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Your Soul and Autumn

Autumn is ALMOST here. Almost. However, the PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) lovers have been rushing this season since August. As I type this, I am seated at a cafe’ that has about 10 Autumn-themed drinks on their menu. Slow up!

While I joke about the early entry of Autumn flavors, we would benefit from looking at the importance of Autumn and what it does for our soul. Summer is a time where kids are off of school; however, most people go non-stop during the summer. We cram in that vacation we never took and try to make up for all of the time we spent at work all year-long. And we limp to the finish line of the summer known as Labor Day.

Autumn should slow you down. It needs to and you need it to. Why is this? There is a natural transition between seasons. Summer is time to sow and Autumn is a time to reap. It is time to enjoy the harvest. It is a time to slow down and get outside. Summer is usually a time of busyness outside –AKA yardwork, home renovations, etc. Autumn gives us less daylight but provides us with so much more: fall foliage, bonfires, cooler temperatures, and a rhythm that is sorely needed.

Autumn slows us down. Take a moment to ponder this question: do you enjoy the pace of life that you are living at right now? Is this pace of life sustainable or is it going to lead you to burnout? Even though Autumn does not officially begin until September 22, here are some suggestions on preparing for the transition to Autumn.

  • Take notes in a journal or a Notes app on your phone. Document how you are feeling as Summer has ended. For most people, the start of Autumn is a busier time of the year with work and family obligations. Be honest and patient with yourself as you write.
  • Plan for some fun during the new season. Do something that involves being outside.
  • Do one hard thing. Clean out that room you have avoided for 5 years. Make the phone call. Write the letter. Visit the cemetery. Say “I love you”. Whatever it is, take a risk.
  • Take daily walks. Unless the weather is terrible, go for daily walks. This is the time to admire God’s beautiful artwork known as fall foliage. Take pictures or draw what you see.

I pray that your transition to Autumn is one that is beautifully disruptive–a movement that awakens your soul.

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Why the Church Cannot Be Silent On Mental Health

If you are reading this article, there is a good chance that you or someone you know has mental health needs. Unfortunately, the public perception of mental health (MH) and what it truly is are often two different entities. I worked in the MH field for around ten years in a variety of settings. I learned from colleagues with various educations and backgrounds. Some of these people became good friends of mine. In my work in MH, the success rate of clients was much higher for people who also have “spiritual supports”. Spiritual supports may be: involvement in a faith community, a relationship with a religious leader/mentor, active use of spiritual practices, etc. And this is where the Church comes in.

In my experience in the Christian faith as a believer and as a pastor, the Church has not done well in dealing with MH. Our prayer requests in our churches are often focused on the physical and spiritual needs of ourselves and those we deeply love; however, how often do you hear a prayer request for one’s own MH needs? It is rare. It is rare because people are hesitant of how others will respond to this. Will I get judged for having this diagnosis? Will people think I need to pray it away? (I will address this later!)

Let me tell you something you need to hear. Most Americans struggle with Depression and/or Anxiety–diagnosed or not. The pace that we “do life” does not help us. The common issue here is we treat MH differently. If someone has heart issues or diabetes, we never tell them to “suck it up”. We usually respect that they need medications or lifestyle changes to deal with their physical health issues. People with MH concerns need to be treated the same way as those with physical health concerns.

What can the Church do? The Church –> AKA the people, programs, and cultures….

  • Pray for ourselves. This sounds odd yet we need to do this before we can adequately walk with others. We must pray for ourselves. Which of our own mental health concerns do we have?
  • Pray for others. As we pray for others and begin to walk with them through their MH concerns, please DO NOT tell them to “pray away” their struggles. Someone who is slightly anxious is one thing. A person who has a clinical diagnosis of Anxiety is another. No one tells you to pray away your Diabetes; don’t do that to others!
  • Look at people as a whole person. It is crucial to know that if something is off in another part of someone’s life or body that it will impact their spiritual health. Life is a jigsaw puzzle and we need Jesus and others in the details and in the missing pieces. Be slow to speak, quick to listen, and ready to act when needed.
  • Guide people to getting care for themselves. Medications, therapy, support groups, reading and writing–these are just a few of the options that people may need in their journey. Encourage others (and yourself) to get the help that they need and know that EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.
  • Start addressing MH concerns from the pulpit. As a pastor, we have talked about tons of stuff from the pulpit in the last few years but I hear few statements on MH. I know it is foreign territory to most clergy. We cannot be silent about this. Let’s be open to having the conversation.
  • Create cultures for people to feel spiritually safe. When people come to our churches, they should feel the Holy Spirit. They should feel loved. As Christians, it is our JOB to create that. People should feel safe at church. This is also a Bully-Free Zone.