THE CRACKED POT

Once upon a time a woman named Chang Chang worked for a merchant in Sichuan province. The merchant’s home was high atop a hill, and Chang Chang worked as the merchant’s laundress. Every day she had to walk down the hill to collect water from the stream.

When she was young, Chang Chang made two pots to carry her water, and these she hung upon a pole she could carry over her shoulders. She painted one pot blue and the other red, and on each pot she painted flowers. Chang Chang loved flowers. And she loved her pots.

For some years she carried her pole down the hillside and collected water. Afterward she climbed the hill. She was strong and able, though she was growing older. And as time passed, the pots, too, grew old.

One day, as Chang Chang prepared to place the pole over her shoulders, she noticed the blue pot had a slender crack along its side.

She ran a finger over the crack and sighed, “My poor little pot.”

For a few moments Chang Chang studied the crack. “Will you hold my water?” she whispered. But she decided she could still use the pot. As always she carried both pots down the hill and filled them with water to the very brim. By the time she reached the hilltop, the pot with a crack was half-empty, but this still left her plenty of water for doing the laundry.

For the next two years, Chang Chang carried those pots down the hillside every morning. When she reached the stream, she filled them to the brim, and afterward she walked back up the hill, balancing the pole across her shoulders. By the time she reached the house, the cracked blue pot was only half full — just enough for the laundry.

Each day Chang Chang examined the crack, and though it was growing a little longer, she decided all was well. What she didn’t notice was that the poor blue pot was miserable. Each time it drank from the stream, it secretly hoped that this day all the water would stay inside its belly, but each day when they reached the top of the hill, the pot knew it had failed. The blue pot glanced at the red pot and saw water filled to the top, and the blue pot began to feel desolate.

In its resting place on the far side of Chang Chang’s little hut, the blue pot worried and wept. “I’m no good, I’m no good, I’m no good!” the blue pot wailed.

“Stop your whining,” the red pot answered. “No one wants to hear from a pot.”

One day the blue pot woke and felt its crack beginning to expand. It was certain Chang Chang would soon decide to throw it away. Soon it would be no use to anyone for anything.

That morning, as Chang Chang climbed the hill, she was startled to hear a voice she had never heard. “Chang Chang,” the voice said, “throw me away. I’m no good for anyone or anything.”

Chang Chang stopped and looked around, wondering who could be speaking to her. “Hello?” she called down the hill.

But the voice that answered was very near. “I’m right here,” said the blue pot, swinging this way and that to get Chang Chang’s attention. “I’m your pot. The pot you made with your own two hands. The pot that has served you so well all these years. But I see now my time is finished. The crack in my side has made me useless. When you carry me up the hill, I spill all my water. I’m no good!”

For a long moment Chang Chang stood very still, amazed that her pot had spoken. “Is that you?” she whispered, looking close. “Are you speaking, dear pot?”

“It is I!” the pot said. “I am so sorry I have failed you, but I have.”

Chang Chang was overjoyed to know her pots were as full of life as she had always imagined, but she was sad to hear such sorrowful words. “But pot, you don’t understand,” she said. “You haven’t been paying attention. Look around.”

Chang Chang pointed to the path beside them, the path up the hill, and for the first time the pot stopped looking inward and instead looked out. On the right side of the hill the pot noticed beautiful flowers growing in abundance — poppies and peonies and chrysanthemum and narcissus and citron. A ribbon of color edged the path.

“And look at the other side of the hill,” Chang Chang said.

The pot glanced to the other side and saw it was bare.

“I’ve always known about your flaw,” Chang Chang said. “And so I planted seeds on your side of the path, and every day you water them and add more beauty to the world.”

The blue pot was overjoyed. All its sadness was gone. It understood, just as Chang Chang always had, that every being has its unique flaws. And it is our little quirks and faults that make us and the world so interesting.

Source: Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson
Tell Me a Story
www.uexpress.com

CONSIDER THIS

Nobody’s perfect, but our imperfections make us interesting.

Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all cracked pots. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You’ve just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them.

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. Remember to appreciate all the different people in your life!

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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!

GOD’S WATER

Christian, a Catholic monk, had a very close Muslim friend, Mohammed. The two of them used to pray together, even as they remained aware of their differences, as Muslim and Christian.  Aware too that certain schools of thought, both Muslim and Christian, warn against this type of prayer, fearing that the various faiths are not praying to the same God, the two of them didn’t call their sessions together prayer. Rather they imagined themselves as “digging a well together”.

One day Christian asked Mohammed: “When we get to the bottom of our well, what will we find? Muslim water or Christian water?”

Mohammed, half-amused but still deadly serious, replied: “Come on now, we’ve spent all this time walking together, and you’re still asking me this question. You know well that at the bottom of that well, what we’ll find is God’s water.”

Source | Christian de Chergé, L’invincible espérance
(Bayard 2010) 183-184

Quoted in Christian Salenson, Christian de Chergé: A Theology of Hope
(Cistercian Publications, 2012)) pages 49-50

CONSIDER THIS

God is always bigger than our wildest imaginings. God is beyond any definition and the moment we define God we shrink God. It has been said that God is the being whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

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.

DROWNING OF THE FALSE SELF

Once upon a time an eager disciple asked the master, “How much water does one need for a valid baptism? How much water is sufficient?”

This was, so it seems, a very frequent question, as some folks baptize in the river, some folks baptize in a baptismal pool, while others baptize with just a few drops of water on the head.

The master  turned his gaze towards the disciple and answered, “A valid baptism needs as much water as it would take to drown in.”

Source | Philip Chircop sj

CONSIDER THIS

The word “baptism” derives from the Greek baptizein meaning “to immerse, to drown, to submerge”. The Greek verb bapto, from which the verb baptizo is derived, also means  “to dip, steep, dye, color.”

What if baptism is all about “drowning”, dying to the old self and being born to the new self? What if it is about shedding the false self and putting on the true self? What if it is about marinating in the Source until one reflects the dye, the colour and the texture of the source?

PRIME THE PUMP FIRST

There was a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time his throat became very dry, about that time he saw a little shack in the distance. He made his way over to the shack and found a water pump with a small jug of water and a note. The note read: “Pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need”.

Now the man had a choice to make, if he trusted the note and poured the water in and it worked he would have all the water he needed. If it didn’t work he would still be thirsty and he might die. Or he could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction, but it might not be enough and he still might die. After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began to work the handle, at first nothing happened and he got a little scared but he kept going and water started coming out. So much water came out he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled all the containers he could find.

Source | Unknown

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • What would you have done? How comfortable are you with risk?
  • Where do you stand when it comes to “instant gratification” and “delayed gratification”?

An intriguing sociological study asked fifty people over the age of ninety five one question: ’If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?’ One of the top three answers that emerged and dominated the results of the study was “If I had to do it over again, I would risk more.” The problem for most of us is we are more afraid of failure than we are of regret. Too often, by the time we wake up, it’s too late. The next time you are tempted to play it safe, ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I risking by playing it safe?
  • What do I stand to gain by taking the risk?
  • What do I stand to lose by not taking this risk?
  • What would I do today if I were going to be really brave?

WHO REALLY LOVES GOD

Saint Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Spanish mystic, saw an angel rushing towards her, carrying a torch and a bucket of water. “Where are you going with that torch and bucket,” she asked; “what will you do with them?”

“With the water,” the angel answered, “I will put out the fires of hell, and with the fire I will burn down the mansions of heaven; then we will see who really loves God.”

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • I wonder if we could live our lives without the threat of punishment or the promise of reward. Could we just do the right thing because it is the right thing?