By Lisa Wolfe
For as long as I can remember, I have experienced a deeper connection with God through God’s creation. As a child, I remember the deep sense of awe and wonder that I felt observing the world around me. As a young adult, I served as a summer camp counselor at the WMU camp in the mountains of central Virginia. This particular camp was known as “a place where the silence is so loud, you can hear God.” That statement proved true in my own spiritual journey. The summers I spent working at this camp were formative years in my spiritual life. I discovered a deeper connection to God through the silence and solitude I experienced in the beauty of God’s creation. I found myself more attentive and open to listening for the different ways that God might be speaking to me. It was during one of those summers that I received my own call to ministry. In the years that have followed, the practices of silence and solitude, and being in nature have continued to shape and mold my spiritual formation and self-care.
In seminary, I was introduced to the spiritual discipline of Otium Sanctum or “Holy Leisure.” Otium Sanctum is an invitation to practice Sabbath by pausing to rest in God’s presence. My class was invited to practice this in a variety of ways. These included spending time in God’s creation, reading/meditating on Scripture, or simply being still and listening for God. Because I’ve always experienced a deeper connection with God outdoors, I chose to spend my hour at a local park. Each week I walked the paths around the lake, and then sat on a bench to read or journal. These weekly visits allowed me to slow down, be still, observe God’s creation, and listen for God. That short-term assignment soon became an important part of my own spiritual practices. Otium Sanctum has taught me to be intentional about taking time away from the busyness of daily activities to rest in God’s presence as I spend time in God’s word and God’s creation.
Within this past year, a prayer labyrinth has become a regular spiritual practice for me. I discovered a nearby outdoor labyrinth in the midst of an extremely busy season of ministry, and my labyrinth walks have now become an important part of my schedule. This prayer practice has given me the opportunity to pause and reflect as well as to quiet my mind. I begin my time at the labyrinth with a devotion that often provides a thought or scripture to reflect on as I walk the path. This spring, I found myself drawn to the labyrinth in need of a familiar rhythm in the midst of so many changes and uncertainty due to Covid-19. That particular afternoon, I chose to pray/reflect on the words from Psalm 23, “lead me beside still waters.” As I prayed, I found my attention drawn to a fountain nearby, and the words of Psalm 23 came to life in a profound way. The gentle trickle of the water provided a soothing background to my prayer experience that calmed my anxious thoughts and gave me a deeper sense of peace.
There have been so many changes in my daily routine, life, and ministry over the past few months. I have discovered these particular spiritual practices have calmed and grounded me, as well as helped me to slow down and to reconnect with God. For that, I am deeply thankful.
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