Doing Life Together

workLabor Day! Fire up the barbecue, head to the beach or hike that mountain trail! Most of us think of this as a welcomed day off, marking the end of summer and the beginning of school and work for the Fall semester. Football begins and we gear up for another season.

Growing up, it meant putting away the white shoes and pants and pulling out the autumn clothes, a barbecue with friends and a day to rest. But is Labor day about more than a wardrobe change?

When I asked several people the meaning of the holiday, most had no idea-just a free day off for the last long weekend of summer. In fact, the name implies it is a day of work, the day we labor. Some were confused by that. Why call it a day to labor when we are doing the opposite?

Originally Labor Day was meant to honor the working class and proposed by the Central Labor Union of New York. The federal government made it a holiday in 1894 to honor people whose hard work, mostly physical and manual labor, built this country. The holiday has continued to be on the first Monday of September since that date.

So while we have broadened the concept to celebrate work in general, use this holiday to be grateful that you have a job. If you are looking for a job, keep looking. Work is good for your health and well-being. Research (G. Waddell and A.K. Burton, 2006) shows that unemployment leads to a deterioration in mental and physical health. Unemployed people have higher sickness rates and disabilities. And when people return to work, their overall health improves.

While it may not always feel like it and some days the stress of work feels overwhelming, work is good for you when it comes to overall well-being. But we can all use a three-day weekend every now and then. Enjoy yours!!!

shopping cartThe other day, I ran into the grocery store to pick up a last minute item for dinner. As I meandered through the aisles trying to find the one item I needed, I noticed the checkout lines were long and dotted with carts of overflowing groceries. But then I spied the lone express checkout line and breathed a sign of relief. I was pressed for time and needed to get in and out of that store quickly.

Directly over the cash register of the express line was a large and well-placed sign, 12 items or less. There were three people ahead of me in line, two with one item each. But the woman in directly in front of me- a tall, nicely dressed blond with two cute little girls, didn’t make eye contact and her cart was spilling over with groceries, grossly past the 12-item limit.

So I paused. Do I say something? I really was in a hurry and that was the purpose of the express line! Making sure I didn’t sound angry, I made eye contact and said, “I don’t know if you noticed but this is the express line.” I was kind, smiled and gave her the benefit of the doubt. After all, I’ve stood in that line, dazed, with too many groceries completely oblivious to the fact that I was in the wrong line. When it was brought to my attention, I apologized and moved. Not this woman.

She turned to me and made a very sarcastic remark. Her daughters looked up at mommy and probably wondered what this mean lady was doing to mommy to make her so angry. Mommy was clearly miffed and became instantly rude to me.

Honestly, I was a little taken aback by her anger and thought, wow, this much anger over a simple request to follow the rules. Was this rudeness really warranted? I wanted to be her therapist for the moment (of course she was not asking me to be in that role). What message was she sending her children—break the rules and then be rude to someone who calls you on it?

It seems like a small thing but how often do we feel entitled to do what we want to do regardless of how it impacts others or breaks rules? What are we teaching our kids who watch us speed because we need to be somewhere, cut in line because our time is more important than those who wait, or are rude in public because we are overly stressed.

The way we respond to small things indicates the state of our hearts. When entitlement and anger rear up over something small and insignificant, it’s time to pause and ask,

Am I too stressed?

Do I have an anger problem?

Do I feel entitled?

If the answer is YES to any of these questions, then a little stress and anger management can go along way. All of us probably need to take a deep breath and relax and realize that an extra 10 minutes in line isn’t going to ruin our day.

For more help with anger and stress, check out Dr. Linda’s book, Breaking Free from Anger and Unforgiveness


LightbulbWhen you contemplate a beautiful work of art by van Gogh, you sense the genius and creativity behind it. What mind envisions such beauty and is able to capture it on a canvas?

Or how about when you read the famous works of Virginia Woolf or Earnest Hemingway. Both were believed to be brilliant, creative and possibly bipolar.

Creativity requires a person  to think out of box. It taxes the mind from moments of what feel like insanity to the sublime.

The line between madness and creativity can sometimes be blurred. Out of that struggle, musicians produce beautiful sonnets and we are awed. Poets touch our hearts and painters create masterpieces like The Scream.  But is there a price to pay for this type of creative brilliance? Perhaps.

A new study tells us that the van Goghs of the world may have traits of bipolar disorder. Researchers assessed children at the age of eight for IQ. These same children were then assessed for  manic traits (used to diagnose bipolar disorder) at the age of 22-23. Those with high verbal IQs scored highest on the manic traits. This suggests that it could be possible that the genes that express creativity and high IQ may also express manic behavior if the environment is right.

Previous studies have also linked bipolar to high IQ and creativity, especially in those fields where verbal skills are used. This doesn’t mean that having a high IQ is dangerous. A high IQ provides many advantages. But it could mean that given the right environment, those risk factors that contribute to the expression of manic genes could be activated and result in bipolar disorder. And if we know the traits to look for early, we may be able to help some people sooner.

So behind every creative genius isn’t a mental illness! But traits of mental illness could be expressed in some creative geniuses who possess risk factors. Like all genetic predispositions, expression takes the right combination of environmental factors. And even then, those traits can be modified.


Like most of you, I was shaken by the horrific events of this past week: the senseless shooting of two TV journalists happened in my backyard. Those reporters worked at one of the TV stations in my viewing area and not too far from the massacre at Virginia Tech. Today, my prayers for the family and friends of the victims are for God’s comfort and peace during this excruciating time.

As I listen to the analysis of yet another shooting, I continue to be amazed at the need to assign blame that resurfaces every time we see such evil acted out.

Our President was quick to jump on gun control as the perfect solution our culture continues to ignore. Believe me, I’m not a gun advocate, but let’s not politicize human tragedy to promote an ideology. Gun control is not going to stop what happened at Smith Mountain Lake.

Then there is the routine lament about needing better mental health screenings. Yet it appears that the TV station’s management acted very responsibly; they were acutely aware of the shooter’s problems, took action to protect their staff, and recommended counseling. It would be unrealistic for any company to continuously monitor the behavior of a disgruntled ex employee for two years being vigilant for possible signs of acting out.

As is often the case with these type of shooters, the gunman wanted to outdo his predecessors. He wanted us to share in his cowardly act. So he used his video skills and social media to document the horror. Social media were his distribution channels. His message? I’ve been wronged, offended, hurt, I have grudges…so watch me get my revenge!

Unless he broadcast his intentions to hurt these specific people, it’s unlikely anyone could have seen this coming. And that is what disturbs us. We can’t predict how evil presents. So we try to lay blame…if only he didn’t have easy access to guns, if only he had been picked up by the mental health system… but how can we contain evil?

To successfully fight evil, you have to change a person’s heart. That transformation changes bitterness to forgiveness and brings a refusal to repay evil for evil. Without a change of heart, evil will continue to be acted out.

Spiritual solutions are rarely talked about in our culture these days. Yet, solving spiritual problems with secular solutions is a non-starter. Ephesians 6:12 says, “We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.” And when humans are the face of that evil, we fight the darkness with the light of Christ. We stop evil with changed hearts. But that won’t make the news-talk cycle.

So while the media pundits argue for gun control and better screenings, I pray that we do a better job addressing the spiritual condition of peoples’ lives, that the church continues to push back the darkness with the light of the gospel, that lives will be transformed. This was the message of those gunned down in Charleston and this is a message we need to remember.