Category Archives: Ecclesiastes

The Wooden Bowl: A Parable

I Guarantee You will Remember the Parable of the Wooden Bowl Tomorrow, a Week from Now, a Month from Now, a Year from Now.

Parables have since time immemorial taught us thru the commonplace, and have sometimes changed us in surprising ways. And as we move towards a new year, what better time to reflect on who and what we are. Perhaps this gift of the parable of the Wooden Bowl may give us some pause, and provide a scintilla of the gift of Wisdom.

The Wooden Bowl

old wooden bowl

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson.

The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. ‘We must do something about father,’ said the son. ‘I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.’

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.

There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.

wooden bowl + spoon

When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.old man

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, ‘What are you making?’ Just as sweetly, the boy responded, ‘Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up. ‘ The four-year-old smiled and went back to work…

The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

[I am humbly grateful to my friend and colleague, Jean Francois, who shared this beautiful parable with me.]

turles and wisdom
We all need to reflect. I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and there is always the hope that it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles just four things: a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I’ve learned that having a good ‘living’ is not the same thing as having a good ‘life..’

I’ve learned that every mistake gives you a second chance to learn.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back sometimes.

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you But, if you focus on the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you. When you practice generosity, compassion, humility you’ve already given up the toxins that poison happiness.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart and mind, I usually make the right decision.

I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.

People love that human touch — holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back, or simply the touch of another’s appreciation and kind glance.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn; I’ve learned that for all I’ve learned I still know so very little.

I’ve learned that you should reflect on this parable of the wooden bowl, and practice compassion, non-judgmental presence, and unconditional love.

I’ve learned that Wisdom does not come from all the books I’ve read or the degrees I’ve received; it comes from sharing with a frail old person from a wooden bowl.

Pass this on to everyone you care about … I just did.

animated candle_small


A Moment to Consider Suffering

“There is a time for everything…under the heavens a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecc 3:1a,7b)

The Suffering in the World and the Heaviness of Grief Drag the Soul Down and Weight it With Despair…But It Is Better to Light A Single Candle than to Curse the Darkness Around Us.

animated candle small

All religious and spiritual traditions teach that man lives in horizontal time or chronos; the Divine time is vertical, kairos. In Divine time there is no past or future, it is all here and now. Unlike humankind, the Divine does not look to the past nor to the future, they are simply unnecessary because the Divine is perfect and that perfection embraces unchangingness and allknowingness. Perfection does not have to learn from the past nor hope for the future.

Rachel Weeps for All Her Children!

Rachel Weeps for All Her Children!

But we exist in a different dimension, if you will. We can either despair of the past or hope for the future; resent the past and despise the future; or as Ecclesiastes teaches, we can accept that the Divine plan provides for “a time for everything…a time to be born and a time to die..a time for scattering stones and a time to gather them…a time to embrace…a time to search…a time to mend…a time to be silent and a time to speak…a time to love…and a time for peace.”

The Divine plan is Perfection and Immutable. It keeps us on schedule and on plan always, whether we like it or not, and whether we understand it or not. The world is full of pain and suffering, most of it so far away from us that we almost take it for granted and go on with our own lives without considering that human beings and other creatures are suffering immensely but we don’t see their tears or hear their cries…so they’re easy to pass by and cast our eyes away. Until it strikes close to home. But the Divine plan includes us always and when Perfection sees its creatures becoming callous to the lessons of suffering, Perfection brings it closer to home so that we, too, can face the challenge and become humbled by it. When we see suffering we can appreciate the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: There is a time to be born and the fact of being born brings with it the fact of death.

gathering togetherWe are made of fragile materials and we break, sometimes very badly, and we die. It’s when we are humbled by challenge, moments in the Divine Plan that we are incapable of comprehending, that it becomes time to gather stones to rebuild, a time to embrace our universal humanity as the kin-dom of the Divine, a time to search for meaning in the challenge. But above all and essential to the purpose of the Divine Plan is that a time of challenge is a time for love, a time for God, because as John teaches “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love,” (1 Jn 4:8). Gathering together in love, we are in a time of mending, of healing; in that time of healing we find a time to be silent, present, and a time to speak. As stones gathered searching for meaning in the challenge, and embraced by the power of perfect love, we heal in silence and sometimes speak silently in prayer…we seek peace.

The events in the world that cause suffering and despair, confusion and anger, anxiety and hate are in our time, not Divine time, we can move into Divine time by staying in the moment, no past no future, for but a breath’s time and find peace in the moment we occupy now.

blue tear

Let’s stop for a moment being stones scattered and be stones gathered, remembering in this moment the suffering around us. Let’s stop for a moment to heal, to love, to be silent. Let’s stop for a moment to be peaceful and to grant peace to all of Creation. It’s in the Divine Plan. Let’s stop for a moment and remember we are created in the image of a God who is Love.

Remembering in this Divine moment of love, healing, and peace, the suffering in the world of all Creation, and remembering the acute pain we now suffer with the events closer to us. In your own, personal way remember the suffering in Newtown, Connecticut.


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