CAN IT GET ANY WORSE?

can-it-get-any-worse

A poor man lived with his wife and six children in a very small one-room house. They were always getting in each other’s way and there was so little space they could hardly breathe!

Finally the man could stand it no more. He talked to his wife and asked her what to do. “Go see the rabbi,” she told him, and after arguing a while, he went.

And so the poor man told the rabbi how miserable things were at home with him, his wife, and the six children all eating and living and sleeping in one room. The poor man told the rabbi, “We’re even starting to yell and fight with each other. Life couldn’t be worse.”

The rabbi thought very deeply about the poor man’s problem. Then he said, “Do exactly as I tell you and things will get better. Do you promise?”

“I promise,” the poor man said.

The rabbi then asked the poor man a strange question. “Do you own any animals?”

“Yes,” he said. “I have one cow, one goat, and some chickens.”

“Good,” the rabbi said. “When you get home, take all the animals into your house to live with you.”

The poor man was astonished to hear this advice from the rabbi, but he had promised to do exactly what the rabbi said. So he went home and took all the farm animals into the tiny one-room house.

The next day the poor man ran back to see the rabbi. “What have you done to me, Rabbi?” he cried. “It’s awful. I did what you told me and the animals are all over the house! Rabbi, help me!”

The rabbi listened and said calmly, “Now go home and take the chickens back outside.”

The poor man did as the rabbi said, but hurried back again the next day. “The chickens are gone, but Rabbi, the goat!” he moaned. “The goat is smashing up all the furniture and eating everything in sight!”

The good rabbi said, “Go home and remove the goat and may God bless you.”

So the poor man went home and took the goat outside. But he ran back again to see the rabbi, crying and wailing. “What a nightmare you have brought to my house, Rabbi! With the cow it’s like living in a stable! Can human beings live with an animal like this?”

The rabbi said sweetly, “My friend, you are right. May God bless you. Go home now and take the cow out of your house.” And the poor man went quickly home and took the cow out of the house.

The next day he came running back to the rabbi again. “O Rabbi,” he said with a big smile on his face, “we have such a good life now. The animals are all out of the house. The house is so quiet and we’ve got room to spare! What a joy!”

Source: Aaron Zerah, How the Children Became Stars:
A Family Treasury of Stories, Prayers and Blessings
from Around the World
Sorin Books
, 2000

CONSIDER THIS

  • Perspective is everything.  It is not what we see, but the way we see it. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.
  • Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to – Abraham  Lincoln
  • Think about your biggest complaint and what the rabbi would tell you if he heard it. Today, follow the rabbi’s advice.
  • Imagine you are the man in the story. At the end, what would you say to a friend who complained about how bad life was?
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ON GRATITUDE AND MERCY

One day, there was great commotion outside the Elders cell: two swallows had started a fierce fight with each other! The Elder was troubled. He went outside and beheld a distressing spectacle: the stronger swallow was attacking the other with its beak and literally plucking out its feathers. Without wasting any time, he chased the stronger swallow away. He lovingly took the injured bird in his hands and rescued it; as a result of his nursing, it survived.

Thereafter, just as the lion of St. Gerasimos used to follow the Saint everywhere, showing its gratitude and dedication, so also did this swallow: it flew in front of the Elder, fluttered its wings, frolicked, and sang.

One day, the Elder went outside, either to marvel at God in His works or to pray in silence. The swallow, his faithful friend and companion, was happily flying beside him.

The Elder sat down in the fruit-drying room a short distance from the monastery, and fell asleep without realizing it; but the swallow suddenly began to flutter rapidly above his head, chirping loudly, as if it wanted to wake him up and warn him of some danger.

And in very truth, when the Elder awoke, what did he see? A large reptile not too far away from him. His companion had in turn performed its own act of charity for the merciful.

Source | Archimandrite Ioannikios, Philaret of Kostamonitou, in Sygchrones Hagioreitikes Morphes—9 [Contemporary Athonite Personalities: Vol. IX] (Oropos: Holy Monastery of the Paraclete, 1983), pages 80-81.

THE PHOTOGENIC LILY

One evening after dinner the master and the disciple were looking at some photos. The disciple picked a beautiful photograph of a water lily, held it in his hands, and gazing upon it, asked, “Tell me master, how were you able to take such a splendid picture?”

With a smile, the master replied, “Well, I had to be very patient and very attentive. It was only after a few hours of compliments that the lily was willing to let me take her picture.”

Source | Based on a story told by Henri Nouwen in
Clowning in Rome (Image, 2000) page 87

CONSIDER THIS

Our difficult and very urgent task is to accept the truth that nature is not primarily a property to be possessed, but a gift to be received with admiration and gratitude. Only when we make a deep bow to the rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, only then can they become transparent and reveal to us their real meaning.

THANK GOD IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES

During John Wesley’s student days, a poor porter, whose job it was to carry people’s luggage, knocked on Wesley’s door one evening and asked to speak with him.

During their conversation, Wesley observed the man’s thin coat. It was a cold night, and Wesley suggested that he had better get another coat.

“This is the only coat I have,” the man replied, “and I thank God for it.”

Wesley asked the man if he had eaten and the man answered, “I have had nothing today but water to drink, but I thank God for that.”

Wesley, growing uneasy in the man’s presence, reminded him that he would have to leave soon or be locked out. “Then what would you thank God for?” Wesley asked.

“I will thank God,” replied the man, “that I have dry stones to lie upon.”

Wesley was deeply moved by the man’s sincerity and he said to him, “You thank God when you have nothing to wear, nothing to eat, and no bed to lie on. What else do you thank God for?”

The simple man replied, “I thank God that he has given me life, a heart to love him, and a desire to serve him.”

After the man had left with a coat from Wesley’s closet, some money for food, and words of appreciation for the witness he had made, Wesley wrote in his journal, “I shall never forget that porter. He convinced me there is something in religion to which I am a stranger.”

 Source | Maxie Dunnam, Jesus’ Claims, Our Promises
(Nashville: Upper Room, 1985) pages 61-62

CONSIDER THIS

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, for you. | 1 Thessalonians 5:18

“I shall never forget that porter. He convinced me there is something in religion to which I am a stranger.” Are we still strangers to this kind of faith?

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU HAVE

Two friends met on the street. One of them was very down. He seemed a bit agitated and resentful.

The other friend asked him, “What has the world done to you to make you feel this way?”

The friend responded, “Well, you know, three weeks ago an uncle died and he left me $40,000.”

“Hmmm.” the other said. “Well, I don’t really view that as a problem. Is there something else?”

“Well, yeah, you see, two weeks ago, a cousin died and left me $85,000.”

“Wow, that’s great! So, what’s the problem?”

“You don’t understand. You see, last week, my great aunt died, and she left me almost a quarter million dollars!”

The friend shook his head and said, “Okay, I guess I’m just not understanding something here. I understand that members of your family died, and I can understand your pain and loss. But after all, as a result, you are being blessed beyond what most of us could hope for.”

“No, you really don’t understand,” the other replied. “You see, this week … nothing.”

Source | Martie McMane, Living Grace: Spiritual Growth in the Everyday World
(Marlin Press, 2011) page 129.

CONSIDER THIS

How easy it is to focus on what we don’t have and go blind to what we do have.