June Pastor’s Pen

Happy Summer!
OK, not officially for about 3 weeks, but June will see us move from Spring into Summer (though as I am writing this it is a 95-degree day, so I believe Summer is already here!). Thoughts will turn to beach and mountain vacations, gallons of sweet tea, and thanking God once again for the miracle of air conditioning.
We normally think of the Spring season of Lent as the perfect time to work on our faith – and it certainly is – but Lent is not the only season we can work to be better in our life with God. We were helped this Lent by the encouragement of the use of prayer beads. I am very glad to say that several of you have told me that those beads really helped you in your prayer life, so that is encouragement both for you and for those who came up with the idea. Well done! If you are still using the beads or even if you never did, I want to suggest another way of prayer that I am finding helpful (and you can certainly use the beads with this). At a recent workshop I attended, we were introduced to the Christian practice called The Daily Examen. For the last 500 years or so, Christians all over the world have used this form of daily prayer to help them draw closer to God. You can use this with or without beads. In fact, one of the great realizations of this form of prayer is that it is left to the person to decide how and when to do it. A man named Ignatius Loyola came up with this, and one thing I remember from reading one of his main works many years ago was that he was very clear about this: if you find it easiest to connect with God while in your bed late at night, do that. If you find it easiest while standing in a river in January (yes, people did this!), then do that. You know the place or time of day when you find it easiest to be with God (even if it varies from day to day), so go with the Spirit.
In very basic terms, follow these five steps. (I am following James Martin’s guide here.) There is no time minimum or maximum, though I find it takes me around 10 minutes right now. Veteran practitioners find it can last for half an hour or longer. Again, follow the Spirit. 1. Presence: Remember that you are in the presence of God in a special way when you pray. Ask God for help in your prayer. 2. Gratitude: Remember a couple of things that happened today (or yesterday if you do this in the morning) for which you are especially grateful and thank God for them. 3. Review: Run through your entire day and see where you experienced God. Was it with someone, or some place, or just a beautiful day? As James asks, “When did you love? When were you loved?” 4. Sorrow: If you sinned or did something you regretted, ask God for forgiveness. If other people are involved, pray for wisdom to help reconciliation. 5. Grace: Go back to a part of your prayer that remains with you and talk with God about how that feels. Ask for God’s grace to help you in the following day.
After less than two weeks, I am finding this form very helpful in my own prayer life and wanted to pass it on to you. If you would like to discuss it further, do let me know! There are also many books written on it. It has become normal for church attendance to drop in the summer. Don’t drop the ball on living your faith. Let us encourage one another, and all the more as we see the Day approaching. .
Every blessing, Sean

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