Way up north in Minnesota, near the town of Tower, is a lake called Vermillion. Black Duck Island is one of many small chunks of rock and trees, this one not much bigger than an acre. During the nonfrozen months it's accessible only by boat.
A friend of mine whose family shares ownership of the island showed me around. At the western tip is a study cabin that belonged to Dr. Preston Bradley, built for him by members of his congregation. Dr. Bradley was the pastor of the popular People's Church in Chicago in the 1930s and '40s. During the summer he would live on Black Duck, and members of his congregation would occasionally drop by.
Sitting at his desk, writing sermons for his church, Bradley could look west across Lake Vermillion. Some of these sermons would be delivered to island guests in the tiny meadow behind the lodge. During those summer months, he used the cabin as his "place apart."
My friend who showed me the island found his connection with God in an unlikely "place apart."
He was stranded in a hotel lobby, waiting for his colleagues to finish partying. He wanted to go back to the place where they were all staying and go to bed, but they were sharing a car. So he could either join the drinking party or spend his own cab fare for the 15-mile trip. He started to feel resentful. He was craving a "place apart."
He flopped into a big easy chair and began to think about the many summers he had spent on Black Duck Island. Instead of feeling resentful, he wanted to imagine ways that his present surroundings could be more like the cabin.
He said, "At the time it was happening, it felt very much like a God-given diversion that brought me to a safe, peaceful place. Suddenly I was in a big floppy armchair with people wandering about me, locked into a creative and comforting place, being constructive rather than destructive with my time. It worked!"
I, too, have found my "place apart" to be prayer.
I go there every morning. It's easiest when I can close a door or be some distance from any noise, but I've quenched my spiritual thirst during car commutes, in the middle seat during an early-morning plane ride, or while riding my bike. It's a retreat and rejuvenation, but it's also a rebirth and baptism.
Through my study of Christian Science, I've learned that Jesus understood God thoroughly and practically. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, discovered for herself that at the root of Jesus' relationship with God was not an ancient tradition but a practical Science. She learned that this Christ Science healed herself, healed others, and enabled her to teach others how to heal. Then she established a church, which has at its core the teaching and learning that Jesus epitomized.
There is no separation between God and His creation, and prayer is one way this great fact is realized.
Mrs. Eddy took up this fact and wrote: "As a drop of water is one with the ocean, a ray of light one with the sun, even so God and man, Father and son, are one in being. The scripture reads: 'For in Him we live, and move, and have our being' " ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 361).
Daily prayer is how I reaffirm my relation to God. Would I like to do that in my own little cabin? Of course! But it's not a necessity.
"A safe, peaceful place." That's what prayer is - truly a "place apart."
When you pray,
go into a room by yourself,
shut the door, and pray
to your Father who is there
in the secret place;
and your Father
who sees what is secret
will reward you.
Matthew 6:6, New English Bible