Around the middle of July the following events aligned: some free time, a little bit of money, an invitation to visit dear friends in Texas, and I found myself registering for the Anglican Way Institute Summer Conference. I was going to see folks I loved and missed -- the conference was an afterthought. There are two amazing blessings that came of that little adventure to Dallas, and one of them was my first encounter with The Book of Common Prayer.
I remember unpacking my suitcase before bed and that was when I examined the schedule for the conference....my thoughts were something like oh my, I have to prepare for Holy Communion every day! I hadn't realized I had signed up for spiritual boot camp. So I went through my usual routine -- involved one or two passages from Scripture and kneeling by the bed as always -- and then I went to sleep.
The next day was a bit of a catastrophe for me, not that anyone one else could have noticed. A small explosion took place in my mind before (-- as I talked with people), during (-- as I went through the liturgy), and after (-- as I tried to reassemble myself) worship that morning. When I was asked at lunch to tell a little bit about myself, the first thing I said was "well, I'm a sad Presbyterian who wants to be Anglican..." Prayer before I went to sleep that night was a very different, somewhat trembly, event.
I digress. The tiny thought I wanted to write about was working through several Psalms everyday. Previous experiences in structured prayers were things like reading one Psalm a day -- or even one Psalm every Sunday. That was it. But reading through all of them every month is....reshaping. In all areas. I'm used to singing Psalms, not praying them...and so my thinking, my singing, my praying have suddenly all bound up together.
And while that in and of itself is wonderful, the blessing bleeds into the rest of the day; overflowing into everything. My family begins and ends each day with common prayer -- whether it's together in pairs as we get breakfast started, or one alone on the long train commute into Boston -- we are praying as others have prayed before us and as those who are still to come. Some days are busier than others, so things are shortened....but we always include the Psalms.
Even my sleep is different. As one who has always stayed up late until stumbling with weariness -- because I dream vividly and going to bed exhausted would help to stave off nightmares -- I now delight in the approaching night and wake early the next day. While I hesitated initially to draw such a bold conclusion, I found myself pointing to July and saying "here." Here is when my late night anxieties became few and far between. So what was different? A disciplined practice to give that which is due -- and, unexpectedly, I now find a clean heart and quiet mind.