There are certain places, experiences, and even weather patterns that remind me acutely of God's presence. I imagine you have experienced this as well. Here's some examples:
When it rains, I often sense God's nearness.
When a sudden gust of wind causes a shiver to run down the spine of all nearby trees, I become more alert to the invisible presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Sparrows gleaning snacks from the shrubs near my window remind me that God feeds them... they don't labor or store up in barns. When I see them, I sense a gentle invitation to trust God's provision.
This time of year, trees without leaves speak to me of the hope and life yet present when all appearance of vitality has gone. I see beauty in the stillness and the waiting amidst scarcity.
I've also created or collected things that bring me back to the reality of God's presence. Years ago on a retreat, our group spent an hour in solitude, asking God for a word that would speak into our life. I had just been asked to interview for a leadership role in a prominent ministry... and yet the only word I thought I sensed from God was the word "INVISIBLE." Of all the things joining this organization might mean, I thought, invisible wasn't one of them!! Yet I couldn't shake the sense that this was my word from God.
As we returned from solitude, we used Sculpey clay to form an artifact of our time that we would bake and take home with us. I shaped my white clay into mountain peaks that resembled the view surrounding the trails I hiked that morning. Underneath my mini-sculpture, using dots rather than hard lines, I wrote the word, INVISIBLE. For many years now it has lived on shelves in my office... no one would know what is written underneath, but I do. And in remembering, I commit once again to following God in the invisible.
That's the value of a physical artifact: in an instant, it can bring you back to an important truth and invite you into renewed trust, hope, and even perseverance.
I've repeated this exercise many times with groups: it's a great way to end a full day engaged with living and leading from a healthy soul. One leader created a first-century oil lamp, reminding him to keep that flame lit. Another literally created a set of lungs to remind him of God's breath as his source. Some were very artistic and beautiful, others like mine looked more like a kindergarten project. But the craftsmanship doesn't matter.... what matters is creating something that persists. That means something.
I suspect that's why God instructed so many forms of physical reminders: piles of rocks left at locations of spiritual significance on their journey. One hundred years later, or a thousand, a pile of rocks left undisturbed will remain. And call to mind the message. Other ordinary objects like the Mezuzah on entrances to houses, particular tassels and jewels on clothes... all are physical objects that bear meaning. They prompt prayer and trust and faith and action. They aid in daily mindfulness, keeping the reality of the unseen God always before our minds.
Besides my INVISIBLE sculpture, I keep other physical objects to remind me of spiritual truths. I collect miniature statues of sparrows. I wear a ring that reminds me I have said "Yes" to God's call on my life. I spend time on a piece of land that dares me to trust God for outrageous things. I keep photos of trees without leaves.
How about you? This month, use these following questions as a guide to help you name your own significant artifacts and words. God is literally nearer than your breath. ALWAYS. We just need help remembering...
A few questions to get you going...
What ordinary objects or events remind you of God's presence in your life?
Could you take even an hour this week to ask God for a particular word over your life and work? What could you create or collect to remind you of that word?
As we approach Thanksgiving in the US... What's one area of gratitude you can identify? What might you create as an artifact to remind you of that blessing?
I have set the Lord always before me;
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8, ESV)
We'd love to hear from you!
Add your reflections when you join our free online community, the Collective.