Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lent: A Time to Return

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength.” -Isaiah 30:15
Over the years Lent has become one of my favorite seasons of the year. It is the time of the church calendar that provides focus—focus on how I am doing with God, reflection on things that need to change in my life, fresh assessment of areas where I need to draw close to the Lord.
Lent is a time to return to God. If we have drifted apart or simply become preoccupied with many things in life, the Lord bids us come. If we have rebelled and walked away in sin, he calls us to repent and offers us forgiveness. God welcomes us to return to him and to rest in him. He bids us to trust him and wait quietly upon his loving but powerful presence.
One way that I focus during Lent is that I keep a small wooden cross next to my bed, which I pick up and contemplate Jesus’ sacrifice for a few moments each night before retiring. It is a plain wooden cross I received at church camp when I was in elementary school or junior high, so it has a lot of memories for me. I started this bed-time tradition four years ago, and really look forward to it each year as Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. Somehow it offers me focus—and fresh meditation on what it means to die to myself and live for Christ—during this season. Ultimately, it helps me draw close to the Lord afresh in these weeks leading up to Easter.
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, January 23, 2015

Attentiveness: Awake and Alert in the New Year

 “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” -Ephesians 5:13-14 (ESV)
Attentiveness is key to living a spiritual life.
Opposite of Preoccupation and Dull Numbness
Attentiveness is the opposite of Preoccupation. We spend so much of our time preoccupied in the back of our minds without even being aware of it. Sometimes we are engrossed with the past, either regretting something negative that happened or daydreaming about something good—trying in our minds to return to that time and the joy we experienced then. Other times we are obsessing about the future, worrying about something that might come up, fearful about what could happen, or desiring some accomplishment, possession or person that we are inwardly clinging to.
Attentiveness is also the opposite of sleeping our way through life. How often we become dull, half-awake or numb in life, just going through the motions day after day. This is why Scripture calls us to “Awake!” (Ephesians 5:13), and to “Arise and shine, for our light has come!” (Isaiah 60:1). This is why the Psalmist exhorts himself, “Awake, my soul! . . . I will awaken the dawn!” (Psalm 57:8)
Attentive To:
What are we to be attentive to in this New Year?
1. Attentive to the blessings at hand—everything from food and home to friends and family, from creation that surrounds me to great books to read. The more aware I am to all of God’s favors, the more I want to be careful to return thanks and praise to God for his many good gifts!
2. Attentive to the responsibility at hand, the duty of the moment! Teaching at a college, I too often see students who cannot wait to become teachers or nurses or pastors or missionaries, yet they neglect the homework at hand. They have not made the connection between diligence with today’s work and reaching their goals. As a result, some destroy the possibility of ever reaching the very thing they desire. We need give time and attention to obligations in front of us.
3. Attentive to myself! If I honesty look at myself—my thoughts, attitudes, words and actions—I discover that I am not so unlike those students who dream about the future but miss the duty right under my nose! As Richard Foster has said: “We are capable of infinite self-deception”! I need to be attentive to the issues in my own life if I am to grow personally and spiritually. I must face my inner fears and procrastination, allowing God to transform me from the inside out.
4. Attentive to opportunities of the moment—ready to serve the Lord, whatever, wherever, and with whomever he places before us!
5. Attentive to the Lord! Interestingly, the more I become aware of what is around me in the visible world, the more attentive I am to the invisible realm. As I attend to the Lord’s presence, peace pervades my life. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3 KJV).
Attentive this Year
As I move through this year, I want to establish a habit, a lifestyle, of attentiveness. More than ever before, I want to remain attentive to, and thankful for, God’s blessings. Likewise I desire daily to be ever more attentive to what I need to be learning and doing, and attentive to God’s presence permeating my life!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, January 9, 2015

Return, My Soul, to Your Rest--A New Year's Prayer



“Return, my soul, to your rest;
      the Lord has been very good to you.”
                -Psalm 116.7 (NABRE)

As the New Year begins, I have started to be more diligent than ever to guard my mind from worry and anxiety. There will always be more than enough issues of life offering stress; I simply want to decline that offer on a daily basis. In reality, I need to refuse stress and anxiety pretty well every hour!
A few months ago when I was doing my daily Scripture reading, Psalm 116.7 jumped out at me as never before. The Psalmist speaks to himself with the exhortation: Return, my soul, to your rest! Why? My soul can be at peace because God—in his goodness, power and providence—has been so good to me. I need to remind myself of this!

Toward that end, here is a prayer that I’ll be praying in the months ahead.

Return, My Soul, to your Rest

Gracious Lord, like Martha in the Gospels,
                I have become anxious about so many things.
     Projects to do, problems to solve, and people to serve—
                everything to be done is overwhelming!
Inside I am scattered, disquieted, unsettled;
                my thoughts dart about in my head.
     I’m afraid of missing opportunities or losing what I have;
                worry fills my heart more than I dare to admit.
Return, my soul, to your rest;
                leave behind your anxious thoughts and cares.
     The Lord has been so kind to you,
            providing for all that you need.
Be at peace, O my heart, in God’s goodness,
providing your needs and caring for you.
     Dwell secure in his power and protection,
surrounding and guarding you in all your ways.
Be at rest, O my thoughts, free from all worries
that distract you and weigh you down,
     For God has gone before you and prepared the way,
which will be opened to you in his time.


© 2015  Glenn E. Myers

Friday, November 28, 2014

Advent: Longing for the Light


Although I love the change of seasons, Minnesota winters can be long and hard. Minus 30 degrees pierces many a layer of clothing, and the blanket of white for five months leaves one longing to see just one patch of grass again come April.
Hardest of all for me, however, is the lack of light. The higher the latitude, the longer the winter darkness. Every year I brace myself for the dark months of November, December and January. During this long gray season, whenever the sun is shining outside I try to get out for a few minutes’ walk if the temperature is above zero. But many days I go to work in the dark and return in the dark, hardly seeing the sun.
Advent
Into these dark months comes Advent. The beginning of the church year, Advent affirms my longing for light. It embraces the empty place in my heart and redirects the inner pining of my soul toward the Uncreated Light of God. My natural need for brightness and color uncovers my deeper longing for “the true light that gives light to everyone [who] was coming into the world” (John 1:9 TNIV).
This One, whose coming into the world we celebrate soon, is:
God from God, Light from Light,
True God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man. (Nicene Creed)
Yes, Uncreated Light came crashing into our desperate, dark world!
Pilgrimage
Advent, then, is our celebration of the weeks leading up to Jesus’ nativity. It is our participation in this cosmic Drama of Salvation. We join with Mary and Joseph as we move toward the birth of the Savior.
More than a reenactment, however, Advent is a pilgrimage for each one of us here and now. Although Christ came into the world two millennia ago—and although he has come into our hearts—there are still rooms of our lives where his light needs to shine. There are lonely places only he can fill.
As we journey through Advent, longing for physical light, let us allow that deeper yearning to draw us ever forward toward a fresh encounter at Bethlehem. Every time we find ourselves looking out the window during these weeks of Advent—heaving a sigh for springtime, green-ness and light—let us channel that earthly ache into the spiritual yearning that it reflects.
By doing so, the dark days of December are transformed into a personal pilgrimage that moves toward a new encounter with Christ. Focus is turned toward Immanuel. We wait with expectation as we look longingly toward the horizon of the dark northern sky and anticipate the coming of the Light of the World! 
               2014 © Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thanksgiving Prayer: You have Crowned the Year with Bounty!


“You crown the year with your bounty,
     And your carts overflow with abundance.” –Psalm 65:11

                        A Thanksgiving Prayer

How great are your works, O Lord,
            extending to the ends of the earth!
     How good are your deeds, O Creator Eternal,
            giving food, drink and breath to all that lives.

Day after day your kindness enfolds us,
            unseen and unheard, your goodness surrounds us.
    Season upon season you remain faithful and true,
            never leaving us or forsaking us, your presence is near.

You crown the year with bounty, O God,
            and cover the hills with golden harvest.
     With abundance you supply all our needs,
            your provision blankets the earth.

How can we repay you, Lord, for all you have done—
            for your goodness, providence and care?
     Our words of thanksgiving can hardly express
            our hearts full of gratitude for your lovingkindness!

Please accept our expression of thanks, O God,
            but a token of all you deserve.
     Hear our heartbeat of thanksgiving and praise:
            you are good—oh, so good—God of bounty, grace
and love! Amen.


2014 © Glenn E. Myers

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thanksgiving Season: Thanks must be Given Away


How often we feel flat in our prayer. We don’t feel connected with God. Although we know we should be grateful to him for the many blessings he has given us, we don’t feel thankful. So we go through our devotions out of rote, or we simply find ourselves too busy to set aside time with the Lord.
Such experience of inner numbness is common to Christians. Ups and downs of the soul sometimes follow the seasons outside. Loss and grief leave us feeling empty and dry for months on end. Stress and exhaustion can drain us of the immediacy we used to enjoy alone with the Lord. When this happens we are often unsure what to do.
Stoking the Fire
In October, my wife Sharon and I took a long weekend to enjoy the North Shore of Lake Superior, staying in a cabin near the water where we have visited many times before. Fall leaves colored the hillsides, the weather was beautiful and the nights were breathtaking with the full moon rising over the water.  One of those nights we had a bonfire on the rocks next to the lake.
Tending a fire has much to teach us about tending the flame of our inner lives. One of those lessons is that a fire is naturally inclined to wax and wane. When one starts a bonfire, the flames leap high with the dry kindling, and it looks like the blaze will go forever. However, until a bed of hot coals is established the fire is not secure. Flames can go down quickly and the fire becomes vulnerable.      
What we do at that point is crucial. If we walk away from the fire, it can die out. If we rather tend the fire and stoke the flames, we can bring it back to a steady blaze. Adding a bit of dry wood and blowing the glowing logs is all it takes to revive the fire and help it to become established.
Actively Giving Thanks
So also in our prayer lives, the fire of intimacy with God waxes and wanes. At times the flames of devotion begin to sputter. Our sense of gratefulness dies down. What we do at that point makes all the difference. Instead of becoming discouraged and walking away, we need to move toward the fire. We need to blow afresh on it and watch the flames come to new life.
One of the best ways to fan the flame of devotion in our lives is to express gratitude. Thanks needs to be given away. Knowing mentally that we are thankful is not the same as expressing that thanks to the one to whom it is due.
A great way to express our appreciation to God for all his goodness is to take fifteen or twenty minutes and simply write out a thank you list. Whatever comes to mind—big things and small.
As I have done this many times over the years, I always begin to notice a warmth growing inside. The chill and numbness begin to give way to a fresh attitude of gratefulness with each line I write. Every “thank you” stirs my heart to a new appreciation for just how many blessings God has given me. By the bottom of the page, I experience the flicker of fresh devotion. When I am finished—virtually every time I have written such a list—the flames of a thankful heart and renewed connection with my Lord are again in blaze.
This Thanksgiving season, or on Thanksgiving Day itself, I would encourage you to take a pen and some paper to write out a thank you list to the Lord. Express your appreciation to God, who is so good to us. As you do so, watch the flames of devotion flicker afresh in your heart as you give thanks to the One to whom it is due!

2014 © Glenn E. Myers

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Earth is Full of the Goodness of the Lord!



“The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord!”
     -Psalm 33:5

Amid weariness and discouragement,
the Lord is good!
     Amid pain and unanswered questions,
            God’s character has not changed—he is still good!

When I wake in the morning,
            God’s mercies pour out anew on my day.
     As I lay down at night,
            I rest in the Almighty’s care.

When things go as I hoped,
            I clearly see the fingerprints of divine benevolence around me.
     If life turns out very differently than I expected,
            faith holds on to the essential goodness of our God!

All day long, I can walk in the certainty
            of his kindness in all that concerns me.
     Wherever I go and however life goes, I can say with confidence:
            “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord!”


© 2014  Glenn E. Myers