inner world,  nature,  prayer,  spirituality

the flushing sanctuary

Recently I saw this painting in the bathroom of my hair salon. It was too good to not take a picture.

IMG_0666If you can’t read the text it says: “Today the degradation of the inner life is symbolized by the fact that the only place sacred from interruption is the toilet.”

I thought the caption was so true. So many of us work hard to care for our homes, friends or kids, our jobs but our inner worlds are in shambles. Even when we catch up on sleep we still feel exhausted because we’re “soul tired.” Have you ever felt this way? Where do you find solitude in the midst of a busy, noisy life? How do you find your inner world restored?


This week I’m going on a 24-hour retreat of silence. I’ve been making a habit of this for the past 5 or so years. Trying to take a day every month for silence, journaling, prayer and listening to God has been one of the most significantly formative things in my life and something my soul has started to crave like my body now craves running (who would have thought!?) The thing I like about taking retreats of silence (ROS’) is that it is so counter cultural to everything we’re told to do. Things like:

  • Stay ahead of the game so you don’t fall behind.
  • You will be worth less if you cease working.
  • Talking is better than listening. Noise is better than silence.
  • If you don’t work/cook/clean/exercise/keep pushing harder everyday the world will stop spinning.

Taking space to be silent reminds me that none of these things are true. I don’t have worth because of what I can produce, the suave words I speak, the relationships I have, the work I do, or how I look. I have worth because I’m created in God’s image as a dearly loved child. When I stop, I’m reminded of this truth and all the things I tend to put my worth in (take your pick from the list above) all get flushed away in the presence of Jesus. None of those things in and of themselves are bad, but when I (we) derive our worth from things that change/disappoint/hurt/fail they become like the pieces of poo stuck to the white porcelain of a toilet bowl- you can’t avoid looking at it, no amount of flushing you do your self will make it go away. It takes some scrubbing and cleansing to get rid of that nasty bit of crud that won’t seem to disappear.

Wow, did I really just compare my soul to a toilet bowl? It must be late. Or I must be so out of whack that I should be sent away on a silent retreat so I won’t write nonsense like this. Anyways- after a crazy month I’m looking forward to silence, a nap and praying as I walk the labyrinth at The Hermitage the retreat center I visit. I especially love that there are 62 beautiful acres of glorious trees, fields, ponds and rolling hills to enjoy on this property.


Where will the Holy Spirit lead you? God only knows.

I took this picture the last time I was there in July. I’m eager to go there this week as I’ve yet to take a retreat in the fall at The Hermitage. So here is my challenge to you this week: spend some time in silence. no iPod. no tv. no cell phone. Set a timer and take 5 minutes to practice silence and pray. Make your drive to work a sanctuary of silence, your walk to class, those waning moments before you go to bed at night. Wherever or whenever it is- make space. Often a breath prayer is helpful- one where you can recite words in one breath, like; “Let there be peace within, and let it begin with me” or for something from scripture, “Be still, and know that I am God”. When I first started to practice silence, I needed to work up to it, so don’t be discouraged if all you can think about is your grocery list or your plans for the weekend. Simply ask God to help you return to silence and be mindful of his presence. May God fill you with his love as you enter his presence!



  • Stephanie

    Hey Jess,

    What a beautiful thing to be silent for a day each month! Thanks for the reminder to us about the importance of stopping, being silent, and just being in the Lord’s presence and listening to Him. It seems so hard to do that, and I so appreciate your encouragement about some of us needing to work up to it. I’ve gotten to the point where whenever I do make time to be quiet with Him, that’s exactly what happens: my list of things to do just starts running through my mind with a new urgency! May your retreat be restful, rejuvenating, and filled with HIM!

  • Helen

    So, I read your post last night about sanctuary and sabbath, and then I went to read the chapter about Sabbath in Bobby Gross’ “Living the Christian Year.” The passage I looked at last night was from Leviticus 25, where God commands a Sabbath year, and a Year of Jubilee for the Israelites. God continually commands the Israelites during these years not to harvest anything – not grain, not grapes, not anything. Leave the land alone. Then in verse 20, God anticipates their question: How will we eat and survive all year? God goes on to promise such an abundance of provision for the people that they’ll still be eating from the abundance 2 years after they go back to working the land.

    That’s what made me think of you and your post. How can we be so “unproductive” and “unAmerican” by taking ROS’ and Sabbath times? How can we “do nothing?” Because we have a God who promises abundance. Because we follow a God who has promised that if we will just stop, focus on him, and worship He will take care of the rest and provide an abundance when we step back into our daily lives.

    I hope you had a wonderful ROS and that you are seeing God’s abundance as you return home.

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