Tag Archives: scripture

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.


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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Artists: the original hipsters.

You’re in a city with tons of sites to see.  The whether is beautiful.  There are landmarks all around.  You can eat great food.  You can go to a trendy microbrewery or sample expensive wines and pretend you can taste the hint of oak.  Or, you can go to a museum and stare at old paintings or weird sculptures that you don’t understand.

I’ll take the museum, especially if I can be by myself.  Some indie music, my headphones, an art museum and a couple hours to burn are the makings for an afternoon of relaxation and inspiration for me.

I’ve always been enamored with artists.  The imagination, the innovation, the creativity, the expression, the interpretation.  I love it all.  I love the feeling I get when I am around art.  It’s kinda like the feeling you might get when hanging out in Barnes & Noble.  We immediately feel cultured and have an instant craving for some French-pressed coffee (I really don’t even know what that means.)

Artists invoking emotion were the original trolls on the internet.  Paint-stained clothes were the original skinny jeansStylistic development was the original meme creation Artist were hip before hipsters thought artists were hip.

In the late 1990s B.C. (before college), most of my friends didn’t care all that much about art.  In college, I was an art major, so for a while I was surrounded by people who also loved art.  But now, most of my friends have a passing interest at best.  Some appreciate the fact that art exists, but for the most part, they admittedly “don’t get it.”


I took this photo of Mark Rothko’s No. 14 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2012.  I stood the allotted 18 inches from it and was overwhelmed by the piece.  I had seen it many times in art history books, art publications and websites, but its beauty in person was shocking.  The painting is about 9.5′ X 8.75′.  The experience of investigating the piece is quite unique.

First, you enter the room and your attention is grabbed by this monster.  Then you’re drawn to it like a Kardashian to a camera.  As you move in closer, more and more of your peripheral is consumed by the colors.  Eventually, you’re standing directly in front of it, focusing on the brush strokes, on the blending of color and, at that point, questioning your existence altogether.  This Rothko consumes you, just like Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was consumed by Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.  See what I mean?

Somewhere between gawking at the painting and thinking “I could have done this,” you start moving back away from the piece.  Eventually, it dawns upon you that you just became part of the artwork. This is exactly the intent of the artist.  In the photo I shot above, the guy pictured has made himself part of the artwork just as tens of thousands before him did the same. 

My relationship with God has followed the same pattern as my viewing of art.  There are times that I am drawn in to a particular lesson, Scripture verse or sermon and I want to go deeper.  I want to learn more.  I want to do more.  So, as my curiosity piques, I start to engulf myself more.  I move closer and closer to God.  I examine.  I wonder.  I absorb.  I pray.

Eventually, I move away.  Now, I’m not saying that I physically move away from God or try to distance myself from his will in my life.  Rather, I critique and analyze the lessons or revelations I just learned.  I think I do a decent job of assessing what God is doing in my life.  However, I think I do a relatively poor job of breaking down Scripture.

In college, we were taught how to critique artwork.  There were four fundamental steps that we can also apply to how we read Scripture and assess its meaning/application in our lives.


Art – Who created it?  What is it made of?  What is the subject?  What stands out?  What are the colors?

Scripture – What does this Scripture say?  Who said it?  When did this happen?  Where did the events occur?  What is the context?


Art – Look at the colors, shapes, lines, shadows, white space

Scripture – Consider the themes of the passage.  Was the intent to motivate, educate, warn or inspire?  Is the passage positive or negative?  Does it use metaphors or parables or reference other passages?


Art – What is the purpose of the piece?  What does the artwork mean to you?  Why did the artist use certain materials?

Scripture – Go deeper into the purpose of the passage.  Look at other translations.  Consider what some of the key words meant in Latin/Greek.  Why was this written?


Art – What is the meaning of the piece?  Does it make you happy, angry, convicted, challenged, offended?

Scripture – How can I apply the lessons of this passage to my life?  How does this make me feel?

This stuff is hard.  I’m not about to pretend that I do this regularly.  I frustrate myself with the amount of time I don’t spend digging in to Scripture.  I assume that I understand the concepts when I read a passage, but moments later I can’t remember any of it.  It takes accountability to consistently analyze Scripture.  It takes the willingness to put in your ear buds and isolate yourself for a period of time.

I can only aspire to be engulfed in Scripture like I was with the Rothko painting or Cameron was with Seurat.  I want to see each word for what its true purpose is in the passage just like I might consider each brush stroke in a painting.

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