Category Archives: Education

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 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…

 

End well, begin well

Time to do the dishes…

My grandmother had us help with supper dishes once everyone was done eating – cleaning and putting away everything used for cooking or serving. Tabletops and cupboards were wiped clean, and the wet dish towels hung to dry overnight. But dish duty didn’t end there: by the time everyone headed to bed, the kitchen sink was full of tea cups and plates from bedtime snacks. Before she slept, she washed and dried all of them, returning them to the shelves and cupboards where they belonged. It’s no good starting a new day with yesterday’s dishes in the way, she’d say. I want to start tomorrow with a clean kitchen. 

Turns out, my grandmother had the right idea. Beginning the day with a clean kitchen is beginning with a clean slate. The morning tasks are done more easily when the work space is clean and all the necessary utensils are ready to use, in the physical sense and psychologically. Dirty dishes in the sink aren’t always just dirty dishes: they are a symbol of a burdensome life routine. The simple investment of ten minutes and a dollop of dish soap gets a necessary chore done and offers a tomorrow without the burden of today’s leftover messiness.

Have you noticed that spiritual practices are much the same? They are simple steps and actions designed to be done at the beginning and end of the day; they are repetitive, requiring an investment of time and energy; they can’t be done once and for all, and they enhance the lives of those who do them. Left undone, life becomes an inconvenient mess.

The Jesus prayer, meditation, lectio divina, daily readings – just a few of the practices that can help you put your soul’s house to rights every night and wake up to God’s new day ready for whatever will come.  I’ll remember this when I see dishes in the sink.

 

 

Enough

Did you get enough?

It was the question that was asked almost every time we gathered around the table to eat together. Was there enough to take away your hunger? Did you get to try a bit of everything? At meal’s end, are you satisfied? The question may be about food on my plate, but it was also about so much more.

If I could travel back in time and talk with my four year old self, visit my teenage self, spend time with my new mother self, and ask “who will you be, what will you be doing, where will you live, and who will share your life?, I doubt the answers would look much like my current life. At four, I wanted to be a waitress; as a teen, I planned on a career in science; as a new mother, I was living in New York City with my husband, finishing up a dissertation in Theology and looking toward teaching in seminary.

I don’t think there was anything wrong with my plans or assumptions, but they were limited to my particular age and stage. The same is true of my current ideas and assumptions. There are so many could-have-beens in life, paths not taken for one reason or another. Had I not met this particular mentor, had I moved to another town, had I developed other gifts than the ones I chose to foster. Such might have beens are an interesting topic of conversation, perhaps, but only if they aren’t mistaken for should have beens.

If I really could go back in time and talk with my younger self [even better, talk with my grandfather’s twenty year old self or my grandmother’s thirty year old self], I wouldn’t ask any of the questions I listed two paragraphs ago. Instead, I’d ask the question I’ve heard or said so many times around the table: did you get enough?

From my four year old self dreaming of waiting tables to my fifty-five year old self writing this blog from my back yard, the answer is the same:

Yes. More than enough.

My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Ps. 23: 5b-6, KJV

New and Exciting…

Anything new and exciting happen today?

When I was a chaplain intern at Mercer Medical Center, my supervisor asked me to do something I’d never have done on my own. Take the least interesting visit you had with a patient or staff member today, write it up, and bring it in for discussion tomorrow. So I did. It was a quick exchange with a newly discharged patient while she waited for the elevator. I said good-bye, wished her continued health, and waved as the elevator doors closed. Her stay in the hospital had been short, her reason for being there temporary and non-life threatening. I doubt I’d spent more than ten minutes with her and we had no serious or life-changing discussions.

As I wrote up our elevator conversation word-for-word, I remembered how wonderful it was to see someone leave the hospital to take up the blessing of everyday life. No cancer, no debilitating injuries: she was given back to the holiness and grace of her ongoing life. Of all the people walking through the hospital halls, I was the one got to say good-bye and wish her well. I got to see the happy ending, the good outcome everyone who enters the hospital prays for. If that isn’t an amazing encounter, what is?

My new and exciting thing that day: there’s no such thing as a boring encounter or day. Perhaps it’s just my lack of expecting the amazing that blinds me to the wonder of it all.

 

Time for Dinner

If I’m the chef du jour, these words move my focus from food prep to table fellowship. If someone else is cooking, it’s my signal to leave whatever activity I’m doing in favor of breaking bread with loved ones.

What a marvelous way to meet the needs of the body while nourishing the soul in the company of others. For the meal and the time with others I am equally grateful.

 Thank you for my daily bread. Amen.

The Great and Necessary Outdoors

Go out and get some fresh air.

When my children were still in their preschool years, Richard Louv wrote Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from Nature-Deficit Disorder [Algonquin Books,  2005 (2008 – updated and expanded edition)]. His basic point: lack of getting outside in the natural world has some very negative consequences for children. I’m not sure when this bit of common sense moved from something most people took as a given to something that needed scientific research to justify.

Spending all day and night indoors, wired into various devices or sitting in front of a television screen, isn’t good for kids. Our bodies need to move, and we need to engage with the world in a way that we can’t control simply by pushing a button or selecting favorites. The world we build around ourselves, the indoor space we inhabit, can become a hiding place – somewhere we use to escape the larger world, where we can fool ourselves into thinking we can control everything.

But it’s just so easy to shut the door, pull the curtains, and leave the great big world the poorer for our absence.

If we don’t go outside, we miss out on some magical things:

Fostering life – plants, birds, bees, butterflies, and even the occasional groundhog or skunk.

Finding beauty in every season – fog rolling in, planets and stars crossing the sky, snow on tree branches, jellyfish and hermit crabs in the water where we stand.

Finding our place – we aren’t the center of the world, but we are a wonderful part of it. The entire universe was changed when we entered it.

Seeing the handiwork of God, and the holy ground that Jesus walked.

This is the day the Lord has made. Go outside and be glad for it.