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Into the Woods

By The Reverend tJohn Burton

Most mornings find me in the woods with my yellow lab Wilson. My intention is to rise early, spend an hour or more in silence and with Scripture, and then head off into a nearby wood for a walk. 

    I didn’t always think of my time with Wilson as prayer. It was just time for my mind to wander, to notice something I’d never seen before, and to get a little exercise and fresh air before a day of indoor work. I thought of our walk as a time to rearrange the contents of my mind, in the way that you can fill a jar to the brim with dry beans or pasta and then with a bit of shaking create some empty space at the top. Our walks give me a bit more empty space so that I may be more open to receive what comes to me each day. And that’s exactly it. Prayer helps me to be attuned to what is, to be open to new possibilities, to notice the holy in the midst of the trees. My walks help me to create open space to be filled by God, and this surely is prayer.

    Some days we walk on open--even paved--trails. Today was a day to follow one of those trails until the point where it was blocked by fallen trees from a long ago storm and disappeared into the brambles. Wilson and I bushwhacked on and made our way finally to a familiar single track by the side of a river. He dove in for a swim while I marveled at the connection between our trek through thorns and weeds and the task of finding a solution to the problem I was working out in my head. Sunlight shone on the path and in my mind as I walked today. This is prayer.

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