To Carry and Be Carried

carry“Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.

“…carried by four of them…” This phrase stops me every time. From the perspective of one has been carried and as one who has carried others, I’ve wondered both about the person on the mat and the ones doing the carrying.

Was the person being carried by others willing and cooperative or unwilling and struggling against? Grateful or resentful? I have to admit I have not always been an easy person to carry. What about you? Remember the times of your life when you were not able to walk alone. What was it like for you?

And, what about those doing the carrying? For four people to get a person anywhere takes cooperation! But, were their hearts filled with compassion and tenderness or with duty or even resentment? And, they brought their loved one to the feet of Jesus. I often consider where am I even bringing others? As you have carried others, what is it like for you?

Kintsugi–Mending the Broken

Can you remember as a child when you accidently broke something and tried with all your ability to mend it so that no one would notice? I recall the fear and shame this created within me.kintsugi I can also remember thinking that superglue would be my saving grace! But, even with this great invention, I somehow could never repair the broken item to its original state. Imagine my surprise when I learned of the Japanese technique of Kintsugi…I could have told everyone I was simply being an artist!

Kintsugi is an ancient Japanese technique used to repair broken ceramic pieces. “Kint” > gold and “Sugi” >connect. The art of kintsugi uses lacquer and gold leaf to repair the broken plate, bowl, etc…creating what many say is a work of art more beautiful than the original piece. To the kintsugi artists, this work is related to the spiritual practice of finding beauty in broken or old items, giving them new life.

Applied to our lives, the idea of turning the broken into beauty becomes a spiritual practice that frees us from hiding and releases the shame we feel. Kintsugi was the focus of discussion in a recent addiction recovery group I was facilitating. After watching the video on the link I have provided below, the talk turned to our own brokenness. The scars, the wounds we receive, the wounds we have given, the flaws, the cracks, the hurt and pain we all carry. We then took time to reflect by creating images of our own brokenness and visions of mending. 

I was given permission by the man who created this plate to share this photo and his explanation of his image in this blog.


He first etched in the paper plate how he saw the brokenness in his life. You can see in the center the words “self esteem.” He then wrote on the outer circle words that contribute to mending the broken pieces of his life. When it came time to add the gold, rather than just draw a solid line, the lines were formed by individual dots. The reason for not simply drawing a line is because this healing, this mending, takes time. One dot at a time…healing takes place.

What is the brokenness you carry? What contributes to healing the shattered pieces? What beauty do you see in your life from past wounds where healing has taken place?



Pride and Compassion


Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,

but that we are powerful beyond measure.

~Marianne Williamson

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I recently attended a wonderful retreat based on the theme of compassion.  Throughout the week we were accompanied by this beautiful peacock with its vibrant colors of various shades of blues and greens.  As I spent time reflecting on the grace of God’s unconditional love for all of creation, experiencing healing through meditations on self-compassion, and opening my heart to compassion for all of life, I kept gazing at this peacock and felt God had a message to share through this stunning creature.

But what could a peacock possibly have to do with compassion?

Compassion is the act of extending loving kindness. I find that experiencing compassion, both from God and the compassion I have for myself and others, leads to great healing of the broken places in life.  When I allow myself to be embraced by the fullness of God’s love for me, I begin to understand that just being “me” is enough.  And when I welcome all aspects of myself (those I’m proud of as well as the parts that try to remain hidden) and I bring them into the light of God’s grace, I am no longer divided and struggling with the need to hide who I truly am from God or others.  I can become the person God created me to be.  I can celebrate the “beauty” – in whatever shape or form that takes.

 Just as God  accepts and loves me, God created and loves all people.  Extending unconditional love, grace and compassion to others invites them to experience healing and wholeness. There is no competition or selfish acts of “doing good” just to make me feel better about myself.  Practicing loving kindness to others allows us to see the beauty that lies within them.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians he writes, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12, 14)

When we clothe ourselves with these things, then like the peacock, we too radiate the glory of God…

And of that we can be proud!

Think for Change

“So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key”. ~The Eagles, “Already Gone”

WheThink for Change Picturen reflecting upon personal growth, I believe what is hardest to grasp is that we can change. I also believe we all have things we wish to hide from other people and even from God. We enjoy watching personal transformation happen in others, but we take comfort in staying in the shadows ourselves; it is difficult to bring those things we view as “faults” into the light for everyone to see. Yet, stepping out of the shadows, accepting God’s grace, and being mindful of the help He sends our way makes us more powerful and able than we know.

In his book Fully Human, Fully Alive, John Powell writes that we “do not have to change, grow or be good in order to be loved. Rather, we are loved so we can change, grow, and be good.” Believing this is an important first step in finding the courage to come out of the shadows and into the light, where we can get help to make successful changes in our lives.

Even when we finally feel ready, our brains are wired to maintain the status quo, which can be a barrier to making those positive changes. The good news is that taking time to think differently can cause new pathways to form in our brains. These new pathways gradually hardwire new behaviors and thoughts into our minds. Thinking can help us break out of old habits and establish new ones in their place.  Our brains are highly teachable!

So, with God’s grace, help from others and mindfully retraining our habits, we do have the key to making positive changes in our lives.

By MaryAnne Toepperwein