Friday, May 31, 2013

Margin- Chapter 11

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 11: "Health Through Contentment"

- It was not until this chapter (56% of the way through) that I realized that this book is about building a "new, integrated health paradigm."  (Page 151)  Interesting that he tells us now.  I found it a little odd, but overall, I thought the chapter was quite good! 

- After talking about the margin we need in our lives, he takes four chapters to discuss different qualities we need in our lives to protect and prolong that margin.  The first he discusses is contentment.

- I appreciate his section on "What Contentment is Not."  In my opinion, the way contentment is sometimes presented in messages gives the hearers the idea that we have to deny the existence of difficulties in our lives.  Instead, the author shows that it is the peace despite those present difficulties.

- He said that we need "to fix our contentment on godliness rather than relativism."  (Page 159)  Earlier he pointed out that discontent will always have us looking to what we don't have, and we will always lacking something that would be nice to have.  If our contentment is based on factors around it, we will never be content (and, even if we could, I say it would be a pseudo-contentment).  Thus, our focus must be on godliness- a factor that is stable.

- I hadn't thought of it this way: "If we actually needed the thing, advertisers would not have to convince us of it."  (Page 160)  True.

- Another quote I liked: "God is what we need; things are what we use."  (Page 164)

- Of his suggestions to combat discontentment, I think the one I need to remember the most is to divorce my thinking from societies standards.  We all unconsciously adopt the world's thinking in many areas of life, and we must purposefully correct that through the truth of God's Word.  Another suggestion that I need to work at is developing the "counter-habits" that encourage contentment.

- He asked, "Do you see how a life of contentment both enables and supports margin?"  (Page 161) After thinking through this chapter, I certainly do.  Of all the things he could have talked about, I think this was very needed and quite helpful.  The chapter helped me recalibrate my content-o-meter.

- This will divert slightly from the contents of the chapter, but if you guys have thoughts, I would like to hear them.  How do you evaluate if your desire for a good thing is within the realm of contentment or discontentment?  Said otherwise, how do you know when a valid desire for a good thing has crossed the line and has become discontentment?

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 10
Discussion on Chapter 12

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hughes News #45

"Tie your shoes and pray for the Hughes"

Dear Friends,
While learning grammar and memorizing new words are both still needful, we are at a point in our language training in which extended conversations and ministering are more beneficial than anything else.  The Lord has been providing such opportunities for us.  Several times recently believers have conversed with us in Russian for a few hours.  Viola has been asked to participate more in the music ministry of the church.  I preached again a few weeks back, and found I am growing more comfortable expressing God’s Word.  In the upcoming month, I will, Lord-willing, be preaching once and teaching twice.  If you would, please pray specifically for my lesson on Tuesday, June 18th.  The Bible study usually lasts an hour and a half, which will amount to quite a bit of preparation for me.
We rejoice that our coworkers were able to finalize the purchase of a house in Soroca!  When a problem materialized, it initially seemed that the deal would not be completed.  Praise the Lord- He allowed the Grosses to find a solution to the problem!  While the house is purchased, it still requires much work to finish it. 
The first part of June, a young lady will be staying with us.  She believes that the Lord is calling her to Moldova, and we have the privilege of helping her conduct a survey trip.  It is our prayer that her time will be beneficial and that she will discern God’s will.  With her, we plan to visit Soroca for a day.  It will be Viola’s first time there and it will give a little more familiarity with the city.   
In His service,
Jacob and Viola Hughes
For Prayer:
1. A profitable trip for our visitor
2. Jacob’s Bible study lesson on June 18th
3. Continued plans for the church plant in Soroca
For Praise:
1. Grosses’ purchase of a house in Soroca
2. Growing confidence in speaking and preaching in Russian
3. Viola’s participation in the church’s music ministry

Friday, May 24, 2013

Margin- Chapter 10

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 10: "Margin in Finances"

- Of these last four chapters, I would say this is the one most of us probably have the best hold on, because none of us have tons of money, and we all have already had to be careful with our money.  Maybe we don't have a lot of margin or wiggle room, but we do handle it well. 

- I think it is so telling of human sinful nature that in America, where we enjoy some of the greatest affluence and comfort in the history of the world, we have a whole range of serious financial problems.

- "Student borrowing has skyrocketed." (Page 133)  Some of you know that I enjoy listening to Dave Ramsey.  He says that our parents' generation got into debt because of mortgages and credit cards.  He also says that the biggest current problem is student loan debt.

- He gave a warning against credit cards, and I believe rightfully so.  However, I realize that there is a very small percentage of people who use them to their advantage and who do not abuse them (pay off every month, use rewards, etc.)  However, I would venture that the percentage of people who do that is less than 5%.  I have no problem with someone using a credit card that way, but I think they need to have the conviction that they will cut it up before they would abuse it.  An open line of credit is an ever-present "temptation" when financial difficulties come.  I am curious as to your thoughts on credit cards.

- I felt like he didn't give a clear answer on some of the questions about financial margin.  In one place, he would say one thing, but something else in another.  This is what I mean:
"When we encounter money along the path of life, we are encouraged to do one of three things with it: turn and walk in the other direction; pick it up and give it away; or use it for the necessities of daily living." (Page 136)
"If, for example, you currently have no savings and pay expenses from a checking account that is monthly drained dry, what happens if there are emergency medical expenses?  You would need to take out a loan and enter into debt.  But if you sustained a savings, you would have margin against such emergencies" (Page 144) If I am to do the three things above, how can I ever have any kind of savings?  Savings is not part of necessities of daily living.
"Some advisors recommend setting aside a contingency fund equal to three to six months of your usual spending for unexpected emergencies.  I personally do not follow this rule, preferring to live closer to the edge of faith."  (Page 144)  So, what does he recommend?  Is not having margin living even closer to faith?  Is he saying he has more faith than a person who has three to six months of expenses?  He said savings is good but hoarding is not- how do we know where one ends and the other begins?
I'm fine with him believing whatever he wants to believe.  I just think if a person is going to write a book on margin, he should clearly lay out his thoughts, and I feel like he has not done so in this chapter.  I think preachers often do the same thing- they make definitive statements about money that if you take to their logical end, we should sell everything extraneous that is not necessary for living, and always spend all our money by the end of the day.  It is easier to say these type of things than to wrestle with the tough questions.  Am I the only one who felt this way?

- He said that he was unwilling to be wealthy and quoted the apostle Paul where he said, "They that will be rich fall into temptation."  He equated being willing to be wealthy to being in temptation, but it seems to me that Paul was talking about those who desired to be rich.  I believe a person can become wealthy, even if his focus is not on wealth.

- He said our list of "needs" is greater today than in 1900, which was greater than in the time of Christ.  However, couldn't we add, that the list then might have been greater than in the days of David, or Moses, or Adam?  My point is that the culture around Jesus doesn't define our needs. 

- We all need to seek God's wisdom as we make decisions about how to use the money He has provided.  Even if we all are doing that, we will still need understanding with one another because we all will spend money differently on discretionary items- things above our basic needs.  I must be willing to respect your families' right to decide on some things, and you should be willing to give us that liberty as well.  Too often, we think we are doing everything perfectly, and anyone who spends money on something we wouldn't is in sin.

- I thought this quote was very good- "The cultivation and expansion of needs is ... the antithesis of freedom."  (Page 141)  Remind you of anywhere?

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 9
Discussion on Chapter 11

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Margin- Chapter 9

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 9: "Margin in Time"

- I don't feel this chapter was stuffed with profound, new truths.  I felt like much of it was just a good reminder.  However, by reading it and writing this post ahead of time (due to having a measure of time margin!) I feel I was able to think a little more and get a little deeper than just the surface.  As always- I look forward to reading your takeaways!

- I appreciated his thoughts on the importance of discretionary time.  I think we often see it as not important, or at least, less important than working time.  We would not dispute quiet time with God, but I think we often look negatively at other types of discretionary time.  Maybe it is because so many misuse discretionary time, and we don't want to be like them.

- I liked: "Where are the noises that tell us to slow down?" (Page 112)

- It is interesting to try imagine yourself without the constraints/demands of minutes and hours- where time is looked at in terms of days (or possibly sections divided by mealtimes!)  As I think about it, I think my Dad's routine may not be too far off that.  He has a few things he does at certain times, but he approaches his day with what he needs to get done, then he works on it.

- I think the clock and the light can be helpers, but I do see that I let them negatively affect me.  The light is probably the worst.  I stay up later at night than I should and as a consequence, I lose both physcial (via rest) and time margin.

- What decides what is a full week of work for us?  This question came to mind when reading about the American workweek.  Americans typically consider 40 hours a full week.  Have we adopted that without thinking it through?  Do we let that be our standard because of what men may think?  It seems I remember preachers being challenged to work at least 40 hours, if not more, so that the men he ministers to will not see him as lazy.  My argument is not for or against 40 hours being our standard.  It just hit me that I have adopted that in my mind as the pattern without thinking things through.  Maybe there could be a preacher who works only 30 hours, but then has more time to simply spend with God.

- "If we sit back and do nothing about it, next year at this time we'll have less time margin than we have right now."  (Page 116)  Time margin will not happen without purposeful decisions.

- He mentioned about multi-tasking invading our leisure time.  I have found the tendency for this myself.  Best example: trying to email while watching a ballgame.  Usually, I get more focused on the work and don't enjoy the leisure time.  In short, I lose enjoyment when I multitask.

- In talking about productivity in the workplace, he seemed to somewhat minimize the laziness of the workers.  I think there is more to it than he gave credit for.  My experience in the secular workplace has not been that people are diligent workers for the time they are supposed to be there.  Usually, they were trying to get the minimum done without getting in trouble. 

- I learned that "Everything takes longer than it does" (page 121) shortly after we were married and I was responsible to fix things around the house.

- He suggested turning off the tv.  I doubt that is the biggest time waster among us.  So what is it?  For me, it would probably be checking email or looking up something on the internet.  Any confessions?

- I like the idea of disconnecting from all electronic devices (except maybe the Kindle) sometime when we take a couple of days off.  Any of you done that?

- He talked about having long-term vision.  I think if we have this, it will greatly aid something else he talked about: saying "No."  With a plan it is easier to see if an activity fits within that plan or if it will distract from them.

- I agree that busyness robs the pleasure of anticipation. 

- His "prescriptions" were all good reminders, but I think the most practical for me is to create the buffer zones.  I don't want to "waste" time being somewhere too early, so I keep working until ... I'm nearly running late.  (Viola's the same.  In this area, we are not good for each other!)  That buffer will add quality to the activities before and after the buffer.

- Next chapter will be good for one of the fellows.  (He's about to fork out a bunch of money and lose some of his financial margin!)

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 8
Discussion on Chapter 10

Friday, May 10, 2013

Margin- Chapter 8

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 8: "Margin in Physical Energy"

- Ok, so I've dropped the ball the last couple of weeks and haven't gotten a post written.  I'd like to say I wanted to give you more margin in your life, but that's not the case.  Here's my thoughts on this chapter:

- He talked about poor conditioning, sleep deprivation and obesity leaving us no physical margin.  A few paragraphs later, he talked about us not having the inner discipline we need to maintain good physical health.  I think "discipline" is the key word for the chapter.  Anyone can be unconditioned, but it takes discipline to regularly get exercise.  Anyone can stay up late and get up late, but it takes discipline to go to bed (or and get up) at a decent time.  Anyone can eat what they want, but it takes discipline to eat correct portions and make healthier choices.

- He brought up in the chapter how the three factors- conditioning, sleep, eating habits- affect each other.  I have seen that to be true in my life and I think part of that is due to discipline affecting each of the three.

- In the last post, I listed all of his "prescriptions."  I will not do that this time, just mention the thoughts that stood out the most to me.

- When he talked about developing a healthy sleep pattern, the big thing that came to my mind is going to bed at a good time.  With electricity allowing me to work into the night, I often go to bed later than I should.  Then, I have to choose between getting up at the time I should, or getting the amount of sleep I should.  In my life right now, going to bed early is probably the single most important factor in my discipline- it affects so many other things in life.  I am improving, but I still have a ways to go.  (*Note: I realize that I do not have children and the constant demands that they place on the rest of you.  I'm sure that if is difficult for me to get to bed on time, it can only be harder for the four of you!)

- I have a friend who studied physical education in college.  We were discussing weight, and he put it really simply: it is calories in verses calories out.  We can get really fancy trying to figure things out, but when it comes down to it, we need to be moderate in our eating and to be active in our lifestyle.

- Viola and I had to find out where we could get good exercise.  I love basketball, but so far I haven't found a place with an open gym night.  We like walking, but to get a good exercise, I need more than that.  Also, certain weather prohibits exercise outside.  For all of these reasons, we joined a gym in January because we need some vigorous physical activity (especially when we are learning a language- which includes a lot of sitting).  That way, we have a place where we can exercise despite the weather and we each can go at our own pace.  Again, I realize this is much easier for us without children, but that activity has helped us so much physically.  I don't know if you intentionally make time for exercise, but I would strongly encourage you to find something to do.  We only go for 45-60 minutes 3 times a week, but we feel the investment is worth it!

- I am thankful we are in a culture where the average person is fairly active.  If they need to go several blocks away, the majority of people will walk.  It is an encouragement to us to be active.

- One way I try to be more active is taking the stairs ... to my 7th floor apartment.  Rarely do I use the elevator.  (When Viola has me loaded down with groceries, I give in to the pressure!)

- I feel the chapter was pretty simple and straightforward: go to sleep, get exercise, eat right.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts. 

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 7
Discussion on Chapter 9