28 February 2011


So the last blog post talked about margins and trying to maintain a healthy balance in life here at RVA.  I (Jim) was already feeling a little bit convicted about my time management or, more accurately, convicted about my priorities.  Really, the things which consume my spare moments begin to consume the hours which consume my days, my weeks... my life.  Safe to say, the things which consume my life at the moment are probably the things that an honest appraisal of my thoughts would reveal as my priorities.   Not that this is a new lesson by any means but one I'm re-learning.  It was this lesson my thoughts were focused on at the beginning of the week.

The other thing I never seem to learn is that when God is speaking, I should listen - because when I don't listen, He speaks the same thing over and over and over again until I begin to catch on.  On Thursday, we had a chapel speaker who shared reflections on the political and spiritual situation in the Northern part of the continent.  The content was fascinating, but the lesson which grabbed my full attention?  I get one life.

Then, on Sunday, Brock Mathison shared with us the story of William Borden, which you should watch on youtube.  He then spoke on Philippians 3:7-11 
"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."
Whatever things were gain to me, I count as rubbish?  So that I may gain Christ?  Last week, it began with stress, feeling overwhelmed, having too much on our plates and ended with time to re-center, re-focus on priorities that really matter:  Serving kids at RVA? Certainly. My family? Absolutely.
'I count ALL things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.'
Serving kids at RVA a loss? Apparently.  My family? I guess so; compared to Christ.  It's easy to say, but the real priorities, those that consume my days, my weeks, my life?  They speak otherwise!  I can not Gain Christ so He can be found on the margins of MY page, my ministry or my family.  My priority must be: Gain Christ, and be found in Him.

I get ONE life.

21 February 2011


So... you may or may not have noticed that it's been nearly a month since anything new showed up on the blog.  It's been a bit of a busy term so far.  In addition to our commitments last term, I (Jim) signed up to coach Junior High Basketball, Heather's been covering a dorm one night a week, and feeling sick with pregnancy blehs, and...  To make a long story short, we've been busy, I'm stressed, and it feels at times like we're just making it through each day, or (worse yet) not quite making it through each day - I ended up skipping almost two weeks of basketball, just trying to catch up - crashing and burning with guilt at the failure to be more perfect.

The other day, I read somewhere about creating 'margin' in your life.  Being as frazzled as I've been lately, I have no clue where I read it; I couldn't immediately find it tonight and I'm doing well enough to be writing anything, so you'll just have to trust me.  The gist of what the author was saying was that we get so overwhelmed and busy that we forget to focus in on things that really matter.

I didn't really have time to investigate further at that point, but I started thinking about it periodically - not usually as I should have thought about it, but more frequently alternating between the frustration of not being able to think of any particular Biblical passage that justified 'taking it easy' and wondering if 'margin' was just an excuse for laziness OR the feeling that RVA is a stinkin' hard place to work' stressful and unhealthy (explaining my highish blood-pressure reading during an AP Biology lab last week) and that God would OBVIOUSLY not approve.  Neither perspective, I'm afraid, sheds a very flattering light on my maturity as a Christian or a missionary.

The last two days have included a couple of moments of 'margin' and valuable lessons for me.  Yes, RVA is stressful.  Yes, there are sometimes-unrealistic expectations for volunteering, for doing more, even self-righteous competition for sacrificing the most while sharing super-spiritual thoughts and a cheery attitude.  But I was convicted of something:  As 'margin' slipped away with an increasingly busy schedule, taking it easy did not.  Instead, as 'margin' slipped away an outside observer would have first seen a truncated prayer time; followed by a rushed quiet-time and no prayer; followed by hitting the snooze button on the alarm, a longer day, less time with Heather, less time with the kids, a late night, climbing grumpily into bed...

It's as if each day I had a blank sheet of paper, and as more and more events were added to the page, the margin was reduced and eventually eliminated in order to fit everything in.  Then the truly disturbing thought:  The center of the sheet? My life? The things I've held sacred?  Nothing but a to-do list!  The margin?  The stuff eliminated from my page for the things I gave priority?  My relationship with Christ!  While I had been pushing harder and harder to fit more in, I'd become blind to what was actually going on.  This I have Biblical reference for: Not for taking it easy, but to "... fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. (Hebrews 3:1)" or to "Be still and know that I am God... (Psalm 46:10)"  Now to re-center, refocus, pull Christ from the margins of life!