THE CARPENTER'S SHOP: The Daily Examen
It is the last big tourist influx. Full highways, full restaurants, and full cash registers. Full everything. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Everyone is trying to squeeze the summer of every drop of blessed sunshine and satisfaction before returning to ruts and regimen. Get out of the way … I’m coming through with no time to loose! Destinites understand this well. This fullness means prosperity.
At the same time I am reminded of what an early Christian saint said more than 400 years ago. Saint Ignatius called the ancient community of Jesuits to take time everyday to do an inventory. He called it the Daily Examen. Methodists called it a Daily Discipline. I call it the kryptonite to despair. If you follow these five simple steps you will suck the nectar of life out of every day.
Begin and end your day by making yourself aware of God’s presence. Look at the day before you as a chance to spend the next 24 hours with God. Ask yourself, “Where is God today?” Has God not promised us divine accompaniment? Look for God at the day care and the grocery store. There are no secular places. Every day is sacred. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” asserts the Holy Scriptures. One of the names for Jesus Christ is Immanuel, which means, “God is with us!” Believe it. See through the muddle. God’s presence brings clarity and understanding.
Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the catalyst for health and serenity. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Be mindful of the gifts you have, not what you lack. A grateful spirit will cause one to soar. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give to others? Don’t overlook details — food, sights, friends, children, animals, and even small pleasures. God is in the details!
Connect to God with your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s assertions was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in and through our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experience today. Boredom? Pleasure? Antipathy? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? God speaks through feelings and faith. God will gently show you where you fell short. Confess your sins and faults. What might be the implications for feelings of frustration? Dissatisfaction can be a precursor to constructive change and new direction. Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to him or her with a caring gesture.
Choose one item of the day and pray from it. If you could choose one thing today that God thinks is important, what would that be? Could it be a significant encounter? Is there a strong feeling that was provoked by anger or joy? Was this day punctuated with a peculiar pleasure or pain? Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart — whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.
Think about tomorrow. Ask God to give you a vision about the value and potential for the next 24 hours or the next cycle of your life. What is the next challenge facing you? Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful, cheerful, apprehensive, or filled with anticipation? Turn feelings into prayer.
St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to Jesus like a friend. Ask God for forgiveness of your sins. Do not despair. Ask for wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Remember above all … God loves you and you are not alone!
Dr. Barry Carpenter is pastor of Destin United Methodist Church and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.