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Music, a place of sanctuary

During the Bosnian War, Serbs surrounded the city of Sarajevo. And the people of Sarajevo knew that sniper fire could kill anyone, indiscriminate; whether they stood in a bread line or were collecting a child from school.
Even so, in the midst of this, members of the city orchestra brought their instruments into the town square, where they played day after day, for hours. They played in defiance of the madness of war. Their music symbolized the indestructibility of the human spirit, despite everything. Their music, in essence, became a place of sanctuary for the people of Sarajevo.
Or, in the words of the ancient poet, CP Cavafy, “We must admit there will be music despite everything.”
While I cannot imagine the horror of war, the story of music and resilience strikes a chord somewhere deep down inside of me. I do know this: I want to live in that spirit. I want to be that alive. Even in the midst.
Perhaps they had some internal fortitude most people don’t. Isn’t that what we think? That when we witness extraordinary acts of bravery or courage or fearlessness, it surely cannot exist in me?

What we have no doubt about, is that we know what it is like to feel diminished or torn or pulled or overwhelmed or exhausted or belittled. And when we do, we need a place of sanctuary.
Because life unravels. And it’s never fun when life unravels.
We hurt people we love.
We take offense.
We break or fracture—from sickness, or heartache, or loss.
Brokenness can lead us into darkness. And we lose our way. But it’s not just that we lose our way. It’s that life—and the circumstances of life—feel somehow, overwhelming. That’s the kicker, I think; we feel out of control. And somehow, shamed.

One of my favorite images is from a magazine ad sponsored by the Humane Society, looking for homes for homeless pets. A photo of a puppy and kitten—looking up at you from the page—catches your eye and your heart. But it’s the affirmation on the top of the ad that sticks, “It’s who owns them that makes them important.”

When we feel out of control, when we feel overwhelmed, it is easy to give in to (to be owned by) a spirit of fear. And yet: In spite of their circumstances, the musicians of Sarajevo were not owned by a spirit of fear. What gives? Somehow, in their music, they found sanctuary.
A sanctuary is a place that restores us. Renews us. Refreshes us. And reminds us of what is really important. A sanctuary reminds us that we are enough, and that we are owned by God’s bounty and abundance of grace and rest.

Where is your sanctuary?
I spent the weekend with the good people gathered at St. Patrick’s in Merced, CA, to talk about the power of pause and sanctuary. We talked about our need to find (and create) places of restoration. Which is not easy to do when you have a vocation juggling expectations and bunkum. It requires a paradigm shift; moving from life as it “should” be, to embracing this life (or life in this moment). And if we ‘fess up, it is easy to get derailed, and when we do, it is soooo easy to play the victim. Regardless of the inconvenience. In effect, we set aside this moment, for some more perfect moment yet to be (you know, the one we “planned for”). When we narrow our focus only to our plans or our expectations, we miss so much of life. And our spirit is diminished if we are afraid to acknowledge that life is bigger and wilder and more splendid and more unpredictable and more marvelous—whether in the midst of chaos or at the very heart of the mundane.

So, here’s the deal. Sanctuary is not about where (as if it is only some magical place we retreat to). Sanctuary is about what happens. In other words, sanctuary is already within us. Which means that wherever we go, we can take sanctuary with us, which gives us the permission and courage to embrace life—wholeheartedly—even in the middle of the storms, or the undone, or the complicated, or the prickly, or the unplanned.
And with it…
…the permission to pause
…the permission to choose
…the freedom to give grace
…and the freedom to receive grace.

Do you want a technique? Or a list, at the very least? Okay, how about this. Every day, take out your musical instrument (even if that instrument is only in your mind). Go down to “the square”; gather with other seekers and play. Day after day, for hours. Play in defiance of brokenness and gloom and madness and hopelessness. The music will echo, reverberate and ricochet. The music will spill and cascade and overflow. And the music will create a sanctuary where tears and joy, heartache and gratitude, dreams and hope can find a home.

If we don’t bring it with us, we’re not going to find it there.
That’s what I believe.
Which means that we not only “bring sanctuary with us” (into places of complexity or struggle or chaos); we—like those musicians in Sarajevo—literally become sanctuary to those around us.
The garden is a source—of sanctuary and music—for me, especially this time of year. The landscape is saturated with hope, and peppered with moments of delicate beauty. I can’t get enough, it seems, and am glad to be home, tomorrow spending the day cleaning and pruning and planting and transplanting and fussing and futzing and dreaming. By the end of time in the garden, every muscle in my body says, “enough.”
Even so, the music doesn’t stop.

Quote for our day…
I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. Wendell Berry  


Today’s Photo Credit: For me, the sky here in the PNW is always a music stave, and the clouds the notes and chords. This sky from a week ago, Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 (Ode to Joy)… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Your daily writing was shared with me a few years ago and I wanted to reach out and simply say “thank you”. Your heart and words echo my own. I’ve enjoyed each book, of yours, I’ve read either solo or within my book club. You’ve made me smile and have stirred my heart too many times to count. You bring the love and fun into our walk with the Lord in a rough and sometimes unkind world. Virginia
–Wow, your Sabbath Moment made me cry. I have found it has been so hard for me to love and accept love in my life. I can care intensely for things and others but find it hard to truly love. In thinking back, I wonder if it all stems from me never hearing ‘I love you’ or getting a hug from my parents even though I know they cared for me and would do anything for me. sorry just having a little pity party, I know and appreciate I have been blessed so much more than I deserve.
–Terry, Hope you can bear with my frequent replies. As a hospice and hospital chaplain I too asked people to pray for me. I wanted them to know they had a purpose, and could be someone other than the object of pity. Warmest regards. Bob
–Thank you, Terry, and after reading your May 13 SM, yet again I am lifted by the grace that fills my life, to be shared with those around me, and those not so close to me physically but who are part of my life! Your fellow traveler. Barb
–Magnificently holy. Today’s Moment and the photo of the geese and their goslings is total perfection. Thank you so much for being you. Wonderful book if you haven’t read it already (from Franciscan Media) “Compassion, Living in the Spirit of St. Francis” by Ilia Delio, O.S.F. Carolyn
–Well, Terry, you did it again. This one sabbath moment, put a few tears in my eyes this morning. My career was rooted in special education. And that means I had a ministry of personal contact with so many individuals with disabilities. The fact is, they don’t have a disability. And, just because they are different than we. Society has labeled them unfairly. We are all unique gifts and as you have said often, we are all just walking one another home. Well done. Regardless, of who we are. Collectively, we all have the capacity to embrace God’s abundant blessings and grace. Thank you, my friend. Andrea


O God, we are one with you. You have made us one with you. You have taught us that if we are open to one another, you dwell in us. Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection.
O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept you, and we thank you, and we adore you, and we love you with our whole being, because our being is your being, our spirit is rooted in your spirit.
Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes you present in the world, and which makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious.
Thomas Merton

Praise What Comes
Surprising as unplanned kisses, all you haven’t deserved
of days and solitude, your body’s immoderate good health
that lets you work in many kinds of weather. Praise
talk with just about anyone. And quiet intervals, books
that are your food and your hunger; nightfall and walks
before sleep. Praising these for practice, perhaps
you will come at last to praise grief and the wrongs
you never intended. At the end there may be no answers
and only a few very simple questions: did I love,
finish my task in the world? Learn at least one
of the many names of God? At the intersections,
the boundaries where one life began and another
ended, the jumping-off places between fear and
possibility, at the ragged edges of pain,
did I catch the smallest glimpse of the holy?
Jeanne Lohmann 


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