On our way through the Utah desert, we exited at a rest stop. We climbed and explored a path that went from the parking lot and eventually narrowed into a narrow, crumbling Bruce-I-don't-think-this-is-a-path-anymore ridge, looming a few hundred feet above Interstate 15.
At one point the "path" met with a couple of fissures that dropped away into darkness and certain death. Unnerved, I turned back, but Bruce continued on his confident way.
While he explored, I looked off and watched a herd of donkeys roaming around a narrow valley about two hundred yards away. Colorful flowers decorated the precipice where I stood. Beautiful broken pieces of red shale lay all over the place, catching the last rays of the setting sun. A feeling of magic surrounded this place.
I had to bring part of this quiet, colorful, desert place back with me. Just as Bruce re-joined me, I stooped and picked up a small piece of shale.
When we got home, I put the little rock in my garden. Every time I go out to work on the garden or water the plants, I see the red piece and it reminds me of the special moment in one of God's red deserts.
This little piece of earth is a reminder of a slice of my life.
- Just as the Christmas ornaments the children made for me when they were small,
- or the shells I've found at various places and on various trips to the Pacific coast,
- or the Indian arrow head I found buried a few inches beneath the soil in my own childhood back yard in Lafayette, California,
- or the thank you letters from my students that I've bundled, tied with ribbon and placed in a box.
They serve as tiny monuments to commemorate my relationships to special people and places.
Thousands of years ago, a man named Jacob rested in the desert and had a dream of a stairway to heaven and of God telling him that all people on earth would be blessed through him and his descendants. Jacob realized that he had had an extraordinary encounter with God and so he set up a pillar of stone and worshiped there.
Our special moments slip into the unrecoverable pass and we can never reclaim them.
But how wonderful that our fingers can still carress the little "stone monuments" of our God-given encounters.
What have you collected to help you stay connected to a precious person or time or place?
"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.'" (Genesis 28:16,17)