A Hiding Place



 “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.”

–Psalm 119:114

From my hiding place in the park on this beautiful summer day, I find myself pondering the invitation to share it—to share my hiding place, a place that was always ruminating in my heart. At least three places over the years come to mind. I’m sure there are many more, but these three form somewhat a spiritual strand or lifeline for me.

My first hiding place was my great grandmother’s henhouse in Lexington Kentucky, my birth home.  Granny, the affectionate name we kids called her by, raised chickens in the henhouse, which was hidden by bushes in the large yard that surrounded it.  It was in the henhouse that I hid amongst the egg-laying hens that nested there. Here, I admired the baby chicks that kept warm in a large box on the floor by the cast iron stove.  I loved to hide in this henhouse, thrilled by nature’s processes, the warmth of the space, and the escape from the abundance of chores that Granny demanded.  Of course, the work eventually had to be done.  Perhaps Granny, not really knowing, and her henhouse introduced me to the Benedictine rhythm of prayer, work, study, and leisure. By the day’s end, all these disciplines were in play, which makes me laugh out loud in this moment!

Years much later, after receiving and accepting a call to ministry, as a licensed preacher, not yet ordained, I had a deep desire to become a clinical chaplain.  That meant a series of units of clinical pastoral education, which required months of training, supervision, self-examination, peer evaluation, patient visits, didactic reports, etc. I ended up doing an extended unit, a full-time summer unit, nine months full-time, which led to being hired as staff chaplain.  It was a visit to Durward’s Glen just north of Madison Wisconsin that our unit supervisor took us for a day getaway, perhaps to give the student group an opportunity to “center down.”  Perhaps what my spiritual guide, Heather, would call a “moment of retreat.”  In the chapel at Durward’s Glen, with its glossy wooden pews and lectern, stained glass windows, and a hint of sunshine piercing through, I felt in this hiding place, the Presence.  I would describe it as mystical and divine, and in this instance, a hiding place and moment shared among my peers.

The third in the strand, of hiding place recollections is from my first pastoral assignment at the Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church. After the stress and challenges of pastoring, preaching, counseling, and grieving the deaths of both of my parents, I took eight weeks of sabbatical.  The final week of that experience placed me at The Abbey of Our Lady Gethsemani in Central Kentucky, not all that far from the henhouse of my youth. Here settling into the rhythm of monastic life for a week at the monastery, I found a hiding place that was difficult to leave–difficult to go back to the noise and labor of life in the city. It was like the story of the transfiguration; it was good to be there on the mountain! However, I knew I had to go back down to the valley. (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9) There was family and ministry to attend to in the valley.  That being said, the desire to maintain and stay in the experience I had there in the rhythms of prayer, work, study, and leisure, and to share the experience in smaller and periodic ways, always remains and calls to me.  And I follow.

I guess what I am noticing is that I have discovered or been shown the different ways and different places to experience a hiding place in the presence of God. I have moved beyond the desire, at least for now, to open an actual retreat center named The Hiding Place, a place for me and others to rest in God. Today, after some ongoing reflection, I’ve become content with my quiet office space as one of my hiding places–a sacred space away from home, away from church–and also with the many hiding places emerging in my awareness, including a hiding place within my heart, in the sanctuary of my soul.

The line in John Michael Talbot’s song sums it up, lyrics evoked from Psalm 32, you are my hiding place, O Lord.  You gaze into the secrets of my soul.

You are my hiding place, O Lord
You saved me in my distress
You are my hiding place
You save me from distress
You surround my soul
With cries of deliverance.

— Psalm 32:7


 It was not long after Joe felt the longing to more deeply explore the hiding place that he and I began deepening our spiritual friendship and meeting for guidance. He was, as he describes, envisioning a brick-and-mortar retreat space where busy people from our city could stay and experience, engage, and explore the sweetness of God and the contemplative life that Joe and I find to be an essential piece of our work. I too, in my own obedience to God’s call in my life, had identified a desire to create such a space or even multiple spaces in our city where people could drop in for what I call, A Moment of Retreat. I have both a business and a book by this title, which are in in response to a calling I have to offer encouragement, invitation, and accompaniment to individuals who are longing for personal retreat or time alone with God—those who are looking for a hiding place. The writings in the book offer seven chapters—seven places to hide, accompanied by scripture, written reflection, song, earth, prayer, and journaling questions.

As Joe shared his stories, the sacred threads, that have called him historically into hiding places, my heart was stirred to look back—as far as I could—to those sweet callings into the mystical presence of God—callings into hiding. Funny thing is–it wasn’t a henhouse but a barn full of dairy cows and not my Granny, but my Great Uncle Lee, that provided one of the first tastes of the deep mystery and presence, a sweetness, that I will never fully understand but always long to. That sweetness was warm, earthy, fragrant (understatement), alive…and magical. As a young child, on the special days that I would get to visit and stay on the farm, I would rise at dawn to go out to the barn with Uncle Lee to watch the milking, feed the calves, crawl up into the hay mow to watch the barn cats, and help with chores. Each cow was named, there was soft country music playing, and we brought fresh milk in from the milk house for breakfast. Isn’t it amazing that a black boy from Kentucky and a white girl from Wisconsin can bump into the mystical presence and unity of God in barns so far from one another in space and time?

Years later, I attended Valparaiso University for my undergraduate work, a college that required that I select from a laundry-list of courses for a “freshman seminar”. Although I was somewhat blindly following in my father’s footsteps in studying accounting and business, I chose a course called Spiritual and Psychological Perspectives on Personal Growth. Seriously, this makes me giggle, because at age 18, this choice was in response to a longing for a hiding place and a contemplative life that I had no awareness of beyond the spark of courage I mustered to register for it. As part of this course, I was asked to read and reflect on Thomas Merton (perhaps not long before Joe found Merton’s monastery at Gethsemani), and the professor arranged to have us spend a day at a monastery. Honestly, this writing has invited me to go through the archives of papers in boxes in my home to investigate. I remember the quiet; I remember the monks; I remember the small simple room; I remember the vast and beautiful grounds; and I remember doing dishes. At Holy Wisdom Monastery (where Joe and I are both oblates), we call them sacred dishes, and they are part of the Benedictine rhythms of ora et labora, prayer, study, work, and holy leisure that Joe mentions.

And on and on, the rhythms of prayer, study, work, and holy leisure find us in moments, in spaces, in growing awareness of the hiding place in God in all things…to this moment of retreat, this moment of being hidden and held not in a specific place of brick-and-mortar but in the sweet, sweet, sugar of the Spirit.


As we read this aloud to each other, we ask ourselves where do we notice the sugar—where is that sweet, sweet, spirit of God stirring our stories together and showing us a unified and shared notion of a Hiding Place?

First on the list for both of us is nature and all God’s creatures. We bet you have a story too of bumping into the sweet presence of God as a child in a barn or in a forest. Sweet, sweet creation itself, from Kentucky to Wisconsin and beyond, is so often a hiding place and always available to slow us down and be our refuge.

Another sweetener, without a doubt, is Scripture and the sacred writing of others. Do you hear the Psalms and Gospels in the story? Did you hear Saint Benedict in the rhythms of ora et labora and Thomas Merton’s footsteps at Gethsemani? And did you hear Howard Thurman and his call to “center down” –to invite a sabbatical or just a moment of retreat–to step out of the traffic of our daily agendas and the needs of so many crying out for help. For just a moment, to enter the Presence and hide in our center with the sweetness of God before we head back down the mountain or as we say and laugh…back out into the traffic.

As we continue to listen to the call to write together, we both have noticed how the writing process itself seems to be a sweetener, a hiding place, and guide for our journeys. Joe’s history of preaching and journaling and mine with devotional, poetry, and song writing leave us both with stashes of work that this relationship is bringing out of hiding into the light…revealing the way that words live and heal and find a path that we cannot imagine when we write them down the first time. Makes us wonder where this blog will find itself one day.

We are curious to hear how this reflection resonates with you. Show us. Tell us. Where is your hen house? Where is your monastery? Where is your hiding place? It will be sweet.

19 thoughts on “A Hiding Place”

  1. As a little child my hiding place was swinging on the swing from the big oak tree. My feet could touch the tree leaves the higher I went. The feeling of the air as I went up and down gave me a sense of freedom, peace and quiet.

  2. I so enjoyed and was enriched by your reflections. Thank you.
    A hiding place in my youth was a grape arbor my father had built against the side of our house. He built a ttrellis on the other side connecting to lattice work overhead which was affixed to the side of the house. vines grew up the trellis and overhead until it stopped at the side of the house. My dad built a bench next to the trellis side. I spent many hours reading on that bench under the cool shade of the grape arbor!

    Another hiding place is a bench our family built next to the prairie at Holy Wisdom Monastery in memory of my husband. Every time I go to the monastery, I walk to that bench, sit and reflect on the times Ralph and I spent at the monastery together.
    Now, on the swing on my patio, I sit at dusk, reflecting and gazing at the beauty around me, waiting for the cricket concert to begin.
    Looking forward to your next podcast. Blessings❤️🙏🏽
    Mary Annn Erdtmann

  3. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and meaningful reflections. My hiding place is on my prayer rug in the still of the night.

  4. Solvitur Ambulando… I find my hiding place on a trail, a city sidewalk walking my dog, a pilgrimage route in Spain/Portugal. When I walk, I allow the rhythm of walking and the kenetic motion of “forward” to permeate my being. My thoughts flow easier, sometimes I get underneath my thoughts to a place of real prayer. When I welcome someone in to my hiding place (go for a walk with someone else), I experience better conversation, deeper connection and time and space for deeper listening.

  5. Wow, this is amazing, two people from different cultures, with different upbringing and experiences , share the joy of learning and gaining a deeper relationship with God .

    As an African American man, this piece of work give me hope for the future. To see people of God come together to strengthen their relationship with the creator, and the community. This inspires me !!!

  6. It was at Duward’s Glen in the peace of the library in front of a big fireplace, that I picked up a book by Catherine Dourhety. A Catholic, activist and she was divorced!!! If she could divorce, so could I. And I got off the mat and onto the journey.
    How can it be that we go to our inner hiding place of Presence and never be alone. Always together.
    Thank you dear ones!

  7. Thank you! A hide-away place I remember with gratitude: in the early 1980s I was a resident physician at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. 2000 or more people were admitted in this huge, underserved, space. Most had social and economic crisis as well as serious medical conditions. In the chaos and overwhelming whirlwind of it all, I one day found the small, dark chapel, way up in the top floors and so far away from most of the activity it was usually empty. What a place for my soul to rest, to connect, to be away from humans and simply with The Holy One.

    1. Like “The Holy One.” As the overhead entrance to one of the cloistered gardens at the Abbey of Gethsemani reads, “God Alone.”

  8. My hiding place is my room just after waking. I move from the room to a sweet space of consciousness. My honey-sweetened tea helps me make that transition. Don is downstairs with his stretches, tai-chi, and sports news–in his quiet hiding space.

    I loved reading about both your hiding places!

  9. I was so surprised today to find this group of writers and contemplatives! I think we may be talking about finding places; finding the divine. The first place for me was gazing at the Mississippi River roll by as I lay comfortably on a large boulder. Alone and a quarter mile from my parents farm house I knew life was eternal with a certainity that exploded in my heart. Currently I go to Holy Wisdom Monastery every Saturday. Since January I have grown to love this one day in my week where I follow the rhythm of the Monastery with prayer, prairie work, study. Just recently I feel strongly that I need to invite others to join me.

  10. My local hiding place is in a kayak on the water at a nearby Indiana state park called Potato Creek. Each cove is a chapel. It is a place of silence and cacophony all at the same time. Birds can be really loud! As I read your beautiful posts, my spirit stirs within me. I wonder if I am running away to my hiding place or leaning in. In three short weeks, I will set down parish ministry for a six-week spiritual renewal leave – a large hiding place. My heart leaps in anticipation. I give thanks to both of you this day and appreciate the Spirit’s work in your post.

      1. I hide among people where I shouldn’t fit in, usually the Mexican and Honduran immigrants that I work with as a midwife. In my own demographic, the competition and isolation feels suffocating. In this “back to school” time of year, the chatter among other parents in the North Shore area seems mostly centered around whose kids are more successful or athletic, what classes they’re taking or what score they got on a test. I find it so refreshing to spend time with my godson Jared’s family: Honduran immigrants who passed delicious food over the fence to their Puerto Rican neighbors during his first birthday party on the south side of Milwaukee. I feel grateful to have friends like this: they provide a different perspective and refuge of sorts.

  11. The swimming pool is one of my favorite hiding places. The rhythm of swimming allows my mind to free from cycles of busyness of the present day’s activities. I often find this is the space where I can listen. Beautiful post. Thank you both.

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