Meditation Monday – The Gathering of Memories

by Christine Sine
Collecting rocks - a path to remembrance

Collecting rocks – a path to remembrance

Have you ever noticed how often the Israelites collected rocks to build cairns as memorials for significant events in their history?  Joseph built one after his encounter with God.  The whole nation of Israel built one after they crossed the Jordan.  Memorials, reminders, places to come and and remind us of the faithfulness of God in the past and encourage us to hope for God’s continued faithfulness in the future.

I am also a collector of rocks.  As a child I loved to gather specimens when we went on long road treks over the summer holidays.  And in Australia there are some wonderful rocks to collect – sapphire chips, opals, agates, and even flecks of gold.  But in the last few years it is not these precious stones that have caught my attention.  Now like the Israelites I gather rocks that mark significant events – and I give them names as memorials to remind me of my encounters with God.


I have a serpentine rock picked up on the beach on the island of Iona where Columba came ashore.  I call it my rock of faithfulness because when I hold it in my hand I am reminded of all the faithful followers of Christ, like Columba who have gone before me.

fossilized shell

fossilized shell

I  have a limestone rock from the South coast of Australia.  It has the fossil of a shell in it.  This is my rock of endurance.  I am reminded that this shell comes from a creature that lived thousands of years ago.  It has endured because it was transformed into the limestone rock.

Limpets of rock

Another rock I picked up on Camano Island north of Seattle.  Limpets cling tightly to it reminding me always of the need to cling closely to God.

Malachite from backyard

Malachite from backyard

I even have a rock that I picked up in our backyard – a beautiful specimen of malachite – unexpected because this is not a native rock to the Pacific NW.  I call it my rock of unexpected surprises because it reminds me that God often comes to us in unexpected and unanticipated ways.


Probably the rock I have held in my hand most frequently is the one I call my rock of remembrance.  It is streaked with veins of dark and light intertwined in an intricate pattern.  It is a constant reminder to me that the dark and light sides of life are woven together inextricably.  They cannot be separated or the rock would crumble into nothing.

Collecting rocks has become an important part of my prayer life. I love to hold a rock in my hand meditating on the part of my faith journey it reminds me of. I find myself praying in gratitude, in repentance or just in sheer joy at the faithfulness of God.

We are forgetful people.

God understands this far better than we do.  God prompted the Israelites repeated to remember their God who rescued them from Egypt and faithfully led them through the wilderness:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: Throughout the generations to come you must make tassels for the hems of your clothing and attach them with a blue cord. When you see the tassels, you will remember and obey all the commands of the Lord instead of following your own desires and defiling yourselves, as you are prone to do. The tassels will help you remember that you must obey all my commands and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt that I might be your God. I am the Lord your God!” (Numbers 15:37-41)

I was never more aware of this than when watching the film The Way recently. This powerful and inspirational story stars Martin Sheen who plays Tom, an irascible American doctor coming to France to deal with the tragic loss of his son. He embarks on the historical Camino de Santiago pilgrimage where his son died.

There is a tradition on the camino to bring a stone from home and rub all your fears, hurts and sorrows into the stone which you can place at the base of the Cruz de Ferro. Others pick up a stone along the way or write a wish on paper. They deposit them at the  cairn of Cruz de Ferro where a huge mound of rocks with their prayers, and hopes and suffering have accumulated over the centuries. This is a holy spot whose sacredness spoke to me even from a distance.

You may not want to collect rocks as I do. You may never have walked the Camino de Santiago, but I am sure there is something you collect that reminds you of God and of your faith journey. Memorials root our prayers in the faithfulness of God. They provide anchors of stability that lead us onward towards the heart of God. Remembering the acts of God in our past is one important way that we connect to the acts of God in the present and learn to trust in hope for the promises of God in the future.

What is your response?

What are the memorials that mark your life? Gather them together in the place where you pray. Sit quietly looking at them.

Is there an object that stands out for you today? Pick it up. Hold it in your hand. What memories spring to mind? Allow them to flow around you. Listen for the whisper of God’s voice speaking to you through the object. What new things might God say to you today about faithfulness, endurance, remembrance or other aspects of life? Write these down and sit quietly basking in the presence of God.

Are there new insights God is giving you about your current situation? Write these down.

What about the future? Is God speaking to you through your memories about new ways to trust? Write these down too.

Repeat the exercise each day throughout the week. Write down what God says to you



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Sundee Frazier November 17, 2014 - 12:13 pm

Wow, Christine. Thank you for this beautiful reflection on remembering who God is, through rocks or whatever means he shows us. I have two rocks sitting on my prayer altar from New Mexico where I had a significant retreat experience with Fr. Richard Rohr a couple years ago, but I never thought to name them, which I’m now interested in doing. I also have rocks, one with the word “delight” written on it, and the other that says, “daughter,” which remind me I am God’s daughter in whom he delights. Thanks the idea to listen to what God is speaking through my memories this week. I’m going to join you in this.

Christine Sine November 17, 2014 - 12:15 pm

So glad this stirred you to do that Sundee. Many blessings on you as you continue to allow God to speak to you through your memories

Pastor Coe Hutchison November 18, 2014 - 2:25 pm

Good stuff, Christine. I have used rocks before when I have been struggling in my intercessory prayers for others. I assign a rock to a particular person for a time being and pick up and hold the rock when I pray for them. It helps me focus on the person, it is like I am holding them in my hands and God is doing the same, and I can offer a prayer simply when I see the rock during the day.

We have also used an idea similar to yours during Sunday worship. I think it was in connection with the “Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens” text (Matt. 11:28-30). Everyone in worship received a rock when they came in and we prayed our burdens, weariness, fears and anxiety on the rock and then laid it on the altar as we came up to communion. It turned out to be very powerful.

I think you have really hit on something powerful here.

Thanks and God bless,

Christine Sine November 18, 2014 - 4:09 pm

Thanks Coe, I love your ideas here too. There is something very powerful about holding images that help us focus and even more powerful when we connect those images to real people, events, or even struggles.

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