Category Archives: Education

Peaceful sleep…

Angel Guardian, keep and preserve all of us from every evil, sickness, and grief.

Help us, O Lord, to be good, obedient, and kind.

I thank thee, O Lord, for all good things thou has sent to me during this past day.

Let me spend this night in peace, and protect me from all harm. Amen.

[A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p. 16]

Let me spend this night in peace…

During one stay with my parents after my older son was born, my father sent me off to bed around ten o’clock with a promise that he’d put Colin in the crib when he was ready to sleep. He also told me not to worry if Colin woke early – he’d be up early anyway, and he’d be glad to keep Colin company while I got some extra sleep. Ten minutes later, I was asleep; nine hours later, I awoke to hear Colin and my father downstairs, laughing. A few years after that, he kept my younger son company, soothing Jared through an uncomfortable night of teething while I slept without interruption.

I spent those nights in peace because I knew my father and trusted in his love and care for me and my young sons. I didn’t wake up because I knew he was more than capable of meeting their needs. If an emergency arose, my father would do whatever was necessary, and would wake me if I needed to be up.

My children are twenty-one and eighteen now, and my father died almost four years ago. But each night, I still hand Colin and Jared over, just as I have since their first  nights in this world. I hand them over to God, trusting that God’s love for them will not fail. I do the same with everyone else’s lives, including my own. If I could not give everyone over to God, would I ever get a peaceful night’s sleep?

This past day

At the end of the day, am I grateful for the hours I was given? Am I aware, on the superficial as well as on the deepest level, of the miracle I’ve been immersed in? The miracle I easily mistake for an infinite if commonplace resource: daily life.

Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of its outline or a hint of its face. The way the trees move in the wind, the way my cats interrupt their backyard explorations to rest under my hand, the aeronautic wonder of a sparrow flying from maple to forsythia, the appearance of my still sleepy son packing his duffel before heading to work.

Food on the table, breathable air, loving and being loved. Today may not be perfect, and I may forget some of its gifts. Still…

I thank thee, O Lord, for all good things thou hast sent to me during the past day. 

[nighttime prayer, A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p. 16. This is part of an ongoing series. For the full prayer, click Prayer At Night above.]

Help Us, O Lord

Help us, O Lord, to be good, obedient, and kind.

Good, obedient, and kind. Taken separately, they don’t have near the power as they do together.

Good    Help me spend my days wisely, offering my talents, knowledge, and energy only to those things that increase the love in this world. Everything I am can devastate or foster. Help me choose the latter.

Obedient      I am too limited to see very far down the path of love and peace. I am tempted to serve lesser powers: greed, vanity, and fear.  Help me choose to serve you, when your reasons seem clear and when they do not.

Kind      All the good intentions will lead me astray if I am willing to harm others in their name. Help me choose kindness over judgement, for you have been so kind to me.

On this day, help me to remember that without kindness I can mistake personal piety for goodness and unwillingness to accept the consequences of my actions for obedience. God help me.

[For the full prayer, click prayer at night above]

From every evil, sickness, and grief

Keep and preserve all of us from every evil, sickness, and grief.

Sickness and grief come to all of us before we put many candles on our birthday cakes. The healthiest will catch colds, stomach bugs, or sprain ankles. Grief is inevitable for anyone who loves; it’s the natural response to loss. Perhaps that’s why they are included in this child’s prayer – an acknowledgement of the difficulties that come into every life.

What about evil? Is it an inevitable part of being human, just like sickness and grief? Judging by the lynchings, genocides, mass shootings, and the prevalence of physical abuse, the answer is yes. Evil can touch our lives at any point. Very young children may not understand evil, but I believe they are more than capable of recognizing and being damaged by it.

My first read on keep and preserve all of us from every evil is a prayer for protection from something external to me. My second read: keep and preserve all of us from becoming evil, from visiting evil upon others. The first reading is a child’s one, the second for those of us a few years past nursery school. I’m old enough to recognize my own capacity for evil, and to pray there will never come a time when that capacity is put to use.

Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil…

Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil…

Please, God, guard my soul from evil without and from evil within.

[For more in this series, click  prayer at night above]

 

Angel guardian…

Angel Guardian, keep and preserve all of us from every evil, sickness, and grief.

I was in my early thirties before I read this prayer. I never prayed to an angel guardian when I was a child – it wasn’t common practice in Baptist and Congregational traditions back then. I never prayed to a saint, either; no prayers to Mary, Anthony, Jude, Francis, or any of the others. Back then, I prayed to God or Jesus. Or so I thought, until I recited one of my favorite prayers:

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

Angels guard me through the night, and wake me in the morning light. 

How could I have missed the angel in this prayer?

Except for the Lord’s Prayer, I always prayed as a single person – I and me, no We or us. Plurals were used in worship services and for table prayers when there were others present, but not at bedtime. I was in my late twenties when I found out why plurals are used outside gatherings: no one prays alone because every single person belongs to the unbroken chain of prayer that began when the world was born and will continue until all worlds come to an end. It’s a theological understanding common to Eastern Orthodox traditions that never quite made it into my childhood Sunday school classes.

Angels guarding those who sleep, every living thing standing in the unbroken chain of prayer as company – what profound comfort can come from these simple truths.

Good night. Sleep tight. See you in the morning light.

Angel Guardian, keep and preserve all of us from every evil, sickness, and grief.

Help us, O Lord, to be good, obedient, and kind.

I thank thee, O Lord, for all good things thou has sent to me during the past day. Let me spend this night in peace, and protect me from all harm. Amen.

[From A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, New York: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p. 16. For more on this series, click child’s nighttime prayer above.]

The End…and the Beginning

Sleep well, see you in the morning.

The day is nearly done. Things left undone will have to wait – there isn’t time to turn them into things done. This is the time to say good-bye to this day, with all that it has been and all that it has not. There can never be another one exactly like it because the world continues to turn and I continue to move from birth to death.

Sleep well

I let go of the day, giving thanks for the gift it was. I give everyone I love back to God, in the hope and faith that they will be returned to me in the morning. If they are not, then in the hope and faith that their return to God is joyous. Then I close my eyes and give myself back, too.

see you in the morning…

Whatever has happened in the past, a new day rises. Its pattern may seem ordinary and predictable, but this is something altogether new. It may not be easy or painless, but the morning brings its own miracles. I can see it in the sky’s light, and I can see it in you.

For this, O Lord, I give you thanks. Amen.

I Love You

Jeanne Pena is a master at saying these three precious words. So is John Capellaro. Fred Rogers said like, but everyone knew there was love behind it. The more candles I add to my birthday cake, the more I’m convinced that these are the real movers and shakers of the world.

If ever the Kingdom of Heaven is realized in the Here and Now, it will come because every living creature has learned how to say, believe, and live these words.

 

Jump in Bed

It was a great way to end the day – taking a flying leap onto my bed. I don’t think I’ve jumped into bed in the literal sense in well over thirty years, save a few exceptions. It certainly isn’t part of my normal routine any more. Even my children are too big for such a nightly action. It seems to be for the young and light weight.

Have I left behind the joy of heading to bed, along with my childhood body and years? I wonder. Have I forgotten what a blessing it is to have a safe, comfortable place to end my day? To let go of the world I think I can control in favor of the dreamscape that springs from well far deeper than my conscious mind’s pool is an adventure offered to me every night. I haven’t given this a thought in a very long time.

Many times, I’ve heard the Spirit more clearly in my dreams than in my waking hours. Isn’t it worth a good jump into bed for that alone?

Now I lay me down to sleep…

The Book We Choose

What book do you want to read tonight?

I ordered a copy of Boynton’s The Going To Bed Book for my niece’s soon-to-be-in-the-world son, Declan. It was a favorite of my own two boys, given by my friend Diane. I’ve read it hundreds of times, and all that reading has worn the corners and spine soft.

The story starts at sunset and ends with everyone fast asleep under a bright moon. In between,  the animals do all the going-to-bed activities – bathing, brushing teeth, exercising, and saying good night to each other. Like all great literature, familiarity makes it more interesting rather than less. Like all good picture books, it presents a the world in a smattering of simple words and captivating images.  From these early books comes a love of learning and an appreciation for beauty.

How do you give someone else the world? How do you reveal the pain and joy of life? What is the best way to point out the wondrous things that surround us, and the ones that live within us? There are many answers to such questions. Still, the way of the children’s book is one of the best:  Go with simple words. Point out the small miracles of daily life – moon, stars, ants, baths. Paint a picture when possible. Read it over and over until it becomes part of you. Give it a good ending. Share it with others.

The moon is high. The sea is deep.

They rock

and rock

and rock

to sleep.

[Boynton, Sandra; The Going To Bed Book; New York: Little Simon, new edition, 1995]

 

 

 

Bath Time!

It’s one of the great comforts in life – sinking down into a steamy bath on a cold night (or a cool one during a heat wave). We are formed in water in our mother’s womb, so perhaps taking a bath is a reminder of our beginnings. For whatever reason, it’s a wonderful to end our day the way we began our lives.

It takes about twenty minutes for our bodies to become soft enough to slough off the skin cells covered with the grime of the day. A little soap on a face cloth does the rest, and we emerge restored in body; if we use the time in the tub to let go of the day, we can emerge with soul and heart refreshed as well.

We baptize with water as an outward act of a inward transformation. I wonder why I’ve never thought to take bath time as a way to remember this sacrament until now…