In a recent conversation with a friend in the meadow at Luther Heights, I was reminded of how in our lives we are blessed with Holy Spaces or places set apart that help us be our truest selves, places that connect us to nature or a treasured community, or beloved memories. Sacred Places and Holy Ground which connect us to a grace-filled God in powerful ways; places which are altars for our God.
In Exodus 3:1-5 we read,
“Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’”
In these verses, God instructed Moses not to come any closer, not because He didn’t want Moses to be close to Him, but because He wanted Moses to recognize He is holy. Wherever God is, His holiness resides—whether it is a church, a Bible study group, a home, or even the far side of the wilderness. Wherever God is, that place is made sacred or holy. It’s not made holy because we are there, but because God is there. The scene of Moses taking his shoes off acknowledges the importance to appreciate the presence of Christ in our ordinary and extraordinary moments and places of life.
I reflect upon places in my own life where my heart and mind connect in a place where I recognize God’s still small voice being with me. I think of the treasured moments spent in Southern Illinois growing up with my Grandma in her little farm kitchen. I would wake earlier than others in the house, somewhat on purpose, to spend time alone with my Grandma. Watching her preparing for the Thanksgiving Day feast or laughing at silly stories she told of my cousins or asking her what is was like raising seven children. When my family would arrive to her farm dirt road after eight hours of driving, we all took an extra deep breath. We knew the time ahead would be full of love, laughter, great food and treasured memories. I was in a Sacred Place.
I reflect upon the one week each summer of my youth when my family rented a cabin in Northern Wisconsin and enjoyed time away on a beautiful lake water skiing, horseback riding, playing many games, and just being together. I know those moments helped each of us enjoy life a little more, see each other in more loving ways, and take time to appreciate being part of a family. I have only seen my Dad cry a few times in my life, but the summer we said goodbye to that Holy Space, I saw my Dad cry saying “good-bye” to the lake, for these times spent here were treasured and will always hold memories of when we were at our best. There were moments for us five here, shared, that is hard to put into words, but where the presence of God was felt.
I think of my many summers spent at a camp in central Wisconsin. As some staff members would return for another summer and during the first day back together, several of us would find time to go to the athletic field and run barefoot … for we were entering Holy Ground we would say. We did not know exactly what the summer ahead would have in store for us or how we would be challenged to grow, but we knew God would lead us on a journey of joy, some moments of struggle, invite us into a loving Christian community, and we would leave changed because of God’s presence in this place. What a blessing to have such a Holy Space in my formative young adult years.
For me, sometimes my car becomes a Sacred Place. When I need to travel, I am intentional to spend the first half hour or more in prayer. I pray mostly for others, but I always leave time at the end to just be in God’s presence.
And now I come back to Luther Heights, a Holy Space for many, including myself. I remember being struck during a summer staff interview for the 2019 season when a returning staff member, who had been a camper for years stated, “When I am at camp, I feel at home. I feel like I am where God wants me to be to grow, to share the joy, love, and grace of Jesus and in a community that helps me be my best, most authentic self.” I think about the dedicated volunteer who at a dinner church devotion experience shared, “There is just something about the Luther Heights State of Mind.” All at the table understood his words, his acknowledgement of God’s presence here in this space that fills a soul in profound ways.
What are your Holy Spaces? Where are the places you have connected in profound and deep ways to our loving God, shared treasured memories, and been part of an uplifting community? Can you find some pictures of those places today? Can you take a walk down memory lane and pray in thanksgiving for these Holy Spaces?
God of creation, God of love, God of Holy Spaces, thank you for these places of connection in my life. Thank you for your presence revealed in new ways because of these various locations I have been blessed to experience. Help me to connect and share these places with others. Help me to find new Holy Spaces to deepen my connection with You. Help me to create my current space to be a Holy Space of growth, joy, and love. Amen