I have been invited by the “Daily Word” team to offer a few final “Daily Words” before my last days as your Rector. As some of you know, a few years back, Church Publishing published my book, “Bits of Heaven.” It is a collection of devotionals appropriate for the summer months and as summer is upon us, I thought I would pull a few of my favorite passages. I hope you enjoy them and if you do not yet have a copy of the book, you can pick one up at St. Martin’s Gift Shoppe, Amazon or other online book sources.
Each meditation includes a title, a Scripture, a meditation, a probing question of sorts and closes with a prayer — either from my pen or that of those much better and wiser in authoring prayers.
Let us continue to pray for one another and I pray that we all — all of us — have a blessed summer. May it, indeed, be a little bit of heaven.
The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.
So grateful to be
Fourth Rector, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church
A Refugium for Your Troubles

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
A stronghold in times of trouble.
“Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken
those who seek You.”
Psalm 9:9-10

Where do you turn for refuge?
One of the ways you and I take breaks from everyday life, particularly if we do not have the resources to hop on a plane or time to take a long car journey, is to develop a hobby to have a skill that brings us a sense of personal satisfaction, but also a momentary “escape.” While most of the things we do in life, even if we enjoy them, are mandatory (think of work, eating, sleeping and so on), hobbies are things we choose to do: a way in which we give away some of our resources, perhaps the most valuable our time and energy but also quite often our tangible, financial resources. Whether they are golf, tennis, needlepoint, coin collecting, hunting, fishing for most of us, these are not vocations, these are vacations!

I am blessed, to have a wide variety of interests and hobbies and one of those, for virtually all of my life, is keeping aquariums from outdoor koi ponds to indoor freshwater and saltwater reef tanks. They present their own challenges, but perhaps those most unique have been the saltwater tanks. It is possible to literally build an ecosystem of fish, invertebrates and coral right in your own living room. Sometimes, the tanks I have had have required something called a “refugium.” It is not, obviously, a common word, but it shares the same root as the word “refuge.” Both come from the French word, “refugié,” a noun that meant to “take shelter or protect.”
It is interesting, but in a saltwater tank, the refugium is usually out of sight   hidden from view. It is a separate tank that feeds into the larger tank, bringing nourishing oxygen, a balance of pH and, sometimes, serving as a food supply for the various creatures living in the seen world. The refugium literally serves as a lifeline for such tanks, protecting the various lifeforms from harmful and life-threatening diseases.
David’s Psalm recalls for the reader that the ultimate life-support system, the ideal refuge is God, and God alone. All of us are beset by angst, anxiety and “times of trouble” like David, but behind the seen world of troubles rests the unseen God of refuge and safety.
Too often, we humans tend to turn to temporary and, frankly, ultimately dissatisfactory places for refuge. The most common that come to mind are addictive substances such as money, wealth, and perhaps fame; but of course, none of these provide the kind of “eternal” refuge that we find in the stronghold of God.
Churches have a long tradition of painting the main exterior doors of the Church a bright red. In more brutal times than our own, a red door meant safety for one who might be fleeing from invading enemies or even government authorities. The red door meant safety and protection to the fearful and troubled and, for the most part, was respected by those in pursuit. The one seeking refuge knew, without a doubt, that once through the doors, they could be at peace.
In today’s world, when you and I are looking for refuge, not every door is a safe door, not everyone who steps through brings protection. Permanent security rests only in the divine refugium you and I know as God. As George MacDonald once suggested, when one commits his or her life to Christ; as well as his or her hopes, the one committing should remember God’s special protection and “... ought to be afraid of nothing.”
Afraid of nothing! Wow. What a wonderful hope for those looking for a refugium for their troubles. That is certainly a hobby worth your investment.
A Question to Ponder
When troubled or anxious, where do you turn for solace? The Apostle Peter reminded the Christians of the early Church to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) Is Jesus your “red door” or not? If not, then how can you more fully turn away from all those other doors? If so, give thanks and walk on through!
A Prayer
My dearest Lord,
Be Thou a bright flame before me,
Be Thou a guiding star above me,
Be Thou a smooth path behind me.
Be Thou a kindly shepherd behind me.
Today and evermore.
St. Columba, d. 597
The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.
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