An Exercise For Your Small Group This Holiday

Christmas is a crazy time. How can your small group slow down to hear God's voice? Try this exercise.

Jeff Heidkamp

Co-Pastor, Mercy Vineyard, MN

Finding God at Christmas

Christmas can be a busy and emotional time of year. It can be difficult to remember God in the midst of everything else we’re doing.

Psalm 46:10a says this: “Be still, and know that I am God!”

So this week, we’re going to do an exercise to help us be still and know God. It’s called the examen (pronounced like the word examine). If you’ve been around Ignatian Spirituality, you may have heard about it before. But it’s worth re-visiting.

The examen is a simple exercise to help us be aware of what God is doing in our lives. It is our belief that God is always and work, but it’s our job to pay attention. This version of the examen has five steps. At the beginning of each step, someone should read the instructions for that section. This is followed by a few minutes of silence. I suggest at least four, or more. It might feel a bit long, but I encourage people to press in and give God space.

Before you begin the steps, it’s helpful to invite the Holy Spirit and have a moment of quiet.

Here are the five steps:

Step One:

Review that last 24 hours. Think about the events that happened. Don’t analyze or moralize, just review them, calling them to mind. It can be surprising how difficult it is to remember things from just the last day!

Step Two:

Review your feelings from the last 24 hours. Having remembered the specific events, how did you feel? This will be easier for some than others. We often experience emotions without taking the time to notice them. Again, this is neither analytical or moralistic- it’s just a review of what you felt.

Step Three:

Gratitude. What is something, perhaps one particular thing that you are grateful for from the last day. Some days this may be easy, other days it may simply be gratitude for the air you breathed or the water you drank. Tell God what you’re grateful for.

Step Four:

What do you want to talk to God about? Whether from the last day, or from whatever else has come up in this time? You might want to ask a question, or tell God a feeling, or complain, or praise God, or lament. God is at work in your life, and wants to hear from you!

Step Five:

Now it’s time to be quiet before God. You might sense God speaking, or you might not. You might simply have a time of silence. Sometimes we’ll experience a peace, or a sense of God’s special presence. But othertimes we’ll simply be quiet before God.

That’s it! You’ve finished the Examen.

Once you’ve done this in your group, you can take some time to discuss your experience.

1. How did you feel about doing the examen together? Was it awkward? Helpful? Powerful? Why?
2. What is God doing in your life these days? How did taking some time in quiet before God help you clarify that?
3. What are ways you could increase your awareness of God’s work in your life in the next week? If this exercise doesn’t work for you, what might?