Has Your Family Caught One of These Viruses?

I shivered as we approached the automatic doors thinking, this is last place I want to be on a subzero night. I strode over to the check-in desk with my teenager in tow.

“May I see your insurance card?” the receptionist asked.

While she entered information into the computer, I gazed over the brimming waiting area. Coughing, sneezing, glassy-eyed and crimson-cheeked patients and their companions filled nearly every chair. The walk-in clinic in flu season promised a lengthy wait.
“Thank you. Please have a seat.”
In a medical clinic, it isn’t difficult to guess which are the sick people. We judge from their symptoms, and we avoid them. Who likes getting sick? Even at home, when someone is ill, we wash our hands more, use separate hand towels and we try not to share germs. But a bigger epidemic than influenza is sweeping our culture. This wave is more subtle than a respiratory virus, but if we look close enough, we might see that the disease has spread even to our own homes.
Listen closely to those around you. Listen to your own words. How often do you hear, “I’m too busy,” or “I can’t rest right now?” In the grocery store, we see the mother with little ones trailing behind. “Hurry up,” she says, “We’re going to be late.” This is the disease of feeling chronically short of time which leads to an ongoing sense of frustration. People with hurry sickness never have time to relax.
Hurry sickness isn’t the only culprit in the epidemic. Its near cousin is overload syndrome, a title that describes the stress that comes from having too much—too much stress, too many possessions, a crowded schedule, and an overloaded mind. The overloaded person seems to live from one crisis to another, and when a new stressor comes along, he or she goes into a meltdown. Eventually it wears down the physical body as well.
A close examination of the hurried or the overloaded person might give some clues to yet another culprit in the epidemic. Those who are always trying to keep up with the Jones, with ever-increasing debt, likely suffer from what has been coined affluenza. As our culture becomes more affluent, there is increased pressure to have more material things. Victims of affluenza frequently suffer from both hurry sickness and overload syndrome as they struggle to get ahead.
If a quick check-up reveals that you are afflicted with any of these or even all three, there is hope. Just as with viral infections, treatment and prevention are essential. Like an antibiotic for an infection, the first prescription in getting better is to deal with the worst of the problem right now. If too much stuff is bogging you down, it’s time to purge your possessions. Give to charity, auction on E-bay, have a yard sale, or take a trip to the landfill, but do whatever you need to do to free yourself of the things that are suffocating you. If hurry is your problem, ask yourself what you are doing right now that you don’t really need to do. Purge your schedule by focusing on what really matters.
Affluenza is a sneaky virus. Sometimes we don’t even realize we have it. I’m a great bargain hunter, and I love shopping at thrift stores, but that doesn’t mean that the pursuit of more stuff doesn’t affect me even in my bargain hunting. It may be difficult to deny our children a Nintendo Wii when everyone else has one; and it’s easy to fall into traps of thinking we need things that we don’t.
Once we identify solutions, it’s time to think about prevention. Just as we wash our hands to prevent the spread of colds and we immunize against the flu, it’s important that we protect our schedules and our minds from relapses. The best prevention is learning to say no. It sounds simple enough, yet it’s difficult to put into action. I struggle too, but it gets easier the more I practice. We can learn how to say no to purchases, no to new commitments, and no to more stuff—even if it is free.
We can wipe out this epidemic, at least in our own homes, by renewing our focus on godliness (Ephesians 4:19), and letting go of worldly desires. We bring emotional health and tranquility to our families by guarding our time, spending wisely, and making God-honoring choices. I think our family could use an overload syndrome booster shot.

This article, written by Michelle, appeared her “Habits for Quality Living” column in the March 2008 issue of Wisconsin Christian News.

Inspiration Monday

We had the privilege of attending the Wisconsin Music Association Honors Band concert this past week. Our son Dallas was a member of the band and it was such a great experience for him and for all of us. For the Monday inspirational photo, I’m featuring a picture from inside the Overture Center in Madison, WI as the band was warming up for the concert (no photos were allowed during the concert). Can you imagine how fun it would be to perform in such a place?

Think of the experiences you’ve had that were “once in a lifetime” opportunities. Have you ever stopped to thank God and appreciate those experiences for how they shaped your life?

You’ll find more photos of our experience on my Shutterfly page.

Labor Day Blues

I’m catching up on e-mail, facebook, and blog posts from the weekend, and there’s such variety in the way we spent our weekend. So many labored on Labor Day while others rested. Some lamented the last days before school begins and still others camped, boated, grilled out, and celebrated family and friends. Despite the holiday, I have a sense that many of us enter this fall season with heavy hearts.


Perhaps it’s the sadness of seeing another summer race past. Or maybe it is the stress of adjusting back to the school routine. I’m feeling a little blue about both of those. Some of you carry unexpressed burdens from health problems, economic crisis, and family discord. However you spent your weekend, and however you feel on this Tuesday after Labor Day, be encouraged. God knows what is on your heart. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 124:8).

A SWEET AROMA

Yesterday, the farmer who owns the field across from my house mowed his hay. As I sat at my desk, the smell of fresh mowed hay wafted into my office from the open window, and immediately childhood memories flashed into my mind. Growing up on a farm, I recall many summers of making hay and drifting off to sleep in crisp line-dried sheets with the smell of fresh hay carried on the damp nighttime breeze. I opened the window wide last night so I could fall asleep reliving memories from more than two decades ago. Drinking in deep gulps of the sweet air, my unfinished to-do list banished from my mind, I relived the carefree innocence of my youth and the delightful comfort of crisp sheets and a soft quilt.

Isn’t it amazing how a smell can stick with us and bring back memories long filed away in some corner of our minds? That’s why it’s so important for us to remember that we are the aroma of Christ to other people (from 2 Cor. 2:15). Others remember how we treat them and if we claim to love Jesus at the same time we cut others down with our words, they’ll remember that stench for a long time. As we go to work, interact with grocery store clerks, and sit next to friends at the ball game, we need to keep in mind that our behavior can affect how some people think about Jesus. We can be a sweet fragrance that draws people towards a desire for God, or we can stink up their perception. I’d rather be perfume, wouldn’t you?

Michelle