Get an Early Start, Starting this Sunday: Old First E-pistle 06.17.15

Get an Early Start, Starting this Sunday: Old First E-pistle 06.17.15

Getting an early start. It’s what we do at Old First in the summer, and frankly I wonder if we shouldn’t do all year. But without question, we begin worship at 10 starting this Sunday, June 21 (and through the Sunday after Labor Day, Sunday, Sept. 11, which will be back at 11 a.m.)…

I like it because it leaves more of Sunday to do something after church. …So maybe people will do something AND church.

But early is easy for me. Well into my 40’s, I loved to sleep in late. But in the last decade, I’ve started to wake up earlier… Automatically. I’m pretty much always awake by 6, and sometimes a lot earlier (this morning I was awake at 4).

I used to hate early morning. Waking up hurt physically. I was an avid anti-morning person. When my kids were babies, and they’d wake us up early on weekends– ugh!

When this new habit started, I wasn’t very happy either. I’d tell anyone who would listen that I was worried I was becoming one of those old people who never sleep, and that my whole life felt like it was becoming an enervating, endless wait on final rest!

But now I like my early mornings. The quiet. Not needing to be some place. Me time. I often get incredible amounts of work done in those first couple of hours before I ever used to be awake.

My new habit is no great, new, moral accomplishment. My body or rhythms or something else just changed. I really didn’t have much choice. So I am happy how much I have grown to like it. Now when I wake up early, I’m on top of the world. Full of energy. In a scary good mood. If you aren’t a morning person, I’m your worst nightmare!

I share all this with you because it’s now summer, worship is an hour earlier, and we want you at church if you can.

I offer some suggestions, strategies really, for waking up earlier, and enjoying it. I have borrowed liberally from a website I found called lifehack.org. But I’ve sort of redirected the strategies to getting to church by 10. While I fully admit that the website was my original source, I am sure that Jesus said something somewhere that would back up all these suggestions. Why? Because we really want you… need you at church!

1. Let go of your prejudice against mornings.
Since daycare, you’ve cultivated your “mornings are evil” attitude: hitting the snooze button probably hundreds of thousands of times, dragging yourself out of bed to grunt like a cave person at everyone you encounter (including yourself in the mirror) for the first hour or two, sharing every “I hate mornings” meme you can find on Facebook.

Let it all go. Throw away every misconception embedded in you since before you remember, and start with a clean slate. Let your past fall behind you. Open your mind. Forget the negativity — it’s the devil at work! After all, if morning has felt evil for a long time: try filling it with church instead…

2. Picture your ideal morning.
This is one of those rare situations where you actually can make your fantasy a reality. Picture yourself as the morning person you want to become: what do your mornings consist of? Are you quietly drinking your coffee and reading the paper on the patio? Reading a book in bed? Doing yoga? Or getting to church early and enjoying the quiet and calm as the sanctuary slowly comes to life?

Move towards the experience and environment you want to wake up to. A loving community whose message is that you are ultimately important and can get the help you need, for instance…

3. Tell only your loved ones about your plans.
At first, only share the changes you’d like to make with those you live with, since they too have to adjust to your new routine. Don’t tell anyone else until you’ve made considerable progress. Otherwise, either they’ll try and dog your new resolve, or they will figure it’s the best new time to bother you! If you come to church, it’s both an excuse and a reward. And you can turn your cell phone off.

4. Move your morning back earlier gradually.
Some things have to change cold turkey, but most growth occurs gradually. Be nice to yourself. Take your time. Set your alarm for 15 to 30 minutes earlier, and once you’re comfortable getting up at that time, set it earlier again, and again, until you’re comfortably waking up at your new early time.

This is why 10 am worship is such a realistic and attainable first goal! Sheez, compared to most of our weekday schedules, it’s still sleeping in.

5. Find an alarm that doesn’t turn you into the Hulk.
Some people have no problem with alarm clocks, but I find the beeping to be unnerving. (Have you ever had to share a room with one of those people that hits snooze 7 times before even considering actually rising???) I’m more comfortable waking up naturally. It’s less abrupt and helps me transition into wakefulness, as opposed to startling me into an anxiety attack. Test out various alarm options and see which works best for you. Or consider how sacred music makes you feel?

6. Keep your mornings pressure-free.
One thing we tend to lose as adults is the feeling of freedom we had as kids. When we had no sense of schedule, deadlines, goals, or pressure, we were always emotionally available and our imaginations made us feel like anything was possible. I’m not sure why we would have ever let this go. Maybe it’s just impossible to maintain in a hurried morning. But it’s truly the best way to start your day.

The UCC is all about the freedom you need to find, experience and hold on to enter the space or find the room you need in order to be faithful. And waking up to go hang out with people you like, who can argue with that? I don’t know about you, but church leaves me better equipped to handle future stress and challenges. There’s no better feeling than finding a protected pocket of space and time when you can do what you love for no other reason than you want to.

7. Eliminate excuses to sleep in.
As you continue to adjust your sleep cycle, some days will be harder than others. There will be mornings where you’ll do everything to justify shutting off your alarm and going right back to sleep. Sometimes it will work, and you’ll want to slap yourself later for letting it happen.

During this rough patch, do what you can to make your mornings easier: if you’re so tired you even dread making coffee, program your coffee maker. If your home is hot in the morning, set the thermostat down a bit, or take a cool shower. If your mind flat lines when you try to decide on breakfast, decide the night before and prep the ingredients. Eventually, your abilities to wake up early and function will happen at the same time, but for now, throw yourself a bone.

But what can be easier than church on a Sunday morning?

8. Refuse to break the chain.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the productivity hack “break the chain,” where you consider each day you accomplish your new habit a “chain link.” If you miss a day, you break the chain. It’s a great (and simple) way to set a goal and find some additional motivation… to push through the mornings you’d rather bathe with a toaster than wake up early. So why not see if you can worship with us without missing a Sunday until Labor Day weekend?

9. Keep track of what you’ve accomplished.
One of the biggest motivators to continue waking up early is keeping track of what you accomplish when you first get up. I preached last Sunday on finding some metrics for measuring your spiritual health. If you made it to church every week, or even if you only make it some Sundays, start asking yourself how it makes a difference in your life? As you begin to become more aware and appreciative of what church adds to your life, it will be easier and easier to get out of bed on Sunday mornings. And the rest of the week too.

10. Practice waking up early.
If you’re having some success, or even if you are struggling, maybe you just need more practice. We’re back at that goal of focusing on getting to church each week! But if you are really hardcore, you could wake up early on the other six days a week and pray.

Mornings are quiet, and easier to focus, even to calm and still your praddling mind. Start early, and begin by listening to your heart. It might have more to say than you think (because we so often don’t take the time to listen)…

See you in church. At what time? That’s right, 10 a.m.,

Michael