News and Views

The word is... examine

Posted by Guest Author on

...well said

Ancient church mothers and fathers often greeted one another with the phrase, “Give me a word.” This greeting led to the sharing of insights and wisdom. Today we continue this tradition with this monthly column.


By Rev. Mandy Sayers
Pastor, Covenant UMC, Gaithersburg

My first intentional observance of the Lenten season happened when I was a freshman at Duke University.  My Wesley Fellowship friends encouraged me to do it, and they even seemed excited about things like Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. 

I went into the season with fear and trepidation, because Lent sounded so … depressing. All that burlap and ashes and stuff. What I discovered was that creating space and having intentional practices drew me closer to God.

I was pulled out of being trapped by my own never-ending ego, or my own insatiable need to be numb and distracted and in control. I learned that the word Lent comes from an old Anglo Saxon word for spring (as in, the season). That made sense. Lent was a time when God pulled the weeds out of the beds of my heart and made new things grow.

Our word for March is “examine,” which sounds like “yet another thing I have to do.” But I wanted to pair it with “examen”—that ancient prayer practice of the church that looks back on the day with an eye toward spotting the presence of God. God is present. God is speaking, even if it’s in a “still, small voice.”  God is acting and calling and healing.

Here is the basic structure of the “examen” prayer.

  1. Become aware of God’s presence. Ask God to bring clarity about where God was present in the jumble of your day.
  2. Review the day through the lens of gratitude, paying attention to the small things that were gifts to you.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions as you reflect back over the day. What is God saying through those feelings?
  4. Choose one feature of the day, asking the Holy Spirit to direct you to something from the day that you should focus on. Look at it and pray about it. Allow the prayer to rise up spontaneously.
  5. Look toward tomorrow, asking God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges and gifts.

This Lent, take a closer look around you for the presence of God. Make space to listen and to be present.  Examine/Examen where God is at work, in your heart and in your life and in your church. I guarantee that God is there, if we will open our eyes and ears to see.

By Rev. Daryl Williams
Pastor, St. Paul UMC, Oxon Hill

I hate going to the doctor. I really like my doctor, but I hate going to visit him. Sure, I know it is important to go to the doctor and I always get an annual physical, but other than that, I see no need to visit with him.

You see, if my doctor and I could go to Starbucks and grab a cup of java and talk it would be a great time. I’d probably stop by much more often, but the problem is he always wants to chat in the exam room. As opposed to getting comfortable and just chatting, he insists on poking and prodding, listening to my heart and lungs, occasionally drawing blood, and to top it all off he won’t let me stay comfortably dressed while all of this is going on. That is why I hate going to see my doctor.

You see, it’s really not my doctor that bothers me, it’s my doctor doing my exam that bothers me.

In order to see what is right and what is wrong with me my doctor has to examine all of my vital signs, ask me questions and occasionally become far more invasive that I am comfortable with, all in the effort to fully examine me.

By taking the time to examine me, my doctor can tell me what I am doing right, what I am doing wrong, where I need to make changes, and how to make sure that I am living my best and longest life. He can’t do all of that over a conversation, he has to examine me or it won’t reveal all that I need to know.

During this Lenten season, it is a great time for us to not go to the doctor for an exam, but to examine ourselves.

During this time, we can do more than give up sweets and eat more fish, we can really do some spiritual poking and prodding. We can listen to our heart and see if there is any bitterness or unforgivness that we need to clean out. We can listen to our lungs and see if we are breathing in hope and righteousness. We can take a little extra time during communion to take in the blood of our Savior.

Examining ourselves can sometimes be uncomfortable, and sometimes bring up things we don’t want to see, but it is the only way to make sure that we are living our best lives. So take some time to examine yourself.