Blessings to all of you on this day of Epiphany! This feast day is celebrated in a number of ways across cultures, but the aspect that resonates the most with me is the Wise Men bringing their gifts to Jesus. I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing Epiphany today, but it’s definitely worth thinking about for a moment: What gifts do you have that you can bring to Christ? What are the most “precious” things in our lives that we can devote to His service? How can our lives be an act of humble worship and adoration before Him?
Hopefully you’ve all had a chance to download and print your workbook for this month! If not, stop now and go do it! And if you are just joining us, make sure you enter the giveaway for a Sacred Ordinary Days Liturgical Planner HERE and join our community. You will automatically receive the download once you’re signed up. Or, if you’d rather not enter the giveaway (but I don’t have any idea why you wouldn’t!), you can simply enter your email in the box in the sidebar or at the bottom of this page to join our fellowship.
Ok, now that the “business” is out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff. What spoke to you as you completed your spiritual health examen practice? What things did the Lord bring to your mind as you contemplated the past year? What habits or practices are you feeling you need to build into your days? For me, two things stood out. One was expected, the other was a bit of a surprise:
(The expected one!) I need to become more consistent in my daily habits of prayer and Bible reading. Or I should say, slow prayer and slow Bible reading. I have a tendency to rush through it in the mornings before moving on to other things.
(The surprise!) I need to work on speaking about my faith this year. Not writing, not journaling, not blogging...those come naturally for me...but actually talking to people (family, church friends, etc) about what I’m learning and what God is doing in my life. I’ve always known this was a tough area for me, but I wasn’t really expecting God to tell me this was the year to work on it. Honestly it kinda makes me cringe. But I am willing!
I would love to hear some of your responses to the examen questions if you are willing to share, especially the things that you intend to put into practice this year. Leave your response in the comments!
Feeling like you still need some guidance or ideas for how to grow this year? These five practices require minimal preparation and are so simple to implement! They have helped me tremendously and could be helpful for you too:
Lectionary readings: The lectionary is a schedule of daily Bible reading that coincides with the church year. I use the Revised Common Lectionary [RCL] (as found in my Sacred Ordinary Days planner). There are a couple really great things about this: first, people all over the world use this same Bible reading schedule. If your church does not follow the lectionary, it’s easy to find communities online who are reading and praying through the same passages of scripture that you are! Second, I find the amount of reading to be just right. It probably amounts to about two chapters a day. Third, every day includes a Psalm, Old Testament, and New Testament selection. I like having the variety and being able to make connections between the Old and New Testaments. And finally, it takes the place of devotionals or other studies for me. Sure, there are times when I like to study something in particular or go through a nice devotional, but having the lectionary readings all laid out for me really takes the guesswork out of my Bible reading. I don’t have to come up with a Bible reading plan or try to figure out which devotional I want to do next. It’s already there for me, and that gives me peace of mind!
Meditative prayer: As in scripture meditation, not eastern religion meditation! I find that, when I allow myself the time and the quiet, this flows naturally from my time of Bible reading. One of the nice things about the RCL is that you read the same Psalm for several days in a row, allowing time for it to really sink in to your mind and spirit. As you do your daily Bible reading, take note of any passages that are especially meaningful to you and turn them into your own prayers. I am excited about the fruit this has the potential to produce this year, as the Holy Spirit speaks through the Word into my life!
Utilizing the examen at the end of each day: sometimes all we need to become more aware of God’s work in our lives is to take just a moment to think back through the day and take note of what God has been doing. I know I can tend to pack my days pretty full - so full, in fact, that I don’t even realize all the little blessings throughout the day. That’s what the examen is for; it’s a time to pause and reflect; to simply become aware of God’s presence on a daily basis, thank Him for what He is doing, and look forward with hope to what He’s going to do next! I found this simple graphic from Ignatian Spirituality helpful for remembering the steps:
4. A journal or planner with room for short journal entries: If you are anything like me, writing down just a few thoughts after my morning quiet time really helps to cement what I’ve learned that day into my memory. Even if it’s just one sentence, or even one phrase, when I write it down I am much more likely to think about it throughout the day. Writing also forces me to slow down and formulate my thoughts and really think through what is in my heart.
5. Go for a prayer walk outside: I can get stuck in a rut of always doing my morning quiet time in the same place, in my cozy chair with a cup of coffee. There's nothing wrong with that ritual, but it's so refreshing to change it up a bit now and then and head outdoors. You could just pray over your porch or your yard, or if time allows, take a walk down your road or through your neighborhood and pray for the people around you.
My absolute favorite tool for these practices lately has been the Sacred Ordinary Days planner, and if you didn’t catch Monday’s blog post, we are giving one away this week! Again, you can enter that giveaway HERE! At the very least, make sure to sign up to receive the January Examen workbook so you can follow along with us as we evaluate our past year and ask God for direction in 2017!
Stay in touch for next Monday’s examen focus: The Mind! It’s going to be good!
Other posts in this series: