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Steve West: Reminders of God’s presence

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WORLD Radio - Steve West: Reminders of God’s presence

A little stone carries a lot of meaning


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MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, January 10th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. WORLD commentator Steve West now on one of the simple reminders of God that you can find in Creation.

STEVE WEST, COMMENTATOR: In the manicured lawns of my neighborhood, it’s difficult to find a small, smooth stone. I don’t mean the stones and rocks used in landscaping but the ones that were here before–the unowned, the non-possessed, the ones hiding from the civilizing influence of mowers and rakes and even backhoes. These, I imagine, are the ones Scripture says “cry out.” The others just whimper.

Near the creek stretched so thin that it can’t be said to run, one of them cries out to me. I stoop and pull it from the earth, brush away the dirt that clings to it. Its shape bears the memory of water, smooth and cool. A homely stone. “I have been looking for you,” I say. It warms in my hand. I put it in my pocket and keep walking. I take it out and hold it as I deliberate.

I went looking for a stone because I wanted to be reminded today that God is real and present with me. Beside me. In front of me. Behind me. So as I walk I hold my stone in hand, reminded by its insistent otherness that God is present.

“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?” writes Jeremiah, and the stone in my hand says, quietly if boldly, “I am at hand. I am here. Hold me tighter.” And I do. “My presence will go with you,” says God to Moses (Exod. 33:14), but I am frail and near-sighted, a poor listener, and God hasn’t spoken aloud to me. So I carry this neglected stone to picture God’s presence. It is a faint window to a radiant God, and it becomes in my hand a metaphor for God. My Rock. My Redeemer.

Holding this little stone, it takes meaning as I consider where it points. It’s a signpost of the Lord’s unchanging character, a promise of His love, a guarantee of His salvation. I know, that’s a lot to put on a little stone.

Back home I place it on my desk and examine it. There, it looks even less significant or remarkable–not special but common and ordinary. Still, it’s here. On the corner, at the periphery of my vision, it beckons: “I’m here.” The Lord is here.

Poet Denise Levertov wrote a poem about the importance of physical symbols for an invisible God. It reads,

people so tuned

to the humdrum laws:

gravity, mortality ---

can't open

to symbol's power

unless convinced of its ground,

its roots

in bone and blood.

That poem echoes the Psalmist when he writes, “‘Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?,’ says the Lord; ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’” (Ps. 139:7-8). My heart nods in assent, yet to ward off doubt, I reach out a finger and touch the stone–my Rock, my "bone and blood."

I’m Steve West.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, January 10th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. WORLD commentator Steve West now on one of the simple reminders of God that you can find in Creation.

STEVE WEST, COMMENTATOR: In the manicured lawns of my neighborhood, it’s difficult to find a small, smooth stone. I don’t mean the stones and rocks used in landscaping but the ones that were here before–the unowned, the non-possessed, the ones hiding from the civilizing influence of mowers and rakes and even backhoes. These, I imagine, are the ones Scripture says “cry out.” The others just whimper.

Near the creek stretched so thin that it can’t be said to run, one of them cries out to me. I stoop and pull it from the earth, brush away the dirt that clings to it. Its shape bears the memory of water, smooth and cool. A homely stone. “I have been looking for you,” I say. It warms in my hand. I put it in my pocket and keep walking. I take it out and hold it as I deliberate.

I went looking for a stone because I wanted to be reminded today that God is real and present with me. Beside me. In front of me. Behind me. So as I walk I hold my stone in hand, reminded by its insistent otherness that God is present.

“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?” writes Jeremiah, and the stone in my hand says, quietly if boldly, “I am at hand. I am here. Hold me tighter.” And I do. “My presence will go with you,” says God to Moses (Exod. 33:14), but I am frail and near-sighted, a poor listener, and God hasn’t spoken aloud to me. So I carry this neglected stone to picture God’s presence. It is a faint window to a radiant God, and it becomes in my hand a metaphor for God. My Rock. My Redeemer.

Holding this little stone, it takes meaning as I consider where it points. It’s a signpost of the Lord’s unchanging character, a promise of His love, a guarantee of His salvation. I know, that’s a lot to put on a little stone.

Back home I place it on my desk and examine it. There, it looks even less significant or remarkable–not special but common and ordinary. Still, it’s here. On the corner, at the periphery of my vision, it beckons: “I’m here.” The Lord is here.

Poet Denise Levertov wrote a poem about the importance of physical symbols for an invisible God. It reads,

people so tuned

to the humdrum laws:

gravity, mortality ---

can't open

to symbol's power

unless convinced of its ground,

its roots

in bone and blood.

That poem echoes the Psalmist when he writes, “‘Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?,’ says the Lord; ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’” (Ps. 139:7-8). My heart nods in assent, yet to ward off doubt, I reach out a finger and touch the stone–my Rock, my "bone and blood."

I’m Steve West.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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