I am not a morning person. I used to be, but then I had kids. I was once able to burn the candle at both ends and subsist on 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night. Now… not so much. But, I need to get going in the mornings. I’m a pastor, so I’m supposed to levitate off my bed at 4 am, pray for two hours, write a devotion, miraculously read the entire Bible, and have heard the voice of the Lord before 5 am. Right? No… I’m a real person. Don’t put that super-spiritual nonsense on your pastors. They are real people.
Often in the mornings, my mind is fuzzy and I drag to get out of bed. I get breakfast ready for my kids (I have four, 8-years old and under). I make my breakfast. I answer constant questions. You know, I get moving. It is difficult to get my mind going productively with four tiny people demanding your attention while simultaneously attempting to focus your energy towards thinking deeply about God, the meaning of life, and everything. There are some things I do that help me get my brain moving in the morning. Some of them may surprise you.
- One of the first things I do in the morning is take a deep breath. When I wake up in the morning, my brain immediately starts running. It fires off lists of the day. Not organized lists that can be written down. These lists are terrors of confusion! It’s like watching some sort of bizarre squirrel that is frantically searching for the food he buried three years prior. These thought squirrels race through my brain intermittently arguing with each other over priority and importance. “fix the fan, toilet,…” is interrupted by, “pray for X, and her, and…” is interrupted by, “cook the eggs, pour the cereal,…” is interrupted by, “call this, write that blog, finish that edit….” Then one squirrel will punch another one and chaos ensue. So… I’ve learned to breathe in the mornings. I will walk into the hallway, look at the wall or the floor, and take a deep breath. As I inhale I let the squirrels run. Then when I exhale I consciously force the lists to stop.
If you have never done this, it takes some practice to get to the point where it works. Follow the Augustinian method. Breathe in and say “Jesus Christ.” Breathe out and say, “Son of God.” Breathe in and say, “Have mercy on me.” Breathe out and say, “Your servant.” In this way, you’ll find your mind clears and the squirrels stop messing around. This breathing has become my opening prayer time to God. But, in breathing, I’m not talking, I’m listening. Begin your day listening, make the squirrels stop.
- Read my Bible. Ok… so this is a no-brainer for a pastor. But, this particular reading is not as spiritual as you think. This reading is often done on my phone for a minute or less. I pull up my Bible app, read a few verses, and then get busy getting the kids up and going while I have number 3 playing in the background. I read these verses quickly. The skies do not part and angels don’t sing. I rarely remember what I read though I’m always affected by it. This moment is just that… a moment to hear the Word and remind myself that God is speaking. Devotion time for me happens later on in the morning. Study time for me happens later on. Writing and engaging with the text happens later. This moment is simple. This moment is a pause. It exists to tune my heart and mind to listen. So… read a couple verses to get your mind going on the right track in the morning. Clouds need not part and you don’t have to walk away like some ancient sage. Just read a few verses and enjoy Him.
- Watch or listen to something funny. In the mornings I listen to some sort of satire or humor… nothing too long, just enough to get a chuckle or two. It helps to loosen me up and not take myself too seriously. Listening to satire in the morning reminds me that the world is still moving and I don’t need to worry about every little thing. I think God likes to laugh. If He didn’t, children wouldn’t be children. Laughter is good, so I try to laugh at the beginning of the day, it makes the difficult parts more palatable.
- Drink caffeine. I drink between 2 and 4 cups of hot tea in a day and at least one cup of coffee every morning. I took up coffee after the birth of my third child. Again… there is no deep philosophical reason to drink caffeine in the morning. I have four children who all want chocolate milk, and cinnamon toast crunch, and a banana, and a movie, and a book for daddy to read to them, and a toy that only daddy can reach, and a, and a, and a, etc…. So I drink some coffee to get going, no deep thoughts here: it’s just something that helps to get me moving.
- I listen to something intellectually challenging or educational. To get my mind thinking about deep things, I’ll listen to some sort of lecture while I finish breakfast, get dressed, and the like. Today it was a lecture on the effect of procrastination on the mind of original thinkers. Yesterday it was a lecture on the life of C.S. Lewis. These are short (20-30 minutes) and I listen to them while I am getting ready. If they are not done by the time I sit at my desk, I do not finish them. By listening to something like this, my mind is ready to run in a straight path. I can focus, my lists are now lined up (often literally written on a notepad on my desk), and I am ready to tackle the day’s work.
What do you do to get going? (leave it in comments)
What do you do to get going?