Keeping germs at bay


As pastors, I can imagine that you’re exposed to more than your fair share of germs each and every day: you regularly make visits to sick people in their homes and in hospitals; you shake countless hands on Sunday mornings; you enter and exit the same doors that the church preschoolers use; you rub shoulders with other community leaders at breakfast meetings; you simply go to the grocery store!

You’ve no doubt heard these tips before, so consider this a reminder to ramp up your efforts to stay well this winter:no-germ-zone-md

  • Wash your hands: This is a no-brainer, but it’s one of the best ways to stay healthy.  Click here to see the science of washing of your hands.  No access to soap and water?  Keep a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your purse, briefcase, or car.
  • Eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated: Include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet, and cut down on sugar to help booster the immune system.  How much water should you drink?  One doctor suggests dividing your weight by 3; this is how many ounces of fluid you should drink a day (plus one glass of water for every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage).
  • Stay back: If you can, keep about 6 feet between yourself and someone who’s sick.
  • Rest well: It’s recommended that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep every day, but you probably have found your own magic number.
  • Exercise: Keeping your body strong is another immune-booster.  And don’t forget about taking care of your mind through meditation, a gratitude journal, taking time off, reading, yoga, or your own favorite stress-reducing activity.
  • Get a flu shot: According to the CDC, January is not too late to get yours!

Let us hear how you try to keep those germs at bay.

-Katie Huffman

Based on “How the fit stay healthy in cold-and flu-season,” by Gabriella Boston at Washington Post Wellness; image by Laurel Holland via Creative Commons and

Walking Reflections


The folks over at CREDO (the Episcopal clergy health offering) have developed a creative and meaningful companion guide for a 30-day walking program.  Along with an introductory and closing piece, “Walk and Be Well” includes 28 reflections to accompany a daily walk (pace and distance of your choosing).  You can download these 7-10 minute long fit_walk_225reflections onto an mp3 player and listen as you walk, or you can read them as motivation before you exercise.  Topics include meditations on the human body, the multi-dimensional benefits of exercise, the spiritual implications of pursuing health, and other inspiring words to get you moving.

Walk and Be Well can be done individually, but it seems like it also might work really well for partners or small groups.  Let us know if you give it a try.

-Katie Huffman

Image courtesy of Health Magazine, via Creative Commons

The benefits of yoga


After having been away from my exercise routine for several months, I’m at a point where I’m ready to get back to the gym.  My body and brain are making it loud and clear that it’s time.

When I think of exercise, images of treadmills, weight machines, and spinning bikes come to mind because that’s what has always been part of my routine.  But in the background, I hear the faint voices of friends (and some pastors, too) urging me to give yoga a try.  To be honest, I’ve never really thought of yoga as exercise and have been skeptical of people who rely on it for their primary source of aerobic and strength training.BodyOnYoga

I came across this infographic on the Eat Smart Move More Weigh Less blog and followed the link to the Huffington post article where it originated.  It was fascinating to see how many parts of the mind and body are impacted by yoga and to read about some of the emerging research to support these claims.  (Click on the image at right to see a larger view and to read the article).

I’m searching for something to fulfill a mind-body need, and I think throwing yoga into the mix of my regular workouts might be just the thing.  If you are a yoga fan, what have you found to be its greatest benefit?

Katie Huffman

Winter Minestrone Recipe


I love soup, and I also love the recipes of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa, so when I came across the following minestrone recipe recently, I was unabashedly excited to try it.  A few weekends ago when we had an early cold spell, I cooked up a batch, and it far exceeded my already high expectations!  Even my husband, who is not much of a soup eater, raved about it.minestrone

Heavy on fresh vegetables and beans, this minestrone packs a lot of fiber and protein into one bowl; in fact, it was almost stew-like and one serving was plenty for both my husband and me.  To lighten up the fat and calorie content a little bit, I omitted the pancetta and Parmesan cheese, and I did not use olive oil when toasting the baguette.

Hope you’ll consider giving this recipe a try.  In my mind, there’s not much better than sitting down to a hot, steaming bowl of hearty soup on a cold winter’s night.

Winter Minestrone and Garlic Bruschetta, by Barefoot Contessa
Good olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, 1/2-inch-diced
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) celery (3 stalks)
2 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) peeled butternut squash
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 (26-ounce) can or box diced tomatoes, such as Pomi
6 to 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti
8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup good dry white wine
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
Garlic Bruschetta (recipe follows)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of the chicken stock, the bay leaf, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick, I add more chicken stock.

Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the spinach, and toss with 2 big spoons (like tossing a salad). Cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto. Depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock, add another teaspoon or two of salt to taste. Serve large shallow bowls of soup with a bruschetta on top. Sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil and serve hot.


-Katie Huffman

Image courtesy of Food Network

Bible App


We began our Spirited Life Group 2 Fall Workshops with a group practice of lectio divina.  After one of the workshops, a pastor mentioned to me that he really appreciated this opportunity because hearing Scripture read aloud by someone else tends to be a rare occurrence.

The pastor also shared that he had recently come across a smartphone app that affords him this opportunity whenever he wants to listen.  He can select a passage, press play, and just listen as it is read to him.  This exercise has changed his prayer life because he can really meditate on the words and reflect on how God is speaking to him through the text.

In addition to the audio feature, the YouVersion Bible App also allows you to find Bible image app devotionals, search for keywords within the Bible, highlight and bookmark passages, and make notes for yourself. The app is available for most brands of smartphones, including iPhones and Droids.

-Katie Huffman

Image from, via CC



Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday.

Wait a second…

That last one might be new to you. For the second year, organizations around the country are uniting to begin the holiday season in the spirit of giving.

We were made aware of this by the good folks over at Heifer International, one of the alternative giving sites I mentioned in a holiday post around this time last year. Heifer offers 30 different kinds of livestock, trees, seeds and offers training in environmentally-sound agriculture to families in more than 30 countries, including the United States, Nepal, China, Brazil, Rwanda, and Armenia. Their gifts vary in efforts to give livestock to families, promote women’s empowerment, support sustainable farming, and provide basic needs. Check out this video  if you would like to know more about the good work Heifer is doing around the globe or their Most Important Gift Catalog if you would like to give gifts in honor of loved ones this year.

The amount of time, effort, and money it takes to change the life of an individual somewhere around the globe is minimal. We encourage you to take the chance this Tuesday to be a part of giving goodness to the world in some way!

This Giving Tuesday it's time to give back.

Happy Giving!

– Ellie Poole

Holiday Challenge


The holidays are just around the corner!  While the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually filled with joy and merriment, they can also be filled with extra calories and less time for exercise.

This year, to help you keep your waistline in check (did you know that the average adult gains 1-5 pounds during the holidays and never gets these pounds back off?) consider signing up for the Maintain, Don’t Gain Holiday Challenge.  Sponsored by Eat Smart Move More NC, the Holiday Challenge runs from November 25-December 1 and encourages holiday challengeweight maintenance during the holiday season.  By signing up, you’ll get weekly newsletters with tips and recipes, have access to weight/activity tracking charts, and receive support and motivation from other participants.

Sign up for the Holiday Challenge here.

I signed up for the Holiday Challenge and have already found some great recipes that I hope to try soon.  Check out these: pumpkin spice latte and maple roasted sweet potatoes.

-Katie Huffman

Supporting your pastor


8943594714_ae8f9a8656_bIn Spirited Life and on this blog, we typically offer up ways that pastors can take charge of their health and implement new habits in their lives to support their own wellness.  We realized that most of us Spirited Life staff and many of our blog readers are lay people.  What can WE do as parishioners, lay leaders, committee members to help promote the health and well-being of the pastors at our own churches?  Here are some ideas our team generated.

  • Ask pastors about their hobbies and interests and support them in doing those activities.
  • Encourage them to take ALL of their vacation and volunteer to help with tasks in their absence.
  • Offer ‘spaces away’ for pastors to go for time of rest and renewal or uninterrupted work.
  • Limit ‘dropping in’ on pastors, realizing that talking to them for ‘just a minute’ likely will end up as a 15 minute conversation and distract them from other tasks.
  • Affirm and encourage your pastor by giving specific feedback on a sermon or Bible study you enjoyed; mention an occasion where you acted on something she preached or prayed.
  • 5445646178_f8e9522b4c_bWhen it comes to gift giving, think outside of the pound cake.  Here are some alternatives: gift cards for massage therapy, candles, new books, houseplants, hobby-related items.
  • Agree to a walking meeting or suggest an alternative meeting location such as a local park or picnic area.
  • Generate energy around health and well being among your congregation and community: organize a church walking/running group, health fair, or health-related discussion series.
  • Meet with church leadership and discuss what current ministries could be led by lay people instead of clergy.
  • Respect your pastor’s day off and Sabbath time by not calling or scheduling meetings on those days.
  • Encourage your church to observe pastor appreciation month in October each year.

What are other ways that churches can support their pastors’ holistic health?

-Katie Huffman

Images by flickr users NCinDC and hellojenuine, via creative commons.

Do You Need A New Rhythm? ~ Part I


This is the first in a special series on Sabbath by guest blogger Rev. Dianne Lawhorn. We offer these reflections in the hope that over the next few weeks you will feel invited to deepen your own Sabbath practice. Check back on the next three Mondays to read Dianne’s thoughts on this important topic. 

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

Boy and Girl Running in Tall Grass

I led a workshop recently at our Annual Conference on the concept of Sabbath.  During this workshop, I asked participants to reach back into their memories and recall how they spent Sunday afternoons as a child.  I could immediately see smiles and the look of wonder on people’s faces.  It was as if the sweet aroma of a day when things seemed so much simpler swept across the room.  Then, I asked the group to share with a neighbor about those memories.  I looked around the room and heard people speaking of wonderful meals, time with family, taking long naps, and catching lightning bugs!  I noticed less about what they said and more about the way that they said it.  Their pace had changed, they had slowed down, and there was a peacefulness about their sharing.  Were these folks really speaking of having a day where they slowed down long enough to enjoy a meal, to take a nap, or to catch a lightning bug?

It was a beautiful moment where the whole mood in the room shifted and we were ready to hear about Sabbath- rest.  Sunday afternoons used to be a time for us to do things that we enjoyed, to relax, to rest.  It was unhurried and leisurely and it didn’t feel at all like work.  Times have changed, haven’t they?  Now, our Sundays are really no different than any other day of the week.    They are too full, too busy, harried even.  Our Sundays are often a catch up day where we rush around trying to get everything done that wasn’t done during the week.  Sunday isn’t a day of leisure anymore.

There is something sacred about the way that we used to spend our Sabbath days.  This slower pace was good for us.  This is something we have lost and I believe that it needs to be re-claimed.  This is something we need, a pause in the pace of our busy lives.  We need a day where our schedule doesn’t get inundated with work, a day to take a break from that endless hamster’s wheel of activity.  We need a day of leisure, a lazy day, a day to slow down and enjoy the wonderful gifts that God has given us.

246covercroppedDr. Matthew Sleeth, author of the book 24-6, says that what we need most is a “stop day,” a day to stop working, a day of rest.  This stop is the thing that is missing from our lives.  Reclaiming this stop is a great way for us to think about Sabbath-Rest.   Doesn’t the idea of a stop day sound good to us?  Don’t we need a day that calls us back into a rhythm that includes stopping, slowing, and resting?  Don’t we need a day to cease from our labors?  Doesn’t this feel like a gift that we’ve lost that needs to be reclaimed?   …To be continued Monday, Nov. 4th.

–Rev. Dianne Lawhorn, MDiv

DianneDianne is currently the Minister of Spiritual Formation for the Lydia Group which is a resource for spiritual wholeness offering formational teaching, retreat leadership, and spiritual direction.





I’ve been thinking a lot about benedictions lately, as my coworkers and I prepare for our final workshop with the pastors in the second group of Spirited Life. It is our task, in a very real way, to offer a benediction, a “good proclamation,” not only for our time together at the workshop, but for all the work that the pastors have put in over the two years of the program. It feels like such a great privilege to pronounce blessing, especially to pastors who spend their days doing just that (among many other things, of course!) and our staff is eager to do it well, thus there have been many resources shared between us recently. There are a plethora of benediction resources out there, from the UM Book of Worship, to contemporary poems and prayers. I thought I’d share a couple of my personal favorites here:

John O’Donohue, Irish teacher and poet, has been widely praised for his gift of drawing on Celtic spiritual traditions to create words of inspiration and wisdom for today. In To Bless the Space Between Us, his compelling blend of elegant, poetic language and spiritual insight offers readers comfort and encouragement on their journeys through life. O’Donohue looks at life’s thresholds—getting married, having children, starting a new job—and offers invaluable guidelines for making the transition from a known, familiar world into a new, unmapped territory. Most profoundly, however, O’Donohue explains “blessing” as a way of life, as a lens through which the whole world is transformed.

  • Carol Penner is a Mennonite worship leader and writer, though people of all denominations will find her accessible. Her website is a wealth of worship resources of all kinds.  On her site you will find benedictions for particular holy days, as well as general blessings.  I particularly love her benediction titled “Pitched, Peeled and Poised:”

Go into your week
with your ears pitched
to the sound of God’s voice calling your name.
Go into your week
with your eyes peeled
for the face of Jesus in unexpected places.
Go into your week
with your soul poised
to receive the Spirit of God,
the Spirit of Peace.

  • St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a much-loved prayer popularly attributed to the famed patron saint of Ireland.  It has been transposed into a hymn, but is lovely on it’s own as a blessing It is not traditionally used as a benediction, but with it’s strong language evoking praise and the abiding presence of God, I think it makes for a powerful one. It’s long, but some of my favorite lines include:

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.
I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

  • There is a lovely video benediction for churches who use multimedia based on the Romans 15:13 prayer at WorshipHouse Media.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

6371421595_c96267e7b8_zGo in peace to love and serve the Lord!

Caren Swanson

Images by flickr users cknara and nffcnnr via Creative Commons.