Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Be at peace.
Do not look forward with fear to the changes of life;
Rather look to them with full hope as they arise.
God, whose very own you are, will deliver you from out of them.
God has kept you hitherto,
and God will lead you safely through all things;
And when you cannot stand it,
God will bury you in almighty, loving arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
The same everlasting God who cares for you today
will take care of you then and every day.
God will either shield you from suffering,
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.
-St. Francis de Sales
One of the great Christian authors over the centuries is Francis de Sales. Living during the Reformation period in Europe, de Sales helped to bring spiritual renewal to the church in his day. He was a wise spiritual director, who wanted to see all Christians grow deeper in their faith. With a great pastor’s heart, he served as Bishop of Geneva from 1602-1622.
De Sales understands well the fears and anxieties in our hearts, and addresses the daily burdens that we all carry. Ultimately, he invites us all to experience more of God’s peace and presence. The quote above, as well as the one below, has really ministered to me the past several months. Both can be found online.
Do everything calmly and peacefully. Do as much as you can as well as you can. Strive to see God in all things without exception, and consent to His will joyously. Do everything for God, uniting yourself to him in word and deed. Walk very simply with the Cross of the Lord and be at peace with yourself.
-St. Francis de Sales
De Sales’ writings, especially Introduction to the Devout Life, are appreciated by Protestants and Roman Catholics alike. Some of his letters we have preserved today in Letters of Spiritual Direction, by St. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal, in the series Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press, 1988.
If you have not yet become acquainted with Francis de Sales, you will really enjoy reading his works. Various translations of his work are available in paperback. Online you can find many helpful quotes by him, as well as information of his life. You can also some older translations of his works for free:
© 2012 Glenn E. Myers
Thursday, February 28, 2013
North Shore of Lake Superior
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love. (Joel 2:12-13)
Lent—the forty days leading up to the Cross and the Resurrection—is a season for seeking God afresh in our lives. One of the traditional practices that helps us in our pursuit of God is the biblical discipline of fasting.
Lent is a way of joining Jesus in the forty-day fast that he did before he began his ministry (see Matt 4 and Luke 4). Although Jesus’ disciples did not fast while they were with him, he stated that they would indeed fast when he—the Bridegroom—was not with them (Mark 2:19). Likewise, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated, “When you fast” (Matt 6:16), implying that such was to be a standard practice for his disciples.
Seriously Seeking God
Our pursuit of God is truly getting serious when we are willing to set aside food—our daily bread—in order to focus our hearts, minds, bodies and whole beings on the Lord. We make a declaration to the Lord, and to ourselves, that our relationship with him is more important than our very sustenance.
Fasting is also a form of humbling ourselves and mourning for our sin. When Nehemiah fasted, he wept and mourned and sought God, both for himself and for the people of Israel (Neh 1:4-11). When we fast—especially from food—it takes the energy, self-reliance and pride right out of us. It helps us to lower ourselves and come in need before the Lord. In fact, in the Old Testament, “humbling oneself” is often used as a reference to fasting.
Fasting helps us seek God because it offers us fresh focus. When I give up the food that I need for daily strength, I need to focus entirely on the Lord. In fact, each time my stomach growls, I use it as a reminder to direct my attention back on him.
We see this focus in Jesus’ forty-day fast. Putting aside one of the very essentials of life itself, Jesus dedicated his time in the wilderness to prayer with God the Father. When Satan tested him at the end of the forty days with the rather benign temptation of turning stones into bread, Jesus’ true focus came out: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3).
Living out our Repentance
Joel 2 calls us to return to the Lord. Such a return is what the New Testament calls metanoia—repentance. When we repent, we turn away from the wrong direction we are headed and return to the Lord with our whole heart.
Lent is an opportunity to walk out our repentance by establishing a new spiritual rhythm, like fasting. This may be a spiritual practice that we adopt just for Lent, or it may be something we begin in Lent and continue on for a long time.
Fasting is a great way to walk out our repentance. It declares our independence from food or any other physical yearning that might put us in bondage. We can fast from many different things: food, TV, worry, busyness, deserts, pop or other drinks, texting, Facebook—anything that pulls on us and distracts us from pursuing God.
Whatever we give up, we must replace with something positive. Instead of TV or Facebook, we can set aside that hour for some special time with the Lord. If we fast one meal a week, we can dedicate that time for prayer.
Are you and I willing to fast and weep and mourn this Lent? Whether it is giving up food for a day—or abstaining from chocolate or other delicacy for the whole forty days—fasting is giving up something we desire or need. In doing so we humble ourselves and reorient our desires and attention on the Lord so that we can pursue him wholeheartedly as we look forward to the celebration of his Resurrection!
© 2013 Glenn E. Myers
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Since the Early Church, Lent has been a season set aside for seeking God afresh in our lives. Lent is the forty days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. It is a time to focus anew on where our relationship with the Lord is and where we would like it to go.
Any time we want to move forward with God, it means we need to let go of where we are. Inevitably that entails confessing sin in our lives. Whether sins of the flesh or an ungodly attitude or unforgiveness—we cannot move forward with God unless we confess our sin to the Lord, ask forgiveness and turn from it.
Kneeling in Confession
One important time for kneeling before the Lord is when we confess our sins. Kneeling or falling prostrate before the Lord has been closely associated with confessing our sins in prayer. How appropriate it is for us to humble ourselves utterly as we come before a holy God with our transgressions!
Origen, one of the early theologians of the Church, states, “Kneeling is necessary when someone is going to speak against his own sins before God, since he is making supplication for their healing and their forgiveness. We must understand that it symbolizes someone who has fallen down and become obedient, since Paul says, ‘For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named’ (Eph. 3:14-15).”
Inner and Outer Affecting Each Other
As quoted in an earlier blog, Origen stresses the importance of our physical attitude “because one then carries in the body too, as it were, the image [icon] of that special condition that befits the soul during prayer.” Our bodies are the outward image or icon of our inner spiritual condition.
It goes the other way, as well. Our physical position also influences our inner disposition. When we stand before someone of importance—whether a judge in the classroom or applauding an excellent performer—our bodily stance helps to cultivate the respect we have for them. It is a spiral. Our physical stance affects our inner attitude; then, in turn, our heart’s attitude in expressed through our body’s attitude.
“Thus, there is a genuine reciprocity between one’s internal disposition and external posture. This is the ‘special property’ of the soul, which in the body’s posture creates, so to speak, a suitable ‘icon’ of itself,” summarizes Gabriel Bunge.  Our outer self and inner self have an effect on each other. In prayer, our whole being is involved—and that is as it should be. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
Pursuing God this Lent
Getting our bodies involved in prayer helps to fully engage our minds and our hearts. As one writer states, without kneeling, bowing, raising hands and otherwise engaging our whole bodies, our prayer “will be routine, cold, and shallow.”  Many Christians who have a personal relationship with the Lord would probably nevertheless admit that much of their prayer has become rather routine, and probably somewhat shallow and even cold.
Let us take this season as a unique opportunity to seek God in our lives. Where we have been passive or have gone in the wrong direction, we can confess our sin to God. Engaging our bodies—and all our strength—we can come humbly before God. Let us take this Lent to stir the coals inside us and kindle that flame of love for the Lord!
 Origen, On Prayer, 31:3, in An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works, trans. Rowan Greer, CWS (New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1979), p.165.
 Origen, On Prayer, quoted in Gabriel Bunge, Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition, trans. Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), p.152.
 Bunge, p. 146.
 Joseph Busnaya, quoted in Bunge, 139.
© 2013 Glenn E. Myers
Monday, January 21, 2013
“Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Psalm 95: 6)
Kneeling, Bowing and Falling Prostrate
One often-forgotten dynamic of biblical worship and prayer is bowing before the Lord. Especially in America we do not want to bow before anything or anyone. Therefore, we often skip over the Scriptures that call us to do so in reverence to God.
David declares that “in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple” (Psalm 5:7). One of the key terms often translated as “worship” in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word Shachah. Literally it means to bow down. One bows down physically while worshiping the Lord. The most common term in the New Testament for worship is prokuneo, which means to bow down and kiss. Similarly in the New Testament we see kneeling in prayer. When Peter healed Tabitha in Acts 9, it states that “he got down on his knees and prayed.”
Even Jesus himself assumed this posture when praying to God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Going a little farther,” states Matthew 26:39, “he fell with his face to the ground and prayed.”
Affecting Our Inner Attitude
Our physical attitude not only reflects our inner attitude, it also affects the attitude of our heart. Bowing down with our face against the dust floor and our fanny sticking up in the air is uncomfortable and more than a little embarrassing. In short it is humbling—even humiliating.
That is the point. When we bow down to God in prayer, it puts everything and everyone in place. God is high and lifted up. We are made low. C. S. Lewis made the comment somewhere that it is good that he prostrate himself before the Lord on a regular basis because of how it humbled him on the inside.
When we bow down before someone, we humble ourselves and lift them up. This, of course, is precisely what we need to do whenever come before the Lord in worship or prayer. We acknowledge our need and his power to meet the need. We humble ourselves and exalt him.
Ultimately all of creation will acknowledge Christ’s authority, as Paul describes in Philippians 2:10-11, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
 Origen, On Prayer, 33:3, in An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works, trans. Rowan Greer, CWS (New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1979), p.165.
© 2013 Glenn E. Myers
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Have seen a great light;
On those living in the land of the shadow of death
A light has dawned.” (Is 9:2 & Matt 4:15-16)
Epiphany—January 6—is the Church’s celebration of our Lord’s appearance (epiphany) to those beyond the Hebrew world. As he was revealed to the Magi from the East, his light shone to the Gentiles, as was foretold in Genesis 12, Isaiah and throughout the Old Testament. He came for all people at all times!
Light for Us
On a personal level, Epiphany is an opportunity to invite Jesus’ light into places where we might still be walking in darkness. For some of us, that darkness is the darkness of fear—we fear rejection or what others think about us. We experience continual anxiety about our health or our finances, especially in these difficult times. We fear the future, or we fear failure.
For others that darkness is shame. We have kept a secret hidden within, feeling shameful about ourselves, our actions, our bodies. For still others the darkness is a perpetual sin we walk in.
Whatever the darkness might be, this is the time to invite Jesus’ light in. Jesus appeared on this earth to bring light to all people—that includes you and me. At the beginning of this new year, let us celebrate Epiphany by inviting the Lord afresh to bring light to any area of darkness in our lives!
© 2013 Glenn E. Myers
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Advent is a season of desire. When Jesus was born, the nation of Israel was waiting, longing and desiring the coming of Messiah. For us, is it a time to kindle anew our inner desire for more of Jesus in our lives, our minds, our busy schedules, and our hearts.
That desire during Advent is what continually draws us to Bethlehem. While Mary and Joseph journeyed to the City of David for very practical reasons, fulfilling the census of Caesar Augustus, we journey there for a spiritual purpose to see afresh the Heir of David!
Just as the shepherds came down from the hills, filled with awe and wonder at the message of the angels, we descend to the lowly manger with deep desire to worship him who lowered himself and emptied himself beyond our comprehension.
As the magi were invited to glimpse the fulfillment of the great sign in the stars that they saw, we come to adore Emmanuel with all our longing, love and desire.
Desire Itself is Prayer
Sometimes we do not know how to pray. That is okay, because our desire for the Lord is itself prayer. St. Augustine said, “Si semper desideras, semper oras”—“If we are always desiring, we are always praying!” How true that is, and how comforting to know that our heart prays, even when our mouth cannot articulate that inner longing!
This season let our hearts reach out in the wordless prayer of desire as we sit silently by the fireplace or candles late at night or early in the morning when everyone else in the house is asleep. Let our prayer of desire ascend as we read again Luke’s account of the very first Christmas.
As the pilgrimage of Advent reaches its culmination in the celebration of Christmas Day, let us cultivate the inner prayer of desire. Let us allow that desire to come to full blossom as we gather with the faithful on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning to worship Christ the King. O come, let us indeed adore him!
© 2013 Glenn E. Myers
Saturday, December 1, 2012
“For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:27)
A little-known fact to many Christians today is the practice of early believers facing east when they prayed. Of course as they sought to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), throughout the day, facing whatever direction they happened to be while they walked or worked or spent time with family, praying to the Lord in all their activity.
However, when the believers of the first centuries of the church went apart for specific times of prayer, they faced east. We read about this practice in many of the early Christian writings. Also archeological digs have discovered that the homes of the early believers in Egypt often had a room set aside for prayer which allowed the Christians to have solitude with the Lord as well as to focus toward the east in their devotional times. 
“Orienting” our Lives
The classic term for the “East” is the “Orient.” This term refers to all of the lands spreading from the Near East across Asia to the Far East. Coming from this term, to gain one’s bearings is to “orient” oneself. To know where the points of the compass are, we must know where the orient—the east—is.
Early Christians, then, oriented their prayer lives by praying while they faced east. The symbolism is powerful! First, the east is where the sun rises. So facing east faces us toward the light and invites us to orient our lives toward the eternal Light. “God is Light; in him there is no darkness at all,” states 1 John 1:5. Further, James reminds us that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down form the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (1:17).
Second, the Garden of Eden was in the east (Gen 2:8). As we face east we remind ourselves of the fellowship between God and humanity that was intended for us. Through the redemptive work of Christ, we too are invited to walk with God in the cool of the evening, as it were, and enjoy sweet communion with our Creator.
Third, Jesus’ life, passion and resurrection took place in Galilee and Judea, which are for most of us to the east. As we face east in our prayer, we remind ourselves that our salvation is based entirely on Christ Jesus.
Finally, facing east reminds us to fix our hope on Christ’s coming! “For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27). Orienting my body to the east each day helps me to orient my whole life to Christ’s return. His return is my ultimate hope and the culmination of all history! 
Advent: Reorienting Our Lives toward the Light
Although the calendar year does not begin until January, the new church year begins now with Advent. This makes sense: the whole of the Christian life starts with the anticipation of the celebration of our Lord’s birth.
Advent is an opportunity to reorient our lives. These four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas are an opportunity to regain our spiritual bearings. The Advent season is a time for longing for more of the Lord, seeking God afresh, as well as reordering and reorienting our lives toward Christ.
As Advent begins, some good reflect questions are: Although I claim to be a Christian, how is my life truly oriented? What direction is my life headed? Where am I doing well in my pilgrimage with the Lord and where have I lost my inner compass? Am I journeying with God as I claim to be, or have I become waylaid on a path that is leading in the wrong direction? What must I do to regain my orientation to the Lord?
Advent is a time of looking for the light. As I have my devotions during these dark mornings, I find myself spontaneously looking toward the eastern horizon, waiting and longing to see the first hint of light each morning. During these four weeks of Advent, the eyes of my heart in like manner look forward to the coming of the Light of the World!
 Gabriel Bunge, Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition, trans. Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), p. 54.
 These thoughts on the east are adapted from Bunge, pp. 57-71.
© 2012 Glenn E. Myers