Getting My Mornings Back

Dear Will:

I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”—which is a pretty good indication that Ben was annoying to most of his friends. I have Franklin on the brain these days because this week will be my last as an Early Morning Seminary teacher—for a while anyway.

Throughout the school year, I get up every morning around 5 a.m. to teach my class to high school juniors and seniors. It’s an assignment that I love, but it does take its toll. Because of that commitment, I don’t get enough sleep or exercise and have very little in the way of discretionary time. So as I anticipate the prospect of getting my mornings back (for the summer at least), I find myself trying to decide what to do with the time that might otherwise have been occupied with preparing for or teaching lessons in the wee hours of the morning.

The most obvious change is likely to be that I will sleep more. That’s probably a good thing, but I can’t help wondering what I might accomplish if I had the self-discipline necessary to continue getting up at 5 a.m.  Imagine the possibilities:

  • Exercise
  • Study the scriptures
  • Do work that might otherwise occupy my afternoon or evening hours
  • Goof off

Any of those options—including the goofing off—would be preferable to simply lounging away the hours (provided, that is, that I’m getting sufficient sleep)—especially since it promises to provide me more time with my wife and children. Continuing to show such early morning discipline would also show a strength of character that would make Ben Franklin proud.

He wouldn’t be the only one. The Lord has said: “Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (D&C 88:124). If I could just get the “retire to thy bed early” part down, I would be set.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. It will provide a great test. How willing will I be to get up early when I don’t have to? I certainly have enough on my to-do list tomorrow to warrant it. We shall see.

There is a bigger issue here, of course. Any time we successfully get ourselves to do something we don’t much feel like doing, we build a pattern of discipline that is consistent with the expectations of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount, he outlined a long list of challenges for us to rise above low expectations. It is what King Benjamin referred to as “putting off the natural man”—becoming a different sort of person than we might otherwise be: submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love (Mosiah 3:19). I don’t know about you, but none of those things come “naturally” to me.

Christ himself set the bar even higher: “What manner of men ought ye to be?” he asked. “Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27). Now I don’t mean to suggest that getting up before the sun is “Christlike.” I only suggest that my ability to show the discipline to get up and get going improves my chances of becoming more like Him in that which matters most. After all, discipline is the essence of discipleship.

Hmmm. You’ve talked me into it: Tomorrow, I shall rise early on a day I do not have to. And I shall be a better man for it. (Wish me luck.)


The Virtuous Banana Split

Dear Will:

Today Seth and I were tooling around in the family Camry when we passed an ice cream shop. “Dad,” he said, “I think we should go get some ice cream at Baskin 31 Robbins.” So I wasn’t surprised when I got home from work to discover that he had charmed his mom into having the whole family pick up Bryn from her class at the ballet studio—with a detour on the way home.

It’s actually a good idea—and not just because a family outing to 31 Flavors makes eating a banana split seem, well, virtuous somehow. I don’t know about you, but I can tell you that around here we spend way too much time getting things done and not nearly enough goofing off together. And we’re trying to do something about it.

So tomorrow we’re going to occupy five really bad seats near the upper reaches of Angels Stadium. More bonus points for our side. We’ll stop at In-N-Out on the way there (an inspired family tradition if you ask me) and spend much of the evening fending off requests for cotton candy. Part of the time we may even watch the game. It will be great. Good for us for sure.

We’re not always this good and messing around, of course. Earlier this week I sent my wife an email suggesting that we go to the theater next week. (I know what you’re thinking: “Nothing’s more romantic than being asked out by email!”) What ensued was the following exchange:

Dana: I’m pooped. I don’t want anything else on my schedule.

Peter: I’m pooped too. How about a date on which we simply go upstairs and take a nap?

Dana: You’re on.

So you see, my kids are fighting an uphill battle in their quest to lighten up Mom and Dad and inject a little more silliness into our day-to-day. Perhaps as a measure of how things are going we should install some sort of Giggle-o-meter somewhere in the family room that measures how often and how intensely we’re having fun. If it doesn’t record enough giggles in a given week it automatically rents a movie and hides the vacuum cleaner. If I could figure out how to make such a contraption work, I could make a killing. I’m guessing it would be a huge gift item on Fathers’ Day.

So let me ask you: What are you doing to goof off this weekend? Will it involve more giggling than vacuuming? If not, may I suggest ice cream and a trip to Blockbuster.

But enough of this. Seth is challenging me to play Animal Rummy with him. Sounds like an offer I can’t—or at least shouldn’t—refuse.