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