This thought has been rolling around in my head for a long time (pardon the pun !) … this thought about the significance of the pile of stones. It all started when my husband ordered a truck load of gravel to be dumped in our driveway last year.
Stones … Remember … God.
I kept thinking of the stories I had heard as a child. There were so many Bible stories from the Old Testament and it seemed there was always an altar being built … a memorial … a place of remembrance …stones being piled up for some significant reason so that no one would ever forget what just happened there.
Stories like that of the runaway named Jacob who had an incredible encounter with God . As he settled in for the night, laying his head on a pillow made of stone, he dreamed he saw a stairway reaching from earth all the way to heaven. The Lord God stood at the top of the stairway and promised a huge blessing on Jacob that would ripple out to all the people of the entire earth. He promised that He would be with him and watch over him wherever he went …He would bring him back to this land and fulfill the promise He had made to him. After waking, Jacob turned his stone pillow into a pillar to “mark the spot” and “remember” the moment …a memorial of his encounter with the Almighty God. He marked this milestone in his life by naming the place ”Bethel” — house of God — and the stone made a house to remember that God came down for a visit — up close and personal — to meet with a man on the run. ( Genesis 28:10-22)
Then you read of God parting the Red Sea, saving around a million Israelites from their enemy, in hot pursuit. This band of people longing for their promised land, walked through the Red Sea on dry land and before shaking the dust of the dry river bed from their sandals, they set up 12 stones to “remember” the miracle God had done for them that day. They stopped to say thanks to God — we will always remember what you did for us here today !
You read on in a place like Joshua 4… “In the days to come, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What are these stones doing here?’ tell your children this…” (and you read the amazing thing God did on their behalf) … “This was so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God’s rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always.”
And I’ve wondered …why a pile of stones? Why not plant a beautiful tree or flowering bush? I mean, bushes already had a pretty good reputation for getting the message across — especially the burning ones ! Why pile up something hard and heavy that might have rough edges and wasn’t even easy to assemble?
Maybe the rocks were meant to trip you …to make you stop for a minute in your running of errands… and make you curious (or frustrated) enough to ask the question and hear the answer that would melt the heart of stone.
It struck me that God had them build these piles of stones on purpose — for them to stop and thank Him for His mercy and grace in their lives. They would continue to have something visible in front of them to remind them to ”keep” telling the stories over and over again of God’s provision for them… telling it to their children and to their grandchildren so the cycle would continue on and on. God’s love would never be forgotten that way — and the relationship with this loving Father God would go on and on and on !
Maybe it’s the fact that I have grandchildren now and I’m beginning to see that “next generation” right before my eyes — but I never want to forget how God has miraculously forgiven me and rescued me and provided for me and my family. I don’t want to forget how He’s gotten us through some really tough and messy times — times that I thought we might not make it — and how He’s loved us and blessed us far more than we could have ever asked or imagined. So I thought… “I can build my own pile of stones” and tell my children and my grandchildren these stories of God’s faithfulness and hope they tell their children these stories of God’s grace, along with new ones from their own life’s grace … and we’ll keep the cycle of thanksgiving and blessings going on and on to the future generations.
The plan began to take shape and just before Thanksgiving Day, I got some nice , smooth, flat stones from my friend, Linda , gathered from our favorite beach in Rhode Island. I put one in everyone’s dinner plate with the idea that we would all pick up our stone, share a significant blessing from God from this last year and make our own pile of stones in the nice little dish another friend had given me . At some point in the Thanksgiving meal, I read the verse from Joshua 4 that says…”In the days to come, when your children ask their fathers, ‘what are these stones doing here?’ tell your children this: …(fill in your own story of God’s grace) . After everyone shared their “thanks”, the plan was to have my granddaughter, Charlotte, pile up the stones in the little dish; however, she thought it would be much more fun to put the stones in a pot and stir them with a rubber spatula and then serve them out to everyone And I think God smiled as we kept sharing our hearts of gratitude and Charlotte kept serving up stone soup to the whole family.
However, as it turns out, God’s idea of this being an ongoing object lesson was brilliant because the stones still “speak” beyond Thanksgiving Day. After moving from our home in Connecticut to our new nesting place in Alabama, I arranged a centerpiece on our dining room table, complete with my pile of stones — my own place of remembrance — reminding me of God’s grace in our lives …a centerpiece of thanksgiving, to keep my heart centered on His faithfulness!
In a normal doing life together kind of day, one of our young neighbors stopped by to say hi. He picked up the little piece of paper out of the stone pile and began reading these words out loud…”In the days to come, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What are these stones doing here?’ and something in me stopped to pay attention as a holy moment was being organically orchestrated by God right before my eyes.
I shared the story of the stones and he began reading the “Word Rocks” in the pile …rocks that same friend, Linda, had decoupaged with Bible verses on them . This opened up a natural conversation with him about where in the Bible these verses came from and , before we knew it, we were looking up and reading verses together!
As the conversation continued over cheese and crackers he said, “I do know that everything in the Bible is true.”
“You’re right.” I said
Then he stopped dead in his tracks, turned to look me square in the eyes and said, “Is it true that God gave His life for us?”
“Yes ! Yes it is !” and I went on to share more of God’s love and how that love sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us so we could be rescued from the weight of our sin – giving us peace and hope.
And I knew that God’s truth still cries out today …piled up to make us trip on His grace …the speed bump to make us slow down enough and remember to say thanks!
And wasn’t it Jesus Who said, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:39-41) ?
With Thanksgiving coming up you might want to start your own pile of stones to remember what God has done in your life and say thanks. You never know — someone might stop and ask, “What are these stones doing here?” — and the pile of stories of God’s grace can be passed on and on.
This Thanksgiving and throughout the years to come, I want to keep sharing the love of Jesus to others …even if my stones have to do the talking sometime !