WHERE’S THE HAT

Once upon a time there was an atheist grandmother, claiming Jewish cultural (if not religious) roots, who took her beloved five-year-old grandson to the beach. Decked out in his sun suit and hat, and equipped with his pail and shovel, the little boy played happily near the water, building castles and moats. When the grandmother dozed, the grandson was suddenly caught in an undertow and was soon nowhere in sight. The frantic grandmother called for help, but there was no one else on the beach.

Figuring she had nothing to lose, she fell to the ground, raised her arms to heaven and prayed, “God, if you exist, if you are there, please save my grandson. I promise I’ll make it up to you. I’ll join the Hadassah*; I’ll volunteer at the hospital; I’ll join the men’s club, the women’s club, whatever makes you happy.”

And suddenly a huge wave tossed the grandson on the beach at her feet. The grandmother bent over to hear his heart beating, she noticed color in his cheeks, his eyes opening, but she appeared upset. Bringing herself to full height, and with hands on her hips, she wagged her finger at the sky: “He had a hat, you know! Where’s the hat?”

Source: “Meditations on a Joyful Year
Speed Vogel Talks with Moshe Walks”
in Parabola, XII (4) 1987, p. 63.

CONSIDER THIS

This is supposed to be a humorous story. Humor is possible in this situation only  because the grandmother speaks to and not for God.  God is someone who can be berated and cajoled because God is very much part of the family. God is personal and even a friend and just like a friend you can engage in a conversation with God on an intimate basis and be yourself, a conversation that allows for nitpicking even!

  • How does your conversation with God sound like?
  • It sometimes happen that no matter how big the gift, we sometimes act or respond as though it’s not big enough. How do you normally respond to what comes your way?

[*] Hadassah means compassion, hence the women’s charity in Israel, Hadassah.

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?

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.
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