I hear loud rambunctious thumping again. That crazy bird is at it again. Mr. Yellow-Rumped Warbler hops up and down, flapping his wings. Bright patches of yellow catch my eye while his black-and-white striped wings frantically move. He’s not ramming the window or pecking at it. He’s befuddled, or so it seems.  


Looking through our clear window-mounted feeder, we view all his antics, yet he can’t see us. However, he clearly sees his own reflection. Yet he persists in trying to shoo away the bird in the mirror, angry that another avian tries to occupy the same space. Though the usual mnemonic for this warbler’s melody is “sweet-sweet-sweet, I’m so sweet,” quite accurate for their normal friendly non-aggressive manner, this fellow is anything but calm and sweet.  


Our 1960s house came with a sunroom which was once a screen porch. Each pane of glass wears a thin reflective one-way mirror film. Attached to one pane, our see-through birdfeeder provides hours of entertainment. Cardinals, rose finches, and chickadees flit in and out of the feeder, nibbling shelled sunflower seeds, corn, and peanuts. Their reflection doesn’t bother them in the least. Only this particular warbler doesn’t seem to know what he’s seeing. He’s aggravated at his own image yet doesn’t recognize himself. 


Do you ever startle or surprise yourself? Flabbergasted, you come upon something you think or do that rattles you? You catch a glimpse of something within that causes you to stagger, sinking into a daze of disbelief. That moment of being caught unaware disrupts us. Yet what happens when we recognize ourselves well? When we know the image we see is truly our real self through and through? We acknowledge our dazed parts. We discover parts of us that dazzle God and those around us. By getting to know our interior landscape more clearly, we aren’t so surprised by what resides within. At the same time, getting to know my own heart allows me to better notice God’s invitation to spiritual transformation. 


A Look at Reflection

Lent’s somber penitent season invites us to engage in the practice of spiritual reflection. In a season of repentance, it’s helpful to know what the heart might need to repent of, isn’t it? Spiritual reflection invites us to pause, contemplate, and pay attention. What do my insides look like? Do I recognize the befuddled flapping of wings within? Do I realize the truth of my own reflection?  


If my greatest desire is that Christ be formed in me, I need ways to examine if that is indeed happening. Wanting to look like Jesus, what I look like within my interior spaces matters. What shows up on the inside impacts exterior choices and behaviors. The spiritual practice of reflection leads me to awareness of my sins, allows space for confession of them, and draws me to repentance, all of which sound like good places to get healing and grow more and more like Jesus.  


Wondering where to begin? One of my favorite places to start spiritual reflection on where I am and who I am is found in the image spoken of in Jeremiah 6:16: 

“This is what the Lord says: 

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls.
    But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ 


Where exactly am I as I stand, look, ask, and walk? Getting down to raw honesty with myself helps me consider attitudes of the heart and actions of the body that either move me towards or away from God. Where am I disordered? Misaligned? Where am I full of besetting sins, brokenness, and weaknesses? Where am I presumptuous? How do I rationalize, blame, deny, or dismiss things within my heart? 


“Lay before Him what is in us, not what is not,” C. S. Lewis says. That requires me to know what is in me. An honest evaluation of myself allows me to recognize the image of my soul that I see in the mirror, not the image I wish was there. I ponder temptations that might thwart my growth in becoming like Jesus. Being more self-aware, I develop strategies against the wiley strategies of the enemy of my soul.  


I reflect on Jesus, the Word Himself, as well as on the Word Written, and how I have allowed, or not allowed, these to impact the movements of who I am. Deep and wise reflection moves me from being only in a somewhat remote or distant head space to an up-close-and-personal heart space. Here I consider choices that make a difference in my soul’s development and maturity.  


Reflections of Our Innermost Self

Not sure where to start as you ponder the images of your innermost self? Consider praying through some of these. I find them trusty companions to help me see myself more clearly:  

    • The Ten Commandments –  One by one, let them be a mirror for your soul’s care.  
    • The Three Temptations of Christ: Each temptation we encounter falls within one of these.  What’s the temptation that causes me to fall backward most quickly? 
    • Colossians 1-3 – What’s to be put off? What’s to be put on? 
    • Psalm 139 –  Invite God to examine your heart. He knows you better and loves you more than you know or love yourself. 


“For all that is in the world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world.”  (1 John 2:16) Which one of these puddles of quicksand do I most easily get trapped in? 

    • Genesis 3 – Trace your thoughts back into the Garden of Eden. Notice the enemy’s lies which lead to the start of doubts about God.  
    • 2 Corinthians 3:18 – Wanting to become more like Christ? Ponder how you are being transformed. 
    • Ephesians 4:13-15 – How’s your maturity? Where are you tossed back and forth?  


Jesus said He did only what pleased the Father. What in me pleases Him? Likewise, Jesus said He came to do the Father’s will. Where am I walking well in union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Where am I shockingly off track? Yet another way to look in the mirror of our heart is to pray through these themes: 

    • Vices/Virtues: What vices need reversing? What virtues need shoring up? 
    • World/Flesh/Devil: Which action of mine falls into one of these categories? 


The Reflection Process – Questions and Answer

The path to reflection companions with wise questions.

Good reflection finds a good companion in good questions.

Good questions invite, reveal, challenge, cause us to ponder, and unsettle us.

Such repetitive observations lead to discovery and growth.  


By recalling the questions that God and Jesus speak in the Old and New Testaments, I find welcome guides for spiritual reflection.


Ponder questions God asked in the Old Testament. What comes to your mind? Some questions that God asked may be wise to consider during Lent or any time, for that matter:   

    • God to Adam & Eve: Where are you? Genesis 3:9 
    • God to Hagar: Where are you from and where are you going? Genesis 16:8  


Think about what questions Jesus asked. What comes to mind? I discovered that Jesus, who continually posed questions in the four Gospels, asked anywhere from 200-350 questions, some of them repeated. Here are a few that may be helpful for reflection in Lent. 

    • What do you want? – John 1:38 
    • Where is your faith? – Luke 8:25 
    • Do you not yet understand? – Matthew 16:9 
    • Do you really believe I can do this? – Matthew 9:28 
    • What do you want me to do for you? – Matthew 20:32  
    • Do you want to be well? – John 5:6 
    • How may loaves do you have? – Matthew 15:34 
    • Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink? – Matthew 20:22 
    • Could you not watch for Me one brief hour? – Matthew 26:40 
    • Who do you say that I am? – Matthew 16:15 
    • Why are you crying? – John 20:13 


What other questions might you ask yourself during Lent that could lead to wise pondering? I’ll share a few of mine: 

    • What desires come from God, from the flesh, or from the devil? 
    • What’s my growth point?  
    • What’s my character in need of?  
    • What’s in need of renovation?  
    • What’s in need of restoration?  

The Ignatian Examen

One reliable companion, an age-old way to go forward, is The Ignatian Examen, a marvelous prayer practice for spiritual reflection. St. Ignatius of Loyola crafted the prayer of Examen as a short prayer practice. It creates an easy path to review the day and find God in it. It allows you to notice places where God is inviting you to maturity and spiritual freedom. Such prayerful reflection invites us to grow into the likeness of Christ. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive accounting of every moment of the day, rather it’s a time to allow Holy Spirit to highlight small moments. Stay reflective, not ruminating, as this isn’t meant to drive us to despair, but rather to draw us to God’s heart, asking Him for the grace we need for the day to come. Here’s one of the many formats for Examen:  

1. Give Thanks: Look back and see the blessings of the day and thank God.

2. Notice Well: Invite the Holy Spirit to alert you as together you search your day and notice your soul’s responses.

3. Trace the Day: Where did you notice God? Where did you miss God? How were your interactions with others? What were your internal and external ways of being?

4. Investigate Your Failings: Notice and name sins. Confess them.

5. Ask for Grace: What have you seen in yourself now needs a new alignment from your disordered way of being. So you can be more like the person God imagines you to be, request His gift of a particular grace to keep you growing ever more spiritually alive and free.  


This Examen practice, part of the larger Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, is intended to be a short reflective time: 10-15 minutes, at the most! It can be done at the end of the day, or it can be done at the start of the next day, looking back on the previous day’s experience.  


I write the headings on a page in my journal then jot down highlights of the day that Holy Spirit helps me notice. My Examen practice now includes a weekly reflection summary, gazing across the full landscape of seven days. At times, I add a monthly, quarterly, or yearly Examen. Such broader times of Examen allow me to notice themes: invitations to growth, places I’m stuck, and the incredible kindness of God’s heart for me.  


An approachable book to read more about the Examen is Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day by Mark E. Thibodeaux, S.J. He explores a variety of ways to pray through the Examen. If praying the Examen is a new reflective practice for you, I recommend starting with the Traditional Ignatian Examen as offered above. You could also use Thibodeaux’s language for the Examen where he chooses to relish, request, review, repent, and resolve. There’s also the Reimaging the Examen app that goes with the Reimagine the Examen book, if you like apps.


Music provokes deep thoughts and emotions, expanding my spiritual reflections and prayer life. So for Lent, I created a Spotify Playlist to listen to as part of my Lent morning conversations with God. The songs I chose during this penitential time sound more somber as many are in a minor key. Being more introspective, reflective, and contemplative, they’ve been wise companions for my spiritual practice of reflection this Lent. 


It’s too bad that our crazed Mr. Yellow-Rumped Warbler doesn’t have the capacity for true reflective thought. Still aggravated at his own image, he’s unable to recognize what’s the hard and the good about himself. I wish I could help him see himself through the spiritual practice of reflection. You know, if he did, he just might discover where he is dazed and where he dazzles. Just like us. 


Further Exploration

If you are interested in learning more about the Ignatian Examen or exploring other ways for inner reflection, I’d welcome a time to meet with you to explore some options. Feel free to check out my website or schedule a free consultation session to see what God is up to and how you can begin to notice Him more in your life.

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