Daily Devotions

Noise that Warps the Brain

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Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

I continue to read that our computer-driven society is actually transforming the human brain, and not always for the better. So much information is slamming us that we are now unable to process it with our conscious mind, which leaves our subconscious to make warped evaluations. This looks not unlike the difference between a cohesive story during our daylight hours, and a similar, warped story played out in a dream. The dream is illogical and often takes us to illogical places, with illogical feelings we cannot psychologically decipher. Now that we are overwhelmed by too much information, our brains are responding with the subconscious taking control not only in our dreams but taking charge of our thought evaluations while we remain awake. That is a scary thought!

Writer, Zat Rana, in his article, “The Most Important Skill in the 21st Century” affirms the fear when he says, “Growing up in a generation even as recent as the mid-20th century meant that your sense of self was mostly shaped by a combination of your local cultures, popular media culture, your education, and whatever life experiences you accumulated living in the real world.” I would add that the religion you were born into also had a huge impact on your sense of self in the 20th century. But Rana continues, “The internet has not only completely shattered and broken what we think of as popular culture into million little pieces…” Now, there are so many voices, with as many values and ideologies, that our minds are often unable to distinguish one from another.

When everything sounds deeply concerning, without the mind’s ability to decipher all the input, we are left to be manipulated by whoever is the loudest or most offended. This leaves us pointing the finger and feeling somehow continually anxious. Rana warns, “What matters isn’t what we consume, but how the grand total of our consumption is made sense of, and increasingly, in this latter regard, we are fighting an uphill battle that is edging us towards an unconscious perception of reality rather than a truthful one.” 

Rather than just accept this new reality, it is worth struggling to keep our individuality and wisdom. The first step in reclaiming our own identity is measuring all information from a faith perspective. A Biblical understanding calls us to ask, “Is there justice?” “Is there compassion?” “Is there Divine hope?” Questions of faith begin to chip away at the noise and help our minds begin to reprioritize, which brings freedom and wisdom back into our lives. Affirm the freeing power of God’s Holy Spirit to bring order and truth back into our lives. Pray for God to make room in our busy minds, for that “still small voice.”

Introducing the Examen

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Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. (Jeremiah 33:3)

The Roman Catholic Jesuits have used the spiritual practice of “Examen” for centuries. It was St. Ignatius who nurtured this practice in his followers. Some have dubbed this form of spirituality the “texting form of spirituality,” because it was intended to be short. Taking just a few minutes makes it easier to follow on a daily basis and easier to do twice per day.

The Examen includes a simple five-step routine. Give thanksgiving; Ask for the Spirit; Review and recognize failures; Ask for forgiveness and healing; Pray about the next day. In the book “Reimagining the Ignatian Examen,” Mark Thibodeaux, S.J. describes “the five steps, I like to use a 5-Rs mnemonic: Relish the moments that went well and all of the gifts I have today. Request the Spirit to lead me through my review of the day. Review the day. Repent of any mistakes or failures. Resolve, in concrete ways, to live tomorrow well.” Thibodeaux expresses the Examen’s ultimate goal: “to experience an encounter between God and the stuff of day-to-day life.

When I say the Examen is short, I mean you shouldn’t spend more than ten or fifteen minutes in prayer each time. Thibodeaux recommends setting a timer so you don’t have to keep looking at the time but can focus totally on your prayer. You do not have to pray all five “R’s” each time you pray the Examen. You can do one or two, but make sure you pray over all five “R’s” every day.

So today, try your hand at praying the Examen. The first time spend a couple minutes on all five “R’s” just to get the feel for the process of this prayerful spiritual practice. The more you consider your daily activities through this prayerful lens; the more God’s Spirit will come alive in your life. The Examen has stood the test of time, which means God must have used its wisdom to transform the lives of the faithful for over five hundred years.  Give it a try for the next week and let me know if this spiritual practice speaks to your heart.

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