Practicing Lent: Examen

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

Another busy day. Teaching music at the Lutheran school in the morning. Piano lessons in the afternoon. Dinner with my sweet hubby. Bible study with my small group in the evening.

I fall into bed exhausted. But before I step into dreamland, I take time to practice Examen. I close my eyes and watch a “video” replay of my day.

I thank God for the good things: a big hug from a preschooler at school, time with my husband, laughter with my awesome Bible study gals.

I ask the Holy Spirit to show me where I messed up that day–yep, I lost my patience with those antsy third-graders–forgive me. Lord.

I look for God’s presence in the ordinary moments of my day and I see Him in the unexpected warm weather in the middle of winter, in the faces of the children as they sing of God’s love, and in the words of hope in God’s Word.

I go to sleep forgiven and grateful.

The Spiritual Discipline of Examen

The practice of Examen is one of my favorite Spiritual Disciplines.

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I know intellectually that God is always with me. I grab onto God’s promise:

I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. (Joshua 1:5)

But sometimes I forget. I get caught up in my to-do list, in the hectic activities of each day. I forget that God is always with me to love me, guide me, and cheer me on. Examen helps me be more aware of Christ in the mundane moments of every day.

You too?

To practice the Spiritual Discipline of Examen, start by finding a quiet place and asking the Spirit to guide your time of reflection. Close your eyes and review the last 24 hours. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What inspired gratitude today?
  • What happened that was painful, sad, or disappointing?
  • What moment do I now regret and need to confess?
  • What moments of my day were life-giving?
  • What moments of my day were life-draining?
  • When did I sense God’s nearness?
  • When did my hectic pace of life crowd out a sense of God’s nearness?
  • When did I give and receive love?
  • When did I feel an absence of love?
  • What did God teach me today?

Spend some time thanking God for His presence throughout the day and thank Him for the things that brought joy. Confess the sins the Spirit brought to mind and receive forgiveness because of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Visual Examen

Recently, I discovered a more hands-on way to practice Examen in a book titled Praying in Color:  I have adapted this method for our Practicing Lent journey.

For this practice,

  1. Start by downloading and printing a sheet with a geometric pattern that will guide your experience.
  2. In the center of the pattern, write the words of Joshua 1:5: I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
  3. Then, in the spaces closest to the center, write down things for which you are grateful. Did you get a hug from a preschooler? Did you see a spectacular sunset? Write down anything from the last 24 hours that brought you joy.
  4. Next, ask yourself a few questions about your day. In the outer ring of the pattern, write a word or two that recalls these moments:
  • When did I feel closest to God?
  • When did I feel distant?
  • When did I mess up and sin? Where do I need to confess and receive forgiveness?

End with a time of confession and thanksgiving. If you like, color the spaces of the design while you pray. Many people find the act of coloring focuses their thoughts. (I suggest that you at least darken the spaces listing your sins so the words are no longer visible–symbolizing God’s cleansing mercy.)

God is with us. But sometimes we forget. Examen helps us appreciate the Lord’s presence in the ordinary and mundane. During this holy season of Lent, appreciate anew Christ’s nearness.

Examen helps us appreciate the Lord's presence in the ordinary and mundane. Click To Tweet

Next step: Download and print the Examen pattern. For a summary of the Visual Examen practice and a list of Scirptures that will guide your practice–Click here. 

 

A Quick Guide to Scripture Meditation

 

scriptureMeditationGuideSit still. Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus.

Sounds impossible right?

Meditation can seem difficult and impractical–even intolerable.

Meditation can appear nebulous and mysterious–even an invitation to trouble.

In fact, some types of meditation are dangerous. Eastern meditation emphasizes the emptying of the mind. Jesus warned against this in Luke 11:24-26 where He said an empty mind could be an invitation for evil to take up residence.

But Scripture meditation is different. Instead of emptying the mind, this type of meditation focuses on filling the mind with God’s Word. This type of meditation turns your heart to God’s infinite supply of grace and hope.

Still sitting still and simply thinking can seem difficult–even boring–especially to the person who craves action or thrives on crossing off items on her to-do list.

So here’s some advice for those of you who want to try Scripture meditation, but are a little fuzzy on the process.

1. Don’t expect perfection. You are human. We are living in a world with an average of eight seconds. Your mind will wander. It’s OK. Simply bring your mind back to the Scripture your are meditating on. (Hint: You might want to keep a pad of paper nearby to plunk down distracting, but important things that come to mind.)

2. Know the world will conspire against you. Just as you sit down to concentrate on God’s Word, the neighbor will start up his lawnmower, your phone will announce a tempting text message, your body will ache in a spot that never hurt before. So begin with prayer. Ask God to help you focus. Listen to the Holy Spirit whispering to your heart. (Hint: Determine a time of day that is most likely to be free of interruptions.)

3. Choose a favorite Bible verse and meditate by emphasizing different words. Repeat the verse over and over–each time emphasizing a different word. How does stressing that word change the meaning? For instance, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Be still–be is a verb, an action word. Stillness doesn’t happen automatically. We must take action to make it happen. Be still–take that word literally and, for now, ignore the laundry in the hamper and the dishes in the sink. Don’t jump up to answer the phone. Be still. (Hint: Other verses to try: Philippians 4:6, Ephesians 3:20, Isaiah 40:31)

4. OR Choose a Gospel story and picture yourself in the story. What do you see? smell? hear? touch? taste? Turn your attention to Jesus. How does your heart respond as you meet Him in this story? (Hint: Some stories to try: Mark 2:1-12, Matthew 8:23-27, Luke 17:11-19.)

5. Remember meditation isn’t magical. Meditation is simply a fancy way of saying focused attention. There isn’t anything supernatural about it. (Hint: The miracle isn’t in your mind–it’s in the Word.)

6. But meditation can be transformative. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” As we let powerful God’s Word roll around in our hearts and minds it changes us. It makes us more Christ-like. It reminds us of God’s love. It fills our souls with peace. (Hint: Expect God to speak to you through His Word and change you from the inside out.)

Meditation? Sounds hard. Sounds mysterious.

But it is really just focusing on God’s Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts.

Next step: Choose a favorite Bible verse or story and meditate on it for 5 minutes. Journal about what you learned from that time.