By Gideon Strauss

We asked a few friends of Fieldnotes Magazine about morning practices that help them start their day well.

Early morning

Early morning

Coffee. Silence. Prayer. Reading.

My morning routine is so rigid, that if I miss it my day is shot. Ask my wife!

I wake up around 6:30 AM. Brew coffee. I then sit in silence and sip. After 10 or 15 minutes I pray. I’ve a created a prayer-by-notecard system contained in a little black box. The system is a bit complicated and it’s taken me over 10 years to perfect. Basically it involves a prayer from one of three prayer books (The Valley of Vision, The Lutheran Book of Prayer, or The Book of Common Prayer) followed by a few things to pray for each day, including family, community, church, upcoming speaking events, fundraising. I then read from a devotional of some kind that typically involves reading a biblical passage. After that I read or reread a book that I am currently reading slowly. Most often it is something by Eugene Peterson, N.T. Wright, or Wendell Berry, or it is a biblical commentary. I shower at 7:50 AM and I’m at the office by 8:30 AM. It’s a short commute!

Derek Melleby is the director of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding’s College Transition Initiative and the author of Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life and Learning.

* * *

I am very much a person of routine.

Less important than what I do each morning is that it is my routine.

My life and work allow me the luxury, most of the time, of mornings to myself. This means I get up, take the dogs to the barn where I tend the horses and chickens before going back to the house where I drink strong coffee and eat fresh eggs while reading the morning newspaper. After that, I run a few miles.

Then, and only then, I feel like, by the grace of God, I can do anything.

Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University and author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me.

* * *

I take Harold Rheingold’s advice and avoid pouring my attention through the sieve of the internet before I’ve had a chance to decide what I want my focus for the day to be.   I like to take that focus into a 20-minute shower where insights usually arrive.  After dressing, French-press coffee is next with the NPR top-of-the-hour news headlines streaming from my shirt pocket via their iOS app.

Matt Lumpkin works at the intersection of theological education and technology in order to help this Gutenberg moment become a Wittenberg moment.

* * *

Increasingly, I find that eggs are crucial to my day. Seriously. I used to leap into my day feet first with a cup of coffee and attitude. But as I get older and my days get fuller, I find that energy from a good breakfast is key to a productive day. They’re especially helpful when paired with a morning workout.

Michaela O’Donnell Long is the co-owner of Long Winter Media, which specializes in crafting story through film, image and word. She is pursuing a PhD in Practical Theology at Fuller Seminary and is a De Pree Center doctoral fellow.

* * *

As director of a biblical justice institute and also a mother of two young children, I’m realizing that the quality of my overall day is strikingly related to my morning routine. Specifically … my best days are the days that I’m able to wake up before my children come rushing in to wake me. Even if I’m awake just a small amount of time before my children and able to embrace those quiet early morning moments with joy and expectation, I exchange a reaction-based exhausted frenzy waking for a peaceful, more alert, centered presence of mind and ability to receive and also be proactive – both in my engagement with my children as they wake and also in my engagement with my theological work that also comes in that day. Now, if I could just guarantee an uninterrupted night of sleep to go along with the earlier waking time …

Bethany Hanke Hoang serves as the Director of the Institute for Biblical Justice for International Justice Mission and is the author of Deepening the Soul for Justice.

* * *

Mornings are really different for me. The only constant, I suppose, is a cup or two of black coffee and peanut-butter toast for breakfast — the best meal of the day. Sometimes I’ll be running out the door for a meeting, sometimes I’ll be headed to a coffee shop for work, but always I make time to sit down for breakfast. It is a ritual of comfort that always helps me start the day well.

Laura Ortberg Turner is an MFA student at Seattle Pacific University and a freelance church culture consultant. She is co-founder of The Glass List.

* * *

I’m an interim cross-country running coach at a school, so every morning I wake up at 5:40 and warm up, run, and stretch with the boys’ team. I then make a green smoothie for my wife and me.

Joshua To is a founder and managing fund principal at Hattery.

* * *

When I’m home and responsive to my alarm, I start by brewing a good pot of coffee. And then I walk outside to water my garden before I get to anything else. There’s nothing like the outdoors when it’s barely dawn. It’s quiet and there’s always a chill in the air in Denver. Because my days are always busy, indoors, and noisy, I relish these peaceful moments to pray and contemplate what the new day holds in store.

Chris Horst works as the director of development at HOPE International and is writing a book, Mission Drift, with Peter Greer.

* * *

What gets me going in the morning is mostly about the night before. I never have succeeded in becoming the morning person that most institutions rely upon, but I have adjusted myself to a schedule that gets me in bed by midnight so I am not sleepy all the next day. I try not to eat after 8 PM because then my body spends too much of its energies digesting food, and I wake up sluggish. I drive an old Land Cruiser that needs to warm up just like I do, so after I get it running I recite 1 Cor 13:4-7 aloud while I wait. I think of those characteristics of love like tracks of conviction and inspiration to which I connect myself. Then I ride it through the day like a roller coaster, hoping not to derail.

Lauralee Farrer is Lead Storyteller and Senior Editor at Fuller Theological Seminary and president of Burning Heart Productions.

* * *

Thanks to an understanding boss, my job has a somewhat flexible morning start time. This means I haven’t settled into a particular routine, but the good mornings are those that start slow. The ones where I manage to rouse myself with time to spare, time to stretch, time to study my calendar. In this calm, I’m able to start my day with gratitude — for the night of rest just behind me and the promise of the day before me. The morning is good, no matter what it brings, so long as I am able to grasp that gratitude.

Brenda Kay Zylstra is the Development Coordinator at the ASSE Foundation.

Start of the day

Start of the day

What morning practices help you start your day well?

(You may also enjoy the little series we published some time ago on “What Gets Me Going in the Morning,” with contributions from Gideon Strauss, Melissa Mills, David Greusel, and Hank De Jong.)

Gideon Strauss is the executive director at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and also editor of Fieldnotes Magazine.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email The Editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.


6 Responses to Starting the day well

  1. […] compiled a list of morning practices that help people start their day in the article “Starting the Day Well.” Here’s my contribution (read […]

  2. Christy Tennant Krispin says:

    I generally sleep well, and when my alarm goes off, it often interrupts me from a deep sleep and a vivid dream. So when I first wake, I have to take a few moments to “really wake up.” Coffee helps. Once I have shaken off the sleep and the gears of my mind have begun to turn, I grab my bedside Bible and read a few passages, then pray for my day. Sometimes the scripture and prayer times are very short, sometimes I am able to linger there for a while. Because I work from home, and my office is just feet away from my bed, it would be easy to skip past that important moment of dedicating and consecrating the day to God and for God. In fact, when I do skip that moment and leap headlong into the day, I feel a bit off. But when I take a moment to consciously root myself in scripture and mentally dedicate myself to God, the rest of the day is much better.

    Sometimes I wake up with an idea for an article or blog post. I keep my iPad beside the bed for such mornings. My Logitech keyboard allows me to type away comfortably on the iPad, capturing the idea before it goes (I type much more quickly than I write, so I rely on typing to get my ideas down quickly!) This is a carry-over from The Artist’s Way Morning Pages, a habit I got into over a decade ago.

    On my best/ideal day, I start working at 8 AM or so most mornings, reviewing my calendar and scanning through my email for anything that needs immediate attention. Then I begin my work blocks, setting a kitchen timer on my desk in 30 minute blocks of time. I spent 30 minute on a task or project then move on to another or, if I need to keep working on that because of a deadline, set another 30 minutes. This helps me manage my time and not get sucked in to something that I had not planned for that day (hi, Facebook). This also helps me when I DO get sucked in—I’m back on track after 30 minutes. Of course, I don’t always manage to stick to this, but it’s my goal.

    I do find that the beginning of the day sets the tone for the rest of the day, so I try to get off on the right foot early. My most hectic days are those that, for one reason or another, do not start in a quiet and ordered way. Thankfully, those mornings are few and far between—at least, until we have children!

  3. Some combination of the following: coffee, readings from scripture as appointed by the Book of Common Prayer ( ), a brief review of the previous day (Jesuits call it the Examen), intercessions for the people on my prayer list, hopefully 5-10 minutes of silence. If I’m officiating at our church’s morning service, I use Pray-as-you-go during the drive downtown ( ) and hit the prayer list from the parking lot if I’m there a little early.

  4. Stephen Slater says:

    Wow, you guys, all sound like pros. Very impressive.

  5. Kristy Sinkfield says:

    I rise early, before everyone in the house, and head into the family room. I quietly pull back the picture window drapes to welcome the early dawn light. I light a candle acknowledgine the presence of God. I sit in silence for a while then pray. I use several books/readings – Hebrew Blessings, Bless the Space Between Us, The Bible. Coffee, shower, family follows…

  6. […] music curated by New Sounds‘s John Schaefer, I thought back to Fieldnotes Magazine‘s “Starting the day well” compendium from a few weeks back, and wondered about the daily experience of the time around […]