Thanksgiving has passed for the year; Christmas and New Year’s are a month away. Do you know what this means?

It means that my family only has one month to finish reading our book of the year! The annual discussion is just around the corner!

This year, it was my turn to choose the book, and I’ve been trying to blog through it. I’m not sure that I’ll make it before Christmas arrives, but let’s continue on…


“Solviture ambulando,” wrote Augustine of Hippo, one of the early theologians of the Christian church. “It is solved by walking.” What is “it”? If you want to find out, then you will have to do your own walking…

So says Barbara Brown Taylor in the fourth chapter of An Altar in the World. It’s a pretty bold statement, and I confess to be seduced by it. But what does she actually mean? How does walking help? Or any other spiritual discipline, for that matter? Taylor says…

The only promise [spiritual practices] make is to teach those  who engage in them what those practitioners need to know — about being human, about being human with other people, about being human in creation, about being human before God.

I’m not a disciplined walker. I’m not disciplined at much of anything – at least not anything that you might call a “spiritual” discipline. But walking is important to me, and has been especially so for the last decade…

In 2003, I experienced a DVT. In 2010, it returned. The DVTs were painful – more painful than anything else I’ve experienced. At their worst, I could hardly move. And they resulted in some permanent damage to my leg. Because of poor circulation in my leg, I now get tired more easily than before.

As a result of this of all this, walking has become something of a motivating challenge for me. I love strenuous hikes, not because I’m a good hiker, but because when I’m hiking I feel especially in touch with life. I’m keenly aware of my own limits and my mortality, and so I also am thankful to be alive.


At Laurelville, I get many chances to walk. My morning walk from home to the main part of camp helps to ground the rest of my day. I joke frequently about how the “commute” is awful. The traffic crawls along at about two miles per hour. Sometimes it even comes to a complete stop as the commuters gawk at everything going on around them. (It is really an incredible blessing.)

We also have a labyrinth on Sunset Hill, but I don’t actually use it too frequently – which is a testament to my lack of discipline. On the other hand, we have lots of trails, and I love to get out onto those. Sometimes, we follow unmarked trails, which is an exercise in getting lost (coming up in Chapter 5 of An Altar…!).

The most challenging of these trails – the one we call the Silver Trail – is the one I like most. For about half a mile, the trail goes up at a 25% grade. When I hiked it this fall, I had to stop multiple times on the way up, but along the way I reflected on how I have seldom felt more alive than I did in the midst of that hike. At the top, I was rewarded with a view of Pittsburgh, 35 miles away…

The view from the top of LaurelvilleWithout a tidy way of wrapping up these thoughts, I’ll simply give thanks for walking – for the opportunity to walk frequently where I live and work, for the groundedness of a day begun by walking, and for the awareness of life that comes with walking. Amen.

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