I try to walk on a regular basis. I have a treadmill at home and use it when the weather is not conducive to being outside. When the weather is even relatively decent, I am quite happy to leave my treadmill on standby and walk on one of several trails or parks in the area.
A couple of weeks ago, we had an unseasonably warm day, so I made it a point to walk at one of my favorite local places in Ashland, Ohio-- Freer Field. Once there, I put my headphones in and while listening to an educational podcast (Yes, I am a nerd), I began to work up something of a sweat while enjoying the scenery and reflecting on what I was hearing. I like to refer to my podcast walks as pondering wanderings.
As I walked, on the asphalt path, I came upon some inspired graffiti written in chalk on the path.
Walking in a scenic place on a somewhat warm day in many weeks, it was easy to praise God, to thank God for a beautiful day and be grateful for health good enough to move on two legs. More often than not as I get older, I become conscious of my respiration, my lungs expanding and contracting processing the air that my body uses. I can feel my heart beat as I walk, knowing that it is responsible for the blood coursing through my body. I become aware and grateful for the gift of being alive. I recall my favorite quote from Marcus Aurelius, "When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love...." In such moments it is easy to praise God along the journey, but I am grateful for the chalked reminder in front of me.
As I continue along the path in a mood of gratitude, I come across another reminder.
When one is already praising God, it's just a short step away to singing them. I think that maybe I should turn off my podcast on the doctrine of the Trinity and instead turn on some theology sung. Good theology always leads to doxology. It is my practice during Lent to listen to Gregorian Chant, though I confess it is not conducive to a brisk walk; but hey, even in Lent we have a little preview of Easter every Sunday, so perhaps something more rousing while walking.
But sometimes along the journey, we get mixed messages. Life is complicated, faith is mystery seeking understanding, but the mystery is always larger.
"Be still and know that I am God." But at the moment, I am anything but still. I am moving. Stillness and silence are not the order of the moment. But the message, even in this busy portion of the day, is good. I cannot forget in the midst of life's busyness with all the responsibilities of the calendar always on my mind, that I must make time to take stock of time and the presence of God in stillness, in the silence that so often seems nonexistent in my world. For now, silence must wait. The day moves on at a high rate of speed, but later on as the day approaches its end, silence will encroach upon the darkness and God will make himself known.
And as I complete my first circuit on the path, I come across a final message that is appropriately last.
The Apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to spend the moments of the day in an attitude of prayer. I can offer reflective prayers while walking, ask God to bless all the drivers passing me while I drive on the other side of the road, and take a few moments away from paperwork in my office to pray for persons working my way through the church directory. I must take time for nothing but prayer, but I can be prayerful anytime and anywhere. And this final reminder affirms that prayer is not just a psychological exercise to make me feel better, though I often feel better after prayer. I pray because I know that when I speak, God is listening. "The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). Prayer is not a fruitless conversation with a mythical deity, but with the very Creator of all that is-- "God from God, Light from Light." And I matter to that God, so much so, that when I speak in prayer God listens.
I am grateful for the reminders I received that day along the journey of my walk, and for all the reminders I get throughout life from Scripture, from ancient commentators and saints, and from wise contemporaries whose wisdom I covet:
"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28).
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
"God loved us before he made us; and his love has never diminished and never shall." (Julian of Norwich)
"There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice." (John Calvin)
"God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars." (Martin Luther)
"The best of all is, God is with us" (John Wesley)
"Don't worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth." (Dorothy Day)
Such reminders along the daily journey of faith are divine gifts given to us; for life itself is a gift.