By Raelyn Pracht
I recently wanted to start a simple new habit to reach a certain step count every day. I knew two things going into this: (1) I needed to allow time in my day for at least one walk; and (2) I knew if I didn’t do it at the beginning of the day, I wasn’t going to do it at all. My alarm went off at 4:30AM and I was out the door to start this new program.
The neighborhood was quiet that first morning, except for a lone owl hooting atop a silhouetted tree. I noticed buzzing streetlights and warm porch lights, but I was narrowly focused on only one thing: hitting my step goal before I turned back to the house to get ready for work.
Morning two was more of the same.
When I opened my front door on the third day, however, I made a startling discovery. Jesus was actually opening a door for me, welcoming me into an amazing world I had lost sight of for a long time.
Even though my new routine had hardly even started, the experience of walking immediately changed for me. I took one step onto the porch that morning and instantly noticed the bright sliver of moon sitting directly above the house next door. Neighboring stars illuminated the clear pre-dawn sky. Suddenly, I found myself singing “God of Wonders,” as if this world I was seeing was brand new.
And God of wonders beyond our galaxy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy, holy
Lord of heaven and earth
I was still thinking of the lyrics as I went on my early morning walk. The stars and moon were soon drowned out by neighborhood streetlights. Yet, I knew the night lights were still there. My exercise suddenly turned into a prayer and praise walk. Yes, I still put one foot in front of the other, but this time I didn’t constantly check my pace or the number of steps I was getting. I walked and prayed, lifting praise for God’s creation, inviting Jesus to walk beside me, noticing the Spirit strengthening my relationship with Jesus as I gave my first moments of the day to the Lord.
In just three days, my morning walk, which started as a mundane way to get exercise, quickly became a spiritual routine. God took something I decided to do for my own reasons and turned it into something the Spirit was using to draw me closer to Jesus.
God didn’t stop there, though. God pushed me further, drawing me even deeper into an awe-inspiring world. I began taking short walks on my breaks at work. For me, those snatches of exercise were a chance to get away from the computer and get some fresh air. But for God, those brief walks were a calling, an invitation to me to use my own created self to notice the world around me. I now call these my “Take Notice” walks.
The concept is simple. As I walk, no matter the time of day or where I am walking, I purposefully take notice of the world around me. I use all five of my senses. I pay attention to the things I smell, like fresh cut grass. I catalogue sounds I hear, like birds singing. I intentionally experience the taste of cold water on a hot day, the feel of a gentle breeze against my skin, and the beauty of trees and blooming flowers I see along the way.
I walk with a new intention: to take notice of the world around me and to delight in the Lord’s creation. I walk to praise my Creator and to lift up my prayers. What started as a way to get a little movement in my life has turned into a beautiful and marvelous adventure that changes in each place and each time I walk. What I notice is constantly changing, but always reminiscent of the majestic beauty and awe of God’s masterpiece.
These walks are a simple reminder of God’s marvelous works: a start to my day, a pause in the middle of the day, and a prayer to end my day.
The next time you are on a walk, or even sitting outside, try a small experiment: purposefully use all five senses to notice the world around you. Taking time to notice God’s creation around you can quickly draw you closer to the Lord through praise and prayer.
God took one small habit I wanted to start for reasons that had nothing to do with faith or following Jesus, and used that practice to invite me into a deeper and more beautiful experience than I ever expected. I wonder what other hobbies or habits God might use to get my attention or draw me just a little closer…
Keep your eyes open for God at work in your ordinary day. Jesus has a way of showing up where you least expect him just so he can spend some quality time with you. What a joy to discover God working in the most ordinary moments of your ordinary life!
God, give us eyes to see,
and ears to hear,
and hearts to notice
your work in our lives. Amen.