Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Stillness: Listening to God's Still, Small Voice


When we slow down enough to become present to the moment, we make ourselves available to God. We become attentive to his voice. God is speaking to us—in our Scripture reading for the day, in a sermon we hear, in a friend’s word of correction. During times of solitude and silence, these words come back to our minds. God’s voice bubbles to the surface of our consciousness when we allow ourselves to become fully present.

Elijah’s Example
After Elijah’s intense ministry on Mount Carmel and dramatic victory over the prophets of Baal, he was physically and emotionally exhausted. It took him some time to rest, re-nourish and refocus before he could hear the voice of God. (See I Kings 17-19.)

Then Elijah traveled to the mountain of the Lord. There, sheltered in a cave, he went through a tempest on Mountain Horeb. The powerful wind shattered the rocks, the earth quaked, and the fire fell from heaven. But God was not in the storm—Elijah did not hear the Lord’s voice during all the dramatic events.

Finally, Elijah did hear God speak like a gentle wind, a gentle whisper. He went to the edge of the cave and heard the voice of the Lord in the still, small voice.

Noisy Storms
When our lives are filled with clanging and banging of activity and unresolved inner thoughts, we also cannot hear God’s voice. We are like Elijah in the midst of the earthquake, wind and fire—all we hear is the tempest.

“A gentle person hears God’s voice which a turbulent, angry person cannot hear,” states Johannes Tauler, “for when the wind rages and the windows and doors clatter, one cannot hear well. Do you desire to receive the Father’s hidden, heavenly word in you, which will be spoken in holy whispers to the innermost place in your soul? Then all turbulence in and around you must be eradicated, and you must become a gentle lamb—calm and serene. You must abandon all the storms in your life in order to listen for this beloved voice in gentle stillness.” [1]

Advent Stillness
Advent is a time of preparation as we move toward the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We make our hearts ready to accept more of what the Lord has for us. In reality, we make ourselves ready to receive more of the Lord himself.

In order to do so, we must make some space for quiet. We must cultivate stillness in our lives. When we do so—when we come into the “now” and become stilled inside—we make ourselves present to God. There, like Elijah, we can hear his voice in a brand new way.

[1] Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe, edited by Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), p. 93.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Be Still and Know


"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever- present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea;
though its water roar and foam,
and the mountains quake with their surging. . . .
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:1-3, 10)

Stillness in the Midst of Crisis
Sometimes it looks like the whole world is falling apart. The mountains are crashing into the sea, and the floodwaters are roaring and raging all around us.

At those times the natural tendency is to go into a panic. Our survival instinct kicks in—we are ready for “fight or flight.” We experience anything but inner focus and peace.

Yet, it is precisely in those times that we need to enter God’s “peace that passes all understanding”—in other words, a peace that blows our mind!

Stillness versus Activism
One day when I was reflecting on Psalm 46, I found myself reacting to the words, “be still,” in verse 10: How can I be still? There is so much ministry to do—there are so many people to be reached; there is so much to do for the Kingdom!

Then I read the second half of the verse. God declares: “I will be exalted among the nations!” That means I don’t have to take that responsibility on my shoulder! The Lord proclaims: “I will we exalted on the earth.”

More than ever before, I realized that day that God’s exaltation does not depend on me! He is God, and he truly will be glorified in the whole earth. No opposition from people or Satan can stop the progress of his glory! Although I may be able to participate in some small way to see him exalted, God is the one who will accomplish it!

A. W. Tozer puts it beautifully in a prayer: “Teach us, O God, that nothing is necessary to Thee. Were anything necessary to Thee that thing would be the measure of Thine imperfection: and how could we worship one who is imperfect? If nothing is necessary to Thee, then no one is necessary, and if no one, then not we. Thou dost seek us though Thou does not need us. We seek Thee because we need Thee, for in Thee we live and move and have our being. Amen.” [1]

Therefore I can be at peace. That thought brings such peach to my heart.
I can be at rest. As the NASB puts it for Ps 46:10, I can cease striving, I can let go!

Even when the mountains are crashing, God is in control. He will be exalted in all the earth. I can be still. I can simply be!

[1] A. W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: Harper, 1961), 32.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Radio Interview with Richard Foster, Bruce Demarest and Glenn Myers


This is just a quick blog to give you a link to my radio interview this morning regarding “Spiritual Intimacy of the Soul” on WBCL out of Taylor University.

They interviewed each of us for 20 minutes (by phone): Richard Foster on his book Sanctuary of the Soul, Bruce Demarest on Seasons of the Soul, and me on Seeking Spiritual Intimacy. All of these are published with InterVarsity Press.

Here is the URL to copy and paste:
http://www.wbcl.org/media-manager-month.aspx .

Or, you can click on the link on the left column of the blog.

Hope you enjoy! Glenn

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Recollection: Ushering Us into Stillness


“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NASB)

Recollection is the gentle re-gathering of our thoughts and refocusing or our attention on the Lord’s reality in our lives. This inner reorientation does not happen by chance—it is intentional.

Such recollection is not the absence of craziness going on in our lives. It will never happen if we wait for all of our problems to first be resolved.

Rather, we learn to recollect ourselves in the midst of demands, frustrations, deep disappointments, and a plethora of life’s concerns. Recollection is the riveting of our focus on the Lord, his love and his provision—precisely in the midst of our anxieties. Recollection takes our anxieties and releases them to the Lord. “Be anxious for nothing,” we are commanded.

Stillness
As we consciously recollect ourselves on a regular basis, we will more and more often experience a phenomenal inner stillness.

That is what the next verse of Philippians 4 promises, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The more we practice recollection the more we will encounter such stillness. We may not necessarily experience it all the time—and we cannot try to “work it up”—but we will experience God’s peace and stillness.

We cannot create that stillness; however, we can cultivate it. Just like the flowers in our back yard—I cannot create the blossoms, but I can cultivate the plants so that in due season they bloom. So also in my life, I can cultivate recollection and stillness. In time, that inner peace will blossom.

Inner stillness is an inner calmness. It is a place where we rest in God, “for in him is eternal stillness.” [1]

Inner stillness is like a garden in the midst of a hectic city. The summer I lived in Paris, I used to visit a number of little parks or gardens near the school where I was taking classes. Even though it was in the middle of a bustling city, there was calmness, focus, quietness—despite the din of traffic that surrounded that place.

So God offers us stillness in the midst of all our life’s challenges—if we will but enter that inner garden that he offers us.

[1] Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe, edited by Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), p. 150.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recollection: Returning to the Inner Sanctuary


How often we as believers try to live out the Christian life pretty well on our own strength. We have a few moments with the Lord in the morning—reading a bit of Scripture and praying for the events of the day. Then, in effect, we leave God behind and do the best we can to handle what life throws at us for the next twelve hours.

Recollection
If I hope to walk in the peace that Jesus promises us as his followers, however, I need to periodically return my focus to him throughout the day. I need to recollect myself, gathering my scattered attention in order to attend to God’s presence. I need to re-connect myself with the Lord and the inner peace he offers.

Even in the midst of many things demanding my attention, I can gently shift my awareness on the Lord’s love for me—only if for a moment—renewing my connection with him while fulfilling all of my responsibilities.

“A practicing Christian must above all be one who practices the perpetual return of the soul into the inner sanctuary,” asserts Thomas Kelly. “There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings.”[1]

Timeouts
To aid my focus on the Lord throughout the day, it is helpful for me to take periodic breaks. These are seldom convenient. In fact, it is in the most hectic times that I need these respites the most.

That is how a “timeout” functions in sports. When the team is hard-pressed and harried is precisely when the coach calls the timeout. Ironically, we have the sense to institute timeouts in the games we play, but most of us fail to incorporate similar timeouts into the real world of our lives!

Radical believers who have gone before us have recognized the need for such times to pull back from the demands of the day. During the Middle Ages, many who wanted to live a genuine Christian life became monks and nuns. In the convent they followed the rhythm of ora et labora (prayer and work) established by Benedict of Nursia. Amid their manual labors, they would pull apart seven times each day (and once in the middle of the night) to go into the chapel to hear God’s Word and pray. That rhythm kept them from becoming consumed by the work at hand.

You and I can do something very similar. We have our own copies of the Bible today, so we don’t need to meet in one place to hear Scripture read. Instead we can pull apart at coffee break or lunchtime to read a Scripture passage. During nice weather we can take a walk by ourselves outside to talk with the Lord. We can stay seated at our desks and close our eyes for a few moments to review a Bible verse we have memorized.

Just like a timeout in the middle of a sports game gives the team a brief rest and refocuses their attention, so several brief times of recollection throughout the day help us tremendously to renew our attentiveness to the Lord. They help to center our minds and to restore peace in our hearts.

Recollection in Practice
For myself, I have found a combination of a couple timeouts during the day, along with a continual “return of the soul into the inner sanctuary” help me to recollect my inner self. When I do so, I find myself walking in peace during the most hectic of days.

As Isaiah 26:3 (KJV) promises:
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
______
[1] Thomas R. Kelley, A Testament of Devotion (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1941, 1992), pp. 8-9.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Passionately in Love with Jesus


So many believers have gone before us who were passionately in love with Jesus. Not only the martyrs of the early church, but throughout the Middle Ages, Reformation and beyond, a great cloud of witnesses has gone before us.

Let me name a few of the highest peaks along a mammoth mountain range of faith. These are men and women who served God in their generation and passionately loved the Lord with all their hearts:
- Irenaeus
- Origen
- Augustine of Hippo
- Pseudo-Dionysius
- Gregory the Great
- Anselm of Canterbury
- Bernard of Clairvaux
- Hildegard of Bingen
- Francis of Assisi
- Thomas Aquinas
- Bonaventure
- Albert the Great
- Meister Eckhart
- Dante Alighieri
- Hadewijch
- Mechthild of Magdeburg
- Gertrude the Great
- Johannes Tauler
- Jan van Ruysbroeck
- Richard Rolle
- Catherine of Sienna
- Julian of Norwich
- Teresa of Avila
- Thomas à Kempis
- Francis de Sales
- Blaise Pascal
- Desiderius Erasmus
- Martin Luther
- Johann Arndt
-Francois Fenelon
-Madame Guyon
- Jonathan Edwards
- John Wesley
- Søren Kierkegaard
-A. B. Simpson
-A. W. Tozer

Many of these in the Middle Ages were referred to as “mystics.” They had an intimate, inner faith and experienced the Lord in a personal way. We would simply call them passionate believers!

This blog is dedicated to introduce these believers to today’s Christians. It will take some years, but I hope to run a series of articles on each of these men and women.

Several recent books helping to bring these bygone saints alive to contemporary readers that I would highly recommend are:
- Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998. ISBN: 0-06-062822-7.
- Foster, Richard and Gayle Beebe. Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005. ISBN: 978-0-8308-3514-0.
- Jones, Cheslyn, Geoffrey Wainwright and Edward Yarnold, eds. The Study of Spirituality. New York, NY: Oxford, 1986. ISBN: 019-504170-4.
- Leng, Felicity. Invincible Spirits: A Thousand Years of Women's Spiritual Writings. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.
- Myers, Glenn E. Seeking Spiritual Intimacy: Journeying Deeper with Medieval Women of Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-8308-3551-5.
- Sittser, Gerald. The Adventure: Putting Energy into your Walk with God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985. ISBN: 0-87784-335-X.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Walking with God


Throughout Scripture, life with the Lord is frequently referred to as a “walk.” As such, our spiritual journey offers many twists and turns along the way.

Although we often assume we know what is ahead, our certainty is an illusion. Many unexpected bends in the road await us. Although we make plans—and need to do so in life—we must also negotiate the many modifications to our agendas that arise. Life is an adventure.

“The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
(Proverbs 16:9 NASB)

In the midst of the uncertainty—the wilderness venture we call life—we can still move forward with confidence, however. Is it possible for us to wander off the path? Of course!

Yet God remains faithful. His love and provision are ever-present. If and when we veer off to the right or to the left, he promises to be the Teacher who comes along behind us to get us back on track. We will hear his voice gently saying, No, “this is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).

Therefore we can embrace the path that we are on—as it winds and turns in unexpected directions—knowing that our God is in control. He will hold us, and he will guide us. Above all, as we stay close to him, he will love us along the way.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, September 9, 2011

Recollection: Bringing Focus to the Whole Day


“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3 KJV)

How does my morning devotional time relate to my busy, hectic, ADHD day?

Whether we consciously articulate this question or not, it is one that so many of us have. Often we simply “recharge our batteries” during our quite time with the Lord, only to lose our focus an hour later as we become consumed by all the activity of the day. It seems like every day gets out of hand and we switch into “crisis mode,” losing any sense of focus and balance that we gained in solitude with God.

In John 16:33 Jesus tells us that as long as we are in this world, we will have tribulation. There will always be responsibilities and crises that stir anxiety inside of us. The issues is, how can we cultivate being “anxious for nothing” (Phil 4:6)? How can we bring our devotional time to bear on our daily lives of work, family, and responsibility? Here are a few thoughts.

Genuine Connection
The first thing I need to do is truly connect with the Lord at the start of the new day. Some days that happens quite spontaneously during my quiet time—I sense the Lord’s presence, and hear his voice speak to me in his Word.

Other mornings are not quite so easy, especially if I’m tired. Those days it is important to stir myself awake. Reading Psalms and singing several worship songs or hymns helps me to wake up and engage my heart with the Lord.

“Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.” (Psalm 108:2-3)

The goal is coming into God’s holy presence. “The secret places of the heart cease to be our noisy workshop,” states Thomas Kelly in his little classic, A Testament of Devotion. “They become 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. And in brief intervals of overpowering visitation we are able to carry the sanctuary frame of mind out into the world, into its turmoil and its fitfulness.”[1]

Recollection
Entering God’s presence in the morning is not enough to live a truly God-controlled, God-saturated life. Rather, we need to return periodically to that inner sanctuary throughout the day. We need to re-collect our thoughts and our heart from all the distractions and worries of the day.

This practice of refocusing our heart and mind has classically been called “recollection.” We re-collect ourselves—gathering our scattered thoughts, focusing back on the Lord, re-connecting with his love for us, reminding ourselves that he is in absolute control.

In our multitasking world, recollection is not easy. Although the theory is simple enough to grasp, the practice of daily recollection is much more difficult for most of us. Virtually everything in our contemporary culture militates against maintaining focus. Images on TV come to us at a rate of about one per second. Advertisements clamor for our attention. Email, voicemail and snail mail demand that we respond before tomorrow.

Therefore, we must be intentional if we are going to maintain any type of connection with the Lord throughout the day. “How, then, shall we lay hold of that Life and Power, and live the life of prayer without ceasing?” asks Kelley. “By quiet, persistent practice in turning of all our being, day and night, in prayer and inward worship and surrender, toward Him who calls in the deeps of our souls. Mental habits of inward orientation must be established.” [2]

Persistent Practice of Turning
Periodically throughout the day, I am learning to turn away from all the bustle and demands around me in order to turn toward that inward sanctuary. I’m finding that morning and evening are not enough. If I am to maintain my inner peace with the Lord, I need to jump off the merry-go-round regularly throughout the day to reestablish my focus on the Lord, remind my consciousness of his control and reassure my heart of his absolute love for me.
_____
[1] Thomas R. Kelley, A Testament of Devotion (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1941, 1992), p. 4.
[2] Ibid. p. 11.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gathering My Scattered Thoughts


Gathering My Scattered Thoughts

Today, O Lord, please help me to gather my scattered thoughts.
Cause me to be centered in the midst of many responsibilities and relationships.

Empower me to step back from the tyranny of the urgent and the empty pursuit of busyness.
Enable me, O God, to re-collect my distracted heart.

Throughout the day let me focus my eyes and inner attentiveness on you.
May I abide in your life-giving nearness that surrounds me in creation and enfolds me in the people with whom you have graced my life.

Please bring wholeness to the fragmentation of my life.
Restore integration to the many activities and demands on my time.

May I be present to you, O Lord,
May I sense the firmness of your abiding love for me that never leaves me or forsakes me.
May I be aware of your sustaining strength that surrounds me in all that I do.

O Lord, help me to remain recollected as I go into the movement of this day.
As I engage with people and tasks, let a deeper level of my being remain ever attentive to you.

Amen.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Augustine Explores the "Double Knowledge"


“Lord, let me know myself; let me know you.”
-Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

In his Confessions Augustine not only tells about the events of his life but he also explores his hidden motives and secret thoughts. His honesty and insight are remarkable! Nothing of its kind had been written before in all of literature, exposing the negatives of one’s inner life and then the transformation process after coming into relationship with the Triune God. In fact, nothing written ever since has matched Augustine’s openness and profundity.

Double Knowledge
Augustine prays, “Lord, let me know myself; let me know you.” This is referred to as the “double knowledge”—knowing the Lord and knowing ourselves. All of Christian growth is based on this double knowledge. John Calvin picks up on this theme in his Institutes and emphasizes it throughout his teaching.

Augustine realizes that he needed to know honestly—not in the superficial way of knowing ourselves that we speak of today that focuses on our abilities and ambitions. Rather, this church father realizes that he needs to understand himself honestly—with all his disordered desires, addictions and driven-ness.

In this brief prayer, Augustine implies: Lord, let me know myself in order that I might know you. The more we really face ourselves—our dark side, our selfishness, our twisted cravings—the more we come to know how much we need a deliverer. We not only need to “get saved” but we need redemption in the here and now. We desperately need to be transformed from the inside out, changing all of those distorted desires into pure, clean ones.

Self-Knowledge
Likewise, the more we come to know the Lord on a personal basis, the more we come to know ourselves. The closer we get to him, the more light shines on us. In the light of God’s truth we see on the one hand that there is more darkness and hidden sin inside us than we had ever imagined possible. Thus knowledge of us leads to knowledge of him leads back to knowledge of us.

On the other hand, we come to know just how valuable and precious we are in God’s sight! Despite all our darkness, God loves us with an everlasting love! If you and I truly understand the depths of our depravity, the thought of his loving us will blow our minds!

Moreover, we are created in his image. As the Triune God exists in three Persons, so we reflect that “threeness.” In particular, Augustine highlights the three main functions of the human soul: memory, understanding and desire. By “memory” he means not only our ability to remember but our consciousness, our personal history and even our personality. “Understanding” refers to our ability to think and reason. “Desire/will/love” is the driving force of our lives. What we desire—what we love and will to have—determines the direction of each day. How fearfully and wonderfully we are made!

Us Today
If you have never read the Confessions, you are missing one of the greatest writings in all of Christian literature. It is really worth your while! Although someone can describe it to you, that is not the same as seeing it for yourself. Reading the Confessions is a great way to grow in the double knowledge—getting to honestly know yourself and God. The process of such self-knowledge is more “caught” than “taught.”

No matter where each of us is in our knowledge of self and God, there is more to learn. God is unsearchable—we will get to know more and more of him throughout eternity and never scratch the surface! Created in God’s image, we also possess and unfathomable depth. There is more to learn of our need for redemption and more to learn of our value and preciousness in his sight.

“Lord, let me know myself; let me know you.” This is our prayer as we press on to grow in the Lord!

Further Reading
There are a great many translations of the Confessions available. Some of the free versions online are in older English and rather difficult for most modern readers to follow. One newer version that I would suggest is Saint Augustine, Confessions. Translated by Henry Chadwick. World Classics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

2011 © Glenn E. Myers

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dictionary of Christian Spirituality by Zondervan


Zondervan's Dictionary of Christian Spirituality just came out, and it is a great resource to have! I'm also excited about it because I was asked to write an article on the Beguines for this volume plus 12 other articles.

Over the past couple of years various people have asked me on email or Facebook what "Christian Spirituality" or "Spiritual Formation" is all about. Now we have an excellent reference book by an evangelical publishing house with articles by evangelicals on the subject.

Part 1 of the dictionary has 34 essays such as "Overview of Christian Spirituality" by Glen Scorgie, "Spiritual Theology" by Simon Chan, and "The Future of Christian Spirituality" by James Houston. Part 2 consists of the Dictionary entries.

This volume gives a great overview of what Christian spirituality is as well as its biblical roots and its historic development over the past 20 centuries.

To order it on Amazon, click on the link on the left column of Deep Wells.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Augustine’s Confessions Invite Us on a Spiritual Journey

Life is a journey. In particular, spiritual growth is an ever-moving, ever-challenging adventure. Just as men and women of Scripture are said to have “walked with God,” our pilgrimage is one of wandering with the Lord through the thick and thin of life, all the while getting to know him in a deeper and more real way.

Many great works of Christian literature have focused on the theme of journey. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the best known. But the book that set the pattern for Bunyan and all others is Confessions by Augustine of Hippo (354-430).

Augustine’s Conversion

In his Confessions, Augustine described his own spiritual journey. Raised in north Africa, his mother, Monica, was a Christian, and his father, Patricius, was a Pagan. Augustine offered tremendous insight into his own thoughts, attitudes and motivations. He detailed the pleasure he felt in stealing some pears with friends as a youth. It wasn’t the pears that he enjoyed—it was the thrill of taking something that was not his own.

When Augustine went off to school, he began to pursue lustful desires. Ultimately he lived for thirteen years with a woman, whom he never named, and they had a son together.

As well as pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle, Augustine dabbled in several philosophies of the time. First he experimented with Manichaean religion that saw the universe as an ongoing battle between good and evil forces. Then he pursued Neo-Platonic thought. Although incomplete in itself, Neo-Platonism proved to be the bridge that would help lead him to Christ.

Augustine’s teaching career eventually took him to Rome and then Milan. Because he taught rhetoric (public speaking or communication), Augustine began to attend the cathedral in order to listen to the great preacher, Ambrose. Bit by bit the gospel message began to reach him.

One day Augustine was in his back yard, wrestling with life, with his constant compromise with lust and his sensual lifestyle. The Lord supernaturally broke into his world. As Augustine was sitting under a tree he heard a child’s voice repeated singing, “Take up and read, take up and read.” When he looked over the fence, however, no one was there. Then Augustine looked down at the Bible he had next to him. He picked it up and read the spot where the Bible fell open: “Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Rom 13:13-14, NASB). Augustine was convicted to the core. This led to his repentance and conversion, being baptized on Easter day by Bishop Ambrose.

Continued Venture
Augustine’s venture did not end with his conversion. This is only about half way through Confessions. His pilgrimage carried on as he grew in his relationship with the Lord.

Another profound encounter he had with the Lord took place at the Italian port city of Ostia. Monica had been with him for some years in Italy, and she aging. One day Augustine and his mother were looking out over the garden and talking about heaven. As they did so, both were caught up into a glimpse of heaven. Soon after, Monica died.

Throughout the remainder of Confessions, Augustine continues to tell his journey as he grew into an ever-deeper knowledge of God.

Our Spiritual Pilgrimage
Augustine presents the believer as the homo viator—the person on a journey. Let us not settle for where we are with the Lord at the moment. Rather, let us continually push forward, as Paul states in Phil 3:12-14,

“Not that I have already . . . been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. . . . But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

2011 © Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Meet the Mystics: Augustine Calls Us to Desire


“Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
-Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

Augustine
Augustine of Hippo (354-430) is a figure who looms larger than life in the history of the church. Many know him as a great theologian who emphasized God’s grace, taught on the Trinity, and refuted Pelagianism. He helped to lay the foundation for the whole Western church, both Protestant and Catholic.

But Augustine was also a mystic—one who had a truly personal relationship with God. Although Augustine lived a worldly life for many years, the Lord supernaturally crashed into his life at one point leading him to a verse in Scripture that led to his conversion. From then on, Augustine cultivated an intimate walk with the Lord. Augustine and his mother, Monica, also had a phenomenal encounter before she passed away in which they were both experienced a taste of heavenly glory.

Desire
In his writings Augustine has much to say on spiritual growth. One of his key themes is that “desire.” Desire (longing, craving) is the starting point—it is what draws us to the Lord gets us out the front door to go on a journey with God.

Created in God’s image we are born to desire. That capacity to desire is good. Desire is meant to be directed toward loving others—both God and other people. However, because of the fall our desire became twisted inward (concupiscence, lust) and we focus on ourselves and our pleasures.

In his autobiography, Confessions, Augustine describes the many earthly pleasures he pursued before coming to Christ. Our hearts run after many false pleasures and empty pursuits that will never satisfy us.

Augustine sees desire as the driving force of our lives. Salvation is not a matter of killing all desire in our lives, as it is sometimes preached. Rather, repentance means redirecting our desire.

Only in a genuine relationship with God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—will our restlessness be stilled. Spiritual growth, therefore, is all about stirring up our desire for the Lord, directing our steps toward him and continually cultivating our personal relationship with him.

Life-Long Pursuit
When many contemporary Christians read Augustine’s statement, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee,” their thought is “been there, done that.”

This is the wrong response. Far too many people today can describe when they “prayed the sinner’s prayer” but they have grown little since then. Although they claim to be saved, they have little interest in the Lord. Rather, their desire is directed toward material possessions, physical pleasure, success, and even recognition in ministry. It has been years since they genuinely pursued the Lord.

What we desire—what we pursue—tells the truth about us. If we pursue carnal comforts, then our lives are carnal. The spiritual path we are on is headed in the opposite direction from the Lord. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21).

Desire is all about where our treasure is. It is the foundation of our spiritual growth. Desire is good so long as we turn from all the self-directed gratifications that seem so innocent.

Instead of ignoring the restlessness in our hearts or being led astray into self-absorption, let us direct our desires toward others and, above all, toward God.

2011 © Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Meet the Medieval Mystics

Who were the medieval mystics? What did they believe? What could we possibly learn from them in our day?

“Dark Ages” Full of Light
The Middle Ages (medieval era) lasted roughly from 400 – 1400 AD. Since the enlightenment, this time period has often been referred to as the “dark ages.” This is a misnomer. While the years from 850 - 1050 AD were dark times of chaos and limited education and culture, most of the rest of the Middle Ages was a time of learning. Especially from 1100 onward, this was a time of great light spiritually.

By the thousands people came into a personal relationship with Christ and pursued him with their whole heart. Many of these Christians are referred to the “medieval mystics.” That title seems odd to us today. “Mystic” has a negative connotation in our day, referring to something strange or something related to TM, Buddhism, New Age or the occult.

In the Middle Ages, however, the mystics were simply Christians who cultivated an intimate relationship with Jesus, committed themselves to spiritual growth, and believed prayer was a genuine conversation with the Lord.

Cultivating a Personal Relationship With Christ
Studying the mystics and reading their writing has become my life’s work. Again and again I am amazed how similar their faith is to ours today! As I have studied many of them, I’ve seen seven characteristics of most medieval mystics:

•They pursued a personal relationship with God—recognizing that simply being part of a church was not enough.
•They sought to follow Jesus in daily obedience and discipleship—even when that path led to suffering.
•They nurtured a dynamic prayer life, setting aside the busyness of the day to spend time with their savior.
•They cultivated intimacy with the Lord—experiencing his love for them and pouring out their love in return.
•Often they encountered God’s presence in prayer, Scripture reading and celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
•They recognized that the Christian life is one of growth in sanctification—overcoming sin, learning God’s word, serving others and continuing to surrender our will to God’s.
•They longed to experience as much oneness with the Lord as is possible here on earth.

When we understand who they were, we realize how closely related we are to the medieval mystics!

Some of them have left writings behind, so we know a bit about their lives and their experience in the Christian life. Over the coming weeks I want to introduce you to some of these key men and women, as well as their profound insights on spiritual growth. I hope you enjoy these blogs as well as take away some practical wisdom for your own walk with Christ.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Detaching from our Anxious Approach to Word


How often we approach our daily work with anxiety and stress. We blame our lack of time with God on our busy schedule, and we accuse our responsibilities for hindering our spiritual maturity.

However, “it is not your work that hinders you” from spiritual growth, asserts Johannes Tauler, “but rather the disordered way in which you work that hinders you. You fail to keep God clearly in your love, in your longing and in your heart. Thus you are scattered and distorted within, and God is not completely intrinsic to you. Truly, what hinders you is not your work or anything other than yourself." [1]

We assume that it all depends on us, and that we need to work harder and longer to get everything done. However, Scripture tells that the fruitfulness of our labor depends on the Lord and that he gives us peace and rest:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late,
toiling for the food you eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Ps 127:1-2)

Let us cast our cares on the Lord all day long as we approach our work and responsibilities, and let us truly enter God’s rest!

1. Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe, edited by Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), sermon 17, p. 122. The translation is my own.
© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, May 20, 2011

Clinging: What We Must Let Go (and reflections by Johannes Tauler)

We cling to all kinds of things! We cling to material possessions and a multiplicity of comforts and pleasures in life. Some of us cling to other people. Others grasp for success in their career, along with power, promotion and prestige. Still others obsess over their looks and workout endless to improve their body image.

Of course we hate to admit that we are actually clinging. As Christians we know we shouldn’t cling. So, we deny that we have a problem (“I am simply trying to be a good steward of my body,” we assert). Or we excuse it as not being important (“A little innocent indulgence never hurt anyone,” we tell ourselves.) Sometimes we compare ourselves with others who have much bigger issues than ours, and that makes us feel good about ourselves!

The problem is that when we are clinging—even to harmless things—we cannot be clinging to Jesus. If my hands are clutching possessions, they cannot be holding on to the Lord. If my mind is filled with anxious thoughts about climbing the ladder, it is not focused on God’s faithfulness that provides for me.

Detachment
Clinging can also be compared to eating junk food. If I nibble on junk food all afternoon, amazingly I won’t be hungry for healthy food at dinner time. Likewise, if I am filling my thoughts and my heart with material possessions or people or success, I curb my inner longing for God. Like junk food, these things do not give me lasting satisfaction—they are not what I am truly hungry for. However, like junk food, they numb my true appetite for the Lord so that I do not hungrily seek the Lord in prayer, Scripture, worship and fellowship!

“Do not love the world or anything in the world,” states 1 John 2:15-16. “If anyone love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

If we want to grow spiritually, we need to stop the intake of junk food. We must cease clinging to all our little comforts, bad habits and things that keep us engrossed in worldly pleasures. We have to detach.

“We must arise from everything that is not God—from self and all created things,” says Johannes Tauler. “Such rising sets off deep within us a fierce longing to be stripped free and liberated from everything that separates us from God. The more we lay aside all these things, the more such longing grows within us!” [1]

Who is On the Throne?
Ultimately the question is: Who is on the throne in my heart? When I’m clinging to something, I give it center place in my heart. When I place anything on the throne, the Lord moves off the throne. He will not share his throne with any idol!

Serious believers who move forward in God are “noble people who truly arise and thereby shine forth (Isa 61:1). They allow God to prepare their inner depths,” continues Tauler, “and abandon themselves completely to God. They empty themselves of ‘self’ in all things and do not cling to anything.” [2]

Spiritual growth is so much more than “praying the prayer” or “getting saved.” It is more than knowing our Bible—the Pharisees were experts at that! Rather, spiritual formation is about detaching from all the false loves in the world in order for that “fierce longing” for the Lord to arise in us—and out of that longing for us to pursue Jesus with all our strength!

1. Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe, edited by Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), sermon 3, pp. 35-36. The translation is my own.
2. Ibid., p. 37.
© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God uses Suffering to Shape our Lives: Reflections by Johannes Tauler

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sister, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:2-4 (TNIV)

Every day has its trials—big ones, little ones, petty and irritating ones! And every day I need to remind myself to embrace the circumstances that come my way. Indeed, I must remember to consider these things as pure joy!

The preacher who has affected my life more than any other has much to say on this topic. His name is Johannes Tauler, and he lived 700 years ago. In one of his powerful sermons he states:

“Oh, whoever indeed lovingly embraces in the depths of their hearts the bitter circumstances that God gives them, what glorious life blossoms in such people! What joy, what peace, what a noble thing that would be! Yes, the smallest as well as the greatest suffering that God ever sends you, he gives you out of the depths of his inexpressibly great love, as the highest and best gift that he even could, or ever has given you. If only you embrace it, it would be so helpful to you!”

“Yes, all suffering—the smallest hair that falls from your head and you don’t even notice, about which our Lord said that not even a hair will go unnumbered—all suffering that comes upon you, as small as it may be, God has seen from eternity and loved it and had it in mind in order to send it to you.”

Tauler continues, “So it is with the loss of joy or possession or honor or comfort or whatever God sends you—such losses form you and serve to guide you to true peace, if only you can embrace them. . . . All the suffering that God gives us to taste is justified, for through suffering he will lead us to great things. Thus he has set everything as hardship for us. Had he wanted, he easily could have made loaves of bread grow in the field like grain.

Nothing that happens to us is by accident. In God’s sovereign knowledge and absolute love, he allows everything that comes our way—and has a plan how he will use it! Tauler concludes:

“Just as the artist foresees in his mind how he will make each stroke of the brush on the canvas—how short or long or wide,—and there is no other way if the painting is to become a masterpiece—where he should use red or blue—so God does the same, and a thousand times more, in our lives with through much suffering and many strokes of color. He does so in order to achieve in us the masterpiece that pleases him the most, so long as we truly embrace these gifts—these bitter circumstances—from him.”[1]

God specifically chooses the circumstances that I need in my life to transform me. Just like an artist skillfully selects each dab of paint to make a masterpiece, God is making a masterpiece out of your life and mine. When I truly see this, I can indeed count it all joy when circumstances go awry, knowing that God is going to use it to make me mature and complete—his work of art!

1. Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe, edited by Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), sermon 3, pp. 30-31. The translation is my own.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Beguine Classics: Mechthild of Magdeburg

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
-Psalm 63:1 (NKJV)

Aching for More of the Lord
Have you ever longed for the Lord so much that you literally ache for his presence, his touch, his love? In Psalm 63 David describes such an inner craving that even his body yearned for the Lord.

This same longing is articulated by one of the godly women known as the Beguines. Mechthild joined a Beguine community in Magdeburg, Germany, in the thirteenth century and spent many years there. Mechthild was passionately in love with the Lord from the time she was twelve years old, and she pursued the Lord continually:

“O Lord, if it could ever happen to me that I might gaze upon you as my heart desires and hold you in my arms, then the divine pleasures of your love would needs permeate my soul to the degree possible for people on earth. What I would be willing to suffer thereafter has never been seen by human eyes. Indeed, a thousand deaths were too little. Such, Lord, is my painful longing for you!” (p. 134)

During the latter half of her life she wrote her work, Flowing Light of the Godhead, describing her walk with the Lord and inviting other thirsty souls to pursue God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. Mechthild writes:

“I delight in loving him who loves me, and I long to love him to the death, boundlessly, and without ceasing. Be happy, my soul, for your Life has died for love of you. Love him so fiercely that you could die for him. Thus you burn ever more without ever being extinguished as a living flame in the vast fire of high majesty.” (p. 53)

God’s Flowing Love
As much as Mechthild enjoys the Lord’s presence, however, spiritual experience per se is not the theme of her book. Rather, she focuses on God’s overflowing love that continually pours out toward us.

The Christian life always begins with God. Our story begins with God’s initiative to love us and reveal himself to us. When we receive Christ, it is simply in response to his love for us since before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)! When we pray, we are simply articulating desires that he has placed on our hearts. God is always prior. God is always self-giving and self-revealing. God is love!

God’s unceasing river of love is what Mechthild’s book is all about:

"O you pouring God in your gift!
O you flowing God in your love!
O you burning God in your desire!
O you melting God in the union with your beloved!
O you resting God on my breasts!
Without you I cannot exist.” (p. 48)

In light of God’s overflowing presence that is available to us, Mechthild invites us as her readers to continually soak in that love and pour it out to others. Let her prayer be the prayer in each of our hearts:

“Jesus, dearest Lover of mine, let me approach you . . . with deep love for you in my heart, and never let me grow cold, so that I constantly feel your intense love in my heart and in my soul and in my five senses and in all my members. Then I can never grow cold.” (p. 309)

Mechthild’s Classic
If your heart resonates with such passionate longing for the Lord, you will want to read Mechthild’s Flowing Light. A complete edition in English is available in the Classics of Western Spirituality. All the above quotes are from this volume.

•Mechthild of Magdeburg. The Flowing Light of the Godhead. Translated by Frank Tobin. The Classics of Western Spirituality. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1998.

My book that was just released in IVP’s Formatio Series provides an introduction to Mechthild and the key spiritual formation themes that she explores.

•Myers, Glenn. Seeking Spiritual Intimacy: Journeying Deeper with Medieval Women of Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-8308-3551-5.

Mechthild’s writings can be found in several other collections, including the following:

•Bowie, Fiona, ed. Beguine Spirituality: Mystical Writings of Mechthild of Magdeburg, Beatrice of Nazareth, and Hadewijch of Brabant. Spiritual Classics. New York: Crossroad, 1990. ISBN: 0-8245-0993-5.
•Murk-Jansen, Saskia. Brides in the Desert: The Spirituality of the Beguines. Traditions of Spirituality Series. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004. ISBN: 1-57075-201-X.

2010 © Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Beguine Classics: Hadewijch of Brabant

What does it mean to be in love with Christ? In concrete ways, how do we pursue him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength?

The women known as Beguines help us to flesh out the answer in our everyday life. One of their original writings that we have today is by the 13th century Belgian woman named Hadewijch. Pulsating with a palpable love for Jesus, Hadewijch’s writings draw us as readers into a fresh appreciation of—and fresh encounter with—the Lord.

Passionate Love for God
First and foremost, Hadewijch invites her readers into an intimate love relationship with God who is Love.

“O beloved, why has not Love sufficiently overwhelmed you and engulfed you in her abyss? Alas! when Love is so sweet, why do you not fall deep into her? And why do you not touch God deeply enough in the abyss of his Nature, which is so unfathomable? Sweet love, give yourself for Love’s sake fully to God in love.” (Hadewijch, 56)

This thirteenth-century Beguine from Belgium was passionately in love with God! From the time she was ten years old, she had experienced God’s remarkable touch in her life. As the leader of a Beguine community, and as a writer, she called believers to leave behind half-hearted Christianity in order to plunge into a fully engaged, fervent love relationship with the Lord.

“You should always look fixedly on your Beloved whom you desire. For he who gazes on what he desires becomes ardently enkindled, so that his heart within him begins to beat slowly because of the sweet burden of love. And through perseverance in this holy life of contemplation, wherein he continually gazes on God, he is drawn within God. Love ever makes him taste her so sweetly that he forgets everything on earth.” (Hadewijch, 88)

The sweetness of such an ardent love of the Lord will woo us away from all the false loves of the world—all the distractions and addictions that clamor for our attention. These hold no interest for us if we truly taste the overpowering presence of Jesus!

When the Feelings Fade
Second, Hadewijch prepares her readers for the time when these passionate feelings and intimate encounters with the Lord fade. The emotions of falling in love do not last forever. Initial experiences of “spiritual sweetness” give way to a more mature love.

That is okay. While we are certainly to enjoy emotional connection with the Lord when we experience it, we dare not cling to it. Feelings come and go, and we cannot gauge our spiritual growth on them. Rather, the fruit by which we are known is our growth in Christ-like character.

“Virtues and not sweetness are the proof of love, for it sometimes happens that he who loves less feels more sweetness. Love is not in each person according to what he feels, but according as he is grounded in virtue and rooted in charity (Eph. 3:17). Desire for God is sometimes sweet; nevertheless it is not wholly divine, for it wills up from the experience of the senses rather than from grace.” (Hadewijch, 66-67)


Those who try to cling to feelings and experiences are often led astray. Indeed, we find out that they were more interested in having a “spiritual high” than they were in loving God.

“For we discover in these souls that as long as sweetness endures in them, they are gentle and fruitful. But when the sweetness vanishes, their love goes too; and thus the depths of their being remain hard and unfruitful. . . . These are fainthearted folk; they are easily elated when all is sweet and distressed when anything is bitter. A small heavenly favor makes their heart exceedingly joyful, and a small sorrow exceedingly afflicts it.” (Hadewijch, 67)

Although it is hard to let go of those initial feelings of being in love, we must do so in order to move on a mature love of Christ. Hadewijch is a wise guide in this process.

Invitation to Read the Classics
Hadewijch’s writings consist primarily of poetry with some letters she wrote to younger women she mentored, as well as fourteen visions that she recorded. If you appreciate poetry and profound figurative language, you will really enjoy this Beguine’s works.

A full collection of Hadewijch’s writings in English is available in the Classics of Western Spirituality. All the above quotes are from this volume.

•Hadewijch. Hadewijch: The Complete Works. Translated by Mother Columba Hart. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980. ISBN: 0-8091-2297-9.

My book that was just released in IVP’s Formatio Series provides an introduction to Hadewijch and the key spiritual formation themes that she explores.

•Myers, Glenn. Seeking Spiritual Intimacy: Journeying Deeper with Medieval Women of Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-8308-3551-5.

Hadewijch’s writings can be found in several other collections, including the following:

•Bowie, Fiona, ed. Beguine Spirituality: Mystical Writings of Mechthild of Magdeburg, Beatrice of Nazareth, and Hadewijch of Brabant. In Spiritual Classics. New York: Crossroad, 1990. ISBN: 0-8245-0993-5.

•Dreyer, Elizabeth A. Passionate Spirituality: Hildegard of Bingen and Hadewijch of Brabant. New York: Paulist Press, 2005. ISBN: 0-8091-4304-6.

•Murk-Jansen, Saskia. Brides in the Desert: The Spirituality of the Beguines. The Traditions of Spirituality Series. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004. ISBN: 1-57075-201-X.

Especially if the feelings of spiritual sweetness have faded in your life and you wonder why the Lord is ignoring you, I highly suggest Hadewijch’s writing. She offers some of the deepest insights, and she expresses herself with profound thought and heartfelt passion.

2010 © Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Seeking Spiritual Intimacy



Just a quick note this week to say that my book is out and is available on Amazon!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lent: Being Attentive to Others

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use, it will be measure to you.” (Luke 6:38)

One of the greatest gifts of love we can give anyone is our attentiveness. When we offer others our compete focus, we show them how much we value them. Instead of being preoccupied with our own workload, our financial pressures and our struggles, we show them genuine care by assigning them our undistracted time and undivided attention.

The reverse is also true. When others are attentive to us—wanting to know how we are doing inside and listening without thinking of something they want to say—we know we are loved.

Yet, how often we forget to focus on others! Most days we go through life inattentive to people around us. Dwelling on the things that weigh us down, we obsess about ourselves and give only casual notice to those we see. “How are you doing?” is a greeting rather than a question, and our interest remains fixed on our problems. In our self-obsession we fail to love others and we run the risk of caving in on ourselves.

Lent has always been a season for fasting. Perhaps this Lent you and I can fast from our self-focus in order to be truly attentive to others. We can step away from our continual self-obsession and silence our self-worry long enough to listen to people, especially those we care about the most.

Jesus calls us to pour ourselves out. “Give, and it will be given to you,” he commands. Whatever amount of love and attention we show others is precisely the measure that will come back to us. Of course we dare not give simply in order to get—that is called manipulation. Rather, we give freely, and—for a few moments of listening to someone else--we forget about ourselves. In due time, we will discover others giving us the time, attention and interest that shows us how loved we are.

Lord Jesus, set me free from the quicksand of self. Just as you care for me and attend my every thought and need, help me to get out of myself in order to care for others. Show me how I can be attentive to those around me and love them as never before. Amen.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lent: a Time to Listen

“After the fire, [there was] a still small voice. And it was so when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and behold, there came a voice unto him, and said . . . .” -1 Kings 19:12-13 (KJV)

Our God is a speaking God, and he would speak to us if we would but listen. “God is forever seeking to speak Himself out to His creation,” asserts A. W. Tozer in his Pursuit of God. “The whole Bible supports this idea. God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is speaking.”

Listen – Silent

In order for us to hear his voice, however, we must still our racing thoughts, slow down our frenetic activity and set aside intentional time to listen to him. There in the quietness he will restore us and speak to us. The words “listen” and “silent” have the same six letters in them. In order to listen, we must silence all of the other noises in our minds. Likewise, if we want to hear the Lord’s voice, we must be still.

Johannes Tauler, the preacher who greatly influenced Martin Luther, calls us to inner stillness: “In this midnight silence, in which all things remain in deepest stillness and where perfect peace reigns, there we will hear God’s word in truth. For if God is to speak, we must be silent; if God is to enter in, all other things must make room for him.” [1]

As long as we are preoccupied, we will not hear the Lord’s words of love, comfort and direction for our lives. However, if we stop to listen, he will surely speak.

During Lent, let us attend to God’s voice with all our focus. Let us dedicate these days to establishing a habit of silence and listening to our Lord.

Gracious God, thank you that you are not silent! You spoke the Word in all eternity, you pour out your loving thoughts to us continually, and you desire to speak to us today. Here I am: I am listening to what you would say to me today. Amen.

_____
1. Johannes Tauler, Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe. Edited by Georg Hofmann. Freiburg: Herder, 1961.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent: A Time to Draw Close to God

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus . . . let us draw near to God with a sincere heart.” –Hebrews10:19-22 (TNIV)

God invites us into his presence. As Christians we are often like the believers in the book of Hebrews—we have the way open to the Father, but we fail to come to him.

Lent is a season set aside to draw nearer to God. It is an appointed time to pursue afresh the deeper life. For nearly 2000 years, Christians have dedicated the days leading up to Easter to draw close to the Lord. This is a time to refresh our relationship with him and to refocus our hearts, minds and lives upon God the Father.

In order to refocus our lives, we must intentionally set aside everything else and draw apart with God. In his book, Making All Things New, Henri Nouwen observes, “Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and him alone. . . . If we really believe not only that God exists but also that he is actively present in our lives—healing, teaching, and guiding—we need to set aside a time and space to give him our undivided attention.”

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. What is something special you can do over the coming weeks to give the Lord your undivided attention? Where is the best place for you to have intimate time with him—a place where you know you will not be uninterrupted? How can you focus all your attention on him?

This Lenten season let us come—individually and corporately—to God’s loving, healing, transforming presence.

Heavenly Father, thank you that you welcome me into your presence. I want to draw closer to you over these coming weeks. Please show me what areas of my life need to change and what ways I can set aside special time for seeking you. You have invited me to come - and my response is "yes, I come to you!"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Embracing Struggle: A Morning Prayer


Photograph by Drew Collins

Much of our spiritual growth in life comes from struggle. If we are willing to embrace the challenges and trials that God allows in our lives, he will use them to train us, strengthen us and transform us.

Following up on my last blog, here is a prayer that I’ve been praying most mornings for the past few months. It has been very helpful for me to get the right mindset for the day. It prepares me for the struggle—or whole colorful array of unexpected struggles—that will come my way!

Embracing Struggles Today
Today, Father, I embrace the struggles set before me, just as if I were wilderness camping.
By your grace, I will count it all joy as I face a whole bouquet of trials today.

I will face struggles at work head on and grow through them.
With responsibilities at home, I will be proactive.
I renounce being passive.

In my interaction at work and home, I welcome relational challenges instead of avoiding them.
In all of these I will please you, O Lord.

Rather than seeing these challenges as unnecessary inconveniences or debilitating hassles, I will embrace them as opportunities to grow.
Let me view them from your perspective, O Lord—divinely appointed occasions for you to work in my life! Amen.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Embracing Struggle: Wilderness Camping and Spiritual Formation


Photograph by Drew Collins

The wilderness! I love exploring the wilds, hiking in new mountain ranges and camping under the stars. Many summers I venture onto the pristine lakes of the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. Here the brave of heart encounter the tall timber, crystal clear waters, and endless woods filled with martins, moose, beaver, wolves and the like.

Away from buildings and fences and everything built with right angles, the wilderness brims with life and adventure. That adventure entails challenge and danger—if you don’t pay attention, you can easily wash over a waterfalls onto the rocks beneath. The wilderness is very unforgiving! Venturing into it calls for alertness, some hard work and daily struggle.

Some campers are ready for struggle; others are not. Each summer I have taken different men—ranging from 15 to 50 years of age—with me into the wilderness. What is fascinating is that some guys “get it”—wilderness camping is a lot of work, and each day faces new struggle. Others don’t—they presume this is going to be a trip for relaxing. Somehow they assume that camp sets itself up, meals cook themselves, and forest rangers carry our canoes on the long portages. When the reality of the wilderness hits them, they are shocked! They do not want to embrace the struggle, and they usually do not enjoy the adventure at all.

Struggle is central to wilderness camping. In order to see the glories of the wilderness, it takes a lot of effort. The privilege of waking up to the call of loons on a misty lake comes at a price. Life in the wilds is hard work and it challenges us with continual struggle.

Whole Bouquet of Struggles
Struggle is likewise a standard dynamic of the Christian life. Trials, tribulations and struggles of many kinds find their way to our door each day. The book of 1 Peter—which is all about trials and suffering—calls us to have joy in the midst of our struggles. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6).

The Greek word for “all kinds” or “various” trials means “various colors.” In effect, the Lord is telling us that we will have an assortment of trials in many colors—a whole bouquet of struggles in this life! That may entail persecution, but it also includes physical pain, frustrations, suffering and struggles of all kinds.

Contemporary Western Christians don’t like to hear this message of struggle. Our culture idolizes “comfort,” and we see the easy life as one of our inalienable rights. Therefore, we assume something is wrong when we go through difficulties.

Peter addresses this assumption as well. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13). There should be nothing surprising about facing daily trails and struggles—that is part of life on this earth as we follow Christ.


The Path to Transformation

Struggle is a necessary path in our pilgrimage. Just like with wilderness camping, struggle is a fundamental dynamic of spiritual formation.

James also highlights the role of trials in our life. Just as Peter, James uses the same word for “many kinds” of trials, referring to that whole array—that whole bouquet—of difficulties that God uses in our lives. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). If we embrace the trails that God allows in our lives, we will develop perseverance and be perfected in character.

When I am camping, I enjoy even the tough times because I know that facing the challenges affords me the opportunity to experience the unspoiled beauty of the wilderness. So, in my Christian walk I am learning to “count it all joy” when trials and problems present themselves on a regular basis. Embracing struggle is the Lord’s chosen path to the unblemished, mature spiritual formation that he is hammering out in my life!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Detachment: Emptied in Order to be Filled


Detachment is the doorway into the deeper life. The reason we detach from created things is to that we are free us to love God with our whole being.

It should be noted that detachment is not an end in itself. The goal is not asceticism. Rather, we let go of created things to make ourselves empty inside so that the Creator has room to come in and fill us as never before.

Receptive
God desires that we have “a free, receptive and uplifted spirit, not enchained by anything—neither by what we desire or what we love—a spirit that is ready to let go of everything except what God desires it to have,” notes Johannes Tauler. “Then, were we to own a whole kingdom, we would still remain genuinely poor in spirit with nothing hindering us from receiving God—so long as no temporal thing is the source of our peace and satisfaction. Rather we continually stretch out our hands of desire solely toward the merciful generosity of the pure Good, which is God himself. That alone can bring contentment in our will and our inner depths.” [1]

But if we are willing to empty ourselves, God will certainly fill us! “Empty yourself, so that you can be filled,” exhorts Tauler. “If we are in the state where our depths have been prepared, then, without doubt, God must fill them completely else the heavens would burst and fill the void. Much less does God allow it to remain empty—that would be contrary to his essence and his righteousness.” [2]

Thirsty
Today I am more thirsty for Jesus than I have ever been in my life. Having walked with the Lord for over forty years, I find myself craving him more than I did when I first entered a personal relationship with him.

I am so thirsty that it is painful! But that pain is a good thing—it is precisely such pain that stirs me out of complacency and energizes me to clean house! In reality, it is the Holy Spirit who does the housecleaning. At this point, I am glad to allow the Spirit to turn everything upside down in the process. Let him throw things out at will. Let me be emptied out as never before so I can be filled and might experience “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that [I] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

Will you join me? Will you allow God to detach you and empty you that he might fill you in ways that you never imaged?
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1 Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe,ed. Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), sermon 5, p. 56. The translation is my own.

2 Ibid., p. 17.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Detachment means Cleaning House . . . . . Insights from Johannes Tauler

If we want to enter into the deeper life—the abundant life—that Jesus promised us, we need to detach from anything and everything that would hold us back.

Cleaning House
Why is detachment such an essential spiritual discipline for those who desire to experience the deeper Christian life? The spiritual rhythm of detachment is like cleaning house.

When we first give ourselves to the Lord and invite him into our lives, it is as if we welcome Jesus into the “living room” of our hearts. We allow him to clean things up as we repent of coarser sins. Once we are “presentable” in Christian circles, we are often pretty well satisfied.

However, there are other rooms in our hearts that still need to be emptied. They are often filled with worldly things that we want to cling to—whether material possessions, people, our physical appearance or any number of petty little pleasures. While they may not be sinful in and of themselves, they take our time and attention. Like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, we begin stroking the ring and obsessing about whatever “our precious” might be, until it betrays us and begins to control us!

Emptying Ourselves
Therefore, we need to detach. We need to allow God’s Spirit to search our inner lives and clean house.

So long as we are clinging to popularity, power and pride, our hands are not open to receive what the Lord has to give us. If our thoughts are preoccupied with our own plans and projects, we are not receptive to God’s new direction for our lives. So long as our hearts are cluttered with things that we hold on to for security, we are not free to accept the fullness of the Almighty—the only one who can truly satisfy us.

Serious believers who desire to move forward in God need to “empty themselves of ‘self’ in all things and do not cling to anything—neither in their service to God or their manner and practice of devotion,” observes Johannes Tauler. They demand their own way “neither in what they do or what they let undone; neither in this nor that; neither in joy nor suffering. They receive all things from God in humble fear and again reach out to him completely in naked poverty of self, in willing surrender, and humble themselves under God’s will. They are satisfied with whatever God wills in all things—whether in peace or strife—for they focus completely on the good and pleasing will of God [Romans 12:2].” [1]

Empty is Uncomfortable
It is uncomfortable to be empty. We feel unfulfilled and lonely. This is the experience of withdrawal. Whatever we have used to get our “fix,” we will go through withdrawal when we detach from it.

But if we are willing to empty ourselves, God will certainly fill us! (continued next week . . . )
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[1] Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe,ed. Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), sermon 5, pp. 37. The translation is my own.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Detachment: Untying the Canoe


Photograph by Drew Collins

Many Christians I meet truly desire to pursue a deeper life in Christ. They are tired of the shallow Christianity that surrounds them. They dissatisfied with the lukewarmness of their own walk with God.

If we truly want to move to a more profound plane in our spiritual life, however, we need to detach from all the things that bog us down. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Not only sin holds us back, but anything that encumbers us and weighs us down will keep us from running the race as God desires.

One of the essential rhythms of genuine, transformative spiritual formation is the practice of detachment. Detachment is letting go of the many things that we cling to. It is loosening our grip on anything that we try to fill our inner emptiness with. Detachment is breaking our emotional attachment to the many things that we tend to clutch so tightly.

Detach from What?
We need to detach from anything created. As created beings we have a propensity to grasp other temporal things. There are three general categories of things that we cling to. So long as our hands cling to them, we are not free to cling to the Lord.

First, most of us need to detach from material possessions. Our preoccupation with buying stuff is unhealthy. We work extra hours to make the money needed to buy all of our toys. Then more time and effort are devoured as we try to maintain them and store them. Concurrently we complain that we have little time for prayer or the closest friendships in our lives—and we cannot figure out where our time has gone!

We need to detach. Detachment is such a foreign concept to contemporary Western believers. Our lives are surrounded by so much materialism that we have adopted more or a worldly orientation than we begin to realize. Rather than grasping our possessions, we must learn to hold all things loosely. We enjoy them as blessings from the Lord, but do not claim them for our own. As we release our death grip on all that we possess, we being to discover a new freedom in life.

Second, we tend to cling to people. God has given us others to love and from whom we can receive love. Relationships are some of the greatest blessings in this life. However, when we begin to cling to those closest to us, we run the risk of turning them into idols. Instead, we must hold all people as a gift from God and not grip them so tightly that we try to draw our life from them.

Third—and most insidious—we cling to ourselves. As fallen human beings, we hold onto our wants, our comforts, our way of doing things. We also defend our plans, our agenda and even our own concepts of how we want to grow spiritually. Just as much as we cling to material possessions, we tenaciously clutch our own spiritual agenda. Our fallenness creeps into our own way of doing spiritual formation. Again, we need to detach.

Canoe tied to the Shore
Trying to move forward spiritually without detachment, is like trying to paddle a canoe while it is tied to the shore. No matter how thin the cord is, so long as it connects the canoe with land, the canoe is going nowhere.

So it is in Christian spiritual formation. So long as we maintain our attachments to stuff, we will not move forward on the spiritual venture that God has for us. But as we daily practice detachment, we discover a freedom that we have only dreamed of for our lives. Like the canoe unbound from the shoreline, we can glide forward on an exploration of a vast new territory that God has waiting for each one of us!

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, January 17, 2011

Detachment: Essential Dynamic of Deeper Spiritual Formation


We constantly focus on the wrong things. As fallen human beings, how often we fail to direct all of our affection toward our loving Creator! Instead we fixate on created things—material possessions, people, popularity, power, pleasure, and the list goes on.

When we came to Christ, we repented of our worldly orientation. However, such repentance was not simply a one-time event that solved everything once and for all. Rather, our initial turning was just the beginning of a repentant lifestyle. Jesus calls us to die daily to ourselves and our temporal orientation in order to genuinely follow him.

Letting go of all the worldly diversions that we tend to hold on to is classically referred to as “detachment.” If we desire to pursue the deeper spiritual life in Christ, we need to practice detachment on a daily basis.

Isaiah 60:1-2 says,

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.”

Reflecting on this passage, one of the great spiritual writers of the church, Johannes Tauler, challenges us that we have a job to do. We must arise and shine!

“God desires and requires but one thing in all the world. This he desires so much that he turns all his diligence upon this one thing, namely that he would find our noble inner depth . . . empty and ready for him to fulfill his divine work.

“We must raise ourselves up from everything that is not God—from self and from all created things. Such rising sets off a turbulent longing in our depths to be stripped bare and set free from everything that separates us from God. The more we lay aside all these things, the more such longing grows within us and flows out over itself, and—when God touches our naked depths—it often surges through our flesh and blood and marrow!”[1]

As you seek to grow spiritually this new year, what do you need to detach yourself from? What do you need to stand up and walk away from in order to let Jesus’ light shine into your life? The Lord is ready to pour out his glory and you and me, but we must first stand up, detach ourselves from all the false fulfillments that the world has to offer in order to let God’s glory appear on us!

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1 Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe,ed. Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), sermon 5, pp. 35-36. The translation is my own.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, January 10, 2011

Epiphany: Light Breaks into the Darkness


Light! Light breaks through the darkness. Epiphany is all about light—God shining into the darkness of our world.

January 6 marks the day of Epiphany on the church calendar, celebrating God’s breaking into the dark world. This day commemorates God’s appearance (i.e., “epiphany”) to the Gentiles as the three magi came to worship Jesus.

So often we place the emphasis on the magi, but the bigger story is God’s—revealing himself to a dark world. The magi would never have come unless, out of love, God chose to reveal himself to them. Through the star, God shined forth in the physical light and called the magi to come. Then on Epiphany, God radiated forth in Jesus, the Light of the world!

In Isaiah 42:6-7 God says concerning the coming Christ:

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”

This time of year the sun is weak and the earth lies covered with snow during the dark, cold months of winter. (The photo above was taken a crisp morning at 6 degrees below zero!) Yet we have this certain hope—the light is ever-increasing. The days are becoming longer, a few minutes each day. In time the hours of sunlight will overcome the cold and melt the snow. Although it will take a few months, springtime is certain.

Likewise in our lives, the light of Jesus’ shining grows stronger and stronger. His appearance (“epiphany”) is for the deliverance of us, Gentiles and Jews alike, as Isaiah states. Whatever the dark area or need in our life, Jesus is ready to radiate his love, deliverance and healing.

Our Lord will open the eyes of the blind—if we but reach out to receive his light. He will free us from the prison of captivity—whatever that looks like in each of our lives. He will release us from the dungeon of darkness—as we seek to live in his light.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Prayer: Promise and Hope


Our God is a God of Promise! From the Garden of Eden where the Lord promised a coming savior (Genesis 3:16) to God’s promise for Noah in the rainbow (Genesis 9:8-17) to his promise never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), God’s word can be trusted.

The photo above is the beautiful rainbow that the Lord gave us on New Year’s Day. What an image of God’s hope and promise shining on wintry land! “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Perhaps you will join me in this prayer for the new year.

. . . . PRAYER FOR THE FUTURE . . . .


Hope
As I look to the future, I will hope in you, O Lord,
Choosing expectation instead of fear,
Anchoring my soul in your goodness,
Resting in your omnipotence and wisdom,
Because you know the plans that you have for me:
Plans for welfare and not for calamity, giving me a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Trust
O Lord, teach me to place all my trust in you,
To not take my “self-fulfillment” too seriously; rather,
To choose expectancy instead of fear,
To abandon myself to you and not to lean on my own
understanding, and
To be attentive to you in all my ways,
knowing that you will open a path before me. (Prov 3:5-6)

Wait
I shall wait upon you, Loving God, and your timing,
Living life in light of the vision your have given me,
Loving the questions you have placed before me,
Living out those questions in my daily life,
Embracing the mystery of your ways,
Cultivating receptivity, and
Enjoying the process, no matter how long it may be.

Step Forward
O Lord, today let me move forward in obedience,
Praying that your will be accomplished in my life,
Taking the steps that you have revealed for now,
Listening to your voice guiding me in the path on which I should walk.
Amen.


© 2011 Glenn E. Myers