Posts in Sabbath
Building Simple Habits that Foster Spiritual Growth

In my 2014 Reader Survey, one bit of feedback that I received from many readers dealt with the issue of spiritual growth.  They told me that the love the productivity topics but also appreciate an occasional reflection on the spiritual life.

In this post, I thought I would share the planks that are part of my daily walk with God.  Keep in mind that these might not apply for all readers.  They've just been helpful to me and if that is an encouragement to you, great!

Daily Routines:

  1. Morning quiet time.  This includes reading the daily Mass readings, doing some journaling in Day One and some quiet time.  I need to remind myself to occasionally shut up and just let God speak into my heart.  I love to stare out the window and appreciate nature.  This step typically happens in my home office or at the kitchen table.  I might also work through a full-length book.  (for more on that topic, read this)
  2. Mid-day break.  There's nothing better than 15-20 minutes alone in the middle of the day.  I like to take my lunch and head over to a local park near where I work.  Every time, without fail, I return to work with more energy and ready to tackle phone calls or whatever. 
  3. Evening reading.  Of the three daily routines, this is the one that I struggle with most.  I'm trying to read through a book in the Bible and enjoy The Message translation for this part of the day.

Weekly Routines:

Our family goes to church on Sunday or Saturday night.  The time varies depending on our schedule.  We have two churches that are close by and are a part of our worshiping habit.

Monthly Routines:

  • Missionary Cenacle Apostolate: Cary and I have found the Missionary Cenacle Apostolate to be an excellent compliment to weekly worship.  We meet with our local group once a month for support and to reflect on the writings of Fr. Thomas Judge, who founded the MCA.  
  • Spiritual direction: of all of the routines mentioned in this list, the one that has had the single greatest impact on my life is this one.  I visit with a priest who is trained as a spiritual director.  He knows me better than anyone and can tell when it's time to encourage me or kick my butt (not literally).  I can't overstate how powerful this has been in my walk with Christ.

Quarterly Routines:

  • Quarterly, personal offsite meeting: my assistant schedules a day each quarter when I'm off campus and can do some higher level work.  This is really work specific but I find it to be a spiritual practice as well. 

Annual Routines:

  • Annual retreat: you've got to find out what works for you in this category.  I like to get away by myself and either attend a conference or head off to a quiet place.  This year I attended Catalyst Atlanta and it was truly amazing.  

Making a list like this is part humbling and hopefully, part helpful.  I am (and you can ask my family on this!) a work in progress and the farthest thing from perfect.  The routines I've provided have worked for me and hopefully will work for you.  Spiritual growth is about making progress, plain and simple.  It's about reminding yourself that God is God and you are not.  It's about a personal relationship with God that is active and moves you to love others more fully.  

Attention to one's spiritual life is perhaps the most important aspect of one's day, week or month.  

Two Ways to Savor the Simple Things in Life

I asked a friend of mine about his plans for the summer and he replied with a list that read like this:

1 trip to Hungary (2 weeks)

1 trip fishing with the boys (1 week) 

4 weeks of summer camp in town (4 weeks) 

1 family reunion (1 weekend) 


I was tired just listening to his schedule and when he asked about my intentions for July and August, I shrugged and said, "Mostly small things with the kids... maybe a weekend away here or there."  

That's been our summer- a wonderful string of small things.  Compared to my buddy's itinerary, my list seems paltry but as I reflect on the kind of summer it's been, (I just can't help but measure things!)  I can't help but smile.  Our highlights have included:

  • sleeping in past 5am
  • watching four seasons of Lost with our 13 year old
  • writing 45 pages of my dissertation
  • going mountain biking with my 10 year old
  • taking my daughters out to the diner for a dad-daughter string of dates
  • going for long drives with Cary as our 3 year old fell asleep in his car seat
  • babysitting a neighborhood 5 year old and welcoming him into our family
  • painting the porch (just because)
  • spending extra time in morning prayer
  • getting in shape

An impressive list?  Probably not to the world.  But to me?  Absolutely priceless.  Savoring is like that- whether the rose is small or in full bloom- it still smells good.   

Two quotes come to mind when I think of this rose-smelling aspect of everyday life:

There is no better means of attainment to the spiritual life
Than by continually beginning again...  Saint Francis de Sales

and

Slow down and enjoy life.  It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.  Eddie Cantor



The real trick is this: how do you cultivate a habit of savoring life when you are always connected and online?  I suggest first to stop comparing yourself to others.  Again, compared to my friend's summer plans, mine look pathetic.  The thing is that I could care less since I live for an audience of One (God).   

Second, slow down.  Walk slower.  Eat slower.  Drive slower.  Each of these will help you to cultivate mindfulness and gradually unplug occasionally from technology.   

I know several very holy persons. Each is very adept with technology and each is very good at savoring the simple things of life.   

You really can have it both ways. 

Going Offline Until June 21st

Readers of The Daily Saint blog know that a regular "pause" is important to staying productive. Often called Sabbath, this pausing keeps us fresh and allows us to refill the bucket with new ideas and renewed energy for the future. As such, I'll be offline until June 21st.  Peace!

Photo courtesy of FDP

SabbathMike StPierre
Offline for the Month of February

My friend and mentor Fr. Mike Martin once said to me in the middle of winter, "Never make a big decision in February."  What he meant was simple enough- winter can get you down so push through it and keep a level head about you.  

In February you won't see many entries on The Daily Saint.  I will still be publishing my weekly newsletter, The Path.

In the meantime, I'm focusing my attention on another online project to be announced in March.  Stay tuned!

*Photo courtesy of TKC

How to Avoid Using the F Word (Fatigue)

To what degree does fatigue affect you?  When you find "open space" in your schedule, do you have a hard time making the most of it?  Are you tired each day?

Relaxation is vital to the longevity of anyone who wants to make a difference.  Whether you are a leader, a stay at home mom or a missionary, it's important to relax.  Relaxing then helps you avoid fatigue which is deadly.

When we are fatigued, we make bad choices.  We give in to temptations.  We put ourselves first in a negative way.  We lean into depression.

Thankfully, fatigue is not inevitable.  It's an F Word that we can avoid.

Let's connect fatigue with its counterpart, relaxation.  From a Christian perspective, relaxing is not exactly at the top of most folks' list.  The Protestant ethic, as an example, puts a premium on hard work and long hours of labor.  Catholics aren't too far behind in appreciating the value of work.

This post is meant to challenge both of these persepectives.  

There are many wise people throughout history who have found a value to relaxation or in this context, sabbath rest.  Here are a few of my favorites:

 

  • Everywhere I have sought rest and found it not except sitting apart in a nook with a little book.  (Thomas a Kempis)
  • Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength... It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less. (Charles Spurgeon)
  • Walk very simply with the Cross of the Lord and be at peace with yourself. (St. Francis de Sales)

An appreciation for rest and relaxation is not limited to the world of Christianity.  Corporate America is also rediscovering the value of designing workspaces and work schedules that have periodic rest and downtime.

Tony Schwartz, author of Be Excellent at Anything wrote this quite recently, "Sustainable capacity — meaning sufficient fuel in the tank — is what makes it possible to bring one's skill and talent to life. Not even the most talented and motivated employees can run on empty." (original post: "Fatigue is Your Enemy")

So how do you avoid a pace that leads to fatigue?  Here are six suggestions:

 

  1. Drink a lot of water.  This implies drinking less of other things.  Keep the body lubricated via water.  
  2. Get good at sleeping.  Look at your sleep as nothing short of a contact sport- it needs to be practiced and perfected over time.
  3. Dump the guilt.  Stop beating yourself up if things aren't perfect.  Take it from me as a recovering perfectionist, only in Heaven are things perfect. Pick things up and begin again.
  4. Enjoy one or two hobbies.  This helps you to avoid being boring and will help to channel some creative juices that might otherwise be wasted.
  5. Move your body.  Walk, run, swim, whatever.  Just get moving several times per week.
  6. Put God on your schedule.  Nothing is better than a day that starts with some quiet time.  Scripture, prayer, honest conversation with God.  

Now let's go out there are fend off the F Word that is "fatigue".  Instead, let's build lifestyles that honor God, are enjoyable and include plenty of rest.  

Question: What are you doing regularly to avoid fatigue?

Photo courtesy of TS

The Case for the Three Day Weekend

My friend Fred only works from Monday to Thursday.  In the summers, only Monday to Wednesday.  I considered his substantial business success and tried to square that with what I saw as fewer work days- and Fred is a manager to boot!

One day I just asked him, “Fred, what’s the deal with taking Fridays off?”  Not defensively at all, Fred explained that after 9/11 his whole mindset changed and he wanted to spend more time with his family.  The work part, that would have to figure itself out.  I was dumbfounded that such a profoundly successful guy would actually put his family before his job. 

Guess what?  It hasn’t hurt him in the least, from a career standpoint.  From a family standpoint as well, things couldn’t be better for Fred and his family.

Now consider your own work schedule: what if you could create a framework so that you, like Fred, could enjoy a three day weekend each and every weekend.  According to one top thinker, it might be easier than you think.  

I’m enjoying the interview with Graham Allcott of ThinkProductive in anticipation of the latest Productive Magazine.  According to Allcott, people should consider Fred as less of an outlier and more of a model for knowledge work.  

The argument goes like this:

1. Knowledge workers can focus and crank out work in just four days per week.  If they really buckle down, kill off unnecessary meetings and schedule in “I’m-not-available” time, all of their work can get done in four days.  While in the agrarian economy, five or six days were necessary, today’s knowledge worker only needs four.  He's like a ninja weilding a sword towards unncessary interruptions and scheduled events.  

2. A three day weekend allows for true renewal.  When you return on Monday, you’re fresh and ready to rock and roll.  You didn’t spend most of your weekend running errands or doing lower level tasks.  The three full days off work for your wellbeing rather than against it.

3. By only working four days, you focus only on what’s truly important.  I know that in my own life, if I have to get something done, it gets done.  I once had months to prepare for an exam for my professional license.  The extra time did nothing but encourage me to procrastinate and study at the last minute.  On the other hand, if I only had a month to prepare, I probably would have studied more.

So what do you think?  Wouldn’t you like to work just four days per week?  It is possible with a bit of planning, an appreciative boss (unless you are the boss), and a desire to experiment with your own productivity.

Now that's a kind of work experiment that I think I'll try on for size.  

Photo courtesy of FE

Nozbe