Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas: Christ’s Birth Bridging Heaven and Earth

“Unto us a Child is born, a Son is given.” (Isaiah 9:5)

Here is a wonderful Christmas sermon I ran across in my reading. It is by the 14th century German preacher, Johannes Tauler, whose work is rather much my life’s study. The excerpts here in English are my paraphrase from the Middle High German edition. [1]

The Three-fold Birth of Christ
Today holy Christendom remembers the three-fold birth that every Christian certainly celebrates. He delights in it so much that he should jump up out of himself for joy in jubilation and love, in thankfulness and inner rapture. And whoever does not experience such an impulse should be alarmed!

First Birth: God the Father Begets the Son before all Eternity
The first and highest birth is that in which the Heavenly Father begets his only born Son in His own divine essence—yet as a distinct Person. The first Christmas Service we celebrate is in the darkness of night, and it begins with the words, “The Lord said to me: You are my Son; today I have begotten you” [Psalm 2:7]. This Service is directed at the hidden birth that took place in the darkness of the hidden, unknowable Godhead.

Second Birth: Mary Gives Birth to Jesus in Bethlehem
The second Christmas Service begins with the words, “Today a light shines above us” [adapted from Isaiah 9:2]. And this means the spark of human nature made godly [in the Incarnation]. This Service begins in the dark of night but ends in the light of day, for this birth was partly unknown and partly known.

Third Birth: Christ Continually Born Afresh in Our Hearts
We celebrate the third Christmas Service in bright daylight, and its introduction resounds, “Unto us a Child is born and a Son is given” [Isaiah 9: 6]. This symbolizes the birth, rich in love, that should be taking place – and indeed does take place – every day and every moment in each believing and holy soul.

This happens when we but turn our attention and love upon it, for in order to feel and be aware of this birth, we must turn inward and redirect all our faculties. In this birth God gives Himself to each of our soul to own. He gives Himself inwardly to our soul, to be possessed above everything it owns!

May God help us all to prepare a place within for this noble birth, so that we can truly spiritually bear Christ in our lives! Amen.

[1] Die Predigten Taulers, ed. Ferdinand Vetter, Deutsche Texte des Mittelalters 11 (Berlin, 1910), sermon V 1.

© 2010 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, December 19, 2013

White as Snow: Last Sunday of Advent before Christmas

Carver Park, Minnesota

"Come now, let us reason together,"
    says the Lord.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool."
-Isaiah 1:18

This is what Advent anticipates. This is God's love poured forth on Christmas!

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Advent Anticipation and Hope

Crown College

Advent is a time of anticipation and hope. It is not by accident that Advent begins the new church calendar each year. We begin that yearly cycle of remembering Christ’s life with the anticipation of his birth.

As we do so corporately as the Church, we also become aware individually of the ache in our hearts where we are waiting for God to move on our behalf. Each of us is waiting for one answer or another in our life. Sometimes that waiting is so long that we give up hope that an answer will ever come.

In many ways, we are challenged to wait like children often wait for the excitement of Christmas morning. They know something exciting is inside those beautifully wrapped packages. In like manner, we are called to wait with anticipation and expectation. This is a hopeful waiting. This is a joyful expectancy of something good—very good.

Of course, sometimes children are disappointed when they finally are free to rip open the colorful paper to see what they have been given. However, in the spiritual life we do not need to brace ourselves for disappointment. Jesus revealed God as a loving heavenly Father who delights in giving to his children. While we may not always receive what we thought we were getting, God’s gift is always good!

“O, taste and see that the Lord is good!” –Psalm 34:8

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, November 29, 2013

Advent: Active Waiting

King's House Retreat Center

“Wait for the Lord;
Be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.”
-Psalm 27:14 (NASB)

Advent is a season of waiting. On the surface, it is the period of time preceding the fun, family and gifts of Christmas day. On a communal level, it is the church universal anticipating the celebration of Christ’s birth. On a personal level, it is a season to get in touch with our profound spiritual hunger and the needs in our lives.

We are all waiting for God to move in one way or another in our lives. For each of us, that need may be different. However, we each have situations that will not be resolved unless God intervenes, hurts that cannot be healed unless the Great Physician reaches our broken hearts, and answers that shall never come apart from a divine response.

The season of advent puts us in touch with our ongoing need for God. In reality, however, we do not always want to realize those empty chasms inside. It is much easier to live life on a surface level or to allow our hearts to go numb. But such shallow, anesthetized existence is not the life we are called to in Christ.

Active Waiting
Instead, as Christians, we are called to live a life in light of the Incarnation—God crashing into the difficulties of this world by taking on human flesh. Christmas is the celebration of Emmanuel—God with us in the midst of all of life’s contingencies.

Therefore we are invited to an active waiting in which our eyes are fixed on God as our hope, and our hearts are riveted to his promises.

When Scripture describes waiting for God, it is not a passive, “ho hum” waiting. It is not an apathetic waiting of indifference. Rather, we are invited to wait actively, with our heart engaged and our energies focused on God. Psalm 84:1-2 resounds with such anticipatory yearning for the Lord’s presence:

“How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.”

This is advent waiting! As we recognize the deep needs in our lives and the profound yearning in our spirits, we must do something about it. We do so by intentionally seeking the Lord. Seeking “puts legs,” as it were, on our waiting.

If we seek him with our whole heart, God promises that we will indeed find him. As he promised to his people in Jeremiah 19:13-14: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”

Rather than ignoring our hearts’ longing or numbing it with endless activity and shopping for more “stuff,” let us set aside extra time for waiting on God this advent. That could be through following an advent calendar and reading its daily Scripture passages. It could consist of going on an advent retreat. Or it could take the form of sitting quietly by candlelight in the evening, waiting and listening in silence.

This Advent
Longing is spiritual atmosphere of advent. This season is the time to stir afresh the inner yearning for the Lord. Whatever means it might be, let us not rush through the season of advent on our way to the celebration of Christmas. If we do, Christmas will seem superficial and we will miss most of its spiritual significance.

Rather, let us wait for the Lord this advent and allow our hearts to ache for a more profound encounter with him. Let us seek him with our whole heart. If we do so, we will experience his coming afresh and come to know him on a deeper level than ever before.

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanksgiving: Moving from Distraction to Gratefulness

Mississippi River

“O taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8

A Million Miles Away
How often we are distracted! Although physically we may be present in one location, mentally we can be a million miles away. We live in an unsettled society where everyone is preoccupied and anxious. Driver all around us swerve and nearly veer off the road—they are distracted with sending a text message or talking on the phone. They are preoccupied with everything but driving!

It is not only the “other guy,” however, who is not present to the moment. We too are engrossed with reviewing our to-do list, arguing with someone in our mind, or worrying about the future. In the midst of all this distraction, we are so often anything but present. And—if we are honest with ourselves—in our preoccupation, we are anything but grateful.

Practice of Place
That is why it is so important to continually come back to the present. Only in the present can I truly appreciate all that God has given me. Only in the here and now do I see his goodness. Only in the present moment will I take time to thank God.

One practice that I have observed the past couple of months is the “Practice of Place.” Throughout the day I ask myself the simple question: Where are you? That question breaks into my day and interrupts my preoccupation. Drawing me back from my mental wanderings, it locates my attention right here right now.

Once I’m in the present, I begin to notice what is around me: the rolling hills of the farmland on my drive home from work, beautiful flowers or colored leaves, our warm home. In the present moment I remember family and friends who are a blessing in my life. It is in the reality of place that I am able to let go of my anxious thoughts of tomorrow in order to appreciate the blessings of today.

In that fresh realization of the many blessings that surround me, I find that gratefulness rises in my heart. Gratitude replaces anxiety and any number of other preoccupied thoughts in my mind.

As we approach Thanksgiving this year, I am making the Practice of Place a part of my daily rhythm. Breaking into all the business and activity of the day, I am asking myself: Where am I? What do I see? During meals, I ask myself: What do I smell and what do I taste? Instead of rushing through the food set before me, I take time to enjoy it, appreciate it and express thanks for it.

Each time I come back to the present, I find something to be ever so thankful for. In this way I also hope to make thanksgiving more than simply one day focused on expressing thanks to the Lord, but rather to cultivate a grateful heart through the other 364 days of the year.

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, October 21, 2013

Practices of the Present Moment: Glimpses of God's Glory

Mississippi River, St. Paul

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries
And daub their faces unaware. “ -Elizabeth Barrett Browning

When we slow down and become present to the present moment, we get glimpses of God’s glory. How often we all walk past brilliantly colored flowers and beautiful sunsets without even realizing they are there. We miss the rays of God’s brilliance all around us.

Psalm 19 tells us that creation reveals God’s radiance to the whole earth. Without a word, the Lord’s splendor shines forth:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
   like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.

Practices of the Present Moment
This fall I am practicing the spiritual discipline of spying God’s glory. Throughout the day I am looking for glimpses of his greatness manifest in big and little events all around me. I am especially attending to creation all about me, and I am seeing with fresh eyes.

Along with the spiritual rhythm of spying God’s glory, I am responding in praise. When I truly see the glory of creation and God’s brilliance shining through it, I cannot help but break into praise of the Almighty!

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, October 4, 2013

Feast of St. Francis: Repentance—Forsaking Self for the Service of Others

Top of Mt. Laverna, Italy

“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. . . . So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 6:16-20, NASB)

Today is the feast of St. Francis. A popular saint, Francis is so accessible—so real—that people in the thirteen century as well as today can identify with him. He is also a phenomenal example of genuine repentance—turning from worldly ways to a life committed 100% to the love of God.

Born to a wealthy merchant family in the Italian city of Assisi, Francis grew up enjoying a life of comfort and pleasure. He loved stylish clothes and used to wear the newest silk fashions that his father brought back from Paris. Throwing parties for his friends, Francis exemplified the life of revelry.

That all changed, however, through a number of trials that hit him as he entered his twenties. Through war, imprisonment and sickness, God got his attention, leading Francis to repent from his self-focused ways in order to commit his life completely to the Lord.

From Silks to Simplicity
When Francis turned to God, it was genuine. He forwent stylish clothes, silks and the sumptuous life in order to follow a life of simplicity. He gave up partying and wasteful living. As Matthew 3:8 commands, Francis produced “fruit in keeping with [his] repentance.” Wearing a coarse, brown robe tied with a simple rope for a belt, Francis’ garb is still recognized today.

From Self to Service
St. Francis’ repentance ran much deeper than his choice of clothes. Money that had previously been spent on his own pleasure and vanity was now employed to help those in need. Feeding the poor, clothing the outcasts and comforting the sick—especially those dying of leprosy—St. Francis poured his life out for others.

From the Soft Life to Suffering
Ultimately St. Francis moved from the soft life of comfort to a very hard life. Over the next twenty years he periodically spent weeks of solitude and prayer—not spent in a comfortable retreat center (which is where I tend to go)—but rather he and the men around him went “wilderness camping,” as it were, in very rugged terrain. Both at Celia in the mountain ravine outside of Assisi and the rocky rough country high on Mount Laverna (photo above), St. Francis met God in the wilderness, as Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus did centuries ago.

Likewise, working day and night to tend the lepers and preach the gospel across Italy and beyond, St. Francis poured his life out as an offering for the sake of others (Philippians 2:17). Having spent himself, he died young at the age of 44 or 45 on the evening of October 3, 1226.

Model for Us
St. Francis is a wonderful model of radical repentance. Reaching down to the root level of his life—and use of money—St. Francis’ turn from worldly ways was demonstrated by his passionate love for the Lord and by his self-less service of his neighbor.

Today is a marvelous opportunity to celebrate his life, thank God for the renewal he brought to the church, and learn from his visible example of turning from the obsession with material comforts and possessions to the genuine pursuit of God.

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reflections from the North Land: Meeting God in Creation

Lake Superior

O Lord, our Lord,  how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
 above the heavens. . . .
When I consider your heavens,
 the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
 which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
 the son of man that you care for him? . . .
O Lord, our Lord,
 how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8)

Get Out into God’s Creation
Out in God’s creation, we can see his glory in new ways. That brings fresh perspective to all of life. Most of us fail to take time to truly consider the heavens, the work of his fingers. But when we do, we see God in his majesty. We also see our own problems in proper perspective—seldom are they as all-consuming as they seem to us.

Walking with the Lord
Last evening was absolutely beautiful—crisp air, bright sunshine and a light breeze. Sharon and I worked in our garden. That was so refreshing!

From the beauty of the garden in our back yard to the glory of hiking in the Alps to watching the sun set over Lake Superior (above), I have had some of my most memorable times with the Lord in the glory of creation. Genesis 3:8 tells us that Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God “as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” Like Adam must have strolled with God in the evening breezes around the first Garden, I love walking and talking with the Lord outdoors.

As beautiful fall weather has arrived, I am making it a priority to get out into the sunshine and fresh air as often as possible. Whether working in our garden or walking in the woods, it is such an opportunity to enjoy God’s presence and glory!

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Reflections from the North Land: All Creation Praising God!

North Shore of Lake Superior

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
  let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
  let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
  they will sing before the Lord! (Ps 96:11-13)

Last weekend Sharon and I relished three days on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Staying at our favorite cabin right on the water, we lingered the whole morning sitting on the rocks, soaking in the sun and the waves and the fresh breeze. Reading, sipping coffee, praying and sharing were the sum of our whole agenda there. It was a true time of being led beside quiet waters while the Lord restored our souls (Ps 23)!

Our first morning, Sharon shared with me reflections from a chapter she read in Albert Haase’s wonderful new book, Catching Fire, Becoming Flame. He gives four simple steps to help us be fully present to God each moment. [1]

Ask yourself: Where am I? So often we are physically in one place, but mentally a million miles away. This was a helpful question for me while on the North Shore. Every so often I would just ask myself: Glenn, where are you? This would remind me: Wow, I am at our favorite spot on Lake Superior basking in the sun! I want to be fully present here! I’m going to delight in every moment!

Next, we need to be attentive to what is around us. What do we hear, see, smell? Haase suggests we take one of these to focus on. The morning I took the photo above, I centered on what I was seeing. Iwas enthralled with watching the sunlight twinkle in the spray from the waves as they crashed against the rocks. It was just beautiful.

Next, we reflect on what we are seeing, hearing, touching or smelling. We ask ourselves: How do I see God in this? What character of God is revealed? As I watched the waves that morning, I was caught up in praise. Each splash of the lively waves simply showered forth praise to the creator!

Finally, take a few moments just to adore the Lord. That is what I did that morning—I sat in silent awe of our awesome Creator. I let my heart sing praise to our God, joining in the celebration that the waves sprayed forth.

As Psalm 96 declares: Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; / let the sea resound, and all that is in it!

[1] Material adapted from Albert Haase. Catching Fire, Becoming Flame: A Guide for Spiritual Transformation. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2013.

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Spiritual Formation and Enjoying a Garden

Our Garden

I come to the Garden alone,
 While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
 The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
 And He tells me I am his own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
 None other has ever known. (C. Austin Miles)

I have always loved meeting the Lord out in his creation! After a hectic day in the office, I love coming home and going into our back yard to work in the garden. The smell of the flowers and the soft beauty of the grass and evergreen trees help me let go of all the stress—sometimes several layers of strain and tension and worry—until I begin to enjoy life again.

So often in the out-of-doors, I reconnect with the Lord. I reconnect with Sharon, as we work in the garden or do a walk on the tail. In addition, I reconnect with myself, my true self.

Glory of Creation
The loving Creator reveals himself to us in a special way in creation. There we get a glimpse of God’s grandeur as we see the order of the spheres. We touch God’s essential beauty as we soak in the gorgeous sky, the colorful flowers and all of the Almighty’s handiwork.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
 the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
 night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
 where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
 their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1-3)

God’s deep love for us is also revealed in all that he provides for us—meeting our every need and simply blessing us with the enjoyment of creation!

Spiritual Formation
One of my spiritual rhythms—a.k.a. spiritual disciplines—is getting out in nature. It is a “discipline” because I need to remind myself to do it! I need to break out of my responsibilities and get my nose away from the grindstone for an hour in order to enjoy God out in his creation. When I do so, it makes all the difference in my life.

Spiritual formation is often interwoven with gardens and creation. I know they are integrally connected in my life. Prayer, listening, meditating, and even reading Scripture come alive in a fresh way in the fresh air. Let us take God up on his invitation to revel in his awesome creation!

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Evening Examine: Taking Time to Reflect–Insights by Francis de Sale

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. . . .
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts![c]
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)

Long-term spiritual growth necessitates reflection. We must reflect on our actions and attitudes—what we have done well and what we have not done well—if we want to see substantive change in our lives. Without regular inspection, we simply repeat the same mistakes and sins again and again.

If, however, we take time in prayer to look back over the day, we are open to what God has to show us. Of course we need to have a teachable spirit in order to listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us. The Lord might open our eyes to see a missed opportunity to reach out to someone because we were too afraid that we might look stupid. Or, he might show us that something we did was right—but we did it with the wrong attitude or for the wrong reason. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit might point out a blessing during the day that we entirely overlooked.

None of this will happen, though, if we fail to take the time to slow down for a few minutes, reflect and listen. This is known as daily “examine.”

The practice of intentional self-assessment has traditionally been referred to as daily examine. In prayer we evaluate our thoughts, words and deeds in light of God’s Word. In his classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales offers a very simple but practical pattern for daily examine each evening.

1. “Thank God for having preserved you through the day past.

2. Examine how you have conducted yourself through the day, in order to which recall where and with whom you have been, and what you have done.

3. If you have done anything good, offer thanks to God; if you have done amiss in thought, word, or deed, ask forgiveness of His Divine Majesty, resolving to confess the fault when opportunity offers, and to be diligent in doing better.

4. Then commend your body and soul, the Church, your relations and friends, to God.”

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

This practice of morning prayer (see last blog) and evening examine makes a wonderful rhythm for spiritual growth. De Sales summarizes, “Neither this practice nor that of the morning should ever be omitted; by your morning prayer you open your soul's windows to the sunshine of Righteousness, and by your evening devotions you close them against the shades of hell.”

*All quotes are taken from the online free edition of Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life,

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Francis de Sales: Introduction to the Devout Life: Suggestions for Morning Prayer

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;
  in the morning I lay my requests before you
  and wait in expectation.”
-Psalm 5:3

Morning Prayer
One of the greatest aids to spiritual growth is establishing a rhythm of prayer. Just as rhythm gives “backbone” to melody and harmony in music, so a spiritual rhythm helps to give strength and structure to our devotional life with God, freeing us from the mood of the moment.

Many, if not most, Christians during the past two thousand years who have walked with God over the long haul have found the value in establishing a morning and evening routine. Far from being a form of legalism, such a pattern of morning prayer and evening prayer becomes the steady rhythm of breathing for our spiritual lives.

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales offers some insightful—and very practical—suggestions for daily morning prayer.

1. “Thank God, and adore Him for His Grace which has kept you safely through the night, and if in anything you have offended against Him, ask forgiveness.”

2. “Call to mind that the day now beginning is given you in order that you may work for Eternity, and make a steadfast resolution to use this day for that end.”

Each day is an opportunity to start out on the right foot. God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and we can tap afresh into his grace and faithfulness to empower us to love and serve him.

3. “Consider beforehand what occupations, duties and occasions are likely this day to enable you to serve God; what temptations to offend Him, either by vanity, anger, etc., may arise; and make a fervent resolution to use all means of serving Him and confirming your own piety; as also to avoid and resist whatever might hinder your salvation and God's Glory.”

Thinking about the potential challenges of the day is not enough: we must be ready to obey the Lord if the temptation indeed comes. “Nor is it enough to make such a resolution,--you must also prepare to carry it into effect,” states de Sales. “Thus, if you foresee having to meet someone who is hot-tempered and irritable, you must not merely resolve to guard your own temper, but you must consider by what gentle words to conciliate him. If you know you will see some sick person, consider how best to minister comfort to him, and so on.” De Sales—like the Scouts—wants to think things through and be prepared for the day!

4. “Next, humble yourself before God, confessing that of yourself you could carry out nothing that you have planned, either in avoiding evil or seeking good.”

Our plans are worth little without committing them to the Lord. De Sales continues, “Then, so to say, take your heart in your hands, and offer it and all your good intentions to God's Gracious Majesty, entreating Him to accept them, and strengthen you in His Service, which you may do in some such words as these: ‘Lord, I lay before Thee my weak heart, which Thou dost fill with good desires. Thou knowest that I am unable to bring the same to good effect, unless Thou dost bless and prosper them, and therefore, O Loving Father, I entreat of Thee to help me by the Merits and Passion of Thy Dear Son, to Whose Honour I would devote this day and my whole life.’”

More than our own will power, we need his strength to carry out our good intentions. There is our part, and there is God’s part. As Paul asserts in Philippians 2:12-13, we need to actively and passionately engage in the process as we “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling”! However, we do so because the Lord enables us to, “for it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Let us likewise seek the Lord in the morning, engaging our whole heart and will and determining to act in full obedience. Let us offer our good intentions to the Lord, receiving his grace to follow through with all he directs!

*All quotes are taken from the online free edition of Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life,

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Francis de Sales: Introduction to the Devout Life: Placing yourself in Scripture

Minnesota Arboretum

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105 KJV)

In his Christian classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales lays a foundation for spiritual growth by encouraging all believers to meditate on God’s Word. Precisely because it is God’s very Word, it is beyond value. We must therefore be attentive to whatever the Lord has to say to us.

“Cultivate a special devotion to God's Word,” exhorts de Sales, “whether studied privately or in public; always listen to it with attention and reverence, strive to profit by it, and do not let it fall to the ground, but receive it within your heart as a precious balm.”

Receiving Correction and Direction
Sometimes God gives us a word of comfort in Scripture. Other times it is a word of correction, as 2 Timothy 2:16 states: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Often times the comfort or correction is accompanied by some specific direction for our lives.

Whatever correction or instruction comes our way, we need to be ready to obey Scripture. Reading the Bible or hearing it is not enough, we must have our minds made up ahead of time that we will truly “listen” to it and follow through on whatever the Lord speaks in his Word. As Jesus asserts, we will be blessed if we hear the word and keep it (Luke 11:28).

Scripture should never be boring! If our Bible reading is dull, it is because we come to it with a dull mind and dull attitude. God’s Word itself is alive and vibrant, as Hebrews 4:12-13 declares, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.”

Helping us to approach God’s Word with all our attention, de Sales offers some very practical steps as we approach Scripture to read it and reflect upon it.

First, we Need to Place Ourselves in God’s Presence
One way to do this is by realizing “that His Presence is universal; that is to say, that He is everywhere, and in all, and that there is no place, nothing in the world, devoid of His Most Holy Presence, so that, even as birds on the wing meet the air continually, we, let us go where we will, meet with that Presence always and everywhere.” Another way to make ourselves attentive to God’s presence, says de Sales, is “simply to exercise your ordinary imagination, picturing the Saviour to yourself in His Sacred Humanity as if He were beside you just as we are wont to think of our friends, and fancy that we see or hear them at our side.”

Second, Ask for God’s Grace
De Sales instructs, you “must ask of Him grace to serve and worship Him in this your meditation. You may use some such brief and earnest words as those of David: ‘Show me Thy Ways, O Lord, and teach me Thy paths’ [Psalm 25:4]. ‘Give me understanding, and I shall keep Thy Law: yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart’ [Psalm 119:34].”

Third, Place Yourself into Scripture
We can also mentally place ourselves right into the biblical scene that we are meditating on. This is a great way to bring God’s Word alive in our hearts and lives! De Sales challenges us simply to kindle “a vivid picture of the mystery to be meditated within your imagination, even as though you were actually beholding it. For instance, if you wish to meditate upon our Lord on His Cross, you will place yourself in imagination on Mount Calvary, as though you saw and heard all that occurred there during the Passion; or you can imagine to yourself all that the Evangelists describe as taking place where you are.”

Spiritual Life Founded on God’s Word
Many forms of “spirituality” are in circulation today. How do we know which ones are true Christian spiritual formation? First and foremost, we must see whether they are founded upon and saturated in Scripture.

In his classic, de Sales gives some down-to-earth suggestions in approaching God’s Word and making it our own. He also offers some helpful devotions in the opening chapters of his work, including meditations on Creation, on the Purpose for which we were Created, the Gifts of God, on our Sin, and others.

I pray that we would all be so saturated in God’s Word that it transforms our thinking, empowers us for godly living, and fills our hearts with God’s inextinguishable love for us!

*All quotes are taken from the online free edition of Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life,

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, July 5, 2013

Francis de Sales: Introduction to the Devout Life: Spiritual Growth for All

Minnesota Arboretum

“Do you not know that in a race the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)

One of the great spiritual classics of all times in the Introduction to the Devout Life by Francis de Sales. Welcoming believers of all ages and levels of growth to move forward in their walk with the Lord, de Sales’ work breathes a breath of fresh air and candid invitation. It describes what a genuine believer’s spiritual or devotional (devout) life can look like. Above all, it offers encouragement in our relationship with Jesus and a gentle challenge to move toward Christian maturity.

Spiritual Maturity for All Christians
De Sales is down to earth about spiritual progress. Rather than seeing spiritual formation as something set aside for those who are “spiritual,” he encourages everyone to nurture a deeper walk with the Lord. He recognizes that spiritual rhythms will look different for people in different callings in life—a pastor and a mother with small children have very different demands on their time.

Nevertheless, we can all cultivate our spiritual life. God “bids Christians—the living tress of His Church—to bring forth fruits of devotion, each on according to his kind and vocation,” writes de Sales. “A different exercise of devotion is required of each . . . the artisan, the servant, . . . the wife; and furthermore such practice must be modified according to the strength, the calling, and the duties of each individual.”

Work with Peace in Your Hearts
De Sales is one of the first major spiritual writers to highlight everyday spirituality. Christians can grow through their daily activities, as well as through their consistent devotional life.

How do we live in the active work-a-day world and still maintain our sense of connection with God? De Sale observes that “we must attend to the business of life carefully, but without eagerness or over-anxiety.” When Jesus rebuked Martha, it was not for her serving “but giving way to disquiet and anxiety.”

He goes on to paint a picture for us of what anxiety of the much-ness and many-ness of life is like: “Flies harass us less by what they do than by reason of their multitude, and so great matters give us less disturbance than a multitude of small affairs. Accept the duties which some upon you quietly, and try to fulfill them methodically, one after another. If you attempt to do everything at once, or with confusion, you will only comber yourself with your own exertions, and by dint of perplexing your mind you will probably be overwhelmed and accomplish nothing.”

Our devotional times need to influence our daily life and work. If we have truly connected with our loving Lord during our time of Scripture reading and prayer, we need to actively bring that peace into all our activities. Summing it up de Sales exhorts: “In all your affairs lean solely on God’s Providence, by means of which alone your plans can succeed. Meanwhile, on your part work on in quiet cooperation with Him, and then rest satisfied.”

Deep Devotion and Service to Others
Genuine spiritual maturity consists of both a fervent pursuit of our personal relationship with God and a self-emptying service of those around us. No matter our place in life—whether young or old, student or parent, in Christian work or a secular job or retired—we all need to put our roots down as well as stretch our branches out toward others. The devout life is both vertical and horizontal. Our spiritual formation will be lopsided without both dimensions.

“Ponder Jacob’s ladder,” recommends de Sales, “it is a true picture of the devout life.” Just as we can go both directions on a ladder, we need to be “ascending by contemplation to a loving union with God,” as well as “descending by good deeds on behalf of our neighbor.” What a great invitation that is to us follow the two great commandments: loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mk 12:29-31).

*All quotes are taken from the online free edition of Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life,

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, June 21, 2013

Reading Christian Classics: Spiritual Maturity for All Believers

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB)

Growing and Running
God calls each and every one of us toward spiritual maturity. Much of contemporary Christianity emphasizes “getting saved”—being born again—so much, that it forgets the fact that once we are born we need to grow! Just as a human baby needs to develop physically and mentally, so we must mature spiritually.

The Gospel invites us into an intimate relationship with God the Heavenly Father through the person and work of Jesus the Son, by the nurture and care of the Holy Spirit. That relationship is one that needs to develop over the years. Like any genuine friendship, it must deepen in our hearts as we become more real and vulnerable with the One we love. The friendship also widens to affect every area of our lives.

From beginning to end, the New Testament summons us to transformation. As we walk with God, we need to be changed—not simply forgiven but also conformed to Jesus’ very image. For God “predestined [us] to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29). Genuine Christianity is all about becoming like Christ—dying to our old ways of thinking, speaking and doing, in order that Jesus might live through us, not just in theory but in actuality.

Spiritual Classics
The Christian Classics are works written by believers over the past two thousand years that help us do just that. Penned by men and women who pressed on toward that spiritual maturity, the classics welcome us to do the same in our day and age. They offer insight into the growth process, which can help us along the way, especially when we are stuck. They encourage us when we have grown weary and they challenge us in our moments of laziness.

As a student of Church History for over half my life, I have come to appreciate the classics more every year. The godly women and men who wrote them are now part of the great cloud of witnesses described in Hebrews 11 and 12, who cheer us on as we run the Christian race. Many of them suffered greatly during their lifetime, so they have much to say about the role of suffering in the maturation process. They offer genuine encouragement when we are weary and in pain, and they provide notable examples for us in our life situation. Like James, they call us to “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 NASB).

Invitation to Press On
One of my main reasons for beginning this blog site was to introduce Christians today—of all denominations and backgrounds—to our common heritage in the Church and the wealth of spiritual encouragement and instruction available to us from ardent believers of the past twenty centuries. Through recommending various classics, as well as telling some of their authors’ life-stories, I hope to offer some of their wisdom and insight on the Christian life. By providing quotes from their writings, I hope to whet the appetite of readers to find copies of the classics and make them your own.

Above all, I pray that my blog would stir you to push forward in your walk with the Lord—through inspiring seasons of growth and dull times, when prayer comes easily as well as when it seems so dry and difficult. “I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus,” exclaims the Apostle Paul, even after serving God for many years. “Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14 NASB). By God’s grace, let each and every one of us do the same!

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

St. Francis de Sales: Everyday Spirituality

Be at peace.
Do not look forward with fear to the changes of life;
Rather look to them with full hope as they arise.
God, whose very own you are, will deliver you from out of them.
God has kept you hitherto,
 and God will lead you safely through all things;
And when you cannot stand it,
 God will bury you in almighty, loving arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
The same everlasting God who cares for you today
  will take care of you then and every day.
God will either shield you from suffering,
  or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.
      -St. Francis de Sales

One of the great Christian authors over the centuries is Francis de Sales. Living during the Reformation period in Europe, de Sales helped to bring spiritual renewal to the church in his day. He was a wise spiritual director, who wanted to see all Christians grow deeper in their faith. With a great pastor’s heart, he served as Bishop of Geneva from 1602-1622.

De Sales understands well the fears and anxieties in our hearts, and addresses the daily burdens that we all carry. Ultimately, he invites us all to experience more of God’s peace and presence. The quote above, as well as the one below, has really ministered to me the past several months. Both can be found online.

Do everything calmly and peacefully. Do as much as you can as well as you can. Strive to see God in all things without exception, and consent to His will joyously. Do everything for God, uniting yourself to him in word and deed. Walk very simply with the Cross of the Lord and be at peace with yourself.
      -St. Francis de Sales

De Sales’ writings, especially Introduction to the Devout Life, are appreciated by Protestants and Roman Catholics alike. Some of his letters we have preserved today in Letters of Spiritual Direction, by St. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal, in the series Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press, 1988.

If you have not yet become acquainted with Francis de Sales, you will really enjoy reading his works. Various translations of his work are available in paperback. Online you can find many helpful quotes by him, as well as information of his life. You can also some older translations of his works for free:

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lent: A Time for Fasting, Weeping & Mourning

North Shore of Lake Superior

“Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and abounding in love. (Joel 2:12-13)

Lent—the forty days leading up to the Cross and the Resurrection—is a season for seeking God afresh in our lives. One of the traditional practices that helps us in our pursuit of God is the biblical discipline of fasting.

Lent is a way of joining Jesus in the forty-day fast that he did before he began his ministry (see Matt 4 and Luke 4). Although Jesus’ disciples did not fast while they were with him, he stated that they would indeed fast when he—the Bridegroom—was not with them (Mark 2:19). Likewise, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated, “When you fast” (Matt 6:16), implying that such was to be a standard practice for his disciples.

Seriously Seeking God
Our pursuit of God is truly getting serious when we are willing to set aside food—our daily bread—in order to focus our hearts, minds, bodies and whole beings on the Lord. We make a declaration to the Lord, and to ourselves, that our relationship with him is more important than our very sustenance.

Fasting is also a form of humbling ourselves and mourning for our sin. When Nehemiah fasted, he wept and mourned and sought God, both for himself and for the people of Israel (Neh 1:4-11). When we fast—especially from food—it takes the energy, self-reliance and pride right out of us. It helps us to lower ourselves and come in need before the Lord. In fact, in the Old Testament, “humbling oneself” is often used as a reference to fasting.

Phenomenal Focus
Fasting helps us seek God because it offers us fresh focus. When I give up the food that I need for daily strength, I need to focus entirely on the Lord. In fact, each time my stomach growls, I use it as a reminder to direct my attention back on him.

We see this focus in Jesus’ forty-day fast. Putting aside one of the very essentials of life itself, Jesus dedicated his time in the wilderness to prayer with God the Father. When Satan tested him at the end of the forty days with the rather benign temptation of turning stones into bread, Jesus’ true focus came out: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3).

Living out our Repentance
Joel 2 calls us to return to the Lord. Such a return is what the New Testament calls metanoia—repentance. When we repent, we turn away from the wrong direction we are headed and return to the Lord with our whole heart.

Lent is an opportunity to walk out our repentance by establishing a new spiritual rhythm, like fasting. This may be a spiritual practice that we adopt just for Lent, or it may be something we begin in Lent and continue on for a long time.

Fasting is a great way to walk out our repentance. It declares our independence from food or any other physical yearning that might put us in bondage. We can fast from many different things: food, TV, worry, busyness, deserts, pop or other drinks, texting, Facebook—anything that pulls on us and distracts us from pursuing God.

Whatever we give up, we must replace with something positive. Instead of TV or Facebook, we can set aside that hour for some special time with the Lord. If we fast one meal a week, we can dedicate that time for prayer.

Are you and I willing to fast and weep and mourn this Lent? Whether it is giving up food for a day—or abstaining from chocolate or other delicacy for the whole forty days—fasting is giving up something we desire or need. In doing so we humble ourselves and reorient our desires and attention on the Lord so that we can pursue him wholeheartedly as we look forward to the celebration of his Resurrection!

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lent: Kneeling in Humility, Repentance and Seeking God Afresh

Since the Early Church, Lent has been a season set aside for seeking God afresh in our lives. Lent is the forty days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. It is a time to focus anew on where our relationship with the Lord is and where we would like it to go.

Any time we want to move forward with God, it means we need to let go of where we are. Inevitably that entails confessing sin in our lives. Whether sins of the flesh or an ungodly attitude or unforgiveness—we cannot move forward with God unless we confess our sin to the Lord, ask forgiveness and turn from it.

Kneeling in Confession
One important time for kneeling before the Lord is when we confess our sins. Kneeling or falling prostrate before the Lord has been closely associated with confessing our sins in prayer. How appropriate it is for us to humble ourselves utterly as we come before a holy God with our transgressions!

Origen, one of the early theologians of the Church, states, “Kneeling is necessary when someone is going to speak against his own sins before God, since he is making supplication for their healing and their forgiveness. We must understand that it symbolizes someone who has fallen down and become obedient, since Paul says, ‘For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named’ (Eph. 3:14-15).”[1]

Inner and Outer Affecting Each Other
As quoted in an earlier blog, Origen stresses the importance of our physical attitude “because one then carries in the body too, as it were, the image [icon] of that special condition that befits the soul during prayer.”[2] Our bodies are the outward image or icon of our inner spiritual condition.

It goes the other way, as well. Our physical position also influences our inner disposition. When we stand before someone of importance—whether a judge in the classroom or applauding an excellent performer—our bodily stance helps to cultivate the respect we have for them. It is a spiral. Our physical stance affects our inner attitude; then, in turn, our heart’s attitude in expressed through our body’s attitude.

“Thus, there is a genuine reciprocity between one’s internal disposition and external posture. This is the ‘special property’ of the soul, which in the body’s posture creates, so to speak, a suitable ‘icon’ of itself,” summarizes Gabriel Bunge. [3] Our outer self and inner self have an effect on each other. In prayer, our whole being is involved—and that is as it should be. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

Pursuing God this Lent
Getting our bodies involved in prayer helps to fully engage our minds and our hearts. As one writer states, without kneeling, bowing, raising hands and otherwise engaging our whole bodies, our prayer “will be routine, cold, and shallow.” [4] Many Christians who have a personal relationship with the Lord would probably nevertheless admit that much of their prayer has become rather routine, and probably somewhat shallow and even cold.

Let us take this season as a unique opportunity to seek God in our lives. Where we have been passive or have gone in the wrong direction, we can confess our sin to God. Engaging our bodies—and all our strength—we can come humbly before God. Let us take this Lent to stir the coals inside us and kindle that flame of love for the Lord!
[1] Origen, On Prayer, 31:3, in An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works, trans. Rowan Greer, CWS (New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1979), p.165.
[2] Origen, On Prayer, 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.
[3] Bunge, p. 146.
[4] Joseph Busnaya, quoted in Bunge, 139.

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, January 21, 2013

Practices of Prayer in the Early Church: Kneeling and Bowing Down in Worship

Daniel at Prayer

“Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Psalm 95: 6)

Kneeling, Bowing and Falling Prostrate
One often-forgotten dynamic of biblical worship and prayer is bowing before the Lord. Especially in America we do not want to bow before anything or anyone. Therefore, we often skip over the Scriptures that call us to do so in reverence to God.

David declares that “in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple” (Psalm 5:7). One of the key terms often translated as “worship” in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word Shachah. Literally it means to bow down. One bows down physically while worshiping the Lord. The most common term in the New Testament for worship is prokuneo, which means to bow down and kiss. Similarly in the New Testament we see kneeling in prayer. When Peter healed Tabitha in Acts 9, it states that “he got down on his knees and prayed.”

Even Jesus himself assumed this posture when praying to God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Going a little farther,” states Matthew 26:39, “he fell with his face to the ground and prayed.”

Affecting Our Inner Attitude
Our physical attitude not only reflects our inner attitude, it also affects the attitude of our heart. Bowing down with our face against the dust floor and our fanny sticking up in the air is uncomfortable and more than a little embarrassing. In short it is humbling—even humiliating.

That is the point. When we bow down to God in prayer, it puts everything and everyone in place. God is high and lifted up. We are made low. C. S. Lewis made the comment somewhere that it is good that he prostrate himself before the Lord on a regular basis because of how it humbled him on the inside.

When we bow down before someone, we humble ourselves and lift them up. This, of course, is precisely what we need to do whenever come before the Lord in worship or prayer. We acknowledge our need and his power to meet the need. We humble ourselves and exalt him.

Ultimately all of creation will acknowledge Christ’s authority, as Paul describes in Philippians 2:10-11, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

[1] Origen, On Prayer, 33:3, in An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works, trans. Rowan Greer, CWS (New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1979), p.165.

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Epiphany: Christ’s Light where We have Walked in Darkness

“The people walking in darkness
Have seen a great light;
On those living in the land of the shadow of death
A light has dawned.” (Is 9:2 & Matt 4:15-16)

Epiphany—January 6—is the Church’s celebration of our Lord’s appearance (epiphany) to those beyond the Hebrew world. As he was revealed to the Magi from the East, his light shone to the Gentiles, as was foretold in Genesis 12, Isaiah and throughout the Old Testament. He came for all people at all times!

Light for Us
On a personal level, Epiphany is an opportunity to invite Jesus’ light into places where we might still be walking in darkness. For some of us, that darkness is the darkness of fear—we fear rejection or what others think about us. We experience continual anxiety about our health or our finances, especially in these difficult times. We fear the future, or we fear failure.

For others that darkness is shame. We have kept a secret hidden within, feeling shameful about ourselves, our actions, our bodies. For still others the darkness is a perpetual sin we walk in.

Whatever the darkness might be, this is the time to invite Jesus’ light in. Jesus appeared on this earth to bring light to all people—that includes you and me. At the beginning of this new year, let us celebrate Epiphany by inviting the Lord afresh to bring light to any area of darkness in our lives!

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers