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 na├»ve.

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