule, a buffer, a short coffee break for the soul,” we’d be so much better off!

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Henri Nouwen explains the idea of margin and white space for us:  “In the spiritual life, the word discipline means the effort to create some space in which God can act.  Discipline means to PREVENT everything in your life from being filled up…”

 In other words, say “no” more than you say “yes”.   Swenson offers:   “When you get up in the morning, what is it you wish to do today?  And one hundred years from now, what is it you’ll wish you would have done today?  Do the latter.”

“Every day we fill our lives with things to do that weigh nothing on the scales of eternity.”  Sit on that for a minute… That decked me flat.

Balance

Confession:  I am famous for struggling with guilt.  Pitiful-poor-people-pleaser that I am, guilt is exactly what gets me into trouble, causing me to say “yes” when I mean “no”, overfilling my calendar.  At the end of the day, please answer me this:  WHO is the one who fills in your calendar?

Now, I know some entries are unavoidable such as sports events for your children.  Stress dominated me, then trickled down to our family when our middle son played on the high school golf team.  They had tournaments  all over the State of Kentucky.  One weekend we’d be in Pikeville and the next in Paducah.  Living in Louisville, those cities are several hours away.

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I’ll be the first to tell you I wish I’d savored my time with our son and the team more.  I loved and still love watching him play, but only occasionally did John and I both get to go. (Can’t forget our two other boys who also had games in either basketball, soccer, or football.)

Many times we had to “divide and conquer,” another unhealthy thing for today’s family.  (We could spend a week on that topic!) Plus, I had zero knowledge  of margin back then.  Honestly, the stress more than trickled…more like bull-dozed!

Good News!  Mary Byers wrote a must-read for us gotta-do-it-all womenHow to Say No and Live to Tell About It—A Woman’s Guide to Guilt-Free Decisions.  She begins,  “’No’ is such a little word.  Just  two letters.  And yet I’ve seen women lose sleep over the prospect of having to say it.”!!! Anybody???

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May we heed Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you  rest.”

We can TAKE ACTION today by creating a “no-asis”.  Mary’s definition sounds like another lesson on margin:  “The purpose of creating a noasis is to ensure you have resting places in your life that will slow you down and help you catch up to yourself.

Those resting places are white spaces (that’s margin!) in your calendars.  Mary wisely reminds us it was Jesus himself who intentionally “withdrew to lonely places and prayed  (Luke 5:16).  Jesus obviously recognized the value of rest and refreshment.” 

In Mark 6:31, Jesus is found talking  to his Apostles, “…because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a QUIET PLACE AND GET SOME REST.’”

 Fun Ideas from Mary to Nurture a “No-asis”:

  • A hot bath
  • A walk around the block alone
  • A morning latte in the sunshine
  •  Reading in a park  on your lunch hour
  • Lighting candles and sitting quietly (Remember our “arrow prayers?”  See…Beating Busyness Part 2 of 4) Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  More of that settling down…
  • A massage, manicure, or pedicure
  •  Dinner or lunch out with a friend
  • A ‘free zone’ (time with your family where the kids agree not to ask for anything or argue with anyone)”—Boy, I missed the boat on this one.  Tell me if this works for you, those of you with young kiddos still at home?
  • My personal favorite:  “Putting yourself in ‘time out’ (Remember experts recommend that you get one minute for each year of your age!!!)”  Ha!  This is the BEST!  ONE way your age works FOR you!
  •  Journaling” (see journaling….Also part 2 of 4)
  • Turning radio off in the car

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 As you can see, we could go on and on with this.  My prayer for all of us would be:  purposely be intentional when adding to our calendars.

Pause-n- pray BEFORE you pen.

                Pause-n-pray BEFORE you pen.

                                Pause-n-pray BEFORE you  pen.

                                                Pause-n-pray BEFORE you pen.

Bottom Line:  It is God, not ourselves, who will ultimately receive the Glory when we are rested, peaceful, AND in control of our calendars.

And, unlike Old Man, may we find time to savor a warm, chocolate chip cookie!

‘Til  next time!

(This week’s blog post is dedicated to the “Queen of the Calendar”, a/k/a my friend Jayne Combs.  She’s a retired teacher.  She keeps our group of friends connected.  She’s who I spoke of in an earlier post–“Sure Cure for a Bah Humbug Attitude“.  She shoots us emails with “Random Dinner” in the subject line.  When we do gather, we’re instructed to bring our calendars so we can set a future get-together.  Jayne keeps us all sane and because we’re all aging, trust me, THAT’s a very good thing indeed! Love you bunches, Miss Jayne! )

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Don’t Miss Liz Curtis Higgs*, LIVE!!! NEXT Monday January 28th, at Book Club! (Beating Busyness Part 3 coming next week…)

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*Here’s an event you do NOT want to miss if you’re anywhere near Louisville, Kentucky next MONDAY, January 28th, from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. !!! Liz Curtis Higgs will come and speak to us at Book Club! She’s coming to Middletown United Methodist Church on 11902 Old Shelbyville Road.  You may RSVP at (502) 245-8839.  Everyone is welcome.

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Liz  will be discussing and signing her newest novella, A Wreath of Snow.  You may also ask her questions.  If you’ve never been blessed to meet her or hear her speak, NOW’s the time to grab this opportunity!  She gives God the glory while making you laugh and cry at the same time.

You’ll experience one of my all-time favorite Scriptures:  Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the day approaching.”

You may  bring a treat to eat if time allows.  Come join us for food, fellowship, and  a time of learning from Liz Curtis Higgs. (Please see blog post about Branches Book Club for more information.)

Yes, well, uh, I know I owe you part 3 of Beating Busyness this week, but guess what?  I’d be the hugest hypocrite on the planet if I even attempted to write about this, this week…

John and I’ve been blessed to have two of our three boys home this weekend so the washer and dryer’s been a whirlin’, the iron’s been hot (and THAT’s a miracle in and of itself as I’ll do ANYTHING to NOT iron!!!), even the stove’s been hot!  Scary!  Cooking and ironing by this domestically challenged girl?  Really?

the boys

Bonus:  While we’re on this “detour”, or perhaps we should call it a “pause” as in a “margin stop”, allow me to offer you a fun-and-easy-kid-friendly dessert when we finish. **

Ahhhh, but you KNOW if you have older children, when they do return to the nest, you want to do all you can on these rare occasions to spoil them.  Thence this is the first moment I’ve had to sit down to the computer. (Today’s Martin Luther King day and it’s 5:00 p.m.!!!)

That being said, during a few minutes of margin, I’ve been studying up on our part 3 of 4 of Beating Busyness and it just so happens it’s about our calendars controlling us.  Just so happens my calendar’s controlling me this week. (I confessed to you in part 1 I’m preaching to the choir…)

There’s a stack of books, all excellent resources, currently staring at me. I’m staring back at them.  Note Gracie “helping” me below… Next week, I’ll be sharing some of these along with some crazy stories.

Eliz and Gracie

What I DO want to offer us all this week, are a few Points- to- Ponder regarding  controlling our calendars.  Then we’ll be ready next week when we tackle them.

Recommendations for us to help us control our calendars: Try  choosing just one this week to ready you for next week!

Where can you make more “white space” (margin) in your calendar?

Learn to say “no” …(We’re going to get some advice from Mary and  her hilarious-but-also-helpful book…) 41L0o5HgqtL__SL500_AA300_

Mark in specific time for yourself—whether it’s a nap, time to read a book, manicure, pedicure, whatever.

Take a coffee break and/or take a bubble bath.

Do the math:  Do you really have TIME for everything in your calendar?

Stop and pray:  Pray for balance, and Pray to ban overload.

I’ll be praying for ALL of you, myself included this week!

**Fun-and-Easy-Kid-Friendly Dessert:

This past Sunday night, we threw together a last-minute dinner for a crew of nine.  Keep in mind our boys are now 26, almost 23, and 20.  When they saw this dessert chillin’ in the frig, I nearly had to lock the refrigerator door!  I hadn’t made this in forever . We whipped it up in no time flat.

Gordy calls it “Matches Made in Heaven”, but I’d probably dub it “Layered Pudding and Cookies Dessert”, while Husband John calls it “Awesome”!

dessert

Here’s what you need:

2 small boxes of instant vanilla pudding

Bag of marshmallows

Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 packages of Pepperidge Farm Double Chocolate Nantucket Dark Chocolate Cookies (or the chocolate chip cookie of your choice)

Large container of Cool Whip

You’ll want to layer this in a trifle dish.

So this happens really fast:  Mix up the pudding and milk according to directions.  Whisk for a few minutes ‘til farily thickened.  Break up pieces of chocolate chip cookies for the bottom layer.  Then pour in pudding to cover.  Then sprinkle marshmallows over pudding.  Then add a layer of Cool Whip.  Then  add a generous layer of chocolate chips (chocolate lover that I am).  Repeat all layers one more time, ending with the Cool Whip and chocolate chips.

Chill in the frig for at least an hour before serving.  Serve with a ladle and bowls.  This vanishes fast!  There were nine of us for dinner last night and we didn’t leave too much!  (You can make this to your liking, adding other layers—we later said bananas would have been yummy. Get creative!)

‘Til  next time!

(This week’s blog post is dedicated to The Energizer Bunny.  Seriously.  I’m crashing.  Just  need a little re-charge.  Tired,  but a good-tired.  Lovin’ the  Mom thing.  Thanks for grace and your patience.  See y’all next week!)

Don’t forget Jesus’ invitation from Matthew 11:28 “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

R-E-S-T…..ahhhh…and THAT’s what we’ll talk about next week!

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But, I Don’t Have TIME to Pray! (Beating Busyness – Part 2 of 4)

How do you say “no” to one of your children’s teachers?  I was pondering a big “no thank you” when one of our son’s teachers called the parents in and drove a hard bargain.  She asked each of us to sign up for a weekly visit to teach memory verses!   A gargantuan deer-in-the-headlights expression consumed my face.  Problem is, I’ve been known to fear Scripture memory*, much less teach it!

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At the time, these were fifth graders, so what’s the big deal, right?  But…. fifth graders are pretty savvy.  Plus I discovered the simple-but-endearing verse “Jesus wept” had already been taught!  Bust!

Good news:  I Thessalonians 5:17 had not yet been taught, and it too was only two words! (“Pray continually.”)  Powerful verse, pitifully coward-like attempt on my part, I know, but that’s the exact verse I marched in with.

I took blue pieces of paper (to remind us of a blue sky) and taught these little darlings what an “arrow prayer” is.  We all drew arrows pointing heavenward, and recited “Pray continually” together.  We talked about the letter “a” also standing for “ambulance” and how we can shoot up arrow prayers for the patient inside when we see an ambulance.

These astute learners added the  letter “a” also can stand for being on the” alert” for anything or anyone who may need a quick arrow prayer.  They even came up with “a” for “antennae”—as in we should have our antennae up!  Who was teaching who here?!!!

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This week, we’re going to address Beating Busyness by applying margin to our lives in the area of prayer.  Last week we talked at length about margin (But I Don’t Have TIME for a Bible Study!), learning margin is the space between our load and our limits.

When we spread ourselves too thin, we push out God and our closest relationships.  Best news: margin beats busyness and we’re discussing four ways, one each week, to do that.

Many of us claim there’s not enough time in the day to add prayer to our list, but I’d like to show us all it is very possible.  Our friends and family will be blessed!

When asked about the secret of his evangelistic crusades, Billy Graham said, “We have three secrets:  Prayer, Prayer and Prayer!”

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Let’s begin by praying for a friend near and dear to my heart.  Many of you know Kristen Sauder.  She’s my younger-but-wiser friend, is married to Kurt and they have four children.  She’s written excellent Bible studies, hosts a wonderful radio program (“Excellent Things”, weekdays here in Louisville on WFIA FM…), is a gifted speaker, and teacher.  She’s recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Lord, we come before you today to lift up Kristen and Kurt Sauder.  You have gifted them to minister to so many of us.  Please guide the doctors, aid the radiation to diminish the cancer, strengthen Kristen to endure, comfort her family, and enable us to minister to them.  We praise you that you are in control and we trust in you.  In  Jesus’ name, Amen.

 Kristen Sauder

That’s more than an arrow prayer, obviously, but just that paragraph took only eight seconds.  See how this can be done?  We all can help so many by praying for them.  I Kings 8:28 says “God listens to our prayers.”  And Proverbs 15:8 tells  us “God delights in our prayers.” (See below for more Scripture on prayer.**)

Bill Hybels wrote an excellent book on prayer called Too Busy Not to Pray.  In his chapter Slowing Down to Pray, Bill  says “Busyness is akin to something the Bible calls worldliness—getting caught up with society’s agenda, objectives and activities to the neglect of walking with God. ”  Whoa.  Surely we don’t mean to neglect God, do we?

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Therefore, taking time to pray is paramount to our Christian lives.   Bill adds, “Prayer unlocks God’s consistent and prevailing power in our lives. Prayer is a bridge from despair to hope, from fear to confidence, from spectating  to participating.

Bill offers another excellent tool for prayer beyond an arrow prayer.  He highly recommends, as do many of my faithful prayer warrior friends, keeping a journal.  Am I hearing some of you groan?

Journals aren’t for everyone, so not to worry.  However, if you like seeing answered prayer, this is the way to go.  You’ll then realize the value and power of prayer.  NOTHING is impossible with God! (See Luke 1;36-38 in The Message.)

Writing journal and pen

Journaling slows you down long enough to think about  for whom and for what to pray.  “Journaling  gives the body a brief rest.”  (We’ll be talking more about the importance of “rest” in a couple of weeks.) “Journaling focuses the mind and frees the Holy Spirit to operate, if only for a few minutes.  It’s time to slow down, reflect, and listen.”

One of many favorite books on prayer is Catherine Martin’s Passionate Prayer—Discovering the Power of Talking with God.  Catherine really feels strongly about taking the time to pray.  She says, “Step away from the life of hurry and find the rhythm of walking and talking with Jesus.”

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She talks about “When someone asks how we are doing, our response of ‘fine’ really means:

“Fine”  according to the  world:  Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.”  Uh, that would be me on occasion.  You?

“Fine”  according to our prayer livesFaithful to God, Inspired by Him, Nourished by the Word, Empowered by the Holy Spirit.”  Slight difference, huh?

Savor these words from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6-7:   Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

Dave Stone, Senior Minister at Southeast Christian Church preached an excellent sermon recently on the above verses plus a few more.  He maintains our focus is key to navigating this world.  He showed us in Philippians that Paul did not allow the world to change his focus.  (To watch the sermon, “Live With It:  Focus”, go to www.southeastchristian.org )

The Life Application Bible says, “Paul’s advice is to turn our worries into prayers.  Do you want to worry less?  Then pray moreWhenever you start to worry, stop and pray.”

Catherine Martin adds, “When we pray, the world can see the change in who we are and what we do.  Enriching our lives of prayer is WORTH the time and energy.”

Next time you tell yourself you don’t have time to pray, take a second, literally, and ask God to help you.  Talk  to Him.  See from James 4:8** below that when we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.

Finally, let’s return to that hammock picture from last week.

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Look at it, picture yourself lying in it, swinging back and forth with a lovely warm breeze in your hair.  Now,  enjoy this visual from Ole Hallesby, a Norwegian theologian:  “To pray is nothing more involved than to lie in the sunshine of His grace, to expose our distress of body and soul to those healing rays which can in a wonderful way counteract and render ineffective the bacteria of sin.  To be a man or woman of prayer is to take this sun-cure, to give Jesus, with His wonderworking power access to our distress night and day.”

Next week, we’ll be discussing the need to diligently guard our calendars.  White space in your calendar equals more margin in your life.

‘Til  next time!

(Today’s blog post is dedicated to my prayer warriors:  Becky Pippert, Jane Chilton and Doris Bridgman.  They’ve taught this “Doubting Thomas”  the power of persistent, unrelenting prayer.  Numerous times over the years, they’ve been a life-preserver to my sanity, all by simply offering to pray.  Thanks, girls!  Love y’all.)

Prayer Warriors

*Three  great resources on Scripture memory:

Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts  is memorizing one hundred and eleven verses from Matthew 5,6, and 7, plus has the Romans Project on Chapters  1, 8, and 12.  She’s giving us, the readers, great ways to do this on her blog:  www.aholyexperience.com plus she shares about a new i-phone app called Scripture Typer.  Check it out!

One Thousand Gifts

Rob Morgan has authored an excellent book 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart.  Billy Graham talks about Rob and this book in his book, Nearing Home.  Both are powerful.

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 Kristen Sauder, whom we prayed for earlier, wrote a super neat Picture Scripture:  Bible Memory Like You’ve Never Seen it Before notebook with excellent visuals, depicting lots of Scriptures. Great  way to memorize. You can find this via www.furtherstillministries.org

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**A few favorite Scriptures on prayer:

 James 4:8a  “ Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (This and all the below Scriptures are in the  NIV version.)  The NLT from James 4:8a says, “Come close to God and he will come close to you.” And the NKJ says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all  the Lord’s people.”

Luke 18:1  “ Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Matthew 18:20  For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Colossians 4:2   “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

James 5:16  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Romans 8:26 “In the same way, the spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

 

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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…

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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:

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“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?)

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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

Brave — Honest Questions Women Ask by Angela Thomas

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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

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