Anna is the director of marketing and media for Betsy and Iya, an independent jewelry store in Portland, Oregon. When we visit Anna, we spend time at the store, perusing the merchandise and watch the jewelry makers put together unique and classic earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces.
When we were in Portland last March to celebrate Anna's thirtieth birthday, I was captivated by a variety of colorful bowls, the owners, Betsy and Will, purchased during a recent trip to visit family in Guatemala. The tightly woven containers came in different shapes, colors and depths. I purchased two knowing I would use them for something, but in the moment I didn't know when.
I was reminded of a story I read many years ago about bowls in a book by Sue Bender, Everyday Sacred - A Woman's Journey Home. Sue tells about a monk who left his home every day holding an empty begging bowl in his hands. Whatever is placed in the bowl will be his nourishment for the day.
It was obvious to all who knew me that I wasn't a monk, and the very idea of begging would make most of us uncomfortable. In spite of that, the image of a begging bowl reached out and grabbed my heart.
Initially, I didn't know whether I was the monk or the bowl or the things that would fill the bowl or all three, but I trusted the words and the image completely.
Sue spends the majority of the book describing stories, experiences, and people that filled her bowl during the following months.
Looking at the two bowls from Betsy and Iya resting on my office floor, I consider how a bowl can teach three things about being present to God; open, ready to receive, waiting to receive and holding.
1. Find a bowl. Maybe it's your favorite mixing bowl or container for cereal.
2. Remember where you purchased the bowl and how you use it. If it was a gift recall the occasion and the giver.
3. Bless the bowl. Hold the bowl in both hands. Ask God to keep your heart open like the bowl to receive whatever God might want to fill it with.
4. Invite God at the beginning of the day to fill your bowl. Ask God to keep your hear open so you are aware of how God is coming to you. Whatever you feel God leading you include as content in the bowl.
5. At the end of July, look how your bowl was filled. Examine the contents to see what came to your heart.
6. Send me a picture of your bowl and/or the contents as well as a brief summary of your experience. With your permission I'll share a few reflections at the beginning of August.
Several years ago I filled a bowl for a month with scripture, prayers, newspaper clippings and photographs. I wrote insights and perspective I received about life from God, people, books that I wanted to remember and placed all in the bowl. If I received a letter or note during this time, that, too, found a home in the bowl. Dried peonies, my favorite spring flower, rested in the bowl its beauty amplified while I dried. Small pieces of leftover fabric from sewing projects and a church bulletin with sermon notes rested in the bowl.
Each day I had a feeling of expectation and anticipation how God would fill my bowl throughout the day. I carried the bowl just about everywhere I went. The bowl "sat" on the passenger side of the car and followed me from room to room at home. God speak anywhere and anytime and I wanted to be ready. The bowl helped me remember to keep my heart open ready to receive, fill and the contents held.
Prayer: God, fill us to overflowing with tangible expressions of your goodness, love and challenge. Guide our reflections with what you give so we can learn more about ourselves and our lives with you. Amen.