Tuesday — This week, we ask how we navigate our broken and uncertain world. We find encouragement and comfort in Leonard Cohen’s reflection,
“There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
However, this is the great irony. And I can’t emphasize this enough: Our strength and resilience do not come from a show of force or bravado, but in the freedom to be tough enough to be soft. Because we are prophets—of steadfastness, justice, compassion and mercy and reconciliation—when we do not hide our woundedness. When we find the wherewithal to stand in the middle of it all (yes, including the brokenness), even without words. And let the healing begin there.
Here’s the deal: all of us need (at times in our life) to hear those bells of hope ring out. And when we do, we know that “each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.” (Marianne Williamson)
But what if… we don’t feel the “calling”…
I asked one young friend, “So what’s next for you?”
She replied, “I’m just waiting for God to show me what he wants from me.”
But in the meantime, you know, until you have your life and self figured out, I have a suggestion: Live today. Live this day, with this self, without holding back. Today… savor, doubt, embrace, question, wrestle, give, risk, love, fall down, get up, accept your incomplete and fractured self, know that anything worth doing is worth doing badly, speak from your whole heart, and whenever you can, lavish excessive compassion and mercy on anyone who crosses your path. Who knows, you may even love someone “into existence.”
And if you practice all of this while you’re still waiting for God’s instructions, I’m sure God won’t mind.
Yesterday, John Shelby Spong died. His writing was instrumental for my own journey away from a faith that confined and limited, to an affirmation that our relationship with God and our faith journey has zero to do with keeping score, and is shored up by, and suffused in, grace.
Wednesday — On 9/11 FDNY Chaplain Father Mychal Judge chose to suit up, and go where he was needed, into the upheaval. And to save a life, it cost him his life.
Knowing his sacrifice, it is worth reading these excerpts from his Last Homily, delivered at a Mass for Firefighters on Sept. 10, 2001. “You do what God has called you to do. You get on that rig, you go out and do the job. No matter how big the call, no matter how small, you have no idea of what God is calling you to do, but God needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us. God needs us to keep supporting each other, to be kind to each other, to love each other…”
I love reading this story. But I confess to you that this is not an easy invitation or instruction to follow. And my uncertainty increases in a world where someone feels compelled to dictate what God wishes. I had a very recent conversation with someone who wondered how I could even talk about God, when it was clear that I didn’t believe anything that God believed.
Let’s just say that theology or doctrinal piety debates are never good for my blood pressure, so it’s best to smile and hit the reset button for my soul.
And remember: Finding our way in a troubled and broken world isn’t about teams. And it isn’t about teams winning or losing. (I know there’s a strange internal comfort in being right or correct. We want to be the victor.)
And we forget that our “calling” begins here…
In St. Paul’s (where first responders found rest and care during the aftermath of 9/11) one reporter overheard a firefighter say, “When I come in that door, I’m covered with blood sometimes, and they hug me. They love me, they take care of me, they treat me as a real human being. And then they feed me, and they massage me, and they give me adjustments. These are my people. This is my place. This is where I come to be with God.”
So, here’s what I can tell you about what I believe: I want to live this day from a whole and open and vulnerable heart, in a world that is not fueled by fear or antagonism or self-righteousness.
Can I help create a space (a world) where grace and kindness and healing and sanctuary and inclusion and reconciliation are alive and well?
And this I know with all my heart: even if we don’t know what God has called us to do, we know for certain that we are called to…
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Thursday — What do we do when the unimaginable happens?
When in our vulnerability, we feel completely “at the mercy of.”
When those who should know, have no words.
I still remember recordings of panicked 911 calls from the towers, “Can you please tell me what’s going on!!”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, we don’t know.”
And here’s the deal: in real life, it’s okay to begin there. Because sometimes, we don’t know. Let me rephrase; we don’t know the answers. But we do know that we have the capacity to ask the right questions, and find light and hope even in the cracks.
Today, I took comfort in these readings…
“If God is a source of love, then the only way I can worship God is by loving, loving wastefully. I mean the kind of love that never stops to calculate, never stops to wonder whether the object of its love is worthy to its recipient. It is love that loves not because it has been earned. That’s where I think God is made visible.”
And… “If God is the ground of being, then the only way I can worship God is by having the courage to be all that I can be. The more deeply I can be all that I can be, the more I can make God visible.”
John Shelby Spong
When I get out of the way of my own thinking, I am at peace.
When I get out of the way of my doing, I am enough.
When I get out of the way of my being, I become all I am; the Divine expression of God’s amazing grace.
And in my mind, I’ve been serenaded by Paul Simon’s voice singing American Dream…
Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken, and many times confused
Yes and I’ve often felt forsaken, and certainly misused
Ah but I’m alright, I’m alright, I’m just weary thru my bones
Still you don’t expect to be bright and bon-vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home…
And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered or driven to its knees
But it’s alright, it’s alright, for we live so well, so long
Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong, I can’t help it I wonder what’s gone wrong…
But we come on a ship they called Mayflower
We come on a ship that sailed the moon
We come in the ages’ most uncertain hours and sing an American tune
And it’s alright, oh it’s alright, it’s alright, you can be forever blessed
Still tomorrow’s gonna be another working day and I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying, to get some rest
Friday — The Katsura trees on my walk are in full Autumn splendor. It’s a marvel. Every year. And I smile, because they don’t feel compelled to wait for October. Their leaves quiver in the breeze, yellow shades of mustard and caramel and gold.
Autumn is the time when the garden let’s down its guard, getting ready for pause and rest and replenishment. And it is here, with guard down, that beauty is mesmerizing. And heartening and reassuring.
We’re so afraid of anything that is imperfect (broken or fragile). And we miss the gift of sufficiency (and wonder) at our core.
This familiar story one of my favorites…
A couple anticipated attending the opening of a new museum exhibit.
At the last moment, their childcare plans fell through. They were left with the only option of taking their young daughter, seven years old, with them. They expected that the event would be tedious for the girl, but hoped she would not be a drain on their evening.
The exhibit was large and varied. One room of watercolor paintings, another of pen and ink sketches. In another great bronze sculpting. In another, modern art in oil. And in another, small blown glass figurines. Exquisite. Gossamer.
The little girl spent the evening mesmerized.
On the way home, the parents said to their daughter, “We’re sorry we took you to such a long adult event. But we’re proud of the way you behaved. And we want to thank you. Did you enjoy any of the evening?”
The girl paused, and then told them, “Oh yes… all night, I wanted to touch the fragile things.”
The little ones understand.
I don’t want to be afraid of a soft heart (one that touches the fragile things). Although, if we’re honest, this whole soft heart routine can give us nothing but headaches. Because we all know that in the midst of navigating the heart’s uneven terrain (you name it… grief, infatuation, loss, devotion, sadness, passion, eagerness, waiting, longing, perseverance, sorrow, emotion), the life we “really deserve” is passing us by. (As if all matters of the heart are associated only with life’s unpleasantness, or potential hurt.) And we forget that our resiliency comes from on the inside, and not from adding more to the armor we wear meant to keep life from hurting us.
So. Today, let us, as Rumi said, break down whatever is standing between us and letting love in. Even in the fragile and broken places.
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Almighty God, Creator of the universe,
at the close of another day I feel helpless
in the face of our world’s suffering:
yet tonight, once more, I offer
back to you the only thing I can –
my ordinary, everyday life.
I ask you to take it into your hands
that it may be use to bring even a flicker
of justice into your world:
a candle for peace.
And not just tonight, Lord,
but through the coming days
as I move in your Spirit of love.
The Iona Prayer Book, Peter Millar