Sanctuary

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 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 fun 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.

16 thoughts on “Sanctuary

  1. Kim says:

    Ingrid, you had me ready to ask you where the “Sanctuary” was! Almost ready with my suitcase packed. If there was such a place it would probably be very popular. I actually could see it in the description. Thanks for the great post.

  2. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Well, Kim, if I hear of one like this, I’ll be the first to let you know! 🙂 But if it got too popular, it wouldn’t be a haven anymore…

  3. Judi says:

    I loved reading this. And the peaceful music played in the background as I read. I think this is also descriptive of what our homes SHOULD be, both
    for the families who live there and the guests who come visiting.

  4. Rose says:

    I love your writing, Ingrid, and the video was beautiful. I was just thinking that the ‘sancutary’ of your story sounds a lot like what heaven will be like. Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will have eternity to bask in His love, peace, and goodness.

  5. Marilyn says:

    I was ready to pack up and go there! It sounds so inviting. In a way, it reminded me of Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s L’Abri. It was beautifully written, I’d love to read more…

    I am in the midst of many life-storms having lost my mom in a very unpleasant way a week ago, and a brother seriously ill (was hospitalized the day mom died) and some other stuff going on…feeling so weary and broken right now…

  6. bren says:

    Ingrid, I really enjoy reading your post. This one was right on target for lots of women. As aiways your blog is like visiting an old friend. Thanks for all you do. You are in my prayers. Have a blessed day. Bren

  7. Beverley says:

    Reading previous comments, this post has obviously spoken to many. Ingrid, thank you for sharing and caring for us by recommending the link to enduringword.com and the Hebrews 4 commentary. May others be encouraged by this exposition and exhortation.

  8. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    The setting and the woman, Joan, I described was inspired by a book from the 1960’s called The Listener, which was in itself inspired by this famous quote from the poet Seneca, a contemporary of the Apostle Paul.

    For who listens to us in all the world,
    whether he be friend or teacher,
    brother or father or mother,
    sister or neighbor,
    son or ruler or servant?
    Does he listen,
    our advocate,
    or our husbands or wives,
    those who are dearest to us?
    Do the stars listen,
    when we turn despairingly from man,
    or the great winds,
    or the seas or the mountains?

    To whom can any man say — Here I am!
    Behold me in my nakedness,
    my wounds, my secret grief,
    my despair, my betrayal, my pain,
    my tongue which cannot express my sorrow,
    my terror, my abandonment.

    Listen to me for a day — an hour! — a moment!
    lest I expire in my terrible wilderness,
    my lonely silence!

    O God, is there no one to listen?
    Is there no one to listen? you ask.
    Ah yes
    there is one who listens,
    who will always listen.
    Hasten to him, my friend!
    He waits on the hill for you.
    For you, alone.

    ~Seneca

    In the writing project I am working on – great therapy – Joan is the listener, the one who hears the wounded pilgrims who make their way to her sanctuary. It’s a place all of us would like to go, to take off masks, to be able to open our hearts without fear of being wrongly judged or condemned for sharing what is on our hearts. She points the way to the real Savior, not the grotesque caricature used by sick religious leaders to beat others into submission.

    In the sequel to Pilgrim’s Progress called Christiana, the wife of Christian, who safely arrived in the Celestial City, there is a character called Greatheart, the son of the Interpreter, who guides Christiana and her children to their heavenly home. He slays monsters and giants and helps her make her treacherous way through this life. All of us need a Greatheart or two in our lives somewhere. If we reflect the true Christ in our lives, we can serve as helps to other pilgrims making their way through this very dangerous world.

    As the pilgrims share their stories with Joan, we can understand just how dangerous a place it is, where even the supposedly safe places of churches and ministries can in reality be killing fields for those who are not on their guard. I will share more of the story on the Hope Blog in due time.

  9. Carol says:

    Amen, Ingrid. God Bless you in your healing journey. He gently leads those who have young. Isaiah 40:11.

  10. Teeky says:

    As I sought the Lord a few days ago on what He wanted me to call the conference that which He has put upon my heart to have in Wales – Well may I now say that He has now confirmed it – THE SANCTUARY.

    I would like to kindly ask your permission to read this beautiful inspired piece of writing at the conference? The conference is a retreat, with a heavy emphasis on prayer. A place where people can seek the face of God, and hear Godly preaching from broken vessels, accompanied with broken worshippers.

    Yes… I am inviting you to come.

    Sister Teeky

  11. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Teeky, thank you so much for those kind words. They mean a great deal. You absolutely have my permission to share what I’ve written here. Also, please let me know details of the conference you are planning. It sounds like it will be a true “sanctuary” which more and more is needed as things worsen in the visible “church.” God bless you!

  12. Teeky says:

    Dearest Ingrid,

    If you have an email address, I could mail you the details of the conference in much greater detail (it would be a little lengthy to put on here I think?). Thank you so much for your kind generosity and permitting me to share your material with others! I appreciate it so much.

    These scriptures were on my heart:

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
    Joh 12:25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
    Joh 12:26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
    Joh 12:27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.
    Joh 12:28 Father, glorify thy name.

    Yes Lord, glorify Thy name in Ingrid’s life…glorify Thy name.

    I love you very much, and look forward to your reply.

    Teeky

  13. Beverley says:

    Teeky, I am quite interested in the conference you are planning. Would you be able to forward the details to my email? It may provide inspiration for a retreat in my area. (bevanne@mymts.net)
    Ingrid,
    Over the years as I listened to you on Crosstalk and read your many articles I marvelled at your quick wit, insight, and empathy for any given situation. Your love for the Scriptures was always very prevalent and I kept ‘thanking the Lord’ for such a sister-in-Christ. Your loyalty to your family was and continues to inspire many. Your HOPE blog glorifies the Lord. Teeky’s invitation to you confirms that many would love to befriend you face-to-face.
    Praying for you and your loved ones.

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