Archive for August, 2008

Infant Mortality: How can the faith community respond?

I spent Saturday evening with one of my best friends, Dr. Todd Chappell. Dr. Chappell is a 4th year OB-GYN resident here in Memphis. We discussed the ABC 20/20 show which aired Friday evening noting Memphis as the major city with the highest infant mortality rate in the United States.

As background, Todd was employed at the Church Health Center for a couple of years prior to his acceptance and entrance into medical school at the University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences, Memphis, so we have known each other for a decade.

When we picked up Todd and his wife, he had just come off a 12-hour shift at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. During that single shift Todd saw four women who were delivering their babies that day each of whom had only one or two prenatal visits to their doctor. Two other women, both of whom were in their 18th week (halfway through their second trimester), were miscarrying during his shift. Neither of these woman had a single prenatal visit.

Six women total and less than six prenatal visits between them.

I asked Todd what a church could do to reduce infant mortality. Emphatically, Todd said, “Help them make it to their doctor visits. Don’t simply encourage them to get prenatal care, help them receive it.”

The 20/20 piece focused on the work of Hope Presbyterian Church here in Memphis which opened a place named The Oasis of Hope. The story focused on a pregnant teenager named Precious Simpson and the woman who helped her through her pregnancy, Terry Drumwright. Besides being a friend and confidant, Mrs. Drumwright helped Precious get to her prenatal visits.

I am wondering what other congregational efforts are out there to reach out to pregnant girls and women? Maybe you could share your “best practices” here as a way to stimulate a dialogue with others interested in this area.

Thoughts & Prayers for the week of August 25-29

Thought & Prayer for Monday, August 25, 2008

The lectionary texts include Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c; Romans 12:9-21 and Matthew 16:21-28. Alternate scriptures include Jeremiah 15:15-21 and Psalm 26:1-8.

From Exodus 3:1-2 – Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There an angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.

I have known folks who have experienced God in dramatic, crystal clear ways like Moses. But I suspect most of you are like me. I am often left wondering if I am actually hearing God or simply projecting my own thoughts. I pray today for the wisdom to know the difference.

Prayer:

Gracious God, listening for your still small voice requires intentionality. Give us both patience and wisdom as we seek to discern your will in all we do. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From Exodus 3:4-5 – When the LORD saw that [Moses] had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then [God] said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

I think we stand on holy ground throughout the day. Each time we are with someone else, a fellow child of God, we are on holy ground. Whether you are with a family member or a person seeking services from you, honor the time and God’s presence there.

Prayer:

Loving God, help us recognize your presence in those around us. Help us walk faithfully on the holy ground surrounding your children. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Wednesday, August 27, 2008

From Jeremiah 15:16 – Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.

When we fail to eat sufficient food, our bodies tell us in sometimes dramatic ways. This scripture reminds me that we also need spiritual sustenance. Eat your fruits and vegetables, and feast on God’s word.

Prayer adapted from another of my favorite hymns:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, early in the morning and throughout the day, may our songs rise to thee. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Thursday, August 28, 2008

From Romans 12:9-10 – Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

What a wonderful pair of verses. As I am writing this, the Olympics are winding down in Beijing, and with such wonderful examples of sportsmanship and determination, it is easy to imagine how peaceful our world would be if all of us competed to outdo one another in showing honor.

Prayer:

God of peace, each of us is unique as a fingerprint, yet you made each of us. Help us respect that tie that binds us. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Friday, August 29, 2008

From Romans 12:13-15, 18 – Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Romans 12 is such a rich chapter and Paul’s rules for living together don’t disappoint. Be a genuine presence to all, including strangers. And do the best you can to live in peace with everyone.

Prayer:

God of understanding, living together as neighbors can be hard work. Stand beside us in our efforts to be the people you would have us be. AMEN.

Thought & Prayers for the Week of August 18-22

Thought & Prayer for Monday, August 18, 2008

The lectionary texts for this week include: Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8 and Matthew 16:13-20. Alternate texts include Isaiah 51:1-6 and Psalm 138.

From Exodus 2:5-6 – The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket [containing baby Moses] among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said.

Moses’ mother had hid him from Pharaoh, and by letting Pharaoh’s daughter find him, she saved his life. I would venture to guess that most of us have at least one person in our life whose positive influence on us was significant. Pray for that person today.

Prayer:

Protector God, today we ask a special blessing for those people whose lives have touched us in important ways. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Tuesday, August 19, 2008

From Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

I think Romans 12 is my favorite chapter, and this verse makes a clear connection, to me, of faith and health. Our bodies, not just our minds, are to be offered in service to God.

Prayer:

Gracious God, we are your hands and feet here on earth. Be with us this day and everyday. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Wednesday, August 20, 2008

From Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I am impressed by salmon and their quest to swim upstream against seemingly impossible odds. It is so easy to go with the flow, and yet our faith calls us to be different…to be changed by it. Not an easy task in today’s world.

Prayer:

God, give us strength each day to meet the challenges we meet during our walk of faith with you. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Thursday, August 21, 2008

From Romans 12:4-5 – For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

I find Paul’s “body of Christ” language helpful when considering the workplace. Obviously we have different job descriptions, responsibilities and pay scales, yet if each of us is doing God’s kingdom-work, than each job is vitally important to the ultimate cause.

Prayer:

Ever-present God, be with this and every day as we walk faithfully with you among your people. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Friday, August 22, 2008

From Matthew 16:15-18 – [Jesus] said to [his disciples], “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

Abram became Abraham. Jacob became Israel. And now Simon becomes Peter (petra is Greek for rock). Transformational moments in the faith life of these leaders is marked by change…identity change…name change…responsibility change. Our faith should change us in such a way as to transform our identity.

Prayer:

Almighty God, help us find your calling for us, and then help us live into that vision. AMEN.

Thoughts & Prayers for the Week of August 11 – 15

Thought & Prayer for Monday, August 11, 2008

The lectionary selections for this week include: Genesis 45:1-15; Psalm 133; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 and Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28. Alternate lectionary readings include Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 and Psalm 67.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers to a group headed toward Egypt. Two years into a famine, his brothers came to Egypt and are surprised to see that not only is Joseph alive, but he has flourished. We pick up the scripture where his brothers have just learned that the man they are standing before is their brother.

From Genesis 45:6b-8 – “…God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt;

Joseph was not angry at his brothers because he saw God’s hand as directing all the events leading up the moment we just read. Think for a moment about how you sense God actively present in your life.

Prayer:

Loving God, we thank you for your presence in our lives. Direct us so we might be the people you would have us be. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Tuesday, August 12, 2008

From Psalm 133:1, 3 – How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

We often talk about our mission and our virtues, and how they inform and direct our daily work here. We do this so we sing as best we can with one unified voice.

Prayer:

Gracious God, watch over your Church Health Center family as we seek to do your will among your people. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Wednesday, August 13, 2008

From Isaiah 56:1 – Thus says the LORD: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.

Maintain justice and do what is right. A simple phrase but a lifetime practice.

Prayer:

From Psalm 67:1-2 – May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations. AMEN.
Thought & Prayer for Thursday, August 14, 2008

From Matthew 15:10-11 – Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes in the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

Have you ever said something to a friend or loved one you wished you hadn’t said? Have you used a tone that conveyed something you didn’t intend? That is the problem with spoken words…they can’t be taken back.

Prayer:

Understanding God, our voices can be powerful weapons. Help us use them for peace. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Friday, August 15, 2008

From Romans 11:16-17. 29 – If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy…for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

My life-journey with God has generally been one where I am walking toward or with God, but there have been times when I have walked away from God. It gives me peace to know that God remains steadfast even when I am not.

Prayer:

Faithful God, thank you for being ever present in our lives. Help us be as faithful to you as you are to us. AMEN.

Pastors Being Pastored

I was with a group of pastors recently, and one of them talked about a time when he was faced with some particular difficulty. In relating his challenge to one of the members of his congregation, he was caught by surprise when the member immediately stood up, placed hands on his shoulders and prayed for him. This encounter happened years ago, and the pastor still remembers it as one of the most significant moments in his ministry.

I am very close to my pastor, but I would not presume to pray for her in her presence as this member did to the pastor relating the story above. As a layperson, I would guess I am not alone in that regard. While I know my pastor is just a human being, I make the assumption that her relationship with God is always right…at least more right than mine. I feel as though her prayers are more effective than mine and unsure of how I help.

Of course, all of this is silly, but the general hesitancy for laypeople to pray with and for their pastors can have the effect of leaving pastors alone in their times of great need.

If a layperson, have you ever prayed with your pastor for his or her expressed needs? If a pastor, would you welcome prayers from a member of your congregation?

About Me

My name is Butch Odom, and I would like to welcome you to my blog, Panoramic Views of Faith & Health. I was thinking I should write three or four sentences about myself as a way of introduction. As you can see, I got a bit carried away.

My education route has been rather circuitous. I graduated from a small, liberal arts college sponsored by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church known as Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee where I earned a BS in Biology. I pursued a Master’s in Zoology from the University of Memphis, but I soon realized this degree and career didn’t suit me. I later pursued a career in Optometry completing two years at Southern College of Optometry before realizing that career didn’t suit me either. It wasn’t until 1991 at the age of 31 that I finally checked “post-graduate degree” off my to-do list when I completed my Masters in Business Administration from the University of Memphis with an emphasis in Marketing.

My career path was also circuitous but much more interesting. I have basically worked for two visionaries my entire career. The first the Dr. William H. West, founder of the West Clinic and co-founder of the private, for-profit cancer research company, Biotherapeutics, later Response Oncology. I was Dr. West’s first lab assistant, and I helped him in his attempts to make monoclonal antibodies against cancers, especially breast and lung cancer. This was during that exciting time in cancer research when Interleukin-2 was showing promise in cancer treatment. Dr. West then asked me to become the first administrator of his oncology practice which was just starting to add partners.

While working in this very rewarding setting, I became active in my church, Buntyn Presbyterian Church. I was elected and ordained as an elder in this church and served as the church treasurer. It was during my training to be an elder I first started feeling the tug of God to do something else of service. While I was very happy at the West Clinic, I was sensing there was something else for me to do.

Never underestimate the power of God and a round of golf.

My wife, Debbie, is a registered nurse and was working for this new not-for-profit in Memphis known as the Church Health Center. She would come home talking about the great work she was doing for God each and every day. Frankly I was jealous. I would go to my job wishing I was riding to work with my wife.

Dr. Scott Morris, founder and Executive Director of Church Health Center, became my golf buddy. We didn’t talk faith and health. We didn’t talk about our spouses. We talked about golf – the shot we had just made or the shot we should have made. But one day on the eighth tee at Audubon Park Golf Course, Dr. Morris asked me, “Butch, I need a business manager to help run the Church Health Center. Do you know anyone who’s looking for a job?” After slicing my ball into the oncoming traffic, I looked at him and replied, “How about me?”

Now, I figured Church Health Center was a five-year job, but God has seen fit to keep me here for much longer. My hair has thinned but my faith has deepened.

If I were granted three wishes, the first one would be world peace…God’s Kingdom realized. I never knew what to do with that yearning, since the world is so big, and while I am blessed with a certain self-confidence, there are limits. But I became moved to action by the bumper sticker that was on Dr. Morris’ car that day he asked that fateful question. You have probably seen it: Think Globally. Act Locally.

I have worked at the Church Health Center in various capacities now since March of 1991. I have become convinced that 1) God’s Kingdom is built through the numerous small things going on in congregations and as such, congregations are powerful venues for positive change, 2) All congregations are places of healing and 3) Most congregations could become even better places of healing if interested and called people just had the resources. I hope this blog, and the community built around it and hopeandhealing.org, will provide a venue where thoughts and practices from around the world can be shared for the ultimate goal of granting my number one wish, world peace.

Today, I serve the Church Health Center as the Director of Faith Community Ministries, one of the four ministries of the Center. With the Center’s mission to reclaim the church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and spirits, Faith Community Ministries works with individual congregations helping them fulfill this mission. We do this through training opportunities for both clergy and laity. We are especially known in Memphis for our Congregational Health Promoter training program offered three times each year. We are also active in the development of curricula and other materials to help congregations explore the connection between faith and health and find where God is leading them. For a more complete explanation please visit http://www.churchhealthcenter.org.

Finally, I have been married to my wife Debbie since 1984. I have two grown stepchildren and two grandsons, whom you will meet from time to time in some of my writings. I am a member of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Memphis where I also serve on staff as the part-time bookkeeper.


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