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Monthly Archives: February 2018

God’s Prescription for Wellness: Get Dirty

Gardening is as good–maybe even better–than Prozac!  As we dig in the dirt, microbes are released that when breathed in are shown to increase the production of serotonin, also known as “the happy chemical” that provides us with a sense of wellbeing.  However, some dirt contains toxins like lead, so it is best to get your soil tested before you dig in the dirt.

Don’t have a place to garden that is safe? The Kimball Avenue Church Oasis, at 2324 N. Kimball, is currently filling its waiting list for those interested in organic gardening for the 2018 growing season.  The soil has been tested and is lead-free.  Contact the church if you would like to sign up or to get more information.

Even if you don’t garden, you’re welcome to enjoy the beauty of the Oasis which includes gold fish ponds, an ADA-compliant meditation and prayer labyrinth, fruit trees, and a seating area.


God’s Prescription for Wellness: Take a Hike

Lots of independent studies are showing the mental health benefits of nature and green space.  Cortisol, the stress hormone that is associated with agitation, anxiety and aggression, is found to decrease in the bodies and brains of people who take a walk in a natural area.  Some medical experts consider a hike to be the equivalent of an anti-depressant.  Can’t take a hike?  Take a few minutes to watch a nature video as it has a similar effect.  Here’s one 3-minute nature walk to get you started.



Compassion binds the wounded heart. Kindness restores the distressed mind. Love heals.

Aaron Stark’s story of emotional pain and mental anguish could have ended in yet another violent headline, but a blueberry-peach pie changed his direction.

Hear him read his open letter following the Parkland, FL, school shooting  HERE

How Do People in Poverty Get Mental Health Services?

Hardly.  And it’s getting harder.  The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid so that many people in poverty could gain access to mental health services.  But with proposed cuts to Medicaid, access would likely be cut off once again for the very people who need services most.  Mental disorders can be found in every economic class, but those on the lowest rungs are most affected by cuts to services.  Without insurance or significant income, help is beyond financial reach.

Here’s Ornella Mouketou’s story.

So what happens when people in poverty don’t have access to mental health services?  They often die prematurely.  According to Dennis Hobbs, CEO of the McClendon Center in Washington, D.C., the life expectancy for someone with severe mental illness is 25 years shorter than the general population!




“Don’t allow your self-image to be shaped by the constantly shifting cultural norms and ideals of beauty, worth and success which lead to fear, anxiety and preoccupation with being accepted. Instead, allow your thinking to be transformed by God’s word and the Spirit so you can see yourself as you truly are–God’s masterpiece–and become the holy and whole person God made you to be.” (Based on Romans 12:2)

Growing Up in the U.S. is Not Good for Your Health!

Recent studies are shedding new light on the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on mental and physical development.  ACEs are intense negative experiences or events that occur between the ages of birth and 17.  One study looked at the prevalence of 8 ACEs among children in the US.

The research is not encouraging.  Study authors, Vanessa Sacks and David Murphy, found that 45% of of children in the U.S. have experienced 1 or more ACEs and 11% have experienced 3 or more!  In communities of color, the statistics are even more stark: 61% of African American children and 51% of Latino children have experienced 1 or more ACEs.   The most common ACEs are economic hardship (defined as “difficulty in providing food and shelter somewhat or very often.”) and divorce.

Children who experience trauma not only experience mental distress, they also are more likely to develop chronic physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and auto-immune diseases.   According to researcher, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician and author of The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, experience of an ACE releases the stress hormone cortisol into the blood stream.  If prolonged, cortisol becomes toxic to the body and has even been shown to reshape the way the brain functions.

Her research also reveals that children who experience a high number of ACEs are more likely to be incarcerated, more likely to turn to substance abuse, and more likely to experience learning and behavioral problems.  They are also more likely to experience depression and attempt suicide.

Dr. Burke Harris has become an outspoken advocate for a national public health campaign to address toxic stress in children and screening children for ACEs.  She recently delivered a TED Talk on the impact of childhood trauma.

If we are going to be a healing community, we must work to reduce childhood trauma in all it’s forms.

In the wake of the Florida school shooting, the president wants to talk about the need for more mental health services.  So let’s talk.  Despite the president’s words expressing a need for more mental health services, his actions speak a different story.

  1. The entire U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration budget for mental health programs (2018 Budget) is $912 million. (1) That is just $2.82 per person.
  2. The president’s 2019 budget proposal eliminates $400 million in grants that schools can use for mental health services and anti-bullying programs. (2)
  3. The National Institute of Mental Health would have its budget slashed by 30% under the new budget proposal. (3)
  4. Millions of Americans only have access to mental health services through Medicaid—and the president has proposed billions in cuts to this social safety net.

Enough talk.  We need action.



Lent has begun.  And on the first day–Ash Wednesday–we were punched in the gut with the reality of our broken and wounded world and our need for God’s “shalom.”  Yesterday, 17 people–most of them teenagers–were killed by a 19 year old in a Florida high school. Once again, we weep for our children in the midst of trauma.

But as we weep, we must also weep for Nikolas Cruz, one of God’s children who had a long history of disturbed behavior with little effective intervention and who, for unknown reasons, chose Ash Wednesday/ Valentine’s Day to bring death to his community. We cannot take the well-worn path of de-humanizing Nikolas as “pure evil.” Nikolas is one of us. So, we must look at him in the context of a society that does not seek “shalom”–instead choosing to idolize individual rights over community needs, promote an economy of greed over the common good, remove social safety nets, tolerate the cracks through which some fall, criminalize mental illness, chronic poverty and homelessness, and incarcerate without thought of how to rehabilitate.

We are failing to seek God’s justice, and we are self-destructing.

O God, make us holy and whole.
O God, help us to bring justice and “shalom” to our world.
To learn more about our Lenten Compact and our fast for community well-being, go to the church website.