October 8, 2017

Finding Holy Ground: Touch


Were you more aware of the smells around you last week? Have you been more conscious of seeing and hearing God in all things? There is Holy Ground all around if we can just let ourselves experience it. As Barbara Brown Taylor notes, “Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.”  (Altar in the World)

And so, we come to the fifth of our senses: the sense of touch. Have you ever stopped to think about how many things you touch each day? We touch the alarm clock when it goes off. We touch the sheets and toothbrush. We touch the coffee pot and cup. We touch the keyboard and the cell phone. We touch the hand of a friend or spouse. We touch the fruit in our lunch. The list is endless. How many times are you really aware of what you are touching? Do you take time to feel the texture of the skin of the orange, or wrap your hands around the warmth of the cup of tea? Do you pause to caress the cheek of your child or feel the smooth fur of your pet?
In times of crisis, the touch of a hand can be just as important, or even more important than words. Reaching out to touch and hold someone who is ill, or grieving, or sad is a powerful way to give comfort, and to be the hand of God. Touch brings Holy Ground to that moment

For me, I’m afraid that usually it’s more a cursory touch and much more often it’s really absent-minded. I don’t necessarily feel the steering wheel in my hands or the warm water when I’m washing dishes. My mind is somewhere else entirely. Brother Lawrence (1614-91) is famous for his words recorded in Practicing the Presence of God. Despite being assigned to washing dishes in the kitchen, he took time to really find God in the work. He touched God in the dishes and noted, “We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of Him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before Him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”

There is a well-known song (Holy Ground) that reminds us

This is holy ground

We're standing on holy ground
For the Lord is present
And where He is is holy
This is holy ground
We're standing on holy ground
For the Lord is present
And where He is is holy

These are holy hands
He's given us holy hands
He works through these hands

And so these hands are holy
These are holy hands
He's given us holy hands
He works through these hands
And so these hands are holy

These are holy lips
He's given us holy lips
He speaks through these lips
And so these lips are holy
These are holy lips
He's given us holy lips
He speaks through these lips
And so these lips are holy


(1982 Universal Music - Brentwood Benson Publishing (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.), Birdwing Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

We may think that we don’t have the time, or the concentration necessary to realize that we touch God every time we use our hands. I wonder if we did pause to really touch a few things, if we’d find ourselves touching the hand of God. The well known image from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel can be a reminder that God touched Adam and touches us. It is that touch that gives life! Why don’t you try this week holding and really touching something, or someone? Feel the smoothness or roughness. 

We find the Holy Ground of God in all our senses, as we’ve been discovering over the past few weeks. Next time, we’ll move on into finding the Holy Ground in ourselves and others.

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