Sanctuary... is a word which here means a small, safe place in a troubling world. Like an oasis in a vast desert or an island in a stormy sea. -Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Normally when we're traveling with Chip it isn't just a drive between one town and another. There are stops along the way--- places that Chip needs to visit, places that Bean and I need to entertain ourselves. We pass time in some odd places: malls and shopping centers, city squares and parks. These strange little visits in strange out-of-the-way locations represent some of the most vivid memories I've filed in my mind. A cemetery in Oregon: Bean scaled gravestones from the mid-1800's while I picked a small collection of wild flowers. The worst mall I've ever set foot in: a ghostly building with no food to offer except for some hairy guy supposedly selling pretzels and sodas. His choice for vending location happened to be a stained and sagging table pushed up against nothing less than A HOLE PUNCHED IN THE WALL (not kidding). I don't believe there was much electricity inside the hole punched in the wall. Just the guy, his sad table, and the promise of food (we didn't eat there).
During the last trip, Bean and I hung out on the green lawn of the town's veteran's association while Chip met with a client. Set in the lawn was a small patio of brick, a series of flagpoles surrounding the space. I sat on a bench and let the early October sun soak into my skin. Bean ran around the circle, following the lines in the brick, singing the ABC song until she was hoarse. After a while she began gathering rocks from the bases of the flagpoles. Pebbles pushed into small piles at my feet.
I wondered over the warm weather, this brief respite from one stop and the next: our chance to breathe in quiet comfort. Trees rustling in the distance.
I've had this passing thought before, in times when the seconds slow and I can feel myself connected to a moment in such a way that I feel like I'm resting inside the memory. When there is nowhere to be, nothing that I need to be doing, and I am able to enjoy the sound of the leaves rustling high overhead. This little bit of a day, a brief pause in a harried schedule. It was a refuge, a sanctuary.
This weekend had me thinking about that place in Idaho. I've been pondering over my personal sanctuaries because in the early morning hours on Saturday, our church building burnt to the ground. The authorities are saying it was arson, but I haven't given the cause of it much thought. Instead, I'm thinking about the place of refuge that was--- the tears I shed inside that building, the small moments of grace that I experienced sheltered by those walls. Alice was blessed as a baby there. We gathered under that roof and sang songs of Heavenly Father's love for us, gave thanks for the miracle that Alice is in our lives.
Yesterday we met at a different building. Hundreds of behind-the-scenes decisions and movements to give us a place to congregate, a place to seek refuge.
And we found it. A different building. A different city, sure. But there was sanctuary there. We found it in the companionship of familiar faces, helping hands and so many offers of support. And we found sanctuary in our reason for meeting: in giving thanks and worshiping Jesus Christ.