Fit Faith: Interval: Lost Bridge Trail

I have a favorite trail. I don’t get to walk it very often, because it’s almost an hour from home. It was built on an old railroad route. It’s straight and flat, which might not seem appealing to many, but the foliage is beautiful. Trees gently bend over the trail to make a canopy in many places. People who maintain the trail do an exceptional job of keeping the side foliage trimmed, so it’s not obstructive, which also clears the way to notice birds, squirrels and chipmunks beside and skittering across the trail.

One of the reasons I enjoy the trail so much is the memories I associate with it. My oldest daughter and I have walked it many times together. Even now that she doesn’t live at home, we try to find time to revisit it every now and then. We enjoy the length of the walk, talking along the way, and taking a short detour to our favorite restaurant for a break.

Another reason I enjoy it is that it’s not my usual routine. If I walked it every day, I don’t think I’d notice as many details. I don’t think I’d appreciate the sunlight filtering through the tree tops or the variegated colored-leaves fluttering in the breeze. I might not notice the pattern of wood on the floor of the bridge or the small pools of water in the tunnel. I might not find as much thrill in the small chipmunks, which I don’t usually see on my regular walking route. And even when I walk the same distance, I don’t feel the same sense of accomplishment when I finish one of my regular routes.

Interval training usually has to do with short bursts of activity alternated with longer, more enduring work. For me, I consider my Lost Bridge Trail walks as interval training in a bigger picture sort of way. My regular walks are the longer, more enduring workouts. My Lost Bridge Trail walks include a different focus. I push myself in a different way along that long stretch of flat path. As much as I push myself, I intentionally look around and enjoy the sights and sounds. It gives me refreshment in my overall fitness. My body might be tired when I’m done, but I am rejuvenated.

Refresh my heart in Christ. (Philemon 1:20)

We must seek refreshment, not just physical but spiritual. In order to gain refreshment, we often feel exhausted through the process, but it’s an exhaustion due to pursuit and effort. It’s satisfying even with the sore and tired muscles, physical and spiritual.

What can you do today to differ your routine and invite refreshment?

Let’s not define refreshment selfishly. We don’t seek refreshment because we need things to go our way. We get tired of routine, and we think there should always be adventure and newness for us. That’s not the case. Commitment is important in our relationship with God. However, we can have variety within our commitment. You don’t read just one Scripture over and over day after day. You don’t say the exact same thing every time you pray. Every sermon you hear is not the same.

Appreciate the routine by putting a twist on your routine. If you have a committed place for your morning prayers or Bible study, take a break and go to a park or coffee shop. Visit another church to hear a different speaker and experience different music.

You don’t have to like every new thing you try. You also don’t have to compare it to what you’re used to. You can appreciate it for what it is. You can consider it in the larger picture of your spiritual growth and appreciate how God uses a variety to challenge and nourish you. Open your eyes, ears and heart and be attentive to what he wants to give you through varied experiences. He will always be present and never be silent.

In the process, you might find that special place, where you can visit occasionally and get rejuvenated, even if it takes effort to reach and complete.

Negative Patterns

There’s a beauty in patterns. Rows of trees, lines of a web, petals of flowers, veins of leaves. I like to look for the way things fit together. I remember sitting in the back of the family car, watching the utility poles as we passed. I’d try to count, establishing a pattern, so if our speed was consistent, we’d pass consecutive poles on the same count. And I enjoyed the What in the World puzzle of National Geographic’s World magazine, featuring magnified photos and challenging readers to identify the glimpse of something in nature. (Try one by clicking here.)

The consistency of patterns is reassuring – when the patterns are beautiful. I think about the patterns of my life. Some are pretty; others aren’t. What patterns do you see in your life? When you pull back and widen your perspective, what significance do those patterns have on your life, especially on your faith? What will others assume about you by looking at your patterns?

I want to reflect God.

When I think of a reflection, I think of looking into water. But it’s not the way I should strive to reflect God. After all, when you look at a reflection in water, the image isn’t accurate. The size, colors, and lines are all distorted. When we reflect God, it’s more like a photograph negative. It’s not the actual image, but it has every detail of the image recorded in accurate dimension and proportion. Someone can take the negative and reveal the truth about God. Your life becomes a series of snapshots of God for all around you to see.

Develop the negatives of your life. What do you see?

Moments of Solitude

I recently took a trip with all the girls in my family. It’s an annual event, usually 2-3 days and within driving distance for all of us. This year’s destination was the Lake of the Ozarks. We didn’t have a lot of plans, but we stayed near a large outlet mall, so the first thing we did after checking into the hotel was check out the mall. Actually, my two sisters didn’t even make it to the hotel first. They had to stop to shop for purses.

It’s a beautiful mall. Perhaps I should clarify, since what’s beautiful to one doesn’t define beauty to another. I’m referring to the design. I’m not much of a shopper, but if I’m going to shop, I prefer a neighborhood feel. It helps me not to be overwhelmed by the size and scope of the shopping area. I think it helps with traffic, too. The people seem to be in neighborhoods instead of crammed together as if on a New York City sidewalk. It was hot the day we arrived, and while a lot of people weren’t walking around, the parking lots and roads were packed with drivers. I wasn’t among the bustle of the crowds much, since I played chauffeur to transport everyone between the stores of choice…but the traffic itself was enough crowd for me.

The next afternoon, my daughter, niece, and I went to a local state park to hike. The trail was only wide enough for us to walk single file and was barely discernible in many areas. At one point, we had to completely stop and look around to find the next blue marker, indicating the trail. As hot as it was outside, we were somewhat sheltered in the shade of the trees. We were far enough from the road that we heard no cars. We were surrounded by the sounds of wind whispering through trees and books. At one point, we heard a deer crash through the brush.

About halfway through our hike, my daughter commented, “What a difference there is between the people at the outlet mall and here in the woods.”

A difference, indeed. And personally, I welcomed the solitude. Sure, I enjoy people, but there’s something about a few moments of quiet that energize me. I know…we’re all different and some of you reading this are energized by people and feel awkward when alone.

I guess it’s that I’m really never alone. In the woods, I had my daughter and niece with me. And I was surrounded by the gorgeous creation of God. No matter where I am, God is with me. No matter where you are today, look for God. You might be in a crowd or isolated. In a hectic, mournful, or glorious time of life. You might be uncertain or sure-footed. God is there, too. Sometimes you just need to close your eyes and ears to the sights and sounds of everyday life and savor a few moments of solitude with God.

My whole being wants to be with the living God. Psalm 84:2