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She's so heavenly-minded that she's no earthly good!! So goes the old complaint about those of us with a deep interest in spiritual concerns. Most of us would challenge the part about being "no earthly good"-on good authority. The apostle Paul tells us: "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace" (Rom 8:5-6).

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Questions remain, though. How does setting our minds on the things of the Spirit make a positive difference in our daily lives and our nursing care? How can we personally experience that life and peace, so we have something to share with our patients? Furthermore, how does spiritual assessment and intervention bring "life and peace" to those in our care? Finally, how can we integrate spiritual care with physical care in practical ways? The articles in this issue answer these questions with startling clarity.


Health care can never focus on merely fixing bodies-or only on "saving souls." We are whole people with intricately intertwined needs. Setting our minds on the Spirit should make us exemplars in nursing, caring for the whole person. Historically, nursing owes its existence to Christians who sought to exemplify Jesus Christ in their actions.


Setting our minds on the Spirit will always be controversial, though, because we are talking about a very specific spirit-the Holy Spirit of God, who requires our exclusive allegiance. Yet, we are surrounded by colleagues and clients who seek after other spirits and may even exude hostility toward our Christian commitment. Three faculty members in Arizona faced that ultimate hostility when they were gunned down by an embittered student, who challenged their faith as he aimed his weapon.


However, nurses continue to find life and peace in Christ. For example, many of the surviving University of Arizona students and faculty found strength and hope through faith and Christian community. Furthermore, the JCN Nursing Satisfaction Survey that ran on our website from June through December 2002 demonstrated that helping others and serving God continue to be the primary motivations for nursing. The stories nurses tell illuminate the statistics. When we approach the spiritual realm in our nursing care, something surprising happens. An amazing bond develops that cuts through bitterness, grief, fear and culture. As my friend Sister Mary Elizabeth O'Brien is fond of saying, we discover that we are standing on holy ground.


Standing on holy ground may sound ethereal and pious, but if Moses' experience with it gives us any clues, it leads us into some mighty challenging adventures. Read Exodus if you want a few previews. God got Moses' attention with a burning bush. When Moses turned to investigate, God told him he was standing on holy ground and gave him an impossible job description, for which Moses insisted he was not qualified. God simply promised, "I will be with you" (Ex 3:12).


Health care can never focus on merely fixing bodies-or only on "saving souls." We are whole people with intricately intertwined needs.


Now, if I were Moses, I would have expected that promise to mean that this job would be a piece of cake-God would make it easy-but that wasn't the case. Moses faced repeated failure, frustration, opposition, loneliness and physical exhaustion. Granted there were a few high points, like splitting the Red Sea and receiving the Ten Commandments, but for the most part, it was a tough job without much positive reinforcement. Interestingly, Moses and the people of Israel encouraged one another by telling stories that were preserved for generations (see Psalm 136 for one example).


The holy ground that we, as nurses, are called to enter may be equally difficult. God has promised to be with us, to give us life and peace, as we focus on his Spirit. That life may be difficult. Both personally and professionally, we face pain, suffering, death, fear, communication barriers, cultural and ethnic prejudice, injustice, impossible working conditions and constant obstacles. We may feel inadequate and defeated, but God is with us. He offers us his peace.


Jesus expands on what this peace entails, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid" (Jn 14:27). The world tells us that peace is getting away from it all-preferably on a balmy, tropical island or luxury cruise. Jesus offers us a different kind of peace. This is the peace of shalom, a God-centered community that shares the hope of Jesus Christ, bringing health, welfare, friendship and security. Shalom gives us the strength and encouragement to keep going when the holy ground becomes hot and dry, or steep and rocky-when the pressures of life become unbearable. We find it only in relationship to Jesus Christ, which in turn puts us into relationship with his people. Rather than taking us away from it all, shalom surrounds us with God's presence in the midst of life's challenges. Out of this shalom we serve in the world through a ministry of nursing-caring for others, that they, too, may experience life and peace in Christ.


So, if you want to be of some earthly good, set your mind on the Spirit!!