Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transparent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Things" sometimes help us quiet our busy hearts and minds.

Years ago I used to take great pride in describing myself as a Triple A personality.  In my mind, I appeared to be organized, confident, efficient.... All those kind of things the world acknowledges.  At the time I had a pastor, Dewey, who reminded me of an older version of my dad.  I loved Dewey, and I know he loved me as well.  One reason I know he loved me, he worried about me and to me. "Sandi, you have got to slow down! It isn't healthy to be going in so many directions during so many hours of the day!"  I never thought I would some day be offering the same message!!!

Today, I do recognize the wisdom of Dewey's words.  Still, it is difficult for me to become quiet and then to stay quiet for any length of time.  Because I am such a visual person, I have learned that "things" can help me focus and to be present in the moment.  Lighting a candle.  Sitting in front of a fire or beside a stream.  Running my fingers around a strand of prayer beads or a stroking a smooth stone. 
Many suggest that watching your breath helps you focus.

That does not work for me! 

I would worry except...did you know there is actually a book "Breathing for Dummies?" It is comforting to know there are others like me that struggle with something as simple as b-r-e-a-t-h-i-n-g.  

Anyway, back to this moment.... Because it is so difficult for me to focus and be still, I was drawn to Joyce Rupp's use of using a cup as a symbol of her quest to go a bit deeper within herself. She shares in the introduction of her book that another pastor had asked her to bring a cup to their regularly scheduled mid-week prayer time. Norm, the pastor, invited the others to hold their cups, to look into them, and to think about their spiritual life. Joyce says, 
"At that moment, the symbolism of the cup awakened me to the deeper part of myself...I had no sooner looked into the empty cup when tears began forming in my eyes. What was this about?...I discovered I was more spiritually drained than I had realized. Looking into the empty cup was like looking into my hollow self."  (Joyce Rupp The Cup of Life (1997) p 11)
Have you ever noticed how many kinds of cups are available on the shelves of a TJMaxx or Target? There is literally a cup for anything you might want to recognize. 

There are cups with messages, "I Love My Dog" or one of my favorites, "Hello, Hotstuff!". There are cups that announce to others that you support a particular club or charity just as there are cups that showcase a hobby or collection. There are cups that are intended to bring a smile to one's face and then there are cups, that simply do not even look like a cup!

As interesting as these cups might be, some of my favorite cups can be found in a kitchen sink, on a workbench, or maybe in a china cabinet.  Some of these cups have character.  Often the gold edging has been worn off or there might be a small chip along the edge.

Still, regardless if the cup came from a local garage sale or from a maker of fine china, cups are basically ordinary, everyday objects, yet, it was the ordinariness of the cup that allowed it to become a "powerful teacher" for Rupp's inner life. She says, "The ordinariness of the cup reminds me that my personal transformation occurs in the common crevices of each day...The cup has been a reminder of my spiritual thirst...As I've held it, filled it, drunk from it, emptied it and washed it, I've learned that it is through my ordinary human experiences that my thirst for God is quenched.  In the cup I see life, with its emptiness, fullness, brokenness, flaws, and blessings." (ibid)

Rupp shares that a cup is a container.  It has been made to hold or to contain something.  Yet, whatever the cup holds, Rupp points out that it eventually will be emptied so that something else can be put into it.  Does that remind you of how this phenomenon called "LIFE" often seems?  A few years ago I began offering a wish or a blessing that someone would have a "full" day rather than a "good" day. After all, how can we always know what is "good" or what is "bad"? Sometimes what seems bad, ends up being a good thing...and vice versa.  Still, "full"?

"Full" suggests that something is wrong if a day, week...even longer contains times of emptying, cleaning, pouring order to make room for something new.  Rupp writes that "the spiritual journey is like that - a constant process of emptying and filling, of giving and receiving, of accepting and letting go." (ibid)

On page 12 of the Introduction, Rupp offers what the cup has taught her:
"...valuable lessons for my spiritual growth. I have leaned that my life holds stale things that need to be discarded and that sometimes my life feels as wounded as a broken cup. I have leaned that I have flaws, chips, and stains, just as any well-used cup may have, but that these markings of a well-traveled life need not prevent me from being a valuable gift to others. I have learned that the contents of my life are meant to be constantly given and shared in a generous gesture of compassion, just as the main purpose of a cup is to have its contents given away...
"Notice the rim on a cup. It is circular, with no beginning or end, a symbol of wholeness. In the circle all is connected to form a oneness. The spiritual life is a journey toward becoming whole...the cup's rim...reminds me of this longing for wholeness and connectedness.
"This yearning for greater spiritual oneness with God is the foundation of 'The Cup of Life'...which is centered around the many facets of a cup...
These thoughts and words hopefully give you a taste of what this six-week Lenten study may hold. Tomorrow and Wednesday I will share more of Joyce's suggestions about beginning this journey.  You have probably already figured out that one thing you will need is a cup.  I have given a great deal of thought on the cup I will use for my daily practice during the next six weeks.  Actually, I may have two cups.  I will explain more about this decision tomorrow.

Once you choose a cup to serve as your teacher, Joyce suggests that you bless the cup with the following prayer.
                     Blessing of the Cup
Bestower of Life, Abundant Love
Trusted Companion, Eternal Wisdom,I pray your blessing to be uponthis cup and upon myself.Make of this cup a sacred vesselas I pray with it each day.May this cup become my teacher,helping me to find my way to you.May this cup hold many messagesof your wisdom and your comfort.May this cup connect me with lifeand create in me a generous heart.May this cup draw me ever closerinto loving oneness with you.
Today I met with a small group of women who are more than a little special to me.  Perhaps one way to describe them is by referring to them as my "Spiritual Sisters." We gathered around a kitchen table, sharing a simple lunch of a salad and bread.  Afterward, small china bowls were filled with fresh fruit and Trefoil Girl Scout cookies. The time spent with these women were sacred moments, yet in so many ways the time we spent was ordinary.

A kitchen table, salad...Girl Scout cookies! That is about as ordinary as you can get!

Bobbie, one of my "Sisters", picked up on the term "God Winks" a few years ago. We have laughed about such moments, yet there is a lot of truth within those two words.  Today, was two hours of God Winks...of sitting around a table and being truly present to the Living Jesus. And, interesting enough, we each sat with a coffee cup as we prayed, worshiped, and offered one another the gift of our "selves".

I enjoy Joyce Rupp because she speaks to my ordinary heart within my ordinary life.  You can find her book on Amazon.  I have not checked to see if a Barnes and Noble or Borders bookstore have it in stock, I am sure it could be ordered from them as well.

I am not saying one HAS to have this book as we journey together, but I will obviously not be able to share everything Joyce shares within the book.

I am looking forward to this adventure in blogging and in opening my heart to learn through an ordinary cup. I know many of you are new to blogging as well and have had difficulty in leaving a comment.  I will ask others for help since I don't have a clue!!!

Many Blessings ~ Sandi


  1. A cup plays an important role in my life. I try and always have coffee makings at the ready for anyone that stops in to visit. The visit feels more complete when we share a cup of tea or coffee. A glass of water no matter how good it is, does not carry the same power. A set of cups and a pot of coffee can truly soothe the wild emotions of living in this world

  2. The gift of hospitality. I'm not sure what it is, but sitting and holding something and taking an occasional sip seems to be a way to relax. I think it definitely helps me to be present with the other individual. Your thoughts on a bottle of water are interesting, something I had not thought about, and I think you are on to something. How often do you see someone walking down a grocery aisle, riding an exercise bike...while taking a drink of water. We don't have to "slow down" in order to drink water. Thank you for the insight that offering a drink of water isn't quite the same!

  3. Day #1 - God created us, to be us - just as my cup that I am using was a one of a kind, created for me by a former student. God created me to be, not to be someone else.
    "I have called you by name, you are mine... You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you." - Isaiah 43:1,4
    Oh, how I love the song, "Jesus loves the little children" and this passage of scripture reminds me that God knows me and loves me just where I am. How thankful I am for that. When I think of God loving me unconditionally, I am thankful, humbled, (and often filled with guilt- that I do not return his love in full measure to others). Last night Eli asked why I had been mad at him (Oh, I don't know he threw something at the TV or something). I started poorly singing that I love him all the time, even when he does things that are bad. He appeared startled - and started to sing back about when he thinks I do and do not love him. We kept talking about how I always love him - no matter what. I know that my feelings for Eli - are minute compared to the infinite love of God the Father, shown through Jesus Christ. Oh, to share this unconditional love with others and have them convinced that nothing can separate them from the love of God. May I be loving in my actions toward others today.