My Dad taught be to rise early. He challenged me at twelve years old to take a morning paper route. The paper was the Dayton Journal-Herald. My first Journal-Herald route was in a the little burg of DeGraff about thirty miles northeast of Dayton. I rose around five every morning and peddled my bike around town to deliver about fifty papers.
In order to see this discipline established in my life Dad had to make a great personal sacrifice. Dad got me up himself every morning. He made sure everything was in place and on extremely cold mornings he would go with me. (I don’t mean cold mornings, I mean extremely cold mornings).
Later, when we moved to Vandalia and I continued with a much larger route. He encouraged me and my sister to take routes and we all worked together every morning to deliver the papers. He was up and working with us every morning wearing an old green army fatigue jacket he was issued in Vietnam. He also wore a small black stocking cap he called his “Bronson Cap” after a motorcycle-riding character we all found amusing in an old TV series.
He delivered papers at a jog years before the big aerobics trend arrived in our neck of the woods. Looking back I’m sure the only reason people didn’ t call the police to report this shadow figure lurching through the neighborhood is because normal people were all snug in their warm beds at this hour of the morning.
I survived the emotional trauma of our dysfunctional behavior. I still get up early and have most of my life. I am writing this at about five in the morning. The house is quiet and a small light glows beside the computer so I will not disturb my wife’s sleep. I cherish this time when my mind is clear and there are few distractions. (I still look out the window sometimes at the snow and cold and wind and remember what it was like to have to force myself out the door to deliver papers. I sip coffee and read the USA Today every morning on my nice little color monitor).
It’s not always easy to get up early when no one expects you to, so I have developed a few personal techniques to get me out of bed in the morning. Of course, I place the alarm across the room so I have to get out of bed to turn it off. I also get up very early even if I have gone to bed late that way I will be very tired that night and turn in early. Naturally I wake up early the next morning. But my main technique is to have a continual list of goals running in my mind, things I want to accomplish in my short years on earth. The list runs the gamut from the mundane to the miraculous.
There are books to read and places to visit and projects to complete. There are people to write and article and book ideas. There are projects for the home and family, and projects for the church. There are things to organize and places to visit.
I have a little journal book. It is small and pleasing to hold and write in. In its pages I record things I want to accomplish. I think having long list of things to look forward to contributes to my joy in living and seeds my mind with a bunch of good reasons to spring out of bed every morning, shower and get the coffee going. Here is a short sampling of my growing list of reasons to get out of bed in the morning:
– Sample every flavor of Melting Pot Coffee sold at Herman’s Boy in Rockford. (My absolute favorite coffee)
– Paddle across Shear Lake under a full moon.
– Cross Country Ski with my daughters.
– Section hike the Appalachian Trail
– Run a Marathon
– Fly-fish the Hex hatch with my sons
– Take Hope for a ride on the Carousel at the new Mall in Grand Rapids
– Hold a copy of my own published book in my hand
– Earn my MAMin and MDiv From Moody Graduate School.
– Watch my son shake Joe Stowell’s hand and receive his Bachelors Degree from Moody Bible Institute.
– Get a fly-fishing article published in an outdoor magazine.
– Nudge somebody closer to Jesus today.
– Learn a new guitar chord.
– Tie my own bow tie. (Regimental stripe, of course)
– Read a book. (I have a dynamic list of good books I intend to read)
– Journal through the whole Bible naming every chapter, listing it’s main theme and characters and recording applications and insights.
– Memorize large portions of Scripture
– Quiet my heart and pray for the things that are placed on my heart as a burden.
– Catch a fish on a fly I tied myself
– Kayak the Muskegon
– Get a picture of each of my sons with trout they caught fly-fishing.
– Tell stories all over the place that instill a love for life and eternal consciousness in the souls of others.
It’s is a delight to watch the eyes of my children brighten when they receive a new toy or doll, but as the decades pass I think they will especially thank me for giving them some good reasons to get out of bed in the morning. I’m glad every day that my Dad did that for me. And it didn’t hurt that my mother started every morning with a healthy breakfast and a song.