Help in the Weight Room:


A fitness center can be an intimidating place, and there’s no place scarier than the weight room. Forays through this metal jungle can be bewildering. As you look around for the few familiar machines you’re comfortable accepting torture from, you notice that everyone else looks like they were raised in the place, suckled on the bench press and taught to walk in lunges. They glide from one exercise to the next with effortless expertise. They move with clear-sighted purpose. There is no indecision–only muscle-rippling action.

You, however, are a stranger in a strange land. You try to study the brawny natives without them catching you stare. You wander around, studying the exotic devices. After bravely attempting an exercise or two, you ask yourself, “Do I really belong here?”

If you can relate to this, you’re not alone, and there’s a wonderful website that can help: “Exercise Prescription on the Internet” (, “a free resource for the exercise professional, coach, or fitness enthusiast featuring comprehensive exercise libraries (>1,400 exercises), fitness assessment calculators, and reference articles.” I would add that it’s also a terrific resource for those exploring fitness, a bit more suspicious than enthusiastic.

The site is incredibly expansive and can itself be intimidating, so I want to focus on its weight-training portion. Here are some highlights of what’s offered:

  • The “Beginner’s Page” contains helpful information about gym etiquette, which can relieve some of the anxiety about not standing out. (It also contains a questionnaire to take if you’re unsure you’re physically ready to begin an exercise program.)
  • The “Weight Training Guidelines” provides direction for how many repetitions of each exercise should be done, and how often.
  • The “Weight Training Instructions” directs readers to a workout that’s best for them, and leads to recommendations of specific exercises to choose.
  • Finally, my favorite aspect of the site: hundreds of exercises are demonstrated in the exercise inventory. This can be incredibly valuable for checking your form, for finding new exercises, or for learning more about an exercise you saw someone else performing. (Exercises are helpfully divided by muscle area of the body.)

If you’d like to explore the strange land of the weight room, perhaps one day becoming one of its denizens, could be a helpful guide. Again, this website is a bit intimidating and can feel overwhelming at first; if you’d like more personal assistance, consider working with a fitness trainer at your gym for one to two sessions. A trainer can introduce you to equipment and exercises so that you’re comfortable and safe (many  gyms offer equipment tutorials for free).

-Tommy Grimm

(Image by Flickr user Mr T in DC /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: Laura Stern


Rev. Laura Stern is the pastor at Ocracoke United Methodist Church and one of our Group 2 Spirited Life participants. In the passage below, she shares her experience in the program as well as some of the resources she’s found most meaningful as she works to maintain a balanced life:

“I have enjoyed being part of the Spirited Life program. The program sets aside intentional time and space to take seriously the balance (or lack thereof) in my life and ministry.  As a solo pastor and mother of three small children living on a remote island, life is a constant juggling act. Since beginning the program in 2012, I have been exploring ways to bring together the various moving parts in my life.

I have discovered a renewed interest in reading and writing. Setting aside a devotional time early in the morning before the household wakes allows time to pray, think, read, and write.

Some favorite books as-of-late include: The Pastor: A Memoir, by Eugene Peterson; Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott; Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life, by Kathleen Norris; and, the classic for any island pastor, Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  Each of these books remind me of the profound depth, possibility, and hope within pastoral ministry.

Between bulletin revisions and waiting for the church copier to warm up, a few clicks online can keep the brain going. Blogs that offer good food-for-thought for me include Jan Richardson’s The Painted Prayerbook and posts on

Writing and reading are two sides of the same coin. While enjoying reading, I keep pushing myself to write. It is a form of spiritual discipline that helps me make connections, add dimension, and stay relevant to my calling.

Last month, I pursued an entire week of writing and learning through an opportunity hosted by the Collegeville Institute entitled “Theology in the Real World: A Week with Kathleen Norris.”  It was an invaluable opportunity to spend a week away from church and family responsibilities, to work alongside pastors and writers from across denominations, and to learn from a bestselling author of creative non-fiction.

I think the core of Spirited Life is about discovery, or perhaps re-discovery, of ourselves, our calling, and joy within our lives. Over the past few months, this discovery has taken the form of reading and writing. I look forward to what other discoveries will come about as I continue through the Spirited Life program.”

Compiled by Catherine Wilson

Photo courtesy of Laura Stern, featuring her children Gretchen (7), Nicholas (4), and Charlie (2).

Minty Fresh Financials


Tracking financial commitments can be a challenge. 

Whether I’m tallying my spending, setting savings goals, or trying to stay on top of recurring payments, it’s hard to keep all the moving pieces in front of me.

Recently, however, I learned about the free internet service known as With the same security providers as online banking systems and 7 million users, Mint provides a huge array of budgeting, saving, spending, and planning tools.

Mint links to each of your individual financial accounts so that you can track your money from multiple banks, lenders, and accounts in a central location.

If you want to freshen up your financial fitness, check out this 90-second video that shows how might help.

– Ellie Poole


Habit-forming helpers at your fingertips


“Act the way you’d like to be, and soon you’ll be the way you act.” — George W. Crane

Are you interested in breaking a bad habit or developing a new habit? Maybe you want to break a caffeine or junk food habit. Or perhaps you’d like to add flossing to your bedtime routine or start taking the stairs instead of the elevator on your hospital visits.

Research suggests that it takes 60 days to form a new habit. During this crucial period, how do you keep track of your progress? Listed below are two apps for your smartphone or tablet that can help you log your behaviors and see how you’re doing toward your goal of creating or breaking habits.

Healthy Habits by 2Morrow Mobile
smartphone with appsHealthy Habits was awarded first prize in the Integrative Health category of the 2012 Surgeon General’s Healthy App Challenge. The Healthy Habits motto: “Change is not just about thinking; it is about doing.” This free app allows you to track three habits and your efforts to either break them or make them. You can create a custom habit or you can select one from a list provided; then, define a goal, set up reminders and rewards, and track your progress. Upgrade to the premium version ($4.99)  to track more than three habits and to gain access to more graphs, statistics, and other tools. Click here for more information. HabitMaker HabitBreaker is the Android version of this app.

HabitMaster by ProductiveTap
At $2.99, this app for iphones or ipads helps you incorporate positive habits into your life; you can track your progress, set up alerts and reminders, and also view your longest streak of successes (your goal is to beat your own record). With this app, you can personalize if and when it’s okay to skip days. For example, if you’re trying to create a habit of getting up earlier, you might decide that it’s okay to skip Saturdays and sleep in a little; this won’t affect your current streak. For more information about HabitMaster, click here.

Don’t have a smartphone or tablet?  Joe’s Goals is a website that allows you to track your habits (good or bad) online at no charge.

by Katie Huffman