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The beauty of imperfection

I’m unfocussed today, so I’ll blame it on the weather. (Easy to do here). Trouble is, these are the kind of days when I give myself grief, slipping down the slippery slope connecting measuring up to well-being.
Gratefully, the geese seem not to care when I have anxious days. And I like that about them. I tell them that when I come back by, I’ll be ready to give them a good Super Bowl day homily.

I’ll want to tell them about what I learned this week. About Kintsugi.
Do you know it?
It’s an ancient Japanese method of repairing broken porcelain, using gold to fill the cracks. (Also known as Kintsukuori, which translates “golden joinery.”)
The Kintsugi artisan uses gold (or other precious metal) mixed with epoxy to repair the broken piece. Okay, this really does my heart good; the gold now emphasizes, rather than hides, the breakage. Yes, the gold honors the beauty of imperfection, and that beauty spills.
It’s Marcel Proust’s reminder, “My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing.” So, my value is not about where I should arrive (needing to pretend that the cracks do not exist or will be covered up), but honoring and living into the true value deep down.
We’re invited to a paradigm shift: Henri Nouwen’s guidance that we “embrace” our brokenness. The “precious scars” honoring my life. No surprise that I hear Leonard Cohen, “there is a crack in everything and that is how the light gets in.”
Now, at home in my own skin; that “safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer,” Parker Palmer writes. “It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm—it’s about spiritual survival and the capacity to carry on.”  

In 1921, at age 39, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a rising star in the political world.  Vacationing on remote Campobello Island, in Canada, he awoke one morning without feeling in his legs.  Over the next few nerve-racking days, his condition worsened, was misunderstood and misdiagnosed.  Almost one month later, the headline blared to the world from the New York Times, “F.D. Roosevelt Ill of Poliomyelitis.”
As careful as we may be,
as strong as we may be,
as faithful as we may be,
life can take left turns.
And the walls come crashing down. 

The ancient Kintsugi reminder, “The true life of the bowl began the moment it was dropped.”

The only real question after brokenness… What happens next?
For the very physically active FDR, this news–polio, paraplegic, potentially a stationary life–could have utterly unraveled him.
Not unlike an amputated spirit.
It is reported, however, that Franklin took the news from his physician without showing any emotion.  (In later years, Frances Perkins, Roosevelt’s secretary of labor, would notice that at a time of crisis, such as Pearl Harbor, there was a ‘studied quality’ about Roosevelt’s calmness.)
But what now?  What happens next?
With his starkly diminished capacity what choices would he make?  With his family and life at a crossroads, FDR’s mother, Sara Ann Delano (known for her reputation as a “controlling” presence) weighed in, “She had made up her mind that Franklin was going to be an invalid for the rest of his life and that we would retire to Hyde Park and live there.”
No, Franklin did not follow his Mother’s advice.
And we are better off because of it.
In 1928 he was elected the Governor of New York.
In 1932 he became the 32nd president of the United States.
He served four terms.
The result?  A transformed life and a transformed world.
And here’s the deal: “(It) proved a blessing in disguise; for it gave him strength and courage he had not had before,” Eleanor Roosevelt (talking about FDR).

One thing I love about the FDR story is that he wasn’t looking for “new and improved” or even arriving somewhere.
What happens next is Kintsugi. Embracing brokenness and honoring the beauty of imperfection. Literally living into authenticity.
Authenticity, being at home with this self.
Authenticity, letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Meaning that this resolve is already inside of each of us, a vein of gold or silver resiliency in the bedrock of our soul.  (Although I confess, there are times, too many, when I don’t believe I have what it takes.)
“Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives,” Brené Brown
So. In order to see, we must let go of our prejudice that only that which is big or notable or positive or new and improved is of value.  In the middle of a transition,
when our emotions feel alien,
our dreams seem small or non-existent,
our outlook uncertain,
our esteem on a roller coaster,
we need to be reminded that it is precisely there, in the particularity of the ordinary, the simple, the accidental, the shadow-side, the uncertain, the unlucky, and the small… that life can be embraced.
What did make him so resilient? I don’t know. But something about a new way of seeing the gold filling the cracks.

I do know this… I savored the story.  Maybe that’s a beginning.
Resiliency and transformation. I’m not sure you can manufacture it, but you can celebrate it when you see it.
And here’s the gift; no longer afraid, I now see that light, not only in me, but also in you.

I don’t usually cry watching the Super Bowl (unless Seattle is playing). But today, gladly I let my heart savor the moment; H.E.R.’s version of America the Beautiful and Amanda Gorman’s poem (yes, a Super Bowl poem), reminding us that even in tragedy hope is possible. 

Quote for your week…
You may not find a cure, but you can still receive healing. Michael Lerner

Notes: The story about FDR adapted from Franklin and Eleanor by Hazel Rowley and the quote from Sara Delano, in a letter written by Eleanor Roosevelt

JOIN US… Here’s an invitation to join the Soul Gardening eCourse. It’s available to all. No fee. You can order the book to go with it. It would be a good retreat journey for Lent (which begins on Wednesday, February 17).
The other great Lent option is my new book, The Gift of Enough–a journal for the present moment. My journal with invitations to embrace and savor the sacred present.
Please share all of this with your friends and community.


Today’s Photo Credit: Maine winter bedecked tree… Lee Dernehl… Thank you Lee… Keep sending your photos… send to
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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.
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NEW Audio SM… Enjoy — The stories we carry
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In the mailbag…
–Thanks for the story of the conga drum. In 6th grade while our teacher was filling out end of year report cards we had one long baseball game. I was able to make all 3 outs in the same inning. Those 3 at bats were always painful. The next day The neighbor friend chose me first for another game. Grace upon Grace. Flip
–Hi Terry, I just signed up for your Soul Gardening ecourse and as I look out on this dark, almost rainy winter day, I’m wondering if starting with session 7 is a good idea or not. It seems seasonally fitting. Thanks, Kathy

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Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but… life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves. Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I Am So Glad
“Start seeing everything as God,
But keep it a secret
Become like a man who is Awestruck,
and Nourished.
Listening to a Golden Nightingale
Sing in a beautiful foreign language
While God invisibly nests
Upon its tongue.
Who can you tell in this world
That when a dog runs up to you
Wagging its ecstatic tail,
You lean down and whisper in its ear,
I am so glad You are happy to see me.
I am so glad,
So very glad you have come.”

Oh, Great Spirit,
Whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life to all the world.
Hear me! I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes
ever hold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock.
Help me remain calm and strong in the
face of all that comes towards me.
Help me find compassion without being overwhelmed.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother or my sister,
but to fight my greatest enemy: myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit may come to you without shame.
Translated by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark in 1887

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This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. We have always enjoyed your spirituality, humor, wit and the love and support you give us. Art and I are Fall Campers at Shrinemont. We know you are scheduled to be at Fall Camp this year and we are looking forward to seeing you there. God Bless ✝️

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