21 Jan 2018

Proactive and Reactive: Considering Blood Pressure and Faith

By Madhero88 (self-made, sources [1]) [CC BY-SA 3.0
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
            I have low blood pressure. "Freakishly low," as my cardiologist noted. Most of the time, this is not a problem; my high energy and healthy lifestyle is not impacted. However, every once in a while, it dips a tad *too* low, and I end up with dizzy spells. These are minor, and can are easily addressed by a variety of means - some posture stances, more salt, more water, &c. Sometimes, I opt for an electrolyte replenishment tab. Dissolved in water, they immediately increase my sodium and potassium levels, and thus my blood pressure.
             So this week my cardiologist made a suggestion: rather than do this as a reactive measure, why not use them proactively? Take one every morning and see if the number of dizzy spells decreases overall.
            My response: "Why didn't I think of that?"
            It seems quite simple, and helpful, and can only be of long-term benefit. What my body needs will already be in my system; if my body doesn't need it all then it will flush it out. Easy!
            I reflected how the very nature of being proactive, rather than reactive, is integral not only to physical health but also to spiritual health.   When we come together to worship God, and connect with community, and find ways to serve, we are being proactive. We are choosing to give our spiritual selves the nourishment it needs in the good times, so that if/when the challenging times hit, we are in a healthier position to address that reality.
            I have often noted that in times of trouble, people unfamiliar with church may come to the building expecting an instant answer or immediate 'fix'. While it is wonderful to see them turning to God and faith community, it is at times unlikely that the high and unrealistic expectations can be met in such a short timeline. It is a reaction to a circumstance already underway; like an electrolyte tab for an already dropping BP.
            For those who are already engaged - who regularly communicate with God's word through prayer and devotion, who are known and supported within a faith community, who routinely participate in worship - for those, troubled times are just as likely to hit. However, because of the engagement, their faith helps them to mitigate the challenges of this life. It is a proactive preparation for whatever may come: like preventing a too-low BP by taking a daily electrolyte booster.

            Obviously being part of a worshiping community is more than merely as a preventative measure against life's difficulties. However, one of the benefits of that community is the proactive maintenance of a faith that sustains us in good times and in bad. But it is this maintenance that is so important to our health, it is so simple, and so beneficial for the long term, and we can be supported by as much as we need. Along with the other benefits of being part of the family of God, we will be extra supported by the practice of making faith nurture part of our daily reality. Our faith will help us most when it is proactive, not reactive.

13 Jan 2018

...on dogs and angels

            On one of our walks this week, my dogs were not exactly on their best behaviour. They were hyper, and pulling, and ignoring me. As they outweigh me, and it was icy, it meant some precarious semi-skating on my part.
            At the best of times, I am not good on ice. When I've had a long and challenging week (as this week had been), it was a struggle to keep my balance (and patience!).
            And then we saw a neighbour. Well, the dogs lunged (with tails wagging), and I was less than pleased. But I tried to be neutral as I was being tangled in leashes and my neighbour fawned over the pups. It wasn't her fault, after all, that I was cranky.
            We chatted for a moment about the weather, and the dogs kept up their happy adventures. Snow was flung, mittens were licked, legs were rubbed up against.
            And then this neighbour started emptying her heart. She had had a very difficult week, and didn't even realise how much she needed to speak about it until we walked by. We were both a little surprised as she released the emotion; telling me (a virtual stranger) of a number of burdens she had been carrying. And then she thanked me for letting her unload. She said God had clearly brought her exactly what she needed so that she could live the rest of her day without the anger and pain that she had known, and said she was going to pray thanksgiving to God for my appearance.
            It was then that I told her that I am a woman of faith; together we prayed. Standing in the street, cold and icy, (dogs suddenly and unexpectedly calm), we prayed.
            She thanked God for the angel that she had found in me.
            What she doesn't know is that she was a messenger of God's grace to me. I received such a blessing from her in those few minutes. I thank God for sending me an angel in her.
            God's messengers, these angels, are among us. There is good news of forgiveness and grace and community that we can hear. That night, it was unexpected, and I was unprepared. But I'm grateful that I clued in enough (after the fact) to realise what had happened. And, even though it was frustrating at the time, I'm grateful that my dogs were so adamant that the encounter take place (clearly, they were more in tune with the divine than I was!)
            I pray that I'll be able to always realise the messages of grace that are put in my life. God knows, we all need them.



6 Jan 2018

The Ministry of Thanks

"Thank You"
Some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by jen collins)
Source: Flickr
            In one of the hospital visits I made this week, a nurse was performing her ministry while the patient, my parishioner, slept. As she stepped back, I said "Thank you - for all you do." She looked at me, a bit confused. Then she regained herself, and admitted "Wow - I don't hear that often. Thanks!"
            I continued that I, as a regular hospital visitor, saw how much work and care and attention that nurses and others on the medical team regularly gave, how they deserved thanks for it.
            We had a long conversation about the ministry of thanks. This nurse, it turns out, is a person of faith, working in a medical centre where spiritual care is a part of the holistic approach to health. She said she was going to take the story - of being thanked by a visiting priest - to her staff meeting; that's how pleasing and unusual it was.
            After my visit, I remember thinking how sad it was that a "thank you" was a rarity for her, and for her colleagues.
            As I was reflecting on that, I watched our snow removal folks pull into the church parking lot. We don't often see them - but they treat us very well, and we're pleased with their work. If it snows, they clear. As they were refilling the sand/salt bin, I popped my head out the door. On seeing me, they asked if everything was alright. "Definitely!" I replied, "I wanted to say thanks - you've been doing a great job!"
            Again, there was surprise. They were grateful, and smiled and thanked me, and I went quickly back inside (where it wasn't -20*).  And as they left the parking lot they beeped the horn, smiled and waved.
            It was so simple, and yet it clearly made a difference - it brightened someone's day. For me, I saw it as an invitation to live out Paul's commentary about building one another up in the faith. It wasn't meant as anything but as an expression of MY faith.
            I know the value of supporting one another in the church, and in the faith community. But that support doesn't need to end where our parish lines are drawn, or where our membership lists conclude. In both experiences, I was a visible member of the Christian community, offering gratitude for someone else's efforts to make the world a better place. These folks are living out their ministry, and we're all the better for it.
            Imagine what might happen if we all took the opportunity to appreciate the people around us, celebrating their ministries to the community. Imagine how much happier the world might be if we all engaged in an intentional ministry of thanks. Imagine how much more Christian we could ourselves become, searching for ways to hold one another up before God - not to convert others, but to transform our hearts into fields of gratefulness.

            Imagine what's possible - with a simple, heart-felt expression of thanks. And now go find a way to make that possibility a reality!