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Pastor Leigh Ann’s Monthly Blog

Pain and God

Pain and God

Have you ever had pain… maybe pain in your neck, pain in your back, pain in your knees or hips?  I’ve visited my doctor for a recurrent pain in my neck that crops up at the most inconvenient time.  It began in my thirties and has gotten progressively more intrusive.  I wake up some mornings and sitting up hurts.  It takes time to flex and move, get up and get going.  I suspect many of you know what I’m talking about.

 

Pain is a real fact of life.  A senior lady with a walker in my last church said to me, ‘getting old isn’t for wimps!’  She was a long time church member, who had done missions and children’s ministries and still showed up for book studies at the church.  She occasionally closed her eyes during worship, but she was always at church on Sunday and throughout the week.  I knew she prayed and came to church because it made her feel better, not just emotionally, but also physically.  There is something about having a faith and faith community that helps deal with physical pain and suffering. 

Aristotle (4th century B.C.) described pain as emotion, being the opposite of pleasure.  In the middle ages, pain was considered a religious matter, even punishment for sins or evidence of demon possession.  Some modern people still believe that suffering is our human ‘cross to bear’.  Hindu, Islam and Buddhism all include religious perspectives about pain/suffering as the result of personal actions and may be punitive or the cost of human experience.  There is a long history of world religions weighing in on the cause of pain and suffering. 

In the 1960’s a wave of interest in spirituality and consciousness brought a new perspective on pain, medicine and religion.  Postmodern thinking began to create openness to diverse medical systems and the empowerment of individuals.  Medicine returned to a mind/body/spirit, holist therapies which continue to include meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis, acupuncture, social and spiritual practice, even reiki, message and aromatherapy. The means of confronting our physical pain and suffering is profound and almost limitless. 

According to an article I read, called Spirituality and Religion in Pain and Pain Management, (Dedeli, Ozden, and Gulten Kaptan. “Spirituality and Religion in Pain and Pain Management.” Health Psychology Research 1.3 (2013): e29. PMC. Web. 26 Jan. 2018.)  ‘Religious people are less likely to have pain and fatigue… They obtained data from 37.000 individuals, 15 years of age or older, with fibromyalgia, back pain, migraine headaches and chronic fatigue syndrome, and those who are spiritual but not affiliated with regular worship attendance are more likely to have those conditions. They also found that those with chronic pain and fatigue were more likely to use prayer and seek spiritual support as a coping method compared to other people. Pain sufferers who were both religious and spiritual were more likely to have better psychological well-being and use positive strategies.’

 

Physical pain and suffering is nothing new to the human experience.  I do not believe it is inflected by God to teach us a lesson or punish human beings but is a part of living in skin.  How we deal with it is our journey in life.  I will keep using modern medicine, and homeopathic modalities to manage any pain I experience and I hope you will too.  Please know that if you have pain, you are not alone.  Every Sunday I see you and know that it takes a lot of effort to come to church.  Please know that I pray for people struggling with constant pain and ask God to bring you relief.  If it feels faithful to you, I hope you will join me in prayer for those people walking in constant pain, and related fatigue. 

 

God bless you with peace, comfort and moments free from pain. 

Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw


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Visions for 2018

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” -Matthew 25:31-32
 
This scripture comes to us from Matthew’s gospel about the judgement of the nations. It is well worn scripture for those who feel called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and imprisoned. The extended scripture from Matthew 25:31-46 is a direct passage about how to follow Jesus. With this vision, it is impossible to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ without caring for others. It is impossible to be a Christian without offering compassion and mercy to other people. Matthew 25 is compelling and at the beginning of the year offers guidance for any ‘resolutions’ you might be making.
Making resolutions is a tired practice, but for people of faith, this is a great time to reignite your spiritual practices. What ways do you want to live your faith this year? Are you ready to add daily prayer to your life? Would you like a daily scripture reading or devotional activity? Do you feel called to connect to a hospital, prison or provide clothes or welcome to a stranger? There are more scriptures of more suggestions for faith resolutions that might be more suited to you.
Galatians 5:22-26 name the fruits of the Spirit. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Do any of these have a pull on your heart? Do you need to develop kindness toward others as a practice and speak less negativity and more positive encouragement to others? Is there are lack of peace or patience in your heart? With the pain of the world, sometimes our hearts falter and struggle with the fruits of the Spirit. Just like adding physical exercise at the beginning of the year, adding exercises for our Spirit is a faithful goal.
It has been a long painful year for many people. I’m getting lots of calls for prayer and hearing from people who are fearful and anxious. As the page of the calendar turns, take time to consider the blessings in your life. And perhaps consider what are you anticipating for 2018? Make a resolution to grow closer to God and live the life you are called to.
My prayers are with you on your journey! Much love and peace to you in 2018!
 
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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Here we are… the end of 2017.

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for God is good! For God’s mercy endures forever. –1 Chronicles 16:34
Here we are… the end of 2017. December is here. Advent is here. The paperwork of the end of the year is here. The decorations and gift-giving suggestions are out in the stores. Someone started humming Christmas music as I was walking through a store a few days ago. The calendar of the church is packed to overflowing and I’m already so tired. Maybe you are too. I want to offer you some encouragement.
The scriptures tell us that during the time Jesus was in Mary’s womb, there were a cluster of angel sightings. An angel talked to Zechariah. An angel talked to Joseph. An angel spoke to Mary. An angel spoke to a Shepherd. God’s messengers spoke to the people involved with encouragement and assurance. Jesus’ birth was surrounded by declarations of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love by special Angels!
The story of Jesus’ birth is the story of God responding to the darkness, hate and injustice of the world. Jesus is God’s intervention into human sinfulness. The government and the religious leadership were failing the majority of the community. Jesus’ teaching and work was on behalf of the underserved, forgotten and marginalized. Jesus came to us, to be an instrument of healing and restoration to a broken world.
God is full of surprises! From scary angels who bring messages from God to a baby born in a manger, God comes in unexpected ways and places. Our God always makes a way to come to us! Why would now be any different? Why would our world be exempt from God’s surprising ways?
Even as racism, sexism, gun violence and extreme hate are powerful forces in our living, God is even more powerful! If you are troubled by the news of the day, just wait, God will show up! God always does!
Take time to rest before Advent begins. Take time to remember God’s surprising ways! Take time to breathe and remember the people you love! Take time to give thanks… for whatever has been a blessing to you this year! It’s almost over…
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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Free Community event, games at 6:30 p.m. and movies begin at sunset. Bring blankets or chairs. See Beckie Henselmeier for more details. 
 
 
 
Camp ROAR –  Register by 6/16 for the Early Bird cost is $30 per student. $35 per student until 7/14 or “bring a friend” and both get to attend for $50. (Registrations must be turned in together.) This year, featuring After-Care, Available by pre-registration only. Care from 12 until 5:30 p.m. (or until needed) for $15/day per student.