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

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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?

LONGING FOR GOD

Kabezya-Mpungu, the highest god, had created the sky and the earth and two human beings, a man and a woman endowed with reason. However, these two human beings did not, as yet, possess Mutima, or Heart.

Kabezya-Mpungu had four children, the Sun, the Moon, Darkness, and Rain. He called them all together and said to them, “I want to withdraw now, so that Man can no longer see me. I will send down Mutima in my place. But before I take my leave I want to know what you, Rain, are going to do.”

“Oh,” replied Rain, “I think I will pour down without cease and put everything under water.”

“No,” answered the god. “Don’t do that. Look at these two.” And he pointed to the man and the woman. “Do you think they can live under water? You’d better take turns with the Sun. After you have sufficiently watered the earth, let the Sun go to work and dry it.”

The god turned then to the Sun. “And how are you going to conduct yourself?” he asked.

“I intend to shine hotly and burn everything under me,” said his second child.

“No,” replied Kabezya-Mpungu. “That cannot be. How do you expect the people whom I created to get food? When you have warmed the earth for a while, give Rain a chance to refresh it and make the fruit grow.”

“And you, Darkness, what are your plans?”

“I intend to rule forever!” was the answer.

“Have pity!” cried the god. “Do you want to condemn my creatures, the lions and the tigers and the serpents, to see nothing of the world I made? Listen to me. Give the Moon time to shine on the earth, and when you see the Moon in its last quarter, you may again rule. But I have lingered too long. Now I must go.” And he disappeared.

Somewhat later, Mutima, Heart, came along, in a small container no bigger than a hand. Heart was crying, and asked Sun, Moon, Darkness, and Rain, “Where is Kabezya-Mpungu, our father?”

“Father is gone,” they said, “and we do not know where.”

“Oh how great is my desire,” said Heart, “to commune with him. But since I cannot find him I will enter into Man, and through him I will seek God from generation to generation.”

And that is what happened. Ever since, all children born of Man contain Mutima, a longing for God.

Source | The Creation of the World: A Myth of Uganda retold by Charlotte and Wolf Leslau

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Our hearts were made for you oh God and they won’t find rest until they rest in you. | St Augustine

  • Are you living your life with heart?

YOUR BEARD IS ON FIRE

A man was standing in the middle of the town square. While lighting his pipe, he accidentally started his beard on fire. To the townspeople witnessing this event, he seemed to just stand there, doing absolutely nothing about it! Thinking that he somehow was unaware of the growing blaze, they ran up to him and shouted, “Your beard is on fire! Your beard is on fire!” and the man replied, “Yes, yes, I know – can’t you see that I’m praying for rain?”

Source | Story as told by Anthony De Mello

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Indeed, when it does rain, the rain is available! But in the meantime you better watch what you’re doing! And if your beard does catch fire don’t wait for the rain. Do something. Praying for rain does not help.

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