Walk With God
When I was 90 pounds overweight and searching for exercise that was realistic and attainable I was drawn to walking. The enticement was that I could walk anyplace and all I needed was a pair of comfortable shoes. Another draw was that I could be out in nature and push my daughter in the stroller. The fresh air always helped her settle down and sleep better at nap time.
Time that I spent walking began to migrate from fixating on weight loss and my health alone to a time to unleash the burdens of my heart and pray for friends, family, my church and community. It also became a time where I incorporated worship and later became an avenue for me to share my faith and pray for people that I encountered along the walking route.
About two and a half years ago the Lord invited me to do something that went against my driven personality. He asked me to start coming away with Him for walks along a beautiful nature and equestrian trail at a beautiful park near my home. When I first stated I wanted to go fast and get that walk done and get on to the next item on my list for the day. The Lord had something so rich and so precious for me to learn in the cool of the morning along those trails that it would literally become life changing.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”(Micah 6:8 ESV). The Lord asked me to give him an hour and a half and not to worry about the distance or the speed at which I walked. Ugh! Talk about humbling, walk slow, no thanks, Lord! To a former overweight person like me it generally is ALL about distance and speed and calories burned, but he asked me to lay all that aside for a couple of times per week so that He could speak to me personally on a deeper level.
As I started walks with God, I would start with instrumental music. I started my walks early so I didn't have to use ear buds with my iPhone and disturb others. I let the peaceful music flood my soul and I prayed before I started out. I asked God to show me new things, to reveal truth, to show me who to pray for and that he would lead me to deeper places with Him as I worshiped. As I started walking I would listen to the quite music, which helped me not get in a rush, and I would invite the Holy Spirit to wash over me and I would sing and pray to God out loud.
Did you know that worship is a spiritual discipline? “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24)
We have distractions everyday that try to pull us away from spending time with the Father and we have to be very intentional about worship. When I've been faced with tremendous difficulties and been in the middle of impossible situations, as I turned my heart to worship and got my eyes fixed on the Father - the cares of this life and the heaviness of the situations started to lift as I sang and shouted to God about how great he is.
Worship isn't just the Sunday morning experience. Corporate worship is awesome, but when I am alone with God walking, riding my bike, hiking a mountain or out in the woods thanking God for his amazing creation and then I begin to pour out my heart to Him in worship, I feel connected to my Father. The Spirit gives me thoughts and scriptures, sometimes for me personally, sometimes to share with others. Oftentimes when I'm walking, praying and worshiping, God will even put people in my path, literally, who need ministry right at that moment.
Recently I was out walking on the nature trail. I had been worshiping and talking to the Father for about 30 minutes. I ran into a Muslim couple. I felt very impressed that I was supposed to stop and visit with them. I spoke to them for several minutes, shared with them about my profession, asked about their lives and at the end of the conversation I asked them this question, “How I could best pray you today?'
The woman told me that she was having very strong internal battles and the man asked me to pray for his family because there were many distressing things happening and they were tearing at the family's relationship. The Lord opened up this deeper spiritual dialog and I was able to share with them about Jesus and his love for them. They also allowed me to lay hands on them and pray for them right there in the beauty of God's creation on the trail! As we concluded the young woman hugged me several times and kept thanking me for stopping.
She told me that she had been feeling so lost and had so many questions about life and now, after prayer, she was beginning to feel a peace she couldn't describe. I have no doubt that they will never forget that encounter, nor will I. Every time I pass the place that we met last year I am always drawn to pray for them and asking the Father to stir up what they heard that day in their hearts. The private time I invest by walking with God is always a personal blessing, but that day it wasn't just for me – it was to open my heart and get me ready and prepared to minister to the people God had waiting for me right on the path.
The rat race of life can get us so preoccupied that we don't see the needs of others around us. Our minds are so busy, constantly making lists and organizing the chaotic lives we lead. We tend to be so inward focused that if we are not careful we can miss the Divine appointments that the Father has set up for us to be His vessels.
To illustrate this point I want to share one other story that occurred on a Sunday morning last fall. Before church I went for a walk with God on a nearby equestrian trail. I was going to make it quicker than usual because I needed to get back and get ready for the second service – God had other plans.
This particular morning I happened upon an older woman with disheveled gray hair who was in fleece pajamas walking her small dog. She looked disoriented, she was looking up at the trees then behind her then up at the trees again. I greeted her and since I was concerned for her I asked if she was okay with which I was reprimanded harshly, “What do you mean “am I well today”, I am not 100 years old you know?! Then shot number two was fired from her lips, “I bet you don't like dogs, I sense you are not an animal lover.” Then shot three, “I am from Germany, but I suppose you have no idea where that is, do you?”
Strongly sensing that she was trying to distance herself as quickly as possible from me, I apologized for intruding upon her time and I wished her a beautiful walk. She turned around to face me and said, “Most people do not like me because I am so harsh and outspoken, but you have been very patient and gentle with me. Do you know God?” In the Divine moment in the woods this woman began to tell me about her cold and stoic parents who had not shown her any affection growing up. She shared with me a story of her childhood in Germany where a male teacher had slapped one cheek and then the other and had her sit in the front of room facing her classmates as punishment for disrupting the class. She told me about her two abusive marriages that had ended in divorce and then a recent loss, a homeless man that she had been supplying food to had died last week.
Remembering my past loneliness and difficult divorce, I wanted to show kindness and compassion. Once being in a place of depression and seclusion myself, I had patience to hear her stories. I was able to share a few things that had helped me walk out of anger and fear. We discussed nature, Creation, the wonder of the woods, my time living in The Netherlands and my many trips to her homeland of Germany. As we stood in the beauty of the forest with fall leaves dropping all around us, total strangers became friends.
After more than an hour of visiting, we walked the trail back to our cars laughing and talking as if we'd been pals for a long time. The light of her continence let me know that I had been in the right place and the right time to speak a word in season to a soul that was hurting and needed to feel the love of Jesus. The Lord needed me there that Sunday morning and He needed me to not be in a rush.
Reaching the parking lot as we said our goodbye's I hugged her. She said, “Laurie, I normally don't let anyone touch me, but it okay that you hugged me today, thank you for helping me feel happy.” Yea, the tears came. Before the healing of my own spirit and soul I would not have had much to offer this woman. I may have been offended by her harshness and walked away. I may not have had much encouragement to give her. At 90 pounds overweight I most likely would not have even been on the trail so our paths would have never crossed.
I never want to take for granted that I have my physical health and my spiritual health. I guard both through discipline and obedience. I can't tell you how many times the Lord has had someone on a hiking trail, at a lake, on a walking path just waiting for me to be bold enough to start a conversation with them. I believe that because I invest time in prayer, meditation, worship and thankfulness as I'm exercising that my heart is open to walk through the door to be used as God's mouth piece for that moment that He ordains.