During this time I am offering a Lenten spiritual retreat in this space, based upon the Ignition Spiritual Exercises and my experience of them that I hope will be helpful to you. Somehow, “retreat” and “exercises” don’t seem to go together, so let me explain a little. The “exercises” are daily meditations and prayer, meant to bring us into closer relationship with Jesus. Anchored in the Gospels, they’re about who Jesus is and how he lived his life, especially in relationship with the people in his life. Knowing Jesus better in these ways, as one of his people now, we too come into deeper relationship with him.
Here are some practical things about this Lenten series ~
Time allowed for the Exercises: 30 days, 30 minutes a day through Easter Vigil (Sat., 4/16).
Freedom to follow God’s prompting: this is simply a personal spiritual framework for getting closer to Jesus, that includes a “director” (me); some written resources (Scripture, prayers, meditations); a suggested structure for daily prayer and pondering (including Ignatian forms of prayer); and grounding in the tradition of Ignatian Spirituality that’s anchored in Scripture, knowledge, and experience.
Have a notebook and pen handy! Write down what you experience each day, share it with Jesus. Additionally, it would be helpful to have a trusted “soul friend” to check-in with as you work your way through the exercises – someone like your pastor or priest, deacon, a spiritual director, or a small study group, etc.
So with sweats and tennies on, and a place to pray let’s begin ~
Isaiah 43: 1-7 Restoration and Protection Promised!
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
As I read this passage, I was thinking it’s like a lover speaking to me – one who deeply loves me, like no other, whom I can love and trust to never leave me no matter what. It brought tears to my eyes, and a smile. How do these words through Isaiah speak to you? Is there a particular word, or sentence that seems to jump out to you? What feelings, thoughts, memories do you notice if any? And what are you experiencing in your body? Is there anything you’d like to say to God in response?
John 14: 16-17, 19 The Promise of the Holy Spirit.
“. . . but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.”
I read these verses, but then I went on to read the whole chapter because I wondered how in the world I could see Jesus now. Where should I look? What might I look for that would let me know I might see Jesus there? I was happy to see that his close friends Thomas and Phillip had questions too, and that Jesus just patiently answers them. “You will see me” kept repeating itself. And verse 26, where Jesus says “. . . the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send . . . will teach you everything . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. . . I will not leave you orphaned.” It was as if Jesus said to me, “Talk to me, keep asking questions – look, listen, and read.” In response I prayed Thanks be to God! For this I give you praise! This chapter in John was not once and done for me! How about you? Once again – How do these words from John’s Gospel speak to you? Is there a particular word, or sentence that seems to jump out to you? What feelings, thoughts, memories do you notice if any? And what are you experiencing in your body? Is there anything you’d like to say to Jesus in response? Anything he might be saying to you?
Awareness Meditation. Letting it all sink-in some.
Today was a day to rest, kind of – but not to go to sleep. I welcomed a suggested way to cultivate being still and silent, to simply allow “the silent voice of God” to teach me to pray. I know praying to be a word that means being with God, opening ourselves to God – engaging with God like we do with others in our lives. It’s not just talking to God, or praying the prayers we pray with others. It’s two-way – cultivating relationship with God. Since that’s what these exercises are all about – inviting and cultivating a closer relationship with Jesus, give this awareness meditation a try:
Set a timer for 10 minutes, then:
- Sit comfortably, with feet flat on the floor, arms resting comfortably in your lap. Close your eyes. Bring your attention to your breath – breathing easily, simply noticing the experience of your breath, as you breathe in, and breathe out. Just breathing in, and breathing out, without trying to control the breath.
- If your thoughts wander – and they will! – notice them but don’t hook into them. Gently shift your attention back to the breath – breathing in, and breathing out . . .
- Yep, that’s it – just this much for 10 minutes. If you were aware of moments of silence, the thought stream stilled even briefly between breaths, what was that like? What were the qualities of that silence, as best you can describe them? Perhaps you were able to hear something you’d never notice otherwise; or to visualize something, maybe a solution to something that’s been puzzling you, perhaps the experience of calm in your body, deeper breathing, etc.
Give this awareness meditation a go from time to time, two or three times in a row would be great! Make it a weekly habit, if not daily. The benefits are amazing for our spiritual lives! First, our ability to focus and to concentrate will grow exponentially as we let go anxiety, fear, stubbornness, laziness, over-doing it, etc. We cultivate controlled energy.
(Really!! An ancient practice, there’s a lot of science behind this too :).) And second, thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, that are unconscious or “auto-pilate” will become conscious more and more. Increased awareness and perception will help greatly in discernment and self-reflection – both extremely important components of Ignatian Spirituality.
(When I completed the exercises, this meditation got me going with a practice of Centering Prayer. Information about that and other forms of contemplative prayer can be found at www.contemplativeoutreach.org.)
Isaiah 55:1-13 An Invitation to Abundant Life.
“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good . . .”
I realized this was my invitation out of enslavement – “a way out of bondage” is the note I made in the margin of my Bible! So – I made a list of all the stuff I was doing and what I was doing it for – a lot of labor that was not satisfying, just keeping me on the hamster wheel. And this was kind of scary – because it wasn’t so much about the work, but about the money. This was a call, to truly trust God to provide. However, I felt stuck and could see no way to make the changes I felt called, and wanted to make in my work that would pay the bills. I could only keep going with the exercises, not trusting myself so much as the process – and yes, God, and my sturdy retreat director Mark Davidson – a true Godsend! I can only say, he even embodied Jesus some.
How about you? Once again – How do these words through Isaiah speak to you? Is there a particular word, or sentence that seems to jump out to you? What feelings, thoughts, memories do you notice if any? And what are you experiencing in your body? Is there anything you’d like to say to Jesus in response? Anything he might be saying to you? Is there something you feel prompted to do? . . . (And how’s it going with awareness meditation time? What keeps you on track with it, or what’s holding you back?)
Luke 12: 22-31 Do Not Worry.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life . . . the body is more than clothing. . . . And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying.”
Practicing what I preach, I sat still and listened, inviting Jesus into my awareness meditation on these words from Luke. I wrote down what I heard, as these words came to mind – “Do not set your heart on these things Vic, what you eat and drink, how you look, what you’ll wear and all. Treasure me, set your heart on me.” It touched my heart, and does even now as I copy them here. I went on to remind myself, that God knows I need them, and provides – has provided in spades! So don’t worry, don’t expend that kind of thought and energy, don’t labor for them. And more words came to mind – “There’s so much more I have given, and have to give you to live fully and well.” What else could I say? So after awhile of silence I prayed, “Dear Holy Spirit, move me deeper and deeper still with joy into the life you have made for me. So that everything that keeps me from my work gives way to my work. Jesus, through you I pray, and I receive with an open and grateful heart.”
And so – how about you? How do these words through Luke speak to you? Is there a particular word, or sentence that seems to jump out to you? What feelings, thoughts, memories, words do you notice if any? And what are you experiencing in your body? Is there anything you’d like to say to Jesus in response? Anything he might be saying to you? Is there something you feel prompted to do, or let go of? Is there a prayer you want to pray, and song you want to sing? . . .
Psalm 104: 1-35 God the Creator and Provider.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!”
These words, at the beginning and the end of the psalm just had me singing in response to the whole thing – over and over, I sang the Taize chant – “Bless the Lord my soul, and bless God’s holy name! Bless the Lord my soul, who leads me into life.” www.missionstclare.com/music/blessthelord/blessthelordmysoul.html
At the same time, I had got word earlier that day that a client of mine had died. She came to me just a few months before in the advanced and final stage of alcoholism. I couldn’t help the darkness that had overtaken her years before along with the disease, but for the months we had together I could affirm the goodness of her being, the miracle of her existence as she shared her life’s story with me, and I loved her. I was deeply saddened by the news, and just poured it all out to Jesus, then just went quiet. After awhile these words came to mind, very gently: “It was enough, a cup of cold water for her – that was it, I have the rest of it, of her and hers. Thank you.” Bless the Lord my soul!!
Once again, how about you? How does Psalm 104 speak, or sing to you? Is there a particular word, or sentence that seems to jump out to you? What feelings, thoughts, memories, words do you notice if any? And what are you experiencing in your body? Is there anything you’d like to say to Jesus in response? Anything he might be saying to you? Is there something you feel prompted to do, stop doing, or let go of? Is there a prayer you want to pray, a song you want to sing? . . .
Psalm 70:1 Review, Revisit, Reflect With God’s Help.
“O God, come to my assistance. Lord make haste to help me!”
Looking back over the last 6 days, what has been especially meaningful to you? It may be helpful as well to return to what’s been difficult, or perhaps unproductive. Have you noticed how God may be drawing you in the ways of Jesus? Have you noticed any ways the evil spirit may be interfering, or attempting to undermine your experience of God these past 6 days? These would be good things to talk about with your “soul friend”. And feel free to let me know how it’s going.
Know that you are in my heart, with prayer from here. Until next week,
Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash
Victoria–it seems appropriate to talk to you here about my experience of these exercises from the “soul view’ (I’ll write separately about the “writer’s/reader’s ” view. I spent more time really experiencing my way through the first three. The refresher on Contemplative Prayer/Meditation was the richest for me. Although the link to the taize prayer chant was also deeply moving. And your shared experience made me feel as if I were experiencing these thngs with a partner. So thank you. Dee
You’re welcome Dee! Thank you for sharing your experience of what I have offered here. I’m delighted to hear it’s like experiencing the Exercises
with a partner, not a director or teacher – but one with you. Thank you.