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

Friday, June 12, 2015

Palisades on Lake Superior
From the first time I went backpacking in high school, I discovered that mountains are deceptive. From a distance they do not look nearly as tall—and challenging—as they are. What looks like an hour’s hike to the uninitiated is usually more like a four or five hour ascent. I’ve heard many young guys in particular brag about how easy the mountain will be and how quickly they will reach the top. Half way up, as they pause, huffing and puffing, they are singing a different tune!
Mountains are also deceptive in the way that you can see the whole elevation from a distance, peak and all. However, once you are on it, it is hard to tell where you are in elevation. Many times I have thought I must be approaching the peak, only to arrive at a lookout point where I could get a view of things and found that I had not yet attained the halfway point!
The parallels between climbing a physical mountain and maturing spiritually are numerous. From a distance, the ascent to become more Christ-like seems so simple. We overcome some big sin in our lives and establishing a regular time in Scripture, and we presume that we are almost at the top. Indeed, when I was in 7th grade, I figured I was pretty spiritually mature!
Growing up—physically and spiritually—sobered me tremendously. Now, some 45 years later, I realize how high the peak is and how long and hard the trail is leading up to it. When I look at my progress these days, I think I have hardly even begun the ascent up the mountain. Of course that is not true: I have been making some steady progress all of these years. What is different is my perspective. I now have a realistic view of what spiritual formation is all about—the mountain is so much higher than I ever imagined!
That realistic view, however, does not need to discourage us. The fact that I’ll spend the rest of my life climbing and still have a long way to go does not in any way make me want to quit. Rather, it brings perspective and some humility into my life. Moreover, it challenges me. No, I’ll never get close to the top, achieving any sort of perfection in this life. However, I want to see how far I can grow! From time to time when I get to a scenic overview, I want to savor the view—recognizing how far the Lord has brought me. I want to enjoy all the wildflowers along the path. Above all, I want to enjoy the company of the Lord—my guide—along the way, because he indeed in my companion, as well as the mountain upon which I am growing!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, June 5, 2015

Pilgrimage: Enjoying the Journey

North Shore of Lake Superior

This summer I hope to go backpacking along the north shore of Lake Superior. It has been four years since I’ve done a trip like this—I have really missed it!
Key to any hiking trip—whether for an afternoon or several weeks camping in the wilderness—is enjoying the whole event. You have to enjoy the process. That includes preparing and packing, traveling to your entry point, hiking through sun and rain, setting up camp, as well as just taking it easy at the campsite.
In the past, I’ve been on trips with whiners—that is no fun! They only want to hang out and go swimming; then they whine when meals need to be cooked and dishes wait to be washed, let alone make a difficult day’s hike.
The reality is that hanging out at camp is only a small fraction of the whole trip. Most of the time is spent hiking, setting up and tearing down. You have to enjoy all of it, else it is not worth heading into the wilderness. Of course there are parts of the process I enjoy more than others. Yet, from the time I began camping in high school, I determined to savor the whole trip—including the painful parts.
The Christian Pilgrimage is very much like a backpacking trip. There are wonderful mountain top “highs” and there are difficult and painful challenges. I’m still learning to embrace all of life like I embrace camping trips. Inside I tend to be too much of a whiner, even though I know that I grow through the difficult times.
My hope is that as I go backpacking this summer, it will be a “refresher course” on enjoying the journey so that I can apply it to my life-long pilgrimage with the Lord.

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, May 11, 2015

Maturing through the Mundane

“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
-Romans 8:28
Seldom do we feel like we are maturing in the Lord through the day-to-day of life. Rather than experiencing exhilaration from growing spiritually, we are completely unaware of making much progress. Instead we feel overwhelmed with our never-ending responsibilities and exhausted as we try to be faithful in our walk with God. At times we are irritated by the demands on our time and by the irksome people we are called to love.
Some days we seem to experience one trial after another: we do not get a moment’s rest. Although we cannot see what God is building in our lives, he is indeed at work. In his classic, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, Jean-Pierre de Caussade asserts: “It is in these afflictions, which succeed one another each moment, that God, veiled and obscured, reveals himself, mysteriously bestowing his grace in a manner quite unrecognized by the souls who feel only weakness in bearing their cross, distaste for performing their duty, and capable only of the most mediocre spiritual practices” (17).
In the midst of fulfilling our duty—which includes much that is mundane—we cannot see God’s providence nor feel his presence. Instead we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The hand of the Lord remains hidden in the circumstances that press in on us.
Nevertheless, we choose to hope in his promise that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Although we currently see nothing happening, we cling to God’s assurance that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character” (Roman 5:3-4).
Our obedience to God through fulfilling our obligations and our faithfulness in the mundane is sacred. Indeed, the present moment—no matter how challenging or dull—is sacramental. Our response to the duty before us is central to God’s plan to transform us.
“God’s order and his divine will, humbly obeyed by the faithful, accomplishes his divine purpose in [us] without [our] knowledge,” continues de Caussade, “in the same way as medicine obediently swallowed cures invalids who neither know nor care how” (42).
I want to be transformed! The deepest desire of my heart it to be made into the image of Christ. Toward that end, I am learning to embrace all that God brings into my life, counting the trials as “pure joy” (James 1:2). Although I can neither see nor feel God’s hand at work in the moment, I know he will accomplish his will in my life!
Quotes are from Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989).

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Easter: Fresh Spiritual Awakening

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
-Ephesians 5:14 (ESV)

Spiritual awakening is not a one-time event in our lives. Rather, we have seasons of awakening when everything is fresh and new. We follow with seasons of green, filled with steady growth. In turn, we also walk through seasons of loss, like autumn, when all the color seems to fall from life. Sometimes we experience winters when inside we turn cold and numb.

Yet, just as the ever-strengthening sun thaws the frozen earth each spring, so God’s light calls us to new springtime and fresh awakenings. It may be a new area of our life that God wants to rouse from sleep. It might be an aspect of our walk with him that was once vibrant--but has hardened during difficult times—that the Lord wants to rejuvenate.

It may be a new challenge that the Almighty places before us or a new relationship into which he is inviting us. It may be a new ministry or service to others that God is calling us into—perhaps something we never dreamed of doing or even wanted to do! But the bright light of God’s presence is clear as day: the Lord is calling us to awaken!

This Easter season is an invitation to you and me to wake up in one area of our life or another. Take some time this coming week to wait on the Lord and ask him where you might be asleep without even know it. Ask God what he wants to waken in your life!

2015 © Glenn E. Myers 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Holy Week: Entering into the Paschal Mystery

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
-Philippians 3:10

Holy Week has been set aside since the early centuries of the church as a special week for Christians. This time is an opportunity to remember our Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his Last Supper with the Disciplines, his Passion, his days in the grave, and ultimately his Resurrection.

More than a memorial, however, Holy Week is an opportunity for us as believers to enter into the divine mysteries. The events of two millennia ago are not simply over and done. Rather, they live on and invite us to enter into them.

As we sing "Hosanna!" on Palm Sunday, we both celebrate the Messiah's entrance into Jerusalem and begin to mourn his coming trial and crucifixion.

As we partake of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, we join with the Eleven Apostles--and all the Christians through the ages--as we partake of our Lord's Body and Blood.

As we observe Good Friday, we contemplate the cross on which he died. Some of our crosses in church are gold or silver; others are rough wood, like the one on which Jesus died. As we look on the cross in the front of church, we reflect on the utter love shown us that day. More than this, the Christian life means to be "crucified with Christ." We reckon ourselves as dead, for "it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

As we go through Saturday, we feel the awful emptiness that the Apostles, Mary, the other women, and the many other disciples must have felt.

I find that the more I enter into the days leading up to Easter, the more I fully realize the truth of Resurrection. My prayer is for all Christians this Holy Week, that we would indeed enter into the Paschal Mystery of our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.

2015 © Glenn E. Myers