What do you think of when you hear someone tell you, “hey, eyes up!” I think of sports for some reason. I think of a coach yelling instructions to his players out on the field, or of a school teacher letting a student know that they’re not paying attention with the reprimand, “hey, eyes up front.” In general, the phrase “eyes up” reminds me that there’s something I’m not seeing, but I could see it if I choose to. And there’s something to learn.
Before reading on (and without sneaking a peak ahead for context!), answer these questions for yourself:
- Which is most important to you… Money, time, or attention?
- Which do you appreciate receiving, and which do you enjoy giving?
- Which one do you struggle with giving the most?
I’ll tell you mine. My time is most important to me. And I appreciate receiving others’ time, too (I think a long distance relationship will do that to ya :P). I enjoy giving money (usually in the form of buying something, like a latte for a friend). And I struggle the most with giving my attention… But I wonder, could that be universal? Do you struggle with that too?
Before diving into this subject I’ve grown to be passionate about, I want you to know something. You are loved by a seriously awesome and ever-present God. No matter how much time or attention you are able to give to Him or others, or the lack-there-of, He is still more. Not in a “I’m better than you” way, but in a sweet, powerful, father-like way that says “I am in control, and I am here for you. I am the I AM.” (Read Exodus 3:14 to learn about this “I AM” statement—it’s pretty cool).
I don’t have it all down, but I’ve actually had a lot of fun figuring out how I can better manage, appreciate, and give my money, time, and most of all, my attention! Over the past few weeks, there’s been a physical and spiritual change in me… and it’s brought so much joy. I’ve read more books in the past few weeks than I have in all of last year. I retain information better, and I can remember more. I’ve been more productive at my work, with less time. I’ve rested more, with better quality, thus being far more fueled physically & emotionally to work and play. I’ve found so much victory & peace in prayer, and my daily time with the Lord has gotten so much sweeter– ever since bringing my eyes UP.
Here’s what I’ve been learning lately: there’s a physical “eyes up” and a spiritual “eyes up”.
By literally bringing my eyes up, I get to enjoy the sights, notice people, smell the smells, and be FULLY present in the world God invited me to partake in.
By taking my eyes (my thoughts, focus, energy) off the stress, worries, and cares of this world, and looking to the cross— to Jesus— and being eternally minded, I’ve found so much peace! It also helps me realize that the world does not, in fact, revolve around me (woah, mind blowing, right?). It helps me notice the pain and needs of others, and fuels me to offer a helping hand and shoulder to cry on.
Although I’m still learning how to bring my eyes up, there have been some key habits and resources that have greatly helped me, and I want to share them with you! Take all you want from this, but remember: all good things come with sacrifice. If you are really, truly, abso-fruitly down to make a change for the better, no matter what it takes, then great! This will help you as it did me. But if you are not willing to change, these tips won’t help you. You might as well stop reading right now. That being said, here’s what I am currently working on to physically and spiritually bring my eyes up.
Parent Your Phone
This has by far been the hardest, most challenging, but most rewarding habit that has transformed my days and given me my time back. It started with social media, then email, but then my whole phone in general. My phone was controlling me, and it had to stop! Here are are some practical ways you can “parent” your phone in order to better manage this piece of technology:
- Put your phone to bed – Don’t let your phone put you to bed— put your phone to bed first! Not only is it a time-waster to scroll endlessly right before bed, but looking at your phone right before bed impacts the quality and quantity of sleep you get due to blue light rays and really, distractions that don’t help you wind down for bed. Try setting a time of day that you put your phone to bed, (keep it in another room if possible!).
- Don’t let your phone wake you up – Get a real alarm clock! That way you have no excuse to not have your phone near your bed. A phrase that I think of when I want to get a head start on my day before bible time is, “word before world.” So my rule of thumb is that I must have bible time before looking at my phone. You could also set a time of day when you first look at it.
- Delete social media off your phone – Or delete it altogether! Or, start with turning off the notifications. Or set up time limits. If you don’t think you waste much time on your social media apps, go look at the screen time settings in your phone– I think it’ll surprise you. For me, social media is a huge part of my business, so I can’t delete it altogether, but I have made a choice to manage it well. I don’t have any of the apps on my phone, but I check once a day in the evening to answer emails, messages, comments, and do a quick scroll of my feed on my iPad at home. Usually for about 5-10 minutes. When I make a post, I prepare the content on my computer or on the notes on my phone, and schedule it to post via my iPad. A recent distraction for me has been email too, so I’ve deleted that off my phone and only check it once a day on my computer at home.
- Take regular phone-fasts – This has been something new that I had to work up to, but I will take a whole day once a week without my phone. Usually, (almost always) it’s on the same day as my sabbath– and what a perfect pair! I’ve found this a great habit if you want to pray more, too. Whenever I do this “phone-fast,” I find myself thinking of my phone (thus praying instead) more than I would think of food when I’m hungry on a normal fast!
Schedule Bible Time
Mindset is everything, and I’ve realized I have to make this a non-negotiable in my head. For me, bible time is 6-7am (or earlier) every weekday, and a little later on weekends so I can sleep in, but still– an hour everyday. I definitely notice a negative change when I skip out on bible time, and it’s just not worth it! Start small if you need to, but I would encourage you to spend as much time as you can in His Word, in prayer, and in His presence. Make it a date with God, and keep it. Don’t flake out!
This is a new one for me, because I almost always have music playing, or lately, an audiobook. But after reading The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, I’ve learned how much noise we have in our lives– music, talking, social media– all good things, but still! When’s the last time I spent 5 minutes without anything to do, listen to, or look at? To just be? With the rise in technological development, just in the past 10 years, we’re never bored. That’s why it’s so important to take intentional time to come away for a moment, 5 minutes, or an hour and just be silent. Let your mind and soul catch up with your body. And listen! I’m learning so often I’m talking to God and not listening much. I definitely want to work on being this more.
Like I said, I’ve read more books in the past few weeks than I have in the past year. That’s mind-blowing to me. And also tragic. I’ve missed out! But I’ve started the change, and so can you. Just FYI, I thought it would be an easy change, but it’s not. I’ve heard it takes about 30 days to truly adopt a new habit, and that’s what reading was like for me. This really does take sacrifice because you have to just sit there and look at words on a page. You can’t multitask. You can’t divide your attention. You have to give a book your full attention. Yet, for me, reading has been one of the most rewarding habits of my life lately!
Take a Sabbath
This is different from person to person, but so important. So much so, that God commanded we honor the sabbath and keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11) I mean, God Himself rested on the 7th day of creation! I don’t know about you, but I have neglected this command– a lot. Our whole culture is constantly pushing us to go, go, go, to the point of exhaustion, burnout, and breakdowns where we are forced to take a break because we physically cannot do more. But when we regularly rest, get renewed, and stop, we don’t have to burnout. Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word “shabbat,” meaning “to rest from labor.” It’s different for each person and family, but basically, taking a sabbath is taking a day to stop. Stop work, appointments, to-do’s, etc. Do things that bring you life. Rest, refuel, connect. For me, this day bounces back between Saturdays and Sundays depending on my schedule, and it usually involves a lot of reading, good food, connection with loved ones, rest, creating, or time outside. It takes repetition to find your groove in practicing sabbath, so don’t worry if you have some hiccups– give yourself grace and enjoy the journey.
God has been teaching me many things recently, but so much of it comes back to prayer– how we communicate with God. For the past 5-ish months I’ve been making it a habit to kneel in prayer every night before bed. This has been a wonderful way to step into God’s invitation to connect with Him, surrender the stresses of the day, rejoice over the good things, and request my heart’s desires. If you are like me, you probably pray throughout the day (which is good! I mean, how awesome is it that God is always with us?!), but there’s something humbling and growing in sacrificing your time to spend it with the Lord without distraction. A couple other ways I pray as well are in the car, journaling (writing my prayers), and praying with others. Bottom line, take a time of your day, I like morning and/or night, to give God your full attention in prayer.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:5
This has been my most recent area of growth that has been raw, revealing, and really hard. The Lord opened my eyes to the power of my thoughts, and how they govern my words, behavior, attitude, and actions. Basically, it all comes down to this: I have a choice. When a fearful, stressful, angry, or ______ thought comes to mind, tell yourself, “I have a choice to be ______ (stressed, angry, afraid, etc.), but I am going to choose ______ instead (joy, peace, kindness, forgiveness, etc.). Even with today’s best technology, the human brain is still a mystery– the most complex code no one can crack– except God. And He tells us to capturing our thoughts. He also tells us that we do not fight against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12). That being said, arm yourself with the Word of God! Hide it in your heart! You need to realize you cannot fight well without the armor of God, and that includes the Bible. For a fascinating and inspiring read on thoughts and our brain, take a look at Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen.
Take a walk. Breath deeply. Go the speed limit. Don’t text and drive (#guilty). Make a full stop at a stop sign (ugh, that’s a hard one for me). Basically, look for opportunities to slow down. I absolutely loved John Mark Comer’s book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry because of how he compared Jesus’ life to living slowly. Did Jesus ever hurry? Was He running from event to event, worried if He’ll get there in time or how he’ll feed the crowd? Did he ever tell the blind man, “Sorry, I’m on a schedule, take to my assistant, Peter. He’ll heal ya.”? No! He took His time! He took naps! He was even late to heal one His best friends– but then He raised him from the dead! Bottom line, there is no peace in hurrying. There’s less quality in hurried work, too. Look for opportunities to slow downnnnn.
If you’re between the ages of 18 and 34, it’s very likely you consider yourself, or you’ve been called a “minimalist.” Minimalism is also known as “simplicity.” I like that word better. I think it’s actually a great movement, but lately it’s seen more as an aesthetic style rather than a way of life. Statistics show that stuff and money doesn’t make us happy. We can actually live better, happier, and longer with less stuff. There’s actually sooo much joy in having less too! I’m a pretty neat, organized person, but I heard a crazy line the other day, “if you have to organize it, you probably have too much of it.” Ouch. Oh, that’s convicting! Do you feel like you constantly have to organize? Take a look at your inventory and analyze it. Start with your closet, pantry, bathroom— whatever. Then get down to the deep stuff. What’s clogging up your time and attention?
Of course there are also the obvious habits too, like prioritizing sleep (you should get 7-9 hours each night), exercise, and eating wisely. It’s up to you to make a change in your lifestyle to live better, fuller, and longer– but it means making sacrifices. I would encourage you, in everything, to “get your eyes up” physically and spiritually.
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”Colossians 3:2
Christ is IN your life. Are you in His? How do you want to appear with Christ in glory? With an excuse that you didn’t have time for Him, or with confidence that you followed His example of living a life with “eyes up?”