The Scripture Cup: A Words Sketch

Note: Since this piece doesn’t really describe an experience or serve as a review–since what I’m describing can no longer be easily purchased–I am creating a new line of articles. Sketches will focus on a few details of life that are important and perhaps even spiritually significant to me, but that most other people don’t notice. I’m well aware that my mind somehow works differently than others’. Case in point: When I was eight and didn’t have access to many Braille or audio books, my mother read aloud from a children’s mystery. The story was set at a grandmother’s house. I got so caught up in the tiny details–the protagonists’ sleeping and eating arrangements, the number of knickknacks that were listed as being in a cabinet, the ways in which this grandmother’s house contrasted with my own grandma’s log cabin–that I paid almost no attention to the plot. When asked what the story had been about, I had to admit that I had no idea–only that it involved a clock, a vase, and a box of toys. Nowadays, I trust I’ve been able to channel some of that focus into more productive patterns–and, really, I consider it a tremendous blessing. Without that kind of cognitive process, I almost feel that I’d fail to see as much of God’s glory in day-to-day life as I do now. And so, in these sketches, I hope to introduce you to some of the things I do in worship every day. Join me?

On a makeshift end table to the left of this brand-new sofa sits the Scripture Cup. At the moment, it’s filled with hot, strong coffee. The chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, cream, and other ingredients I add have worked together to form a beverage that, if consumed by the rest of the population, would immediately put all antidepressant manufacturers out of business.

But what makes this cup of coffee so exquisite is the Scripture Cup itself. The reasons for this are partly spiritual, but somewhat literal as well. The cup is a hand-made piece, lovingly thrown on the wheel by the head of Potter’s Field Ministries. It’s one of very few clay cups we own, and I have come to discover that clay cups taste much, much better than glass ones. You know how, universally, glass or metal containers enhance the beverage they contain, making them much better than plastic containers? Well, the same is true of clay cups over glass ones.

The Scripture Cup is flawed, but not so much so that the average person would notice it. It’s just that you can feel the subtle chinks and finger placements beneath the glaze, inside and out. Somewhat like us, wouldn’t you say? We’re imperfect people–Christians, but not free from all error. We, too, have flaws that the Lord is still working out. Except, with Him, we will be found pure and holy, a spotless bride on the day of His return, and thoroughly refined when He calls us home.

And yet, those flaws in my cup also serve another purpose. We, too, are quite ordinary, really. We hold the treasure we’ve been given from God–the Gospel, the news of salvation through Jesus Christ–in earthen vessels (See II Corinthians). Earthen vessels–in Biblical times, ordinary clay jars. Not vessels of silver or gold. The TREASURE, not the clay jar, gets all the glory. Let our flaws consistently humble us into remembering that.

The cup has a curved face and a unique handle that seems to have been pulled directly from the clay rather than being glazed on. (Ha! High-school ceramics courses do have value, even many years later, and even in the context of spiritual lessons!) Anyway, the cup curves in at a graceful angle, then curves outward and upward again. Details! And do you not think that the Lord does something similar with His creation, endowing us with gifts and abilities, skills and personality traits that He can use for His purpose? Do you not think that He, in His faithfulness, gives us characteristics that, if used for His glory and His purposes, can make us beautiful–well-pleasing in His sight, and able to serve others?

Now, why am I referring to this as the Scripture Cup? Because one of my “curved clay” gifts seems to be describing commonplace objects in spiritual terms? Well, that, too…

Deeply engraved on the side of the cup is Ephesians 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”. Isn’t that perfect–and so very appropriate, considering the object on which the verse is carved? Even the glaze for this Scripture is different, making it stand out from a tactile perspective.

Beside this Biblical exhortation, the sculptor carved a dove. Actually, this particular dove is also the symbol for many Calvary Chapels, signifying that they are Spirit-filled churches and deeply invested in Bible study. Many of these cups were made for the Calvary Chapel I still call my own, and I actually purchased this cup there after a particularly anointed Sunday service. In much broader terms, the dove simply refers to the great power of the Holy Spirit, and to the peace the Lord bestows on us all.

A quick story, as applied to the dove on my Scripture Cup: A little less than a week after the Lord freed me from debilitating depression back in February, I was thinking back over the events of the past few years. I happened to have a cup of coffee in my hand, and as I considered the things the Lord had brought my family through, it occurred to me that one concern had not yet been resolved to my satisfaction. “What if…” those words, spoken mentally, were followed by one of the most horrifying and personal possibilities you could possibly conjecture. As I contemplated this upsetting thought, I began casually to trace the outline of the dove on my cup. Then, slowly, I realized what I was doing, what I was holding. And then, there was a great and wondrous peace–tracing that dove had reminded me of the Holy Spirit, plain and simple. And remembering the presence of God–the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the love of Jesus Christ, the power of God the Father–was more than sufficient. At once, my horrifying thought receded into the background, and all was well in my soul once again.

Not that this cup is anything–anything at all. But do you ever notice the tambourine player in church–the one who, though unpolished, praises God with such passion that you can’t help seeing her joy in the Lord, joy that inspires you, too, to sing unto Him with all your heart? Detail-oriented writer that I am, I do the same thing–not just with people, but even with the everyday objects around me. And so, if there’s one more item in my life that reminds me of the blessings I’ve received from God, of His grace and His love, then I should take the time to write about it!–not to discuss some excessive fondness for an inanimate object, but to allow even mundane things to serve s tangible metaphors for the love I constantly hold in my heart toward my Savior, my Good Shepherd.

Adendum: This is a “words sketch”, rather than a “word sketch”, in order to avoid confusion in Christian semantic circles–many small words of worship, only one Word, Who IS God. Note: “He Is” and “I AM” are structurally configured in similar ways… But Christ-centered grammar must await a separate post.

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