May 11, 2019
WHAT GIVES YOU LIFE?
Kathy and I have been bringing you a series of “Life Tools” in our Chapel/Church messages at each NASCAR K&N Pro Series even this year and this one can be added to the series, even though I chose to post it on Facebook May 1st. The series are free to be passed on to others and meant to be used privately or in a group discussion as you see fit, but as always, free of charge and not meant to cost you financially unless you determine to seek a Christian Counselor in your home town because it is the logical step to your healing and personal growth. With that made completely plain let me continue.
Many years ago, I was introduced to a very wise Christian practice called the “Examen” that St. Ignatius introduced to his Christian brothers, the Jesuits. Ignatius saw the Examen as the cornerstone of spiritual life to the extent that when the Jesuits at the Council of Trent asked if they could skip their prayer exercises because they had no time, Ignatius told them to skip anything but the Examen. I have found it life-giving, practical, revealing, instructive, and transforming. A small book that has been very helpful to me is “Sleeping with Bread, Holding What Gives You Life” by the Linn brothers. Their questions can be asked in various ways to tap into these movements of God in our lives. They are geared at getting to our “consolations and desolations.”
A consolation is whatever helps us connect with ourselves, others, and God.
Desolations are whatever disconnects us.
* For the sake of value and focusing on a particular interest that seems to be at the forefront of your heart and mind, these questions can be rotated as well as using the same set repeatedly. As you use them in your life personally or when trying to help a friend, or family loved one keep that in mind. Sometimes it’s helpful to head right to the issue and other times it’s more helpful and less intimidating to ease your way toward the issue.
Begin by asking yourself or who you are attempting to help through a life issue these questions. Maybe if you are leading a group, or even just one person it sometimes is easier to write the answers down in secret. At the end or at the appropriate time speak it our loud or read what you wrote out loud.
This can be experienced in ten to twenty minutes. It can be used alone, with your spouse, in a small group setting, with your children while around the dinner table or while putting them to bed, on family vacations, with a friend.
Kathy and I have used it on a mission trip with the team in the evenings. A peaceful way to begin is to light a candle and acknowledge Christ’s presence with you, the Light of the World and symbol of divine revelation. Sit in the stillness and then ask a set of the questions, listening for what God’s Spirit brings to you. I have often been surprised. When you are done, offer a prayer of thanks to God. I t’s good to record these in a journal or a little notebook with a phrase or word. Over time a pattern will emerge. For example, a friend of mine noticed how often her consolations were with trusted friends. She began to intentionally incorporate more of such nourishing times into her life.
In our first message on “Life Tools” I told you about the group we put together to sort of examine our YWAM campus ideas of helping and developing our Pastoral Care with our staff. This experience turned delightfully into a huge self help method that brought out some amazing results individually, built some wonderful relationships within our group, and some of the best ever deep conversations and even healing to some staff members involved in this group. Remember, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD!
Here are the questions:
For what moment today am I most grateful?
For what moment today am I least grateful?
When did I receive and give the most love today?
When did I give and receive the least love today?
When did I feel most alive today?
When did I feel life draining out of me?
When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, others, and God?
When did I have the least sense of belonging?
When was I happiest today?
When was I saddest?
What was today’s high point?
What was today’s low point?
The Examen helps us listen to all that life is saying to us. Ignatius said, “God is constantly revealing Himself to us in our experience. Of course the Bible is divine revelation-no one denies that. But so is life! It is precisely because God is present to life and available to human experience that we have a divinely inspired story to tell, and that the story once told is revelation.”
Why do I need the Examen?
To be more present to God and myself in everyday experiences.
To listen to the voice of God and recognize His movements in my life.
The desolation moments help me see my sadness and pain, my sin.
The consolations help me see the fullness and joys in my life.
This is one of the ways I can discern God’s will in my life over time. It’s one of those spiritual tools used for seeking the guidance of God.
It has taught me to avoid burn out and given me permission to say no to some things and yes to others.
Burn out comes not from doing too much but from doing what we don’t really want to do. It is like one foot is moving forward and the other is trying to run away.
It’s helpful to teach others the examen when they want you to tell them what to do and you do not think this is wise.
Enjoy using this wonderful spiritual resource. It’s awesome and will give you LIFE!