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Museums are really challenging places for me. I really don’t like whispering and I really do like touching things. Since most museums tend to be quiet places where you’re expected to keep your hands by your side, you can see why they aren’t my favorite places. I understand that a trip to a museum can be a rich learning experience. It can be an opportunity to see with your own eyes what otherwise might have only been in pictures. Museums can take you to different time periods and regions of the world and that is all super neat. But you just can’t touch anything and for me, and maybe for you, I do a lot of learning and discovering through touch.

All that to say it is probably no surprise that I love being outside. So much to touch. So many textures. Very few rules about what can and cannot be touched. It’s incredible! And I have learned about God and who God is this way.

Genesis 1 provides a stunning and poetic story of God as Creator. Darkness and light. Water and dry land. Fruits and vegetables and all kinds of plants. Great lights and small lights. Fish and birds and animals and bugs. People and rest.

The whole of creation meant to be taken in and enjoyed through all of our senses. I want to feel it all.

Squishy green grass beneath my feet.
The way my arm is tickled when an ant is crawling along it.
The waves of Lake Michigan splashing my legs.
That first rush of cold winter air when you open the front door.
My dog’s smooth fur.
The slimy, scaly feeling of a snake or fish.
Rough tree bark.
Soft sand between my toes.

All of these textures and all the different things my hands and feet and body can feel or touch the world around me has taught me an important and simple truth about God. God is present right now, in this very moment. Touching and feeling the world around me is what keeps me tethered to the present moment. This is basic. I can feel the couch I am currently sitting on. My fingers feel the keyboard as they rapidly type. I feel my dogs paw on my arm asking me to please play instead of work. This is all happening in this exact present moment.

Likewise, when I am outside and feeling all of these natural elements I am reminded how present God is to the world and the way God sustains it all and has sustained it all from the first moment God uttered the words: let there be light. Creation marches on whether I feel and notice it or not because God sustains it. The bark of a tree will continue to feel rough, the ant legs will always be tickly, and sand will only get softer as waves keep crashing on the shore. I miss the intimacy and care of the Creator when I don’t stop to feel it. But when I feel it, then my whole body seems to remember what is true, more than just my mind, which is so prone to forgetfulness.

I wonder if this is part of what Jesus meant when he invited us all to be like little children. Children want to touch and feel everything. The Hebrew word for hand, yad, is the same as the root for the word, “to know.” In other words, there is a connection between touching with our hands and knowing.

So this week, the invitation is simple. Go out and walk barefoot in the yard. Feel the sun and wind on your face. Let cool water run a little longer on your hands. Don’t squish the ant on your arm before you’ve felt the tickle of it’s legs. And as you do remember God’s presence in the here and now. The God who created all things in the beginning continues to create and sustain and love all things, including you and me. Thanks be to God.

Photo by Juja Han on Unsplash

Katie Alley

Katie Alley serves as the Associate Pastor for Youth and Formation at Second Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa. She loves taking long walks with her dog Twyla, driving with the windows down, and sipping chai lattes with friends. You can find more of her writing at 


  • John K says:

    Wonderful on the positives about “touching.” Nothing about the toxic aspects: “Don’t you dare to touch me. . .that way. . .” i.e., efforts at inappropriate touching.
    But you are right. Jesus touched people. And people touched Jesus. To lay our hands on Reality is the way forward. “He touched me, and my life is not the same” in the words of the old gospel song.
    Thank you Katie. Very touching.

  • Thomas Boogaart says:

    Your essay made me think of Exodus 3 and God commanding Moses to take off his sandals. This provocative gesture invites us to ponder its many possible meanings. One possible meaning is that God tells Moses to take off his sandals because God wants him barefoot on the ground. God wants him to be intimately connected to the earth, to feel more deeply its interlocking systems, to feel more deeply, among other things, the horror of oppressive systems that he might otherwise ignore.

  • Rodney Haveman says:

    Thank you Katie
    This last year of no touching people has made the truth of this blog more poignant for me.

  • Travis West says:

    Todah, Koki. A lovely and invitational reflection to meet God in the moment. Love Tom’s addition of Moses at the burning bush, barefoot and bent before the beauty of God’s being (I just couldn’t stop with the b’s!).

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