I step into my hiking boots, grab trekking poles, hop into the Jeep and go a mile or so up the road from home for an hour of vacation. It's a trail I've hiked dozens of times, probably more than a hundred. I hike to exercise and to "get away."
The trail rambles up and down some nice ridges. I see my share of wildlife here. Squirrels abound, often I meet a few white tail deer and occasionally a fox. There are plenty of birds, and though their songs are thinning for the year, some will sing all winter.
About a mile into the walk, I realize I cannot steady my mind. I can't focus on my surroundings for more than a few seconds...as if by some hidden remote control, my brain channel is changed to troubled people in the church, a project that needs attention, or some fear of a potential brewing crisis.
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." I begin to pray the words of the Jesus Prayer, slowly repeating the plea over and over. "Jesus...God...have mercy on me..." And after a while, I sense these words coming back to me from the embrace of the breeze and the gentle rain: It's yours, you know. This is only for you right now. Six billion people on earth, and this moment and place are for you. And I realize I am in an amazing place, treasured by a million or more visitors each year. And at this moment, all the trees, the valleys and ridges and bird songs and leaf chattering are for me. No one else is here to listen or see or feel the moist beauty.
My hiking place is the popular Brown County State Park. Spring, Summer and especially Fall it is filled with tourists driving, mountain biking and hiking through it's miles of wilderness trails. Last month tens of thousands of cars poured through its gates, riders oohing and ahing at overlooks. But today, mine is the only car in the West Tower lot. I hike for an hour, and see no other human. And such will be the case for most of my hikes until Spring.
These words I hear, they call me into being. They call me from the world of others, to the world where I Am. O Father, teach me to let go of all of the stuff for long enough to simply be... With you. In You. Alone, and yet wonderfully accompanied. And not "because others count on me." But because You love me, and ask me to enjoy my walks in the woods...while I'm walking in the woods. Alone. With You.
You can follow the links below to some pictures of the park. But you will never see the stark November beauty of the trails unless you leave your car--and worries--for long enough to BE here.