A few years ago, my daughter, Anna, who lives in Oregon, was the director of marketing and media for "Betsy and Iya" an independent jewelry store in Portland. We when visited Anna, we always spent some time at the store, perusuing the merchandise and watching the jewlery makers put together unique and classic earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces.
During one visit, I was captivated by a variety of colorful bowls, the owners purchased during a trip to visit family in Guatemala. The tightly woven containers came in different shapes and depths. I purchased two, knowing I would use them for something in the future.
When we returned home, I was reminded of a story I read about bowls in a book by Sue Bender, "Everyday Sacred - A Woman's Journey Home. Sue talks about a monk who left his home every day holding an empty bowl in his hands. Whatever was placed in the bowl was 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 rest of the book describing stories, experiences and people that filled her bowl during several years.
Thoughts on My Two Bowls
Looking at the two bowls from "Betsy and Iya" resting on my office floor, I considered how a bowl can teach three things about how to be present to God: open, ready to receive, and waiting to be filled.
Here's a project for the summer during this period of time called "Ordinary" on the liturgical calendar.
1. Find a bowl. Maybe it's your favorite mixing bowl, your container for cereal or a decorative bowl.
2. Remember where you purchased the bowl and how you use it. If the bowl 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 each day to fill your bowl. Become aware of how God is coming to you. Whatever you feel God leading you to, include as content in the bowl.
5. At the end of July, look how your bowl was filled. Examine the contents to see what comes to your heart.
When I decided to fill a bowl for a few weeks, I discovered scripture, prayers, newspaper clippings and photographs coming my way. I wrote insights and perspectives I received about life from other people, books, or God I wanted to remember. If I received a letter or note during this time, these found a home in my bowl too.
Dried peonies, my favorite spring flower, rested in my bowl, the beauty amplified while drying. Small pieces of leftover fabric from sewing projects and a church bulletin with sermon notes also filled the bowl.
I carried the bowl just about everywhere I went. The bowl rested on the passenger side of the car and followed me from room to room at home. God speaks anywhere and anytime. The bowl helped me remember to keep my heart open, ready to receive and be filled.
1. How can an open bowl serve as a reminder to open your heart to God? Be curious about what can find a home in your bowl.
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.