Category Archives: quotes

Wood and Flame

“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.”― Henry Ford

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Something is taking over the mountain!  Wood piles!  Piles of wood are popping up everywhere this time of year.  They line driveways and paths.  They are piled high against houses and sheds.  I see them growing under trees and in meadows.  Everywhere!  Like flowers blooming in Spring the landscape is blossoming into wood piles.  It is a harbinger of warm hearths and winter fires burning the chill away on the Winter days ahead.

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Wood and fire – a cozy relationship unless you are the one being burned.  As the fire turns the log to ash we witness the final contribution of a life that began as just a small seed.  The tree-that-once-was is diminished to black dust.  The tree that weathered and changed with the seasons has sacrificed itself to the fire. Jack Gilbert, an American Poet of the last century says this about the fire and wood relationship: “We think the fire eats the wood.  We are wrong.  The wood reaches out to the flame.  The fire licks at what the wood harbors, and the wood gives itself away.”  Somewhere in what Jack says I hear a message of sacrificial giving.  It is as though in its final burning, the wood has achieved its sacred mission…to offer what it is made of in order for the fire to bring light and warmth in the midst of a dark and cold world.

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Beyond this mountain that I call home there is a dark, chilly world waiting for my contribution – and yours.  Am I  willing to share the talents and treasures that lie within me, collected from seasons of growth and change?  Am I willing to give myself away to that Holy Spirit Transforming Fire of God?  And what warmth and light could this sacrifice of mine bring to another?

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Proverbs 26:20 says, “For lack of wood the fire goes out…”  In the midst of all these piles of wood waiting to be consumed in the cold of winter, may I be mindful of the sacred transforming generosity that resides within each of us.  May I, too, reach out to that Holy Flame to offer the gifts God has harbored in me.
If you would like to more about GraceStone Sanctuary, please visit our web site at gracestonesanctuary.com

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She Leapt and Walked

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Today I walked.  I mean I really walked!  Outside…for a long time as the sun was just beginning to embrace a new day.
I walked because of an invitation from someone this past week.  She said to me “Come and walk with us” and then told me about the group she walks with.  She told me the time and place to meet.  Something about her invitation reminded me of Paul’s invitation to the lame man in the 14th Chapter of Acts: “…Stand upright on your feet and walk.”  But as soon as my friend issued her invitation my inside gargoyles got busy with their discouraging voices.  “It’s too early!  It’s too far! You’re too old!  You’re too busy! What if it’s too hot, cold, rainy, snowy, storming, freezing,” and on and on and on went the chorus inside my head.  But my voice (and my faith) responded, “OK, I will see you there.”  I thought again about the lame man’s response to Paul’s command.  The scripture tells us “he leapt and walked.”  I knew my response was very different.   No, I wasn’t leaping at this opportunity to walk with a friend and to meet some people in my community.  Last night, as I set my alarm to go off at “way-too-early” o’clock I reminded myself that I could always hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.  It would not matter if I chose not to go.
But something amazing happened!  I woke up twenty minutes before the alarm was set to go off.  I mean I REALLY woke up!  Wide awake…and ready to go.  I think my gargoyles must have still been sleeping because there was no inner discouragement or negativity.  I was dressed and out the door with coffee in hand just as a sliver of sun peeked over the mountain.  I paused to take in the cool air and dawning light, offering a praise prayer for this moment of joy before continuing on to the meeting place.
This morning, only one other walker came…someone I did not know.  After some brief introductions we set out on our journey together.  She led the way as our conversation flowed and our feet strolled along paths strewn with autumn leaves.  We talked and walked.  We talked about our families and homes.  We talked about our community.  And we talked about our faith and love of God’s Word.  I learned from my new friend a new way of making scripture alive by telling the sacred stories as if they were my very own.  And I was reminded that we all share similar struggles and joys along this journey of life.  All that in a single morning walk in autumn!

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As we returned to our cars and shared good-byes I thought of a quote by Karen Kimsey-House in her book Co-Active Leadership:  Five Ways to Lead.  “When someone is walking beside us, we have more courage to walk into the unknown and to risk the dark and messy places in our journey.”  As these words passed through my mind I silently offered a prayer of gratitude for my new friend and sister in Christ AND for the lame man’s example of leaping and walking by faith at Paul’s invitation.
This evening as the sun has traveled throughout its course and is sending out it’s last rays of the day I am reflecting on that sweet, simple invitation to walk. I am glad to have been invited. I am also glad for Christ’s invitation to come and walk with Him.  My prayer is that in the coming days I will be wide awake and ready for opportunities to pass along the invitation to “walk in love, as Christ has loved us.”  (Ephesians 5:2).  Whether that invitation is to share a morning moment or a lifetime of discipleship may it bring the renewal of spirit of a fresh, cool autumn dawn.
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Photo: Timothy Hernandez

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” -John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

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

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THE Master Artist of Autumn

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn.” -Emily Dickinson

IMG_1051“Fall colors are funny. They’re so bright and intense and beautiful. It’s like nature is trying to fill you up with color, to saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter turns everything muted and dreary.”  ― Siobhan Vivian

God is THE Master Artist.  I am reminded of this every year when Autumn begins to roll out her magical colors.  Deep burgundy reds against golden yellows bordered with fiery orange hues are a feast for the eyes of the soul.  Just when the heat of Summer has browned the grass and left beautiful blooms withered and spent God dips his brush into the warm hues and spreads vibrant color across nature’s canvas.  As Siobhan Vivian, author and editor writes, “It’s like nature is trying to fill you up with color, to saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter turns everything muted and dreary.”  Even my knowing that this burst of beauty is a herald to the snows and cold of Winter does not make the Master’s painting anything less than stunning.

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These are the days I revel in, when the nights lengthen and the days chill.  Nature redressing herself in fiery shades  is only one piece of what nurtures my soul this time of year.  Autumn is a combined feast for the senses…the smell of the smoke from fireplaces that hangs over a cold morning and the aroma of my pumpkin spiced coffee also warms my spirit.  This is the time of year when the spices come out of the cupboard and dance in a curry soup or snickerdoodle cookies.  These are the days that my heart sings the Psalm “This is the day that the Lord has made, and I will be glad in it.” And in that spirit, today I completed an annual ritual of bringing the glories of God inside GraceStone Sanctuary.  Placing a spray of leaves or mums around autumnal candles was a celebration of joy as my favorite Autumn mood music, like Shaker Loops by John Adams and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Autumn filled the house with sounds like leaves trembling in the wind.

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Ecclesiastes teaches that everything has a time and a season.  This season brings a refreshing hope and joy to store up for the drearier Winter days ahead and a reminder that “God makes all things beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) My prayer is that when this season of celebration is past and my windows frame snow covered trees and gray clouds I will remember this day of vibrant color and know that THE Master Artist is always at work creating beauty in all things.  May my senses be open to the blessings that surround me.

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Would you like a little autumn music?  Here are my favorites:

Shaker Loops Live performance of the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School Of The Arts Chamber Orchestra directed by Matthew Cmiel.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons-Autumn Live performance by Detroit Symphony Orchestra

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


Whittled Into Holiness

“…they climbed their ladders to whittle and prune the trees into holiness”
― Catherynne M. Valente, In the Cities of Coin and Spice
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The Old Unpruned Apple Tree

Were you praying for me this morning?  Yep!  I knew you were because I had one of God’s angels show up at my door this morning…even before my coffee was done brewing.  Well, maybe not an actual angel, but he did carry a Godly message when he introduced himself as the guy from the Tree Care Service.  I looked at his card, then back at him.  Did he know that this morning I had been reading John 15:2?  “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Actually I have been thinking a lot about pruning lately.  Looking over our property I noticed several dead trees and branches.  The pear tree that produced so much for us was looking thick and bushy.  And I wondered about the old apple tree at the edge of the lawn.  It had produced nothing except one misshapen tiny green apple.  The branches were twisted and void of many leaves.  It looked hopelessly lost sitting in an untended weed patch.  I had it marked as “ready for the firewood pile”, that is until the Tree Care Guy showed up today looking for work.

After checking credentials and asking key questions we took a walk discussing the trees in question.  Stopping at the old apple tree I told him my plans to add it to the firewood pile.  He asked me why I didn’t want to keep it and I told him it looked pretty hopeless to me…fruitless dead wood struggling to just stay standing.  And then he said (and this is the God message part), “It is not hopeless.  You just can’t see what’s living and green inside.”  He told me that by pruning it back and fertilizing it a bit we should have a blooming apple tree in a couple of years.

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I heard God’s message loud and clear.  God can see beyond my weary dead branches, past what feels dead and hopeless to me.  He knows there is life hidden inside that can still produce fruit.  AND He knows when and how to prune my particular heart and mind and life.

I read that pruning is an essential gardening skill and that when it is done correctly, it will enable new and healthy growth as well as an abundance of crop producing flowers.  As I look out my window now at my properly pruned apple tree I try to envision buds and blossoms, fruit and pie.  That’s hard to do today.  My Tree Care Guy has whittled and pruned back the dead and dying to the green and living wood, leaving not much more than a bare trunk with hardly a branch for the birds.  But because of his knowledge and skill he told me confidently it would bear good and abundant fruit again.

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So, I thank God for my unexpected visitor this morning and the reminder that God is the Great Gardener who sees the potential within us and knows what needs to be pruned away in order to be fruit-bearers for His Kingdom.  I am ready to be “whittled into holiness”.

I knew in my heart that I wanted to know the garden intimately, to know all the flowers in each season, to be there from spring through autumn, digging, pruning, planting, feeding, rejoicing.”  -Elizabeth Murray

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

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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

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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.
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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

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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

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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.
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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.

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“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

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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

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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.
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*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.
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*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


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.

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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.

 


365 Days of Creating Missional Sanctuary™

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

IMG_3065It’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.

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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 

 


The Feeling of Home

Day 154 June 3 2014
NEW BEGINNINGS

“Home isn’t a place, its a feeling” ―Cecelia Ahern

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The Entry Hallway

“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