ENCOUNTERING THE LIVING GOD

“It was Thomas Aquinas’s proofs for the existence of God that brought me into the Church,” said the eager theology student to his professor.

“I’m very happy for you,” replied Sofia, the wise, seasoned and experienced  teacher, “they almost drove me out of it.”

Source: As remembered and retold by Philip Chircop SJ

CONSIDER THIS

There’s a big difference between proving the existence of God and experiencing  God; between explaining God and encountering God. Thinking, analysis, and philosophical arguments are lovely and can be very helpful tools but they also run the risk of boxing up the faith in dangerous and suffocating systems of belief.

Analyzing God or faith is like dissecting a frog, when you take it apart, you might find out what it’s made up of, but the frog itself is killed in the process.

How do you experience and encounter the divine?

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DON’T GET USED TO IT

“Imagine you want to boil a frog, how do you do it?” John asked Peter.

“Well,  I would simply place the frog into a pot of hot water.”

“Don’t you think that as soon as the frog feels the heat, it will jump out?” said John  smilingly.

“How would you go about it?” Peter asked.

“Put a pot of cool water on the stove and then add the frog.  Not sensing danger the frog will stay.” John said.  “Next, turn the burner on low to slowly heat the water. As the water warms, the frog relaxes. The warmth feels good. As the water gets hotter it acts like a steam bath draining away energy and deepening the frog’s relaxation. The frog becomes sleepy and has less and less energy while the water is getting hotter and hotter. By the time the frog realizes its danger, the water is beginning to boil, and it is too late to take action. There is neither time nor energy left to do anything. The frog perishes in the boiling water.” John concluded.

Source: Based on a version of the story I first read in
Daniel QuinnThe Story of B

CONSIDER THIS

Although after a quick internet search, I was relieved to learn this story isn’t factual (modern biologists have debunked the myth), the tale is still a metaphor worth simmering in!

Haven’t all of us, at some point in our life, remained in situations that weren’t good for us, that were slowly damaging our body, crippling our mind and stifling our spirit?

Are we paying close attention to what is going on around us or are we allowing ourselves to become complacent, not noticing when the ‘water’ is getting hot?

Keep testing the water, so you can leap before you boil.

THE PRAYER OF THE FROG

THE PRAYER OF THE FROG

Brother Bruno was saying his prayers, but he could hear frogs vying with each other by the intensity of their croaking. He tried to concentrate on his crucifix. In an attempt to drown out the racket he recited his prayers aloud, in an increasingly loud voice, but it was useless. The obsessive croaking of the frogs was upsetting his concentration as he was praying. He exclaimed, “Silence! I am praying!”

He was a saint and his orders inspired respect. At once, nature became silent, just as a fire goes out; and complete silence reigned over the marsh. Brother Bruno noted from his window that the toads had stopped croaking, that the herons’ beaks were closed, and the flies that remained quite still on the reeds no longer dared to buzz in a wind that had fallen silent.

Contented, he returned to his prayers. But another voice was heard an inner voice. This small voice said to him: “And what if God derived greater pleasure in the croaking of the frogs than in the chanting of your psalms?”

Shocked, the saint replied, “But what can God find so pleasurable in the croaking of a frog? And what’s more, at full volume… Why did God invent noise?”

Saint Bruno returned to his window and allowed nature to resume its course. The insects and frogs filled the silence of the night with their subdued rhythm. Bruno listened to this chant, no longer resisting it, and at once his heart beat in accord with the universe.

From that day on he prayed ceaselessly; his days passed in continuous prayer. He was constantly reminded of God by the croaking of the frogs.

Source: Nathalie Leone, Christian Stories of Wisdom,
(Black Dog & Leventhal, 2016) page 166.
First published in France under the title Contes des sages chrétiens
by Nathalie Leone, Le Seuil, 2005.

CONSIDER THIS

Stop resisting. Reframe. Try a different  angle, a minor shift in perspective.

In the new frame the croaking frog was no longer an interruption. In the moment of finally listening to the language of the world around him, Bruno learned for the first time in his life what it really meant to pray. Letting go of his quest for silence, Bruno found a deeper prayer in the noises and the sounds of the world around him.

COOKIES

Toad baked some cookies. “These cookies smell very good,” said Toad. He ate one. “And they taste even better,” he said. Toad ran to Frog’s house. “Frog, Frog,” cried Toad, “taste these cookies that I have made.”

Frog ate one of the cookies. “These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!” said Frog.

Frog and Toad ate many cookies, one after another. “You know, Toad,” said Frog, with his mouth full, “I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick.”

“You are right,” said Toad. “Let us eat one last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one last cookie. There were many cookies left in the bowl. “Frog,” said Toad, “let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one very last cookie. “We must stop eating!” cried Toad as he ate another.

“Yes,” said Frog, reaching for a cookie, “we need will power.”

“What is will power?” asked Toad.

“Will power is trying hard not to do something that you really want to do,” said Frog.

“You mean like trying not to eat all of these cookies?” asked Toad.

“Right,” said Frog. Frog put the cookies in a box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.” “But we can open the box,” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Frog. Frog tied some string around the box. “There,” he said, “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”

“But we can cut the string and open the box,” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Frog. Frog got a ladder. He put the box up on a high shelf. “There,” said Frog. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”

“But we can climb the ladder and take the box down from the shelf and cut the string and open the box,” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Frog. Frog climbed the ladder and took the box down from the shelf. He cut the string and opened the box. Frog took the box outside. He shouted in a large, loud voice, “hey birds, here are cookies!” Birds came from everywhere. They picked up all the cookies in their beaks and flew away.

“Now we have no more cookies to eat,” said Toad sadly. “Not even one.”

“Yes,” said Frog, “but we have lots and lots of will power.”

“You may keep it all, Frog,” said Toad. “I’m going home to bake a cake.”

Source:  “Cookies” by Arnold Lobel
in  Frog and Toad Together (HarperCollins, 1979) pages 30

CONSIDER THIS

There is willfulness and will power. And then there is willingness.  In Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology, Gerald May, an American Psychiatrist and Theologian, writes about willingness and willfulness and the clear, yet subtle distinction between the two:

Willingness and willfulness do not apply to specific things or situations. They reflect instead the underlying attitude one has toward the wonder of life itself. Willingness notices this wonder and bows in some kind of reverence to it. Willfulness forgets it, ignores it, or at its worse, actively tries to destroy it. Thus willingness can sometimes seem very active and assertive, even aggressive. And willfulness can appear in the guise of passivity.

COOKIES

Toad baked some cookies. “These cookies smell very good,” said Toad. He ate one. “And they taste even better,” he said. Toad ran to Frog’s house. “Frog, Frog,” cried Toad, “taste these cookies that I have made.”

Frog ate one of the cookies. “These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!” said Frog.

Frog and Toad ate many cookies, one after another. “You know, Toad,” said Frog, with his mouth full, “I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick.”

“You are right,” said Toad. “Let us eat one last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one last cookie.

There were many cookies left in the bowl. “Frog,” said Toad, “let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad at one very last cookie.

“We must stop eating!” cried Toad as he ate another. “Yes,” said Frog, reaching for a cookie, “we need will power.” “What is will power?” asked Toad.

“Will power is trying hard not to do something that you really want to do,” said Frog.

“You mean like trying not to eat all of these cookies?” asked Toad. “Right,” said Frog.

Frog put the cookies in a box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.” “But we can open the box,” said Toad. “That is true,” said Frog.

Frog tied some string around the box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.” “But we can cut the string and open the box,” said Toad. “That is true,” said Frog.

Frog got a ladder. He put the box up on a high shelf. “There,” said Frog. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.” “But we can climb the ladder and take the box down from the shelf and cut the string and open the box,” said Toad. “That is true,” said Frog.

Frog climbed the ladder and took the box down from the shelf. He cut the string and opened the box.

Frog took the box outside. He shouted in a loud voice, “Hey birds, here are cookies!”

Birds came from everywhere. They picked up all the cookies in their beaks and flew away.

“Now we have no more cookies to eat,” said Toad sadly. “Not even one.”

“Yes,” said Frog, “but we have lots and lots of will power.” “You may keep it all, Frog,” said Toad. “I am going home now to bake a cake.”

Source | “Cookies” by Arnold Lobel
from Frog and Toad Together

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. | Romans 7:15 (nrsv)
  • What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. | Romans 7:15 (the message)

In the story, Frog and Toad eat so many cookies that they fear they will become sick.

  • Is there something that you like to eat or drink so much that you can’t stop yourself, even when you fear that you will get sick?
  • If you know that eating so much of something will make you sick, why do you continue to eat it?

Frog defines will power as “trying hard not to do something that you really want to do.”

  • How do you define will power?
  • If you really want to do something, why would you try not to do it?
  • Can part of you want to do something, while another part does not?

At the end of the story Frog says that they have lots and lots of will power because they want to eat more cookies but cannot because they have given them all away.

  • Does something have to be tempting you in order for you to have will power?
  • Do you have will power even when you are not using it?

A TALKING FROG IS COOL

One day, a young man was walking down a road when a frog called to him, “Hey, if you kiss me, I will turn into a beautiful princess.”

He picked up the frog, smiled at it, then placed the frog into his pocket. A few minutes later, the frog said, “Hey, if you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, and I will stay with you for a week.”

The young man took the frog from his pocket, smiled at it, then put it back into his pocket. A few minutes later, the frog said, “Hey, if you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will do anything you want!”

The young man took the frog from his pocket, smiled, and put it back. Finally, the frog cried, “Hey, what is the matter, I have told you that I am a beautiful princess, and if you kiss me, I will stay with you and do anything you want!”

The young man took the frog from his pocket and said, “Look, I am an engineering student, I have no time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog is cool!”

PONDER

  • Are you perhaps too busy for a real commitment?
  • Are you merely satisfied with superficial excitement?