First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on February 10, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/a-forest-walk-and-god-s-word-can-both-bring-fresh-perspective
On a cloudy day in January my brother and I went for a walk in the forest. The tall trees hid the sky. Moss covered branches reached over the path. We moved briskly through the trail.
Dog walkers and joggers passed us as we hiked around the park. We saw a juvenile eagle perched on a branch above our heads. The steady beat of our steps and the moist air refreshed my tired muscles.
While in the forest there wasn’t an anxious thought going through my head. I was present to the moment with my brother. The sounds and smells of the clear brook and evergreen trees awakened my senses. They also brought back memories of camping trips as a young girl with my family.
I remember going to Golden Ears Park. With my younger sister I pretended pinecones were dolls. I have always enjoyed being in nature since I was in the backpack on my dad’s shoulders in the woods. Collecting rocks and shells was a large part of the fun on a beach visit.
I picked up a pink and orange rock that looked smooth. Such beautiful stones filled the path. Each one a different shape and colour. My brother led the way through the trail. I was filled with wonder as I walked the winding route through trees and creek beds. It was a meditative walk.
I have started praying lectio divina, to listen more to God speaking into my life. I open my Bible and read a passage from either the gospels, or a psalm, or a letter. I pray for an openness to hear God’s voice through the words I am reading. I pick one word that stands out from the first reading. Then a second one, and the last reading I choose a phrase that is speaking to me.
This has been so nourishing to my soul. The words echo for me throughout the next day, giving me a feeling of safety and security. Recently from Isaiah 49:8-13 the words “establish,” and “heritage,” spoke powerfully to me. So did the phrase, “in a time of favour I have answered you.” I have been worrying about my future and these words brought comfort.
The Lord has always provided for me in the past. Reading from the Bible I can hear God’s voice more. Words have such power. And Scripture is the living word.
Like the sounds and smells of the forest, these words bring fresh perspective and awaken my heart. They help me to slow down and give space to hear the call of being a disciple.
Often I fill my mind and ears with too much music, podcasts, and other media. They can block out God’s voice. I begin to falter in my prayer life and lose sight of my loving friendship with Jesus.
Every day is a chance to begin again. To bring Jesus into the centre of my life, rather than a part of it. It’s all in my control to ask him to be my Lord and Saviour. Though faith is a gift, I pray that I will always love the Lord and that I will return to him.
In Emily Stimpson Chapman’s book Letters to Myself from the End of the World, she says, “But you don’t need God someday. You need Him today. You need to talk to Him now and listen to Him now and call upon Him now in the midst of your crazy, chaotic, spit-up-laden life.”
Maintaining my mental health can sometimes seem like I am fighting a crazy, chaotic life. Yet, the Lord is amidst the suffering. He is there in the anxious thoughts, or sleepless nights. And he heals me from mania and psychosis. God is so good.
When we arrived at a babbling brook, my brother and I both stopped and marvelled at the peacefulness of the running water over the rocks. To remember it later, I captured a short video to listen to again.
God’s grace can often work through people. The opportunity to walk in the forest with my brother was an absolute treat. And my cousin gifted me a book by Aimee Chase called Present not Perfect – A journal for Slowing Down, Letting Go and Loving Who You Are. It is a wonderful reminder to find the beauty in the moment and not be a perfectionist.
Whether it’s pausing to smell the fresh evergreen trees or wondering at an eagle, it helps me to embrace my “wonderfully imperfect life.” (Present not Perfect)