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1.29.2010

Has Your Family Had This Virus?

A Epidemic of Family Proportion

       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.

Reprinted from Michelle's March 2008 "Habits for Quality Living" Wisconsin Christian News Column

I love blog parties! This post is linked up with The Winter Bliss post at The Inspired Room

1.28.2010

Not Every Experiement Works--Free Book

In my eagerness to give away some books this month, I experimented a bit with my drawing by setting goals for a certain number of readers. For every 25 readers added, I'd give away another book.  I was over ambitious and I'll admit, not every experiment works. But sometimes you just have to try right? 

Anyway, I Still DO want to give away something this month and there are only 3 days left in the month. So, I've removed the previous post and here's your brand new opportunity to win a free book. 

I will put the name of every person who responds with a comment below on THIS POST into a drawing on Feb. 1. The winner may choose one of the books listed here and I'll send it off in the mail to you. Be sure to include a link to your website or your e-mail so that I can contact you  (Feel free to modify e-mails for security reasons. Example: michelle(at) michellerayburn.com). 
Remember, only entries of public comments posted on the blog count. E-mails sent to me are not entered into the drawing. For those who receive the blog by e-mail, you'll need to link to the blog to leave your comments. (How to Comment Tutorial Here)

To enter , just tell me that you'd like to be entered in the book drawing.

Looking ahead: I have 6 books on hand to review in February so watch for some new books from some fabulous authors!

1.20.2010

Will You Pray with Me Today?


Prayers for Haiti

Today, I'm praying for the people of Haiti. After seeing news of another aftershock, I can only imagine the panic people must feel. So often, these types of disasters feel so far removed from our everyday life here in America.

Let's pray together for Haiti today.  Using the MckLinky tool below, enter your title, your prayer (250 words or less) and if you'd like, enter a link to your own blog.

I'm encouraged by the news that they are still pulling people alive out of the rubble today. And I'm praying that God continues to work miracles...Praising Him too that some children have been allowed to come to the US to meet their adoptive families!

If you're reading this via e-mail or via a feed on another web site, you can post your prayer on www.FaithCreativityLife.com  

Photo from New York Times 


 

Debut Author Releases Book

Winter is the perfect time for reading. This month and next, I'll be touring several authors on my blog as I receive books from their publicists for review. The first of these featured authors is Joyce Wheeler. Joyce's debut novel releases this week from Pleasant Word, a division of WinePress Group.

My LadyAbout the Book

Joyce Wheeler's debut novel introduces readers to Jolene O'Neil, a passionate woman whose life is both plagued and blessed by extraordinary events. Jolene's reactions to these events have a rippling effect within the lives of others as she runs from a compromised past toward the hope of a peaceful future. Can she choose a course against the will of the God yet still find His salvation?
                                                ~From the press release

About the Author

Joyce Wheeler grew up on the prairies of South Dakota, learning at an early age to appreciate the greatness of God's creation. The transition from rancher's daughter to rancher's wife when she married Justin came easy, and they have continued to pass their ranching tradition down to their children and grandchildren.

Joyce's interest in adventure and intrigue persuaded her to conjure up meaningful stories about ordinary people in difficult circumstances. She has walked, ridden, and drove over prairie trails and used those times to not only praise our Creator, but also weave stories that would reflect her appreciation of God's world.

As an avid reader, Joyce traveled the world in her armchair with a cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other, until her own unfulfilled desire to write a book began to unfold. At the urging of friends and family, Joyce took delight in developing characters of her own in and among the settings of a ranching lifestyle in which she is knowledgeable. The result was Joyce's very first book, entitled My Lady.

In addition to being a wife, mother, and grandmother, Joyce has enjoyed being a homemaker, bookkeeper, and gardener. Her hobbies include activities like family gatherings, music, horseback riding, hiking and ranch work. Some of her fondest memories are skiing with her grandchildren and white water rafting on the Snake River. Her greatest joy, however, is the growing knowledge that God is a part of every aspect of our lives and serving Him is the most exciting adventure of all.

Excerpt

"Jolene watched the parched Wyoming scenery flash by in a dreary sense of brownness as she straddled the back of Dexter's Harley. The hot August sun beat mercilessly on her black pants and shirt and ran tiny rivulets of sweat down her back. Even with the helmet and earphones, the drone of the motorcycles all around them was deafening and she only caught a small part of whatever Dexter was saying to her..."
                                           ~Opening paragraph of MY LADY Prologue

My Review

Book Review of My Lady
Review by Michelle Rayburn

I received a complimentary copy of Joyce Wheeler’s novel “My Lady” from the publisher and read it in a weekend. The twists and turns will have readers captivated and waiting for the next surprise, or tragedy. In order to prevent this review from becoming a spoiler, I won’t share the full plot, but main character Jolene O’Neil experiences more than her share of life-altering events. Only a strong woman could remain sane though what she has weathered, and only in fiction can a story move this fast. For the satisfaction of the reader, it’s great to know how each phase of the plot resolves as readers are sure to empathize with Jolene and wonder how she manages to withstand so many losses. I wanted to take her in and protect her.

Wheeler knows how to draw in a reader with drama and narrative, yet I couldn’t help feeling a bit rushed as I processed the story. As the character moved from tragedy to triumph to more tragedy and so on, I couldn’t relate to Jolene’s ability to move on so quickly. But, I felt satisfied at the end with the resolution of the story and I enjoyed the elements of mystery and suspense.

At times, I felt as though the spiritual element of the story was tacked on, and main character Jolene’s decisions sometimes blurred the line between godly and ungodly. Even the threads of redemption don't clearly demonstrate how Jolene, a believer, was wrong in making certain choices. Ultimately, many of the story elements felt more like guilty pleasure and fantasy for the author and reader than I’m personally comfortable with, mostly because they promoted spiritual mediocrity without acknowledging it was such.

Overall, I think the author has potential and she can write a compelling story, but the competition sets the bar high in fiction.

1.18.2010

Inspired to Dream

As I continue to pursue the question, "What is your deepest heart desire?" it is no coincidence that I "happened" to read a book this week that prompted more thoughts about dreams and desires. This book made me think about how God can lead us in directions we'd never dreamed of before.

Book Review
"Summer of Light" a novel by W. Dale Cramer

Browsing through books at the library, I decided to take a chance on an author I’d never heard of and checked out Summer of Light by W. Dale Cramer. From the first chapter, I was hooked! Cramer has a way of connecting with a reader. Sometimes I forgot I was reading fiction because I felt like I was in the story. Cramer’s sense of humor is incredible, and I loved the witty and somewhat sarcastic ways Mick the main character responded to his surroundings.

Sometimes, I think Cramer was channeling Erma Bombeck as he turned what could have been mundane situations into a side-splitting scenarios. As a mother, I felt appreciated as Mick discovered his own appreciation for moms, and my heart connected with him as he fell deeper in love with his family. As a wife, Mick’s process helped me to respect the way a husband gains esteem from his work. But over all other qualities, the book was inspiring.

As Mick journeyed from ironworker to stay-at-home-dad to artist, I saw the unfolding of a dream and it inspired me to think that I too could pursue my dream, no matter how implausible it seems. I’m so glad I found this book! I know I’ll be watching for other works by this author and recommending the book to friends.
Summer of Light: A Novel

1.13.2010

The Desires of Your Heart

Yesterday morning, my Bible study book asked me to write down the deepest desire of my heart. I thought about it for a while, then left the line blank. What really is my deepest desire? I knew I could fill in something akin to a canned Sunday school answer. Something like, my deepest desire is to glorify God and do what He wants me to do.  But I didn't write that down, because what I want to be my deepest desire and what I make my deepest desire have not yet merged into one track.

In fact, I'm not really sure what it is. I'm sure that if I desired something deeply enough, I'd do whatever it takes to pursue that desire. Yet my daily habits often reflect actions that run counter to any desire I could name. I want to lose weight, but I eat chocolate. Too much of it. I want to write a book, but I fritter my time on facebook and internet browsing. I want to grow deeper in my faith, but I leave so little room in my schedule for spending time with God.

Psalm 37:4 says to "take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desires" (NLT). I'm thinking the first step in discovering the desire of my heart is in taking delight in God. So, I'm going to focus on that step until I can clearly see the next one.

What is your deepest heart desire? Do your actions reflect that desire?

1.05.2010

New Years Re-Solutions

Re-Solutions for Old Problems

Ah, the beginning of another year.  Another reminder that we’re getting older.  Another  moment of reconciliation with the bathroom scale. Another revisit to the unresolved issues from last year, and the year before that, and the…well, you get the idea. It’s no wonder some of us battle with a mood of depression after the holidays. Yet, despite the possible negative side of starting a new year, it offers plenty of fresh optimism as well.  A new page free from the doodles and spills life offered last year.  A reason to start over and make changes.  This is why so many of us make resolutions year after year.

What is a resolution, and why did I hyphenate it in the title?  I don’t typically read Webster’s dictionary for recreation, but I pulled it off the shelf to get a new perspective on New Years resolutions.  Did you know there are nineteen definitions of the word?  A resolution can be a determination or a sense of purpose. It can mean to make up one’s mind. It’s also a firm decision to do something, such as, “I am determined to lose thirty pounds this year.” Or, it can be used to describe the quality of a picture, as in screen resolution relating to pixels and other technical computer jargon. It also means to reduce by mental analysis, as in what I might unfortunately do to my husband during occasional “discussions”. Finally, it can mean an answer to a problem—a solution. 

Obviously, I sensed your stifled yawns after reading the word “dictionary” and I paraphrased a little. After studying all of the definitions, I like to think of a resolution as a re-solution.  A new fix for an old problem. I spelled the word with the hyphen to emphasize the prefix “re,” which indicates something that we do again.  A re-solution simply means to solve again.  Isn’t that what we do every New Years?  We look at our problems and look for new perspectives.  So why is it that at the end of each year we look back and discover that only a handful of our resolutions have been fulfilled?  Perhaps it is because we do not continue to seek re-solutions throughout the year.  Our quality of life suffers because we do not translate our resolutions from thoughts on paper into actions.

If you have made resolutions this year, it’s important to revisit them daily.  What actions can you do today that will resolve the struggles you had yesterday?  Regardless of whether your resolutions relate to eating better, losing weight, getting in shape, getting organized, remembering birthdays, improving family communication, or paying off debt, each requires a daily solution.

Scripture reminds us of the need for daily renewal.  Jesus says in Luke 9:23 that we are to take up our crosses daily.  He didn’t simply say that we are take up our cross, as in a one-time action.  Instead, he asks us to take it up daily. Having lived on earth for over thirty years, he surely observed how quickly our habits disintegrate. The prophet writes in Lamentations of  God’s new daily mercy (Lam. 3:23).  There is such peace in knowing God offers us a chance to start over every day.

After considering what it takes to fulfill the resolutions we make each January, I’ll offer my own blended version of a definition. Re-solutions (rē-sō-loo-shuns): developing a sense of purpose and determination to have the best possible quality of life through a daily decision to solve problems repeatedly.

This article appeared in my January 2008 Wisconsin Christan News Column. Yep, I'm still re-solving every year. Not with resolutions, but with recommitting to my desire to live as God wants me to live. 

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