CHI Tour of the Tarheel State


The Clergy Health Initiative health screening staff took to the highways in April and May.  From the mountains to the coast and everywhere in between, they got to meet lots of Group 1 and Group 3 Spirited Life pastors, and they also had the chance to experience some of North Carolina’s finest treasures!   Below are a few examples from their adventures.  For more pictures, click here: Spring 2014 CHI Tarheel Tour Slideshow. 

Looks like fun!  Did you see your part of the state represented?

Bracket Redemption


Lent Madness 2014

My interest in the NCAA basketball tournament has nosedived.  All of the ACC teams are eliminated — men and women — plus my brackets crashed and burned the first weekend. Thankfully, I have discovered a replacement pastime, which I hereby share with you.

Lent Madness was conceived by an Episcopal priest in Massachusetts. Lent Madness allows you to vote online for your favorites out of pairs of great Christian figures from history. The exercise is fun and educational: there are short profiles of each entrant, including many inspiring men and women with whom I was unfamiliar.

The competition continues through Easter. Even if, like me, you missed the beginning of the contest, you can still vote in the later rounds. Winners advance to the Saintly 16, the Elate 8, and the Faithful 4, in pursuit of ultimate glory, the Golden Halo.

Sadly for United Methodist fans, John Wesley and Charles Wesley faced off against each other in the opening round!  (Charles won, in a mild upset.)  Talk about your unfortunate seedings.  Complaints have been lodged with the Selection Committee.

nla.pic-an24433007-v-John James

Top image courtesy of Lent Madness.  Nuns Playing Basketball is from the National Library of Australia, shared via Flickr.


Fun Run


This past weekend I was invited to do a community race with a friend. As the weekend drew nearer, I was feeling pretty nervous about it. What if I didn’t finish? What if I was last? What if I didn’t get the time I wanted to? I had wanted to run a race for so long but had never found the courage to try it. So when the invitation came along, I knew I had no excuse. I said yes. I did it.

Surprisingly, I had so much fun! I didn’t care about my time. I didn’t wear a watch. I just moved my body as fast or as slow as I wanted to. I even smiled, flashing grins to bystanders. People were cheering for me. I had such a wonderful time.

My older friend, who had invited me to race, said one of her favorite parts about racing is that it it brings back memories. Sometimes during a race she remembers her childhood and what it felt like to swim, bike, and run as a little girl.

Exercise doesn’t have to be boring.  Remember when running felt more like this…


…and didn’t leave you feeling like this?


Somewhere along the way, most of us lose the sense of joy that comes from moving our bodies. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here’s some inspiration if you want to re-insert a little fun into your exercise routine:

Let us know what YOU do to keep movement fun!

Kelli Sittser

(Top image by flickr user Pensiero, lower image by Anna Loverus, both via Creative Commons)

Let’s look at the world a little differently


My favorite Super Bowl XLVII commercial was the one in which retirement community members escape for a night on the town, boogy their way to dawn (including a stop at Taco Bell), and return home the next morning exhausted, tattooed, and mischievously happy.

I’ll have to keep thinking about how I can make a blog post out of that video.

But today, I wanted to highlight Coca-Cola’s contribution to the Super Bowl.

Lovely, right? I saw that video last summer (along with about 6 million other folks), but it has really stuck with me since it aired last Sunday night.

We’re currently immersed in winter workshops for our third group of Spirited Life participants, the purpose of which is to introduce clergy to the foundations, resources, and possibilities of Spirited Life. One of these foundations is the concept of positive psychology.

Positive psychology does not ask people to deny the brokenness or challenges of the world; instead, it espouses the value of training ourselves to purposefully look for the innately good and beautiful parts of life and Creation.

I think that Coca-Cola has given us a great picture of just that. From security cameras that were created to record the bad guys of the world, we’ve received a delightful and surprising gift.

Take a minute today to dwell on some of the unexpected gifts in your life.  And as the tagline suggests, “let’s look at the world a little differently.”

– Ellie Poole



Perspectives on New Year’s Resolutions


Happy New Year, folks!!!!

Next week begins the first FULL week of the new year. This is an important detail for those of us who have strategically delayed executing goals to maximize any final moments of vacation – i.e., to procrastinate. For clarity’s sake, you are not alone. My name is Angela, and I am a procrastinator.

But, as we hit the reset button on how we envision our healthier, wealthier, happier selves for 2013, I would like to offer some optional approaches. My most practical offering is Craig Ballyntyne’s book entitled How to Set Goals: Ultimate Goal Setting Guide to Having Your Best Year Ever.  This book is a very worthwhile 99-cent investment (via Kindle) — full of practical guidance in achieving goals around our “health, wealth, social self and personal enrichment.”

However, I’ve included additional perspectives/insights that you may find helpful, but mostly humorous. For instance…

…if you’re looking for MOTIVATION…

…if you find REALISM more helpful…

…perhaps an alternative form of BEHAVIOR CHANGE…

…or a more CLINICAL perspective…

……..or just a good old-fashioned prayer!

Remember, it’s all a matter of perspective.

– Angela M. MacDonald

(Images courtesy of;;; and



 “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” -Bernice Johnson Reagon

 Great, but what do you do when this happens?

Some things we can control and some things we can’t. What do we do with the things we can’t control? Hopefully, some humor can help.

What helps you deal with the lava flows in your life?

–Kelli Christianson

The “Food for Thought” Pyramid


Quick: when I say “well-balanced diet,” what comes to mind?

Amidst images of fruits, vegetables, and Cheerios, I imagine another top association is the USDA’s food pyramid. Even though they retired the model in 2011 (replacing it with their current My Plate diagram), the food pyramid still holds a fixed place in our national consciousness when it comes to nutrition and healthy-eating.

While we all know that nutrition is important, many of us have had our fill of nutritional advice. One such person is Laura McKibbin, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with a background in wellness promotion. She’s written, “We are constantly bombarded with information emphasizing healthy eating and exercise as the primary determinants of good health.  While these can be important factors for good health, when we focus too much on them, we tend to forget the many other factors that probably have an even more profound effect on health.

To make this point visually, McKibbon has produced a “Food for Thought” pyramid, challenging us to give a second thought to what really affects and enhances our health.

It’s not USDA-approved, but I love the tongue-in-cheek nature of this pyramid, teasing us for our (often counter-productive) hyper-consciousness about our health while highlighting the fact that some highly significant health factors, like our genetics, are outside of our control. And she’s certainly drawn upon a variety of sources!

What comes to mind when you see McKibbin’s pyramid? If you designed your own health and wellness pyramid, what would the different levels contain?

— Tommy Grimm

Feeling anxious? You’re not alone.


A billboard by British artist David Shrigley, displayed in New York City earlier this year:

The commissioner of this piece described it as “a reminder of our fears, insecurities, and paranoia, which are so familiar to our contemporary society.” I take it as a reminder that when I feel alienated and alone, I’m not alone in those feelings. There’s something humorous and comforting about a billboard broadcasting what most of us try really hard to keep hidden.

If you could put a thought bubble on a billboard to help people feel a little less alone, I wonder what it would say.

(Click on the picture above for larger version that’s easier to read.)

–Tommy Grimm

(Initially discovered on Daniel Smith’s blog.)

Safe journaling


Today, a guest post by Robin Swift, the Duke Clergy Health Initiative’s health programs director:

I have been able to keep a journal only sporadically in my lifetime.  I gave up altogether when I married, after my husband confessed that he loved to open medicine cabinets at homes where he was a guest just to see what people were keeping in them.  Somehow this knowledge did not fill me with confidence that my journal entries would remain secret forever.

Journaling is a wonderful technique for finding out how your mind, heart, gut, and soul really feel about what’s happening in your life.  Journals can be a form of therapy that keeps you connected to your whole self in your ongoing work of formation.  So I was delighted today when a friend shared a new technique for safe journaling: write all you want, read it to make sure you’ve “got it,” then shred the paper.  Or, if you are journaling on a computer or tablet, delete the entry immediately when you’re done.  You have to give up the wonderful development-over-time sensibility that journaling can offer, but you gain the security that your thoughts will never be shared.

I was further delighted to hear of a perfect revenge developed by a clergy spouse who was tired of having people peer in her family’s medicine cabinet during parsonage open houses.

She filled the cabinet with ping-pong balls.

Yours in mischief,

Robin Swift

(Photo by Flickr user JoelMontes via Creative Commons)

Every day I’m pastorin’


So we all know that laughter is the best medicine, but what makes one person howl with laughter makes another scratch her head.  One website that has recently been the cause of much laughter around the offices of the Clergy Health Initiative is “Every Day I’m Pastorin’.”

Now, even on that site, some posts are funnier than others, and a few things might even be considered offensive (I warned you!), but for the most part the humor is in good taste and usually spot on.  It’s good to be able to laugh at ourselves a little, even when we are called to such important and serious work as serving God’s Church!  So, in honor of the coming charge conference season, I offer you my latest favorite from the site:


In all seriousness we are mindful of the work that occupies the time and thoughts of many of our Spirited Life pastors this time of year, and wish you all well!