Sunday, July 9, 2017

Surveying the Garden by Listening to Our Lives


In the stillness of the garden we are given space to take an honest look at our life. Here we observe our activities, relationships, attitudes, frustrations and inner longings. We pause to listen to our own life.
If setting aside time for solitude is difficult in contemporary culture, listening is even more so. It is much easier to keep busy and avoid looking too closely. Often we have an inner sense that we will not like all that we see. We do not really want to hear what our life, our bodies, our friendships, our hearts are telling us. Yet, listen we must, if we want to grow spiritually.

In order to listen to our lives, we must take the time to stand back and observe. Observation needs to be objective. I must be willing to look at reality, not what I would like reality to be. What do I see when I look at my life?
Where are the activities of my day life-giving? What situations or commitments are life-draining for me?
Where do I sense hope? In what areas do I feel stuck, disappointed or in despair?
Who are the friends in my life with whom I can share my hopes and dreams and disappointment? Do I feel safe and secure? Where are there lonely holes in my life?
What is our physical body saying to us? It might be a simple message of the need to take more time for exercise or sleep. Or, perhaps the weight we have gained is pointing to an inner ache that we are trying to medicate by eating too much comfort food. What does the pain tell us? Maybe we are pushing too hard, trying to find fulfillment—or approval from someone—by our accomplishments. Maybe the physical pain is a manifestation of inner grief that we have suppressed too long.
As we ask these questions, we sometimes discover that we are alienated from ourselves.
Here we listen to our own life, our own heart. If we are silent and attentive, we will begin to hear what is inside us—sometimes joyful cries of thanksgiving, other times loud cries of anger, still other times silent cries for help.
2017 © Glenn E. Myers

This series is Creation Proclaiming God’s Divine Nature, as Romans 1:20 declares, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

Monday, July 3, 2017

Nurturing Stillness in our Inner Garden



“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
            -Mark 1:35
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
            -Luke 5:16
Physical gardens offer us unique doorway into the secret garden of our souls—that inner sanctuary where our true relationship with God blossoms. Physical gardens offer external stillness, which in turn helps us to enter a still place within. Like any garden, however, our inner garden must be nurtured.
One way we nurture the inner garden is by cultivating stillness. Stillness seldom happens on its own. In our hyperactive world, we must give ourselves permission to pull apart from what we consider to me a more productive use of our time. We disconnect from technology of any kind. We settle our racing thoughts.
To do so, we must truly value our time alone with God and be intentional about setting such time apart in the midst of our hectic days.
Without sufficient stillness, our spiritual growth will always remain superficial. If Jesus needed regular solitude and stillness for prayer in his life and ministry, how much more do we? Only by cultivating the deep soil of stillness can our roots reach down.
2017 © Glenn E. Myers

This series is Creation Proclaiming God’s Divine Nature, as Romans 1:20 declares, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Clearing the Path to the Inner Gard



“They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD— the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.”
            -Jeremiah 31:12
Literal gardens can be a doorway into the inner garden of our soul. We discover that the greenness and growth things around us lead us down the narrow path to the hidden garden within.
That narrow path, however, can easily become overgrown with the thorns and weeds of this world’s cares. When that happens, we becomes difficult to find our way back to the inner garden of our spiritual life.
Therefore, on a regular basis we need to clear the path to that hidden garden. Cutting down some of the underbrush of life’s busyness and clutter, pulling out weeds of bad attitudes that have sprung up in our hearts, we free up our footpath to the garden. Even more, as we walk that path on a daily basis, we keep it untangled and unclogged.
As we open the door to the enclosed garden, we step into a space set aside for God. In this inner garden, we find that we are content simply to “be.” We are living to the fullest right here and right now. At least for a few moments we are in a place where time and eternity have become one!
2017 © Glenn E. Myers

This series is Creation Proclaiming God’s Divine Nature, as Romans 1:20 declares, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Garden of the Soul: Entering a Different Inner Space


“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”
            -Isaiah 58:11
The greenness, beauty and stillness of a garden help us enter a different space within. They help us access a good place mentally and spiritually—a place where we are at peace. Here there is no rush, no hurry to produce.
In each of us is an inner space where prayer resides and poetry springs forth. This inner garden is fruitful with creativity, connected-ness, prayer and inner peace.
Creativity comes forth from our inner garden. That creativity may bubble up in the form of poetry or photography. It might be a unique idea of how we can serve someone in our life. It could take the form of arranging flowers or painting.
This inner place is a space where we are relational. Often in the stress of life we become alienated from ourselves, and we need some room to reconnect with who we truly are. The solitude of the inner garden offers us just such an opportunity.
Prayer likewise grows in our inner garden. Here we reconnect with God in this inner sanctuary of the soul. “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return,” writes Thomas Kelley. It is “a holy sanctuary of adoration and of self-oblation, where we are kept in perfect peace, if our mind be stayed on Him who has found us in the inward springs of our life.”  [1]
Finally, the place of our inner garden offers us peace. Entering the garden of our soul is so essential for each of us. When we enter that mental space, that inner place, we step away from stress and worry. Our minds stop spinning with lists of things to do and decisions to make, and we find some stillness. This hidden place within is where our true self resides. This is not the self we try to project to the world or the self of achievement and activism; rather, it is where we are free to simply be.
Thus when we step into the garden mentality—away from the pressure to produce—we ironically find that this garden is bursting with produce! That produce, however, cannot be manufactured in an efficient production line—it can only be cultivated in peace.
[1] Thomas R. Kelley, A Testament of Devotion (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1941, 1992), pp. 3-4. 
2017 © Glenn E. Myers

This series is Creation Proclaiming God’s Divine Nature, as Romans 1:20 declares, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Taking Time for the Garden



“The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”
            -Isaiah 51:3
Gardens are so important in life. They welcome us to set aside the work-a-day world in which we live—even if only for a few minutes—in order to see life and creation and God’s goodness afresh.
However, we must be intentional about taking time for the gardens in our lives. The pervading busyness and multitasking of our everyday life militates against the nurturing of gardens. We are so preoccupied with all our activities and keeping up with all the media and information that are available to us that we fail to take time to “smell the roses.” That sad reality makes the gardens in our lives all the more important.
Gardens come in all shapes and sizes. From a vegetable patch in the back yard to a manicured rose garden, from a sprawling park in the city to a small collection of green plants in front of an apartment window, spaces set aside for growing things can constitute a garden. They offer us a place to retreat from buildings and bricks in order to refocus ourselves.
Strolling through a garden and smelling the flowers—or sitting for a while on a bench, noticing the shades of green and smelling bouquets of blossoms—slows us down and focuses our lives on the truly important. It sensitizes us to the reality of stillness, relationship and beauty. Such tangible gardens become the doorway into our own inner garden.
2017 © Glenn E. Myers
This series is Creation Proclaiming God’s Divine Nature, as Romans 1:20 declares, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Beauty Draws us Out and Lifts us Up


“He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart”
-Ecclesiastes 3:11
Beauty invites us to step out of ourselves. Much of each day, our thoughts are centered on issues in our lives, solving problems, worrying about the future, stressing about this and that. In our fallen nature we are all prone to cave in on ourselves. On an ongoing basis, we need to be freed from such self-focus. We all need to get out of ourselves.
God pours out the grace needed for our deliverance from self-absorption. One key way that God gives us that grace is through beauty. When we see the splendor of a brilliant sunrise on our drive to work in the morning, we are invited to step out of our anxious thoughts of the day. We are welcomed to lay aside our all-too-often obsession regarding the frustrations awaiting us on our job.
In that glimpse of God’s glory, we are shown a bigger picture of reality than our daily grind: the Lord is in control of the universe, and he has jammed it with magnificence!
To behold this scene on the way to work is to step out of my little world and all its petty problems and anxieties. To hold on to the scene throughout the day is to allow my mind to be transformed so that it gains God’s perspective on life. The Lord is in control, he has filled the earth with beauty, and the life that he has given me is pure gift!
After drawing us out of ourselves, beauty draws us upward toward God. Whenever we see beauty, it lifts our hearts. Even if temporarily, we are able to let go of all that weighs on us and pulls us down. It lifts our minds from the mundane, and helps us see a much greater reality.
The great spiritual writer of the early sixth century, Pseudo-Dionysius, describes how God uses beauty and light as natural aids in lifting us up toward him. “Hence, any thinking person realizes that the appearances of beauty are signs of an invisible loveliness,” says Dionysius. “Material lights are images of the outpouring of an immaterial gift of light.”[1]
Beauty is something transcendent, and it draws us toward transcendence. Because all beauty is a reflection of the Creator, when we see the loveliness of creation, it draws us toward God. Ultimately, beauty lifts our spirits to the One who is Uncreated Beauty!
2017 © Glenn E. Myers
This series is Creation Proclaiming God’s Divine Nature, as Romans 1:20 declares, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”


[1] Celestial Hierarchy, 121C-D, in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works, translated by Colm Luibheid, Classics of Western Spirituality (New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1987), 146.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holy Week & Triduum: Participating in Salvation History and Eternity

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
-Galatians 2:20
In Holy Week we participate in the event of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his Last Supper, his Passion and Resurrection. These are not simply past events to be remembered, nor are we simply “reenacting” episodes from Jesus’ life. Rather, they are spiritual realities—eternal realities—in which we are invited to participate.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday and then the three days (Latin: Triduum) from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday, we participate in—indeed, partake of—these central events in Salvation History. 
The Christian life is all about our participating in Christ. Even toward the end of his life, the Apostle Paul prays “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10, emphasis added). The New Testament calls us to such participate in—share in—the saving work of God.
During Holy Week we participate in Salvation History. On Palm Sunday we participate in Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with shouts of Hosanna! Perhaps these were shouts of praise, but “Hosanna” ultimately is a prayer, a cry to God for help: “Save us!” Jesus, of course, will save them and us but in a way far different—are far more painful—than they expected.
On Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday we participate in the Lord’s Supper. On Good Friday we join Mary and the Apostle John around the cross and mystically share in Jesus’ dying. Beginning with baptism all believers participate in Jesus’ suffering, for we are “baptized into his death,” states Romans 6. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Dying to our old fallen nature and rising from the waters that buried that old self, we are called to live every day only for Christ. Along with Paul each of us is invited to say, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). How clear this reality becomes as we enter into that death with our Lord again each Good Friday!
Finally on Easter, we join with all the hosts of heaven as we sing, “Christ the Lord is risen today!” As we do so, we join afresh in the Resurrection. This is not simply a commemoration of the past, nor is it simply looking toward our future resurrection. It is both, but beyond that we truly share with Christ. We participate in this the central event of Salvation History. Moreover we share in eternity as, the last of Charles Wesley declares: “Ours the cross, the grave, the skies!”
© 2017 Glenn E. Myers