We are, every one of us, so beautifully fragile.
It just doesn’t always feel that way does it? You know, the beautiful part.
Instead, we feel on edge or unglued. And we recoil, apologize, or feel at the mercy of.
Because we begin with the assumption that vulnerability is weakness. And that weakness is bad, a liability. (From the plethora of sites designed to explain and fix.)
But what if that vulnerability is a window to our sufficiency?
The very gifts that allow us to be fully human and fully alive are fragile precisely because they have the capacity to be broken open, gifts that spill courage and hope.
And here’s the deal: There is exquisite beauty in what is fragile, in what can be broken. In love, tenderness, kindness, generosity, gentleness and empathy, there is strength and power and life.
So, yes. I do want to touch the fragile things. I do not want my heart to be hard. I do want my heart to be soft. Well, at least that’s what I say out loud.
It doesn’t help that we live in a world where soft isn’t popular. And fragile is considered detrimental. So, enamored by hubris, we choose tough, fighter, inflexible. It is not surprising that we hear too many stories about cruelty and bullying and bombast and ways we demean and diminish one another. When I see this, I cry, and it is easy to close the door of my heart.
Every one of us has tussled with grief, heartache, sorrow, woundedness and loss.
Although in our image consciousness, we scramble to appear put-together (sometimes in the name of God), and in so doing, we miss all the places where the light shines from the wound.
I love stories about resilience and courage and resolve. But none of that is predicated on a denial of vulnerability. Just the opposite. In the capacity to be cracked or broken, we find the capacity to be a vessel of hope, making space for healing, passion, inclusion, wonderment and grace.
This past week, a lifegiving NYT article, The Garden Inside Purgatory, a Sanctuary at Rikers Island.
In the garden a flock of Guinea fowl (a gift from a prison farm on Long Island) clucking and pecking as prisoners garden and work. “People are especially fond of Limpy, a bird that was hurt when it flew into a barbed wire fence. They say; ‘this bird is like me. I’m also injured.’” (Hilda Krus, prison garden director)
The same care goes to damaged or unattractive plants that would be thrown away in most other gardens. “The students tell me, ‘We don’t want to get rid of things that are imperfect,’” Ms. Krus said. “They do everything they can to save them.”
Yes. We see the healing power of a garden. Because the garden doesn’t fix. It embraces the reality that fullness of life exists in, blossom in, what is fragile and often unknown.
Do you know Peter Meyer’s song, Japanese Bowl?
When something we own breaks—maybe a bowl or vase—we reluctantly or regretfully, throw it away.
There is an alternative, a Japanese practice that highlights and enhances the breaks, called kintsugi, literally golden (“kin”) and repair (“tsugi”).
A special tree sap lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum is used to celebrate each artifact by emphasizing its fractures and breaks, instead of disguising them (often making the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original giving it a second life). The scars are the beauty.
We are, every one of us, so beautifully fragile.
Let us not forget: this vulnerability is not a weakness, but a strength. Vulnerable doesn’t mean helpless victim. An invitation to embrace This vulnerable, broken, and sufficient, Terry.
Speaking of embracing…
A young boy had nightmares. The kind that make you go to mom. (No use going to Dad, who will tell you, “Go to mom.”)
“Okay,” the mom tells the boy. “Go back to your room. Kneel down by your bed. Pray to Jesus and he’ll fix it.”
Back to his room. Kneels down by his bed. Prays. And… more nightmares. Back and forth to mom. The sixth time. “Mom, I’m having nightmares.”
“Okay honey, here’s what…”
“I know mom. I’m going to my room, and kneel down by my bed and pray to Jesus. But before I do that, can I just lay in your bed and have you hold me?”
“Yes, honey, why?”
“Because, sometimes I just need Jesus with skin on it.”
We easily forget.
So, today, before we fix or explain, let us touch, with skin on it.
This isn’t an assignment. There is no “should” attached.
Whether we like it or not, we are all Jesus with skin, because every one of us has the resources to feed and nourish one another. To bring one another back to life. To make us all more and not less human. A balm with ingredients of stillness, affirmation, confirmation, celebration and grace. Dr. King’s immortal insistence that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”
Always leave people better than you found them. Hug the hurt. Kiss the broken. Befriend the lost. Love the lonely.
We have the capacity to say yes.
We have the capacity to be a home for grace, not judgment.
We have the capacity to be a home for empathy, not intolerance.
We have the capacity to be a home for compassion, not meanness.
We have the capacity to be a home for home, not fear.
And yes, we have the capacity to dance.
Here’s the good news. This reality that we are indeed fragile, does not dishearten me. It motivates, animates and emboldens. To live with a soft heart keeps my hope alive. Knowing that the gift of my own fragile heart is the best gift I can give.
I want to say RIP to Congressman Elijah Cummings. His presence, passion and moral clarity will be missed. You made us better sir.
Speaking of fragile. Autumn is our reminder. As I walk the garden, exquisite and charismatic, I wonder about how we hold on to things we love, even though I see that we, and they, are fading. Instead of figuring it out, I say a prayer for all that is beautifully fragile.
Quote for your week…
It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have. The alphabet is fine, but it’s what we do with it that matters most. Making words like “friend,” and “love.” That’s what really matters. Fred Rogers
1—My new book This Is The Life , is available. Check it out. Join me each week for new video reminders and invitations about mindfulness, grace and the power of the present. We’ll be on Facebook andInstagram . Pass the word.
2–SM reflection questions and exercises are available for group and personal use. Let me know if you want to receive.
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Today’s photo credit — October sunset Baywood Park, CA… Lyn Matasci… Thank you Lyn… keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Get his book. It’s what life is all about. Ed Kilbourne
Join me this Fall…
Nov 18 — St. Bartholomew, Long Beach, CA
Nov 21 — St. Serra Parish, Lancaster, CA
Nov 22 – 24 — Mary & Joseph Retreat Center, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–I have a list labeled Practice Daily. It has words like rejoice, praise, persevere, etc. I have added Savor to the list. Pamela
–Hi Terry, This is Christine. I want to thank you for the card you sent in response to a poem I had sent you. I am in the Cleveland Clinic rehab hospital recovering from a fall. Not a good idea for anyone at any age, 82 or 28. My husband brought the mail and I was thrilled to receive your card. God bless you for this blessing. This unexpected card did so much for me. My heart did a little dance of joy even if the rest of me could not join in. I have read yesterday’s Sabbath Moment 3 times already. Each one is so fulfilling with the Good News and words of wisdom. I love it when you talk about waking up and no longer feeling afraid. We are in our 80’s and have probably experienced many fearful times in our lives. We are ever grateful for every new day and getting ready to “balter” whenever the Spirit gives us the nudge. With our cane and walker we will live the words of a favorite hymn of mine, “Lord of the Dance”. He will certainly smile on all of us. With prayers for you and your family and your ministry. Thanks so much for baltering today! Peace.
–I offer you the most amazing balter song. It is “Through Heaven’s Eyes”, from the animated movie “Prince of Egypt”. I’ve played it and danced with my grandkids for years. My grandson is too old and cool to dance now but I still play the song hoping to draw him in. His response, “Go on and dance, Nana. You know you want to!” I never disappoint! I promise you will dance, too… even your insides need to dance! Thank you for getting my Monday off to a joyful start! Sue
–Terry, Thank you for this wonderful new word for my vocabulary…Balter. I hope I find the need to balter soon. I share your Sabbath Moment with a dear friend who has many struggles in her life yet fills a lot of people’s lives with sunshine, hope and love. She is a special person and when she tells me how happy she is to get your weekly sabbath moment it makes me happy and thankful for you. Thank you for reminding us all how important it is to be kind and our true selves in spite of all the things going on in this world today. I hope you know how inspiring you are to so many and continue to spill your light. Carol
–My wife and I share your ‘moment’ each week- today I read it as she was driving her shift of an all-day road trip. Her comment was: “They should teach baltering in seminary”. Amen! Larry
–Hi, Terry – I just want you to know that I particularly appreciate, with such relief and balm in my heart, when you quote Heschel and bring in Jewish terms like kadosh into your beautiful writings. Just between you and me – this just adds to the gift you send, and helps me be less afraid. Warmly, Pam
–You know I balter regularly, even with one hip healing and the other needing a new joint. Sue
POEMS AND PRAYERS
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer (Excerpts from The Invitation)
The Small Still Voice of Love
Everything becomes sacred when we walk in the Spirit.
Every leaf, every tree,
Every eye and open heart.
The birds that sing
The ground we work and plant.
The children lost in play.
The broken disheveled and frayed.
The enemy at our door.
The eagle who mounts and soars
Every person is Beloved
There is no one God does not love.
The whole world is loved
As we walk in the vast wonder of God
There is more to life than we can see or fathom.
Yet how often we try to shrink the mystery, tame the dream, limit what is possible.
Remind us that the Spirit is always blowing new life into our days, surprising us with wonder and blessing.
Forgive us for dull awareness and hesitant witness.
Let us be made new again and again, no matter what age we are.
And let us hear again and again of your love.