Friday, April 12, 2013

Margin- Chapter 6

(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 6: "Margin"

- After laying the groundwork for the first five chapters, the author starts to explain what margin is.

- If "the limit" is the full amount we can handle, then "overload" is anything exceeds that limit and "margin" is the amount of cushion between our load and our limit.  Boy, do I ever need to learn to insert that cushion!

- "We don't want to be under-achievers ... so we fill our schedules uncritically."  (Page 69)  What then happens?  We have SO much in our schedule that we can't get it all done, and we still feel like under-achievers.  Also, unimportant things get in our schedule and we accomplish those instead of the most important things.

- I agree that margin is semivisible in an of itself, but often the results of a lack of margin are visible- exhaustion, etc.

- I appreciated him pointing out that we have always needed margin, just that now we often do not have it, while they often did in the past.  Hence, it is something we need to think about and purposefully implement in our lives, while those in the past had margin without thinking about it specifically.

- I don't think margin is the ONE thing that causes us to look at the past nostalgically, but I think it is a big factor.  I remember my mom telling about her childhood.  After supper, they would often visit neighbors or neighbors would visit them.  The adults would sit on the porch and talk and the kids would play.  People were not lazy, they just had margin.  How often does that happen in America now?  I also agree that developing countries still have an amount of margin.  Just come visit Moldova in the summer.  About 8-9 pm you will hear lots of noise in the street: people talking, kids playing.  I'm sure it is even more visible in the villages.  People have margin, and it manifests itself in the time they have to be with others.

- An important quote for US to consider: "When you combine missionary [or church-planting, or assistant pastor] conscientiousness with imported Americanized schedules, and home-office expectations with Third-World need, climate, and disease, burnout is an ever-present risk."  (Page 76).  The question is not whether this is present.  The question is what we are going to do about it.  The following chapters will help us establish it!

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 5
Discussion on Chapter 7


  1. I think this chapter did a good job of laying out some contrasts between societies that do have margin and those who don't while also reminding the reader that just because a society has margin does not mean we need to adopt all of it's ways (i.e. third-world countries). Having been to several different mission fields for periods ranging from several weeks to several months, I have been able to see first-hand the difference the author is speaking of and, too, have been drawn to the effects of margin.

    On page 73 in speaking of yesteryear's charm, the author states, "Their church and social activities more often drew them together than pulled them apart." Today, it seems like we live in an era where the members of a family are involved in individual activities rather than activities as a family unit. Then we look back and wonder why, after years of pulling the family apart to separate activities, our children go "their own way" to do "their own thing." Could it be because we as parents have taught them that by our segmented lifestyle? What is wrong with a FAMILY visiting a shut-in together? What is wrong with a FAMILY sitting together in church and teaching their children to sit and listen and be involved in the service at a young age? The author's statement opens the door for some thought-provoking areas to review.

    In speaking of his time helping on a costal island of Greenland, the author states on page 74 that the Carriacouan people often observed: "Nothing works, but everything works out." Maybe it is just a northern thing, but I could sure relate to that. There were days in Rankin Inlet at -40 where not much worked the way it was supposed to, but life went on and we were still able to minister to people. This phrase was an encouragement to me to keep a right perspective that God is still on the throne and though circumstances may not be ideal, He will still strengthen and enable for the task He has called us to!

    I think the author is leading the reader to a point of decision, and I know I have already been contemplating areas of my life where I need to implement more margin and how I am going to do that. I am looking forward to the remaining chapters to see what he suggests.

    1. Good thoughts ... just I think the author was talking about Grenada and not Greenland. :-) Carricou is in the Gulf of Mexico, not the Arctic. Also, I don't think it is just a north thing.

  2. I really liked the formula: power-load=margin. Especially the corresponding analogy of negative and positive balances. Makes it easier to visualize margin.

    I believe that stress has been around a little longer than he explains though. A look at PTSD reveals WW1 and WW2 veterans suffered a lot of "shell shock" and "battle fatigue". Studies show many of the same symptoms of PTSD, just under different names. The difference really is that previous generations dealt with it better than we do, which is what I think he is saying. Contrast returning as a hero from WW2 to returning as a villain from Vietnam and you see a glimpse of why dealing with stress has changed.

    Definitely agree with the 3rd world margin. Question is, how do we fix it without losing our iPhones? :)

    1. What iPhones? I am in Romanian class with 5 Moldovans. 3 of the 5 have iPhones, and all 5 have a nicer phone than me!

  3. -Jacob, you had a good point on the putting so much in our schedules that we can't get it all done and still end up feeling like under-achievers. We are very driven by schedules and "putting in our time." Being goal oriented rather than schedule/time oriented is not an easy transition, nor is making sure that the important things are what gets done in the end.

    -"Spiritually, [margin] allows availability for the purposes of God" (pg. 69). "His asking us to walk the second mile, to carry others' burdens, to witness to the Truth at any opportunity, and to teach our children... all presuppose we have margin and that we make it available for His purposes. Obedience to these commands is often not schedulable" (pg. 76). The author had a very good point on how a lack of margin greatly minimizes our ability to minister to other people, particularly when it isn't something already scheduled in our planner. Margin allows us the freedom to meet needs when they arrive and still be able to get done what we need to.

    -Thad, you touched on this point tied in with the authors statement that, "churches and communities did not offer twenty simultaneous programs [in years past]" (pg. 73). When people are dedicated to being involved in the church, it often leads to jam-packed schedules and the family split between programs.

    -"Let's stay busy to be sure. But together let's also develop the necessary theological underpinnings for margin that will allow us to accept its importance without guilt" (pg. 76). Does anyone else find it hard to not feel guilty when taking a break or vacation? I think there has been an unspoken teaching that "busyness is next to godliness." While we did finally come around to choosing to take a vacation once a year, I found that I usually spend the first day or so just trying to unwind and relax enough to be able to actually benefit from the vacation.

    -I loved the author's example of the need for margin through asking, "what would you think if this page had no margins?" (pg. 76).

    -Alan, the answer is switch to a Droid ;0)

    1. Alan, don't listen to David. His phone doesn't work!

      Viola was talking to someone here a few days ago and the comment came up that this women hardly ever sees her oldest daughter. The busyness and lack of margin is here too, just not to the extent it is in the States yet.