Tag Archives: Story

Quotes Worth Repeating – The Guru’s Cat

10257039_10204059223820221_7035561874645616129_n (1)The story of the Guru’s cat by Anthony de Mello is worth repeating:

When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshipers. So he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.

After the guru died the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat died, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.

Centuries later learned treatises were written by the guru’s disciples on the religious and liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.   – Anthony de Mello

You can find this story and many more in Anthony de Mello’s book The Song of the Bird

Changing Hearts Rather Than Minds

This post is part of the August 2013 Synchroblog – Parables: Small Stories, Big Ideas

“Religious writing is usually designed to make the truth of faith clear, concise, and palatable. Parables subvert this approach. In the parable, truth is not expressed via some dusty theological discourse that seeks to educate us, but rather it arises as a lyrical dis-course that would inspire and transform us. In light of this, parables do not seek to change our minds but rather to change our hearts.”  Peter Rollins in The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales 

I love the way a good parable surprises us and turns our thinking upside down.  Many good parables take a well-known story or situation and give it a twist here and a tweak there in order to cause the audience to think about something from a different perspective.  Jesus was a master at crafting and telling a good parable.

But I notice that Jesus parables don’t always seem to have the impact that they should have on me and I think that is because they have become too familiar.  Which is why I think I got such a kick out of the collection of parables that Peter Rollins wrote a few years ago.

If you haven’t read Rollins’ collection of parables you should pick up his book The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales.  I think the 33 parables in his book might end up pushing you around a bit and that’s what a good parable should do.

Here’s one of the parables from the book to whet your appetite:

You sit in silence contemplating what has just taken place. Only moments ago you were alive and well, relaxing at home with friends. Then there was a deep, crushing pain in your chest that brought you crashing to the floor. The pain has now gone, but you are no longer in your home. Instead, you find yourself standing on the other side of death waiting to stand before the judgment seat and discover where you will spend eternity. As you reflect upon your life your name is called, and you are led down a long corridor into a majestic sanctuary with a throne located in its center. Sitting on this throne is a huge, breathtaking being who looks up at you and begins to speak.

“My name is Lucifer, and I am the angel of light.”

You are immediately filled with fear and trembling as you realize that you are face to face with the enemy of all that is true and good. Then the angel continues: “I have cast God down from his throne and banished Christ to the realm of eternal death. It is I who hold the keys to the kingdom. It is I who am the gatekeeper of paradise, and it is for me alone to decide who shall enter eternal joy and who shall be forsaken.”

After saying these words, he sits up and stretches out his vast arms. “In my right hand I hold eternal life and in my left hand eternal death. Those who would bow down and acknowledge me as their god shall pass through the gates of paradise and experience an eternity of bliss, but all those who refuse will be vanquished to the second death with their Christ.”

After a long pause he bends toward you and speaks, “Which will you choose?”

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Be sure and check out the other contributions to this month’s synchroblog:

Jesus’ Parables are Confusing? Good! – Jeremy Myers

Parabolic Living – Tim Nichols

Seed Parables:Sowing Seeds of the Kingdom – Carol Kunihol

Parables – Be Like the Ant or the Grasshopper – Paul Meier

The Parables of Jesus: Not Like Today’s Sermons – Jessica

Penelope and the Crutch – Glenn Hager

Parables and the Insult of Grace – Rachel

Changing Hearts Rather Than Minds – Liz Dyer

Young Son, Old Son, a Father on the Run – Jerry Wirtley

Christmas Story: Hear The Angels Sing

I love Christmas stories and have collected some favorites over the years.  I found one today to add to my list of favs on The Livesay Haiti Blog (great blog of a family that lives and serves in Haiti).  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Hear the Angels Sing

By Rick Porter

Hear the Angels Sing ( Dickinson County News, December 12, 2006)

Perhaps it’s just the Ebenezer Scrooge in me, but I’m not much of a caroler. When pressed into participation I sing, but rarely with the gusto of those around me. And too often I sing in a rote way, not giving full attention to the words. There is however, one line of one verse of one carol that always captures my attention.

A story is told of a man seasonally employed to bring the presence of Santa to Christmas gatherings for businesses and schools. He was on his way to a gig, an office party, but had been asked to stop by the nursing home to make a quick visit to the residents. This was pro bono work, but if Santa won’t do it who will?

He quickly made his rounds with a “ho, ho, ho” to each room. Just before departing, he peeked into a darkened cubicle where an elderly man lay apparently asleep, curled on his bony side. Santa prepared to leave in a flash. But the man made a feeble beckoning gesture visible in the dim light of a tiny Christmas tree. The volunteer Santa approached. The man whispered something so faintly as to be inaudible. Santa moved his jolly old ear very close to the man’s dry mouth. “Forms are bending low,” the man said. Santa did not connect the phrase, assumed confusion, gave a patronizing pat, and hurried off to his paying job.

As he arrived at the office party, holiday music was filling the room. The words of an old carol floated from the ceiling speakers:

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

The song was “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” written as a poem in 1849 and put to music 10 years later. The essence of the song is that angels did not just appear and sing at the birth of Christ. They show up and serenade regularly and often.

Just when we are so burdened as to not hear, at the most difficult of times, when life’s loads crush and our forms bend, they minister most. Immanuel, meaning “God-with-us,” attends us as His invisible person, the Holy Spirit, and He is attended by angels. The heart of God is to meet us at life’s darkest intersections with comfort, encouragement, a touch of heaven, and a breath of hope. The old man in the nursing home wasn’t just complaining to Santa about his lot in life. He was acknowledging that in Santa’s visit, no matter how hurried, there was an angelic grace.

Whether or not you sing the carols this year, be encouraged to live the carols. For you, this season may not be one of happiness, good memories, or togetherness. You may be grieving, regretful, or lonely. Life’s road seems crushing and your form is bending low. That does not disqualify you from the true Christmas message. While others scurry in apparent happiness, the invitation to the crushed and the bent still stands:

Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

Six Word Story #1 – Scars

According to legend Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

and called it his best work.

It’s not known if the story is true or not or if Hemingway is the one who wrote “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”

However, the story itself has continued to inspire people to attempt to write their own six word stories.

There are websites, books and contests devoted to the idea.

In the spirit of those who have gone before me in this endeavor I am going to attempt to offer up a six word story now and then here at Grace Rules.  I’ve tried this a few times and it is pretty hard.  The challenge is to come up with six words that create a vivid enough picture for the reader to immediately be able to imagine a story.

Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Finally, someone saw past her scars.


The Answer Is In The Story

On any given day there is plenty of negative buzz around the internet about the emerging/emergent conversation.  It is accused of being heretical, a fad, a perversion of the gospel, New Age, a disappointment, false teaching and dead.  Some participants have even decided to drop the label completely – and that’s okay as the label seems to have a lot more meaning to those outside of the conversation than to the participants.

I still identify with the label and so I find myself being asked a lot of questions.  “What is it?”  “Why am I attracted to it?”  “Is it distorting the truth?”  “What difference is it making?”  “What do the participants believe?”  “Does it line up with scripture?”  and many other questions that are difficult (if not impossible) to answer in relation to the conversation.

Sometimes I try to answer by explaining that embracing doubt and uncertainty doesn’t mean that I don’t have beliefs or don’t live out my beliefs with conviction, sometimes I make the point that what scripture says is pretty clear but, on the other hand, what it means isn’t so black and white, sometimes I state that unity shouldn’t be dependent upon conformity and that making relationships and community the main thing IS right doctrine.

Sometimes I share how the conversation has helped me sustain my faith, learn how to believe in a way that builds bridges instead of barriers and become teachable once again.  How it’s given me a safe place to express myself, ponder my doubts and beliefs; permission to change my mind and to be wrong without shame or guilt; and beautiful, diverse, authentic friendships that are able to survive our differences with grace and love.

Today I am here to answer questions about the emerging/emergent conversation in a different way.  Today I want to share someone’s story as the answer to the questions.  I don’t know if the person in the story identifies with the label – just that we connected through the conversation.  I don’t know what this person believes about the trinity, the virgin birth, heaven or hell – just that he believes in loving others in the way of Jesus and he believes it enough to do something about it.

Today I am here to answer questions about the emerging/emergent conversation with a story  because

“the answer is in the story and the story is unfolding”

Pádraig Ó Tuama

Dear Friends,

After the recent article about us in the local paper, I have been asked dozens of times just what we do, exactly.

We feed people. But we aren’t a feeding ministry. And while we do help people get jobs, we aren’t a job training program. Almost 50 times since Christmas we have gotten work shoes for folks. But we aren’t a clothing ministry. And in a few weeks, we will be celebrating the 4thof July in the park with our friends who live outside – but that isn’t what we do.

At any given moment, we may be doing any or all of those things. But we are primarily a ministry of presence.

Being homeless means having no one to listen to you when you hurt, no one to share your dreams with, and no one to celebrate with when good things happen. And no one to stand beside you when you are scared.

Which is why, several weeks ago, I was in the doctor’s office, sitting next to my friend Sarah, holding her hand as we wait to hear the bad news. She had recently had her first annual exam in 16 years. (When you are struggling to survive, sometimes you let things like that slide.) And when she had called for the results, they refused to give them to her over the phone. This is never good.

Her sponsor in NA died of cervical cancer, so she was scared to death of going to that doctor’s office by herself to hear the news. So there I was, looking very out of place as she and the doctor talk about cervixes and ovaries and so on. And when he told her it looked like cancer, I was the guy who held her as she cried. And prayed with her in the parking lot.

Today she got the results back from the specialist. It is cancer of the cervix, and in a few weeks she is going in for an operation. So it was only natural that she called me and some of our volunteers to let us know. And when they wheel her back in the hospital room after cutting on her, it will be our faces she will see when she wakes up.

What do we do? We are present. Often our being present doesn’t change things – she is going to have surgery if we are there or not. But now, she won’t be alone. And that is not a small thing at all.

Love Wins. Always.

Hugh Hollowell



The only reason Hugh was able to be in that doctor’s office next to Sarah was because of financial contributions that pay his salary. And, it is financial contributions that will buy the flowers in her room when she comes out of recovery. If you don’t currently support Love Wins but want to be part of this story, you can find out more about that here. They really need people who are willing to commit to ongoing monthly contributions, so they can budget.

A Lucy and Ethel Moment

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When I was growing up my mother loved to watch the “I Love Lucy” show. It cracked her up when Lucy and Ethel would get themselves into some crazy predicament. I remember sitting on the couch beside her as we watched their comical antics, both of us laughing to the point of tears. It is one, among many, of my favorite memories of my mom.  Even though she passed away in 1993 I can still hear the sound of her laughing at Lucy and Ethel.  It just so happens that my best friend, Colleen, who lives in San Antonio, is also a big “I Love Lucy” fan.  And so it is probably no surprise that over the years we have dubbed some of our crazy times together as “Lucy and Ethel Moments”.

I was reminded of one of those moments recently when my friend, Jules, who blogs at The Wonderer, published a post that included some funny stories about herself.  (Check out her post here – you will crack up)  All of that to lead up to telling you about the time my friend and I maced ourselves.

My best friend, Colleen, lives in San Antonio, TX.  We usually manage to get together once or twice a year for a few days.  A few years ago I was in San Antonio for a visit.  One evening, after dinner, we relaxed on her patio, drank some wine and talked (talking with each other is one of our favorite things to do when we get together). 

At that time she lived in an apartment that backed up to some undeveloped land that looked like a small forest and was home to a lot of wildlife.  I use the term “wildlife” loosely as the animals were used to being fed by their human neighbors and were not afraid to get up close and personal.  It was really pretty cool the way the deer and squirrels would come right up to you. 

Anyway, there we were, sitting on the patio and here comes an armadillo – or maybe it was a possum – I really can’t remember which one it was now – coming right toward us.  Whatever it was, I remember it was ugly and was making a little grunting noise. We jumped up and started shooing it away.  It moved back a few feet, stopped for a minute or so and then headed back towards us.  Like I said, the wildlife there wasn’t afraid of humans and thought of humans as a source of food.  After a couple of times of shooing the animal away it became more bold.  It began to almost act aggressive and we were a little nervous, wondering if we should just move inside. Colleen said not to worry that if the animal got aggressive she had some mace on her key ring that was sitting on a small table beside her.  I asked her if she had ever used it and she said no and that prompted her to point it off in a direction away from us and away from the animal and spray a little to see if it worked.  It worked and we went back to talking and keeping an eye out to make sure our little friend didn’t sneak back up on the patio.

A few minutes later, my throat started feeling scratchy and felt like it might be closing up AND I started coughing.  I told Colleen what I was feeling and almost at the same time we noticed that there was an A/C unit sitting near the area she had sprayed the mace and realized that it had probably blown the mace back in our direction.  We were already sort of in that giggling mode that you can get to when you have been a little spooked about something (the wildlife) and we started to get tickled and freaked out at the same time. We started asking each other questions about whether we should call 911 because of the mace and we began to imagine how the call would go… 

911 Operator:  “Hello, this is 911, what’s your emergency.”

Me and Colleen: ”We were on the patio and we were afraid of an armadillo that is practically tame because it was sniffing around the patio to see if we had some food and we tested our mace by spraying it where an A/C unit was running and the mace blew back in our direction and well, we ended up macing ourselves.  Our throat is scratchy and feels like it is swelling up.  What should we do?”

911 Operator: “I’m not sure what you should do but I definitely think you need some help.”

We were ROFLOL.  We took our chances and never called 911 and we were okay.  Well, at least we were not harmed by the small dose of mace – whether we were okay or not was up for debate.

Anytime we are together and hear anything about mace we look at each other and start laughing uncontrollably.  It is definitely one of our favorite “Lucy and Ethel moments” ever. 

What about you?  Got any funny stories about yourself or you and a friend that you want to share?