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

Friday, April 1, 2011

Week III - Day 5 - Which Cup is Best?

2011 Stars and Cast
We live in a world of competition.  We compete at our work...pastors it is how many adult baptisms, teachers, how do the test scores compare to last year, factories, are we keeping the bottom line down and if not, who needs to be laid off....  Our children compete in sports.  We say it is for "fun" but there are high 5's for every win. We turn on the TV at night...and we are hit with competitions. American Idol, Survivor, NCAA Tournament, Biggest Loser, Baseball, Dancing with the Stars...

Every spring, a Cubbie's heart is filled
 with the hope that this might be the year!
Joyce and other spiritual teachers are honest that our sense of competition does not end with stars on TV or sport figures playing their game.  Rumi is quoted as saying: Inside the Great Mystery that is, we don't rally own anything. What is this competition we feel then, before we go, one at a time, through the same gate?

Rumi was a 13th Century poet and Sufi mystic...and he was asking questions about humankind's drive for competition all those years ago.

Sister Shirley Kolmer was 61
when she died. She worked
in Liberia for 9 years.
Joyce tells of an American woman in Liberia with a noticeable gap between her front teeth. In the states, Joyce said, Shirley would have been encouraged to get her teeth "fixed." However, in Liberia a gap in one's front teeth is a sigh of great beauty.
"...I thought of how easily we are seduced by our cultural expectations into what is or is not acceptable." (Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Life, p 80)
Joyce continues, saying, "...constant comparisons and competitions based on what our culture tells us is good looking, attractive, desirous, etc. People end up rejecting themselves or others because they might not have all the 'correct' standards and qualifications. It is not just external looks that are part of the competition; there is also competition for who is the best in spiritual growth. People envy others for their 'holiness' or their ability to pray instead of valuing the way that God is moving uniquely in their own lives..." (Ibid)

Yesterday I asked my friend how (Steve, Chris, Sally...) manage as solo pastor, work on one or more presbytery teams, volunteer in their community,....  He stopped me and reminded me that my need to constantly compare myself with not helpful!  He was right to stop me.  It is not healthy nor helpful to compare myself with others.

Joyce tells us that we ARE NOT meant to be like everyone else.  It is our culture that instills in us the idea that there is something wrong with us, that we are flawed, that we do not measure up...

recovering the soaring sense of
self-presence and self-worth
that makes life worth living
Louise Hart, in her book, On the Wings of Self Esteem, warns: "Comparison sets us up for unhealthy competition. It drives wedges between people, creates separation,and enforces conformity."

"When we consistently compare ourselves with others, we can end up rejecting our self - one of God's beloved creatures - and we follow someone else's dream instead of our own." (Rupp, p 81)

Ouch...I had never really considered that I am rejecting God's work when I compare and strive to work/behave/ someone else.

   Breathing in: I am __Your Name__...
   Breathing out: ...thank you, God.
Comparison and Competition

Find another cup and set it alongside of yours.
Sit quietly, looking at the two cups.
Enjoy the uniqueness of each cup.
Reflect on your own originality.
Think of yourself with others.
Bring any comparison and competition to God.
Listen to God's message to you.
Offer gratitude to God for who you are.

A vessel of God's love.
Scripture:  Romans 9:19-26
But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? (Rom 9:20-21)

I fall into the trap of competition and comparison when...
When I reflect on my own uniqueness, I .....
Dear Creator...

It takes humility in order
to move forward.
I fall into the trap of competition and comparison when my schedule is too full and I am feeling frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed.  I am not happy with the work I am producing, or I am not getting other things done, or...

The list could be endless.  The fact is, I am over-committed and I am only human.  Yesterday, talking with my friend, our conversation drifted to the Twelve Steps that Rami Shapiro uses in his book, Recovery. Shapiro suggests that the reader read the entire book and then go back and begin working the program.  I have not made it through the entire book, thus I have only read about the first three steps.  My friend, has read the entire book and has gone back to work the steps...and is still on the 1st Step. We talked about our specific addiction... He honestly exclaimed, "I want to be God!"

We laughed, yet later I wondered if he simply said what is beneath many of our "traps." I am not satisfied by who or what I am....I want to change what God has created...

Now, I want to remind myself that some of what I do not healthy!  I have been journaling for three weeks about my need to control (or "be God"), my over-committed schedule, my sense of overwhelm... All of those things keep me from being the person God created me to be.  They keep me from being present to God and to myself.  Thus, those areas of dissatisfaction are a healthy place for me to be!

When I begin to compare myself to another pastor, another late 50's woman, another mom...

I AM a beautiful child of God!
Those desired "changes" are "me" trying to be someone or something that God did not create me to be!  AND while I am striving to become some other person, I am not being the uniquely gifted child of God I was created to be.

When I reflect on my own uniqueness, I am often surprised!  I truly am a uniquely gifted Child of God when I allow myself to look at me through God's eyes.  Sadly, I do not do this nearly often enough.  I think today's Breathprayer may be an important prayer for me to remember as I continue to work through my commitments.

Today's meditation brought to mind another story, Life is Like a Cup of Coffee. Originally I thought I would begin today's journal entry with this video.  But then...I decided to end with it and to simply let it speak to me and others without any commentary. Life is Like a Cup of Coffee

Prayer: (once again, Joyce offers a wonderful prayer...)
When I look longingly at the gifts of others and forget or deny my own gifts from you, God, lead me to accept myself as I am. When I constantly  compare myself to another, grant me an appreciation for my own distinct personhood. When I get caught in envy, jealousy, gossip, or rejection of myself of others, draw me back to you and teach me m ore about the love you have for each of us. AMEN.

Today: I will not envy others or compete with them.

May this day be full of wonderful discoveries and special delights as you and I offer ourselves moments of God's grace.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

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