Building Margin – Week 1, Day 3

Daily Scripture Reading:

Isaiah 30:15-16 “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused and said, ‘No! We will flee upon horses’ – therefore you shall flee! and, ‘We will ride upon swift steeds’ – therefore your pursuers shall be swift!”

“Come on, people! We’ve got places to be!” No, this was not me yelling at traffic but the voice of my son, Will, yelling from the booster seat in the back of the car. He was 7 or 8 years old and he was only repeating what he had heard someone say. His mother most likely.

I was probably late for something. Maybe I had thrown one more load of laundry in the washer before I left the house. Maybe I had talked on the phone a little too long. Maybe I hadn’t allowed time for getting a child, his stuff, my stuff and myself out of the house. Whatever the reason, I was in a rush.

And I was teaching my son to rush.

Isaiah spoke of our salvation coming from rest and returning to God. He spoke of quietness and trust as our strength. He said, however, that we refuse this salvation and strength by fleeing and riding away swiftly. We rush, we speed and we reap the consequences.

Building margin into our lives helps us make room for calmer spirits. It teaches us to return to God for our strength. It also helps us set more peaceful examples for others. You never know who’s listening.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for your calming presence in my life. Forgive me, Lord, when I rush instead of seeking your peace and your salvation. I don’t allow the time that is needed to move peacefully through life. Forgive me when my lack of margin in my own life affects the lives of others. Teach me this day to trust You in all areas of my life. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.

Reflection Question and/or Application for the Day:

Think about your week. Would you say that you have had a calm week? Have you rushed from place to place? Have you sensed God’s presence throughout your days?

What can you do today that will give you a sense of God’s presence in a deeper way?

Suggestions:

Keep a brief prayer in your mind that draws you back to God. (Examples: God, be my strength or God, be my peace)

Memorize a verse of Scripture:

Is 30:15 – “In quietness and in trust shall be my strength.”

Prov 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.”

 

Devotion from Building Margin for a Balanced Life, devotional book, small group study and sermon series

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

All rights reserved

Building Margin – Week 1, Day 2

Daily Scripture Reading:

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 – “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.”

“Life is like cross-stitch.”

No, this is not a line that you missed in the Academy Award winner, Forrest Gump. Forrest said “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” [1]

“Life is like cross-stitch” is my observation based on life and my experience with this needle-craft, strands of colored thread stitched in a pattern of X’s in special fabric, woven to create a picture.

Cross-stitch is two-sided. One side is the creative picture. The other side of the project shows the “real” work: the changing of threads, the underside of the French knots that look great on one side but not so much on the other side, the pull of the thread from one place on the picture to another place. If you are not careful, the underside can get pulled and stretched in a way that distorts the picture on the other side. Dark threads that are supposed to be hidden can too easily show through the lighter fabric. Threads become tangled. Stitches become undone. When the project is complete, I’m happy to show you the “picture” side, but would prefer you not turn it over.

And thus is life. We look good on one side but we’d rather that folks not look too closely underneath.

It’s so easy to get pulled and stretched. We move from one project to another. Our lives get distorted. Our lives get tangled. Our threads get loose. We become undone.

Margin creates space for us to move through life less pulled, less stretched, less tangled, less undone. Margin gives us room to breathe – to enjoy the moments of life. Most importantly, margin creates space for God to speak, for us to listen, and for His life to be shown in our lives.

Prayer: Lord, some days I just feel pulled, stretched, almost undone. Show me, Lord Jesus, what I need to change so that just for today, I will reflect your work in my life. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Reflection Question for the Day:

Is there an area of your life that is becoming distorted? What one action can you do differently today that will cause you to be less pulled, less stretched?

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[1] Forest Gump, movie released in 1994.

Devotion from Building Margin for a Balanced Life, devotional book, small group study and sermon series

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

All rights reserved

Photo by Jon Strother

Building Margin – Week 1, Day 1

Daily Scripture Reading:

Read Genesis 1:14-19

vs. 14 – “And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years. . .

vs. 19 – “And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.”

Psalm 31:14-15a – “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand.”

It’s weird. When I was a little girl, I thought Christmas and my birthday would never arrive. Now vacations are the slow arriving occurrences and the birthdays just come quicker and quicker. How does that happen?

Today, I sometimes find myself thinking “if only there were more than 24 hours in a day. . .”

I’m sure that no matter how many hours are in a day – 24 or 44 – the time would fly by. The question for me and maybe for you is: how are we spending that time? Are we enjoying the moments, serving God and bringing God glory in our lives, or are we just going through the motions?

The Greeks had 2 words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos is the actual time – the “punching the clock” time. Kairos is the special time that is more than an hour or a second. It’s that moment that we can describe as God’s time.

Building margin into our lives helps us turn more of our chronos time into kairos time. It gives us more time to love God, serve God and care for our neighbor.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the gift of time – time to enjoy You and serve You, time to enjoy my family and friends, time to work and to play. Forgive me, Lord, when I wish time away or get so lost in the rush of time, that I don’t enjoy the moments. Help me, Lord, to use this day to your glory. Give me space to hear You and the will to follow You this day. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Reflection Questions and/or Application for the Day:

How do you view time – rushing through life or enjoying the moments?

Are you living in the past, burdened by regret or longing for the “good ole days”? Are you living in the future, waiting for the better job, waiting for graduation, waiting for . . . whatever? Are you rushing through life?

If so, in what ways are you doing this?

What one change can you make today that will help you enjoy the moments of time that God has given us? How can you turn chronos time into kairos time?

Devotion from Building Margin for a Balanced Life, devotional book, small group study and sermon series

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

All rights reserved

Introduction – Building Margin

Margin:

1. the space around the printed or written matter on a page.

2.  an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary.

3.  a  limit in condition, capacity, etc. beyond or below which something ceases to exist, be desirable or be possible.
a border or edge.[1]
Mrs. Hicks, my second grade teacher, taught me that I should never write in the margin. There had to be white space on all my work – basically an inch of margin on the left, an inch on the right, an inch at the top and a little at the bottom. Never write in the margin. You HAD to have a margin. I didn’t know why. I just knew that if you did write in it, she didn’t like it and would use the red pencil to let you know it!

In college, the same rules applied but now there was the tricky problem of setting the tabs on the typewriter so that you had margin. (For those of you who’ve never used a typewriter, well . . . you’ve missed a great experience!)

By the time I went to seminary, I had a computer and with this great invention, I could easily set the margins. The GREATEST thing about this tool was the ability to turn a 4-page paper into the required 5-page paper by increasing a 1-inch margin to 1.5 inch. You could also decrease the margin if you had been too verbose. This is more my problem these days.

Margin. Important in writing. Crucial in life.

Richard A. Swenson, M.D. writes in his book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, “Margin is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating. It is the leeway we once had between ourselves and our limits.” [2]

Margin is crucial in our lives. No margin leaves us running from one activity to the next. Not enough margin means our energy reserves are used up quickly and we struggle to make it from day to day.

Why is margin so important? Researchers, counselors, and physicians can give you many reasons. I can only tell you what I know to be true in my own life.

Twelve or so years ago, I reached the bottom of a very dark pit. I was running from activity to activity. Working in the church, trying to be the best parent I could be to our son and the best wife I could be to my husband, smiling as best I could, inwardly though, I was falling apart. I tried to hide it. I did an okay job at the church but at home, not so much. Noah, my husband, frequently said to me: “Trish, I’m worried about you.” But my response: “Oh, I’m fine!” But you can only say that for so long. Eventually I could hide it no longer.

I was spent. I had no reserve. I wondered how I, an ordained minister, could feel so far from God. “Where are you, Lord?” Shouldn’t I be able to pray more and pull myself up from this “dark night of the soul”?[3]

But it wasn’t that easy. Diagnosis? Clinical depression. Prescription? Therapy, medicine, rest, prayer.

I didn’t get well overnight. It took a long time. (One day, there will be another book that will tell the story of my journey. Not this one.)

Seeking to stay “well” continues today. And that’s why margin is so important to me. I KNOW that when I don’t have margin in my life, the reserves get emptied quickly. When there is no margin – no room, for rest – no room for renewal – I see the signs of wear and tear on my soul.

My lack of margin did not cause my clinical depression. I know clinical depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. BUT margin helps me to be a healthier self – for God, for my family, for me. It helps me serve God fully and faithfully. God’s desire is that we have the abundant life that Jesus talked about in John 10:10: “I come that they might have life and have it abundantly.”

Joyce Rupp, a member of the Servite community (Servants of Mary), published this reflection some 30 years ago that summed up the need for margin in my life:

Can it be?

Have I for so long

Forgotten to feed myself?

Yes.

For nigh a year now

I was slowly starving

Getting lost in busy days,

Tossing aside the hunger

That chewed away inside.

Yet, I did not die.

By some quiet miracle

I made it to this moment

Of truth:

I nearly starved to death.

It was not my body

That I failed to feed.

It was my spirit,

Left alone for days

Without nourishment or care.

And then one day

I paused to look within,

Shocked at what I found:

So thin of faith,

So weak of understanding.

My starving spirit cried the truth:

I can!

I will!

I must

Be fed! [4]

How’s the margin in your life?

How’s the margin in your finances? Are you living on the edge of your reserves? How about your moral margin? Flirting with disaster or keeping a safe distance?

How about your family’s margin? Do you meet each other in the driveway, all going in different directions?

How about your margin for God? Is God getting what’s left over or are you deliberately creating space for God?

Margin is that space in our lives in which we are fed, renewed, and restored. Margin is that space that keeps balance in all areas of our lives.

Why do we try to do without it? Mrs. Hicks told me I needed it, and aren’t our 2nd grade teachers always right?

– Trish

Introduction from devotional book Building Margin for a Balanced Life, part of the current sermon and small group series at Pine Valley UMC

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

All rights reserved

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[1] http://www.dictionary.reference.com

[2] Swenson, Richard. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 1992.

[3] Reference to poem and treatise, The Dark Night of the Soul, written by 16th century Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic, Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591).

[4] Rupp, Joyce. Fresh Bread and Other Gifts of Spiritual Nourishment. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1985.

Building Margin for a Balanced Life

Giving up chocolate today?  Maybe no Facebook for a while?  No fast food?  Today the Church begins the season of Lent, 40 days prior to Easter (not counting Sundays), in which we examine, reflect, or ponder our discipleship as Christ’s followers.  In observance of Lent, some of you may “give up” something for these 40 days.  Some of you may “take on” something – maybe getting up earlier for more intentional time with God, maybe donating the cost of your daily specialty coffee to a mission.

I would like to invite you to “take on” something by participating in Pine Valley UMC’s new sermon and devotional series.  Tim Reaves, lead pastor at PVUMC, and I have put together a new study called “Building Margin for a Balanced Life”.   We combined our teaching and preaching experience on this topic and produced a 5 week sermon and small group series.  I wrote the devotional book to go along with the sermon series.

Beginning Sunday, February 14, Tim or I will preach on a particular type of margin.  If you’re interested in hearing the sermon, you can download the audio and/or video by early in the week from our church website www.pvumc.net.  Then starting Monday, February 15, I will post a devotion each weekday through March 18.

Margin is so needed in our busy lives today.  Not just so that we have time for more activities but so that we can more faithfully love and serve God.  More on that tomorrow. . . . stay tuned!

A Place to Sit

I love my new sitting room. What do I do there? Mostly just sit . . . think . . . ponder . . . read . . . write . . . pray.

I never knew how much I’d enjoy this new room. It’s really not a new room – just an old room that has changed its function. Several weeks ago, I enlisted the creativity and know-how of my decorating friend. In 2 days, we changed 2 old rooms in our house into 2 new rooms, complete with a change of furniture, paint and purpose. The old living room became the new dining room. The old dining room became the new sitting room.

It’s a much better use of space. I don’t know why we hadn’t done it before now.

Now I have a place to sit and ponder . . .

And there’s so much to ponder. It seems at every turn God has been stirring something within me.

Maybe it’s the “Second Half of Life” questions (Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward) from a recent retreat:

Who am I?

Where do I belong?

What do I care about?

What is my life’s purpose?

Maybe it’s the challenge of the speakers at Catalyst:

“Be a student, not a critic.”   – Andy Stanley

“When you own your story, you get to write the ending.” – Brene Brown

“Do not miss your moment! What God is speaking into your heart now may be for a moment down the road.” – Margaret Feinbeck

“We should be more focused on God’s sufficiency than our insufficiency.” – Louie Giglio

One thing is certain: being still is necessary for me to understand the stirrings of God in my heart.

Thank you, God, for a place to sit.

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.”

Psalm 66:12b – “You have brought us out to a spacious place” (NRSV)

                            “You brought us to a place of abundance” (NIV)

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Question to readers: Where is your “place” to hear God’s voice in your life?

Comment here or send me an email.

Seeing Potential

Shed with Potential

I admit it. I am a Fixer Upper fan – the HGTV show that features Chip and Joanna Gaines and their gifts to turn a house that might be a realtor’s problem listing into a beautiful home someone will love for years to come.

I love to watch the transformation: tear down walls, open up space, install new appliances, install French doors, re-do the master bath . . . it’s enough to make me want to move to Waco that so that Chip and Joanna can redo a home for me!

Chip and Joanna have the ability to see potential.

Reminds me of a conversation with my dad at an auction:

Daddy: “Why would you want that, Trish?”

Me: “Because it has potential” . . . my reasoning for buying an old table or a well-worn chair.

This old building (above) sits behind my parents’ home. It has looked this way as long as I can remember. My dad has occasionally said he should tear it down to which I respond: “NO! It has potential.” I know that it could use some paint and maybe a new board or two but I really like it just the way it is.

For me, it represents potential. It’s not the outside. It’s what’s on the inside: Daddy’s tools, his years of working out in “his building” fixing something, building something, reworking something or just piddlin’.

God sees potential. He doesn’t care about the outside but sees deep inside. He looks at us: “oh, yes, I can work with her. I’m not concerned with the outside. I am more concerned with the inside. I can work with brokenness, torn lives, imperfections, damaged souls . . . I do my best work in these situations!”

Thank you, Lord, that You see our potential. Thank you, Lord, that You see it even when we can’t.

Blog entry is part of my sermon “Soul Improvement: A Work in Progress”, preached Sept 6, 2015. If interested in full sermon, audio and/or video found at www.pvumc.net.  If not interested, I will get over it.