skip to Main Content

How the light gets in

Yesterday, on the 20th anniversary of 9-11, the images seared into our memories are recharged. Front and center.
“There is a sacredness in tears,” Washington Irving wrote. “They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief… and unspeakable love.”
Which means that it’s okay when we are vulnerable and don’t have all the answers. Or the words.
A reminder that telling stories is a non-negotiable part of processing and healing and reconciliation.
Every year at this time, I love reading and telling the story I heard from my good friend The Rev. Dan Matthews (former Rector at Trinity Church Wall Street and St. Paul’s Chapel), about Mike and Jim, the parish property managers.

Opened in 1766, Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use, St. Paul’s Chapel not only survived the blast and fallout (astonishing in that it sits across the street from Ground Zero), it eventually become the rest station, where volunteers took shifts as cooks, masseurs, podiatrists, and counselors for first responders.  Cots were provided for exhausted rescuers.  Many slept on the wooden pews (still marked and scarred from boots and equipment to this day).
On the Friday after the attack, the nation was asked to observe a moment of silence.  Mike and Jim asked Rev. Matthews if they could ring the bells at St. Paul’s just before the noon hour, as a call to remembrance.  Although a noble gesture, it wouldn’t be possible given the debris in the vicinity, the fact that part of the chapel had been quarantined and the reality that the bells were disabled.  Undeterred, they decided to go ahead with their plan, making their way to the top of the bell tower.  On the way, amidst the debris they found an old steel pipe.  When they reached the top, Mike told Rev. Matthews that he used that piece of steel “to beat the hell out of that bell.”  Looking out at the scene below, they could see that every worker at ground zero had removed their hard hat, and turned to face the bells.  Mike said, “It hit me, that even when things get their worst, I know that there is still hope.”

I know this; in a world where so much can go wrong, we are tempted to forget the moments where much can go right.  And despite the debris, moments when we can find the courage to make our way to the bell tower, where Leonard Cohen reminds us to “Ring the bells that still can ring.  Forget your perfect offering.”
We want to move on… even though we believe, sometimes, that our wounds will never heal.  Can our vulnerability shape the very building blocks that make healing possible?

“There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
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, even without words.  And let the healing begin there.

So, where do we go… from fractured or frightened or empty?  Maybe, just maybe, we do what Mike and Jim chose to do.  We ring the bells.  I can tell you this; it is a choice that would have been celebrated by Fr. Mychal Judge.  When the towers were hit, 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… We love this job, we all do. What a blessing it is! It’s a difficult, difficult job, but God calls you to do it, and indeed, He gives you a love for it so that a difficult job will be well done…  Turn to God each day–put your faith, your trust, your hope and your life in His hands. He’ll take care of you, and you’ll have a good life. And this firehouse will be a great blessing to this neighborhood and to this city. Amen.”

Here’s the deal: all of us need (at times in our life) to hear those bells of hope ring out.
And I can tell you this: 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… 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.

This weekend I was with the good folks gathered at Whispering Winds Retreat Center, in Julian, CA. We talked about letting our souls catch up with our bodies, and practiced the healing medicine of laughing, a lot.
Today’s in National Grandparents Day. That’s worth a call or hug. Or both, if possible.
On my drive from Julian to the San Diego airport, very early this morning, my friend John gave me the good tour, driving toward Santa Ysabel and looking east, through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, looking out toward the Salton Sea, our vista and horizon, just before sunrise, a backdrop canvas sitting on a layer of soft crimson, a snapshot of stillness that settles the heart and spirit.
As I arrived home, the geese were gathered on the fairway near the house. Welcome home.

Quote for your week…
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.
ML Gallagher


Today’s Photo Credit: “How the light gets in. Adventures along the Pacific NW coast of Oregon.” Patti Suler… Thank you Patti…  Keep sending your photos… send to [email protected]
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. 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.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365)

Join Me… Upcoming Events… Join me…
Oct 25 – 28 Fall Camp Shrine Mont. Orkney Springs, VA
Nov 5 – 7 Life in the Garden, Hinton Rural Life Center, Hayesville, NC
Dec 10 – 12 Men’s Retreat, Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, AZ

NEW Audio SM… Enjoy — The gift of small graces
Join us every Wednesday… Audio Sabbath Moment

In the mailbag…
–Thank you Terry for a wonderful retreat.  I have been needing something to get me to refocus on what is important.  I picked up a clear frame yesterday and “framed” the beautiful colored leaf and peacock feather. It looks so nice!  Autumn is my favorite season and having grown up in Chicago I really miss the changing leaves. I hope maybe one day I will be able to share with you the AWE-some experience I had with a lamb that I rescued in Ireland. Gratefully I have had several incredibly spiritual moments happen in my life but that one is at the top of the list.  I hope I don’t sound whiny,  so excuse me if I do… I have had many losses in my life but also very wonderful experiences that have shown me that someone is still watching over me. I wish you great peace and many joyful days ahead, Kathy

Share Sabbath Moment with a friend…


 It is hope that helps us keep the faith, despite the evidence,
knowing that only in doing so has the evidence any chance of changing.
William Sloane Coffin

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
You can add up the parts, you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march, there is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee
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
That’s how the light gets in
Leonard Cohen

Hafiz the true lover of God
I sometimes forget that
I was created for joy
My mind is too busy
My heart is too heavy
Heavy for me to remember
that I have been
called to dance
the sacred dance for life
I was created to smile
to love
to be lifted up
and lift others up
O sacred one
Untangle  my feet
from all that ensnares
Free my soul
That we might
and that our dancing
might be contagious.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top