Posts in habits
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.

A Simple Formula for Praying for Others
 
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Praying for someone else is a core part of what it means to be a prayerful person.  It’s common, after all, for someone to ask for your prayers for them when they are sick or experiencing a hardship.

Still, most of us don’t know exactly how to pray for the person when prayers are requested. 

Be honest- the last time someone asked for your prayers, what did you do?

I reflected on this recently as a friend of mine is going through a tough time.  I’ve done all I could to help but I’m at the point where prayer is now my best response to him.  

Here’s the two-part formula that I’m using with my friend and recommend for you as well:

  1. Pray big.  This is an overarching prayer for God’s will, for God’s timing and for happiness and health.  It looks like this, “Lord I pray for Joe, for him to have peace in his heart, for his needs to be met, for better health, etc.”. (I would of course leave off the etc.!)
  2. Pray small.  Here is where many of us struggle- praying for very specific needs.  For my friend, it might look like this, “Lord for Joe I’m praying that he find a job within the next two weeks.  I pray that it’s something that he’s excited about.  Maybe it’s in a school or at the local college, I don’t know but you know Lord.  I’m asking that you give him what he needs Lord and soon.”

You can see that by praying “big” and “small”, you’re covering your bases.  It’s a faithful and strategic way to pray and gives your heart and mind the space to let God do the work.  You’re doing your part, for sure, but you’ve positioned your heart to communicate to God your needs and the needs of your friend.  

Try it out and see how you like it and how it works.

 
An Introvert's Guide to Decreasing Stress (Part II)

This is Part II in our introvert stress reduction series.  Part I dealt with the strategy of arriving early for meetings.

Introverts aren't necessarily shy.  They just get energy from spending time alone or with smaller groups of people.  Pastor Ron Edmondson has some fantastic articles on leaders who are introverted like this and this.  

One of the big issues that introverts have is that of being misunderstood as aloof or standoffish.  The introverts I know are neither but without some work, they could be easily misunderstood.  

The fact is, introverts experience stress nearly every time they attend meetings, public events or anything that produces interaction.  It sounds very strange if you're an extrovert but take it from me (an introvert), much of everyday life is stressful.  

A tried and true strategy that works well for introverts (and actually for everyone else if they try it) is to cultivate a consistent morning routine.  The morning routine is something that is very simple and can feature prayer, journaling, silence, and anything else that raises your mind and heart.  

For me, the morning routine is critical to nearly every aspect of my life.  It puts work, family and leisure in perspective.  It clarifies thoughts, concretizes goals and gives a venue for introspection.

For introverts in particular, the morning is very, very important for at least three reasons:

  1. A morning routine begins the day with something you can have total control over.  Since the rest of the day will be unpredictable and probably filled with stress, the morning routine acts like an anchor of sorts, shielding you from stress in subtle ways.
  2. The morning routine leaks into the rest of the day.  What you think about will turn up later.  What you read will travel with you.  The inspiration you receive will return to you when you least expect it. 
  3. A consistently practiced morning routine will create spiritual momentum.  You will know that you're becoming a better listener and that your relationship with God is alive and well.  It sounds wild to say it but if you practice a solid morning routine, you'll become the very best version of who you really are.  Seriously.

Introverts experience more stress than most.  But, with a little morning routine practice, they can navigate their days with poise and just a little less stress.  


How to Turn an Everyday Event into Something Special
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This past weekend I went to one of my favorite places, a nature reserve where birds of prey are kept safe until they can be returned to their native environments.  The kids and I then walked the surrounding trails for over an hour.  What made the day even better?

The little things.

Before we headed out on the trails, we checked in with the ranger who challenged us to find as many birds' nests as we could.  This small detail made a big difference in our motivation.  We were on a mission from that point on.  We also purchased a small toy for my son.  As she gave him his change, she mentioned that one of the coins was new, "a quarter from Alaska", she said.  I inspected the coin.  Small detail #2.

Upon our return, we were happy to find out that our 32 birds' nests set a new world record- the ranger had only been able to find 17 during her recent hike.  The kids were elated.

It's amazing how something as small as birds' nests or an Alaskan coin can make an everyday experience something special.  Here are some things you can do this week to turn the mundane into something more meaningful:

  1. Change your voice message.

  2. Update your email signature.

  3. Clean out your car.

  4. Clean off your desk before you leave at the end of the day.

  5. Declare a war on clutter in your home.

  6. Write a note to someone just to tell them you care.

  7. Call an old friend out of the blue.

  8. Buy a gift for someone before the last minute.

  9. Keep your to-do list small.

  10. Use your calendar rather than admire it.


*Photo by law kevin