Jan
06
2010
by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/national-influenza-vaccination-week">National Influenza Vaccination Week</a></h1>

This Sunday marks the beginning of the annual observance of National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW). The H1N1 flu is a serious disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between mid-April and November 14, 2009, 47 million people in the United States were infected with the 2009 H1N1 flu, more than 200,000 people were hospitalized, and over 9,800 people died.

Please use the materials here to inform your parish about this important event to generate awareness. Here are some resources:

Jan
03
2010
by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/ikiru-to-live">Ikiru (To Live)</a></h1>

In an indirect way, Akira Kurosawa's brilliant film 'Ikiru' is responsible for my work with NEHM. When I first saw Ikiru (meaning 'To Live') I was working in state government for a very worthy program for at-risk parents of infants. Over time, I became frustrated and disillusioned by the sheer effort it took to accomplish the smallest of tasks due to government bureaucracy.

It was at this point that I first viewed Ikiru during a Kurosawa film festival. It was an odd choice for the festival, tucked among a marathon of samurai films such as Throne of Blood and Seven Samurai. Ikiru depicts a Japanese bureaucrat whose only job is to stamp papers to prove he's handled them while also making sure nothing gets done. He has worked 30 years without missing a single day of work. Discovering he has stomach cancer, he realizes he has wasted his life. His attempts to fill his final days with nightclubs and girls leave him feeling as empty as his meaningless work. His only hope to redeem himself is to use his work to effect a permanent change somehow. A group of women are attempting to build a park where an industrial wasteland currently stands.

I sat in that darkened theater watching the film's protagonist Watanabe sob himself to sleep after realizing he had wasted his life shuffling papers. In the coming weeks and months I would think often of his despair as I struggled to deal with my own daily setbacks with bureaucracy. I resolved to change my life, to find fulfilling work that allowed me to make a difference at a level I could experience directly. Shortly after, I was called to NEHM by a friend who felt this was a place where I could contribute to a worthwhile organization. I discovered that not only had I found fulfilling work, but I had also found a faith community after being separated from organized religion for several years.

Roger Ebert said "I think this is one of the few movies that might actually be able to inspire someone to lead their life a little differently... Over the years I have seen "Ikiru " every five years or so, and each time it has moved me, and made me think. And the older I get, the less Watanabe seems like a pathetic old man, and the more he seems like every one of us."

Ebert's certainly right about Ikiru inspiring me. Seeing this film again, I am reminded of how easy it is to become dominated by routine, to focus on making sure the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed, regardless of whether or not it matters. Ikiru pleads with us to develop a sense of urgency, to not waste another moment as we move ever closer to the end of our time here on earth. Ikiru asks us to live an intentional life.

As we look ahead to 2010 and the optimism of a new year, this message has particular resonance. It is good to be reminded of the need for focus and urgency. I hope to utilize this in my own daily life, both personally and with NEHM. How can you employ this sense of urgency to make the most of 2010 in your ministry? Your family? Your spiritual life?

Matthew Ellis serves as executive director of National Episcopal Health Ministries (NEHM).

Dec
18
2009
by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/popcorn-and-resolutions">Popcorn and Resolutions</a></h1>

As we look forward to a new year, we often dream big about the changes we are going to make in an effort to become healthier. Too often, these big dreams become just that: dreams, and little more. In December, the Medical Trust is inviting you to look at the ways in which small changes can have big effects. For instance, losing one third of a pound per week would leave most people frustrated. However, if you stayed on this course for an entire year you would be 17 pounds lighter next year!

Here is one example of a seemingly innocent behavior that can have big consequences: movie theater popcorn. According to WebMD, movie theater popcorn contains as much as 1200 calories, 60 grams of saturated fat, and 1500 mg of sodium! A large soda (you'll need to wash down that popcorn) can add 500 calories and 33 teaspoons of sugar. WebMD suggests you make a healthier choice: share a small, unbuttered serving of popcorn with a friend and ask the theater to pop you a batch without salt and wash it down with water. Your body will thank you for reducing the shock value of that 'snack'. Don't forget: since you've been sitting for a few hours in the movie, you'll want to take a walk after the movie!

It is not necessarily the big changes made over a short period of time, but instead the small changes implemented over the rest of our lives that have the biggest impact. What are the seemingly harmless choices like movie theater popcorn that sabotage your best efforts? What small changes are you making to get healthier this year? For more ideas about small changes that can have a big impact, visit SmallStep.gov.

Matthew Ellis serves as executive director of National Episcopal Health Ministries (NEHM).

Dec
11
2009
by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/blue-christmas">Blue Christmas</a></h1>

The Rev. Mary P. Trainor recently wrote an article that brings attention to an often overlooked aspect of the holidays: the fact that for many, the holidays are not a time of happiness and joy. Unfortunately, the holidays are often a time of intense sadness and loneliness, accompanied by overwhelming feelings of loss and grief.  As the Rev. Trainor notes:

This day more than any other day in the secular calendar can trigger feelings of isolation and loss, unworthiness and sadness. Blue Christmas. That phrase hasn't hung around over the decades for no good reason.

As someone who has often struggled through the holidays, I empathize with those who find this time of year particularly difficult. In addition to the Rev. Trainor's thoughts about maintaining the presence of Christ during the Christmas season, it is helpful to consider additional healthy ways of coping. One resource on this site is Good Grief Work. In addition to an overall discussion of working through issues of grief, this free download offers suggestions and prayers for coping through the holidays. Here is one prayer as we remember those for whom this time of year is especially difficult:

O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen,
and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever
of life is over, and our work is done. In your mercy, grant us a safe
lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.

Dec
03
2009
by Matthew Ellis   |   comments

In Part 1 of this two part blog posting, we discussed the move to the new site, why some things have been dramatically changed (such as membership) and provided an overview of the People section of the website. In Part 2, we continue to highlight new features of the site.

Events: Let us know if you have an event coming up and we'll help you promote it! You can let us know about it by simply clicking the Submit an Event button on the Events page. Our Featured Event on the homepage will also be featured in the sidebar on most pages except Resources.

Resources: Definitely the area of the site where we've spent the most time. We wanted to be sure we got it right, so we explored a number of options, refining this section until literally the last day. I hope you find the resources fun to browse and easy to use. Newsletters, articles, links to blogs/websites, and audio/video are in the Media section, while more structured program resources are in the Featured and Popular tabs. You can also browse by category on the left menu.

About: Find more information about NEHM, health ministry, and our partners.

Blog: In our blog, we'll continue to highlight successful ministry programs and share thoughts on current health issues. We now have the ability to have guest blog posts as well, which will allow us to have additional insights from health leaders around the country.

Contact: You can use this form to contact us. Our direct contact information is at the bottom of every page on the website as well.

We're proud of the new site and hope you like it as much as we do. Not only is the site easier to use from a user standpoint, but it's also easier to use from a development standpoint as well. This will lead to an increase in meaningful, useful information updated on a regular basis.

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not draw attention to the fine work of SmallBoxWeb.com. They've truly been a joy to work with and we're grateful for their dedication in delivering us a new website that will allow us to better fulfill our mission in the coming years.

Please let us know what you think of the new site. We're eager to hear your feedback!

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