Time and Values


time flies“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” ― Michael Altshuler
“You gotta make it a priority to make your priorities a priority.” ― Richie Norton

Talking about time management can quickly result in a stream of cliché quotes or quips that we all know.  We hear them and feel fully capable of putting them into action tomorrow or some time later.  But it can be really interesting and helpful to think about what we value in our life and how that may or may not be reflected in our daily activities.

Typically, our problem with most anything related to time management, organization, or following a schedule does not have much to do with lack of resources. Instead, it’s usually a matter of figuring out *how* to do something that will result in a healthy behavior.

Outlined below is an exercise that may help you think about your daily routines in a different way.

Step 1: Think back to a recent “typical” workday.  Once you identify that day, create a daily log using this Daily Schedule & Activities Log.  Be specific and write details of how each hour of the day was spent.

Step 2: Consider your personal values.  What are those traits, qualities, or beliefs that you find most important and worthwhile?  Use this Values Wordle to help you select the three words that reflect your top values.  (Don’t agonize over this part).

Step 3: With your values in mind, go back to your daily log and make notes on how your time spent through a typical day does or does not align with your top values.

Now, looking at your values and daily log, reflect on these questions.

  • Where was your time spent?
  • How are your values reflected in your day’s activities?
  • How does your sample day fit into your idea of being well and living a healthy life?

As Alan Lakein says, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”  To me, this quote is saying that the future holds ‘my values lived’ and if they are truly my values, I’ll figure out how those things can be worked into my life or how I can shift some of the other ways I spend my time.

-Katie Huffman, Angela MacDonald, and Amanda Wallace

Image by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker, via CC

“Secrets” to Behavior Change


If I’ve learned anything while working at the Clergy Health Initiative, it’s that changing health behaviors is HARD! Whether you’re attempting to lose weight, increase physical activity, Walking Shoesor manage a chronic disease, there truly is no silver bullet or magic wand. The ticket to your success will not only look different from that of every other person, but it may even feel like your own personal science experiment. Sometimes it takes trying this or that strategy before landing on the right one or the right combination of strategies that leads to progress.

So, while we can’t recommend the golden set of health rules, there do seem to be some universal concepts that work, which you can personalize for your own situation and goals. The 9 tips below are summarized from this article in The Washington Post:

  1. Readiness  Not your spouse, doctor, or friend, but YOU, have to be the one to recognize a behavior that needs improvement, and then you have to be ready to get to work.
  2. Assess  Whether it’s through technology or old-fashioned pen and paper, keep track of your habits for a few days. Write down descriptions of your meals, exercising, or sleep patterns to see the reality of your situation.
  3. Be selective  Choose behaviors that will impact your life in a meaningful way so that you are motivated to follow through with the required changes.
  4. Use SMART goals  Create specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific goals.
  5. Track your progress  This will help you recognize progress, trends, and can serve as accountability.
  6. Evaluate  Think of this change process as an experiment and be willing to look for other strategies if you’re not seeing success within a desired time period.
  7. Success  Break up your goals into small, actionable behaviors. For example, rather than just saying you want to lose weight, break that up into small steps. One step might be taking fruit to work every day as a snack. You will feel good when you are successful in meeting this smaller goal, and that will likely lead to future changes.
  8. Practice  Stick with what works and slowly add in other small changes. For example, once you’ve gotten into the habit of having fruit for a snack every day, keep doing that and add another small change. Maybe you could replace your sweet tea at lunch with water.
  9. Support  Find someone in your life who can applaud you in your successes and who can help you stay on track when the going gets tough.  Or, seek out professional support, such as a dietician or fitness trainer.

Remember, health changes are not easy, nor are they one-size-fits-all. Do what works for you!

-Katie Huffman

Strength for the Journey


At our closing workshops for Spirited Life Group 3 participants this fall, we have had the honor of hearing from Rev. Sam Portaro. Rev. Portaro is a retired Episcopal priest and a faculty member at CREDO, a wellness initiative of the Episcopal Church, where he conducts seminars and offers spiritual direction to participants.

Rev. Portaro alerted us to a fantastic (and free!) resource available through CREDO that we wanted to pass along to you. In this resource, called Strength for the Journey: A Guide to Spiritual Practices, author Renee Miller discusses 20 spiritual practices, some of which are quite familiar and some that are a bit more unexpected.  CREDO describes the book this way:

“Stretching the boundaries of traditional practice, Miller’s reflections focus mindful attention on the spiritual dimension of life’s common activities, from walking and studying to moviegoing, writing, and using the computer. Her voice alone establishes a cadence of calmness necessary to transcend the seeming randomness of our hectic lives and become aware of God’s presence in all the activities of our day.”pier into soundOne neat feature of this resource is that it is available in a variety of forms:

We hope you’ll take a look!

Confessions of a Book Collector


This is the second in a special series on Sabbath by our friends at Blessed Earth.  Today’s post was written by Rev. Mairi Renwick (see her bio and contact information below the article).  Read the first installment here.


The most beautiful building on my seminary’s campus is the library. From the outside it looks almost like a castle with a tower. When you walk into the large foyer, you are greeted with high Inside Mortonceilings and a large circulation desk. Wooden tables with small reading lamps and comfortable reading chairs decorate the floors. Large portraits of former professors cover the walls. More than one person has stated it reminds them of Hogwarts.

After getting over the castle-like building, you realize that this is a library. A library with loads of books, commentaries, video recordings, DVDs, newspapers, and free access to online article databases.

After seminary, there is the harsh realization that commentaries are expensive. Online databases are expensive. Finding easily accessible materials from local libraries is difficult, and church libraries are rarely stocked with the newest books. While the internet provides useful resources, it is hard to know what is trustworthy.

This is a shame because clergy love books.

I recently talked with a group of colleagues who were also fellow PKs (pastors’ kids). We discussed what we wanted to inherit from our pastor parent. Was it money? A house? Of course not! We want their books, journals, and any other wonderful ministry items.

Aware of this love/obsession, Blessed Earth wants to help provide you with useful, reliable Sabbath resources.  Here are a few to get you started:

1. Our new website called Sabbath Living! Check out these tools you’ll find there:

2. 24/6: A Prescription to a Healthier, Happier Life  If you don’t already have a copy of Matthew Sleeth’s book, contact me, and I’ll make sure you get one. 24/6 is a great tool for congregation reads and small group study.

3. 24/6 DVD Email me for your own copy; the DVD makes it easy to facilitate a retreat, workshop, or Sunday school series.

Our biggest resource, however, is YOU!  If you or your church has a Sabbath experience that you are willing to share, we’d love to hear your story. How about a sermon series that you’ve outlined? Or simply a favorite Sabbath quote? We would to share tools that you’ve generated and additional helpful resources on the Sabbath Living website! Examples of content our UMC friends have already generously shared:

  • Rev. Jonathan Brake of Centenary UMC in Winston-Salem developed a Lenten devotional
  • Rev. Ryan Bennett of Bethlehem UMC in Franklin, TN, outlined a “Margins” sermon series
  • Bishop Hope Morgan Ward passed along some great Sabbath quotes to add to our list

I have a theory that pastors are professional collectors of books and resources. I invite you to continue your collection—AND add to our collection—on www.sabbathliving.org.

Mairi headshot 2Rev. Mairi Renwick, a graduate of Union Presbyterian Seminary, is Blessed Earth’s Sabbath Living Program Manager. Before coming to Blessed Earth, she was a hospital chaplain. While Mairi loves books and articles, she really admires her father’s card catalog of every sermon illustration, in alphabetical order according to topic, which he has used in 30+ years of ministry. Please feel free to contact Mairi at mairi@blessedearth.org.


Photo credit: The William Smith Morton Library at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA, and is used with permission.

Healthy Boundaries


“A boundary for a ministry leader or a pastor is like a property line around your yard; only rope boundaryin this case, that yard is your soul. Healthy boundaries make for healthy souls. Unhealthy boundaries make for unhealthy souls.”  So says Charles Stone of Stonewall Ministries, who published a great blog post about why it’s hard for pastors to set healthy boundaries, and he offers a few solutions.

  • First, he says, pastors are called to help people, and this takes an infinite amount of time. Solution: Remember that Jesus did not heal every person he came into contact with, and there are many examples in the Bible where he goes off to be alone.
  • Second, our 24/7 culture makes it hard for anyone to disconnect. Solution: Agree that after 6pm, you will not answer any work-related emails. Also, when you are read for sleep, place the phone on the other side of the room rather than next to your bed.
  • Third, we are wired to be social and to please others (therefore, it’s hard to tell someone, “no”). Solution: Just know that it’s normal to feel uncomfortable or awkward when you enforce one of your boundaries. Give it an hour, and the discomfort will fade.
  • Fourth, humans (maybe caregivers in particular) desire to feel needed, to feel that we are doing “good.” You can literally become addicted to affirmation and accomplishment. Solution: Ask yourself if you can truly take time away from helping others (for example, on your day off).

If you struggle with that last question, and for anyone who is interested in reading more about setting boundaries, Rev. Stone recommends these 2 books by Henry Cloud: Boundaries: When to say yes, how to say no to take control of your life and Boundaries for Leaders.

MeQuilibrium, the online stress program Spirited Life introduced to pastors, offers these tips for setting healthy work/life boundaries:

  • Rethink the structure of your day. Instead of looking at your schedule as “before lunch” and “after lunch” or “at work” and “at home,” consider 1 ½- or 2- hour chunks. Then, take a 15-minute break before switching to the next “chunk” of work.
  • Move around. When you are taking a break from work, try to be active, even if it’s just standing up and stretching.
  • Reserve night time for yourself and your family. Select a cutoff time in the evening for checking email and stick to it.

What are your techniques for setting and adhering to healthy boundaries?

-Katie Huffman

Post inspired by: 4 Obstacles Pastors Face in Setting Boundaries and Why you Need to Separate Work and Leisure

Image by Lumix G user Larterman, via CC

Seminar Opportunity: “True Resiliency”


seminarThe Davidson Clergy Center will be offering a professional development seminar called “True Resiliency: Transforming Pastoral Stress into Ministry Success” on August 12 or September 18, 2014 (1:30 to 5:30 p.m.).

Success in ministry is one thing; achieving a clergy identity that is personally satisfying may be something else altogether. In place of a diatribe about clergy’s near legendary high levels of impairment and distress, relative to other occupations, this interactive seminar adopts a decidedly positive stance: how holistic health—including the often undernourished emotional and spiritual dimensions—is garnered in spite of the stressors unique to ministry professionals.Key concepts from the contemporary behavioral science of positive psychology include:

  • Chronicity- the role of timing in career stress, success, and well-being
  • Personality- how the so-called “clergy personality” aids (or hinders) career success and life satisfaction
  • Resiliency- three components of resiliency counteract common clergy-life stress points
  • Spirituality- the contribution of spiritual vitality to the wellness of contemporary clergy.

Participants will leave with several self-assessment checklists, each containing core elements promoting the psychological and vocational well-being of today’s emotionally and spiritually healthy minister.

About your Faculty:
Michael E. Hall (Ph.D, Counseling Psychology-Penn State University) has been a part of the “helping professions” as a psychologist-executive coach, and professional development trainer for over three decades. Service to the faith community spans the mid-West/Atlantic regions to Nevada in the US, to the West Indies.

This seminar will be held at the Davidson Clergy Center, 455 S Main Street, Suite 200, Davidson, NC 28036 with a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 12 participants. The cost for the seminar is $350.

To register, please provide the following information to Gordon Jacobs–gordonjacobs@davcp.com or (704) 895-6487–  Name, email address, phone number, and seminar date selection (pick one) – August 12 or September 18.

Living in Gratitude


The following post is offered by Spirited Life Wellness Advocate, Lisa MacKenzie.


“To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us- and He has given us everything.”  -Thomas Merton

One of my children recently gave me a book entitled Living-in-Gratitude_imageLiving in Gratitude.  We’re a family of readers and often talk about what we’re reading or what we think the other person might like.  But when I started reading this book I wondered if it was given as a secret message for Mom.  I kept hearing in my head “Are you grateful? Is gratitude part of your life”?  Then I would say back to the voice, “Of course I practice gratitude…..well, I think I do…..well, maybe I don’t all the time…. well how do you practice gratitude anyway?”

The book is a month-to-month guide for the practice of gratitude. The author, Angeles Arrien, a cultural anthropologist, says that “practice is meant to be active, rigorous, and dynamic.  To practice is to take action that supports change and provides a discipline for incorporating and strengthening new values, skills and character qualities.”  I was especially interested in how a practice of gratitude might affect health in particular, since health and well-being are pretty important to most of us.  Our first thought may not be about gratitude as a basic health practice.

Even though it’s July, I started at the beginning of the book with January.  I worried that this was all going to be very shallow like “in January be thankful for a new year—a fresh start.”  Then I realized that the message from my daughter might be: give up on the cynicism for just a bit and read the book.  Right off the bat the author quotes Hopi Elder Thomas Banyacya who reminds us to vision and in visioning one must stop, consider, change and correct.

Arriens details this practice, which offers a way to align our vision with our choices.  This makes sense.  I was already feeling a tiny bit grateful for a new tool.  Unfolding in this January chapter are also the concepts of blessings, learnings, mercies and protections:  what they mean and the importance of paying attention to them.   As we identify blessings, learnings, mercies, and protections we have additional tools to develop a framework of intentionality, which as the author states, “helps us enter frequently and joyfully into the life changing state of being which is gratitude.”

Further into the book is another important question that addresses all areas of health and wellness.  Dr. William Stewart, author of Deep Medicine and the medical director of the Institute for Health and Healing at the California Pacific Medical Center, suggests that we ask this question:  Are the choices I am making health enhancing or health negating?  And he’s talking about all realms of health from the spiritual to the financial. Dr. Stewart and many others have demonstrated that health improves or declines according to the choices we make.

Arriens points out that it is well documented that the daily practice of gratitude increases health and well being.  Genuine expressions of gratitude reduce stress, develop positive attitudes and performance, strengthen the immune system and increase our experience of joy and happiness.

This book encourages gratitude through reflection, questioning, action and practice.  It recognizes the importance of research and intellectualism but then goes to the deeper meaning found only in the heart. I’m only up to March but I’m beginning to think that Living in Gratitude might just change the way I think about wellness.

(Book cover image from KPCRadio.com)

Lisa-MacKenzie-90x120-Lisa MacKenzie

To Not Feel Deprived


Gretchen Rubin, a happiness author and blogger whom we’ve featured on the blog before, has taken on a new challenge: figuring out what’s behind a habit and “how to make good habits and break bad ones (really).”  Ms. Rubin will reveal her findings in a book due out in 2015.  In the meantime, she has been blogging about her research into questions such as

  • Sometimes, people acquire habits overnight, and sometimes, they drop longtime habits just as abruptly.  Why?
  • Do the same habit-formation strategies apply equally well to everyone?
  • What are the overarching strategies that allow us to change our habits?

Ms. Rubin suggests that when in pursuit of a good habit, one of the most important things to do is to avoid deprivation.  When we feel that we have been deprived of something, we often compensate by giving ourselves permission to break the desired habit, even if by just a little.  For example, I’ve been known to say, “I was really good with my calorie counting this week, so I’m going to indulge in this brownie tonight.”

Ms. Rubin points to a recent study published in the NY Times.  In the study, participants were split into 2 groups before going on a 1-mile walk and then eating lunch: 1 group was told that the walk was for exercise and that they should focus on their exertion; the other group was told the walk was for pleasure and that they should enjoy themselves.  Afterwards, the “exercise” group reported feeling more tired and grumpy, and they ate more sweets at lunch.  The study results suggest that if you view a habit or activity positively, you’ll be more likely to stick to it and less likely to feel deprived.

In several posts, Ms. Rubin refers to “the strategy of treats.”  This is not about a reward system where you get a treat if you maintain a habit or reach a goal but is instead about giving yourself small, healthy treats on a regular basis:

“Treats help us to feel energized, restored, and light-hearted. Without them, we can start to feel resentful, depleted, and irritable. When we give ourselves plenty of healthy treats, we don’t feel deprived. And when we don’t feel deprived, we don’t feel entitled to break our good habits. It’s a Secret of Adulthood for Habits: When we give more to ourselves, we can expect more from ourselves.”

Some examples of treats that don’t cost much in the way of calories, money, or time are:

  • Rather than saving them for fresh flowersvacation, reading “fun” books regularly
  • Using spa-like hand soap in your own bathroom (not just for your guests!)
  • Lighting candles during a regular-old weeknight dinner
  • Twinkle lights every day of the year
  • Flipping through vacation photo albums
  • Keeping fresh flowers on your desk

What are your favorite treats?

-Katie Huffman

Thoughts inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s June 9, 2014 post, “A Key to Good Habits? Don’t Allow Ourselves to Feel Deprived,” Image by Flickr user Morgan

Mother’s Day Liturgy


A tradition starting in the early 1900s, Mother’s Day has long been viewed as a commercial Mother's Dayholiday (Hallmark began selling cards to mark the occasion in the 1920s) —  just another way for companies to sell more chocolates and flowers.

Commercialization aside, the “second Sunday in May” continues to play an important role in American culture and churches.  And it can really be a very meaningful day for families, friends, and communities to honor the special women in their lives.  Many churches choose to celebrate Mother’s Day in some form: from pinning corsages to prayers to standing ovations, there are a variety of ways that women can be honored.

A few years ago, Amy Young author of the blog, The Messy Middle, penned a post called “An open letter to pastors (A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day).  Because so much conversation was generated by her original post, Amy has written several follow-up essays on Mother’s Day in the church: 10 ideas for pastors on Mother’s Day and Beyond the surface of mothering.

In her posts, while in full support of recognizing Mother’s Day at church, Amy offers some tips for celebrating the occasion in an all-inclusive way and provides liturgy that can be used during a worship service.  For example, she encourages pastors to “acknowledge the wide continuum of mothering” and to recognize that for some women, the holiday can be a somber occasion, marking the loss of a child or mother, infertility issues, or difficult relationships.

Amy created a Mother’s Day Prayer, a few Sunday School lesson ideas, and a beautiful blessing (based on many Biblical women), all of which speak to the notion that “Mother’s Day can have complexities and nuances far beyond the binary approach to motherhood.”



May these Mother’s Day resources bless you and the women in your life!



 -Katie Huffman

First image by Frank Mayne, via Wikimedia Commons; second image by Flickr user Liz West, via CC.