This contemplation is also available as an audio recording.
Each week I have invited you to journey with me for a while as I have offered centring exercises, contemplations and meditations. This week is no different but the invitation to come, to walk, to journey is openly stated and clear.
The theme this week is “Walking with God” with the underlying invitation to be aware of God’s presence with us at all times. We do not need to come away to walk with him, we need simply to be open to him and aware of him with us.
Simple to say, of course. Harder to do all the time! However, I hope the material helps us to think about how we do walk and God’s constant invitation to let him reveal how he is with us so that he can sustain and guide us through the ups and downs of whatever a day holds if we remain alert for him and keep in step with him.
CENTRING EXERCISE (15 minutes)
I would like to take you for a walk. I will guide you but you will walk alone.
You will travel in your imagination so you are as fit and healthy for this walk as you might wish to be.
You are dressed in walking boots for the terrain ahead is uneven and you need to be prepared for there may, at times, be mud underfoot, tree branches to step over, slippery mulch or a sloping path. Good footwear is essential.
We are standing at the start of a path. It is clear and visible but you cannot see as far as you might because there are overgrown bushes blocking the path and view beyond.
As you stand there, you register the presence of a building nearby, the sound of music coming from a window, the echo of a football bouncing
off a metal fence, the occasional rumble of distant traffic and beneath it all, the easily missed, but enticing sound of water flowing somewhere in the distance.
The sun is high overhead but its intensity is softened by the canopy of trees and bushes which line the path. A light breeze makes shadows from the leaves and branches dance around you.
There is the faint scent of lilac in full bloom permeating the air. You breathe deeply. The path ahead of you asks to be explored. You walk on.
The path is fairly narrow as you set off and, almost immediately, the overgrown bushes make the going awkward and mud from recent rainfall does not help. You have to duck and weave your way along bending almost in two at various points as the bushes and low branches force you lower and lower to progress. You are glad of your boots as you risk slipping. You think of turning back but the sound of the river is a little louder and clearer as the other noises recede and it invites you to persevere.
When you come out of the undergrowth you find yourself on a path strewn with the red and gold leaves of the copper birches planted along its way. This carpet sparkles in the sunlight and a feeling of wellbeing comes over you as the walk becomes easier.
Soon, though, the path takes you away from the river through a dark wood of pine; the going underfoot is soft and noiseless; the light is dim. Ahead of you, you see brilliant green foliage, spots of shimmering light and you can still hear, although its sound is more delicate and muted, the reassuring rhythms of the river. You keep your head up and look forward as you walk through this shadowy place.
Eventually, the dark wood is behind you and once again there is light and the sing-song sound of the river calling you on. The path, though, is heading ever so slightly down an incline and it is thick with mud. You have to concentrate on where you are putting your feet and, nearly falling, you grab hold of the branch of a bush to steady yourself as you stop for a moment to get your balance.
The path levels out into a beautiful bit of open woodland and you walk enjoying glimpses of the river between the trees. All the colours are intense – there are greens, flashes of copper, the dark rich tones of good earth, the deep hues of the water and the blue of the sky overhead.
All the while the river calls out ever louder as you move forward.
Finally, you come round a slight bend and the path ends. The river is now immediately in front of you and it is roaring and thundering past over a weir. You stand in this place aware of its beauty, aware of the power of that water, aware of the presence of God.
You have not walked far really – less than 10 minutes. This tucked away spot is not somewhere else, it is actually set within the terrain of your life.
Above you is a dual carriageway, behind you is a housing estate, in front of you across the river and up a steep bank are the playing fields of a local school but what fills your thoughts and drenches your senses is the river with its music and its voice.
This place is like the hidden territory of your heart. It, also, is not set apart somewhere else, it is set within and there you can hear the voice of God louder than you can at the edge of your life where the usual noise of work, family, church and commitments may clamour loudly for your attention. Here, at the centre, the river of life is constantly flowing in power and strength, in purity and beauty, and full of the presence of God.
Stay and listen. What is God saying to you in this place? What is his invitation to you? Sit down on the grassy bank and let him speak.
We are going to head back now but this time we shall walk along the edge of the river, skipping over tree roots that are drawing their sustenance from its life-giving waters and enjoying the sunlight reflected on its surface.
In places you have to scramble up the river bank to find better footing but all the time the river is right there beside you whispering as it cascades forward. As you walk you are also aware of others. There was and is fellowship on this journey.
Finally, you are back just below the path from where you set out and you stop and register again the music coming from a window nearby and the sounds associated with the park. However, you also notice that the sound of the river is a little clearer than when you set off.
CONTEMPLATION (20 – 30 minutes)
The invitation of this period is to watch the video clip through and then to draw a finger labyrinth which you can then “walk”. If you have a big enough space, you could lay a labyrinth to walk using string or wool.
The invitation of the labyrinth is to slow down, to walk at a gentler pace and to build into your walking a waiting, an expectancy, an openness, a noticing and a listening to what the journey may reveal.
Before you begin, take a moment to catch your breath: slowly breathe in and out three or four times holding the breath for a second or two after you inhale and pressing the breath right out before you draw the next one. When you are ready begin your “walk”.
As you “walk” into the centre do so slowly, noticing how the path takes you closer and then further away from the centre. Stop at times. Wait.
When you get to the centre, again stop and linger. This is a place of encounter. You have “walked” towards the physical centre but also towards a presence as well. Rest with the One who asks to be the centre of your being and the purpose of your journey.
As you walk out of the centre you do not walk back but onwards. You are changed for no one can rest in the presence of God and come away the same. So as you travel on ponder what treasure you carry with you from that encounter and give thanks.
MEDITATION (10 minutes)
The invitation of this period is to reflect on:
Galatians 5: 25
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Finish your time of prayer by reflecting over what you have received and pray and/or give thanks accordingly.
© Sarah Dickinson