ON ONE FOOT

A rather eccentric looking young man wearing an old brown suit and holding a small, worn, stickered suitcase walked into the center of the city, spun around a few times in the middle of one of the main squares and then looked up to the skyline. Fixing his eyes on the closest church steeple, he immediately made his way to the front door of the rectory beside the church. He knocked on the door and asked to speak with the pastor. When the pastor met him in the parlor, the young man rose to his feet and immediately stood on one foot. Wearing a curious expression, the pastor asked how he could help the man. The young man said – I have come very far and wish to settle in this town and join your church; however first I would like you to instruct me in the entire faith as I stand on one foot. Assessing the man to be deranged, the pastor promptly showed him the door.

Returning to the city centre to repeat his spinning ritual, he headed in a new direction to the nearest church steeple. He made his way to the front door of the rectory and repeated his request to speak to the pastor: I have come very far and wish to settle in this town and join your church; however first I would like you to instruct me in the entire faith as I stand on one foot. Determining the young man to be irrational he also showed him the door.

A third time the young man repeated his spinning ritual and headed toward another church steeple and knocked on the door of the rectory. An old, slouched and limping, white-bearded pastor answered the door and showed him into a sitting room. The young man repeated his request saying: I have come very far and wish to settle in this town and join your church; however first I would like you to instruct me in the entire faith as I stand on one foot. The pastor looked at him through timeworn but wise eyes and smiled saying: Love God, love your neighbour, love yourself – the rest is all commentary.

Satisfied with the response, there and then, still standing on one foot,  the young man decided to settle in the city and join the parish church.

Source: Inspired by a story told by the Talmudic sage Hillel

CONSIDER THIS

Saint Augustine said that Scripture “teaches nothing but charity, and we must not leave an interpretation of scripture until we have found a compassionate interpretation of it.” 

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THE GARDENER AND THE SURGEON

A gardener once worked for a heart surgeon. The heart surgeon was an atheist. The gardener was a man of faith. They got on very well together, but often had friendly arguments about the nature of life, and faith, and the spiritual life.

One day the heart surgeon thought he had finally settled the argument when he told the gardener: “You talk about ’soul’, but let me tell you that I have cut open thousands of human hearts in the course of my career, but not once have I found a ‘soul’ inside.”

“Well,” replied the gardener, “I have to tell you that in the course of my work over all these long years in your garden, I have accidentally sliced through many buried daffodil bulbs with my spade, but I have never seen a daffodil inside them.”

Source unknown
Quoted in Margaret Silf, One Hundred More Wisdom Stories
(Lion Hudson, 2014) page 28

CONSIDER THIS

  • Because something cannot be seen, does not mean it does not exist.
  • What is to be, is hidden deeply within us, and will be revealed only in God’s time and through Gods’ power.

WHERE’S YOUR UMBRELLA?

The rains failed again that year. It was the third year in succession when there was no rain. The crops had disappeared and the land was a brown swath of dusty rubble. Trees had lost their leaves years ago and stood out like silhouettes of cactus on the dusty horizon. There was a stream that skirted the village in years bygone. Now the riverbed was dry. Where once flowed clean, fresh water from the nearby mountains, there was now a bed of clay, cracked in a checkerboard pattern with gaps as wide as a foot.  No one knew what had happened to the birds except for the vultures that circled the town, looking for a carcass or two of an animal that was left dying.

There was famine in the land. People walked around like sticks, sans flesh, surviving on whatever ration was brought to them by various international charities.

Desperate for help, the people of the village held a meeting under a big banyan tree that was as old as the village. “Let us pray”, said an elderly woman. “Only God can help us now.”

There lived people of many faiths in the village and there ensued a big debate as to where to hold the prayer – in a church, a mosque, a synagogue  or a temple. There was no consensus. Exhausted, they decided to hold their prayer in the open, late that night, under the open sky, away from the town. It was a full moon night and the moon shone with its alluring brightness against a background of shimmering stars.

Amongst the people gathering for prayer a little girl holding hands with her young brother came running from a nearby village, holding high an open umbrella over their heads. Huffing for breath, they stood there, looking up, umbrella still unfurled. The gathered crowd could not but help turn around and wonder what was going on.  Some were curious; others were annoyed and some others were even furious as they kept being poked by the spokes of the umbrella.

Finally a curious bystander asked, “Why did you bring the umbrella?  Can’t you see there is no rain and we have come here to pray for rain?  Only a foolish person would stand on a clear night like this with an open umbrella.”

“Yes  indeed”, chimed in the two young siblings. “We came to pray too. We are certain that our prayer will be answered and it will rain. That is why we brought this big, colourful umbrella.”

Adapted from The Child who Brought an Open Umbrella for Prayer
by  Professor Nazeer Ahmed

______________________________
A variant of the same story

There was once a small village, which was suffering from a severe drought. The crops were dying, and the villagers and their animals had very little water to drink.

One day, to try to find a solution to the drought, the village priest called the villagers to gather at the village square to pray together for rain. He told them to bring along a token of their faith, so the prayer would be done in sincere faith.

And so, the villagers gathered at the square bringing with them tokens of their faith. Some brought the Holy Bible while others carried small crosses as tokens of faith. They all prayed aloud with great faith and hope.

Sure enough, within a few moments it began to rain. The whole crowd was overjoyed and danced happily. The priest noticed that among the joyous crowd was a nine-year-old boy, clutching an umbrella as a token of faith. The priest admired this little boy, who had brought an umbrella in total faith that the God would surely hear his prayers and send rain.

CONSIDER THIS

One short passage in the Gospel of Matthew reads, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” | Matthew 7:7-8

Sometimes we ask and we do not receive, we search and do not find, we knock and the door remains tightly shut. So what do you make of this Gospel verse?

What are you praying for and what do you bring with you to prayer? What is your umbrella?

THE MOON IN THE LAKE

A drunk was staggering across a bridge one night when he ran into a friend. The two of them leaned over the bridge and began chatting for a while.

“What’s that down there?” asked the drunk suddenly.

“That’s the moon,” said his friend.

The drunk looked again, shook his head in disbelief and said, “Okay, okay. But how the hell did I get way up here?”

__________

We almost never see reality. What we see is a reflection of it in the form of words and concepts which we then proceed to take for reality. The world we live in is mostly a mental construct. People feed on words, live by words, would fall apart without them.

Source  | Anthony de MelloTaking Flight
(Image, 1990) page 66

GOD’S HELP

A man was caught in a flood. First he was called and told to evacuate his home. He calmly refused, saying God would save him. The waters rushed the streets, climbing the foundations of the homes. When the streets were filled, a rescue team in a rubber raft called to him, and he again refused, saying God would save him. The power of the water deepened and the flood was crashing through the windows of his home. He was now perched on his roof. A helicopter came and he still refused, saying yet again that God would save him.

The flood did what floods do and he drowned. On the other side, he was angry and bitterly questioned God, “Why didn‘t You save me?! I kept my faith till the end!” And God, perplexed, replied, “I tried. I called and sent a raft and a helicopter. But you wouldn’t come.”

Source | Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening, pages 307-308

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Like the thought of love, God starts in everything unseeable, but comes to us plainly in the things of this world.

We don’t let go into trust until we’ve exhausted our egos. | Rob Lehman

  • Close your eyes and pray for one thing you need.
  • Breathe deeply until the prayer loses its words.
  • Open your eyes and enter your day listening to the things around you, for they carry what you need.

I DON’T BELIEVE MY UNBELIEF

The story follows Father Quixote, an aging parish priest in a little town in La Mancha, Spain as he vacations with his best friend, Sancho. Sancho is the retired, ex-mayor of the town and a committed communist. Both characters are men of very different but deep faith. But what ultimately binds them together are the ways in which they share doubt.

At one point, Father Quixote and Sancho have this conversation:

“I hope — friend — that you sometimes doubt too. It’s human to doubt.”

“I try not to doubt,” the Mayor said.

“Oh, so do I. So do I. In that we are certainly alike.”

And then Greene’s narrator explains: “It’s odd … how sharing a sense of doubt can bring men together perhaps even more than sharing a faith. The believer will fight another believer over a shade of difference: the doubter fights only with himself.”  

The rest of the novel shows these two characters embracing their doubts, and their doubts causing them to re-imagine their beliefs.

Source | Graham GreeneMonsignor Quixote (1982)

PONDER AND CONSIDER

It was Graham Greene who said about himself late in life: “The trouble is, I don’t believe my unbelief.” He confused a lot of people by saying that. Does it confuse you too?  What do you think is Graham Greene trying to say?  As I see it, doubt shows a person wrestling God. What could be more important than that?