Every so often I will be posting a sort of round-up post based on the practice of Praying the Examen. Here is one for January 2018.
Step 1. Become aware of God’s presence in and around and through all things.
The more we add to life here at Preservation Acres, the more aware I become of God’s presence in and through and around all things. The more things we plant, care for, raise, feed, water, weed, prune and pet, the more connected I become to the heartbeat of God within, the wider my understanding of the world becomes.
These goats were my Christmas gift from Sweet Man. They are pygmies and are named Jack the Nudger and Charlie Brown. Sometimes I just go and sit in their pen and soak in their joy – the funny little gallop they do when I bring their breakfast, the way Jack (who used to run from any contact) will now let me stroke his nose and forehead. The way Charlie will climb in my lap and try to eat my jacket, his funny ears like velvet next to my cheeks.
Strange as it may seem, there is stillness and a rootedness that happens when I just sit with the goats, an internal peace that I can’t find anywhere else.
PB & J – Perfect together since 2018
Step 2. Review the month with gratitude. Use the Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, prayer if needed
You might not know who this amazing joyous man is, but he is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and his name is Michael Curry. This man brings joy to my heart , not because of his position, but because of his unabashed love for Jesus, his GREAT enthusiasm for sharing the gospel, and his boldness in proclaiming love, mercy, and justice for ALL people, in the name of Christ, Amen.
And because he is fearlessly leading our wing of the Church in this way I love him all the more.
I was lucky enough to get to hug his neck and sit at his feet and learn last week during the Forma Conference in Charleston. Also, I found myself throwing a lot of Amen’s, clapping old style and raising my hands high (which did this post-evangelical emergent charismatic-ish Episcopalian’s heart GOOD.)
If you want to be convicted and inspired and encouraged, then by all means, watch his sermon HERE. (NOTES – skip to 16:39 min to start service, you can see my beaming face during the gospel reading around 36min and, his sermon starts around 37min)
Step 3. Pay attention to and name the emotions from this month
There are a lot of changes on the horizons, some that are beyond me or my control – at work (we will have a new priest, and I a new boss, sometime this year), at home (Wylie will leave for college)- and some that will require me to step up and be brave (such as in my ever-evolving career of writing and speaking and choices regarding when and if we will adopt), and with all of these changes come bits of fear and sadness and hope and joy, emotions that wash in and out, out and in, like the tide.
Historically, January is a hard month for me. The pressure to START FRESH always wears me out, because quite frankly, all I want to do in January, at least in the first few weeks, is sleep and restore. No new plans, no fresh starts, no diets, no purging the junk the drawer, no new goal-setting. Just rest. And this year – having just left the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of 2017 behind, and all these impending changes on the horizon – the idea of trying to manufacture some sort of enthusiasm and burst of productivity was beyond me.
So, for the first time ever, I decided to completely gave myself over to my natural rhythm, a rhythm anchored by stillness and quiet.
Instead of being a month of beginnings, for me, I declared January a fallow month. A month to let the land and my body rest. A month to sleep as much as possible, to eat hearty food, to gather with friends, and to wait. To wait for warmth and spring and the call of the Spirit to begin again.
I listened to my body, being gentle with myself, allowing for tears and silence when needed, napping like a toddler, and protecting my restoration process when I could – standing still, honoring the work of the tide.
4. Choose one hard truth from the month and pray from it. Ask to see God’s presence in the midst of it
One hard truth. One. That is a tough choice in a month of of hard truths. Especially if I am asking to see God’s presence in the midst of it.
Yesterday a friend posted this:
This morning we heard from Chester Johnson* about the pain of uncovering the history of the Elaine Arkansas Race Massacre. He spoke on his inability to reconcile what he learned of his grandfather’s participation as a member of the Klu Klux Klan and his own memory of his grandfather as loving caretaker.
The phrase that stuck out to me was inability to reconcile.
This is the hardest truth of all the hard truths of the past month. This is the hard truth of where I am right now.
I have a profound inability to reconcile.
I cannot reconcile the current choices and beliefs of people I love, with the choices and beliefs that they taught me as a child.
In large part because this is a matter of faith, a matter of understanding who Jesus is, about what the Gospel means, what our call as Christians is.
It is as if I have stumbled onto one of those dolls where if you turn it one way it is Little Red Riding Hood and if turn it the other way there is the Big Bad Wolf.
My experience has mostly been of Little Red Riding Hood, but lately the Wolf keeps turning up, and I am so disoriented. I feel abandoned.
Even though I logically understand the progression, this still undoes me completely, and I cannot make heads or tails of it in my heart. I cannot comprehend it in any sort of rational way that helps me sleep at night.
And so the only place I can see the presence of God in the midst of it all, is to remember that God is not undone by these choices.
God is not stymied or flustered or at a loss by the current state of things.
Heartbroken? Perhaps. But somehow big enough to not be undone by the heartbreak. Somehow big enough and whole enough and LOVE enough to hold it all.
So this is where I see God in the midst of this hard truth, in my inability to reconcile.
God holds us all. The table remains.
This is the light I cling to, and Help me, Help me, Help, is the place I pray from, when the heartbreak and confusion of how we got here is just too much.
Step 5. Look toward tomorrow with freedom and hope.
Ahh. This one is easy. The garden. Flowers and tomatoes and cabbages and radishes and peas and onions and…. Spring on the farm! It is COMING and I cannot wait.
This year Sweet Man and I are trying some different things in regards to how we plant, and I am so excited to begin, and dig in- literally.
Never have I needed to see new life sprout more than I do now.
Never have I needed to cooperate with God the act of creation more than I do now.
Never have I needed the hope and freedom that planting sustenance and beauty brings more than now.
Thank God for the gift of gardens. May we all be healed by their provisions.