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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Pausing to Reflect

A fairly well-known spiritual discipline is called the Examen. The Examen is a time to pause and reflect on the events of a specific period of time - what did we do right or wrong? where did God show up? what is God saying to us? Some call it the Daily Examen and recommend taking time each day, either at night to reflect on the day ending or in the morning to review the previous day.

Liking to think outside of the box a little, I decided to experiment with a Weekly Examen. I had picked up a unique journal that I liked, but for which I had no specific purpose when I purchased it. With the left hand page blank and the right hand page lined, it was unique in my collection of journals. I bought it, set it aside, and then as I was learning more about the rhythm of the Examen, I knew exactly how I wanted to use it.

Each Saturday (well, theoretically . . . confession time . . . I am not always as consistent as I'd like to be and sometimes I have to play catch up with this), I review the previous week. I read through my journal entries and remember the events of the week. I look for a theme or lessons that God is bringing into focus. When I have determined a theme for the previous week, I draw a picture or write decorative words on the left hand page to depict that theme. Then, I write my reflections about the week on the right hand page.

I have found this to be a fun and enlightening exercise that helps me to stay aware of what God is teaching me, where I am struggling, and what I am dreaming about. Below are three examples of pages from 2013.

My theme for 2013 was "Emerging" and this page depicted a particular phase in that process. I realized that I was responsible to speak truth, to be proactive about approaching issues, from that emerged a sense of empowerment, confidence and freedom.

At another point in the year, I was pondering the different ways that we minister to others. As I thought about the ways we help others, I realized that Jesus used a wide variety of tools. The key was that He had discernment and knew exactly which tool to use at just the right time.

At the end of the year, I combined my Weekly Examen with a Yearly Examen and symbolized the idea of Emerging throughout 2013 including the specific things that had shifted.

As a person who enjoys both writing and visualizing concepts, I have found this to be a fun way to review the weeks of my life. Nonetheless, how you do the Examen is not as important as doing the Examen. Some people have a specific list of questions they review. Some write about it in their journal. Some talk it out with another person. There are a variety of ways to do the Examen and a variety of intervals at which to do it. I encourage you to experiment a little, give it a try.

Be on the lookout for what God is doing in your life.

How do you keep a check on what God is saying to you?
on how you're living your life?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Continuing on with the theme of rhythms that draw us closer to God, I was thinking about prayer . . . about the simplicity of prayer.

In its most simple form, prayer is talking to God, the Lover of our souls.

Certainly studying the prayers of Scripture is helpful, learning what God has to say about prayer and delving into how the saints of both the Old and New Testaments prayed can enrich our prayer experience. Yet in some ways, I think these things are training wheels, meant to be taken off so that we can fly along unfettered on our bikes - the wind blowing in our face, a feeling of freedom.

I like to think of prayer as an opportunity to stop and talk to our Heavenly Father, our Papa, to climb up on His lap, to rest our heads on His chest while He wraps His strong arms around us and we spill the deepest parts of our heart and soul to Him. And He, He whispers in our ear, "Beloved, Beautiful, My Child" as He soothes and loves.

Sometimes our tiny fists pummel His chest as we plead for something we want. Sometimes tears flow as our hearts are grieved and broken. Sometimes we are celebrating some wonderful thing that has happened, some wonderful thing He has done. But the best times are those when we surrender and we just snuggle into His chest and we have a quiet conversation about our desires and His desires and we begin to see the path He has mapped out. We enter into His plan. We embrace it and we talk with Him about it - sometimes with great excitement, sometimes with fear and a pleading for faith, and sometimes with grief because the path ahead is painful. But, we are together. We are joined spirit to Spirit with the Lover of our souls and we are coming to know Him.

Prayer, in its most simple, and I think profound, form is talking to God, the Lover of our souls from a place of surrender and deep faith that God knows best. It is resting in His arms and entering into His will, joining Him in it, listening to His voice whisper in our ears and responding with love, surrender, and obedience.

What puzzles you about prayer?
When has prayer brought you closer to God?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tonight I am thinking about meditation, specifically meditation on Scripture, as I approach the rhythms that create a space to draw closer to God. 

Many years ago I was challenged by Tim Hansel's book You Gotta Keep Dancin'. Tim tells his story of climbing a glacier, falling in a crevice, crushing several vertebrae in his back, miraculously hiking out, and subsequently living with intense, irreversible, chronic pain. He shares that he chose a verse of the Bible on which he would meditate - think about - until he found the music behind the words.

As a young woman, I decided to give this a try and found it to be very rewarding. I would pick a single verse that seemed to be particularly appropriate to something in my life and then I would ponder it, day after day for a pre-determined period of time. All the while listening for the music behind the words - the deeper meaning, what God was trying to say to me. For a few years I practiced this form of meditation regularly. Now, meditation is one way that I study the Bible in the mix of a variety of methods I use to keep my study fresh and alive.

Last year I meditated on Romans 12:2 for several days. I read it in various translations and then reflected on it in my journal. Here is an excerpt from one of those ponderings:

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world,
but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
Then you will know what God wants you to do,
and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

Transform = 1. To change markedly in form or appearance, 2. To change the nature, function, or condition of; convert or be converted.

Conform = 1. To make or become similar. 2. To act or be in agreement; comply. 3. To act in accordance with customs or rules.

Copy = 1. An imitation or reproduction of something original; duplicate.

God calls us to be different from the world around us. He calls us to conform not to the customs and behaviors of this world, but instead to take on the attitude of Christ and to live according to Kingdom principles. We are to be like Christ rather than the world around us.

What does that look like in practicality? The Amish separate themselves in the way they dress, their use of vehicles and electricity. Others avoid jewelry and celebrations. What does this look like for me? What does this look like for women I influence and teach, how do I explain this? Some avoid make-up or modern clothing . . . . I sense that this is more about the inner person that finds expression in outer behaviors than it is about following a rigid set of rules. 

How do you include meditating on Scripture into your daily life? 
What are some things you have learned meditating on the Bible?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Willing

Buried somewhere in my cache of often forgotten cassette tapes is an album by Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni broke her neck in a diving accident in her late teens and from that moment until today she has been a quadriplegic. God has blessed her with a powerful ministry. Her story was gaining notoriety when I was in my teens and early twenties and I quickly became a fan. She published an album of herself singing songs. One of them, and the only one I truly remember, is called "I am Willing, Lord."

I can still hear her clear voice singing . . .

"Sometimes when I am down, Oh Lord,
And I don't feel like You're around, Oh Lord,
Feeling so sorry for me . . .

"I am willing, Lord.
I am willing, Lord, 
To be just exactly what You want me to be"

As a starry-eyed, romantic young girl I thought this was beautiful song, but I really had no idea what the crucible is like that forms us into what God wants us to be. I thought I was willing.

Now, as a mature woman, I have a much better idea of what that journey involves . . . the crucibles through which we grow, the pruning that must take place, the heartaches and the joys that ebb and flow. I find now that mostly the stars are gone from my eyes and reality has replaced romanticism, yet still I am willing, and even more than willing. I long to be exactly what God wants me to be. It is a sweet spot like no other.

If you'd like to hear Joni sing this song, click here.

Are you willing to allow God to form you into what He wants you to be? 
Where has that journey taken you and have you found it worthwhile?

Thursday, March 6, 2014


This month I am writing about spiritual rhythms in our lives, activities that when done consistently over time create a space for us to grow in our relationship to Christ and to grow as spiritual people.

Solitude is one of my favorite rhythms. I find that I need as Ruth Haley Barton says in her book Sacred Rhythms, "rhythms of solitude, community, and ministry." I need those times to be alone to hear myself and God. I need those times of community when I am with others sharing life together. And, I need those times of ministry when I am focused on serving the God I love. When these three things are in balance, I experience greater fulfillment, growth, and peace.

Solitude is a place to know and experience God in our deepest being and to connect with our own souls. Our souls are often timid, unwilling to come out in places that are dangerous or overly loud and busy, yet in the quiet of solitude they may peek out of their hiding place and even appear when it is safe. When we are able to unplug and disconnect from our world of technology, social media, and overly busy schedules, we can hear our souls. An old-fashioned saying comes to mind, "We can hear ourselves think."

Often we are tired at a soul level from all the striving and busyness of life. This is when we most need to pause in solitude and keep still to hear from God. Rather than striving to make things happen ourselves, we need to wait on God to do His thing and to make things happen.

Journaling, having a quiet time, and my solo days are the mechanisms I use to choose regular times of solitude. In these times of solitude, I am able to look inward and upward in a way that refreshes my soul and in God's loving presence see what is hidden deep in my soul. Often in these times of solitude I hear God, find healing, or return to a place of peace rather than chaos.

Finding solitude is not always easy in our busy lives with work, family, and other obligations. 
How do you find times for solitude in your life?