Lenten Blog Day 17 – Examen

Yesterday Jeff Nelson preached on the prayer practice of the Examen .developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the late 1400s. Examen is a important prayer practice and Jeff’s sermon was powerful.  If you get a chance go and listen to it (Rofum.org).  Jeff asked the congregation to look back at the day in prayer using these five steps.

Relish the moments that went well and all of the gifts we have today.

Request the Spirit to lead us through the review of the day.

Review the day

Repent of any mistakes or failures (turning to a new path)

Resolve in concrete ways to live tomorrow in a better way.

 

There are many variations of the Examen but in its simplest form it is the practice of examining your day in the presence of God; it is taking time at the end of the day to look back and look for God.  I love this quote from Dr. Dennis Hamm where he calls this practice “rummaging for God”.

He says it is like, “going through a drawer full of stuff, feeling around looking for something that you are sure must be there. “  He calls that an accurate description of what it is like to pray the Daily Examen.  We look back on the previous day, rummaging through our “stuff,” and finding God in it.  We know he is there.

Here is a step by step version of the prayer practice that is similar to the steps above, but with some interesting variations.

  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.

I end today with a quote from the Ignatian Spirituality website.

“(The Examen) is actually an attitude more than a method, a time set aside for thankful reflection on where God is in your everyday life.”

 

I’m going to try this for a few days …..more to come

 

Grace and Peace,

MM

 

Lenten Blog Day 16 Day by Day (one more day)

I’m staying with our song from yesterday and using it to cover what author Maxie Dunnam calls “letting interruptions call us to prayer.”   “We must be intentional about seeking consciously to relate all of life to God,” writes  Dunnam.    He then challenges us to look at routine interruptions, stopping in traffic, the line at the grocery store, filling our car with gas.  At one of these routine interruptions today say the three petitions of our song/prayer.

 

Dear Lord, these things I pray:  To see you more clearly; to love you more dearly; to follow you more nearly.

 

Now if there is time in the routine interruption take it a step further.  Take one and think about it….meditate on it for a moment.  What does it mean to see God more clearly?   How can you show your love for God?  What might it mean in your life to do a better job of following Christ?

 

The next step is to let the situations of life call you to prayer.  These are the interruptions that are not part of the routine.  When we are looking, when we are observant, there are things all around us that can and should call us to prayer.  I was driving down a major street near my house when the traffic stopped.  Frustrated and impatient I was relieved to see that we were all just merging to get around a stalled car in the right lane.  But as I passed I saw an older woman standing in the front of the car struggling alone to get the hood up.   I could feel the nudge…and was able to circle back through a side street.  Before I got out of the car, I took a breath and prayed that God would show me how to be helpful.  I’m not strong and know very little about car repair.  When I reached her another driver had stopped and he was helping her try to push the car off the main road and into a side street.  It was almost impossible because the traffic was relentless.  Helping to push seemed futile, but it occurred to me that I might still be of some help.  I said another prayer as I walked into the street and started stopping the traffic.  With all lanes still, it was not difficult for the man to get the car into the correct angle and push it onto the side street. Of course, with all the cars stopped, several people left their vehicles and joined in the “pushing.”   The woman was now safely off the busy road, calling for more qualified help.  She smiled and said “thank you” as I went back to my car.  Before I drove away, I sat and said a prayer for her, for the other driver who had stopped to help and for that quiet moment of community when others joined in.    There is no dramatic ending here. It all happened very quickly.  In minutes, the traffic on Maple Road was flowing once again.   I got in my car and drove away.  But I was in a “moment” an “event”, if you will and I intentionally brought God into the mix.  It felt good.  It felt right.

 

Make an effort today to intentionally bring God into your world, your everyday life through prayer.  A quick prayer, a quick connection can make all the difference.

Grace and Peace,

MM

Lenten Blog Day 15 – Day by Day by Day

As I read the Maxie Dunnam book on Living Prayer one more time, I can’t help but laugh.  The edition that I have kept through the years was published in 1974 and in chapter 5 he talks about a popular song of the time,  “Day by Day”.  It is a song from the Broadway musical “Godspell” and it has played in my head since the early 70s.  Simple tune, simple words, powerful message.

“Day by Day; Day by Day.

O dear Lord, three things I pray.

To see thee more clearly,

Love thee more dearly

Follow thee more nearly.

Day by day by day by day…..”

I do realize that I am really dating myself here, but as this song plays in my head, I see the young girl in the maxi dress with the flowers in her hair playing the guitar and singing this song.  In some odd way, I am a little proud that this is one of the songs of the 70s that has stayed with me.  (Seriously, thank you God for not just leaving me with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida….a little Iron Butterfly goes a loooong way. )

Ok, back to “Day by Day “  and this all-encompassing prayer.  Here are the three things that I am working toward in my prayer.

I want to see you, God  more clearly.  I want to know you; I want to be in relationship with you.

I want to love you more dearly.  I want to show my love for you as Jesus taught.

And I want to follow you more closely.  God, you came to earth through Jesus to show us how to live.  You gave us a blueprint and I want to follow that; help me to follow that.

For me, the most powerful part of this prayer song is the last line.  “Day by day by day by day.”

Being in relationship with God, and a follower of Jesus is not a “flip the switch” kind of thing.  It’s just not.  It is a choice we make every day.  So here’s a challenge for this, the 15th day of Lent….

Let’s try to do one thing…just one thing to live out the three simple lines of the song.  What is one thing that helps us see God more clearly?  Keep it simple – prayer/ scripture.  How can we show God that we love him?  Jesus gave us some good instructions here – loving and caring for our neighbors.  Once again, don’t try to save the world on this Friday….what is one thing you can do for someone else?

Now finally …one thing that helps us follow the path of Jesus “more nearly”.   My favorite instructions from Jesus reiterate those great words out of the Old Testament.  “Love kindness, seek justice and walk humbly with God.”  For today, pick one…one act of kindness, one act of justice …

Let’s get on it….

Grace and peace,

MM

Lenten Blog Day 14 – still on our shoulders…

As I went to post today’s blog the words below came up as a Facebook memory from last year’s blog. I always need to be reminded not to take myself so seriously and these words about Joy spoke to me today. So I am reposting.

Remember the old saying: “the weight of the world is on your shoulders”? So many times I have felt like that; looking at the need all around me can be oppressive. I feel like the weight of the world is on MY shoulders. But, here’s a clue: it’s NOT. To be honest, I’m just not that important. None of us is. Truly, the weight of the world is with God. The part that you or I may play is important, but small in the scheme of things. I’m not saying that we should neglect doing good in the world; I’m all about that. I am simply thinking this morning that I don’t need to take myself so seriously. In fact, in my meditation this morning, the word “joy” kept coming into my mind. I was reading the wonderful Bible verse from Zephaniah 3:17
“The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

A different translation of that second line is “the Mighty Warrior who saves.” There is an image here of a God who is not only powerful, but who is fighting to save us. (the perfect image for Lent)
The remaining verses are my favorite. “He will delight in you, quiet you with his love and rejoice over you with singing. “
Going to the Bible Lexicon this morning, I see that a more precise translation is:
“He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in his love and
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
Let’s take a deeper look at that word, joy. It is defined in Dictionary.com as:
1. the emotion of great delight or happiness cause by something exceptionally good or satisfying
2. a source or cause of keen pleasure; something or someone greatly valued …
3.
Imagine that; God can look at us and be delighted; we are greatly valued and a source of pleasure. God is joyful. Even in this time of Lent, we can be joyful. We know how this story ends…
MM

Lenten blog Day 13 –Thy Will Be Done

I preached the Saturday afternoon service on The Lord’s Prayer.  I have only been preaching for a couple of months and I’m still at that stage (that I understand is common) where it’s hard for me to let it go.  The sermon and the scripture swirl around in my head for several days.  So let’s put that to good use…lol.    The Lord’s Prayer is many things; the top of the list it is a framework or a set of instructions for us.  It guides us into prayer.  It begins with praise, then moves to what I call surrender.  “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”   How often have we breezed right through those words?   “Thy will be done.”   I know I do sometimes.  I go to God with something I really, really want to happen.  I can plead my case on why I think it’s the best thing.  At the end of the prayer I slip in a “thy will be done” for good measure.  But go back to the beginning of the prayer, “Our Father”.  Jesus is showing us love and relationship in something we can understand.  God loves us like a parent.  So we can say “thy will be done”…. And mean it.  I’ll repeat the story I told Saturday about my daughter who came down stairs when she was about 10 years old going to school wearing lipstick.  At first it was funny and cute.  “You don’t need lipstick, you are already so pretty”  “Yes, I’m pretty, but I’m prettier with lipstick.”   In no time I was in a debate with a 10 year old.  Finally my patience wore out and  I said the inevitable, “You’re not wearing lipstick to school, because I said so.”  Now here is a parent’s fantasy.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if just once our children said to us…”Mom, I really want to do this.  I think I should do this.  But I know that you love me and I understand that you know a lot more about this that I do….so “thy will be done.”   LOL….said no child ever.

Still, that IS how we can go to our Father in heaven.  Yes God.  I want this or that.  But I know that you love me and I understand that you know everything….you truly know what is best for me.  So, thy will be done.

Someone told me recently that he prays for a roadblock.  “God I’m headed down this path, but if this is not your path, if this is not your will, please send me a roadblock.”

I can think of so many times when roadblocks were pointing me in a different direction (and yes, I can think of those time, when I stubbornly blew right through the roadblock and down the wrong path.) I am always grateful for a loving God who finds me wherever I have wandered and guides me back.  But truthfully, it would have been a whole lot easier if I had followed the instructions in the first place.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Grace and Peace at Lent

MM

Lenten Blog Day 12- It not just about us

My original idea with the blog was to spend two weeks on all things “inward”, going inside ourselves to find peace.  The second two weeks would be devoted to “upward” and I hope to spend some time really digging into prayer.  Today we look at one of the many “whys”.  Why is prayer so important.

In the book “Listen Praying in a Noisy World, Reuben Job has some great words on the part we play in the salvation of the world. (Ok…it’s a little heavy for a Tuesday…but stay with me)  It begins with a quote from Vaclav Havel.   “The salvation of the human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart.”  Job continues, “Havel’s words remind us that we, too have a part in the salvation of the world; our relationship with God is not only for our benefit but for the benefit of the world.”

So how is that possible?  Remember this verse? (Jeff Nelson preached on it recently)

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12

Our ability to do great things…no “greater works than these” .rests on our relationship with God.  Jesus show us the path, the Holy Spirit teaches the way and when we are ready, really ready, we can go out and do great things.  As we spend time with God in this Lenten season, we start to hear his voice and know where he is calling us.  And so it circles back to the “Sweet Hour of Prayer.”

“Heavenly Father in this sweet hour of prayer, may we know you and hear your voice, then go out into the world and do your will.  Amen”

 

Sweet hour of prayer

Sweet hour of prayer

That calls me from a world of care

And bids me at my Father’s throne

Make all my wants and wishes known

In seasons of distress and grief

My soul has often found relief

And oft escaped the tempter’s snare

By they return, sweet hour of prayer.

Lenten Blog Day 11 Inward, Upward, Onward

Its’ Monday, the beginning of the third week of Lent.  What can I say, I’m struggling this morning.

Sure, the Monday morning thing is a part of it.  And yes it doesn’t help that we had several weeks of spring like weather even here in Michigan and today we have snow and cold.  But truthfully, the bigger issue for me this morning is that I am feeling the sting of cold winds blowing inside my mind, the winds of doubt and insecurity.  Before I can stop the slide, I am questioning everything…where am I going, what am I doing, just who am I?

On mornings like these I go to some trusted resources, the Bible of course then Sara Young’s “Jesus Calling”

Here is today’s message:

“Learn to Live above your circumstances.  This requires focused time with ME, the One who overcame the world.  Trouble and distress are woven into the very fabric of this perishing world.  Only My Life in you can empower you to face this endless flow of problems with good cheer.

As you sit quietly in My Presence, I shine Peace into your troubled mind and heart.  Little by little you are freed from earthly shackles and lifted up above your circumstances.  You gain My perspective on your life, enabling you to distinguish between what is important and what is not.  Rest in My Presence receiving Joy that no one can take away from you.

‘These Things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’  John 16:33

‘So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice and no one will take away your joy.’  John 16:22

 

Certainly it is only through Jesus and the Holy Spirit that I can wake up feeling anxious and leave for work in a better place.  I do love those words of Jesus from the book of John…”In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. “

As I walked out the door I heard my grandson singing his own version of a familiar song.   “the B-i-b-l-e; yes that’s the book for me,  I love you so, I love you so.  The B-i-b-l-e”

The voice of Jesus through a 4 year old.  Now who could resist that?

Grace and Peace in Lent

MM

Lenten Blog Day 10  “How Great Thou Art” moments

 

The second week of Lent comes to a close today and we’re going to look at the things that get our hearts pumping, that remind us of God’s greatness and His love for us.  I call them “How Great Thou Art” moments.  You know the song …still take a look at the words once again.

Oh Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

There are moments in our lives when we see something in the world so beautiful and so magnificent that it stops us cold.  Did anyone see the moon last night?  It was beautiful and here in Michigan the sky was so clear.  It was brighter than usual on my street.  When I was out with my dogs at about 9pm, the power in my neighborhood was still out.  Of course I went outside totally annoyed.  I mean really, I put the leash on my dog by candlelight and the inside of my house was almost as cold as outside.  But once I got out into the night and saw that sky……   There was nothing to say but “how great Thou art.”  I had that same overwhelming feeling three other times that day as my children and grandchildren celebrated my birthday with songs and cakes and candles.  Precious, precious moments….”how great Thou art.”  When we see the beauty all around, something stirs inside us, our souls sing.  That’s God.  He is reminding us of how much He loves us.  When we recognize that, our only response can be ….once again….”My God, how great Thou art.”   And this is prayer.  In fact it is how Jesus starts us out in his “sample” prayer, The Lord’s Prayer.  This beautiful example of prayer begins with adoration.   “Hallowed be thy name”…in other words “How Great Thou ART.

Grace and Peace at Lent

MM

PS. I’m preaching on the Lord’s Prayer today at 4 in Royal Oak. If you’re in the area stop by.

 

Lenten Blog Day 9-Join the Chorus

When I was a senior in high school, I joined the concert band at school, partly because I was looking for a challenge in my final year.  Did I mention that I don’t play an instrument?  Still, I thought it would be so cool to hear the band performances from the inside.  I had been singing in choirs all my life and I knew the exhilaration of standing in the midst of beautiful music.  So I borrowed a bass clarinet, signed up for lessons and went at it with a vengeance.  I managed to blast out the two or three notes required of a bass clarinet.  Sure enough when the band went into competition, I sat there in the middle of it just soaking up the sounds.  It was amazing.

God is playing a grand symphony of restoration around the world and He invites us to be a part of it.  You can watch it; you can support it, or you can be a part of it.   Joining in the great chorus of God’s work on earth will require some action, some work.  God may ask you to learn a new skill, go to a place you have never gone before.  Ah, but when you do, expect to experience amazing things.  When Jesus said he came to show us “abundant life” he wasn’t just whistling Dixie.  (forgive the Southern slang)   So on this, the 9th day of Lent I invite you to  grab your clarinet and join me in the band.  The music is beautiful

Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
25 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;

1 Chronicles 16:23-25

Lenten Blog Day 8- Observations on a Blustery Day

I drove down my street yesterday and it was like an obstacle course.  Trash cans, recycle bins rolled at you from all sides the result of trash pick up day meets wind advisory day.  As I drove down Woodward, I couldn’t help but notice several very large American flags completely unfurled in the high winds.  You could literally see the power of the wind pushing against the flags, and the flags held strong.  Our country is strong.  But our God is even stronger.   God is powerful and He is moving in this world.  He is moving in restoration and love.  Everyday each of us chooses to be a part of that movement….or not.

Lately I have been singing this song over and over in my head.  These stanzas really speak to me:

This is my Father’s world

Oh, let me never forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world

Why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is king, let the heavens ring

God reigns, let the earth be glad.

 

Even in the high winds yesterday, the sun was shining.  And as the day came to a close, fallen trees would bring neighbors and communities together.  At my house, no power meant no electronics.

It was a candlelight dinner and early to bed.  “God reigns, let the earth be glad.”

Grace and Peace at Lent