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A Pastor's Letter on Health and Care

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Some people aren't going to be well, no matter how good the bill is or isn't. We need the very best bill -- and we need a little less, which is more.

Start with the word stress. If the various health Mafioso's could stop guilting people about the stress roots of health problems and the medical establishments would stop providing so little for so much, we might find a way to wellness. We are responsible for our health AND things also happen beyond our responsibility. Health and care live in a place beyond cost and a land beyond the fates. We cannot ever afford the random cancer that comes our loved one's way. And we can always live lives that try to prevent it. The polarities are killing us. We can be well by saying "both-and" to stress as sometimes but not always a factor. We can be well by assuming personal responsibility for our health but not overdoing it.

Consider also what we mean by health. It is not just the absence of disease but instead the presence of vitality. That vitality is different at different stages of life. Doctors are not in charge of my health. I am. I am also in charge of my aging, which does not need to be an embarrassment. One of my parishioners who is just 50 told me she can't go out during the snow. Why? "I can't afford a broken leg because I don't have health insurance." Now there is a complicated injustice, one she probably contributed to by not staying limber enough. Also what if she did break her leg? She would get to be both bankrupt and bereft -- and feel like it was her fault.

Health is maximizing our vitality. When it maxes out, we deserve the finest health care we can find at society's smallest cost. The very existence of profit in the sick care system makes me sick. Why should anyone make a profit off my vitality or lack thereof? Talk about youth-ism going way too far and declaring aging just too expensive for anyone to actually do it. Pastors and people of faith have strong motivation to question the presence of profit in the system. Not only did religious organizations found hospitals so that the sick could be less sick. We also still have the capacity to imagine that things have worth and value without price tags on them. Our bodies are precious. They are treasures in earthen vessels. They are organs and skin and hair, acne and arthritis, heart health and heart disease, rare diseases and esophageal reflux. Bodies pulse and then they don't. Making a profit off devitalized or dying bodies is criminal. It desacralizes the sacred. It de treasures the treasure. It makes earthly what is actually heavenly. It puts a price on breath. Fighting against the profit motive in the sick care system may be as important as staying limber as we age.

Spiritual strategies for health and for care involve clear prophetic complaints against profit. They involve maximizing our personal responsibility and care of our health over time. They also involve simple strategies while we go through this time of fight and flight over health and care.

Spiritual strategies often involve subtraction. Eat less, worry less, work less, stress less. Less is so often more when it comes to health. Spiritual strategies also involve a thing like prayer. Daily I teach this prayer strategy to my congregants, many of whom are sick and tired of being sick and tired. The strategy is meditation. For five minutes think about your unemployment, children, lost retirement, lack of health care --- what ever it is about which you alone can do nothing and about which you are worrying yourself sick. Then for the next five minutes think about nothing. Empty out. Then for the next five think about what you are grateful for. In fifteen minutes, you will change the weather in your head and in your body. You will manage the injustices being done to you rather than letting them manage you. In a way this is like touching the hem of Jesus' garment. It is a simple way to lower blood pressure. It is not everything. You still may not have health insurance. You still may have good reasons to worry. But you will have taken a Sabbath and you will have told the world it is not in charge of you or your health. You will re establish core trust in who is managing who.

When Peter healed the crippled beggar, "All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms ..and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him." (Acts 3: 9, 10) Many of us are uniquely crippled and begging for someone to do something for us. When we learn to manage ourselves, especially to manage our spirits, others will look at us with awe and wonder at what has happened to us.