Every Stone Tells a Story

Ever have one of those songs that sticks in your head for days? Rich Mullins has a song, “I See You,” that our boys sang in church with the kids’ choir years ago. The refrain, “Everywhere I go I see you,” was easy to pick up, the words becoming a responsive echo that lasted for days in our heads. Lyrics of a song often stay with us, whether we want them to or not. As we recently traveled in the Holy Land, those lyrics resurfaced and wonderfully framed our experience.


This month we had the privilege to travel with a group from our church to Israel — an undeniably holy place where every stone tells a story, every hill teaches about a victory or defeat, and even a muddy river reveals God’s faithfulness. Everywhere we went, it was easy to see God and think and talk naturally about his Word and our shared faith.

Jesus once said that if his disciples kept quiet, the rocks would cry out (Luke 19:40). In Israel, that’s just what’s happening as more and more layers of history are excavated, repeatedly pointing to God’s enduring promises. Even in the last few years, what was once a disregarded parking lot on a hillside has unearthed a city dating back thousands of years.

So we listened as every town echoed God’s name and every mountaintop rehearsed God’s story. These places gained significance in history because of what God accomplished there through his power and his people. These are the spaces where Jesus walked and taught, healed and loved.1128SouthernWall

We heard, “God’s mercies are new every morning” as we gazed at a brilliant sunrise over the Sea of Galilee. We heard, “Glory to God in the highest!” as we stood on a hillside in Bethlehem. As sunrises preach mercy and hillsides announce majesty, we were reminded that our life in God is not a secret to be whispered.

Witnessing the unfolding drama of God’s story by traveling that sacred country has inspired our faith in fresh ways. History and geography have become more than maps and timelines in the back of our Bibles.

Tourists became pilgrims as we entered Jerusalem through gates that greeted Jesus and his disciples. This holy city speaks many dialects of perseverance. We sensed a palpable awe at a wall constructed thousands of years ago from common stone but held together by handwritten prayers and the yearning of those who return daily, weekly, and yearly seeking God’s presence. It’s a place where epochs and centuries stand mortared to God and his glory 1128WesternWallthroughout generations.

We observed a people who kept their faith and culture alive by reciting history in their homes and valuing religious instruction. A people whose life with God had taught them the treasure of truth, the cost of disobedience, and the endurance of promises. But living out an authentic humble faith as a family is not limited to one deeply significant holy place. Family transcends geography and culture. Faith is still built one story at a time.

Surely, talk of spiritual things comes easily:

  • when surrounded by mountains with names like Moriah, Carmel and Zion,
  • when trekking through the Judean desert wilderness where godly men have overcome terrain and temptation to1128Qumran prove their character,
  • when sitting in an anchored boat on the Sea of Galilee, or
  • when taking communion near an empty tomb in Golgotha.

What if we could take this omnipresent reality back with us? What if we determined to speak often and freely about God at work in our lives? Proverbs 3:3 says, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” A family that binds constant reminders of God’s faithfulness with daily expressions of love for one another is bound to grow closer together.

1128MountCarmelWeeks ago, we sat on a bench, a holy place, in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed for our family. Today, we have created a holy space even as we sit on our living room sofa realizing our God is the same, His presence is here with us and so our prayer is the same. We yearn to live life with God, to look for Him throughout our days, to remind each other “God is with us” and to share our own stories with our family.

We return to daily life with revived souls, refreshed hearts, and renewed hope—all reminders of our solid foundation in Jesus Christ. As we write these special memories on the tablet of our hearts, we pray you will recognize and celebrate the holy places in your own life history and create a holy space in the
sacredness of your present.1128Garden

Last week our grandson spent the night and waking early he excitedly pointed out the beautiful sunrise. Our opportunity to remind him, right then and there, of God’s mercy proved that sunrises do preach to generations, even here in Ohio.

8 Responses

  1. Ryan Harkey

    Paul, what a fantastic description of your experience to Israel. Thanks for taking the time to describe your trip! I feel inspired to start planning a visit. Thanks.

  2. Liz Miller

    I was touched by your words and your love for the Lord. I believe the Lord was our tour guide and revealed himself in many special ways. Waiting for Him in this Advent Season!

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