April 18, 2020

I have to confess that the last few days have been hard. Part of it is the let-down after Easter, which is pretty typical for all clergy. I’ve always referred the first part of Easter week as my Easter hangover.  Another part of it is simply adjusting my expectations about when the Stay-at-Home order might end.  Sometimes in the middle of a long stretch, when the end isn’t yet in sight, the trip seems like it will never end.

When I was in the Philippines in February, all of us boarded a bus in Bacolod to travel to a port to take the ferry to Bantayan Island for the retreat. It felt familiar, like traveling in Hawaii, and I kept expecting that over the ridge of the next mountain we would see the ocean. It took three hours to get to the ocean. I felt like a child wanting to ask, “Are we almost there?” 

Another factor is that Rod and I haven’t ever spent so much time together in the same house without one or both of us working outside the home. My rough edges are starting to show, and along with that the inner dialogues that do neither of us any good. Sir Stink-a-Lot, the Skunk, was the final straw!

Here are some things that have helped: listening to music; virtual meetings with friends; walks in nature; working in the yard; laughter at the craziest things; being thankful and appreciative for the simple blessings in each day; and prayer, including taking time to sit quietly, simply breathing and waiting with God, and the prayer of Examen at the end of the day.

The prayer of Examen comes out of the Ignatian tradition of prayer, and is simply a way of reviewing the past day through an inner dialogue with God. It is one of the best ways to help me keep perspective, to let go, and prepare for the next day. Below is how it goes:

Give thanks for the shimmering moments.

I begin by giving God thanks for all the things I’m grateful for today. I allow my mind to wander as I reflect on the ways God has blessed me on this particular day. I allow big things and small things to arise—everything from the gift of my faith, to the gift of my family, to the way the pancakes turned out. 

Ask for the Spirit to gently guide me to review the moments that did not shine. 

Next, I want to look at the moments in my day when I did not act so well. However, before doing so, I ask God to fill me with his Spirit so that the Spirit can lead me through this difficult soul-searching. Otherwise, I’m liable to hide in denial, wallow in self-pity, or seethe in self-loathing. These are what I think of as clouds that blocked the full light.

Review and recognize failures. 

I look back at my day and ask the Lord to point out to me the moments when I have failed in big ways or small. I take a sobering look at the mistakes I’ve made this day.

Ask for forgiveness and healing.

I ask for forgiveness for ways that I moved away from God. I ask for healing of any harm that might have been done. I ask for help to get over it and move on. I also ask for wisdom to discern how I might better handle such tricky moments in the future.

Pray about the next day.

I ask God to show me how tomorrow might go. I imagine the things I’ll be doing, the people I’ll see, and the decisions I’ll be mulling over. I ask for help with any moments I foresee that might be difficult. I especially ask for help in moments when I might be tempted to fail in the way I did today. I close with thanksgiving for this day, in all its fullness, and ask for help in seeing God in big and small ways in the day ahead.

To help me remember, I use the 5-Rs mnemonic:

  1. Relish the moments that went well and all of the gifts I have today.
  2. Request the Spirit to lead me through my review of the day.
  3. Review the day.
  4. Repent of any mistakes or failures.
  5. Resolve, in concrete ways, to live tomorrow well.
A teddy bear

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For the shimmering moments that you have shared with me, I give thanks! Especially for all the jokes and laughs we have shared in preparation for Holy Humor Sunday, which is tomorrow. If you want, take advantage of social isolating and “go to church” in your PJ’s.  I’m already feeling better, just thinking about that! I might just wear my warm fluffy slippers under my robe when I preach! ~ Anne

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