Walking with God, Literally!

DaveWalkingEvery morning I take a walk. I don’t walk to contribute to my physical well-being, though I’m sure that’s a side benefit. I walk to stay spiritually fit for I talk best to God when I walk. A minister friend of mine referred me to an article by Dan Pallotta about walking. The author quotes Henry David Thoreau who said, “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” I’ve often said that the two soles of my feet must have a direct connection to my soul because I can pray best when I walk.

I think it all started when I was a boy on an Iowa farm. I would often have to walk to get the cows from the back pasture at the end of the day so my father could milk them. Then too, I recall often taking a short walk on the lane going out to the fields after doing my evening chores. I’d end up talking to God while walking, so walking became my mode of prayer; I’ve just continued the habit all of these years.

The article by Pallotta also references a study which indicates that people who walk or ride a bike at least four times a week think more creatively. I find it true that I can be more creative when I’ve had my walk with the Lord. Speaking of being creative, I believe He is also able to create within me a greater presence of Himself, and mold me more into His image. Like King David I often pray on my walk, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

Everyone is different, but I’m a firm believer in the prayer walk. Some may kneel or sit when they pray, but I must walk. My walk is a daily appointment with God every morning, come rain or shine, heat or cold. In fact, I’ll be heading out for my walk in just a few minutes. Dawn is just coming and it’s a -6 F. degrees out there! Walking in harsh weather conditions becomes a sacrament for me, expressing resolve to walk with the Lord no matter what life brings. On the other hand, walking on a beautiful morning brings its own rewards of finding praise and thanksgiving flowing more easily as I bask in the beauty of the day.

I have the blessing of walking in nature, not on man-made sidewalks with man-made structures all around. I take a path through the woods behind my place and along the neighbor’s fields. There’s God’s handiwork all around! I often spot deer and sometimes wild turkey. God also paints the eastern sky differently every morning. Each season provides unique delights from budding leaves in spring to falling leaves in autumn.

I sometimes reflect that there is no other human being within a quarter of a mile when I’m out on my walk. It’s God and me, alone with each other. There’s an old hymn titled In the Garden. I know, many think it’s a syrupy type song (including my wife) but I have to admit that I can identify with the lyrics. “I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear falling on my ear the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me and he talks with me…”

There are different spiritual practices for relating to God in a regular and intimate way, but for me walking works best. I better wrap this up. My walking Partner is waiting!

My “Spinning Wheels”

Mahatma Gandhi, a religious as well as political leader in India, was not a Christian, but there are lessons his life can teach those of us who are Christian leaders, those of us who are pastors. One such lesson is from Gandhi’s use of the spinning wheel.

Gandhi’s spinning wheel was a tangible way for him to communicate to the people of India the importance of freeing themselves from economic dependence on the British. If they would spin their own cotton they could make their own clothes and not depend on purchasing clothing from Britain.

But apparently Gandhi also came to see the emotional and spiritual benefits of his use of the spinning wheel.  He said that it helped with “the education of becoming and being.”

Eliza Drummond wrote in Spinners Quarterly, July 2004, of the value of using the spinning wheel in prayer and meditation. “In order to find out more about why we spin, I sent out 400 questionnaires to 80 spinning guilds across the United States and Canada. In these questionnaires I asked introductory questions such as ‘how long have you been spinning?’ and ‘how often do you spin?’ I also posed questions such as ‘have you ever thought that spinning is meditative?’ and ‘do you ever spin for the purpose of praying or meditating?’ Seventy-five percent of respondents answered that they consider spinning to be meditative, and 40% answered that they actively spin to meditate or pray. Of the latter group, all of them find it effective as a form of meditation and prayer.”

I don’t have a spinning wheel, but I do have other ways of spending my time that replenish my soul. Yes, of course, there’s the time I spend in my daily devotions of Bible reading, other spiritual reading, and prayer. This is top on my list. But I have other less “spiritual” activities and hobbies that help me keep my balance as I face the rigors of ministry.

Photography is a serious hobby for me. When I am about the business of lining up a good photograph the time seems to either stand still or fly by, I’m not sure which.  Writing is a big part of my time away from pastoral ministry.  I’ve written both non-fiction and fiction, including a couple of novels.  I also raise a small flock of chickens as a hobby, and have done so for over a quarter of a century. Then too I have a decorative pond with waterfall, fish, and floating pond plants that I maintain.

These are my “spinning wheels” that help keep me sane in ministry. Such interests keep me from putting all my emotional eggs in the basket of pastoral ministry (sorry, after all these years of raising chickens I can’t resist a poultry analogy).

The apostle Paul was a tent maker. This was probably out of economic necessity more than anything else, but I can’t help but wonder if he didn’t also appreciate the break from his usual apostolic duties. I’m sure Paul did a lot of talking, listening, praying, and even mentoring while working on tents, but there must still have been something therapeutic about using his hands.

If I could give some advice to those going into ministry I would strongly suggest that they hold on to or adopt some other interest or outlet other than pastoral ministry to which they could give their time and attention on a regular basis, a “spinning wheel” to which they could go regularly for a change of pace. My “spinning wheels” have be instrumental in my longevity as a pastor and as a pastor in one place. They have been used of the Lord in my life to keep me at the task of serving His people as their pastor.

How about you? What are the “spinning wheels” in your life? Please, share with the rest of us.