Monday, August 19, 2013

The Fable of the White Horse

Sometimes, whole days come along and horrible things happen that make us wonder if we are being cursed.
Sometimes, whole days come along that are filled with joy and that makes us feel like we are being blessed.

Sometimes it hard to tell the difference, at least until the very end of the story.

This is for my family today.

Max Lucado heard this story down in South America and here is how tells it:

Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before—such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.
People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?” The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.
One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”
The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?”
The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.”
The old man spoke again. “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?”
The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.
After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”
The man responded, “Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?
“Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment! Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”
“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.
The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.
“You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.”
The old man spoke again. “You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments.”
It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.
“You were right, old man,” they wept. “God knows you were right. This proves it. Yours son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”
The old man spoke again. “It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”
The old man was right. We only have a fragment. Life’s mishaps and horrors are only a page out of a grand book. We must be slow about drawing conclusions. We must reserve judgment on life’s storms until we know the whole story.
I don’t know where the woodcutter learned his patience. Perhaps from another woodcutter in Galilee. For it was the Carpenter who said it best:
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”3
He should know. He is the author of our story. And he has already written the final chapter.
1 Ecclesiastes 7:8 "Finishing is better than starting.
    Patience is better than pride."

2 Romans 12:12 "Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying."
3 Matthew 6:34 
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

FFHHT- ffhht-ffhht...

Nope, Max is not visiting Nana today and that "Ffhht" is not the letters he picked out on the keyboard, even though it looks like it.
No,  "ffhht-ffhht-ffhht"  was the sound that I heard this morning as a flock of grouse (Pheasant?Quail?) took off as the dogs and I walked by this morning. Normally I don't hear anything but Shane and Shane or Third Day pounding in my ear as I pound the pavement er, pine needles. After all, I run on the trails in the woods, not the running paths through the city.
 With a small amount of trepidation, I decided to walk, rather than run this morning and left my ipod at home.
I thought it might be more difficult keeping my mind and heart focused on God without worship music.
I was wrong.
All the sounds of the woods praised God and encouraged me to do the same. I don't have any idea what kind of large birds those were taking off out of their roost, but it was delightful to watch and hear. Cooper and Lucy thought so, too, as I could tell from their barking and demented running in circles.
There were sounds of birds singing as I passed, and I heard the owl that lives behind our house saying, "WHO-who, WHO-who". There is also the occasional bird calling out , "Ka-KAW, ka-KAW, ka-KAW,!" that makes me feel I live in a jungle in South Amercia rather than in the Cascade foothills in Oregon. Not that I know what birds sound like in South America. Heck, apparently I don't even know the kind of large birds that fly up right in front of me in my own back yard.
On a side note, I'm real happy that I didn't hear other sounds such as a growling Mama-bear. That would not be fun. And my walk would have turned into a run real quick. (Wait, am I supposed to play dead when confronted by a black bear, or is that just a Grizzly? I can just imagine throwing myself down in front of the mama-bear in a last ditch effort to save my life and the bear looking at me quizzically before shrugging and digging into her 2nd breakfast that I so thoughtfully supplied. Nice.Clearly, I should do some serious Googling on this.)

 I do know that I was enjoying the peaceful and sweet sounds of the breeze in the tree tops and of the birds that live in those tree tops and praising their Creator this morning.
 It was just a praising kind of morning which fills me with JOY. You know those times. Sometimes it is praise day, but sometimes it is a "prays"  day when I am on my walks/runs. Sometimes no words but my soul deep groaning that apparently only the Holy Spirit can interpret.
But today it was all grateful praising, all the time.
1st Chronicles 16: 31-35 (Notice the 5th line? That is kinda great.)

"Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!
    Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
 Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
    Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
 Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise,
    for the Lord is coming to judge the earth.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever."