Monthly Archives: February 2015

How to Wake Up Early (and Like It)

“I don’t know how you do it,” one person said.

“I’m soooo not a morning person,” said another.

“4:45…like, a.m.?” yet another groaned.

Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yeah, I wake up at 4:45 a.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturday, I usually let the kids wake me up. On Sundays I’m usually up at 5:40, getting a whopping 55 more minutes of sleep before heading to church for a busy day on campus. I would probably agree that I am a morning person, but I would emphatically agree that I am not a night person.

Growing up, I had a curfew of 10 p.m., but I was rarely out that late. Even in college where staying up until the wee hours is the norm, I was in bed at 9:30 or 10 each night. There were many times when parties at my own house would rage on to 3 or 4 in the morning, but I was long asleep. When the sun goes down, I stop functioning.

So, yes, I get up at 4:45 a.m. to get to the gym every weekday except Wednesday. On Wednesday, I head to Waffle House for a time of discipleship with two good friends. We share our prayer requests, read Scripture and enjoy peanut butter waffles, all in the name of Jesus. Pretty sure that’s what he’d want.

Getting up at 4:45 a.m. does take practice. For years, I woke up at that time to go play basketball. When we moved away, I fell out of that pattern and it was hard to get back in to it. Now, I’m at Gold’s Gym by 5:25 to get on an elliptical for 30 minutes followed by 35 minutes of weight lifting. I have a ton of energy and my workouts have gotten more intense as the weeks roll by.

How do I do it? How did I condition myself to wake up and actually get up? How do I overcome drowsiness, the comfort of my bed and sacrifice sleeping in just to go and wear myself out? It’s easier than you think.

You ready for this?

I move my foot.

Seriously.

After I turn off the alarm on my phone, I have a conversation with myself. I know I’m tired. I know I’m comfy. I know that if I continue to sleep, I might regret it later. So, I convince myself to simply move my foot.

Picture this: I usually sleep on my left side and on the right side of the bed (if you’re looking at it from the foot of the bed). All I do is talk myself in to moving my right foot forward. What happens next is pretty amazing. By the simple act of moving my foot, my body weight shifts. I start to roll over toward the side of the bed. My other foot follows. My hips turn. My feet fall out of bed. I touch the floor. I stand up. My clothes are laid out on a chair in the bathroom. I’m at the gym. I work hard. I leave the gym feeling fulfilled. I’m exhausted, but satisfied.

The best part is what happens in the two hours following the gym.

I get home and eat before the kids wake up. I get showered and dressed and by this time the kids are awake for me to talk to. I kiss them and my wife goodbye. I grab my Yeti mug and Keurig coffee and head to work. I’m usually among the first ones there. I close my door and hide out in a chair in the corner of my office where no one can see me. I don’t touch my computer at all. On my chair is my Bible. On my phone in my Evernote app is my reading plan and my strategic prayer list for the day. I have a 15-30 minute quiet time. Just me and God and it’s every bit as refreshing as my time at the gym.

Once I’m done, I go to my computer and avoid my email. I plug in a headset and start working on Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish. I do this until about 8:50. I glance at my email for a few minutes before getting ready for our daily staff meeting.

So, by 9 a.m., I’ve done something physical, spiritual and mental. I’ve grown in three different ways. I’ve improved myself, prayed for my family, friends, missionaries, ministry. I’ve confessed my sin and given thanks. I’ve learned new vocabulary words in another language and invested in my ability to communicate in other countries.

All because I moved my stupid foot.

Proverbs 6:9 says, “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?” This verse is warning about the danger of resting in our laurels and not living the life God has made us to live. He does not want us to be lazy, non-committal or blind to Him. God wants us to be passionate in our lives. Passionate for Him, passionate about life, passionate about loving others. Otherwise known as anti-lazy, anti-sluggish and anti-lethargic.

Here are a few other tips I will recommend for getting out of bed earlier.

  1. Set an alarm. This sounds like a complete no-brainer, but I double check my alarm setting every night before I go to bed. In some cases, I even set a backup alarm. I never use the snooze button. Ever.
  2. Go to bed earlier. Some people thrive on a few hours of sleep. I cannot. I know that if I want to have a productive day, I have to get at least seven hours of sleep. Plan accordingly.
  3. Have a plan. The worst thing to do, especially when you first start your commitment to waking up earlier, is to get up without a plan. I know what parts of my body I’m going to work out. I know what I’m going to listen to on my phone while I’m doing it. (I listen to podcasts while I’m on the elliptical to pass the time and heavy metal or hard rock while I’m lifting weights). I know what Scripture verses I’m going to read and what my focus will be on when I pray. I always have room for the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit is leading me to pray about something else or read something else, I’m not at all bound by what I determined. I’m structured, but flexible.
  4. Put it on your calendar. This is perhaps the single most important recommendation I can make. Getting up early and going to the gym is no longer on my calendar because it has become a routine, like eating. But, when I started, I would put it on my calendar. Everything is on my calendar; dates with my wife, meetings, reminders to call people. Everything. If it’s not on my calendar, it’s probably not going to happen. When I talk to young guys or new believers or anyone wanting to grow closer to Christ, scheduling a quiet time is the first thing I stress.
  5. Look in the mirror. Now, I’m not talking about staring in the mirror flexing (I will not confirm nor deny that I’ve done this). What I am talking about is giving yourself a regular assessment. With regards to working out, I can look in the mirror and see that I’ve changed. I can see muscle tone and less fat. I can look at the amount of weight I lift and see that I’ve increased or that my stamina has improved. But, in regards to my quiet time with the Lord, that is less tangible. I have to work a little harder to assess myself. So, I might questions like: What have I learned through my Scripture reading this week? Has God answered my prayers? What is God teaching me about Himself? Have I been diligent in praying for my family? Have I been journaling my thoughts on Scripture and prayer? Hopefully, I can answer yes to these and see exactly what God has been teaching me and how he has pulled me closer to Him.

When I see results, it makes me want more. I hope you will, too. Remember, just move your foot.

Let me know how it works for you!

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I hate my car payment (part 3: lost & found)

One-third.

1/3.

.33333333333…(you get the point)

I recently paid down nearly one-third of our remaining car loan balance! In case you haven’t been following along and want the back story, check out Part I and Part 2. The short version of this story is that I spent a year traveling to visit missionary friends all over the world. I saw how they lived. I watched them pack their belongings into eight suitcases and sell everything else. I sat in their simple apartments. I visited people they served in villages and sat on the floors of huts. I saw the cramped dorms at a highly competitive university in an emerging country. I saw all these examples of living simply and not clinging to material possessions. And then I came home.

I was overwhelmed by the thought of having so many things in my garage that I couldn’t park my wife’s car inside the garage. In case you missed it, the purpose of a garage is typically to store cars. My family and I have been determined completely rid ourselves of a car payment we didn’t want, things we didn’t need and false ideals of having “stuff.”

So, we had a huge yard sale, sold items on Amazon, Craigslist, Facebook and eBay. We sold to friends, strangers and people we’d never meet. I sold coins, sports cards, clothes, decorations, graphing calculators (who would have thought that a TI-83 would keep its value so well?) and so much more.

Most recently I sold a pair of ankle weights on Craigslist. It took a couple weeks and, frankly, I forgot I even listed them until I received a text message from a buyer. A guy was looking for a set for his daughter who was a very good volleyball player, but who wanted to work out with them so she could jump higher and have stronger legs. I used them to rehab a broken ankle, but haven’t touched them in years. We met up at a gas station (where quality business transactions take place) and I exchanged the ankle weights for 10 one-dollar coins. Yep, he paid me in change. I know it all adds up just the same, but I found it odd that he had those lying around to pay me with.

I felt that it was time to cash in our savings to date and make a significant payment. I moved most of the money out of my PayPal account, grabbed the envelope filled with bills of various denominations and headed to the bank to make the deposit. When I got in my car, I remembered the 10 coins from the gas-station-ankle-weight-encounter and dropped those in the envelope as well. The envelope was tucked in the passenger seat of my car so nothing would fall out as I drove across town. Of course, as I turned into my parking space, the envelope became dislodged and I heard all the coins fall out. “Crap!” (or a similar term), I shouted.

I put the car in park and leaned over to collect all the coins. Two were still in the envelope, four were on the seat. I walked around the car to the passenger side and delicately opened the door, hoping that none would fall out in the parking lot. Nothing fell out, but I didn’t recover any either. So, I opened the door to the second row and found two more right away. Two left.

I moved an umbrella and a notebook out of the way and found one more. That makes nine. At this point, I was convinced that the coin was actually inside the seat. I had $1560.33. “What’s one more dollar?” I thought.

Everything!

That dollar was important. We had worked hard for that money and we had saved since August of last year. I had to find that coin. Suddenly, I remembered that this story sounded quite familiar.

Luke writes about Jesus telling the parable of the woman and the lost coin. “Or what woman, having ten silver coins,[a] if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:8-10 ESV)” 

lost and found

Notice what that woman did. She didn’t just look around for it, she diligently sweeps the house. Houses in those days did not have tile, hardwood or carpeted floors. They were dirt and dust. This woman literally swept her whole house hoping to uncover the coin that might have been buried in the dirt. The NIV translation says that she searched carefullyfor the coin. It was extremely important to her. It didn’t matter that I had $1560.33, I wanted the one last coin.

Please understand that this parable and my experience are not about money. It’s not about stewardship of finances at all. It’s about seeking those who are lost. It’s about loving people enough to tell them about Christ. It’s about living your life in a way that is a light to others who need guidance. It’s about a growing, loving, organic, caring, nurturing, bold, daring, humble, trusting relationship with Christ. This last coin I had meant enough for me to start tearing apart my car and had me considering how I was going to get inside my seat. I need to have that same desire for the people around me – my friends, family and strangers – to be introduced to the majesty of Christ and to hear from his Word.

The story ends with me cramming my hand so far under my car seat that it was practically in the glovebox and finding that last coin. Have you ever seen a farmer artificially inseminate a cow? That’s kinda how I felt, but, you know, a lot less gross. When I finally found the coin, I let out a huge, “HA!” The woman in our parable example rejoiced as well and told her friends about it. I would much rather be writing you about how I had an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone and have them accept Christ as the Lord of their life. In fact, I pray that I will have many blog posts like that in the future. But, for now, I can celebrate that we successfully paid down $1561.33 and have just a few thousand dollars remaining.

chuck norris roundhouse kick

I checked the balance of the account prior to writing this blog. We roundhouse kicked our loan balance right in the teeth. It’s not a death blow yet, but that will be soon. Because we paid so much at one time, our next payment is significantly lower and I don’t have to pay again until June. But, we’re certainly not waiting that long. Our payments will continue as normal. We will also continue to sell the stuff we don’t need.

Up next: what to do with an original Space Invaders cocktail table arcade game?