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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sleep Well!

By Doug Wysockey-Johnson and Betsy Perry

A few days ago the issue of sleep and doctors went viral (at least among physicians).  In Mexico, someone had posted a picture of asleeping medical resident, attacking her for not doing her job.  In response, doctors around the world leapt to her defense by posting pictures of doctors caught napping during some of their most grueling shifts. These images are going viral and many included comments like “We are people, not machines.”  

If sleep is not a big issue for you, then you can stop reading this blog right here!  Most likely, you’ll be reading on, and you know that sleep (or more accurately, the lack of sleep) touches on every aspect of your lives from how effectively you do your work, to your mood and emotional stability, and back to sleep itself. And researchers are recommending loudly and clearly that we need eight (8), yes, that’s 8 and not 4 or 7 hours of sleep each night. That puts most of us in a lifelong deficit of sleep which helps to explain a lagging sense of wellness especially after a sleepless night. 

Dr. Matthew Walker of University of California Berkeley is finding out some explanation for the effect of lack of sleep. Using MRI’s, he found that the emotional centers of the brain were over 60 percent more reactive under conditions of sleep deprivation than in subjects who had obtained a normal night of sleep. He and his students began researching the affect of lack of sleep on emotions after Dr. Walker noticed that these same students would turn into “emotional JELL-O” after a night without sleep. How many times have you found yourself experiencing “emotional JELL-O” after a sleepless night? Think of the tired parent coping with a two-year old saying “No!” all the time. Think of the soldier dealing the stresses of combat. Think of victims of floods and tornadoes who have lost their homes.

The advice that we all need more sleep has been around for a long time. Even the Psalmist in Psalm 127 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.” This is a poem about daily work and family according to Walter Brueggemann in his 2014 book, Psalms. We can take it to mean that even God wants us to sleep well.

Reflection:  When have you been most tired?  Do you need more sleep now?  What can you do to get more rest?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Soul-saving Practices in a World that’s Not Ours

by Lauren Van Ham

When we look beyond appearances, we see oppressors and oppressed people, in all societies, ethnic groups, genders, social classes and casts; we see an unfair and cruel world. We have to create another world because we know it is possible. But it is up to us to build this other world with our hands and by acting on the stage and in our own life.
–Augusto Boal

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
-  John 17:13-15 (NRSV)

In the season of Pentecost, the gospels invite us to observe the difference between heaven and earth.  Seeking the kingdom within and bringing heaven to earth have been among Jesus’ instructions; and now, too, is his radical reminder that we are not of this world.  

Perhaps you don’t find this so “radical”… but humor me with a quick reality check: in my daily life, this earthly existence feels pretty real a lot of the time.  A laptop in my backpack, a smart-phone ever in arm’s reach, billboards and sound bites calling my attention this way and that, and a calendar chronicling plans and commitments, I am highly caught-up in the world.  I fall prey to action all around me, and become uncomfortably full with the fire-hydrant-spray of information flowing 24/7.

I love my meditation cushion and prayer time each morning, I value my periods of “e-sabbath” on weekends, AND still, I am sneakily arrested and driven by what feels like the very real world around me.

Is some of this true for you, too?

But we’re NOT of this world.  And, thankfully, there are moments each day when I can be rattled back to that truer, deeper sense of Belonging I believe Jesus was talking about.

Twenty years ago, I was a theatre intern for a most incredible company in Washington D.C., whose projects included mounting theatre pieces with incarcerated populations, partnering with public school teachers, and cultivating creative play space for kids in the foster care system. On the wall of the theatre was an enormous sign, “Art Saves Lives.”  

Said differently: art recalls us to our True Nature, the divine stuff of which we are all uniquely, wondrously made.  …And don’t let that word, “Art,” scare you away for fear you lack the proper techniques.  When art saves lives, so, too, does play: Play saves life.  Creativity saves life; moreover, it IS life.  Consider those times, in your existence, when the world’s pace and monotonous messaging has become deadening.   

What creative act, what art-fueled oasis alerted you, once more, to the Greater Web of Creation?  Paint, Dance, Sculpt, Sing, Move, Act, Write…Make it up, do it soon and then do it again… and then share it with the rest of us.  Our soul life depends on it!


About Lauren: Lauren lives in Berkeley, CA.  She serves as Dean at The Chaplaincy Institute (ChI), an interfaith seminary and tends her private practice as a spiritual director.  You can read Lauren’s blog at: http://www.laurenvanham.com/

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I Got to be in a Bible Story

by Tom Pappas

As I drove out my long driveway I heard a power tool at the front of my neighbor’s property. I guessed that he was edging the grass parkway between the sidewalk and the street. (Parkway is what we call it in Lincoln, NE.)  He was not edging, but in fact he was blowing the remaining leaves from winter from his property into the street. I did not like what I saw.

Here’s what went on within me. That’s so illegal. That’s so lazy. What does he think will happen to those leaves?

I came home a couple hours later to find this: Some of the leaves were back on his parkway and sidewalk (deserved). Lots of the leaves were on my driveway, because the direction of the 35 mph traffic whooshed them in the direction of our property. Lots of the leaves were past my driveway and in our rock garden, and lots were past the rock garden in the bed between the sidewalk and our front fence (all undeserved). Grrr.

I gathered tools: a rake, a broom, a wheel barrel, and my giant dustpan. While I collected my neighbor’s renegade leaves I was trying out my speech to him. THIS I would not let go.

In the midst of raking, sweeping and collecting, God somehow gave me the Luke passage where Jesus talks about being mistreated by your enemy. For the record, my neighbor is not my enemy, but I took to heart what I believe to be the nugget of Jesus’ message, and decided I would both turn the other cheek AND give him my coat by raking the 90’ of his parkway. (I coached high school baseball for 9 years and chalked the baseline from home to first enough times to know that distance by heart.)

While I raked, I put together a great script for my “heart to heart” with my neighbor.

TOM: I want to talk to you about leaves.

NEIGHBOR: What is it?

TOM: I got some Karma that was supposed to be yours the other day.


TOM: Last Wednesday when I drove out you were blowing leaves into the street and when I came back they were partly back on your parking but mostly in my driveway, Laurel’s rock garden and our front bed. I was shocked and angry that you did that. It’s illegal.

NEIGHBOR: I didn’t know. I’m sorry.

TOM: The good news is that I got to be in a Bible story.

NEIGHBOR: How’s that?

TOM: In Luke, Jesus said if your enemy takes your shirt, give him your coat. You’re not my enemy, but I decided to rake your parking.

NEIGHBOR: You didn’t have to do that.

TOM: I didn’t do it for you; I did it for me. The Bible works - I’m not mad anymore.

NEIGHBOR: Thank you

It turns out that in real life I said every one of my lines fairly closely to the way I wrote them above. My neighbor, who was not present at the rehearsal, did not. He did say he would not do it again.

Luke 6:27-30 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously."        The Message  

Revenge is in our culture’s DNA. From my experience last week, I say revenge is a really sad option. It’s so tempting but I don’t see it melting the anger. I don’t see it putting closure on a simple dispute. Revenge doesn’t feel as good or right as letting Jesus’ teaching bring out the best in me. What a good choice it is to live generously. And I got to be in a Bible story!