Just a Trace

aerial photograph from plane window

Power-line trace indicated by red arrow. Click the picture to view full-size.

Resting my Kindle on the fold-down tray-top, I gazed out the plane window.

I absentmindedly watched the earth drift lazily by, while pondering the words I had just read.  At several thousand feet above the ground, my mind was a million miles away.

My eye caught the patchwork pattern of fields marked off in sections, quarter sections, and 40-acre plots.  I noted a river winding in the distance, with tree-covered banks.  County roads followed the section lines, complete with township jogs, while a state highway cut across the pattern.  Occasional farm houses and out-buildings dotted the landscape.

A thin straight line, cutting through forest and across fields, captured my attention.  Though too thin to be a highway, it cut straight across the terrain, leaving a distinct delineating mark.  “Power-line trace,” my mind instantly registered…then just as quickly I wondered how I knew that.

We were at far too high an altitude for power-line poles, or even towers, to be visible.  I couldn’t see any lines or poles, just a thin straight line of slightly different shade and color than the forest and fields on either side.  Yet I instantly recognized it as a power-line trace.

I’ve hiked enough woods, walked enough fields, and crossed enough power-lines to recognize the break in pattern…to understand the nature of power-line traces and how they run.

I just knew…and I knew that I knew…

And I realized…this is what Jesus spoke of when He told Nicodemus,

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.  (John 3:8)

How do we know the Spirit of God?  How do we discern where He is at work?  How do we recognize His children?

By His trace…the recognizable break in pattern that tells of His coming and going, even though we cannot see Him, nor know from where He comes or where He leads…

Walk long enough with the Holy Spirit…spend enough time searching for His will…encounter enough life-circumstances requiring complete reliance on Him…and we learn to know His ways…to recognize His touch and how He works.

And we just know…and we know that we know…

How does God speak to you?

[Linked to God Bumps , Scribing , WIP , Beholding Glory , Graceful , Seedlings , Wellspring ]


33 thoughts on “Just a Trace

  1. I love the fact God, our Father, treats us, His children, as the individuals He’s created us to be. He speaks to us individually, through so many different ways.

    For me, it’s a quiet voice accompanied by a strong sense of sureness. He speaks/confirms through His word, the wisdom of others and peace.

    So thankful…

    • “I love the fact God, our Father, treats us, His children, as the individuals He’s created us to be.”

      Yes! Love this!

      He speaks to each of us differently. He draws each of us to Himself in different ways. He gives us each our own unique ministry. And we each reflect His glory in our own unique way!

      He is so awesome!

      Thank you, Stefanie!

  2. When I fly, I notice those things too, Joe. Isn’t it interesting that those traces are easier to see once you rise above it and get some perspective?

    That’s how God often speaks to me. I did a study years ago called From Heaven’s View, and I imagine myself in Heaven with Him, looking back at certain events in my life and having one of those moments like Joseph must’ve had: “A-HA! So THAT’S what You were doing!”

    Great visual. Thanks for sharing!

    • Oh, I love the perspective you’ve added, here, Susan!

      Yes, the patterns and breaks in pattern are much easier to discern from the air than on the ground.

      And, yes, while it is often difficult to see the purpose of trials while going through them, as we look back with the perspective of hindsight, we can see the work of God, throughout.

      Beautiful! 🙂

      Thanks for sharing that!

    • Yes!

      So beautiful…that blessed assurance that comes thru years of being in relationship..trusting…stumbling…relying on…being loved…

      Thank you, Lisa!

  3. So beautiful. I am constantly amazed at how we see so often first in the natural and then in the spiritual, or we see them in tandem, but we do see because the Holy Spirit prompts and gently shows. This is so strong, your voice here and your keen sense of His presence. Lovely.

    • Oh, yes!

      I so love how God speaks to us through His creation!

      Sometimes through nature, sometimes through animals, sometimes through strangers…sometimes through children…

      In this case, through a man-made trace cutting across both natural forest and cultivated fields…

      I’m reminded of the message of the Seraphim, “The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)

      Thank you, Elizabeth!

  4. Terrific visual Joe. There are so many ways God speaks to me, and I expect there are many, many ways I haven’t even experienced yet. I’m not too concerned how He does, I’m just so very grateful that He does. He just spoke to me through your blog post, and the comments. I’m so glad I stopped by!

    • “I’m not too concerned how He does, I’m just so very grateful that He does.”

      Amen, Betty Jo!

      I am so thankful for His voice! And I am constantly amazed at His creativity in finding ways to speak to my heart.

      I loved your post about God speaking to you through a tombstone!

      Blessings to you!

  5. “My sheep hear my voice and they know me. . . ” For me, it’s spending enough time in his Word to recognize his voice. When he speaks, it’s unmistakeable. Once we hear his voice, we automatically have a choice — obey or disobey.

    “the recognizable break in pattern that tells of His coming and going,” I know what you’re saying here, and it’s phrased beautifully. So often Jesus drops into our lives and breaks the pattern, but other times his work IS the pattern, just another row, or square, or line. We see this best when we look in the rearview mirror and realize that every step has simply been the next one on the journey of our lives.

    • Lori, I couldn’t agree with you more!

      Yes, for us, today, it is a recognizable break in pattern. But, in the end, we will see that it was all His work, from start to finish.

      Won’t that be fun, to view human history from a Heavenly perspective and excitedly point out to each other the intricate details of the Father’s handiwork?

      Thank you, for expressing this, so beautifully!

  6. “Power line trace.” I love that metaphor for how we recognize God’s work in us and the Holy Spirit. I remember once when I was in my early 20’s I wrote a poem about a variety of people and their places in, and thoughts about this world. In the end, the one who had a deeper understanding of life was, “the one who stands beneath the power line.” I think the poem is long lost, but I remember it because of that line, which I think was also the title. I really enjoyed your article. Thanks, Joe.

    • Ah! I was wondering when someone was going to make a connection to the power line being a source of invisible power!

      I wish you could show us the poem. It sounds very interesting.

      Thank you, Dan!

  7. “By His trace…the recognizable break in pattern that tells of His coming and going, even though we cannot see Him, nor know from where He comes or where He leads…”

    I’ll be looking for traces of him today as I go about my daily routine. Thanks, Joe, for the prompt.

  8. I often tell new believers that they are at such a disadvantage in their ability to trust because they cannot look at the long line of history God has created in every believer’s life. I am so grateful to know and recognize these “power lines” and this is a great way to illustrate this truth, Joe. Thanks for the inspiring word that He is always with us and always working, even if we don’t recognize it!

    • Wow! I never really thought about it that way, Beth.

      You’re right. New believers are at a disadvantage.

      Learning to recognize God’s prompting and learning to trust Him takes time. It is a process learned in relationship with Him.

      Thanks for sharing that perspective!

  9. God speaks to me in the giggles of my kids, the hug from my husband (when I really need it), in flowers that bloom . . .

    when we seek in silence–life seems really loud! the clouds shout, the flowers dance, the grass seems greener . . .

    be blessed.

    • “God speaks to me in the giggles of my kids, the hug from my husband (when I really need it), in flowers that bloom . . .”


      God has so often used my children and grandchildren to teach me of Himself, that I have sometimes wondered how I would ever hear Him without the aid of children.

      Thanks for sharing, Renee!

  10. Wow, that is awesome. I have never heard a better description of “how we know that we know”. You have given words where there were no words before. So glad I came by to read your thoughts today. I will remember this one.

    • I just love it when God gives me a picture to aid my understanding and expression of a concept.

      And I love it even more when someone else is able to share that insight!

      Thank you, Vicky, for that gift of shared insight!

  11. Growing up, going to church, going to a Christian school – I learned God was available. Available meant He was there when I wanted to go to Him – and when the hurt became too big – I did – and I discovered that the more I went to Him, the more I talked to Him and sought Him – it was then that I learned to hear Him. It grieves me that today – so many kids don’t grow up going to church, learning about Christ in school – learning a loving Father is available when there isn’t one at home – and so they don’t know too call out to Him, to seek Him. I guess that’s where we come in – reaching out to the youth, encouraging our youth to reach out – to pray – to introduce them to Him so they can hear His voice too!

    • “…I learned God was available.”

      That makes all the difference, doesn’t it BCM?

      Knowing God is available to us, and wants to spend time with us and help us….that allows us to begin building a relationship and learning to hear His voice.

      Thanks for sharing!

  12. God speaks in so many ways. This post made me sigh, though, Joe. Such a sweet thing to realize how he puts that recognition inside of us–that tugging of the Spirit. Lovely, my friend!

    • “…he puts that recognition inside of us–that tugging of the Spirit.”


      He speaks in many ways…the amazingly miraculous part is that we are able to recognize His voice!

      Thank you, Laura!

  13. This is beautiful. God speaks to me mostly through His Word, both as I read it or as I hear it from others…but I appreciate and stand in awe of Him when I see a beautiful sunset or see mountain grandeur or the ocean. I experience His love through the touch and actions of others…He is so faithful to stay near to us every minute of the day, even when our thoughts are far from Him.

    • LauraLee, I love how you described hearing, appreciating, and experiencing as different experiences prompted by different God-given stimulus to reveal Himself to us.

      I especially like this:

      “I experience His love through the touch and actions of others…”

      Experiencing really is different from hearing or seeing, isn’t it?

      It reminds me of what the author of Hebrews said, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”

      God spoke to us through the prohpets, but we experienced the fullness of His grace and truth through His Son.

      No wonder John called Jesus the Living Word!

      Thanks for sharing!

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