Fruit That Lasts

“A man watches his pear-tree day after day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process, and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently wait, and the ripe pear at length falls into his lap!” ~ Abraham Lincoln

IMG_0950

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”  That may sound like an exaggeration, but as I have watched the fruit on our pear tree ripen I’m beginning to believe his point.  Soon after the snow melted the tree stood alone at the crest of the hill wrapped in spring green leaves, beautifully dressed in her frilly white blossoms.  By mid-summer the branches dripped with the promise of buttery fruit as blossoms took the shape of tiny pears.  As August ended the limbs of the tree bowed with the weight of the fruit and now I watch like a sentry waiting for that day when the fruit is perfect for picking.
But each day brings new threats that the fruit will not last until that ten minutes of perfection.  It seems that others also have been watching and waiting in hopes of a taste from the tree.  Little by little I am noticing the fruit I have guarded is disappearing and I have spotted the thieves!  One evening as I passed by the window overlooking the fruit tree I noticed a beautiful young deer nibbling some of the fruit that had dropped on the ground.  I watched as she munched away clearing the ground around the tree.  And it was ok when she nibbled a fruit off of a lower branch.  But when she suddenly danced up onto her hind legs to reach a little of the higher fruit I felt conflicted.  The tree was loaded and I was glad to share with nature, but my less-than-generous side felt alarmed and afraid that she might go tell her friends of her find and there would be nothing left for me to enjoy.

IMG_0919IMG_0885

And tell her friends, she did.  The next evening she came back with a friend.  The following evening there were three of them.  Others have been coming, too.  Several evenings a doe and her wobbly fawn dined at our tree.  Other times a red snarly-looking fox cleaned the grounds.  And when none of the others are there I have noticed the rabbits nibbling on left-overs as well as large black crows taking their portion from the top.  You would think that with all these visitors having their meals for the past few weeks that there would be little left for human consumption.  But, ironically, as I let go of the fear of “not-enough-for-me”, the pears in the middle branches are beginning to ripen to a perfection that I would not have enjoyed if I had hoarded the fruit from the animals.  The joy of sharing is making that portion all the more sweet.
I love that pear tree in every season, but it is most enjoyable at harvest time when I can share the abundance with the animal community that surrounds GraceStone Sanctuary.  I have learned much about nature as I have observed these evening dining rituals.  And my belief in fearless generosity is expanding as I am learning to graciously share with my human community as well.  My prayer is that I, too, may bear fruit that will last.

IMG_0952

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. – John 15:16

If you would like to know more about GraceStone Sanctuary, please visit our website at gracestonesanctuary.com
lp.aspx - Version 7

 

 

 

 


A Timeless Mission

“The beauty of collaboration between older and younger generations is that we combine strength with wisdom—a surefire way to accomplish more for the glory of God.” ― Brett Harris

IMG_0912

My father was a minister for more than sixty years. Sharing Christ in Community was his mission. After he passed away I was given the briefcase he carried to church every Sunday. I consider this one of my “holy belongings” that has found a new home in the Peace Chapel here at GraceStone Sanctuary. In it are all kinds of papers.  There are prayer lists and ministry plans, worship services and lesson outlines.  I found articles about the Kingdom of God and old church bulletins from the 1950s.  But what I am most drawn to are the hand written notes…his words recorded on paper….his thoughts for a sermon or class or for congregational needs. As I read the words on the pages he wrote, I realize how the message of mission is beyond the limits of time.
Image

My Father’s Writings

To me his old leather briefcase is a sanctuary, a holy place, containing a sacred story. What is contained within it reveals a deep and somewhat hidden part of my father.  I knew him as “Dad” and all those things, good and bad, that go with that relationship.  But when occasionally I pull out one of the random papers from this sacred satchel I feel quite in step with the minister side of my father.  It holds a history of one man who had a desire to understand God’s message and mission, who had a desire to share the love of Christ in his community.  My father wrote about it decades ago. I write about it now. Jesus’ disciples wrote about it thousands of years ago. The Good News is eternal. The call to mission…timeless.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.  Psalm 145:13

If you would like to know more about GraceStone Sanctuary, please visit our website at gracestonesanctuary.com

lp.aspx - Version 7

 


Dog Days of Summer

 “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.” ~John Lubbock, “Recreation,” The Use of Life, 1894
IMG_0881These are strange and breathless days, the dog days…” ― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting
It’s August.  Hot, humid, sticky August.  It’s the “dog-days-of-summer” and everyone is just trying to stay cool.  Lemonade and iced tea flow through the kitchen like a river over shiny, cold stones of ice.  Even the occasional rain shower is cause for celebration.  The heat of summer begs us to pause in the shade and be still.
As I sat on the porch this morning and looked out at the flowers struggling in the heat I was reminded of a scripture in the book of James.  It says, “The sun rises with its blazing heat and burns the plant; its flower falls off, and its beauty is destroyed.” (James 1:11)    Sounds fairly hopeless, doesn’t it?  But a little later James talks about tests and temptations and gives a message of hope… “Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a temptation, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.”  (James 1:12)
As I sat there in the morning summer heat pondering James’ words I heard a swift strong breeze rustling the leaves of the trees as it approached.  It’s coolness blew through me and went on its way.  That is when I found my own hope for the day.  That “pneuma” or Holy Spirit is what keeps me refreshed when the going gets tough and I find myself in some sort of heated challenge or trial.  When I am open to the wind of the Holy Spirit I am refreshed and renewed.
IMG_0666
So just for today, grab your tall glass of lemonade and a friend.  Find some shady spot to strengthen one another in faithful living.  Remind someone today of God’s promise of love and the Holy Spirit’s refreshing gift.

If you would like to know more about GraceStone Sanctuary, please visit our website at gracestonesanctuary.com

lp.aspx - Version 7


Healing Hankies

Acts 19:11-12 (MSG)  God did powerful things through Paul, things quite out of the ordinary. The word got around and people started taking pieces of clothing—handkerchiefs and scarves and the like—that had touched Paul’s skin and then touching the sick with them. The touch did it—they were healed and whole.

Handkerchiefs – a symbol of God’s healing power.  A simple square of cloth, plain or fancy, can be used for many things.  Paul’s handkerchiefs and scarves were used as sacred tools for healing.  Throughout history hankies have been used, not only for wiping sweaty brows or runny noses, but as banners, bandages, and tokens of love.
When I was a child all proper girls would carry a handkerchief where ever they went.  Tucked into a pocket or waistband, it was an ever-ready tool for living.  I used my hanky for many things besides wiping a runny nose.  Sometimes it was the perfect fabric to fashion a doll dress and then the next day it became a fluttering flag on my bicycle handlebars or a tiny basket for gathering clover flowers to make garlands.
I still have quiet a few of those old handkerchiefs.  And my mother gave me some of hers.  As I unpacked them from our moving boxes last summer I marveled at these small works of art, each one different than the rest.  Some were surrounded by tiny stitched hems and others with fancy crochet or tatted edging.  Though some carried stains from years gone by, they were all beautiful and unique and held memories for me of times long ago. I knew then that I would find a special place for them in our new home, GraceStone Sanctuary.

IMG_0790

And I did! I hung my “gallery” of handkerchief art as a valance above the windows on our enclosed back porch.  I used all that I had and then gathered some from flea markets and on-line stores.  I love watching them flutter above the open windows and they bring back those wonderful memories of my mother and me carefully folding and tucking a hanky in a pocket or purse for the day.
Those things alone are healing and uplifting and make me smile.  But when a guest comes and sits with me in the hanky gallery I inevitably watch a sort of healing take place.  Eyes begin to sparkle as stories of their handkerchiefs unfold.  I often hear about a time of sorrow when someone offered a hankie to wipe a tear or stop a bleeding wound.  I hear stories about creative uses of these simple pieces of cloth…as a strainer for drinking water or a simply fashioned hat for relief from the sun.  And I am reminded again of Paul’s humble cloths by the images of water and relief.
I also think of a quote by music composer Robert Schumann.  He knew the beauty of the healing hankie when he said, “Nature best teaches how to pray, and how to reverence all the gifts the Almighty has given us. She is like a vast outspread handkerchief, embroidered with God’s eternal name, on which we may dry alike our tears of sorrow and of joy; she turns weeping into ecstasy, and fills our hearts with speechless, quiet reverence and resignation.”

IMG_0802

If you would like to know more about GraceStone Sanctuary, please visit our website at gracestonesanctuary.com

lp.aspx - Version 7


Let There Be Light

” Genesis 1:3-5  God said, Let there be light; he willed it, and at once there was light…And in the new creation, the first thing that is wrought in the soul is light…The day and the night are the Lord’s; let us use both to his honour, by working for him every day, and resting in him every night, meditating in his law both day and night.” – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

IMG_2936

From all the chaos of creation the first thing to emerge was light.  This says to me that light is an important thing when talking about healing and nourishing the soul.  So when my husband and I were creating GraceStone Sanctuary one of our chief aims was to fill it with as much light as possible.  We removed dusty tired drapes and cleaned the windows until they sparkled.  We polished dull wooden walls and floors until they shone fresh once again.  We exchanged dark and moody paneling with drywall painted antique ivory.  And we replaced smoky light fixtures from the 80’s era with vintage glass and crystal ones.
Finally the day came when the electrician had finished wiring and hanging each light.  That day is one we will remember – always.  As we went from room to room flipping on the switches, the house resounded with the kind of silence that is emitted during moments of deep reverence.  Each light seemed more beautiful than the next.  The house came alive with light.  The antique chandeliers and old pendant lights that had been discarded by previous owners had found a new place to shine with a new mission of welcoming strangers, friends, and family to receive regeneration of soul.
SONY DSC

photo courtesy of Tim Hernandez

How often have I needed to do the same thing to my internal spiritual home? Shaking off what no longer fills my soul with light and polishing the glass and wood of my spirit allows me to grow into a new spiritual brilliance. And I find that filling myself with song and scripture and other good words does the very same thing as all those refurbished lights hanging from the ceiling.  It brings out a more light and bright “me” to be welcoming and caring for all those I meet in my life journey.
Our prayer is that our home, GraceStone Sanctuary, will be a “light on a hill that cannot be hidden.”  (from Matthew 5:14)  May it be filled with the light of the Grace and Love of Christ.

IMG_2231

“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

If you would like to know more about GraceStone Sanctuary, please visit our website at gracestonesanctuary.com

lp.aspx - Version 7


Silly Fences

“Some of us may just, in one-on-one conversations with our family, with our friends, over the back fence with our neighbors, talk about the reality of our lives and realize that we’re not alone.” –Patricia Ireland
IMG_0697SILLY FENCES
If we could only see the irrationality of a fence
We would soon come to know what complete nonsense
It is to think that we could hold close inside
Behind a gate those things we wish to hide.
Or that sharp pickets fail to defend
Against relationships we do not wish to mend.
So break the lock, open wide the gate
Reach out, reach in for those that wait.
– by Trish Hernandez (2014)

 

Fences…everyone builds them.  Some put up a fence to keep things out and some to keep things in.  We needed one to keep our small dogs safe and to give them a little space of their own.  It was one of the first things completed after we moved in to GraceStone Sanctuary.
Putting up a fence isn’t easy work…all that measuring and post hole digging; then setting the posts, attaching rails, and finally nailing up the pickets one by one.  It is tedious hard labor.  And no matter what the purpose of the fence, someone always comes along and leaves the gate open so that very thing that you were trying to keep in or out gets through anyway.
It makes me think about our own internal fences we create as an attempt at protecting ourselves.  We go to great lengths to put up borders between us – huge privacy fences surround our hearts so no one can see our wounds.  Long clanging metal chain link provides a strong barrier against further hurts and vulnerability.  Even sharp pickets painted bright white send a pointed message of “keep away”.  Out here in the Shenandoah Valley long rail fences run alongside highways.  They mark territory.  “This is mine”, they say.  “Keep Out!”
Fences do often serve a purpose.  But what if we took a look at our inside barricades that keep us apart from one another?  What would happen if we once-and-for-all opened the latch on the gate of our heart and gave – fully, vulnerably, without fear?  I believe that it could be a beginning of honest conversations about the real things we have in common.  We may just discover we are not alone.

IMG_0025

If you would like to know more about GraceStone Sanctuary, please visit our website at gracestonesanctuary.com

lp.aspx - Version 7

 


Adora-tion

“As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.”  2 Chronicles 7:1 (ESV)

One Day in December

THIS:  IMG_2842BECAME THIS:

burning stove

THEN THIS:

IMG_0663

What’s so special about that?

THIS:

IMG_0659

*note: This is the logo for the Adora line of stoves by GE

The renovations were complete, and though we had lots of unopened boxes and unplaced furniture, our first Thanksgiving in our home was an opportunity to fill the house with guests, fellowship, laughter, and soul-nourishing food.  As friends and family arrived the house came alive, filled with warm conversation and holiday fragrances wafting from the kitchen.  The old stove in the kitchen was doing its work grinding out turkey and casseroles and hot bread for our guests.  I felt confident that day in our decision to wait to replace the kitchen appliances until after getting more settled.  Little didn’t know that a week after cooking that turkey dinner we would have our family and friends replaced by the local firemen.
Transforming fire.  I know it well.  God knows what needs to be burned away in my thoughts, attitudes, and habits to transform me into a disciple that can fully worship Him and live a sacrificial life of mission and ministry.  And from living those experiences, fully connected to God, sharing Christ’s Grace and Hope comes a deep felt Gratitude that brings me into a spirit of Adoration and Praise for the One Who Created Me.  Through the fire of the Holy Spirit, the old is brought to new brilliance and the mundane becomes uniquely beautiful.
“What does that have to do with my old kitchen stove on fire?”, you might be asking.  Here is the rest of the story.  One evening, after Thanksgiving was just a memory, I had prepared dinner in that oven – a roast with potatoes and carrots and onions.  Max and I sat down at the kitchen table to eat.  After saying our prayer of blessing and gratitude,  I  noticed a red glow in the bottom of the oven.  I went to the stove to turn off the oven, thinking I had forgotten to do so.  I reached for the knob but saw it was already off.  I turned it on and off again, but the gas burners in the oven continued to burn hotter and brighter and smoke began swirling around inside.  Not knowing what else to do, I reached for my phone and connected with the fire department.  Max did some quick thinking and pulled the stove away from the wall to reach the gas valve behind the stove.  He turned it and the flames went out.  Just a few minutes later the firemen arrived.  They checked out the stove and the wall, cabinets, and floor that had surrounded it and announced all was well.  After some investigating they told us the fire had started because of a broken gasket inside the stove that it was probably was the result of it sitting for a long time without being used.  Gaskets don’t like that, and like our leaky pipes, the lack of being put to use had allowed them to break down, creating a leak, resulting in the fire.  As they took the stove outside we offered our gratitude to them and to God.  We were thankful that only the stove was lost that night.
So our plan to put off replacing the old appliances began.  We searched online and in stores for a new stove.  We finally found one that had all of what was on our list of “must haves”, ordered it and scheduled delivery.  The day it was installed was like an early Christmas!  New shiny metal gleamed and the spotless stove beckoned me to cook.  As I got out pots and pans and sat them on the burners I realized something very special about my new stove.  The brand we bought was the Adora from GE.  The word was splashed across the control panel, an ever present reminder to cook and bake and create all the meals here at GraceStone Sanctuary with a spirit of adora-tion and praise to God.  So, if you ever have a chance to come and share in table fellowship with us, you will know that the food we have prepared for you contains a story of transformation, reverence, and praise.

Image

If you would like to know more about GraceStone Sanctuary, please visit our website at gracestonesanctuary.com

lp.aspx - Version 7


Heavenly Water

“It is one thing for the living water to descend from Christ into the heart, and another thing how–when it has descended–it moves the heart to worship. All power of worship in the soul, is the result of the waters flowing into it, and their flowing back again to God.” –G.V. Wigram

IMG_2506

This is how the renovations on our 1920’s home began: Broken pipes in the upstairs bathroom creating brown rusty spots on the pristine ceiling of the Community Room.  The plumber became our #1 guy and the pipes our first priority.  After a quick short term repair and contracting a plan, the work began to replace miles of disintegrating pipes throughout the three stories of our home.  Faucets and sinks and toilets were removed and sent for recycling as well as the old rusted water heater.  As the old pipes were taken out our home became a deconstructed  dry and waterless mess.  And although there are several wells on the property, none of them could supply water for drinking, cleaning, or bathing.  It was during those hot, dry summer days I contemplated more than ever the sad fact that 783 million people around the world do not have access to clean water (United Nations Facts and Figures).  I came to a deeper understanding of how it feels to be without accessible water.  Also, knowing that my situation was only temporary created a deeper generosity for those who face a waterless world everyday.  It also reminded me of John’s story of the woman who encountered Jesus at the local well.  She thirsted, too.  And Jesus offered her water “welling up to eternal life.”  That summer, during those plumbing weeks the 4th Chapter of John became a daily study for me and I learned a lot about spiritual watering and being filled by the eternal brand of water that Christ offers.

“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14(NIV)

Finally the new pipes and fixtures arrived.  Our plumber replaced the maze of tubes and fixtures and tested each connection for flow and leaks.  Each time, the sound of running water was a flow of music throughout the house.  IMG_0007And then one day I arrived at the house and our plumber was beaming with a smile from ear to ear.  “It’s here!”  he called out to me as I was getting out of my car.  “It’s all installed.  You have hot water!”   Hot water.  A simple thing I have taken for granted most of my life.  Hot water.  Blessed words coming from my plumber.  We hurried down to the belly of the basement and he showed me the masterpiece of his work, the tah-dah of his creation…the water heating, filtration, pumping system.  He demonstrated the flow of the water through the filtration system and explained the mystery of how the new pump brought the water in from the well and up to the highest levels of the house.  And then…he revealed the new tankless water heater.  But as he explained about heat settings and fuses I could only stare at the logo on the unusual silver box in front of me.
IMG_0001
*note: “Eternal Hybrid” is a brand name for the water heater and the logo used by Grand Hall company for this product.
The word “eternal” was embossed into the silver metal along with a logo that appeared to stylize a sideways water drop into a dove-like emblem.  Eternal water. Holy Spirit.  What could have been more appropriate for the sanctuary we are creating for our guests?
Arthur Baer, a 19th Century journalist described a plumber as “an adventurer who traces leaky pipes to their source.”  I would surely describe our plumber as that, but would also add that he has provided a way for me to connect to The Source.  Our washer and dryer are just across the room from that water system so doing the laundry has now become a moment of meditation and reflection.  Each time I am in that holy space I remember my dry summer studies and feel quite connected to that woman at the well with Jesus. And then my spiritual thirst is quenched.
IMG_0008

*note: “Eternal Hybrid” is a brand name for the water heater and the logo used by Grand Hall company for this product.

If you would like to know more about GraceStone Sanctuary visit our web site at: gracestonesanctuary.com


Just Playing Around

IMG_0602

Does Spiritual Formation sound like hard work to you?  Is it something on your daily to-do chore checklist?  Does the idea of playing seem incompatible with building strong discipleship?
As my husband, Max and I have worked to settle into our new home we have discovered just how important it is to take time to play.  In fact, it is so important that we have set aside a special cabinet we refer to as “Our Toy-Box.”  As we unpacked our moving boxes we learned to check deep down in the corners before sending them off to be recycled.  Many stray paper clips, pennies, and game pieces were saved from being lost forever.  And marbles.  Lots of marbles were found in the depths of those boxes.  I can’t say that we had lost our marbles because I don’t remember having them in the first place.  I am not sure where they came from, but now the beautiful sparkly glass orbs have a special place in Our Toy-Box.

IMG_0597

Max recently shared with me that when he was a small boy he would go to his special spot, his sanctuary in the back yard. It was quiet, cool, and shady behind the place his father had stored some old wood and construction materials.  I asked him what he would do while he was there.  He told me he practiced playing marbles.  He wanted to be ready to play when the guys all got together for a game.  I smiled at the thought of him practicing playing to be ready to play.  Isn’t that also one of the reasons to have daily spiritual formation practices…to strengthen our discipleship to be prepared to participate in our world?  We practice to be ready.
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
The Toy-Box is always open and available to anyone wanting to play.  It’s filled with an assortment of books and games and toys.  But what I love most about it is to watch as the bowl of marbles is removed from the shelf and our guest digs their hand into the bowl searching for just one to take out and hold up to the sunlight.  It is a kind of a ritual.  I see it as a sacred practice.  A play-prayer of seeking out inner beauty that can only be seen through the light of God.  Each of those marbles has gone through quite a creation process of heating and forming to become that Objet D’art that Merriam-Webster defines as “a small object that is valued because it is beautiful or interesting”.
Playing, then, can be good for the soul and community, so how will you practice play today?

marbles

If you would like to see the process of marble-making this is a beautiful vintage video by the Discovery Channel:
Marbles-How Its Made by Discovery Channel You Tube Video

The Seeds of a Sanctuary

sanctuary%20(2)When I was a little girl my momma planned a perfect surprise birthday party for my sixth birthday.  It was the first party… and the last one… she ever gave me.  That was not because she was mean nor uncaring, but because she realized all too late just how terrifying the whole ordeal was for me.  I was a shy child.  This may be difficult for some of you who know me now to believe.  But I was. It didn’t matter what size or age they were. All people seemed to me to be the monsters, ogres, and evil queens come to life from fairy tales.  People came with expectations that I didn’t understand and rules that I didn’t want to obey.  People.  I didn’t like them and I believed they didn’t like me.  So that day, at party time, when I opened the door to a room full of ghouls shouting at me I turned and ran.  I don’t remember exactly how far or how long I ran, but I do remember after all that running finding myself tucked safely away in the extra quilts at the back of my closet, far away from the sights and the sounds of my surprise birthday party guests.  Long before that day I had created this little place of sanctuary in my closet.  I loved the colors and feel of the soft quilts and blankets momma had stored in there. Under them, I had tucked a paper from Sunday School. Printed on it was a picture of Jesus carrying a little lamb.  He was standing on the words I LOVE YOU.  Behind The Shepherd were dark mountains, but he stood there loving that little lamb, surrounded by rays of light.  That picture made me feel safe.  Other things had become part of this safe place, too. I had gathered a small rock that fit in the palm of my hand that felt strong and cool and also a handmade paper fan that I used to stir the air of the musty dark space.  And on that day with the party celebration raging outside my window I felt safe with Jesus in my closet.  I did not know then that I had created a sacred space, only that I felt loved and safe and I could breathe.  I also did not know that this little space would be a seed of what my husband and I have now joined hands with God to create as our home, as GraceStone Sanctuary.

IMG_0585

As an adult I have a very different attitude toward people.  Simply put, when I am able to see beyond the wounds and scars of someone’s life  and see the beauty God perfectly created in that person, I love through Christ’s eyes.  His view has no fear, no running away, no hiding.  Instead His eyes beckon us to come into the safe surrounding of His love and care.  My hope for GraceStone Sanctuary is that it will be a sacred and safe place for all people to come in, to be loved, to be renewed, and to celebrate.  That birthday long ago taught me something important.  That is – sometimes we all feel burdened, weary, and afraid.  And sometimes we just need to find a safe soft place to rest with The Shepherd, holding firm to The Rock, being renewed and revived by the cool breeze of the Holy Spirit.  And then we can once again go out into the world carrying with us a spirit of joy and celebration.
GraceStone Sanctuary c.1930...a long history of celebration!
GraceStone Sanctuary c.1930…a long history of celebration!
This is when it was known as Greystone Lodge.

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 371 other followers