I saw Jesus today.

“Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart I want to see you. I want to see you.

To see you high and lifted up shinin’ in the light of your glory. Pour out your power and love as we sing holy, holy, holy.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I want to see you.”

~ Michael J. Smith

This song has been going through my mind all week.  That’s what I want and need this Lent.  I need to see Jesus.  The last two weeks, leading up to Ash Wednesday and continuing as I write, have been rough. But God is good and miracles do occur. Last week I didn’t write A Friday Meditation. I had no words.  The week was full of serious situations, and I found I couldn’t force words either.  I had to stop and honor that.

Lent helps me to remember not to be too busy to look for Jesus, in case I just let the day pass.  There is a very easy prayer exercise that helps with this.  I’m not really a journal person, but I am trying to write down the results of this every day at least during Lent.

The exercise is officially called The Examination of Consciousness or the Examen.  This is not the Examination of Conscience which is an exercise to prepare for confession.  The Examen is a way to see God’s presence in daily life.  It reminds me where God has been with me today.  It reminds me of what he has done, today.  It helps me be aware, today.  St. Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th century mystic and developer of The Spiritual Exercises believed that this prayer should be the most important quarter-hour of a person’s day and yet not many people have heard of it.

Faith tells us that God is everywhere, with us all the time, but we don’t often notice.  This prayer is a way to remember.  This process can also be used to help discern God’s will for you once you have used it for a time.

The Examen goes like this, or at least this is the way I do it.  Sit your usual prayer place; I have a comfy chair in my bedroom, and light a candle if you wish.  After sitting silently for a while, I might begin by thanking God for his blessings (Practice Gratitude – Element #7 of the Trinity Way of life) or pray for someone who lies heavy on my heart.  Then, I sit in silence for 20 minutes after which I ask myself some of the following questions:

For what moment today am I most grateful?
For what moment today am I least grateful?

When did I have the most peace? (Consolation)
When, during the day, did I have the least peace? (Desolation)

When, today, did I feel I was moving toward God?
When did I feel that I was moving away from God?

When did I feel most alive today?
When did I most feel life draining out of me?

When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, to others and to God?
When today did I have the least sense of belonging?

Don’t judge these feelings; only observe them.  The first question of each set shows where peace is and the second usually shows where it is not (Desolation).  God speaks in peace (Consolation).  Write the answers in a journal if you like.  This exercise helps me see Jesus during the day.  You might want to try this during Lent as part of your “taking on.”

Yesterday, I wrote this:

Most grateful – my brother’s successful surgery.
Least grateful – my need to take antibiotics because I’m allergic to them.

I did see Jesus, today.

Grace and Peace be with you.

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A Meditation for Ash Wednesday

Today on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, we hear these words:

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.”—The Book of Common Prayer

These words from The Book of Common Prayer begin to answer the question of why we have the season of Lent.  It is a gift the Church has given us. It gives us a time to take inventory of ourselves—to look at the things done and left undone in our lives.  It gives us time to look at where in our lives we are moving toward God or where we are actually moving away from God.  It gives us time to look at the relationship we have with ourselves and with others.  Are we acting in love or un-love?

St. Benedict, in the Rule for his monasteries, liked for his monks to make a little Lent each day, to examine themselves each day, but most of us don’t, or won’t, take time for this.   Lent is a time to make space in our life for God and it calls us to certain practices that help us do this.

Today, ashes are imposed on our foreheads with the following words:  “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

We remember that we are created by God to live in a relationship of Love with him and with others.  Dust doesn’t mean that we are worms, of little or no account, crawling around in the dirt. Dust is a creation of God and it helps us know who we are. God has known forever. Isaiah says, “Before I was born the Lord called me.”—Isaiah 49:1.  The psalmist acknowledges this as he says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”—Psalm 139:13.

We remember that God passionately desires to have this relationship with us. He remembers us.  He says in Isaiah, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;”—Isaiah 49:15-16.  God loves us.  He misses us.

We remember that we often fall short of living in this relationship in our daily lives and we need help. Lent brings us to this, and so we pray, “Forgive us, Lord, when we forget these things and start believing we are the creator and can do our own thing.  We are sorry.  Restore us again. Transform us.  Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.  Amen.”

I pray that your Lenten practices will help you remember and come closer, once again, to the One who loves you most and to the ones with whom you travel this journey.  Mine, too. – dlw

Not in the Whirlwind

“Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. ~ 1 Kings 19:11-12

Elijah has fled to the desert afraid for his life.  He had recently challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest to prove whether Baal or God was in charge of the rain.  God won that contest hands down which proved that He was the one to be worshiped.  Then, in his enthusiasm, Elijah killed all (450 or so) of the prophets of Baal.  Jezebel, the queen, a Phoenician princess married to King Ahab of Northern Israel, was not amused.  She had already killed the prophets of God and now she tells Elijah that, in retaliation for his killing of her prophets, she will kill him before the day is done.  For the full story read 1 Kings 18 & 19.  Elijah flees to the wilderness.  God finds him there in a cave and tells him to go outside and stand on the mountain because He is going to appear.

As Elijah stands on the mountain there is a strong wind, an earthquake and a fire-one after the other, noisy events all I would imagine, but God is not in any of them.  After the fire there is the sound of sheer silence.  I love the phrase, “sound of sheer silence” but I have trouble wrapping my mind around it even when I try.

Is this the silence that moves over the deep before God utters his first, “Let there be….” that begins creation?  I find myself awestruck dumb with this thought as I try to comprehend God there before anything is there.  The sound of Sheer Silence.  How can I relate?  How can I hear?  I get goose bumps and the hair on my neck stands at attention.

The sound of silence is the Presence of God.

We are not able to hear Presence with noise all around.  Presence is not heard in wind, earthquake or fire.  We are only able to hear God with the ears of our heart when we spend some time in silence with him.    Be still and know that I am God, he tells us. Tells me.  “Be still.”

How can I be that still?

There are ways to help with stillness; Centering Prayer is the method that I use, but I have a very noisy mind.  As an introvert, all the things I don’t say out loud speak to me in the silence— dinner menus, writing topics, people I know, people and events that need thoughtful prayer, conversations, the day past and the day ahead, whatever. The whirlwinds, earthquakes, and fires appear and thunder all around me. It is very difficult to hear Presence without some form of silent prayer, and I know that some practice of silence and solitude is a must for inner transformation into Christ-likeness.  This is always true but especially so when we are in the wilderness with the loud voices. So I continue listening, I try to pay attention and sometimes I am still enough to hear God in the sound of silence.  In Presence. The sound of Sheer Silence.  And I am awestruck dumb in the hearing.

Stay still, dear ones.

~ Donna