Tag Archives: discipleship

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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But God.

I might be over the hill.

Image_SixFlagsGuy

After making the decision to answer God’s calling on my life and head into full-time ministry, I started having a tough time fully grasping that the best years of my career are ahead.

For the last decade, I had built a strong reputation in the digital advertising industry.  Colleagues respected me, clients enjoyed me, employees liked my training.  I was asked to speak at seminars, colleges and networking events.  I was driving revenue and evolving my long-term vision for the company.  I was wrapping up 10 consecutive years of increased income.  I had another couple decades of strong growth, increased earnings and advancement ahead.  And I was leaving it behind. 

I would be starting completely over.  I would be entering a new job with no formal training.  I would have peers with Master’s degrees and doctoral degrees and tons of practical experience.  I would have the least amount of seminary education on staff.  It would take me another decade to feel caught up, let alone ahead of the curve (where I try to be).

Sports, technology and entertainment have done a great job of skewing everything for us average joes.  LeBron James was drafted at 18 and became an overnight millionaire with contracts and endorsements.  Daniel Radcliffe’s popularity and frequency on magazine covers exploded when he took the role of Harry Potter at age 12.  Tech moguls are even more ridiculous – I think Zuckerberg created Facebook when he was just a fetus.

With all the hype surrounding these young entrepreneurs, actors and entertainers, you don’t often hear about people making an impact at a later age.  In the NFL, teams start casting aside their players when they hit 30.  If I were a professional athlete (wishful thinking) at this stage in my athletic life, I’d be considered washed up as a running back, on the decline as an outfielder and over the hill as a small forward.

As someone who was about to make a career change, I started struggling and doubting the impact I would really have.  My Christian education is way behind.  I’m starting seminary.  In my head, every student around me will have full books of the Bible memorized, know the full lineage of Christ and be profound ecclesiological thinkers.  I’m guessing (hoping) that’s not the case, but it certainly feels like I’m about to be parachuted right in to some astrophysics class.

I believe that the answers to our questions are contained within the pages of Scripture, so that’s where I turned for clarity and reassurance. Luke 3:23 tells us that Jesus’ ministry really didn’t start until he was in his early 30s (it helps when you are the firstborn Son of God, too).  Moses and Aaron were each in their 80s when God called them to speak to Pharaoh and lead people out of Egypt.  Peter served as the Rock in the church during the second half of his life.  God has a way of using people wherever they are for his glory.  God has knack of keeping us in check, for the good or for discipline.

I recently had the privilege of hearing a new friend and pastor preach.  He talked about his favorite two words in the Bible – ‘But God.’

Conjunction junction, what’s your function?  The function of ‘but’ is used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned.  ‘But God,’ is a phrase that offers hope, redemption, peace and life.

Acts 13:29-30 says, “When they had carried out all that was written about him (Jesus), they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God  raised him from the dead.” 

Sin had seemingly crushed the Son of Man, but God gave us hope!

Romans 5:7-8 says, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Aside from maybe our families, most people won’t lay down their life for someone else.  But God sacrificed his son for all, even while we were acting against him.

I was questioning myself and assessing my inadequacy, But God had other plans.

Simultaneously, while I was going through the process of sorting out my future in ministry, our church in SC was already praying about how they could bring us home.  My wife and I helped start our Acts 1:8 missions team several years earlier and continued to be a committee run by lay leaders.  But, our church had continued to be faithful to missions both physically by going and financially through giving.  Our activities and partnerships had grown so much that it became more than the lay lead committee and a portion of a pastor’s time could handle.  The time had come to add a full-time missions pastor.

That’s when I got the call.

I was in North Carolina leading seminars that taught advertisers how to effectively use digital marketing for their businesses and also going on four-legged sales calls with the local team.

“When are you gonna be around these parts again?” our executive pastor asked.  I was in a town 45-minutes from our home church and about 20-minutes across the border in North Carolina.  I told him I was nearby and we agreed to meet for dinner at an Outback Steakhouse (apparently all my life-changing religious events happen at restaurants.)

Throughout the next day, I kept getting text messages from the executive pastor.  He had a busy day of counseling and our dinner appointment kept getting moved later and later.  I figured if he needed to move it again, it might not happen at all.

“Do you think this is ‘the talk’?” my wife asked.  “I sure hope so,” I replied.  We had been praying regularly that one day we would have the opportunity to be on staff at our church, but this seemed so unreal and unlikely that it would happen so fast.

The time finally came for us to meet.

“So, you guys still want to be in ministry one day, huh?” he said.

“Definitely,” I replied.  “We’re just trying to be obedient and available whenever and wherever God wants us to serve.”

Hearing the questions and seeing the huge smile on my friend’s face, I could easily see where the conversation was headed.  I answered a few more questions about our direction, family support and willingness to leave behind a fantastic job.

“Well, we’re ready to have a missions pastor and we’d like it to be you.”

That was the best steak dinner I’ve ever had.

That one statement, that one conversation, that one offer made everything that had gone on over the last 18 months, the last five years, even the last 32 years make perfect sense.  It was the ultimate But God experience.  I was starting to question the timing and my ability to benefit a church, but God showed me a church body that was praying for me and wanted me to come serve them just as I was.  They knew I didn’t have any seminary training yet.  They knew I had only been involved with missions for a handful of years, but they wanted me anyway.

It’s the same way with God.  He knows we aren’t perfect.  He knows all our faults.  He knows our sin.  But, he wants us anyway.

The dinner conversation with the executive pastor was wonderful, but not nearly as beautiful as the one I was about to have with my wife.

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