Building Vocabulary With God

Building Vocabulary With God

Some might explain these kinds of things away. Not me.

With shining eyes, He looked down the teeter-totter at me and said, “Let’s play!”

If you’ve read my book, Closer Than Your Skin, or my recent blog post, “Closing The Case On God’s Heart,” you might remember those two words. It was the first thing Jesus said to me in a familiar scene from my childhood: I envisioned Jesus sitting on the other end of a teeter-totter with me. I was a young girl holding a heavy globe on my lap, and He was teaching me to roll the earth back to Him.

The conversation on that teeter-totter completely altered my worldview.

That simple playground vision happened during a prayer time at Elijah House in the late 1990s. I’d gone there to do some intentional forgiveness work. While I forgave many people in my life, the big surprise was the tight-fisted unforgiveness I held against God…At the time, I didn’t think He was doing a good job of being God, and my brewing resentment undermined any relationship with Him. As I surrendered my bitter complaints, the teeter-totter scene appeared in my mind as I closed my eyes to pray.

It’s important to say that I didn’t hear an audible conversation with Jesus in that moment. I journaled what I thought Jesus would say to me–that little girl with a furrowed brow. I understood the symbolism, because as a child, I rolled a ball back and forth with my friends on teeter-totters.

God can work with that, you know.

Communication involves shared meanings. And that vision, that scene, that imagined conversation, became a building block of vocabulary between God and me. But the story didn’t end there.

In September 2008, waiting for a plane in Minneapolis, I watched CNN on hanging TV monitors as the stock market crashed. It was the Dow’s worst drop ever. What was going on in our country? God could see the dread on my face. He could feel my chest tightening. He understood my racing mind. I couldn’t take any more news and decided to walk off my escalating fears. I headed toward the mall area of the airport and passed a toy shop. Though consumed with anxious thoughts, I happened to notice that the store’s name was, “Let’s Play!”  It stopped me in my tracks. Those two words held such potent meaning. Like warm butter, the presence of God melted over my head and covered my entire being. With impeccable timing, God was inviting me to roll the world, our country’s problems, and our finances all back to Him.

A few years later, my husband and I were travelling in New Zealand. We woke up in our motel to a day of dreary rain, but I was heavy-hearted for other reasons. I remember sitting on the arm of a small couch, conversing with Duncan about my angst. The room had a sliding glass door that opened to a quaint backyard. A curtain covered the view, except for a narrow slit. As I aired my troubles to Duncan, my eyes suddenly focused out the limited view of the glass door behind him. Perfectly framed in my line of vision, in that backyard, at that particular moment was a teeter-totter.

There it was again—a building block of shared meaning with God.

Job 33:14 assures us that “God speaks now one way, now another, though man may not perceive it.” In other words, God will talk to us in many ways, because we just don’t get it sometimes. Again and again, He used this one vision to say, “Susan, I am here. I want to do life with you. Let Me carry the heaviness of the world.”

It’s one thing to read the promise in Philippians 4:6-7, and turn our anxious thoughts over to God to receive His peace. But it’s far more powerful when God says something to you in an intensely personal way with fresh timing.

Some still might explain these things away. As for me—not a chance.

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Please take a moment to comment about a building block in your vocabulary with God. It might be a single word, a symbolic image, a scripture, or the lyrics of a particular song—anything that you recognize as the touch of God in your life!

(Note: The Let’s Play toy shop has since been replaced with a wine store in the Minneapolis airport, but it was there the day I needed to hear from God.)


  1. When I woke up this morning I had an image in my mind of a boxing ring. In one corner is the battle that at any time I might be facing. I was in the other corner…but I heard the announcer say….’And in the left corner is Pam Western….with all of Heaven fighting with her.”

    Makes the fight seem a lot less fair for the other side. 🙂

    • Suzee! Love the feathers and lighthouses. And that you noticed these things. That’s the thing. Often it’s all there but we just don’t pause to take that second look. But God is so willing to engage us if we’re looking and open. Hope you included some of this in your book!?

    • Pam, so true! But God doesn’t take sides with people so much as the enemy. Or as I like to say, He’s against the things which hold other people captive” if a battle does involve other people. Love the truth that the unseen is greater than the seen, too.

  2. to explain how god used lighthouses for directing my husband and i during much needed decision making would take several chapters in a book. many would say, upon reading the circumstances, that couldn’t be!!! and the places and timings and sizes and pictures and appearances were all “published” by god just for us. i’ll tell ya someday, susan!

    and then there was the 2 year span of white feathers coming to me for comfort to keep me sane appearing in truly impossible places.

    so near, god is so near and so creative and so in love with his individual kidlets.

    suzee B

    • actually, i put quite a few god stories in my book but did not choose the lighthouses and feathers. my book is already over 400 pages and i can’t put everything in this one!
      ya know? for a memoir, there have to be some sort of limits doncha think?

  3. Susan, what a relevant word! The way God reminds me He loves me is through hummingbirds. Often at my lowest times, a hummingbird will appear sometimes within a few feet of me, looking at me! Even my own logical mind tries to threaten my peace with cries of “coincidence,” “chance,” or “forced,” but I’ll keep believing with you that the Lord speaks to us in personal, intimate ways.

  4. God’s love IS tangible….
    I was going to visit my parents for the weekend. In the past, I’ve had a hard time not regressing into my childhood self while there, instead of the new person God has transformed me into. This made me feel very disconnected and made the visits difficult.
    After reading your book for the first time, I prayed to God to visibly show me His love over that particular weekend. I also remembered someone’s advice to specifically ask God to show you something that was significant from your childhood, or a childhood love. For me that was a horse, so I specifically prayed to God to “magically” make a horse appear over the weekend. I hoped this would help me remember He was still with me and remind me of who I am in Christ. Early on the second morning of my visit at my parents house in rural Montana, I woke up to 7 horses frolicking in the fog of my parents yard, about 10 feet from the window. I stood there in awe as my body tingled with the realization of God’s presence in my life. My parents do not own horses and it had appeared some far away neighbors had lost theirs. From my view, God had worked a tiny miracle.

    • Jessica! I LOVE THIS STORY! I have tingles just picturing it in my mind–you looking out the window, the horses, the fog. It has God’s signature all over it! Thank you so much for sharing this! I hope others will read it too.