While January is sort of a let-down month for some people, I, personally, find it to be one of my favorite times of the year. With all of the hopes and possibilities that lie before me, I experience it to be quite energizing! Since, over the last several years, this has paired up with the beginning of the 16-week marathon training plans I began each January, I need all the energy I can get.
This year, however, I chose to take on a different kind of “marathon training plan.”
Rather than physically train in order to run a marathon, I decided to register at the beginning of January for a 15-week intensive online course focused on “Digital and Collaborative Teaching and Learning.” Plus, just to make sure I wanted to commit myself to such an undertaking (one in which I would have never imagined enrolling… kind of like when I signed up for my first marathon), I took a free, one-week online course on “Transforming Digital Learning” and loved it.
In other words, this year, I decided (God called me) to take on the challenge of 16 weeks of intense sitting (or standing) in front of my laptop and persevering through each and every mental “workout” (homework assignment) so that I could become better equipped to serve in the ministry (vocational marathon) to which God has called me… despite the numerous hours I had already spent in front of my screen due to COVID!
So how is my training going as I’m about to enter week 7 (almost halfway done)? My brain and body are exhausted, but I am loving the experience every step of the way… most of the time!
As a result of taking the class, I have found some new favorite ministry tools and resources, and wanted to share 4 of them with you:
Audacity: a free, easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder.
Canva: featuring a SUPER user-friendly interface, this free resource allows you to create flyers, social media posts, videos, cards, presentations, photo collages, and more.
Padlet: an online digital bulletin board (and so much more!)
OpenShot: a free, open-source, easy-to-use video editor.
And, another result of participating in my online course “marathon training program” is that, despite my best efforts, I’ve found myself having to be even more mindful of my screen time and lack of movement (again, COVID had already made that challenging enough).
Here are some resources that have helped me address both of these health challenges:
Again, since there are so many wonderful tools and resources available for us to use in our various ministries (whether it is serving in churches, nonprofits, as chaplains, or something else), I hope that one or two of these will be helpful for you. Please take a moment and share your favorites via the Padlet link!
Peace be with you wherever your ministry takes you!
Karen H. Webster
HSHC Co-founder/Executive Director
* Please note: following any of the links in this post will take you to sites containing third-party content.
By: Karen Webster
Note: All of these recipes contain a lot of olive oil. Consider adding 1-2 Tablespoons to start with and adjust as needed to suit your palate.
Recipes from The Greek Vegan
Fasting has definitely become a buzzword over the last several years (social media, books, casual conversations, and beyond) and is something that I started gaining an interest in over 10 years ago while I was participating in a spiritual formation program offered jointly through Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Columbia Theological Seminary. While the current fasting trend is primarily focused on the physical effects of fasting, fasting for one’s overall health has been around for centuries. Since we just finished the Advent and Christmas season, which has traditionally been a season of fasting followed by feasting, and will shortly be entering Lent, also a time of fasting followed by feasting, I thought that this would be an appropriate time to share a few fasting facts to chew on.
Through the spiritual and physical act of fasting, our lives can be filled in amazing ways!
While I don’t have space here to discuss how fasting fell out of practice among Christians, which I find to be a fascinating topic in and of itself, fasting has virtually disappeared from our modern life (secularly and religiously) for a variety of reasons. I think this is a shame because, at least for me, the discipline of fasting has greatly enriched my life in ways I would never have anticipated.
In this season of new beginnings, and with Lent coming soon, I want to encourage you to consider participating in some sort of fast and/or abstinence practice. I am certainly looking forward to doing so, myself!
Karen H. Webster
HSHC Co-founder/Executive Director
“Behind every fitting choice of abstinence lies the question, what do I do to excess? What I do to excess reveals my inordinate desires, my compulsions, the attachments that have control over me. They are precisely the areas of my life that need the freeing lordship of Christ rather than my own abysmally ineffective efforts of control. Fasting is not primarily a discipline through which I gain greater control over my life, but one through which God gains access to redirect and heal me in body, mind, and spirit.”
Marjorie J. Thompson, Soul Feast
Want to Learn More? Here are a few resources you may find to be helpful:
The Spiritual Disciple of Fasting
Fasting and Physical Health
Christian-Oriented Books That Discuss Fasting
Thompson, Marjorie J. Soul Feast, Newly Revised Edition: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life (Sept. 26, 2014).
¹ Please note: while I enjoy talking about this subject, I am not an expert in this field. Therefore, please speak with your healthcare provider before engaging in any form of food fasting, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.
⁴ https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fasting-benefits In addition, there is increasing scientific and clinical evidence suggesting that fasting may be a way of addressing a number of health challenges, such as obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, certain auto-immune diseases, cancer, and more. Check out some of the articles listed in the resource section for more information.
Photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash
This past spring, my husband and I moved to Pennsylvania after having lived in the South for the past eleven years.
One of the changes I found myself recently needing to take advantage of was a forecasted warmer fall day to finish preparing our garden for the upcoming winter months.
Up until that point, I had already pushed off the task of laying a blanket of mulch on our garden to protect our newly established fruit bushes and other perennial plants for several weeks, in part because I didn’t feel like working outside in the cooler weather, but even more because I had been constantly feeling the pressure to get my work done – deadlines were looming, and I was already anticipating the stress that comes from the busyness of the holiday season.
However, between the gift of a warmer day and the extended weather forecast, which was projecting some very cold upcoming nights, I found myself no longer able to… Click to Read More
It is hard to believe that in a little over two weeks it will be Thanksgiving, which officially kicks off the traditional franticness of the holiday season, and before we know it Christmas presents will have been unwrapped and the ringing in of the new year completed. While there are many aspects of the holiday season that are joyful and are fun to anticipate, it is also important to acknowledge that we are also entering into our second COVID impacted holiday season. A time where we will be combining the “normal” stress of the holiday season plus dealing with the chronic stress of dealing with COVID, which has caused: increased anxiety, depression, fatigue, restless sleep, stress eating, decreased physical activity, and more.
One the one hand, this may look like the perfect storm for our overall health and wellbeing. On the other hand, if we take a few minutes now and commit ourselves to doing several small (and manageable!) caring-for-self practices throughout the holiday season (click here for some tips and ideas), not only will we feel much better in the midst of the stressful season, but we will also be able to enjoy the celebration of Christ’s birth and excitement of the new year more fully!
In addition, due to the chronic stress that many of us have and will be facing, we hope you will check out some of the other stress-oriented articles, resources, as well as the information about our new 6-week “Restore and Renew: Strategies for Stress” program (starting in mid January) found in this stress edition of our newsletter.
Karen and Travis Webster
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Stress-less Holiday Recipes:
Let’s face it, cooking during the holidays can be stressful enough, but it can be even more stressful when family, friends, and other guests have various allergies and/or dietary sensitivities that need to be considered when meal planning.
To help reduce that stress, we’ve provided a few websites with recipes that are both plant-based AND avoid some of the most common food allergies.
16 Allergy-Friendly Plant-Based Holiday Recipes!
14 Healthy Vegan, Gluten-Free and Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes
*This last site addresses many food sensitivities/preferences like dairy, eggs, and seafood, but the recipes may need to be modified to address some of the other common allergies (gluten, soy, nuts, coconut, etc.)
Recipe from PlateJoy
By: Karen Webster
Ingredients (original ingredients in parenthesis):
Recipe adapted from PlateJoy
(Makes 12 muffins)
Ingredients (original ingredients in parentheses):
Recipe adapted from “500 cupcakes” by Fergal Connolly
One of our commitments as an organization is to conduct research specifically focused on the current state of seminarian health and wholeness. In the summer and fall of 2020, Travis Webster (HSHC co-founder) conducted his dissertation research study* among seminarians who attend Christian seminaries and divinity schools in the United States. The purpose of his study was to explore whether the factors that contribute to pastoral unhealth are already present in pastoral formation. While Travis is closing in on finishing his dissertation, we did not want to wait any longer to share some of what he discovered! Here is a “sneak peek” at some of his results.
Note: very little research has been done on the health of seminarians. Therefore, we believe that the information Travis has gathered will positively contribute to addressing the overall health and wellbeing of seminarians, clergy, and congregations.
*Travis anticipates graduating from Columbia Theological Seminary in May 2022 with a doctoral degree in pastoral counseling.