Mental Health Sundays: What Can We Do as a Community?
On Sunday we were very blessed to have a few experts and professionals in the mental health field come and share with our church on a panel.
We believed it was important to hear from professionals in this area, who have given their lives to healing, caring, and supporting others. Receiving professional help is something that in the evangelical church receives some stigma in some circles but it is absolutely crucial.
So we are grateful to the panel for their discussion, which you can hear on our podcast.
We ended our time together with three simple challenges: welcome and include, pray, and continue the conversation.
First, as a next step we talked about welcoming and including others with mental health challenges. That this is something we can all practically do in any church you attend. We can create safe spaces for people to journey together, and to include those who often feel excluded by the church.
John Vanier and John Swinton write this,
If the church has anything to offer to people with mental illness (and indeed to anyone else), it is the provision of a space where they can truly feel that they belong.
And I believe that is so true, and absolutely needed.
Kathryn Green McCreight writes,
From a theological perspective, the most dangerous thing about mental illness is that it can lock us in ourselves, convincing us that we are indeed our own, and completely on our own, isolated in our distress.
This is why as churches, as communities of believers, as followers of Jesus we must welcome and include people who are struggling.
The second thing we reminded one another to do was to pray. That praying for others, and letting them know you are praying for them is a tangible reminder of our care and support. In some situations as we journey with people we are not always sure of everything we can do, but one thing we can always do is pray and remind them of that.
Miriam a woman who struggles with mental health writes this:
When you don’t know what to do or say, the one thing you can do is pray and let the person you are praying for know you are. It is a true expression of compassion and Christian love
And lastly, we reminded one another to continue the conversation. That this is the just the beginning and one thing we can do is to continue to learn and listen. We can learn more about mental health, and listen directly from those who are struggling. We can ask how we can help, and take action.
And through these three steps we can start to make a difference and changing the world, by changing someone’s world. As we remember to welcome and include, pray, and continue the conversation.
Mental Health Panel and Discussion
On Sunday we are going to be continuing our conversation about mental health. This is a conversation that needs to be continued if we are going to break the stigma and exclusion surrounding it.
Last week we looked at some of the myths surrounding it, and this week we are going to be looking at what we can do as a community.
So to help us with this we are going to do something different, and have a panel of experts and professionals in the field share with us what we as a community can do to help in this area. And while we absolutely need professional’s care, expertise, and necessary work – we as a community are also needed. It is not enough for someone to find healing and stability with just professional intervention, people also need caring and supportive communities. So join with us to learn about mental health from professionals, and also what we as a community can do – to do our part!
So join with us to learn, and discover some next steps for us as a community.
Asher in The Dishwasher and its Spiritual Ties
My little boy is scary fast. I mean this in all honesty; you’d think with such short legs it would take him forever to get anywhere…but no. In a few seconds of your back turned he can be up the stairs and into the bathroom. In essence, he ends up in all sorts of situations so quickly. Twice in the past week my oldest son, Hudson, who is three, has yelled, “Daddy come see something crazy, look where Asher is”.
And I’ve discovered him in these two places: the dishwasher, and our Tupperware drawer. I, of course, took pictures.
But it’s amazing with a little lapsed focus, where this little man can get to. In almost no time he’s into something that might not be healthy or good. You really have to keep an eye on him. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a real life thing.
And I know this might be a bit of a stretch but I think it’s same with our spiritual lives. I think that if we don’t spend regular time in reflection and paying attention to our spiritual lives, they can end up in places we wouldn’t have dreamed so quickly. Things can be going well, but we aren’t paying attention, we aren’t reflecting and focusing, and all of a sudden we end up in a dishwasher, stuck in a drawer, or worse, stuck in a moral failure, a moment of weakness, a mistake that takes years to rebuild.
The point is that we don’t often go from making good decisions to really really bad ones. We often, instead, go from making good decisions to forgetting to think about decisions, to bring God into our choices, to reflect on how God has or hasn’t been active in our lives.
The main point is this: when we forget to pay attention to what’s important, it’s only a matter of time before trouble comes. This is the same thing with my son, but it’s also the same thing with my relationship with God, my wife, and my character. When I stop paying attention to Jesus, my wife, or my character, it’s only a matter of time before something slides and trouble comes.
So my challenge to you today is this: pay attention to what matters. Spend time reflecting on your relationship with God this week. Ask yourself where he has been active, when you’ve felt distant from him, and what you can learn from this. Pay attention to your important relationships; friends, family, or spouse. In essence, just be alert to all that’s going on around you.
And that’s it for me today, because I gotta go. Asher is trying to climb into the washing machine 🙂
The Bushes are Burning All Around Us
On Sunday we explored Moses’ encounter with the burning bush and God. The honest truth is if we are in a difficult, dry, or desert place the only way we ever leave that place is through God’s leading.
The difficulty is that when we are in a desert place God often seems so distant. We are often calling out for God but can’t seem to find him. Through this story we realized a few ways that God seems to work when we are in a desert place.
The first is that he places something in our regular, everyday life, that while intriguing isn’t interrupting of our life. For Moses there was a burning bush placed in his path. This certainly was intriguing but wasn’t interrupting in his life. It’s easy to come up with plausible explanations for a bush on fire in the desert. So rather than interrupting Moses’ life God seeks to lure Moses’ attention towards him.
To be honest we’d love God to interrupt our daily lives and lead us to his Promised Land. The trouble is that doesn’t seem to be how God seems to work in the Bible. God seems to wait, to lure, to linger, and hope that we follow. But God does not coerce, he does not seem to demand, or to force us to follow. So Moses notices the bush, and then he must spend a long time watching the bush, because how long would it take you to realize a bush isn’t burning up? A long time. So his interest grows, and so does his attention. So we read in Exodus 3:4 “When the Lord saw that he had caught Moses’ attention, God called to him from the bush”. Isn’t that true? That once God has our attention he speaks, he calls, and he promises. This is how our God works. He works in partnership with our attention, willingness, and participation.
So the question is if you are in a desert place and want to leave how much attention does God have? Because there is a possibility that we’ve been walking past burning bushes – holy nudges, and luring by God – and missing him. So the question is how can you this week give God your attention and awareness?
That’s the question we pursued on Sunday, believing that once God has our attention he speaks and leads. To leave the desert God needs our attention to lead us. So this week I think the challenge is this: give God your attention, in everyway possible. Be open to his leading, his speaking, and trust that when he has your attention he will speak. Because God doesn’t leave us in the desert, he walks us through it. But to be led, we have to first be willing to hear.
Big Idea: Give God your Attention
- Many of us know what it is like to be in the desert: a dry, deserted, and difficult place
- How do you leave a desert place?
- When we are lost and hurting we need God to speak
- The ground doesn’t change Moses’ perception and awareness of the ground changes
- Sometimes God doesn’t change the world around us, he changes us to see a changed world
- When we are wasting away in the desert we God’s promises of new life and a new future
- The only thing that gets us out of the desert and difficult times, is God’s voice and his leading.
- How long does it take a bush to burn up?
- God placed something intriguing in the path of his everyday life, to call him to an extraordinary life.
- God speaks when he has our attention
- To leave the desert means giving God your full attention.
- How much attention did God have this week?
- If we want to leave the desert or difficult places it starts with us giving God our attention in our everyday spaces.
Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What was new? Has God ever spoke to you through a burning bush like encounter? Do you think its possible you’ve ever missed God’s attempts to get your attention? Have you ever been in the desert before or even now? What was it like or is like? How might God be trying to get your attention today? How might you give him you awareness and attention this week?
Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and talk about your kids about today’s sermon. Talk to them about how just like how you kids often won’t really talk with us as parents, until you have our full attention, share that God is similar. Sometimes he doesn’t interrupt us until we give him our attention
Challenge for this Week: Give God your attention this week
Path’s that Lead to God: Awareness
“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere” – Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 19
On Sunday we discovered how embedded in Psalm 84 is the idea of creating and walking paths that lead to God’s presence.
So today I want to share a few ways “paths” that lead me to God’s presence in my life. These are rhythms I seek to practice to help me connect with God.
The first is awareness. Jesus says in Matthew 24:23 “Pay attention” I just want to take that seriously.
The fact is that God is all around me. His presence is something I can’t escape from as the Psalmist says, “If I go to the heights of heaven, God is there. If I go to the bottom of the depths, God is there.” So the point then is to become aware of his presence, that He is a part of my life. The point is to pay attention. I just need to walk around my life with eyes wide open to discover God.
To help this I’ve done this through a few simple but concrete rhythms. The first is when I start talking with someone I often pray: “God be with me.” I seek to remember that God is present in the conversation, so I look to him, seek his guidance, and hope to be found by God in the midst of that dialogue with another.
Other ways I try to develop awareness is I have random text messages sent to me throughout the day from echoprayer.com reminding me of God’s presence. I seek to see intrusions in my day as chances to get a glimpse of God. I remind myself that God has created the day, is a part of it, and wants to find me ~ so I need to look for him.
The point is we pray “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”. So are we looking for God’s Kingdom all around us? Are we open to discovering him in conversations, connections, creations, and communities?
So one path that leads me to God is simply paying attention. Not rushing through conversations, seeing intrusions as possible connections, and believing God is around me to be discovered. What about you though? How do you pay attention and seek out God in your daily life?
To end, Iris Murdoch wrote:
“Prayer is properly not petition, but simply an attention to God which is a form of love”
So pay attention to God today…
How do you find God?
This seems to be a very important question if you are a Christian. Or maybe it’s better put “How do you let God find you?”
This is what we are going to be looking at on Sunday. The point is that the Bible is very clear, Christ is in you, the Spirit is in you, and the Father loves you. So how do we live in light of these realities? How do we experience the presence and connection with God that I think many of us desire?
So that’s what we’re going to be looking at on Sunday from Psalm 84. But before we get there, what about you? What do you do in your life that helps to connect you with God? What is it in your life that allows you to be found by God?
This is not about creating new rules or laws to connect with God; it’s about creating some healthy rhythms that cultivate relationships. For example, with my wife,we have rhythms of eating, sitting outside together, and cooking together that sustain our relationship. None of these are rules, but when this rhythm fades because of busyness or a lack of priority our relationship suffers. If I miss one meal with my wife, our relationship won’t suffer. If I don’t make it a priority to eat any meals with her, our relationship will quickly fade. I think the same thing can happen with God. The point is that if you miss your “quiet time” one morning with God you’re relationship with him isn’t in danger. If though, you never put any time or effort into it – how can you expect it to grow?
So, for you, what rhythms help to develop your relationship with him? Is it music, dancing, conversation, creation, or something else? For me I often find God in conversations, in regular moments with a cup of coffee, a stolen moment of silence at work, or when I’m creating something. But what about you? What brings you closer to God? What rhythms or practices have helped you to cultivate a relationship with him?
And lastly, and most importantly, are you practicing them? Because when we seek God, as we’ll find out on Sunday, the promise is we will be found by him.
Rabbi Jason Shulman writes, “There are many books that tell us how to find God. But the truth is that God is not lost or hiding. In fact, it is the actual continuous, omnipresence of God that is so hard for the human mind to fathom.”
So today why not create some space to be found by God, and realize he’s already with you…
A Quick Quote to Change Your Day
Read the following quote. Then slow down, and read it again. Lastly read it one last time and let it shape your day.
There are many books that tell us how to find God. But the truth is that God is not lost or hiding. In fact, it is the actual, continuous, omnipresence of God that is so hard for the human mind to fathom.
God is with you, God is near to you, God is a part of every moment of every day. So go out today seeking to just live in awareness of his presence. As Jesus says “Pay attention” (Matt. 24:42). So may we pay attention today and find the God that isn’t lost or hiding but is right with us the whole time…
Where I Saw Jesus this Week…
I know as a profession pastors tend to read into things. We say things like – “that parking spot was from the Lord”. I’ve heard those stories, you’ve probably heard those stories, and I’ve actually shared some of those stories. And today’s post might be a bit like that. But I’m okay with it. And at the risk of reading too much into something, here is where I saw Jesus this week.
I saw Jesus in saying grace around our dinner table.
I have started to notice something in my little boy Hudson, who is almost two. He is normally very busy, running, jumping, and oh so much climbing. We can barely get him to sit, and he doesn’t like being cuddled. He is too independent and wants to run.
But all of this changes when we say it’s time to say grace. We, as our little family of 3, hold hands and pray. And his eyes light up, he’s quiet, he smiles through the whole thing, and often at the end claps or sometimes says goodbye. Maybe he thinks prayer is like the phone where you hang up. It is a special moment in our house.
And I know some people out there might point out that he gets excited because he knows he’s going to get to eat. And that it’s simply a conditioned response to being able to have food…Perhaps…But maybe there is more to it, and maybe, just maybe, that parking spot is from God.
I know you can see this little grace routine differently. But for me I can’t help but see Jesus in it, as Hudson lights up, claps, holds our hands, and says bye bye at the end. So I found Jesus in grace with my Son…where did you find him this week?