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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week VI - Day 5 - The Cup of Thanksgiving

Lee Smith
I am nearly at the end of this journey with Joyce and she introduces me to yet one more spiritual teacher! Lee Smith, author of Fair and Tender Ladies writes:
"For all of a sudden when I saw those lights, I said to myself, Ivy, this is your life, this is your real life, and you are living it. Your life is not going to start later. This is it, it is now. It's funny how a person can be so busy that they forget this is it. This is my life."
Helen Keller 1880 - 1968
~ ~ ~ sigh ~ ~ ~ Some mornings it takes courage to continue reading when the quote at the beginning of the devotion hits me smack in the face!  At the same time, I am curious where Joyce is going following such a lead in. Today, she tells of another woman's, Jean Houston, story after going to hear Helen Keller speak when she, Houston, was still very young. Houston was moved to speak to Helen and made her way toward her until she was face to face with Helen Keller. Houston described the experience saying,
"She read my whole face and I blurted out: 'Miss Keller, why are you so happy?' and she laughed and laughed, saying: 'My child, it is because I live each day as if it were my last and and life, with all its moments, is so full of glory." (Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Life, p 145)
Oh my.... Yesterday afternoon, driving home from work I had a great conversation with my Mom on Disguised Blessings.  She told of a life long friend she visits in a nursing home who is helpless with Parkinson's disease. For many years, John, Lavern's husband had cared for her at home.  A few years ago her care became to difficult and the decision was made to move Lavern into a nearby nursing home.  Sadly, John's health was fading and he ended up in the same facility where he died not long after. My mother's friend is completely helpless, yet Mom reports that her face is serene and that she is full of peace.

"What gives her that peace, Mom? Is it her faith?"

"I don't know, I'm sure she would say it is her faith, but I struggle to find a blessing within her circumstances."

After a moment's pause I asked, "Are you blessed by Lavern, Mom? I know you go to visit in order to bless her, but are you also being blessed?"

Another pause..."I think Lavern blesses everyone who comes into her room to care for her. They all love her. But still..."

Thinking back to that conversation and reading Jean's account of Helen Keller, I wonder if somehow, even though she is held hostage in a body that does not respond...I wonder if Lavern sees each day of her life as moments full of glory?
We zoom through life, missing moments of wonder and awe.
"It is amazing, isn't it, how we can miss so much of life? The key to gratitude is surprise. When we lose our sensitivity to wonder and awe, when we simply trudge or zoom through the days, we can so easily miss the daily gifts of life. When we awaken to what is within us and around us, when we savor, relish, and taste life fresh each day, our heart holds much more gratitude for our blessings." (Rupp, p 146)
Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey, the author of The Way of Passion writes that if we were really looking at this world, we would be moved a hundred times a day by the flowers at the side of the road, the people we meet, by all that brings us messages of our own goodness and the goodness of all things.

"To be grateful is to affirm goodness wherever we find it. The problem with being grateful is not the lack of countless blessings, the problem is with being inattentive and unaware of these blessings." (Ibid)

Is this ever a lead in for my next book, A Tree Full of Angels - Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary! A few days ago I picked up a book on one of the end racks at Barnes and Noble, the Attitudes of Gratitude by M.J. Ryan. I was with one of my grandkids, heading back to the children's area...not looking for a San book. It was eye level with my granddaughter.  Walking by, she stopped, picked it up and handed it to me...and walked on! I began to put it back, but then decided maybe I ought to pay attention, just in case it was Grace nudging her to nudge me.  I haven't opened it yet, but I suspect I may be using it in the weeks to come.  I have kept a gratitude journal in the past, and it did make me more aware of the God Winks during an ordinary day.
"One practice that has helped to reawaken my gratitude when my thankfulness has grown lean is to take one of my five external senses each day and be attentive to it. One day I notice all the sounds that I hear; another day I pay close attention to everything I see, etc. Doing this helps me to move out of my tired approach to life. I restore my alertness to my daily gifts and begin again to see the universe as one vast blessing." (Ibid)
Then the final wham of this day's devotion:
"Are you living your life right now?   Or are you still waiting for it to happen?"
Breathing in: Alive aware...
Breathing out: ...thank you, thank you

Reflection: (Using your five external senses to lead you to gratitude)
Listen - Smell - Look - Touch - Taste
Take your cup and place a favorite beverage in it.
Listen to the sound of the liquid as you pour.
Take the cup and smell the beverage.
Look at the liquid, the color, fluidity, etc.
Feel the liquid in the cup.
Drink it very, very slowly. Taste it fully.
Be aware of the blessings of your five sense.
Give thanks.

Scripture: Psalm 116:12-19; Luke 22:14-23
What return shall I make to God for all God's bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of God (Ps 116:12-13)
Then Jesus took the cup and gave thanks... (Lk 22:17)

I am most alert to my daily blessings when...
Something for which I am grateful, but rarely give thanks:
Thank you, Bountiful One,...

I am most alert to my daily blessings when...I am rested.  I have been practicing spiritual disciplines that "wake" me up and give me a sense of inner balance. I am more alert to my daily blessings when I know I will either share with others or will write in a journal at the end of the day.

Normally, when I am tired, rushing from one thing to would take a blessing to literally knock me up the side of the head...but when I am "living" from this state....I might still not recognize the blessing!

Something for which I am grateful, but rarely give thanks:  I think just an ordinary day!  Today, I did not finish my journaling this morning as I planned because I remembered I had two soccer games to get two different locations! I got ready and headed out.  After my grandson's game, he accompanied me to my granddaughter's game.  After her game I took both of them to a nearby town to look for a few garage sales, go to McDonald's Playland (yuk!), Barnes and Noble, then home...

They would tell you they had a good day, but sitting here this evening, I am not sure how present I truly was.  Partly, I am tired.  Being tired is the story of my life with this body of mine.  Yet, I know there were moments my mind was drifting and I was thinking about the week to come, how I can make it to more of their games, when/how will they get home... And, when I am "there", I was not present in that moment.  I take for granted we will have many more moments instead of unwrapping the gift of those moments and being present with all five of my senses.

Sigh.... It seems so hard to be present, yet, I know it is worth the effort.  I know that within the moments of this life that I step through...I am missing God Moments after God Moments.

I thank you, God, with my whole heart,
I will tell of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you.
I will sing to you for you have dealt bountifully with me.
Your steadfast love endures forever.

Tomorrow: (since it is already late....)
I will live this day as if it was my last.

Wow...I know I would have lived this day very differently if I had lived it as though it was my last.

I am thinking this reminder might not be a bad thing to tape to my monitor.  I want to live my life this way, because I know when I strive to do so...I will be truly "living" this life.  God help me....

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Friday, April 29, 2011

Week VI - Day 4 - A Post Script...

Before heading out, I decided to read today's devotion from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  I simply shook my head...
"Let Me teach you thankfulness. Begin by acknowledging that everything - all your possessions and all that you are - belongs to Me. The dawning of each new day is a gift from Me, not to be taken for granted. The earth is vibrantly alive with My blessings, giving vivid testimony to My Presence. If you slow down your pace of life, you can find Me anywhere.
Some of My most precious children have been laid aside in sick beds or shut away in prisons. Others have voluntarily learned the discipline of spending time alone with Me. The secret of being thankful is learning to see everything from My perspective. My world is your classroom. My Word is a lamp to your feet and a light for your path."
Like I have said before, I am amazed how things in my life fit together, when I am open and willing to see.

For the second time this morning...
Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Week VI - Day 4 - Disguised Blessings

 Aeschylus 524 BC- 456 BC
In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. ~ Aeschylus

I am always humbled when I read such wisdom and rich insight from one who lived so long ago. Aeschylus was a Greek playwright and soldier.  I probably read about him in one of those Early Civ classes I loved at Purdue...

Joyce uses Aeschylus' insight to move me to consider that some of my (our) greatest blessings have been through difficult situations, uncomfortable ones that she suggests I might have wanted to throw out of my life as quickly as possible.  I'm wondering where she will take me with this thought because it feels much like the introduction to the Broken or Chipped Cup....
"Sometimes our greatest pain holds a gift for us that is hidden for a long, long time. The blessing is disguised amid the turmoil, confusion, heartache, and struggle. Sometimes we are unable to accept the blessing because we are still too hurt, too angry, too grieved, too overwhelmed, to receive it." (Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Life, p 143)
Still feeling a bit confused, I began reading the next paragraph and realize now that we are talking about a much deeper brokenness than before.
Loss of any kind must be grieved.
"My brother David drowned at age twenty-three. I was twenty-five a the time. It was fifteen years before I found my gift amidst the grief. It was his death that led me to write about goodbyes, loss, and grief. It was my struggle with this catastrophe that helped me become the writer I am today. I would never say that my brother's death was a blessing, but I can now say that the insights and spiritual growth that eventually came out of the experience were blessings disguised within the sorrow." (Ibid) 
I have seen tremendous gifts of blessing come from heart-wrenching tragedy.  A mother who, with her two children and good friends organize trips to the children's hospital...the same hospital where her own 4 y.o. little girl died.  A mother who collects Pooh-Bears for the children and elderly who come and go from another hospital, in memory of her daughter who died at the age of 18. A 5K Walk/Run to benefit a children's rehab hospital in memory of a 15 y.o. girl who died in very similar circumstances as my own accident twelve years.   ago. I organized my own Mini Marathon two years after my accident to benefit a new women's shelter in my county.  This paragraph could go on and on.

Wrestling with our unwanted life experience.
"Within each struggle, there is a blessing waiting to happen. The biblical passage of Jacob struggling with a messenger of God is a symbolic story of our own struggle with the unwanted parts of our life. All during the long night (the darkness) Jacob wrestles with this unknown figure (our unwanted life experiences). Jacob is wounded in the process (our memory of the experience.) He is wise enough to say to the angel, 'I will not let you go until you bless me.' ('Give me some meaning, some hope, some wisdom from this inner wrestling match.') Jacob goes away limping but he is wiser than he was before the struggle began." (Ibid)
Ohhhh...I don't know.  This is difficult.  Yes, I have seen great good come from tragedy and crises....  Yes, I agree that sometimes the blessing might become disguised for many years, yet I....I don't know how to articulate concern is that the "blessing" becomes the focus and the pain and grieving of the loss.... Personal story...people thought it so great that I had risen above my accident to organize a Mini Marathon to benefit the women's shelter.  What many did not realize was the "busyness" of training for the Mini AND the planning/implementing the Mini kept me from grieving. Joyce writes that it took her fifteen years.  It just seems as though we, today, expect someone to move on quicker...applaud them when they do...and we bypass so much necessary healing.  

I remember hearing how Steven Curtis Chapman would go into his backyard following the death of his five year old daughter and sing praise songs.  He told later that he felt like doing anything but singing praise songs and that his heart was not into the songs.  He often sang, through intense weeping and physical pain.  Looking back, he recognized healing had begun before he even realized.  He remembered one day when suddenly there was a bit of actual praise within his words, I said, in hindsight he realized the lifting of his pain had been going on before that day.

Disguised blessings.  Going through the process of grieving...for any kind of loss is important.  Death, yes...but loss from a disease or an accident, I believe the image/hope one had of a future is a loss. The loss of a relationship, even a bad relationship, there is a loss that needs to be grieved.  The loss of a job, even the loss of a beloved pet... Disguised blessings, yes often do appear, my hope/prayer is that they don't appear before grieving...good grieving...has taken place for me.
"Sometimes the pain of our life doesn't make much sense bu usually disguised blessings eventually come to light when we leave the fray behind and begin to let go of what has brought us so much misery. In the process of healing we begin to see the blessings that are ours. Today is a day to survey an experience that you wish you never had and to see if there might be a blessing hidden within it." (Rupp, p 144)
Breathing in: Divine Wisdom...
Breathing out: ...blessing me, blessing me.

Take your cup in your hands.
Stand and face the East, the direction of awakening, of insight, of new life.
Hold out your cup to God, the Wisdom-Giver.
Receive the wisdom from your disguised blessings.
Then hold the cup to your heart.
Stand for several minutes in quiet union with God.

Scripture: Genesis 32:22-32
Jacob was left alone; and a messenger of God wrestled with him until daybreak. When the messenger saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he stuck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint... Then he said, "Let me go..." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go until you bless me." (Gen32:24-26)

Something I wrestle with, try to make sense of, and wonder how it could ever contain a blessing is...
Some of my disguised blessings that I've gradually come to realize are:
All-knowing One, teach me...

Natural disaster seem to be happening somewhere, daily!
Something I wrestle with, try to make sense of, and wonder how it could ever contain a blessing is...  The disasters we have seen so often in the past few weeks.  Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes.... Children born into poverty and abuse.  The killings that occur in Africa...and other places around the world.

Yes, people come together to work, pray, rebuild.... but at the cost of who and what?  It is one thing for me to go through a struggle/grief and to then become a blessing to someone else...but for a child or an elderly person...anyone to have to be killed or maybe even worse survive, in order to bring out the good in order for blessings to occur??? I struggle with this.  I struggle to think how these things contain a blessing.  I struggle with the feeling of anger that knots in my stomach as I sit here and type about a blessing coming from some of the images that have been burned into my heart during 2011.

Then, the disguised blessing of broken relationships? I can see this, yet, I know there is also a great deal of pain that sometimes never leaves. The Boss's song The River comes to mind. (once again, my eclectic taste in music) The River.  Listening as I think more about Joyce's words...some of the brokenness comes from our choices.  I've already journaled about this.  And...because we make less than good choices, there are opportunities....Bruce goes back to that Memory Cup...
Now those memories come back to haunt me, they haunt me like a curseIs a dream a lie if it don't come trueOr is it something worse that sends meDown to the river though I know the river is dry
Obviously, there is a lot in my heart as I work through this day's devotion!

Some of my disguised blessings that I've gradually come to realize are: Greater empathy. I listen better and am not as judgmental as before. I recognize I was "do-ing" a good Christian before so many things happened to teach me that I was missing the "be-ing" within my actions.  A greater awareness/appreciation for what is truly important while living this part of my on earth.

Obviously, this is a difficult lesson for me to hold in open hands.  I can see me coming back to this again...and maybe even work through some of what Joyce is trying to offer me.  I feel as though I am rambling at this moment.... I almost forgot to write how much I appreciate the thoughts/insights within the Jacob wrestling story...something else I intend to sit with longer...

praying for wisdom...
Holy Wisdom, come with your vast vision. Help me to sift through the rubble of my trying times, to find the teachings that can guide my life. You who see far beyond the devastation, lead me to believe that there might be gifts in what I want to toss away. I offer you my gratitude for all the disguised blessings that are mind.

If an unwanted experience occurs today, I will not toss it out until I struggle to find a blessing in it.

Wow...Joyce is really challenging me today!  I wonder what is hidden in my heart, that is causing such a reaction/knee jerk to her thoughts today? Like I said...this is going to be an ongoing reflection for me!

Still, I carry great hope in my heart and I hope I leave a sense of hope/blessing in my footsteps as I walk through this day.  I've a meeting with a young couple later today.  They want to get married.  Their six month old baby will be the ring bearer.  God, help me to be present with them as we talk.  Help me to be a blessing.

This has been a long posting and I am signing off with a whole host of mixed feelings. To take with me as I move forward into this day...With Hope - Steven Curtis Chapman

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Week IV - Day 3 - The Cup Brimming Over

Typing the title I immediately thought of the 23rd Psalm.  Somewhere I have a great rewrite of this familiar psalm. Maybe, if I am lucky, I will run across it today. Until then, Selah has a great rewrite...

Amen...and amen!

I love the stories Joyce shares of her childhood.  Today, she remembers visiting great-aunt Ida when she was around four - five years old. Joyce says she looked forward to this visits because her aunt was both generous and kind.  I had some generous and kind great-aunts, but I think my mom was afraid of what my brother and I might break in the homes of our "greats."

Anyway...Joyce remembers a time when Great-Aunt Ida took her coin purse, unzipped it, and put all the pennies in her hand.
Small children still love
a handful of pennies!
"The bounty of those few pennies sent me into a tizzy of happiness." (Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Life, p 140)
Joyce compares her feeling as a child with a handful of pennies to the feeling she has today when she thinks about God's generosity toward her. She writes,

Yet, another poem that isn't Christian,
but still I believe points to
the God we worship.
"I am ever amazed at how God keeps on extending care and kindness to me no matter how I feel or think, no matter what mood I am in, no mater how loving or nasty I am. God keeps offering welcoming love and abiding peace to me...In a way, God's love is like having a "bottomless cup." I can drink and drink from the abundance of God and there is still more love to be poured into my heart." (Ibid)
I can almost see Joyce as she is like she is sitting here in my living room with me:
I think I used this once before, when I had no idea where to
begin or where to end on choosing a picture of this world.
"When I lean back and reflect upon the gifts I have in my life, I realize that the generosity of God is beyond my comprehension. Nothing I could ever do would "earn" all of these gifts that are freely and lavishly given. I marvel at the gift of my inner and outer life. I am astounded at the daily guidance I receive. I am in awe at the way the world works and at how the intricate human body restores and renews itself. I look at the universe and wonder who this Creator Power is to be so generous with colors, shapes, patterns, and designs. I remember people...and I know without a doubt...I have been touched by Divine Love." (Ibid)
It feels as though Joyce is bringing all the weeks, the many devotions, the many images...and pouring them all into my cup as I sit and listen...
Romans 5:5
"The scriptures often speak of the abundance of God. This divine love is described as being poured into our hearts (Rom 5:5). The book of Joel tells of God's Spirit being poured out on all humanity (Jl 2:28). The psalms use many images to proclaim the generosity of God's gifts. Our lives, too, are a testimony to the generosity of the Divine Giver. Today is a day to step inside the abundance of God and to enjoy what you find there." (Rupp, p 141)
Breathing in: Brimming over...
Breathing out: ...with your love

My cup, my life is full to brimming
with God's blessings and love.
Set your cup before you.
Pour water into it so that it fills tot he very brim, ready to wash over the edge.
Sit and ponder how full the cup is.
Close your eyes and picture God's love filling you.
Let your entire being receive this love.

Scripture: Psalm 36:5-9

My cup brims over when...
I have difficulty receiving God's abundance when...
Generous God,...

 My cup brims over when... I began to write, "When life is going well..." and that would be true.  When life seems to be behaving without huge surprises or large bumps throughout my day, I have the sense that my cup is brimming over with blessings.  Yet, in hindsight, I have been able to identify those times when my cup was brimming over during the dark and difficult times of my life...but in that moment, I did not recognize my cup was even able to hold love...hold blessings. All to often in those dark moments I felt broken beyond repair, angry, sad, and so very lonely.

I have difficulty receiving God's abundance when... So, my question this morning, what do I need to do now, when life is not that difficult, that will sustain me when it becomes dark.  Because, the reality is we do walk through dark valleys again and again and again...

Because I am a child of God does not mean I will not know hardship or pain.  It does not mean I will not have times of extreme sadness.  It does mean, that I can continue walking...walking through that dark valley and not be afraid.  That is what it means to be a child of God, but how do I prepare my heart for those times?

I had piled so many "good" things
in my heart, there was not room for God.
In the past I would have been seen as a "good" Christian woman.  I served as an elder and a clerk of session. I sang in the choir and taught Sunday School.  I led lessons for women's study groups and I baked meals for those in mourning or hurting.  I "did" all the things a good Christian is recognized as doing....I was being Martha of Bethany.  But, when I could no longer "do" when it was I who needed the help... I became a lost child.  I had ignored my Mary's heart for so long, she was not able to find her way through the clutter that had become my life.

some of the spiritual disciplines that
work for me, enrich my life.
The journaling, the time of quiet, the music, the readings....all these things are spiritual disciplines that work for me...I KNOW they work because when I faithfully practice them, I am more sane, I am wiser, I listen better,...I am able to "be" in my do-ing or even inability to do. I do not know why this is so difficult for me to accept.  Partly, it goes back to my EGO demon that projects an illusion of control and I buy into it! I know that an athlete, a musician, a surgeon...whatever it might be...if they do not practice daily...they loose the muscle, flexibility, the mental sharpness...The same is true for me. If I do not practice the disciplines that make my heart strong and focused, then life will be difficult, even when the sun is shining. But faithfully practicing then even in the darkness, because I have "memory" that comes only from daily intentional practice, I can walk through recognizing my cup is brimming over with God's love, grace, and mercy.

Generous God,...  There is a part of me that is a bit afraid as I near the end of this book. Journaling online has been a new experience...a good experience! Yet, Joyce's book has made it easy by the way it is laid out in short devotions.  God, I am stronger for these weeks spent with Joyce! I celebrate that new awareness and the disciplines that have taken root over these weeks, but...I don't know if I can maintain this on my own...of course I can't.  Again, that is my EGO demon...suggesting "I" can do something.  Lord, it is only by your grace and your Spirit that I continue on this path.  Help me to stay focused on you.  Help me to see you in the brightness of the sunlight and in the darkest gloom.  And God, that darkest gloom bit? When it comes, help me to be aware that I am walking through the dark valley AND that you are with me. Help me to also be aware that I am walking through the sunlight and that you are with me. God, help me to 'be."

Extravagant God, Generosity beyond comprehension, Bestower of all that I need, Thank you for the immensity of your kindness. Praise to you for the endless out-pouring of your love. My being proclaims your goodness. 

As I pour liquids of any kind into a cup, a glass, or a bowl, I will smile inside as I remember how generous God is in filling my life with blessings.

As a little girl, college coed, and young adult...I LOVED Ed Ames. While I struggle to pull out the images of him as Don Quixote at Starlight Musicals the music has never left my heart.  Imagine my delight when I discovered this video from a PBS special in 2008.  Plus the songs on this video - Try to Remember and My Cup Runneth Over. After listening to these, I did find The Impossible Dream...oh my does that song speak to my idealistic heart...and he does it so well.

Question to would you live and walk through each day, being aware that God sings this life song to me each day....watching me...with my cup runneth over with love...

Ed Ames - My Cup Runneth Over and Try to Remember: 

Try to remember when life was so tender and love was an ember about to billow....

He sings of remembering "deep in December", yet my prayer is that I remember through the dark valleys so that I might remain faithful.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Week VI - Day 2 - The Memory Cup

Nancy Wood - Santa Fe
Photographer and Poet
Going from this place to another place is like the bird in winter who remembers the beauty of her Springtime nest just to keep herself from freezing. ~ Nancy Wood

Joyce writes that the gift of our memory is something we probably rarely think about until we get to the age where we have trouble remembering.
"Memory enables us to recall our blessings (our touches of God), to give thanks for them, and to grow because of them. Good memories can encourage us, warm us on a cold day, and help us to keep hope in our hearts. They serve as a way to keep us connected. " (Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Life, p 137)
Were sooo good!
There are times, that I am amazed by how Joyce's readings coincide with things that happen in my own life. Last evening I discovered a large murel mushroom in my back yard.  I bent down to pick it, but thought, "One mushroom isn't going to go very far" and I straightened back up.  But, straightening back up, I noticed four more!

I cannot remember the last time I have eaten a morel mushroom!

I gathered them in my t-shirt and brought them in to soak them in salt water, dip in egg and cornmeal...and fry in a small skillet. I took my plate of mushrooms in to my lazyboy and slowly ate each one.  Looking at that plate of mushrooms, savoring the taste of each bite...images from my childhood flooded my heart.  Searching for mushrooms...sorting mushrooms...breadiing them and eating them... sounds of laughter all filled my mind.  At the time I thought of the blessing of good memories.  This morning...The Memory Cup.
"As Christians we gather around a memory every time we meet to share the eucharist. When Jesus blessed the bread and the cup of wine at the Passover Meal he said to those who were dear to his heart: 'Do this in remembrance of me' (Lk22:19). The pwer of this story has reamined to this day because of the way memory has carried it from one genration to another, The cup of wine has become a 'memory cup,' holding the story of One whose life was poured out for all humanity. It has become the cup of sacrifce, the cup of love, the cup of unity. This cup has given strength and restored hope to many a weary spriritual traveler."
Joyce talks as to how our ability to remember is a precious gift. I have a greater appreciation for that insight since my car accident twelve years ago. While my memory has improved, there are so many things that are difficult for me to recall.  After my uncle passed the pastor asked each of us individually for memories.  I told him the only way I can pull anything out of my dark closets is by listening to others and then MAYBE a spark will begin to burn with images and feelings.
"Without memory we would be unable to savor the good things that have happened to us and for us. Without memory we would be unable to be healed from past painful situations." (Rupp, p 138)
That is true! It is very strange to be in a group of friends or family as they begin to laugh or cry, remembering a particular situation or person....while I strive to connect their words to something...anything!

Most of us have an abundance of images, feelings, people....stored within our heads.  While some memories create a warm sense of God-ness within your heart, there are others that are not pleasant.  There are dark memories that I am all to happy to keep hidden.  Yet, Joyce suggests that those memories may be crying for our attention.
"Perhaps they need to be dealt with and put to rest. Eventually we need to move on from our sad and distressing memories and focus on the memories that are consoling and strengthening for us." (Ibid)
Good memories can "fill" us with hope.
For today, Joyce asks that I sift through my memories...for me to be the gatekeeper of these memories.  It is like she is saying, "Sandi, catch the ones that draw forth and enhance your core goodness. Savor them. Let these blessed memories fill you with hope.

Breathing in: I remember...
Breathing out: ...your love for me

Praying over/with a pleasant memory.
Hold the blessing cup in your hands.
Let it be filled with memories.
Choose one memory of love and happiness.
Let this memory pervade your entire being.
Receive the renewed inner strength it offers you.
Write a word for this memory on a piece of paper.
Place the word in your memory cup today.
Thank God for this memory.

Scripture: Deuteronomy 4:9-20
But take as neither to forget the tings that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children's children. (Dt 4:9)

Go back to the memory that came to you as you prayed with the memory cup. Write down any thoughts and feelings about this memory that you want to store in your heart today.
How has this memory been a blessing to you?
Dear Bestower of Blessings,...

Go back to the memory that came to you as you prayed with the memory cup. Write down any thoughts and feelings about this memory that you want to store in your heart today.  The memory of a surprise visit...I remember feeling awed that I mattered so much to this individual! I knew the words had been said, yet the visit took me totally by surprise.  Looking back I can recognize there was a sense of feeling vulnerable in the other, something I am fairly sure was a new feeling!  People often do not make wise choices in their decisions regarding relationships, me included.  Yet, looking back at that night and many others, love was there!  I was loved.

How has this memory been a blessing to you? Normally, thinking about those days, I put them down as "nostalgia", a totally unproductive and useless waste of my time.  However, this morning, praying over that memory and a few others that arose as well I have a sense of reassurance that I was not just totally stupid. Judging myself harshly is one of my most persistent demons. Praying, it is like that demon has been told to "LEAVE!" and  I have a sense of me and life being okay...of being good.  In this is good.

Mark Shultz has a wonderful song, Remember Me, that has been running through my mind as I have read and journaled. I couldn't find a good video...this is one is just okay...yet it has the words and that is what is most important...the words.

O Memory Giver, thank you for the storehouse of good memories that is mine. May these blessed memories give me hope and inspiration for my spiritual journey. I ask this day that the touch of your goodness, your blessing, be with ...  Thank you for your blessings. AMEN.

I will carry one blessed memory in my heart and let it sustain me with happiness and peace.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Week VI - Day 1 - The Blessing Cup

I smiled when I recognized the name from the quote this morning! Macrina Wiederkehr is the author of my next book study, A Tree Full of Angels - Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary.  I chose the book for three reasons...

  1. Joyce has used Macrina's quotes and insights several times throughout The Cup of Life.  Each time I've experienced a slight, nudge of appreciation or newness.
  2. I asked friends on Facebook for suggestions of titles to follow The Cup of Life.  Three people, who do not know one another and are very different from each other, suggested Macrina's book, A Tree Full of Angels.
  3. Lastly, I have mentioned the "Sister" from my church who first introduced me to God Winks.  I have so enjoyed contemplating on this phenomenon.  Thus, I was drawn to the idea of "Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary." I am guessing it will probably be the first of next week before I begin journaling with this book.
But! Back to the present moment! Joyce begins the devotion of The Blessing Cup with a quote from Macrina, saying, "To bless is to put a bit of yourself into something. It is to make holy, to change something or someone because of your presence."

I like the idea of "putting a bit of myself" into something.  From this thought, there is more within a blessing than just saying some nice words.  There is action within those words.

I appreciate that Joyce reminds her reader that it is not only clergy who have the POWER or the ABILITY to bless. 
"Each of us can offer blessings. Each of us can be a blessing, too. When we bless, it is God's deep and vast goodness, or God-ness, in us that blesses another. When we bless, we touch another with the touch of this God-ness." (Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Life, p 135)
But, then Joyce continues, saying something I had not thought of before...
"Jesus does not bestow or offer many blessings. Rather, he becomes a blessing. His presence, his goodness, engenders life, strength, healing, courage, and vitality."  
I had never considered this...that Jesus does not offer many blessings, rather he became a blessing... I was curious and Goggled several image searches... I found Jesus healing, pictures of others blessing, and sayings... However, as I sit with this... I would bet that Jesus might have blessed the children who gathered around him.  Yes, he was a blessing to these youngest and sometimes forgotten people of the culture...but I would still bet he blessed the children.  I will have to add this question to my "When I see Jesus..." list...

Joyce shares that many people have blessed her life AND unless she has thanked them, many of them are probably unaware of how they having done so. Joyce gives examples of blessings (smiles, stories, affirmations...).  I thought of some of my blessings:
  • Handwritten notes telling me how something I have done/said has blessed them....
  • Notes/pictures left by children on the pulpit Bible or stuck to my office door. I LOVE these surprises.
  • A slobbery kiss from one of my grandkids or a hug from a daughter or son.
  • A loving glance from one of my parents.
  • Stories shared while sitting in a hospital/nursing home, or in the comfort of one's own home.
  • A surprise gift from India or a print of Jesus. Of a watercolor painting of prayer from the Mercy Center in St. Louis and a painting done on a feather from South America.
  • Having a prayer said for "me."
  • Friends/Daughters willing to walk alongside me to complete a Mini following my accident and then continuing to listen, encourage, be a safe place...
  • A small crystal to hang close to my work area so that it might remind me to "never forget to dream of rainbows.'
Joyce shares a blessing she received from a woman before she (Joyce) wrote her first book. Joyce felt an urgent need to be blessed by this woman, knowing she needed strength and encouragement.  She admits that she does not remember what Emily said; what she does remember is the profound sense of gratitude and peace that came over her as Emily took her hands and held them palms up, with great tenderness.
"I felt strength and courage well up in me. I knew then that not only did she believe in me, but that her goodness, her presence or God-ness was also blessing me. I left that place with renewed stamina and deepened hope, believing that the work I was about to do would be fruitful. Emily died of cancer several years after that blessing. I think of her often when I am using my hands for writing." (Rupp, p136)
The God-ness in me...when given to then given to another...
We are all on a different place on this journey of life and faith. So many things have shaped the person we are at this moment.  There have been times in my life, it would have been difficult to appreciate or even be aware of a blessing, while other times blessings seem to keep my cup running over. Regardless of where I am at this moment, Joyce offers yet another blessing by expressing the "hope" that I can pause today and believe in the possibility and the power of blessings.

Breathing in: My God-ness....
Breathing out: ...blessing others

Blessing Hands
Hold the cup in your hands.
Wrap your hands around the cup.
Remember the God-ness dwelling within you.
Think about people who have blessed you.
How did they do this?
Think about how you have blessed others.
Give thanks for the God-ness in you.
Give thanks for the ability to bless and be blessed.

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:8-12
...repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called - that you might inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9)

I experienced my God-ness blessing others when I...
These people have especially been a blessing for me:
Blessed One...

These people have especially been a blessing for me: Once again, it is obvious I do not read ahead.  I will say however, that as I wrote about some of the blessings I have received from others, I once again experienced that sense of peaceful there's a term for you!  Peaceful Fullness....

I suspect that this might be similar to a full cup...a cup full of blessing upon blessing.

I experienced my God-ness blessing others when I... have been fortunate to realize the "gift" someone has perceived as receiving from me...wasn't "me." I had not thought of it as God-ness within of me or my God-ness. I have thought of my hands being used by God... When any of these realizations hit me...I am the one blessed!  Thinking about those times....I have the same sense of Peaceful Fullness that I experienced just a moment ago.

This idea of "Blessing" is really touching my heart in a way that I had not expected.  I wonder if the five weeks of writing before this has sensitized my heart in a way that enables it to appreciate Joyce's thoughts and wisdom in a way I might not have in early March?  For all the growing within me... Blessed One... I thank you and praise you.

I found a video that although it is not "Christian" it holds great spiritual truths that I have no hesitancy holding in my hands and within my heart...

After watching this video again, I was surprised by how Joyce's prayer seems to be reflected in many of the words and images of the video.  Once again, God amazes me and surprises me by all the ways he uses to bring about his kingdom here on earth...

The practice of blessing with my God-ness,
offering the gift of  loving presence.
Blessed are you, God, Source of all goodness. The boundless beauty and unlimited love of your presence blesses me at every moment of my existence. May your goodness radiate from me and bring the blessing of your loving touch to each person with whom I share life.

I will intentionally bless each person I meet today with the gift of my loving presence.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Monday, April 25, 2011

Week VI - The Blessing Cup

After a weekend of emotional highs...followed by emotional highs, I am surprised to be surprised by something new this morning.  Honestly?  I did not think my tired head had the capacity to become curious so early on the Monday morning following Easter. Yet, that is what Joyce has done by introducing me...broadening my perceptions...of "the" Cup.
Each step...leaving a blessing.

Once again, Joyce turns to the 13th century Muslim poet, Rumi, quoting him:
"Wherever you place your foot, there rests a blessing."
In today's world I hear so much about my carbon footprint and the impact of that footprint on the world, I am feeling a bit confused and amazed by considering each of my footprints as a blessing.  Yet, the expanding of my mind and perceptions does not end there.  Joyce continues:
"Perhaps the best known 'cup' in the scriptures is that of the blessing cup in 1 Cor 10:16: 'The blessing cup that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?' The cup of blessing is a term derived from the Jewish Passover rite, meaning not only that the cup is blessed, but that the cup itself holds a blessing. It holds the gift of life." (Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Life, p 131)

What are they, Joyce asks on this Monday morning after Easter.

How do they come?

What do they do for us?

I checked several sites and after defining "Blessings" as prayers, Blessings are also defined as: "to consecrate or to hallow by a religious rite or words; to make or pronounce holy or sacred."
"To bless is not so much to 'make sacred,' however, as it is to acknowledge the sacredness that is already there. All creation is sacred because it was made by God.To bless anything of creation, be this a person or an object, is to acknowledge the touch of the Creator upon that person or object." (Ibid)
Joyce continues to stretch my heart by suggesting that wherever we (I) place our (my) feet - wherever we are - can be a blessing IF we are aware of the inherent sacredness and beauty of that place.


That 'place' she says, might be the heart of another person or the limb of a newly budded tree or a fuzzy caterpillar climbing a drainpipe.
"Attentiveness to the present moment is essential for a blessing to truly communicate the life and beauty of God to us. 'Calling forth' a blessing is actually a naming of the goodness that is already there." (Rupp, p 132)
Jackie Nowak
Some times I have to hear a message three times...and often in three different ways to really get it! Such is the case with "Blessings."  I have heard this before and was moved and energized by the learning!  But, then the daily work within my new learning became pushed back into one of the dark closets of my mind. Still, the learning was there, stored, ready for the next invitation.  I have heard this before from Jackie Nowak of The Blessing Center in Dayton, Ohio.

But, for continue with Joyce:
"In the Hebrew scriptures a blessing is perceived to be something that communicates divine life. With this life comes strength, stamina, and inner peace. Blessings or berakahs ( Original Word: בְּרָכָהwere often shared by the Jewish people. When they prayed 'blessed are you, O God...' they were acknowledging with gratitude all that God had done for them." (Ibid)

I THINK this is new for me because it has always seemed strange that "I" bless GOD the creator of all I am and see!!!  I thought I was acknowledging with gratitude...yet it always felt funny to do that as a "blessing."

Now, this is more familiar to me:
"Blessings were given for a variety of purposes: to invoke divine care; to pray for someone; to regard another with favor; to bring happiness; to guard, preserve, protect, and to keep safe; to give good fortune or satisfaction; and to approve or encourage another. Whenever God blesses, there emerges bounteous life and an abundance of goodness." (Ibid)

As an old man, God blessed Abraham
with descendants, more than stars in the sky.
Joyce names one of the first examples that comes to my mind, the blessing/s of Abraham within several chapters of the book of Genesis.As I write this, I thought how Abraham laughed at the suggestion of some of God's blessings, yet the character in the story remains faithful to listening to God, to living out of relationship with God...and the blessings follow.  The blessings were given and then follow through faithfulness AND not always as Abraham's human mind could perceive happening.

Held in God's Embrace

"Anyone and anything that brings good or God-ness into our lives is a blessings. To bless is to bring the touch of God, the touch of love and goodness, to another by our presence as well as by our actions. Blessings are a greeting from God, saying 'I care about you. I desire what will be for your good. You are dear to my heart. I want your life to be filled with love." (Ibid)

I like the image of "God-ness."

SQuire Rushnell has written When God Winks, stories of "coincidences" that are so unbelievable, they must come from a powerful source... An interview with a wonderful story/God Wink about Emmett Kelly's daughter upon his death...

SQuire shares that God Winks are to give us "hugs" to give comfort when life is difficult.

"Blessings are not always immediate, 'feel good' sorts of things. Sometimes these blessings come disguised in the pain, struggle, and hardship of the unwanted parts of our lives. It is only later, with hindsight, that we look and see what a gift those times and events were for us." (Ibid)

Can you tell I do not read Joyce's entire reading AND then go back and journal?  "Blessings are not always immediate..." It is nice when the ah-ha comes and is then reinforced. I am learning that if I read and journal in small pieces, my learning/my ah-has are richer and deeper than if I read the entire lesson and then go back.  But...what works for for me.  I know others have a different way of working through Joyce's readings that work for them.

"Blessings sometimes come disguised..." I have written in past postings about the "blessing" of the last car accident.  HOWEVER, the realization that my brokenness was a blessing, only came in hindsight....much/much/later. All the stories I have read and shared within worship over these past several weeks of Lent and Holy Week...the blessing within those encounters and events were not seen as blessings at the time!  It was only in hindsight that the disciples understood all that Jesus had told them...and given.  And they were receiving "God-ness" in the flesh....and it was still in hindsight that they recognized the blessing.

"As you pray though these days with the 'blessing cup,' may you grow in awareness of the countless blessings that are yours. May you become much more aware of how you yourself are a blessing in the lives of others by the loving quality of who you are and what you do. Mos of all, may your love and appreciation of the Giver of all Gifts, the best of all blessings, continue to grow and be enriched." (Ibid)

I've just received a wonderful blessing, that even though it was written several years ago in a book AND many have read the same this moment I claim this blessing.  Prayerfully, as I remain will  come in ways....perhaps ways I have not considered..

A wonderful way to begin a new day...a new week!  The Blessing Song.

Gifting God,

Tie a ribbon of remembrance around my heart,
so that I can often recall those sacred places
where you have made yourself known in the hidden recesses of my life.

Stir up my memory-cup, let me look deeply within it, seeing all the people and events that have led me to you.

Refresh the photographs of my mind where the vivid traces of your love are etched in our relationship, and marked upon my memory.

As I gaze into my personal history unlock the storage spaces of my soul,
reveal the truth of your bountiful love, fill my heart with awe and gratitude.

God of Beauty, the blessings of your loveliness astounds my being,
the power of your presence enriches my every moment.
Blessed are you. Blessed are you. ~ Joyce Rupp (Rupp, p 133)

Many Blessings ~ Sandi