Living Sanctuary

Virginia Peak at the head of Virginia Canyon, northeastern Yosemite National Park

“Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanks giving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.” –one of my favorite hyms


During the opening worship of my church’s regional Annual Conference Session in Sacramento, we sang this song, accompanied by the excellent praise band.

As we sang the first line I remembered a mountain sanctuary I had walked through years ago. We had been backpacking the John Muir Trail in Sequoia National Park. Now we left the trail and climbed the long, steep slope into a high basin below the 14,000 foot Palisades. As we climbed ever higher, the view opened up across the valley to other high peaks and basins. The silver thread of a stream tumbled down the opposite mountainside. The cooling wind soughed through the branches of a pine.

As the slope finally moderated and we began to enter the basin, we admired thick green sedge and clumps of bright flowers growing vigorously in this dramatic setting. Here among glacier-smoothed granite slabs they demonstrated an intense force of life. Far above, the fluted cliffs and buttresses of North Palisade gave a sense of strength and shelter. This was sanctuary.

Back in Sacramento, as we sang the second line, “I’ll be a living sanctuary for you,” I renewed my calling. As I have experienced God’s sanctuary of beauty, life and nurture, I can now take that gift and share it for God. I can help others to experience God’s life-giving presence and love through my words and deeds here and now.


About David McCoard

After earning my MS in geology I've done various things including managing the ski touring program at a small lodge in the Sierra. In 2010 I retired from Contra Costa College in California. I've always been fascinated by the mountains and nature and have spent countless days hiking, backpacking, climbing and skiing in the Sierra. The spiritual insights I've learned there have set the course for my life. Now I have time to share them and strike up a conversation.
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