Saturday, August 29, 2015

Scenic Overlooks: Necessary for the Journey

One of the most rewarding parts of hiking in the wilderness is stopping at scenic overlooks. Overlooks are especially wonderful in the mountains when you can see far and wide. Whether pausing for a few minutes to take in the sights or having lunch for an hour, taking time at a scenic overlook is an important part of any journey.
For one thing, taking time to rest and look out along a hiking trip, gives us rest. This is important for people who push hard in life. The past couple of years I’m realizing that I tend to push too hard—whether climbing a mountain or working in my office. I need to rest more if I am going to be effective over the long haul and if I am going to enjoy the life that the Lord has given me.
That leads into a second reason that pausing at the scenic overlooks in life is important: we make time to enjoy the moment. Although there is an enjoyment that comes from a goal accomplished, a mountain climbed or a job finished, there are many other pleasures to delight in along the way. If we become so focused on the finishing line that we fail to smell the roses along the way, we will miss so many of the good gifts that God has given for our enjoyment.
Finally, scenic overlooks offer us perspective and appreciation. When we stop the climb for a few minutes or an hour, we are able to look back and appreciate how far we have come. As we relax and get a bite to eat, we can share with our companions what we have seen along the way. In all of this we gain perspective. How necessary it is to regain perspective from time to time on any journey. Otherwise, hardships become blown out of proportion, we lose our momentum or we simply forget where we are headed.
Whenever I get into the wilderness, I naturally take opportunities to enjoy scenic overlooks along the way. Under the stress of life and work, however, I tend to forget to do so in my daily existence and in my walk with the Lord. One of my goals this fall is to apply this lesson from the wilderness to my life in civilization and stop throughout the day to gain perspective and rest. Indeed, enjoying the scenic overlooks is absolutely necessary for the journey!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Building Fire: Principles of Spiritual Formation

Making a Campfire
“Our God is a consuming fire.”
–Hebrews 12:29 (Deuteronomy 4:24)
I love building campfires in the great outdoors! My joy is gathering a bunch of kindling, stacking it just right. Then I try to light it with one match—no paper here, or heaven forbid, lighter fluid!
Three Principles of Fire
My dad taught me about fire and how it works. There are three important principles. First, obviously, fire burns upward. So when placing the kindling, you want the flames to start at the bottom and catch the little branches on fire as the flame moves up. Having a “fuse” on the bottom is important—and nothing works better than birch bark! It lights instantly and sends up quite a blaze and catches the small twigs above it on fire. While the flames are leaping up from the little kindling, you can begin to lay some larger twigs or small branches on. Even if they are not fully dry, the flames will dry them out and then catch them on fire.
Second, branches in a fire need to be close enough to feed off of each other. At least until there is an established bed of coals for the campfire, branches or logs need to be within about an inch of each other. Pull two longs too far apart, and they both begin to smolder and go out in a rather short time. A log does not burn by itself. It always needs other logs and/or the bed of coals from other logs to keep on burning.
Third, branches and logs need room to breathe. A fire needs air. If the logs are too close and there is no room for air to move up between them, they don’t burn well.
Spiritual Fire
These three principles are also key to spiritual formation. First, spiritual formation needs to move upward. Indeed the Holy Spirit always wants to move us upward. Throughout Scripture, fire is a symbol of God’s Spirit. If we are ablaze with the Spirit of God, we will naturally help others catch on fire. Just by getting close to us, they will be affected by our flame. Either they will back away quickly because they do not want God’s Spirit to move in their lives (and burn up sin and selfishness that they might be hiding), or they soon catch on fire themselves!
Second, we need to stay close to other people on fire if we want to stay ablaze with the Lord. Just as there is no such thing as a log burning all by itself (except the manufactured “logs” made with woodchips and probably some lighter fluid), so there is no such thing as a “lone ranger Christian.” Both smolder out quickly.
Third, however, we always need to leave room to breathe in our spiritual friendships. While we need to stay close to others on fire, we cannot suffocate them or let them suffocate us. Rather, there needs to be room for air. Air, wind and breath are likewise symbols of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible. The Old Testament word Ruah means both breath and spirit. The New Testament word pneuma likewise means both. Even in our closest relationships we need to leave room to breathe—room for the Spirit of God—between us.
When I remember these three principles, my campfires go great! (Although last week I sadly had to use a second match to get the fire going.) When we remember these principles, we are also able to stay ablaze with the Spirit year after year!
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Overcoming Inertia to Meet with God

Sunrise over Lake Superior
Getting outside for devotions in the morning is always wonderful! As I shared in my last blog, it does so much for me spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Whether at home, going out to the front porch to read my Scripture for the day, or visiting our favorite cabin, sitting on the deck to pray as I overlook Lake Superior, getting outdoors wakes me up—even when I don’t realize that I am not full awake—both physically and spiritually. My mind becomes attentive with the sounds of nature all around me and the fresh breeze on my face. My spirit becomes alert and receptive, ready to hear whatever the Lord wants to speak.
Overcoming Inertia
To meet with the Lord each morning—and especially to be alert and open—takes initiative. It requires me to overcome inertia. I have to overcome the choice of least resistance with its little voice in my head: “Oh, that will take too much effort.”  I also have to overcome being stuck where I am in a comfortable chair as the same little voice says: “It’s probably not that nice outside this morning anyhow.”
Every time I resist that voice and make an effort to meet with the Lord—and to do so outside, if I have the chance—I am always so thankful that I did! Over the years I have learned not to listen to that little voice. In fact, I’ve learned that when I hear that whinny little voice, it’s best to do the opposite!
Just like moving a rock that is dead in its place, we have to overcome inertia in our spiritual life. So many Christians are dead in their place. At one time they were moving forward with God, but that momentum came to an end a long time ago. Now, they are stuck. They say they are too busy, but of course that is simply an excuse. Most often they have simply opted for becoming inert.
Wilderness Backpacking
Several weeks ago when I was wilderness backpacking, I got up in the morning—rather stiff from sleeping on the ground—and the campsite was rather heavy with mosquitoes. I had the option to take the easy route and stay stuck at the campsite, becoming breakfast to the mosquitoes as I tried to have a quiet time with God. Or, I could overcome my inertia and get moving.
I took the second option, grabbed my journal and went exploring as I prayed. Within a few minutes I found a path that led to a breathtaking view of Lake Superior. There I had a wonderful hour with the Lord! I am so glad I overcame my morning stiffness and inner inertia!
We do not need to remain stuck. With some effort we can overcome our spiritual inertia. With a bit of initiative we can find the right place to meet with God. Every time we do, we will be so thankful!
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Beholding God’s Grandeur: Spiritual Formation in the Great Outdoors

Split Rock Light House on Lake Superior

Whenever possible, I go outdoors for my time with God. Whether sitting on our front porch to enjoy the morning sun while I read my devotions, or walking at the nearby nature reserve as I pray, something about getting outside into God’s creation refreshes me and helps me connect in a brand new way with my Creator.

Meeting God in Creation
Walking with God in nature, I see growing things all around me: trees, grass, flowers, weeds—all green and flourishing. That reminds me that the Lord is the source of life. It invites me to continue to develop in my life, not resting on last year’s or last month’s growth, but rather maturing right here and right now in my life.

In nature I see God’s goodness afresh. The Lord has supplied for all I need. Not only my needs, the Almighty provides the whole earth with sun and rain, night and day, springtime and harvest. Our Lord gives food to all living things—plants and animals, great and small. Psalm 145:15 states:

The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Greater View of God
Perhaps more than anything, prayer time in the great outdoors affords me a bigger glimpse of God—his greatness, his power, his splendor and his majesty! Without being aware of it, we put God in a box. In the back of our minds we picture God as one of us—just on a larger scale. Such a view of God is natural for children, but it must be abandoned if we are to come into a mature understanding of our Creator and our relationship with him. Meeting God outside the box of my house helps me view God beyond the mental box where I unwittingly try to contain him.

Last week a friend and former student, Ryan Dellos, and I went backpacking. What a wonderful time of spiritual refreshment! The rivers, the rugged mountain trails, the beauty of Lake Superior—what a way to behold God’s power in the great outdoors! What a way to gain new vision of God’s greatness, majesty and grandeur!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, July 3, 2015

Glory of God’s Creation: Regaining a Sense of Wonder

Lake at St. John's University

O Lord, our Lord,
            how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
            above the heavens. . . .
When I consider your heavens,
            the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
            which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful him?
                        -Psalm 8:1-4a

Jesus tells us that to enter the Kingdom of God, we must become like a child. Part of being childlike is regaining a sense of wonder.

A child enters each day with openness and a heart of adventure. Each new thing that he or she sees—even a common ant scurrying across the sidewalk—is viewed through the eyes of wonder. Trees and hills are approached with awe.

As we grow up, we adopt the attitude of “been there and done that.” Nothing evokes a sense of marvel in us. Even when we see new sights, we want to look “cool” and not show our surprise or delight. In short, we do not want to look childish or na├»ve.

Yet, in order to mature spiritually, we must regain our childlike innocence, especially our awe for God’s breathtaking work. Key to spiritual growth is a sense of wonder.

Spending time in creation is one of the best ways for me to rekindle my sense of awe and wonder. Watching waves crash along the shoreline or soaking in the view from a mountain peak refreshes me in ways I cannot explain. Know-it-all attitudes roll away and fresh wonder sprouts in my heart. If I’m alone, I often find myself spontaneously start to quietly sing: “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made!”

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, June 26, 2015

Life's Journey: Beautiful Even in the Rain!

Crashing waves on Lake Superior

Wilderness hiking includes weather of all kinds. Especially if you are backpacking for a week or more, you should expect rain and shine, heat and cold.

When I first began to backpack, I really disliked the rain. Then I began to relax and realize that I was not going to melt when it rained. If the weather was cold, I’d put on my raingear and do just fine. If the weather was hot, it didn’t really make that much difference whether I got soaked from sweating or rain!

Likewise, when Sharon and I go to the cabin along the North Shore of Lake Superior, we love each day, rainy or sunny. In fact, we kind of look forward to listening to the rain patter on the roof of the log cabin. Sometimes the storm will whip up the waves, as well—that is glorious to see the white caps crash against the rocks or to fall asleep to the sound of the rhythmic waves. When we visited there last week, we commented a number of times: It is beautiful even in the rain!

When it comes to daily life, however, I don’t do so well on rainy, stormy days. I can get down on days that I cannot see the physical sunshine (I’d never make it in the Pacific Northwest). In a figurative way, I struggle on days when there is stormy interaction in relationships or when all my work seems to be like an overcast sky.

Mentally I know that life is not going to be endless sunshine. I understand that growth often happens through conflict and resolution, if it is well handled. Yet, I struggle to embrace those challenges. I have a hard time seeing that life is “beautiful even in the rain.”

That is what I’m working on in my heart this week—loving each day with all the sunny times and rainy times. I know that lessons from the wilderness can be applied to life, relationships, work, and my walk with God—although I’m not quite sure how to make this application currently in my life! So throughout the day I’m encouraging myself to embrace all that comes my way. Again and again, I’m reminding myself that life is indeed beautiful even in the rain!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, June 19, 2015

Rocky Shores and Respites along the Way

North Shore of Lake Superior

“He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.”
-Psalm 23:2-3

On any journey, we need to take respites along the way. These are times to rest, take some food and water, and enjoy the view wherever we are.

When you travel with a group, some on the trip, of course, want to stop and take it easy every fifteen minutes. The problem is that they don’t get very far! In reality, they are not really interested in the journey, only in taking breaks.

Others—like myself—make the opposite mistake. I get so focused on the goal for the day that I forget to take breaks along the way! (Hiking in the Alps one time, my companion—who was in pretty good shape—almost passed out because of the speed we were going!) Driving too hard is just a bad as making no progress. When I fail to pause from time to time, I miss the beautiful scenery, conversation with companions, and so many things the Lord has given me to enjoy along the way.

So in our lives, we need to take time for rest, reflection, recreation and restoration. When we lived in Europe for four years, we found that people there do this much better than most Americans. Times of respite are essential to our well-being: physically, emotionally and spiritually. The Good Shepherd indeed wants to lead us beside those still waters, so our whole being can be restored. However, sometimes I don’t follow his lead.

This past week Sharon and I spent five days at our favorite cabin on Lake Superior. Each morning we simply sat on the rocks, read, wrote in a journal, prayed, and rested in the Lord. What a wonderful time! We took time to enjoy all that the Lord has given.

Without periodic retreats like this throughout the year, it would be difficult for me to grow spirituality. I always feel like I have too many things to do and I’m too busy to enjoy such a respite. However, once I am there, I realize how necessary it is to rest along the way!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers