A new class of graduates is heading into summer and then very likely college or career. Here are two articles with some helpful ideas applying spiritual perspectives to this exciting time in their lives.
“In an era in which so many people slip off the rails during adolescence, we don’t have the luxury of ignoring a resource that, if cultivated, could see them through,” says columnist David Brooks. “Ignoring spiritual development in the public square is like ignoring intellectual, physical or social development.
Obviously the various facets of love described by Paul—patience, unselfishness, humility, courtesy and so on—aren’t restricted to a particular religious practice but can and should be utilized in every avenue of life, including academics, athletics, social situations, throughout college and even into the business world.
When a graduation speech in rural Alabama produced a spontaneous prayer to a healing God I wanted to stand up and clap, too.
As graduates walk the stage and accept their diplomas, I hope they will consider their spiritual ability to be “right thinkers” by helping their neighbor, choosing honesty and integrity in their daily interactions, and looking to a Higher Power for truthful answers on life’s toughest tests.
Hieroglyphs, those pictorial characters that the Egyptians used for language, were the way Mary Baker Eddy, 19th century pioneer in spirituality and health, described flowers. She said, “The floral apostles are hieroglyphs of Deity.”
What an interesting connection. Flowers communicate – or picture – to us something about Deity. In their beauty, color and symmetry we see something of Deity’s expertise as Creator. In the tenderness of their petals, each in its place, we may see Deity’s tender care for creation.
Similarly, other pictures found in nature or portrayed in artwork may draw thought to the nature of Deity and His creation.
And it turns out that this is beneficial to our health.
Eddy explains, “…the right understanding of Him restores harmony.” And the Bible puts it this way: “Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace.”
Now picture this. Years ago, I was visiting my childhood home to help care for my mother who was ill and immobile. Once, while others cared for her, I walked down to the nearby lake, walked out on the dock and sat down on a bench there. Winter was yielding to spring. I was alone. It was mid-day but the water was perfectly still with a stillness usually reserved for the early morning or evening hours.
Looking around the lake, I was struck by how everything on land above the shoreline was perfectly reflected in the water. Hold on to this, and I’ll come back to it in a moment.
This summer, I visited the Healing Arts Gallery at MidMichigan Health in Midland while it was displaying artwork by Jennifer Cook of Herron, Michigan. Her abstract paintings and terracotta pots are full of bright and warm colors that encourage, inspire, and comfort.
It’s interesting to me how her artwork communicates something about Deity, as in her painting entitled, “God Heals and is the God of Restoration.”
Also interesting is how the very process of painting the artwork involved learning more of spiritual things. According to the Gallery’s flyer, Cook found that as she allowed God “to guide each stroke and choose each color” she gained “insight to greater freedom and spirituality.”
Painting #001 in the Gallery especially piqued my interest. It is entitled, “God loves you! He made you. You have a purpose!!! Embrace it!” It is a painting of a person standing on the shore of a small lake out in the woods, surrounded by trees, with sunshine coming through, and the trees – and the clouds above them – reflected in the lake.
Naturally, it reminded me of my earlier experience. The reflection I saw in the lake moved me to ponder the connection that I have – that we all have – with the Divine, with Deity. I thought of the Biblical statement that God made man in His own image and likeness – or, in other words, as His reflection. All around the lake, with each house and each tree, I could see the exact likeness that the reflection in the lake had to its original on land.
It was clear to me that there is a similar relationship between Deity and all of His reflection – all of us. Each of us is really an individual exact likeness expressing His qualities, such as beauty, tenderness, goodness, life, and health.
This reflection in the lake acted as a hieroglyph that conveyed to me a deeper understanding of Deity. This reduced stress and anxiety, enabling me to better care for my mother. And my mother, who was receiving prayer-based spiritual treatment and learning more of Deity herself, improved and was able to get about on her own again.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If hieroglyphs such as these lead to better health, then perhaps they warrant our attention.
Note: this article was first published in print in The Midland Daily News August 3, 2014.
Writing in the Huffington Post ‘Healthy Living’ Blog, Sharon Frey McElroy examines how abuse victim Ben Bosinger learned to let go of years of resentment toward his father. And she shares how she was able to forgive a couple of fellows at a cafe that upset her by talking about women in a derogatory way.
McElroy then shares some ideas that can help anyone find peace through forgiveness. She writes, “…heading down the path of forgiveness can be as simple as knowing we each have this spiritual sense that can identify the good that’s present even where it seems far from obvious.”
Want a more peaceful day? Need a “Ben Bosinger moment”?
I heartily recommend this Huffington Post article, originally published in PlainViews, a publication of the HealthCare Chaplaincy Network: Want Peace? Try Forgiveness.
What connection, if any, is there between prayer, healing, Albert Einstein and William Randolph Hearst? What is the current trend in the level of research on prayer? Is there an increasing desire to “explore rather than to ignore” the relationship between prayer and healing? And is there a “potential measurable health benefit associated with prayer or spiritual interventions?”
Eric Nelson in Los Altos, California takes a look at these questions in a recent article in his Communities Digital News health column.
Much attention has been given to the placebo effect. The placebo effect shows that what we believe – what we think – matters when it comes to health.
Some wonder if the positive effects on health of spirituality are simply a variant of the placebo effect. Wendy Margolese, Health Blogger in Ontario, Canada, takes up this question in a recent article in York Media.
Here’s an excerpt:
“One of my favorite Biblical accounts of Jesus’ approach to healing is the story of a man who, for thirty-some years, sat by a pool waiting for a stirring of the water – as this was believed to be done by an angel and thus have healing power. Is this not similar to the belief of health associated with a sugar pill? Jesus did not sugarcoat his words when he commanded the man to take up his bed and go home – back to an active and productive life. The man was healed immediately and gladly complied. And, he did not even expect to be healed by this passing stranger – no placebo effect going on there.”
In an honest assessment, Margolese acknowledges our need to “better understand the role spirituality, prayer and religious practices have on a person’s health.”
Here are three articles in the news recently with Christmas in mind that focus on the intersection of spirituality and health.
In the first article, Scrooge’s life lessons are adapted to health, the second includes a personal account of gaining freedom from depression, and the third has a surprise ending that will make you smile.
Excerpt: “An infestation of bah-humbug thinking pesters all of us from time to time. Helplessness, hopelessness, poverty, despair, and a host of pesky doubts can swarm us and even compromise our health. It turns out generosity can snap us out of the humbug funk and improve our well-being.”
He cites a book entitled, “The Heart of Religion: Spiritual empowerment, benevolence, and the experience of God’s love”. It reports: over 80% of respondents acknowledge they “experience God’s love as the greatest power in the universe.”
Chew quotes Dr. Kenneth Porter, who, in his article ‘Healing Holiday Blues,’ states that, “the healing of depression, like the healing of any emotional or physical disturbance, occurs best on four levels of our being–mind, heart, body, and spirit.” She relates a personal experience: “About 10 years ago, I experienced a healing of depression that did include all four of these levels. … We made some changes … more important was the time I spent in prayer.”
By Ingrid Peschke, in The MetroWest Daily News (Massachusetts)
Peschke shares how her family set aside their usual Christmas Eve traditions one year to accept an invitation from friends, and experienced more than one surprise. See how many gifts you can count in this one.
With the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, coming up tomorrow, Saturday, December 14, it’s important to turn our hearts and thoughts in directions that will continue the healing process.
In Watching what we’re watching for health’s sake, we are reminded that research shows a link between watching news of traumatic events and stress symptoms. It’s helpful to limit our intake of traumatic images and keep the main focus on good things. For example, Fred Rogers, beloved host of the children’s TV series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”, shared his mother’s advice to “Look for the helpers.”¹ St. Paul said, “Whatsoever things are … of good report; … think on these things.“²
The people of Newtown appear to understand this. According to a story by Boston’s NPR news station WBUR, “residents of Newtown, Conn., have decided against a public commemoration to mark the first anniversary this coming Saturday of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School… Instead, the town is endorsing a ‘year of service’ and is asking residents to put a candle in their window on Dec. 14, the day of the shooting, to show their commitment to the idea of service to each other.” John Woodall, psychiatrist and Newtown resident, explained, “We came back to this idea that a commitment to transform that anguish into a commitment to compassion and kindness, that’s where we wanted to keep the focus.”
And it turns out that service is also good for health. Studies have shown an association between volunteering and health benefits – both physical and mental. These benefits include lower rates of depression and fewer incidences of heart disease, as well as greater longevity. For example, researchers at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found that volunteers experienced a significantly lower mortality rate if their service was done unselfishly.
So, it seems we need to both “look for the helpers”, and be the helpers!
As hearts continue to mend, it’s fitting that an online memorial site created by the victims’ families uses a heart for a symbol in its design. The motto at the bottom says, “Sandy Hook School – Always in our hearts”.
St. Paul once expressed this prayerful petition for a group he was ministering to:
“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love…”²
And a more recent religious and spiritual thinker, Mary Baker Eddy, once shared this heart-felt sentiment:
“May the great Shepherd that ‘tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,’ and binds up the wounds of bleeding hearts, just comfort, encourage, and bless all who mourn.”³
As we remember – perhaps with a candle in the window, a commitment to unselfish service, and a loving prayer from the heart – may all find comfort and peace!