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Alive and well in our heart

The opening battle sequence in the movie Cold Mountain realistically portrays the gruesome nature of Petersburg’s “Battle of the Crater.” Union engineers created a massive crater with explosives in an attempt to penetrate the Confederate lines. The scene is a graphic depiction of life’s fragile nature.  A reminder that there are times and places even in a “photoshopped” world… of atrocity and suffering and cruelty and sorrow.
Before the battle scene, we are introduced to young Oakley, a boy who is helping Inman (the main character of the story) and other confederate soldiers distributing supplies in the trench.  As an aside, Inman comments to a fellow soldier about Oakley’s age and that the boy is certainly too young for war.  In the battle, Oakley is mortally wounded.
After the battle, a makeshift ER / triage is filled with cots and young bodies (including Oakley), many given whatever comfort that can be afforded in their final hours or minutes.
Stobrod–a fiddle player–stands by the bed and begins to entertain (and hopefully console) the boy.
“No,” says Oakley, his breathing labored. “Play me something sweet, like a girl is waiting for me.”
“You heard him,” Inman tells the fiddler.
“I only know a couple of tunes,” Stobrod tells them, now ill at ease.
“Like when you’re up Bridge’s creek,” Oakley continues, “and you’re thirsty and the water is so cool.”
“I don’t know what music that is,” the fiddler confesses, his face crestfallen. Even so–to grant the dying boy’s request–Stobrod puts bow to string and from the fiddle we hear haunting, lilting and evocative music.
Music as poetry.   
Music as a picture to reassure the boy.  
Music as sanctuary, to carry his spirit safely back to Cold Mountain. 

I don’t know what music that is.
Well, this is the part that trips us up.  We are inculcated in a world where there must be a script.  Whether it is happiness or contentment or success or well-being.  All we need is the key, the correct information, the right dogma, or, the secret.  Tantalizing isn’t it?
It’s easy to be derailed by the notion that information equals control.
This is not a story about control.
This is a story is about presence.
This is a story about our heart. Paying attention. Being in this moment. This moment is enough.

We’ve all been told to just “let go” or “let it be.” And I have told myself to “just chill.” Sometimes it helps.  Most times, not so much.  It’s as if it becomes another “thing” on my list.  An assignment.  You know, “Am I chilling enough?”  Just wondering… “Do I need to read the right book about chilling before I attempt it?”

I don’t know what music that is.
But here’s the deal: I do know it when I hear it, even if I don’t have the words.  I do know that it makes my lungs swell and my heart flutter.
There are two aspects of the scene that touched me deeply.
One, I am drawn to the vulnerability or openness of the young boy (not only in his acceptance of his “fate,” but in not fighting it, or trying to figure it out).
And two, I am struck and humbled by the transformation in the musician, who “knew” only two songs–until he was invited to the music that is alive and well within his heart and soul.  Music that had, for whatever reason, been dormant or buried or forgotten.

I will confess to you that…
I too easily play only the two songs I know (while assuming they are not enough).
I too easily tell myself that the price of playing and feeling the music inside of me that is multi-layered, authentic, life-giving and heart-rending may be too steep.
I too easily steel myself against anything that can break or rent or tear.
I too easily tell myself to live that vulnerable and open would require too much.
It is no surprise that I can live warily and guarded. And when I do, I too easily miss the power–and the music–of the present.  Music for joy and delight and wonder. Music to quench the thirst of our soul. And music for healing and soothing in those times when life turns abruptly left, and our options seem bleak, and our resolve tank is empty.

Read Andrew Schulman’s Waking the Spirit. Andrew is the resident musician in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital in New York. Yes. Musician, in a hospital.
Why? Because music soothes. Music heals.
What does all this mean for me? This week, we can all be Oakley and ask for our song. Or, we can be Stobrod, and put box to fiddle to soothe and heal those lives we touch.

Why sanctuary? Recently, a young man I knew took his own life. We’ll never know why, but “life is short, and this time it was bigger than the strength he had.” And I pictured Stobrod with bow to fiddle with the haunting, lilting and evocative music to carry this young man’s spirit safely and tenderly back to Cold Mountain and to the angels. It affected me, and I journaled from my heart this week, looking for music that has been forgotten. 

It is Sunday night and I’m spent from three days in the Anaheim Convention Center, carried by waves of enthusiastic conference attendees. The Religious Education Congress is my annual reconnect with friends, old and new. In crowds, equal parts intense and disheveled. And emanating gladness. What a gift.
I’m with a good friend tonight in Tustin before I fly home tomorrow. I step outside to toast the moon.  And I remember another scene from the movie.  When Inman and Ada meet, he wonders aloud, “If it were enough just to stand without the words.” “It is,” she tells him. “It is.”

Quote for the week…
Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. Reinhold Niebuhr 


Today’s photo credit — Valentine’s Day daffodils, Stephanie Baker… Thank you Stephanie… keep sending your photos… send to

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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–Hi, Terry, First, thanks for Sabbath moment!  I look forward each week to your insights.  I am a Sister of St Francis, working as a psychotherapist at a mental health clinic outside Philadelphia.  I am also a spiritual director and facilitate retreats at our Spir center in Aston, Pa.  I tell you this, because I often share your insights with my clients, directees and friends.  So God’s grace in you is shared and keeps  moving on..I continue being amazed at how Grace works …  I constantly share my belief that we are here to live life to the fullest (Jesus, Jn 10:10) , I share it on retreats, tell my clients …. and yet, I often find myself wanting parts of my life — people in my life!!–to be “different,” and in my “expert” opinion –“better” than they are, so I continue to need reminders that This Moment is where Grace Waits For Me!!!  and it is Here in this Holy Ground that God’s Amazing Grace can transforms me. So I am ordering the eCcourse. Thanks so much, Mercedes
–Thank you for today’s Sabbath Moment. I traveled to Northern California to watch my granddaughter dance. It is one of my favorite things to do. I have been making the trip for 24 years. You wrote about the 3 questions, and I believe that the answers are just what you said.  The here and now. The person in front of you who needs a hug and it is given, the family you travel to see and enjoy, those who need validation and it is given. You do  that every week when you take the time to write and post Sabbath Moment. You are the light at the end of the tunnel at the beginning of each and every Monday. You have helped me to get through every day with power and strength and love for all.  You have taken the loneliness and and filled it with happiness and joy and have let me feel that I am living a blessed and wonderful life. Thank you. K
–Hi Terry, I found these little beauties on Valentine’s Day in my garden. I planted the mini daffodils 2 years ago. Last year only greenery, no flowers… But this year at a difficult time (my 95 year old mom just went on Hospice care) they peek their heads out to console and bring joy. They are mom’s favorite. Sending love to you and good wishes for a wonderful LA Congress. I attended for many years as a pastoral minister and bookseller. It’s where I met you! Hugs, Stephanie
–I think your son got it entirely right with “pass the cobbler”! Totally present! Talking once to my son (somewhere within ages of elementary school) by telephone, I asked “what are you doing?” With an undertone of incredulity, he said, “I’m talking to you!” Love it!! Shauna
–Hi Terry, Today’s Sabbath Moment hit the spot! I needed this reminder; thank you. We are so blessed and thankful for the gift of You. Blessings always. Looking forward to seeing you this  weekend at Congress. Milton and I are celebrating 58 yrs together this year; and we’ll celebrate with your workshops.  Take care and safe travels. Lois

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The Spiritual Canticle
Forever at his door
I gave my heart and soul.
My fortune too.
I’ve no flock any more,
No other work in view.
My occupation: love. It’s all I do.
St. John of the Cross

Let us fall in love again
and scatter gold dust all over the world.
Let us become a new spring
and feel the breeze drift in the heaven’s scent.
Let us dress the earth in green,
and like the sap of a young tree
let the grace from within sustain us.
Let us carve gems out of our stony hearts
and let them light our path to Love.
The glance of Love is crystal clear
and we are blessed by its light.

I pray for a more loving human family
Even when I meet a stranger
Each time I have the same feeling:
“He is another member of my human family.”
Such an attitude deepens
My affection and respect for all beings.
May this natural loving-kindness
Become my small contribution to world peace!
I pray for a world that is more friendly,
More loving, and for a better understanding
Among the human family, on this planet.
That is the appeal I make from the bottom of my heart
To all those who hate suffering
And cherish lasting happiness.
The Dalai Lama

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