Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent and Christmas Devotion: The Prayer of Desire – Si semper desideras, semper oras

Christ the King Retreat Center

Advent is a season of desire. When Jesus was born, the nation of Israel was waiting, longing and desiring the coming of Messiah. For us, is it a time to kindle anew our inner desire for more of Jesus in our lives, our minds, our busy schedules, and our hearts.

That desire during Advent is what continually draws us to Bethlehem. While Mary and Joseph journeyed to the City of David for very practical reasons, fulfilling the census of Caesar Augustus, we journey there for a spiritual purpose to see afresh the Heir of David!

Just as the shepherds came down from the hills, filled with awe and wonder at the message of the angels, we descend to the lowly manger with deep desire to worship him who lowered himself and emptied himself beyond our comprehension.

As the magi were invited to glimpse the fulfillment of the great sign in the stars that they saw, we come to adore Emmanuel with all our longing, love and desire.

Desire Itself is Prayer
Sometimes we do not know how to pray. That is okay, because our desire for the Lord is itself prayer. St. Augustine said, “Si semper desideras, semper oras”—“If we are always desiring, we are always praying!” How true that is, and how comforting to know that our heart prays, even when our mouth cannot articulate that inner longing!

This season let our hearts reach out in the wordless prayer of desire as we sit silently by the fireplace or candles late at night or early in the morning when everyone else in the house is asleep. Let our prayer of desire ascend as we read again Luke’s account of the very first Christmas.

As the pilgrimage of Advent reaches its culmination in the celebration of Christmas Day, let us cultivate the inner prayer of desire. Let us allow that desire to come to full blossom as we gather with the faithful on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning to worship Christ the King. O come, let us indeed adore him!

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent: Facing East as We Await the Light

Christ the King Retreat Center

“For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:27)

A little-known fact to many Christians today is the practice of early believers facing east when they prayed. Of course as they sought to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), throughout the day, facing whatever direction they happened to be while they walked or worked or spent time with family, praying to the Lord in all their activity.

However, when the believers of the first centuries of the church went apart for specific times of prayer, they faced east. We read about this practice in many of the early Christian writings. Also archeological digs have discovered that the homes of the early believers in Egypt often had a room set aside for prayer which allowed the Christians to have solitude with the Lord as well as to focus toward the east in their devotional times. [1]

“Orienting” our Lives
The classic term for the “East” is the “Orient.” This term refers to all of the lands spreading from the Near East across Asia to the Far East. Coming from this term, to gain one’s bearings is to “orient” oneself. To know where the points of the compass are, we must know where the orient—the east—is.

Early Christians, then, oriented their prayer lives by praying while they faced east. The symbolism is powerful! First, the east is where the sun rises. So facing east faces us toward the light and invites us to orient our lives toward the eternal Light. “God is Light; in him there is no darkness at all,” states 1 John 1:5. Further, James reminds us that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down form the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (1:17).

Second, the Garden of Eden was in the east (Gen 2:8). As we face east we remind ourselves of the fellowship between God and humanity that was intended for us. Through the redemptive work of Christ, we too are invited to walk with God in the cool of the evening, as it were, and enjoy sweet communion with our Creator.

Third, Jesus’ life, passion and resurrection took place in Galilee and Judea, which are for most of us to the east. As we face east in our prayer, we remind ourselves that our salvation is based entirely on Christ Jesus.

Finally, facing east reminds us to fix our hope on Christ’s coming! “For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27). Orienting my body to the east each day helps me to orient my whole life to Christ’s return. His return is my ultimate hope and the culmination of all history! [2]

Advent: Reorienting Our Lives toward the Light
Although the calendar year does not begin until January, the new church year begins now with Advent. This makes sense: the whole of the Christian life starts with the anticipation of the celebration of our Lord’s birth.

Advent is an opportunity to reorient our lives. These four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas are an opportunity to regain our spiritual bearings. The Advent season is a time for longing for more of the Lord, seeking God afresh, as well as reordering and reorienting our lives toward Christ.

As Advent begins, some good reflect questions are: Although I claim to be a Christian, how is my life truly oriented? What direction is my life headed? Where am I doing well in my pilgrimage with the Lord and where have I lost my inner compass? Am I journeying with God as I claim to be, or have I become waylaid on a path that is leading in the wrong direction? What must I do to regain my orientation to the Lord?

Advent is a time of looking for the light. As I have my devotions during these dark mornings, I find myself spontaneously looking toward the eastern horizon, waiting and longing to see the first hint of light each morning. During these four weeks of Advent, the eyes of my heart in like manner look forward to the coming of the Light of the World!

[1] Gabriel Bunge, Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition, trans. Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), p. 54.
[2] These thoughts on the east are adapted from Bunge, pp. 57-71.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Practices of Prayer in the Early Church: Outreached Hands in Thanksgiving

“May my prayer be set before you like incense, may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 140:2)

Continuing from our last blog, we see that during the first several centuries of the church Christians normally prayed as they stood before the Lord with outstretched arms. While they knew that they were not limited to any particular posture in prayer, they chose this as the standard way to come before God. Why?

Our Body Reflecting our Inner Attitude Our bodies reflect our inner attitude. Body language speaks loud and clear. Someone who is closed to input often sits with crossed arms, as if those arms are blocking what is being said. So it is with outstretched hands—our physical actions reveal what is in our hearts.

First, outstretch arms express praise, adoration and thanksgiving. When we lift our hands in prayer and worship, it is as if we are making a wave offering before the Lord. It is as if we are casting admiration and glory before the heavenly throne.

Second, outstretch arms are a universal sign of receiving. Just as children waiting to receive something important, we come with receptive hands before the Heavenly Father who gives good gifts to his children. “I call to you, O Lord, every day,” says Psalm 88:9, “I spread out my hands to you.”

Third, reaching hands reflect the longing of our hearts. “I spread out my hands to you,” cries David in Psalm 143:6, “my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” If we long for more of the Lord in our lives, those outstretched hands express the cry of our hearts. Indeed, at times we cannot even find words to articulate the deep desires within us: in those times, our outstretched arms can themselves be our very prayer!

One of the early theologians of the church, Clement of Alexandria, expresses this so beautifully: “That is why we also raise our head toward the heights (while praying) and stretch out our hands to heaven and, while reciting the concluding words of the prayer together, stand on tip-toe, in that way seeking to follow the yearning of the mind upward into the spiritual world.” [1]

I love the image that Clement paints—standing on tiptoes with hands straining toward the heavens! At times when I pray as of late, I find my arms outstretched and fingers reaching as far as they can as an expression of my thirst for the Lord!

Not about My Temperament
Often I hear believers today excuse themselves from lifting up hands because that is “not their personality.” If we are honest with ourselves, however, we realize that this argument does not hold water any more than we can relieve ourselves from being witnesses because we have a more-reserved temperament.

Instead, from beginning to end, God’s Word invites us to step out of our shells in order to worship God, pray to him and serve him—even when we are not comfortable. It is not a matter of being outgoing versus shy. It is not a matter of being charismatic or not. Rather, it is about engaging our whole being in our relationship with the One to whom we pray!

This Thanksgiving is an opportunity for us to express our gratitude to God in many ways. We can do so in song. We can articulate our gratefulness in prayer. We can also involve our whole person and lift up our hands in thanks.

Such an offering of thanksgiving need not be showy or emotional; rather it can be respectful and reverent. We can do it with joined hands around the Thanksgiving table, or we can do it in private as we are alone with the Lord. Let us give thanks to God with our body, mind, soul and spirit! Amen.

[1] Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, as quoted in Gabriel Bunge, Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition, trans. Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), p. 152.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Advent Retreat south of Minneapolis December 1, 2012

Just a quick note to announce the upcoming silent advent retreat led by Restoration Ministries on December. Just click on the link to the left for more information!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Outreached Hands—Orans: Practices of Prayer in the Early Church

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord!” (Ps 134:1 RSV).

Lifting Hands Throughout Scripture
Lifting up hands to the Lord is an activity of prayer and worship found throughout the Old and New Testaments. The Psalms offer numerous examples of lifting hands in prayer. “May my prayer be set before you like incense,” cries David in Psalm 140:2, “may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”

The Scriptures exhort us to raise our hands in prayer, as Psalm 134 above commands. As well as petition, raised hands signify praise: “I will praise you as long as I live,/ and in your name I will lift up my hands” (Psalm 63:4).

The New Testament continues the rhythms of daily prayer and the active participation in prayer found in the Old Testament. Thus when Paul calls us to pray for all those in authority he states, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing” (1 Timothy 1:8).

Orans—the Praying Person
Standing before the Lord with outstretched arms was the standard posture of prayer for the early Christians. Reaching out their hands to God in praise and petition was not something that just a few believers did; rather, it was the norm for Christians, as well as Jews and even pagans in the ancient world. Prayer was not some detached cognitive exercise, but instead it engaged the whole body, soul and spirit of the one crying out to God. Extending arms in prayer was the norm in the church of the first centuries.

Artwork of Christians at prayer and gravestones of believers help to give us a picture of what praying for the early followers of Jesus looked like. The Latin word for “praying” or “praying person” is orans. Do a search on Google Images or another search engine for “orans” and you will find dozens, if not hundreds, of pictures of Christians standing with outstretched arms in prayer.

In addition, key Christian leaders wrote about this common practice of prayer. One of the first theologians, Origen, writes about this. “Nor may anyone doubt that of the countless postures of the body, the posture with hands outstretched and eyes uplifted is to be preferred to all (the others), because one then carries in the body too, as it were, the image of that special condition that befits the soul during prayer.” [1]

Trying it Today
Physical postures of prayer invite us to engage our whole being as we come before the Lord. This helps to make prayer meaningful and keeps us focused. Especially if our routine of prayer has grown dull, it would be worthwhile to try standing with outstretched arms. This posture is significant to us because it connects us with believers from nearly 2000 years ago! As I have begun spending some of my prayer time this way, I find that my physical posture is a reflection of my inner attitude in prayer—which will be the theme of the next blog.

[1] Origen, On Prayer, as quoted in Gabriel Bunge, Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition, trans. Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), p. 152.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Practices of Prayer in the Early Church: Standing before God

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?” (Ps 24:3)

Early Christians
When we think about Christians during the first several centuries, persecution and martyrdom are probably the first things that come to mind. Their radical commitment to Christ and bold witness offer a model for contemporary Christians, and they challenge us to live a life of uncompromising faith.

Early believers also present us an example of fervent prayer. Prayer was the very pulse or their relationship with the Lord. Indeed, during times of persecution, prayer is essential. These Christians either pursued God with their whole heart and life, or they quickly renounced their faith and chose to fade into the pagan world.

Although information on the prayer of the early Christians in sparse, we know that for them the standard posture of prayer was standing. In writings on prayer—as well as etchings on early Christians grave stones—we consistently see them standing before God when they prayed. Instead of sitting comfortably in a chair during prayer, as so many do today, the early believers got onto their feet.

This makes sense. Since most of the first Christians were Jews, they simply followed the practices of the Old Testament. Prayer and worship in the Old Testament were active, to say the least. “Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,/ who stand by night in the house of the Lord!” (Ps 134:1 RSV). Indeed, if we visit Jerusalem today, we see devout Jews and Christians alike standing and offering prayers at the Wailing Wall.

Attitude of Attention and Respect
What is the significance of standing? First, standing is a sign of respect. Our culture has lost much of this. One setting where standing in respect has continued, however, is in the courtroom, where everyone is still required to stand out of respect for the office of the judge and she or he enters the room. How much more, then, should I show respect to the Judge and Creator and Ruler of the Ages?

Standing is likewise a position of attentiveness. Sitting in a comfortable chair, how easy it is to let my mind wander. When I stand at attention, however, I am more alert and engaged. My posture declares that I am fully present and ready to move as God gives direction for my life.

Over the past couple months as my wife and I have read about the early Christians and their practice of prayer, it has challenged me to stand before the Lord in prayer during morning devotions and at night before bed. Certainly we can pray any time and any place and in any position—and I will continue to do so throughout the day. However, when I have the opportunity to stand before God in prayer, I want to do so as a statement of my utter awe and respect for him and as a posture of attentiveness, listening and engaged presence.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Earth is Full of God's GloryO

O Lord, our Lord,
  how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
  above the heavens.

Autumn is a wonderful time--indeed, a time filled with wonder and awe of God's glory!

This fall Sharon and I have taken many walks through the woods, as well as scenic drives to see the leaves. Again and again we have been struck with the Lord's beauty and majesty in creation.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Present to the Moment: Today as Pure Gift!

Lake Superior

Today is a gift. All that we have—indeed our very breath—comes as a gift from God. It is pure gift!

Self-Giving God
Our God is a self-giving God. In goodness, God is ever-flowing, ever-giving and ever-loving. Before the creation of this time/space universe, God the Father spoke. In eternity God ushered forth the Word. It was the Father’s self-expression of love. That Word was the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, who in time came to earth.

God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is always giving. By nature, love has to pour forth one way or another. God the Father “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). From this eternal font of God’s love we receive life as gift.

Essential to God is his goodness. In Psalm 145, David describes that goodness:

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
  slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
  he has compassion on all he has made. . . .
The Lord is faithful to all his promises
  and loving toward all he has made.
The Lord upholds all those who fall
  and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
  and you give them their food at the proper time.

Our God is not only all-powerful, he is all good. His love for us flows from his fathomless goodness. In addition he is all-wise. He knows exactly when and how to supply food—and all of life’s provisions—in just the right time.

Pure Gift
Two years ago a godly wise woman said to me: Planning is good, but life is not simply about making plans and achieving them. Life is pure gift.

Those words were like a seed planted in my heart that has sprouted over time and is beginning to grow and bear fruit. It has led me to some valuable questions that are shaping my inner growth. I leave a few of these questions with you to explore over the coming days and weeks.

-What would it be like to live life as gift?
- How can I enter today with openness and receptivity?
-What needs to change in my thinking—my view of the Lord and my approach to life?
- How can I receive today from God as pure gift?

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Present to the Moment: Open Hands

Lake Superior

When we are offered a gift, the natural response is to open our hands. We stand ready to receive. Open hands are the physical attitude that reflects an inner disposition of receptivity. Open hands express gratefulness.

As children, we all began life ready to receive. We are born with the capacity and proclivity simply to receive. Infants cannot feed themselves or change their own diapers. They cannot crawl or even turn themselves over in the crib. Except by crying, they cannot tell anyone their need. The one thing they can do is receive.

Young children approach each new day with open hands, open minds and open hearts. Like sponges ready to be soaked with all of life’s goodness, they climb out of bed open, receptive and free. Everything is an adventure—a treasure hunt.

As we age, however, we encounter disappointments. Some of the adventures turn sour. Christmas morning expectations are disenchanted. We don’t receive everything we hope for. In addition we experience loss—loss of possessions, loss of love, loss of people very close to us. As a result, fear begins to take root in our hearts. So we learn to be guarded. We learn to grasp and cling to what we already have, lest we should lose that as well. Our open hands close into tightened fists.

Therefore, instead of holding out open hands at the beginning of each new day, we clutch what we already hold. Material possessions, prized relationships and personal plans fill our minds and our hands as we move into the day. There is no room to receive anything else—any new surprise that God may have to give us. We approach life with hands that are full—even angry-fisted—and have no room to receive the gift offered for that day.

Open hands convey neediness. They communicate our emptiness. They make us too vulnerable. Herein lies the problem—most of us avoid any show of vulnerability and neediness at all costs.

The Kingdom Belongs to Such as These
Much of the spiritual life is learning to trust again. Indeed, our relationship with the Lord is based solely on faith—trust. Although we live in a fallen world, we have a good God. First we learn to believe that in our heads. Then we spend the remainder of our days learning to truly believe God’s love and goodness in our lives.

Jesus “called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4).

In this passage, Jesus is not simply talking about “getting saved,” he is instructing us on what is it to live in the kingdom—i.e., under the rule of God. The more we become like young children, the more we follow the lead of our heavenly Father. The more we humble ourselves, the more we can receive.

With Open Hands
One way that we become like little children is learning to reopen our hands.

This takes time. “When you dare to let go and surrender one of those many fears, states Henri Nouwen in his book, With Open Hands, “your hand relaxes and your palms spread out in a gesture of receiving. You must have patience, of course, before your hands are completely open and their muscles relaxed” (17).

By opening our hands, we open our hearts. We become free, available and receptive to all that the Lord has for us.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sacrament of the Present Moment: Growth through Embracing Circumstances

Tettegouchi State Park, Lake Superior

God works continually in our lives through the present moment. Indeed, in the Sacrament of the Present Moment, Jean Pierre de Caussade affirms that the Lord himself is present in the moment. First—as we saw in the last blog—God is present in the obligations and duties of everyday life. Second, the Lord is present in difficulties that we must suffer. God is veiled in the present moment and the very trials that it holds.

Difficulties and Trials
God uses trails in our lives. As much as we do not like it and try to avoid it, difficulties are part of the Almighty’s plans for our lives. “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you,” states 1 Peter 4: 12-13. Whether it is persecution for the Gospel or suffering “grief in all kinds of trials” (1:6), God is in control and we are called to rejoice, as the Epistle of 1 Peter encourages us over and over.

We embrace trials and suffering because God uses them—no matter what they are—to shape our lives. “Not only this,” writes Paul in Romans 5:3-5, “but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.”

Learning to Trust in God’s Hidden Work
When we are in the midst of trials, however, we do not like them. Most often we do not understand why they are happening to us or what they are doing for us. I, for one, certainly do not see much character being developed at the moment!

De Caussade compares us to sick patients who don’t like the medicine prescribed by the doctor. We are like bed-ridden patients “who, ignorant of the virtue of medicines, resent their bitter taste, often imagining they are poison. And all the crises and weakness seem to justify our fears. Nevertheless, in spite of this mortal threat, obeying the doctor’s orders, we swallow the medicines he prescribes and recover.” [1]

Some days we seem to experience one trial after another. Exhausted, we do not get a moment’s rest. Although we cannot see what God is building in our lives, he is indeed at work. De Caussade asserts: “It is in these afflictions, which succeed one another each moment, that God, veiled and obscured, reveals himself, mysteriously bestowing his grace in a manner quite unrecognized by the souls who feel only weakness in bearing their cross, distaste for performing their duty, and capable only of the most mediocre spiritual practices.” [2]

When I first read this last quote, it really struck me. I had a lot of obligations on me at the time, and I was struggling to keep a positive attitude. Helping to care for someone in need, I had very limited time alone with the Lord, and I didn’t feel his presence much at the time. Reading this quote helped me so much. I could really identify with it—feeling only weakness in bearing my cross, distaste for some of my duties, and lacking time and emotion energy. Then I realized I was still in a good place. No matter how difficult the situation might be, the Lord was present. He was using me to help tend to others, and he was working to transform my life.

Yes, God is present in the present moment, even—especially—the difficult ones. I simply need to embrace that reality. Then I can rest, as I entrust it all to him!

[1] Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989), p. 17.
[2] Ibid.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sacrament of the Present Moment: Growth through Fulfilling our Obligations

Tettegouche State Park: Lake Superior

God works through the present moment to form his character in us and cause us to grow spiritually. This is the overarching message of Jean Pierre de Caussade’s Sacrament of the Present Moment. This spiritual classic goes on to say that the Lord reveals himself in the present moment primarily in three ways: 1) through our obligations in life, 2) through things we suffer, and 3) through promptings of the Holy Spirit. We will look at the first of these in this blog.

Obligations in our Lives
God reveals himself to us first through our daily—even mundane—obligations. Whatever our life situation may be, the Lord has placed us there and is using the responsibilities before us to work his plan in our lives and to develop Christ’s character in us.

If we want to grow spiritually, then, we must accept the duty placed before us. “For obedience to God’s undefined will depends entirely on our passive surrender to it,” asserts de Caussade. “We put nothing of ourselves into it apart from a general willingness that is prepared to do anything or nothing, like a tool that, though it has no power in itself, when in the hands of the craftsman, can be used by him for any purpose within the range of its capacity and design.” [1]

Such acceptance is precisely what God’s Word calls us to do. Addressing slaves in his day, Paul wrote: “Whatever you do, work at it with your whole heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossian 3:23-24). That “whatever” which slaves were called to do was often dirty and demeaning labor. Yet the Lord summoned them to fulfill their obligations not grudgingly but with their whole heart.

So too we are called to fulfill our responsibilities, joyfully accepting the Lord’s will for us in the obligations set before us. “So we leave God to act in everything,” affirms de Caussade, “reserving for ourselves only love and obedience to the present moment. For this is our eternal duty.” [2]

Not only is God’s will found in the duty set before us, says de Caussade, but also God’s path “can only be found in that vast expanse of the divine will which is eternally present in the shadows of the most ordinary toil and suffering; and it is in these shadows that God hides the hand which upholds and supports us. This is all souls need to know in order to achieve that sublime surrendering of themselves.” [3]

God’s path, God’s supporting hand, and, indeed, God’s divine presence are found in the often mundane obligations of life. If we want to experience the Lord’s love and his work in our lives, we must become attentive to present moment.

Even when we see nothing and feel nothing, God is at work in our lives. In fact, often the deepest growth takes place when everything seems so dry to us. Therefore, we must persist in obedience so matter how things appear to us. When we feel the Lord’s presence and see how he is working in our lives, great! We need to enjoy these times to the fullest and thank our Heavenly Father for them. When they disappear, however, we must walk by faith, trusting that the Lord knows what he is doing in our lives during this season.

Our greatest opportunities to grow as Christians, then, are the situations in which we cultivate faithfulness right where we are. Rather than taking on numerous spiritual disciplines or attempting heroic ministry, we are called first of all to simple obedience. De Caussade asserts, “There remains one single duty. It is to keep one’s gaze fixed on the master one has chosen and to be constantly listening so as to understand and hear and immediately obey his will.” [4]

_____ [1] Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989), p. 10.
[2] Ibid., p. 11.
[3] Ibid., p. 20.
[4] Ibid., p. 9.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sacrament of the Present Moment: Spiritual Formation in Real Time

Lake Superior

God reveals himself to us in the present moment. It is through the challenges and responsibilities of the each passing moment that the Almighty makes his plans known.

This is the message of Jean Pierre de Caussade’s classic, Sacrament of the Present Moment. Therefore, according to de Caussade, spiritual growth comes primarily from accepting the responsibilities that God places in front of us—especially the ones we don’t enjoy that much. Embracing our daily circumstances—especially the challenging ones—is the Lord’s primary way of shaping us into Christ’s image and directing our lives.

The Present Moment
In our day we have so many discipleship programs and seminars and gimmicks, thinking that a given technique is what we need to help us grow. De Caussade points out, however, that when we read the Bible we find no discipleship plans, much less methods and tactic. The fathers and mothers of the faith grew from simple obedience to the Lord in whatever situation they encountered in life. “All they knew was the each moment brought its new task, faithfully to be accomplished,” states de Caussade. “All their attention was focused on the present minute by minute. . . . Constantly prompted by divine impulsion, they found themselves imperceptibly turned toward the next task that God had ready for them at each hour of the day.”[1]

The present moment is sacramental in two ways. First, God is present with us but hidden from view. In our daily circumstances God is very present, but we seldom see it. We simply “know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). Second, the Lord uses the present moment—especially our trials—as means to work in our lives. Such suffering “produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom 5:3-4).

Full Surrender—When We Don’t Understand Why
Therefore, our basic task in spiritual formation is to abandon ourselves to God’s divine providence. He knows what is best for our growth. He provides challenges that will stretch us. He offers opportunities for sacrifice and service. He calls us to unreserved obedience.

Often we do not see what God is up to in our lives. We seldom understand what he is forming inside us. That is okay—we do not need to understand at the moment. Like a young athlete whose coach has told him or her to run sprints–or like a music student told to practice scales—we may not see the value in what we have been assigned. Instead we see a lot of hard work and discomfort. If we follow through in obedience, however, the purpose of the practice becomes clear.

So it is in our lives. Seldom do we understand the import of the moment or the impact of our immediate obedience. Our lives are like a beautiful tapestry that the Lord is creating, says de Caussade. While it is in progress, it doesn’t look like much. As God works in our lives, however, “neither the stitches nor the needle are visible, but, one by one, those stitches make a magnificent pattern that only becomes apparent when the work is completed and the right side exposed to the light of day; although while it is in progress there is no sign of its beauty and wonder.”[2]

My prayer is that more and more I would learn to embrace the sacrament of the present moment. God is good, and whatever he is up to in my life is for my best. Trusting that fact, I can indeed abandon myself in full surrender to whatever the Lord is doing in my life today!

[1] Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989), p. 1.
[2] Ibid., pp. 53-54.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Present to the Moment: Addressing Inner Drivenness

Gooseberry Falls

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 food to eat –
  for he grants sleep to those he loves.
  -Psalm 127:1-2

In order to be present to God in the present moment, we must step back from much of our frenetic pace of life. When we try to step off the merry-go-round, however, we begin to find out just how difficult that is! Our attempts to slow down will always fail unless we address our inner drivenness and the anxiety that fuels it.

We are anxious about so many things—our finances, our health, our security, our family, our friends, our future. Many are afraid of failing; others are afraid of success! When we monitor the thoughts in the back of our minds, we find that far too many of them dwell on worry.

Jesus knew that, which is why he said: “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . And why do you worry about your clothes? See how the lilies of the field brow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like on the these. . . . So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we eat?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father know that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33)

Jesus gets to the root of the matter: our anxious thoughts and hearts. We are afraid that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one will. Certainly we have responsibility, but our fears drive us to do much more.

Resting in the Goodness of our Shepherd
For good reason Scripture refers to us as sheep. On our own we are helpless. We tend to get ourselves lost very quickly. We go about nervously “Bah-ing” for help unless we have someone to take care of us.

As an anxious, pathetic sheep—more often than I’d like to admit—I need to continually entrust my life to the Good Shepherd. The more I can see the Lord as my active, present Shepherd, the more I can begin to relax inside. I don’t need to be the one to take care of myself. He knows where the next green pasture for me is—I don’t!

“The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep … I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me.” (John 10)

In a beautiful sermon on this passage from John 10, Johannes Tauler invites us to become trusting sheep. For those who abandon their lives to the Lord, “The doorkeeper opens for them and lets them go completely into the Father’s unfathomable depths. There they go everywhere in and out, always finding plentiful pasture. They sink into the depths of the Godhead with inexpressible enjoyment and then go out full of love. . . . There work and rest become one.” [1]

Work and Rest Become One
At times I have experienced work and rest becoming one—it is wonderful! Although I am working hard, I am so much at peace within. Mentally I am fully present to the task at hand. Instead of wondering if I’m doing the job right or what others will think, I am simply at rest. Knowing that I am being obedient to the Lord in my task at hand—and knowing that he is pleased with me—I leave the results up to him.

[1] Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe, edited by Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), sermon 27.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Present to the Moment: Gratefulness

Tettegouche State Park

The more present I am to the moment, the more attentive I become to all that surrounds me. I begin to see people—I mean really see them. When I am attentive to others, I am surprised by gracious interactions with those close to me as well as those who just grace my life for a moment. Someone smiles as I pass by. An acquaintance asks if he or she can pray for me. A friend sends and email asking how I am doing. A loved one ends a phone call with the words, “I love you.” All of these touch me with God’s love—if I am present to the moment to receive them.

As well as seeing people with fresh eyes, I begin to notice anew the beauty of God’s creation. Last week Sharon and I spent six days on the north shore of Lake Superior. What rugged beauty! The shades of green and blooming Lupine were spectacular as we took drives up the shoreline several days. Other days we spent our whole time sitting on the rocks near our cabin. Simply watching the birds and the large ships pass by, or listen to the waves as we spent time reading, it was a wonderful time of refreshment and healing.

What happens when I become present to the moment and truly see the beauty of God’s creation? The more I notice the blessings around me, the more thankfulness grows in my heart. I become grateful. Often it begins simply by noticing the flowers and birds and colors that a day earlier I was not seeing. That attentiveness moves into joy—I find myself smiling more and more. Then the joy begins to break out in gratitude.

Cultivating Gratefulness
I believe we can cultivate a heart of gratefulness in several ways. First, we cultivate gratefulness by noticing the good that God gives. It is interesting that often the wealthiest and most successful are the least grateful. They become accustomed to having what they want—and they always want more.

Second, we cultivate gratitude by expressing it back to God is thanksgiving. Gratefulness needs to be expressed. It is like flowing water—the more it flows, the more momentum it gains. Alone on the rocks along Lake Superior, I expressed my gratefulness to God through singing and worship—what a wonderful opportunity to praise the Lord in creation! Other times I express my thankfulness by writing it down to the Lord in my journal. Still other times I articulate it in words to someone around me. Recently Sharon and I have begun to celebrate the beauty of creation through photography—that has been so much fun and so rewarding!

Central to All Spiritual Growth
Gratitude is central to all genuine spiritual growth. To grow in thankfulness is to grow in the Lord. And to grow spiritually is to increase in thankfulness. As Ronald Rolheiser has said: Show me someone who is spiritually mature, and I will show you someone with a grateful heart!

The more I nurture thankfulness in my life, the more I grow—in victory over discouragement, in energy pursuing the Lord, and in kindness to those around me. This summer I want to continue cultivating genuine gratefulness in my heart and expressing it through my words and actions!

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stepping Away from Busyness and Efficiency

While many of us want to live in the moment—and be present to God’s presence—our whole approach to life militates against such presence. Without a deep change inside, living in the "now" will always be just a romantic dream for us.

Busyness and efficiency are two of the false gods of contemporary culture. Socrates warned: Beware of the barrenness of a busy life. Our society today, however, has ignored that caution. In our attempt to have it all, we keep going faster and faster. The problem is that we run past more than we catch up to. In our greediness for life and experience, we actually miss out on so much of life.

Contemporary Christians have unwittingly fallen into the worship of the same false gods. No different than unbelievers around us, we pursue busyness and efficiency. It is not that hard work is wrong. However, when the hectic pace with which we approach our work consumes our every waking hour and distracts our thoughts, we are no long focused on God. If we hope to experience God to the fullest—and to be available to God in a profound way—we must step away from our pathetic activism.

How often we approach our daily work with stress and distraction. 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 the great preacher, 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 5, pp. 35-36. All translations from German are my own.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Present Obedience Opens Unseen Doors

Seldom do we see the significance of the present moment. From our perspective the daily tasks of life often seem mundane. Yet God is present, and he is at work. How often he is forging perseverance in our hearts! How often the Lord is building character in our lives and testing us, to see if we will truly obey him!

When we follow God’s leading, he then builds upon our often-hidden obedience of today as he works out his plans for tomorrow. We do not know what those plans may be. Often we have a guess, and sometimes he gives us a glimpse of what is ahead. Nevertheless, none of us really knows what God is planning. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,” says the Lord in Isaiah 55, “So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."

When we are faithful in little things, God opens bigger opportunities and greater responsibilities.

Jean-Pierre de Caussade describes it: “We must therefore allow each moment to be the cause of the next; the reason for what precedes being revealed in what follows, so that everything is linked firmly and solidly together in a divine chain of events. The world of ideas, imagination, argument no longer nourishes and sustains souls. They no longer see or know where they are going, no long depend on an effort of will to overcome the fatigue or endure the hardship of the journey. Everything happens in a profound sense of their own helplessness.” [1]

God is present in our least task. He is there far more than we realize in our loving service to others, especially in our least-favorite task! Faithfulness unnoticed by human eyes flings wide open the doors to God’s plans for my future.

[1] Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989), p. 21.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, May 4, 2012

God's Presence Permeating Everyday Life

You have graced the sky with the light
  of your glory, O Lord,
And breathed your goodness
  into all that surrounds me.
You have enveloped all of creation with your
  uncreated Beauty, O God,
And crowned the year with your bounty,
  meeting my every need!

Please open my eyes today, O Lord,
  to the wonder of your works all around me.
May I see your fingerprints on the events
  of my everyday life.
Let me appreciate your goodness and your care for me,
  cloaked in the garb of the mundane.
And may I spy your divine presence
  permeating the rhythm of my daily life!

Today my heart will exult in your brilliance,
  permeating the events that seem so small.
My mouth will declare your praises,
  for you pervade the space that surrounds me.
My whole being will bless you all day long, O Lord,
  for your presence fills the heavens and the earth!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Radical Christians: Model of the Friends of God

Basel Muenster What does radical Christianity look like? What does it mean to be a genuine Friend of God? One answer to this question--one model that contemporary believers can learn from--is the group during the 14th century known as the Friends of God. Centered about Basel, Strassburg and Cologne along the Rhine River--the "spiritual artery of Germany"--Johannes Tauler was one of their key leaders. The Friends of God included men and women, singles and married, Beguines and nuns and monks. Yet they were in correspondence with each other. Above all they pursued God with their whole heart. To learn more, click on the left-hand margin to read my article on

Monday, April 16, 2012

God's Presence Filling Ordinary Days

How often I experience God in the exciting times. Lent is an intense time of spiritual focus. Likewise I love to get away on retreat, go on a pilgrimage, or celebrate a sunrise service at Easter. However, ordinary days and seasons of the year are much harder. It is more difficult to maintain energy in my walk with the Lord—as well as be thankfulness—during the day-in and day-out of life.

Life’s Daily Events
Currently I am learning to enjoy God’s presence in the daily events of life. He is harder to see—at least for me—in the mundane, but he is not the least bit less there.

Everyday life is chock full with God’s handiwork. Indeed, the ordinary is pregnant with the presence of God if we but have eyes to see it.

An ordinary sunset displays God’s radiant glory. A quiet half hour over a cup of coffee in the morning is an opportunity to listen to the still, small voice. The wakening of a new day is a revelation of God’s creation.

That is precisely the revelation that an English woman, Eleanor Farjeon, had when she wrote the words to the hymn “Morning has Broken.” She heard the blackbird’s song as an echo of the first bird at creation. In the dawning of the new morning she saw the very first morn springing fresh from the Word!

Eyes of Faith
The eyes of faith discover God’s fingerprints all around us—all other eyes see just an ordinary day. I am learning to cultivate a receptive attitude so I can receive the Lord’s love and peace and presence in the mundane times of life. Recently I saw this quote:

“No heaven can come to us
unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take heaven.
No peace lies in the future
which is not hidden in this present instant.
Take peace.” -Fra Giovanni

We cannot wait for the extraordinary times and experiences to enjoy the Lord. They are great when they come; however, we must enjoy God’s presence in the ordinary days of life—because that is precisely where we live most of our lives.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Holy Week and Good Friday: Invitation to a Deeper Life

Most of the time we as Christians are far too easily satisfied with a shallow walk with God. We settle for an acquaintanceship with Jesus instead of a robust friendship. We nibble at God’s Word instead of feasting on it and digesting it, making it part of our very being. We want faith without its accompanying repentance. We rush through a quick prayer list but never listen to the Lord speaking to us. We try to witness, but in reality we have little to say to unbelievers since we ourselves have not encountered God radically transforming us.

Although we often tell ourselves that we are doing just fine as believers, underneath we know there must be more. There has to be so much more to a vibrant walk with God than anything we are experiencing!

Radical Life
Holy Week is an invitation to a deeper spiritual life. By “deeper” we mean putting our roots down further in the Lord, loving God on a whole new plane, and soaking in Scripture so it becomes our daily bread. It means seeing the Lord radically alter our thoughts, attitudes, word and deeds.

A deeper life entails substantive transformation in our lives—down at the root level. The word “radical” comes from the Latin for “root.” Radical change is therefore transformation at the root level instead of superficial change on the surface.

Holy Week is an opportunity to take a hard look at ourselves and our walk with God. As we walk through this week before Easter--observing the Last Supper on Thursday, Jesus’ passion on Friday, and the emptiness and waiting of Saturday—we have time for the Lord to search us within. Since the early centuries of the church, Christians have set aside these days leading up to Easter as t time for serious “spring house cleaning” within.

A deeper life with the Lord begins with honesty—being real. Where am I right now? How am I genuinely walking with God, and where have I strayed off the path?

During Holy Week, take a few minutes to write down some reflection to these questions:
-Where am I with God at this point in my life?
-How close or how far away from the Lord has my daily life been over the past couple of months?
-How do I want to go deeper with Jesus?
-What hinders me from being more open and vulnerable with him?

You may want to share these answers with a friend—someone who you can be candid with and someone who cares enough about you to check back and see how you are doing.

Holy Week is a time of redirection—setting a new course in life. The word “repentance” comes from the Greek metanoia. Metanoia means to change our thinking or our direction in life. It means we were headed one way but now we are turning around 180 degrees and heading in the opposite direction. Repentance is not simply saying we are sorry. Rather, it means that we move deliberately in the other direction.

What area of your life is sliding in the wrong direction? It can be an action or an attitude. It can be what you say or what you do. It can also be what you are failing to do.

Don’t Miss the Opportunity
In our anticipation of Easter, let us not miss the opportunity for reflection that Holy Week offers us. Let us receive its invitation to enter more fully in the deeper life with Christ than we have ever before experienced!

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lenten Prayer: Awake, O My Soul!

Awake, O my soul!
Awaken to the new day and be fully present to all that is before you.
Awake, O my heart!
Be watchful and embrace all that God gives from his bounty.

Be still, O my thoughts. Do not scatter here and there.
Be attentive to the voice of the Lord and receptive
to all that he is speaking to you this day.

“Awake, my soul!
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.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.” (Ps 57 NIV)

My heart sings your praise this morning, O Lord,
because you are great and greatly to be praised.
My mouth cries with shouts of joy because you are
clothed in power and strength and majesty.

This is the day that you have made, O my God!
Indeed, I will rejoice and be glad in it.
All day long I will declare your kindness, your goodness,
your magnificence and your splendor.

Yes, be exalted, O God, in my heart and in my life this day.
Be exalted, O God, and let your glory fill the heavens and the earth!

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lent: A Time to Wake Up

“Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.”
-Psalm 57:8

Lent is a time to wake up spiritually. Just a David roused himself awake in Psalm 5, so Lent is a season set apart for us to wake up and seek God afresh in our lives.

Lulled to Sleep
For many of us, we start the New Year with a fresh fervor for seeking the Lord. Our devotional times are alive, and our prayer life invigorated. Maybe we begin a new Bible-reading plan or devotional book.

But over time the newness begins to fade, and our intensity wanes. Life has a way of lulling us to sleep—emotionally and spiritually. Sometimes, we simply become tired. Week after week our responsibilities pile up, and we become weary as we fulfill them. Perhaps we catch a cold and need some extra rest. When we finally feel better physically, we realize that we have lost the momentum we had a couple of months ago.

Or, sin can lull us to sleep. We give in—just a little bit at first—and the next thing we know we have become numb to God. We avoid spending time with the Lord because we know we are not right with him. As time goes on, we make excuses and begin to sear our conscience. We move into a spiritual sleep.

For others, we simply become sidetracked. All the cares of the world divert our attention, and over time, we lose our focus. As a result, the fervor we had for pursuing God a few months ago cools down, and we drift into a bit of a spiritual dullness. So long as we are in our mortal bodies, such a slowing down is bound to happen.

Rousing Ourselves Awake
We need to stir ourselves awake. Lent provides just such an opportunity. As a forty-day preparation for Easter, Lent is a time to rouse ourselves awake emotionally, physically and spiritually.

We can do so in a number of ways. We can begin a devotional book for Lent that guides us through Scripture reading and some short reflections that provide a structure for our quiet times with the Lord. These are very helpful in drawing us out of the rut that we are in.

Another help is fasting. Fasting is a wonderful spiritual rhythm that has been associated especially with Lent for most of Christian history. That fasting can be from food or it could be from things like television, which often contributes to our spiritual lethargy. When we fast, we declare our independence from the desires and addictions of our bodies, in order to focus our attention on the Lord.

Still another practice is simply stirring ourselves more awake each morning, especially if that is when we have devotional time with God. I began doing that this summer. When we were away on a retreat, I realized that, although I was having regular quiet times with the Lord, I was not fully present. Therefore I started the practice of moving around a bit more before settling into my devotional time. I also set aside ten minutes for worship before trying to listen to the Lord’s voice in Scripture and prayer. That practice has made a huge difference. Especially mornings when I am feeling dull and lethargic, I make sure to rouse my soul awake as a praise God afresh and seek his face.

A Time to Wake Up
How do you need to wake up to be fully present with the Lord? Whatever has lulled you to sleep, Lent is a tremendous opportunity to wake up spiritually. Find a practice—a rhythm—that works for you, and be like David, who summoned his soul awake and then proceeded to wake up the dawn in his love for the Lord!

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, March 2, 2012

Johannes Tauler: Article

Strasbourg Cathedral where Tauler Lived

Just a note this week to mention the article that came out last week on Johannes Tauler in

You can click on the article on the left panel of Deep Waters, or you can copy and paste the URL:

Tauler was a tremendous preacher of the 14th century, and his sermons have been printed and reprinted around the world for the last 800 years. In fact, he is the preacher that has influenced my life more than any other! Tauler is also significant in that both Protestants and Catholics highly appreciate him.

Tauler was born and reared in Strasbourg, and spent most of his life in ministry there. His tombstone can be found there today.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent: A Forty-Day Retreat

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. For most of the past 2000 years, Christians have set aside the 40 days leading up to Easter as a special time for reorienting our lives to the Lord. Sundays are not part of the 40 days, since these days celebrate the Resurrection on that first Easter morning. The remaining 40 days between now and Easter, however, are special days for us to consecrate our lives to the Lord. Many do a fast of one kind or another as a discipline that helps to break us free from anything we might be clinging to rather than the Lord.

Recently we received a newsletter from a local Christian retreat center that referred to Lent as a “Forty-day retreat.” What a wonderful image of Lent! That little phrase has helped to give me fresh focus as I enter the season of Lent this year.

Retreats are so necessary to maintain our priorities in the Christian life. In the midst of all our busyness, we need to pull back periodically for rest and regrouping our lives to what is truly important. On a retreat we intentionally reflect, repent, reorient and rekindle our love for the Lord.

When we take time to fast from a meal—during Lent or any other time—we set aside that time for Scripture, prayer, worship and reflection. Here are some significant questions to explore:
-How are you connecting with the Lord these days?
-What is God trying to teach you right now in life?
-Where do you sense the Lord’s presence in your week?
-Where is life being drained from you?

Repentance and conversion are ongoing processes in our lives. They are not something about which we can ever say, “been there, done that.” No, they are ongoing realities for the genuine believer—turning away from what is wrong and turning to the Lord. What must change:
-in your walk with the Lord?
-in your inner thought life?
-in your relationships around you?
-in your actions?


Lent is a time to regroup. We reset our priorities and our focus. We get back on track, reorienting ourselves to the One who created us and loves us.
-What must you do to walk out the repentance God is calling you to?
-What ways can you set aside the 40 days leading up to Easter in order to focus your life afresh on the Lord?
-What spiritual rhythms do you need to reestablish in your life right now?

Above all, Lent is a time to rekindle our love for the Lord. Take some extra time during this season leading up to Easter to enjoy God’s presence, to sit in silence and listen to his voice, to worship him in a different way than you normally do on Sunday mornings. Be creative. Perhaps you want to set aside a “date night” to be alone with the Lord during these coming weeks. Perhaps you will go away to a retreat center. Perhaps it will be fasting once a week where you pull apart during that time for solitude with the One you love.

May this Lent indeed be a forty-day retreat in my life and yours! May we embrace this season as an opportunity to reflect, repent, regroup and rekindle our love for the Lord!

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Attentive to the Present Moment: Surprised by Beauty

“O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.”
-Psalm 8:1

When I slow down my racing mind in order to become present to the moment, I discover all kinds of gifts surrounding me that I was looking right past. I find that I am enfolded by God’s grace. I become attentive.

When I am fully present to the moment, I become aware on a whole new level. I begin to notice small things around me that just awhile ago I had overlooked in my hurry and self-preoccupation.

In particular, I am surprised by beauty. The sun sparkles on the water. The breeze plays in the autumn leaves. A lone flower graces the bare rocks in unpretentious glory. None of these draws attention to itself. Without bringing myself to the moment, it would go unnoticed. However, if I take the time to be attentive, I find each is an encouragement and a reminder of God’s streaming presence that surrounds my each and every movement.

Speaking of which—after writing the last sentence I looked up to relish the brief sight of a young bald eagle wing past the shoreline on Lake Superior where my wife and I have been retreating this October day. My life is graced with one gift after another, if I but open my eyes—and especially my heart—to embrace them.

Alive to Life
Creation is filled with brightly colored flowers, brilliant rays of light, gentle clouds and beautiful sunsets. When I am obsessed with thoughts of my past or concerned about my to-do list in the future, however, I walk right past these. I miss the very gifts God has place on my path. When I slow down my racing mind, however, I begin to notice one blessing after another (John 1: 16) all around me. I see beauty again. I enjoy being alive.

I become alert to God’s love and presence by first by attending to the moment—with all the gifts that enfold me. Simply by slowing down, I begin to see—truly see—the beauty of nature. I take time to smell the flowers and gasp at the sunrise.

These are all little gems that our gracious heavenly Father has given me today, placing them in my path to sustain me on my journey. If I am self-absorbed, I miss them. If, however, I am attentive to the moment, I am able to enjoy a multitude of such gifts.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Present to God's Presence

When we become present to the moment, we find ourselves becoming present to God’s presence.

So often we hope for God to “show up” in our devotional time or “be present” in our worship. Yet, the reality is that God is already present. He is available. More than that, he wants us to encounter him! God desires us to experience his presence, his protection, his power, his provision and his peace.

Like the father of the prodigal son, he is there simply waiting for us to show up. It is we who must become aware of him. We must become present to the presence of God.

I Am: God of the Now
At any time we can become present to God’s presence precisely because he is the eternal “I am.” In Exodus 3:14, the Lord reveals himself to Moses as “I am who I am.”

God lives in the Eternal Now. For him, time and eternity are one. God is being itself. He holds time in his hand: he is the past, present and future. God simply is. And he is there for us.

Distracted Existence
Most of us understand the theory of God’s omnipresence. We know the Lord is—and that he is there for us. Yet, how easy it is for us to be un-attentive to God’s presence!

The Lord welcomes us to his presence: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We certainly fit the criteria—we are tired and weighed down! But, so often we overlook Jesus’ invitation. Not sure that his rest is really available for us today, we remain un-attentive to his offer.

Sometimes we are distracted from God’s presence by our preoccupation with things in the world. Jesus described the cares of the world as thorns that choke his word in us. Other times we become engrossed in our own thoughts—responsibilities, worries, irritations and preoccupations. Just as we can walk right past a lilac bush in bloom on a spring day, failing to notice its beauty or smell its scent because we are un-attentive, so we regularly miss the fragrance of God’s presence in our self-preoccupation.

Attending to God’s Presence
If we choose, however, we can attend to God’s presence and enter into his peace. He is nearer to us than our very breath, says Augustine of Hippo. But we must open our spiritual eyes. We must be attentive with all of our spiritual senses.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

We are invited to attend the Lord’s presence with our whole being. Interestingly, we are told little about “how” to do this. It is a spiritual reality—like being born again. These are difficult to describe to someone. In Scripture we are simply invited into them.

Likewise, the Lord makes constant invitations to us to experience his presence. That invitation is backed with a promise. In Jeremiah 29:13 God assures us, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Let us do just that. Let us engage our whole heart to seek him. Let us passionately taste and see his goodness. Let us actively attend to his presence. Let us live in the presence of the eternal “I Am.”

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Epiphany: God Reveals Himself in Light

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and think darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
Isaiah 60:1-3

“Epiphany” means “a showing” or “a revealing.” For nearly 2000 years Christians have observed Epiphany as the celebration of God’s showing himself—revealing his salvation—to the nations. Jesus’ coming to earth is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that God would reveal his glory, not only to Israel, but to all the nations. People from all the earth would stream to the brightness of his light.

In particular Epiphany is the commemoration of Jesus’ being revealed to the Magi from East. They were not part of Israel but rather were astrologers, probably from Persia. Yet, in his great love, God took initiative to show his salvation to them by revealing himself in the night sky. As they followed the star, they came to the place where Jesus was, having the honor of being some of the first to worship the Christ.

Recently I heard a sermon on Epiphany that asked two very good questions:

How Has God Revealed Himself to You this Past Year?

In what ways did the Lord reveal himself to you over the past year? Perhaps he miraculously provided for your needs. Maybe he showed you his mercy and forgiveness in a very tangible way. Perhaps he revealed his love through the helping hands of someone who reached out to you. Or, possibly he gave you a sober warning or needed direction for your life.

Take some time to look over this past year to recognize the fingerprints of God, as it were, in your life. The Lord often works in subtle ways that we do not fully recognize until we take the time to look back. You may want to briefly journal what you notice, to remind yourself of God’s love during difficult days ahead. Be sure to express thanks to the Lord for his initiative in your life.

How Can You Be Attentive to God Revealing Himself This Year?
The Lord will be revealing himself to us in big and small ways in the weeks and months ahead. He does so in many ways. He speaks to us as we meditate on Scripture. He shows his glory and power in nature. God often directs us as we listen to him in stillness.

But God reveals himself in other unexpected ways. Just as he revealed himself to the Magi through signs in the heavens—and to Moses in the burning bush—he shows himself to us when and how we least expect it. His epiphany might come via the encouragement of a friend. It could surprise us—albeit painfully—through a not-so-nice word of correction. It could be wrapped in the lyrics of a song. The Lord might display his glory in a winter sunrise.

However God chooses to reveal himself in our lives this year, how can we remain open? How can we remain attentive, so we don’t miss it? How can we stay receptive, in order not to overlook it when it comes in an unexpected way?

God’s light comes—it breaks in to our lives in many unanticipated ways! That is Epiphany! That is what we as believers celebrate at the end of the Christmas season. Let us be ready, open and attentive as we walk into all that the Lord has in store for us this New Year.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, January 6, 2012

Epiphany: Fully Present in the Now for the New Year

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:13)

Epiphany is about light—God shining into the world in Christ Jesus. We celebrate it immediately after Christmas, and this is very appropriate for the beginning of the New Year.

Holding on to light is so important. Although the winter nights are dark, cold and long, each day adds a minute or so of sunlight to each morning and each evening. Although the change is slow, we begin to notice in January how much more light we have. It gives us hope. As the light shines longer, the sun’s rays become ever stronger, until the snow gives way and spring finally arrives.

In our spiritual lives, progress is also generally slow. While we occasionally get a growth spurt—especially as young believers—most of the Christian life is steady faithful progress. We need to hold on to light and hope during the slow process. We need to walk in the light and see it take over our lives a few minutes more each day.

Present in the Now
Walking in the light this New Year for me entails living fully present in the now. So often I am not present in the now. Physically here, my mind is a million miles away, which keeps me from enjoying the moment and all the goodness that God has for me today.

If I am not here mentally, then where am I? Most often I am off in the future—planning projects in my mind. Sometimes I am worrying about responsibilities, events or people. To enter the here and now, I must set aside my “strategic planning” side. There is, of course, a time and place for organizing my schedule and taking care of responsibilities. But I do not want the “planning table” to be the only place I live my life.

On other occasions, instead of being in the present, I’m focused on the past. I am arguing mentally with someone who I would like to set straight. Or, I am regretting something that I did or failed to do. Most often, if I am stuck in the past, I am missing a wonderful time I had somewhere or time I spent with someone close to me.

Ironically, those wonderful times that I miss are the times when I was fully present to the moment. Being in the now is largely what made them so memorable!

Right Here, Right Now

Instead of daydreaming about the past and wishing I could be back there, why not become fully present to the here and now? This moment—this place—has all the potential to be another wonderful time.

The present is available to be lived to the fullest. It has the potential to be one of those completely alive moments when I am fully connected with the Lord, with others, with myself and with all that surrounds me. Right where I am, I can tap into that same wonderfulness by becoming fully present to the moment. I can bring my full attention, my whole consciousness, to what God has for me in the moment.

Each day this year I want to walk in the light. Rather than reminiscing about the past or planning out the future, I want to live fully in the moment. In the present moment, I can bask in God’s light for me right now!

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers