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