Saturday, March 30, 2013

Margin- Chapter 5

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 5: "The Pain of Overload"

- After "grumbling" about wanting the author to just get to the solution, I really enjoyed this chapter.  I wonder if it stood out to me because I have a problem dealing with overload.  I have found it interesting that different guys have seemed to really appreciate certain chapters.

- His basic premise of the chapter is that little things piles up in different areas and then overload us.  Once that overload occurs, we are less productive.  Implementing margin in our lives will protect us from overload and its damaging effects.

- I believe he is right that stress in a situation to a point aids in productivity.  I remember watching an interview with a football coach who had served in the Marine Corps.  He talked about learning there that his body could be pushed much farther than he thought.  (He then used that knowledge when coaching his team.)  The question that comes to my mind, then, is: How do we discern where that line is?  How do we know if adding stress will increase function (still going up on the human function curve) or if adding stress will take us toward burnout (going down on the human function curve)?

- He wrote, "Often we do not feel overload sneaking up on us.  We instead feel energized by the rapidity of events and the challenge of our full days." (Page 57)  I can relate to this.  When I have an empty day, I find it hard to get motivated to work ahead.  On the other hand, on a day like today in which I feel swarmed, I do feel the energy from all the events/work that need to take place.

- He discussed the different ways people respond to overload.  I think my tendency is the hostility that is directed inward.  "Having failed their own expectations and the expectations of others, they withdraw into a fog of gloom" (Page 58) is a good description of me at times.

- I thought his point about every person having a different level of involvement was very helpful. I know I need to learn to discern what God wants me to do and let others think what they will.  On the other hand, I see the need to give others the freedom to set their own level of involvement without the need for my approval.

- His section about the different types of overload we face was interesting to me.

- "In an attempt to squeeze more things in, we try to do two or three at the same time.  Activity overload takes away the pleasure of anticipation and the delight of reminiscence." (Page 60)  One of my growing pet peeves is taking pictures when family is together.  I have no problem with pictures, but often I feel we get so caught up in trying to preserve a memory, that we don't even have a chance to make memories.

- I do not understand how 186 different choices of breakfast cereal is ANY type of overload.  I strongly disagree with this illustration.

- "At this point, choice no longer liberates but debilitates." (Page 61)  I know I experience this.  If I have to buy a laptop, I'd rather there be 5 to choose from at 1 store/website rather than hundreds of models from dozens of companies with a myriad of options from a multitude of websites.  In some ways I would prefer the days where I contact a travel agent and they book my flight.  Instead, I feel the need to check dozens of websites to get the best fare.

- Does anybody read my notes?  I'm thinking you may just scroll down to the comment section and add your thoughts.

- I've heard statistics similar to it before, but when I read that the average tv is on for 55 hours a week, I shake my head.  To me, that illustrates why our country is headed the direction it is.  Moldova is not exempt.  When looking for apartments, people couldn't seem to understand why we would consider not having a tv.  (We ended up getting an apartment with tv and with cable, but that is another story for another time.)

- He asked a great question: "How does one define 'all that we can'?"  (Page 63)  "Doing all we can" sounds like a noble endeavor, but without some guiding principles, there would never be a place for rest, for peace, for family.  I have been challenged to define what "all I can" means for me.

- The point in guarding against overload isn't for us to lay around in a hammock sipping lemonade.  I appreciated his saying that there is a way for us to reserve strength for higher battles.  As believers and as preachers of the Gospel, there are many worthwhile battles, but often we give much of our strength to the multitude of relatively unimportant tasks.

- His statement that setting limits is an art means that it is not a science.  There isn't one way that works for everyone.  Each of us have to learn to set limits in our own lives.

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 4
Discussion on Chapter 6

Friday, March 22, 2013

Margin- Chapter 4

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 4: "The Pain of Stress"

- He was talking about me when he said: "Some in our midst quickly grow impatient with all this stress talk." (pg. 51)  He continues to lay the foundation for why we need margin, but I feel it has been laid, and I'm ready to move on.

- Even more than the previous chapters, this one left me longing for the nuts and bolts of the solution.  I personally felt too much emphasis was put on "stress" when many of the problems should be viewed Biblically as sin problems.  Example: "Some researchers believe fear to be the root cause of all stress reaction." (pg. 50)  These fears most likely are sins due to a lack of faith in God, but that is not how they are described.  Despite my disagreement, I thought there were a few good things in the chapter.

- "Stress is not the circumstance, it is our response to the circumstance." (pg. 43)  This is important because we cannot control our circumstances, but with the Holy Spirit's help, we can control our response, and thus, our "stress level."

- Another example of my problem with this chapter: "Is it [stress] a modern disease?"  (pg. 45)  Later, he answers the question in the affirmative.  Maybe he is not defining this medically, but the fact that too many psychologists label sin problems as medical "diseases" makes me very leery of this wording.

- It was interesting to me to learn that certain psychological stressors affect the body more than physical stressors.

- I would not characterize myself as a "Type A" personality, but I have seen times where I can identify with the thinking that "Margin is not a priority to preserve but a gap to be filled."  (pg. 47)  He also said of these people, "Productivity is the goal, not living."  (pg. 52)  I think we often lead productive lives, but productive in the wrong areas.

- Living in another country has helped me to see how we Americans live by the minute as he talked about.  We pack our schedules, while others in other cultures are not so worried about such minute amounts of time.  There are positives and negatives, but the more relaxed pace has been a blessing.

- "The intact, supportive relationships we all require for healthy living have dissipated under the tutelage of progress.  The family has been systematically dismantled, and at the same time, long-term friendships are increasingly rare."  (pg. 50)  In my opinion, this was the best thought in the chapter.  The make-up of the family and its authority structure have been attacked maybe more than anything else.  May we build those relationships in our families, and challenge others to do so as well!

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 3
Discussion on Chapter 5

Friday, March 15, 2013

Margin- Chapter 3

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 3: "The Pain of Problems"

- In Part One (chapters 2-5) of this book, the author is addressing the pain we see in our lives and its origins.  In this chapter, he specifically looks at the problems we face.

- I have not done a thorough historical analysis, but his proposition seems valid: things are changing quicker today than they were in the past, therefore new problems are popping up more often and other problems are changing more quickly.  For instance, I think the difference between 1988 and 2013 (25 years) would be much greater than 1246 and 1271(also 25 years, in case you are wondering).  Transportation and technology have made the world "smaller," allowing change (including changing problems) to happen much quicker.

- His statement, "Our tendency is to select what we wish to remember and conveniently forget the rest" (page 37) reminded me of something I hear from the older generation.  They'll say, "I remember when gas was 59 cents a gallon."  I always want to ask, "How much were you paid in that time?"  To illustrate my point, I looked up some stats:
1950- Wages: $1.60/hour; Price of Gas: $.18/gallon; therefore: gas 11.25% of hourly wage
2012- Wages: $23.06/hour; Price of Gas $3.60/gallon; therefore: gas 15.61% of hourly wage
My point: gas prices are up, but they aren't up as much as $.59/gallon to $3.69/gallon makes it seem.  People remember more going out, but forget about more coming in.
* Couple of notes: I assumed 50 weeks of work at 40 hours a week to determine hourly wage. Link to 1950 facts. Link to 2012 gas price. Link to 2011 average income (couldn't find 2012 because taxes aren't all filed yet.)

- I feel that his list of unprecedented things in Figure 3.1 was a strong argument for the many new and rapidly changing problems we face.

- I don't feel that he did (or could) prove that things are changing exponentially.  The mathmatical calculations would require someone really smart like ... ok, someone other than me.  Regardless of whether that is true or not, I do not feel that it invalidates his arguments that the problems we are facing are unique.

- In the last couple of sections of the chapter, he points out that when change is not so rapid, we have a "cushion" called margin between us and our limits.  However, the rapidly changing world around us has swallowed up and overtaken the margin of many people, damaging many areas of life.

- Much of what he says I think is probably true.  I just don't think he can empirically prove it.  I know he has to lay a foundation, but I am looking forward to Part Two when he talks more about margin itself.

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 2
Discussion on Chapter 4

Friday, March 8, 2013

Margin- Chapter 2

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 2: "The Pain of Progress"

- He pointed out that our society has many of the things previous generations would have wished for, yet our society has still not found happiness.  In the chapter, he shows that problems, and not just blessings have come with progress.

- I think he is right in saying we trust progress more than we realize.  We quickly put our faith in a new product because it has advantages over the old, but we often don't take into account the potential accompanying problems.

- His list of the problems that we have in America, probably the most developed nation in the world, was sobering.  As he later points out, we have made advances in the wrong things and more important things have been shoved aside.

- "The American definition of happiness is, after all, 'more than I have now.'" (Page 26) Isn't that so true?  If happiness depended on things, there would be a clear "plateau."  Those below the plateau would be unhappy, those above would be happy.  We see that is not the case.

- Another quote I liked: "Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity." (Page 27) This is true in our families, churches, workplaces, etc.

- Some of you alluded to the fact that it is almost looked at as spiritual in some circles if we are super busy.  I thought of that when I read these well thought-out questions: "Is God now pro-exhaustion?  Doesn't He lead people beside the still waters anymore?" (Page 27)

- To me, one of the most helpful lessons from the chapter is when he showed that the things our society has progressed in care little, if anything, about our transcendent needs (spiritual, emotional, social).  Instead, the progress areas relate to money, technology and education.

- He challenged people to make progress subservient to relationships (with God, self, and others) and to not consider something progress if we advanced in money, technology or education to the detriment of those relationships. 

- Overall, I had trouble following his thought all through the chapter.  He said some good things, but I had trouble seeing where it was going.  It was better when skimming it again to write this post.  I think this is a good summary of the chapter's thrust: "While the progress we boast of is found within the material and cognitive environments, most of the pain we suffer is found within the social, emotional, and spiritual."  (Page 31)

- I agree with him that our society tries to solve its problems by throwing more money at it, or providing further education.  Need more reading to convince you?  (Ok, so it is a Wikipedia link.  Just because it is on Wikipedia doesn't mean that everything is a lie!)

- My understanding of the last section of the chapter: true progress comes as individuals become more like Christ, thus effecting change in their homes, churches, companies, and communities.

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 1
Discussion on Chapter 3

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hughes News #43

"Tie your shoes and pray for the Hughes"
Dear Friends,
Last month, we mentioned the Lord’s leading us to team up with David and Stephanie Gross. (Here is a link to their website.) We also mentioned our plans to base our ministry in Soroca. We would like to further introduce you to this city. Soroca is located along the Nistru River in northeastern Moldova. It is the capital of its region (about the size of a county in the States) and about 35,000 people call the city home.
An acquaintance told David Gross about the possibility of Soroca for a church plant. Last summer, he and I went there to explore the possibility. In the following weeks, we learned that there is not a single Baptist church in Soroca, nor in the region. Our desire is to see people saved and a church planted in Soroca with outreaches into surrounding villages. We are praying that God will help us to develop a Biblical church-planting model that can be used by Moldovan believers for future ministries. Please pray for the Lord to equip us and to prepare hearts in Soroca. 
Language study continues to be our number one task. I was able to complete my third semester of Romanian last week and start the fourth this week. Russian is coming along- we have our days when everything makes sense and our days when we wonder if we are making any progress. Our prayer is that the Lord will help us to continue to make small steps in the right direction.

In His service,
Jacob and Viola Hughes

For Prayer:
1. Russian and Romanian study
2. The Lord to prepare us and the Grosses
3. Selection of materials and resources for future

For Praise:
1. Semester #3 of Romanian completed!
2. We were able to sing our first duet in Russian
3. Jacob celebrated birthday #29

Friday, March 1, 2013

Margin- Chapter 1

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 1: "Marginless Living"

- In introducing the topic, the author showed what margin and marginless look like.  He then pointed out that "Marginless is culture; margin is counterculture."  (pg. 13)  In starting this book, I found it helpful to be reminded that seeking to establish margin will go against the flow.  Therefore, it will be difficult.

- He correctly pointed out that marginless living is rampant despite all of our modern conveniences that make life easier.  My mind went to the Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder which Viola and I have been reading.  Laura's family worked hard and had to do many things by hand.  However, they found time to have quiet evenings together reading, sewing, and listening to Pa's fiddle.  Something close to that is my goal!

- He phrased it that he "purchased back margin," something "that cost me significant income."  (pg. 16)  It helped me to again realize that establishing margin in my life may cost me something that I think I want now, but in the end, I will be glad I gave it up.  The blessings will outweigh the cost.

- I'm sure each of you "fellows" has felt pressure because of all that needs to be done.  I certainly have as well.  For me, I think a lack of margin is often a big contributor to that pressure.  Hence, this book is for me.

- As ministers, part of our job is to apply the Bible to practical life situations.  I think it is important for us to understand this problem because we will be ministering to many who are facing it as well.

- I liked this: "Pain first gets our attention- as it does so well- and then moves us in the opposite direction of the danger."  (pg. 17)  Unfortunately, I often don't try to move the other direction; I just wiggle around to try to get it to stop.

I've had my say, what say you?
[For your information: Be careful of trying to add too long a comment.  (Don't think that'll be a problem for this chapter.)  In the last reading project a couple of guys found out the hard way there is a limit.  I tried to find out what it is, but couldn't.  You have been warned- don't come crying to me now if it happens!]

Discussion on Chapter 2