God called to Moses out of the burning bush, “Moses, Moses!” and Moses said, “Here I am.” Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground…I AM WHO I AM. Exodus 3
The first time I removed my shoes to enter a holy place, was at the Sisters of Charity in Kolkata, India. My friends and I were surprised by the large accumulation of chappals, ethnic sandals, and all manner of foot-ware at the door. After years of living in Asia, my husband and I continue to remove our shoes as a sign of reverence before entering the “holy ground” of churches, mosques, and temples and also the sanctity of someone’s home. The practice is a way to recognize one’s personal uncleanness in the presence of the Holy. As well as being a sign of respect and intimacy, it allows a few moments of personal preparation in the untying and leaving at the door.
How do you get ready to pray? If it is not removing your shoes, what humble and simple acts move you from busy, noisy life into a fuller awareness of God’s presence? In the case of Moses, the God of his fathers had to get his attention with the burning bush. Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight.” As he noticed the wonder of the Divine, God called his name, “Moses, Moses!” and Moses’ simple answer was “Here I am!” Turning aside may be taking a moment to breathe, sitting quietly with empty open hands saying, “I am here.” Repeating these simple words, “I am here,” becomes a mantra, a connection, an intention opening our spirit to the One we seek.
What makes a place holy ground? When Moses asked God what his name was in order to tell the people, God replied, “I AM.” And he promised, “I will be with you.” The place where we turn aside to notice God, the Great I AM, and respond to him, “I am here,” becomes holy ground, a place where we are fully present to God as God is fully present to us. The wonder of the great outdoors is a natural place to be mindful of the Creator, taking moments for wonder and gratitude. A practice called “Sacred Place,” makes a spot holy by the way we use it to be present to the Divine. It could be a patio chair, a table with candles, a morning sunrise, a kneeler at a chapel. The idea is that this place reminds you to turn your attention and intentions to prayer.
I have often found myself standing in a desert, unsure about the future, not knowing where to find community and purpose, wanting to hear my name called. Whatever the reason for wilderness of soul and mind, I must return again and again to stand on holy ground, the Sacred Place, where the fire does not go out, removing shoes of doubt, rebellion, and self in vulnerability and wonder with the words: “I AM HERE.”
Where do you find holy ground in ordinary places? I would love for you to respond here so everyone can enjoy. Here’s one from Barbara Brown Taylor’s, An Altar in the World:
Hanging laundry is setting up a prayer flag, for God’s sake.
Others may find the sacred in the daily sunrise and sunset: From the rising of the sun to the place of its setting, people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. Isaiah 45:6 Amen.