Sacred Ground

KaylaMuellerNorm Smith was not a cuddly, warm-fuzzy kind of guy.  He had a long braided pony tail down to his waist, wore a bandana, smoked a few packs of cigarettes a day, and drank a bottle of Red Eye every day starting at the crack of dawn.  He cussed like a sailor and customized Harleys in his machine shop across the street from our house.  He was one of my grandfather’s best friends.

My grandfather played the role of father to me and when I would find myself in the principal’s office at school (which was a weekly ritual at the least), more fear-inducing that being yelled at by a muscle-bound principal was the threat that he would tell my grandpa about my latest bone-headed feat.  Grandpa died when I was 12 and as tough as Norm was it was all the more surprising when he came up to me at the visitation with tears in his eyes and said, “Boy, you’re going to have to grow up now.”  I wanted to kick him for such a seemingly insensitive comment while my grandpa lay in a box behind me, but today it makes more sense.

When Elijah was preparing to be taken away in 2 Kings 2, Elisha keeps getting reminded that his master will be taken from him that day.  Elisha told the people that he already knew that and told them to be quiet.  Numerous times Elijah told Elisha that he could wait behind while Elijah went on ahead of him to do the work that needed to be done.  In his wisdom, Elisha refused to stay behind and said that he would stay with his master.  Finally, apparently satisfied by his mentee’s dedication, Elijah asked Elisha what he could leave with him.  Elisha requested a double portion of his master’s spirit.  In essence, he said, “I want to be twice the man that you have been.”  Elijah told him that if he was watching when Elijah was taken up into the clouds, he would receive what he asked for – but ONLY if he paid attention.  When the moment came, Elisha was there and watched his master being taken away by chariots of fire into a whirlwind.  All of the people kept reminding Elisha that he would have a lot of responsibility when his teacher left this earth, much like Norm reminded me that I would have to shoulder a lot of responsibility because nobody was left to do things for me or to save me from my childish ways.

Elijah didn’t completely disappear from the scene, however.  Elisha lived out his legacy, for one, and Elijah and Moses appeared to Peter, James, and John on the mountain top at the Transfiguration.  Peter wanted to build shelters to keep the three great prophets around and to commemorate the moment.  Once again, though, Peter proved that he was completely missing the point.  Jesus warned them not to tell anyone of this event until he was resurrected and this, I think, sheds light on what would happen next.  Jesus seems to keep them quiet until they are able to comprehend what had just happened, but such a thing was not possible until after the resurrection.

When Jesus and the disciples came back down from the mountain, a man was waiting to ask Jesus to heal his son because the disciples who had been left behind were incapable of doing it.  Jesus got upset with them and basically asked how long he would have to stay around and wipe their butts for them.  They apparently didn’t understand that Jesus had already taught them how to do for themselves.  When Jesus died the disciples finally realized that they had work to do.  They realized they had been standing on holy ground every time Jesus taught them by example what they were supposed to do for one another.  This is one way to experience resurrection – when the legacy of the one who has gone is lived on by those left behind.

Another way to experience resurrection is to make the decision to live.  Being alive is one thing, but making the intentional decision to actually live is wholly another.  Just ask Nikki.  So many times before I go to into a hospital room to see a patient, I will look at their chart and see what their diagnosis is.  39 year old female.  Breast cancer metastasized to other parts of the body.  Not good.  This poor gal will probably be a wreck – fearful, sad, despondent.  Not Nikki though.  When I entered her room, I found a lively, smiling, vivacious woman who was anything but despondent.  She explained that, after the diagnosis, she made the decision to get the most out of life.  She decided to do comedy of all things.  She wrote a funny article to Latina Magazine and soon thereafter was getting booked solid with stand-up comedy shows.  She started her own radio show on Intellectual Radio and hasn’t looked back since.  She understands her own mortality, but refuses to dwell on it.  I was supposed to cheer her up, but she cracked me up.  I knew in that room that I was standing on holy ground.

ISIS in all of its tyranny has claimed the lives of many good people.  Kayla Mueller is merely one of a number of folks whose lives were snuffed out way too soon.  10 days before her 25th birthday in 2013 Kayla was captured by ISIS while coming out of a Spanish hospital in Syria that was staffed by Doctors Without Borders.  Two weeks ago she was killed by her captors.  Anybody would have been scared and felt hopeless in her situation, but Kayla refused to let her situation make her life any less meaningful.  Some letters that she wrote home to her parents reflect the amazing heart that this young lady had:

‘I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.’ ‘I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you.’”
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“If you could say I have ‘suffered’ at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through.”

“I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes.  I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God’s will we will be together soon.”…

I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else…. + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall.

I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another…”

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We do not need to go to the mountaintop to have a sacred experience.  We do not have to seek out the big bright-light-in-the-sky moments to feel the presence of God.  We see resurrection every time somebody makes the conscious decision to live life to the best of their ability and teaches others how to live in the process.  When we are in the presence of such a person, when we make this decision ourselves, we are standing on holy ground.  Thank you Nikki, thank you Kayla, thank you Jesus for showing us the way.

One Response to “Sacred Ground”

  1. John Lovestrand Says:


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