Health & Wellness Moment

Columns from the Health Cabinet, published in the biweekly newsletter, Grace Notes.

August 21, 2012

Finding Hope: A support group for people with chronic health conditions

Got hope?  We do...and we have plenty of extra to share!

Finding Hope is a community of support at Grace for people who are struggling with a chronic health condition.  We have members with all sorts of conditions, ranging from asthma, arthritis, and shingles to MS, Parkinson's, and Crohn's disease. Some members come for a short time while they struggle with the most challenging aspects of their condition; others come every month for years. No matter what their preference, all are welcome. We assure you that we will not only provide acceptance, loyalty, and love through our support, but also our confidentiality. And though we cannot provide a cure, we promise to offer hope and healing.

If your life (or that of someone you know) is impacted by a chronic health condition, we invite you to join us. We meet at 7:15 p.m. in the Grace library on the first Tuesday evening of each month. For more information, please contact Grace, or Jenny Kemp (Jennifer.L.; 708-771-9021). Attendees need not be members of the Grace community to be welcomed.

“May the Light shine on all your days.
It is there, despite illness, defeat, and tears.
It is eternal.” --Harvey Stower

June 5, 2012
Spiritual support for survivors of abuse: “There is no fear in love.” 1 John 4:18

We, as a faith community, need to educate ourselves and the ones we love about the spiritual concerns of abuse survivors. This will help us support survivors and perpetrators on their journey towards recovery. Several years ago the Health Cabinet, with a grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries and support from Thrivent, established a Domestic Violence Ministry here at Grace Lutheran Church and School. The Domestic Violence Ministry’s goal is to help our congregation become a safe haven for abuse survivors and perpetrators, a place where they can feel safe, begin to understand their pain, and be referred to the appropriate agencies for professional counseling.  

Referral to professional help is not the end of our caring role.  Congregations must also be there to assist with spiritual issues and provide a healing environment throughout the process of recovery from abuse. Our congregation’s seven volunteer first responders, through special training, learned to understand the mindset of long-term abuse survivors, to recognize the importance of spiritual concerns for survivors, and to understand the survivors' confusion regarding the nature of sin and forgiveness as it relates to abuse. Appropriate responses to survivors of abuse who are struggling with spiritual questions focus on the innocence of the victim. Survivors need to be reminded that they did nothing to deserve the abuse.

“Like a fragile leaf that is caught slowly circling in a river eddy, abuse victims become trapped within the effects of their abuse while the rest of life flows by them. But survivors have strength and a desire to live, and with help and support to keep them afloat they can embark on a journey towards healing and rejoin the mainstream of life.”

(Visit the web site that is the source of this quote for more information on the spiritual needs of abuse survivors.)

March 20, 2012                  
Maintaining Our Precious Vision
by Lynn Sivertsen

By age 50, most people have become aware of changes in their vision.  Typical changes include:

A gradual decrease in the ability to see small print or focus on close objects
A decrease in sharpness of vision
The need for more light for reading, driving, and other activities
Some trouble seeing slight color differences.  See red, yellow and orange better than blue or green.

Caring for Your Eyes

Get your eyes and eye glasses checked every 1 or 2 years
Find out if you are at high risk for eye problems, i.e. if you are over age 65, African-American, severely overweight, have medical conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes, and/or have a family history of eye disease
Have regular physical exams to check for high blood pressure and diabetes and get treatment for them
If you suddenly cannot see or experience everything looking blurry, flashes of light, eye pain, double vision, redness or swelling of the eye or eyelid, see an eye professional right away.
Decrease the risk for most eye problems by:

  • Not smoking.
  • Wearing sunglasses that block ultraviolet light (UV) and a wide brim hat in the sunshine.
  • Controlling your weight.  
  • Eating a healthy diet including fruits, green leafy vegetables, and foods with antioxidants.
  • Limiting your alcohol intake.
  • Avoiding the use of steroid medications when possible.
  • Keeping high blood pressure and diabetes under control.

The 3 leading causes of vision loss are cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.  
Cataracts are a painless, cloudy or opaque area in the normally clear lens of the eye.  As the cloudiness thickens, it prevents light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina, the light sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. 

Glaucoma--Pressure builds up in the eye when the clear liquid called aqueous humor, which normally flows in and out of the eye, is prevented from draining properly.  This can happen in different ways, depending on the type of glaucoma.  The resulting increase in pressure within the eye can damage the optic nerve which carries the images we see to the brain.  Blind spots develop and peripheral vision is lost. There are no early symptoms or pain. 

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)--A chronic eye disease of the macula (a tiny area in the center of the retina) that helps produce clear, sharp, central vision required for “straight ahead” activities such as reading, driving, and seeing faces and color (cones).  A person with AMD loses this clear, central vision.  It usually does not cause total blindness.

Sources for more information:

National Eye Institute (NEI) a part of the National Institutes of Health

National Institute on Aging Information Center
The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
(312) 666-1331
(312) 666-8874 (TTY)

December 20, 2011

This is a time of year when we come in contact with a lot of people and places and with a lot of germs. According to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) hand hygiene is one of the most important and simplest ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Here are some tips from the CDC on hand-washing. 

You should wash your hands:

•    Before, during, and after preparing food
•    Before eating food
•    Before and after caring for someone who is sick
•    Before and after treating a cut or wound
•    After using the toilet
•    After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
•    After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
•    After touching an animal or animal waste
•    After touching garbage.

The right way to wash your hands:

•    Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
•    Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
•    Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
•    Rinse your hands well under running water.
•    Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

If soap and running water are not available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. It is important to remember that sanitizers do not kill all types of germs, and hand washing is still the best way to eliminate germs. Additionally, hand sanitizers are not effective when hands are visibly dirty.

Keep these tips in mind, and celebrate Christmas not just with a clean heart but also with good health. For more information please visit the Center for Disease Control web site.

November 22, 2011
Caring for someone as a medical advocate

A medical advocate is someone who intercedes, supports or in other ways helps a patient communicate with caregivers. The practice of medicine today is so complex that it can be difficult for health care workers to communicate well with patients and respond to a patient’s individual needs and questions. When someone is ill, upset, or incapacitated by surgery or other medical procedures, that person may find it difficult to ask questions or understand important information. This is why it can be very helpful for a patient entering the hospital or for someone undergoing care for a complex medical condition to have a spouse, friend or relative act as their medical advocate. This person need not have a medical background, but should be willing to become informed and not hesitate to ask questions on behalf of the patient.

If you are acting as someone’s medical advocate, you can prepare to accompany that person to doctor and hospital visits by learning more about the disease or procedure. Read the background information available at a reliable web site, such as the National Institutes of Health information site ( or the Mayo Clinic web site ( Read the educational material and instructions given to the patient. Talk with the patient about what he or she needs to know from physicians and other caregivers. At the appointment, listen carefully, take notes, and help the patient ask follow-up questions to clarify instructions and information.
In the hospital a medical advocate asks about all medical procedures and medications, oral and IV. (What is that? What will it do?) If the patient is uncomfortable or needs assistance, the advocate speaks with nurses and doctors, ensuring the patient gets good care. A medical advocate helps caregivers to see a patient as an individual who deserves to be treated as more than a number or a chart, but as a human being, someone’s loved one, a beloved child of God.  
Please do not feel that you are annoying the medical staff with your efforts at advocacy. Remember to thank caregivers for their time and attention. If the hospital stay extends beyond 3-4 days, a large box of Fannie May candy placed at the nursing station is helpful. Even though you may be the squeaky wheel, you get more bees with honey than with vinegar.

Above all, pray with the patient and remind him or her of God’s presence. One highly regarded orthopaedic surgeon in Sweden wrote in a book that his patients who themselves prayed and had others praying on their behalf recovered markedly faster than those who did not. The surgeon had been a self-described agnostic, but these observations led him to a profound belief in God.

September 13, 2011
New spiritual direction program at Grace
Read MaryBeth Buschmann's article here.

June 7, 2011
by Ackli Howell

The reality of life is that sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can't avoid illness or disease. When we are diagnosed with a chronic condition, one lesson we learn is that not all problems are solvable. Often those with chronic conditions become tired of vacillating back and forth between the hope of a cure and the despair that one doesn’t exist. However, when we fully focus on acceptance, a sense of freedom takes over. Despite illness, one thing we do have control over is how we relate to ourselves and the world around us; specifically, whether we accept what is or struggle against it.

When most people hear the word "acceptance," they think of giving up or caving in. But giving up is not acceptance – it's submission. And there's a crucial difference between the two. Acceptance simply refers to the recognition that the moment is as it is. That's it.  It is not a value judgment. Accepting that something is true in this moment doesn't mean that we endorse it or approve of it. It just means we recognize that it “is” in the particular moment.

Nor does acceptance mean anything about the future.  If we accept that something is true in this moment, that doesn't mean we can't work toward changing it in the future – perhaps even in the very next moment.  Acceptance transcends hope or despair, future or past.  It is simply seeing reality as it is.  When we accept what is, we become free. Free to be at peace with the circumstances of our lives, no matter how undesirable or difficult they are. Free to continue to do everything in our power to improve the conditions of our lives (or life in general) in the moment.

Acceptance is a fundamental tenet of every major spiritual and religious tradition. In Christianity, acceptance is expressed as putting your faith in God or Jesus.  In Islam, the phrase "insha'Allah" means "as God wills." Cultivating acceptance opens our hearts and our minds to allow us to recognize the significant ways in which illness affects us. It makes us stronger, more resilient, much more sensitive to other people, helps us align our priorities, gives us an appreciation for what we have taken for granted, fuels a fire within us to use each good day more productively, and deepens our faith.

If you are struggling with any type of chronic health condition and the impact it has had on your life, we invite you to Finding Hope, Grace’s support group for those suffering from chronic medical conditions.  Finding Hope meets the first Tuesday of each month, from 7:15 to 9:00 pm in the Grace Library. For more information, contact Grace.

March 8, 2011
"A merry heart does good like a medicine"
by Ackli Howell

We are a serious people.  Garrison Keillor reminds us of this every Saturday night.

This is particularly so if your heritage is German or Scandinavian Lutheran (or if your birth order is an only or an oldest).  In addition to the routine stressors of daily life, we continue to have an economic climate of uncertainty and depression. Around the globe countries are suddenly pushing aside their dark histories and standing up for democracy, but not without riots and bloodshed. And we don't even have to mention the weather. The dark, dreary days of winter certainly do not lighten our mood.

So, how is the state of your humor? How many smiles have you shared lately?  How many times have you laughed till your sides hurt so far in 2011?  Proverbs 17:22 observes, “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” When we are in good humor, when we laugh, we connect with others. It is hard not to love the people you laugh with.

The American Cancer Society discusses laughter therapy as a way to reduce tension, decrease blood pressure, and reduce stress hormones. Some say a good belly laugh is a massage for the internal organs of our bodies.  So, get together with friends and watch a wildly funny movie.  Take time out and read a book that makes you laugh. Share a joke or two with your co-workers.  Use humor to kick the doldrums of winter and your everyday stresses out of your mind. In the process you may find that your spirit is uplifted a bit, too.

Life will always have opportunities to be serious. Let us love the life we are given. Laugh often and laugh loudly.


February 22, 2011
Candlelighting for Mental Illness

According to the U. S. Surgeon General, one in five Americans experiences a mental disorder in any given year, and half of all Americans will experience a mental disorder at some time in their life. Nearly everyone has been affected in some way by mental illness, in themselves or in a family member. Yet even in faith communities, mental illnesses are seldom acknowledged openly. Mental illness has been called the “no casserole disease” because we often don’t know how to support those who struggle with its challenges.

Caring for those with mental illness begins with knowing something about it:

•    Mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders.  They cannot be overcome through “will power” and are not related to a person’s character or intelligence.
•    Mental illness strikes individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood.
•    The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70-90% of sufferers have a significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of medical and psychosocial treatments and support.

The Health Cabinet has designated February as Mental Illness Awareness Month at Grace. As we have done in previous years, we light a candle during worship services to remind us to pray for those with mental illness. What else can we as a congregation do?

•    Learn more about how to be a friend to individuals who have a mental illness.
•    Support community agencies and organizations that serve those with mental illness.
•    Advocate for policies and funding to serve the mentally ill population.
•    Share stories about the role of faith in recovery from or living with mental health problems.

For more information about mental illness, visit Mental Health Ministries, or the web site of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

January 25, 2011
"Let Your Whole Light Shine"
by Harriet Roberts

Check it out! The bulletin board on the lower level at Grace near the kindergarten room is dedicated to health: yours, and that of the people you love. This year’s school theme is "Let your light shine." On the bulletin board you will find information that will help you "Let your whole light shine." as we focus on five aspects of living we need to keep in good order and in balance if we are to lead that abundant life Jesus came to give us: body, mind, spirit, emotions, relationships.

The current bulletin board features the body. You can see the new food pyramid which offers an easy-to-read format for helping us decide what and how much to eat. Michelle Obama's initiative for healthy eating is highlighted with items from the website There you can find nutritious recipes for fast weekday meals, as well as suggestions for special occasions. It's a great resource for the food and exercise components of a healthy life.

Across the board, you will find information about Grace's Walking Program, a successful experiment in Albert Lea, Minnesota, that encouraged kids and parents alike to get moving, as well as ideas to encourage fun with family and friends. There are also examples of stretching and gentle indoor exercise for those who may not wish to brave “the bleak midwinter.” Walking, running, swimming, or sports all elevate endorphins, those neurochemicals that give us energy, optimism, and a sense of well being. 

Future displays will offer suggestions for keeping the brain and the mind vigorous, and ways in which our healthy and active spiritual lives can help us keep those 'streams of living water' flowing into and out of our lives.

Our emotions can take us into the best and worst places of our lives. Can we fortify ourselves to meet the inevitable challenges of life? We'll offer some possibilities of what we can do to strengthen our emotional health and help us make constructive, not destructive choices in how we handle our feelings.

Relationships give our lives meaning and context. If we nurture them, they bring us joy and a sense of belonging. Without them, life can seem barren and isolating. Until recently, social skills were not taught to young children. Parents and teachers assumed kids would pick them up naturally. No longer.  As bullying has expanded in a particularly cruel fashion to cyberspace, schools have developed curricula to 'teach' children how to build respectful, truthful and generous relationships with others. This bodes well for all of us.

Think of this bulletin board as your resource for health and wellness. If we miss something, or get it wrong, please tell us. The acrylic racks on either side of the board will have a changing assortment of articles and pamphlets to augment the displays. Please take them, read them and let us know what you think.

November 23, 2010
Safe and Healthy Congregations
by Harriet Roberts 

What does the term "domestic violence" bring to mind? Usually a woman (95% of abused adults are female) or a child afraid to go home for fear of witnessing or experiencing abuse--improperly unleashed power and control from a significant other.  Unfortunately, domestic violence is that and more. It crosses all geographical and economic boundaries, and is found in every class, race and community, including our own. Sad to say, when the economy goes through a downturn, domestic violence tends to go up.

For three years, Grace has had a Domestic Violence Ministry which has trained lay members to be first responders to people in crisis. This original training was funded by a grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries. Grace staff members and members of the Health Cabinet continue to learn more about how to minister to people caught up in domestic violence.

Recently, the Faith Trust Institute presented a three-day workshop here in Chicago aimed specifically at church communities. It was entitled "Safe and Healthy Congregations" and funded by the Lutheran Community Foundation. Plenary presentations and break-out small groups utilized Lutheran theology and values as resources for designing care in the following areas:

1. "Pastoral Care for Domestic Violence" focused on basic goals and strategies for both survivors and perpetrators.   This was attended by our parish nurse, MaryBeth Buschmann.
2. "Developing Healthy Teen Relationships" used the specially designed curriculum “Love–All That and More” to increase awareness and understanding of healthy teen relationships and teen dating violence. This session was attended by Rebekah Costello, Interim Religious Education Coordinator.
3. "Child Abuse Prevention for Lay Teachers and Ministers" introduced current definitions of child abuse and discussed its prevalence in congregations. Harriet Roberts, a member of the Health Cabinet, attended this session about discrepancies of power between adults and children, when to intervene on a child's behalf, and how to increase the  sense of safety within a church which allows victims to disclose abuse.

These Grace representatives have shared what they learned with other ministry and school staff members.

Pastoral care for domestic violence is a silent, hidden ministry because the victims are silent and riddled with shame. Compassion, education, and creating a safe haven where victims know with certainty they will be believed and protected are good places to begin.  All of us at Grace can work together towards these goals.

September 28, 2010
Domestic Violence Ministry

“Consider these conditions: an aging population; a faltering economy; adult children struggling with joblessness, home foreclosures and the stresses of caring for parents as well as their children; social service program cutbacks because of a lack of funds; and older, frail adults who are isolated and vulnerable. All of these combine to create the perfect climate for elder abuse—an under-recognized and rarely reported problem.” 

This is the opening of an article in The Lutheran (August, 2010). Domestic violence of all kinds is a growing problem for many of the above reasons. Fortunately Grace has a Domestic Violence Ministry which was jump-started with a grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries. In addition to addressing elder abuse and spousal abuse, the program helped to launch an anti-bullying program in our school.

We as a faith community need to educate ourselves and our loved ones about the spiritual concerns of abuse survivors. This will allow us begin to help survivors and perpetrators spiritually on their journey towards recovery. Victims are referred to professional counseling, but that is not the end of our caring. Congregations must also be available throughout the process to assist with spiritual issues. It is important to focus on the innocence of the victim, and to respond appropriately to help survivors struggling with spiritual questions. Our goal is to determine the role of our church in assisting with survivors’ concerns and to create a healing environment in the church.

“Like a fragile leaf that is caught slowly circling in a river eddy, abuse victims become trapped within the effects of their abuse while the rest of life flows by them. But survivors have strength and a desire to live, and with help and support to keep them afloat they can embark on a journey towards healing and rejoin the mainstream of life.”  (Quote from the web site Spiritual Help for Abuse Victims.)          

“There is no fear in love.” (1 John 4:18)


August 24, 2010
A Baby-Friendly Church                               
by Gwen Gotsch

Who isn’t happy to see a baby in church? That is, a baby who is quiet, or sleeping, or just about to be baptized. Crying, fretful babies are harder to welcome. Their restlessness disturbs adults, which is, in a way, a good thing. Adults respond to noisy babies by picking them up, feeding them, talking to them—part of God’s plan for giving tiny humans what they need to grow and develop.

However, not all of those activities are compatible with formal worship services, which is why fathers and mothers of infants head for the narthex, the atrium, or the nursery when their babies begin to babble, climb, or wail. But what about babies who are hungry?  Formula-feeding parents pull a bottle out of the diaper bag and listen to the sermon while feeding the baby in the pew. Breastfeeding mothers wonder what to do. Nurse the baby in church? Look for a private place somewhere else in the building? Pump milk at home and bring it in a bottle? Hope the baby will be content with a pacifier until the service is over? Not all babies will put up with a pacifier or a bottle in place of the real thing, and not all mothers feel good about offering a substitute. There are quiet places to nurse a baby at Grace. One private option is to exit the church by the baptismal font, turn left into the sacristy, and go through the door to the preschool classroom (the former church nursery). There’s a rocking chair and speakers broadcasting the service. The church library is another possible destination for nursing mothers and babies. The nursery on the lower level of the new building also has comfortable chairs, but less privacy and more commotion.

The easiest solution may be simply to nurse the baby in church. A blanket, or a strategic choice of clothing ensures discretion. As baby breastfeeds into contentment, mother still gets to hear the sermon and continue to feel part of the worshiping community. Plus she avoids the disruption of a hasty exit down the aisle.

Some might ask, isn’t breastfeeding too intimate an activity for the church sanctuary? The question is a symptom of our culture’s (and even of churches’) distorted view of breasts and sexuality. God created women’s bodies to provide the perfect, convenient food for their babies, and babies were made to feed often throughout the day. It’s a social encounter, not a sexual one. Old Testament writers used images of mothers comforting babies at the breast to describe God’s relationship with Israel. Seeing and welcoming breastfeeding mothers and babies—welcoming all parents and babies—is a way of affirming God’s goodness and tender care for us, his—or “her”--people.

Gwen Gotsch, Grace’s Communications Coordinator, is a former La Leche League Leader and the editor and author of several books about breastfeeding.

July 28, 2010
Wrapped in God's Love, God's Love Made Visible

by Ackli Howell                               

You created my inmost self,
Knit me together in my mother's womb.
For so many marvels I thank you
A wonder am I,
And all your words are wonders.

Psalm 139: 13-14

On the fourth Sunday of the month, beautiful prayer shawls are draped over the chancel railing to be blessed by the congregation. A prayer shawl is intended to be a reminder of God's present love which is as near to us as our own body is to our spirit. It is a gift for time, joy or sorrow; for every season and circumstance of life – chosen or not; when weeping or celebrating.

My first personal encounter with a prayer shawl was during a very difficult time in my life when my father-in-law was dying. The parish nurse offered me a shawl to present to him. At the time he was not able to speak and could barely move any part of his body. I read to him the brochure that came with the shawl. It explained how the maker of the shawl prayed while lovingly stitching it. The brochure also explained how it can be worn when you are drawn to prayer and when in need of a tangible sign of God's presence. I prayed with him the Prayer Shawl Prayer which starts with "In the beginning, Creator God, you formed my being.  You knit me together in my mother's womb. You gave me the breath of life."

As we prayed my father-in-law moved his hand toward the shawl draped over him and held on to it tightly. I felt that God spoke to us at that moment and I felt wrapped in His care. Although, my father-in-law could not speak it was clear in the look in his eyes that he felt the same way, too. Now, whenever I visit my mother-in-law's home and I see the shawl, I am reminded of God's comfort and love. 

Anyone can request or donate a shawl. Should you desire, instructions are available for knitting or crocheting a shawl.  If you want to make one or suggest a person to receive one (including teens or children) contact MaryBeth Buschmann, Parish Nurse, or Ieda Sisler, Prayer Shawl Co-coordinator. 


May 19, 2010
Had Your Blood Pressure Checked Lately?

Every fourth Sunday, the Grace Church and School Health Cabinet has a table in the atrium where you can have your blood pressure (BP) taken. Some people know that they have high blood pressure and they check it regularly at home, at the store, the doctor, or the Health Cabinet Table. 

A little information on what BP numbers mean might be helpful. The upper number is called the “systolic pressure” (SBP) and reflects when the heart contracts. The lower number is called the “diastolic pressure” (DBP) and reflects when the heart relaxes.

Historically, it was thought that 120/80 mmHg was the standard for a normal BP, and not until a BP reading of 140/90 and above was reached was it considered above normal.  But that has changed within the past decade. It is now known that the range of blood pressures between 120/80 and 140/90 should not be viewed as neutral ground, that is, still “okay.”  In fact, research has shown that the optimal BP is 115/75. A BP in the range of 120/80-139/89 is now classified as “pre-hypertension.” The table below illustrates the new figures:

Classification of Blood Pressure, ages 18 and older

 Category  SBP (mmHg)    DBP (mmHg)
 Normal  <120  and  <80
 Pre-hypertension  120-139  or  80-89
 Hypertension, stage 1  140-159  or  90-99
 Hypertension, stage 2  >160  or  >100


Why this change in the BP gold standard? Research has shown that some young and middle-aged adults with a BP as low as 120/80 have a tendency to develop hypertension in their later years. So it is important that individuals with a BP in the pre-hypertensive range (120/80-139/89) consider incorporating lifestyle changes (e.g., diet, exercise, reduced salt intake) to prevent the development of hypertension in later life. Once hypertension occurs, it maintains its grip and an individual will likely be dependent on medications for BP control. 

Concern for the development of hypertension is being re-emphasized because it can lead to stroke, cardiovascular disease and acute heart attack. In addition, damage to the kidneys is not an uncommon result of hypertension. Although easily detected through simple blood pressure checks, hypertension is usually silent until some major medical problem occurs.  So, stop by the Health Cabinet Table each month and “check it out!”


April 21, 2010
The Health Cabinet:  Its Mission, Its Members
Health Cabinet

There are many ministries at Grace Church and School that serve the needs of the congregation, school, and community. One such ministry is the Health Cabinet. The mission of the Health Cabinet is “to promote the health, wellness, and healing of God’s people in body, mind, and spirit.” This mission is carried out through very visible activities, including healing stations at worship the first Sunday of each month, an atrium Health Cabinet table, the blessing and distribution of prayer shawls, and adult education opportunities, to name just a few.

Included in the Health Cabinet’s responsibilities is maintaining close interaction with the Parish Nurse program. This interaction assures the Health Cabinet of a high level of professional input. In return, the Cabinet offers advice, direction, and ideas on new or different ways to promote health, wellness and healing through the Parish Nurse program.

In addition to MaryBeth Buschmann, Grace Parish Nurse, current members of the Health Cabinet are: Val Crone, Erin Ficker, Ackli Howell, Stephen Kaufman, Jenny Kemp, Harriet Roberts, and Ieda Sisler. These eight individuals represent health care professions that include nursing, psychiatric counseling, child development, health care research, teaching, and journal/publication editing.

If you would like to be part of the activities of the Health Cabinet, or have an interest in initiating a new activity directed to its mission, please consider becoming a member. A health care background is not required. To learn more, contact Stephen Kaufman,, or


March 10, 2010
Health Cabinet

What is/are Cornerstones, you may ask? It is a lively group of older adults who meet every Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the church library for coffee, fellowship and a study of the coming Sunday's lessons, led by one of the pastors. On the third Wednesday of each month, a worship service at 11:30 is followed by luncheon in Fellowship Hall. The wonderful meals are prepared by Donna Serpico and her faithful kitchen crew.
During Advent and Lent, the group worships with the school children at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesdays, followed by fellowship, bible study, and a meal. Luncheons are served every Wednesday during Advent and every other Wednesday during Lent. 

We invite you to become part of this lively community. Come every week or whenever it fits your schedule. The people at Cornerstones encourage and support one another in their faith and personal life journeys. The name "Cornerstones" was chosen when the group was formed, because it was made up of people born around the time of the laying of the church's cornerstone (1929). The name has stuck, but you don't have to be eighty years old to participate!

"So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." Nehemiah 8:8



February 24, 2010
Support for Caregivers

Caring for a loved one with a chronic illness such as dementia, heart disease, Parkinson's disease or stroke can be stressful physically, emotionally and financially. This stressful task often falls on a spouse, sibling or adult child. The job can become frustrating, tiring and lonely. Caregivers cope with significant losses: the loss of their "normal" relationship with this partner, parent, family member, or friend; the loss of freedom that accompanies the responsibilities of caregiving; loss of income and social contacts. Caregivers may also have fears about the future. It can be hard to change and adapt and to recognize and find comfort in what is good and familiar in your relationship with the person receiving care.

Caregivers don't have to feel alone. The experience of caring for a loved one can be eased and enriched by learning from and sharing with other caregivers. Grace's Caregiver Support Ministry meets every second Friday of the month at 9:30 am in the conference room on the lower level. Anyone who is experiencing the stresses of caregiving is welcome to attend. For more information contact Grace's Parish Nurse, MaryBeth Buschmann, RN, PhD at



February 10, 2010
Finding Hope in the Midst of a Chronic Health Condition

Jenny Kemp

chronic health condition
(krän’ik helth kən dish’ən) n.  An injury, illness, or condition which may be expected to be of long duration without any reasonably predictable date of termination, and which may be marked by recurrences requiring continuous or periodic care as necessary

Does a chronic health condition have you down?  Here at Grace we have a wonderful and uplifting support group for people whose lives are touched by a chronic condition.  Examples of such conditions include: asthma, cancer, CFIDS – chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome, coronary heart disease, Crohn’s Disease, cystic fibrosis, diabetes--types 1 and 2, fibromyalgia, headache, hypopituitarism, infertility, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s Disease, pulmonary disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome, just to name a few.

This group has a long legacy of changing lives by offering hope, support, and understanding, creating deep and loyal friendships, and providing insight into the many ways that chronic health conditions can impact life and faith, both positively and negatively. Started at Grace as an experiment of sorts well over two decades ago, this group offers members a monthly opportunity to gather to share their experiences of living with chronic conditions. While members often share struggles with symptoms and challenges of faith in relation to their illnesses, the group is truly about finding hope--in faith, in God, and in each other, even in the midst of suffering. In sharing our honest and authentic stories, we are able to transform our experiences together--and leave feeling uplifted, loved, hopeful, and whole.

If your life (or that of someone you know) is impacted by a chronic health condition, we invite you to join us. We meet at 7:15 pm in the Grace Library on the first Tuesday evening of each month. We assure you that we will not only provide you acceptance, loyalty, and love through our support, but also our confidentiality. And though we cannot provide a cure, we promise to offer you hope and healing.

For more information, please contact either of Grace’s pastors; MaryBeth Buschmann, Grace’s Parish Nurse; or Grace member Jenny Kemp, Finding Hope’s facilitator (; 847-902-9334).  Attendees need not be members of the Grace community to be welcomed.

“May the Light shine on all your days.
It is there, despite illness, defeat, and tears.
It is eternal.”
--Harvey Stower


January 27, 2010
Health & Wellness Moment

The name of the "Thinking of You" column is changing to "Health & Wellness Moment" with this issue of Grace Notes. Now that Grace Notes is on the church web site, the Health Cabinet has decided that a more user-friendly name for the column would be more helpful for you when you search for health and wellness content. The original name was selected, with permission, in remembrance of Herbert Brokering's book entitled "I Am Thinking of You" because we thought the name implied a more personal invitation to you, the reader, to read about healthy ways to uplift your body, mind and sprit. The new title describes what the column is about and it also implies that it's a short and informative article which won't take much time to read.

Please continue to take advantage of the information we share with you in mind. You will be able to search for and find previous columns in our archives. When newer information on a topic is available we will be updating the topic with this information in the archives. If there is a topic we have not covered that you wish to know more about, let the Health Cabinet know about it. We will be more than willing to write an informative Health & Wellness Moment on it.



December 30, 2009
Resolutions for a Healthy 2010       

During the month of January and beyond, well intentioned resolutions to improve personal health will be confronted many times over. It does not seem to take long for most resolutions to be undone or forgotten. They may include a desire to look and feel one’s best by shedding pounds, eating healthier foods or controlling habits like smoking, alcohol consumption, gambling or use of computer games. Maybe some are positive and include a pledge to smile more, speak and behave more kindly toward others, work at the food pantry, deliver meals and on and on! Some efforts succeed and others fail, in spite of our good intentions.

Is it possible that all this energy is focused mainly on feeling good about oneself? Is there, perhaps, an absence of awareness that a prayerful request for the Lord’s help and support in achieving important goals is right and good?

As we know, with God all things are possible. The scriptures tell us in no uncertain terms that God cares about our health. Good physical and emotional health are both goals worthy of our efforts, and are best achieved by taking care of ourselves and our neighbors near and far. In I Corinthians 6:19-20, St. Paul asks if we understand that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit given to us by God and that we are not our own. Further, he reminds us that we have been bought by God with a price: therefore we should glorify God in our bodies and minds and feel encouraged to ask for God’s help.

During the Epiphany season we look to bind ourselves closer to our Savior, promising, with God's help, to attend worship, speak the Word faithfully to others, and to care for ourselves and others in our congregation, our community and throughout the world. Improving our personal health is an important part of this process, both for ourselves and for others who depend on us.


December 9, 2009
Domestic Violence and Abuse

Striving to live a righteous life does not ensure that one will be protected from the sinfulness of another. Survey research in the United States since the 1970s shows consistently that over the course of their lifetime, around 1 in 5 women report being victims of physical assaults from a current or former partner. Although many describe domestic violence only as physical assault of women, this crisis affects the whole family emotionally and spiritually. To be very clear, we at Grace define domestic violence as any kind of behavior that a person uses to control an intimate individual through fear and intimidation.  This includes all forms of physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, and economic abuse.   

To address these issues, the Health Cabinet has formed a Domestic Violence Ministry. Seven individuals trained as first responders at Grace Lutheran Church and School have gone through an extensive 12-hour program. The trainer was Liz Leavy, Associate Director for Advocacy and Outreach at Constance Morris House. She has more than 20 years experience in the field.  Constance Morris House is a domestic violence shelter serving the western suburbs of Chicago. It is also a part of Pillars, the umbrella social agency for the same area. First responders are not experts in the field, but are trained to guide survivors to the next right step in receiving help. The phone numbers for the two staff first responders and the Constance Morris House hotline are posted in the men’s and women’s bathrooms at Grace.

We are making a concerted effort to make our church family safer, to help our leaders and congregants hold accountable those who abuse, and through professional help, to assist couples in restoring their relationship (if possible) or in mourning the loss of that relationship. “There is no fear in love,” (1 John 4:18)




November 25, 2009
"Senior Moment" or Alzheimer's?

When a "senior moment" occurs it can be frustrating and also unsettling. When does that "moment" or several of those "moments" become something more? The Alzheimer's Association has listed on their website the differences between normal memory loss as we age (those "senior moments") and Alzheimer's Disease. Now is the time, during National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, to stop and evaluate our loved ones and ourselves. Many families often don't see what's happening to a loved one right away. It is very easy to overlook those "moments" and not realize that someone close to you is in trouble.

 Signs of Alzheimer's  Typical Age-Related Changes
 Poor judgment and decision-making  Making a bad decision once in a while
 Inability to manage a budget  Missing a monthly payment
 Losing track of the date or the season  Forgetting which day it is and remembering later
 Difficulty having a conversation  Sometimes forgetting which word to use
 Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them  Losing things from time to time


For more information on Alzheimer's Disease and to find out the 10 early warning signs of the disease, visit the Alzheimer's Association web site.


November 11, 2009
Eating Right

We can make it our responsibility to explore healthy eating, celebrate community with food, contribute to a world where no one goes hungry at night, and promote a reverence and care for creation. All of this centers on eating right and sharing. Scripture relates to our life today as we open to what Christ is calling us to do or be, remembering that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

We are called to:

    •    Continue to eat justly, with respect for other human beings, the earth and our own bodies.
    •    Take our place at a warm and welcoming table of mutual accountability and support.
    •    Know that God is patient and loves us even when we fail and continues to draw us toward what is good.
    •    Take a “faith in action step” by exploring opportunities for easier access to locally grown food.

In this time of harvest, we give thanks for the many ways God is moving in and among us to create health and well-being.  May we be especially grateful this month for the many blessings we see when we take a moment to appreciate what we have in abundance.  Peace and health to you.


October 28, 2009
October is National Dental Hygiene Month

Good dental hygiene is instrumental not only in maintaining oral health, but also overall health. 
A daily oral health care routine is essential for preventing cavities and gum disease, the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. An estimated 75 percent of Americans have some form of gum disease. Research has reported a relationship between oral health and general health as well.  The American Heart Association reports that good dental hygiene may help prevent heart disease.

Problems associated with poor dental hygiene are:
•    Cavities - holes in teeth that damage their structure
•    Gingivitis - swollen, inflamed or bleeding gums
•    Perodontitis - destruction of the ligaments and bone that support the teeth, often leading to tooth loss 
•    Bad breath (halitosis)
•    Abscesses, pain, inability to use teeth

To maintain healthy teeth and gums, do the following as a part of a daily routine:
•    Brush twice a day using fluoride toothpaste.
•    Replace your toothbrush every three or four months or sooner if the bristles are frayed.
•    Floss teeth at least daily.
•    Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
Finally, remember that regular dental appointments for routine cleaning and examinations are cost effective ways of avoiding expensive interventions by taking care of oral health issues early on. You don’t want to hear your teeth saying to each other, “Get your caps on, the dentist is taking us out tonight!”

(Based in part, on an article by Dr. Jack Smith, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Clinical and Program Policy and Acting Chief Medical Officer, TRICARE Management Activity)

October 14, 2009
Mental Illness

"My son is crazy if he thinks I'll buy him a Wii!"  "I'm crazy about my girlfriend."

We have all heard, and probably said, something like that at one time or another.  What, exactly, does "crazy" mean?  Where do we draw the line between "eccentric" and "crazy"? You decide.

Webster defines crazy as:
    1. Unsound; full of cracks and flaws; crooked, askew.
    2. Mad, insane; impractical, erratic, unusual, out of the ordinary.
    3. Infatuated, passionately preoccupied.

Mental illness frightens us for many reasons, primarily because we don't know what to expect from someone who is mentally ill.  Maybe he'll pick up a knife and chase children through the house. On a shopping trip, out of nowhere, maybe she'll start screaming and throwing things. These are not unreasonable fears. But we know, now, that these people are not really "crazy," as we casually use the term. They are sick, but there is great possibility that most of them can get well.

Mental illness can be endogenous; that is, it seems to appear mysteriously and spontaneously, in a previously healthy person, from no identifiable source. Or, it can be exogenous, caused by something or someone outside the person, perhaps trauma such as war, abandonment as a child, verbal, emotional or physical abuse. Some mental illness arises as a neurochemical response to a physiological event, such as stroke, heart attack, or major surgery. Delirium, dementia, depression or extreme anxiety can appear suddenly in someone who has recently had a medication change, in type or quantity; or when someone is treated for cancer with powerful and toxic drugs. When the medication is properly adjusted or changed, the mental illness disappears. 

Today, we are able to evaluate mental illness in a more dispassionate way than previously. In this "century of the brain," new technology enables researchers, psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, neurologists and neurosurgeons to actually watch the brain function as it responds to different stimuli. New therapies are being developed that combine appropriate medication, talking therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and behavior modification.  Hopefully, the new knowledge gathered will reduce the stigma of mental illness and bring it into the open as has been done with breast cancer. With enough familiarity, education, and honest conversation, we can, as a Christian community, begin to neutralize, if not the diagnosis, as least the negative connotation of the label mental illness.
Sometimes we fear becoming involved with a person who is ill; we worry that we do not have adequate resources of time, energy, and patience; that we will become trapped in a relationship with a  person whose needs we cannot meet.  But the major deterrent to compassion is not inadequate resources, but our seemingly innate proclivity for judgment.  We look at mental illness from a moral point of view, and that is hard to change. The bad news is that we often ignore, denigrate, run from, criticize and punish what we do not understand or think we can deal with. The good news is, as Christians, individually and as a community, we believe and are called to walk a different path, that of compassion (com=with & passion=suffering); to walk with someone, to accompany him in the suffering of his difficult journey. We didn't cause the illness and we can't cure it. The only resource we need to bring along is love. 
You can learn more about advocacy for people with mental illness from the web site of the Lutheran Network for Mental Illness, a joint effort of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod.



September 30, 2009
About Pain

September is National Pain Awareness Month.  Pain is complicated.  Pain affects the body, causing physical symptoms, and it affects our emotions.  The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” ( Better yet is what McCaffery, a nurse expert in pain, says, “Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he says it does.” (McCaffery & Pasero, Pain, 2nd Ed. Mosby, Chicago, 1999).  All experts agree though that pain is subjective.  One person may feel agonizing pain while another feels a mild unpleasant sensation or discomfort. Pain has an emotional as well as a physical aspect. Past experiences can influence how you feel pain and to what extent your pain hurts.

Acute pain is our body’s warning sign that something is wrong and needs to be attended to right away. This pain usually happens as a result of illness, injury, or surgery. Acute pain gets better as the body begins to heal.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, is pain that lasts long after the initial injury, illness or surgery. It can be difficult to find out where the pain is coming from and even more difficult to treat it. Many of us learn to live with it. However, pain, even in older adults, is not normal. You should see your health care professional to help you relieve a repetitive chronic pain.  The more a specific chronic pain repeats itself, the more your brain remembers it.

In addition to physical pain, we experience and express pain of all kinds during our lives. Therefore, remember what the Psalmist prays, “I am suffering and in pain.  Rescue me, O God, by your saving power.” Psalm 69:29 (NLT) 


September 16, 2009
A Fall Refresher Course by Stephen Kaufman

The media has declared that, “summer is over.” What!!??

Doesn’t it run until September 21, followed by the most glorious season of the year in the Midwest? Fall, a season of sunshine, dry, cool weather and nature in transition!

Don’t get trapped into the notion that just because school starts and Congress is back in session that the fun is over.  As individuals and communities, we need to allow for continued enjoyment of God’s gifts in nature as a distraction from all the renewed noise to work, work, work. Although a tough assignment, try turning away from the reminder for endless productivity and the allure of fall sports. Instead, take in a day trip to a rural or local venue displaying nature in all her seasonal glory.

A few examples of websites to explore for such experiences are:,0,1824684.story

Remember that winter can seem long and lacking in color, warmth and motivation to be out and about. Some stored-up experiences, taking in nature at her best while the weather is comfortable, can do wonders to keep us mentally alert and satisfied until the first cotyledons of spring appear.


September 2, 2009
Advanced Care Planning

There is no easy way to plan for future healthcare choices.  It’s a process that involves thinking and talking about complex and sensitive issues.

You make choices on a daily basis - choices about where you want to live, who you want to marry, your career, your home, your life. Perhaps one of the most important choices facing you is in your choice for future medical care.  Who decides when enough is enough?  You do, or least you should. You should decide about the kind of care you want while you are capable of making your own decisions.

Technology today has advance to a point where patients with little or no nope of recovery can be kept alive indefinitely. That has made it more important than ever for people to express how they feel, and discuss what kind of care they would want if they would become unable to make their own decisions. 

Think about the kind of treatment you would want, and talk about it with your loved ones and your healthcare provider. Talking about these issues may not be easy; there may be resistance, even denial.  Many people are uncomfortable talking about living at the end of life. Yet putting loved ones in the position of have to make decisions for you can be most difficult. Discussing your choices now can help.  Talk about the kind of care you want and then put it in writing. Making your choices known is a gift to your loved ones.  Research shows that loved ones usually go for more treatment, not less, when they don’t know the person’s choices.

Notice, it says talk first, then put it in writing. For years we have encouraged people to have advanced directives (the legal form of making your wishes known and appointing a healthcare agent). However, we have found that once people get the form done, they forget about it, don’t know where they put it, have not updated it in years, and sometimes don’t even tell their agents that they have been appointed.

To remedy this problem, Pastor Modahl and MaryBeth Buschmann, Parish Nurse, have been trained in helping people work through this process. Please do not hesitate to contact one of us for help in taking action NOW.

(Training supported by a grant, “Someone Who is Trusted,” to Advocate Healthcare by “Respecting Choices” of Gunderson Lutheran Medical Foundation.) 

August 2009
Back to School: Safety First 

As we  get into back-to-school mode, we should remind ourselves and our kids that safety is part of going to and from school every day. Students need to watch out, not only for cars and trains (if you live near the train tracks), but also uneven sidewalks and street construction sites. Remind them again (even if it's the thousandth time) to wear helmets if they ride their bikes to school, pay attention to the crossing guard, don't assume cars will stop, and buckle up that seat belt when riding in any car. 

As parents and drivers we need to pay attention, too.  Expect the unexpected.  Yield to pedestrians in cross-walks -- it's the law.  Bicycles and pedestrians are vulnerable, so give them some room. Later on, in winter, make sure as best you can that your sidewalks are free of snow and ice. 

There are many statistics about how many kids are injured or killed each year while walking or riding to and from school. Instead of dwelling on numbers, focus on good safety practices at home and while driving. Make sure the kids know that safety is important.  Caution, common-sense and respect for others go a long way to preventing injuries.  

July 2009
Vulnerable Children                         

Vulnerable: (1) capable of being physically or emotionally wounded (2) open to attack or damage. Today, we often hear a child spoken about as being 'at risk'. Risk: (1) the possibility of loss or injury (2) to expose to hazard or danger. Within both of these terms is the implication of 'potential harm', not of woundedness or injury already accomplished. and therein lies our hope.  Hope for what? Hope that for our children, we can prevent potential damage from being actualized. Hope that we can lovingly, faithfully, and confidentially identify the vulnerable children in our midst who are struggling, no matter the cause.

It is well known that severe injury, domestic violence, and especially the death of a parent or sibling generate feelings of anger, powerlessness, grief and loss. Less well understood is the effect of purposeful abuse. If a child is traumatized by bullying and marginalization because he is struggling in the classroom or lacks athletic skill, the injury goes deep.  Experiences of trauma-no matter the cause-can thrust an emotionally vulnerable child into social isolation, trouble in school, and an ever-decreasing sense of self and place within school, social and familial communities.
Scholastic difficulties are not hard to spot. A student struggles in the classroom and is
'set apart'. Is he just lazy and won't do his homework? Is she dyslexic? Does he have AD/HD? Does she need glasses to see the board? 

Athletically, a child enjoys little success on the ball field. He is chosen last for every team and never seems to have the right shoes. He becomes an 'outsider', and his exclusion from the social life of his class sets him up to become like the weakest lamb in the flock upon whom the wolves have set their sights. To a child who is threatened with or subjected to actual emotional or physical abuse, 'hazard or danger' can feel as real as it does to the weakest lamb.

This kind of behavior, identifying 'who's in' and 'who's out', seems to be universal; possibly it originated in some ancient part of our brains where 'to belong' meant 'to live'. Today, to 'not belong' is to constantly remind a child of his lack of 'worth' among his peers. He has nothing to contribute that anybody is interested in, so he turns inward to neutralize the pain of being 'nobody, nowhere', a person of little value.  A traumatized child can develop a life-long sense of emptiness sparking depression or intense anger that can later manifest in self-destructive behavior, homicide and/or suicide.  She is primed for feeling that a rich and satisfying life is for others, but not for her.
As parents, grandparents, teachers and friends, we feel confident that we have created a loving and supportive community where children learn and worship, within the caring embrace of the church. For the most part, we have. But we can do better. In this period of economic and social upheaval, we can either pull inward and 'take care of our own', or step over the crumbling boundaries of the world, as we know it, and reach out with awareness for the children who are slipping through the cracks, who lack for no physical necessity, but for someone to say, "Yes, I see you."  "Yes, I want to know what happened today". "What you are thinking about matters to me, because you matter."

June 2009
June is Men’s Health Month

This article is offered as a reminder that men need to be attentive to maintaining a healthy life style and establishing a relationship with a primary care physician or nurse practitioner.  The article is based on the brochure "Men: Stay Healthy at Any Age—Your Checklist for Health" published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. 

Top health experts from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggest men should talk to their doctor or nurse practitioner about how they can stay healthy no matter what their age. The most important things men can do to stay healthy fall into the following areas:

Screening Tests for Men: What Men Need and When
Talk to the doctor or nurse practitioner about which ones apply and when and how often to be tested.
•    Obesity: Have body mass index (BMI) calculated to screen for obesity.
•    High cholesterol: Have cholesterol checked regularly starting at age 35, or younger if diabetic, presence of high blood pressure, if  heart disease runs in the family, or if one smokes.
•    High blood pressure: High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher.
•    Colorectal cancer: Test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. If there is family history of colorectal cancer, there may be need to be screened earlier.
•    Diabetes: Test for diabetes if high blood pressure or high cholesterol is present.
•    Depression: Emotional/spiritual health is as important as physical health.
•    Sexually transmitted infections: Talk to the doctor or nurse practitioner to see whether testing is appropriate.
•    Abdominal aortic aneurysm. Between the ages of 65 and 75 anyone who has ever smoked (100 or more cigarettes during your lifetime), may need to be screened once.

Daily Steps to Health
•    Don't smoke. If a smoker, talk to the doctor or nurse practitioner about quitting.
•    Be physically active. Start small and work up to 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity.
•    Eat a healthy diet. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat products; lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts; foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
•    Stay at a healthy weight.
•    Drink alcohol only in moderation. No more than two drinks a day. (Standard drink is two 12-ounce beers or wine coolers, two 5-oz. glass of wine, or 3 oz. of 80-proof spirits.)

Should You Take Medicines to Prevent Disease?
•    Aspirin: Ask doctor or nurse practitioner about aspirin as a cardiovascular disease preventive.
•    Immunizations: Stay up-to-date with immunizations, i.e., a flu shot every year starting at age 50; a pneumonia shot once after age 64.

"Recognizing and preventing men's health problems is not just a man's issue. Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, men's health is truly a family issue." Congressman Bill Richardson

May 2009
Hypertension - The Silent Killer

Have you checked your blood pressure lately? 

Nine out ten Americans are at high risk of developing high blood pressure.   Hypertension is blood pressure that is consistently higher than normal.  In most cases it is called essential hypertension because there is no specific medical cause to explain it.  Our goal is to maintain a healthy blood pressure reading of 115/75 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or less.  A consistent blood pressure reading of 120/80 to 139/89 mmHg is considered prehypertension.  Values higher than these are considered hypertension.

If you are overweight, smoke, eat a high salt diet, excessively consume alcohol, have a family history of high blood pressure, and have been diagnosed with prehypertension, you are at a high risk. Some medications, stress, and drinking caffeine can elevate blood pressure as well. Hypertension is a condition that most people will have to deal with at some point in their lives.

What is scary is that often there are no signs or symptoms to high blood pressure.  Hence, it is often referred to as “the silent killer."  The only way to find out if one has it is to be tested for it.  A main concern is that the organs and tissues in the body can be damaged without any symptoms until it is too late to do anything about it.  If left uncontrolled, high blood pressure is a stroke waiting to happen.

The bad news is that once developed high blood pressure usually cannot be cured.  The good news is that in most cases it can be prevented and controlled.  Steps can be taken to prevent it by implementing a healthy lifestyle. That can be done by maintaining a healthy weight; being physically active; following a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy foods; and drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation, choosing and preparing foods with less salt and sodium. The current recommendation for sodium intake is less than 24,000 milligrams (a little more than 1.5 tablespoons) per day. If hypertension has already been developed a lifestyle change is not sufficient to lower blood pressure enough, and many people need to take one or more medication to bring it down to a healthy level.

It is important to remember that even if you have not been diagnosed with high blood pressure that you have it checked during your yearly check-up, especially if there is a family history.  Also remember to stop by our Health Cabinet table on the fourth Sunday of every month. There is a qualified health cabinet member who can check it for you.

Spring is here!  Let’s get out and enjoy the beauty that God has provided to us.  Walking is a low impact activity that most of us can participate in to help us maintain health.  Let’s celebrate.  Alleluia!    

April 2009
Humor is Healthy

We are a serious people. This may be particularly true if your heritage is German or Scandinavian Lutheran (or if your birth order is an only or an oldest). There is certainly plenty to be serious about these days. In addition to the routine stressors of daily life, we have an economic climate of uncertainty and depression. Our moods reflect this state of being. We are more on edge, more fearful, and sadder. 

Last month was National Humor Month.  Unless one had a reason to take note of these innocuous, nationalized topics of the month, (like writing for Thinking of You), it probably went unnoticed.  But if we reflect on this topic of last month, how was the state of your humor? (Yes, it was Lent.)  How many smiles did you share?  How many times did you laugh till your sides hurt? 
Proverbs 17:22 observes, “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.”

Our emotional response to stressors – fear and/or anger - can have adaptive purposes.  But when experienced for too long, and too frequently, the physiological impact can have negative consequences for the body, mind, and spirit. 

Bob Hope, many years ago, used laughter to help the military troops cope, in a healthy way, with the incredible stressors of war.  George Burns used humor to lighten the journey into old age.  Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of an Illness, lauded the effects of laughter on his physical well-being in his pursuit of health and healing.  The American Cancer Society discusses laughter therapy as a way to reduce tension, decrease blood pressure, and reduce stress hormones.   Some say a good belly laugh is a massage for the internal organs of our bodies. 

When we are in good humor, when we laugh, we connect with others. It is hard not to love the people you laugh with.  Laughing at yourself can also help you to love yourself, and others, more. Life will always have opportunities to be serious.  Let us love the life we are given. Laugh often, laugh loud, love more – your self included.

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
William Shakespeare

March 2009
Our Faith and Lent

This is the time of year as the weather gets warmer and we need to do more exercising, we ask "how do we have the time?"
In Sunday's Chicago Tribune, Julie Deardorff writes, "When you can't get to the gym, exercise the way our ancestors did; move throughout the day. But real-world fitness--walking, standing, raising and lifting grocery bags, cutting vegetables or climbing stairs--isn't just cheaper than going to a health club. It's easier to incorporate into your daily life and works the body naturally."  Instead of taking an elevator a few floors, walk the steps; park away from the front door of the grocery store; stand and walk around while talking on the telephone, etc.  St. Peter says, "Your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit."
We are getting near the last days of Lent when we have been thinking and talking about exercising our spiritual lives by attending Lenten services, having family devotions, and private devotions that have directed our thoughts to our unworthiness before God.  We also recognize no amount of exercising either physically or spiritually will fulfill God's demands for us.
Salvation takes place when we awake to the fact that we are lost. We need God. As we permit him to speak to us, we realize that he has found us. We may feel that we are not worth so much of his love and attention. But he lets us know that we are. Just by confessing our sinfulness and asking for his forgiveness brings his great gifts full into our lives. Now we begin living with him intimately as a child does with a parent. To continue to sorrow for our sin after it is forgiven is not the will of God for us.


March 2009
Life's Transitions
by Carol Prinz and Jackie Jungemann

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.  “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

This is a promise from God for each one of us. However, we all experience bumps in the road and detours in our lives that we don’t expect.  We all experience losses and changes in our lives for which we are unprepared. What do we do then? First, we must ask ourselves some questions.  From what do we want to heal? It could be loss of a job or a home, death of a cherished pet, change in a relationship, our own declining health  or that of a family member, or the death of a family member. This includes maturing couples when one spouse will become the caregiver for the other spouse, and when they will be not a couple anymore, but become “just one!”    What do we want to let go?  Anger, sadness, frustration, hurt, stress, and bitterness.  How do we want to live again? In our new normal, we want joy, hope, anticipation, peace, and to live each day as a gift from God.

Besides turning to God in prayer, we need to turn to one another for support.  Uplift Ministry is here for you.  Its statement of purpose says:

“Uplift Ministry is a group designed to offer support to people who are experiencing loss. Our purpose in gathering is twofold. We come to talk out our feelings and we also come to bring our past experiences as a help and resource to others. We wish to create a venue where people are comfortable sharing their stories and their inner feelings. Though all our losses have similar components, no one’s loss is exactly like anyone else’s loss. We want to share what has worked for us, but we are not here to preach or to tell others what they ought to do.  We are not here to judge or to fix anyone. We are here to share the love of God through our compassion and experience.  You yourself must do the work of adapting, growing, changing and healing. We ask God’s blessing upon our efforts.”

Finally, let us follow with patience the particular course that God has set before us and let us keep our eyes on Jesus.

February 2009
Alternative Medicine
by Chandler Barnes, M. D.

While I practice traditional medicine, I realize that centuries of health practices throughout the world have not been all wrong.  Acupuncture received its first serious attention from westerners when President Nixon was traveling in China. One of his staffers developed appendicitis and was treated successfully at a Chinese hospital using acupuncture as anesthesia. The success of acupuncture led to the acceptance of complementary practices into western medical practice.

Today, current medical journals suggest that eating nutritious foods obviates the need for supplemental vitamins.  Yet we know that a type of macular degeneration can sometimes be reversed using high doses of vitamins A, C, and E.  Would taking these vitamins prevent it? Traditional medicine also believes that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to cancers and may contribute to osteoporosis--something that complementary medicine practice had held for many years. Many primary care physicians are now prescribing vitamin D. Cod liver oil is coming back as a daily supplement to alleviate minor joint pain and dry skin. 

Homeopathy is also increasing in popularity. Homeopathy is based on the principle that “like cures like.”  In other words, if you have an illness, you ingest a very small amount of a substance that can produce a "similar" illness, hopefully stimulating the body's immune system to heal itself.  One particular substance gaining ground is the use of arnica in preventing bruising. 

Another hot topic today is the issue of bio-identical hormones. Traditional estrogen and progesterone replacement hormones were taken from a female horse. While they truly helped relieve menopausal symptoms, they also increased the risk of breast cancer. Others have jumped on the bio-identical hormone bandwagon, believing that if a hormone is natural it can't be bad.  However, there are no studies that prove bio-identical hormones are any safer than equine hormones.  Women with severe symptoms should discuss these issues with their primary care doctor or their gynecologist.

January 2009

Shingles is a viral infection that produces a painful rash. Also known as herpes zoster, it most often appears as a band of blisters that wraps from the middle of the back around one side of the chest to the breastbone. It follows the path of a nerve where the virus has been inactive. Other parts of your body can be involved, including around one eye, your neck, face or scalp. This is an important sign to help diagnose shingles.

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.  Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop shingles. After experiencing chickenpox, the virus lies inactive (dormant) in certain nerves. The reason for the reactivation of the virus is unclear, but most cases occur in adults over 60. While it is suspected that the reason for the reactivation is a lowered immunity as the result of another disease process or medical conditions, certain concurrent medical treatments, it believed that the body’s aging process is the most common reason. Most people develop shingles only once, but recurrences are possible.

Contact your doctor promptly if you suspect shingles but especially if:
•    The pain and rash occur near eyes.
•    You or someone in your family has a weakened immune system.
•    The rash is widespread and painful.
An episode of shingles usually heals on its own within a few weeks, but prompt treatment can ease pain, speed healing and reduce your risk of complications. Treatment may include an antiviral drug to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms, an anti-inflammatory drug to ease inflammation, and pain relievers.

Finally, in addition to any medications it is essential to get plenty of rest and avoid stress, both of which can worsen pain. Relaxation techniques, including listening to music reading, watching movies or working on a hobby are also helpful.
About 20% of people who develop shingles, experience pain in the same spot long after the blisters have cleared. This condition is known as postherpetic neuralgia. It is not dangerous, but can be very uncomfortable.
To offer the best protection against post herpetic neuralgia and too reduce the course and severity of shingles, the shingles vaccine can help prevent shingles in adults age 60 and older who have had chickenpox. Anyone who has never had chicken pox, however, should consider being vaccinated with the chickenpox vaccine to protect against chicken pox in the first place.

The Merck Manual

January 2009
Domestic Violence Ministry
Striving to live a righteous life does not ensure that one will be protected from the sinfulness of another.  Survey research in the United States since the 1970s consistently shows that around 1 in 5 women report being victims of physical assaults from a current or former partner over the course of their lifetime. Although many describe domestic violence as only physical assault of women, this crisis affects the whole family emotionally and spiritually. To be very clear, we at Grace Lutheran define domestic violence as any kind of behavior that a person uses to control an intimate individual through fear and intimidation. This includes all forms of physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, and economic abuse.   

To address these issues, the Health Cabinet has formed a Domestic Violence Ministry.  We have seven individuals trained as first responders at Grace Lutheran Church and School. They have gone through an extensive 12-hour program. The trainer was Liz Leavy, Associate Director for Advocacy and Outreach at Constance Morris House.  She has over 20 years experience in the field. Constance Morris House is a domestic violence shelter which serves the western suburbs of Chicago. It is also a part of Pillars, which is the umbrella social agency for the same area. First responders are not experts in the field, but are trained to guide survivors to the next right step in receiving help. The phone numbers for the two staff first responders and the Constance Morris House hotline, are posted in the men’s and women’s bathrooms at Grace.

We are making a concerted effort to make our church family safer, to help our leaders and congregants hold accountable those who abuse, and through professional help, to assist couples in restoring their relationship (if possible) or in mourning the loss of that relationship.  “There is no fear in love,” 1 John 4:18.