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.
Advent
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!
Pilgrimage
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.

Amen.

© 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!

Regrouping
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.

Cultivating
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