My Morning Routine

Morning routines- we all have them. Even if you feel as if you’re not a morning person, you probably have a set of things that you do each morning.  

Ordinary things, like brushing our teeth and having breakfast... these fill our day if we just notice them. You may even have an evening routine too. 

One of the most significant topics in The 5 Habits of Prayerful People  is that of morning routines. A morning routine, if designed well and with an eye towards prayer, can change your entire day.

By practicing a strong morning routine, you’ll build spiritual momentum. 

What does yours look like? In this post, I thought I would share with you what my typical morning routine looks like as of May 2019. Here goes: 

  • 5:30am Wake up and use the bathroom

  • 5:35 Prepare the coffee and walk the dog

  • 5:45 Pour the coffee and feed the dog

  • 5:50 Morning devotions (Daily Mass readings, read 5-7 blogs, write in DayOne journal, close eyes for five minutes of silence)

  • 6:30 Wake up everyone for school

That’s it. It’s not magic and it’s not fancy. What it is is intentional and happens nearly every day. Some days, like when I return from a business trip, I need to spend extra time with Cary and the kids in the morning. But most days, this routine is where my day begins and it works really well for me. 

The Ordinariness of Your Routine 

This is an important thing to mention.  On most days, my routine happens and I don’t have any kind of mystical experience. There are so many factors that contribute to this, including:

  • Tiredness

  • Distraction

  • My family up early and moving about

  • Sleeping in

  • Waking up in a hotel for work and having to recreate normalcy

  • Spending too much time reading the news

  • Feeling bored

  • Feeling sad

You can probably relate. The thing is that the human dynamic is complex. The point of the morning routine is to gently push back on all of these factors, practicing your devotions and as a result, compensating for a lack of will power. As I say in The Five Habits, will power is overrated. Spiritual momentum, that’s where it’s at. 

By designing a morning routine that fits your personality and the unique way that God has wired you to pray, your entire day will benefit. 

Worried About a Boring Sermon or Homily?

Bad preaching is a real problem in the Christian church. Without understating the difficulty of delivering a message to a diverse audience, preaching is hard. Imagine giving a talk to both young children and senior citizens… at the same time. Not easy.

With that said, here’s a trick that I’ve learned when it comes to matching your prayer life with the routine of listening to a homily. During your morning prayer time, go over the readings of the day (for Catholics, this refers to the Bible readings that will be featured in the daily Mass). Read these slowly and let God show you what stands out. Then, imagine yourself delivering the homily or sermon. Imagine nodding heads as they listen to you and make meaning for themselves out of the readings.

I’ve used this technique for years, not because I see myself as a better preacher than the priests in my parish. Rather, envisioning a homily coming out of my mouth makes the readings come alive. New ideas form. Insights emerge. I see myself communicating God’s word to others.

 
 
After Twenty Years of Journaling, Here’s What I’ve Learned

I’m a journal guy. It started in college with those 99 cent notebooks you could get at any local grocery store. Then, after college, I graduated to the more expensive, $1.50 versions. Each morning, during my time of prayer, I would jot a few thoughts. Sometimes, these looked like prayers while on most days, I would just write whatever came to my mind.

This has continued for the better part of two decades. 

I’ve discarded most of my journals. Rarely do I go back and read them. I don’t care about them. I don’t want to relive the past.

What I value is the very act of journaling and after two decades, here is what I’ve learned: 

  1. Journaling has been the singular best way for me to measure progress in my spiritual life. By keeping to a daily discipline of journaling, I am reminded to pray. I only journal in the context of praying and in so doing, I take a mental note, “I prayed today”. This develops streaks which propel me closer to God. Momentum trumps willpower any day of the week as I’ve mentioned in The 5 Habits of Prayerful People.
  2. Journaling is a selfish endeavor.  When I journal as a form of communication with God, journaling is God-focused. Most of the time however, I’m journaling to get stuff out of my head and that’s fairly self-focused. If I’m honest, I journal for myself more than for anything or anyone else. I need to clear my mind. Some people jog. I journal.
  3. Journaling is a core component of my prayer life.  I use journaling as an essential part of my daily devotions. By practicing the ACTS method of prayer, my journal serves as the “container” for that routine. If you’re unfamiliar with ACTS, this video will help.
  4. Journaling helps to clarify thought.  The more you write, the more clear you think. The more clear are your thoughts, the better you will communicate with the rest of the world.
  5. My journals are 100% temporary and disposable.  I rarely go back and review what I’ve written. I don’t care if they are lost, destroyed or misplaced. It’s the act of writing that counts more than the final products. I journal to stay in mental and spiritual shape. The journaling is a blunt means to an end.
  6. My doctoral dissertation and book would not have been possible without journaling. I don’t think that I would have been able to write a book-length dissertation or The 5 Habits of Prayerful People without two decades of journaling. It’s partly about volume folks! Even a marathoner starts with a 5K race.
  7. Journaling can masquerade for prayer itself.  While journaling is a part of my morning devotional time, I can at times mistake journaling for prayer itself. It can be but it’s not necessarily the same thing. Just because I’m writing doesn’t mean that I’m automatically praying. 
  8. A digital journal app is the single most important app I use.  My calendar and email app are important but without my journaling app (I use DayOne) I’d be toast. It’s an anchor for daily prayer, intellectual growth and my interior life in general. 
  9. I’m only getting started.  Who knows where God will take my writing and prayer in the next two decades. One thing I know- I’m only getting started! Each day, I look forward to writing a few thoughts. 

If you are a journaler, I’d love to hear why you journal and what God has taught you through it.  Want to see how I use DayOne for daily prayer? This video explains much of it.

Five Things I’ve Learned from Writing a Book

My book, The Five Habits of Prayerful People, debuted earlier this month. It’s been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life, creating something and then inviting others into that creative process. The book, while not particularly long, represents something of value- to me and to those who choose to read it. 

How I Invited Others Into the Process

  • Book Launch Team: I simply invited anyone I knew on Twitter and Facebook to be a part of the Launch Team. I then kept them up to speed on the book’s progress and shared pre-made social media images that they could use on their platforms. This was reasonably successful but I would probably make some changes the next time around.
  • Pre-Orders: By creating some simple bonus materials, readers were incentivized to purchase the book ahead of its launch. Amazon likes this and so does the publisher. This not only promoted sales but generated buzz. In addition, most authors don’t do this (I’m not sure why!) so it made the process feel unique to many readers. 

 

How Others Have Surprised Me

  Here is reader and friend Lisa Hendey with her copy of the book.

 Here is reader and friend Lisa Hendey with her copy of the book.

The neatest thing, by far, has been when readers share with me a copy of the book in their hands. I’ve had unboxing videos, selfies with the book and just plain “in the wild” photos. I guess people like supporting people when they make something. It’s been a wonderful surprise. 

 

What I’ve Learned To Date

  1. Selling books isn’t easy.  My first few weeks have been good but hardly blowing the doors off. To get to a second edition, it will be a marathon rather than a sprint.
  2. Speaking events promote book sales.  My friend Allan Wright estimates that he can sell books to about 30% of those that attend one of his talks. This has been true for me as well.
  3. Even if on a Launch Team, many don’t understand social media. Even when you spoon-feed pre-designed images for folks, many still don’t share them on their own platforms. Kind of frustrating.
  4. Writing keeps you humble. I’m proud of my book but even as a published author, there is a level of nervousness when someone buys the book. I wonder what they think of it, whether they like it, how it’s helping them, etc.
  5. You’ve got to be your biggest salesperson. While my publisher, Ave Maria Press, has been spectacular, I’m the horse most in the race. Working my email list and being public about the book is never going to be someone else’s job.

Creating a book has been lots of fun. It makes me anticipate my next book and the ways I can learn how to better promote it. While we’re talking about the book, I wouldn’t be doing my job without reminding you that you can purchase it here.

 

Mike StPierre
What Takes Your Breath Away?

Holy Week Series: Part V

In today’s Gospel from John 18, the final moments of Jesus’ life are detailed. In the Roman Catholic liturgy, there is one line, inserted into the text that is striking: Here all kneel and pause for a short time. 

This kneeling takes place after Jesus has died on the cross. The entire congregation takes a moment to take a breath and reflect on the immensity of the moment. 

It’s as if the Church is saying, “This is it. This moment matters more than any other!”

A moment like this is not only reflective but instructive. We do well when we acknowledge- and at times are blown away by- God’s goodness in our midst. These are the moments that take our breath away.  

This is awestruck wonder. What’s more: this gift is available to you and me all of the time. Today, in your comings and goings, pray for the grace to let God take your breath away.

Holy WeekMike StPierre
Avoid the Mistake of Underteaching

Holy Week Series: Part IV

Today is Holy Thursday and the Gospel of John puts it this way:

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me 'teacher' and 'master,'  and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another's feet.
I have given you a model to follow,

so that as I have done for you, you should also do."

 

I’ve worked in church ministry for over twenty years. One error I have continually seen is a lack of management. In erring on “being nice”, priests, sisters, principals and supervisors undermanage their people. Afraid of giving tough feedback, they figure that the person reporting to them will somehow “figure it out”. They lead by example. 

The problem with that is that, all to often, they underteach. They put up with little flaws that expand over time. You end up with a large portion of the professional workforce that is “ok” but not particularly exemplary.  I realize that this sounds like a condemnation- it’s not meant to be.

Rather, it’s an observation and one that is challenged through today’s Gospel reading. Look at Jesus example and his words. He not only models good behavior but he explains it as well.  

Holy WeekMike StPierre