The Bible has literally shaped my life, and I have loved it from my earliest days as a Christ follower. To this day I read its pages, ponder its insights, dig into its depths, and wrestle with applying its truths through the ups and downs of life. The teaching never stops.

But God uses other teachers, too.

In my love of the outdoors and natural world, he has used mountains, trees and wildlife to school me in his ways. He has tutored me with rocks, ruts and roots. I have been mentored by clouds and rain, rivers and streams, flowers and grass.

And in one season of my life, the Holy Spirit used an old barn to get me ready for a life event just around the corner.

In my growing up years, our family would pile into the family wagon almost every day and weave our way through the farmland and forested pockets of Washington state Highway 902. Around one particular bend you could see the old barn, an early 20th century relic standing alone in a long-abandoned farmer’s field. Worn and battered as it was, it was still an example of excellent German craftsmanship.

The fading green paint still highlighted the rolled 45-five-degree windows, two on each end. Large double doors with rough beam support held up a hayloft. At sunset, the white paint trim even appeared to have a glimmer, making the windows stand out like large smiling eyes. There was a slight tilt on the east end, where a fractured gabled eve revealed faithful seasons of summer and winter service to the farm.

One cold December day, driving past the old barn, a peculiar, unexpected impression came to me. I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking when he told me that my dad would be with us as long as the barn stood.

Clear and gentle as the message was, it still shocked me.

And one month later, the old barn fell utterly flat.

I remember stopping the car and staring at the scene in a stunned silence, remembering the impression I had experienced just one month before. A few days later, writing in my journal, I was still puzzled by the whole incident. Dad seemed fine.

Then in May, he became ill. And in July, Dad finished his race and we celebrated his life.

Those last three months of Dad’s life remain irreplaceable for me. God used an old barn to prepare me for what was about to happen in a significant relationship in my life. I spent all the time with Dad that I could. We prayed together, talked about heaven, and connected in ways we never had before.

Everything God does is through relationships. If you live forever in a place called heaven, it will not happen because of “what you know,” but “Who you know.” And his name is Jesus.

Mostly, God speaks through his magnificent, sometimes mysterious Word. The Bible is God’s story of rescue, and to this very day and hour, he is still calling men and women to join him in this grand narrative of redemption. The Bible is like a home plate on the baseball diamond or a road map for life for everyone.

Sometimes, however, he may choose to speak in other ways, perhaps using simple, natural impressions to point us to his Word and give us direction in life that has eternal implications for us and others.

In my mind’s eye, I can still see that old barn, smiling with large-angled white- trimmed eyes. But the best memory is Dad turning to me a few days before he died, saying, “Son, how’s your relationship with Jesus?”

Rev. Micah Smith is president and founder of Global Gateway Network, author of “Heaven’s Heartbeat,” and a Tri-City Herald Spiritual Life contributor.

Tri-City Herald