As we close out the decade, and look forward to the next 10 years with a renewed resolve to really change our lives for the better, let's spend a few moments thinking about that oft-uttered four-letter word. The one that shows up with great regularity toward the end of the Christmas season: DIET.
It has been a whirlwind of a year, and as it begins to close, I take stock of the "lost" and "found" in my life.
As I get older, I find great delight in little things that remind me how richly blessed I am to be alive. These include yesterday's e-mail from my high school English teacher and old friend, checking in to see what I'm up to, marking a forty-year friendship of great value. Also, re-reading a favorite early-winter poem, The Bat, by Jane Kenyon. Last Sunday there was the pleasure of hearing my church's tiny choir of five transform Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming from its rehearsal hash into a quiet Advent invitation.
The PPRC -- Pastor-Parish Relations Committee -- plays an important role in the United Methodist Church, including annually advising the Bishop whether or not the appointed pastor should remain at their church or itinerate to a new congregation. While the PPRC is instructed to "engage in biblical and theological reflection on the mission of the church" (Book of Discipline: 180), it is not asked to undertake its work in remembrance of baptism.
Such remembering could make a significant difference in the ways a PPRC functions.
Let's give it up for Pastor Randy Maynard and St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Raleigh. St. Andrews is in a weight-loss contest with three neighboring churches, and Randy is setting the pace, having lost 43 pounds in a little under 90 days. (Am I reading this right? Wow!)
Here is Yonat Shimron's write-up in the Raleigh N&O;. This sounds like a wonderful idea, bringing congregants and whole churches together, and highlighting the links between body and spirit, and between health and Christian discipleship.
From the New York Times, here is a recent piece on the health benefits of giving – benefits, that is, for the giver.
The article is partly tied to holiday giving. But the writer gives a nod, not just to material gifts for the names on our shopping list, but also to gifts of our time and care. She cites numerous studies that show improved health outcomes for people involved in helping or volunteering. One study describes an endorphin rush or “helper’s high” from altruistic behavior, and finds that “[t]he strongest effect was seen when the act of altruism involved direct contact with other people.” So writing a check is not as revivifying as giving our time and attention to a person in need.
Now that you've assessed your sleeping environment, let's address the sleeper.
We work hard to get children into a routine that promotes their going to sleep. Have we outgrown the need for such rituals? Maybe not. A bath, warm milk, comforting reading, and saying prayers - they can't hurt.
Apparently no one was killed in the shopping frenzy on Black Friday, an improvement upon last year when a hapless Wal-Mart employee was trampled by a mob high on the pheromones of pure capitalism. This is the cultural context in which the church hopes to proclaim the journey toward Bethlehem, a journey which began Advent I with the very adult Jesus warning about the eschatological coming of the Son of Man.
It's sad enough that laity are caught in the vortex of this paganism, struggling to remember their baptisms in the rush toward the culturally-defined "Christmas." How are pastors to recall their own identity?
One of the "gifts" of aging is an alteration in our sleep patterns, causing us to have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Insomnia affects about a third of all adults, and can have significant effects on our health. This post addresses ways to alter your environment to improve sleep. Future posts will suggest ways to adjust your behaviors and identify the point when you should seek medical help for poor sleep.