An Examen in the Wesleyan Tradition by Bishop Ken Carter

light sea dawn landscape

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

An examen is a set of reflection questions that encourage spiritual honesty and growth.

Reflection is an ancient practice, with references in the Bible (Lamentations 3:40-41; Galatians 6:4-5; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Ignatius of Loyola encouraged the practice with the early Jesuits, as did John Wesley with the early Methodists.

This examen was written by Ken Carter, Bishop of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. It concludes a message, now monograph, entitled Defining and Growing an Inclusive, Gracious and Evangelical Center: The Future(s) of The United Methodist Church.

I encourage you to read this faithful, thoughtful work. Click Here for the entire message.

If you’re considering adding an examen to your spiritual practices, this would be a great choice, especially during Lent as you prepare for the victorious message of Christ at Easter. You could use the entire examen daily, several times a week, or one section each day.
– Lisa <><

Grace
I begin today by claiming my identity as one who is created in the image of God.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I am of sacred worth and am uniquely gifted.
When I come to myself—the truth of who I am—I experience blessing.
I reflect on those persons who have been a part of my life today, who have seen this in me, who have encouraged me.
Have I really been attentive to them?
Have I fully accepted their gifts?
I stay with these encounters for a moment.
I see the faces of these persons and listen to their voices again.

Repentance
Next, I see the moments of my day that I regret.
I rely upon the fruit of the Holy Spirit, especially love, peace, and patience, for help in returning to these moments.
This is uncomfortable. And yet repentance that is of God is a return to the love God wants for me.
It is the journey home.
For a moment, I consider the ways I am stuck or lost. Why do I resist change?
I ask for the courage to return to God.

Confession
As I reflect on the day, I ask God to reveal the harm that I have done to others and the harm I have done to myself.
I make an honest assessment of my failures and mistakes.
Where I have not loved my neighbor as myself, I confess that I have sinned.
What is the sin that separates me from those closest to me?
How does arrogance, judgmentalism, ego or privilege distort the way I see others?
How have I buried my birthright gifts and refused to enjoy and share them?

Faith
I ask for the gift of God’s healing and renewing grace.
I set aside my own claims of righteousness or merit.
In faith, I say yes to Jesus Christ, who loves me and gave himself for me.
I place my trust in Jesus Christ alone for the gift of salvation.
And for a moment, I consider how I am actually living by faith.
Do I find it difficult to trust?
I return to the good news that I embraced when I first began to walk with Jesus.
I ask that God would empower me to live this day in faith.

Love
God has created me. God knows me.
God’s sacrificial love in the crucified Jesus is for my salvation.
When I have received the gift of faith, I become a more loving person.
And when I have placed my faith and trust in Jesus Christ, I become a part of his body, which is the church.
I boldly ask that I will be made perfect in love in this life—
that I will love God and love the people I encounter each day in God.
I ask that my love for God would grow as I read the scriptures,
spend time in prayer and receive communion as often as possible.
I ask God to give me a greater love for others,
especially those to whom I have made promises and covenants,
and those with whom I have differences.
I ask God for the happiness is taking the daily risk of living in grace, practicing repentance and confession,
and growing in a faith that expresses itself through love.
Amen.

Ash Wednesday Worship Resources and Sermon Starters

ash wedensday with palms

Repent and Return
This confession was inspired by a passage from Pauses for Lent by Trevor Hudson and the traditional Ash Wednesday reading from Joel 2.

A Wilderness Prayer, a prayer of confession inspired by Deuteronomy 8

Modern Ash Wednesday Service
A simple, fresh combination of modern visuals, ancient scripture, the imposition of ashes, and the haunting song O So So.

Blended Ash Wednesday Service
Classic scriptures, hymns, and the imposition of ashes come alongside music by Chris Tomlin and Gungor.

Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust
Jan Richardson offers a beautiful and grace-filled perspective on God at work in us and our world. The post includes an original work of art and blessing.

Dust and Ashes
Steve Garnaas-Holmes offers reflection and prayer on the many meanings of the imposition of ashes.

Two Pockets: Healthy, Faithful Perspective
A reflection based on a parable by the well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi Simcha Bunim. “Every person should have two pockets. In one, there should be a note that says ‘for my sake was the world created.’ In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”

Lenten Art: Reflecting Dust
A multimedia piece to inspire the creation of your own works of art for the season of Lent

Lament, an essential spiritual practice for our violent times

mourn sorrowHow do I stay resilient in the midst of so much violence, evil, corruption, need, and pain? Is there a way to stay awake to the needs around me without becoming overwhelmed and despairing?

I wish I could’ve asked these questions in such a thoughtful way, but I couldn’t. I was crying and had lost count of the number of tissues I’d used.

My spiritual director listened with great compassion and then asked a simple question. “Do you practice lament?”

I didn’t. I didn’t know much about it. I learned and started that same day. It’s become an essential spiritual practice for me as I stay on the front lines with so many in need.

What is Lament?
“Lament is not despair. It is not whining. It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” – Emmanuel M. Katongole and Chris Rice, Reconciling All Things

Common Fears of Expressing our Anguish to God (Fear of Practicing Lament)  

  • I don’t want to appear weak. I have to be strong for myself and others.
  • I don’t want to burden my loved ones and friends.
  • Fully expressing my pain will only increase my pain leading me down the path of despair rather than the path of hope. What if I can’t stop the floodgates once I get started?
  • It feels unfaithful to question, complain, doubt. (Here’s the good news, it isn’t!)

Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God is real. God cares. God understands our pain. God can and wants to help. 

Psalm 130: 1-2, The Message
Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.

Lament in the Scriptures
We find laments from the beginning to the end of the Bible. From the ground crying out over the murder of Abel in Genesis to the martyrs crying out for justice in Revelation.

  • 1/3 of the Psalms are laments
  • Much of Job is lamenting
    • Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”- Job 3:11
  • The Old Testament Prophets often lament. The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet.
    • For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no healer there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? –  Jeremiah 8.21-22
    • If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.”- Jeremiah 9:1
  • An entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations- written concerning the fall of Jerusalem

Jesus Lamented
Jesus weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. This reminds us we can lament our personal pain.

Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. This reminds us we can lament people not recognizing the gifts of God’s grace and salvation. We can also lament the brokenness of society. If they only knew the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)

Jesus weeping all night in the Garden of Gethsemane. This reminds us we can be totally honest and totally vulnerable. No feeling or thought is taboo.

Jesus crying out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.

How to Practice Lament

1. Rest

  • To lament, we must stop. Feel it fully. Recognize what we’re up against.
  • We medicate with activity. Busyness keeps us distant and the pain at bay.
  • Rest is “not an invitation to become unconcerned about the conflict and chaos in the world but to imagine that the salvation of the world does not ultimately depend upon us.” – Katongole and Rice
  • Rest enables us to cease from grasping, grabbing, striving, trying to be God

2. Direct our cries to God

  • “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1)

3. Make your Complaint

  • express your anger, pain, heartache, sadness- Uncensored feelings
  • ask heartfelt questions
    • “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2-3)
    • I do not understand what is going on. This makes no sense. How long? Why?
    • Questions can be more than requests for information, they can also be cries of pain.

4. Make Your Request

  • Describe the affliction. It might include rage against your enemies
  • Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.  Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. (Psalm 25:16-20)

5. Affirm your trust in God

  • God’s presence
  • God’s power in the past
  • The attribute/character of God
  • The promises of God that you’re thankful for and that you are claiming

Psalm 130:5-7           
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.  

What spiritual practices help you stay resilient? 

*****************
Lament Article © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Extending Blessing (Ephesians 3)

detail from the Hagia Sophia mosaic of Christ

detail from the Hagia Sophia mosaic of Christ

For this reason, I kneel before the Father,
from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. – Eph. 3:14-15

Blessing begins with reverence
A reverence for our Wondrous God
Who bends low to welcome us
Birthing us through water and Spirit
Naming us and claiming us
beloved and blessed
Who not only welcomes us but welcomes all
Knitting us together
in the Body Miraculous
Strangers becoming brothers and sisters
A family far beyond class, clan, or culture
Far beyond what we could ask or imagine

I pray that out of his glorious riches
He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. – Eph. 3:16-17

From an incalculable treasure of grace upon grace
God pours out strength
Not as the world gives
Not with obvious outward displays
But hidden in the very depths of our frailty
God pours and floods with blood and breath
The very power of life
Driven and danced by Holy Spirit
That we may find our true home in Christ
Our true self in Christ

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
May have power, together with all the saints,
To grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
And to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Eph. 3:17-19

This power
This companionship
This indescribable, priceless love of Christ
This is the blessing
Infinitely wide and long and high
Poured forth and driven deep
All the way down to the roots- our vines anchored in God’s grace
Rooted and Established- tilled till all the wild branches embrace
and the sweet fruit overflows the cups of justice and joy

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
According to his power that is at work within us,
To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
Throughout all generations, forever and ever! – Eph 3:20-21

Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our lips in blessing
With power to make new

Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our hands in blessing
With power to make whole

Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our hearts in blessing
That the grace poured in by Christ
Would overflow
Generation to generation to generation
An endless procession
To all, in all, and through all

Amen.

*************

This prayer was inspired by by the Ephesians Reading Challenge. Click Here for more information on the challenge to read and reflect on the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks. 

The Ephesians Reading Challenge accompanied a sermon series entitled Sit Walk Stand which was inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians. You will find recordings and notes from this series on the blog as well.

Extending Blessing © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Fully Me, Fully Us (Ephesians 3)

cup overflowingGod keeps bringing Ephesians 3:14-21 before me- in my devotions, in the writing of others. Repetition means pay attention, so it continues to drive my prayers. – Lisa <><

Steadfast and Faithful One,
Your Holy Spirit is at work in all things, even me
Thank you for your persistent, pursuing grace

This is my desire- to trust you more than I trust myself
what I know and what I know how to do
This is my desire- to be full of you
no longer this shallow shadow of me
but me, really me, fully me, in the light of Christ

The power to be fully me is from you alone
What I am when I am at home with myself in the home of your love

Dwell in my heart of hearts
Dwell in my every desiring
Dwell in the depth of my soul
that I may grasp the depth of your love
Infinite
Extending in every direction
Surrounding every person and need
A flood of grace

Flood our being
That we may know that we know that we know
We are completely known by you and loved by you

Your love surpasses every plan
Every logic
Every statistic
Every theory and theorem
Every fix and solution and discovery
It is above all we can ask or imagine or know

Your love covers all and conquers all
It makes us us
It makes us your people, your body, your church

Fill us with this love
This power
Fill us with you
Amen

**************************

This prayer was inspired by the Ephesians Reading Challenge. Click Here for more information on the challenge to read and reflect on the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks. 

The Ephesians Reading Challenge accompanied a sermon series entitled Sit Walk Stand which was inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians. You will find recordings and notes from this series on the blog as well.

Fully Me, Fully Us © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.