Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent Preparation: John the Baptist: Luke 3


And the crowds asked him [John the Baptist], “What then should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
-Luke 3:10-14 (NABRE)

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus by preaching to crowds who came to him in the wilderness to be baptized. He warned them not to think that just because they were descendants of Abraham and Sarah that they would be part of the Kingdom of God, which was being inaugurated. Instead, they needed to repent. People from all walks of life—even tax collectors and soldiers—responded with an earnest question: What do we need to do for genuine repentance?

As we arrive at the third Sunday in Advent, we continue to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus afresh in our lives this Christmas. John the Baptist’s words hit us hard over two millennia after they were first spoken in the Judean desert. If we want to walk in God’s Kingdom—God’s reign in our lives—we cannot glibly say we are part of God’s family—descendants of Abraham, as the Jews assumed in their day. Rather, we need to repent of any action, attitude, or inaction that fails to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and strength, or fails to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27).

“What then should we do?” We likewise need to ask this question afresh for our life situation. Like John’s audience, some of us need to share much more from our abundance with those in need. Some of us need stop bullying others, or taking what is unfair—even if we can get away with it.

As I read the Scriptures this morning, I became convicted when reading Philippians 4:4-5 “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice. Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (ASV). Sometimes I get so tired of being forbearing and patient. Especially the last few weeks, there are a few times when I wasn’t forbearing or gentle or kind. What then should I do to repent? I need to heed Paul’s words to rejoice in the Lord in all circumstances, even when yea one more car pushes me on the highway. I need to cultivate a forbearing, gentle, patient spirit for others to see—and even when no one is looking. I need to cling to hope: the Lord is at hand!

As we prepare this Advent, let us listen to John the Baptist’s call to repentance. Let each of us ask the question: What then should I do right now in my life and in my circumstances?

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent Candle

Photo: "Adventný veniec I." by Bubamara. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Light and warmth radiate from the advent candle, illuminating the evergreen ring of the advent wreath. So commences another Advent—a New Beginning!
                These four weeks of preparation are important in our spiritual life. Autumn is always a time of loss—trees lose their beautiful leaves to stand as bare skeletons against the bleak winter sky. Daylight loses hours to darkness, both morning and evening. The warmth of summer and early fall fades to the chill of November and even colder months ahead. The northland loses sight of green grass and sound of bird as it braces for the hard onset of winter. Our hearts remember loved ones we have lost and years that are no more.
                Yet, just as the small flame of a candle cuts through the darkness, Advent breaks into all the losses of our lives. Not simply doomed to an endless cycle of time and seasons, we see the flicker of hope. God is about to break into an ordinary night of shepherds watching their sheep and animals eating hay from a manger.
                As the first Advent candle is lit, so begins the fresh hope of a new church year. So begins our vigil and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s the birth, Immanuel—God with us. He is the “rising sun [who] will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness” (Luke 1:78-79).
                Advent—New Beginning! Light to warm our hearts and illumine our way! Let us enter this season with open hands and a receptive spirit, ready to rest in the glow of the Advent candle, radiating the hope and promise of God come to earth to be with us!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thanksgiving Abundance

The Lord is good to all;
          he has compassion on all he has made. . . .
The eyes of all look to you,
          and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
          and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
-Psalm 145: 9,15,16
Surrounded by abundance, I so often only see the one little thing that I lack. Craving for that one-more-thing is part of our fallen human nature. Instead of trusting God, we assume that we need to fend for ourselves. In that self-protective mode, we seek to accumulate and possess. In our grasping to possess, we fail to see how richly the Almighty has provided for us and see only the one thing we want—which we often do not even need.
It is said that someone asked John D. Rockefeller—the wealthiest man alive at the turn of the 20th century—how much money it takes to make one happy. His answer was profound: “Just a little bit more.”
If I am looking to be happy in the natural, it will always take “just a little bit more.” Oblivious to my overflowing storehouse of goods and blessings, I will repeatedly turn to the one thing that I believe I lack. Of course, once I gain it, I simply obsess over the next little bauble as it catches my attention, naively assuming that possessing it will somehow bring me final satisfaction and lasting contentment.
No, the only way to get off this hamster wheel on which I am trapped is to shift my focus from what I lack to what has already been given to me—something the advertisers never want me to do! When I consciously, intentionally redirect my mind and heart toward giving thanks for the innumerable blessings in my life, I begin to see the world with new eyes. Our God has cared for the land and enriched it with plenty. He has crowned the year with bounty and drenched our lives with blessing and abundance.
O, let us give thanks!                                                                                  
2014 © Glenn E. Myers

Friday, November 6, 2015

Wandering with God through the Woods

“Show me your ways, O Lord,
teach me your paths” –Psalm 25.4
A leaf-strewn path leads into the woods. My eyes follow its gentle wandering through the trees until at last it twists out of sight. Where will it lead? What turns will it take or evergreen cove will it uncover? If I follow this path, where will it take me?

Since childhood, I have always loved the woods. I have heard the call of the pathway, inviting me into an adventure. Enchanted by their mystery, I never tire of the beauty of the fields and forests and mountains. Leaf-covered paths still beckon me to come on a journey.

Our spiritual life is indeed a venture into God’s great woods. Filled with new sights, restful streams and challenging climbs, it is a never-ending exploration.Yet, so many Christians today become bored with their faith. They take the path a few hundred feet into the edge of the woods, pitch their tents and never journey any further with the Lord. They say they love Jesus but fail to follow him. Then they silently complain that the Christian life is so dull.

Such a shallow understanding of conversion and the Christian life is tragic. The short section of the path entering the wood is only beginning; it was never meant to be a finishing line. Rather, these first footsteps are but the prelude to the life-long adventure of wandering with God through all he has in store for each of us.

Will you take this path?

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, October 23, 2015

Autumn Leaves and Dying to Self

Recently I read a devotional that made the observation that all the brilliant colored leaves of autumn are beautiful because the leaves are dying.1 When leaves are alive, they are green with chlorophyll and able to feed the tree through photosynthesis. The chlorophyll departs are they die, and the leave display the bright fall colors beneath.
The Christian life is all about dying. Jesus said that all who wish to be his disciple must take up their cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). This is a radical call to die to self-interest, since the cross was a gruesome instrument of torture and execution. In baptism, we are united with Christ in death and buried with him (Romans 6:4-5). Our life is no longer our own. We are dead and our life if hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). “I have been crucified with Christ,” writes Paul in Galatians 2:20. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
Dying, however, is not bad news. Like the autumn leaves dying, our death to self is freeing and truly glorious. The more I decrease, the more ablaze I become with the brilliant color of Christ. Indeed, the more I die to self-focus, the more the genuine “I”—created in the image of God—can shine through.
This autumn as I have seen all the beautiful leaves, I have thought many times about dying to self so that God’s blazing light can shine through me. Am I ablaze in like them for God’s glory—brilliant in color as I die to myself?
1. Gregory Polan in Give us This Day (October 2015).

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, October 9, 2015

Listening to God's Voice

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27, ESV).
Today let me listen to the voice of the Lord. God
God invites us to listen. From every street corner Wisdom calls (Proverbs 1:20). With voices that use no words, the heaven declare the Lord’s glory (Psalm 19) and all creation makes clear the divine attributes of the Creator (Romans 1:20). Ultimately, the Eternal Word speaks forth God’s fathomless love.
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Scenic Overlooks: Necessary for the Journey

One of the most rewarding parts of hiking in the wilderness is stopping at scenic overlooks. Overlooks are especially wonderful in the mountains when you can see far and wide. Whether pausing for a few minutes to take in the sights or having lunch for an hour, taking time at a scenic overlook is an important part of any journey.
For one thing, taking time to rest and look out along a hiking trip, gives us rest. This is important for people who push hard in life. The past couple of years I’m realizing that I tend to push too hard—whether climbing a mountain or working in my office. I need to rest more if I am going to be effective over the long haul and if I am going to enjoy the life that the Lord has given me.
That leads into a second reason that pausing at the scenic overlooks in life is important: we make time to enjoy the moment. Although there is an enjoyment that comes from a goal accomplished, a mountain climbed or a job finished, there are many other pleasures to delight in along the way. If we become so focused on the finishing line that we fail to smell the roses along the way, we will miss so many of the good gifts that God has given for our enjoyment.
Finally, scenic overlooks offer us perspective and appreciation. When we stop the climb for a few minutes or an hour, we are able to look back and appreciate how far we have come. As we relax and get a bite to eat, we can share with our companions what we have seen along the way. In all of this we gain perspective. How necessary it is to regain perspective from time to time on any journey. Otherwise, hardships become blown out of proportion, we lose our momentum or we simply forget where we are headed.
Whenever I get into the wilderness, I naturally take opportunities to enjoy scenic overlooks along the way. Under the stress of life and work, however, I tend to forget to do so in my daily existence and in my walk with the Lord. One of my goals this fall is to apply this lesson from the wilderness to my life in civilization and stop throughout the day to gain perspective and rest. Indeed, enjoying the scenic overlooks is absolutely necessary for the journey!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Building Fire: Principles of Spiritual Formation

Making a Campfire
“Our God is a consuming fire.”
–Hebrews 12:29 (Deuteronomy 4:24)
I love building campfires in the great outdoors! My joy is gathering a bunch of kindling, stacking it just right. Then I try to light it with one match—no paper here, or heaven forbid, lighter fluid!
Three Principles of Fire
My dad taught me about fire and how it works. There are three important principles. First, obviously, fire burns upward. So when placing the kindling, you want the flames to start at the bottom and catch the little branches on fire as the flame moves up. Having a “fuse” on the bottom is important—and nothing works better than birch bark! It lights instantly and sends up quite a blaze and catches the small twigs above it on fire. While the flames are leaping up from the little kindling, you can begin to lay some larger twigs or small branches on. Even if they are not fully dry, the flames will dry them out and then catch them on fire.
Second, branches in a fire need to be close enough to feed off of each other. At least until there is an established bed of coals for the campfire, branches or logs need to be within about an inch of each other. Pull two longs too far apart, and they both begin to smolder and go out in a rather short time. A log does not burn by itself. It always needs other logs and/or the bed of coals from other logs to keep on burning.
Third, branches and logs need room to breathe. A fire needs air. If the logs are too close and there is no room for air to move up between them, they don’t burn well.
Spiritual Fire
These three principles are also key to spiritual formation. First, spiritual formation needs to move upward. Indeed the Holy Spirit always wants to move us upward. Throughout Scripture, fire is a symbol of God’s Spirit. If we are ablaze with the Spirit of God, we will naturally help others catch on fire. Just by getting close to us, they will be affected by our flame. Either they will back away quickly because they do not want God’s Spirit to move in their lives (and burn up sin and selfishness that they might be hiding), or they soon catch on fire themselves!
Second, we need to stay close to other people on fire if we want to stay ablaze with the Lord. Just as there is no such thing as a log burning all by itself (except the manufactured “logs” made with woodchips and probably some lighter fluid), so there is no such thing as a “lone ranger Christian.” Both smolder out quickly.
Third, however, we always need to leave room to breathe in our spiritual friendships. While we need to stay close to others on fire, we cannot suffocate them or let them suffocate us. Rather, there needs to be room for air. Air, wind and breath are likewise symbols of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible. The Old Testament word Ruah means both breath and spirit. The New Testament word pneuma likewise means both. Even in our closest relationships we need to leave room to breathe—room for the Spirit of God—between us.
When I remember these three principles, my campfires go great! (Although last week I sadly had to use a second match to get the fire going.) When we remember these principles, we are also able to stay ablaze with the Spirit year after year!
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Overcoming Inertia to Meet with God

Sunrise over Lake Superior
Getting outside for devotions in the morning is always wonderful! As I shared in my last blog, it does so much for me spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Whether at home, going out to the front porch to read my Scripture for the day, or visiting our favorite cabin, sitting on the deck to pray as I overlook Lake Superior, getting outdoors wakes me up—even when I don’t realize that I am not full awake—both physically and spiritually. My mind becomes attentive with the sounds of nature all around me and the fresh breeze on my face. My spirit becomes alert and receptive, ready to hear whatever the Lord wants to speak.
Overcoming Inertia
To meet with the Lord each morning—and especially to be alert and open—takes initiative. It requires me to overcome inertia. I have to overcome the choice of least resistance with its little voice in my head: “Oh, that will take too much effort.”  I also have to overcome being stuck where I am in a comfortable chair as the same little voice says: “It’s probably not that nice outside this morning anyhow.”
Every time I resist that voice and make an effort to meet with the Lord—and to do so outside, if I have the chance—I am always so thankful that I did! Over the years I have learned not to listen to that little voice. In fact, I’ve learned that when I hear that whinny little voice, it’s best to do the opposite!
Just like moving a rock that is dead in its place, we have to overcome inertia in our spiritual life. So many Christians are dead in their place. At one time they were moving forward with God, but that momentum came to an end a long time ago. Now, they are stuck. They say they are too busy, but of course that is simply an excuse. Most often they have simply opted for becoming inert.
Wilderness Backpacking
Several weeks ago when I was wilderness backpacking, I got up in the morning—rather stiff from sleeping on the ground—and the campsite was rather heavy with mosquitoes. I had the option to take the easy route and stay stuck at the campsite, becoming breakfast to the mosquitoes as I tried to have a quiet time with God. Or, I could overcome my inertia and get moving.
I took the second option, grabbed my journal and went exploring as I prayed. Within a few minutes I found a path that led to a breathtaking view of Lake Superior. There I had a wonderful hour with the Lord! I am so glad I overcame my morning stiffness and inner inertia!
We do not need to remain stuck. With some effort we can overcome our spiritual inertia. With a bit of initiative we can find the right place to meet with God. Every time we do, we will be so thankful!
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Beholding God’s Grandeur: Spiritual Formation in the Great Outdoors

Split Rock Light House on Lake Superior

Whenever possible, I go outdoors for my time with God. Whether sitting on our front porch to enjoy the morning sun while I read my devotions, or walking at the nearby nature reserve as I pray, something about getting outside into God’s creation refreshes me and helps me connect in a brand new way with my Creator.

Meeting God in Creation
Walking with God in nature, I see growing things all around me: trees, grass, flowers, weeds—all green and flourishing. That reminds me that the Lord is the source of life. It invites me to continue to develop in my life, not resting on last year’s or last month’s growth, but rather maturing right here and right now in my life.

In nature I see God’s goodness afresh. The Lord has supplied for all I need. Not only my needs, the Almighty provides the whole earth with sun and rain, night and day, springtime and harvest. Our Lord gives food to all living things—plants and animals, great and small. Psalm 145:15 states:

The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Greater View of God
Perhaps more than anything, prayer time in the great outdoors affords me a bigger glimpse of God—his greatness, his power, his splendor and his majesty! Without being aware of it, we put God in a box. In the back of our minds we picture God as one of us—just on a larger scale. Such a view of God is natural for children, but it must be abandoned if we are to come into a mature understanding of our Creator and our relationship with him. Meeting God outside the box of my house helps me view God beyond the mental box where I unwittingly try to contain him.

Last week a friend and former student, Ryan Dellos, and I went backpacking. What a wonderful time of spiritual refreshment! The rivers, the rugged mountain trails, the beauty of Lake Superior—what a way to behold God’s power in the great outdoors! What a way to gain new vision of God’s greatness, majesty and grandeur!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, July 3, 2015

Glory of God’s Creation: Regaining a Sense of Wonder

Lake at St. John's University

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 him?
                        -Psalm 8:1-4a

Jesus tells us that to enter the Kingdom of God, we must become like a child. Part of being childlike is regaining a sense of wonder.

A child enters each day with openness and a heart of adventure. Each new thing that he or she sees—even a common ant scurrying across the sidewalk—is viewed through the eyes of wonder. Trees and hills are approached with awe.

As we grow up, we adopt the attitude of “been there and done that.” Nothing evokes a sense of marvel in us. Even when we see new sights, we want to look “cool” and not show our surprise or delight. In short, we do not want to look childish or naïve.

Yet, in order to mature spiritually, we must regain our childlike innocence, especially our awe for God’s breathtaking work. Key to spiritual growth is a sense of wonder.

Spending time in creation is one of the best ways for me to rekindle my sense of awe and wonder. Watching waves crash along the shoreline or soaking in the view from a mountain peak refreshes me in ways I cannot explain. Know-it-all attitudes roll away and fresh wonder sprouts in my heart. If I’m alone, I often find myself spontaneously start to quietly sing: “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made!”

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, June 26, 2015

Life's Journey: Beautiful Even in the Rain!

Crashing waves on Lake Superior

Wilderness hiking includes weather of all kinds. Especially if you are backpacking for a week or more, you should expect rain and shine, heat and cold.

When I first began to backpack, I really disliked the rain. Then I began to relax and realize that I was not going to melt when it rained. If the weather was cold, I’d put on my raingear and do just fine. If the weather was hot, it didn’t really make that much difference whether I got soaked from sweating or rain!

Likewise, when Sharon and I go to the cabin along the North Shore of Lake Superior, we love each day, rainy or sunny. In fact, we kind of look forward to listening to the rain patter on the roof of the log cabin. Sometimes the storm will whip up the waves, as well—that is glorious to see the white caps crash against the rocks or to fall asleep to the sound of the rhythmic waves. When we visited there last week, we commented a number of times: It is beautiful even in the rain!

When it comes to daily life, however, I don’t do so well on rainy, stormy days. I can get down on days that I cannot see the physical sunshine (I’d never make it in the Pacific Northwest). In a figurative way, I struggle on days when there is stormy interaction in relationships or when all my work seems to be like an overcast sky.

Mentally I know that life is not going to be endless sunshine. I understand that growth often happens through conflict and resolution, if it is well handled. Yet, I struggle to embrace those challenges. I have a hard time seeing that life is “beautiful even in the rain.”

That is what I’m working on in my heart this week—loving each day with all the sunny times and rainy times. I know that lessons from the wilderness can be applied to life, relationships, work, and my walk with God—although I’m not quite sure how to make this application currently in my life! So throughout the day I’m encouraging myself to embrace all that comes my way. Again and again, I’m reminding myself that life is indeed beautiful even in the rain!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, June 19, 2015

Rocky Shores and Respites along the Way

North Shore of Lake Superior

“He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.”
-Psalm 23:2-3

On any journey, we need to take respites along the way. These are times to rest, take some food and water, and enjoy the view wherever we are.

When you travel with a group, some on the trip, of course, want to stop and take it easy every fifteen minutes. The problem is that they don’t get very far! In reality, they are not really interested in the journey, only in taking breaks.

Others—like myself—make the opposite mistake. I get so focused on the goal for the day that I forget to take breaks along the way! (Hiking in the Alps one time, my companion—who was in pretty good shape—almost passed out because of the speed we were going!) Driving too hard is just a bad as making no progress. When I fail to pause from time to time, I miss the beautiful scenery, conversation with companions, and so many things the Lord has given me to enjoy along the way.

So in our lives, we need to take time for rest, reflection, recreation and restoration. When we lived in Europe for four years, we found that people there do this much better than most Americans. Times of respite are essential to our well-being: physically, emotionally and spiritually. The Good Shepherd indeed wants to lead us beside those still waters, so our whole being can be restored. However, sometimes I don’t follow his lead.

This past week Sharon and I spent five days at our favorite cabin on Lake Superior. Each morning we simply sat on the rocks, read, wrote in a journal, prayed, and rested in the Lord. What a wonderful time! We took time to enjoy all that the Lord has given.

Without periodic retreats like this throughout the year, it would be difficult for me to grow spirituality. I always feel like I have too many things to do and I’m too busy to enjoy such a respite. However, once I am there, I realize how necessary it is to rest along the way!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, June 12, 2015

Palisades on Lake Superior
From the first time I went backpacking in high school, I discovered that mountains are deceptive. From a distance they do not look nearly as tall—and challenging—as they are. What looks like an hour’s hike to the uninitiated is usually more like a four or five hour ascent. I’ve heard many young guys in particular brag about how easy the mountain will be and how quickly they will reach the top. Half way up, as they pause, huffing and puffing, they are singing a different tune!
Mountains are also deceptive in the way that you can see the whole elevation from a distance, peak and all. However, once you are on it, it is hard to tell where you are in elevation. Many times I have thought I must be approaching the peak, only to arrive at a lookout point where I could get a view of things and found that I had not yet attained the halfway point!
The parallels between climbing a physical mountain and maturing spiritually are numerous. From a distance, the ascent to become more Christ-like seems so simple. We overcome some big sin in our lives and establishing a regular time in Scripture, and we presume that we are almost at the top. Indeed, when I was in 7th grade, I figured I was pretty spiritually mature!
Growing up—physically and spiritually—sobered me tremendously. Now, some 45 years later, I realize how high the peak is and how long and hard the trail is leading up to it. When I look at my progress these days, I think I have hardly even begun the ascent up the mountain. Of course that is not true: I have been making some steady progress all of these years. What is different is my perspective. I now have a realistic view of what spiritual formation is all about—the mountain is so much higher than I ever imagined!
That realistic view, however, does not need to discourage us. The fact that I’ll spend the rest of my life climbing and still have a long way to go does not in any way make me want to quit. Rather, it brings perspective and some humility into my life. Moreover, it challenges me. No, I’ll never get close to the top, achieving any sort of perfection in this life. However, I want to see how far I can grow! From time to time when I get to a scenic overview, I want to savor the view—recognizing how far the Lord has brought me. I want to enjoy all the wildflowers along the path. Above all, I want to enjoy the company of the Lord—my guide—along the way, because he indeed in my companion, as well as the mountain upon which I am growing!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, June 5, 2015

Pilgrimage: Enjoying the Journey

North Shore of Lake Superior

This summer I hope to go backpacking along the north shore of Lake Superior. It has been four years since I’ve done a trip like this—I have really missed it!
Key to any hiking trip—whether for an afternoon or several weeks camping in the wilderness—is enjoying the whole event. You have to enjoy the process. That includes preparing and packing, traveling to your entry point, hiking through sun and rain, setting up camp, as well as just taking it easy at the campsite.
In the past, I’ve been on trips with whiners—that is no fun! They only want to hang out and go swimming; then they whine when meals need to be cooked and dishes wait to be washed, let alone make a difficult day’s hike.
The reality is that hanging out at camp is only a small fraction of the whole trip. Most of the time is spent hiking, setting up and tearing down. You have to enjoy all of it, else it is not worth heading into the wilderness. Of course there are parts of the process I enjoy more than others. Yet, from the time I began camping in high school, I determined to savor the whole trip—including the painful parts.
The Christian Pilgrimage is very much like a backpacking trip. There are wonderful mountain top “highs” and there are difficult and painful challenges. I’m still learning to embrace all of life like I embrace camping trips. Inside I tend to be too much of a whiner, even though I know that I grow through the difficult times.
My hope is that as I go backpacking this summer, it will be a “refresher course” on enjoying the journey so that I can apply it to my life-long pilgrimage with the Lord.

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, May 11, 2015

Maturing through the Mundane

“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
-Romans 8:28
Seldom do we feel like we are maturing in the Lord through the day-to-day of life. Rather than experiencing exhilaration from growing spiritually, we are completely unaware of making much progress. Instead we feel overwhelmed with our never-ending responsibilities and exhausted as we try to be faithful in our walk with God. At times we are irritated by the demands on our time and by the irksome people we are called to love.
Some days we seem to experience one trial after another: we do not get a moment’s rest. Although we cannot see what God is building in our lives, he is indeed at work. In his classic, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, Jean-Pierre de Caussade asserts: “It is in these afflictions, which succeed one another each moment, that God, veiled and obscured, reveals himself, mysteriously bestowing his grace in a manner quite unrecognized by the souls who feel only weakness in bearing their cross, distaste for performing their duty, and capable only of the most mediocre spiritual practices” (17).
In the midst of fulfilling our duty—which includes much that is mundane—we cannot see God’s providence nor feel his presence. Instead we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The hand of the Lord remains hidden in the circumstances that press in on us.
Nevertheless, we choose to hope in his promise that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Although we currently see nothing happening, we cling to God’s assurance that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character” (Roman 5:3-4).
Our obedience to God through fulfilling our obligations and our faithfulness in the mundane is sacred. Indeed, the present moment—no matter how challenging or dull—is sacramental. Our response to the duty before us is central to God’s plan to transform us.
“God’s order and his divine will, humbly obeyed by the faithful, accomplishes his divine purpose in [us] without [our] knowledge,” continues de Caussade, “in the same way as medicine obediently swallowed cures invalids who neither know nor care how” (42).
I want to be transformed! The deepest desire of my heart it to be made into the image of Christ. Toward that end, I am learning to embrace all that God brings into my life, counting the trials as “pure joy” (James 1:2). Although I can neither see nor feel God’s hand at work in the moment, I know he will accomplish his will in my life!
Quotes are from Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989).

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Easter: Fresh Spiritual Awakening

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
-Ephesians 5:14 (ESV)

Spiritual awakening is not a one-time event in our lives. Rather, we have seasons of awakening when everything is fresh and new. We follow with seasons of green, filled with steady growth. In turn, we also walk through seasons of loss, like autumn, when all the color seems to fall from life. Sometimes we experience winters when inside we turn cold and numb.

Yet, just as the ever-strengthening sun thaws the frozen earth each spring, so God’s light calls us to new springtime and fresh awakenings. It may be a new area of our life that God wants to rouse from sleep. It might be an aspect of our walk with him that was once vibrant--but has hardened during difficult times—that the Lord wants to rejuvenate.

It may be a new challenge that the Almighty places before us or a new relationship into which he is inviting us. It may be a new ministry or service to others that God is calling us into—perhaps something we never dreamed of doing or even wanted to do! But the bright light of God’s presence is clear as day: the Lord is calling us to awaken!

This Easter season is an invitation to you and me to wake up in one area of our life or another. Take some time this coming week to wait on the Lord and ask him where you might be asleep without even know it. Ask God what he wants to waken in your life!

2015 © Glenn E. Myers 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Holy Week: Entering into the Paschal Mystery

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
-Philippians 3:10

Holy Week has been set aside since the early centuries of the church as a special week for Christians. This time is an opportunity to remember our Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his Last Supper with the Disciplines, his Passion, his days in the grave, and ultimately his Resurrection.

More than a memorial, however, Holy Week is an opportunity for us as believers to enter into the divine mysteries. The events of two millennia ago are not simply over and done. Rather, they live on and invite us to enter into them.

As we sing "Hosanna!" on Palm Sunday, we both celebrate the Messiah's entrance into Jerusalem and begin to mourn his coming trial and crucifixion.

As we partake of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, we join with the Eleven Apostles--and all the Christians through the ages--as we partake of our Lord's Body and Blood.

As we observe Good Friday, we contemplate the cross on which he died. Some of our crosses in church are gold or silver; others are rough wood, like the one on which Jesus died. As we look on the cross in the front of church, we reflect on the utter love shown us that day. More than this, the Christian life means to be "crucified with Christ." We reckon ourselves as dead, for "it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

As we go through Saturday, we feel the awful emptiness that the Apostles, Mary, the other women, and the many other disciples must have felt.

I find that the more I enter into the days leading up to Easter, the more I fully realize the truth of Resurrection. My prayer is for all Christians this Holy Week, that we would indeed enter into the Paschal Mystery of our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.

2015 © Glenn E. Myers 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lent: Participating in Christ's Suffering & Entering into the Pascal Mystery

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” –Philippians 3:10-11 (TNIV)

Lent is an extraordinary opportunity for us as Christians—as members of Christ’s body—to join with Christ in his sufferings. The forty days of Lent come from Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. Since the early church, believers have set aside the forty days leading up to Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter as a time to participate with Christ in preparation for his passion and resurrection.

Participating with Christ
Writing Philippians toward the end of his life, Paul exclaims: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (3:13-14). In the opening quote from Philippians, the Apostle tells us what that straining looks like: it means “participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (3:10).

To join Christ’s suffering, then, is something to which we are all called. Paul labels it a honor! He tells the Philippians—and us be extension—that we have been accorded such a privilege: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (1:29).

To be a genuine Christian is to die with Christ, as Paul explains at length in Romans 6:1-14. Paul saw his own suffering as united with Jesus’ passion: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).

Following in Christ’s Footsteps
Jesus makes it clear: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The Apostle Peter—whose, according to church history, was crucified upside down on a cross—says that we are to “suffer for doing good” because “to this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1Peter 2:2-21).

Lent is all about following in Christ’s footstep. This is called the “imitatio Christi,” the imitation of our Lord in the sense of joining with him and following in his very footsteps.

While few of us will be martyred for our faith, we are able to participate in some small sense in Lent as we set aside our desires through some form of fasting, turn our focus away from our selves by giving to others, and center ourselves afresh on the Lord through prayer.

As we do so in Lent, we somehow enter into—participate in—the Pascal Mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. These are not simply events two thousand years ago to be remembered. Much rather, they are realities into which we have been invited to participate and share with Christ!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lent: A Time to Return

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength.” -Isaiah 30:15
Over the years Lent has become one of my favorite seasons of the year. It is the time of the church calendar that provides focus—focus on how I am doing with God, reflection on things that need to change in my life, fresh assessment of areas where I need to draw close to the Lord.
Lent is a time to return to God. If we have drifted apart or simply become preoccupied with many things in life, the Lord bids us come. If we have rebelled and walked away in sin, he calls us to repent and offers us forgiveness. God welcomes us to return to him and to rest in him. He bids us to trust him and wait quietly upon his loving but powerful presence.
One way that I focus during Lent is that I keep a small wooden cross next to my bed, which I pick up and contemplate Jesus’ sacrifice for a few moments each night before retiring. It is a plain wooden cross I received at church camp when I was in elementary school or junior high, so it has a lot of memories for me. I started this bed-time tradition four years ago, and really look forward to it each year as Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. Somehow it offers me focus—and fresh meditation on what it means to die to myself and live for Christ—during this season. Ultimately, it helps me draw close to the Lord afresh in these weeks leading up to Easter.
© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, January 23, 2015

Attentiveness: Awake and Alert in the New Year

 “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” -Ephesians 5:13-14 (ESV)
Attentiveness is key to living a spiritual life.
Opposite of Preoccupation and Dull Numbness
Attentiveness is the opposite of Preoccupation. We spend so much of our time preoccupied in the back of our minds without even being aware of it. Sometimes we are engrossed with the past, either regretting something negative that happened or daydreaming about something good—trying in our minds to return to that time and the joy we experienced then. Other times we are obsessing about the future, worrying about something that might come up, fearful about what could happen, or desiring some accomplishment, possession or person that we are inwardly clinging to.
Attentiveness is also the opposite of sleeping our way through life. How often we become dull, half-awake or numb in life, just going through the motions day after day. This is why Scripture calls us to “Awake!” (Ephesians 5:13), and to “Arise and shine, for our light has come!” (Isaiah 60:1). This is why the Psalmist exhorts himself, “Awake, my soul! . . . I will awaken the dawn!” (Psalm 57:8)
Attentive To:
What are we to be attentive to in this New Year?
1. Attentive to the blessings at hand—everything from food and home to friends and family, from creation that surrounds me to great books to read. The more aware I am to all of God’s favors, the more I want to be careful to return thanks and praise to God for his many good gifts!
2. Attentive to the responsibility at hand, the duty of the moment! Teaching at a college, I too often see students who cannot wait to become teachers or nurses or pastors or missionaries, yet they neglect the homework at hand. They have not made the connection between diligence with today’s work and reaching their goals. As a result, some destroy the possibility of ever reaching the very thing they desire. We need give time and attention to obligations in front of us.
3. Attentive to myself! If I honesty look at myself—my thoughts, attitudes, words and actions—I discover that I am not so unlike those students who dream about the future but miss the duty right under my nose! As Richard Foster has said: “We are capable of infinite self-deception”! I need to be attentive to the issues in my own life if I am to grow personally and spiritually. I must face my inner fears and procrastination, allowing God to transform me from the inside out.
4. Attentive to opportunities of the moment—ready to serve the Lord, whatever, wherever, and with whomever he places before us!
5. Attentive to the Lord! Interestingly, the more I become aware of what is around me in the visible world, the more attentive I am to the invisible realm. As I attend to the Lord’s presence, peace pervades my life. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3 KJV).
Attentive this Year
As I move through this year, I want to establish a habit, a lifestyle, of attentiveness. More than ever before, I want to remain attentive to, and thankful for, God’s blessings. Likewise I desire daily to be ever more attentive to what I need to be learning and doing, and attentive to God’s presence permeating my life!

© 2015 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, January 9, 2015

Return, My Soul, to Your Rest--A New Year's Prayer

“Return, my soul, to your rest;
      the Lord has been very good to you.”
                -Psalm 116.7 (NABRE)

As the New Year begins, I have started to be more diligent than ever to guard my mind from worry and anxiety. There will always be more than enough issues of life offering stress; I simply want to decline that offer on a daily basis. In reality, I need to refuse stress and anxiety pretty well every hour!
A few months ago when I was doing my daily Scripture reading, Psalm 116.7 jumped out at me as never before. The Psalmist speaks to himself with the exhortation: Return, my soul, to your rest! Why? My soul can be at peace because God—in his goodness, power and providence—has been so good to me. I need to remind myself of this!

Toward that end, here is a prayer that I’ll be praying in the months ahead.

Return, My Soul, to your Rest

Gracious Lord, like Martha in the Gospels,
                I have become anxious about so many things.
     Projects to do, problems to solve, and people to serve—
                everything to be done is overwhelming!
Inside I am scattered, disquieted, unsettled;
                my thoughts dart about in my head.
     I’m afraid of missing opportunities or losing what I have;
                worry fills my heart more than I dare to admit.
Return, my soul, to your rest;
                leave behind your anxious thoughts and cares.
     The Lord has been so kind to you,
            providing for all that you need.
Be at peace, O my heart, in God’s goodness,
providing your needs and caring for you.
     Dwell secure in his power and protection,
surrounding and guarding you in all your ways.
Be at rest, O my thoughts, free from all worries
that distract you and weigh you down,
     For God has gone before you and prepared the way,
which will be opened to you in his time.

© 2015  Glenn E. Myers