from Mental Health and Wholeness Task Force​

March 26, 2017

The LOrd is my Shepherd

by Cheryl Magrini

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake”
Psalm 23:1-3

What Scripture do you turn to when you are feeling lost and overwhelmed by the chaos and storms of life? For so many, whether Christian or Jew, or one who seeks out strength from wise ancient poets such as the psalmists, Psalm 23 is a source of comfort throughout the course of a lifetime. When a person is at the cusp of moving onto their eternal glory, this Psalm becomes the prayer of trust in the presence of God. The vibrant imagery brings a sense of being cared for in a way that fills one’s heart and soul. The rush and urgency of meeting a deadline, battling traffic to make an appointment, doing one more chore, baking dozens of cookies for the school party, and on, are set aside. Making room to be in the presence of God who restores our soul in Lent requires being intentional in spending time with God.

For your reflection…

How, where, and when can you set aside time for sitting in the presence of God on a regular basis? Even ten minutes to start with as a daily discipline can be centering in heart, mind and spirit.

What image brings you peace and comfort in Psalm 23? As you read the verses, imagine yourself in that place, such as alongside a stream with your toes in the water, breathing slowly and deeply. Calming the body and engaging the senses helps to decrease stress and reduces the level of cortisol in the body, the stress-inducing hormone.

Look for places where you can walk for even a brief time. Are there “green pastures” at a nearby park; “still waters” along a lakefront, even a small pool of water to wade in; a new “path” to explore in a city neighborhood or a country road?

In the gentle words of Psalm 23, may you be blessed, renewed and restored in your emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health each day.

March 19, 2017

Faith, Patience, Hope

by Marci Corbin

”Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5: 1-5)

This message of faith, patience and hope are near and dear to my heart; and what I am giving extra effort to practice this Lenten season. Whether for comfort with personal irritations, soul searching dilemmas or global trials, God’s words and messages endures and has been restated throughout the ages – and with much more eloquence than I can ever provide. E.g. this famous quote attributed to Desmond Tutu, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

Be justified by your faith and know that there is light without seeing… and that patience is the experience our Lord Jesus Christ blesses us with as he walks with us through our deserts.

A few tips for cultivating hope in this 21st century…

1) Find a clear path. Reach out to people in our congregation, a pastor, a friend or family member… ask for help with the step by step process.
2) Look for role models who have found solutions. You will be surprised to learn about those sitting right next to you, across from you, who have overcome adversity.
3) Do what you can do. Again, one step: make your bed. Attend a worship service. Talk to someone at our coffee hour.
4) Perform an act of kindness. Being kind can trigger the release of serotonin in the brain which can calm stress and help reduce pain.

And remember God’s Word,

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we make also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5: 6-11)

March 5, 2017

Take Time to Bless

by David Myford

“Go forth from this land and I will show you a new land and make a great nation of you. I will bless those who bless you. I will curse those who curse you.” (Genesis 12: 1-4 )

Most years, I think of Lent as a period of denial. One must ‘suffer’ by giving up ‘things’ that one covets. One year it was coffee, another year it was chocolate, other years it was caffeine, sodas, spirits, and desserts. Lent is a sacrificial reminder that giving up symbolically represents our Savior's sacrifice for us. And usually, when I am on this forty-day ‘journey of denial’, I am all too ready to curse the world for not recognizing how miserable I am during my sacrifice.

In a year full of negative messages, I thought about the Jesus model. Jesus blessed others by healing the sick, waking the dead, forgiving the sinner, blessing his enemies, and raising up the least, the lost, and the lonely. What might result from blessing others? Taking positive actions in the face of negativity seemed like a way to look at Lent through a positive lens.

This year, I decided that rather than taking the journey focused on denial and negativity (cursing those who don’t sacrifice), I would take on blessing someone every day during Lent. The sacrifice is that of time - the time it takes to celebrate the positives I see in another Child of God. This act of gratitude helps to reframe the minutes, days, and weeks of the Lenten journey. Who are those saints in my life who sacrificed for my sake?

The power of positive thinking is well documented in positive psychology and cognitive behavior therapy. It is a mental health version of “You are what you eat” for the brain. If we focus on the negativity in our lives, we will view the world through that dark lens. If we take the time to celebrate the wonderful gifts that others have brought to our lives, we will be more ready and willing to celebrate and view our lives in positive terms. Who will you celebrate today as being a part of your blessing during this year's Lenten journey?.

March 1, 2017

Not by Bread Alone

by Elizabeth Herzan Taylor

(Jesus) fasted 40 days and 40 nights, and afterward he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread”. But he answered “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. (Matt 4:1-4)

I was tempted to title this “One does not live by bread alone—so cut the carbs!” But Jesus wasn’t exactly giving nutrition advice here. However, in this season of Lenten reflection and discipline, many of us are trying to focus on changing some habits, eliminating what does not serve us and cultivating better practices. And inevitably, temptation will come, usually when we are at our weakest, to let things slide, to do what is easy instead of what will strengthen and protect us in body, mind and spirit. Jesus knew how to turn the focus back to what really matters. We can follow His example and cultivate practices for better physical, mental and spiritual health. Here are 3 things to remember:

• Take care of your body: Put good things into your system: food from nature (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plenty of water. Avoid things that are toxic to your system (excess alcohol, cigarettes, drugs not prescribed for you, processed and “junk” foods that are mostly empty calories). Keep it moving—get some exercise every day to stay strong and flexible. And then make sure to give it adequate rest: you need 6-8 hours of sleep to recharge.

• Take care of your mind and spirit: Relax daily, find healthy ways to deal with stress. Prioritize and have realistic plans and goals. Let go of anger, be at peace with yourself and others. Don’t hesitate to utilize mental health services if needed. And recall Psalm 32—God’s forgiveness is always available to restore us.

• Practice prevention: Keep an eye on your weight and blood pressure. See your primary care provider regularly for screenings such as cholesterol, diabetes, kidney and liver function, and any other tests recommended for your age and gender.
Let us pray during this Lent and throughout our lives, for the strength to resist temptations that keep us from living out God’s creation intention for us.