Each week, WordPress has a Weekly Photo Challenge, where they give a theme and invite people to highlight photography representing that theme, accompanied by a few meditations on it. Occasionally, I try and write a “photo sermon” or meditation based on those themes, accompanied by a photo of mine . This week’s theme is “Good Morning“.
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In one of those oddities of tire human condition, I love sleep, and yet I avoid it like the plague. I have a terrible sleep schedule. My sleep pattern is a microcosm of my lack of discipline in many parts of life, and maybe even an extremely low level of self-harm, where my body and heart wouldn’t really know what to do if it were consistently well-rested. There’s something about a constant weight of tiredness that—maybe—makes one feel “productive”, even as it steals productivity away from you.
This is a lie. I know. I’m working on it in therapy.
In some Christian circles, people claim “life verses” for themselves; bits of the Bible that they feel speak to them so deeply that the words amount to a blanket summary, call, encouragement, guiding principle, or telos to their life. People usually pick a “life verse” that speaks to what they want their life to be or how they want God to work in their lives.
But, there’s another kind of life verse one can have, and that’s the begrudging one. The difficult truth that seems to mark and name the struggles of one’s life. Maybe these should be called “Harsh Reality Verses”. And here are the verses that expose much of my heart to the harsh light of truth:
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (ps127.1-2)
It is so odd to see one’s heart laid bare in all its brokenness and hope in just a few lines. (The same thing happened when I read Theodore Roethke’s poem “Open House“.) I see the vision of the “house” before me and I strive to build it myself. This is a house where I am popular, well-liked, well-educated, living in complete and constant intimacy with my God, and so I strive and labor and “eat the bread of anxious toil”. But it’s all in vain.
I’m a night owl by nature, and have often used this to lessen the guilt I have over not getting up early. But honestly (as I’m sure we’ve all experienced), the most tone-setting thing I can experience in my day is a leisurely morning that looks like the one above: enjoying the quiet morning of my neighborhood, with a coffee-based beverage in front of me, participating in some activity that’s not work, and is not judged by its “productivity” (in the case above, it’s enjoying the poetry of Hart Crane).
A good morning that relieves me of my “anxious toil” is also marked by another thing: Morning Prayer.
I have always felt the weight of the Bible’s stress of prayer in the morning (admittedly, some of the verses in that link don’t really apply here, but whatever). The Psalms are replete with references to meeting with God in the morning. Men and women of God are constantly praying in the morning. The Christians Church, as it has prayed “The Divine Hours” marks Morning Prayer of especially great importance.
God is a God of rhythm and order. The Christian Life (and the human heart) is far more cyclical and rhythmic than linear. In the Christian view, Time itself is sacred and how it’s marked and observed has deep effects on the humans that experience that Time. And so, it only makes sense that Prayer and Communion with God in the morning lends itself to a rhythm of day and life that builds us up in our humanity and spirituality.
Yes, I think most of us know this. Yes, I think most of us try not to have hectic mornings and instead try to have a relaxing morning ritual. Yes, I still haven’t figured out how to do this. And yes, I’m preaching this more to myself than anyone else. But hey, reminders are still helpful at times, right?
To help you in morning prayer, I’ll give you my two favorite resources for Morning Prayer:
- MorningPrayer.is: this is the most beautiful morning prayer site I’ve ever run across. It offers exactly what I’d been looking for for a long time. It’s one page that’s updated daily with the prayers and readings from the Book of Common Prayer for that day all laid out beautifully in a responsive site that adjusts to any size screen. Just save the one bookmark and go there each day and scroll down. It’s as easy, simple, and beautiful as that.
- St. Bede’s Breviary: This is for the person that likes variety. I used the Book of Common Prayer for a while and it just eventually got a little stale. Sorry, I’m just being honest. This site, while not as pretty as the one above, has a number of variables you can pick before clicking one button and getting the prayers and readings for that day spit out in an easy-to-read and scroll through format.
I hope these encourage you and help you to explore some more dimensions of your morning and it’s routine in this sort-of Pentecost (but not really) time of year. I also hope that, if you’re like me, it will motivate you towards just getting to bed and enjoying the beauty that’s just on the other side of slumber.
See my past Weekly Photo Challenges & Photo Sermons here.