For the last few years, I have been adding some spiritual exercises to my life to help me better hear and listen to the God whispers all around and within me in the midst of life. Let me just confess that I don’t do these religiously or perfectly… sometimes I’ve fallen asleep as I’ve attempted to practice and pray! Ha! Ultimately, in my own kind of rhythm with Him, I have learned how to adapt some of these exercises to help me draw near and listen.
Today I'd like to share 'The Daily Examen' with you.
THE DAILY EXAMEN
I first came across this exercise through my spiritual mentor, who then recommended I read 'The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life.' Author Kevin O’Brien writes, “St Ignatius believed that we can find God in all things, at every moment, even in the most ordinary times.” AND I couldn’t agree more!
My life journey with Jesus has taught me that God is in and through and at work in all things. Having children has slowed me down to once again experience the wonder of God-at-work in and through it all. But I knew there was more to this WILD FAITH walk so I began to explore!
On pages 75-77 of 'The Ignatian Adventure', I found the following headings, but have given each section a few of my personal thoughts around these exercises.
Before I begin I try to find a quiet space… It’s so hard with little ones so I find the bathtub or in my bed just before I go to sleep helpful spaces.
I quiet myself, invite God to be with me in this sacred space of time and ground myself in reality… what can I hear, smell, feel, sense?
Then I work my way through these five exercises, I don’t always do all of them, perhaps I’m happy with one or two and like I said before, sometimes I fall asleep before I finish, especially when I practice this in my bed!
- Pray for God’s Help
I take time to ask God to help me be deeply grateful and honest as I think about what happened in this day. Reflecting on the day helps me to to be aware and awake of the work of the Holy Spirit was working through me, through others and all creation. It helps me to contemplate the world the way God may have seen it to this day.
- Give thanks for the gifts of this day
Go through the details of the day, not hour-by-hour but just as they come to mind, be thankful for the gifts you see in others and within your own life. Thank Him for them. An attitude of gratitude changes the way you see things and gives you the ability to see the goodness of God. Kevin suggests to just let the day go through you alongside the gentle guidance of God.
- Pray over the significant feelings that surface as you replay the day
God is sometimes speaking to us through our “interior movements,” these movements can look like your feelings, your emotions, your desires, your attractions, your repulsions and your moods. Being attentive to these interior movements may help you discern some strong feelings of grief, joy, regret, anxiety, hope, self-doubt, excitement, confusion and more.
Feelings help us to locate where we are at, feeling them isn’t a bad thing... it’s sometimes what we do with those feelings that can lead us down paths we may regret…
I usually pick just one or two that stand out to me and ask the Holy Spirit to help me discern why I’m feeling these things. A couple of questions that are good to ask yourself and Holy Spirit are;
- Did these feelings draw me closer to God? Did they help me grow in my faith and into Jesus more? Did they make me feel whole, alive or human? Did they challenge you to grow or connect?
- Did the feelings lead me away from God, make me less faithful, or loving? Was I more self-centered or anxious? Was I lured into self-doubt or confusion? Did it lead to relational breakdown?
If you feel shame when you become aware of the interior movements, bring that before God, ask for forgiveness (See step 4) or talk to a trusted friend about it.
- Rejoice and seek forgiveness
Often as I’ve discovered the interior movement within I can either feel great joy over the work of the Spirit in my life or I can feel great shame or sorrow. Take all of these inner responses to Him, rejoice with Him or ask for forgiveness and rest in the fact that you are forgiven and God is still at work in you. Thank Him for the grace of awareness because awareness is the beginning of healing and restoration.
- Look to tomorrow
God is with you right now, as you lay down to sleep and as you arise the next day, use this time to thank Him for the day to come, to ask Him for anything specific you need, be it His help or provision in some form. Take time to pray for things in your diary or specific people that come to mind. Then ask God to give you the grace you need, for example, you may need confidence to present something at work, you may need wisdom in making a decision, you may need patience as you parent a young child or you may need the courage to face something that is difficult for you right now.
Close by speaking a heartfelt and honest prayer to God or with a familiar prayer such as 'Our Father.'
“My heart O God, is quiet and confident.
Now I can sing with passion your wonderful praise!
Awake, O my soul, with the music of his splendor-song!
Arise my soul and sing his praises! My worship will awaken the dawn,
greeting the daybreak with songs of light!”
– Psalm 57:7-8 (The Passion Translation)
David was a man who had complete confidence in God.
He still wrestled, he still asked questions… but all-in-all his confidence remained in who He knew God to be.
How could one man stand so confidently in God?
So firm in fact that he wrote this Psalm while being pursued by Saul? He laments to God in the first part of this Psalm, but then his laments turn to praises?
Not just any praises, but full-blown, life-awakening praises!
How does one do this in the midst of trouble?
How can one praise God when their life is on the line?
How can they praise God when their life seems to be in a downward spiral with no way out?
I believe that David knew God well. He didn’t know God from what someone else had told him, from rituals or from those who supposedly knew God and lived differently.
David knew God personally and intimately
He sought out God back in the fields as a shepherd boy; he sought God when he wrestled and questioned and found peace and joy as he worshiped Him. Perhaps he started with daily disciplines that guided him in this, but eventually, it moved from stories and scriptures to this incredible WILD FAITH walk with his Creator!
I often sit in awe and wonder at how all of it is created to point us back to Him… Creation speaks if you still yourself to listen… it stirs within you and wakes you up to a Creator who spoke it all into being.
And isn’t that what it’s meant to do? Still us. Stop us in our tracks, take our breath away, make us feel something within? Even suffering does this… (Please note I do not believe God causes our suffering, but that He is with us in it)
Everything He creates draws our attention to Him… to question, seek out and find.
Oh! And when we find Him are our hearts not turned to love Him more and more? We get distracted by the busy, by the mundane, by the day-in-day-out, and we forget the awe and wonder of Him in and through it ALL. We forget and we miss little gifts that stir and engage out heart with His.
God desires our love
He longs for us to seek Him in the ordinary everyday moments of life…
“Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord…” – Jeremiah 29:13-14 (The Message)
Are these not the whispers of a God who longs for us to know Him deeply, for us to long for Him as a vital necessity?
And, is David not described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22)?
A man who lived and breathed and found his being in God (Acts 17:28)? Who loved God passionately and wildly at times?
David saw God in everything
I imagine David as a young, ruddy-haired, teenager breathing in the air around Him out in those fields and speaking with God as his flock made sounds of gentle contentment. I imagine Him playing with the stones from his slingshot, rubbing his fingers over the cool, smooth surface and marveling over how God had created the stones of the earth and the birds of the air, the streams and the fish, the eyes that he sees with and the heart that beats life and love within him every day. I picture a young man studying the seasons and the way God intentionally weaves life and death, growth and purpose into them all.
He knew God was in and through it all and his response to this revelation of God’s majesty in nature was a desire, a heart longing to truly know His Creator with every fiber of his being!
Quiet confidence in the mess
David knew God and now, many years on when his life changed path from a place in the palace to a path that he was now being pursued on, by a crazy king, who wanted him dead! He still had a quiet confidence in God.
He remained real, authentic and honest in his pain and struggles during this time, yet He places his confidence… his trust in God.
CONFIDENCE can be described as;
“The feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust” (Oxford dictionary)
“A multifaceted word that encompasses within Christian thought a range of aspects of faith in God, certainty and assurance of one’s relationship with God, a sense of boldness that is dependent on a realization of one’s acceptance by God, and a conviction that one’s destiny is secure in God.” (www.biblestudytools.com).
David had a quiet, steadfast, unwavering confidence and trust in God.
Song of Thanksgiving
And in this place of quiet confidence, a song of thanksgiving emerges! A song that awakens him to the very presence and faithfulness of God. He knew that whatever went on, whatever the situation looked like, whoever had it in for him… He knew that he was a beloved child of God, cherished, seen, known and that God would never leave him.
I want to live like that in my every day, my heart gently waking to God’s presence and faithfulness. I want to see with eyes that see Him in EVERYTHING! Every touch, every cuddle, every dish, every breeze, every tear, every load of washing, every day I put my pen to paper, every time I kiss my little one's heads while they sleep… everything.
Because He is in everything…
And if we are awake, we can see.
And when faced with harder days, perhaps not being run down by a crazy king, but hard… you know, running on no sleep, work deadlines, kids fighting, husband away working, nothing going to plan and those what on earth is going on here days?! We can still ourselves enough to see Him, to get to know Him in those spaces, those sacred and silly spaces. We perhaps learn to rest our hearts and minds in a place of quiet confidence that the God of LOVE is with us, teaching us, leading us and longing for us to find Him right there… waiting for us to listen to His whispers of beautiful truths and words of love.
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