January 23, 2012
Deborah Patterson knows health ministry. As the executive director of Northwest Parish Nurse Ministries and author of Health Ministries: A Primer for Clergy and Congregations, she works daily with parish nurses, pastors, and health professionals. In this feature, she answers your most pressing or perplexing questions on health ministry. Are you hitting a roadblock with a program in your church? Are you wondering where to start with health ministry? Do you feel like you need a new idea on a specific topic? Ask Deborah!
QUESTION: If spiritual health is part of holistic health, what should I be doing to improve my spiritual health?
ANSWER: Here are 10 ways to improve your spiritual health as part of your physical health, but I am going to add the disclaimer that this response is written from a Christian perspective.
1. Take time to pray. If you keep prayer in your mind and your heart, you can pray at all times and places. But also take time to sit still and pray. Much data has related meditative practices to improved physical health, particularly around hypertension. Prayer can also help you clear your mind and find new vision for your day and your life.
2. Find a house of worship where you connect spiritually with the liturgy or music. Find a place where you also feel comfortable with the people you meet there. Attend worship regularly and sing along with those spiritual songs! Singing is so good for your soul.
3. Make friends with the folks you meet at church and find other friends who also will help feed your spirit.
4. Go for a walk every day, even when you don’t feel like it and the outside doesn’t seem very inviting. You will see the beauty in God’s creation even on the stormy days, and your spirit will lift. If it is unsafe for you to go outside because of severe weather or a current health condition, take an eight-minute prayer journey around your house, and give thanks for the blessings you find—food, water, the roof, a warm bed, clothes, shoes, a memento from a friend.
5. “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9a). Work to make the world a better, safer, more peaceful place. Social justice was a big part of Jesus’ healing message, and working for justice will bless your soul.
6. In the early church, feeding the hungry was an important task of ministry. Those chosen to serve in this way were called “diaconal ministers” (deacons and deaconesses). Feeding the hungry today will feed your spirit. Try volunteering at a food pantry. Buy some extra food each week at the grocery store to share.
7. Jesus said, “I am living water.” Make it a spiritual discipline to drink several glasses of water each day, remembering that it is helping to cleanse and restore your body, which houses your spirit.
8. The Bible texts are filled with healthy foods, like lentils, honey, and herbs. As you read your sacred texts, watch for the way that food is described as part of a healthy life. What else in the Bible points to a healthy body and spirit?
9. Take time to dream. You need seven to eight hours of sleep every night. The Bible has a number of stories where God spoke through dreams, including Joseph in Egypt, and Jesus’ father Joseph (who was told to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt). The prophet Joel talks about the Spirit of God being poured out and old men dreaming dreams (Joel 2:28). Be sure you stop at the end of each day and get a good night’s sleep. You never know what your dreams might be telling you if you don’t get enough sleep to pay attention to your dreams.
10. Every night, when you lie down to sleep, say a prayer to end the day. Here’s a different prayer you might consider:
“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray Thee, Lord, the world to keep.
Grant peace-filled dreams, and guide my soul. Oh, keep my mind and body whole!”