Too Tired to Care

Recovery from the wounds of personal care fatigue

by Shane Stanford

I was sixteen. My mother was keeping something from me, and I didn’t know what it was. She did what parents often do—get all the facts, understand the big picture and seek the right moment for conversation. The difference was this conversation had the potential to shred the future. I knew from her face that […]

No Whispers

Caregiving for mental illness

by Cynthia Davis

No one should have to whisper about mental health disorders.” Kay Warren came to Memphis from California, where she shares with her husband the ministry of the well-known Saddleback Church, and spoke these words. At Christ United Methodist Church, we were holding our second annual Mental Health Breakfast, where she told the story of losing […]

Comfort from a Furry Friend

Lutheran church comfort dogs spread mercy and compassion

by Mary Boland

Few things bring more comfort and joy than a tail-wagging, shaggy golden retriever. Known as some of the most loyal, gentle, and kind dogs around, the golden is an ideal choice to train as a service dog. The typical image of a service dog is one that is trained to help someone who has a […]

Learning to Throw a Spiritual Practice Punch

Engaging our whole selves to become whole and healthy

by Tara Owens

One icebreaker popular at conferences and retreats involves coming up with two true things about you, and one lie. As you get to know the people around you, they guess which of the three things you’ve shared is untrue. I always win. I was an amateur boxer. I even have a fight poster to prove […]

Dancing Away Depression

Liturgical dance as spiritual practice holds out healing hope

by Sarita Wilson

The concept of dance as a healing medium is not new to religion. For centuries, dance has been used as a vehicle to express joy, religious fervor and other emotions. In ancient civilizations, dance was practiced in ceremonial rites, religious events, and in healing rituals as well as to lift spirits or to remove evil […]

They Done Broke Our Grandson

A dog attack, a trip to the ER, and the legacy of Marty’s wisdom

by Larry Kinard

Our oldest and only grandson was bitten by a dog a few weeks ago and when I say bitten, I mean attacked. I know the phrase “attacked by a dog” sounds pretty harsh but if it is your son, daughter or grandson that’s been attacked, and then it’s dead-on accurate. Apparently said grandson, age six, […]

Responding To Trauma Triggers

What they are and how you can help

by Melanie Ferguson

Trauma triggers are experiences that remind someone of a traumatic event. They can involve anything from sensory memories like smells or sounds to certain places, people, activities, or conversations. Triggers may be expected or unexpected, conscious or unconscious. Responses to triggers can vary greatly, but may be: Physical (shortness of breath, heart racing, muscle tension, […]

A Letter to my Daughter…

On Her First Easter in Heaven

by Robyn Bles

Oh my darling girl, I started this holy season utterly aching for you. It had been two months since you passed, and Ash Wednesday was just that, ashes and barren. As I prepared to lead Ash Wednesday services, I tried to believe the promise of this day; that we all return to this state. I […]

To Be Known And Loved

Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Georgia

by Mary Button

I was in my second year studying ethics at the Candler School of Theology when I first visited Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in southeast Atlanta. In typical fashion I tiptoed into the sanctuary about five minutes after the start of worship. My good friend and fellow student was preaching that day, and I had hoped […]

Interview

Living in Conflict, Living in Abundance

Q&A with Raeda Mansour, the only parish nurse in Palestine

by Jeff Hulett

Raeda Mansour is a parish nurse at Christmas Lutheran Church in the ancient city of Bethlehem and the only parish nurse in Palestine. While the city of Bethlehem is most famous as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the modern day city is home to a population of 25,000 people and located within the Palestinian territory […]

After the Tragedy

After the murders at Emanuel AME, I turned to silence, community and Scripture to help bear the pain of loss.

by William Miller

For me, faith has a complex new meaning in the days following the tragedy that occurred in a Bible study held at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. I remember walking through the door at home that evening after attending Vacation Bible School at the church I pastored and almost simultaneously receiving […]

A Community Called Home

Ministries Creating a Dwelling Place for the Moral Injury of Our Veterans

by Elsa Peters Cook

“The trauma that warriors face can’t be healed by medication or even talk therapy,” explains the Rev. John Schluep. “It can only come through the gritty work of being in the trenches.” With the increasing awareness that 22 veterans commit suicide each day, communities of faith are looking for new ways of being in the […]

Invisible Countries

Traveling with others through their stories of trauma

by Susan Palwick

In the medical world, the word trauma refers to very specific classes of life-threatening injury. The hospital where I volunteer isn’t a trauma center, which means that—except for a few rare cases where trauma patients arrive under their own power, and even rarer mass casualty incidents—we don’t see people who’ve been shot, stabbed, severely burned, […]

Intergenerational Living

You're Never Too Old (or Young) to be a Good Neighbor

by Mary Boland

Housing is often a particular issue for two groups of people: students and older adults. While college costs only seem to be growing, the need for affordable student housing has never been greater. And for older adults, moving to a nursing home or assisted living apartment often leaves them anxious, lonely, and frustrated. Humanitas Retirement […]

The One Who Comforts

Trauma, Transformation and the Church as the Caring Other

by Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger

A dear friend of mine, a capable, compassionate and responsible professional woman, thought she was going crazy after 9/11. She was not in New York on that dreadful day, nor in Washington DC. Yet in the weeks and months afterward, she experienced so many inexplicable and frightening symptoms that she sought therapeutic help. She had […]

Be Not Afraid

Creating a system of care built on love, not fear

by Antony Sheehan

I coughed for three weeks straight. I remember enough from my nursing training to know that was not a good sign. Finally, my officemate at the Church Health Center, Dr. Scott Morris, had enough of my hacking. Who can blame him? He practically picked me up by my shirt collar and marched me over to […]

Book Review

Sober Mercies

How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk

reviewed by Kat Franchino

Stigma often accompanies addiction. In some religious communities, addiction may be associated with sinfulness, making it difficult for some churchgoing addicts to address their addictions head-on. In Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With a Christian Drunk, Christian author and recovering alcoholic Heather Kopp writes about her addiction, its effect on her relationship with God, […]

Capturing Love

by Ashley-Anne Masters

Parents should not outlive their children. Yet when the unthinkable becomes reality, many hospitals offer a variety of supportive resources to accompany families in their grief, shock, and heartache. In addition to other memory-makers–such as handprints and saving locks of hair–one beautiful resource offered is that of bereavement photography. For families with infant loss, bereavement photos […]

Interview

A Light in the Darkness

Q&A with Lee Wolfe Blum

by Eileen Walsh

Lee Wolfe Blum is an author, wife, mother and survivor of an eating disorder that almost took her life. Her book Table in the Darkness: A Healing Journey through an Eating Disorder (InterVarsity Press, 2013) describes her life and battle with an eating disorder along with a severe case of depression. Through her recovery, Blum […]

God, Anxiety, and Thomas Aquinas

by Robert St. Hilaire

Throughout my life, I’ve always struggled with anxiety, a problem which has sometimes found expression in various kinds of obsessive-compulsive behavior. Usually, this has taken the form of annoying but ultimately harmless kinds of “double-checking”: making sure the oven is turned off, or the front door is locked, or my hands are thoroughly washed. In […]

Creating Living Room

A journey toward peer support for people with mood disorders

by Marja Bergen

One in four people will, at some time of their life, have a mental illness. Christians like myself and many others are not exempt. Psychosis became a part of my life when I was 19, at the time I entered university. I lost touch with reality and became paranoid. My world was a scary place. […]

Breaking Down Walls of Isolation

The Sharing Group

by Susan Martins Miller

Mental illness isolates. Sharing unites. When Jesse Stinson’s life fractured in 1964, this straightforward truth shone the light of healing. Overnight he went from having a job and a family to being in a hospital that treated severe mental illness. For 10 months he moved through the process of first admitting that he was sick—with […]

4 Ways Churches Can Respond to Mental Illness

by Antony Sheehan

Connecting spirituality to issues of mental illness and recovery will not look the same in every congregation, but some broad categories will help both clergy and laypeople consider how to respond to the need for help in incorporating spirituality with less fear of these conditions. Congregations can make a difference by exploring four key areas. […]

Book Review

The Religion of Thinness

Satisfying the Spiritual Hungers Behind Women's Obsession with Food and Weight

reviewed by Rachel Davis

Eating problems are often hard to recognize, but many congregations have members who have a private struggle with food. Author Michelle Lelwica investigates the spiritual side of the quest for thinness in her book, The Religion of Thinness. Arguing that thinness has become a religion of its own, complete with rituals, creeds and icons of […]

Book Review

Dying for a Drink

What You and Your Family Should Know About Alcoholism

reviewed by Rachel Davis

Alcoholism is a devastating illness – for the individual, and their families and friends. Loved ones often suffer silently while the alcoholic continues on their destructive path. Author Anderson Spickard provides a thorough analysis of alcohol addiction and recovery in the book, Dying for a Drink. Spickard begins by dissecting the warning signs, the biological […]

Mental Illness

How Can Congregations Respond?

by Marja Bergen

I received an e-mail recently from a friend, who was concerned about an acquaintance of his, Bill, with a new diagnosis of bipolar illness. Bill had suffered greatly in the previous years. Although the bipolar diagnosis was hard to accept, he realized that he needed to learn to manage it. For me, these were the […]

Fine and Blessed

by Scott Morris

Every time I walk in to a patient’s room at the Church Health Center, I make it a point of asking how the patient is feeling emotionally before we get on to physical concerns. More often than not, my patients respond with: “Fine and blessed.” “Fine and blessed” is especially what many of my older […]

Playing Through

One Couple’s Notes on the Cancer Dance

by Sharon Pavelda

“I have a surprise for you,” said Randall, rushing up to meet me at our appointed rendezvous. Seeming unusually pleased with himself, he looked more like a young suitor than a 64-year-old husband. He put his arm around me and started ushering me down the hallway, smiling and chuckling to himself. “Close your eyes and […]

A Play-Full Life

Slowing Down and Seeking Peace

by Jaco Hamman

I smelled God. Maybe you have, too. It happened in northern Montana as I was making my way along forest and fire roads on my off-road motorcycle with my riding partner, Barry. We stopped to don our rain gear just as a torrential storm exploded above and around us. Even with our off-road motorcycles, traveling […]

I Draw Smiles

Cartoons and caricatures can bring comfort

by Nick Nixon

As a humor writer, illustrator and cartoonist, I seem to be able to find some humor in almost everything, and my cup is always at least half full. When I was diagnosed with cancer back in 2007, my oncologist told me to hang onto that positive attitude and sense of humor, and that it would […]

Interview

Seriously Funny Spirituality

Q&A with Father Jim Martin

by Stacy Smith

Father James Martin is best known as the official chaplain of the Colbert Nation, a virtual country inhabited by fans of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, the satirical late-night news show hosted by Stephen Colbert. But while Fr. Jim is funny, this Jesuit is no joke. He’s the editor-at-large of America Magazine and the author […]

Book Review

Holy Play

The Joyful Adventure of Unleashing Your Divine Purpose

reviewed by Mary Boland

In his book, Holy Play: The Joyful Adventure of Unleashing Your Divine Purpose, Kirk Byron Jones emphasizes the true power vested in humanity—a power too often diminished in religious teaching—for co-creating our lives’ purpose with God. He makes use of various Scripture passages and anecdotes, allowing an element of play that shows the joyful aspect of the […]

Laughter is the Best Medicine

by Susan Sparks

“Is this going to take long?” I asked the nurse. I needed to know because I had wedged this terribly inconvenient medical test between two important meetings, and the time for the second was quickly approaching. “I don’t think so,” she answered. The door then opened, and the doctor appeared with a pathologist in tow. […]

Dream Homes & Places to Retreat

A quick, meaningful art project that anyone can do with an older person one-on-one or with a group

by Allison Decamillis

This is a quick, meaningful art project that anyone can do with an older person one-on-one or as a group. It is an excellent way for families to connect with older loved ones, and it is fun for all ages and skill levels. Make the most of the creative experience by concluding with a lively group […]

Reaching Out

by Susan Palwick

I met you years ago, and I never knew your name. I’ve never forgotten you, though, and I think about you especially during the holidays, when so many people feel so lonely. You should have been old enough to walk when I met you, but you weren’t walking. Part of that was because your leg […]

Interview

Let Us Laugh! Finding Joy in the Face of Cancer

Q&A with the Rev. Susan Sparks

by Stacy Smith

Rev. Susan Sparks’s bio reads like the set-up for a joke. She’s an ex-trial lawyer, a stand-up comedian, and the pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. In her book Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor, she finds the funny in her journey through life, ministry, and […]

Live. Laugh. Love.

by Ashley-Anne Masters

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard […]

Reflecting through Art in San Marcos, Nicaragua

by Church Health Reader Editors

Considering the eight-meter long mural just completed by the women of her community, Fabiola Cerda expressed its impact: “I didn’t know we had the ability to create something so beautiful with our own creativity. I realized the many different ways that violence can take shape. It isn’t only physical.” Last winter Fifo and Ellen Bermudez, […]

Connection through Caring

Bethleham Lutheran Church in St. Charles, IL

by Church Health Reader Editors

Baking. Visiting. Organizing. Serving meals. Listening. Transporting. Knitting. Welcoming. Fixing. Mentoring. Communing. Praying. Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Charles, Illinois offers a robust congregational care ministry that supports the emotional health of its members. The ministry seeks to connect those who need care with those who want to care for others within the body of […]

Mindful of Grace

Viewing Mental Illness Through the Eyes of Faith

by Matthew S. Stanford

“… I have known rejection after rejection to the point where I have left several churches. There is no support in the church for this kind of illness at all, there is only alienation. Funny how if it had been breast cancer or heart disease, the whole church would rally around me. But for the […]

Interview

A Tapestry of Brokenness

Q&A with John Kilzer

by John Shorb

Rev. Dr. John Kilzer is associate pastor at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee where he leads The Way, a music-centered service of recovery based on the Beatitudes and the 12 Steps. He shared his remarkable story with Church Health Reader and how recovery is a process we should all embrace.   John […]

APPEAL®

End-of-Life Curriculum for African-Americans

by Richard Payne

I am an African-American physician who has practiced in academic environments for my entire career. I have also experienced firsthand the struggles of fellow African American patients and families with end of life decision-making. Therefore I was particularly interested in providing educational and training opportunities for colleagues that would improve their skills, competency and confidence […]

Interview

Learning How to Die

Q&A with Stanley Hauerwas

by Sarah Stoneking

Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School. In 2001, he was named by Time Magazine “America’s Best Theologian,” the same year he delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectureship at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Hauerwas has written prolifically across disciplinary lines: from political theory to medical […]

Last Supper

by Susan Palwick

My father loved to eat. He preferred simple, healthy food to anything fancy, and was a big fan of salad and fish. During the years he lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, only minutes from the docks where the fishing boats pulled in, my sister and I gorged on shrimp during our visits. We’d go […]