To sleep perchance to dream…

Sleep has been a “designated issue” of mine for quite some time now. However, for the first time in about 3 years, I’m finding some relief. One thing I know to be true about sleep is that there is no A+B=C formula to getting to sleep (without drugs, of course, and sometimes even then…oye), but there are some things that will surely help…and some things that will surely harm. Recently lots of my friends have been asking me for tips since I’ve spent significant time on this. So here it is, everyone!

Doctors call the quick fix “sleep hygiene.” Here are some of my tips.

1. Get a good pillow, and sleep with something under your knees or back.

2. Do something relaxing for the hour before bed. A hot shower or even cleaning up my room gets me ready.

Don’t talk on the phone with your mom about how she doesn’t really like your hair long, for example. (just kidding, mom)

Don’t watch TV

Don’t look at Facebook on your phone.

3. Sleep with a noise machine. (the iphone has a free white noise app)

4. Stretch. I do several sun salutations before bed each night. I especially work on places that hold a lot of tension, such as my neck, shoulders, back, and legs (wait, that’s pretty much my whole body).

5. Is your jaw sore when you wake up? Consider whether you might clench your teeth at night. Invest in a nightguard if so.

6. Stay on a schedule, even on the weekends. Waking up at lots of different times confuses your body and keeps it from knowing when to sleep and when to wake.

7. Reserve your bed for bed activities. Do your work, phone calls, laundry folding, deep conversations with your partner, even journaling somewhere else. If you read before bed, it’s ok only if it’s something light. (Don’t read anything you might be tempted to underline)

8. Spend intentional time being honest about your fears and worries. What are you holding onto at night? What is waking you up or keeping you up? Write it down or say it/pray it outloud to release it.

But although action steps and tips and things to avoid are nice and can bring relief, for me, sleep is something much deeper, much harder to remedy, there is no quick fix…

Several years back I read Answering God by Eugene Peterson (he translated The Message).Using Psalms 4 (evening) and 5 (morning), Peterson discusses the spiritual elements of sleep.

He says, “even though it is decreed in our bodies that we return to sleep, it’s not easy. We want to stay in control and over see the whole operation. Evening prayer is a deliberate act of the spirit of what our bodies force on us finally.” Bottom line, sleeping comes down to control issues.

Daily we give up consciousness in order to grow and be healed, created and saved.”

“The rhythm of breathing, sleeping, and waking is theological as well as biological. It is symbolic of our spiritual and bodily connection. We start in the dark, go to light. We are in the dark in the womb and go to daylight, we also go from death to life with salvation.”

Here’s the kicker: He says that although we need less sleep over time as we grow, we never arrive at a condition where we are beyond our need for sleep, we can never be sufficient in 24 hour control. Going to sleep is a biological necessity, but it’s also an act of faith. In the act of offering up our sinful life (Psalm 4), we give up ownership and control, and we watch to see what God will do with it.

We watch to see what God will do with the assemblage of hopes and fears we set before him.

A Future Not Our Own

This is one of my favorite prayers(although I’m not sure I’d call it a “prayer”). In this process of trying to release control and surrender, I find comfort here.It reminds me of my limits, my humanity, and my smallness by pointing me to God’s infinite wisdom, power, and plan.

It was written by Oscar Romero.

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

A Prayer for Easter

Today I missed my family. Sometimes it is hard to be so far away, especially when my mom says things like “when you are not here, it feels like something is missing.” It’s hardest on holidays when I get phone calls from my family together on their way to be with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Being together with such a group reminds me that I am a part of something greater than myself. They are so much a part of who I am; it feels unnatural to be distant from them.

But as I arrived at church early this morning to set up, I felt a different kind of family. For me, the ritual of preparing for worship tangibly (setting out communion wine, ordering the nursery for babies, hanging signs directing newcomers) helps me prepare emotionally to worship together with my church family. Especially today. As I greeted dear friends and welcomed visiting families, we prepared together to come to the table and eat, to sing, and to hear the message of the gospel, which we need to hear again and again. As I offered Christ’s blood shed for the sins of each communing man and woman today and shared tears with many friends, I knew I was just where I needed to be. In serving communion to people I know and love, people with stories of pain, people with stories of joy, I found myself using the napkin to dry my face as well as the wine cup.  Today, this was my family. He is risen, indeed.

As we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, our hearts are stirred to praise, but we are reminded that there is redemption left to come. We can rejoice in the “already,” but we still feel pangs of the “not yet.” For me, I feel this especially on occasions when we are called to joy. As I rejoice in my church family, I miss sharing in the meal with those I love who are not here. But I am thankful that God reminds me of his love, and how he continually shows me that he is at work–sometimes mightily, sometimes softly. As we look at the ways He has moved mightily in our church since it’s beginning, we are humbled by His grace and hopeful for what is to come. Here, I am a part of kingdom work, and its beauty captured me today.

Anne’s congregational prayer articulated my heart, and I had to share it. These days, I’m finding deep strength in praying words others have prayed.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Today is a day of hope, renewal…LIFE.  Jesus, we celebrate you!

Because you have been raised from the dead, everything changes.

Thank you that on the cross, You dealt with all that distorts and defaces human life. And Lord Jesus, we acknowledge you are on your way back to put all things right and redress all wrongs.

But God, for some of us, even when we are celebrating or enjoying something good, our pain is still with us.  Pain of grief, loss, guilt, disappointment, loneliness and fear.

We all find our lives in a mess of one sort or another:

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.

We are perplexed and not sure what to do, but we aren’t driven to despair because we know You know what to do.

We are hunted down, but are never abandoned by You.

We get struck down, but we are not destroyed.

So, even though it often looks like things are falling apart, You are making new life, and not a day goes by without You unfolding more grace.

While we realize the darkness is not yet over, may we also remember that the darkness of trials is not out of reach from your Redemptive hand.

And remind us that these hard times are tiny compared to the coming good times, the extravagant celebration prepared for us…

God, we know that as You raised the Lord Jesus, you will raise us also. Thank you! And thank you for the knowledge that those we love, who have died in the Lord, will live; their bodies will rise again — Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom, a symphony of song and color.

Not only do You promise to swallow up death forever.
Isaiah says that you, The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces;

Thank you for your tender love.

Because this gospel is true, free my friends and me from the pettiness and emptiness of living for ourselves.

God, give us courage to see and feel our sins against you.  In the face of all this amazing truth of your love for us, we still decide to please & protect ourselves – to do what seems best for our time, our schedule, our feelings and our advancement.

We neglect those who are hurting around us.

We often live according to the patterns of this broken world, trusting in our own words, strengths and abilities.

We doubt your power and presence – the same power that brought you back to life.

We ask for your forgiveness.

It is your kindness, Lord that leads us to acknowledge these sins against you.  Since you don’t forsake those who seek you, we come to you now, in need of cleansing and renewal.

Thank you, Lord, that it is your grace alone that sets us free from these sins! Your life, death and resurrection bring us into your heavenly family and forever place us in relationship with you. Give us faith and courage to trust these truths and to live by them!

Because of your compelling love, show us how to live for you… Mold us into a body of people who are aware of this beautiful Story of Redemption you are writing.  Show us what it means to wait on You in the midst of our stories and to wait with others in theirs.  Stir in us all the faith to remember how You have worked redemption in the past.  Let the knowledge of your Risen Son propel us out — to go into our community in the confidence that You are at work, that Jesus is Lord, that the Spirit can and does heal, renew and transform broken lives.


–Anne Henegar

Good Friday

A Prayer for the Church and the Nation

Loving Father, You created man and woman to be in relationship with you and placed us in this world giving us dominion to extend your holy reign upon the earth. When we turned away from you and lost our way, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to make a Way for us to return, and You gave us Your Holy Spirit to guide us on that Way. In Your Son, Jesus, our relationship with You has been restored and our vocation to extend Your Kingdom on this earth has been renewed.

Lord, we confess that too often we have relied upon ourselves and our own strength and have been guided more often by our affections than Your Holy Spirit. Even in our redeemed lives, we become distracted by this world and forget that You alone can save, You alone can redeem, and only Your perfect love can transform the nations.

In Your mercy, please send overwhelming conviction of sin, deep brokenness and genuine
repentance among Your people. Grant to us the true godly sorrow that leads to repentance. Fill us with holy love and reverence for Your name. Purify the Church, the Bride of Christ, for His Glorious Second Coming. Prepare and cleanse us for the marriage supper of the Lamb of God.
Convict us and cleanse us.

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A Praying Life

“Underneath her obedient life is a sense of helplessness. It has become part of her very nature…almost like breathing. Why? Because she is weak. She can feel her restless heart, her tendency to compare herself with others. She is shocked at how jealousy can well up in her. She notices how easily the world gets its hooks into her. In short, she distrusts herself. When she looks at other people, she sees the same struggles. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are too much for her. The result? Her heart cries out to God in prayer. She needs Jesus.”

Paul Miller A Praying Life

prayer for Haiti

God of the living and the dead, we wail in grief at the pain and loss and horror and distress of our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

We do not understand your ways–that those who already suffer the most, now suffer so much more.

Where people are still breathing under collapsed buildings, give them air and hope and courageous searchers.

Where children are injured or orphaned, find them trusted friends and generous caregivers.

Where despair is infectious and disease or looting spreads, bring patience and forbearance and healing and strength to conquer temptation.

And when others look with compassion from afar, release resources, empower expertise, shape political will, and bring deliverance for your people in their distress.

Through him who was crushed and bruised for us, in the comfort of your Holy Spirit.


Sam Well, Dean of Duke Chapel