I find it amusing that most of my spiritually-based posts have “bread” in their titles.  I love bread.  If only ontological bread was as nourishing as the metaphorical one.  I miss the nineties.  Carbs were good for you in the nineties.  Atkins, really.  Why did you go and start this low-carb revolution?  That, my friends, was me following a little bunny down a trail…

Back on the path…  I’m going through a book my parents gave me a few years ago called, “Sleeping with Bread, Holding What Gives You Life.”  The title was inspired by the story of thousands of children who were orphaned in WWII and left to starve.  Some of the children in the refugee camps couldn’t sleep because they were afraid they’d wake up and have nothing to eat.  One of their caretakers decided to give them all a loaf of bread to sleep with so they would have assurance of food to eat the next day.  The children then slept peacefully.  The bread reminded them “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”

The book is based off of The Spiritual Exercises founded by St. Ignatius, where we listen for God to speak through times of consolation (what brings life and connects us to God) and desolation (what drains and disconnects us from God).  For instance, when I look at my now sparkling house after a long, hard, frequently interrupted day of deep cleaning, it is a moment of consolation for me.  What is God speaking to me in this?  When I am tired and melancholy and I lose my patience with the kids, that is an instance of desolation.  What is God speaking to me through this situation?

I realized that when I am in a season of consolation, when I feel close to the Lord, I am also spending lots of time outside working the soil and tending to plants.  I hear Him speak to me and so many parables and passages start to make more sense.  I want to give Him my adoration and worship by doing what God originally put us in Eden to do, to “work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15, ESV).  

When I’m in a season of desolation, when I feel furthest away from God, I realize it’s when I’m thinking about myself a lot.  For some reason or another, my devotional time has dwindled, and situations start knocking me around harder than normal.  Then worry, insecurity, doubt, and loneliness sets in.  My mind becomes consumed with finding fleshly, potentially destructive things to pacify my bad feelings with.  I eat an unbalanced amount of comfort foods (mainly bready sweets like cookies and cakes), waste time online shopping looking for something new to need, and avoid going outdoors because its a little too hot or cold or windy for my comfort.  I wonder why I feel so distant from God.  Why isn’t He speaking to me?  Then, I realize the lack of focused time I have spent with Him and where I veered off the road.

The examen is also a way to find out what our individual “sealed orders” are from the Lord.  Sealed orders are the unique purpose God has for each individual here on earth that He put in our very DNA.  The more we discover and carry out our sealed orders, the more our lives are filled with consolation.  This was a new idea to me.  Growing up in our church, I interpreted certain teachings that whatever you wanted to do least of all, that’s what God was telling you to do.  I don’t doubt there are times when God does have things for us to do as part of our sealed orders, like Jonah going to Nineveh, but I don’t think our actual sealed orders are the opposite of what we love.  This was a freeing revelation to me.  It’s actually OK to do what I enjoy.  In fact, God put that desire in me to fulfill His plans for me.

I particularly like the idea of doing the examen over dinnertime with the family and observing special ones on holidays (on the 4th of July, share what we’re most and least grateful for in our country, on New Year’s we share what’s brought the most and least consolation over the past year, etc.).  I’d like to start incorporating these in our family life and holidays as a way of enriching those times together.

This whole “examen” thing has really added salt to my time with the Lord.  I feel an exchange between Him and I when I observe it.  It has helped me to slow down and listen.  My Father truly is talking to me throughout the day.  I just need to take the time to listen.

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