July 20, 2009
I am a pretty prolific reader, but if I had to choose the three most influential books I have ever read (with the scriptures in a category by themselves!), I would mention Knowing God by J.I. Packer, The Green Letters by Miles J. Stanford and Margin by Richard A. Swenson.
Knowing God introduced me to thinking “big thoughts” about God and His demands on me. The Green Letters caused me to want to grow much further in grace than my flesh was comfortable with. And Margin was perhaps the first Christian book that really “got in my face” with a practical look at how to live a life committed to Christ. I have re-read that book several times, given away many copies and taught the material on many occasion.
I think the reason Margin has had such an important impact on my life is that it directly confronts one of my biggest struggles. I am often too busy and generally overloaded most of the time. I am not a good “rester” and I tend to see multitasking as a special gift from God. I like lists. I especially like lists with lots of things crossed off. And Swenson writes with me (and maybe you) in mind.
The main premise of the book is that God intended for there to be reasonable margins in our lives. A margin is that space that exists between yourself and your limits. It’s a buffer that creates space for the unexpected. It is a physical, emotional, professional and spiritual allowance that provides reserves for our overloaded lives.
Swenson urges us to restore time margins to our modern living. He suggests adding an extra 20% of time to our schedules, leaving room for the surprises of daily living. He gives practical suggestions about how to force ourselves to slow down. He highlights the importance of taking a lunch break, eating more slowly, parking out in the far lot so we can enjoy a brief walk to the building and so on.
He also suggests that we learn to practice simplicity and contentment. We need to recognize unnecessary possessions for what they are…stealers of time and often modern day idols.
Swenson is a medical doctor and speaks authoritatively about the need for restoring margins for our physical and emotional energy. He suggests that we be intentional about cultivating a support system of believers who truly want to serve each other. He highlights the need for proper sleep and nutrition. And, he underscores the need to learn how to both laugh and cry liberally (Ecc. 3:4).
If you find yourself on the weary side this week, take heart. The Lord knew that Elijah was in just such a state in I Kings 19:1-8. Take a look at how God meet his very practical needs before He sent him back out to minister.
And consider picking up a copy of Margin… find a comfy couch…make yourself a cup of coffee and learn to rest a bit.
Warmest regards in Christ,
Sherry L. Worel
Stoneybrooke Christian Schools