I grew up and was educated in Halifax, I have worked most of my adult life in Halifax and I ran in a federal election in Halifax, so I thought I knew all the streets, roads and pathways in this city. But I didn’t and I don’t. Moreover the place I have recently found that gives me such spiritual insight and inspiration is a park I knew as a pre-teen, playing little league baseball. Our games were at Larry O’Connell field but we practiced at Flinn Park, in the city’s west end. And now I find myself walking the trail at the foot of the park as often as I can. And when I walk this trail, from Quinpool Road to Roosevelt and Chebucto Road, I feel connected to the Spirit in a way I don’t walking anywhere else in the city.
Walking is my greatest source of Spirit in prayer, it is how I connect to the Divine and feel most aware of God. That is the way it has always been, since childhood. Even then I would walk and talk to God, out loud, passers by giving me very strange looks. When I ran the Out of the Cold program for the homeless in east end Toronto I would typically walk home late at night, alone, along the Danforth on a Friday night around 11 pm. My wife Kim would be terrified harm would come my way but I as I walked those nights I would rehearse my sermons, passionately, and the look and sound of a loud man walking toward you in the heat of a passionate address to God would steer even the scariest looking person across the street. People thought there was “something wrong with me” and give me a wide berth.
When I walk with my dog Nova at night here in the subdivision I feel deeply connected. Often when I am trying to figure out how to end a sermon or a new program or study to offer the church or how to navigate my way through a challenging situation, the answer will come on these evening walks. My daughter Lucy will remind me to look up at the starts, and alone with Nova I do just that and feel the presence of wonder and possibility. And then the answer comes. It is like I need to suspend my anxiety, my worry, my “figuring it out” and let God speak and God then God speaks.
But for some reason there are places where God seems to speak more often and more clearly than others. My late night walks with Nova are one example but more recently my daytime walk from Quinpool (near the bottom of Quinpool by the Arm) to Roosevelt and Chebucto through Flinn Park has provided the same sensation and fulfillment. There is no explaining it (this is hard for we mainline Christians to accept) but it just is. I find myself now walking back to the church instead of taking the bus on fine days just to walk through this pathway. To the left it is lined with tall trees and on the right there is a ball field just over the hill and a playground next to that. It is rare on a weekday afternoon around 3-5 pm to find anyone at the ball field or the playground so the walk is quiet, no sounds of cars or construction. And yet there is the sound of the branches and leaves swaying in the wind. The experience seems to open me up to the Spirit.
I think it is important for all of us to find these sacred spaces in our lives and to be intentional about returning to them often, especially when we need answers to our challenges. Do you know where those spaces are for you and have you been there recently?