Resources / Further Reading: Margin


For my VERY FIRST Further Reading Resource, I’d like to introduce Margin, by one of my heroes, Dr. Richard Swenson.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Well, okay, is was actually an afternoon and early evening, but it was delightfully dark and stormy. I was on my way home from a business trip, driving through a mountainous area with radio towers apparently few and far between.  Flipping through channels (this was LONG before the iPod enabled stereo, or even the iPod) I came across a static-y voice giving a talk to the American Medical Association, of all things.

One of the most RIVETING talks I had ever heard.

Even as I waded around static and through terrifying puddles of silence before the signal thankfully resumed!

I listened through to the applause, and the thank yous, and on through to the announcer of the broadcast, desperate to learn



FINALLY! Today’s speaker was …. Dr. Richard Swenson … who had written a book(… !! …) called… … finally … Margin!  

I don’t recall if I even unpacked the car before setting off to find the book.

Actually, what I found that day was two of Dr. Swenson’s books in one, Margin and The Overload Syndrome. And while I was crabby about that at the start, in the end I found them a great complement to each other, so now I would definitely recommend that specific edition.

Dr. Swenson’s message is that we are not designed for constant acceleration and that unless we build Margin  – in physical, financial, social, and other critical areas – into our lives intentionally, we will find ourselves too depleted or distracted to contribute meaningfully to the truly important, but usually not urgent, things in life. He does a great job of outlining the transformation of our society to one of constant overwhelm, and of demonstrating the individual, family, and social impacts of that transformation. Then he gives splendid prescriptions for curing what ails us.

Much of the abundance I am seeking in life comes from what I have learned from Dr. Swenson. I’ve now read all of his books but one, and each has been valuable.

I will eventually do mini-reveiws for others of them, but for now, if you enjoy Margin, here are other great works by Dr. Swenson.

Many may be available at your public library. I’ve included the Amazon links, because those I am sure will be up for awhile, but at the time I’m writing this you can also buy these books directly from Dr. Swenson’s site. I’ve included those details too, at the end.

For a quick, no commitment introduction to Dr. Swenson’s work, here is a nice little interview with him:

Margin / The Overload Syndrome (I’ve listed the two separate books here, for the combo book, use the link toward the beginning of this post.)

There is also a very well designed workbook based on Margin and The Overload Syndrome, called Restoring Margin to Overloaded Lives. It isn’t necessary to implement the concepts, but it is a handy resource if you like a bit of structure to your contemplation. I go back through it periodically as I seek an increased abundance in my life.

Minute of Margin – this tiny book is actually based on several of Dr. Swenson’s books, not just Margin, and is one of the most delightful and thought provoking ‘daily devotional’ type books I’ve run into. here is an excerpt of it from Dr. Swenson’s site.

More Than Meets the: Fascinating Glimpses of God’s Power and Design – This is why physicists turned physicians, who happen to be Christians, should write books. An absolutely lovely book on the wonder of creation from the tiniest atom to the largest galaxy.

In Search of Balance: Keys to a Stable Life – Like Margin and The OverLoad Syndrome, this books discusses the cultural and societal ‘disease’, and prescriptions to heal it. In this case Dr. Swenson looks at the other side of the margin equation: balance in life.

Contentment: the Secret to Lasting Calm – I actually just found this one while doing the research for this post! It’s on the way here as I type. More later!

Hurtling Toward Oblivion: A Logical Argument for the End of the Age – This one is far more intense, and a good deal more mathematical, than most of the others. I read it because of my respect for the other books and Dr. Swenson himself, but it would definitely not be my suggestion for the first one you read. If you enjoy the others, give this one a shot too.

You can find out more about Dr. Swenson’s work at his website, and when last I was on it you could buy all of his books there as well: 



Resources / Further Reading: Relevant Magazine

technology-792180_640    Relevant Magazine 

This is one of the most appropriately named products I’ve ever run into. I find SO MUCH of what Relevant produces to be just that: relevant.

If you are looking for a Christian media source that deals with the real world, rather than existing in a little Christian bubble, Relevant may be just the ticket. The magazine itself is fabulous, but the online resources, the blogs in particular, are where Relevant really came alive for me.

They cover every topic imaginable, including the tough stuff and they do it (usually) with sensitivity and decency. Unlike some progressive Christian resources, I’ve never read anything in a Relevant post that I found unbiblical, which is important to me, but they definitely deal with all the grey-area topics, and they pull no punches when it comes to cultural, rather than specifically Biblical Christian concerns.

Sections I love include ‘Life‘, ‘God‘, and ‘Culture‘. They also have a podcast section, if you are into that. Not my thing, but I expect it’s just as good as the rest!


Resources: TWLOHA – help and hope


My first ‘People and Organisations’ resource is

 To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA).

From their website:

To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.

I am not as familiar with TWLOHA as I am with some of the resources I’ll list in these pages, having only encountered them a couple years ago, and only really started paying attention about a year ago, but I respect what they do enormously, and I’ve also come to respect how they do it.

They are able to extend far beyond where I am at on the Your-Life-Matters-More-Than-My-Comfort-Zone scale, and they are making a difference in – and saving – lives because of it.

I am adding TWLOHA because I believe in what they are doing, but also because people from every walk of life, and in every stage of life, may stumble across this blog, and if you happen to be someone who needs some hope, needs some help, today, I want to make sure that you have access to a resource that may be able to provide it.

Main Website to learn about TWLOHA:

Resource page, to find local help, by state:

Resource Page to find help based on the problem for which you need help:

Please note that they also have a section specific to Veterans on the topic page.

You can also find the numbers for local and national, 24 hour, free helplines on all the local pages.

Resources / Further Reading: Boundaries


I was born with a Default No.

I do say yes to lots of things, of course.  But if I’m tired, or overwhelmed, or don’t feel I have enough information to make a good decision, then if you need an answer RIGHT NOW, I can pretty much guarantee my answer will be ‘No.’ 

Doesn’t matter if it’s helping you move bodies, or spending a week at your Hawaiian beach house: when the pressure’s on, my default is NO.

I didn’t think much about this until I started meeting  people with a Default Yes. These folks, when pushed, will almost without fail say ‘Yes’ to whatever it is you’re trying to rope them into.

Either default has its benefits and liabilities, of course, but I’ve come to think that I got the better deal on this one.

Because my Default Yes friends and colleagues find themselves perpetually drowning in activities and obligations. And in resentment.

Which brings me to one of my favourite books – Boundaries.

Written by two brilliant Christian psychologists, Henry Cloud and John Townsend, whom I have come to adore, Boundaries’ subtitle is When to say YES, When to say NO to take control of your life, and that pretty well sums it up.

Drs. Cloud and Townsend do a great job of explaining why we need boundaries in our lives, [note]  Hint: Boundaries define our responsibilities vs  other peoples’ responsibilities, help us to keep our legitimate commitments as well as our sanity, make relationships work better, reduce  stress, and allow us to stop running the world and everything in it so we can get a decent night’s sleep. (Among other things).[/note] and include helpful examples from their years of counselling and coaching. They have a fun and accessible writing style that makes the book enjoyable to read.

For those who struggle with a Default Yes, Boundaries demonstrates why saying yes to everything isn’t actually the best way to live life, and (more importantly for a lot of folks) why it isn’t required to be a good, or loving, or  worthwhile human being.

For Christians – in particular those who have been taught that being a ‘good Christian’ means doing everything anyone asks of you all the time – Boundaries makes the important case that this is not a correct view of God’s design for us, nor will it allow us to live godly lives.

Boundaries are critical to an authentic life, and to an abundant one.

Drs. Cloud and Townsend define the topics of being real, being honest, speaking truth in love, from the perspective of our responsibilities as followers of Christ. For many of my Default Yes friends, this has been quite the revelation.

Boundaries clarified things that had always kind of peripherally confused me. I finally ‘got it’ that saying ‘No’ is as completely abnormal to some folks as running naked through the mall would be to me.

And, since I come by strong boundaries naturally and had never realised that not everyone does, I was prone to bulldoze right over people.

While bulldozing is efficient, it is probably not the best way to be. Boundaries didn’t immediately transform me into a model friend, but it has definitely smoothed off some rough edges, and Drs. Cloud and Townsend continue to shape my perspective.

Now, if you’re not a Christian, the clear Christian perspective of this book might be distracting, or even disturbing.

But for now it’s the best I’ve got, by far, so if you find your life hampered by saying yes to too much, or to things you really want to say ‘no’ to, or basically anything related to people pleasing, give Boundaries a shot.  Get it from the library to start, then if the Christian thing is too much you’re not out anything but a little time!

Drs. Cloud and Townsend, both together and separately, have written quite a few books, some more of which I’ll profile when I get a chance. You really can’t go wrong with any of their books! They also have pod casts, videos, and a host of helpful material on their website:



Resources / Further Reading: The Gifts of Imperfection


I first encountered Brene Brown three or four years ago, in her TED talk, and thought ‘That chick is cool, I’ve got to read her book’.

So I put it on my towering list of Books To Get To.

And it stayed there. For ages.

By the time I finally got to it, after discovering that her books are so wildly popular that even the older ones have a several month wait time at my library, I just ordered everything of hers that my library had, figuring I’d read them as they came in.

I’m not through all of them yet, but so far my conclusion is: you can’t go wrong reading Brene Brown.

I love her funny, matter of fact style; her books are like my favourite conversations with good intelligent friends. She’s also a talented and dedicated researcher whose work is my favourite kind: practical and useful for direct improvement of lives. And she writes about freedom, and living abundantly, some of my favourite topics.

She calls it Wholehearted Living.

The book I really fell in love with is a fairly small thing called The Gifts of Imperfection, which deals with the main things that free people to live abundantly.

The necessary ingredients she found, across all walks of life and situations, were courage, compassion, and connection.

Now, if those sound too out there to make a real difference, or too unattainable to make any difference for you, never fear: she discusses that in the book. I won’t detail it here, but I’ll mention she’s convincing.

The Gifts of Imperfection is organised into tiny chapters most of which are the Guideposts. The first few chapters explain how she came to the conclusions she has about how to live wholeheartedly and the things that get in the way …  essentially why each of the Guideposts she’s going to talk about are irrelevant to the process of living Whole.

And she has a section in the back about the deep dark research process just in case you happen to be really hipped on qualitative research and need to know for sure where she got her facts.

The Guideposts are:

  1. Cultivating Authenticity:  letting go of what people think.
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: letting go of perfection.
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness.
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: letting go of the need for certainty.
  6. Cultivating Creativity: letting go of comparison.
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”.
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: letting go of being cool and “always in control”.

If those things sound exciting, or just ‘right’  and logical to you, you’ll love this book.

And even if those things strike terror into your heart you might still like the book. She’s really good about recognising that this stuff doesn’t always come naturally. She uses a lot of examples from her own life and from her work to show how you can get past the terror and actually succeed.

In fact, when she first came to the conclusions detailed in this book, rather than setting out to transform her life, she abandonded the work and went into a tailspin.

This is one of those areas of her being very real that I just adore.  I love the way she writes about her little personal life crisis: “the 2008 Breakdown Spiritual Awakening”That isn’t a correction, or a formatting error, that’s how she writes it throughout the whole book!

Gives me some hope that one day I’ll look back on the Lifewreck of 2014 and see strikethrough and breakthrough instead of chaos! 🙂

And she eventually got back on course and wrote this book, so it all worked out.

Each Guidepost also has a little DIGging deeper section at the end that provides practical activities for testing out the concept.

Dr. Brown has written a great deal about her struggles with worthiness, and that is a big part of this book too.

By the grace of God and some splendid parents I haven’t struggled a lot with the problem of worthiness, so I wondered whether this would be at all useful for me. I feared yet another ‘stop hating yourself’ book.

But no. Wholehearted living, not surprisingly, is holistic. So while the shame threads run clearly throughout the book, there are many, many, threads involved in a life of courage, compassion, and connection, and I found more than enough useful lessons to cover my own interests, concerns, and struggles too!





You can find out about ALL of Brene Brown’s work at 

You are not invisible

I really don’t know what it’s like to feel invisible. I was 6 foot tall before I was 16 years old, so I’ve always stood out in (or at least above) a crowd. I would often have loved to be invisible.

But I certainly know what it’s like to feel that life is painful … that life is disappointing … or that I don’t matter when, or how, or to whom, I NEED to matter.

And while I may have WISHED for a little invisibility from time to time, I know that for someone to truly feel invisible, is a terrible wound to the soul.

To anyone who has dealt with the other end of the ‘visible’ spectrum, a reminder, and an assurance:


You are not invisible.

Who you are MATTERS.

YOU matter.

Even when you don’t think so.

Even when someone important has told you you don’t.

Even if the voice inside tells you that every day; it isn’t true.

You are NOT invisible.

You are not forgotten.


Your life, your story, they matter.


Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. This week has been National Suicide Prevention Week. Whether you feel invisible or not, if you ever think that the world would be better off without you, or that the pain you feel will never get better, please know: THOSE ARE LIES.


listen to the stories of others who have found that ‘life after’ can be amazingly different, and worth living

talk to someone who knows what it’s like and KNOWS HOW to help… 

Call 1-800-273-8255 

trust that the darkness can be conquered…

don’t give up!


To Write Love on Her Arms also has directories of local groups who help people get through a crisis:

Resource page, to find local help, by state:

Resource Page to find help based on the problem for which you need help:

Please note that they also have a section specific to Veterans on the topic page.

You can also find the numbers for local and national, 24 hour, free helplines on all the local pages.

If you happen to be someone who needs some hope, needs some help, today, it’s worth it. YOU are worth it. 



And if you are concerned about someone else, the resources above can help, but this article also has a simple process to make it a little less stressful to offer help:

If you know someone who might be suicidal



Resources / Further Reading: I Am Second

Most of the resources I write about are things I have a long history with, but I Am Second is a newer one on me.

I’m adding them in though, because they bring me a lot of encouragement with various Facebook posts, some of their videos, and just their approach to life.

From their website:

I am Second is a movement meant to inspire people of all kinds to live for God and for others. Actors. Athletes. Musicians. Business leaders. Drug addicts. Your next-door neighbor. People like you.

The authentic stories on provide insight into dealing with typical struggles of everyday living. These are stories that give hope to the lonely and the hurting, help from destructive lifestyles, and inspiration to the unfulfilled. You’ll discover people who’ve tried to go it alone and have failed.

Find the hope, peace, and fulfillment they found. Be Second.

But perhaps the may favourite part of that page is the bit that comes next:

You are here for a reason. We all have needs and could use some help. Talk to us. Call, chat, or email. 24 hours a day.

I just love the link between ‘you have purpose’ and ‘sometimes we all need some help’.

When I first started to see the I Am Second films, they were all by celebrities, and while that was fine, I wasn’t all that interested in a big Hollywood praise-a-thon. I did note, however, that they did a remarkable job of pointing to what really matters.

After awhile I got curious enough to check out the site, and I was really impressed by the non-celebrity videos, and by the authenticity in ALL the videos.

I love that most of the posts I see these days are people sending in their photos, or even their stories. I realise that anything runs the risk of becoming just another fad, but I hope that this movement will manage to stay focused.

Stay tuned, and check them out!


Life Questions – sort of an FAQ

The Films –  All the films are just a chair, and one or more people talking about their experiences.

The Topics – They cover quite a range! From abortion to contentment, affluence to prison, war to life purpose.



Be well. 


Resources: What Color is Your Parachute?


It was a little like Big Foot, or the Loch Ness Monster.

I had heard about it for years. BIG Tales: Amazing! Powerful! Transformative!!

But I had never happened to see it. (And it sounded just the tiniest bit unreal.)


Still, when a friend got laid off from her job, I suggested that she take a look at it. I spilled all the BIG Tales I had heard over the years, along with a “Can’t hurt, anyway”. I also figured I ought to take a look at it, if I was going to be recommending it to people.

It was the book What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. And boy were the BIG Tales justified! I was so impressed.


Fast forward to the day I found out my job was definitely going to disappear:  walked out to my car, drove to the bookstore, and bought the latest version of Parachute ¹.

And if I’m going to have a Retrenchment Observed series in a blog about seeking out a more abundant and grace-filled life, I had better include some resources for those in the middle of just such a situation, no?

WHERE better to start than Parachute ?!?!?

Reasons I love this book (a highly abridged list.)

1)  It deals with your LIFE, not just your last job, or your next job, or the current crisis that is having no job.

This is HUGE!

For example, one of the key job search strategies is getting regular exercise. Parachute has all manner of real-world input that increases your chance of getting through a job loss and a job search without becoming a basket case.

And it’s not just for those of us who’ve lost our jobs; but equally valuable for people actively seeking a change. So much of this information is just about being in the best place possible in your work life, that I had taken to using it for many processes even before I lost my job.

2) It deals with your LIFE, version 2.

I have had lots of really cool jobs, that somehow did quite feel ‘right’ for me. No crazy boss, draconian policies, or evil coworkers, just … not the best fit. It wasn’t until I read Parachute that ever considered that work style and work environment were relevant to your enjoyment of your job.

Now, I’ve demonstrated that I can make a fine living, do good work, and have a good life even in jobs that I just don’t love – lots of us have.

But after starting to look at the BIG PICTURE that Parachute points to, I realized why past jobs hadn’t been ideal, and what to seek in new jobs that really WORKED.

That was better!

Parachute is also about looking at your options while you have a job, transforming the job you’re in, thinking about starting a business of your own – it’s a ‘job seekers manual’ that can influence many types of searches.

3) Based on what WORKS.

Shouldn’t be radical, right? Yet it is amazing how many of us exclusively seek a new job by strategies that have something like 3 – 15% success rates. Then ‘miraculously’ find one through a friend.

Make no mistake, the Parachute method is scarier, at least for me, than the random-shots-until-something-works method I’d used in the past, but it also runs in the area of 80% effective. That, too, is BETTER!

One benefit I got from my own lay-off was some fabulous, wildly expensive career coaching. Could never have afforded it on my own, and I am very grateful for it.

But you know what? Their method is pretty much the same things Parachute has been preaching since that very first edition I looked at, and presumably since the first edition to roll off the presses.

4) Updated each year.

Frankly, if I were Richard Bolles, you’d maybe get a new edition every 3-5 years.

I am amazed that he updates the thing ANNUALLY. At first I thought this was serious overkill. But, even though the methodology, and the advice, remain largely the same, if you buy this year’s edition you know that you’re not missing any of the latest tactics or technology info. And scary as it is to me, technology really can utterly transform in a year.

5) Just plain cool.

I have no idea if I would like Richard Bolles in person; but I LOVE Richard Bolles in print! The tone of Parachute is so calm, reassuring, enthusiastic, and practical, that I can’t think of a better guide for this dark, scary path of unemployment.

My favourite part of the book is the pink pages. Here Richard Bolles talks about life purpose, finding meaning, and his perspective on God, the Universe, and Everything. I understand that this used to run through the book as a whole, but eventually he condensed it to the pink pages to allow those intimidated by such discussions to still find value in the book. I LOVE THAT.

Truth is though, you still find a lot of the ‘pink’ material in the text. Not a discussion of God, perhaps, but a crystal clear picture of Richard Bolles’ purpose in life being lived out, and a sincere passion for everyone embracing their own lives fully.

6) Pleasantly quirky.

Sure, this is a subset of just plain cool, but it deserves a space of its own.

Richard Bolles starts the book by stating that he uses commas the way he likes to use commas and he doesn’t need any more letters complaining about his commas.

This is his approach to all of the book – funny, unique, and open. His tone is extremely positive and encouraging, but without a hint of fluff, or Pollyanna tripe. He talks about the hard stuff, gives gritty, practical advice for the worst case, and pulls no punches. But he manages to say it all in a way that implies he knows you can do it, and he’s on your side.

7) GREAT cartoons

Parachute is illustrated with (among many other things) a series of cartoons by the brilliant Sidney Harris, one of my favourite cartoonists EVER. Geek-humor heaven!

Be well. 


¹’Parachute’ is my pet name for it. It’s also a lot easier to write multiple times. I hope it’s not some horrific violation of copyright, but that is one I’ve never looked up. I’ll change it immediately, Mr. Bolles, or Ten-Speed Press, if it offends you!