Soul Care Matters

Live, Love and Lead from a Healthy Soul


Small Things Matter

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SMALL THINGS MATTER TO OUR SOUL

One of the greatest temptations in life is a habit of minimizing the significance of small things and giving more attention to “the seemingly” big things. The importance of small things has been on my mind quite a lot of late. So I recently asked my Facebook friends to share what small thing mattered to them from day to day.  I received the following responses: a hug, smile, laughter, listening, affirmation, notes, unprompted help, genuine interest, affection, appreciation and the words “I love you”.  I found that small things are really the big things to people.

         The truth is our days are a compilation of one small thing after another.

Some of the small things that occur in a day do more to deplete our souls than they do to renew us. I also made a private inquiry to handful of people to ask what one thing makes their soul heavy, burdened or weary on any given day.  I discovered that no rest, over commitment, feeling unseen, feeling unheard, no exercise, illness and hurried living leaves people depleted. And the list expanded to include no margin, being ignored, living in isolation, lack of solitude,  bracing for the next thing, all work and no play, poor nutrition, and no community leads people to feel weary and burned out. These response confirm that small things can have a big impact on your soul.

                        It is fair to say there are no little things in God’s kingdom! 

The smallest of acts like a hug, kind word, and laughter is what makes our life rich with Christian love, meaning and purpose. All of it makes a difference. If we overlook the seemingly little things, we risk damaging relationships, weaken our spirits, neglect our general health. We can miss out on friendship, carry a burden alone, focus on pain, forfeit a relationship with our heavenly Father and consequently live with a depleted, burned-out soul.

In scripture the smallest of things mattered to God! Consider how God valued a shepherd’s staff, a star in the east, a boys sling, five fish and two loaves of bread and faith the size of a mustard seed. Who would think the small mite of the widow, a few moments  given by a Samaritan man or a little oil in a virgin’s lamp mattered?  If God doesn’t overlook the value of the small things then why do we?

The smallest of matters may be what matters the most in the grand scheme of our life.

                             “Who dares despise the day of small things…” (Zechariah 4:10).

The health of the soul is dependent on the smallest of things. Periods of silence, solitude, stillness, slowing, study and the practice of sabbath are just a few small things that renew our souls.  If your story today includes feeling grieved, depleted or overwhelmed by life then be careful not to minimize the experience. A small act of slowing life’s pace can allow time needed to tend to your soul. On the other hand, if your story today involves feeling convicted, called out or challenged in some area of your life be careful not to ignore these promptings. Take a small amount of time for solitude and confirm God’s direction. Remember our soul is not alone. The Holy Spirit is our helper (John 14:16,26).  Elijah heard God in a still small voice and it was there he recovered his soul.( I Kings 19:11-13) The small whisper’s of the Spirit can help you recover your soul too!

Merle & Karen

 


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Spotting Soul Depletion

Grab a cup of coffee and join me as I write about the condition of soul depletion.  My hope is thatPlaceholder Image today’s blog will begin to answer some important questions about the health of our souls.

Most of us are familiar with a routine health check but doing a soul check is not as familiar.  Our vital signs give us a snap shot of how well we are doing.

How do we know when our soul is doing well?

How do we know if we are suffering from soul depletion?

Eugene Peterson gives some vital signs of soul depletion and soul health in his paraphrase of Matthew 11: 28-30. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

Soul depletion is apparent in us when we lack energy, motivation and joy.  Soul depletion is also evident when we feel tired and burned out on the things we once loved, even the best of things. Living in an ongoing hurried, busy, frantic way with little time to rest or refresh is a fast track to burn out.  This can be seen in overwork, over-responsibility or over achieving but they all lead to the same end.

The picture of soul health is quiet the opposite.  Our souls flourish when we establish  boundaries, live in an intentional rhythm of work and rest and enjoy specific times of refreshment.  Jesus invites us to flourish! He calls to us to do life with him in an unforced way. He promises that when we do life his way, our souls can be free from the relentless stress that leads to a tired, worn-out, burned out condition.

Soul health can slip away very easily for those in leadership.  Leaders are often plagued with demands and expectations and can also be prone to a pursuit of perfection, performance or the praise of people.  All of these deplete the soul. Unless we develop a keen eye to spot these behaviors they can also become unconscious idols we serve.

We recently reflected on the history of our soul health and depletion and found similarities to what is seen in Matthew 11:28-30. From times of transition and change, to periods of stressful productivity in ministry, to facing grief at the death of our mothers, we seemed to be flourishing. Although each situation was very different, what they shared in common is that we had a sense of peace, contentment and even joy.  Why? Because Jesus put nothing ill fitting upon us. In his company, we were able to live free and light regardless of our circumstances.  All was well with our souls!

Soul health is evident when peace, contentment and joy describes the condition of our internal world regardless of our circumstances.

One the other hand soul depletion is very different. When my soul was depleted I had an absence of peace, contentment and joy.   The more depleted my soul became the more I failed to notice the positives around me.  Caught in a hurried, frantic state I made more efforts to please people than God. My need for perfection took precedence over my dependency on God. I grew exhausted and worn out. And  I wasn’t even aware that my soul health was slipping away  little by little.

Soul depletion mirrors a process similar to the erosion of soil.  With erosion, a structure can become unstable little by little over time, and yet the problem goes unnoticed until it hits a critical point.  By the time we notice the erosion of our soul, we can be suffering symptoms of spiritual, emotional or physical burnout.

SIX FEATURES OF SOUL DEPLETION  

Our spiritual practices change. Hurry results in less prayer, avoiding the practice of silence and solitude, the neglect of fellowship and abandoning the Sabbath.

Self-reliance slowly takes the place of trusting God. The failure to set boundaries, make prayerful decisions, take time for restoration and acknowledge our human limitations points to self-reliance. We forget our lives rest on God’s promises not us.

Resilience to manage difficulty slips and faith weakens. When stress becomes greater than our ability to cope, depletion is evident. Doubts, fears, and confusion become the norm and can challenge our hope in God. We can also become prone to anxiety, depression and emotional difficulties. .

Physical stamina gives way to exhaustion and health concerns emerge. We may sleep too much or too little, feel worn out and depleted or develop physical complaints. Headaches, GI problems, elevated blood pressure, or other health concerns can come on unexpectedly.

Relationship health declines and conflict grows. Once enough depletion occurs, relationships can become marked by a pattern of unresolved conflict.

A false way of being covers up the true-authentic-self.  We can experience a deadening to the convictions of Holy Spirit. This is more than “backsliding” it is a disconnection from one’s identity as a child of God. We no longer live out God’s purpose for our lives but instead follow sinful impulses.

 

What we need most to return to soul health is to be reminded again and again that Jesus  invites us to …

  • come to me
  • get away with me
  • walk with me
  • work with me
  • watch how I do life
  • keep company with me
  • learn the unforced rhythms of grace

When is the last time you checked the vital signs of your soul?

 


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What is Soul Care and Why it Matters

 

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Jesus is a curate.  A curate is a doctor of the soul.  As a  good doctor he knows how to diagnose the spiritual condition of each one of us.  And one of his best diagnostic tools is to ask questions.  Two of his most penetrating and provocative questions are found in Matthew 16:26:

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

If we were real honest with Jesus how would we answer his questions?  “Well Jesus the reality is that we think if we gain the world it provides great benefit.  When we gain the whole world we have more stuff, more admiration from people, more comfort, more entertainment. And who doesn’t want that?  And as for your second question, well truth be told, we think there are any number of things more valuable than our souls, things like busyness, muchness, and manyness.”

Jesus teaches us that the soul is invaluable.   And what gives the soul its worth is that it was created by God and for God.  In Genesis 2:7, with powerful, poetic imagery we are told that after God formed Adam from the dust of the ground he breathed into his nostrils and he then became “a living soul.”  And he told us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul  and mind.(Matthew 22:37).

Jesus is clear that there is nothing we can exchange our souls for that can make our lives better.  And when we exchange our soul for things of lesser value we experience loss.  To lose one’s soul is not a statement about losing our soul to eternal damnation in the future. To exchange our soul for anything less than life with God is to lose out on everything God intends for us in the here and now.

Since the soul is valuable it is to be cared for.  Dallas Willard, in his book Renovation of the Heart, says it well, “The essence of soul care is about strengthening our personal presence in the presence of Christ.”  But how do you do it?

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We believe soul care involves knowing, understanding and valuing your STORY.  And it includes learning to live in life-giving SACRED RHYTHMS.  It needs the regular observance of SABBATH.  It calls for engagement in essential SPIRITUAL PRACTICES.  It requires the presence of fellow SOJOURNERS.  And soul care can’t happen without the help of the SPIRIT of God and guidance from the SCRIPTURES. (We’ll talk about each of these in more detail in future blogs)

Soul care is all about giving attention to the most important thing that is often overlooked – the real you!

“Our soul is like an inner stream of water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other element of our life. When that stream is as it should be, we are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all we do, because our soul itself is profusely rooted in the vastness of God and his kingdom, including nature; and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream.” ~ Dallas Willard

Based upon your current way of living, what value do you place on your soul?  How would those closest to you answer the question?

Merle


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Soul Care Begins With Change

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Soul Care begins with change; the kind of change that reflects genuine care of the soul and respect for the real you. Do you ever feel chained up by the way you live?  In big and small ways we can unknowingly and unwisely live false lives by mindlessly ignoring the needs of our soul. We do this when we live  hurried, stressed and without rest. We do this when we live driven to achieve, meet demands and people please. We do this when we live enslaved to limitless schedules, without healthy rhythm, quiet or stillness. We do this when we lack the enjoyment of companions, connection and fun.  Simply put…we live false lives when we live in a way we were not made to live.  Over time this way of living leads to neglect, bareness and serious deprivation of our soul.  In this condition we cannot live, love or lead well.

When you think about living, loving and leading from a healthy soul what picture comes to mind? Is it vastly different from your current way of living? Have you ever considered what the state of  your soul health would be one year from now if you continue to live the same way you are currently living?  Will you make gains; will your soul health improve? Or will you become worn out and burned out on life?

SOUL CARE EVALUATION

The care of the soul was taught and modeled by Jesus. In Scripture, we see his rhythmic way of tending to his soul by both engaging and disengaging in ministry; by the practice of silence and solitude to meet with God; and in living with spiritual companions in a genuine faith community. (Read the Gospel of Mark)  Jesus’ way of doing life reflected a deep knowledge of the value of his  soul and the importance of soul care.  For people of faith, Jesus’ way is a sacred way.  More importantly his way is an invitation to those who are tired, worn out and burned out on religion to come to him, learn from him and recover their life (Matthew 11:  28-30 MSG). Sadly in our modern age the church, both leaders and lay people, too often forget Jesus’ invitation and instead neglect the very practices that sustain the health of their souls.

Does a change in the way you care for your soul sound inviting or intimidating? Scripture says “there is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12) .  Evaluate your soul health for a moment.  What do you dread at the start of a day? What keeps you awake at night?   What grieves you? What relieves you? What do you long for? What inspires you?  Is something missing? If all was well with your soul (the real you) what would be different?

EXERCISE

To explore possible change in the way you care for your soul begin by writing a few paragraphs about the condition of your soul today. Include changes you desire and a few details.

  • What needs attention?  Sleep?
  • What can no longer be ignored? Hurry and noise?
  • What needs to be made right? Relationships?
  • What do you need to accept?  Your limits?
  • What longing resides in your heart? Mercy and grace?
  • What step can you take towards soul care?  Good question!
  • What resource or help do you need to take that step?  Great question!

Making changes to care for our soul requires honesty with ourselves first and then with others. It also requires vulnerability and the guts to take important steps to engage in soul care. Be realistic and accept that change of any kind is a process that involves consistent small steps.  Over time small steps of soul care can become a new and stable way of living.

Why consider soul care or be concerned with the condition of your soul?  Why change? A soul nurtured and tended to can thrive and fulfill a God-given purpose but a neglected soul will surely shrivel and become dry.  A great little book to help you begin a journey of soul care is titled “Soul Custody” by Stephen Smith.

Happy New Year/ Happy Soul Care. Why not focus on what really matters in 2016? Soul care is all about tending to what really matters!

Blessings!  Karen Mees

 

Coming up next week is a post from Merle Mees!

 

 

 


Welcome To our Blog

Soul Care Matters blog is a new venture for us.  As a pastor (Merle) and a professional counselor (Karen) we know first hand that soul devastation is real and it occurs when we neglect our souls.  After three decades of ignoring soul care our marriage and ministry became barren. We had no choice but to find a better way to live. Through the help of spiritual directors and supportive friends we began caring for our soul.  Our lives are now devoted to living, loving and leading from a healthy soul. And we have a passion to share the important message “soul care matters” with others! 

Soul care is a way of living as well as a journey. Here are a few basics truths that can help you begin to consider your soul.

  • Your soul is the real you, your true self. The soul is all of you – mind, emotions, spirit and will.  Living, loving or leading apart from the awareness of your true self is devastating to the soul. Knowing and being your true self is essential to caring for your soul.
  • Your soul is a unique creation of God  (Gen 1:26-27; Psalms 139). The soul is not man-made or man-shaped but it can be devastated by man.
  • You have only one soul. Any soul can grow barren and even be lost when it is ignored (Proverbs 14:12). We can care for our soul or not but we don’t get a second soul in this life.
  • Your soul was created for a purpose. The soul is a gift given to every human to love God and live life on purpose.  Soul care matters because without it we cannot love God or live the purposeful life he intends.