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Spill the light

Life is precarious. 
Bombs are real. 
Sadly, in our world, they feel too common.

In April 2015, a car packed with explosives detonated in the busy Mansour district of Baghdad, killing at least 10 people and injuring 27. 
After this incident, something very unusual happened. Karim Wasif went to the bombsite, took out his cello, sat down on a chair amid ash and rubble in a black suit, his long hair combed back, and started to play. 
Why go to the site of a car bomb to play your cello? 
Wasfi, the renowned conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, said simply, “The other side chose to turn every element, every aspect of life into a battle and into a war zone. I chose to turn every corner of Iraq into a spot for civility, beauty and compassion. I wanted to show what beauty can be in the ugly face of car bombs, and to respect the souls of the fallen ones.”
We do know that when he played, soldiers cried. People kissed. They clapped, they felt alive, they felt human and they felt appreciated and respected. This does not surprise me. When I watched, I cried too.
Because it touched something deep inside of me.

I’m drawn to stories of everyday heroes, ambassadors for our collective soul. These stories are indispensable for wellbeing and an antidote to despair.
The bombs that go off around us take different forms… violence, natural disaster, loss of faith, cruelty, personal and emotional breakdown, fragile health. It all seems out of the blue. But it all adds up to wreckage. In our spirit. In our hearts. In our relationships. And when heaviness shifts the narrative, we feel at the mercy of, as if our power of choice is gone.

The good news? Jesus invites all who are weary and heavy laden. 
But here’s how it plays out for me. When I’m weary, I don’t feed my soul. Lethargy gives way to bleakness (loss of hope) and the desire to quit. I sense myself shutting down. Like living with a restrictor plate on my heart. (I still wrestle with shame from my childhood about ‘fessing up to the dark and broken parts in my spirit. Which only exacerbates the spiral.)

So. Why play our cello?  It’s straightforward really. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.” (Dr. King)
Something in Wasfi chose light. And wholeheartedness. To show compassion, love and redemption. I don’t know where that capacity comes from, but here’s the deal: I know that it is alive and well in every single one of us. The light of hope, perseverance and connection. The light of civility, beauty and compassion.
When I am reminded of this truth my heart expands. And the good news? A full heart always spills. Instead of fighting weariness by shutting down, or instead of launching another bomb, I will play “my cello”. 

Sabbath Moment is my way of playing my cello.
Of course we derail when we wonder, “Are they imbued with courage or faith not found in mere mortals?” Someone to be admired, rather than imitated. So, we don’t see the sufficiency at our core, and we aim too low and walk in shoes too small for us. Today, would you accept this invitation to spill your light?

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl

This week, we said goodbye to another light. Jean Vanier’s “cello”, a lifetime of kindness. Vanier was the founder of L’Arche, a network of communities that, in their very existence, opened us to the richness of life between people with mental disability and able-bodied individuals alike.
Listen to Kristin Lin’s memory, “One thing I learned quickly was that words are not the currency of choice at L’Arche. While some core members were verbose and unshy (‘You’re making me nervous,’ one core member informed me as I pulled out my phone to record our interview), many others barely spoke, or even made eye contact. But the lack of words rarely resulted in silence; instead, core members shared themselves through other languages: music, tears, prayer, dance, laughter. Relearning these languages for myself was perhaps my favorite lesson from L’Arche. I’ve come of age in the world of words; I believe in their power to connect, even redeem, us. I take faith — comfort — in their ability to frame, account, order, justify. But I think I’ve forgotten (or never knew) the value of not knowing what to say, or even what to think, or do — the value of simply being — and being accepted for just that.”
Cello players, every one of them. The power of music, tears, prayer, dance and laughter.

Speaking of the power of music and people who stand up to the madness; this is from the blog of Bob Dawson. “I have Parkinson’s. A friend bombarded me with the Blues. I started to dance, and groove, and visualize. Music on–disease much better. Music off–symptoms come back. How come? I found out that there are Parkinson’s patients who cannot walk, but they can dance. What’s up with that? This site does not contain a cure for Parkinson’s. I do not know if music and dance can help everybody. If you have Parkinson’s, it is my personal, non-scientific opinion that you should find music that you get off on, play it LOUD. And start to move to the music. Every day. Dance as therapy. Dance for flexibility, strength, endurance. Dance for joy. Dance in defiance of the disease.” 
Let us dance in defiance of the bombs of every form…

It’s hot here this week. Record beating heat, high 80s. Goldfinch church at the feeder and the garden dances; blooming bearded Iris, Columbine, Baptisia, Rosa Rugosa and the Empress Tree.
It is Mother’s Day. Thank you, Moms, everywhere. (You did remember, yes? Just making sure.)
Speaking of royalty, a new addition arrived, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
Speaking of people who lit the path for us. It was National Teacher Appreciation Week. Thank you indeed.
The evening sky is heaven.  I get up to dance, to play my cello of gratitude to the stars and the night sky.

Quotes for your week…
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. Howard Thurman 


Today’s photo credit — Sunset Potomac River, Virginia, Carolyne Ashton… thank you Carolyne… grateful for your photos… send to

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I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
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Misc. in the mailbag…
–Terry, Thanks as always for SM. I feel like I noticed a slight sadness or lament in your message this week–as if you’re dealing with something difficult. If that’s true, I wish peace and comfort to you in this time. Lord knows you have brought those helpful emotions to me many times through your writings. Best, Andrew
–Hey Terry, I’ve been searching for a place of Sanctuary for some time. I have found it in playing my Trombone. I think at times, believe it or not through teaching music to my students, but I think I have found a place finally. The mountains in the background are for some reason very special to me. Just thought I’d share. Eric
–You always make my heart smile. Claire
–YOU are a hidden treasure, mi amigo. Keep spilling the light! (Yes…yes… I realize that’s your line, but I’m borrowing it.) Penny
–Hey Terry, You are wearing your authenticity/heart on your sleeve more and more, and I really love it. Gorgeous SM. You are inviting people closer to God all the time by coming closer yourself. Naked as a jaybird, as we used to say in South Africa. Good for you Jinks
–Terry, I LOVE when you freely express your authenticity!  So good! Thank you. The last six months of transition have not been easy, but they have been full of blessing and the invitation to just be myself. Sue
–Terry I have been gone 4 months taking care of my adult son Jim who has Parkinsons and had a stroke in November. Your message was perfect this morning I lost myself in taking care of him. Now I am home & have to find myself again. God always gives me what I need to get through the challenges and many gifts of the day. God Bless you & HE does for all the lives you touch with your very important work. is it work or joy? Thank you.

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The plain fact is that the planet does not need
more successful people.
But it does desperately needs
more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers,
and lovers of every kind.
David Orr

It is a big risk to love deeply, yet not to love is not to live.
We need to love not just for the good stuff,
but simply love for no good reason!
So: Live freely. Sing your heart out.
Cry until all your tears are spent.
Laugh till you can’t even catch your breath.
Dance with wild abandon. And don’t forget to love.
In every community, there is work to do be done.
In every nation, there are wounds to heal.
In every heart, there is the power to do it.
Marianne Williamson

Dear God,
We pray for another way of being: another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain of our existence we have attempted to build
a highway and in so doing have lost our footpath.
God lead us to our footpath: lead us there where in simplicity we may move
at the speed of natural creatures and feel the earths’ love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts.
And lead us there where side-by-side we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.
God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights of the pilgrim;
another way of knowing: another way of being.  Amen.
Michael Leunig

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