October 2, 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 ...
Pastoral Care Offers Two Spiritual Practice Opportunities to our Pastors and Church Leaders
Online Spiritual Practice Groups
We have tested ZOOM, an online conferencing program, in a pilot program and found it to be very easily used and the participants found the experience meaningful. These groups will be limited to 8-10 participates and will be scheduled as the groups are populated.
Face to Face Spiritual Practice Group
Plans are being made for a face to face group at First UMC Akron. The start date will be determined by the group of interested pastors.
These groups will meet once each month for one and one-half hour. The purpose of this program is to create soul space, to explore a variety of spiritual experiences, to spend time in some spiritual practice and to provide fellowship and encouragement for our own spiritual practice.
Please contact Howard Humphress at email@example.com or call 330-456-0486 for questions or to indicate interest in one of these group experiences.
What is Your Mission?
by Dave Odom
The question, “What is your mission?” sends waves of panic through many Christian congregations and other institutions. Why? Do we not know what to do? Are we so confused by the rapid pace of change that even our basic purpose feels unsettled?
Many congregations are caught between finding meaning in the worship, study, ministry and missions that have sustained faith through several generations and addressing the concern that young people are not coming to church. We read about the rising number of people with no religious affiliation (the “nones”), and many of us realize that our grandchildren and their friends are not in church.
This situation leaves many with doubts about what our congregations are doing. We wonder whether the church down the road has things figured out.
The vocabulary also trips us up, with people using “mission,” “purpose,” “vision” and “strategy” to mean different things. The simplest approach defines “mission” as the completion of the sentence, “We exist to …” Mission is action-oriented; purpose is more about being. The two are closely connected.
Another challenge is that a clear mission does not always result in a specific strategy. The mission of a congregation might be to “make disciples,” using the phrase from Mathew 28’s Great Commission. The statement is short, memorable and rooted in the Christian tradition.
Unfortunately, it does not indicate to a congregation how or where to do that work.
Effective strategies are focused on activities with specific people and places. But determining and following those strategies can be a challenge. The ways that we have lived out the mission don’t seem to be having the same impact as before. We feel a need to do something different, yet many of our current strategies have meaning for us and our communities.
Rather than wringing our hands about the clarity of a mission statement, we might make more progress by discussing the impact of our strategies. How do we know that we are bearing witness to the Triune God? What is the evidence? . . .
These questions require conversation among the leaders and members, along with people outside the church. Do principals, teachers, judges, public health professionals, police officers and social workers see the evidence of your congregation’s impact? If not, why not? Who outside the church should be noticing the impact you have named? . . .
The art of leadership lies in discerning when to press for the new, when to maintain speed and direction for the established, and when to let go of the no longer effective -- and then bringing others along in executing these moves.
Circling around and around a mission statement is a way to delay all the other important conversations and decisions. For Christians, mission statements matter, but from a human standpoint, faithfulness is measured by our deeds, our impact in the world.
Making Marriage Great Again: More Effective Couples Therapy
by John and Julie Gottman
Herein lies a strategy for building a more effective couples and family therapy. First, find a valid and reliable homeostatic set-point variable, and describe the healthy and unhealthy set points. For example, we might identify a critical number of hostile messages a couple launches at one another in a conflict discussion; 2 in 15 minutes might be okay, but 15 might exceed a healthy set point. Then, we could try to identify the mechanisms that regulate that set point, showing us the kind of therapy that’s likely to be effective.
In our own research, the two of us started this way, by asking, “What variable gets regulated in a couple or family system? What’s a healthy relationship, and what’s an unhealthy one?” One homeostatic variable in a couple’s relationship was the ratio of positive-to-negative emotions expressed during a conflict interaction. A positive-to-negative affect ratio of 5 to 1 or higher is healthy. That’s the average ratio in stable, happy couples. The positive-to-negative emotions during conflict encounters is 1-to-1 or less, that’s unhealthy, and indicates a couple teetering on the edge of divorce. . . .
In our observational study of repair in our Love Lab—an apartment laboratory equipped with computers, video cameras, physiological sensors, and other equipment—in which we studied interactions between 30 couples for three years, we found that every conflict discussion is characterized by many repair attempts. Some attempts fail, while others succeed. We discovered that couples who successfully repair can exit the negative-affect state early in the conversation, before it becomes too negative and hurtful. Effective repairs are emotional, vulnerable, and foster understanding and validation. We found that the two most powerful repair approaches were beginning the conversation gently and taking responsibility for even a part of the problem. Couples were then likelier to avoid the attack-defend mode and move instead into a collaborative mode.
In our research with newlyweds in our apartment laboratory, we discovered a subtle process as partners moved about the lab and we followed them with three cameras. Frequently, one person would request something from a partner, which we called a “bid.” For example, the first camera would record a wife going to the window and saying, “Oh, it’s so pretty out there. There’s a beautiful boat.” The second camera would focus on the husband. When he responded, even minimally, by saying, “Oh, yeah, it is,” we coded that as “turning toward” the bid. When the partner made no response, we coded it as “turning away.” We discovered that the 17 couples who divorced six years after their wedding had turned toward their partner’s bids an average of 33 percent of the time, while the 113 still-married couples had done so a whopping 86 percent of the time. When they turned toward their partner’s bids at a high rate, repair attempts during conflict were more successful.
In the observational study of the conflict interactions of 130 newlywed couples, we discovered that the reason why unhappy couples get stuck in a negative absorbing state is the failure of repair attempts. We’ve all [seen] couples who enter our office hopelessly mired in this negative emotion bog. Research reveals that what lies at the heart of unhappy couple relationships can best be thought of not as some quality inherent in the partners, but as a failure to repair the inevitable conflicts and disjunctions that occur in any couple.
Part of building trust—what couples researcher Susan Johnson calls a safe haven—is the ability to stay physiologically calm, and to help one’s partner stay calm, even in the face of conflict. [Researchers] discovered that couples whose relationships deteriorated over three years were those who became “diffusely physiologically activated” during conflict. That means that their hearts beat faster, their blood flowed faster, they sweat more from the eccrine glands in their palms, and they jiggled around in their seats more than couples whose relationships were happy, or became happier, over time.
Why does all of this matter? Because when a person’s heart rate is above 100 beats a minute, or their oxygen is below 95 percent, they can’t listen very well. They can’t empathize. They lose access to their sense of humor. They’re secreting two major stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. At home, this can mean escalating arguments between partners, with one agitated person shouting over the other, hearing nothing of their partner’s needs. In the consulting room, it can mean stalled progress. For instance, if the therapist asks one partner to summarize and validate what the other partner has just said, they can’t do it well if they’re physiologically aroused, or physiologically flooded.
Looking ahead, we need to develop a therapy that can take an ailing relationship and help a couple create a happy and lasting relationship, not just one that’s slightly less miserable.
10 Steps of Yoga Nidra
by Richard Miller
Set up your Yoga Nidra practice space by placing a bolster lengthwise on your mat and slipping a block under the top end, so that the bolster slants gently. Lie down with your sitting bones on the mat and with the bolster supporting you from the low back to the head. Place a folded blanket under your head for a pillow. Notice and welcome sounds, smells, and taste as well as color and light. Release excess tension throughout your body and feel a sense of relaxation spreading throughout your entire body and mind.
See also Discover the Peaceful Practice of Yoga Nidra
To Finish: At your own pace, transition back to your waking life, reorienting to your surroundings. Come back slowly, and pause for a moment to feel grateful for taking this time for yourself.
Listen: To be guided into yoga nidra by Richard Miller, listen to the audio here.
More: Read more about Yoga Nidra here.
by Richard Rohr
Jesus’ rather evident message of “full and final participation”—union with oneself, others, creation, and God—was probably only fully enjoyed by a small minority throughout history. Only contemplatives, whether conscious or “hidden,” know how to access unitive consciousness through their nondual and inclusive way of processing the moment.
Unfortunately, the monumental insights of the Axial Age (800-200 BC) began to wane, descending into the extreme headiness of some Scholastic philosophy (1100-1700), the antagonistic mind of most church reformations, and the rational literalism of the Enlightenment (17th and 18th centuries). Although the reformations were inevitable, good, and necessary, they also ushered in the “desert of nonparticipation,” as Owen Barfield described, where hardly anyone belonged, few were at home in this world, and religion at its worst concentrated on excluding, condemning, threatening, judging, exploiting new lands and peoples, and controlling its own members by shame and guilt. This happened on the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant sides; the primary difference is what we shamed.
Despite some wonderful exceptions, we almost lost the “alternative processing system”—the nondual consciousness of the mystics. We just argued, proved, and disproved, the very opposite of the contemplative mind and heart. The ongoing and flowing life of the Trinity was unrecognized in most Christian spirituality, leaving us defeated at our very foundations.
Karl Jaspers, Owen Barfield, and Ewert Cousins (1927-2009), each in his own way, foresaw the coming of a Second Axial Consciousness, when the best of each era—pre-rational, rational, and trans-rational—would combine and work together. We live in such a time now! In this consciousness, we can make use of the unique contribution of every era to enjoy intuitive and body knowledge, along with rational critique and deeper synthesis, thus encouraging both intelligent and heartfelt participation “with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30).
Duane Elgin describes the difference between the first and second axial age as follows:
The first axial age began with a view of separation and the “other.” In a world of growing individualism and differentiation [and violence], the religious emphasis on compassion served as a vital bridge between people [and the divine]. Now, a second major axis with a very different orientation is opening in the world. Religions of separation are becoming religions of communion as we realize there is no place to go where we are separate from the ever-generative womb of the living universe.
The second axial age begins with a recognition emerging from the combined wisdom of both science and spirituality; namely, that we are already home—that the living universe already exists within us as much as we live within it. In the words of theologian, Thomas Berry, “The universe is a communion and a community. We ourselves are that communion become conscious of itself.” Compassion remains a vital element of spirituality, but it is now being held increasingly within a context of communion rather than separation. 
Amen. May it be so.
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 Batchler-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
Hazel Partington – lakehavenministries.com
Jennifer Olin-Hitt – email@example.com
Judy Ringler -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Seyfarth Garner – email@example.com
Valerie Stultz - firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol Topping - email@example.com
Laura Tradowsky -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Laurie Tucker - email@example.com
Stressed Out? Talk in the 3rd Person
by Kathryn Drury Wagner
A seemingly strange quirk can actually help control emotions.
“Why is Kathryn so upset?” Um, this sounds a little crazy to me. Isn’t talking to yourself in the third person a bad sign? Like, losing your mind? Nope, it’s an effective and simple coping skill, at least if you ask the experts at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. A team of psychology researchers there have found that third-person self-talk may be an effortless form of self-control during stressful times.
The Problem with Stinking Thinking and What to Do About It
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Today’s text often gets taken out of its context and put on refrigerator magnets, bumper stickers and all manner of “sit-arounds.”
I suppose this text is helpful in any context, but it will serve us to remember the context in which Paul writes it: Difficult circumstances, trials and hardships. Our thoughts and patterns of thinking have a way of setting us up for success or failure.
Proverbs 23:7 famously says, “As a person thinks in their heart so they are.” Though the source is disputed the following quote, attributed to Frank Outlaw, captures profound wisdom.
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
The force of the quote is this: Our thoughts become our destiny.
So let me ask us, “Do we want our destiny to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy?” Of course we do. I don’t know about you, but my thinking needs work. In the recovery community they have a condition they call “Stinking Thinking.” Sometimes you will hear it said, “Stinking thinking leads to drinking.” My thinking, left to itself, will turn toward negativity. I can get down on myself and on others and on life in general. It is like someone in my brain is slowly dimming the lights, causing my vision to become constricted until I can barely see what is right in front of me. It leads to a type of depression akin to a low grade fever. It’s just there, quietly handicapping everything I do. I know a lot of you struggle in this same way.
Bringing it full circle, these ways of stinking thinking are death to joy. Remember where this whole conversation began? Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
What if I thought of my mind as a garden? I would want to plant good things there. I would want to stay on top of the weeding, uprooting negative thoughts as they emerged above the ground, not letting them take root and spread. I would pay attention to cultivating my thought life and nourishing it with fresh water and yes, more weeding.
Speaking of weeding, I need to do some of that right now. You too? See you tomorrow.
Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, who shows us what it looks like to set our minds and hearts on things above. Come Holy Spirit and claim the space of our thought life that our mind might be a place of glorious light in the Lord. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.
If you have any questions or issues you would like for us to address or would like to get email alerts when new resources have been posted please contact Howard Humphress at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our quick contact form.
Or contact our office at email@example.com or call 330-456-0486.
The East Ohio Conference Pastoral Care Office:
1445 Harrison Avenue NW · Suite 301
Canton, Ohio 44708
Toll Free: 866-456-3600
Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
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