THE GIFT OF A CUP FULL OF DIRT

For her fourth birthday, Rachel’s grandfather brought her a little paper cup full of dirt. She was disappointed with the gift and let him know that. In response, he simply smiled and then turned to pick up a small teapot from her doll’s tea set. He took her to the kitchen and filled it up with water. They went back into the nursery. He set the cup on the windowsill and gave Rachel the teapot. He then said, “If you promise to put some water in the cup every day, something may happen.”

Rachel did as she was told, but as the days passed, she found it harder and harder to keep up the task. At one point, she tried to give the cup back to her grandfather, but he simply told her she had to keep it up everyday.

With much effort, she did just that, and eventually she woke up one morning and there she saw two small green leaves sprouting out of the soil. She was amazed by what she saw, and everyday she watched the plant grow bigger and bigger.

When she saw her grandfather again, she told him all about it thinking that he would be just as surprised. He wasn’t. The grandfather explained to her how life was everywhere and how it was hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places.

Rachel was excited by this, and asked, “And all it needs is water, Grandpa?” Her grandfather touched her gently on top of her head, and said, “No. All it needs is your faithfulness.”

 

Source| Based on a story told by Rachel Naomi Remen
in My Grandfather’s Blessings
(Riverhead Books, 2001) pages 1-2

CONSIDER THIS

Life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places and all it needs is our faithfulness.

Imagine every advent day to contain an invitation to water the soil in the field of your heart! Come Christmas day you may be surprised to discover  that the Word has once again become flesh!

FAITHFULNESS

Often, when he came to visit, my grandfather would bring me a present. These were never the sorts of things that other people brought, dolls and books and stuffed animals. My dolls and stuffed animals have been gone for more than half a century but many of my grandfather’s gifts are with me still.

Once he brought me a little paper cup. I looked inside it expecting something special. It was full of dirt. I was not allowed to play with dirt. Disappointed, I told him this. He smiled at me fondly. Turning, he picked up the little teapot from my dolls tea set and took me to the kitchen where he filled it with water. Back in the nursery, he put the tea cup on the windowsill and handed me the teapot. “If you promise to put some water in the cup every day, something may happen,” he told me.

At the time, I was four years old and my nursery was on the sixth floor of an apartment building in Manhattan. This whole thing made no sense to me at all. I looked at him dubiously. He nodded with encouragement. “Every day, Neshume-le,” he told me.

And so I promised. At first, curious to see what would happen, I did not mind doing this. But as the days went by and nothing changed, it got harder and harder to remember to put water in the cup. After a week, I asked my grandfather if it was time to stop yet. Shaking his head no, he said, “Every day, Neshume-le.” The second week was even harder, and I became resentful of my promise to put water in the cup. When my grandfather came again, I tried to give it back to him but he refused to take it, saying simply, “Every day, Neshume-le.” By the third week, I began to forget to put water in the cup. Often I would remember only after I had been put to bed and would have to get out of bed and water it in the dark. But I did not miss a single day. And one morning, there were two little green leaves that had not been there the night before.

I was completely astonished. Day by day they got bigger. I could not wait to tell my grandfather, certain that he would be as surprised as I was. But of course he was not. Carefully he explained to me that life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places. I was delighted. “And all it needs is water, Grandpa?” I asked him. Gently he touched me on the top of my head. “No, Neshume-le,” he said. “All it needs is your faithfulness.”

Source | Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings
:
Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

(Riverhead Trade, 2001 ) pages 1-2

CONSIDER THIS

Life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places and all it needs is our faithfulness.

TWO SEEDS

Two seeds lay side by side in the fertile spring soil. The first seed said, “I want to grow! I want to send my roots deep into the soil beneath me, and thrust my sprouts through the earth’s crust above me . . . I want to unfurl my tender buds like banners to announce the arrival of spring. I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the blessing of the morning dew on my petals!”  And so it grew.

The second seed said, “I am afraid. If I send my roots into the ground below, I don’t know what I will encounter in the dark. If I push my way through the hard soil above me I may damage my delicate sprouts . . . what if I let my buds open and a snail tries to eat them? And if I were to open my blossoms, a small child may pull me from the ground. No, it is much better for me to wait until it is safe.”  And so it waited.

A yard hen scratching around in the early spring ground for food found the waiting seed and promptly ate it.

Source | Patty Hansen, Jack Canfield & Mark Victor HansenCondensed Chicken Soup for the Soul
(Health Communications, 1996) pages 174-175

CONSIDER THIS

  • Those of us who refuse to risk and grow get swallowed up by life.
  • It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity. | Dag Hammarskjöld

FEARLESS AND THE FEARFUL SEEDS

Two seeds lay side by side in the fertile spring soil. The first seed said, “I want to grow! I want to send my roots deep into the soil beneath me, and thrust my sprouts through the earth’s crust above me . . . I want to unfurl my tender buds like banners to announce the arrival of spring. I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the blessing of the morning dew on my petals!”  And so it grew.

The second seed said, “I am afraid. If I send my roots into the ground below, I don’t know what I will encounter in the dark. If I push my way through the hard soil above me I may damage my delicate sprouts . . . what if I let my buds open and a snail tries to eat them? And if I were to open my blossoms, a small child may pull me from the ground. No, it is much better for me to wait until it is safe.”  And so it waited.

A yard hen scratching around in the early spring ground for food found the waiting seed and promptly ate it.

Source | Patty Hansen in Jack Canfield & Mark Victor HansenCondensed Chicken Soup for the Soul, pages 174-175

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity. Dag Hammarskjöld
  • Those of us who refuse to risk and grow get swallowed up by life.

THE EMPEROR AND THE SEEDS

What follows if another, older rendition of the previous story:

In the Far East, the emperor was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or his children, he decided to do something different. He called young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you.”

The children were shocked, but the emperor continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor.”

One boy, named Ling, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it, carefully. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.. After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Ling didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by — still nothing in Ling’s pot.

He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow. A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But his mother asked him to be honest about what happened.

Ling felt sick at his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace. When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful — in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other children laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, “Hey, nice try.”

When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the emperor. “Today one of you will be appointed the next emperor!”

All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. He thought, “The emperor knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!”

When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. “My name is Ling,” he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!”

Ling couldn’t believe it. Ling couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?

Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds that would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he Is the one who will be the new emperor!”

Source | Wayne Rice, More Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Be careful what you plant, now; it will determine what you will reap tomorrow. The seeds you now scatter will make life worse or better for you and for the ones who will come after you.

  • What you sow,  you shall reap. | Galatians 6:7
  • Whatever you give to life, life gives back to you.

GOD’S FRUIT STAND

A woman went into a marketplace, looked around, and saw a sign that read “God’s Fruit Stand.”  “Thank goodness. It’s about time,” the woman said to herself.

She went inside and she said, “I would like a perfect banana, a perfect cantaloupe, a perfect strawberry, and a perfect peach.”  God, who was behind the counter, shrugged and said, “I’m sorry.  I sell only seeds.”

Source | John Shea, The legend of the bells and other tales: Stories of the human spirit

PONDER AND CONSIDER

God doesn’t deal out perfection, but the seeds which lead to fullness of life. Expecting something finished or a completed project, expecting quick and easy perfection from anyone or anything is never realistic. We are an unfinished symphony living in an unfinished, ever unfolding story of the universe. All wee can do is to daily employ love, care, kindness, hospitality and a readiness for constant and ongoing change and growth.

SOW WHAT

There was a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart and all sorts of good things, but she was very frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart. She would read the newspapers and get depressed. One day she decided to go shopping, and she went into a mall and picked a store at random. She walked in and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the pictures she’d seen on holy cards and devotional pictures. She looked again and again at him, and finally she got up enough nerve and asked, ‘Excuse me, are you Jesus?’ ‘I am.’ ‘Do you work here?’ ‘No,’ Jesus said, ‘I own the store.’ ‘Oh, what do you sell in here?’ ‘Oh, just about anything!’ ‘Anything?’ ‘Yeah, anything you want. What do you want?’ She said, ‘I don’t know.’ Well,’ Jesus said, ‘feel free, walk up and down the aisles, make a list, see what it is that you want, and then come back and we’ll see what we can do for you.’

She did just that, walked up and down the aisles. There was peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air, careful use of resources. She wrote furiously. By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list. Jesus took the list, skimmed through it, looked up and smiled, ‘No problem.’ And then he bent down behind the counter and picked out all sorts of things, stood up, and laid out the packets. She asked, ‘What are these?’ Jesus replied, ‘Seed packets. This is a catalog store.’ She said, ‘You mean I don’t get the finished product?’ ‘No, this is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. You plant the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.’ ‘Oh,’ she said. And she left the store without buying anything.

Source | Megan McKenna, Parables. The Arrows of God

PONDER AND CONSIDER

What can you do, in your most proximate surroundings, to nurture and grow the seeds of peace?