Quarterly reviews keep you focused on both your Core Values and your long term goals. Ember Day Quarterly Reviews are a great tool for this work.
Ember Days in Discernment
Every Episcopal Clergyperson has stories about their Ember Day* Letters. From the time a person is
officially admitted into the discernment process to become a deacon or priest until they are ordained, they are required to write their bishop every Ember Day.
I remember pouring my heart out, struggling with what to put in and what to leave out of each letter. I was discerning a call to the priesthood in the mid 1990s, which was in the early days of a communication revolution. My first Ember Day letters were sent through the mail, and my last few were sent by email–with a snail mail follow-up in case the email didn’t arrive.
Our bishop at the time was a lovely, pastoral guy. I really appreciated our conversations. Yet his replies to my Ember Day letters were typically quite delayed and occasionally non-existent. At times I’d wonder to myself whether he even read them. Many seminary friends reported that they never received a response to any of their Ember Days letters. It was only much later that I realized that there was value simply in writing the letters –whether or not they were ever read or received a response.
Ember Days As a Continuing Spiritual Tool
Several years into my priesthood, I attended a CREDO conference which included identifying and claiming our core values. I took this exercise very seriously and poured hours and hours of work into coming up with just the right list, and just the right order. The expectation was to end with three to five values, but I found seven that were central to my life, and continue to be touchpoints almost twenty years later: Joy, Humor Balance, Simplicity, Convocation, Beauty and Fidelity.
I had a desire to keep these values close and to refer to them regularly. One way I did this was by having a graphic designer friend of mine create a beautiful wall hanging that I keep in my office and look at every day. A second way I keep my values close to me is by using them as the centerpoint of my Ember Day Quarterly Review.
Conveniently, Ember Days happen about once a quarter. I put a reminder on my calendar for each set of Ember Days. I’ll take an hour or two to do a Values Review on those days. I keep this work in a growing Google Doc. Each quarter, I evaluate how I’m doing with each of my values and make a commitment to work on specific values in the coming quarter.
Simple Six Step Process for Quarterly Ember Day Review
(Skip this step for your first Quarterly Review)
Review your last quarter’s intentions. How successful were you at the specific work you committed to do around your chosen values for that quarter?
Write a short reflection about each intention.
For each of your Core Values, give yourself a rating from 1-10 about how you’ve been living that value during the last quarter.
Write a couple of phrases about how that value has been present or absent in your life during the past quarter.
Look at your list and choose a couple of values to focus on for the next quarter. Sometimes you will choose the lowest-scoring values. At other times, you may choose a different selection. Perhaps something mid-range that still needs work, or something that is rated highly but will be an important part of the coming quarter.
Create clear, actionable items for each focus goal for the upcoming quarter.
Keep your action items in your mind over the month. Keep them visible in your calendar or on your to-do list. Write them colorfully and tape them to your wall. Make them into daily phone alarms. Try different options and see what works best for you.
Repeat each Ember Day.
An Example of Ember Day Quarterly Reviews
Review This Quarter’s Goals
This Quarter Goals
Joy 6/10: Online games with friends three times, two new board games, plan an adventure
Balance 7/10: Weekly time outdoors, twice weekly exercise, planned down time
Beauty 6/10: Get new dining set, Tidy front porch
Review of This Quarter’s Goals
Joy: Did online games with friends and got new board games. Completed Seattle adventure with Kid 2 and began planning New York adventure with Kid 1.
Balance: Was outside a bit more but not as much as desired. Did swim twice weekly. Did take planned down time.
Beauty: Love the new dining set. Added new table cloth which brings joy and beauty. The front porch looks so much better and more inviting.
Living Into My Values: How Did I Do This Quarter?
Joy: 3/10 Really tough season. Ember Days mark a turning point.
Humor: 5/10 able to laugh, but not a lot of moments. It’s a tough season.
Balance: 7/10 Keeping within planned work hours. Making time for exercise and friendships.
Simplicity: 9/10 Pandemic keeps things simple. Continuing to declutter. Weekly meal planning.
Conviction: 9/10 I know my values and my needs and am doing well living into them.
Beauty: 5/10 Moved out of office, stuff doesn’t have new home. Home office now cluttered. No energy for keeping things tidy. No active art projects.
Fidelity: 10/10 Fully faithful to my principles and family. Deep connection with God and colleagues.
Hopes For Next Quarter
Joy 3/10: Pay attention. Watch Kid 1 take in NYC. Intentionally connect with spouse on retreat and 2 date nights. Commune with the Northern Lights.
Balance 6/10: Create new blogging rhythm. Develop balanced 3 Year Plan. Rest a lot. Keep centered on feeding my soul with beauty, attention, connection, peace.
Beauty 5/10: De-clutter, Consider Sacred Threads submission, Monthly Artist Dates
*What are Ember Days?
Ember Days happen four times a year. Each Ember Days include three clustered-but-not-consecutive days. There is one set of Ember Days each season.
Spring Ember Days are the first Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after Ash Wednesday.
Summer Ember Days are the first Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after the Day of Pentecost.
Fall Ember Days are the first Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after Holy Cross Day (which everyone knows is September 14th, right?!)
Winter Ember Days are the first Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after the Feast of St. Lucy (which everyone knows is December 13th, right?!)
Upcoming Ember Days
Dec 15, 17, 18
March 9, 11, 12
June 8, 10, 11
Sept 21, 23, 24
Dec 14, 16, 17
March 1, 3, 4
May 31, June 2, 3
Sept 20, 22, 23
Dec 20, 22, 23
Do you already have an Ember Day Practice? Share about it below or contact me.