“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
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.
If you would like to know more about GraceStone Sanctuary, please visit our website at gracestonesanctuary.com
“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
What’s so special about that?
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.
If you would like to know more about GraceStone Sanctuary, please visit our website at gracestonesanctuary.com
“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
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. And 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.
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.
If you would like to know more about GraceStone Sanctuary visit our web site at: gracestonesanctuary.com
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.
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?
If you would like to see the process of marble-making this is a beautiful vintage video by the Discovery Channel:
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.
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.
June 17, 2015
“If we could make our house a home, and then make it a sanctuary, I think we could truly find paradise on Earth.” –Alexandra Stoddard
It’s been a little more than a year since I have published a blog page on 365Missional Practice. Does that mean I took a vacation? Did I find some other way to express my creativity? My last post contained these words of Fernando Sabino:
“In the end, everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not yet the end.”
How many time have I said these words to myself throughout the past year? Did I give up on the importance of Missional Practice in my daily life? Where have I been? Here’s the answer: I have been on a journey, experimenting with living a deeper expression of daily mission in my life. I, along with the enormous help from my dedicated husband, Max, have been creating GraceStone Sanctuary, a home that promotes the mission of haven, hospitality, and refuge in today’s world. In the past year we unexpectedly sold our home and moved across the state of Virginia into our new very old house. We have deconstructed and reconstructed our new home with a mind toward creating a sacred space that promotes a community of love, joy, hope, and peace. So far, it has been a faith journey of discovery and creativity. Each day grants glorious options, as well as obstacles to be surmounted, as we continue to discern what God has in store for this remarkable place in which we find ourselves.
It has been clear that this is not an endeavor for self-satisfaction, but a joyful journey meant to be shared. I want to share with you the continuing story of our expression of God’s love and care for the soul through GraceStone Sanctuary, a place we have only begun to create! My prayer is that as I share the story of our home and community, you may also be encouraged and inspired to join us in our pursuit of God’s peace.
“I trust that God has made the plans to finish the good work He has already begun. He will continue constructing the life He knows I’m meant to lead as I travel freely in my journey of “becoming.” ―Michelle Aguilar
Visit us at our website at GraceStone Sanctuary (gracestonesanctuary.com) or see our latest posts on FaceBook
Day 155 June 4 2014
In the end, everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not yet the end. -Fernando Sabino
Just want to say how nice it feels to be finally home! The last few months have been quite a roller coaster of ups and downs. I have been grateful for the many uplifting and encouraging songs but one, in particular, got us through lots of doubtful, confusing, and even painful days. “Hang On Little Tomato” is a song about just listening to His advice and hanging in there when “change is hard and not so nice”.
Now we have our very own little tomatoes growing on the back porch and their yellow blossoms continue to give me hope and encouragement as we move forward to create a sanctuary of peace in our new home!
“Hang On Little Tomato” -by Pink Martini
The sun has left and forgotten me
It’s dark, I cannot see
Why does this rain pour down
I’m gonna drown
In a sea
Of deep confusion
Somebody told me, I don’t know who
Whenever you are sad and blue
And you’re feelin’ all alone and left behind
Just take a look inside and you will find
You gotta hold on, hold on through the night
Hang on, things will be all right
Even when it’s dark
And not a bit of sparkling
Sing-song sunshine from above
Spreading rays of sunny love
Just hang on, hang on to the vine
Stay on, soon you’ll be divine
If you start to cry, look up to the sky
Something’s coming up ahead
To turn your tears to dew instead
And so I hold on to his advice
When change is hard and not so nice
You listen to your heart the whole night through
Your sunny someday will come one day soon to you
(“Pink Martini is a musical group that was formed in 1994 by pianist Thomas Lauderdale in Portland, Oregon. Describing itself as a “little orchestra,” its music crosses genres such as classical, latin, jazz and classic pop.” Wikipedia My life was culturally and joyfully enriched seeing them in concert at Wolftrap last summer with my good friend. Thanks for introducing me, Kathryn!)
Day 154 June 3 2014
“Home isn’t a place, its a feeling” ―Cecelia Ahern
“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ― Maya Angelou
“What is home? My favorite definition is “a safe place,” a place where one is free from attack, a place where one experiences secure relationships and affirmation. It’s a place where people share and understand each other. Its relationships are nurturing. The people in it do not need to be perfect; instead, they need to be honest, loving, supportive, recognizing a common humanity that makes all of us vulnerable.”―Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart
Then they all went home. -John 7:53b The Message
Day 153 June 2, 2014
The groves were God’s first temples. -William Cullen Bryant
“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life…When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult… Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. …Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. …Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” ― Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte
A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible. -Welsh Proverb
The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky. -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Wisdom of the Sands