Yesterday was Memorial Day, and I hope it was a meaningful one for you and your family. If you were to ask me how I spent my long weekend, chances are good I wouldn’t be able to tell you… at least at first. Do you know that feeling? Someone asks you what you did this weekend — or even today — and your mind goes completely blank.
Our lives are moving so fast with so many things clamoring for our attention, that it is increasingly difficult to find our center. It’s increasingly difficult to hit pause. To be present. To create space in amidst the interruptions and emails and never-ending to-do lists of our lives for God to break in. And that makes it all the more difficult to remember what just happened.
Or maybe that’s just me.
So one of the ways I try to counter this is through the discipline of journaling. As often as I can, at the end of every day, I open my journaling app of choice (though pen and paper work just fine, too), and I answer these five questions:
- Where did you experience the presence of God today?
- For what are you grateful?
- What emotions are you feeling?
- What are you praying for?
- What do you hope for tomorrow?
These are adapted from the practice of the Daily Examen developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Daily Examen is a prayerful review of the day’s events, designed to help those who use it see the presence and work of God in their lives and in the world with greater clarity.
Here’s what I think about as I write:
Where did you experience the presence of God today?
I use this space to reflect on surprising moments of my day. I identify moments or interactions in which I felt peace or moments in which someone said or did something that was encouraging or challenging or meaningful. There’s really no right or wrong way to respond. It’s all about noticing.
For what are you grateful?
As someone with a critical eye, quick to pick things apart and see what can be better, I often fall into patterns of grumpiness or cynicism, unable to see gifts in and of my own life. This question is an important reminder that I am loved and have much to be thankful for. It reframes my reality and moves me to a posture of gratitude.
What emotions are you feeling?
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Movement, would regularly ask his small group “class meetings” (a lot like our Local Tables!) the question: “How is it with your soul?” This question is similar. It is an invitation to take stock of my emotions — permission to feel all the things. Am I exhausted? Anxious? Hopeful? At peace? I fill this space with brutal honesty and a lot of vulnerability, aware that I am not alone in any of it.
What are you praying for?
This question turns my focus and attention outward. I consider the people I encountered, the stories I’ve heard, and the things that have been weighing heavy on my heart. I also reflect on the events of the day’s news, too. Who in my community and around the world do I need to be praying for?
What do you hope for tomorrow?
Finally, I take time to look ahead, turning my time of prayer, reflection, and journaling toward hope. I think about the next day and what I hope to accomplish or how I can live more faithfully. Is there something I’m looking forward to or a hope for tomorrow rooted in today’s sorrow? Again, no wrong answers here.
Some days, I’m tired and want to go to bed, so I spend as little as ten minutes on this. Other days, if I have the energy or if there was something worth putting more words to, I go deeper.
What I love about these questions is that if I know I’m going to answer them at the end of each day, I’ll spend my waking and working hours thinking about what I might write. For instance, if I know I’m going to reflect on ways I experienced the presence of God during the day, my antennae will be up, asking myself often, “Is this one of those moments?”
Is this new to you? Do you practice something similar? I’d love to hear from you! Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment!