Personal Notes from Mike

  • Things around the church are starting to get back to speed, with the start of the school and the return of people who have been traveling around all summer.  I'm still struggling, however, to learn names here.
  • The information for the article this week comes (in part) from a You Tube website: click here to watch it.  It comes from ASAP Science, an interesting enterprise produced by two Canadians.
  • After reading about Herbert Hoover, I got interested in reading more about the economic history of the U.S. and in the history of money.  So I'm working through William N. Goetzmann's

    Money Changes Everything:  How Finance Made Civilization Possible, and Michael Lind's Land of Promise:  An Economic History of the United States.  Both are highly relevant books.  

August 28, 2016
Just Sitting Around
 I am in great danger as I sit and write this letter.  This according to two Canadians who report that sitting can shorten one's life by a decade or more.  (**Perhaps you didn't realize, dear reader, the drastic sacrifice I am making for you, as I sit and create this weekly epistle.)  Alarmed at this warning, I thought I would set my laptop on the shelf here in my home study...forcing myself to stand while I type.  But Earl-the-Cat is sleeping on that shelf, and he won't be disturbed.  So here I sit.
Some factoids:  The average person sits 9.3 hours every day.  But unfortunately, we burn less than one calorie per minute while sitting.  (This is in comparison to 10 calories a minute while climbing stairs, 9 calories a minute while playing tennis, 8 calories a minute while shoveling snow, 7 calories a minute while square dancing, 6 calories a minute during a brisk walk, 5 calories a minute while gardening, 4 calories a minute while playing softball, 3 calories a minute while slow dancing, and 2 calories a minute while playing with your dog, and 1 calorie a minute while eating a partridge in a pear tree.)  Given that the average American eats more than 2000 calories a do the math.
But it gets worse.  After just 2 hours of sitting, your good cholesterol drops and your bad cholesterol and triglyceride counts rise.  The electrical activity in your legs stops.  The enzymes that break down fat are reduced 90%.  Risks of heart disease increase by 64%, and risk of breast or prostate cancer increases by 30%.  

Sitting increases both obesity and the risk of diabetes.  For every hour of TV you watch, you will shorten your healthy life by 23 minutes.  (Each cigarette will take 11 minutes away from you.)  I'm glad I am not like those who sit and smoke while they watch TV!  

As I sit here and write these factoids, I'm starting to feel a little woozy. But I must scoot toward the finish line.  

I thought I might buy a stand-up-desk to do my writing.  But then I came across an article in U.S. News and World Report claiming that there are problems with those.  I started to sit down and read the article, but suddenly got afraid of shutting down too many fat fighting enzymes. 

You would think that vigorous exercise would counter the effects of sitting.  But experts tell us that exercise is no antidote.  In fact, sometimes the body has too much stress when it goes from sitting a long time to doing exercise.  

As my depression started to spike, however, the University of Missouri came to the rescue with this:  fidgeting while you sit can save your life. 
What a surprise:  I always thought fidgeting was bad, especially in church.  The fact that I fidget incessantly is partly why I became a pastor:  I could never sit still in church.  And if you can't sit still in church, the only two things left for you are to become a pastor or an usher.  It's a toss-up as to which is healthier:  pastor or usher.  Even though pastors barely sit during worship, they do end up sitting through an awful lot of meetings.  On the other hand, even though ushers don't have to go to so many meetings, they spend most of the worship service in the hallway eating the donuts.  So I guess its 50-50 on which profession is more hazardous to your health. 
But back to fidgeting.  Fidgeting while you sit on your behind evidently transforms the whole happening into quality derriere time.  The fidgeting offsets the physiological meltdown. 
I expect this whole topic will soon hit churches with a force.  Are padded pews too comfortable for our health?  Shouldn't our seats provoke fidgeting rather than comfort?  And shouldn't we move more in worship:  standing, sitting, kneeling, dancing, tapping our toes, chasing children down the aisles, stretching our arms to pass the offering plate?  

Maybe I could add some controversy in my sermons:  make people fidget more.  It might save their lives.  

Then finally, there is this from the New Testament:  do you remember the time the mother of James and John (two of Jesus' disciples) secretly lobbied him for her two sons to sit with him, one on the right and one on the left?  He tried to warn her:  better for them to face the suffering he was going to face...than to aspire to the dead end enterprise of sitting.  

What would happen to Christianity if we made a new rule:  no sitting.  Or maybe this, do nothing that burns up less than 3 calories a minute.  Think how radical a change would occur.  Church might get more fun, our people would be healthier, and some outsiders might even want in.  Wow!  I need to sit down on that one!  --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS




J. Michael Smith | #3 Western Avenue Heights | Mattoon | IL | 61938