Should You Download Another Productivity App?
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Another productivity app anyone? Maybe a new Markdown editor or todo app for your smartphone? Wait! Before you hit the download button, think again.

There is an upside to an app that works for you. There is also a downside to any app that steals your focus. 

I've certainly felt this. When my work tools are helping me get things done, it fees good. When I'm tempted to test out something new, there is a slight feeling of unrest. There really is a spiritual component to our work.

As Carl Pullein says, your apps should work for you, not the other way around. 

  

To save you time, I've tested out the latest version of Omnifocus (version 3.0) and it's quite strong. That doesn't mean that you should use it but you should watch the video. If you like the app, the OmniGroup is prepping for a May 30th public launch. 

Enjoy the review!

 

 

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About Mike St. Pierre

I teach people how to pray using simple online tools like blogs and video. f you’d like to be included in my regular email with tips and tricks for praying better, you can sign up here.

What Contributes to a Good Quiet Time?
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You sit down to pray and your mind is racing a thousand miles a minute. A sound bothers you. Your stomach rumbles. What was going to be a nice time of prayer is quickly slipping away...

Can you relate?

We’ve talked a lot about the components of a morning quiet time. There are tried and true “parts” to this ancient practice.

What we might take for granted, especially when it comes to morning prayer, are the other factors that can impact a morning quiet time.

I think of the story from St. Therese of Lisieux. During prayers in the chapel, another sister would make a sort of clacking noise which Therese found quite distracting. While at first an annoyance, she found a way to turn the sister’s peculiarities into something pleasant. Over time, she would look forward to the other sister’s noise.

By the way, I had a college roommate who snored like you can’t imagine. A train (snoring) literally came through our room each night! Unlike Therese, I didn’t have the virtue to see his snoring as a gift.

Back to the topic at hand- which factors contribute to your morning quiet time?

Here are four that stand out for me:

1. Sound. What’s going on around you? Are you alone? Is anyone else nearby? How about environmental sounds like birds outside or a train passing by... take note of these things.

2. How you are feeling physically? Are you hungry or tired? Does anything pain you? How is your posture? Take note of these things.

3. Temperature. Are you cold? Hot? Do you need to take off your jacket? Is your belt too tight? Take note of these things.

4. Desire. As you enter into prayer, are you feeling as if you want to pray? Does it feel routine today? Are you happy about this experience? Take note of these things.

We could add probably a dozen other things that impact your daily quiet time. The key is to take note of things, both inside you and outside of you. Then, as with all things, offer the moment and your heart up to the Lord. He will take care of the rest.

10 Strategies for Minimizing Distractions at Church
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There’s a lot going on at church and it can be distracting.  I imagine that for priests, it takes all of the charity in them to have patience with those that come to church.


Think about it,

•  People arrive late

•  Phones go off

•  No one sits in the front rows

•  People read the bulletin during Mass

•  People are chewing gum

•  And the list goes on and on!


Notice that I didn’t add crying babies to the list- at least they have a good excuse for not paying attention to what’s happening while church is “in session”.  The rest of us?  Not so much.


From a prayer perspective, church is hard.  We feel like we should be able to pray while we are at Mass.  We probably want to pray but there are just so many distractions.  It’s also hard to simply leave our busy lives at the door and then flip the switch into prayer mode.


As you can imagine, I do have some recommendations for how you can make your next visit to church more prayerful.


1.  Leave your phone in the car. Unless it’s the dead of winter (or summer) and you deliver babies for a living, you can probably get away with leaving your phone in the car. 

2.  Check yourself before walking in the door.  Take a breath.  Remember that your life is about to take on new meaning.  Pause.

3.  Make a profound sign of the cross.  Don’t rush through this ancient practice of the church.  Make a slow sign of the cross.

4.  Give yourself permission to close your eyes.  Not while you’re walking! Rather, when you are kneeling or sitting in prayer, give yourself permission to listen, to pray and to be focused with your eyes closed.

5.  Choose a spot that will minimize distractions. This will, of course, depend on your church.  One church I visit has a terrible spot right by the air conditioning floor vents while another is too close to the choir.  Find a spot that works for you.

6.  At the sign of peace, make someone’s day with a smile.  Don’t rush through this moment... make a brief connection through your joyful smile.

7.  Listen with eagerness to the readings.  Really enter into this moment and use the books in the pew if that is helpful.

8.  As you are walking up for communion, develop a prayer mantra.  Ask God to make you a better person.  Tell Him how you feel about your relationship with Him.

9.  After communion, enter into this moment.  Close your eyes and just be with the Lord.  This is sacred time.

10.  10 minutes after Mass, try to remember that you’ve just received the Lord in communion.  I often forget that I’m supposed to live, in faith, as a changed man after I have received communion.  Be mindful of this. Speak with charity.  Express gratitude. Be patient with yourself and others. 


What strategy would you add to this list? How do you minimize distractions at church?

prayer, Noise, FaithMike StPierre
Resources, Role Models and Routines
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In his recent exhortation, Pope Francis talks about the context of becoming holy.  He wants us to ask, 

  • Can I become holy in the midst of my busy, daily schedule?
  • Do I need to become a nun or a priest in order to be holy?
  • What is a realistic path for me to become holy?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly asked these questions over the years.  As I get older, I see my daily life, with its warts and blessings, as the “container” for me to become holy.  

As an encouragement, the Holy Father points to the ultimate context for learning the be holy: the Church.  He says,

In the Church, holy yet made up of sinners, you will find everything you need to grow towards holiness.” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 15)

If you were trying to get in shape, where would you turn?  Most likely to a gym with personal trainers and a community that supports you.  Right?  This may explain why CrossFit is so popular in the United States- it offers just the right amount of support and guidance for getting fit.

Pope Francis is telling us that the Church is the “gym” for individuals who want to become not just more prayerful but more human, more whole.  St. Iraneaus famously said, “The glory of God is a human being, fully alive.”  This is holiness, to be fully alive and rooted in Christ.

To do this, we need three things: Resources, Role Models and Routines.  The Church provides all three and in subsequent posts, we will explore each in detail.

In the meantime, spend some time today considering the ways in which the Church is your personal gym for growing in holiness.  

How Prayer is Like Productivity
 
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There’s a lot of talk around a new version of OmniFocus that is coming out soon.  If you’re not familiar, OmniFocus is a productivity app that is quite popular with enthusiasts of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology.  Because of its following online, OF will likely get a hero’s welcome when it finally is released.

People will download it.  About a week later, many of those same folks will stop using it.  Life will have gotten busy.  The shine will have worn off. Old habits will creep back in.  That powerful new productivity app will feel somehow, “ordinary”.

Folks will realize that, at the end of the day, no app can do the work for you.  You are the one who has to do the work. 

How similar is this to prayer? Let me share a story to answer that from my own life. 

A visit to my spiritual director a few months ago had me complaining about one thing or another.  The man is an absolute saint for putting up with me.  I don’t know how he does it.  When I came up for air and stopped talking, he calmly said, “and have you been praying about this?”

Right... praying about it, that would have helped. 


Pray as if everything depends on God, work as if everything depends on you.
— St. Ignatius of Loyola

What he was really saying is this, “you can’t expect God to step in and make your problems go away if you’re not even willing to do the slightest bit of work”.

I’ve heard that mantra many times in the months since then, you have to do the work, you have to do the work, you have to do the work.

In this way, productivity and prayer are very similar.  There is one significant difference that is probably obvious by now.  With productivity, it’s all about you and your colleagues.  When it comes to prayer, God is in charge.  He’s doing the heavy lifting.  His grace is mysterious and can be hard to figure out.  His ways, as the passage says, are not always our ways. 

Still, you’ve got to do the work.

 
7 Sincere Ways to End Your Prayers
 
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We’ve talked about easy ways to begin your prayers. (hereBut what should you do at the end of your time of prayer?

Think about it another way- you’re at dinner with someone very important. After you pay the bill, you wouldn’t walk out of the restaurant without saying anything. Rather, you would be sure to thank the other person, look him in the eye and leave things on a good note.

It’s no different with prayer.

After you’ve spent 10,20 or even 30 minutes in prayer, how you “leave things” with God is worth some thought. The following are seven ways that you could conclude your prayer:

1. With a formal prayer. This could be as simple as the Our Father or a prayer from a saint that is meaningful to you.

2. With a quote or mantra. Do you have a saying that resonates with you? Is there a line that moves your spirit?

3. With the sign of the cross. Enough said here- you can never go wrong with the sign of the cross.

4. In silence. While Mother Teresa said that at least half of our time (in prayer) should be spent in silence, there’s nothing like concluding your time with the Lord in silence.

5. By looking at an icon. You might place an icon in your prayer spot and conclude your prayer by gazing at the icon- taking a long, meaningful look at its deeper message.

6. By writing. In your journal, you might conclude your time of prayer by writing down something similar each day. I like to do this and it brings a sense of closure and a “sending off” to the day.

7. By invoking a saint. I will often conclude my prayer by asking for the prayers from Mary, St. Joseph, my Guardian Angel and St. Michael the Archangel. Who might you ask for prayers?

The key in all this is simple- be thoughtful and find what feels right for when you conclude your prayers.