I get asked this often....
How do you practice hearing God's voice?
Well, the obvious answer is just that - I practice! The more I practice paying attention to God's activity in my life, the more familiar it becomes to notice when something is of God or is not of God. One of the regular tools I use to reflect on God's activity in my own life - and therefore hear God's voice - is the ancient Prayer of Examen.
St. Ignatius of Loyola led his followers in this prayer and invited them to practice it twice daily. While I typically practice in the evenings, it is a very helpful tool in my soul care tool box.
Ignation spirituality invites us into this ancient prayer practice of noticing God on our journey through gratitude, consolation, and desolation. We then bring our prayers before God. The Prayer of Examen is as powerful today as it was hundreds of years ago for the Jesuits. Why not try it for yourself? Use the prompts below and find a quiet place to listen to the guided version below. Make this prayer your own and discover what God invites you to hear today!
Here's my simple key for my daily reflection:
Up Arrow: When did I feel close to God today (a moment of consolation)?
Down Arrow: When did I feel far away from God today (a moment of desolation)?
Smiley Face: What moment am I most grateful for today?
Heart: What is the prayer of my heart, for what would I like to pray to God about from today? (Note: this may be something already named from the day, or something entirely different)
A decade has passed since I stumbled into this space and told the world (maybe one person actually clicked through from my link to that first post) that God was inviting me on a journey of exploring the gift of peace on January 18, 2010.
What began as a blog post written at my kitchen table, with a 5 year old under my feet, is now ministry. And, I'm mom to a teenager with a first job and a driver's permit. A lot has happened in ten years.
Ten years later, I'm learning and teaching and sharing all that God has shown me along the way and I'm more passionate than ever about evolving as a peace seeker (one seeking God's peace) and as a peace maker (one leading others to also seek God's peace) on this journey.
Do I have it figured out and live a peace-filled existence all the time? Let's get this straight, my friends: absolutely not. I'm knee-deep living into my sandwich generation (caring for both offspring and parents), learning how to run a brick and mortar yoga studio with my business partner, pondering politics, the future of the church, and inequality in our world. I'm feeling guilty over the plastic I toss and the water I waste. I wonder if I'm doing too much or not enough and where the fine line is in the middle that I can actually walk.
And I have discovered there is a false understanding that those of us who prioritize our soul care are living perfectly peace-filled lives. We aren't. The truth is that prioritizing soul care gives us peace, even when we cannot shift or change the circumstances. We begin to notice and ask, "where is God in this?" and draw nearer to the one who longs for us to pay attention. We get better at practicing presence and grow in every situation but we are not masters of the life or void of troubles.
As I reflect on drawing nearer amidst the reality and struggles in this world, I celebrate what I have learned in this past ten years of exploring peace. I've learned about my fears, my hopes, and what drives me (thanks, Enneagram!), about the world around me and creation care, how to slow down and savor time with God, how to meditate (or not), and what my Rule of Life entails (thanks, St. Benedict). I've learned what brings me joy and what makes my heart break. I've learned about essential oils and crystals and real food (thank you, Hildegard of Bingen) and how connecting with elements God created give me life and bring me peace when I need it most. I have learned how challenging it is to write down some innermost parts of myself and share those in the form of a book (thank you, Upper Room Books). I have learned how to be brave and say yes and how to say no (even when I don't want to). I have learned to walk away from places God had me for both long and short seasons and walk into new ones (even when I don't understand). I have learned to be an advocate for others. I have learned what it means to meet God in consolation and desolation (thanks Prayer of Examen and St. Ignatius). I have learned about energy work and the amazing connection we have with our bodies and the way God made us. I have learned to read scripture in a formational way (thank Lectio Divina). I have learned to explore grief, sadness, and disappointment. I have learned to feel joy and pleasure. Each of these has helped me to live present and embodied. I have learned that experiencing all this for myself deepens my relationships to others and my purpose in this world. I have learned that mastery is not the goal and exploring the gift of God's peace will forever be an invitation, not a destination. What have you learned on your spiritual journey in the past decade?
You know those self help gurus who tell you they have it all figured out? The ones that say the answers are all inside their latest release or class or program? Don't believe them. Your answers are inside of you, not them. We cannot look to anyone beyond our Creator and ourselves to explore what God offers each of us. We are each on our own exploration with God.
Your journey with God is as unique as you are are a human. And while we are unique, we need each other! Because I long for companionship on my soul journey and suspect you do too, in the coming months, more resources are coming (I've been working on these for months and 2020 is the time to invite you to join me in each of these - I am so excited about what is coming and have been bursting to give you more details!). Keep reading for a little preview of what is to come!
This year, after ten years of purposeful exploration, three new things are on the horizon for this ministry space:
1. The Exploring Peace website will be getting a fresh new look and growing to include more resources for you (look below for a hint of what is to come).
2. We'll be launching online discernment groups (where we meet virtually to dive into some of these tools I've learned and explored over the past decade). Peace Seekers and Peace Makers will be equipped with resources each month and we will meet and learn together from our own experiences. If you stumbled here from your email in-box, you'll be the first to know when the groups are open for registration (later this year). If you've landed here from social media, be sure to click here and hop on my monthly email list (I promise, I don't email you all the time, that gets old quickly).
3. And finally, Exploring Peace Meditations will be launching soon as a podcast (no more clunky downloads from this site, I'll be right in your pocket as of early 2020). Yipppeeee!
I hope you will continue to follow along as we explore this gift of God's peace in our lives together. I'm grateful for your companionship and look forward to what the next decade offers us together. Oh! I have one BIG favor. If you read this entire update and you're still here, you're part of this growth and we need your voice here. Would you be willing to offer a few words about your own journey of exploring peace (how spiritual direction, yoga and meditation, retreats, my devotional book, or some other resource has impacted you)? These short testimonials will be offered to new peace seekers to encourage their spiritual formation journey.
Thank you for being here and entrusting me on your faith journey. May 2020 be a year of discovering God in deeper ways and learning about the one God created (YOU) along the way.
seismic shift, noun: a great change
Gracious, friends. The last time I posted anything at the blog was April. It's now...October. I had no idea it had been so long since I sat down here to write. What happened? I'm "supposed to be" a writer!
Well, I think it's a combination of quite a few things. The first component is grace. YAY for grace! I am discovering the grace to let go of my "perfect plan" and realize if you don't get a blog post from me, it is quite likely...you do not even miss it. After all, you're bombarded with words from every direction on a moment by moment basis. A dormant blog does not cause a seismic shift.
But life surely does! And, sometimes you get stuck before you can shift. Who is with me?
What has led me to my recent shift? A perfect combination of season of life challenges like parenting (being a mom to a teen is so very different than being a mom to a toddler, I'm learning) and healthcare needs (I haven't had a thyroid since I was 18 years old and my body is experiencing a shift in hormones too, anybody relate?). Nothing huge on its own, but definitely plenty of change. And I got stuck amidst the change. Stuck in my head. Stuck in my body. Stuck.
My stuck spirit needed a shift. My soul needed some TLC. Pardon me for not taking the time to share much of this shift. So, since I get asked a lot for resources, I thought popping in to share some of my recent shifting tools may be helpful.
My soul care toolbox currently includes:
NOTE: I feel like this is really important to say because people assume since soul care is my passion that I experience bliss-filled consistent meditations and hear from God every time I sit down to pray or practice. Ummmm, no. It's a practice to embrace any of these and to care for yourself, my friends. Don't think it has to be perfect or ideal. Simply start where you are and practice. It's in the practice that we find the shift.
How do you care for your body and your soul when you need to shift? Sometimes it takes getting stuck to realize we can indeed create great change in our lives and shift toward God's peace with purposeful practices and habits. If you're stuck, I pray you find a seismic shift! Let me know if you explore some of these tools and how they offer you peace on your journey. What's in your soul care toolbox these days?
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC