God Speaks Through “Place”

God Speaks Through “Place”

My friend wrote about driving past a certain side road on his way home from the beach. A powerful feeling emerged. That particular road held strong emotional history for him. Still, he went on his way. What kept him from turning down that memory-laden lane?

The Beatles wrote about relationship with “places.”

“There are places I remember all my life, though some have changed.

Some forever not for better; some have gone, and some remain.

All these places have their moments, of lovers and friends I still can recall.

Some are dead and some are living. In my life I loved them all.”

It’s natural to associate memories with exact spots of real estate, but more importantly, God can speak through place.

The golden days of my childhood are largely contained in a place called Crayhaven—a cluster of cabins by the deep blue waters of the French River, in the northern woods of Ontario. Much of my early spiritual history happened in those scenes—whether swimming off the dock, or venturing into the stillness of mossy-carpeted woods, or warming my legs in front of a crackling fire.

My grandfather built the first cabin in 1938, and my grandmother christened it by writing a short poem called, “The Crayhaven Creed”…

            Here is a place to rest, a time for relaxation.

            Here Nature’s at her best, releasing you from frustration.

            Here’s a place for laughter, a place where friend meets friend.

            Discord must not enter, nor wills be made to bend.

            Here God’s love surrounds us. Let’s listen to His will.

            Not always in loud voices, but by sometimes being still.

With gentle words, she urged me to listen for God—and her invitation took. Over the years, I whispered many things to God in that place. And He whispered back.

Living out west, I haven’t been able to make the trip to Crayhaven every summer. My husband once teased me saying, “Why do you leave pine trees here for pine trees there?” Montana is truly a beautiful state. But it’s not about pine trees. I was pining for my childhood history in a place. He knew that. He also has places.

One summer when I couldn’t go, the ache of longing tightened in my heart. God apparently knew about that and took me to Ontario in a dream. Jesus went with me. We strolled around the cabins, which appeared closed up for the season. The sound of lapping water and wind in the trees seemed so real. I touched the red-painted surface of the screen door and brushed pine needles from the threshold. Jesus patiently gazed around, taking in those scenes so familiar to me. “I feel homesick,” I said. He nodded, but told me it was really a desire for Him in the same way that children love Aslan.

I returned this summer to the French River with three friends. Once settled in our cabins, I showed them a place called Five Fingers—a white water stretch where the Little French River enters the main stream. There, on a particular rock ledge by the moving water, I had said “yes” to Jesus in 1970, after my sister explained that He was the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Surrounded by my friends, I sat in that precise spot again as they each told of the place where they said “yes.” Lying back on the large slab of granite, I thought about a God who pursues all hearts to great lengths and at great cost. My chest swelled with emotion, and I launched into a flight of gratitude under the clear blue sky.

But not all places bring happy thoughts. In the movie, Forrest Gump, when Jenny returns to her childhood home, it triggers a torrent of anger. She hurls rock after rock at the dilapidated building, screaming at the memory of her father’s abuse. Forrest remarks, “Sometimes I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”

In my experience, God also takes me to unhappy “places” to say things.

One time, in the worse years of pain and distress, I knelt down on the cement patio by the oldest cabin. There in the concrete was an imprint of my 4-year-old hand. The carefree joy of my childhood felt completely out of reach, as I placed my much larger hand over the small impression. Then God spoke unexpectedly.

“There was a little girl here,” He said.

When you know someone, they don’t have to speak in complete thoughts to be understood. Those six words served as a promise of restoration. Adult life had ambushed me, but God knew something remained alive under all the rubble. He wanted that “little-girl-me” to come back to life.

I am convinced that you also have such places. Places that send you into transcendent worship and other places that touch a sore and festering wound. Resist brushing away those moments. As Frederick Buechner said…

“We have seen more than we let on, even to ourselves. Through some moment of beauty or pain, some sudden turning of our lives, we catch glimmers…only…we tend to go on as though nothing has happened. (What! Why?) To go on as though something has happened, even though we are not sure what it was or just where we are suppose to go with it, is to enter the dimension of life that religion is a word for.”  (Emphasis, mine)

Don’t go on, “as though nothing has happened.”


Let God speak a phrase. Allow Him to touch you. Because what He does in those places are some of the most sublime experiences with God you will ever know.

Tell me about a “place” in your life…


  1. susan, it is just a very good thing that you don’t put algebra equations to serve as gate keepers! or i’d not make it through. anyway, a place . . . there are many. for all of us i’d bet. but one popped out. running out of a movie theater in stuart, florida where i’d gone to see a recommended movie alone.
    at the end of the movie, “amadeus”, god showed me a truth i’d never come close to, not EVEN. and it has stayed with me for, well, 30 years. the mad man, being wheeled through a throng of people chained to walls in an asylum of the wretched insane, identifies a common cause for their torment. he calls it mediocrity, and names himself their patron saint. i realized, in this case, it was a demon with the name of mediocrity. and i came to understand in a new way the horrid intent of our enemy for every human being, finding however he can take hold. impacted in a way i’ll never forget, i was shaking when i ran out, and continued to shake in the car and at home. god taught me something powerful in that movie theater place.

    • That’s amazing Suzee…I think movies in themselves can be such a venue for God to speak. This past weekend I watched the movie “Lars and the Real Girl.” Don’t be fooled by the movie summary that says it’s about a guy who buys a sex doll. The story is far from that. It is about a man who has not yet come to life because of childhood abandonment. He buys this blow-up doll to have someone to talk to because he’s so painfully shy. I love how the community responds to his brokenness and goes along with it, treating “her” as a person too. It’s a picture of how the church should be. It is a very PG movie, with great acting, and the story is poignant. God said to me this is what love looks like.

  2. Loving your blog! Touches me EVERY time! At our OLD house there was a heater vent that I would sit by on the floor and spend time with Jesus. It was here that He healed my broken heart and was my wonderful counselor. It was here that I heard Him speak to me. It was here that His word came alive to me. It was here that both my children asked Jesus into their young hearts. I am not sure that I have found a replacement “place” where I now reside. Your blog has prompted me to do so! I need a “sweet spot”!!

    • Audrey, What a beautiful memory! “Place” is important. I believe that God meets us there and often it’s more about us lifting up our hearts to Him than the actual real estate spot. It is a wonder to actually believe that God Himself is seeking out those points of contact with us, just waiting for us to engage. Thanks for writing this… Susan

  3. dear susan, I love your painting…it reminds me of van Gogh’s starry night. I too feel that connection to place, there are several for me that recall times when my family with my mom and dad and four brothers were all together…the banks for the rhein river in bad godesberg, and anytime I see an old station wagon with the now famous “way back” seat in it..i remember sitting there all legs and arms, scuffed up from bike riding piled in with my brothers with my mom and dad up front, off to Johnsons ice cream or a gas station grand opening, we would follow the search lights! you are fortunate to have that cabin and stream in your heart..i have the same with my own family now, in estes park Colorado behind the macdonald bookshop by a creek, where my boys made pine cone boats and let them sail down the rapids. thank you for sharing. God’s gentle hand has guided me and protected me all my life…and I see He has been a close friend to you. love, janet

    • Janet! I love the “way back” reference to your station wagon! I can picture it. And now the creek! A little river is so entertaining and the best kind of fun on hot summer days. So happy to have you join this blog conversation!