Day Two: Devotions, Daughters, & Dogs

For more than three years I have used Murray D. Finck’s Stretch and Pray program. Granted, I go through periods where I practice this discipline more faithfully than other times, but I keep returning to it because it works. Finck is an ELCA bishop (Pacifica Synod), and he developed Stretch and Pray out of his experience on a four-week mini-sabbatical/pilgrimage to Thailand and Nepal led by Roy Oswald of the Alban Institute. At that time Finck suffered from chronic back pain from an injury that occurred 20 years earlier. On the trip, the participants began each morning with a series of stretches, postures, aerobic exercises and prayers. By the end of the trip, Finck’s pain was gone.

He is quick to point out that these sort of results may not happen for everyone, but I can attest to the benefits of Stretch and Pray. When I incorporate the program into my daily routine, I feel better — mentally, physically, and spiritually. It is a wonderfully simple, invigorating yet relaxing routine. I especially like the prayer postures at the end.

Honoring Relationships

I have two for day two — relationships to honor, that is. Today I want to give thanks for my daughters. They were born six years apart on the same day. I’ve known them for 24 and 18 years respectively, and they have taught me much about what it means to love, to be fully present, to be human, and to forgive (myself and others). I am proud to be their mother, and I am proud of who they are and are becoming. Thanks, ladies!

Giving Possessions

Today is your opportunity to have a copy of the Stretch and Pray DVD. I have decided to give my copy away to a reader. I have only used the DVD a few times, so I want to pass it on to someone who might benefit from it rather than have it collect dust on the shelf. Leave a comment at the end of this post. I’ll randomly select a name on Sunday, February 26, and then pass this copy along to the winner.


I am thankful for dogs, especially Pete and Dexter. Pete is our Springer Spaniel, and Dex belongs to my oldest daughter but has been living with us while she’s been overseas. A wise colleague in ministry once said that all ministers should have a dog. Why? Because at the end of a long, draining day a dog will still greet you at the door like you’re the most important person in the world. A dog will give you unconditional love and will never criticize or judge. This is true; however, Pete will eat anything that resembles food and isn’t nailed down, and Dexter will chew socks, books, and furniture. Oh, well! One can’t have everything.

Thankful for Exercise

Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. — Hebrews 12:11-13

Exercise, for me, is something that’s easily pushed aside on busy days. I’ll waive my yoga routine if it means an extra half-hour of sleep. If it’s too cold, I’m much more tempted to stay inside rather than get out and walk a couple of miles. If I have looming deadlines, I won’t go near the Airdyne. I can find many excuses not to drive that eight miles to the YWCA where we have a family membership. I just sigh and chalk it up to a busy lifestyle and multiple commitments and maybe have another cup of coffee.

When I neglect exercise, I put in motion an unhealthy cycle. The less exercise, the more likely I am to feel additional stress since I am not releasing those lovely endorphins. When I go several days without yoga, my body becomes tight, tense, and stiff. Even my breathing is affected when I neglect the deliberate focus provided by my semi-regular Stretch and Pray routine. The more stressed I’m feeling, the more likely I am to overeat and consume too much caffeine.

I’m trying to rethink my approach to exercise this year and make self-care a real priority. As a pastor and cancer survivor I know the importance of self-care, but I sometimes fail to act on that knowledge. I neglect to show gratitude to my Creator when I fail to properly care for my body, a part of God’s good creation. I neglect to love myself and treat myself as a person of worth and beauty. I also potentially cheat my loved ones of the best I can give them when I fail to properly care for myself.

Exercise is one important part of the good health picture. It is my right and my responsibility to take care of this body. I am thankful to have reasonably good health right now. I am thankful to be able to exercise. Now, I just need to make sure it remains a priority for this year of thanks-living and beyond.

For Further Reflection

Ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly.

  • How often do you exercise?
  • What sort of exercise do you prefer?
  • How important do you believe it is to take good care of your body?
  • Is there a disconnect between what you think and what you do?
  • What changes might you need to make this year to ensure you are getting enough exercise?
  • What one step can you take starting today to take better care of your health through exercise?

Photo by whologwhy used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Thankful for Every Breath

Today I am simply thankful for every breath. The older I become the more acutely aware I am that each breath is a gift from God. Breathing is necessary for life yet we take this simple and profound act for granted. Most people take 16-20 breaths per minute. That means we take more than 24,000 breaths per day. Of course, there are a lot of variables involved, and most people breath too frequently and shallowly

I try to incorporate Stretch and Pray into my daily routine. When I do, I become more aware of my breathing, particularly in the last portion that focuses on prayer and meditation. This program, designed by ELCA Bishop Murray Finck, combines stretching, yoga, breathing, and prayer and is a great way to begin the day. Taking time to focus on deep breathing reminds me of the gift of the Spirit.

Breathing, or respiration, both supplies our organs with oxygen necessary to sustain life and helps to remove toxins from our bodies. It is part of the wonderful design of our bodies. With attention to breathing correctly, one can improve health and well-being AND reduce stress. Click here for a detailed explanation of correct breathing.

Today, give thanks for the ability to breath. Celebrate the gift of life. Take a few minutes to sit quietly and focus on each breath. Feel your stress and worries lighten with each exhalation. Try this simple prayer: As you breathe in think “God is good, all the time.” As you exhale think “All the time, God is good.” Another option is to pray the “Jesus Prayer”: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Pray the first half as you inhale, and the second half with each exhalation.

Finally, if you have access to Rob Bell’s Nooma series, watch “Breathe.”  Here’s a link to the entire segment on Daily Motion.

Photo by shawnzrossi used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!