Archive for November, 2009

Holiday Readings: The Winter Solstice

November 30, 2009 - 1:47 pm 6 Comments

Moving Toward Solistice
We have done what we could: Walked on these golden leaves let drop barren tress, and by the cycle of the seasons of time. We have been touched now by the sharp winds and are dazzled by the glint of moonlight on the fresh snows.
We notivce the furtive cry of a ragged raven who sits up in the beech tree…
On this night, there is a full blown moon on the horizon, and as it creeps ever upward into the frosty sky, it seeks out its starry companions, holding watch over the night. On its way, its ascend is intermingled with wood smoke, tree branches, and a few restless, wandering clouds.
The crest of the year is upon us, the harvest is over, and the awaiting of
Spring is before us… We have lived our appointed times, we arrive at the endings of the of the year…. And the rebirth of the next year’s advancing light… We cannot stay the solistice, nor refuse its messages to us.
Adapted from Elizabeth Searle Lamb

Winter Solistice by J. Barrie Shepherd
Nothing stands still.
Least of all the measuring Sun for all the way, this time of year, She seems to linger round horizons far too long.
While that river no one steps into twice, might be stepped onto fairly firmly With some sense of permanence, these late Advent fridgid mornings
Nothing stands still.
And yet, between one frosted breath and its successor, one creaking wingflap and the next of that ancient crow scavenging against the whitening sky, a stopping can take place, a holding operation, Looking around and catching breath before the next whatever that can save the day, season, year, a life from tedium and transform it into Te Deum.

Tips & Guidelines to Defeat Holiday Weight Gain!

November 30, 2009 - 1:41 pm 9 Comments

10 Effective Tips for Emotional Eaters

1. Ask yourself, “Am I really hungry or just bored?” Recognize real hunger. Is your hunger physical or mental? If you just ate (less than three hours ago) and don’t have a rumbling stomach, it’s probably not real hunger. Drink some water, get up, move, and occupy your mind with a task, wait a few minutes and chances are the craving(s) will pass.

2. Journal. For the next several days, write down the foods you ate, when, portion sizes, mood, and hunger level. Over time, patterns can emerge that will help reveal negative eating patterns and patterns to avoid. By journaling you may uncover a negative pattern similar to, “I was stressed all day at work. When I got home, I turned on the TV, got comfortable, ate an entire large pizza (dinner), snacked on Hershey’s Miniatures (a whole bag), ate a container of Ben & Jerry’s, and then went to bed.” Journaling offers tremendous insight. I encourage you to begin. It will help identify weaknesses in order to begin building strengths.

3. Don’t always turn to food for comfort. Instead of candy, cookies, pie, or cake, take a walk, treat yourself to a manicure, facial, massage, or call a friend. Plan enjoyable events with friends that do not revolve around food. Go on hike, bike ride or walk. Get out in the fresh air and move. Exercise releases feel good hormones in your body that zap cravings and make you feel great… without loading your body with fattening calories.

4. Clean up your “toxic zone.” When temptation is not lurking in the cupboards and pantry, starchy, high-calorie, high-fat comfort foods aren’t as likely to be eaten. You can’t eat it if it’s not there. Don’t keep bad, unhealthy foods in the house. If you do, when you’re tired or stressed, and at your weakest, you’ll find yourself indulging in these foods—and you’ll feel worse later because of it.

5. Choose healthy snacks. When eating between meals, choose a quality snack that is “slower absorbing.” By choosing slower absorbing foods you will feel full longer and avoid spikes in your insulin levels. When you eat high carbohydrate foods and spike your insulin levels you experience an immediate sugar high (you feel good) and then about an hour or so later you crash and burn (you feel bad, tired, sleepy and lethargic). This is the infamous peak and valley syndrome. It wreaks havoc on you mentally and physically (metabolism). A perfect example of good “slow absorbing foods” is: a handful of almonds, walnuts, or pecans with ½ cup cottage cheese or low-fat yogurt.

6. Eat five mini meals (a balanced diet). If you’re not getting enough calories to meet your energy needs, you may be more likely to give in to emotional eating. Eat at regular times and every three hours. Eating at three-hour intervals is an excellent way to combat food cravings. Also, never skip breakfast. When you do, you slow your body’s metabolism down and set yourself up for bingeing and poor nutritional choices later. Include a variety of foods. Emphasize whole grains, fruits, vegetables, as well as low-fat dairy products (several recent studies have given a lot of credit to dairy and weight loss), and lean protein sources. When there is variety you do not feel deprived and you’re more likely to feel fuller, longer.

7. Consistent exercise. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. With less stress our mood and emotions are more manageable. When our body is fit and well rested we can more effectively handle stress. Consistent exercise releases endorphins or feel good hormones that help zap cravings and feelings of hunger. Lastly, exercise provides a sense of taking back control over your life. After beginning and sticking to even a modest exercise program, people often describe a sense of mastery over themselves, their body, and their lives. So, workout to an exercise video, or get out and walk each day. It really doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, as long as you enjoy it so you’ll do it consistently. I recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day. To lose weight faster, bump it up to an hour.

8. Focus on progress and not perfection. If you occasionally give in to emotional eating, forgive yourself, learn from it, and put it behind you. Get right back on track at your next meal. Stop harboring the guilt and let it go. You can’t keep blaming yourself. It happened, let it go, move on.

9. Express instead of eat. If a stressful day, event, or news has happened and it’s steering you towards temptation, talk to a friend about it, or, write about it in a private journal (or share it with others at this site). Allow yourself to open up, vent, and get it off your chest. Don’t suppress what happened. This will only lead you down a path of overeating. It is my experience that many emotional overeaters do so because they tend to “bottle up” there emotions instead of express them. Start expressing and you’ll stop overeating.

10. Confront unresolved issues. When we do not face our past issues, they continue to resurface. If your eating is getting more and more out-of-control, you may need professional guidance. A professional can help determine why you are using food as a way of dealing with emotional turmoil and help you confront unresolved issues. Overeating and eating for emotional reasons can be controlled. Don’t let it continue to a point where it’s destroying your body and life. If you think there are emotional issues to your weight problem, another diet isn’t the answer. You need to focus on making changes and getting your past off your plate. Your local phone book is a great place to find a psychologist or nutritionist who specializes in helping people deal with past issues that may be the cause of constant overeating.

Take Christmas! There He Sat, Yes, Virginia! The Christmas Creed, and Other Holiday Readings

November 30, 2009 - 1:26 pm 8 Comments

Take Christmas
Take Christmas; Take the ancient, the medieval, and the modern
Take what is sacred, secular, solemn, and silly
Take Teutonic evergreen and Persian sun, and Druidic mistletoe
Take Jewish flame, and Greek feast, and Roman presents
Take a Bethlehem babe in a stable surrounded by shepherds and kings, with a brilliant star overhead
Take a mid-eastern saint transformed through the centuries to being a red-suited jolly elf with a sackful of toys and reindeer sleigh
Take music from as many countries as the imagination can grasp
Take Amdahl and Scrooge and Rudolph
Take the lighted tree and the punch bowl and greeting cards
Take carolers and charitable gifts and candlelight services
Take all or any part of this holiday
Take its light, its courage, its hope, its joy, its peace, its goodwill.
Take Christmas– but to take it, you must give it , too!
Christopher Raible

There He Sat

There he sat, red suit, conical hat, fur trimmed and all… On that chilly park bench, glancing skyward, as though he were assessing the chance for snow.

I sat beside him, and I asked him, Why aren’t you out there, on the corner, with your iron pot and bell?

Oh, I am not one of them” he replied… I happen to BE Santa Claus!

I quickly smiled, but my doubt must have showed.

“I really am,” he said, a trifle wistfully.

“But how can I tell if you are the real Santa Claus?”

“That is the question”, said he, “How to tell the true prophet from the false?”

“But do you really live at the North Pole?”

“Legend”, he replied, “The fact is that I am everywhere.”

“Are you omniscient and omnipotent?”

“No, I think you have mistaken me for a friend of mine.”

A little embarrassed, I yet persisted, ” Perhaps you only THINK you are Santa Claus.

Well, that would be my problem, not yours. But I might point out that there are no children around.”

“That is odd”, I conceded.
“The reason”, he said, “is that I cannot be seen.”

Like a chess player yelling checkmate, I said, “I see you!”

“And that is your problem, not mine”

We both looked up into the sky.

“It might snow,” he said, “Its better when it snows. But snow or not, I must be going.”

“Going Where?”, I asked. “To distribute toys, of course!

One last question: What IS the spirit of Christmas?

“Well, if you want to sound scholarly, you might call it the ultimate potential. It is the moment when the best that is human surmounts all the stumbling blocks on the path to becoming your full and true self.
You care, so you help. You love, so you give. And you dream… You dream of the time when this brief season will be extended to the whole year.”

“Don’t you get discouraged?”

“Dear me, I have only been at this for a few centuries. Give me time.”

Then he called out: Blizten, Blitzen! Where is that darted deer?

Suddenly, there came, a cloud of snow, right upon us …
And when I had wiped my eyes clear, I was alone on the bench.
But there, in the new snow, there were hoof marks, and there was one large dry spot on the bench….

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus!
By Charles Dana of the New York Sun 1897

Dear Virginia;
Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or women’s are little.

In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary the world would be if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias!

There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance, to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light within with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies!
You might get your Papa to hire men to watch in chimneys on Christmas evening to catch Santa Claus, but even if you do not see Santa coming down, what would that prove?

Nobody ever sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor adults can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that is no proof they are not there.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle, and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.

Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory behind it. Is it real? Ah, Virginia, in all the world there is nothing more real or abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God, he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia…
Nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

A Christmas Creed
We believe that mistletoe is more significant than missiles
We believe that the Bethlehem star outshines our satellites
We believe that the gifts of the wise men have not suffered from inflation;
We believe that the fear of the shepherds is more healthy than the fear of rockets
We believe that Joseph’s dreams shall outwit Herod’s hate
We believe that our journey to the manger is more important than a trip to the moon . Frederick W. Ringe

Some Thanksgiving Words for Dinner Table Sharing

November 20, 2009 - 9:53 am 8 Comments

Thanksgiving Table Statements

1) The celebration of Thanksgiving is our cultural expression of appreciation for what life has given us. It is our time to express gratitude for the earth’s bounty, for our personal well-being, for our free nation, and for our various spiritual and religious communities…

Thanksgiving to me means….. Personal words…..

2) In our thankfulness, we learn of God’s grace. By being sincere, we keep a bond of respect and trust with the earth, and with all the good of Creation. In expressing gratitude for our abundance, and for the privileges bestowed and unearned, we affirm that ” having anything is a trust, and sharing what we have is a must.”

Thanksgiving to me means……. Personal Words

3) Thanksgiving can also be a time of introspection and sorrow. We look deep within ourselves to find a sense of purpose and meaning to our life events and experiences. We realize that the things that truly count are the things we cannot buy. It is a holiday that points to who or what might be missing from our lives. We take this time to recall the essentials of love and life, and for gratefully remembering those who gave us their blessings by sharing their love and life with us….

Thanksgiving for me means….. Personal words

4) As Americans, we prize the heritage of a free country and the free expression of worship. We use the occasion of Thanksgiving to express our gratitude for our nation’s best aspirations, and for our country’s finest qualities. Also, we wish to give thanks for religious freedom in our lives…
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday; it is a symbolic celebration of cooperation and peace. It commemorates no war, no deaths, no battle victory. It is our celebration of gratitude for a free country and for our freedom to believe in our own ways…

Thanksgiving means to me…. Personal Words……

An Ecumenical Thanksgiving Homily: Greeting The Day With Gratitude

November 20, 2009 - 9:45 am 5 Comments

An Ecumenical Thanksgiving Homily: Greeting The Day With Gratitude
Each Day of our lives can be filled with hope or be seen as being rich with blessings. These blessings are those thoughts and feelings that nourish our hearts and souls.
The source of those feelings is found in the rich resources of gratitude. Gratitude is one of the chief virtues within Christianity. As the Gospel clearly suggests, it is the preface to any of Jesus’ miracles, to Communion, to feeding the 5000, and giving thanks to God often precedes any healing, or efforts at church renewal. Gratitude is our guideline for affirming what is truly good in our lives today.
Gratitude in its simplest manifestation is what the poet ee cummings called the willingness to say “Yes” to life. It is found at the basis for any real optimism, any expectation that is respect worthy, and it is the foundation of our free church’s faith and belief in following Christ. As Christians, we diligently and sincerely attempt to model our lives based on Jesus’ gratitude to God and his compassionate attitude towards others.
On a more personal level, our daily outlook will often determine the amount and the quality of our grateful feelings. The thoughts and feelings we embody will comprise the dawning of each day’s hopes and aspirations, each day’s aims and goals.
When we wake up, or on arising each morning, can we say with the Psalmist, ” This is the day the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad”? I hope that you can. Doe you take time or give attention to greet other people warmly, to count your blessings, or at least be grateful for what is good and right in your life, rather than immediately begin to dwell on duties and obligations, or focus on what irritates you or what is wrong with today?

As we become more conscious of the positive and sustaining values, the love and hope we share, we pave the way for a greater understanding and appreciation of God’s grace, and for our part in sustaining the goodness and the truth we can find living in God’s world.
When we wake up, or while we are standing at the bathroom mirror, taking the time to get our physical appearance just the way we like it, do you look at your reflection and give yourself a big, warm smile?
Do you stop and ask yourself, what am I grateful for today? Even if all that comes to mind is that its Monday, its cold or rainy, or that it is some famous person’s birthday… whatever comes to mind,… Can you rearrange your thinking so that you can you smile, accept yourself and be positively expectant of what blessings might be in store for you, then begin to celebrate another day of life? Life cannot be so bad or sad that you cannot find something to give thanks for while you are standing there.
If you have another moment, after giving thanks to God, or whatever you consider to be your source for Good, and after finding something that you are personally thankful for, take a little time to go deeper, or expand your thought a little wider and include the efforts to stop hunger and homelessness, to end violence and world strife. Lastly, I ask that you end your considerations with your gratitude for this church community, for your willingness to be a positive contributor to its future, so that we might extend, grow and serve others.
Greeting the day with gratitude is a divinely authored request. It is given to us that we might experience the blessings of inner peace and outer harmony. Gratefulness is the heart of prayer, and its aim is to promote love today and each day of our lives. Without gratitude, life can become cynical or opportunistic. The nine lepers might have remained healed, but it was the one who offered thanks that Jesus considered to be a more spiritual and heartfelt act of faith.

Here’s a small example from my life, one I will have to continue to work on, but its an expression of gratitude that relieves my anxiety whenever I remember …
When I am faced with having to pay yet another staggering utility bill, (mortgage payment, etc.), instead of dwelling on its ability to break the budget or drain the checkbook, I try to feel some gratitude for a warm house or whatever the service is that is being provided to me. I try to marvel at how the gas came to my heater, and the electricity for my lights. When I succeed, there is a feeling of appreciation for modern miracles that had previously escaped me.
Thanksgiving for me can mean the joy and appreciation that can be found putting more of God’s wonderful provisions in each day; more than I can ever recall or thank I can give enough thanks for, knowing that the Holy Spirit abides forever. God’s love is eternal, and by my willingness to acknowledge those blessings, I can tap into the greatest , constant source for blessings in life. Such understanding allows me to begin to express the qualities of God or Soul at work inside and out, in whatever way life has in store for any of us that day.
Our gratitude for what each day holds, helps us to care for things larger than ourselves, care for institutions, for charities, for all the ways humanity and Nature are benefited from our concern. As we learn to act out of gratitude, which is to say, when we learn to act out of the measure of grace given to us, we can create and sustain a culture that truly seeks to become God’s kingdom among us. Such gratitude lifts each of us and this church community up, and provides us with what we truly need for our lives. Such is the message of Thanksgiving, today, and everyday….
(Invitation to congregation to share what you are grateful for in your lives…)