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