Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Health. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.

At the cat show held last weekend in Madison Square Garden, owners were discussing the relative attributes of different breeds. The hairless Sphynx is low-maintenance, said Sandy Adler. "There are no hairballs, and you can wear black." The silver spotted Egyptian Mau loves to swim, countered owner Carol Babel. "If you don't want him in the shower or bathtub, you'd better close the door." Alas, the black Bombay has nothing fancy to offer, said owner John Clark. “Unlike a lot of the cats here, the Bombay doesn't do anything," he said. "He has no skills. He just is."

On hand for the occasion was therapist Carole Wilbourn. For £200 she’ll come to your home and offer your cat relaxation therapy. She didn’t seem to be doing much business. "Does this cat look like he needs a therapist?" asked Ronnie Fischler as she combed a huge fluffy Persian sprawled on a table. "If he got any more relaxed, he'd be dead." No wonder cats that are being cared for and loved with such dedication don’t need therapy. The apple of their owner’s eyes, what is there to cause them stress? There is none of the pressure human beings feel to provide for their own needs, to sustain relationships with others, to justify their existence.

In our more complicated lives, we need to discover ways of dealing with tension. Many people know from experience that when they are the apple of someone else’s eye, as daughter, son, lover, parent, friend, this provides a context for living in which life takes on a more relaxed perspective. Let’s be glad today if we are fortunate enough to have someone who thinks of us like that.

Each of us is also the apple of God’s eye. We can receive that kind of totally accepting regard from God, even when we have nothing fancy to offer. God’s care for us doesn’t always amount to the kind of physical pampering received by the cats on display in New York but basking in the delight of being loved by God can have a deeply relaxing effect.

Ornithologists are puzzled by the discovery of an Arctic Tern on Stewart Island off the south island of New Zealand. The tag on the dead bird indicated that it had come 16,000 miles from Haelsingford in the very north of Sweden. Various possibilities as to how it got there are being considered. Perhaps it hitched a ride on a ship, or it drowned and drifted to New Zealand, or somebody intentionally smuggled the bird to New Zealand and planted it where it would be found. Less unlikely but even more extraordinary is the possibility that it flew the whole way and died a natural death.

Human beings too can reveal extraordinary staying power. Most people know somebody of whom they wonder how they keep going. For such people, the New Year may well only bring more of the same. Friends and family may well offer support and, depending on the situation, share in feeling angry that such struggles have to be endured. In the end, however, the resources need to come from within and the resilience and toughness some people reveal when up against it is both remarkable and inspiring.

Let’s today be grateful for such inner strength, creative in our support for those whose capacity to keep going seems to be wearing thin, and trust that if such a challenge ever came our way, we too would have the strength to deal with it.

The Theodora Children's Trust which sends clowns into hospitals to meet and entertain children and their families is in financial difficulty. Demand for the specially-trained clowns has rocketed after research showed that they have a positive effect on children's recovery and rehabilitation. At least 30 NHS hospitals across the country are on a waiting list for clowns,

“Clowns turn on a huge tap and let all the tension go ‘hiss’,” says TCT’s Executive Director. “The impact of laughter on health is widely accepted”. But it isn't just the children who benefit. One of TCT’s clowns comments that the really special moments are when the adults are brought out of themselves. “You can make everyone in the room into a child again, and that’s when there’s some real magic.”

There was wisdom in Jesus’ comment that we need to become like children if we are to really find life and wholeness. If we get the chance to clown around a bit today, it might be good to take it. Even if we don’t, rediscovering the child inside us might be a health-giving thing to do.

Thousands of tube travellers were delayed recently when a trainee driver fell out of his cab. He’d fainted when a fellow-worker insisted on continuing to go into graphic detail about his vasectomy operation. The poor chap had been perfectly healthy when he got into the cab. It was purely how his imagination responded to his colleague’s description which caused the faint and the subsequent head and chest injuries.

Our thoughts and feelings can affect our body’s health in ways that are often quite mysterious. Our emotional state, levels of stress and what’s going on in our minds all affect our physical well-being. When he healed a paralysed man*, Jesus recognised this. He had to deal with the man’s feelings of guilt by forgiving him before he could walk again.
Today we’ll no doubt see that our bodies get appropriate food and rest. But to keep ourselves physically well, we need also to note the needs of our hearts and minds. Distress, confusion, unhappiness, even ordinary brain-weariness, all take their toll. We shouldn’t just battle on when we experience them but should take extra care of ourselves.

*Mark 2:1-12