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Everyone needs an altar, or two.  Not a shrine, but an altar.  A place where you had a moment with God that was clear and compelling.  Clear, in that it was about God truly being God in you life, and compelling in that your life was captured, renewed or directed by God.  An Abraham-like altar, where you stopped wandering and “called on the name of the Lord.”  Genesis 12:8.

One of my altars is at the beach that my family has gone to for years, Sunset Beach in North Carolina.  One house, particularly, that overlooked the marsh on the back side of the island evoked altar moments.  Maybe it was the rocking chairs on the back deck with the great view, or the swing on the front porch, but there was always a place calling for stillness, and calling for connecting to God.  And many summers it was, like Abraham’s altar at Bethel, a place to return, to review, to consider what God had done over the year.

We have not rented that house in many years, and most of my immediate family has not been able to join us when we’ve gone.  But, we were able to go for two days this week.  I rode my bike down to that special house, no one was renting it, and I sat just for a few minutes in the shade on the steps to the dock.  Those moments aren’t the only time I ever sit to consider what God has done and is doing, but it is still a special time, a special place.

Do you have a place and a time for an altar?  Any place to which you return?  It’s easy to set one up.  All you have to do is stop wandering and call on the name of the Lord.  I think that it is hard to be present to God without altars. Sure, I want to practice the presence of God, like Brother Lawrence, all day long, but there is something different about stopping, returning, tending an altar that represents special times or places.  Hmmm . . . I don’t think that we can even be present to our own lives unless we have altars, much less present to God.

Where are your altars?


  1. My newest alter is a hiking trail found on Block Island (off the coast of Rhode Island). I’ve hiked this trail in past years but this year, for the first time, I hiked this trail by myself. It cuts through a beautiful meadow with waist high grass that has pinkish/purplish tips, daisies and coreopsis that line the trail like runway lights. and an occasional bush with flowers that look like apple blossoms. There is only one tree along the trail. The trail dips and curves until it makes it uphill to the top of the bluffs. Looking out, you see the Atlantic Ocean; looking down, you see the bluffs blending into a rocky beach and the waves crashing on the rocks. I can’t describe the freedom I felt walking this trail alone with God. It was so quiet—just a slight breeze, the song of a red-winged blackbird, and the sound of the surf as I approached the bluff. To and from the bluffs, I prayed. I experienced such beauty, stillness, and peacefulness. (Oh, how I wish I could bottle it!) I’ll have to wait another year to two to hike this trail again.

    In the meantime, I’m finding that my container garden on my deck is becoming my local alter. I go out there daily, if not twice a day, to see how the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are growing. (This is my first year growing vegetables on the deck). As often as I can, I just sit and watch them grow and talk to God. I am fascinated by this small bit of His creation that sits on my deck; that it gives me such wonder.

  2. I had an ‘alter’ moment at — believe it or not — CHURCH! After being gone from TGC for 5 weeks, I returned Sunday evening to something that almost took my breath away – our church gathering. It was incredible to see the worship, fellowship, new people (I had to introduce myself to the greeters!!), and most of all, God’s presence.