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