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The Begging Bowl

Barb DeGrote-Sorensen tells the story about how a begging bowl that helped her realize her need to receive.  

Stewardship is about receiving as much, if not more, than it is about giving.

The Begging Bowl

At a retreat on simplicity offered years ago by a Benedictine community in Madison, Wisconsin, I was asked to mold a lump of clay into a small bowl.  With eyes shut, participants were to image themselves as the clay being molded by God into a useful vessel.  In the course of the activity, we got to know our bowl well--where it dipped, which side was higher than the other.  We felt its damp weight in our hands.

"This will be your begging bowl," the retreat leader explained.

The whole concept of needing a begging bowl was quite offensive to me in those years.  Sudden  and unexplained tears came to my eyes.  Later, through a kind conversation, I would realize that it was my own need to be self-sufficient that had drawn the sudden emotion to the surface.  It's easy to be the one who gives.  It's not always easy to admit that there may be something that we lack.  I'm still humbled by the gentle revelation.

The begging bowl from that long-ago retreat has long ago been lost. However, each time I go to  communion, I now cup my hands together in the shape of the bowl.  Emptied, in this simple act, of my own self-importance, God's grace becomes so amazingly clear.

It's good to be the beggar once in a while. ...

In worship, servants are brought back to the table to remember.  With emptied hands we come as beggars to be served and learn how to serve in the process.  We leave, having experienced God's grace. It's easy to fill empty bowls after that.

From, "Cultivating a Servant's Heart"  - pp.47-48

Let the Servant Church Arise!
by Barbara DeGrote-Sorensen (Author); David Allen Sorensen (Author)
Explores all aspect of Christian servanthood and how it can have a profound effect on both church and civil communities.


Barb DeGrote-Sorensen works for the Central Minnesota Community Foundation of St. Cloud, MN.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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