INTRO

I’m Michael Brack- not the regular pastor, but one of the elders here. Jason was planning to be out of town today; and so he asked me to preach this Sunday. Of course this is his idea of a cruel joke that he picks the guy who might be worst at practicing the margin when it comes to time – to do this sermon.

And his plans changed a little, but he’s heard me preach before, so instead of subjecting himself to that, he thought he’d rather hang out with the little kids next door.

So the conversation goes like this so often. Hi, how are you? Oh man, I’m busy. It’s like this has become our identity, we say it so much. We used to just say “fine” and move on. But now we say we’re busy.   Inherently, the response comes with a mix of issues we’re communicating. We’re tired. We’re spread thin. We’re running around all the time trying to keep up. We have no margin. We’re stressed out about it. And we’re kind of proud of it.

You never hear, “how are you?” And someone responds. You know, I really don’t have much going on these days. I’m just kind of gliding through.   I’m kind of bored, actually.

We live in an age of unprecedented progress, opportunity, and leisure. So why are we so stressed out?

No less a figure than John Maynard Keynes, whose economic philosophies have been the dominant ones for the past 100 years in America, stated in the early 1930’s that “when we reach the point when the world produces all the goods that it needs in two days, as it inevitably will . . . we must turn our attention to what to do with our leisure.”

Around that same time, another leading futurist and labor expert wrote that the two-day work week was “inevitable” because of the simple fact that “the human being can only consume so much and no more.”

These guys obviously grossly underestimated the modern American’s capacity to consume stuff and fill our time. It’s as if the concept of manifest destiny has changed from spreading out from coast to coast, to acquiring everything from everywhere else.

In 1967, testimony was given before a Senate subcommittee claiming that by 1985, the average work week would be 22 hours. That’s the number of overtime hours for some of you.

We have more time-saving devices today than any of these futurists could have predicted.

Yet, between 1967 and 2000, the average annual hours worked in the US by a worker increased from 1716 to 1878.

What happened to all the progress?

Raise your hands – has anyone’s workload actually decreased because we have email?

Edison’s invention of the light bulb created the opportunity to be productive 24 hours a day, in much the same way our laptops and smart phones do today.

At the same time we’re working more, we have exponentiated the opportunities for leisure, entertainment, and hobbies.

We not only have soccer leagues, but we have select soccer, clinics, personal training time, tournaments, and related travel. Insert your favorite (sports) here.   And/or there’s band practice, choir practice, dance, voice, fantasy football, adult softball league, poker night, bunko, scrapbooking, college football, NFL, MNF, Thursday night football, Must See TV . . .

We have hundreds of television channels. If that weren’t enough, we now have billions of YouTube videos, blogs, webpages, etc.

And don’t get me started on anti-social media, Facebook, email, texting, cell phones, etc.

We also have a seemingly infinite number of causes to get behind.

Juvenile Diabetes, rainforests, booster club, child abuse, child trafficking, human trafficking, sex trafficking, saving the whales, dog abuse, ; breast cancer, starving children in Africa, China, Afghanistan, Austin, and Dripping Springs.

Does anyone else want to just curl up and take a nap?

THE SYMPTOM

The expectations and demands on our time are overwhelming.

In the first three weeks of school starting, we had 3 back-to-school nights. Choir meeting, G/T meeting, Volleyball meeting, dance meeting. Plus multiple tennis matches, a volleyball tournament, and volleyall matches. Oh, and dance picnic, choir picnic (which mercifully got rained out).

We have noticed that in our family, we say the words “real fast” all the time.

I got an email from my office leader in San Antonio. We hired a new drafter 6 months ago. The email read that Bernard is making big progress. When I handed him a stack of work to do, he asked me, “is this due today or yesterday?”

Expectations for how fast something can be done are spinning out of control.

What does this do to us? It makes us tired, cranky, irritable, angry, depressed.

When our lives are frantic and frenzied, we are more prone to anxiety, resentment, impatience, and irritability. So when your teenager comes at 10:00 and asks for help on their math homework (because they had soccer practice until 9:15), you react badly. And then we feel bad about reacting badly.

It eventually leads to despair.

We have no margin. Our load is greater than our limits when it comes to time. And at times we genuinely feel the heaviness of this burden. The wearing and tearing of our bodies, our spirits, our families, our communities.

And we develop this quiet sense of desperation, or we just resign ourselves to it, and tell ourselves “it’s just a season.” But the super-hot climate never seems to change, even though the seasons come and go.

Something’s got to give.

THE ANSWER

I’d like to look together this morning at what Moses had to say about this.

We’re going to look at Psalm 90 together. If you have a smart device, you can download the Bible App, search for a Live event and click on that; it has a few extra notes for the outline this morning. If you don’t have it, no worries.

Remember who Moses is. Moses was hand-picked by God to shepherd the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and into the promised land.   He talked directly with God. God gave him the 10 commandments.

We’re a lot like Moses and the Israelites as Christians – we’ve been rescued from the slavery of sin, but we haven’t yet made it to our final destination that God has promised.

In the middle of this waiting, this dry place, this passing of time, dealing with the consequences of their sin, but still very much in God’s hand and protection, Moses writes what we know as Psalm 90. It starts out very despondent, in awe of God’s power, and recognizing how small we are, and how our days are filled with trouble and sorrow, quickly pass by, and fly away. But something happens in the middle of this Psalm that transforms the outlook from one of despair to one of hope. Listen for it.

1               Lord, you have been our dwelling place

in all generations.

2               Before the mountains were brought forth,

or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3               You return man to dust

and say, “Return, O children of man!”

4               For a thousand years in your sight

are but as yesterday when it is past,

or as a watch in the night.

5               You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,

like grass that is renewed in the morning:

6               in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;

in the evening it fades and withers.

7               For we are brought to an end by your anger;

by your wrath we are dismayed.

8               You have set our iniquities before you,

our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9               For all our days pass away under your wrath;

we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

10            The years of our life are seventy,

or even by reason of strength eighty;

yet their span is but toil and trouble;

they are soon gone, and we fly away.

11            Who considers the power of your anger,

and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12            So teach us to number our days

that we may get a heart of wisdom.

13            Return, O Lord! How long?

Have pity on your servants!

14            Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,

that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

15            Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,

and for as many years as we have seen evil.

16            Let your work be shown to your servants,

and your glorious power to their children.

17            Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

and establish the work of our hands upon us;

yes, establish the work of our hands!

It starts out, and Moses is having a bad day. The days seem pointless.

V6 (Do you ever feel like you are refreshed briefly, only to have that feeling wither and fade? Like you just can’t get ahead?

V10 (Does time seem to fly? Do you feel like life is full of toil and trouble? And you’re just counting the days until you can get to the weekend, or to the next holiday or vacation, or maybe even just to heaven?)

But Did you hear the turning point? Check out verse 12, where it says, “teach us to number our days, so that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” The whole Psalm seems to hinge on this verse. Afterwards, we see God’s people reveling in his compassion, finding joy in the midst of their troubles, being satisfied by his unfailing love, recognizing the splendor of his creation and his intervention among people. They find favor and rest. And then the things we’re doing – the work of our hands – has meaning and bears fruit.

EPH 5

This concept of numbering our days – and the difference that makes – is echoed in Ephesians 5. Jason spoke last week about relationships and relational margin from the second half of Ephesians 5. But looking at the first half, you would see the same pattern we see in Psalm 90.

The chapter starts out with a recounting of the innumerable ways we mess up and sin, and the nasty, brutish and short nature of our lives as a result. But then we get to v 15 and 16 and it says:

Ephesians  5:15-16

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,

16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Do you hear that? Making the best use of our time . . sounds kinda like “numbering our days” . . .

Our outlook on time, and how we approach it apparently makes a difference in how we live, and on how we experience life.

The KJV has a wonderful translation of this phrase about making the best use of our time. It says:

REDEEMING THE TIME. I love that phrase That sounds really good to me. That sounds a lot better than simply passing the time in toil and trouble. What would that look like to redeem the time, I wonder?

Notice that just like in Psalm 90, it follows up the commentary about how we view time and what we do with it, with wisdom.

Wisdom – the practical application of truth in our lives (as we learned earlier this year in a previous sermon series), apparently is supposed to impact how we spend our time. Apparently, what God has to say in the Bible about time, should have actual, practical implications for what we do with time.

OUR RESPONSE

What does our wisdom tell us to do about this?? WHAT IS OUR TYPICAL WISE GUY RESPONSE TO DEALING WITH TIME and numbering our days, making the most of time?

We take charge, right?:

First, there’s TIME MANAGEMENT. Essentially, this means Using the calendar on our phones (or on our wall or daytimer for those who are still living in the flip phone world) to make sure we can cram everything into the schedule. No wasted motion. Efficiency. This is the engineer’s solution – that’s my solution.

But then since everything doesn’t fit, we practice multi-tasking, so we can get more things done at once. So I’m going to check my work email while I’m “watching my daughter’s volleyball match”, and call that little outing a “date” with my wife, because, after all, we are eating a hot dog from the concession stand (dinner).

But what starts to happen is I’m doing nothing well. I do this in life. I’m so busy and so scattered among so many things, that I find myself in a conversation with my daughter or my wife, thinking about the work I need to be doing instead. Or I’m catching up with a friend, and I’m thinking about the list of things I still need to do that night when I get home. Or I’m doing one of those things, and I think, there’s something else that needs to be done. So I drop what I’m in the middle of, don’t finish it, so I can move on to the other thing. (until I get interrupted with that thing too.)

So everything is getting scattered and crammed together. My next response: Hurry. Speeding things up: I’ve noticed lately that we always say “real quick” when describing something to our 7-year old daughter. Get your shoes on real quick. Eat your dinner and get ready for bed real quick. Let’s do your homework real quick. I shudder to think what kind of therapy my kids are going to need when they’re grown up.

Why do we over-schedule again? Why do we stress ourselves out? Why do we over-schedule?   Turns out there are a ton of reasons. And a lot of them have to do with Pride in one form or another. Pride is all about me, and how other people perceive me, and my relationship to them. Listen to these and see if any of them resonate with you and why you take on certain tasks or activities.

  • People-pleasing
  • Praise
  • Possessions
  • Proving myself
  • Pity
  • Poor planning
  • Power
  • Pleasing myself
  • Perfectionism
  • Position/prestige
  • Posting (technogarchy)
  • Progeny (kids – a kind of kindergarchy) how much time do we spend running around on behalf of our kids because we think if we don’t then somehow they won’t reach their full potential?

Ellen Galinsky. In a 1990’s study, American kids were asked what one thing they would change about how their parents’ work was affecting them. They didn’t answer that they wanted more time. They simply wished their parents were less tired and less stressed.

If you think about these, you realize that they are all about other people. And by that, I mean that they are all filtered through the lens of what I look like to other people and how I relate to them.

So in large part, we are running ourselves ragged because we are so caught up in our own little narcissistic world.

Many of the things that motivate us are good things, or at least they’re not bad things in and of themselves. You could take most of these Killer P’s and make something good out of it.   But they are not ultimate things.

A lot of times we even genuinely want to do good things for good reasons. And we look out there and see all the good things that need to be done, and we think we need to do them all.

But Even when we are well intentioned, this falls apart.

Every opportunity becomes an ought-ertunity. Every ought becomes a must. Every must becomes a demand. Every demand becomes another weight that eventually crushes us.

We even say, well, I’m doing all this for Jesus (with a little bit of pride). And we make ourselves a little bit of a martyr for the cause on our own altar that we’ve built up.

And our pride wells up, and We want to say that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Yes, but note that it doesn’t say EVERYTHING. It says all things.

Another response in our culture to the call to number our days is to create the myth of BALANCE.

We look at our calendars, and we think, something’s not right here. I’m feeling off, and like I don’t have my priorities right. I’ve got to get more balance, so I reshuffle or recommit to my priorities. And we start numbering (it sounds like numbering our days, so maybe we’re on to something here):

  1. God (we have to say this because we’re in church, right? although our calendars testify otherwise.) 2. Spouse 3.       Kids 4. Work 5.       Community. 6. The world.

I’ve got to make sure I spend some time working, but I need to reserve time for family, and then I sprinkle in some me time, and schedule some quiet time, and some workout time to stay healthy, and time with mom and dad, etc etc..

And if I do all that in just the right proportions, I’ll be okay . . . until we’re overscheduled again or something unexpected happens. And all of those are good things, and it’s true we should make room for these things in our lives.  This is really just another approach to time management.

But I’ve got news for you. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to live a balanced life.  I just don’t see that principal there.

For example, Jesus did not live in balance.

For example, When Jesus calls his Peter James and John to be his disciples, he doesn’t say, hey, how about spending a couple of hours a day after you’re done fishing and cleaning, and hang out with me and I’ll teach you a thing or two.   He tells them to follow him. Completely. They leave their boat and they’re gone. He doesn’t say to the rich young man, “tell you what, sell a few of those extra things you’ve got and use some of the proceeds to give to the local food pantry.” He says sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and follow me.

Our lives were not to be lived in BALANCE. Yes, there are realities that we need to invest time at work, and at home, and all of these things, but balance is NOT the goal, and it’s a lousy standard. He calls us to be all in.

THE REAL PROBLEM –WHO’s THE SAVIOR?

The real problem underlying our problem with time — the reason we don’t number our days appropriately – is that we are making ourselves the center of our own salvation story – it’s all hinging on us, so we don’t feel like we can create any margin. You’re going to be marginless when you are the savior and everything is dependent on you. You’re going to be frantic when it all revolves around you. (This is why our middle school kids get so frantic – because they think the whole world is staring at them and that they are the center of the show. But it’s not true! )   But . . .

Look back at Psalm 90. Look at verses 13-17. Who is accomplishing something here? God is!

What is he doing?

  • Granting wisdom
  • Showing us compassion
  • Satisfying us in the AM with his unfailing love.
  • Making us sing out loud because we are so glad
  • Helping us find joy even in our struggles and troubles
  • Making his name known as great
  • Showing our children how wonderful he is.
  • Establishing the work of our hands.   – I love the idea that God is going to establish the work of my hands. That I am to work, but God is going to take care of it. This is twofold: he establishes what I am called to do. And he secures the effectiveness/outcome.

These are the results of allowing God to redeem the time in our lives. Rightfully recognizing God as the redeemer of time. Recognizing that Jesus is the center of the salvation story, not us.

In contrast to the pride of the Killer P’s, — the pride that tells us the we are the center of the salvation story — is the humility that comes from knowing Jesus is the center, and that HE is responsible for the results (and these are pretty great results). He is the one who redeems time, because he created it.

Instead of numbering our days by numbering our priorities, we recognize that Jesus is the redeemer of time, and we set priority, not priorities. We abandon ourselves to Jesus utterly and wholly as our priority. Then we can rest from the crush of having a bunch of competing priorities. Then we can make participation in God’s redemption story here on earth the priority. We don’t try and balance our lives for ourselves and our pride; we live our lives in reckless abandon to Jesus.   When Jesus redeems our time, it’s not just Sunday morning or other compartmentalized moments; it’s all of it. It’s Life Between Sunday’s.

This is the essence of Matt 6:33, where Jesus tells us to seek him first, to seek God’s kingdom and his power and his fame and his rest first, and then (and only then) will “all these things be added unto us as well” the pieces of our lives fall into place, and the pieces we’ve been trying to cram into the puzzle of our calendar will begin to make sense and look like a whole beautiful picture like we see in Psalm 90. Not that everything is perfect or we are trouble free – but that it makes sense to us and we are refreshed and okay even in the midst of the trials and challenges of life.

So we need to freely admit that we are not the Christ. That God is in control, and then allow him to work through us – to “establish the work of our hands”. Do the results described in Psalm 90 sound worthwhile? Isn’t that ultimately what we would like to have? — waking in the morning feeling refreshed instead of overwhelmed? Feeling satisfied instead of frantic?   Being calm and even joyful when times are tough? Having our friends, our family, our kids, our neighbors see how amazing God is? Having the our efforts mean something?

We cannot do this on our own,. All of our attempts at time management and efficiency haven’t produced this.

But it takes God redeeming the time to do this. It takes margin to do this so that our lives aren’t frantic and have that pointless feeling to them.

So how do we get margin? And then what do we do with it? What is it for, besides our own personal sanity? The answer is not found in all of our time-saving devices and inventions. The answer is as actually old as creation.

PRACTICE SABBATH. THE ORIGINAL MARGIN.

At the very beginning of the Bible, we read that God creates everything. Thoughtfully, powerfully, intentionally, lovingly, he creates. On the 6th day of creation, the bible tells us that he created people. And his reaction to his finished work – his accomplished work – was that he judged it to be very good. And what did he do next? The Bible tells us that he rested. This is where we get our concept of the Sunday day of rest from. Our week is 7 days because God established this rhythm in our lives. And he established the concept of rest and what we call Sabbath. In Sabbath, we see the original principal of margin that God creates.

We did a whole sermon series a year ago on Sabbath, and I couldn’t possibly do it justice today, but we need to talk about it some because it is central to the concept of margin. So for those of you who weren’t here then, and even those of us who were, I strongly encourage you to go onto the HCBCDS website and find time to listen to that sermon series.

Sabbath is all about redeeming the time by remembering who is the savior and sustainer in our story. When God gave the 10 commandments to Moses, he told his people to “remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy.” — to dedicate time and energy to remembering who God is and what he had done for them, and was continuing to do for them. He even made them rely on him daily by providing food (manna) each day that wouldn’t keep until the next day. They had to rely on him every day for it. This has very real implications in verse 14 where Moses asks God to “satisfy us in the morning.” Because each morning the Israelites would wake up and see that God and provided, and they could eat of God’s work and be filled, and be satisfied.

Only God can make the Sabbath holy. Only God can “redeem the time.” This is the principal he was teaching them to rely on him daily. So we remember that he is in control, and we rest in the beauty of the work he has accomplished in our world and in our lives, and in all the work he is continuing to do.

Traditionally, (theoretically) we practice this by taking Sunday off and setting it aside as a day of worship. That’s why we all have church on Sunday. I remember the blue law days – when all the stores were closed on Sunday. You couldn’t rush around and do much, because everything was closed. But today with all of our progress, we have unlimited opportunities. About the only thing you can’t do on Sunday is get a chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A.

Sabbath used to be built into our culture . . . but no more.

The point of the Sabbath is to create MARGIN in our lives. Space and freedom from the frantic rushing around and doing and achieving and accomplishing and efficiency. The Sabbath is NOT efficient. You do not measure the success of Sabbath in efficiency, but in effectiveness.

Stepping back from the grind and insulating ourselves from breakneck pace of life, by creating space with the Sabbath, prepares us for greater things.

So Sabbath gives us time to breathe and to practice remembering that we are not the savior in our story, that God is.

JESUS AND SABBATH

Let’s consider how Jesus lives his life as we see it in the Gospel of Mark. Mark is an amazing narrative, and it’s so similar to the narrative of our lives in many ways. Just like I said in my family we’ve got this thing where we say “real fast?”. Well, Mark likes to say the same thing, only bibles mostly translate this as “at once” or “immediately.”   In fact, Mark uses this word immediately 9 times in the first chapter of his gospel alone. This story runs at breakneck pace.

In the story, we see Jesus doing the many many things he’s doing. He’s all in, whether he’s preaching, or healing, or eating, or hanging out with his closest friends, or traveling, or working. He’s all in and all on mission.

Throughout the story, we see Jesus pausing to get away from the press of the crowds, from the schedule of his ministry, from the relentless press of the needy.    We see him going off to be by himself to pray. We see him withdrawing from the crowds to intentionally spend time with God the Father, and with those closest to him. He’s creating margin in his life. Time to pray, time to focus on his relationship with the Father, time to spend with those closest to him.

BUT . . .

But here’s what I found in the story in Mark that was actually frustrating. And I’ve struggled with this all week. In fact, I was mad about it. But I’m coming to accept that there is a vitally important aspect of Sabbath and margin ingrained in what we learn.

[[[[[[In Mark 1:35-39, we find this account:

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”]]]]]]

A not-so-funny thing happens on the way to the Margin in this story. Jesus gets interrupted, And this instance is one of the more calm examples of him being interrupted. And this drove me crazy when I read it in Mark. Because every time I read about Jesus getting away from it all – looking to create and use margin – he gets interrupted by people. Sometimes it’s his disciples freaking out that the boat is sinking. Sometimes, it’s a crowd of people eager to hear a word from him. Sometimes it’s a family member. Sometimes he heals a single person, or sometimes he heals a bunch of them.

And this made me mad, because I’m cheering for Jesus. I want him to be able to do what he wants to. But deep down really it made me mad because I didn’t like the sound of what that meant in my life, because I want to do what I want to. Here’s the real issue.

If Jesus will allow himself to be interrupted, then maybe I need to allow myself to be interrupted too.   But When I get interrupted, I get angry. When I’m sitting at home trying to focus on writing a sermon, and my 7-year old comes in talking, I get frustrated. When I’m triyng to focus on work and my 15-year old is singing the same line from the same song over and over again, I get frustrated and angry because I’m interrupted.

But Jesus doesn’t react in anger. Why? You can say, well, it’s because he’s perfect. Bull.  HE suffered all the temptations we do, including the temptation of responding in frustration to interruptions.  He doesn’t react in anger because he’s already created margin in his life. Margin is interruptible. Constant breakneck schedules are not.

The reason I don’t like to see that Jesus gets interrupted, is because I don’t have any margin in my life to begin with.

Margin is space that allows us to accommodate the unexpected. When we schedule back-to-back-to-back appointments on our calendar, we have no margin for anything. We can’t afford a 5-minute detour, much less a catastrophe. And so we blow up. But if we have space in between all the activity, we do have margin for interruptions and opportunities.

When I’m late already, I won’t stop to help someone with a flat tire.

When I’m stressed out, I’m going to look the other way when I see a friend who is struggling.

When I’m distracted and tired, I’m not going to take the time and energy to lean into my kids’ lives and interact with them purposefully and intentionally either to build that relationship or to disciple them.

When I’m maxed out, I don’t walk over to my neighbor’s house to find out how he’s doing with all that’s on his plate.

When I’m busy thinking about all the stuff that I have to accomplish, I don’t take time to pray on behalf of my family or my friends, or my community.

So I can’t love my neighbor without margin.

And I don’t do a good job of taking time to focus on thanking God for all that he is doing in my life.

And when I’m not loving God and working on that relationship, and when I’m not loving my neighbor, I’m not doing a very good job of making God’s work my priority in life. And this is important because despite the fact that I am not the savior in the redemption story going on around me, I am called to participate actively in it.

So I have to re-think what the purpose of margin is in my life. It’s apparently not for me to watch football. It’s apparently not for me to simply indulge myself. Apparently, I’m supposed to listen for God’s voice, and watch for the opportunities – sometimes in the form of interruptions – to participate in what he is accomplishing. Not because he needs me to do it, but because he wants to change my heart in the process.

So instead of looking at a Sunday afternoon food delivery program for to help our friends and neighbors in Dripping Springs as something that robs me of my Sabbath and my time to sit on the sofa watching football, I see it as an opportunity to be interrupted so I can love my neighbor.

Instead of seeing a mentoring program in the schools as a burden, I look at it as a way to participate in God’s plan to redeem the life of a young person.

Instead of being annoyed by the interruption that my 7-year old wants me to watch her do the 30 seconds of her dance that she learned this week, or that my 13-year old wants help on her homework, I see it as an opportunity to be in her life..

Instead of begrudging that my neighbor has called me over to help him move a stump, I look at it as a divinely inspired errand.

Instead of seeing my weekly Real Life Community group meeting as one more activity to fill my calendar, I look at it as an opportunity to practice margin and Sabbath in my life during the week — a time to be refreshed and satisfied.

PRACTICALITIES

When I first started thinking about this sermon, I thought, great, this is going to be really practical and everyone would leave here perfectly clear on the marching orders for how to do margin. 5 easy steps to breathing easy in life. So I’m surprised at how this turned out.

But I do want to end by sharing a few practical thoughts to consider for creating margin. Because I think it’s important to have a place to start. When you see the point of it, and believe in the importance of it, then you can take steps. Too many times we want to skip the reasons, and just start doing. So be careful with that. But here are a few places to start considering this week.

  1. Practice Sabbath in your life. Take a day and set it aside that you’re not going to work, and you’re not going to rush, and you’re not going to be frantic. But the principles of Sabbath are to spill into the rest of your life too. We talk about living life between Sunday’s around here. The same applies to Sabbath. Worship and focus on God is not just a Sunday AM event. It is supposed to inform how we live our lives for the entire week. So take what you learn from a Sabbath day, and ingrain that in the rhythms of your daily life. Here’s an example of what I mean by that: For example, part of my Sabbath is that I’m not going to work for that day. I might labor, but right now, I’m talking about my job. How do I carry that over into the week?       Well, for instance, maybe that means I don’t check my email on my phone first thing in the morning to check in on work. Maybe I don’t sneak a look at my email while I’m waiting to pick up my kid, and instead I pray, or I call a friend to check in. Instead of checking my email any one of 100 times a day, like during my kid’s soccer game, I have an intentional conversation with my wife, or with another parent who is sitting with me. I practice being fully present.
  2. We invest, rather than spend our time. Part of why the predictors of all that leisure time and short work weeks fell flat, is because we have an incredible capacity to spend, which is the same as consuming. We consume our time by spending it. Consuming is all about the moment and it’s gone. Investing is about looking down the road and anticipating something greater will come from what we’re doing. Ask yourself this week at times along the way, am I spending time, or am I investing time?
  3. Set boundaries – learn to say no and cut down on the nonsense/clutter. Pull the plug on the hold some of the inventions of “progress” might have on your life.   Ask yourself if some of the things you’re involved in doing with your time are becoming time- and soul-sucking distractions for you. Maybe it’s Facebook. Maybe it’s fantasy football. Maybe it’s YouTube. Maybe it’s Instagram. Maybe it’s home improvement shows or cooking shows or reality television or video games or shopping online. I don’t know what it is for you. None of these things are bad in and of themselves. Not at all. And it’s fine to do them. But just like some people are more prone to alcoholism than others, some of us having a tougher time setting reasonable boundaries on some of these other things in our lives that chew up our time. What is it in your life that needs to be told no?
  4. Practice simplicity and contentment – running around chasing after new things to acquire takes time and energy. But possessions also take care and feeding; striving for more takes time and effort. When they break, when they wear out, when they become obsolete, they have to be dealt with. Sometimes I think I’d be better off with less stuff to deal with.
  5. Get less done but do the right things – instead of making our lives efficient, look to make them effective. Jason talked last week about not missing out on doing the things that only you can do – that you are uniquely called to do. Namely being a spouse and a father/mother to your kids. Another aspect of doing the right things is about working out of the giftings and talents that God has given you. We weren’t called to do everything. We’re not capable of doing everything. We have to choose the best things. There is no end to the number of good things I can do in my life.       I have to do the best things.       Part of figuring out the best things means figuring out what I’m really effective at. I have to understand these things if I am to effectively (note that I didn’t say efficiently) serve others. Even Jesus didn’t do everything. HE didn’t heal everyone around him. He remembered his mission and lived out of that.
  6. Plan for the unexpected/margin – free time, time to be available, buffer zones between things Planning for Margin means planning for the unplannable. We are finite creatures. Schedule for less than your limits, and know that you need room to spare. Room to grow.