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!

Pastor Spotlight: Andrew Brown – the Faster Pastor


Wellness advocates repeatedly remind one another that their work is not about themselves, but about providing space to pastors that do not otherwise have a sounding board of their own. With just a simple opening question, we never really know how a conversation will flow until it flows. Of course, the talks can run the gamut…and then there is the occasional surprise.

“Hello Pastor XYZ! What’s new? What’s exciting? What’s different?” That was my admittedly corny opening for calls on this particular day. Before I could mentally rapture myself to the unemployment line for such a clumsy opening, the pastor says, “Well, I raced a school bus yesterday!”

As it turns out, Rev. Andrew Brown, senior pastor of Hawthorne Lane UMC in Charlotte, happens to be the winner of the 2012 “Faster Pastor” race, an annual spectacle in which “local men of the cloth wheel 13-ton monstrous machines…

Pastor Andrew was kind enough to grant an interview to Spirited Life about this incredible experience.

ME: What made you decide to enter the ‘Faster Pastor’ race?  How did you hear about it?

ANDREW: I received an email from the district office saying they needed pastors to drive in a school bus race. It sounded interesting; who wouldn’t want to drive a bus around a race track when someone else is paying for the gas!

ME: Describe your bus – who painted it?

ANDREW: I rallied some of our church members to get a pit crew together. They were responsible for the design and painting of the bus. The pit crew consisted of children, youth, and enough adults to make it legal. We had an artist and an interior designer on the crew. The final design was created by one of our church’s fifth graders; “Jesus Take the Wheel” was the theme. Everybody really got into it.

ME: What was it like to get behind the wheel?

ANDREW: Getting behind the wheel was a rush – a four-point harness, a full face helmet with radio receivers, and a couple of track mechanics explaining how to drive the bus.

ME: Did you do a donut in the grass after you won the race?

ANDREW: [Laughing] No, the engine wouldn’t go fast enough.

ME: What was your winning strategy, and what did you do to celebrate?

ANDREW: I don’t think I really had a winning strategy. I was surprised to win. I just went back to the lessons I learned in childhood driving go-carts. Go fast and stay upright.

I wasn’t really sure how to drive against a bunch of pastors. I mean, I didn’t know if they would drive aggressive or not. Then, when we went into the first turn, one of the other drivers nailed me in the back fender and I thought, “OK…it’s on!”  I did my best to keep it together, and everything worked out great!

We had about 30 people from our congregation come to watch the race, including my wife and two of our children. The Faster Pastor race was a novelty race between the real [NASCAR] races that night.

Also my parents, who have both gone through some serious health issues lately, were there, and that really meant a lot. They rode from their home, about 2 hours away, with my oldest brother and his wife. After the race (and the win) I went with my family to Cracker Barrel to celebrate. We brought the trophy in [the restaurant], sat it on the table and had a great time!

ME: Are you in again next year?

ANDREW: I don’t know if I will be able to do it again next year. But I would love to do it again.

ME: Assuming this is one fun way to let off some steam, what are some of the other ways you try to reduce stress?

PASTOR: I didn’t enter the race to reduce stress. I did it to have fun. I believe there is in each of us a kid who “had to” grow up. It is important for us to let that kid out from time to time and have fun! Maybe that’s what Jesus was getting at when he said you must enter the Kingdom as a little child.

As Pastor Andrew enthusiastically described his experience, he said, “I’ve gotta take more chances in life!” It sounded as if he had rediscovered some laughter and adrenaline that he had been missing. It seems that this experience gave him an opportunity to channel fun memories from his childhood, while creating lasting memories for his congregants and family members in the stands as supportive witnesses.

As men and women of clergy who are dealing with countless stressors spiritually and professionally, it can be easy to forget or bypass those hobbies, those moments that give us a chance to have fun. Have you put a hobby on the back burner? How long ago? Maybe it is time to think about reconnecting with something fun that will give you joy, laughter and some great memories.

— Angela MacDonald

(Pictures and YouTube video provided by Jami Brown and CMS/HHP Photo)

Laughter is the best medicine



The theme for today’s entry is ‘Humor and Inspiration.’  So, because we know that a picture is worth a thousand words, enjoy the humor and inspiration below!


* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Spirited Life…..:-)


A LITTLE MANNA [John 6:35, 41-51]:

(Agnus Day appears with the permission of

-Angela MacDonald

‘Testimony’ by Stephen Dunn


Plate of CookiesSince it’s easy for me to measure my health on a moral scale–either feeling guilty for the extra scoop of ice cream or righteous for abstaining–I have to be reminded not to take myself too seriously. And when a poem pokes fun lightheartedly at my faith and my dietary discipline, it’s too good (and too important?) not to share.


Stephen Dunn

The Lord woke me in the middle of the night,
and there stood Jesus with a huge tray,
and the tray was heaped with cookies,
and He said, Stephen, have a cookie,

and that’s when I knew for sure the Lord
is the real deal, the Man of all men,
because at that very moment
I was thinking of cookies, Vanilla Wafers

to be exact, and there were two
Vanilla Wafers in among the chocolate
chips and the lemon ices, and one
had a big S on it, and I knew it was for me,

and Jesus took it off the tray and put it
in my mouth, as if He were giving me
communication, or whatever they call it.
Then He said, Have another,

and I tell you I thought a long time before I
refused, because I knew it was a test
to see if I was a Christian, which means
a man like Christ, not a big ole hog.

(from The New Yorker: March 5, 2012)

by Tommy Grimm

(Sorry for the tempting picture of chocolate chip cookies. May we too have the grace not to be big ole hogs.)