A Life of Prayer


Spirited Life has been a holistic health program, and we have tried to offer a broad framework within which participants can define health for themselves. This wellness wheel wellness wheel image color(seen at right) while comprehensive in its characterization of health, is also limiting because it keeps these parts of our lives in separate, neat and tidy little circles. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s not quite how life works. So, how do we reconcile a life in Christ when our days are filled with grocery shopping, meetings, charge conference papers, and if we’re lucky, a trip to the gym?

A couple of years ago, while preparing for a Spirited Life workshop, we came across this article by Rev. Sam Portaro, an Episcopal priest and faculty member at CREDO.  In the article, Rev. Portaro expands the definition of prayer. He suggests that by reframing what it means to have a prayer life, we can move from a daily ritual of spiritual practices to living a life of prayer where we are in constant and holy relationship with the Lord, even in our mundane activities. In some respects, Rev. Portaro is offering us a way to integrate the compartments of our lives.

Click here to read Rev. Portaro’s article, “Practicing a Life of Prayer,” which originally appeared in William S. Craddock’s All Shall Be Well: An Approach to Wellness.

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

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.

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.

Get in touch… with massage therapy


As part of our final farewell to Group 2 pastors, the Spirited Life team offered chair massages during their concluding workshops. Throughout that entire day, pastors were able to sign up for ten-minute chair massages provided by local massage therapists. While a few were hesitant, many absolutely enjoyed it! Some even signed up for a second (or third!) massage as time permitted.

It was so gratifying to watch as pastors allowed themselves to enjoy such a gift. Some pastors were even inspired to discuss the origins of their tensions, and many left the experience considering the possibility of setting up future massage appointments.

While massages are typically wellness massage-285590_640perceived as an indulgence, they are actually centuries old in existence and provide a variety of benefits to a person’s mental and physical health. For instance, people use massages to relieve pain, rehabilitate sports injuries, reduce stress, increase relaxation AND reduce anxiety and depression.

It is true that massages can be expensive. However, there are cost-effective ways that you can occasionally treat yourself to this amazing form of self-care. For example:

  • Seek out Massage Schools in your area. To eliminate the guesswork of finding a reputable massage therapist in your area, the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy has a list of schools that provide licensed instruction for massage therapy. Some of the schools offer discounted rates because the students are in the process of being licensed. A list of those schools can be found here.
  • Contact your local Community College. Another good resource is your local community college as they occasionally offer massage classes for individuals, independent from a degree program. Taking a massage class through a community college’s continuing education department is a great way to pick up some basic pointers. I mention this option because it’s one that can be enjoyed by you and your significant other.
  • You can locate a massage therapist in your area through this locator.  When you call for an appointment, ask about special pricing packages.  Some places offer deals where when you buy a certain number of sessions up front, you get a session free.  

If you have never had a massage before – treat yourself! If you’ve enjoyed a massage in the past – maybe it’s time for another!

-Angela MacDonald

Image from pixabay.com via CC

A Summer Treat


Using frozen bananas to make ice cream seems to be all the rage lately.  Even though I’ve ice creamsnagged several recipes for this non-dairy frozen delight from Pinterest over the last several months, I had never made it until last night.  I’m here to tell you that if you need a sweet treat this summer that won’t leave you feeling guilty, this ice cream will do the trick!

The general idea is that you take some frozen bananas and use them as the base.  When pureed in the blender or food processor, frozen bananas become soft and oh-so-creamy.  From there you can use as many different mix-ins as you can dream of.  Want strawberry ice cream?  Throw in some chopped frozen strawberries.  Want chocolate ice cream?  Mix in a couple tablespoons of cocoa powder and a little vanilla extract.  While a subtle taste of bananas remains, the flavors of the mix-ins are what stand out.

In addition to being low calorie, this “faux” ice cream is also great because it is gluten-free and vegan!  The recipe I used was for Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream from The Lemon Bowl blog.  For each 1/2-cup serving (this recipe makes 4 servings), there are 108 calories and 4.4 grams of fat.

Step-by-step instructions for making one-ingredient ice cream along with some more flavor ideas can be found here. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t even need a recipe!

-Katie Huffman

Photo by Liz DellaCroce of The Lemon Bowl

Click here for another healthy summer treat recipe

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

Gardening for the soul


My grandmother passed on her love of gardening to my mom, and their summer vegetable and flower gardens remain some of my favorite childhood memories.  My grandmom loved to take my sister and me summer harvestdown to her garden in the late afternoon to collect roses for the table and corn for our Sunday suppers; I will always remember my mom’s joy at each summer’s first tomato, which she would carefully watch until it was an acceptable ripeness to pluck from the vine.

For my grandmom, the essence of gardening was captured in the simple verse she had hand-stitched on the sampler hanging in her kitchen:

Who plants a seed

beneath the sod

and waits to see

believes in God.

As simple as the poem is, there’s really something to it.  “Besides being a practical, life-nurturing task, gardening is also always a spiritual activity. In it we attempt to make room for what is beautiful, delectable, and even holy,” says Norman Wirzba, a research professor of theology, ecology and rural life at Duke Divinity School, in his book, In Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating.

And I agree: for me, especially when grown at my own hand, gardens are constant reminders of God’s presence and power.

peonyWhile my mom and grandmom had the space to grow rows and rows of vegetables and flowers, in my adult years, I haven’t had the acreage for this type of gardening, so I’ve resorted to carving out small corners of my yard for flowerbeds and planting my vegetables in pots.  This year I’m proudest of my peonies, and I’m also planning to grow the makings for salsa: cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, jalepenos, chives, and basil.  Click here for 20 clever tips to help you be a gardener without breaking the bank, needing much land, or having all the right tools.  Can’t do your own vegetable gardening this year?  Click here to read about getting the most out of your local farmer’s market.

Wirzba takes gardening one step further and applies the analogy of gardening to tending to God’s people.  He says, “A caring, faithful, and worshipping humanity is one of the garden’s most important crops.”

A 2011 Faith and Leadership article on a struggling Dallas church shows both sides of this analogy.  Click here to read about how a dwindling church rebuilt itself through a community garden; in less than 10 years they generated 20 tons of produce for local food pantries, and this church ministry became a staple in the community.

This summer, as you are cultivating tomatoes in your own yard or tending to God’s larger garden, remember Wirzba’s words: “When we garden well, creatures are nurtured and fed, the world is received as a blessing, and God is glorified.”

-Katie Huffman

Inspired by Faith and Leadership’s 11/22/11 posts, “Norman Wirzba: Godly gardening” and “Growing in relevance.”

First image by Flickr user OakleyOriginals via CC

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.