Posts in Devotions
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; pray the Litany of Humility)
  • 6:30 Wake up everyone for school
  • 8 Attend morning Mass

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.

How to Find Quiet When Your Home is Full of Noise

Holy Week Series, Part I

For Christians, Holy Week is the most focused time of the year. I’ve heard this since I was a kid. The problem, if we can call it one, is that life still churns around us while we try to find solace in a seemingly ordinary week. 

But, as is often the case, we know that it is not ordinary

I’m wondering today about something quite simple- how do we find quiet underneath the noise? Underneath the churn, how do we walk differently during Holy Week?  I write these words from my basement. It’s morning and my teenagers are upstairs prepping their breakfast. They talk about the rain the night before while the coffee maker comes to life.

Noise. Beautiful noise. The ordinary sounds of a busy family. The churn. The dog rambles up the stairs, leaving me to my words. 

How do you find quiet when your home is full of noise? What you don’t do is eliminate the noise, unless of course you are a monk. That’s not the call for most of us. Rather, it’s about appreciating the facts around you and inviting the Lord into the churn. 

I get to listen to the sound of teenagers rustling around before their school day. I get to write in my journal. I get to consider how Holy Week is the most profound invitation of the year.  

Try inviting the Lord into the noise of your life this week. I suspect you’ll find him waiting for you there. 

How the Bible Can Anchor Your Prayer Life
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This post is not to try and convince you that the Bible is important. You and I already know that. Rather, I’ll try to remind us of its gentle power within our daily prayer lives.

As a Catholic, I am often surrounded by other believers who don’t actually read their Bibles on a regular basis. This sounds judgy, I know. Still, I know enough Catholics for enough time to acknowledge an ugly truth- most don’t read their Bibles. Many are still strong disciples of Christ but simply haven’t made Scripture a core component of their daily lives.

While this genuinely makes me sad, the reasons are similar to why most Christians (writ-large) don’t have a daily prayer time:

No one ever taught us how to do it, resulting in…

  • a lack of confidence to try…

  • and a sense of private shame that we don’t read our Bibles more often.

Like saving for retirement or personal finances, Bible reading can fall into the same murky category of our lives. I’d like to challenge that and invite each of us to begin anew.

Scripture helps diminish the distance between God and us because we can become part of the story.
— Dr. Robert Wicks

The Bible, as the sacred text of all Christians, is like an anchor of our faith. It provides a rudder to help us navigate life’s challenges. It informs our decisions and reminds us that we are loved. As Dr. Robert Wicks said in Everyday Simplicity, “Scripture helps diminish the distance between God and us because we can become part of the story.”

This story is one of God loving all people to the point of sending his very son, Jesus. As Christopher West says, the entirety of salvation history is summed up this way, “God wants to marry us.” The Bible not only reminds us of this truth but gives a backstage pass to God’s plan to woo us and be in relationship with us.

Ok I’m convinced! The Bible is important. You probably feel the same way.

But, as is always the $5M question, how do I get familiar with my Bible and then incorporate it into my daily prayer life? Here are some very simple things that you can do to get familiar (again) with your Bible:

  1. Find your Bible and spend two minutes with it. Don’t have one? Go over to Amazon and buy one. Find one that you enjoy holding- not too big, not too small, etc.

  2. Choose to read either the daily Mass readings or start with one particular book. Catholics are familiar with a liturgical calendar and if you read the daily readings, you’ll cover the entire Bible in about three years.

  3. Make a decision that you’ll read your Bible every day. Just choose a small section, a paragraph or two and make progress that way.

  4. Use a technique called Lectio Divina. For a primer, check this out.

  5. Over time, let your daily Bible reading become a spiritual anchor for your day. You’ll eventually feel as if something is missing if you go a day without reading your Bible- that’s the goal!

Eventually, you’ll find that your daily Bible reading will become a reference point. It will stay with you during the day and then, when you least expect it, the Lord will pull it out of you, holding up a key idea or phrase for you to savor.


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The Power of Being Specific When You Pray
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Science has affirmed what we already knew- gratitude is good for you. It cuts down on your stress and connects you with other people. “Practicing” gratitude, or listing 3-5 things each day for which you are thankful, is a healthy way to ensure that you are in touch with all that God is doing in your life.

I wonder though if, at times, we are too vague in our acts of gratitude.

Think of the last time you had a moment of prayer before a Thanksgiving meal. No doubt the things said were honest (“I’m thankful for our home”…”I’m thankful for my family”, etc.) but what if we infused our thanksgiving with more specificity?

Being specific with God does a number of things:

  1. It pushes the savor button all the more, turning over and over the bits of God’s goodness that we might otherwise miss.

  2. It accompanies a healthy examination of conscience.

  3. It cultivates resilience.

  4. It reminds us that God is doing so much more than we typically appreciate.

Henri Nouwen once said, “I am deeply convince that the necessity of prayer, and to pray unceasingly, is not as much based on our desire for God as on God’s desire for us. It is God’s passionate pursuit of us that calls us to prayer.” Specific gratitude is a gentle response to God’s pursuit of us. It’s a way of saying, “I see you God. I’m noticing you Lord.”

So how do you do this? It’s quite simple. Be as specific as you can be when you pray. Tell God how much you appreciate the smallest of things- a soothing nap, a person’s wide smile, a conversation that brightened your day.


Quick Win: How to be More Resilient

 
 

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