Fences are part of my family’s story.

My great grandma’s garden was enclosed by one.

My grandma’s chickens were protected by one.

My grandpa’s horses and cattle were all kept safe by one.

One of the first things I wanted when we moved into each of our homes was a fence.

Not so much as a way of keeping people out,

but more as a way of keeping children in.



Aware of how far they could go and still be “home.”

I’ll never forget the day my doorbell rang and our neighbor,

Bill Leamon,

was standing on my porch.

Our two sons stood beside him, along with two other children I was babysitting that day.

I had been doing dishes while they safely played in our backyard,

or so I thought.

What I didn’t know was our gate was unlocked and open.

Bill had found the four children in the middle of our street,

with Erich trying to carry Evan back to safety.

The horror I felt in that moment is indescribable.

To think I was unaware of the danger just outside my back door.

Because a gate was open.


Fences protect.

Boundaries do the same.


I’ve struggled through the years with the word, “No,”

fearing I would disappoint someone.

In some way let them down.

The older I get, though, the more I realize my weak, “Yes,”

is much like a yard with no fence……

or at least with an open gate.

No one is safe when boundary lines are crossed.


When I read this morning about God talking to Moses on top of Mt. Sinai, saying,

“Go down and warn the people not to break through to see the Lord;

otherwise many of them will die,”

I thought this sounded extreme.

How could a loving God, who longs to be near us, ever say,

“Only come this close”?

But then I thought of my yard and my grandparent’s farm.

And the many fences that had been built to protect them.

Not to bring harm.

Were God’s boundaries any different?

He knew the limit of what the Israelites could handle.

How far they could walk before crossing the line……

into a place of holiness too sacred for human feet.

If God wasn’t set apart first,

how would His people ever understand what “holy” meant?

Holiness, which literally means “set apart,” is sacred.

The Israelites, like children,

were learning about this for the very first time.

And the only way to understand what “set apart” looked like would have been by showing them.

Because God knew what they didn’t know.

They would one day BE the mountain.

Filled with His presence.


“For I am Yahweh your God,

so you must consecrate yourselves

and be holy because I am holy.”

Lev. 11:44

Would these words ever make sense had they not experienced Exodus 19 and 20?

Children come to understand the true danger of fire when they get too close one.

Feel the heat.

Fear the burn.

Mountains were everywhere in the wilderness,

but God’s presence was on only one of them…….

and He needed them to know.

This place is different.


Set apart.


So what did He do to teach them?

He set up a boundary.

Then He said,

“The people cannot come up here.”

With much fear and trembling,

the Israelites quickly learned to honor this place –

This most sacred place –

filled with the presence of Him who loved them most.

How easy is it for us to forget?

God is Holy,

and His children are too.

How different would today look if we saw ourselves as the mountain filled with His presence?

Fenced in from all that dare cross the line.

Consecrated by the King of Kings.

Set apart for His work.


What conversations would we avoid?

What places would we see as unsafe?

What sites would we not visit?

What relationships would we view as dangerous?

Fences keep us safe.

Boundaries do too.

Sometimes the only way to learn

is by seeing just how dangerous it is

to live with an open gate.


Close your gate today.

Protect yourself.

Be okay with being set apart.

He is Holy.

And you are too.

(Today’s reading was from Exodus 19-21.)