Tag: Scriptures

Love Leads Out of Hopelessness

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

Sitting at my desk, I look at a painting which depicts a young Lakota daughter leading her horse out of the trees into a clearing. It speaks to me of the spiritually innate nature of love, which we each possess, that can help lead the lost out of darkness.

Arizona has over twenty tribal entities of indigenous Americans. They make up one quarter of the State. How fortunate we are to be in their midst. I recently visited the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States, Old Oraibi, on the Third Mesa in the Hopi nation. Aside from the persistent winds, it is quiet. The animals are not shy; they are friendly ­ like the somewhat hidden community. There is a spiritual peace and modest strength in this place, despite the obvious needs. It is difficult not to love these people and to connect with their love of all that is around them.

In contrast, I was moved by an article in The Christian Science Monitor (April 13) that addresses high teen suicide rates on native American reservations ­ a health problem for them and for all of us, as we do not live in isolation. The article cites experts who say this situation includes unemployment, alcoholism, drugs, school dropout rates, poverty and deprivation, all adding up to a sense of hopelessness.

This challenging condition is not limited to reservations, of course, but can be found everywhere. How is hopelessness displaced? The article mentions traditional tribal concepts such as having compassion for others, comforting those who are in pain, and interacting with those who exhibit suicidal tendencies. Also, the local reinforcement of cultural identity helps dissipate a sense of not belonging.

But is there more that could be done?

Yes. Hopelessness need not lead to mental darkness and depression, nor the taking of one’s life. This is not a new challenge. And, while some economic resources may well be part of the solution, as indicated in the Monitor article, the spiritual resources needed to break the cycle of depression are not limited nor are they untested.

One can read in the Scriptures where the prophet Elijah was sent to a widow in a distant town to find nourishment. When he approached her, he learned that she was planning to take two sticks, make a fire, and cook the last meal for her and her infant son, and then die. As a widow in her society, at that time, there was no purpose for her life and she could not sustain herself. But Elijah asked her not to be afraid, to forego her intent, and make a small cake for him first. She did. The outcome was that “the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry”*. Elijah gave her the supply she most needed ­ the recognition of being loved by God, the infinite, divine Source of all good. And, when she expressed her understanding of that idea by defying her fear of lack and acting unselfishly, that brought to light the practical provision she needed.

That capacity to prove the practicality of spiritual good is possible for all of us today. A woman of spiritual depth and love for mankind, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote this statement on the first page of her seminal work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, ­­­ a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.” Understanding just how much God loves us and expressing that by our love for others can lift us and them out of the darkness of fear and hopelessness.

We need not be bystanders. There is enough inherent love in each of us to see and support this generation’s emergence from whatever darkness threatens their sense of identity. Like that young Lakota daughter leading her horse out of the trees to a clearing, we should pray to see this generation led by divine Love into the “clearing” where their life­purpose is fully evident and their path to fulfillment is engaged.

*I Kings 17:14 (NIV)

Published April 22, 2015, Arizona Silver Belt Newspaper, Globe, AZ

Embrace of Mankind Brings Mental Wellness***

 Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

As a child, I dropped a glass milk bottle on my bare toe.  I could easily have slipped into panic or fear, but I didn’t.  My family was at the lunch table and my father jumped up, put one hand on the smashed toe and the other on my shoulder.  The love expressed in the room stopped the fear that might have ensued.  My thought calmed and the pain ceased.  The day went on normally.

The presence of love at that moment definitely affected my mental wellness, to say nothing of my physical condition.  It is worth considering how such loving acts counter physical and mental disturbance and restore mental wellness of those around us, both within our view and outside of it.

January is Mental Wellness Month, which suggests we might reflect on what we can do to aid others who may feel that circumstances have “dropped a bottle on their bare toe”.  They, like all of us, can benefit from an embrace of compassion, if not directly, then figuratively.  We know when we have the support of family, even if we are far from home.  That sort of love is felt and it gives us peace of mind, solid comfort.

There are many dedicated professionals and volunteers working to bring comfort and health of thought to others who are not in the embrace of their formal families.   I was speaking to the head social worker at a state home for adults, who need support due to mental challenges.  I was encouraged to learn that there are measures taken to place a “hand over the toe”, if you will, and to provide an atmosphere of loving support for the patients living there.

The professional staff, indeed, are like family in many ways.  They play music, sing together, maintain a self-advocacy group for those ready for fuller communication, and develop skills that enable each individual to reach her or his capacity to integrate as much as possible into the community.

This compassionate work is augmented by a volunteer program, where members of the community may serve as surrogate family for individuals.  This furthers social integration and creates a sense of normalcy, aiding in mental awareness and self worth for the individual needing that.  This activity can lead to mutual mental wellness, for the volunteer as well as for the client in the home.  Unselfish acts lead to healthier thoughts.

We have seen these unselfish actions and their good outcomes throughout history.  Certainly it was evidenced in Scripture, as Christ Jesus gave two commands, to love God and to love mankind.*  His love for others was often repeated in healing, in feeding multitudes, and in befriending the less advantaged.  We can do the same and find mental wellness for ourselves by aiding in the mental wellness of others…”blessed is that man who seeth his brother’s need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another’s good”**.

*The Bible, Matt. 22:37-40

**Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 518, Mary Baker Eddy

***[This article was published January 29, 2014 in the Arizona Silver Belt newspaper, print edition.]

Dimensions of Fitness ***

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

Sedona is a beautiful place to simply be outdoors…the red rock cliffs, secret canyons, twisting waters of Oak Creek, sunrises and sunsets.  People come from all over the world to climb and hike this part of the country.  Physical activity is the norm.

But physical activity is not the norm for our nation, and this appears to have consequences.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is cited in a May 2013 CBS news article (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cdc-80-percent-of-american-adults-dont-get-recommended-exercise/) stating that 80% of American adults do not get recommended exercise.  And as the article points out, the consequences can be more than physical…. Exercise provides mental health benefits as well as physical.

This was confirmed recently in interviews with two professional fitness trainers.  They stated that being fit was a mental decision — a life decision, whether forced due to risk of illness or a natural desire for balance.  The trainers find clients are often overcoming a sense of fear and limitation, so they work to help the individuals make the connection between consciousness and body.  While not always articulating it to their clients, these trainers find that physical and mental fitness are often tied to a spiritual dimension of thought.

Here is an example: a health club client, dealing with a condition of Parkinson’s disease, was afraid to drive to the gym and had low expectations for herself.  The trainer sensed the apprehensions of this client, and focused less on the physical activity and more on the patient’s confidence and trust. This caring attitude put the client at ease and enabled the fitness program to progress.  After a few visits the woman was not only gaining confidence in her abilities physically, but had overcome her fear of driving.  The client credits this change to the trainer’s loving approach. The trainer credits it to acknowledging a spiritual dimension of life.

This experience proved that a loving attitude and expectation of progress has a fear-diminishing and healing effect.  These effects are not confined to CDC percentages or geography but are as consistent in Sedalia as in Sedona, and they lift both the trainer and the trainee.  The spiritual dimension of the trainer’s approach may be captured in this Scriptural statement, “Perfect love casts out fear”*.  Further thought along these lines can be found in a book by Mary Baker Eddy, a seeker of health from a spiritual standpoint.**

Perhaps an inspired consciousness is as key to fitness as the physical activity we undertake, whether hiking among Anasazi ruins or walking our dog down Maple Avenue.  We can all participate in, and benefit from, this fuller form of fitness.

*I John 4:18

**See, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 475.

***This article was published in the Sedona Red Rock News, December 13, 2013


Cloak of Compassion

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

She couldn’t care for herself. There was no family. There were loving friends but they didn’t have the skill. The need was apparent. Fear was pervasive.

Not far away was a hospice. After a call, two competent, quiet, non-judgmental individuals arrived to clean and redress the wounds of the ill patient. A bit of joy emerged. They assured the patient that they would return to help as needed, in a manner respectful of her beliefs and expectations.

There is no price to place on these instances of timely care — of loving, practical support present at the moment of greatest need. There was no lecturing, no analyzing of worthiness — no technology to separate heart meeting heart. Their efforts were remarkably kind.

A perfect model of palliative-care can be seen in the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, who, finding a wounded man left unattended by others, approached this stranger, bandaged him, placed him on his burro, took him to an inn, and provided funds for his care by the innkeeper.

Fittingly, November is national hospice/palliative care month and there is reason to be immensely grateful for the commitment of those who do this work.

Several years ago in Arizona, there was a conference for end-of-life professionals. They had asked eight faiths to share their views on this subject. The purpose was to broaden the understanding of these care-givers so they could better meet the needs of patients, in a manner respectful of the individual patient’s beliefs…a most admirable pursuit.

While all can and should appreciate the care that hospice and palliative-care professionals provide the uncomforted, the assumed certainty of near-term death may be unnecessary. This assumption seems to be shifting currently.

Palliative (from the Latin palliare, meaning “to cloak”) has been defined as “care for the terminally ill and their families.” Yet, there is a distinction between hospice care and palliative care. Hospice care is offered at home or in facilities tending to the terminally ill. Palliative-care is multi-disciplinary, including spiritual care, which is not restricted to end-of-life prognoses. Palliative care continues expanding into traditional medical environments. As a recent report notes, “The focus on a patient’s quality of life has increased greatly during the past 20 years. In the United States today, 55 percent of hospitals with more than 100 beds offer a palliative-care program, and nearly one-fifth of community hospitals have palliative-care programs.”

In a recent article by the Mayo Clinic staff, this distinction was re-emphasized, stating that palliative-care is not tied to termination of life but to the need for comfort during times that would otherwise be more painful.

It doesn’t appear that the Good Samaritan expected the stranger, whom he had helped, to die at the inn. He had offered to return and pay for additional provisions for the injured traveler. He was expecting the man to continue his life.

As the hospice concept and the palliative-care concept further develop and overlap in purpose, all care can become less disease and end-of-life focused. The compassion witnessed in both approaches will take the lead in how to treat the uncomforted, with the added expectation of wholeness and health. No longer will hospice and palliative-care be simply a cloak to cover the acceptance of decline and termination. The great good that the hospice and palliative care workers do today may find yet greater good in the projection of life, not death, with the role of compassion progressing beyond the cloaking of pain.

Many have found comfort in this excerpt from an interpretation of the 23rd Psalm by the health seeker, religious leader, and author of “Science and Health,” Mary Baker Eddy, where the term “Love” is used for the Divine: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [Love] is with me; [Love’s] rod and [Love’s] staff they comfort me.”  As a human expression of the divine Love, the compassion given by hospice and palliative-care workers can help patients walk on through the valley of death, not merely come to final rest there.

— Rich Evans of Scottsdale is the spokesman for the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Arizona.

Published: November 18, 2013 at 9:15 am, as guest opinion in the Arizona Capitol Times
Read more: http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2013/11/18/cloak-of-compassion/#ixzz2lg49cabV

“Whole-body Healing”…Good Step

The Arizona Republic recently ran an article (Friday, January 5, 2013) in its “your health” section entitled, “Whole-body Healing” written by Ken Alltucker.  The article focused on patient centered, integrative medicine.  Good news…the founder of the term “integrative medicine” is in our backyard.  While the field is growing, the term and concept have been developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, who heads the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM).  As the article indicates, integrative medicine, while viewed in various ways, can be defined as “the practice of combining conventional medicine with complementary and alternative medical techniques that are supported by medical literature or evidence”.  This is a breakthrough article for this column.

The article further described that the CIM has opened an office in Phoenix, the Arizona Integrative Health Center, which approaches health with the patient at the focus of the practice, rather than the disease.  Then, there are several examples given of work being performed at the Mayo Clinic and by an individual psychiatrist in their respective practices using integrative medicine techniques successfully.  I find all of this encouraging, as it begins to recognize healing as involving a more complete understanding of the whole person as patient.  The examples given demonstrate that solutions emerged when either habits of thinking or acting were corrected, demonstrating the importance of thought on the body and its connection to healing.

One has to appreciate the courage, candor, and clarity shared by Drs. Bergstrom (Mayo), Hernandez (independent psychiatrist), and Rula (medical director of the CIM), as they push the frontiers of their professions into a more holistic frame.  In the article, among the varied healing strategies of patient centered, integrative medicine, there was a brief mention of spiritual well-being as part of the “whole”.  Given that among the stated purposes of the CIM are evidence-based and lower cost methods, spiritual well-being may be key to achieving those goals.

The spiritual basis of healing is perhaps the longest running method in the spectrum of integrative healing, actively utilized well before that term existed.  Not only can we find numerous accounts in Biblical history, especially after the establishment of Christianity, but there is ample evidence today of its efficacy.  My own experience includes healing of pain, viruses, malaria, and many other disorders all through spiritual prayer…prayer that is not wishful thinking or a function of the human brain, but a recognition of divine, loving consciousness, divine Mind, if you will, reflected in our individual thought and lives.  More than a remedy, the advantage of spiritual well-being, is that it includes a fulfilling sense of identity and health for all, without economic barriers.

I like the direction of The Arizona Republic article and hope that the “whole-body” concept continues to expand the role of spiritual well-being.  Perhaps we will learn that it is at the center of our health.  It certainly is for me.

Reversing the Obesity Trend

Recent headlines have focused on the report that 42% of all Americans will be obese by 2030.  High profile people have campaigned for years against obesity.  There appear to be severe consequences, if the trend is not reversed.  But there are solutions.

Attendant physical maladies, soaring health costs (half a trillion dollars for starters) to address those physical symptoms, and arguable psychological impacts, including self-loathing are predicted.  There is the obvious issue of impairment of mobility and agility.  So, finding solutions is critical in many dimensions.  We all own this challenge without excuse.

Why are individuals seeking satisfaction in food?  How does one fall into the habit of being out of control?  Has the notion of an economy built on consumption reached a point of absurdity?  Have we been educated to believe that quantity is more important than quality?

Physical remedies, and they are legion, have not reversed the trend.  Ever-changing fad diets, stapled body parts, surgery, do not correct the mental picture that leads to the problem of eating more than one needs to live an active life.  Therefore, the trend has not reversed, in spite of these interventions to the human body.

It seems accepted that the image of one’s self is a factor in how we make choices, including those about eating.  How do we develop that image?  Do we look at family members, friends, magazines and other media to obtain a view of what we ought to be?  Are any of those really the truth about us as an individual?  Those impressions are, by definition, not us but someone else.

I have found by turning to gain a more spiritual view of mankind and of me in particular, that I achieve a better sense of what character traits and ways of living feel right for strengthening my sense of true self.  I find that I have to forget personal self to find a better idea of me…a me that is less body and more spiritual identity.  That is satisfying and does not require excess of food for validation.

The habit of turning to this more spiritual depict of mankind, including myself, defeats the old uncontrolled habits that have no ideal model beyond physique.  Of course, I can’t re-order my thinking about me this way unless I am doing the same in my thoughts about others.  It takes an unselfish approach to free ourselves and gain more of a sense of dominion.  This dominion lessens our unnecessary consumption and focus on quantity and replaces it with balance and quality of life.

There is long-standing wisdom to help guide us in reversing this trend.  I have always found the following verse from the book of Isaiah (30:21) in the Bible to be of great use in governing eating habits, along with many other aspects of life: “…thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left”.  That sense of intuitive presence is there at each decision point, if we pay attention.  When facing the choice of eating or drinking something, which we truly do not need, we can find the strength to naturally reject it in the more perfect view of ourselves and others, as we listen to the spiritual intuitions that come from a greater Love than the love of food and body.  Then there is nothing to loathe, only to appreciate.

Unstressed Through Forgiveness

I was recently reading Suzanne Fisher’s book, Amish Peace, which has a chapter on “Forgiveness”.  In that chapter, she refers to a study (“The Stanford Forgiveness Project”), which found, not too surprisingly, that those who completely forgave others had reduced stress symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, fatigue and muscle pain.

Leading up to that finding, she gives two examples of fatal accidents where the victim’s family of the first incident completely forgives the individual whose negligence caused the harm.  In the second instance, the father in the victim’s family does not forgive the perpetrator and ultimately endures such pain that he takes his own life.

There needn’t be such extreme cases to raise the question as to whether pain can be relieved through clearing our thought of blaming and condemning others or ourselves, rather than adding chemicals to the body.

In my own experience, I have never found blame useful.  I can recall an incident where I had taken an axe to an old tree root that needed removing.   At one point the root was not yielding to the axe and I got upset with the root and really gave it a whack.  The axe head sprung up and struck me in the forehead.  That wasn’t the outcome I was looking for.  But I needed to stop blaming the root, and the axe, and myself, to find my peace.  The wound on my head healed quickly, without evidence of the incident.

Sometimes, we carry wrongs done to us and develop habits of blame that we think we are justified in maintaining.  Who is it that is hurt by this?  Does the blame spring back and make the healing of wounds difficult?  Perhaps, we are well advised by the Amish sense of complete and immediate forgiveness, which is taught in the Scriptures in such examples as Jacob’s wrestling with an injured hip and how that was healed in overcoming his sense of guilt regarding deceiving his brother over inheritance.  He found release in a better understanding of his relationship to God, good, the same source to which the Amish turn.

There is much historical evidence, along with the recent Stanford study, regarding the correlation of forgiveness and health.

[Posted from Ambleside, Cumbria, UK]