May 1, 2017
Find tips and resources for self-care, material to assist you in providing pastoral care, and general information to help you in your practice of ministry. Information will be updated every two weeks concurrent with the East Ohio E-news. Archives Here ...
The Space between Death and Resurrection
by Shelly Rambo
Theologians have always wrestled with questions about suffering: Why do we suffer? Where is God in the suffering? Does God allow suffering? Does God will suffering?
But new research into trauma “pushes them to the extreme,” said theologian Shelly Rambo.
I think what’s different is the way that trauma exposes the extreme vulnerability of human persons in relationship to larger historical forces.
She became interested in the field of trauma studies while at Yale University in the 1990s, where researchers were studying the effect of the Holocaust on survivors. She has continued to explore the theological issues of suffering and witness with military chaplains and others who have experienced trauma.
One of the perennial questions of human existence is, Why do we suffer? And for theologians, Where is God in the suffering? Does God allow suffering? Does God will suffering? Is God absent or present in suffering?
Often, trauma was thought of as very individual. Often we think about trauma as a traumatic event. An event happens.
But what we’re beginning to see is that traumatic events don’t end. Traumas are moving -- and we could say bleeding -- into other traumas. We don’t see a clear end to a suffering event but instead a kind of overflowing of suffering.
It really was when I started to read the post-Holocaust literature where I started to see this is a story that can’t be told.
These were all questions that someone like Elie Wiesel made very clear to me: What does it mean to write the horror of the Holocaust? What does it mean to write an event that can’t be written?
The first book that I wrote was really a refusal of a kind of triumphalistic theology of resurrection. It was because, in the case of many people who are living beyond traumas, the resurrection was often heard as a rush to get over it, to recover, or as pressure to live into resurrection when in fact the reality of their trauma was still very present.
Often we don’t linger very long in the suffering in Christian churches.
Walter Brueggemann says that we don’t pause on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter because we already know the end.
So, what does it mean to take that theological moment -- that Saturday -- as really a descent into hell? People who experience trauma will narrate something like a descent into hell, which is a sense of survival but not living anew again.
The story of Thomas’ encounter with the risen Christ, [the witness of Resurrection wounds,] in which the resurrected Christ shows Thomas the wounds, and the wounds still remain there.
We’re still not reading the wounds as seriously as we could in terms of the way in which life is marked by suffering. The wounds, for many people, constitute part of how they understand their new life. The work of the Christian community is to witness the wounds and bring the wounded back into life again.
Think about how hard it is to witness suffering, how hard it is in the chaos in which you don’t know whether life’s going to emerge for someone. So, in a sense, the preacher or the Christian leader becomes the Mary and the beloved disciple and the Thomas who don’t have a clear sign of life.
Their work of witnessing is part of the redemption story, so that it puts a kind of pressure on Christian leaders to say that in the witnessing of suffering, we are about the work of redemption.
Christian leaders are called into that space in a way that I hadn’t realized before. The proclamation of the good news of the resurrection has to do with participating in this process of witnessing the dying and the rising of all creatures, witnessing the new creation coming into being.
I think Christian ministers are really struggling with the realities of violence, the pervasiveness of it, and the degree to which their own communities are being exposed to that violence and are really craving theologies of suffering.
Devastating things are happening to people in their congregations and in their communities, and how do you get up and preach? How do you teach the biblical stories? So I got an education in trauma, but I also have a passion to help religious leaders translate some of their stories into a new day.
The Pascal Mystery
by Ron Rolheiser
“The Pascal Mystery”, a chapter from Ron Rolheiser's The Holy Longing (pages 141-166) is a reflection on change, loss and grief. It is a great frame on this process through the lense of the Death, Resurrection of Jesus, the forty days following the resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost. These five moments is how we naturally assimilate change and loss. Rolheiser says the death occurs and we’re in a new life but before we can live in the spirit of the new life we have to grieve and let go of the old life, adjust to the new life, allow the old to ascend and only then are we ready to receive the spirit of the new life we’re already living. This is a process I see over and over in my clients in therapy and many of them have benefited from Rolheiser’s model for change.
The Body Keeps the Score
by Bessel van der Kolk
“Packed with science and human stories, the book is an intense read. . . . The struggle and resilience of [van der Kolk’s] patients is very moving.” —New Scientist
A pioneering researcher transforms our understanding of trauma and offers a bold new paradigm for healing.
Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.Find book online ...
by Naomi Goodlet
Observing your life as it is happening.
Accepting your current situation without judgement or struggle.
Allowing feelings to exist w/o letting them drive your actions.
Don't live in your emotions.
Noticing thoughts as they arise w/o the need to buy into them.
Taking action based on what you feel in your heart rather than old habits or short term convenience.
The Cross as Cure
by Richard Rohr
The second sacred image that the cross echoes is the “Lifted-Up One,” and it comes from the bronze snake in the desert. YHWH tells Moses to raise up a serpent on a pole, and “anyone who has been bitten by a serpent and looks upon it will be healed” (Numbers 21:8). It is like a homeopathic symbol. The very thing that is killing the Children of Israel is the thing that will heal them! It is presented as a vaccine that will give you just enough of the disease so you can develop a resistance to it. The cross dramatically raises up the problem of ignorant hatred for all to see, hoping to inoculate us against doing the same thing and projecting our violence onward into history.
Jesus becomes the seeming problem and the homeopathic cure for the same by dramatically exposing it for what it is, “parading it in public” (Colossians 2:15) for those who have eyes to see, and inviting us to gaze upon it with sympathetic understanding.
The prophet Zechariah calls Israel to “Look upon the pierced one and to mourn over him as for an only son,” and “weep for him as for a firstborn child,” and then “from that mourning” (five times repeated) will flow “a spirit of kindness and prayer” (12:10) and “a fountain of water” (13:1; 14:8). We would now call this “grief work”—holding the mystery of all suffering, looking honestly right at it, and learning from it, which typically leads to an uncanny and newfound compassion and understanding.
I believe we are invited to gaze upon the image of the crucified to soften our hearts toward suffering and to know that God’s heart has always been softened toward us, even and most especially in our suffering. This softens us toward ourselves and all others who suffer.
Following Jesus is actually a vocation to share the fate of God for the life of the world. Jesus invited people to “follow” him in bearing the mystery of human death and resurrection. It is not a requirement in order that we can go to heaven later, it is an invitation so that we can live an entirely full life now.
Those who agree to carry and love what God loves, which is both the good and the bad of human history, and to pay the price for its reconciliation within themselves—these are the followers of Jesus—the leaven, the salt, the remnant, the mustard seed that God can use to transform the world. The cross is a very dramatic image of what it takes to be a usable one for God.
These few are the critical mass that keeps the world from its path toward greed, violence, and self-destruction. God is calling everyone and everything to God’s self (Genesis 8:16-17, Ephesians 1:9-10, Colossians 1:15-20, Acts 3:21, 1 Timothy 2:4, John 3:17), not just a few. To get there, God needs models and images who are willing to be “conformed to the body of his death” and transformed into the body of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10). They are “the new creatures” (Galatians 6:15), and their transformed state is seeping into history and ever so slowly transforming it into life instead of death. This is the basis for all of our hope—in Christ and for history.
Gateway to Silence:
I am crucified with Christ.
The Art of Being Sensitive
by Mark Nepo
Sometimes, when I can let things come and go naturally, it’s possible for me to glimpse the truth that, though I’m frustrated, not everything is frustrating. Sometimes, in the midst of sadness, it’s possible to glimpse that, though I’m sad, not everything is sad. Like everyone, I struggle with finding the courage to face pain, heartache, disappointment, and betrayal, trying to face those who have hurt me and to face myself. But I remain committed to facing things, convinced it’s the only way to experience where truth and love meet. Being sensitive enough to let things in and out helps me face what is mine to face.
The art of being sensitive strengthens our resilience when we dare to love what-is. Loving what-is means accepting the truth of whatever moment we’re in. But loving what-is also means keeping our heart open long enough to feel and accept everything else that is happening at the same time, around us and beyond us. By feeling our way through what we’re given, we enter a heartfelt ring of awareness that keeps expanding. We feel the pain we’re carrying, and then we feel the light on the oak we’re sitting near, and then the laugh of a child playing across the street, and then the wind lifting the hawk gliding above us, and how the sun casts its warmth on so many lives moving through their own pain and joy in the same exact moment.
The reward for being sensitive is that we’re held by the Universe, the way the ocean in its buoyancy holds up a raft. To love what’s beyond our own particular instant of living, we’re asked not to minimize what we’re going through or to distract ourselves from the truth of what we’re going through. More deeply, we’re asked to inform what we’re going through with the vibrancy of all other life living at the same time.
The same dynamic holds for how we love each other. If while listening to you, I’m drawn to the sunlight behind you and hear birdsong above you, I’m not being distracted from loving you. Rather, I’m meant to bring these resources to you in your pain, just when you can’t access them. This is one of the gifts of being sensitive and loving each other. In an immediate way, I’m called to give my full attention to you in your distress. And in a simultaneous, eternal way, I’m called to give my attention to everything around you that is not in distress. So I can be a conduit, bringing the restorative energies of life through me to you in your pain. To be sensitive is to be a thorough conduit.
Ultimately, the art of being sensitive supports our effort to be who we are everywhere. Though everyone struggles with the urge to stay hidden, in fact, the largest hidden population in our society is the closet authentics. The irony is that we share a great kinship in this struggle to be real, though we all think we’re alone in our struggles to be here.
As such, we’re deeply restricted by the tension of sharing only with our small, private tribe while staying hidden in public. We live an either–or existence with our sensitivity, thinking we must reveal ourselves completely or not at all. We’re intimate with our small, private tribe while staying hidden in public. The great Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) said, “We’re all spies for God.” I think he means that we all experience the depth and mystery of life as a whole, but we guard our deepest sensibilities and keep them secret. And so, we live like spiritual spies.
The truth is, we don’t know how to be sensitive and authentic in public. We don’t know how to expand our tribe of intimates. We don’t know how to begin conversations about what’s true as a way to make friends. A great challenge of our age is to develop the skills to offer respectful invitations to deeper conversations and more authentic relationships. Some people will reject our invitation, which is fine, and some will say, “Thanks, let me think about this.” And some will drop their shoulders and utter, “My God, I thought I was alone.” Just how do we inhabit the vast, sweet terrain between being completely hidden and completely known? How do we have conversations that matter? No one knows how to do this. But this is our work in finding each other. This is our work in knitting the fabric of life back together wherever it is torn.
Questions to Walk With:
Meet: monthly 1 ½ hours
Where and when:
Ashland Christ UMC, 1140 Claremont Ave. – Second Wednesdays, 1:00 PM
Canton Faith UMC, 00 9th St. NW—Second Thursdays, 10:30 AM
Sandusky Trinity UMC, 214 E. Jefferson St. – Second Thursdays, 2:00 PM
Cleveland Hts Church of the Saviour, 2537 Lee Road – Third Thursdays, 1:30 PM
Medina Granger UMC, 1235 Granger Rd. – Third Wednesdays, 1:30 PM
If you are interested in being part of one of these groups, it would be helpful if you let us know for planning purposes. For questions and to receive information about a particular group, please call our office 330-456-0486 or email us at email@example.com
The Program in Pastoral Care and Counseling encourages the spiritual formation of our pastors believing a strong spiritual base is the greatest resource a church leader can possess. It helps us weather the many storms of ministry and deepens the incredible joys ministry provides. Following is a list of Spiritual Directors in our area. We encourage you to take advantage of this rich resource. This listing will appear in each edition of our bi-monthly webpage updates and new names and contact information will be provided as we learn of them and have permission to include them. If you are a director or know of a director that is not included here please let us know.
Debbie Baker - firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce Batchlor-Glader – email@example.com
Harry Finkbone - Finkbone1@gmail.com
Joy Gordon – firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Hollingsworth – email@example.com
Liz Nau – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Olin-Hitt – email@example.com
Sharon Seyfarth Garner – firstname.lastname@example.org
Valerie Stultz - email@example.com
Carol Topping - firstname.lastname@example.org
5 Ways to Nourish Your Brain
by Jennifer Wolkin
The brain is the grand conductor of the symphony of our selves. The brain leads mind and body, and the brain heeds mind and body. The brain plays a role in every thought, feeling, and body sensation we experience. That includes every twitch, every blink, every strum of a guitar, and even every orgasm. That also includes every dream, passion, fear, joy, and deepest desire.
Every memory you consolidated last night while you slept, each micro-movement used to brush your teeth this morning, every smoothie you tasted, step you took, daydream you pondered, daydream you snapped out of, work you intently focused upon, yawn you took, anxiety you felt, drop in blood sugar you experienced, was a manifestation of lots of talking. A plethora of dialogue went on inside of you today, and you need to know it.
Quick Brain Basics:
The brain and the spinal cord make up the nervous system, composed of billions of nerve cells (i.e. neurons) that speak back and forth between the brain and body. What’s the conversation like? Well, the nervous system is at least bilingual, and speaks both electrically and chemically. When neurons (the brain’s cells) are stimulated, an electrical impulse, called an action potential, is created. This eventually leads to the transmission of chemical substances called neurotransmitters, like norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, which we know play a huge role in our mood functioning, among a lot of other things.
Why is it so important to know how much chatter the brain is doing? Because to be mindful of the orchestration of our internal states (some in reaction to the external) is to be mindful of the essentiality of nourishing our brains.
The latest scientific research shows that neuroplasticity, the idea that new neurons can be created, makes it very possible for lifestyle to play a big role in maintaining and improving brain function. Of course, as always, nature and nurture dance an exquisite but complex dance, and so there is never one solution or one cause and effect paradigm when it comes to your wellness. Yet, there is something each of us can do to help our brains stay vital:
1. Reduce your stress levels by practicing mindfulness meditation.
Although stress is a temporarily adaptive response to a threat, when it is chronic it becomes maladaptive and can wreak havoc on the central nervous system (CNS). Stress-reduction and relaxation techniques are important for a healthy brain. A widely used relaxation-inducing technique is meditation. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to be particularly effective. Studies have indicated that the amygdala, known as our brain’s “fight or flight” center and the seat of our fearful and anxious emotions, decreases in brain cell volume after mindfulness practice. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain. Research is still parsing out the exact mechanisms, but many agree that on a cognitive level, mindfulness’s ability to cultivate attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, helps reduce the stress elicited by past and/or future oriented thinking.
2. Get your blood pumping through exercise.
Exercise is a life force, and there are many reasons why it is a crucial part of basic brain hygiene. One reason is that exercise actually raises serotonin levels (most antidepressants focus on the production of serotonin). That’s just the tip of the iceberg though with regards to exercise’s benefits, which is why it is always in my top three recommendations to clients who want to thrive cognitively as they age.
3. Use it, so you don’t lose it, by engaging in mental stimulation.
Lifelong students have the right idea when it comes to staving off age-related brain decline. Continued learning actually promotes brain health, and might actually create new neural connections. This kind of neuroplasticity is a handy defense against future cell loss. So in essence, taking a stab at a crossword puzzle, or enrolling in a continuing education course can help build cognitive reserves. The biggest bang for the brain are tasks that are challenging, varied, and novel.
4. Nourish your body and brain with balanced nutrition.
Our brain’s health is dependent on our many lifestyle choices that mediate gut health, including most notably diet i.e., reduction of excess sugar and refined carbohydrates, and increased pre and probiotic intake. Poor gut health, elicited by dysbiosis (a shift away from “normal” gut microbiota diversity), may contribute to disease, and has been implicated in neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders like multiple sclerosis, autistic spectrum disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Further, there is now research that suggests that depression and anxiety are mediated by poor gut health as well.
5. Stay positively connected to yourself and others by socializing.
Joining a community center, or even a meet-up group adventure is actually an investment in your future. Research continues to support the positive impact of social interaction on the brain. So much so, that studies even go so far as indicating that social interaction is a key to warding off dementia, including the Alzheimer’s. Even basic exchanges with people keep our brains stimulated as it searches for thoughts and a way to organize them into appropriate communication bytes. Also, let’s not forget that being part of a social network often elicits healthy behaviors, most notably joining a walking group, or engaging in other group exercise. So, keep your friends and family close to help maintain cognitive processes.View online ...
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