Friday, November 28, 2014

Advent: Longing for the Light

Although I love the change of seasons, Minnesota winters can be long and hard. Minus 30 degrees pierces many a layer of clothing, and the blanket of white for five months leaves one longing to see just one patch of grass again come April.
Hardest of all for me, however, is the lack of light. The higher the latitude, the longer the winter darkness. Every year I brace myself for the dark months of November, December and January. During this long gray season, whenever the sun is shining outside I try to get out for a few minutes’ walk if the temperature is above zero. But many days I go to work in the dark and return in the dark, hardly seeing the sun.
Into these dark months comes Advent. The beginning of the church year, Advent affirms my longing for light. It embraces the empty place in my heart and redirects the inner pining of my soul toward the Uncreated Light of God. My natural need for brightness and color uncovers my deeper longing for “the true light that gives light to everyone [who] was coming into the world” (John 1:9 TNIV).
This One, whose coming into the world we celebrate soon, is:
God from God, Light from Light,
True God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man. (Nicene Creed)
Yes, Uncreated Light came crashing into our desperate, dark world!
Advent, then, is our celebration of the weeks leading up to Jesus’ nativity. It is our participation in this cosmic Drama of Salvation. We join with Mary and Joseph as we move toward the birth of the Savior.
More than a reenactment, however, Advent is a pilgrimage for each one of us here and now. Although Christ came into the world two millennia ago—and although he has come into our hearts—there are still rooms of our lives where his light needs to shine. There are lonely places only he can fill.
As we journey through Advent, longing for physical light, let us allow that deeper yearning to draw us ever forward toward a fresh encounter at Bethlehem. Every time we find ourselves looking out the window during these weeks of Advent—heaving a sigh for springtime, green-ness and light—let us channel that earthly ache into the spiritual yearning that it reflects.
By doing so, the dark days of December are transformed into a personal pilgrimage that moves toward a new encounter with Christ. Focus is turned toward Immanuel. We wait with expectation as we look longingly toward the horizon of the dark northern sky and anticipate the coming of the Light of the World! 
               2014 © Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thanksgiving Prayer: You have Crowned the Year with Bounty!

“You crown the year with your bounty,
     And your carts overflow with abundance.” –Psalm 65:11

                        A Thanksgiving Prayer

How great are your works, O Lord,
            extending to the ends of the earth!
     How good are your deeds, O Creator Eternal,
            giving food, drink and breath to all that lives.

Day after day your kindness enfolds us,
            unseen and unheard, your goodness surrounds us.
    Season upon season you remain faithful and true,
            never leaving us or forsaking us, your presence is near.

You crown the year with bounty, O God,
            and cover the hills with golden harvest.
     With abundance you supply all our needs,
            your provision blankets the earth.

How can we repay you, Lord, for all you have done—
            for your goodness, providence and care?
     Our words of thanksgiving can hardly express
            our hearts full of gratitude for your lovingkindness!

Please accept our expression of thanks, O God,
            but a token of all you deserve.
     Hear our heartbeat of thanksgiving and praise:
            you are good—oh, so good—God of bounty, grace
and love! Amen.

2014 © Glenn E. Myers

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thanksgiving Season: Thanks must be Given Away

How often we feel flat in our prayer. We don’t feel connected with God. Although we know we should be grateful to him for the many blessings he has given us, we don’t feel thankful. So we go through our devotions out of rote, or we simply find ourselves too busy to set aside time with the Lord.
Such experience of inner numbness is common to Christians. Ups and downs of the soul sometimes follow the seasons outside. Loss and grief leave us feeling empty and dry for months on end. Stress and exhaustion can drain us of the immediacy we used to enjoy alone with the Lord. When this happens we are often unsure what to do.
Stoking the Fire
In October, my wife Sharon and I took a long weekend to enjoy the North Shore of Lake Superior, staying in a cabin near the water where we have visited many times before. Fall leaves colored the hillsides, the weather was beautiful and the nights were breathtaking with the full moon rising over the water.  One of those nights we had a bonfire on the rocks next to the lake.
Tending a fire has much to teach us about tending the flame of our inner lives. One of those lessons is that a fire is naturally inclined to wax and wane. When one starts a bonfire, the flames leap high with the dry kindling, and it looks like the blaze will go forever. However, until a bed of hot coals is established the fire is not secure. Flames can go down quickly and the fire becomes vulnerable.      
What we do at that point is crucial. If we walk away from the fire, it can die out. If we rather tend the fire and stoke the flames, we can bring it back to a steady blaze. Adding a bit of dry wood and blowing the glowing logs is all it takes to revive the fire and help it to become established.
Actively Giving Thanks
So also in our prayer lives, the fire of intimacy with God waxes and wanes. At times the flames of devotion begin to sputter. Our sense of gratefulness dies down. What we do at that point makes all the difference. Instead of becoming discouraged and walking away, we need to move toward the fire. We need to blow afresh on it and watch the flames come to new life.
One of the best ways to fan the flame of devotion in our lives is to express gratitude. Thanks needs to be given away. Knowing mentally that we are thankful is not the same as expressing that thanks to the one to whom it is due.
A great way to express our appreciation to God for all his goodness is to take fifteen or twenty minutes and simply write out a thank you list. Whatever comes to mind—big things and small.
As I have done this many times over the years, I always begin to notice a warmth growing inside. The chill and numbness begin to give way to a fresh attitude of gratefulness with each line I write. Every “thank you” stirs my heart to a new appreciation for just how many blessings God has given me. By the bottom of the page, I experience the flicker of fresh devotion. When I am finished—virtually every time I have written such a list—the flames of a thankful heart and renewed connection with my Lord are again in blaze.
This Thanksgiving season, or on Thanksgiving Day itself, I would encourage you to take a pen and some paper to write out a thank you list to the Lord. Express your appreciation to God, who is so good to us. As you do so, watch the flames of devotion flicker afresh in your heart as you give thanks to the One to whom it is due!

2014 © Glenn E. Myers

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Earth is Full of the Goodness of the Lord!

“The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord!”
     -Psalm 33:5

Amid weariness and discouragement,
the Lord is good!
     Amid pain and unanswered questions,
            God’s character has not changed—he is still good!

When I wake in the morning,
            God’s mercies pour out anew on my day.
     As I lay down at night,
            I rest in the Almighty’s care.

When things go as I hoped,
            I clearly see the fingerprints of divine benevolence around me.
     If life turns out very differently than I expected,
            faith holds on to the essential goodness of our God!

All day long, I can walk in the certainty
            of his kindness in all that concerns me.
     Wherever I go and however life goes, I can say with confidence:
            “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord!”

© 2014  Glenn E. Myers

Friday, September 19, 2014

O Taste and See that the Lord is Good!

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

 Over the past two years, this verse has touched me again and again. It has reminded me of just how good the Lord is. This verse has also challenged me to activity savor the Lord’s goodness, instead of taking it for granted. I need to actively taste the blessings God has placed in my life; I must consciously see how good he has been to me.

 A few weeks ago, sitting on our front porch in the morning before work, these words came to in a prayer:

 Quiet moments in the garden this morning;
         all is at rest as the world awakens to a new day.
     The gentle breeze whispers peace to all who will hear;
         my soul is stilled as it waits upon God’s grace anew.

O taste and see the goodness of the Lord!
         It flows in all of creation and fills the whole earth,
     supplying both sun and rain to green garden and field,
         offering both work and rest to give wholeness to my life today.

Let me overlook none of the kindness that surrounds me this morning,
         and take not for granted his gifts beyond measure.
     He bids me lie down in soft pastures
         and surrounds me with tree, rock, soil, and quiet water.

 Thank you, Good Shepherd, for supplying all that I need,
         abundantly giving so I shall want nothing,
     preparing before me a feast like a banquet,
         with your goodness and mercy attending all my needs.

Bless you, Creator Almighty, for your goodness
         that embraces me morning by morning,
     and for your care that silently enfolds me,
         and satisfies the deepest longings of my heart.


© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, September 8, 2014

Centered or Scattered?

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

What would it be like going through my whole day being centered? How can I navigate all the ups and downs and the distractions of life while keeping an inner focus on the Lord?

Inner-Most Center
The Quakers (Friends) offer us a wonderful concept of being “centered.” To be centered is to maintain an inner anchor even when the winds are howling about us. It means remaining connected to the Lord at one level even when our conscious thoughts are busy at school or work. It entails the inner-most part of our lives resting secure in an unseen reality that transcends the time-space world around us with all its contingencies and change.

Remaining centered is more easily said than done. How often we muddle through the day, being anything but centered. Instead, our minds are scattered, racing from one responsibility to another. Our activities are scrambled as we attempt to multitask in our effort to save time. Our focus is disjointed as we try to keep up with all the demands and phone calls, people and responsibilities, in our lives. So many things can throw us off center!

Throughout the day when we realize we have been knocked off center, it is important not to become frustrated because that makes us even more internally fragmented. Rather than becoming flustered, we simply need to reorient ourselves toward that quiet place within where God is in charge. The Good Shepherd is ready throughout the day to lead us to inner green pastures and still waters that restore our fraying souls.

In practice we need to regroup internally periodically through the day. Mentally standing back from all the pressures and frustrations, we tune our mind afresh to God’s presence inside of us and God’s sovereignty over the situations surrounding us. We center ourselves again on God’s grace. Even as we need to concentrate on the work at hand, we focus the inner eye of our souls on the safe place where the Almighty offers us genuine peace. Indeed, God will “keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed” on the Lord!

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cultivating Contentment

Lake Superior

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can to all this through him who gives me strength."
-Philippians 4:12-13 (TNIV)

Secret of Contentment
Contentment is a secret that must be discovered. On our own, we will always crave more; our fallen faculty of desire will never be satisfied for long. Genuine contentment, to the contrary, enables us to be as happy with little as with much. It transcends our given situation so that we are fulfilled whether we eat our fill or go hungry.

To be satisfied with much or little, we must look past our outward circumstances, desires and even our needs, in order to see through it to a greater reality. Contentment peers into the unseen dimensions of the spiritual world. There it places its hopes and satisfaction on God’s provision and rests in the Divine who is good, wise and always in control. Our Creator’s goodness always seeks our best. The Eternal’s wisdom often seems to go the wrong way but somehow inevitable ends up at the right place. The Almighty’s power overcomes all obstacles and always accomplishes his plans.

Once discovered, contentment must be cultivated. Just like a garden, it calls for our attention from time to time if it is to bloom long term. Cultivation takes regular stock of our blessings, not allowing small graces to slip by unnoticed. To cultivate contentment, we lay aside restless wants that always crave more. We celebrate the little things in life. We enjoy simple pleasures, savor time with people and always give thanks.

Contentment finds something to appreciate even in difficult days, uncovering the hidden benefits of circumstances which, on the surface, appear as anything but a gift. Refusing to be harried and panicked, we nurture contentment by stepping back from demanding voices and spinning schedules in order to regain an eternal perspective. Much of what disquiets our hearts is not much more than a swirling wind that we simply allow to blow away. If we wait to the whirlwind passes, we will find that gentle quiet breeze of contentment.

What Contentment Does
Contentment celebrates rainy days as well as sunny ones, knowing that its garden grows from both water and sunshine. Contentment releases thoughts of “I deserve,” and refuses to make demands. While recognizing that it may lack, contentment gives a knowing smile as it taps into deep reservoirs of unseen provision.

Closely related to agape love, contentment “always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Cor 13:7 TNIV). In fact, contentment springs from the soil of genuine love. It is able to be at peace even life is difficult because it knows it is loved. It need not fear, for “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18 TNIV).

When contentment is in bloom, we are transformed on the inside. Selfish demands turn into the freedom of utter self-forgetfulness. Sadness and self-pity blow away win the fresh breeze, replaced by gratitude and appreciation. Heaviness lifts like the morning mist, and rays of hope burst into the gray corners of our hearts.

When the scent of contentment fills the air, ordinary days radiate a brightness that we could hardly anticipate. Chores around the house or responsibilities at work are accompanied by a song of praise in our hearts. Mundane tasks fulfill our deepest longings in unexpected ways. Satisfaction nourishes rest in our souls.

Inner Rest
“Return to your rest, my soul,” commands Psalm 116:7 (TNIV), “for the Lord has been good to you.” Contentment ultimately blossoms into inner rest and savors all of life as pure gift!  

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, June 23, 2014

Invitation to the Garden

You care for the land and water it;
  you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
  to provide the people with grain,
  for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
  you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty,
  and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
  the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
  and the valleys are mantled with grain;
  they shout for you and sing.
-Psalm 64: 9-13 (TNIV)

Every morning the Almighty welcomes to each of us, inviting us to a place of stillness, an inner sanctuary, a garden. “Deep calls to deep” (Psalm 42:7); here the unfathomable depths of God call to the deepest possibilities and most profound longings within us. That inner place in our spirit is a walled garden where, alone with God, we find ourselves secure and loved. That inner space flows with abundance.

Such an inner garden awaits us as a refuge from our storm-tossed world where temporal things come and go, and their promised happiness disappoints us time and again. The busyness of the day leaves us panting for breath, and the contingencies of life, health, career and relationship, all too often make us empty and vulnerable.

Yet in the midst of uncertainty, loss and turmoil, we can pull our focus within to a place of peace. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3 KJV), promises God’s word. Such inner calm does not deny the reality of life’s challenges nor ignore the pain we suffer. Rather, that hidden refuge gives us a respite of peace where we can be strengthen and restored. It provides an anchor amid the pounding waves, so that—battered and storm-tossed, though we may be—we hold firm with a profound trust and calm that surpasses understanding.

From that secret garden within, the voice of God’s Spirit comes again and again, inviting us to enter stillness and rest. Sometimes we ignore the divine offer, contenting ourselves with temporal satisfaction or distracting ourselves with frenetic activity. Other times we disbelieve that offer, thinking it too good to be true, and we seek to fend for ourselves. Yet, if we dare to believe, the Spirit invites us to a hidden place more real than earthly reality. This is the “hiding place” described by the Psalmist; it is the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:2).

We must begin the morning with stillness; otherwise, we have little hope of finding to it. However, having located our inner garden in the quietness of the new day, we can return throughout the busyness of the day, whatever contingencies of life we might face.

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, “In the Garden”  

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, May 19, 2014

Let My Whole Life Today be a Prayer

Redbud Tree

“Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
-I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NRS)

How are we to pray without ceasing, as we are commanded to do in Scripture? Some view this verse in 1 Thessalonians as a poetic ideal, a nice idea but impractical. Others simply dismiss this verse as hyperbole. Paul, however, undoubtedly saw this as an imperative: he indeed exhorts us all to rejoice at all times and to give thanks in all circumstances—just as he did in prison—and he calls us to pray without stopping. How are we to respond?

Instead of seeing this verse as an impossible task, we can begin to recognize it as a wonderful invitation! God welcomes us to stay connected with him the whole way through the day!

Prayer in Action
One way that we can begin to realize this kind of unbroken prayer in our lives is by dedicating each and every task of the day to the Lord, allowing everything we do to become prayer in action. As I wash the dishes in the morning, I can consciously serve my wife and offer my work as a prayer to the Lord. While I labor at various responsibilities at school or work, I intentionally fulfill my duty as an act of worship and prayer. As I mow the lawn in the evening, I serve God in every step of my activity.

“Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,” states Colossians 3:23-24, “since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ” ( NRS).

By committing each activity to God, I consciously give myself to the Lord and invite him in. By doing so, I also subconsciously keep the Lord in mind as I continue with that chore, knowing that I serve Christ in all that I am doing.

Not a Replacement
I never want this kind of ongoing prayer in action to replace solitude with God in my life, any more than I want texting my wife through the day to replace quality time with her. Rather, such ongoing prayer is an extension of that quality time and personal relationship. It “puts legs” on my love for the Lord, as I serve him in all that I do.

As I pray in action, my whole day becomes prayer—a communication, a communion—with the Lord. Sometimes consciously, other times in the back of my mind, I am aware of God’s love for me and my service as an act of love in return.

What a wonderful way to connect with the Lord throughout the day—a genuine way to pray without ceasing! The more I do this, the more my whole life becomes an unceasing prayer!

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ongoing Easter

Easter Joy!

So often we think of Easter as a one-day event. We celebrate it, like the 4th of July, and then move on with life. As a result, although we enjoy the day, Easter has little lasting impact on our daily existence, our thoughts, our attitudes and our deeds.

Easter as Participation
Two key concepts can help us integrate Easter into our lives in a more profound and long-lasting way. First, we need to celebrate the resurrection by entering into Easter as Participation more than just Remembrance. Yes, on Easter morning we remember the very real events nearly 2000 years ago when Christ was literally raised from the dead.

More than that, however, we enter into those events to experience resurrection in our own lives. “If we have been united with him like this [by baptism] in his death,” states the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:5, “we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”

The whole of the Christian life is about joining with Christ—being “in Christ.” In him, we die to Satan, sin and a self-focused existence. And in him we are raised to newness of life. That is what baptism is all about, as Romans 6 explains. Further, in Christ we are adopted into the family of God. And in him we are already seated at God’s right hand in the heavens (Ephesians 1:3-2:6)!

Therefore, we can celebrate Easter as a time of Participation in the cosmic events of salvation. We enter into the divine mysteries that we can only understand in part—the Son of God dying for our sinfulness and being raised from the dead for our salvation! In one sense, those mysteries are simple enough for children to grasp. Yet, on a deeper level, we will spend our whole lives—and eternity—coming to realize God’s fathomless love that brought this to pass.

Season of Easter
Second, resurrection becomes more a part of our lives when we celebrate the whole season of Easter rather than the one day. Historically the church has celebrated Easter as the 50 days stretching from Easter morning until Pentecost. It is a season of the church calendar focused on our Lord’s resurrection and his weekly appearances to his disciples.

Just as Lent is a 40 day fast in preparation for Holy Week and the resurrection, so the Easter season is a 50 day feast celebrating that resurrection. We need both for healthy Christian growth. We need the season of fasting and cleansing, allowing God to search our hearts to see if there is any sinful way in us (Ps 139:23-24). But we also need celebration and joy, for “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)!

Most of us know that we need to live the whole year in light of Easter—celebrating the Lord’s resurrection and our salvation in light of that resurrection. But “living every day as Easter” is much easier said than done.

Celebrating the Easter season over seven weeks helps us do just that. It helps us to renew our minds in light of the resurrection and make the ongoing presence of the savior in our lives a reality. It helps to make Easter part of our very lifestyle so that we can indeed continue to live in the light of Easter all year long.

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lent: Desert Season to Deepen our Roots

Lake Superior

"But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit.” -Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT)

Lent is an opportunity to join with Christ in his forty days of fasting and praying in the desert wilderness. Indeed Christians since the Early Church have set apart the forty days leading up to Easter as Lent to remember Jesus’ time in the wilderness and rededicate their lives to the Lord. It is a season to share with Jesus in the forty days’ desert experience of fasting and prayer.

Two Options in the Desert
The desert is dangerous, by definition. In the physical wilderness, we lack our basic needs—let alone our desires—for everyday life. Likewise, a spiritual desert season is one in which we do not have all that we want or need. Often we do not experience God’s love or guidance or comfort as we have in the past. Instead, we feel lonely—as well as emotionally and spiritually dehydrated—and we wonder where the Lord has gone.

The desert is dry and difficult. It demands that we wait and trust. “The desert makes us wait, forces us to look for help beyond our own initiative, plans, or grasp and to long for pure, unmerited, no-conditions grace.”[1]

We can respond to that desert in couple of ways. One option is that we can become impatient and grumble. That is precisely what the Israelites did after Moses led them across the Red Sea during the Exodus. “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?” they complained. “Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?” (Exodus 17:3 RNAB). Such ingratitude and grousing only cultivates more impatience and bitterness in our souls.

The other option is for us to put our roots down deeper. When plants go through dry seasons, they put their roots further down, hoping to find more water. So, in desert seasons, we are invited to extend our roots further into the Lord. When the sources of spiritual vitality go dry, it is an opportunity to experience God on a whole new level. Letting go our former ways of experiencing the Lord in our lives, we are free and receptive to relationship with God on a whole new plane.

As we trust in the Lord during the drought, our roots go deeper and deeper into him. Jeremiah 17:7-8 states, "But blessed are those who trust in the LORD. . . . They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.”

Putting our Roots into the Lord
Deep roots do not go down overnight. It takes a whole growing season for stronger roots to be established. Lent can be such a growing season in our lives. In fact, it welcomes us—it beckons you and me—to new spiritual growth.

Joining with Jesus in forty days of fasting and prayer is a powerful way to reorder our priorities and cut through the clutter of all that keeps us from wholeheartedly walking with the Lord. This year, let us take that invitation and put our spiritual roots down deep so that in the months ahead our branches can bear fruit as never before!

[1] Blasé Cupich, as quoted in Give Us this Day (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press), pp. 244-45.

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lent: A Season of Single-mindedness

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

One thing I ask of the Lord,
    this is what I seek;
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
-Psalm 27:4

Lent is a wonderful opportunity to grow spiritually because it aids us in being single-minded. David declared in Psalm 27 that he was only focused on one thing in life—that is seeking the Lord. Nothing else—being king of Israel and military leader—ultimately counted. David’s focus was on getting to know the Lord better and spending time in God’s presence.

Traditionally the three spiritual disciplines of Lent have been fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Especially the first two help us to gain—and maintain—a single-mindedness during Lent.

Fasting can be done in many ways. It can be restraining from all food for a meal or a day or longer. It can be restraining from specific foods, like candy or deserts, during the 40 days of Lent. It can also be abstaining from Face Book or texting or Tweeting. For some people, turning off technology is much more of a discipline—and therefore offers much more focus—than abstaining from food.

Whenever I’m fasting, I notice how hungry I am during the time of day when I usually eat. My body wants its normal sustenance. Whenever I feel those hunger pangs, I remind myself that I am even more hungry for the Lord. Yes, I’m missing food, but even more, I am longing for the Lord. As I do so, those feelings of hunger channel my heart to a greater single-mindedness on the Lord.

Prayer then directs that single-mindedness toward a fresh pursuit of God in my life. Lent is an opportunity to have special times of prayer beyond our ordinary daily rhythms of prayer. This can be through taking a retreat, attending a weekly Lenten service at church, setting aside a special time during the week for prayer or adding an extra timeout during the day to focus on the Lord.

Especially if we fast from a meal, we can set that time aside for prayer—we partake spiritually instead of physically. Rather than simply getting more done on our “to do” list during that mealtime, we can direct our hunger to the Lord.

Whether through fast or prayer or any other aid, I welcome you to us use this season of Lent to become single-minded. The busyness of life tends to numb us so that we do not realize how hungry we are for God. Lent is a time to get in touch with the deepest longings of our soul.

Take this opportunity to cultivate a fresh single-mindedness toward the Lord, so that you can say with Psalm 27, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; . . . To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lent: A Season to Start Over

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

After Christmas and Epiphany, I look forward so much to Lent. Both my wife and I really anticipate these 40+ days leading up to Easter as a unique opportunity to reassess our lives, repent of where we are not right with God and others, and finally redirect our lives toward a resurrection lifestyle that we celebrate at Easter.

Lent is a time to reassess our lives, inside and out. We can step back and take a long, hard look at the reality of our lives to see them as they really are—not what we hope they are, think they are, or try to project them to be. Standing before the Lord we allow ourselves to be totally honest.

Spiritual practices of solitude, silence and going on a retreat give us space to look afresh at our lives. Disciplines of fasting and prayer help give us clarity as we allow the Holy Spirit to point out anything that is not as it should be.

Some of us might recognize that we have become distracted. Life has many distractions, and we easily become preoccupied with work, family crises, and even the weather. While all of these things are important, Jesus calls us to seek him first—with our whole heart—and everything else will be added in due time.

Others of us could discover that we have become apathetic toward God. We don’t like to think of it in those terms, because deep down we love the Lord. Nevertheless, in our day-to-day existence we have become “ho hum” regarding time with God, we have neglected time of reading Scripture, we have lost our passion to pursue him in prayer, and we have begun to stray from our first love. Jesus says in Revelation 2:4 “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” If that has happened in our hearts, we need to face it honestly before we can change.

Still others of us realize that we have gone off track in one area of our lives or another. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way,” declares Isaiah 53:6. Indeed, this is true of each and every one of us.

Wherever we have gone astray, become apathetic or simply preoccupied, we need to turn around. This is the meaning of the word “repent”—metanoia, in Greek. It means a change our mind and change our direction.

First we must admit where we have gone astray. Confession is key to making lasting, substantive change in our lives. Often times it is when we acknowledge out loud—to God and another person—where we have sinned, that we are hit with the stark reality of what we have been doing. Precisely here is where we experience a deep sorrow. That Godly sorrow leads to repentance.

Redirection & Restoration
Then we turn around—in thought, word and deed—and go the other direction. Sorrow, repentance and, indeed, the whole season of Lent are always moving toward restoration—reorienting our lives toward God and restoring our relationship with him.

“‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,
    and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me
    when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord,
    ‘and will bring you back from captivity.’”
    -(Jeremiah 29:12-14)

As Lent begins this year, let us use this time as an opportunity to start over—whether that be in one area of our lives or in many. Let us seek the Lord with our whole heart, knowing that he is just waiting for us. Let us experience the restoration and freedom that he has for our lives.

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Being Led by the Spirit: Sacrament of the Present Moment by de Caussade

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

In Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s classic, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, we are challenged to see God at work around us moment-by-moment. Although we seldom comprehend what the Lord is doing in our lives—and through our lives—we trust that he is indeed present with us. God works, not only through circumstances, but also through his gentle leading in our lives, like the “still, small voice” through which the Lord spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12).

Following the Spirit’s Impulses
God often leads us in ways that we do not understand. We sense that we should speak to someone in the store, and we discover that this was an urging of the Holy Spirit in our heart. We are prompted to intercede for a friend and later find that it was at a moment of great need.

“God uses his creatures in two ways. Either he makes them act on their own initiative or he himself acts through them. The first requires a faithful fulfillment of his manifest wishes; the second, a meek and humble submission to his inspiration,” asserts de Caussade. “Surrender of self achieves them both, being nothing more than a total commitment to the word of God within the present moment. It is not important for his creatures to know how they must do this or what the nature of the present moment is.” (49)

When we are willing to follow the Lord’s leadings, we become an instrument in God’s hands. “The only condition necessary for this state of self-surrender is the present moment in which the soul, light as a feather, fluid as water, innocent as a child, responds to every movement of grace like a floating balloon,” affirms de Caussade. “Such souls are like molten metal filling whatever vessel God chooses to pour them into” (22).

Unseen Chain of Events
When we allow ourselves to be used by God in a small way, we open the door for him to use us further in the future. We, of course, seldom see that larger plan that God has in mind. All we know is the immediate prompting of the Spirit.

However, as we follow God’s leading—which, at times, is almost imperceptible—God sets in motion a chain of events. De Caussade concludes, “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” (21).

Sacrament of the Present Moment
All we need for going deeper in God has been provided for us in the seemingly mundane of daily life. If we but make ourselves present to the Lord’s presence in the moment—each and every event that comes our way—we will be used by God and transformed by him.

“So we leave God to act in everything,” states de Caussade, “reserving for ourselves only love and obedience to the present moment. For this is our eternal duty. This compelling love, steeped in silence, is required of every soul. They must foster it unceasingly and always be prepared to meet any demands it may make” (11).

Invitation to All Christians
“Everything connected with surrender of self, devotion to duty or purity is attainable by every Christian. . . . All [God] expects is the fulfilment of his will, as signified by our duty to the present moment to be as faithful as we can to our obligations. . . . For this is all that God requires of us for the accomplishment of our sanctification whether we are strong or weak, great or small.” (54)

The Sacrament of the Present Moment is a must-read Christian classic. What an encouragement de Caussade offers Christians today, especially when we do not understand our present situation! What a challenge he presents to those of us who tend to spend all our time planning, always living in the future! Instead of being anxious about tomorrow, we are called to watch the hand of God in the present moment, seeing him move in hidden ways—shaping our character and using us, often when we get but a glimpse of the final results.

*All quotes are from Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989).

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jean-Pierre de Caussade: Sacrament of the Present Moment

Crown College Campus

Actively working in and through our daily lives, God’s presence surrounds us—veiled in ordinary events, responsibilities and trials we face. Our greatest spiritual growth takes place as we embrace those challenges that present themselves moment-by-moment.

This is the simple, but powerful, message of Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a spiritual leader in eighteenth-century France. Listeners took notes on his conferences regarding the spiritual life; however, it was more than a century before these notes plus excerpts from his letters were compiled and published under the title, Abandonment to Divine Providence.

Various editions have been released over the past 150 years. Quotes in this article come from the beautiful translation by Kitty Muggeridge entitled The Sacrament of the Present Moment. Another readable modern translation is published as The Joy of Full Surrender. All of these, though, are simply different editions of the same book.

God’s Hidden Hand
God reveals himself each moment of the day. Yet he does so in hidden ways—often in the mundane events of life. Through difficulties and humble service to which he calls us, the Lord is at work in our lives. Often we do not recognize the hand of God, however, because it is cloaked in the ordinariness of everyday life.

Yet God’s hand is indeed working, shaping our character and making us more like Christ. De Caussade asserts, “The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love” (62).

How do we live out this faith and love? De Caussade tells us that we do so by embracing the responsibilities and challenges that come our way each moment throughout the day and by following the impulses and leadings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Obeying in the Moment
“The present moment is like an ambassador announcing the policy of God,” states de Caussade, and “the heart declares ‘Thy will be done’” (77). No matter our station in life, we all have responsibilities. Some of these are interesting to us. Others seem mundane and even pointless. Masked beneath all of them, however, are God’s presence and his purpose for us.

No matter what we may think of our obligations in life, spiritual growth consists of faithfulness to what God has placed before us. Obedience to the present moment is essential. “What he ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best and most divine for us. All we need to know is how to recognize his will in the present moment.” (42-43)

Such immediate obedience requires surrender. We must yield our wills to the Lord’s if we hope to obey in each situation that arises during the day. “God’s order and his divine will, humbly obeyed by the faithful,” affirms de Caussade, “accomplishes his divine purpose in them without their knowledge, in the same way as medicine obediently swallowed cures invalids who neither know nor care how.” (42)

Embracing Difficulties and Trials
God’s hand is also concealed in life’s trials. Some days we seem to experience one difficulty 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: “He knows, too, that you don’t know what is good for you and makes it his business to provide it, little caring whether you like it or not. You are going East, he will turn you to the West. You are set fair on a course, he turns the rudder and steers you back into harbour.” (34)

We can all identify with times of weakness in bearing our cross or distaste for some of our duties. Yet de Caussade assures us that God is present in these moments. Moreover, Scripture commands us to “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

If we embrace these trials as from the Lord, they will transform us. God moves in unexpected but powerful ways through things that we do not necessarily enjoy. “To live by faith, then, is to live in joy, confidence, certainty and trust in all there is to do and suffer each moment as ordained by God. However mysterious it may seem, it is in order to awaken and maintain this living faith that God drags the soul through tumultuous floods of so much suffering, trouble, perplexity, weariness and ruin” (22).

The first time I read de Caussade I understood his message—at least intellectually. Over the past four years I’ve sought to live it out in my day-to-day existence, and I’ve found that, while this message is simple, it is not easy! Although I have begun to live in the light of God’s hidden presence more and more each day, I believe it will take a lifetime to fully realize this truth in my life!

*All quotes are from Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989).

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, January 31, 2014

Meeting God in Ordinary Time: The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence

A classic of spiritual formation, appreciated by Protestants and Catholics alike, Brother Lawrence’s little volume on practicing God’s presence all day long is a gem. Recently I went through it again and wrote down some quotes.

Heart and Mind Fully Focused on God
“I still believe that all spiritual life consists of practicing God’s presence, and that anyone who practices it correctly will soon attain spiritual fulfillment. To accomplish this, it is necessary for the heart to be emptied of everything that would offend God. He wants to possess your heart completely. Before any work can be done in your soul, God must be totally in control. There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God.” (p 29)

“I honestly cannot understand how people who claim to love the Lord can be content without practicing His presence. My preference is to retire with Him to the deepest part of my soul as often as possible. When I am with Him there, nothing frightens me.” (p 31)

Punctuating the Day with Glances toward God
“In the beginning of this practice, it would not be wrong to offer short phrases that are inspired by love, such as “Lord, I am all Yours,” or “Lord, use me according to your will.” (p 70)

“During your meals or during any daily duty, lift your heart up to Him, because even the least little remembrance will please Him. You don’t have to pray out loud; He’s nearer than you can imagine.” (p 33)

God Gently Calls Us Back When We Are Distracted
“My day-to-day life consists of giving God my simple, loving attention. If I’m distracted, He calls me back in tones that are supernaturally beautiful. If you think of me, remember the grace with which God has blessed me, rather than my typically human ineptitude. My prayers consist of a simple continuation of this same exercise. Some-times I imagine that I’m a piece of stone, waiting for the sculptor. When I give myself to God in this way, He begins sculpting my soul into the perfect image of His beloved Son. At other times, I feel my whole mind and heart being raised up into God’s presence, as if, without effort, they had always belonged there.” (p 38)

What a wonderful reminder this is to commune with God all day!

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, January 18, 2014

God of the Thundercloud!

Public Domain

He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.
-Psalm 18:10

This past week a blizzard raged across the Midwest. As I had my devotions that morning in a comfortable room, I became present to the moment. First, I was filled with thankful for a warm house—and a short one-mile commute to work. Then I asked myself questions to become even more aware of my surroundings and present to the moment: What do I see? What do I hear? The second question led to a overwhelming time of reflection.

What do I hear?
I hear driving wind outside—a blizzard of wind and snow is pounding the Midwest. Hearing the snow and sleet pelt the windows, Scripture came pouring into my mind:

He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast?
-Psalm 147:17

Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O Lord my God, You are very great;
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak,
Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain.
He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters;
He makes the clouds His chariot;
He walks upon the wings of the wind;
He makes the winds His messengers,
Flaming fire His ministers.
-Psalm 104:1-4 NASB

I began to reflect on the Lord’s awesome power. Here is what I wrote in my journal:

Our God is a God of power and terrible might! Who can stand before you, O Lord?
O God of power and might, go before me and lead the way. O Wild One, rule my life as you reign with splendor in the earth! Let me not try to domesticate you and circumscribe you, O Lord, in my petty understanding of you. Rather, let my limited image of you be shattered by your majesty, your pounding waves and blasting wind. Let me know you—and worship you—in your power and strength, glory and holiness!

Awesome God
That morning I was caught up by the awesomeness of our God. Coloring my whole day, these reflections have remained with me all week. Let me close with the words of Psalm 29:5-9:

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
     the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon….
The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
     the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
     and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, January 6, 2014

Epiphany: Lessons from the Magi

Carver Park, MN

“When [the Magi] saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. They opening their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” –Matthew 2:10-11

Epiphany is the celebration of Christ’s appearing to the whole world. Celebrated on January 6, this day in the church calendar remembers Jesus’ being revealed to the Magi from the East. Not only the nation of Israel, but now all peoples had the savior revealed to them.

The Magi are a wonderful model of people with a heart after God.

Attentive to the Light

The Magi were attentive. Not only were their physical eyes open, but, even more, the eyes of their hearts were open to God. For the Magi, the star was clearly present in the night sky, but they would have missed it had they been busy and preoccupied with other things. Only because they were attentive did they see the sign God had provided.

How can we, like the Magi, recognize the indicators of God’s breaking into our lives? If we are so busy that we are spinning in circles, we will be inattentive to what the Lord is weaving in the events of our lives. Only if we continually bring our focus back to him—attentive to big and little manifestations of his love and presence—will we see the light that God has for us.

Actively Seeking God
Further, the Magi made the effort to seek God. They needed to leave Persia, or wherever in the East they lived, to take a long journey following the light they had been given. They also inquired in Jerusalem. While God took the initiative of revealing the star to them, they needed to respond by seeking him. Only then were they supernaturally led and supernaturally protected as God warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

The beginning of a new year is a wonderful opportunity for us to seek God afresh in our lives. Whether we are wanting to know God for the first time in our lives—or whether we have walked with him for many decades—we all need fresh seasons of pursuing the Lord, waiting on him, and listening to his voice.

Worshiping Christ the Lord
Finally, the Magi worshiped Jesus. They humbled themselves and bowed down before him in worship. In addition, they brought valuable gifts to him—gifts worthy of a king.

Here again the Magi set a clear example for us. This season of Epiphany—and this new year—are opportunities to worship the Lord at a new and deeper level. Worship requires that we humble ourselves before him, and one very meaningful way to do that is to literally bow or kneel or prostrate ourselves in prayer and worship. Our time of worship before him can be in silent adoration; it can be softly in song; it can be pouring our heart out to him in prayer.

Likewise, we can bring him gifts. These offerings include our time and talent, gifts of money and resources, sacrifices of love and service. Whatever we have to present to our King, let it be the very best that we have!

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers