NO LONGER UGLY

NO LONGER UGLY

Once upon a time there was a boy who had a dog. The boy and the dog loved each other and played happily as dear friends. But one day the dog did something the boy’s parents didn’t like. To appease his parents, the boy had to send the dog away. Years passed, and the boy forgot there had ever been a dog . But inside him there was still a place where something was missing. When he was a man, the missing place called him so strongly that he had to go in search of what he needed. His search brought him to the edge of a forest.

Not knowing why, he found himself sitting, waiting. Slowly, gradually, two burning eyes appeared in the darkness of the forest. The young man waited. Slowly, gradually, a long pointed nose emerged. The young man waited. Finally, out of the forest, slinking, there came an animal: thin, scarred, muddy, matted with burrs. You would hardly know it had ever been a dog.

The young man greeted it softly: Hello. The ugly dog stopped, untrusting. The young man felt in his body the memory stirring of the good and happy times with his friend. He said to the animal before him: I want to know how it has been for you, all these years in exile. And in his own way the dog told him, this, and this. Sad, lonely, scared, bitter. The young man told the dog that he had heard it. He heard all that he had gone through.

And with this hearing, the dog visibly softened, became warmer and more trusting. After some time, it came close enough to be touched. When the young man touched the dog, he could feel the missing place inside him begin to fill in. And soon after he took the dog home, and gave it a bath and a warm place by the fire – after it felt loved again – it was no longer ugly. It was beautiful.

Source: Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin
The Radical Acceptance of Everything
Calluna Press, 2005

CONSIDER THIS

“I have long been persuaded that desire is not an emptiness needing to be filled but a fullness needing to be in relation.  Desire is love trying to happen.”  – Sebastian Moore, Jesus and the Liberator of Desire (Crossroad, 1989)

 

GET IN THE WHEELBARROW

There was once a circus performer who made a living by pushing a wheelbarrow across a high wire that spanned an abyss. The crowds came out in droves to watch him and to cheer him on. “Do you believe I can do it?” he would ask them. “Oh, yes! We believe you can do it,” they chorused back in acclamation.

“So, who’s going to get in the wheelbarrow?” he asked. And silence fell.

Source: Margaret Silf
The Other Side of Chaos
(Loyola Press, 2011) page 37

CONSIDER THIS

All believed in the amazing circus performer, but none of them trusted him enough to get in the wheelbarrow.

If you happen to be a Christian: In the Christian tradition, the creeds that we recite so faithfully every Sunday, set out fairly precisely what we are supposed to believe. We can recite those creeds as often as we want, but that will not necessarily amount to trust.

 

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?

THE PARABLE OF THE BIRDS

Once upon a time there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn’t a Scrooge. He was a kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he didn’t believe all that stuff about Incarnation which churches proclaim at Christmas. And he was too honest to pretend that he did. “I am truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. “But I simply cannot understand this claim that God becomes man. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

On Christmas Eve his wife and children went to church for the midnight service. He declined to accompany them. “I’d feel like a hypocrite,” he explained. “I’d rather stay at home. But I’ll wait up for you.”

Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. “If we must have Christmas,” he thought, “it’s nice to have a white one.” He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another.

He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his livingroom window. When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the storm. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window. “I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought. “But how can I help them?” Then he remembered the barn where the children’s pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter.

He put on his coat and galoshes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the door wide and turned on a light. But the birds didn’t come in. “Food will lure them in,” he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction – except into the warm lighted barn.

“They find me a strange and terrifying creature,” he said to himself, “and I can’t seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety. . . .”

Just at that moment the church bells began to ring. He stood silent for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. “Now I do understand,” he whispered. “Now I see why You had to do it.” 

Source | Louis Cassels,  The Parable of the Birds as told in Greg Johnson, The 25 Days of Christmas,  pages 30-31

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • They shall name him Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.” | Matthew 1:23
  • And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. | Luke 2:7
  • For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, your all-powerful word leaped from heaven …  into the midst of the land … | Wisdom 18:14-15
  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us. |  John 1:14
  • Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. | Matthew 25:40

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.

TIE UP YOUR CAMEL

A caravan settled for the night and the man tending the camels came to report to the chief.

“Are all the camels tied for the night?” asked the chief

“No, there were not enough ropes for all of the camels so one I left mine untied. But so great is my faith in God that I know he will protect me and my camel.”

The chief looked at the man with great anger and said, “Go and tie up your camel you fool! God cannot be bothered doing what you can do for yourself!”

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Anthony de Mello tells the same story slightly differently:

A disciple came riding on his camel to the tent of his Sufi Master. He dismounted and walked right into the tent, bowed low and said, “So great is my trust in God that I have left my camel outside untied, convinced that God protects the interests of those who love him.”

“Go tie your camel, you fool!” said the Master. “God cannot be bothered doing for you what you are perfectly capable of doing for yourself.”

Source: Prayer of the Frog by Anthony de Mello

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • “God cannot be bothered doing for you what you are perfectly capable of doing for yourself.”

TRUST GOD BUT TIE YOUR CAMEL

There was once a man who was on his way back home from market with his camel and, as he’d had a good day, he decided to stop at a mosque along the road and offer his thanks to God.

He left his camel outside and went in with his prayer mat and spent several hours offering thanks to Allah, praying and promising that he’d be a good Muslim in the future, help the poor and be an upstanding pillar of his community.

When he emerged it was already dark and lo and behold – his camel was gone!
He immediately flew into a violent temper and shook his fist at the sky, yelling:

“You traitor, Allah! How could you do this to me? I put all my trust in you and then you go and stab me in the back like this!”

A passing sufi dervish heard the man yelling and chuckled to himself.

“Listen,” he said, “Trust God but, you know, tie up your camel.”

Source : The Essential Rumi. Renditions by  Coleman Barks

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ANOTHER VERSION

A young man went to a great master of wisdom and said to him, ‘Master, so great is my trust in God that I didn’t even hitch my camel out there. I left it to God’s providence, for God to take care of it.”

And the wise master said, ‘Go back outside and tie your camel to the post, you nincompoop! There’s no point in inconveniencing God with something that you can do yourself.’

Source: Walking on Water by Anthony de Mello 

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • If your leave the jar of honey open, by morning it may be full of ants!
  • Trust is always and necessarily a cooperative venture between your inner knowing or spirit, and the world in which you live. Trust is active, aware and alert. It is not blind and unknowing.