Sanctuary – A Repost

I first shared this post back in January of 2013. Due to several conversations recently with friends, I felt the need to re-run it here at the Hope Blog. If you are weary beyond words or discouraged, I hope it is a blessing to you.

hillsJust off the main highway that winds through the rolling green hills is a dirt road. You would miss it if you didn’t know to watch for it.

On the south side of the road, a small, weathered sign in the shape of a T has the words “Sanctuary” on it. That’s where you turn in.

You’ll drive a good half a mile on that rough dirt road that turns and twists slowly up a hill. The trees crowd on either side and the sunlight is filtered through the leaves as you travel along. If your windows are open, the air is riotous with the sound of songbirds.

Then, suddenly, you are at the top of the hill and there you will see your destination. There stand several buildings made of the creamy field stone the area is known for. The structures look so solid that no wind could ever blow them down. The prettiest of them all, overlooking the lush valley down below, is a chapel building with a small steeple and bell tower. There are flower beds along the brick walkway, and in summer they are alive with color.

At evensong, when the sun begins to sink, the bells in that chapel can be heard for miles. There is a carillon that each evening chimes sweet peace to all of God’s creatures. sunsetWhether it is heard by the sheep dog resting on the porch of the frame farmhouse down the road or the family eating dinner in the valley, the sounds of those bells are carried on the gentle evening air.

A woman named Joan runs the place. She is a woman in her early 60’s, vigorous, with rough hands that are chapped with constant work. Her silver hair is short, because she has no interest or time to deal with it, her skin is tanned and shows the effects of much sun, but she has light blue eyes that are kindly and they nearly always have a smile in them.

There is a library in one of those stone buildings. A carpenter volunteered and put in shelves from ceiling to floor. Over the years, the book collection burgeoned and grew until Joan had to stop taking donations. The large fireplace, made of the same stone, was put in later. On cold winter nights, the library is as snug a haven as you could possibly find. Joan’s yellow lab likes to lie there on the rug before the fire, toasting himself, the firelight flickering on the backs of the books.

The green hills that shimmer in the summer heat are still with the silence and cold of winter. A different, frozen kind of peace descends. Footsteps and sounds seem muffled as the snow and ice blanket the beauty that lies in waiting.

Joan was once terribly hurt in her life. She was so hurt that she nearly gave up, turned her back on her faith and died for any useful purpose.

Then she inherited money and bought an old property up in the hills. Aroused from despair and defeat, throwing off her depression and her sense of worthlessness, she determined to provide a haven in the war zone of life for women who needed a sanctuary.

She made up her mind that she would never market her safe place. God would bring those who needed a rest, and she would provide it. And one by one, injured sheep make their way to her refuge. Sometimes they walk, sometimes they have to crawl.

She does not preach to them. But she prays for all who come. She offers her ear, her experience and plain comfort from the Bible.

Most of those who come are refugees from spiritual abuse. Like Joan. Sitting in her study, she listens to stories that are enough to make the angels weep. She sees the damage and the scars carried by those who have been nearly killed off by spiritual leaders, husbands, family members wielding the name of Jesus. Some are those suffering great loss or from long term, unresolved stress in their lives and who are nearly unable to function in their everyday lives as a result. They open their hearts in this safe place, sometimes for the first time.

And there, those same hurt people are given the opportunity to rest. It flows to them from the Scriptures and hymns at evensong, it shines down from the glories of God’s creation, where the billions of stars are not obscured by harsh city lights, it comes to them sitting on the swing where the small creatures can be heard rustling in the grass as they go about their nightly affairs.

Rest comes in the quiet of rooms, where in their plainness and simplicity, the Bibles on the nightstand can be opened without distraction, and prayer can take place without the oppression of digital noise that permeates everyday life.

Rest comes in healthy meals and walking in the hills, the sunshine warming backs and necks made stiff with stress. It comes in not having a schedule screaming its demands and all the expectations rising, exhausting and depleting.

Sometimes visitors stay a day. Others stay for weeks. When they leave, they give a donation of what they can or sometimes they donate their time to help work on the property in exchange for the kindness of their host.

There is a plaque in the narthex of the chapel, just to the left of the door.

It reads,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” ~ Jesus

The need for peaceful interludes in our lives can’t be underscored enough. Our modern life has many running on fumes. For those facing truly devastating losses and long-term struggles, time away from it all isn’t just a want, it is a need. The place I have described above is fictional, part of a writing project. I thought I would share it on the Hope Blog because it describes what so many women today would love to have–time away to find quiet and peace.

We may not be able to get away, and there may be no place like the Sanctuary in real life where we can physically get strength and perspective back, but all of us can cultivate a sanctuary in our hearts, a place where we won’t let anything or anyone disrupt the peace of God. The evil of our day wars against this peace. It is a real commitment to keep hearts and minds fixed on truth, on the real Jesus, not the brutal counterfeit offered up so often today in His name.

I love this piece by Secret Garden. The nature photography in the video is very restful to watch. Watching it, I find my own sanctuary.

In Memory of Ken Silva

A good friend and fellow blogger for many years, Ken Silva, passed away Sunday night at his home. His website became the go-to place for information on the disturbing trends within evangelicalism. I interviewed Ken many times on radio about the emergent spirituality, and we shared information constantly behind the scenes about the latest pertinent news in order to share it with our readers.

Words don’t convey the sense of loss to many of us who appreciated his work and contributions that helped readers to understand our spiritually tumultuous times. He, like all of us, took a lot of personal attacks for the work he did. I witnessed it many, many times at hate sites that smeared him in every way possible. He kept right on going. I am glad he is with Jesus now, beyond anyone’s ability to hurt him, beyond all pain and suffering. We’ll see you again, Ken. It won’t be long now.

The Most Important Trait

I think the most important trait in a man is kindness. Everything flows from that. Related to that is understanding. All the money in the world can’t buy the profound blessing of a man who understands you and doesn’t judge and dislike you for a weakness–someone who instead bolsters you up in that area instead of despising it. That’s what a good man does. They don’t crush the life and joy out of you, they give life and joy because of the way they live and show love. I am grateful to be married to a deeply kind man.

 

TomIngLake

In Praise of Micro Ministry

Grandchild offering small bouquet of summer wild flowers to grandmotherThere was a picket outside a mega-church in Seattle yesterday. Victims of the whole celebrity pastor system that allows pastors to operate with zero internal accountability are increasingly refusing to stay quiet. When all efforts at handling things quietly and biblically fail, those injured by those waving the banner of Jesus are going public. Due to the damage to souls that is done by narcissistic leaders in high places, this is a good thing. Destroyed faith and lives are not small things, and if others can be warned about these places, good.

Detractors cluck at vocal victims of these ministries for “touching God’s anointed” or “harming the cause of Christ”, ignoring the fact completely that people are the cause of Christ, including those in these ministries who are thrown under the bus. One pompous employee of a Christian media ministry told a reporter that employees should just suffer their losses for Jesus and say nothing. But those suffering the losses and abuse really weren’t suffering for Jesus at all. They were suffering for someone else’s image and power, no matter how conservative and Bible-believing a cause being run. Nowhere in the Bible are we called to shield predators, liars and abusers of others. If that’s what Jesus needs to advance His cause, it’s worth a second look at what we believe.

There is another kind of ministry, far away from microphones, spotlights, and donor letters. It’s the ministry that puts groceries on a family’s porch when they are hurting, the ministry of calling up a little girl on her birthday and singing Happy Birthday to her because she has no grandparents in her life, the ministry of somebody’s company and a kindly ear that doesn’t listen to criticize, jump in or one up the other person. This kind of ministry is one on one. It’s the hug in the middle of a coffee shop, a call “just because I wanted to check on you”, a surprise email, a divinely-timed meeting where encouragement gets exchanged.

The evangelical church is massively screwed up, and not just because of false teachers, Disney-style entertainment on stage or big shot pastors. The church of Jesus has gotten off track, ironically, because people stopped being important as individuals. We became statistics and numbers and cogs in ministry machines. In the name of “saving souls” of faceless strangers, actual faces and hearts became increasingly meaningless both internally in ministries and in many cases, externally as well. Workaholics in these settings justify their rotten priorities by running like rats on treadmills to save families and souls of strangers while their own are destroyed. What a twisted notion of ministry.

Our neighbors recently lost their little dog they had for 15 years. That little dog was the shadow behind Cheryl and John all the eight years we have lived here. Emmy was most concerned for our neighbor lady, and when we returned home from the grocery store, she saw Cheryl in her yard tending to her flowers. Em ran over to her and told her she was sorry about Boomer. She hugged our neighbor for a long time and they talked and talked. I was proud and touched to see the growing empathy in our five-year-old who is learning to feel for others in their sadness. That’s a real ministry she has in showing love to others.

To those of you who engage in the ministry of love, one on one, and think you’ve done little for God, I have great news for you. You are being the hands and heart of Jesus in a way that no big shot with stage or microphone ever could be. Scripture records the one on one ministry Jesus had to rich and poor alike. He mixed with the educated of his day, but also the lame and the diseased and the untouchables that society had shunned. That’s all I want to do with my writing anymore. I spent many years writing and speaking about aberrant spiritual trends within Christianity, 24 years in total. I still hear from those who appreciated the info. But the finest work I will ever do for Jesus involves continuing to love my husband and children and grandchildren, writing about life lessons, giving a little encouragement here and there, sharing family joys and struggles and letting God use it how He chooses.

Macro-ministry is a mess these days. Corruption of all kinds is rampant. Frauds abound. Micro-ministry, one on one with others, is where our energies can be safely spent when we commit our daily lives to Jesus for His use. Somebody needs a kindly touch today. Maybe you know them?