He strategically aligns each treasure. He rotates one, moves another. Positions them so he could see them when he climbs into bed. Grey has curated a little trove of items that hold special meaning to him.
They are common objects, like the slap bracelet he earned at school. A little Christmas tree that lights up. A few locus shells he collected. The list of words he’s working on learning to read. His jar of coins he has been saving to buy ice cream at school.
I mistakenly cleaned his assemblage in the past, putting his whatnots into the trash and sending my toddler to tears. See, these insignificant entities are really just placeholders. He doesn’t actually play with them. He just likes to look at them and remember.
He remembers working for a whole week to gain enough points to pick out the bracelet. He remembers all of the anticipation and excitement of Christmas morning. He remembers searching the yard with his grandmother to find the most perfect insect shells.
In the Old Testament, there are many instances of people making little altars like this. I used to think it was bizarre how they would make a pile of rocks and then declare them a place of remembrance. Then people like me would come along behind them, unaware of the significance they held, and move the rocks or repurpose them.
I go back to this a lot, but yall, we need all these little reminders. You’ve seen the meme of what our brains look like, comparing them to an internet browser with 100 tabs open. We live such fast-paced lives that, it’s good for us to be reminded of God’s love for us and his faithfulness.
When I look at my old journals, I don’t even have to open them to know what’s contained within the lines. When that song plays on the radio, you can remember what it was like to hear it when you got behind the wheel of your first vehicle. When I read my Bible and see notes or places I’ve underlined, I remember why those spoke to me during another season.
We need to be reminded that God is good, and He does what He says He will. Again, not on our timeline, but on His.
I think we often find ourselves on the other side of the valley, maybe even on the mountaintop, or just beyond the river and able to breathe for a minute. But we already start forgetting that we are here by the grace of God. As we look back and recount the things we walked through, it’s easy to slip into saying that we just muscled through and made it happen. Unless yall have some superpowers I don’t know about, here’s your friendly reminder that Jesus is the reason you woke up this morning, yesterday morning, and every morning before that.
In the Bible, they loved to make extravagant altars. Even the early ones made from tents were quite exquisite. When I see pictures of these early gathering places, I am reminded of tent revivals I used to see scattered throughout the South. Where people would go and hear God’s word proclaimed for days at a time. I don’t remember attending in one of those open-air tents, but I definitely recall sitting amongst friends and community members night after night and hoping my parents would let me purchase the CD recorded by whoever was performing the music that week.
But after a while, the sheen was lost and these meeting places served as just another space for people to park their cars before going off to do the things they really wanted to do. They also worked as a place to make some money if you were looking to trade up.
And so, there are also lots of stories about temples being ruined. The song I’ve got on repeat this week is Ruins by Maverick City Music. I think it encapsulated this sentiment perfectly. We build things up so high that when they fall, we feel like all hope is lost. But when our hope is in Jesus, we can stand up on the rubble and continue to praise our God.
I don’t want you to miss this. You may have been able to row your own boat up to this point. You’re probably even catching a good many fish. But if your eyes are ever opened to how much more is available to you, you won’t be satisfied with what you’ve become accustomed to.
We have just finished 21 days of prayer at our church. Each day, I have woken up a little earlier so I could spend time in intentional prayer and seek the face of God. Yall know prayer changes things, right? My heart has been reshaped during this time and the bent is towards bringing yall the good news. It always has been, but I have tasted and seen that He is good and want you to have that, too.
What would your life look like if you stacked up some stones to remind you of how the Lord has worked in your life? Nothing tacky to go in your yard. Some people do overt things like that, like a cross tattoo or necklace. I’m more low-key in general, so I usually have a crumpled-up piece of paper with a verse written on it in my pocket or a song on repeat in my car. Sometimes I change the wallpaper on my phone or set literal alarms to remind me. Just something to stop me in my tracks and say, “Hey! Remember how you thought nothing was ever going to change and now you’re out here doing it? I still love you that much and am still writing that story.”
The hurt places we each have are what bring us together. It offers commonality among us. Common things that we common people go through. Common things we line up on our bedside table.
Today, I’m thankful that Jesus came to this earth to prove his commonality with His people, while also removing all doubt that He is able. As it turns out, Jesus thinks common people are pretty special, too.
Spend some time this week thinking about the stones that represent your life. The good, the bad, the hurt, the hope. I hope you’ll see that God was with you and that those things are part of the common thread in the human story. But more than that, we have an uncommon God who loves us unconditionally. He doesn’t leave us in the rubble or the ruins. He rebuilds and restores.
Joshua 4:1-7 “When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5 And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”
Genesis 28: 16-22 “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
Genesis 35:14-15 “Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.”
Exodus 24:3-4 “When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said. He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel.”
1 Peter 2:5 “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”