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