Dec 2018
Issue No. 98
In this issue


About Us  
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  A not-for-profit ministry of
Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Inc.

Church of the Brethren Insurance Services provides the following products: dental, vision, basic life and accidental death & dismemberment, supplemental life and AD&D, dependent life and AD&D, long-term disability, short-term disability, voluntary accident insurance, and Medicare supplement for eligible Church of the Brethren employees .
Dental, vision, and Medicare supplement coverage may also be available for eligible retired Church of the Brethren employees.
For eligibility information, call Connie Sandman at 800-746-1505, ext. 3366, or contact your human resources representative.
Medical and ancillary plans (named above) may be available to Brethren-affiliated employer groups.
Long-Term Care Insurance is available for all members of the Church of the Brethren, their family and friends, and employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities. 

Contact Us 
1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120

This month, we are focused on the wonderful tradition of storytelling. Throughout the year, many of us read to our children and grandchildren; we bring one another up to date at family gatherings; we listen to anecdotes in sermons; we relay news reports we have heard; we gather and share around the coffee machine at work. Stories are more present in our everyday lives than we realize.
But one of the things that makes the holidays special is all the storytelling that goes along with the traditions of the season. Christmastime, especially, is teeming with stories, starting with the big story at its core. In this issue we take a few moments to consider these story riches, and we depart from our usual wellness advice and lists to offer you an actual story. Of course, it is our hope that by giving you a story that can touch and uplift you, we are contributing to your wellness. We even cite some research that seems to confirm this.
In our insurance emphasis this month we also depart from the usual, and instead of focusing on one of our products, we have explained some the confusing terms of medical insurance.
We understand that with all the busy-ness of the season, it may be hard to find time to read a newsletter, but we hope you can carve out a few minutes for Well Now this month, since our goal is to lift your spirits with stories of the holidays. And may this yuletide season be filled with blessings of faith, with family and friends, with comfort and joy, with compassion and caring for those in need, with beauty of light and color, and with spirits lifted by all the stories of Christmas - especially the very important story of the baby that was born to save the world.
God bless us, every one.
The indispensable stories of Christmas

We tell ourselves stories in order to live . - Joan Didion

"Do you know the story about ..."

When you hear these words, your ears perk up and you lean forward. If you're around a table with friends, the other conversations drop off. Suddenly, you are all listening.

Have you sat through a church sermon that is dragging on and causing you to unconsciously tune it out? But then the preacher changes direction and begins to tell a story. Now you are listening again. It's actually difficult not to listen. And later, though you may not remember the sermon, you do remember the story.

People used to gather around a fire, or on a porch, or around the potbellied stove in the old general store, and tell stories. They would gather at reunions or holiday picnics and parties, and family members - especially the elders -would start to tell stories.

Jesus chose to put forth his best ideas by telling stories, and His parables have been remembered and retold and have settled in the collective human consciousness.

Storytelling is part of that human consciousness. It's the fundamental way we understand ourselves and make sense of our experience. When something happens to us, we don't do an analysis. We tell what happened - we tell a story.

Because it is so basic to our spirit and psyche, storytelling can uplift and enliven us. It can even contribute to our spiritual and emotional health. The New York Times reported on the results of a provocative study in  The Annals of Internal Medicine, examining the effects of storytelling on patients with  high blood pressure. The researchers observed, "It appears that at least for one group of patients, listening to personal narratives helped control high blood pressure as effectively as the addition of more medications." Psychology Today reported that autobiographical storytelling exercises can have substantial impact on psychological and physical health.

A story starts with characters because stories are about people, and the best ones are about people we can recognize. The people might be bad or they might be good, but we see something of ourselves in them. They engage us.

Stories also have a place. They happen somewhere. The place may be close and familiar, or distant and mysterious, but it stirs something in us. When a story is told well, we can see that place and feel it and maybe even smell it.

But the heart of a story is the problem or conflict. Something goes wrong. Or there is some kind of challenge. Or the characters are at odds with one another. Or they are trying to get together. Or there is a mystery to be solved. Or a journey to be undertaken. Or a war to be fought. Or a peace to be won. Or a treasure to be found. Or an illness or injury to be overcome. Or a love to be fulfilled. The possibilities are as rich and endless as the realities of human existence. In a good story, the problem is real. It touches something deep in the heart of both the storyteller and the listener.

Finally, the story needs a resolution. This may be happy, or it may be tragic, but it has to be convincing. The listener must say Yes! - instead of, Nah, that would never happen! And even if it's tragic, the resolution must satisfy the listener; something has to have been accomplished.

The way a story flows is representative of the flow of life - how we live in community with other people, other characters. We may feel rooted and connected to our place or we may feel alienated from it, but either way, our place helps define who we are, and presents challenges and/or opportunities.

Just like the characters in a story, all of us face problems, and we go to great lengths to solve them, though we know that when we do, there will be more up ahead. The grace and energy with which we face and solve our problems and take hold of our opportunities has much to do with the kind of people we become. Stories have such rich power for us not only because they give expression to our own experience but because they show us how others have faced their lives. They inspire us; they also caution or teach us.

Christmas is one of the best times of the year for stories. The holiday itself is defined by a vast and beautiful story. This may have something to do with the way Christmas has generated and spun off hundreds of stories - in folktales, printed collections, children's books, pageants, movies, and in a constant stream of television shows. For instance, the Hallmark Channel alone will generate 37 new, 2-hour, made-for-TV movies this season. How many Santa Claus stories have you heard? Think of the many re-tellings of the Christmas story itself. And think of the classic back-story tales, like "Amal and the Night Visitors," "A Christmas Carol," or the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." Try to imagine Christmas without all these rich stories.

Some might say all this is excessive, and they might have a point. But storytelling is at the heart of the warm spirit generated by the Christmas season, and experience and research tell us that it is necessary for our well-being. So, as you prepare for the holidays this year, remember to embrace the stories!

A Baker's Dozen
A Saint Nicholas Tale

In the Dutch colonial town later known as Albany, New York, there lived a baker named Van Amsterdam, who was a happy man with a good business, a plump wife, and a big family. Each morning, he checked and balanced his scales, and he took great care to give his customers exactly what they paid for - not more and not less.
Van Amsterdam's shop was always busy because people trusted him - and because he was a good baker! And never was the shop busier than in the days before December 6, when the Dutch celebrated Saint Nicholas Day.
At that time of year, people flocked to the baker's shop to buy his fine Saint Nicholas cookies. Made of gingerbread, iced in red and white, they looked just like Saint Nicholas as the Dutch knew him - tall and thin, with a high, red bishop's cap, and a long red bishop's cloak.
One Saint Nicholas Day morning, the baker was just ready for business when the door of his shop flew open, and in walked an old woman, wrapped in a long black shawl.

She pointed to a tray, "I have come for a dozen of your Saint Nicholas cookies," she said.

Taking the tray, Van Amsterdam counted out twelve cookies. He started to wrap them, but the woman reached out and stopped him.

Her eyes narrowed. "I asked for a dozen. You have given me only twelve."
"Madam," said the baker, "everyone knows that a dozen is twelve. And that is what I have given you!"

"But I say a dozen is thirteen," said the woman. "Give me one more."

Van Amsterdam was not a man to bear foolishness. "Madam, my customers get exactly what they pay for - not more and not less." Then he added stiffly, "I have a family to support. If I gave away extra cookies, how could I feed my children? A dozen is twelve, not thirteen! Take it or leave it!"

"Then you may keep the cookies!" The woman said and turned to leave.

She stopped at the door, "Van Amsterdam! However honest you may be, your heart is small, and your fist is tight!"

And she was gone.

From that day, everything went wrong in Van Amsterdam's bakery. His bread rose too high or not at all. His pies were too sour or too sweet. His cakes crumbled or were chewy. His cookies were burnt or doughy. One day the bread rose so high it floated up the chimney. That was when he remembered the old woman and realized she had bewitched him.

"Is this how my honesty is rewarded?" he muttered to himself.

His customers soon noticed the difference. Before long, most of them were going to other bakers.

A few weeks later the old woman appeared and again asked for thirteen to the dozen of his latest batch of cookies He cursed her and showed her the door.

A year passed. The baker grew poorer and poorer. Since he sold little, he baked little, and his shelves were nearly bare. His last few customers slipped away.

Finally, on the day before Saint Nicholas Day, not one customer came to Van Amsterdam's shop. At day's end, the baker sat alone, staring at his unsold Saint Nicholas cookies.

"I wish Saint Nicholas could help me now," he said. He closed his shop and walked to the church, where he knelt and prayed to the saint. Then he trudged home and went sadly to bed.

That night, the baker had a dream. He was a boy again, one in a crowd of happy children. And there in the midst of them was Saint Nicholas himself.

The bishop's white horse stood beside him, its baskets filled with gifts. Nicholas pulled out one gift after another and handed them to the children. But Van Amsterdam noticed something strange. No matter how many presents Nicholas passed out, there were always more to give. In fact, the more he took from the baskets, the more they seemed to hold.

Then Nicholas handed a gift to Van Amsterdam. It was one of the baker's own Saint Nicholas cookies! Van Amsterdam looked up to thank him, but it was no longer Saint Nicholas standing there.

Smiling down at him was the old woman with the long black shawl.

Van Amsterdam awoke with a start. Moonlight shone through the half-closed shutters as he lay there, thinking. "I always give my customers exactly what they pay for, not more and not less, but why not give more?"

The next day was Saint Nicholas Day. The baker rose early. He mixed his gingerbread dough and rolled it out. He molded the shapes and baked them. 
How would they come out? Too much cinnamon? Too little? Burnt? Under-done?

The cookies were as fine as any he had made. He iced them in red and white to look just like Saint Nicholas and put them on a tray, which he placed in the shop window.

Van Amsterdam had just finished when the door flew open. In walked the old woman with the long black shawl.

"I have come for a dozen of your Saint Nicholas cookies."
In great excitement, Van Amsterdam counted out twelve cookies - and one more. "In this shop from now on," he said, "a dozen is thirteen!"

"You have learned to count well," said the woman. "You will surely be rewarded."

She paid for the cookies and started out. But as the door swung shut, the baker thought he glimpsed the tail end of a long red cloak.

As the old woman foretold, Van Amsterdam was rewarded. His baking was even better and became famous throughout the colony. When people heard he counted thirteen as a dozen, he had more customers than ever.

In fact, Van Amsterdam grew so wealthy that the other bakers in town began doing the same. From there, the practice spread to other towns, and at last through all the American colonies.

And this, they say, is how thirteen became the "baker's dozen" - a custom alive in some places even to this day.

This story dates back to the 17th century, and has had many tellings. This version combines a retelling by S.E. Schlosser with an excellent retelling by Aaron Shepherd who owes the detail of the dream to Sheila Dalley.

Telling the story again and again

The story of the birth of Jesus has been told many times in film and video. The way the story is retold reveals a lot about the teller and about the time in which it is being retold.

Here are links to three video retellings, each with a unique quality. May they please and inspire you. 

The Digital Story of the Nativity  (running time 2:57)


On this Night  (running time 7:40)


Be sure to scroll down through the text and click on the video.
WARNING: this one may make you chuckle 

Are you befuddled 
by medical insurance jargon ?

Here are some terms that you may hear, and what they mean.

Your deductible is the amount you pay for health care services before your health insurance begins to pay. It's your portion of the financial responsibility, and forms part of your insurance contract. In most circumstances you have to come up with the money for your deductible before a claim gets paid. The deductible is based on the calendar year and re-sets every Jan. 1. When you have more than one person covered, the deductible is applied from all family members until the family deductible maximum is met. Copays are applied toward the deductible.

A co-pay is a fixed amount you pay for a healthcare service, usually paid at the time you receive the service. This is your pre-set portion of the cost of that service. The amount can vary. For example, a doctor office visit co-pay might be $20, an urgent care facility or specialist visit might be a $40 co-pay, and an ER visit might have a co-pay of $100 or more.

Coinsurance is the percentage of covered healthcare costs you pay after your deductible has been met. It's usually figured as a percentage of the amount the insurance company allows to be charged for the service. You start paying coinsurance after you've paid your deductible.

And finally, an out-of-pocket limit (or maximum) is the most you will have to pay for covered services in a given year. After you've paid this amount in deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance, your health plan pays 100 percent of the additional covered benefit costs.

Here's an example for demonstration purposes only: Using the coverage parameters discussed above, Peg is having a baby. Her pregnancy will include the following services: Specialist Office Visits, Childbirth/Delivery Professional Services, Childbirth/Delivery Facility Services with Diagnostic Tests, and Anesthesia. The total cost for Peg's pre-natal care and delivery is $12,800. Due to the cost sharing of the insurance, Peg would pay $2,640 ($1,500 for her deductible, $40 copay for her Dr. visit, and $1,100 for coinsurance). The amount Peg has paid would apply toward the out-of-pocket limit for individual and family coverage.

Hopefully, this helps explain the way you and your insurance company pay for your medical care.

If you are a client of Brethren Insurance Services and you have questions, call Jeremiah Thompson, Director of Insurance Operations at 800-746-1505, ext. 3368, or or e-mail him at

Keeping it light ...

Knowing the way

On the Sunday before Christmas, a preacher who had recently come to town was walking down Main Street on his way to see a parishioner in his new congregation. However, he urgently wanted to mail a Christmas package, so he stopped a young boy to ask where he could find the post office. When the boy had directed him, the preacher thanked him and said, "If you come to the church this evening, you can hear me explain how to get to heaven."

The boy replied, "I think I'll pass. If you don't even know your way to the post office, how will you figure out where heaven is?"

Saying a Prayer for the Christmas Meal

A seven-year-old boy was asked to say thanks for the Christmas dinner. The family members bowed their heads in expectation. The boy began his prayer, thanking God for his Mommy, Daddy, brothers, sister, Grandma, and all his aunts and uncles. Then he began to thank God for the food.

He gave thanks for the turkey, the stuffing, the Christmas pudding, even the cranberry sauce. Then he paused, and everyone waited ... and waited ... waited. After a long silence, the young fellow looked up at his mother and asked, "If I thank God for the Brussels sprouts, won't he know that l'm lying?"

Grandma's Christmas Strategy

One Christmas, a mother decided she was no longer going to remind her kids to send thank you notes. Consequently, the kids' grandmother never received any thanks for the Christmas checks she sent to the kids.

The very next Christmas, all the kids stopped by in person to thank their grandmother for their checks.

When asked by a friend what caused this change in behavior, the grandmother replied, "Simple. This year I didn't sign the checks."

For Your Long-Term Care Needs
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance all through the year
If you're interested in purchasing coverage, you should know that e ligibility for benefits is determined by the inability to meet at least two of these six activities of daily living -- bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, continence, or transferring. Cognitive impairment can also trigger benefits.
It's difficult to think about the fact that a debilitating condition or a disabling injury might leave you unable to care for yourself, or that when you reach your twilight years, the time will come when you will need some extra care. Long-term care insurance makes sure that you will get the care you need. It helps assure that the cost of your custodial care will not eat up your savings. Finally, and this is one of the best things about LTCI, it can help protect your children and other relatives from having to use their resources to care for you.
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance for all members and employees of the Church of the Brethren and their family and friends; and also for employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities and their families and friends.
If you are interested in obtaining this coverage, contact Brethren Insurance Services at or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal.