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