Thursday, August 28, 2008

Margins

Here is my first attempt at writing about one thing on the list of missional characteristics.

One of my best friends in the world is Mr. Outlook. Yes he is part of the Microsoft family but he is quite helpful for me. Some people who are not so fond of Microsoft call it him other names but I like the guy.

I like Outlook for several reasons. I put all of my appointments on Outlook so I know where I need to be and when and what I am doing. I am able to write post it notes to myself without using paper. (I feel pretty good environmentally about that). I am also able to track all of my TO DO’s on Outlook. If I complete a task that was not on my Outlook task organizer then I will go back and enter it in so I can delete it. It feels great to check something off the list.

Having my life organized helps for I am so scattered brained that there is no way I can keep up with everything unless I had tools like this but there is a dark side to all of this.
The dark side is that my life can become too organized and too scheduled for my own good. I like to be efficient and I like to get a lot done in a day so I try to pack in a lot of tasks and appointments (live or phone appointments). So having my time lined out for me is the best way to do it. BUT… this is the problem for me.

As I have been watching people whom I think live out their lives as salt and light in this world I have observed people who are able to not be so rushed in the moment for a conversation that could have been set up by God. I call this living with some “margin”. If I have no margin in my day and I am running to each appointment then I do not have time for an interruption, crisis or much less a divine appointment that often is not on my Outlook calendar.

The people I see who seem to share Jesus in their everyday life quite effectively seem to have time to do so when the opportunity arises. They have enough space in their day to have a divine appointment. They are not as much in a hurry as they interact with people as they go about their day.

They live in the present tense not always pressing to the next TO DO.

At the bank they have time for a conversation. The same is true in the coffee bar or at the newspaper stand. They are not so much in a hurry to get about their TO DO list. I think “busyness” is one of the greatest challenges to us in the West as we try to live out our lives missionally.

I am not ready to give up on my friend Mr. Outlook but I am trying to have a few more minutes to spare for those divine appointments. Living in Europe has helped me immensely. I think I need to live here the rest of my life. Not to mention the café is great.

Ciao
Larry

4 comments:

tto said...

Great post, Larry. Thanks. gMail, Remember the Milk, gCal, gReader, and gNotes will give you even more "margin" time than clunky old Mr. Outlook!

Trey Atkins
Croatia

Camel Rider said...

Great post....I'm looking forward to seeing you flesh out being missional while on mission. I'm also starting a series of posts around the subject in the next few weeks.

I too struggle with what you do. It helps me living in a relational based "warm" culture where people take precedence over schedules. I don't allow 20 minutes to go see my friend at the art gallery....I schedule 3 hours, sometimes I'm only there 20 minutes but sometimes I use every minute. I only schedule myself for my team-related apppointments which usually stick with a time schedule, since we're all American. Other than that....it's all hit and miss....I've actually fallin in love with the margin....it means great conversations and lots of coffee :-)

ROGER and GAYNOR RIDLEY said...

You will never really know how much your post has meant to me, especially after spending 4 hours with a friend in her little European garden plot 'chewing the fat'. Sometimes I wish things would really begin to happen for us, but what does that mean? God is working not only in our lives, but in the lives of people we are reaching. His time, His place, His agenda.
God Bless,
Gaynor
Basel

Larry said...

Gaynor,
Thanks for your note of encouragement. I live near the same city you all are working in. We need to compare notes. What a challenge. I think the definitions of success really get challenged in this line of work. What is a win? What do we call success? I know for me the way I was raised in ministry success was tied to how many people you could bring to church with you on Sunday or it could be how many people "walked the aisle" and made a decision. I had to redefine that here. Though i definitely want my friends to be Christ followers success may be a 4 hour conversation in the garden or a long cup of coffee or tea (though i am not a tea fan). It may being able to broach the subject of what it means to be a Christ follower one day. I dont think that we lower our expectations for as a disciple of Christ we want to make disciples but the timing and the way it ends up may look different here and that is okay. Keep gardening.