For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. […] And to make an end is to make a beginning.         — T.S. Eliot from “Little Gidding”

Happy New Year! How are you spending the first day of the rest of your life? What is your state of mind? To whom have you said, “I love you”? What will you do with this one precious day?

Part of living a life of thanks-living is being mindful of each day and the gifts–great and small–that present themselves to you and that you present to others. The beginning of a new calendar year is traditionally a time for resolutions and hopefulness. How about mindfulness?

What if…instead of resolving to lose weight, make more money, save more money, find the right partner, get a better job, write that best-selling novel, or whatever else you might want to achieve…what if you simply resolved to be mindful of each precious moment? What if you promised to try and be aware of the gift of each day, one day at a time?

Sure, planning is a good thing, but we twenty-first century, multi-tasking, over-booked, under-capitalized humans tend to get so caught up in looking backwards and forwards that we forget to look straight ahead into the moment. Hey, I’m as guilty as anyone else.

Instead of a resolution this year, I’m simply going to try to live each and every day as if it is the only day I have. After all, we never know how much time we do have, so let’s try to make the most of it. So…

  • Let’s put relationships first and stuff last.
  • Let’s take care of the body we’ve been given by eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising.
  • Let’s look at our work as good and valuable and do the best possible job we can at whatever we do. If you don’t feel like you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, work mindfully at following your passions. If you live and work well, the living will follow.
  • Let’s focus on giving and sharing rather than amassing and hoarding, and
  • Let’s cultivate and nurture our sense of the holy, the spiritual, and the good (what I call faith).

As 2012 ends, however the year was for you, let’s embrace the new beginning of 2013 and make it 365 single days of joy and thanks-living. I look forward to the journey!

Want a little inspiration? Check out this You Tube video:

Photo by Sally Mahoney. Thanks!

Spring Forward? Bring on the Coffee!

I have a confession: tomorrow is my least favorite day of the entire year. Yes, I do NOT like to spring forward. Here’s the deal. I am not a morning person to begin with. My most creative hours are between 9:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. This kind of body clock does not make for a chipper early riser. Each year I loathe the approach of this particular Sunday morning because I do not like to forfeit that extra hour of sleep. Whose lousy idea was daylight saving time anyway? Oh, of course, thank you Benjamin Franklin–grrr. Click here for a brief history of the concept behind DST.

Because I am a pastor, I have no choice but to haul my sorry self out of bed an entire hour earlier and face the day. That said, if any of the parishioners with whom I serve are reading this, I apologize in advance if I seem a bit bleary-eyed in the morning. I am trying to find a reason to be thankful for daylight savings time; I really am, but it is hard. I’m not a farmer, so I don’t need the extra hour of light. I don’t believe that I save that much energy as a result of this time shift, either.

I suppose I can look at it like this:

1) I am blessed to have a working coffee pot and some good, strong, fresh beans to grind.

2) I am fortunate to be able to get out of bed in the morning with legs that work, eyes that see, and a brain that functions (despite the early-riser aversion fog).

3) I am truly blessed to have a vocational calling that I love and a faith community that is a joy to serve. Plus, we ALWAYS have coffee; it’s a Lutheran thing.

4) Spring is coming. The daffodils in the front yard are already blooming and the shrubs have buds. Soon I’ll be able to get the garden going.

5) Simply having time in the form of another day on this planet is a gift.

There now, I did it: I named five reasons to be grateful for that horrid spring forward DST morning. How about you? Do you like to spring forward or fall back?

40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

Carol Roark was my high school art teacher. Just like Mrs. Coulter taught me to love words and story, Mrs. Roark inspired me to see and to create. She also taught a lot of life lessons, too. She practiced active listening, acceptance, and compassion. I always felt valued in her presence, and I looked forward to any time spent in her class. She truly cared about her students. Today I paint with words, but thanks to Mrs. Roark, I will always appreciate visual art and am able to see beauty both in expected and unexpected places and ways.

When I went to college, I actually spent my first semester in the same dorm room that Mrs. Roark lived in when she was a student at the college. Years later, we ended up in the same faith community. Finally, in another twist of faith, I was able to share ministry and mission with Carol Roark when I returned to my home congregation to serve on the pastoral staff. She is still the same delightful teacher, although she now teaches homebound students. Thanks, Mrs. Roark! You made a profound impression on who I am today, and I sm so grateful to you.

Giving Possessions

Today, in honor of Mrs. Roark, I am giving away the accumulated arts and crafts supplies that are sitting around gathering dust. Their purpose is to be used in the creative process, and that’s not happening sitting around in boxes.


Today I am thankful for artists, art, and the act of creation. Artists help us to see the world with fresh eyes and in new ways. All of us have the spark of creativity within us. Unfortunately, too many of us are told at an early age to color within the lines and that we have no talent. What a pity! I think I’ll go make some art today. Maybe I’ll write a poem, too.

Photo by Mike Licht, used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Tending the Body

LORD, you have searched me out; O LORD, you have known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You trace my journeys and my resting places and are acquainted with all my ways.  — Psalm 139:1-3

How do you treat your marvelous body? Do you care for it like the precious gift that it is, or do you neglect, abuse, or disparage it? Do you allow culture to make you feel “less than” perfect and therefore not worthy? Are you thankful for the body you’ve been given? Do you appreciate and attend to the blessing of your physical health and well-being?

If you live in North America, chances are your body is under stress and overworked. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults and one sixth of children in America are obese (30% or higher body fat). What’s really shocking is that in the last 20 years adult obesity rates doubled, while childhood obesity tripled. We live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, yet many of our people are under-nourished and overfed. Skyrocketing blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, depression, and arthritis, and a host of other maladies are on the rise. In fact, seven out of 10 deaths in the U.S. are attributed to chronic disease.

Do you get enough rest? Are you drinking plenty of water? Do you exercise regularly? Is Sabbath a regular part of your weekly plan? Do you even know how to breath correctly?

Our largely sedentary lifestyles are contributing to early death. The “convenience” of cars and affordable fuel prevents us from walking enough, plus our hurried, busy days often end up with a quick buzz through the drive-thru for a fast food dinner that is hastily inhaled. Evenings are more likely to be spent in front of the television instead of walking the neighborhood, gardening, or sports activities.

Yes, I know, I know. Enough doom and gloom. You’ve heard it all before. Well, then why aren’t we doing more about it? Why aren’t we as a culture demanding better health from ourselves? Did we ever imagine that enhanced technology, added convenience, and fast food would put us on the fast track to an early demise?

The good news is that it’s pretty simple to make some basic changes that will result in better health and well-being. Why not make one action a priority for a month and then add another one once you have established a new healthy habit. Consider these simple steps–

  • Get enough rest. Turn off the television, relax, and get seven hours of sleep each night. Teenagers need more than that and usually get much less. Click here for a good article about sleep.
  • Eat well. I like Michael Pollen’s suggestion that if something has more than five ingredients listed on its packaging or you can’t pronounce the ingredients and don’t know what they are, don’t eat it. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, patronize farm markets and local farmers whenever possible, and try growing as much of your own food as you can.
  • Get moving! Walk or ride a bike whenever possible. Would you be surprised to know that New Yorkers have the longest life expectancy in the U.S.? They also walk more than the rest of us. Walking and biking are great exercise, plus you have the added benefit of breathing fresh air and enjoying creation. Try to get 30 minutes of sustained exercise several times a week. Try yoga, pilates, swimming, or the fitness room at your local gym. Find a partner to hold you accountable.
  • Cultivate relationships. Spend time with family and friends. Laugh. Play. Love. Relationships are simply way better than stuff.
  • Most importantly, cultivate your relationship with the One who created you. Carve out daily time for prayer, meditation, scripture or devotional reading.

Be thankful for your body and tend it well. It’s never too late to learn to take better care of yourself. After all, GOD has given you an amazing gift–YOU.

For Further Reflection

Choose one of the suggestions listed above and spend some time thinking, planning, and praying about how you can make simple changes that will show your gratitude for the gift of your body, as well  as help cultivate a spirit of thanks-living.

Photos by spaceamoeba, Joi, and Korean Resource Center used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!


Thankful for Tea and Good Reading!

For the past several days I have been dealing with the annoyance of my biannual sinus infection. It seems to come calling every Advent and Easter. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is the fact that as a pastor I tend to be busier during those two seasons of the year, and I also come into contact with a lot of germs. It seems like half the population of Central Pennsylvania is coughing and/or sneezing and sniffling right now.

When energy and resistance are low, I’ve learned to try to nip the situation in the bud with a quick visit to my family practitioner and an antibiotic. Heaven forbid I should cough and hack during Christmas eve service! I also try (ha!) to get as much extra rest as possible, ingest as much vitamin C as practical, and drink pots of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Sinus Soother Wellness Tea.

It seems to speed the healing when I slow down and sip a warm cup of tea and read a good book. Quite often I’ll find myself dozing off, and that’s alright because sleep is one of the best things to restore health and repair damage at the cellular level. I’ve learned over the years that if I keep pushing myself, I’ll only end up sicker for a longer period of time.

Good reading material another thing I’m thankful for today. I usually keep two or three books in circulation at any given time, a combination of vocational and pleasure reading. Right now I’m enjoying these selections:

The Gospel According to Starbucks: Living Life with a Grande Passion by Leonard Sweet. We’re using this book for discussion at Coffee, Tea, & Theology, Trinity’s book group. Sweet suggests that like Starbucks, Christians need to recapture a true passion for the good news. He uses the acronym E.P.I.C. (experiential, participatory, image-rich, connecting) for how this might be accomplished. Our group is enjoying both the book and the conversation and sense of community. Good stuff!

Living Spaces: Bringing Style and Spirit to Your Home by Marlee Ledai. My mother gave me this book, and I’m just now getting around to reading it and enjoying it thoroughly. Ledai is an spiritual director, life coach, and author. The book deals with appreciating one’s home as the place where God and the reader have taken up residence. Room by room she invites one into an intimate exploration of hearth, home, and soul. In fact, each chapter features a “soul project” activity deepen and personalize the concepts therein.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. My oldest daughter gave me her Nook, and this book was on it. Since I enjoy a good thriller, and the movie is coming out December 21, 2011, I decided to read it. It is a page-turner (well, not with the Nook, even though sometimes I’m so engrossed in the story that I try to turn a page instead of click forward). It will be interesting to see how the film compares to Larsson’s novel.

Finally, here’s a link to a wonderful blog post I read this morning. I follow Alex Blackwell’s blog The Bridgemaker, and I encourage you to read “The Truth about You.” It won’t take long, but you’ll be glad you did. There’s a message here we all need to hear and share. It deals with loving yourself so that you can in turn love your neighbor. Click here to read Alex’s inspiring post.

Well, it’s nap time. I need to work on feeling better because tomorrow is Sunday, and the pastor needs to be on her toes (or at least not croaking like a frog). If you want, share a note about what you’re reading right now and your favorite tea or hot beverage.

Peace and blessing and a grateful heart!

Photos by Harsh Patel, photographer and Celestial Seasonings used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!




Thankful the Busy Day is Done!

Wow! What a busy day it’s been. It seems any time we go on vacation, I spend a couple of days playing catch up when we return. Where do the hours go? Between work, family, and writing the hours just fly by. So tonight, at the end of this long yet good day, I am ready to close these tired eyes and rest.

Yes, sometimes it’s alright to be thankful for something as simple as completing a day successfully. In just a few hours, God willing, I’ll be ready to “get up and do it again” (Thanks, Jackson Browne!).

Thank you, God, for this good day, and thank you that it’s done! Zzzzzzzzzzzz…..a good night’s sleep will be the “cat’s meow”!

(Photo by dcysurfer used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)

Naps are Nice

This afternoon I came home from a very good day at Trinity Lutheran Church and took a long, luxurious nap that was both needed and nice. I was tired in a good way; we had lively conversation in our book discussion group, wonderful worship followed by “Coffee and Conversation,” and then a visit to a dear lady in a nearby nursing home.

I can remember as a young child simply hating naps. Now as an adult I look at naps as a luxury and take every reasonable opportunity to catch a few extra minutes of sleep. Our culture moves so fast that we’ve lost the concept of an afternoon time of rest and rejuvenation. In fact, Americans as a whole do not get enough sleep and suffer from sleep deprivation.

Our bodies are geared for an afternoon nap. According to an article posted on, most people experience natural drowsiness about eight hours after waking. A nap can restore and rejuvenate a person, along with providing some much needed health benefits. The afternoon “siesta” is still the norm in many Latin American and a few European countries.

Maybe we’d all feel better and be more effective by allowing time for a daily power nap of 15 minutes to an hour in length. God commanded us to observe the Sabbath for our own benefit, but most of us fill those extra weekend hours with other activities. What if we took a “mini-Sabbath” every day in the form of a power nap and a prayer, some quiet time with a cup of tea, or 30 minutes of stretching, yoga, and/or meditation? I’d be willing to bet we’d see a drop in stress and a few more smiles.

As for me, I am thankful for today’s nap. Combined with spending time with God, the good folks at Trinity, and my family, it was a wonderful day and a fine start to another week.

How about you? When was the last time you took a nap?

Photo by In My Eyes Photo used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Thankful to “Fall Back”

This is one of my favorite days of the year–that wonderful, amazing, spectacular Sunday when we all collect and extra hour of shut-eye. I know that may sound silly, but it feels like such a luxury to spend those extra 60 minutes in slumber. Even if I’m sort of awake or the dogs are whining to be fed, it still feels like I have somehow cheated time.

Let me explain. I am not a morning person to begin with, so bounding bright-eyed and bushy-tailed out of bed with the first crow of that annoying rooster down the street is not in my frame of reference. For me, morning usually involves stumbling out of bed and not feeling human until ingesting a large cup of coffee.

Sleep is something most of us fail to get enough of anyhow, and it is one of the most important things we can do to take good care of ourselves. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc with your health. According to researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center, chronic sleep loss can “reduce the capacity of even young adults to perform basic metabolic functions such as processing and storing carbohydrates or regulating hormone secretion” (The Lancet, October 23, 1999). In fact these effects are so significant that the researchers noted “changes that resembled the effects of advanced age or the early stages of diabetes–after less than one week.”

It’s a battle to get seven or eight hours of quality sleep each night, but now that I understand the sleep loss/health connection and have experienced its effects first hand through two graduate degrees and a bout with cancer, I really try to be a better steward of my body and mind. After all, each day–even each breath–is a gift of God. We must do our part to attend to and be grateful for the gift of life and health.

That’s why I am thankful to “fall back” one day each year and give thanks for the gift of sleep. Rest well, friends! Your health and maybe even your life depend on it!


Photo by Alan Cleaver used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!