Meditations on Parables and Everyday Stories: Mustard Seeds & Weeds

In Case of Complete Reversal  — Kay Ryan
Born into each seed
is a small anti-seed
useful in case of some
complete reversal:
a tiny but powerful
kit for adapting it
to the unimaginable.
If we could crack the
fineness of the shell
we’d see the
bundled minuses
stacked as in a safe,
ready for use
if things don’t
go well.

On Mustard Seeds & Weeds

So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself. — Florence Nightingale

This is a book about Heaven. I know it now. It floats among us like a cloud and is the realest thing we know and the least to be captured, the least to be possessed by anybody for himself. It is like a grain of mustard seed, which you cannot see among the crumbs of earth where it lies. It is like the reflection of the trees on the water. — Wendell Berry

I have a mustard seed; and I am not afraid to use it. — Pope Benedict XVI

A man of words and not of deeds, Is like a garden full of weeds. ― Benjamin Franklin

No faith is required to do the possible; actually only a morsel of this atom-powered stuff is needed to do the impossible, for a piece as large as a mustard seed will do more than we have ever dreamed of. — Leonard Ravenhill

The strongest and most mysterious weeds often have things to teach us. ― F.T. McKinstry

But what attracted me to weeds was not their beauty, but their resilience. I mean, despite being so widely despised, so unloved, killed with every chance we get, they are so pervasive, so seemingly invincible. ― Carol Vorvain

Man gains wider dominion by his intellect than by his right arm. The mustard-seed of thought is a pregnant treasury of vast results. Like the germ in the Egyptian tombs its vitality never perishes; and its fruit will spring up after it has been buried for long ages. — Edwin Hubbel Chapin

They are prepared for a God who strikes hard bargains but not for a God who gives as much for an hour’s work as for a day’s. They are prepared for a mustard-seed kingdom of God no bigger than the eye of a newt but not for the great banyan it becomes with birds in its branches singing Mozart. They are prepared for the potluck supper at First Presbyterian but not for the marriage supper of the lamb… — Frederick Buechner

backyard songDiane Seuss

Since it’s just me here I’ve
found the back and stayed
there most of the time, in
rain and snow and the
no-moon nights, dodging the front
I used to put up like a yard
gussied and groomed, all
edged and flower-lined, my
bottled life.
Uncorked, I had a thought: I
want the want
I dreamed of wanting once, a
quarter cup of sneak-peek
at what prowls in the back, at
what sings in the
wet rag space behind the garage, back

where the rabbits nest, where
I smell something soupish, sour and dank and it’s
filled with weeds like rough
cat tongues and
the wind is unfostered, untended,
now that it’s just me here and
I am so hungry
for the song that grows tall like a weed
grows, and grows.

When I was a
little girl
my ma said a woman gets
tired and sick
of the front yard, of
kissing the backside of a
rose.

Meditations on themes from the Parable of the Sower & the Seed

Reflections on hard earth and fertile ground: sowing seeds, putting down roots, growing shoots … putting parables to work in current times.

The Sower by VanGogh

A Short Story of FallingAlice Oswald
It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

On Parables & Seeds

Not every end is the goal. The end of a melody is not its goal, and yet if a melody has not reached its end, it has not reached its goal. A parable. — Frederick Nietzsche

To paraphrase Muggeridge: Everything is a parable that God is speaking to us, the art of life is to get the message. ― Chester Elijah Branch

Each day of my life I am sowing seeds that one day I will harvest. — Gautama Buddha

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. — Robert Louis Stevenson

A lower power cannot compass the full understanding of a higher. But to limit one’s belief to the bounds of one’s own small powers, would be to tie oneself down to the foot of a tree, and deny the existence of its upper branches. ― Mrs. Alfred Gatty, ie, Margaret Scott

Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. — Norman Vincent Peale

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me. — William Shakespeare

Being an American is a state of mind, and to be in a family is to feel the power of belonging, the power of your roots. Family is a tree, the strength of a tree, the roots, the leaves, the past, the present, the future, the fruits, the seeds. — Esai Morales

He [Jesus] speaks in parables, and though we have approached these parables reverentially all these many years and have heard them expounded as grave and reverent vehicles of holy truth, I suspect that many if not all of them were originally not grave at all but were antic, comic, often more than just a little shocking. ― Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

Throughout the parables the paradoxical teachings continue: Give to receive. Die to live. Lose to win. ― Amos Smith, Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots

Maybe that’s why Jesus was so fond of parables: Nothing describes the indescribable like a good yarn. ― Cathleen Falsani, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace

A journey or pilgrimage also follows the parabolic curve of an arch: it swings out from a known point and returns symmetrically to a point on the same line or plane, but farther along. For this reason, ancient philosophers chose the arch as a symbol for the process of interpretation. That is why teaching stories, such as those of Jesus or Buddha, are known as parables. ― John Tallmadge, The Cincinnati Arch: Learning from Nature in the City

A ParableArthur Conan Doyle
The cheese-mites asked how the cheese got there,
And warmly debated the matter;
The Orthodox said that it came from the air,
And the Heretics said from the platter.
They argued it long and they argued it strong,
And I hear they are arguing now;
But of all the choice spirits who lived in the cheese,
Not one of them thought of a cow.

Parable of the HostagesLouise Glück
The Greeks are sitting on the beach
wondering what to do when the war ends. No one
wants to go home, back
to that bony island; everyone wants a little more
of what there is in Troy, more
life on the edge, that sense of every day as being
packed with surprises. But how to explain this
to the ones at home to whom
fighting a war is a plausible
excuse for absence, whereas
exploring one’s capacity for diversion
is not. Well, this can be faced
later; these
are men of action, ready to leave
insight to the women and children.
Thinking things over in the hot sun, pleased
by a new strength in their forearms, which seem
more golden than they did at home, some
begin to miss their families a little,
to miss their wives, to want to see
if the war has aged them. And a few grow
slightly uneasy: what if war
is just a male version of dressing up,
a game devised to avoid
profound spiritual questions? Ah,
but it wasn’t only the war. The world had begun
calling them, an opera beginning with the war’s
loud chords and ending with the floating aria of the sirens.
There on the beach, discussing the various
timetables for getting home, no one believed
it could take ten years to get back to Ithaca;
no one foresaw that decade of insoluble dilemmas—oh unanswerable
affliction of the human heart: how to divide
the world’s beauty into acceptable
and unacceptable loves! On the shores of Troy,
how could the Greeks know
they were hostages already: who once
delays the journey is
already enthralled; how could they know
that of their small number
some would be held forever by the dreams of pleasure,
some by sleep, some by music?

Meditations on Carrying Burdens and Putting Them Down

BurdenJudith McCombs
I am carrying
the bowl where she fed, bitter
herbs, salt, honey, the taste
of her life. I am carrying
the cloth where she lay, her
dark hair veining the white,
imprint & pain washed
away, the binding, the seams
folded shut.
I am carrying
what is left, her voice
in my ears, questions
not asked, her eyes at the end
jelling over & before that her dark
dreaming smile, her long
arms reaching for babies, her scarred
knees that I envied. Ashes &
shards after fire.
Wind
lifts in the bowl of the desert, takes
what is left. Moth
wings of ash flecking
the cold, shards
scattered on sand, filling
the tracks of the living
& dead, it is ended.
O mothers
who thicken the earth, be fed
& not angry, be shelttered, be
safe where you wait & do not
come back to the remnants
you left, do not
come back with your love.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. — Martin Luther King Jr

He who is of calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition, youth and age are equally a burden. — Plato

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else. — Charles Dickens

The greatest development is achieved during the first years of life, and therefore it is then that the greatest care should be taken. If this is done, then the child does not become a burden; he will reveal himself as the greatest marvel of nature. — Maria Montessori

The weight of the world is love. Under the burden of solitude, under the burden of dissatisfaction. — Allen Ginsberg

Humanity has the stars in its future and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. — Isaac Asimov

Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden. — Cory Ten Boom

No one knows the weight of another’s burden. — George Herbert

Grief can’t be shared. Everyone carries it alone. His own burden in his own way. — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible. — Maya Angelou

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. — John F Kennedy


That Big, Old Rock. Excerpt from recap of Anne Lamott lecture by Barbara Falconer Newhall

That Big, Old Rock. … we think we have this big old rock to lug around. We wake up in the morning, and there it is lying next to us in bed. We stumble into the kitchen for a morning espresso, the rock goes with us. We go to work, it’s on our desk. We go to bed, and there it is again lying between us and that other person. Or between us and the dog, depending.

What’s the rock? All that stuff we think we gotta do. The things we should have done. And, crap, the things we never should have done in the first place. It’s the mighty to-do list of things it’s up to us, and us alone, to fix.

There’s a lot to love about getting older, Anne told her audience … We care about less than we used to, she said. [At an earlier age] you think you have to keep a bunch of things up in the air at one time. You have to squeeze in one more task before you get home – fill the gas tank or stop off at the convenience store. … you still want people see how good you are. You put off going to the optometrist because you’re pretty sure he’ll find out your eyes have gotten worse, in which case he’ll think less of you.

… One day it dawns on you that you might not have fifty more years to live. For all you know, you have just one more day. …

“Stop the train. Drop the rock,” Anne advised. And remember, “Where your feet are is sacred space.”