Category Archives: parables
How long had she been wandering?
Alone, lost, confused, disconnected
From her true self, unable to find her
Way into authenticity?
How long had he been in this dungeon?
Chained in dark dampness, warmed only
By vermin vying for crumbs of stale bread?
Addiction’s vile tentacles wrapped around his spine?
How long had her body been wracked with pain,
Shivering and vomiting, sweating, delirious?
Attached to dripping tubes and whirring machines
While physicians prodded, poked, and ignored?
How long had they endured this eternal hurricane?
Tossing the tiny ship to the sky,
Plunging it to hell, chaos, darkness,
Watery grave from which none return?
How long must they withstand this tyrant?
Suffering the brutal oppression of bitter totalitarianism?
Where no one dare call their soul their own,
And injustice sits enshrined alongside of greed?
There, on the horizon lies the bright city
City of lights
City of peace
City of connectedness
City of health and vitality
Peace and equanimity
Justice and joy
City with foundations
Whose architect and builder is God
Redeemed from wandering, into the fellowship of the city
Redeemed from bondage, chains, and prison into freedom and light
Redeemed from sickness and pain, into health, vitality
Redeemed from the storms of watery chaos into safety, peace, equanimity
Redeemed from oppression by evil rulers into familial freedom
steadfast love of YHWH never ceases.
There was a Rabbit in the Tree
A story that is entirely true, but not at all real
by Larry Taylor
I have it on the authority of none other than Margery Williams that somewhere in the rural United Kingdom there was a small boy who became quite ill with smallpox. This obviously occurred before scientists rid the world of smallpox by creating a vaccine, which was mandated by law for everyone in much of the developed world, including the United States. It was a time before people chose to believe nonsensical conspiracy theories and before politicians cast aspersion on public health figures.
It seems the small boy in question adored one stuffed rabbit, clinging to it night after night. It was the stuffed animal’s presence at a time of sickness, isolation, and quarantine that brought the little guy through. But, alas, after his recovery, the doctor ordered the burning of all textile items that had been in the sick room. This done to protect the rest of the family from the pandemic. This was obviously during a by-gone era when people cared about others and took sacrificial precautions not to infect them.
The purging cremation was to include the beloved stuffed bunny. It was a sad day for the little guy. He had far more sensibility than the adults.
I’m happy to report, however, that through the magical intervention of a kindly Faerie whose name escapes me at the moment, rather than consuming the stuffed bunny, the fire transmuted it into a real live rabbit. Wild rabbits live an average of two years. This one, however, defied all expectations and lived for many years in the garden behind the house, regularly visiting the lad as he grew into a scholar and a statesman.
My sources are impeccable – not like the fantasies of climate deniers, science rejectors, history revisers, and conspiracy theorists.
I have it from an equally high authority (who wishes anonymity) that somewhere in sub-Sahara Africa there was a little girl who loved nature. Her days were happy and free. Birds landed on her head, lions sat like kittens and purred at her, big snakes tickled her cheeks with their flicking tongues. She giggled and played all day.
This obviously occurred before Europeans colonized the land, installed puppet kings, raped the earth of its minerals, and enslaved the natives. It was also a time before people banned books and reinvented a mythical national history void of slavery, genocide, and Jim Crow.
The little girl was so happy, and her laughter so enchanting, that it reached to the gods and delighted them. It seems they had previously been in rather foul moods, although I do not know why that was so. A day came when the tiny lass, like her counterpart in the UK, fell ill. There were no physicians to provide an accurate diagnosis, this being before the time of the NIH, WHO, and CDC – a time before civilized countries had national healthcare for everyone. Hence, her particular ailment remains a mystery. The medicine man, the shaman, and the televangelist did their best. But, alas, the poor thing died.
The whole village grieved deeply. It takes a village to raise as child, so all the women wept as if they had birthed her, all the men sobbed as if they had sired her, and all the other children cried at losing their sister.
Now, I cannot absolutely validate what follows because the primary sources have all passed on, but I’m told that even the gods wept and wrung their hands because they were too impotent to prevent this death which robbed the world of laughter and joy. And, they got grumpy again, which wasn’t good for anyone. Some people have a propensity for making others miserable because deep inside, they are miserable. These people often become either middle managers or senators.
It delights me to report that the very same kindly Faerie whose name still escapes me worked some deep magic, or sprinkled fairy dust, or waved an elfin wand, or something, and transposed the little girl into a magnificent olive tree that would live over 2,000 years.
This was no ordinary olive tree. It was, as it were, a house plant. It lived in the courtyard of the Great Temple of the Gods where it was carefully nurtured and manicured by a bunch of priests who liked the olive tree far better than the gods, who, as I said, had become quite grumpy once again.
But not only was the little girl now a flourishing, fruit-bearing, lush green olive tree in the house of the gods, she was alive. I mean she could think and walk and talk and visit the animals in the rain forest. Some people mistakenly think that when trees walk, they pick up their roots out of the ground. They do not. They wade through the earth like you might wade through water at the seashore. Jack Lewis proved that.
So, at night, when the village slept and the nocturnal animals prowled, the Green Olive Tree would walk out of the temple of the gods and wade through the rain forest laughing as birds landed in her boughs, snakes gently curled around her branches, and big cats slept on the large branches near her trunk.
She did more than play, however. She was, after all, deeply compassionate. She had heard the priests speaking in dreaded whispers of a rising tide of authoritarianism accompanied by increasingly blatant and violent xenophobia, racism, misogyny, and homophobia in a nearby kingdom that possessed nuclear weapons long before nuclear fusion was discovered.
Because of the oppression, there were many people homeless and starving in that kingdom. Those who ran the kingdom were getting richer and richer, while the ordinary people dwindled and famished. Their suffering moved the heart of Green Olive Tree.
Nightly, Green Olive Tree waded into the oppressive kingdom where they worshipped Mars, Mammon, and the Great Leader. She froze when any guards or spies were nearby, then steadily made her way to the ravine where the wretched-rejected huddled.
Night after night, she shook her branches and rained beautiful, plump, ripe olives on them as they slept. With joy, they gathered the olives each morning, pressed out the oil, sold their product, and fed their families. This, much to the dismay of the Great Leader who needed everyone to stay angry so he could continue to fleece them.
I’m told that this went on until the Great Leader spread his Great Lies so repeatedly and so loudly that the gods got sick of it and crushed that kingdom like so many olives in a press.
Nevertheless, the little-girl/olive-tree went on laughing and playing with the animals and bringing joy to all for many, many years.
Decades (or perhaps it was centuries – one loses one’s sense of time) passed before an enterprising young scholar from the United Kingdom made an exploratory scientific expedition through the sub-Saharan interior. He had a gentle as well as a genteel manner about him – a kindness and humility that only comes from deep suffering. His eyes glowed like a rabbit’s, full of compassion.
Of this part, I am certain, because I have it on the Highest of Authority, that the young man came across the olive tree one night under a full moon. He was walking because he could not sleep. He had delt with insomnia ever since his beloved velveteen rabbit had sacrificially offered itself for the lives of his family.
She was visiting her animal friends. She was so wrapped up in having fun with the wingèd and four-leggèd, that she neglected to see him approaching. He stared in amazement at the sight of a dancing, laughing, talking tree gaily playing with what most people thought were very dangerous animals.
But not all the animals would be thought dangerous. In fact, there was at least one there that had no business being there at all because its kind don’t live in sub-Sahara Africa. It was a cottontail identical to the one that played behind his house when he was growing up. The rabbit was scurrying up and down and around Green Olive Tree and seemed to be tickling her. She giggled with delight.
He burst out laughing. The tree and the creatures froze. There ensued an awkward moment, then the creatures and the kindly Brit all roared hysterically, doubled over with laughter and joy. This was before the time of social media trolls.
The gods laughed too, releasing their foul moods, and joined the nocturnal full-moon party in the rain forest. When the laughter died down and the mood melted into a quiet contentment, the gods issued a proclamation of their collective desire that human, leporid, and Green Olive Tree join hands and spread joy and love throughout the earth.
And so, they did. Little by little, defeating darkness with light and hatred with love.
Destroying war with peace,
Confronting bitterness with forgiveness,
Turning the other cheek,
Going the second mile,
Loving their enemies,
Choosing to die rather than kill,
Destroying death by dying,
Overcoming evil with grace.
With self-sacrificial service and unconditional love, a tree, a bunny rabbit, and a young man righted wrongs and won hearts.
Even the gods came to see the light.
© LRT February, 2022
For us, one of life’s blessings is volunteering at a nature center dedicated to education. An expert in native and edible plants led a walk recently during which he taught me (among many other things) that thorny plants indicate land healing itself. Ohio, for example, was once 90% covered with old growth forests. By 1900, only 10% of the state was forested. Once cleared, some of the most productive farmland on earth was available to settlers.
Leave the cleared land alone and grasses will grow and meadows will soon fill with thorny plants of various kinds. Many have brightly colored berries that call to the birds,
“Eat me, poop out the seeds and spread us around!”
The thorns, on the other hand, broadcast a different message to animals:
“Don’t walk here and don’t try to eat us. You’ll be sorry if you do.”
Without animals chewing and trampling on things, box elder trees grow quickly, then give way to walnut trees, which give way to the mighty oaks of the mature forest. The land, once denuded, is healed and whole.
Native people inhabited this land for 10,000 years before any European set foot on it.
One cannot exaggerate the arrogance of European explorers and settlers who “discovered” and “claimed” the lands, then proceeded with campaigns of genocide, all in the name of God.
The native people knew the forests and managed the land with care. They understood the healing heralded by the thorns.
Thankfully, there are many of us who are coming to understand our proper calling in God’s world – ours is a stewardship to protect and care for creation. We are beginning to grasp the reality that we are a part of nature, interconnected with all living things. We are learning to garden organically, eat locally sourced foods, compost vegetation, and recycle. We are seeing the absurdity of scraping off topsoil and laying down non-native sod, and of eradicating those thorny “weeds” with lymphoma-inducing herbicides.
Many of us care about the air we breathe and the water we drink. We want our beaches to be free of oil. We want the nations of the world to transition quickly to sustainable energy so that millions won’t have to die in floods and fires. We are learning that the first task God gave humans in Genesis was to care for God’s garden.
As with nature, so with us. The interior person reflects the outer world with which she is systemically connected.
Some of my kin may have slashed and burned great forests to plant crops.
I cannot judge them.
I have slashed and burned relationships, opportunities, and talents.
I am the wounded field.
Thorns appear. Yes, and some fruit as well.
I tend to only see the thorns.
Hunger drives the cougar to the hunt.
The hot knife cauterizes the wound.
Though I long to be a mighty oak in the divine forest, I am reminded that God calls
the weak “strong,”
the less “more,”
the slave “master,”
and the poor “blessed.”
See us! Thorny weeds, one and all!
The Master is healing.
The Bible is not a flat book. It’s all God’s word, but every verse is not equal to every other verse. Love your neighbor is more important than don’t eat shrimp.
I’ve heard many people say, “I don’t interpret the Bible, I just read it.” I may well have said it myself. But, that’s simply not possible. All of us read through the lens of who we are and what we’ve experienced.
We all have a perspective. Everything we read or hear comes to us through the filter of our background, influences, preconceptions, and worldview.
I have to listen deeply when I read scripture or hear a sermon or lecture. When it comes to the Bible, I’m learning to ask questions – How do we know that’s true? What’s the context of this passage? What kind of literature is this? To whom was it originally written? What do I know about them? How would they have read and understood this text? How does this passage point me to Jesus? How am I to apply this passage in my life? What do a wide variety of commentators say about this passage?
When I scan the collection of books in my library, I notice a commonality. The majority of commentaries and books on Christian living were written by affluent heterosexual men of northern European decent. That’s because those were the only people who had the means to gain the education, the time to write books, and the connections to get them published. It’s not that there was necessarily any overt plan to exclude others, nor any conscious racism. Nevertheless, as a result, the only voices available all shared the same perspective. I never thought to ask how a biblical text might look through the eyes of a Native American, a descendant of African slaves, or a woman.
Moreover, there’s the danger of reading our favorite theological position into the text. The original authors knew nothing of Calvinism, Arminianism, Catholicism, or Pentecostalism.
Over the last decade or so, I’ve made a conscious effort to expose my mind to brilliant scholars from widely diverse backgrounds. The result is amazing. When the rains fell on the rich soils of the northern plains, the farmers in my congregation used to say you could hear the corn growing. I can almost hear myself growing spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually because I’m listening to voices across the ethnic, economic, gender, cultural, political, social, and theological spectra. Diversity is a vital divine gift. I’m trying to learn to listen to and learn from everyone I meet.
But then, how does one sort out the true from the false?
We have to start with who God is. God is love. Jesus is God incarnate, God in human flesh. God is exactly like Jesus. There is nothing unchristlike in God. We have an amazing and historically accurate record of what Jesus spoke and did.
When reading the Bible, I try to filter the text through Jesus, through the loving incarnate God. I’m learning to read the Bible with a cruciform hermeneutic, to look at every text in light of the cross.
I read the Bible this way because Jesus said to. All scripture is divinely inspired, and all scripture points to Jesus. Jesus challenged the religious scholars: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” (John 5:39)
Jesus changed everything on the cross. All evil was absorbed and obliterated. Perfect self-sacrificing, enemy-forgiving love conquered sin and satan.
Eternal life is not in reading the Bible. It is in Jesus. The Bible points us to the true, eternal, infallible Word of God, whose name is Jesus. Every passage in the Old Testament bears witness about Jesus. The Gospels are the stories of the life of Jesus. The rest of the New Testament points us back to Jesus. What does this passage mean in light of the cross? How can I see the love of God behind every Bible passage?
Doing so takes a great deal of deconstruction. I’m learning to recognize and set aside my biases, to acknowledge my natural lenses. I’ve dispensed with a lot of dogma.
And, I try to be humble – to keep an attitude of teachableness, of recognition that I have a lot to learn, and some of what I think is true may need adjusting.