The here and now

Another installment in Director of Religious Education Fred Mills’s series “A Voice from the Little Chair.”

Fred walked to the front of the pulpit, moved the little chair, and placed a large vase filled with a variety of flowers on the carpet. After he carefully lowered himself into the chair he handed each of the children gathered in front of him a different flower, and he began to tell a story.

Once there was a young farmer who decided that his crop would be flowers. Filled with pride and expectation he decided that he must plant the most beautiful flowers and only the most beautiful flowers.

But what is the most beautiful flower? Is it a Rose with its delicate petals and wonderful scent? Is it a Lily with its long delicate stem and wonderful blossom? He could not decide. So he asked the wise monk who lived at the edge of the village.

The monk examined the Lily, the Rose, the Tulip, and the Iris. He wondered at the Orchid, and he explored the beauty of the Chrysanthemum. “You ask a very good question,” the monk said. “Which do think is the most beautiful?”

The young farmer thought and thought and then looked and looked. Each flower was special, and each flower was beautiful. “I cannot choose,” the farmer said. The monk said, “I know. When you look at them, each flower is beautiful. Every flower, plant, and person, is unique. Everything is beautiful if you stop and are mindful of its beauty.”

With that, the farmer knew that any flower he planted would be the most beautiful as long as the person looking at the flower was mindful of its beauty.

Photo of chrysanthemum via Wikimedia Commons.

A lone shepherd’s quest to save the world

Another installment in Director of Religious Education Fred Mills’s series “A Voice from the Little Chair.”

The inspirational music has come to an end, the first hymn has raised the spirits of the congregation, and Fred is settling into the little chair. This morning’s story is based on the award-winning tale The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono.

The story is about a young man who wanders into a desolate land. He finds signs of past life, but nothing seems to be growing. There is no water. The young man happens upon a shepherd who has made it his work to plant trees. Every evening the shepherd sorts through a bag of acorns looking for the best prospects to plant. During the day, while he is with his sheep, he plants the seeds. Over time he has planted thousands of acorns. When asked why, he responds that the land seemed to be dying because it lacked trees, and that he could fix that.

The young man returned years later to find an aging shepherd who has now turned to beekeeping amid a forest of sapling trees. The land is slowly transformed, and the miracle of life returns.

This story is a good example of what one person can do — how, if given an opportunity, one person can save the world through selfless giving.

I hope you spend some time and watch the accompanying video. This is a wonderful story.

Doing the right thing

Another installment in Director of Religious Education Fred Mills’s series “A Voice from the Little Chair.”

“Aesop’s fables are often used to teach a simple lesson,” Fred said as he lowered himself into a very small chair. “But the truth is that there are often many lessons from these simple fables. This morning I will tell the tale of ‘The Lion and The Mouse.’ We often read this tale from the point of view of the lion.  What about the mouse? Let’s listen.” And so Fred began:

Once when a Lion was asleep a little Mouse began running up and down upon him; this soon wakened the Lion, who placed his huge paw upon the Mouse and opened his big jaws to swallow him. “Pardon, O King,” cried the little Mouse. “Forgive me this time, I shall never forget it: who knows but what I may be able to do you a turn some of these days?”

The Lion was so tickled at the idea of the Mouse being able to help him that he lifted up his paw and let him go. Some time after, the Lion was caught in a trap, and the hunters who desired to carry him alive to the King tied him to a tree while they went in search of a wagon to carry him on. Just then the little Mouse happened to pass by, and, seeing the Lion’s sad plight, went up to him and soon gnawed away the ropes that bound the King of the Beasts. “Was I not right?” asked the little Mouse.

The mouse took a great risk in helping the lion. The lion could have eaten him at any time. But helping the lion was the right thing to do, so the mouse did it. Doing the right thing is what we are supposed to do. It may not be hard to see what the right thing is, but doing it may seem hard. Who we are depends on our ability to do the hard thing, the right thing.

Changing relationships, unchanging love

Another installment in Director of Religious Education Fred Mills’s series “A Voice from the Little Chair.”

This Sunday Fred carried a picture book with him when he lowered himself into the little chair.

“This morning I will read a story,” he said. “I don’t usually just read. I really like to tell stories. But this story is so good just the way it is that I don’t want to miss a word.”

With that Fred opened the book and started to read Now One Foot, Now the Other, by Tomie dePaola. This is a story about Bobby and his best friend, his Grandfather Bob. The first word that Bobby spoke was “Bob,” and when Bobby learned to walk it was Bob who held his hand. Bob always said, “Now one foot, now the other.”

Shortly after Bobby’s fifth birthday, Bob suffered a stroke, and his recovery was very slow. Bobby knew that Bob recognized him, so he would play the same game he and Bob had played, stacking blocks only to have them fall down when Bobby placed the elephant block on top.

Slowly Bob’s speech came back. One day Bob stood up, and Bobby knew what he wanted to do. Bob placed his hands on Bobby’s shoulders and Bobby said, “Now one foot, now the other.” Before Bobby’s sixth birthday Bob could walk to the edge of the yard.

Just as the relationship between Bob and Bobby changed, our own relationships with each other change all the time. The love we feel for one another stays, and that love is very good.

(Please click here for a lesson plan about Now One Foot, Now the Other.)

Finding a Friend in the Forest

Another installment in Director of Religious Education Fred Mills’s series “A Voice from the Little Chair.”

The time in the service for the “Story for All Ages” had come, and Fred had settled into the little chair. Next to him was a lovely woven wooden basket, and inside you could see what looked like sticks. What follows is the story that Fred told.

Today we have a story from the Abenaki Nation about Flying Bird and Running Deer and their conversation about the wilderness.

Flying Bird said that he did not understand why Running Deer always seemed so at peace when he was in the woods. Flying Bird saw nothing special. When he looked at the woods, all he saw was a bunch of trees.

Running Deer took Flying Bird to the center of the village where other children were playing. “What do you see?” asked Running Deer. Flying Bird smiled and said that he saw his friends playing. “There is Small Bear and Quick Fox playing ball, and over there I can see White Dove making a basket out of reeds,” Flying Bird said. Continue reading

A Voice from the Little Chair

This is a new feature for our website. In this space I will offer a “Story for All Ages.” It may be a review of the Sunday story or a new story that might spark a conversation at the dinner table. Please feel free to comment. — Fred

The strains of the opening hymn came to an end as Fred moved to the front of the pulpit. There he placed a small box on the floor and slowly lowered himself into the little chair. He began:

This morning’s Story for All Ages is about patience, but first I want to plant some tomatoes. I love tomatoes, and I really want a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich for lunch.

Fred took a small pot out of the box along with a bag of potting soil. Next he opened an envelope of seeds and placed a few below the surface of the soil. After the seeds were planted, Fred sprinkled water into the pot. Then he put everything down and started to stare with anticipation. His mouth began to water as he thought about the sandwich. Continue reading