Posts in Family
How to Create a Prayer Corner in Your Home

I had the pleasure of attending an event for over 15,000 college students earlier this year. While the workshops were fantastic and the vibe electric, two things stood out for me and they both had to do with spaces for prayer.

One was a large room that was transformed into an Adoration Chapel. With chairs arranged as they would be for a church (i.e. straight ahead), an altar was placed in the front of the room with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. A large crucifix was hung and a nice backdrop established. To the right and left of the altar were separate prayer areas with specially lit artwork. The idea was that you could pray in a number of different ways in this space. See my photo below to get a better feel for it.


The second prayer space was mentioned briefly in one of the keynotes. The speaker mentioned that he had recently moved to a larger home that offered two walk-in closets. Not needing one of them, he converted it into a “chapel”, outfitted with pews that he found on Craigslist from a Baptist church. His point: if you’re serious about prayer, why not dedicate some space in your home for it?

When I got home, I realized that a tiny spot in my office might work well for a prayer “zone”. You can see the photo below, with Ace the Fierce Guard Dog opening up the Word!


 I’ve realized three things about this prayer space:

• It’s an excellent “teacher” for my children. When they see the area, they know that it’s not an ordinary space.

• It gives me, as a visual learner, a focal point. While most of my prayer is eyes-closed, I love the items in my space and they remind me to stay focused.

• It uses an otherwise unused space. I was just going to install a bookshelf for envelopes and extra paper supplies. What I now have is an attractive area to meet with the Lord.

Here’s a homework assignment: look around at your home. Where can you establish a prayer corner? What special items can you include in your corner? Some ideas might include:

• A Bible

• An icon

• A small plant

• A crucifix

• A relic (no stealing one from your local church!)

• A holy image

Ok ready to make your prayer corner? Go for it! I bet that you’ll find, as I have, that it amplifies your prayer life and provides a wonderful example to those with whom you live.

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The Things We Get To Do

I attended a Board meeting last night and the night before that a dinner dance for my daughter.  At some point during both days, I probably said something like, “I have to go to this event”.

Now that both evenings have passed and went extremely well, a shift is what I really need to make in my vocabulary.

I got to dance with my daughter and my wife.  I got to serve at the pleasure of a Board that supports me.  So much of my life is a privilege and blessing.

The list gets longer and today might be a day when you craft a similar inventory of “everyday blessings”:

-I get to wake up each morning and kiss my family goodbye as I head off to work

-I get to travel along nice country roads each morning

-I get to listen to podcasts each day and learn from experts 

-I get to work with amazing people who serve amazing kids

-I get to do work that matters and makes a difference

-I get to blog and podcast and connect with others around the world

-I get to worship each week in a Church full of relatively nice people

And the list goes on.  See what your list produces and if you’re like me, you’ll want to shift from “have to” to “get to”.

Instead of "have to", shift to "get to" in your vocabulary.

Instead of "have to", shift to "get to" in your vocabulary.

How to be Wholehearted

There is no shortage of advice for achieving "more" in the new year.  Brian Tracy has his "4 tips" while Mike Hyatt has his "5 days" program to supposedly the best year ever.  

I've got one bit of advice and I'm preaching to myself on this one: be wholehearted.

No fitness goals.  No spiritual aspirations.  No financial resolutions.  Just to be where I am, that is to say, to be wholehearted.  Don't get me wrong, I'll be listing some very simple strategies for the various areas of my life, from money to time to muscles.  

But where my heart is- that's what I'm really concerned with.

The antidote to exhaustion is not rest but wholeheartedness.
— David Whyte

This past weekend was stellar.  At one point, sitting with my 8 year old in the corner of the living room, I looked up to find her reading me a story, my 14 year old wrapping a gift in the middle of the room and my 11 year old playing Minecraft on a laptop.  I had to pinch myself in gratitude for the amazing and many gifts in my everyday life. Who am I that I "get" to be a dad, a husband, a school leader, a Christian?  

I was wholehearted (or, "all there") for at least a few moments.  They felt like many more.

Why is wholeheartedness so difficult to achieve?  Here are my guesses:

  • Our plates are overly full
  • Our time is often scarce
  • We're tired
  • Our margin is thin
  • We have smartphones
  • We get bored too easily
  • Culture preaches "busyness" above singlemindedness
  • Work promotes multitasking

But here's the thing with each of these: they may slow us down but they can be managed such that wholeheartedness is practiced almost daily.  

Many people have found that wholeheartedness is found by doing (or not doing) the following:

  1. Unplugging from technology periodically.
  2. Owning fewer things.
  3. Giving things away (time, stuff, money, service).
  4. Being prayerful and especially at the beginning of the day.
  5. Being part of a faith community that worships weekly.
  6. Reading.  Anything all the way through.
  7. Playing sports.
  8. Creating art.
  9. Allowing for downtime.
  10. Enjoying nature.
  11. Cooking and eating mindfully.
  12. And in general, slowing down.

That's it.  Simple when you think of it- none of the 12 actions above cost much.  Better yet, you can practice at least a few of them within the next 24 hours.  

While most people think of wholeheartedness as a passive state of doing very little, just look at the action verbs found within each of the 12 suggestions: slowing, cooking, eating, enjoying, creating, and so on.  Pretty active when you think of it.  This is the paradox of being wholehearted: by being fully present, we can do so many things that lead to a fuller life.

I'm going to try it out and I hope that you will too.  It's ok to set some goals for the new year but don't forget that being fully present to those things and people around you is also a noble aspiration.

So here's to being wholehearted in 2015 and beyond!

*photo courtesy of fdp

A Simple Technique for Gift Giving and Receiving

What do you do when you have enough stuff?  Or, how about more than enough stuff?

In this post, I'll share one ultra-simple countermeasure for a gentle push back on the holiday press for more stuff.

If you're wondering if there is an ideal time to buy something for Christmas or any other holiday, turns out you can actually pinpoint the best day to do so.  Or, if you're a parent looking for the absolute best day to find a toy, turns out that December 16 is historically that day.  Who knew?

The catch is this- what if you don't want those new purchases to clutter up your home?  

Now is a great time of year, Advent- a season of waiting and anticipation, focusing on what really matters.  I find that the "stuff" of the season can add up and eventually produce unwanted clutter.  Joshua Becker suggests a different way, that of minimalism, “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”  

Easier said than done.

Many of us will bring home more stuff in the days leading up to Christmas.  Boxes, bags and gifty sorts of things.  It's all good until it isn't.  My son just handed me an elaborate list of things that he'd like for Christmas including the price range of each item on  Not that I was any different as a kid but it challenged me to stop, pause and try to provide a glimmer of education.  "You know that Advent is really about our relationship with God, right?  It's not about the stuff when you think about it."  I think I was convincing but did the message really stick?  

It did until the next Walmart commercial came on in the middle of the Patriots game.

I suggest one super simple technique and it's one that I use with my own kids (lists or not).  They may not like it but it does work in terms of helping them understand the value of material goods.  When you get something new, give something old away.  

That's it.  Get something, give something.  

You can do this by re-gifting something but be careful on that front.  Or, you can simply donate it to charity where someone else can really put it to good use.  Giving things away is good for you, says Seth Godin

"Gifts have to be truly given, not given in anticipation of a repayment. True gifts are part of being in a community and part of being an artist.  Plus, giving a gift feels good." (Click here to read what else he has to say about gifting)

Whether you're reading this in December or at any other time of the year, the get something/give something technique works every time.  It helps you to stay focused on the more important things in life like the act of giving rather than the gift itself.  It enables you to detach from stuff one item at a time.

What will you give away this December?

Imagine a Different Kind of December

We've survived Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday is here. Are you ready for the hustle and bustle of December?

In our home, we have three birthdays in December so by the time we hit Christmas, it's a bit of a relief.  We feel as if we've "made it" and survived a very full season.  Throw in youth basketball and we're toast.

No matter what's on your plate in December, you'll want to do one simple thing in order to counter the seasonal stress:


You don't have to max out your credit cards.  You don't have to attend every holiday party.  You don't have to stress over gifts and malls and  You don't have to do anything really.  
Be brave, be bold and enter into Christmas with a clear mind and a peaceful heart.

Those are, after all, two of the greatest blessings of Christmas.  A different kind of December is possible but it won't create itself.  You'll have to be the one to step up and do something differently in terms of your gift giving, time management and overall approach to Christmas.

The Case for Doing Less This Weekend

Weekends are what most of us live for.  They are often seen as a break from mundane, unexciting jobs.  Most people fill them with yardwork, chores and errands galore.  Sleeping in, staying up late, shopping... fill in the blank as to how you and your family typically use your weekend.

The only problem... (drumroll) is that some of us fill our weekends, supposed to be a time for rest, with so many small crumbs that the weekend itself becomes stressful.  The crumbs add up after a while.  

Errands do make you tired- and use gas. 

Shopping is exhausting- and uses money. 

Yardwork is fun for some- but not for most. 

So here's your homework for today and any weekend- be more intentional about it. Do less.  Breathe.  Take a nap.  Do what makes you happy this weekend instead of what you think you should be doing (by that subtle voice in your head informed by popular culture or social media).   

Speaking digitally, I find that there are times when I want to be up to speed on the news and on what my friends are "up to" online.  Weekends though- I just want to be with Cary and the kids.  I typically tweet less and just use Buffer to automate my online content.  That way, I can sit on the porch and play a game with the kids, go for a leisurely drive or wash the car in the driveway.  It's intentional, light and relaxed.   

What are the benefits of doing less?  First, you'll stress less.  Second, you'll be more fully present to those you care about.  Third, you'll spend less money because you're not doing what someone else tells you you "should".  Fourth... I could keep going but you get the picture.   

So go ahead.  Enjoy yourself this weekend and all throughout the week.   

It's ok to do less if it helps you to "be more" in the other parts of your life.