Examening: Discovery

As a child, I reveled at the picture puzzle games that challenged each contestant with keen eyes to discover a familiar item amid a quite often cluttered larger scene. And with each object found, was a renewed sense of joy and understanding of the next step of the task at hand.  Yet, somewhere between childhood and maturity the thrill and purpose of the search can time and again allude us and at times even eclipse the delight of discovery.

Such was the course of a day that was to be experienced quite recently. Waking up late, and feeling “behind the 8 ball”, I had literally jumped feet first into a scene not of my own design or desire. With limited movement, either physically or spiritually, all that could initially be seen was the clutter. Misplaced item here, piles of unattended objects there, I longed for clarity of purpose- at the very least, for the frustration and confusion to leave me be. In this life sized puzzle of sorts it became suddenly obvious that the first hidden object of my search was indeed Christ himself. He, and only he, was the hingepin to finding my next piece of my day and the surest course of making sense of it all. So began my prayer- an inner groan, offered up for peace of spirit and discernment in the way God wanted me to move in my day.

“Where are YOU, Jesus, in this jumbled scene?”

A prayerful guide to mindful reflection, the daily Examen prayer, is at its heart a path to awareness and renewed discovery. Just what exactly are we discovering? Perhaps simply our way back to God and his will in our daily walk. Sometimes, we may not have strayed far but have just lost sight of Christ within the daily tasks we tend to for family and work. How long till we see the results? That too cannot be rushed, as we well know that God’s timing is not our own. I will say, however, that I have yet to be disappointed to discover that whatever I am going through, that God is there in the midst of it all.

Discovery then, in Ignatian spirituality, is the fruit of prayer directed towards the good desire. It could be the answer to a life altering decision, or an awareness that we are exactly where we need to be. If you are facing a difficulty today that you cannot see through, or need clarity of purpose or direction, ask yourself these as you begin the Examen:

Would this decision lead me or others on a life affirming course? Am I filled with confusion, doubt, fear or instead, encouraged and invited gently to consider the next step?

5 Steps of a Daily Examen

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. 
5. Look toward tomorrow.

 Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Still Waters

In the past year since this post was written, I have received such grace and strength from this moment in prayer. Now, during the periods when I thirst for true fulfillment, I find comfort to return to this resting place beside the still living waters.

Anyone close to me knows that despite sometimes bemoaning my busy schedule, I am indeed blessed and appear to thrive on chaos. On my already full plate there’s been ample room to take another helping of “Would you be able to join us?” , “Oh, and another thing”, or “I cannot be there.”  Yet over the last few weeks ,   I have felt the pressing need for a break -a respite to  gather my thoughts and silence to find my peace in the midst of the all that I am being asked to do. With my head swimming with service commitments, recordings, preparations, and conversations, the question of just when I would take this break was weighing on me too. That is until the answer came to me in prayer once again.

What began quite simply as a bodily sigh, gave way to a petition, and then to a surrendering of my very self.

“Lord, I need you… You have graced my life with so many wondrous opportunities to love and serve you. And while I cannot believe that you have called me, and given me the gifts necessary to answer that call, I am in need of some time with you alone. I want to be joyful in all that I do, not just simply go through the motions. I want to be close to you, so that others can come to know you through me. Come Holy Spirit..”

Then closing my eyes, I sat in silence in recognition of  that which had kept me busy, my deep desire to serve  and God’s ever presence through it all. Suddenly, I became aware too of the missed moments I had failed to take advantage of, glimpses of God inviting me to sit a spell and simply be.  No sooner was this acknowledgment expressed, than was God’s beautiful gift to me revealed. The vision that now lay before my still closed eyes was that sanctuary that I had pleaded for. Waters so tranquil and glassy that they could not help but reflect the beauty of the heavens that stretched across the bright blue sky.  There was truly no separation between the two, and I understood that this was his lesson as well.

You are my vision..

As St. Ignatius of Loyola’s own experience has shown, if we are to reflect God’s love, joy and beauty in our world this time of contemplation with our Creator and loving Father is essential.  In our surrender, the ripples of fear and doubt are dispelled , and our self reliance gives way to a peace that can only come from the One who has created and ordered it all. So, yes the One who set the sun and stars in motion also set aside for rest and serenity. And, this time need not always be extensive but as was the case here, just a cursory foretaste of what awaits when our time here on earth is done.

For the remainder of this week, whenever I have needed a short break, I have returned in prayer to find God ‘s invitation still present. So much so, I know that the smile and joy that breaks forth has been more than visible to others.  If this were not enough, God whose generosity is not to be outdone, has spoken to me again in Word and song. No surprise here, the responsorial psalm that I led with the children for this Sunday’s liturgy  was …

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul… (Psalm 23:1-6)

The invitation is there for you as well..to be led beside still waters. Are you in true need of a break in your life? Have you found God calling you to spend some quality time with Him today? He’s there..already waiting for you!

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Writing and Spirituality

With so much going on around us these days, have you ever found yourself in what seems to be the consistent cycle of playing catch up without the necessary time for all the things you love?
Do you feel that you lack the time to reflect on the essential elements of your day or shed those things that should be omitted altogether?
 Who has time for this, much less to write?

Yes, even those in those in the “faith” endeavor, are reminded that they have, at times, neglected to reflect prayerfully on the many things they are called to do and reassess. While I have been attending to these things in prayer, there is something concrete about putting pen to paper. There is an incredible release of all that our hearts and minds have been occupied with to now leave open for God to fill.

Writing, be it journaling, blogging, or correspondence with others can be an indispensable way to assess where you are, how you got there, and where you feel God is leading you today. It need not be lengthy, in fact it could be as short as a sentence. “I really enjoyed my walk today”. Which then might lead to an awareness to make time in your life for that more walks, and lead to the deeper question as to why you enjoy this time so much. Do I need this solitude as a break for the otherwise busyness of life? Is it that I feel close to God out in nature? Do His works remind me of the newness and recreation of the world around me and my place in it?

1.Let it be an honest dialogue with yourself and God. Invite the Spirit to open your heart to ponder and the strength to make even the smallest of changes. In the midst of God’s presence, wait. Let this pause then be your invitation say thank you for the very gift of this moment.

2.Where was God in my day? Was I greeted with the morning sunrise, or in the smile of a friend? Was he with me at the bedside of a friend, or in the consoling words of another?

3. Review your day, attentive to the times you were happiest, and the times that did not go as expected, both your successes and failures.

 

4.What was thought, said or done? Was there a missed opportunity to grow closer to God? If so, talk to God and ask for forgiveness, the courage to be aware, step forward and accept his offer the next time.

5.Tomorrow is a new day, and God is already there waiting for YOU. There is profound hope and grace in knowing each day is made anew and we too are recreated in this love. Commit to using this gift by striving to be attentive and open to direction.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting:Procrastination

Last year at this time, I was sitting on a beach and feeling an unbelievable gratitude for the gift of being present to the moment. Thankful, if you will, for the ability to procrastinate much needed tasks and to-do’s to simply discover God. Take time today to pause, reflect and examen God at work in your day!

Procrastination

thy name is mine- Reminiscing.
Warm sand, waves crashing
I am engulfed by your inspiring presence.

Laughter of children
Amazed by your splendid treasures,
My soul sings with joy.
Little palms upturned, bare feet carrying such gifts.
sea, beach, grass:

 

And yet I hear you
Not in a rushing wind rather
A small gentle breeze
Instantly mindful of the infinite ways

 

 

 

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You long to converse
Desiring to be discovered
You hide not from me.
But smile-sunlit rays dancing upon sea sprays.

 

 

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Suddenly I find
Myself exceedingly thankful
Gifted graced moment
Aware that I am unbelievably loved.

 

Oh yes, procrastination thy name is mine! Returning from Winter Break I honestly felt that I needed a day to recoup, a time to catch up on neglected chores and conversation over a cup of coffee with a close friend. Back to school for my children, work for my hubby and I find I am finally enjoying my groove in the normalcy of a routine.

Yet, there is definitely a need in our lives for retreat and a break from the everyday. A time to reflect on all of our commitments, re-examine our priorities, as well as to appreciate all that God has given us. As I sat on the sand, my children laughing as the waves were crashing I was reminded of the joy intended for us. Moreover, that through the ups and downs God is always there, breaking into our day to allow us a respite, moments of peace, clarity, joy and love.

What then is waiting for me? There is that elusive final integration project (aka thesis) needed for my Master’s degree.  Procrastination in part stems from placing extremely high expectations on myself while knowing full well that perfection is not what is required, or even possible through my own efforts. I find solace in recognizing that if meant to undertake a task, speak to a situation, God will give me what is needed to do all these things and more.

 So the other part to this picture is discernment and that is the better part of delay. The time that I spent with my family and with God was necessary. Can we continue to race forward with endurance if we do not pause to reflect on where we have been, where we are and desire to renew our spirit? Connection, we were never meant to do it on our own, the love, support and guidance are there to be discovered.  With this, I ask for your prayers as I embark on the path ahead.

 Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Examen-ing Motion

Our lives can be so busy and overwhelming at times. Saturated with appointments and dotted with to do’s we may wonder when we will get the chance to come up for air. Yet, finding time to breathe- to prayerfully invite the Holy Spirit into the craziness of life is exactly the antidote needed! St. Ignatius suggests beginning with scripture, allowing ourselves to be part of the story, to dialogue with God and then simply rest in the peace of his presence.


Examen-ing Motion

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

Fast-slow, ebb and flow sensing the pace of life,

Thoughts-prayer I find You there amidst the joy and strife,

 

 

In-out without a doubt my every breath You fill,

Start-rest this beating heart lest, peace escape me still.

 

 

Far-near there is no fear for You come when I call,

Doubt-hope a brilliant strobe-light dispelling all.

 

 


Offer-receive your gift and believe your grace is always there,

Hold-release me to please by trusting in your care.

By: Elizabeth A. Reardon


Worth Revisiting: Examen-ing My day

Today, I wanted to share with you one of my own personal spiritual reflections, through the Ignatian practice of the Examen. Much like it sounds, the Examen is a prayerful way of looking at our day- examining our feelings, emotions, joys and challenges while being aware of God’s presence and guidance.
Where is God waiting to be discovered in the busyness of my day today?  Don’t forget now through July 31st you can share your thoughts, and pictures on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Vine)  using #FindIggy through Loyola Press.


EXAMEN-ing My Day

“Receive, Lord, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. You have given me all that I have, all that I am, and I surrender all to your divine will, that you dispose of me. Give me only your love and your grace. With this I am rich enough, and I have no more to ask.” St. Ignatius

On July 31st we celebrate the feast day of St. Ignatius, a former Spanish soldier, who experiencing a profound conversion to the centrality of Christ, much like St. Paul, answered the call to follow. The moment for Iñigo came- that decisive moment when Iñigo’s life would take a radically different turn. In the spring of 1521, a French cannonball would shatter his leg and he would not only physically limp but spiritually be forever changed. After reading the life of Christ and discovering the lives of the saints he began to understand that God was drawing him toward an entirely new way of life. St. Ignatius recognized that putting Christ first, means also discovering anew God’s presence and the Holy Spirit at work in the midst of our daily lives. It is a seeking and then an awareness to God within and without- in all that we see, hear, feel and do. So, in a simple, modified form of the Examen I wish to share with you my day.

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

This morning, before I opened my eyes, I felt You there God. Not ready yet to leave my restful state, I said “thank you” for the day to come, and “yes” to what gifts I might be shown to see and do. I saw your beauty in the sunrise, in the dew on the flowers, and in the little white butterfly family that returns each Summer. I heard your joy in the laughter, albeit giggles, of my children. And I felt your peace as joined in the “Our Father” and prepared my heart to receive such blessed communion at mass.  You are here with me now as I enter into this time of contemplation, Spirit lead me.

2. Review the day with gratitude. 

My heavenly Father, I thank you for both the ups and downs of this day, for you were present in every moment. How I praise you for the gift of friendship with you, for those you have placed in my path, and those opportunities for others to see and know you through me. I give praise also for those who you have given to guide me, who listen, support and advise, who reflect your indescribable love. For those moments that were difficult-oh, the strength you have given me, you never let go. You are amazing God!

3. Pay attention to your emotions. 

Initially, I felt reluctance at starting my day so early, for it is the summer and as I had rationalized I had been so busy the last few weeks.  Yet, I realize that I was in fact procrastinating my pressing “to do” lists, and seeing them as tasks rather than invitations to see You at your best. I was also hesitant to answer the phone from  someone who I have felt continually attempts to  confront peace with frustration and aggravation. However, while I still have much to learn, you gave me courage to stand firm in your grace.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. 

Please Lord, be persistent with me and help me to always be loving and forgiving, even when I feel tempted to be less than what you have shown to me.  You see me as I truly am, you know my thoughts and my heart…and you love and forgive. Lord, please strengthen my steps, embolden my spirit, and help me approach each new day with faith, love, peace, and joy.

5. Look toward tomorrow.

The seeds of hope exist today in trusting that tomorrow provides a newness, a desire to cooperate with God in his will for my life. Ask for God’s grace in gratitude for all that God has given, to encounter the joys and challenges of the next day with the help of the Holy Spirit. Finish your Examen by praying the Our Father.

Worth Revisiting: God’s Reset Button

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

 

Where do we find ourselves in the midst of challenges and self reliance?..In need of God’s mercy and hopefully anticipating God’s reset button for the day to  follow. As we continue with #31DayswithIgnatius, let’s remember how essential this last step in the Examen truly is in our lives as Christians.


God's Reset ButtonA few years ago, a good friend of mine made a comment about how thankful he was that God had given him a reset button that morning after a very trying day. Well, that image and my appreciation of it hasn’t left me since. We all have those days, mine was just yesterday, where very little is going as planned, no one is on our timeline, and our patience is slim to none. Honestly, I could not even get out of my own way! So, that Jesuit training came into play once again last night as I sat down to Examen where it all went wrong, as well as, how to get back on track.

 file3031348651890First, I had started my day by placing my own priorities ahead of my time with God. I know, “say it ain’t so”, but yes that was me. Seemingly too busy for mass, prayer or reflection- I plunged into the day’s events headfirst.  In doing so, I realize that I had let the events of the day control me, allowing them to dictate where and what I was to do next. Moreover, this was creating within me a growing exasperation,
at my ineptitude at getting anything done much less doing it correctly.

weather oddity MGD©Instead of giving God the space to meet these frustrations, as only God can, I was multiplying my mistakes and laying the path of destruction far and wide. Perhaps, this is a tad harsh but if you need a visual… just picture a funnel cloud.

-Father, help me!-

“Father, I need you!” Spoken, around 4pm, this prayer was the first good decision that I had made all day. “I need your help and guidance for I don’t want to do it alone anymore.” Yes! Finally, after having spun my wheels and stuck in the muck, I reached out for my lifeline.  God had heard me, and almost immediately I began to feel God drawing near to me. I say feel because God was there all along, simply waiting for the invitation to be a part of my day

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAthings kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.” -from The Confessions of Augustine

And just like that, I had begun my Examen…1. Become aware of God’s presence. 

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  1. Review the day with gratitude. Certainly something that I could not have done adequately earlier, I could now meet God with a grateful heart. Initially, just simply grateful that God came so quickly, and my inner peace restored. Yet, I was grateful also to have been given this time for reflection and a new perspective.
  2. Pay attention to your emotions. Ahh, peace. Yet, just a few hours earlier I was anything but at peace. While these feelings aren’t what we wish to recall or dwell on, they are an important part of our spiritual growth. Merely glossing over them, or worse, avoidance, doesn’t allow for us the time to learn from our mistakes.
  3. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Thank you, Father, for taking my frustrations and meeting them with peace. Thank you for not holding a grudge or saying I told you so – but hurrying to meet me when I called. While I slipped, you never let me fall. Your love is ever so faithful!
  4. God's Reset ButtonLook toward tomorrow. God’s great, big, awesome reset button – Oh, how I welcomed you today!Signature

Worth Revisiting: Poetic Examen-ations

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

Having just finished an incredible book by Fr. Casey Beaumier, SJ entitled, A Purposeful Path, I found myself reflecting on my own time of discernment in my time at Loyola Chicago. Trusting God in the journey, despite setbacks and struggles, in the everyday joys and consolations, Lord I give it all to You.


This is a day that was long awaited,
A time dreamt of and indeed anticipated,
With months albeit years of preparation,
And a myriad of readings and connotations.
Today, I awoke knowing that there was nowhere I had to be.
There was truly no post to edit,
Or theologian I needed to credit,
An argument carelessly ignored,
Nor deeper meaning to explore.
I now wondered in this stillness what was to be of me.
On the surface I had considered,
Neglected tasks that could be bettered,
Domestic duties that once were small,
Sat waiting to be again forestalled.
Feeling there was a greater more fruitful use of my time.
Where was that book that had been given,
read when my free time too would beckon?
What was it now that I would write,
if granted this instant of respite?
Ah, yes  these too cannot be my compass prime.
For always when I come in prayer,
The answer seems to find me there,
No longer doubt or thoughts amiss,
At the day’s events that carry bliss.
Since You know where it is that I need to be and what I am to do.
But rather surrender to Thy will and grace,
To lead me to my rightful place,
Perchance beside the lost, or dying,
Or counseling a friend whose day is trying-
Where ever my feet are needed to go Lord I give them to You. 
*Find your Inner Iggy and celebrate #31DayswithIgnatius this month at Loyola Press!

 Peace,

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Connections: Writing and Spirituality

With so much going on around us these days, have you ever found yourself in what seems to be the consistent cycle of playing catch up without the necessary time for all the things you love?
Do you feel that you lack the time to reflect on the essential elements of your day or shed those things that should be omitted altogether?
 Who has time for this, much less to write?

Yes, even those in those in the “faith” endeavor, are reminded that they have, at times, neglected to reflect prayerfully on the many things they are called to do and reassess. While I have been attending to these things in prayer, there is something concrete about putting pen to paper. There is an incredible release of all that our hearts and minds have been occupied with to now leave open for God to fill.

Writing, be it journaling, blogging, or correspondence with others can be an indispensable way to assess where you are, how you got there, and where you feel God is leading you today. It need not be lengthy, in fact it could be as short as a sentence. “I really enjoyed my walk today”. Which then might lead to an awareness to make time in your life for that more walks, and lead to the deeper question as to why you enjoy this time so much. Do I need this solitude as a break for the otherwise busyness of life? Is it that I feel close to God out in nature? Do His works remind me of the newness and recreation of the world around me and my place in it?

1.Let it be an honest dialogue with yourself and God. Invite the Spirit to open your heart to ponder and the strength to make even the smallest of changes. In the midst of God’s presence, wait. Let this pause then be your invitation say thank you for the very gift of this moment.

 

2.Where was God in my day? Was I greeted with the morning sunrise, or in the smile of a friend? Was he with me at the bedside of a friend, or in the consoling words of another?

 

3. Review your day, attentive to the times you were happiest, and the times that did not go as expected, both your successes and failures.

 

4.What was thought, said or done? Was there a missed opportunity to grow closer to God? If so, talk to God and ask for forgiveness, the courage to be aware, step forward and accept his offer the next time.

5.Tomorrow is a new day, and God is already there waiting for YOU. There is profound hope and grace in knowing each day is made anew and we too are recreated in this love. Commit to using this gift by striving to be attentive and open to direction.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Examen-ations for Decision Making

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.


 Examen-ations for Decision Making

(Originally posted January 26, 2014)

Keeping it short and sweet today, but I thought I’d share my own adaptation of a spiritual decision making tree. The first three are quite essential in that they ask of us to go to the source..

God’s word, God’s voice, and the Holy Spirits guidance in all. The other five invite us to consider our intentions, and the effects of our decisions on others. I enjoy reflecting on these particular scripture verses too, giving each a bit of time to bear fruit.

When making a significant decision,  I have also found it important to discuss the situation with my husband, a close friend and when possible with my spiritual director.

Sometimes, inviting another perspective and experience can provide both distance and clarity. Notwithstanding, in taking the time to pray together, we begin to appreciate the necessity of community and the strength found through these faithful bonds of fellowship . None of us are ever intended to embark on this journey alone, but invited to reach out, uplift, lean on, and carry one another when the way seems difficult.

Thank you Father for all those you have placed in my life- my family and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. For the truly prayerful counsel of Fr. Jim who continues to fill this time of discernment for me with great joy and faith-filled wisdom.  May every decision be less of me and more of You, for you know the way ahead so much better than I. 

Peace,

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