THE CRACKED POT

Once upon a time a woman named Chang Chang worked for a merchant in Sichuan province. The merchant’s home was high atop a hill, and Chang Chang worked as the merchant’s laundress. Every day she had to walk down the hill to collect water from the stream.

When she was young, Chang Chang made two pots to carry her water, and these she hung upon a pole she could carry over her shoulders. She painted one pot blue and the other red, and on each pot she painted flowers. Chang Chang loved flowers. And she loved her pots.

For some years she carried her pole down the hillside and collected water. Afterward she climbed the hill. She was strong and able, though she was growing older. And as time passed, the pots, too, grew old.

One day, as Chang Chang prepared to place the pole over her shoulders, she noticed the blue pot had a slender crack along its side.

She ran a finger over the crack and sighed, “My poor little pot.”

For a few moments Chang Chang studied the crack. “Will you hold my water?” she whispered. But she decided she could still use the pot. As always she carried both pots down the hill and filled them with water to the very brim. By the time she reached the hilltop, the pot with a crack was half-empty, but this still left her plenty of water for doing the laundry.

For the next two years, Chang Chang carried those pots down the hillside every morning. When she reached the stream, she filled them to the brim, and afterward she walked back up the hill, balancing the pole across her shoulders. By the time she reached the house, the cracked blue pot was only half full — just enough for the laundry.

Each day Chang Chang examined the crack, and though it was growing a little longer, she decided all was well. What she didn’t notice was that the poor blue pot was miserable. Each time it drank from the stream, it secretly hoped that this day all the water would stay inside its belly, but each day when they reached the top of the hill, the pot knew it had failed. The blue pot glanced at the red pot and saw water filled to the top, and the blue pot began to feel desolate.

In its resting place on the far side of Chang Chang’s little hut, the blue pot worried and wept. “I’m no good, I’m no good, I’m no good!” the blue pot wailed.

“Stop your whining,” the red pot answered. “No one wants to hear from a pot.”

One day the blue pot woke and felt its crack beginning to expand. It was certain Chang Chang would soon decide to throw it away. Soon it would be no use to anyone for anything.

That morning, as Chang Chang climbed the hill, she was startled to hear a voice she had never heard. “Chang Chang,” the voice said, “throw me away. I’m no good for anyone or anything.”

Chang Chang stopped and looked around, wondering who could be speaking to her. “Hello?” she called down the hill.

But the voice that answered was very near. “I’m right here,” said the blue pot, swinging this way and that to get Chang Chang’s attention. “I’m your pot. The pot you made with your own two hands. The pot that has served you so well all these years. But I see now my time is finished. The crack in my side has made me useless. When you carry me up the hill, I spill all my water. I’m no good!”

For a long moment Chang Chang stood very still, amazed that her pot had spoken. “Is that you?” she whispered, looking close. “Are you speaking, dear pot?”

“It is I!” the pot said. “I am so sorry I have failed you, but I have.”

Chang Chang was overjoyed to know her pots were as full of life as she had always imagined, but she was sad to hear such sorrowful words. “But pot, you don’t understand,” she said. “You haven’t been paying attention. Look around.”

Chang Chang pointed to the path beside them, the path up the hill, and for the first time the pot stopped looking inward and instead looked out. On the right side of the hill the pot noticed beautiful flowers growing in abundance — poppies and peonies and chrysanthemum and narcissus and citron. A ribbon of color edged the path.

“And look at the other side of the hill,” Chang Chang said.

The pot glanced to the other side and saw it was bare.

“I’ve always known about your flaw,” Chang Chang said. “And so I planted seeds on your side of the path, and every day you water them and add more beauty to the world.”

The blue pot was overjoyed. All its sadness was gone. It understood, just as Chang Chang always had, that every being has its unique flaws. And it is our little quirks and faults that make us and the world so interesting.

Source: Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson
Tell Me a Story
www.uexpress.com

CONSIDER THIS

Nobody’s perfect, but our imperfections make us interesting.

Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all cracked pots. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You’ve just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them.

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. Remember to appreciate all the different people in your life!

A TWISTED LOVE

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed,  and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?

The young woman speaks.

“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”

She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles.

“I like it,” he says, “It is kind of cute.”

All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and hold my breath and let the wonder in.

Source: Richard Selzer, M.D.
Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery
(Harcourt Brace, 1996) pages 45-46
Originally published by Simon & Schuster, 1976

CONSIDER THIS

Was the young man a god? I think not. But he possessed a God-like love, a love that persisted in the midst of change, a love that did not alter when it found alteration.

Do you have eyes that can see beauty, joy, goodness, and hope? Can you sense such gifts even in the midst of seeming ugliness or when the light is dim and the darkness heavy?

NO LONGER UGLY

NO LONGER UGLY

Once upon a time there was a boy who had a dog. The boy and the dog loved each other and played happily as dear friends. But one day the dog did something the boy’s parents didn’t like. To appease his parents, the boy had to send the dog away. Years passed, and the boy forgot there had ever been a dog . But inside him there was still a place where something was missing. When he was a man, the missing place called him so strongly that he had to go in search of what he needed. His search brought him to the edge of a forest.

Not knowing why, he found himself sitting, waiting. Slowly, gradually, two burning eyes appeared in the darkness of the forest. The young man waited. Slowly, gradually, a long pointed nose emerged. The young man waited. Finally, out of the forest, slinking, there came an animal: thin, scarred, muddy, matted with burrs. You would hardly know it had ever been a dog.

The young man greeted it softly: Hello. The ugly dog stopped, untrusting. The young man felt in his body the memory stirring of the good and happy times with his friend. He said to the animal before him: I want to know how it has been for you, all these years in exile. And in his own way the dog told him, this, and this. Sad, lonely, scared, bitter. The young man told the dog that he had heard it. He heard all that he had gone through.

And with this hearing, the dog visibly softened, became warmer and more trusting. After some time, it came close enough to be touched. When the young man touched the dog, he could feel the missing place inside him begin to fill in. And soon after he took the dog home, and gave it a bath and a warm place by the fire – after it felt loved again – it was no longer ugly. It was beautiful.

Source: Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin
The Radical Acceptance of Everything
Calluna Press, 2005

CONSIDER THIS

“I have long been persuaded that desire is not an emptiness needing to be filled but a fullness needing to be in relation.  Desire is love trying to happen.”  – Sebastian Moore, Jesus and the Liberator of Desire (Crossroad, 1989)

 

MY HEART HAS BEEN THERE ALL MY LIFE

Once upon a time in the rainiest part of the rainy season, an old monastic began her pilgrimage to the holiest shrine on the holiest mountain in the land. Forced back by fierce winds and driving rain, she stopped at the foot of the incline to check directions one last time.

“Old woman,” the inn master scoffed, “this mountain is deep in wet and running clay. You cannot possibly climb this mountain now.” 

“Oh, sir,” the old monastic said, “the climb to this shrine will be no problem whatsoever. You see, my heart has been there all my life. Now it is simply a matter of taking my body there, as well.”

Source: As told by Sr Joan Chittister in keynote address
Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious
(Atlanta Aug. 18-22, 2006)

CONSIDER THIS

There is some summit toward which every life is bent. All we really need is to find the faith it will take to complete the journey.

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UNTIL I AM TIRED OF DYING

On one of the few occasions that the disciple was able to Skype  the master – who for years has been working with refugees in a remote, far-flung, refugee camp under very difficult and dangerous conditions – a conversation ensued and the disciple asked, “How long will you remain there?”

And the master answered, “Until I am tired of dying.”

Source: Adapted by Philip Chircop from a recently heard story.

CONSIDER THIS

“We ought to learn how to die before we die, so that when we die, we won’t die.” 

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”  John 12:24-25 (The Message)

LOVING WHOLEHEARTEDLY

An eager young man longing to live a good life, went to his rabbi and said, “I know that the Hebrew Scriptures say that we ought to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength. But I am very much aware that my heart and soul and mind and strength have bad parts in them. So, tell me, how can I love God?”

After a pause the rabbi replied, “Well, it seems that you’re going to have to learn how to love God with the bad parts too.”

Source: Unknown

CONSIDER THIS

“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest, but wholeheartedness.” David Steindl-Rast in response to a question by poet David Whyte.

“In fiction good people do good things and bad people do bad: that’s why it is called fiction!” (Oscar Wilde) In real life bad people can do good things and good people can do bad things.

PITCHING IN

When the pastor became ill, the small rural community gathered to pray for his recovery and ask for God’s guidance during his lengthy absence. Having first looked at all their pastor’s many responsibilities, those present took an inventory of their skills and talents. “I could take over the capital campaign for the new educational center,” offered an accountant.

“I’d be willing to lead bible study,” said a retired librarian. “I could train lectors and help the kids with the Christmas pageant,” volunteered an amateur actor. “We’d like to visit the home-bound and help with social care,” stated a middle-aged couple, recent empty-nesters. “And I’ll get an email list together and give everyone updates about what’s happening at the parish,” said a young computer programmer.

Source: Elizabeth-Anne Stewart

CONSIDER THIS

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. 1 Corinthians 12:7

Building the church, is a collective, collaborative effort. Our unique gifts, skills and talents are not just for our own benefit but for the sake of all God’s people (and that’s everybody)!

What are your gifts? What are your skills?
How can you use them to pitch in, and help build the church and the kin-dom?

How can you invest them even further and be an instrument that with others can help heal the world and the planet?

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