Examen for Earth Justice

Examen For Earth Justice 

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.”
-Elizabeth Barret Browning

  1. Take a moment to pause in gratitude. Consider: What does your life depend on? What is the source of blessing in your life? Consider the ways that your life is inextricably connected to the earth. As you begin your time of prayer, pondering your inherent belonging to creation, be aware of each deep breath as sacred, symbol of this connection.
  2. Consider the ways that you live in separation from God, others, and creation. Pause in awareness for the times you seek your own well-being first and don’t consider the welfare of others. How do you participate in destructive attitudes, behaviors, and systems that diminish the worth of others and don’t honor the sacredness of creation?
  3. Reflect back on the previous day. Try to remember each detail, each hour. When did you act in dissonance with God’s vision for creation? When did you act in harmony with God’s vision for creation?
  4. Pray for forgiveness for the times you act as though you are separate from others and creation, for the moments you choose convenience over justice, personal well-being over compassion, busyness over presence, ignorance over awareness, apathy over action.
  5. Give thanks for God’s presence in and through creation. Contemplate the beauty of the earth around you. (If possible, go outside!) Breathe deeply and sense how you are a part of this. You belong simply by being alive. How does God invite you to live this belonging? Discover peace and renewal in the natural rhythms of the earth that surrounds you. Dwell in God’s presence.
  6. Consider how you will live in the days ahead. Pray that you will live from a space of deeper connectivity and compassion with God, others, and creation. Pray that you may become more aware, in all the details of your life, of how God’s shalom yearns to come to expression through you for the sake of the world.

written by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Did I Miss God Today?

Lenten Practice: Examen
Daily Act: Spend time with the prayer of examen and record in a journal/reflect on your responses to the questions for reflection below.

Questions for Reflection
1. Where have I been cooperative in God’s vision of shalom?
2. Where have I been complicit in a lack of peace in this world?
3. Looking back over my life, what are my priorities?
4. Where do my passions mirror the passion of Christ?

Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“SEARCH MY HEART AND MAKE IT ONE WITH YOURS.”

Today’s blog is by Dustin Davis, who wrote this while reflecting on his practice with the Prayer of Examen. Dustin lives in Los Angeles, California and is a member of the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Team.

What has your experience with this practice been this week? How does the examen increase your awareness of God’s presence?

Did I Miss God today?
by Dustin Davis

I woke up today and immediately turned on the TV, filling my day with noise. Did I miss God when I didn’t take time to notice how after a night of sleep my chest was moving up and down, slowly and deeply, breathing in life-giving air? I jumped in the shower and began mapping out my day in my head instead of pausing to watch the sun rise, taking it for granted. Did I miss God then?

On my way into work the traffic was thick as usual, but I didn’t mind because the radio was keeping my ears full and my mind distracted. At a stop light a man was asking for money. Anything will help his sign said, and God bless. I managed a smile when he came to my car, but I kept my window rolled up. I quickly looked away in my own embarrassment and shame. The light turned green, and traffic moved forward. Did I miss God?

At work I’m hounded by questions all day. It’s the nature of my job, but it’s my choice how to respond. Sometimes people have problems that I can help with. Other times I feel like people are just pushing their responsibilities on me, because they don’t want to deal with them. Some questions I think are just flat out dumb. I wonder how some people have made it so far in life, and I might even exchange a mean-spirited joke with my boss once the person has left. Did I miss an opportunity to be humbled? To be compassionate? When I write people off, dismiss them, not take the time to hear them, do I miss God?

When the sacred becomes routine, do I miss God? I often take out the recycling in my office. I believe in recycling on two levels: one, as a way re-use and be less wasteful, two, as a statement about the importance of sacredness of creation. The act of recycling is influenced by my faith. It’s a sacred act. But what happens when I don’t pause to remember why it’s sacred in the first place?

I stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up some things for dinner. It wasn’t until I had already packed my grocery bag, swiped my card, signed the screen and finally said thank you that I even looked at the woman helping me. By then she was already helping the person behind me. Did I miss God in her?

It’s only from a position of looking back on my day that I can ask the question, Did I miss God today? After going through my day I can see that God certainly was there in every moment just as God is in this moment now. For that I am thankful. But a new question emerges. Why do I see God only in reflecting on the day instead of in the moment?

As I go to bed a prayer passes from my lips to settle in my heart- I will see God tomorrow.

Justice and the Wilderness Way

Lenten Practice: Examen
Daily Act: Stand for justice. Is there an issue in your community or in the world that is calling you to engage in a deeper way? (For example: Write a letter to a political leader or give money to a sustainable cause to align your life with God’s vision of shalom.)
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“SEARCH MY HEART AND MAKE IT ONE WITH YOURS.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

The desert way of Lent does not waste time removing us from the comfortable status quo where our lives can sometimes settle. There is no hierarchy in the desert… just an ancient, holy, evolutionary pattern making life possible in seemingly desolate conditions. There is adaptation and endurance. There is resourcefulness and stewardship of bodily (and spiritual) reserves in dry times. There is surprising grace in the rare rain that pours out unrestricted on all life in equal measure.

In The Wisdom of The Desert, Thomas Merton describes the profound social and spiritual implications of the 4th century desert fathers and mothers. When Christianity became the religion of the empire, a trickle of concerned Christians made their way into the harshness of the wilderness to seek and preserve what they believed mattered most in the Christian life. Knowing how vulnerable we are to comfort, convenience, and status, they made every effort at great personal sacrifice to rid themselves of anything that kept them from being free in God’s Spirit to keep the mission of Christ alive in their time.

Merton suggests:

We cannot do exactly what they did. But we must be as thorough and as ruthless in our determination to break all spiritual chains, and cast off the domination of alien compulsions, to find our true selves, to discover and develop our inalienable spiritual liberty and use it to build, on earth, the Kingdom of God… Let it suffice for me to say that we need to learn from these men of the fourth century how to ignore prejudice, defy compulsion and strike out fearlessly into the unknown. (P.24, The Wisdom of The Desert)

Lent is about justice. Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days of spiritual resistance before he came back to unroll the scroll of Isaiah and provocatively proclaim his mission. (Luke 4:18-19) Sometimes it takes that long… sometimes longer… for us to shed our compulsions and addictions to the systems of exploitation we have come to rely on. It can take that long to realize how we have become too comfortable, how the allure of settling in to the culture around us is too easy, how our prophetic vision grows dull when we are drenched in the shallow benefits of the same world we are called to question and transform.

Like Jesus, and the desert abbas and ammas, we learn that the journey into the wilderness is not just a solitary way. It is a strengthening journey of transformation to sharpen again our prophetic lens and return to our cultures with God’s Spirit on fire within us- seeking shalom potential and resisting everything that is not.

For those who attend summer camps and reunions, you may get a taste of this wilderness effect on your way of seeing. Many describe those first few days home when things don’t feel quite right. There is a struggle to articulate what you have experienced to the ones you enter back into the normal rhythms of everyday life with. Imagine if it were not just a week, but forty days! The same thing can happen to those who travel to other countries and return to their own with a slightly different perspective. Having stepped outside the norms, stepping back in can feel disjunctive.

This is what Lent is. The wilderness way leads to justice and peace.

That disjunctive feeling? Hold onto it. Dare to stay in it just for a while. Return to it, in love, as often as you can. Let the dissonance form your response. It is a holy discomfort. It is a sacred way of seeing. It is the kingdom of God within you rubbing its sharp edges against the oppression and injustice we become blinded to otherwise. The Christian life is a constant practice in adjusting our prophetic vision.

What do you see? How does the wilderness way of Lent form your response?