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Are you alert and oriented x4?

by Betty McDowell

As a social worker in the mental health field, I was trained to assess a patient’s level of alertness and orientation by asking them four questions: (1) Who are you? (2) Where are you? (3) What is the date and time? (4) What just happened to you?

This simple exercise helped determine the next steps in diagnosing the patient and constructing a treatment plan. But I have since discovered the value of asking the same four questions to those serving in ministry when I try to help them diagnose a problem and move forward in a clear direction.

How would you answer these four questions?

  1. Who are you?
    The simple answer Christians like to give is, "I am a child of God."  While this is true, it’s also true that we are uniquely created with specific gifts, talents and dreams. Living the abundant life Jesus promised requires us to further discover who we really are, and who we were created to be. Take time, through God's word, prayer and the counsel of others, to discover what you really believe about yourself, God and the world around you. Your decisions come from the core of who you are and what you believe — and that includes what you believe about yourself.

  2. Where are you?
    Is this the ministry, career and life that you are meant to be living? What are the dreams God has placed in your heart? Are you on your way to fulfilling those dreams and callings? Most of us lead busy lives and are trying to find ways to do the things we do faster, but it’s a healthy practice to slow down for a moment and make sure you’re where you belong.

  3. What time is it?
    There are seasons in our lives that require different commitments of our time and attention. For example, several years ago, through the leading of the Holy Spirit and conversations with my husband, we decided that it was best for our family if I focused most of my time, talent and attention on our children—even though it meant modifying my career ambitions. Then, once our children were in school, I devoted more time to ministry outside of the home, and to my career. Now that our children are grown, the time has come for me to engage more fully in the calling on my life, and I’m now able to chase the dreams of my heart. What is the time and season of your life?

  4. What just happened?
    Are you walking around in a haze—or a daze—and unaware of the world around you? What are you witnessing in the lives of those around you?  What are others witnessing in your life? Sometimes, we are so caught up with our goals and to-do lists that we miss opportunities to fully connect with God and the people we love most. 

I have found that spending a little time at the end of each day to review my answers to these four questions has been a great habit. You too may find this practice valuable in becoming alert and oriented x4.

Also check out the link to "The Daily Examen" by St. Ignatius:
http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/how-can-i-pray/