Monthly Archives: September 2013

Momentum, Writing, and Prayer

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I was thinking about this post on writing my novel, and I realized that incremental progress is only one of the advantages of daily writing and daily prayer.

When I write every day, I develop a momentum. The words I wrote today make the words I write tomorrow come easier and with more energy. If I miss a few days writing, I find it hard to get started again. I have to get my head back into the story, find my voice again, find out what happens next.

When I am writing daily, I am living in the story. What happens next is laid out in front of me, like the little arrows on Google Street View.

In physics, momentum is mass times velocity, or roughly equal to the heaviness of the object times its speed. In writing, the speed is how many words we are writing each day or better each week. The mass or heaviness is how important the writing is to us. The more important our writing is to us, and the more regularly we are writing it, the more momentum we’ll have, and the easier it will be to keep going.

Prayer is like that. The speed is the percentage of our time we spend in prayer. The heaviness is the intensity of the prayer. As we develop prayer momentum, prayer – which is characterized by our closeness to God and the graces he provides – becomes easier to keep going, and the graces multiply.

This, I think, is a concept for hope, because in the beginning both the writing and the prayer are hard. Sometimes they seem too hard; it seems like we try and try and only fail. We make so little progress in the beginning for the work we are doing.

But, think of the enormous aircraft carrier, or battleship.
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Sitting in the dock, so massive, it takes an enormous effort to begin the motion, but once underway, momentum keeps it going forward, and soon it is speeding across the ocean.

Or think of the rocketship. It requires huge solid fuel boosters to be able to separate itself from the Earth. But in minutes those boosters are shed, and it powers ever upward, riding its momentum.

Don’t give up. Be patient. Let your momentum build.

Teach Your Child to be a Prayer Warrior!`

Today our six-year-old son Elijah earned his Prayer Warrior trophy. He’s been looking forward to this moment all summer, working hard toward the goal, and today he accomplished it.
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What is a Prayer Warrior? When we moved to our new parish, we wanted to instill in our younger kids a more reverent attitude toward Mass and toward daily prayers. Our son Elijah is an accomplishment-oriented child. He loves competing in sports and games, and he loves earning trophies and medals. Even the medals from the summer reading program at the library are special to him. We thought that a trophy would be a suitable motivation for him to learn to really pay attention and participate at Mass, so we set up a Prayer Warrior program, taking advantage of the fact that the whole “spiritual warfare” concept would be appealing to a six-year-old boy.

We set up on the refrigerator a paper with ten blocks. Each day, if he paid attention and prayed out loud during our nightly prayers, he would get a star in the block for that week. Then on Sunday, if he had achieved six stars, and if he did a good job of sitting still and paying attention at Mass, he would earn a sticker for the block. As the weeks progressed, our expectations for his behavior at Mass and during prayers increased gradually. He knew that once he received ten stickers, we would send away for his Prayer Warrior trophy.

He did a great job, and his behavior at Mass has been transformed. It was never particularly bad behavior, not distracting to those around us, but he fidgeted and didn’t really pay attention as well as he should. Now he sits like an angel, faces forward, and participates as well as he can. It is inspiring our four-year-old as well, who can’t wait until she is old enough to be eligible for the Prayer Warrior program.

We’re thinking about extending his Prayer Warrior program further. Perhaps having medals akin to those achieved in Boy Scouts, perhaps having an “advanced level” trophy. He could achieve these levels through memorization of prayers, regular reading and/or memorization of scripture, saying the rosary on his own, and so forth. The biggest benefit is that he sees that prayer life is important to us, both our own prayer life and his prayer life. These little motivations help to instill a sense of that importance within him.

It was really easy to put together the “program”. All it took was a quick printout formatted in MSWord, and a trip to the local trophy shop for a $4 trophy. But it will be something that he remembers for a very long time.

I’m Writing a Novel ?!?

Yes, I’m writing a novel, and that effort is telling me a lot about my faith and family life.

I wrote a novel once before. It took me 6 years to write, spans about 450 pages, and still sits in a file on my computer, untouched now for more years than I’d like to acknowledge. I’ve been told that it’s good, and I am finally doing the hard work to clean it up for publication, but my point is this: my novel is like the light under the bushel basket. Regardless of its merits, the book is no good to anyone sitting on the hard drive of my computer. For anything to be of value, it has to be shared.

Here’s the other thing: I wrote that book the way I cared for my spiritual life at the time, in fits and starts. I would set aside a Saturday and work feverishly for four or five hours and make tons of progress. Then I would let it sit for weeks, revisit it, and decided I needed to rewrite what I had done. As a result, progress was achingly slow. In the same way, I would pray. Sometimes. Some days I would forget to pray. Some days I would put it off. I would start a spiritual book, but never finish it. I would read scripture, and then I would put it down and not pick it back up again.

Now? I am writing every day in short bursts, two to four pages per day. It’s not a huge amount, but it is daily progress that adds up quickly. Shockingly quickly.

Another difference between then and now is that then, I fit the writing time around my otherwise worldly schedule. I couldn’t miss my TV time. After all, Xena Warrior Princess, or Star Trek might be on. I couldn’t sacrifice my football viewing or my other hobbies. I couldn’t sacrifice anything. I fit it in during weekends where I didn’t have much else to do, and so it dragged on, and I thought I would never finish.

With four kids, I no longer have time where there is not much else to do. My days are packed from waking to sleeping. And so I sacrifice. Each night, after the kids and my loving wife are sound asleep, I sit up for a half an hour or an hour, getting my time in. And I make progress.

That’s how a spiritual life should be too, making sacrifices to grow spiritually. We have to spend the time every day in prayer and in scripture and in spiritual reading. We have to sacrifice our other activities to make that happen every day. We have to take time at mealtime to say grace. We have to take time before we start a task to pray and offer it to God. We have to take time to start and end our day in prayer, especially in union with our family.

And then we have to take the fruits of our spiritual life, the graces we receive, and we have to share those with the world around us. We have to get that light out from under the bushel basket, just as I have to get that book off my hard drive.