If someone were to ask you, “Quick! Recite something from a Psalm,” you’d likely go to “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23)
Or if they asked you to (quick as you can!) recite a prayer that’s not a table grace, you might start off, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallow/ed be thy name…” (Mtt. 6:9-13)
This week was another one of those “Quick!!…DO something!” kind of weeks, and I’m sure you’ve already had your fill of what happened and why, election this-and-that. I choose not to write about that part, but rather… the fear, the mourning, the healing we pray for. It is the time to be galvanized, connected, and ready to continue creating the change we need in the world.
I do not agree with the prognosticators saying, “Don’t curl up in a ball.” “Don’t run away.” If you need to do that for however long it takes, go ahead! I certainly did, and I loathed the idea that someone should tell me to “just cheer up” when my body and my spirit wasn’t ready to do that.
Take as long as you need.
Your friends, your supporters, your caregivers, your prayer chain and assembled group of “we are thinking of you and remembering your grief,” we are here, and we are ready to proceed when you are. What’s the rush in getting it all back in order?
I’ll get more into shock reactions and the darkness I felt later on, as the memory of all that becomes less raw. I will keep politics out of the mix, and I will not preach any particular sort of salvation.
Ours is – after all – just a pause.
My first go to, when I was able to have prayerful thoughts again, was to turn to the Order of Compline in the Episcopal prayer book. It’s my favorite of all the services in the book. Not because it’s so short (you can get through it reading aloud in under 20 minutes) but because it is concise with extremely lyrical prayers about how we ask for God’s protection during the over-night, until the next day arrives.
One of the prayers speaks of angels, and that one sounds out to me today, because my first prayer I could say out loud was
I didn’t feel my safety was at risk even though I fear that for others around me. I prayed that because of what another Compline prayer describes as the changes and chances of this life. That is kind-of what’s going on right now. The prayer goes on to remind us of the eternal changelessness of God. Whatever awful, stupid crap happens around us, this one part of our experience with the universe never changes.
The prayer that popped to my Quick! reaction is this one:
Visit this place, O LORD, and drive far from it all the snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessings be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Protect me. Protect us all. Guide us away from wrong choices if that’s possible and if not, help us to learn quickly from our missteps. If angels aren’t your thing nor this whole Christian gig, think of that phrase as: show us all our better angels. Show us that there is life beyond today, and that it is our vocation to live it.
If I can go to sleep and rest in that great changelessness (faith), then tomorrow, just maybe, the day will be a tiny bit brighter than today (hope.)
Be good to each other and be there for each other. Give folks time to step into sunlight at their own pace. What’s the hurry? Healing comes as it comes and will not be rushed.
Keep the faith!
A little song from my Sunday School days that I didn’t even realize had verses. I have certainly sang the refrain all my life.
Angels Watching Over Me.
All Night, All Day,
The Angels, Keep A Watching Over Me (My Lord)
All Night, All Day,
The Angels, Keep A Watching, Over Me
You Can Accuse Me,
You Can Even Abuse Me,
You Can Drive Me From The Cold
(The Angels, Keep Watching, Over Me)
You, You Can Crucify This Old Body,
Oh, But You Can Not, You Can’t Touch
(Yes, The Angels Keep Watching… Over Me.)
I Haven’t … Been To Heaven
But… I’m Surely, I’m Surely
On My Way… Oh, (Background)
I Am Walking… With My Jesus
Every Night… And Every Day..
(Yes, The Angels, Keep Watching… Over Me.)
In The Midnight, When I Get In Trouble
When I Lay, Me Down To Sleep, Oh….
(The Angels, Keep Watching,… Over Me)
I Don’t Wonder, And I Don’t Have To Worry, For I Know The Lord, My Soul He’ll Keep.
As the skies move from daylight to dark, we come to the time of the day to hear my favorite words from the Book of Common Prayer, from the last prayers of the day – Compline.
The prayer that follows is from the New Zealand Prayer Book and speaks to my … interaction, both good and bad … with the night.
Years ago when I was in Intensive Care in the hospital and coming through my first medical experience of coping with a condition over which I had no control, I feared the night. My body changed sleep cycles so that I would stay awake through the darkness and sleep during the day. It all seemed even more scary to me in its irrationality until one of my clergy pointed out to me that it was this fear that came from my loss of control.
It’s tough for people to go through that the first time. And it’s even more tough for guys to go through it. (See my other writings in this blog on “guys”)
Now – having gone through that challenge of the mind and the spirit – those hours are a welcome refreshment to me. Even on the sleepless nights, the hours of darkness are when I can settle down, away from the distractions I can see, and open my heart to welcome the rest of the quiet evening. When medical stress pops up and changes my sleeping cycles for me, I accept the change of my hours for what they are. I no longer live in fear of that night and that darkness, but feel glad for what I have done with my days, I find the rest I need, and I move through the hours, no longer the darkness as a villain – as a reminder of death.
I find in the hours of night a great peace that reminds me of how I felt as a child, settling on a comfortable pillow, under a cool sheet or a warm blanket, sleeping in great anticipation of another fun day to come.
Keep the faith!
Lord it is night:
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done.
Let it be.
The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.
The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.
J.S. Bach wrote that “to sing once is to pray twice.” When I sing, and when I hear singing, I am surrounded by the presence of the angels and the prayers of the saints. I am in communion, even if in a community of one.
I remember today one of the Advent meditations in the Episcopal service of Compline – the final service of the day, as we head off to bed and rest. Another day done. Another goal made or lost. One sunrise behind us and one so close ahead. I’ve heard this hymn so often sung at Compline that I don’t recognize this as an Advent hymn, even if that is the theme of the lyrics.
Yet as I lay down at night, in the few seconds before sleep enrobes, I sometimes think of the dark universe spread out above us, as deep as the Maker’s love. I think of that sky full of stars and planets. And – I suppose – of the proverbial Heavenly Host singing whatever Hosannahs are on the cue sheet for the night.
The simple melody of this song plays round and round and through my thoughts as I settle in a few moments to close the day with a few hours of sleep and rest.
The prayer of Compline tells us:
“Keep watch, dear Lord, over those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend to the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen“
Joyous… grieving… resting… dying: we all sleep together under a common blanket of stars and sweet songs of benediction. And all for what?….
His love’s sake.
Keep the faith!