Monday, September 29, 2008

My Prayer Park

For the past 8 weeks or so I've been faithfully taking my morning walk every Monday through Friday. As soon as I get Max on the bus at 8:15, I resist the temptation to stand around and chat with the other bus stop moms. I say my goodbyes and get my feet moving.

It reminds me of swim team freshman year, where for the first time in my life, I engaged in a competitve sport. In practice we swam sets on certain intervals. I remember walking the halls of my high school constantly monitoring my time on the clocks that hung every 50 feet or so above the lockers. Pacing, single-minded focus and repetition became part of my daily routine.

And so I find myself back in those rhythms, but it's a good thing, a God thing. At the 4 minute mark, I've crossed the main north south street into our neighborhood and I pick up the pace, sometimes hesitating just a moment to wave to Max as his bus heads out of our little corner of the world and off to school. Swinging my arms, I get into my groove, heading automatically to the park where I often see more deer than people, especially early in the day like this.
Hitting the paved path that loops through what was once an open meadow hidden in a densely wooded grove, I greet God. "Lord, I thank you for this day and my life and my health. I thank for for my gift of writing that you've entrusted me with. I pray that you would give me the right words and the right timing and the right wisdom and the right understanding to make your love and your truth known to all people. Let me give glory and honor to you in all that I do..."

And so my prayer time opens, for this is what my morning walk has become. I've had neighbors hint about walking with me, keeping me company, giving themselves a little inspiration in the exercise journey. Yet I've only smiled politely and made indefinable mumblings about the distance I go and the pace I keep. I don't want to discourage them from walking. I like my neighbors. And, really, I wouldn't mind company, except I've already got the best exercise buddy in the world at my side. This is my God-time, and I don't want to share. I can't share. I need this alone time with him where all my focus is on my Lord and not on the busyness of my life or the crazyness of the world.

And so it goes, 4 laps total in the park (each one 4.5 minutes...I've timed them...some habits die hard). It reminds me of the ancient prayer labyrinths which are regaining popularity. A true labyrinth has one entry and one exit, and the path leads methodically to the middle, which is a metaphor for our human lives with God at the center. My park path is simply circular, but it serves the same purpose. It allows me to concentrate all of my energies on God. I can just switch over to autopilot and concentrate on talking to God.

My quasi-labyrinth, because of its location, also reminds me to pray for a young neighbor mom I know who has lymphoma...who's had lymphoma for 12 or so years now. Because of the chemo given early on, her heart was compromised and her options are limited. She's back in chemo yet again, after a relatively healthy 6 month reprieve. Being so physically close to C's house, I am very purposefully reminded of her and what her daily worries must be like and how mine pale in comparison. And I need this reminder because too easily I get caught up in my own life, my own problems, my own struggles, my own sin...and I forget to lift up those who need God most. I need this God-time to remind me that it's not all about me, that it is all about him.

Sometimes, too, I sing...not out loud, really. I'd probably send the deer running. But in my head. Bits and pieces of praise songs floating in and out as their words match my thoughts..."I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice, to worship you all my soul rejoice. Take joy, my King, in what you hear. May it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear." Amen. Let it be.

Mission:Possible Challenge...Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to live out Goal 4 of the New Life Mission statement, which is to grow our personal (and family) devotional life while deepening our living relationship with God. Take a look at your life this week and take stock of the time you spend with God. However much that time is, a little or a lot, take the next step and make time to connect with God today. Whether you're starting small with a one minute prayer or deepening your faith by blocking off a full 30 minutes, take the time to connect with God. Remind yourself that it's not all about you. It's all about him.

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