What Do You Like About Your Body?

Share

By the time they are 13, most girls report that they are unhappy with their bodies.  Interrupt Magazine decided to find out what younger girls do like about their bodies, and what they found was both inspiring and interesting.  Many of the girls reported liking what their bodies can DO–draw, walk, run fast, dance–and one little girl simply said that her body is magic.  What a refreshing perspective!  And when you think about it, our bodies are pretty magical!  As my 8 year-old daughter was saying last night (when she was supposed to be going to sleep!) “Isn’t it amazing that I’m talking right now because my brain is sending signals to my mouth???”

I rarely focus on all the things that my body can do–I’m usually too busy worrying about the clothes I can’t fit in, or how out of shape I am.  These young girls convicted me to focus more on praising God for giving me a body that is fairly healthy and strong, and not spend so much time wishing it was different.  What do YOU like about your body?

Laila Sofia

 

Caren Swanson

Images by Interrupt Magazine.

How Geometry, Acne, and Loneliness Gave Me an Appreciation for Snail Mail

Share

LockersI went to a tiny middle school and a massive high school. We’re talking 24 kids at my 8th grade graduation and then… BAM… 620 on the first day of 9th grade come summer’s end. I knew three people in my grade. A building constructed to house 1500 students was brimming with about 1800. I was an outsider in a sea of kids who had been in school together since kindergarten. Seniors stood against the walls to block freshmen from navigating their way to Geometry or World History. I was (seriously) in need of something to be happy about and I was pretty darn sure it couldn’t be found inside the walls of my high school.

Thankfully all of us are past the rough early days of high school, winding through mazes of hallways and trying to make friends, but I still have days or stages in life that don’t feel too far removed from the feelings of frustration, anxiety, or even despair that swept over me when I realized I was on the opposite side of the building, on the wrong floor, and completely alone, looking for Freshman gym class.

My one moment of respite each day came after lunch. I would leave lunch a little early to make sure I could get to my next class before the crowds began their tidal wave through the halls. This meant that I had a few merciful moments of peace in the hallway before 5th period. It was in one of moments that I saw it – a poster – on the AP European History teacher’s door: Things To Be Happy About.

“Perfectly toasted golden marshmellows”

“Fuzzy socks”

“A new toenail polish color”

“Snail mail”

You’re starting to get the picture, I’m sure. The little things. The little things that seemed completely insignificant in the face of hallway confusion, constant strange faces, loneliness, and feeling generally overwhelming. Nevertheless, those things, and others, were worth being happy about. The poster was right.

As I started to make some friends, I began to share my discovery with them. By the end of the year, there was a little crowd outside of that door every afternoon before 5th period, scrolling through the long list, shouting out their favorites.

“The sound a new can of tennis balls makes when you first pop off the lid!”

“Milkshakes for breakfast!”

“Old people holding hands!”

Book CoverOne of my friends, who is now a teacher, keeps the spin-off book, 14,000 Things To Be Happy About, on a table in her classroom. Another made a customized list for a friend’s birthday recently. You can even click here for today’s list.

What’s on your list? How can you remind yourself about the little things to be happy about, even when there are 1,797 unfamiliar, pimply, sometimes-smelly, and maybe-exclusive teenagers threatening to sweep you off your feet and carry you down the hallway?

– Ellie Poole

 

 

How I Spent My Small Grant: Rev. Ron Weatherford

Share

One of the ways that we encourage participants in our Spirited Life program to focus on their wellness is by awarding them each a one-time grant of $500. Pastors are encouraged to use the grant to offset costs associated with their pursuit of the health goals. They’ve used their grants for everything from gym memberships to hobby supplies.

Rev. Ron Weatherford used his small grant to further his love of painting. Below is an interview with Rev. Weatherford:

Q. How long have you been in ministry?
A. My first church appointment was in 1988 and last appointment was in 2011. Currently I am classified as local pastor. I am not in an appointment.july__17_2013_028Q. What did you do before you entered into ministry?                  
A. I was a bi-vocational pastor for 25 years. I retired from the U.S. Postal System in 2009. I also founded a non-profit called Nia’s Ark that addresses health issues in the Retirement ExpressAfrican American church.  We have partnered with UNC Chapel Hill “Ethnic Minority Health Organization” on research projects in the faith community. We are currently planning prostate cancer workshops in the faith community for the fall of 2013.

Q. What did you purchase with your small grant?
A. I used the grant to purchase art supplies and to pay membership fees for local artist guilds. I bought canvases and paints and brushes.

Q. Are there other artists in your family tree?
A. My son majored in art in college and plans to pursue a master of fine art degree.

Q. What about art inspires you? What do you find relaxing about it?
A. I have always enjoyed art. As a child I enjoyed creating art. My favorite art form was ceramics at summer camp. I began painting in February 2013 after looking at some photos of the stars from the Hubble telescope. I was attempting to capture the beauty of the universe through painting. I found that painting allowed me to channel my feelings onto canvas. I started to experiment with different styles of painting. I studied the styles of various artists. There was a practice period where I tried to duplicate others’ work. During this period I had to learn about what brushes to use and how to blend colors. I eventually started to be able to bring my own visions to bring to life on canvas. I paint what I feel on a given day. My inspiration comes from conversations with friends and life itself. There is still a lot I have to learn. Art is instrumental in helping to maintain my mental health. I started doing art when I was going before the Board of Ordained Ministry. The outcome was not what I expected and art allowed me express what I was feeling. I did a painting called Jacob’s Ladder that came out that experience.  When I started sharing my art with friends they were surprised because it was something new. I was commissioned to do a few pieces for a local business. My art is on display for purchase. Art allows me to tell a story on canvas.

Q.What do you do with the art work when it’s completed? Sell it? Donate it? Keep it?
A. When I complete my art I post it on the Fine Art America website.  This is a great website as people from all over the world are viewing my art. I am trying to get art galleries to take them on consignment.photo_(22)Many thanks to Rev. Weatherford for sharing!

– Angela M. MacDonald

Creativity and Your Desk

Share

22well-tmagArticle-v2Here’s an encouraging tidbit for a Friday afternoon: having a messy desk may not mean that your life is a mess; it might just mean that you are creative! This is certainly good news for me, since my desk is a perpetual mess. I LIKE having a neat and tidy workspace, I just rarely achieve that. Fortunately for me, researchers at the University of Minnesota recently conduced a series of experiments that found that working in an untidy workspace might encourage thinking “outside the box” and help people to be more creative. According to an article in the New York Times,

The results were something of a surprise, says Kathleen D. Vohs, a behavioral scientist at the University of Minnesota and the leader of the study. Few previous studies found much virtue in disarray. The broken-windows theory, proposed decades ago, posits that even slight disorder and neglect can encourage nonchalance, poor discipline and nihilism. Chaos begets chaos.

But in the study by Dr. Vohs, disordered offices encouraged originality and a search for novelty. In the final portion of the study, adults were given the choice of adding a health “boost” to their lunchtime smoothie that was labeled either “new” or “classic.” The volunteers in the messy space were far more likely to choose the new one; those in the tidy office generally opted for the classic version.

“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition,” Dr. Vohs and her co-authors conclude in the study, “which can produce fresh insights.”

Now that I’m feeling creative, I’ll save my usual Friday afternoon desk-cleaning till next week!

–Caren Swanson

Illustration by Brian Wiseman

Resources on Grief

Share

Pastors are people, too. Just because clergy are used to presiding over funerals and sitting with people and families at the end of life doesn’t make them immune to their own feelings of sadness and loss at the death of parishioners or their own loved ones.

DynPicWaterMark_ImageViewerRecently, some coworkers and I were talking about how many pastors we had been on the phone with who had mentioned an increase in the number of funerals they’d performed lately. The quick succession of these deaths and funerals seemed to be taking a toll on the pastors’ physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. With the help of our colleagues and a few pastors, we compiled the following list of resources that may serve as a comfort or guide to clergy in their ministries as well as in their personal journeys with grief.

“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.” -Leo Tolstoy

Are there any resources on grief that have been especially meaningful for you?

-Katie Huffman

The Practice of Paying Attention

Share

This is a guest post by Rev. John Bryant.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Altar_in_the_wo-210-exp

This summer I am reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s excellent An Altar in the World with the Duke Field Education student working at Wesley Chapel. I love Taylor’s books because she crafts words and phrases in a way that always captures my imagination. An Altar in the World explores spiritual themes through simple practices. This week one of the chapters we read was on paying attention.

I like to think I am pretty good at paying attention, but I know the buzz of smartphones and social media leads me to be more distracted than I would like and probably more than I even realize. So I did my best to slow down and really digest her words, rather than scanning quickly through the chapter and moving on to the next thing.

I was reading outside on the porch and heard a buzzing sound off to my left. Assuming it was a Cicada Killer wasp or bumblebee checking out some flowers, I looked over just to make sure it was not getting too curious about me. To my surprise I saw a hummingbird hovering right off the edge of the porch. It stayed for a brief moment, then flew on.

4603495186_189549c3e1_zWhat a gift! I can’t remember the last time I saw a hummingbird not at a feeder. And to have it so close was an extra blessing.

I still can’t shake the irony of my gift also being a lesson. Had I not slowed down and paid attention, had I assumed I knew what was happening and not looked, I would have missed the gift.

Where have you paid attention and received a blessing this week?

JohnJohn Bryant is a participant in Group 2 of Spirited Life. He is the pastor at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in Misenheimer, NC.  His blog can be found here: http://johntbryant.wordpress.com/

Click for Rev. Bryant’s post, Pray without Ceasing.

Image by flickr user gainesp2003 via CC.

Create Calm

Share

Picture this: you’ve just completed two parishioner visits in hospitals thirty minutes apart, you returned a phone call to the finance chair on the way back to the office, and you stopped by the craft store to pick up supplies for VBS.  Your mind is full of thoughts for finishing the bulletin, and your arms are weighed down with shopping bags and your favorite coffee cup.  You enter your office at the church (or parsonage) only to trip over a stack of books just inside the door and then to discover that there’s not a single surface for the craft supplies or even your coffee mug.  Shoulders tense and head pounding, you brush some papers to the floor and dump the contents of your arms on the desk.  You plop down in the folding chair and begin digging through the emails that arrived in your absence.

I’m feeling tense just imagining this scene, but I’ve been there.  Office space can truly have an impact on your stress level- for good or bad.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your office were a mini oasis where you could find solace on such a busy morning and instantly feel a sense of calm and relaxation?

2830454169_174c0d1a95_zHere are some tips for creating a calming and comfortable workspace, whether it’s in the church or a spare bedroom at home.

  • Declutter: Do what you can to remove clutter from visible surfaces (meQ has a great module on decluttering). This will cut down on frustration from things getting lost and will also make your office more visibly appealing.  Once you’ve got your space a little more organized, commit to spending 5 minutes a day keeping it tidy.
  • Lighting: Allow as much natural lighting in as possible; trim bushes or trees outside the window if necessary.  If your office doesn’t have a window, bring in a couple of lamps for a warmer glow and a homier feel.
  • 3181843446_f23b6e39d2_zPlants: Plants not only improve air and sound quality, but they also have been proven to lower stress and increase productivity.
  • Inspiration: In addition to the family/friend pictures you probably already have on your desk, consider adding one or two photos from your latest vacation for a mental getaway.  Hang artwork, tapestries, and/or Scripture on the wall, too.  (Be careful about selecting images– seeing the Titanic every time you walk in your office might be sending you subliminal messages).
  • Get comfortable: Ditch that hard, uncomfortable folding chair in favor of a chair that is ergonomic and adjustable; it may cost more, but it will make a huge difference in how you feel about being in your office (consider using your Spirited Life small grant).
  • Aromatherapy: Scents can evoke strong memories or emotions; certain ones have also been shown to reduce stress.  Candles, diffusers, and plug-ins can provide a subtle aroma.  Lavender and chamomile are two good options for stress relief.  See others here.
  • Sound: Background noise can help calm and increase concentration.  Try a white noise machine (or website), classical music, or water feature.
  • Fun: Add a couple of toys, a stress ball, or Rubik’s Cube to your desk to pick up and play with when you’re feeling stressed or need a distraction.  For a fun selection, check out this website.

How do you make your office space calming and inspiring?

–Katie Huffman

Sources: Careertopia, Mind Tools, PopSugar Smart Living, DesignM.ag

(Images by flickr users notashamed and brianyeung, both via creative commons)

Pray Without Ceasing

Share

The following is a guest post from John Bryant, a participant in Group 2 of Spirited Life. He is the pastor at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in Misenheimer, NC.  His blog can be found here: http://johntbryant.wordpress.com/

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Pray without ceasing.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:17

John on Galilee

I’ve never considered myself a very accomplished pray-er.  I have difficulty finding the words I want to say, especially when I’m praying extemporaneously.  It’s one reason I found such peace in services of Morning Prayer while at Duke; I never needed my own words but could lean on the words of others.

Needless to say, Paul’s admonition has always filled me with dread.  Without ceasing? Really? It’s hard enough already!  That verse creates such a high standard that I can never live up to. I can’t constantly be in a state of prayer can I? What does it mean when I fail? The pressure mounted to the point that I figured it was better not to even try.  Pray at meal times, in church, upon request, and call that good enough.

Galilee Stone

So imagine my surprise when a trinket ended up providing me with an answer.  I bought this stone on my recent trip to the Holy Land. We were sailing on the Sea of Galilee (See above: John and his wife Kathy on the Sea of Galilee), which was one of my favorite moments of the whole trip. We visited a number of churches where tradition states some event happened (and maybe it did), but the Sea is the Sea. On this body of water, the disciples fished and Jesus traveled and taught. There’s no changing that. So I bought this stone, over-priced as it certainly was, as a reminder of the trip and how meaningful that moment was to me.

I thought about simply carrying the stone in my pocket, but I was afraid of losing it if it caught on something while I was retrieving my keys or phone. Instead, since it came with a cord, I decided to wear it around my neck. I leave it under my shirt because I don’t like to be flashy about these sorts of things and it had a tendency to knock into things whenever I leaned over.

I’m still not used to wearing it, so I find myself adjusting or at least noticing it several times during the day. It finally occurred to me that this was a great reminder to pray.

In the mornings, when I put it around my neck, I pause to say the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer. In the evenings, when I take it off, I pray over my day using a practice called the Daily Examen. And during the day, whenever I adjust or notice it, I pray a simple breath prayer.  Breath prayers are simple, one sentence prayers that can be said in the time it takes to breath in and out. I typically pray something like “Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

This pattern is by no means perfect and I still have a lot of growth before me in my personal prayer life. Yet having something as simple as a small stone has given me cues that remind me of how important prayer is.

What helps you to pray without ceasing?

Click for Rev. Bryant’s post, The Practice of Paying Attention.

Stoic Christianity

Share

In our feature piece in Christian Century, our research director, Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, said that if she could magically accomplish one cultural change, she would “shift the way that congregants think about their pastor.” No matter the responsibilities a pastor is entrusted with, he or she is still a human being “with flaws and graces…a person who has a life that needs fulfillment.”

This is a change many pastors desperately desire. As one pastor said, “I don’t think our congregations know how unhealthy our vocation can be. They seem to think we are super-men and -women…I keep telling them our vocation is hazardous to our health. They just don’t understand that.”

While pastors feel this pressure uniquely, it’s by no means foreign to most people. Alan Jacobs, professor of literature at Baylor University, recently reflected on the stoic values popular in the American Midwest and South, and he recounted a time when the tacit code that one suffers in silence became unmistakably clear.

When my wife was seriously ill some time ago, people from our church contacted me to ask if we needed anything. When I replied that it was nice of people to offer meals but that Teri’s chief problem was simple loneliness — no one to talk to, as she lay in her sickbed, except a very busy husband — people were, not to put too fine a point on it, shocked. I had said something unexpectedly shameful. One person even commiserated with Teri: how difficult it must have been for her to have a husband who so openly admitted that she had personal needs in her illness.

1024px-Michael_Ancher_001Let me highlight that this was not the experience of a pastor, but of a lay person, who tried to be vulnerable with his congregation and was shut down. Expressing weakness in shameful not only among pastors, but among many segments of our culture in which class and status and power are incongruent with dependency and loneliness and desire. As Alanis Morisette sings, no matter what pain we’re experiencing, we prefer to stick one hand in our pockets while explaining, “what it all comes down to my friends, Is that everything’s just fine fine fine.” Nothing to see here, folks.

In a follow-up piece, Jacobs concludes that that the Christian scriptures encourage us “to accept suffering but not to pretend that we don’t hurt or that we are somehow above the pain. Rather, we are to seek out our brothers and sisters for sympathy and support.”

Parishioners may want a pastor who is superhuman, but perhaps what they need is a pastor who is utterly human, someone who bravely opens up space for it to be okay to be weak and have needs. Pastors may not be the only ones ready to scream under the suffocating silence of stoicism.

Tommy Grimm

(Painting by Michael Ancher, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Centering Prayer Liturgy and Resources

Share

This is Part II in a series on Centering Prayer.  For Part I, please see Pastor Cheryl Lawrence’s guest blog post reflecting on her experience with this spiritual practice.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Centering Prayer is a response to to the call of the Holy Spirit to consent to God’s presence and action within.  It is based on the format of prayer that Jesus suggests in Matthew 6:6: If you want to pray, enter your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Spirited Life has offered Centering Prayer as a workshop activity for Group 2 pastors, as shared by pastor Cheryl Lawrence on her blog, and we have mentioned it a few times on this blog (here and here).  It is a form of silent prayer using a sacred word to draw focus and attention to interior silence and an intention to consent to God’ presence and action within.  For more information about the method, click here.

Several pastors have shared with us that they are offering Centering Prayer to their congregations, but developing the structure around this time can be challenging.  Below is a liturgy for worship with Centering Prayer.  This particular liturgy is written for ‘the height of this day,’ but could easily be tweaked for whenever your group gathers.  We’ve also indicated a twenty minute sit, which is recommended by Contemplative Outreach, leaders in the Centering Prayer movement.

4543677527_75b60bd780

Each time you gather, you may use the same liturgy and alter the reading and the psalm.  As for material for the reading, consider using a favorite devotional or the week’s Gospel lectionary.  If you are interested in more contemplative materials,  the works of Fr. Thomas Keating, father of Centering Prayer, like Journey To The Center, may be appropriate.  Suggested psalms to use include 23, 46, and 62.

Worried about keeping time during the twenty minutes? Insight Timer has a free meditation timer app for both Android and iPhones.  The app has a variety of chimes to both open and close the twenty minute time of prayer.  To draw the group out of the time of interior silence, the leader may consider praying the Lord’s prayer very softly.

We hope this liturgy will be useful to you for your own centering prayer practice, for leading a group in your congregation, or to use with a group of clergy.

Centering Prayer Liturgy

Call to Worship:

One: The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

All: And also with you.

One: Blessed be the one, holy, and living God.

All: Glory to God for ever and ever.

Prayer:

Loving God, in the height of this day we pause to rest in you.  Quiet our minds that they may be still, fill our hearts that we may abide in love and trust.  Christ, as a light illumine and guide me.  Christ, as a shield overshadow me.  Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me on my left and my right.

Reading

Prayer:

Holy God, open our hearts to the silent presence of the Spirit of your Son.  Lead us into that mysterious silence, where your love is revealed to all who call, ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’

20 minute sit

Psalm

Go in peace

Click here for a copy of this liturgy, ready to be printed, copied, and used with a group.

–Catherine Wilson

Image by flickr user ninjapotato via Creative Commons.