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

The Big Silence Retreat


sacred-heart-1910You are invited to experience big spaces of solitude and silence in community for the purpose of tending the inner fire of your soul.  Hosted by Centenary UMC (Winston-Salem) and Davidson UMC, this 4-day mostly silent retreat will be grounded in the modern classic The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen.  As a participant, you will embark on a spiritual path consisting of the three stepping stones of solitude, silence, and prayer.  You will also leave with empowering resources for your continued journey into the heart of Christ.

RETREAT LOCATION: St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, Stoneville, NC

DATES: January 25-28, 2015

COST: $445

RETREAT LEADERS: Rev. Jonathan Brake, Rev. Dianne Lawhorn, Ann Starrette

Space is still available for this retreat.  Click here for more information and to register.

Painting by Odilon Redon, 1910; image courtesy of wikiart.org

Looking at Life through Agreeable Hours


Do you have a daily ritual or even a chore that you’ve turned into a fun routine? For me, it’s my morning cup of coffee. Monday through Friday, I wait until I get to my desk to have hands-holding-mug-main_article_newcoffee. By the time I take my first sip, I’ve been up for almost three hours, and I’ve already put in a lot of miles- folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, preparing lunches, and getting my toddler up, dressed, and out the door. I’m usually the second person to arrive at the office, so the coffee is hot and fresh. But that’s not even the best part about being an early bird.  It’s that quiet solitude of the office with my hands wrapped around a warm cup of coffee while I check email and get my thoughts together for the day. I truly crave this daily half-hour of quiet time.

Finding those agreeable hours… is central to making our days into something in which we not only live, but enjoy living. Whether it’s tea or laundry or dishes or some other ceremony of daily life, the hours become agreeable not on their own, but through our designs. – Casey N. Cep, writer

Click here to read more of what Cep has to say about forming routines.

Post inspired by “How we form our routines.” Pacific Standard Magazine. October 22, 2014.

Photo from Beautyheaven.com, via CC

Update: Pedaling to Stop Traffic


The following post, written by Mark Andrews, is an update to the article he shared with The Connection in April, where he previewed his cross-country bike trip.  Rev. Andrews is a Spirited Life Group 3 participant and pastor at St. Luke’s UMC in Hickory.


What a summer! On June 1, my wife, Denise, and I embarked on our journey across the country, me on my yellow, triple-crankset, Schwinn bicycle and Denise in our car, driving as my support along the way. We began at the waterfront in Edenton, North Carolina and ended at Sunset Bay State Park in Charleston, Oregon. The purpose of my expedition was mainly to take some time away from the parish, to refresh my spirit while pursuing one of my bucket-list items, but I also used this trip to raise funds and awareness regarding United Methodist Women’s efforts to stop human trafficking. While I fell short of my $40,000 goal, there has nonetheless been over $16,000 raised thus far — no small change!

Upon first getting permission for my leave, I was filled with giddy delight, but as the day for departure approached, I began feeling anxious about what I had gotten myself into. Was I physically up to the challenge? What if I failed? What would I say to my congregation? I began to worry about the challenge to which I had committed Denise and myself.

I started off the trip the way I do most projects, trying to get it all finished as quickly as possible. After the first two days of riding almost 190 miles, we arrived in Durham, North Carolina at our daughter’s home, physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to do too much. Lovingly fed and refreshed, I resumed the journey at a more moderate pace the rest of the way.

There were some more long-mileage days, but I averaged about 65 miles, or 100 kilometers, a day — fewer in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, more on the flats of the Kansas plains. But each mile brought “signs and wonders” at the beauty of the United States and the marvels of creation. Traveling on back roads and through small towns granted me a perspective on this country that one misses when driving on interstate highways. Never having traveled extensively, every day was an adventure, as I discovered Mark in mountainswhat was around each curve in the road, or exulted in the vistas just over every mountain and hill.

Denise and I learned to trust in the providence of God for safety, weather, food and lodging. My bicycle had no mechanical problems. I never even had to change a tire! We found a place to sleep every night, whether in a city park in a tent, in a church fellowship hall made available through the hospitality of its people, and a few hotels. There were a few dangerous and anxious moments in the journey, but all of them were overcome by God’s mercies.

What I enjoyed the most was the simplicity of each day. A recent book detailing Paul Howard’s epic bike ride is entitled, Eat, Sleep, Ride. That title pretty well summarizes the gracious gift this experience was for me. What seems so out of reach these days is at the same time what we need most — Sabbath, solitude, silence and simplicity. These were all characteristics of my time of renewal. I hope to incorporate what I learned this summer into my daily life and my weekly observance of Sabbath-keeping. And I’m still pedaling when I can.

-Rev. Mark Andrews

Photo taken by Denise Andrews in the mountains of Montana

A Time for Renewal, Part III


This is the third in a special series on renewal leave by guest blogger Rev. Dianne Lawhorn.  Read the first and second installments.


Guidelines for selecting helping professionals during a renewal leave:

Spiritual Direction– This form of support is helpful if your need is to work on your relationship with God. If you are feeling the desire for a more rich spiritual experience, a spiritual director can provide guidance in developing practices that will help you connect with God at a deeper level. A spiritual director can also help you to notice where God is at work in your life and discern what response might be called for. A Spiritual Director can provide a prayerful, companioning presence for this time in your life.

Counseling– This form of support is helpful if your need is for healing. If you recognize disappointment, disillusionment, or despair in your life, a counselor can help. Counseling is useful in uncovering what’s going on with you emotionally so that you might seek the healing you need. A counselor can also help you cope with situations and relationships that are causing you discomfort, allowing you to recognize and honor what you are feeling.

Coaching- This form of support is helpful if your need is to make an assessment of your current situation and to develop a plan of action for moving forward. Coaches can help you assess your strengths, growth edges, and vital needs. They can help you discover new possibilities for creating the life that you want. They are equipped to assist you with your plan for development and can provide accountability as you move forward.

A final step might be to think about how you want to continue in ministry. It would be good to think about what aspects of this leave time you can incorporate into your regular life. Deciding what rhythms you will keep from this valuable time away will be essential to sustaining the renewal you’ve experienced. It is important to think about how you are going to create space in your life to nurture that which contributes to your health and well-being.

Hopefully, your renewal leave will uncover some areas where you would like to pursue a greater degree of health. It’s important to remember that in order for us to become healthier, we must embrace a new way of being and a new way of doing ministry that small groupis life-giving to us. We must then walk forward into this new way, having been equipped with tools for a better way of doing life and ministry.

We all need accountability to make change a reality in our lives. Maybe it’s time to think about how you can create that accountability for yourself. Do you need to connect with a spiritual friend or ministry colleague on a regular basis to help you implement this new way of life? Perhaps you could create a support group of others who join together in sustaining this important life change?  Hopefully, this support will sustain you for years to come, making life-long transformational ministry a reality!


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

A Time for Renewal, Part II


This is the second in a special series on taking renewal leave by guest blogger Rev. Dianne Lawhorn.  Read the first installment here.


A renewal leave is an ideal time for you to develop rhythms that can be incorporated into your life when you return to work. You may never again have this opportunity to “try on” a new rhythm and see how it works for you. The rhythm I sought to embrace was to: eat healthy foods, exercise, get plenty of sleep, take a Sabbath, and have some fun! By doing these things over a short-term period, I was able to conceive of how this rhythm could become a reality over the long-term as well.

You might try incorporating a particular time every day where you can connect with God through a favorite spiritual practice. On my leave, my husband and I worked through the book The Cup of our Life by Joyce Rupp. This guide tea and booknot only provided readings but also included practices for prayer, reflection, scripture reading, journaling, and a commitment for each day. We found the use of this guide to be a great resource to us individually and as a couple!

A renewal leave is a wonderful time to reflect on your ministry journey. A book that I found very helpful in my reflection was Leading on Empty by Wayne Corderio. This book helped me better understand the challenges of life-long ministry and the effects it can have on our bodies, minds, and spirits. It also helped me learn how to navigate these challenges with greater ease.

A renewal leave is a great time to reflect on your personal life.  It’s a good idea to consider if the life you are living is the life you want to live. It’s a time for you to think about what changes might help you to more fully live into the desires you have for your life.

These questions may contribute to your reflection:

Where am I now?

What do I really want?

What is my next right step?

What is life-giving to me, helping me to give and receive love?

What is life-draining to me, hindering me from giving and receiving love?

 In this reflection, you may find needs that you don’t know how to provide for on your own. We all need help from time to time in processing what is going on with us at a deeper level. A book that I used to assist me in this discovery was Release by Flora Wuellner.

Renewal time is an opportunity to consider if you want to make use of a helping professional such as a spiritual director, counselor, or a coach. In the next article, I’ll provide some guidelines for selecting which resource you need at this point in your journey. You may even elect to participate in The Davidson Clergy Program, an excellent resource to build your resilience!  


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



Image by Flickr user ienjoysushi via CC

A Time for Renewal, Part I


This is the first in a special series on taking renewal leave by guest blogger Rev. Dianne Lawhorn.


Often in our ministry, after years of service, we find ourselves in need of being recharged. Current statistics say that most of us will experience fall at Starretteministry fatigue at some point in our journey. We shouldn’t feel guilty about taking the time we need because all of us will need a break eventually. Recognizing the need for a break is actually a sign of health. Taking a break allows us to be renewed for the journey.

Thankfully, the Methodist Book of Discipline recognizes the need for this time and provides for it in the form of a renewal leave.  I took this time of renewal back in 2012 and found that it gave me a renewed sense of vitality and purpose in ministry. I needed some guidance, however, in order to discern how to structure the time of my leave so that I could receive the greatest benefits from it.   I wondered if you might find yourself in this place and might like some tips for shaping this time.

A renewal leave is a time where we really need to give ourselves a break! For most of us, our tendency to over-schedule and over-commit has led us to the need of a break in the first place.  So, we don’t want to bring this pattern into our leave time. For this reason, I devoted the first and last part of my own leave to rest. It was great for me to spend that time simply being still, with stillness as my only task or accomplishment for those days.

A renewal leave is the perfect time for you to get out of your environment, especially if you live in a parsonage. You might go to a place that you have enjoyed before, where you can connect with God and with yourself. You might want to spend a few days in the mountains, at the beach, or at a local retreat center, where you can spend some time alone in a peaceful environment that nurtures your soul.

If you are married, this is also a great time for you to connect with your spouse. During my renewal leave, my husband also took time away from his job so that he could share in my experience. We felt grateful to have that unstructured time together as a couple in a place that we both love!

This could also be a time to connect with family and friends. Maybe you could go to see a family member or friend that you would like to connect with whom you haven’t seen in years. Shared experiences with people who are important to us can certainly contribute to our well-being, which should be a goal of our renewal time. Sharing this experience with others can truly give us strength for our journey.

In next week’s post, I’ll offer some reflection activities and questions that might be helpful to consider for your renewal leave.


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



Click to read Part II and Part III.

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

NPR: How Americans Really Experience Stress


During the month of July, as I’ve been traveling from here to there, I have caught bits and pieces of NPR’s latest series on stress.  There have been some really interesting stories, and I’m sharing a few of my favorite highlights below.

For starters, there’s a piece on the overall picture of stress in America.  NPR teamed up with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health to conduct a survey of 2,500 Americans.  They found that 49% of respondents had experienced a major NPR stress image_Josh Neufeldlife stress within the last year, with the most frequent type of stressor being health-related.

When broken down by demographics, there were some interesting findings.  For example, young adults were more likely to name “too many responsibilities” as their primary stressor, whereas older adults named health problems.  Looking at income, people making below $20,000 named (perhaps unsurprisingly) finances and work problems as their biggest worries.  People making over $50,000 named work problems and too many responsibilities.  The most common response to stress? Seventy percent of people reported sleeping less than usual.  For more on these statistics, click here.

Another segment focused on the connection between food and stress.  A Harvard University researcher says, “When we feel stressed we seek foods that are going to comfort us immediately, but often times those foods lead to surges and crashes in hormones and blood sugar that increase our susceptibility to new stresses.”  Other researchers are looking into foods that make us more resilient in the face of stress.  For example, foods that are nutrient rich, specifically those that are high in omega-3s, help bolster against stress.  Some good stress-busting foods include:

  • Eggs
  • Dark, leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like sardines, salmon or canned tuna
  • Flaxseed
  • Dark chocolate

For more on the food-mind connection, click here.

One of the more upbeat and fun segments was about how Americans deal with stress.  Seventy-one percent of respondents said that connecting with friends or family is their go-to form of stress relief.  In terms of what works for people, turning to hobbies and time outdoors were reported as being most effective.  Click here for the article.  Actually, just watching this short video, put together using animations and live interviews of people talking about their favorite stress-relieving activities, sent me into a state of relaxation!

Other articles and radio pieces in the NPR series include:

-Katie Huffman

Top Image by Josh Neufeld for NPR

Clergy Health in the News


Recent news articles in The Christian Post and The Anniston Star (Alabama) mention the Duke Clergy Health Initiative’s findings of increased depression rates among North Carolina Methodist pastors alongside other studies that show similar mental health concerns among clergy. As possible theories for these high rates of clergy depression and burnout, both articles point to the 24/7 nature of the job and pastors’ hesitancy to nurture themselves.Beach_chairs_Curacao

The solution? Experts and clergy in both articles recommend regular time off and taking vacation.  (Did you know that on average, Americans forfeit four of their allotted annual vacation days?)

-Katie Huffman

Image from Wikimedia Commons via CC