"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's Just a Rock ... Or Is It an Altar?

I stopped by to see my son and daughter-in-love this past weekend as they had just returned home from a mini vacation in the north Georgia mountains.  My son excused himself for a moment and ran out to his truck.  When he came back in, he held out his hand and said, "Here, I know how you like rocks, so I brought you one from the Lake Chatuga dam."  I have to admit, it's one of the stranger souvenirs I've ever received; and yet one of the most special. 

 My son was correct; I do like rocks.  In fact, I have a small collection.  Here are a few of them.

I guess you could call many of them stones or gems.  But some of them are just plain rocks.  Every now and then, my husband will find one in the woods and toss it in the back of his truck.  I've had friends bring me some.  And others I've even handed over cash for.

But today, I made an interesting note in my journal.  It began this way.

3 Things I Learned About Myself This Morning

1) I love rocks -- and maybe for a purpose.  They form altars....

I've been at a weird place in life lately.  Church-wise, that is.  For years, I've proudly stated, "I'm a church girl!"  And I am, but all of a sudden, I'm finding myself looking beyond the four walls of this thing we call a church building and that we go to every Sunday and where we sing songs of praise and we hear a sermon and then we leave to go "out" into the world.

But I was struck this morning by the story of Jacob in Genesis 28.  You know the guy.  The deceiver.  The one who was not only a mama's boy, but who lied to his daddy and stole his brother's birthright.  And now he was on the run, lest he lose his own head.  And that's when he lays it down ... his head, that is, on a ROCK.  And sometime between sunset and sunrise, Jacob has a vivid dream of this ladder reaching all the way up to heaven with angels "ascending and descending on it."  When all of a sudden, God appears and reaffirms His covenant saying, "the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants."  And then He promises not to leave Jacob until He has done everything He has said He will do.  Wow.  It's quite a dream for a scoundrel.

Jacob lays down with thoughts of Esau tracking him down like a hound dog.  He wakes with quite another thing running through his mind: "Surely the Lord is in this place ... and I didn't even know it!  How awesome is this place!"  And he takes that stone -- that rock, if you will -- and sets it up as an altar unto the Lord.

So you know what occurred to me this morning?  In those days, there were no designated areas for people to make their offerings to the Lord, so they just set up an altar anytime or anywhere they had an encounter with God.  In other words, they saw the whole world as an altar.  But somewhere along the way, altars began moving indoors.  They started to become predictable.  Certain.  Safe.

I'd like to contend in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins that "the world is charged with the grandeur of God."  And in the words of Barbara Brown Taylor, "Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars." 

So I've got this rock collection.  What am I to do with it?  For one, I could have certainly used a rock last night when I saw the breath-taking orange and red sunset.  I can set up a stone when I recognize God in the person I am with. Or when I rock my grandbaby.  Or when I listen to music.  Or when I watch the birds and the squirrels outside my window.  Or when I stop long enough to see the moon and the millions of stars.  Or when I have a hot cup of earl gray creme on my backporch on a cool winter day.  Or when I walk barefoot to the swing my daddy made with his own hands.  Or when I set the table for my dinner guests.  When I make my husband's coffee each morning.  Would you believe I could have even used a stone today while cooking a caramel icing?  After all, who but God could come up with such molecular structure to turn milk and sugar into something so delicious? 

And before I know it, just as in Jacob's case, the nowhere becomes a somewhere.  In fact, it becomes the house of God.

So where can you set up a stone or two? 

Just an ordinary moment...


Elizabeth Zink Adams said...

My first memory of encountering His Holiness was in the woods. I was perhaps 7 years old and it started a life-long habit of walking in the woods and talking with God. His natural wonders are still my inspiration and comfort. Today after my first treatment, I plan on a long walk in a beautiful spot to thank Him for my life and all that He has presented to me. 1 Samuel 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, "Thus far the LORD has helped us." So set up your Ebenezers and worship our Almighty Lord.

Sylvia Ann Crocker Knight said...

What a beautiful message! Love that caramel icing too:). Miss you!

Rebekah A~ said...

Wonderful thoughts, Nancy, and thank you for putting them in black and white to bless us. You bless the LORD with it, too ~ you know that. I. Love. Trees. Always have. For reasons and reflections that God is still giving me. After all, He gave all of nature to teach us and to bring us to Him. Would love to reflect with you sometime, face to face.

Cathy Farabaugh said...

You know I love this one given our recent conversations! Love you and thanks for sharing the thoughts. Maybe I'll have a rock for you next time I see you!!!