Category Archives: Inspiration

3 important answers to 3 important questions: Tolstoy

three-questionsI shared the book The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth with my Sunday school class on Sunday. Muth took an original short story written by Leo Tolstoy and reworked it with animal characters to appeal to children.

In the book, a boy named Nikolai goes on a journey to seek answers to three BIG LIFE questions:

  1. “When is the best time to do things?”

  2. “Who is the most important one?”

  3. “What is the right thing to do?”

His steps lead him to encounters with a heron, a monkey and a dog. Each of these characters answers the questions in a way that reflects personal biases. The heron suggests the best time to do things arrives only after everything has been planned in advance. The dog believes the most important one is the one who makes the rules, and the monkey knows the right thing to do is to have fun all the time.

Not satisfied, Nikolai climbs a high mountain to seek the answers to his questions from a wise old turtle. When he reaches the top of the mountain, he finds the wise, old turtle with a shovel in his hands digging a garden. Knowing that a young boy digs much faster than an old turtle, Nikolai takes the shovel and finishes turning over the hard soil. When he is leaning on his shovel after the last shovel full of dirt, he hears a cry for help coming to him out of the windblown forest. He follows the sound and finds a panda knocked out by a fallen tree. Nikolai rescues her and takes her to the turtle’s house to get warm. When the panda wakes up, she asks, “Where is my child?” Alarmed, Nikolai runs back to the forest where he finds the baby panda, shivering and alone.

Before Nikolai departs, he and the wise old turtle reflect on the answers the boy has found to his three questions.

  1. “There is only one important time, and that time is now.”

  2. “The most important one is always the one you are with.”

  3. “The most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.”

Muth concludes: “For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in the world.”

Tolstoy sure was one wise old turtle.

Learning from our shame: Brené Brown Part II

If you watched the video from my Friday post, this follow-up talk gives a more complete picture of the effects of vulnerability on even the most high-profile “experts.” Brené Brown talks about the repercussions of the first TED talk, and how becoming the “Vulnerability TED action figure”changed her life.

Even she, author of Daring Greatly, had not realized how she had been engineering her life to stay small.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” —Brené Brown

Click here to see her talk:

 

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional. – Max Lucado

Photo courtesy of Salva Barbera https://www.flickr.com/photos/decar66/

Photo courtesy of Salva Barbera https://www.flickr.com/photos/decar66/

May those who lived through war and died for war remind us that it demands a price too high, creates hate too long-lasting, and gives back too little.

May we choose words and diplomacy over weapons. 

 

Why you need deep roots

shallow-roots

I took this picture on our Canadian Thanksgiving walk at Shaw Woods. It’s difficult to grasp this picture at a glance, so I’ll walk you through it. The sheer rock face to the left used to be the surface on which the tree grew. The clump of brownish tangle forming a V shape opposite it are the roots of the tree. We know the tree sustained itself for many years on that precarious and not-very-nourishing place because it grew to a substantial size. You can see the circumference of the trunk above the heads of my mother and my son. Their size gives you some perspective on the size of the tree.

The roots of the tree could not penetrate the solid rock to grow deeply, so root tendrils reached out horizontally over the slanting rock in their search for sustenance.

Such a precarious state could not endure. At some point, a storm-driven gust of wind exerted such pressure on the tree that its roots peeled away from the impenetrable stone and it toppled. Without deep roots solidly anchoring it into the ground it could not survive a storm.

We can learn lessons from this tree.

Metaphorically speaking, to survive life’s storms, people need roots entrenched deeply into solid, anchoring sustenance: faith, nurturing friendships, loving family. Sure, some can survive for a while by spreading themselves thinly over precarious and not-very-nurturing surfaces, reaching out for sustenance through such things as jobs, money or alcohol and drugs. Like the tree in the photo, some people last surprisingly long that way. But eventually a storm comes with a wind too strong to withstand: the job disappears, the money dries up or the alcohol and drugs destroy ability to function effectively. Then the shallow roots peel away and everything topples.

Are you deeply rooted and ready for a storm? 

I took this picture - looking through the thin roots -  from the place where my mother and son were standing before. It is easy to see how shallow the roots were.

I took this picture – looking through the thin roots – from the place where my mother and son were standing before. It is easy to see how shallow the roots were.

God-incidences: What is going to surprise you today?

My friend, Étienne, and I learned—again—last week to open ourselves up to surprises and to look for the magic. 

He has spent the last few years studying and working to become a minister with the United Church of Canada. I have shared this spiritual journey with him as part of his discernment team.

Last week, when we arrived for a scheduled meeting with the committee that supports him through this process, we greeted with surprise and delight the other ministry student from our church, Mark, and his support person, Derek. We did not know they would be there. After joyful hugs we decided that lunch was in order, when all the meetings concluded.

Before lunch, the four of us agreed that our lunch would improve greatly with the added presence of our minister, Ellie. When Mark and Derek dropped by the church to invite her to join us, the staff told them they had just missed her; she had stepped out for an appointment. Disappointed but undaunted, we proceeded to the restaurant and ordered lunch.

Meanwhile, Ellie arrived at the place of her appointment a half hour or so ahead of her appointment time; she allowed herself extra time to eat the salad she had packed that morning. She parked in the lot and took out the salad: No fork. She surveyed her surroundings, seeking a place to grab a quick bite. She noticed a small restaurant. As she walked up to the door, she saw through the window the four of us waving at her.

We all laughed at the surprises the day brought: the unexpected meeting of the four of us, the happy opportunity to share lunch together, the unfortunate/fortunate missing fork, the God-incidence of the proximity of the restaurant to the place of the appointment.

“Be open to surprises and look for the magic,” we said.  

Amen to that.

It is Étienne’s birthday today. Happy birthday, my inspired friend.

Photo courtesy of Étienne LeSage

Photo courtesy of Étienne LeSage

Hallowe’en: Tickle Trunks and Friendly Giants

In a Hallowe’en store this week, the clerk selling me the cape for my son’s costume (Superman, NA NA NANA NA NA NA, Superman) asked me what my costume would be this year. I said, “I’m not sure. I’ll dig through what we have in the basement and find something.”

“We have a tickle trunk full of costumes in our basement too,” she said.

The clerk was about 20 years old, so I thought she would not know about Mr. Dressup’s tickle trunk. I said, “I’m so happy to hear you use that term. I thought you were a little young to know that show.”

“What show?” she said.

I explained Mr. Dressup to her, and told her to look him up. “I will,” she said. “I had no idea. I just thought “tickle trunk” was what you called a costume box.”

Thank you, Mr. Dressup, for coining a timeless phrase.

The conversation triggered memories about other children’s shows. There’s no better way to celebrate Hallowe’en than with the wonderful opening to the Friendly Giant, Hallowe’en edition.

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