“What do you think about this weather?”
“How did you get started in this business?”
“Have you always lived in this town?”
“Do you remember a store on Main Street that sold gargoyles? Is it no longer here? Because I loved it.”
Some people hate small talk, but me, I’m rather fond of it. These are all questions I asked last weekend when my husband and I visited the small historic town of Galena, Illinois. We weaved in and out of the brick storefronts, made a few purchases, chatted with shopkeepers, and drove around neighborhoods.
Relaxing and meandering, with no particular purpose in mind, was a rare treat. I found myself curiously drawn to learning about these people’s lives and the history of their town.
Sampling coffee from a shop owner who grinds his own beans yielded to a lively discussion about the honey he sells, which is freshly harvested just down the road. (Incredibly delicious, by the way!) Another shop brought us tastes of locally crafted root beer, along with interesting details about the varieties sold.
Viewing a gallery’s collection of breathtaking forest photographs led to a chat with the photographer’s father about the work. The photographer, born with Down Syndrome, started polishing his natural talent in high school. The father told us he had taught his son a few things about photography, but being able to capture the light like that – “you either have it or you don’t”. Wow, does he have it. Stunning.
Then, a nearly vertical drive up the steep hills through town delivered views history buffs and architecture fanatics dream about. We saw mansions of brick and stone from the 1800’s, a large old high school with a prominent clock tower, scattered church steeples, and cascading staircases.
Walking by the river below, we discovered a visitor display which told us Galena’s Historic District encompasses over 85 percent of the city and is on the National Register of Historic Places. President Ulysses S. Grant’s home resides on this impressive list. In the lobby of the DeSoto House Hotel, I read their guest list once included greats such as Theodore Roosevelt and Ralph Waldo Emerson. And, Abraham Lincoln once delivered a speech from their grand balcony.
Spending the day experiencing Galena was certainly different from reading about it or simply having an attitude of “just passing through”. Talking with Galena’s residents instilled in us a fondness for the town that we could not have gotten any other way.
Our small talk gave way to deeper conversations. Those conversations inspired us to take a drive and learn more. All of it helped form the connection we now feel with this town.
So, I wonder, what if we approach experiencing God in a similar way? Could small talk grow into deeper conversations which motivate us to learn more about him and his plans for us? How would our relationship with him change?
When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Jeremiah 15:16 New Living Translation (NLT)
Where do we go to make small talk with God and what do we ask? Do we just open with, “Hey God, what do you think about all the rain this week?”
I am sure God welcomes all small talk, even if it is about the weather, simply because he loves hearing from us. However, if we want to ask questions to get to know him better, the best place to visit with him is in the Bible.
The words in the Bible are more than a historical record. They actively communicate ideas and lessons to us as we read them. They work within us to help define who we are and what we represent. The words of the Bible open up the shopkeeper’s door for small talk to occur.
In reading Scripture, our questions spontaneously take shape just as they did for me in the stores of Galena. For example, we might ask: “why did you choose this person to help with that?”, or “what were you trying to teach people here?”, and “how could that happen?”.
One question leads to another. And, there you go – we’re making small talk with God.
Grows Into Deeper Conversations…
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 English Standard Version (ESV)
When I visited Galena, I tried to shut out distractions and set my focus on interacting with the town. In the same way, if we give God our undivided attention in small talk, we can see our interaction with him grow into something bigger.
We simply have to show up and let the questions snowball within us. After asking God a small talk question such as, “why did you choose this person to help with that?”, we might follow-up with a deeper question like, “what can you use me for?”. Small talk evolves into deeper conversations when we ask follow-up questions based on our own unique experiences, and then listen.
Throughout our years, the Bible does not change, but our insight in reading it may. When we face different circumstances, we can perceive new answers and direction from the same piece of Scripture.
Through deeper conversations with God, we begin to understand that his Word cuts through the mess in our lives. It can help us figure out which way our heart wants to go. The Word comes to life in our conversations.
And Motivated Learning…
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26 New International Version (NIV)
Conversations that awaken our interest often spur more learning. The conversations I had with the shopkeepers inspired me to see Galena’s neighborhoods and understand more about its history. In a similar way, conversations with God stir the Holy Spirit to help us learn more about God and his plans for us.
For example, asking God “what can you use me for?” encourages us to examine our gifts or talents. We start touring the “neighborhoods” or places we can contribute. We research “historical facts” in our lives for more information. We look to others and to God for help in figuring things out.
…Which Strengthens our Relationship with God.
While visiting Galena, I gave the town an opportunity to connect with me. When we visit the Bible, we give God a chance to connect with us.
Seeking answers to questions inspired by Scripture just naturally brings us closer to God. Even if we are not sure what we believe, a relationship forms that did not exist before. And, it all starts with small talk.
Small talk grows into deeper conversations and motivated learning which strengthens our relationship with God.
Small talk with someone new can feel clumsy and awkward. But, if you don’t start there, then where do you begin? Don’t all great relationships start with the tiniest of best intentions and grow from there?
Some people hate small talk, but God, I think he’s rather fond of it.
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8 (NIV)
Prayer for the Week
Isn’t this spring weather crazy?! I am so grateful for the time I set aside to visit with you today.
Open my heart and mind to receive the wisdom you offer through Scripture. Help me focus during our time together and ask questions I can learn from.
Show me where to go to find the answers I seek from you. Teach me to recognize the nudges of your Holy Spirit within me as I move in the directions you are leading me.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen
Learn about all the fun things to see and do in Galena, Illinois through this link.
The fine merchants I mentioned in this post are Mean Bean Roasters, Root Beer Revelry, and River Bend Gallery.