Terry Hershey is a Protestant minister, an inspirational speaker, and a very gifted storyteller. That last gift comes in handy when he opens this salutary paperback with a description of his grandmother sitting on a porch swing humming the old church hymns she loved do dearly.

All of us need a sanctuary where we can go and sit in silence, relax, come into the the present moment, and let life in with all its power and potency. Hershey writes:

"A sanctuary is a place that restores us, replenishes us, nourishes us. In this renewal, we are reminded, once again, of what really is important."

It is also a place of grace given to us by God. Sanctuary is an antidote to the hustle and bustle of contemporary life. Years ago, Mary Ann and I had a favorite sanctuary on a white sand beach facing the turquoise ocean on the windward side of Antigua. It was a four square wooden cabana which not only gave us shade but provided us with rest, pleasure, beauty, peace, mystery and delight — much the way the restorative swing on the porch did for Hershey's grandmother.

We concur totally with the author's list of what sanctuaries provide. Here are just a few benefits:

• Sanctuary makes space — exterior and interior — for my soul to catch up with my body.

• Sanctuary helps me to let go of my need for my identity to be tied to performance or productivity.

• Sanctuary is a place where I feel at home in my own skin.

• Sanctuary is a place where I know I am grounded. It connects me to this place and this time."

Since sanctuary has so many good things to offer us, we may be tempted to see it as a tool for self-improvement as we seek perfection. We may think it's just for those times when we've reached the end of our ropes. Don't fall into those traps, Hershey cautions. Santuary is not for getting away from life; it's for embracing life in all its diversity. To illustrate, he offers ideas on finding sanctuaries and setting them up.

Among his many ways of being of service to the world, Hersey designs gardens for individuals, churches, hospitals, and other public settings. So we'll end this recommendation of his book with some garden imagery. God has planted the seed of grace within us, and sanctuary is one of the places where it can bloom and flourish. All it takes is slowing down, allowing our senses to be stirred, tapping into our intention, turning off the inner critic, providing refuge, rendering healing, and stimulating self-nurture.