Stretching is not my favorite activity. But I've been hearing about its virtues since what feels like the beginning of time. In elementary school, the physical education teacher always insisted we get warmed up at the beginning of our weekly gym class. Throughout junior high and high school, the athletic coaches began every practice in nearly the same way: "Gather up. It's time to stretch."

Lately, I've been using the Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred workout DVD. She, too, begins levels 1, 2 and 3 of the series with stretching. I'm always tempted to skip a few minutes ahead and get right into the workout. But I don't. Even if I am often too impatient to fully appreciate it, I do recognize the value of alloting time to loosen up the muscles and joints. Jillian says it helps prevent injury as well. An added bonus.

There are other ways we are invited to stretch in life. It's not only our calves and hamstrings that need training and attention. Our whole being is benefitted by activities that stretch us.

When I was in seminary, I had a professor who talked a lot about something called the wholeness wheel. The wholeness wheel represented all the different components that come together to make a whole person. She said each part was valuable and needed to be nourished: financial, physical, social, emotional, vocational, intellectual and spiritual.

I used to think caring for each part of the wheel was optional and unnecessary. As time goes by, I'm realizing how vital it is to take time and stretch each aspect of my being. We are called to be good stewards of the life and body we've been given.

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When a part of my wheel gets neglected, it stiffens up. But with even a small amount of attention and care, I am reinvigorated. The challenge for all of us is to make the time and set the priority.

How have you been stretching lately? Which parts of your personal wholeness wheel have you been warming up in meaningful ways? Are there areas you have been neglecting?

I have a good friend who is participating in a women's Bible study at her church. She allots time every day to read the Bible and use her corresponding study guide. Once a week the whole group gets together. The spiritual and social components of her wholeness wheel are getting a great stretch! And as an added bonus, she is so joy-filled that she literally shines like the North Star.

It's inspiring to witness the new possibilities that come about when people make time to stretch!

There are a few areas of my wholeness wheel that need some attention. Reading used to be a top priority in my life. I always made time for novels, poetry and non-fiction. Thought-provoking discussions about books and current events made my heart swell. But as life filled up, I allotted less time for intellectual pursuits. That's the component I plan to stretch in the weeks ahead.

As we enter into the final month of 2013, take some time to consider your own wholeness wheel. Which pieces are strong and limber? Which could use some extra care?

Stretching isn't just the precursor to a good physical workout. It's a tool whereby to build a healthy, well-balanced life. So be sure to take a little time and stretch!

The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson, a Lutheran pastor in Stewartville. Visit her blog at: theladypastor.com.