The Sacred Silence

As I was hiking the Gainier Ridge and South Cove Trails alone today at Randor Lake State Park, I was sharply reminded just how rare true silence is.

How often in a day you do leave room for quiet and silence?

I know for me that I often turn on the television or the radio almost out of reflex, even if only for some kind of background noise. So many of us have an almost manic desire to fill every second of our day with sound.

Yet as I walked up the trail, I could feel the stress leaving my body in the midst of all the silence. Only in this case, it wasn’t true silence. I found I could hear the little rhythms of nature, like little chipmunks and squirrels scurrying about and deer prancing by in the background.

For our spiritual and mental health, we need to leave margins in our day for intentional moments of silence. We need the quiet if only to hear ourselves think.

This culture is almost allergic to silence. You will almost never hear a quiet moment on the radio or television or any kind of streaming device. But I believe that the vast majority of us are drowning in a sea of noise pollution. We need silence.

The Psalmist says of God: “Be still and know that I am God.”

The stillness has to be a deliberate and intentional act on our part. We do not naturally find silence unless we choose to make room for it. As with anything truly important, we won’t ever have time unless we make time for it.

Once there, you have to keep disciplining your mind, bringing it back from all the little tangents and diversions it takes (or at least mine takes) to be centered on hearing the still small voice of God in the silence.

But it has to start with silence.

 

 

24,000 Steps

I hiked Radnor solo today. My friend and accountability partner wasn’t able to meet with me today, so I did the Unofficial Radnor Lake State Park Triathlon. That is, I hiked the Ganier Ridge, South Cove, and Lake Trails back-to-back-to-back.

I didn’t have a reason other than seeing if I could do it. There was a moment halfway through the second part where I thought I was about to give up the ghost. I even sat down for a minute.

But I persevered. I may not be the fastest (and in fact, I got outpaced twice), but I have stamina to keep going. At the end of the day, I walked 12 miles.

My goal in relaying all this information isn’t for you to say how awesome I am. It isn’t one of those things where I’m looking for a pat on the back.

What I’m saying is that if I can do it, so can you. You don’t have to start out hiking 3 trails in one day, but you can hike one. You can do something outdoors for 30 minutes.

For me, getting back to nature is therapeutic. As strenuous as it can be, hiking is also very relaxing at the same time. I think Henry David Thoreau had it right:

““I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”

Return to Radnor 2

For the first time in 2018, I returned to Radnor Lake State Park. There’s something truly magical about getting back to nature, with some wildlife thrown in as a bonus.

I think I saw 15 deer, along with an assortment of squirrels plus a chipmunk and a turkey.

I still think that even though Radnor lies in the heart of Nashville, it’s almost like stepping out of the normal 24/7 world of traffic and noise into something like Narnia or Lothlorien. I almost expect to see satyrs, fauns, elves, and maybe a hobbit or two.

I’m thankful for places like Radnor Lake State Park. It’s a little slice of heaven, or what I hope heaven will be like. It’s also a place of serenity, quiet, and tranquility that never fails to put me in a good mood.

I still hate to profane the silence with words. The only appropriate response for this place is reverential awe and gratitude.

My goal is to come back a lot, take pictures, try some different trails, and just soak it all in. So far, so good.

Happy Monday

“Success is to wake up each morning and consciously decide that today will be the best day of your life” (Ken Poirot).

I still think Monday is a rude way to start the week. It feels like being sucker punched in the face every time. After the calm that is Sunday, Monday comes in and seriously disturbs my calm.

Still, I’m thankful for Mondays.

Mondays remind me that I’m still here and that I still have a purpose.

Mondays make me thankful for Fridays and the weekend.

Mondays are another day to discover that God is still good and that I am still blessed.

Mondays, as insanely crazy as they may feel sometimes, are still only 24 hours long– the same as every other day– and all Mondays eventually come to an end. I promise.

Currently, Mondays are good because Monday is when I get my overdose of nature when I go hiking through Radnor Lake State Park. I still say getting outdoors and exercising is one of the best and most underutilized antidepressants.

As my old boss used to say, any day without a toe tag is a good day. Even Mondays.

 

Happy Labor (Free) Day

Every now and then, it’s nice to have a holiday on a Monday. I wouldn’t want it all the time, seeing as how it makes Tuesday feel like Monday on steroids with all the playing catch-up.

Still, it was great being able to turn off the alarm and sleep in today. My cat Peanut was probably in favor of me not having to get up and be somewhere else at an ungodly hour. She was all for snuggling with me after I finally got out of bed and made it to the couch.

I made progress in a biography about President Harry S. Truman (a bit of light reading), watched a couple episodes of the first season of Beverly Hills 90210 (definitely bringing back some memories), made a Starbucks run (a horchata almond milk frappachino), went to see my grandmother at her nursing home, hiked at Radnor Lake State Park, and vegged (not in that order).

Labor Day means the beginning of the end for summer. I realize the actual end isn’t for 17 more days, but after today, you can’t wear your Hawaiian shirts anymore (unless you’re a rebel like me who likes to defy social conventions and live dangerously).

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that it’s September and we’re already 3/4 of the way through 2017. Whoa.

At least the best parts of the year are still yet to come. Not to mention pumpkin spice everything.

 

 

 

Radnor Lake and Patsy Cline


I think I picked a perfect evening for a hike at Radnor Lake State Park. Apparently, the rain earlier in the day scared off most people, so there were precious few hikers who were able to witness a picture perfect day for the woods.

It came within a hairsbreadth of fall weather. A few degrees cooler and it would have been autumn. Still, it made for an enjoyable walk. I saw 13 deer, so they had the same idea about getting out in the cooler weather.

On the way home, I had Patsy Cline playing in the car. I’m fairly certain that she wrung every ounce of emotion out of every song she ever sang. She didn’t have to write her songs to bring authenticity to them; she lived the songs.

I’m convinced that she was a once in a lifetime kind of talent that left us way too soon. Still, she left us with a treasure trove of songs full of heartbreak and loss and love found. If you don’t believe me, listen to her version of Faded Love, by far the most gut-wrenching version of the song ever recorded.

It’s been a good Monday. That almost seems like an oxymoron, but I still believe that any day can be a good day if you only choose to look for the good in it and thank God for it.

So, thanks to Radnor Lake State Park and the musical legacy of Patsy Cline, I’d call this Monday a win.

Radnor Revisited


Right now, I have a very sleepy kitten laid out in front of my laptop. I’ve been told that it’s a good thing when they can stretch out to nap. When they expose their bellies like that, it indicates they have complete trust and feel secure around you.

I did my usual hike at Radnor Lake State Park. My friend and I chose Ganier because apparently we are both creatures of habit. I know I am.

It was fantastic. Even though we didn’t see nearly as many deer as we normally do, it still felt great to step out of the normal routine and into a place that feels a lot like Middle Earth. I still can’t believe this place is actually in Nashville and within minimal driving distance.

If exercise is one of the most underutilized antidepressants, then hiking while getting back to nature has to be one of the best natural highs out there. I’d love it even more if the temperature would have been about 20 degrees cooler and the leaves were turning.

I’m still learning to take in my surroundings. I said before that I’m not very good at being observant, but Radnor is teaching me to keep my eyes open all the time, because you never know when you might spot something amazing.

I’m also still learning to slow down. I saw people who were apparently all keen on rushing through their hikes, but I want to experience this place. I don’t want to just burn calories and (hopefully) lose weight. I want to take in as much of nature and God’s creation as I can.

Right now, I think I’m about as tired as my little Peanut, but it’s a good kind of tired that comes from a good kind of day. See, even Mondays can be good if you have the right kind of attitude– an attitude of gratitude.

 

In the Quiet Solitude And Stillness

“May today there be peace within.

May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content knowing you are a child of God.

Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us” (Teresa of Ávila).

I love hiking the trails at Radnor Lake State Park. I love how I can travel less than 30 minutes from where I live and enter a completely different world where nature has full sway and the noises of civilization seem a million miles away.

Often I feel as though silence is the best kind of language for such a place. Words seem to profane such a sacred place, so I try to talk less and listen more.

I’m trying to be more attentive to my surroundings when I’m on one of the trails. I’m still not very good at taking in everything, but I’m learning more and more how to see rather than just look.

That’s the key to life. Sometimes, what you need is to be silent and still. You need to step away from the hurried rat-race and the voices telling you, “Faster! Faster! More! More!”

I think the best places to do that are the places that are closest to the original Garden of Eden, places with the least amount of man-made noise and pollution and the most nature.

Be still. Be quiet. And listen. Just as Elijah had to strain his ears to hear the still small voice of God, so we sometimes need to be silent and still to hear God speaking.

God is still speaking.

My Big Hike

Normally, my friend and I meet at Radnor Lake State Park and choose one of the trails to hike while discussing all sorts of random topics (and of course throwing in bad puns wherever appropriate).

Today, I went solo for the day. I challenged myself that I could hike both the Granier Ridge Trail and the South Cove Trail (the two difficult hiking trails at Radnor).

Halfway through Granier, I thought I’d made a serious mistake. I was wheezing like a 90-year old and it was all I could do to keep putting one sandaled foot in front of the other.

Still, I persevered. An persisted. And I didn’t give up.

At some point, my strength revived. I got that proverbial second wind. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as hikers’ high (similar to runners’ high), but I think I might have experienced that at some point.

The key to it all was that I never quit. I did take a short break on the second trail.

At the end of the day, I tallied over 22,000 steps, according to the app on my Apple Watch. That’s a lot of steps.

The old adage remains true. Every journey of 10,000 (or 22,000) steps begins with a single step. And each and every step counts, no matter how hesitant or small or feeble.

Every journey of change also starts with the smallest of steps. All God needs is the most hesitant of agreements and He can still bring about the most amazing transformations. All He’s looking for from you and I is the “I believe. Help my unbelief,”  as a good place to start.

Jesus looks at you right now right where you are and asks, “Do you really want to be healed? Do you really want the brand new world of uncertainty that comes with change and transformation?”

Oh, and yes, my feet hurt. I suppose that’s a given.

 

Return to Radnor

 

I read recently that exercise is one of the most underutilized antidepressants. It’s also a great way to enjoy this beautiful spring weather we’re having here in Tennessee.

After several months, I finally made it back to Radnor Lake State Park. And yes, it was more than worth the wait.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait to get in. I was surprised at how easily I was able to find a parking spot. I figured that half of Nashville would want to take advantage of the ideal weather and get in a little hiking. Apparently not.

So my friend and I got our hiking in. There’s nothing like a strenuous hike to show you how out of shape you are. For me, it involved lots of heavy breathing and more than a little wheezing. It was not my finest moment.

Still, I was in my favorite place doing one of my favorite activities. I call that a win, even on a Monday.

Not even a brush fire could diminish the beauty of Radnor. Apparently, a brush fire burned about 1/2 to 2/3 of an acre, but I believe that it will come back better and more glorious than ever.

I still think it’s one of the best kinds of therapy to get out into nature and breathe deeply (with only a sleeping cat in your lap topping it). It’s healing for the soul to get away from electronics and technology and all things man-made and get back to what God created.

After a while, I started breathing normally again. If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost say I got a “hiker’s high,” similar to the euphoria and endorphins release that runners experience. Plus, there was a breeze blowing with just a hint of crispness to it.

I think I’ll sleep better tonight than I have in a while. And I will be back to Radnor soon enough.