skip to Main Content

Healing power of sanctuary

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including yourself. (Thank you, Anne Lamott.)

And this did my heart good. Chanequa Walker-Barnes, (professor of practical theology and pastoral care at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia), has an unusual approach to Lent. Instead of giving up chocolate or fasting, “Sometimes I’ll say I’m giving up self-neglect,” she said. For Lent two year ago, she began blogging through “40 Days of Self-Care.” And her book, ‘Sacred Self-care.’ (Thank you, Molly Worthen, ‘What we give up makes us who we are,’ NYT)

Sacred self-care. Yes. But it’s not easy to remember the power of pause, is it?
In her book The Sabbath World, Judith Shulevitz quotes a lovely teaching by 18th century master the Vilna Gaon. “Consider the mystery surrounding the first Shabbat. Why did God stop, anyway? God stopped to show us that what we create becomes meaningful only once we stop creating it and start remembering why it was worth creating in the first place.” Shulevitz closes by saying, “We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember.”

And yet. We can’t just unplug, can we? Don’t we need a plan of action, a strategy for self-improvement, and targets to measure success? What’s the point in nourishing our soul if we don’t have boxes to check? What do we win?
Writing about unplugging and refueling makes me wonder… What is it I am asking for? I do know this: If I “wake up to this life,” I may not like what I see. My confession: hurry and distraction have always served a purpose.
I write about sanctuary, but frankly, there is something oddly satisfying in the rush. And yes, even (oddly), the stress.
Maybe I’m afraid, that if I stop, if I slow down and unplug, where will I find my meaning? What if someone told me (and this is indeed the scandal of Grace) that everything I am ever going to “amount to”, I already am right now?
We’ve missed the point if we don’t see that unplugging and refueling is a laboratory for forgiveness, which begins with self-forgiveness. An invitation to befriend your scattered and wounded self.
Grace, it turns out, is WD40 for the soul.
So. This week, let us feed our soul, shall we?
Joseph Campbell says that we must “have a room, or a certain hour (or so) a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be… if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

Mahatma Gandhi spilled a lot of light in our world. And we sometimes forget the grounding and healing power of sanctuary in “light spilling.”
You see, Ghandi spent a good deal of time at his spinning wheel. Yes, he enjoyed spinning, but it was more than that. He talked about his wheel as the place—the space—where he could remove himself from the pressing demands and issues of the day. A place where he could be centered, calm, rejuvenated. It was his sanctuary. His sacred space.
Where is your sanctuary?
Sanctuary. Yes, it does matter (makes a difference) where we tether (anchor) our identity. You see, if “more is never enough”, then hurry and distraction consume us, and our identity is disconnected. In two ways…
One, when I’m not grounded my identity (value) is about keeping score. In other words, I’m unable to see or embrace the gift of enough.
(William Sloane Coffin’s reminder, “God’s love doesn’t seek value, it creates value.  It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value.  Our value is a gift, not an achievement.”)
And two, I don’t (or can’t) see the “we”. Focused only on “my” identity (or what is missing), I see life as a “me issue” so it’s no wonder that my depletion is infectious and contagious.
I forget that we are on this journey together.
I forget that we are walking one another home.
I forget that we are, in fact, Jesus in Skin with one another.
When we honor sanctuary space, we say yes to sufficiency. We say yes to the gift of enough. In other words, our value is not predicated on what we achieve in the first space (of productivity). I am whole, filled with grace and sufficiency. And from that wholeness spills tenderness, tenacity and compassion to the world around me.

I was grateful to see this “breath practice” from Cole Arthur Riley. It is perfect for Lent.
Inhale: I will not be silenced by fear.
Exhale: A quivering voice is still sacred.
Inhale: God, my soul trembles.
Exhale: Steady me in your arms.
Inhale: I will meet this fear with rest.
Exhale: God, steady me in your arms.
(Cole Arthur Riley, Black Liturgies: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Staying Human)

In my talk last week in Anaheim, I read “The Letter” from my friends, Frog and Toad. Two of my favorite theologians. And this week, I see this headline in USA Today: “Frog and Toad are everywhere. How 50-year-old children’s characters became Gen Z icons,” by Anna Kaufman. “What makes a great love story? Maybe it’s chemistry, or devotion, or music swelling at the right moment. Or maybe it’s writing a letter just so the other person has a reason to check the mail. At least that’s the case in the classic Frog and Toad tale ‘The Letter.’”
And I say, Amen.

Quote for our week…
“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty. To reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.” Etty Hillesum


Today’s Photo Credit: “Good morning. I have really enjoyed reading your daily devotional, and I have shared it with many of my friends. I love to take pictures of my husband and I are photographers. We were both widowed and met each other through mutual friends and a French cooking class quite a story… Anyway, I save a lot of your information to share with my Widow support group in Houston Texas. I’m also a travel advisor and a life coach. I really enjoy all of your writing! Keep up your good work! This is a photo that I took in Costa Rica at Dave and Dave’s nature Park a Father and Son owned sanctuary for Birds.” Natalie Lancaster McCaskill… Thank you Natalie… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to 

Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365)

NEW Audio SM… Enjoy — The light of grace
Join us every Wednesday… Audio Sabbath Moment

Letters that do my heart good…
–Terry, I attended your session at Congress in Anaheim on Saturday. I sat next to dear friends and we were all in tears as we turned to each other and said “you are loved “, it was such a powerful moment. Thank you for your heartfelt talk and for giving me a moment to tell my friends I love them and to share tears of love and moments of faith. I love you Terry! (Picture me shouting from my seat in the audience) May God bless you and give you peace. Eileen
–I am not sure how I came upon your ministry; it has become a welcome gift of wisdom. I am Dominican Sister and I find your messages on Facebook and your emails enriching and so on target for prayer and contemplation. I just wanted to thank you. I do share your posts, etc with many others. Gratefully, Marilyn Jean OP
–Dear Terry, I just wanted to say I had the pleasure of attending your talk at RE Congress this weekend. It was so inspirational! Thank you for reminding me that I don’t need a degree to let my light shine. Your best friend, Frog (Juana)
–Hello Terry, I listened to your “Congress” presentation and just laughed out loud. It did my soul good just to hear my own laughter amid heavy times. Thank you! This picture was taken off my back porch of the setting moon over the lake on a recent cloudy morning. Many Blessings to you. Lisa
–Terry, I enjoyed this so much! Hit the spot. I’m a gardener and love to hear that others feel the same as I do when I’m in the garden. It’s the littlest things that are so special. This is my favorite time of the year, watching the green poking through the dead sticks and brush. Thanks for sharing your beautiful work! Rose 


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
Mary Oliver 

Dear God,
We pray for another way of being: another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain of our existence we have attempted to build
a highway and in so doing have lost our footpath.
God lead us to our footpath: lead us there where in simplicity we may move
at the speed of natural creatures and feel the earths’ love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts.
And lead us there where side-by-side we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.
God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights of the pilgrim;
another way of knowing: another way of being.  Amen.
Michael Leunig 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top