A young Ukrainian violinist,
standing alone in a basement in Kyiv,
plays a haunting arrangement
of an old Ukrainian folk song,
filming himself between bomb explosions.
His music soars beyond scarred concrete walls,
I cannot see his feet,
but I know he is standing on Holy Ground.
In the harsh light of a hospital room,
a man nods in vigil
beside a silent figure and a beeping machine.
He would pray,
but words come hard at 2 am.
He clasps a frail hand,
gently avoiding the IV line
that snakes from her arm to the bag of chemicals
carefully tucked beneath the mechanical bed,
are firmly planted on Holy Ground.
On a suburban playground
where the wounds cut deep
and scars formed here can last a lifetime,
a third-grade girl confronts two classmates
bullying her friend.
Like an avenging angel,
she races toward the swing set—
70 pounds of righteous justice,
launched into overdrive.
Through scuffed sneakers
and lace ankle socks,
she stakes a claim to Holy Ground.
Experts remind us that the phrase,
“Standing on Holy Ground”
occurs only three times in scripture:
once here with Moses at the burning bush,
later referenced in Acts,
and again when Joshua
brought the Israelites across the Jordan River to Jericho.
This invites us to consider
whether “standing on Holy Ground”
might be something extraordinary;
something exclusive and singular and rare.
And perhaps that is true
when it comes to a direct encounter with God.
Hearing God’s voice
emerge from a burning bush
or echo from Mount Sinai;
being knocked off a horse on the road to Damascus;
witnessing the Transfiguration--
these visible manifestations of God,
are overwhelming and extraordinary events
that most of us will never experience,
no matter how strong our faith.
But if “Holy Ground”
signifies those places where God’s presence
those places marked
by God’s fingerprints
and claimed by God’s promise--
then how can we move an inch in any direction
without crashing into them?
Holy Ground surrounds us.
It lies under our feet and over our heads.
It is the air that we breathe
and the water we drink
and the soil we shake off our shoes.
Perhaps Holy Ground feels rare
because we are so seldom aware of the
miracles of God around us.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote:
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
A bombed-out basement in Kyiv,
a lonely hospital room,
an asphalt playground at recess--
to see “earth crammed with heaven”,
and claim these spaces as holy,
we must strip away our pretense
and take off our shoes.
We must dismantle the barriers we place
and the sacred—
our grasping for power,
Recognizing Holy Ground means we look deeper
and walk slower,
perhaps taking a different route home.
As Moses said,
“I will now turn aside and see this great sight”
Recognizing Holy Ground
is not for the faint of heart.
It will change us,
just as it changed Moses,
just as it changed Abraham,
as it changed Mary
and Mother Teresa
and Stanley Rother
and Maximillian Kolbe.
It will put us in dangerous places
and demand we respond.
is not a safe and comfortable resting place,
it is rocket fuel,
launching us into new ventures,
new ways to risk and love and serve.
Maybe it is true that Holy Ground moments
we are all out picking blackberries
when we should be fastening our seatbelts
and unlacing our shoes.