Finding God Where You Least Expect

I love to walk outside.  As soon as the snow and ice melts and it’s above freezing, I hit the sidewalks.  But when fall comes, and the temperature plunges, and ICE arrives,cropped-img_20611.jpg I’m driven back to walking at the fitness center of the St. Paul Jewish Community Center.

Last fall I had to give up the treadmill because of tendinitis.  Gone were the enticing TV reruns of “Property Brothers” on HGTV.  Instead I tried the indoor track which seemed easier on my muscles.  But I found it extremely boring. The indoor track is suspended above the gym which, more often than not, was completely empty.  Not much to look at.  And it smelled funny — like stale locker room mixed with the smell of rubber from the floor coverings.  Yuck.

So I decided to listen to the podcast “Pray As You Go” while I walked the track. “Pray As You Go” is a website with daily podcasts that contain a Scripture passage and questions for meditation.  The website is maintained by the Jesuits in Britain.  Each podcast is about 12 minutes long.  So I listened to each podcast twice.

These podcasts are not perfect.  Sometimes I get irritated by the questions they ask about the Scripture.  But I usually enjoy the meditative introductory music.  And I get to listen to a passage of the Bible read four times by people with wonderful British accents!

Listening to these podcasts changed the nature of the walk around the boring, smelly track from one of mundane exercise to a pilgrimage.  There were few distractions (another way of saying something is boring!).  I had to concentrate.  I was amazed at how much God’s Word spoke to me in fresh ways as I took time to really take it in, walking around that track.

I’ve been enjoying my walks outside this summer in our beautiful weather.  But a week or so ago I was forced back to the track because of rain.  As I opened the door and smelled that musty, rubbery, stale smell, I had a thrill of expectation.  I knew the Lord would meet me there — even where I would have least expected!

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Pilgrimages Begin Here and Now…

University of St. Catherine, better known as St. Kate's
University of St. Catherine, better known as St. Kate’s

To be a pilgrim is to see through a different lens — to look for God as you journey, to notice your surroundings, to be delighted by the transformation of the ordinary.

I live not even a mile away from the University of St. Catherine, better known as St. Kate’s.  But I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ventured into the campus.  Until recently.

A couple of weeks ago I walked up to St. Kate’s to find their labyrinth. That’s the subject for another post.  But as I wandered through the campus I was struck by the quiet beauty of the grounds.  It was a beautiful summer morning; the birds sang, the sun streamed through the leaves, and God seemed very near.  Suddenly this ordinary place became extraordinary — a place of pilgrimage.

I have passed by St. Kate’s thousands of times.  I have seen it from the perspective of the photo above.  But below you can see how different the same place looks from inside looking out.

I was awestruck by the beauty of the reflecting pond, the carefully plotted plantings, the spectacular view.  All of which I would have missed if I hadn’t ventured through the gates and up into the grounds.  A pilgrimage begins here and now.

Beautiful gardens leading the eye to the pond
Beautiful gardens leading the eye to the pond
Looking west towards Minneapolis
Looking west towards Minneapolis