Supernatural Seed

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I had to learn by experience the meaning of the parable of the four soils: according to the New English Bible, some seed fell “along” the pathway; some fell “on” stony ground; some “among” thorns; and some fell “into” good soil. I would have to learn to put up with the “along,” the “on,” the “among,” awaiting the “into.” Three out of the four efforts to get a harvest would be lost. It was a sobering prospect to feel that 75 percent of all your efforts to produce permanent changed character would be lost.

But the last soil, where the seed fell “into” good ground, brought forth thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. Thirtyfold is 3000 percent, sixtyfold is 6,000 percent, a hundredfold is 10,000 percent, on the investment. Large returns? Exaggerated? No, in fact. You touch one, and he becomes changed by the power of Christ; he touches another, and he another, and it goes on in geometrical progression endlessly. So this investment in changed human character is the one bank that will not break, and it brings large dividends; it is big business.

–E. Stanley Jones,
A Song of Ascents

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An Audience with the King

by Jurgen Schulz

Many years ago, the citizens of a far away land lived under the rule of a most wonderful king. As might be expected, this monarch resided in a magnificent palace. It was a most impressive edifice with towers that stretched skyward, priceless paintings, gardens with fountains, busy butlers, crystal chandeliers. A place truly fit for a king.

Among the many palace workers was a team of royal gardeners. They were charged with the task of maintaining the hedges, flower-gardens, fountains, lawns and trees. These laborers went about their duties carefully following the established royal garden procedures. They were constantly trimming, watering, weeding and generally making the grounds look like a corner of paradise. On coffee break they would sit together and chat about their work or events in the community. Sometimes they would exchange words with one of the cooks or butlers.

Although the gardeners worked on the palace grounds they never actually saw the king. They knew he lived there. They understood that occasionally he would travel elsewhere, but not one of them had ever caught a glimpse of him. He never seemed to visit the garden. Occasionally the staff that worked inside the palace would share some interesting tidbit involving His Majesty’s activities. The gardeners always listened with fascination and envy. Seeing the king was a special honor they did not enjoy.

If the monarch was ever mentioned in the gardeners’ conversations, it was always second hand information gleaned from others or read in the local paper. Mostly they talked about the gardens, the affairs in the town, or the latest soccer match. They worked on the grounds around the palace, but they were not among the privileged “insiders” who had contact with the king. They had resigned themselves to the fact that gardeners don’t meet kings. And, with that understanding, they simply carried on with their work.

However, one day it happened. One of the new gardeners was over on the east side of the palace grounds trimming a bush, and there, beyond a row of trees, he caught a glimpse of him. Unmistakably, it was the king. For one fleeting moment he saw his majesty strolling in the garden. The gardener stood riveted. His Highness was everything he had imagined him to be and much more. A most extraordinary man. And, after a few seconds, he passed out of view. The gardener strained to catch sight of him again, but he was gone.

Hardly believing his good fortune, he turned back to his work. However, after having laid eyes on the king, it was most difficult to continue calmly trimming bushes. He had actually caught sight of him!

At coffee break, he excitedly broke the remarkable news to his colleagues. However, the response was not at all favorable. His co-workers scoffed and told him “to get real”. They dismissed the idea as absurd, and went back to discussing the affairs of the garden.

It was all very puzzling to the new gardener. How could they have worked here so long without ever catching sight of the king? And why would they not believe his story? Did they think the ruler of the land was just an idea, a theory, a topic of discussion? The gardener quietly withdrew from the group. After having seen His Highness, garden-talk failed to captivate his interest. As a matter of fact, everything else had become strangely uninteresting.

In the weeks that followed he sighted the king on several occasions. Each time it was a fleeting glimpse, a momentary sighting, but it left him more and more intrigued with His Royal Majesty. The gardener’s whole outlook changed. He no longer came to the palace grounds to tend a garden; he came to look for the king.

The gardener came to realize that, contrary to the opinion of his colleagues, if you remained vigilant, you might just spot Him among the trees of the garden. It was hard for him to understand how some of his friends had worked there for so many years and had never caught sight of Him. They simply tended gardens; he was on the look-out for His Majesty.

For a few weeks, things in the royal grounds continued in a normal fashion. Then something unthinkable occurred. One of the butlers appeared in the garden and made a startling announcement to the new gardener, “The king requires your presence. He wants to see you right away in the drawing room.” The worker was dumbfounded. Could this really be true?

He quickly washed his hands and, straightening his hair, he nervously walked along behind the butler. Why would the king want to see him? With his heart pounding, he followed the man into the palace, through several passageways, and up two flights of stairs. An oak door was opened and he was ushered into the stately room where the king sat expecting him.

Hat in hand, the gardener bowed. The king smiled. The laborer had never seen a face so kind and so wise. His Majesty was evidently very pleased to see him and motioned him to an armchair.

Never had he spoken face to face with royalty. He was at a loss for words, but the king very quickly put him at ease. He was so friendly, so courteous, so gracious. He inquired about the gardener’s wife and children. He knew them all by name, and was immensely interested in each one. It was almost like conversing with a old friend. No one had ever made him feel so special.

The king walked over to the window and gazed out. “I often stand here and watch as you work,” he commented. “And I am most grateful for your diligent labor in the gardens.” The laborer was astonished. He had never dreamed that the king might be observing him from afar. He managed to stammer, “It is a great privilege to work here, your Highness.” This was amazing! The king had been looking his way and appreciated his work!

The wonder-struck gardener felt a gladness surge within him that went beyond anything he had ever known. It was like some extravagant joy that he had never thought possible. Delight and amazement flooded over him like waves. Never had he met someone who evoked such deep pleasure and satisfaction.

Finally, after about an hour (that seemed like five minutes), the remarkable visit came to an end. The gardener withdrew from the king’s presence, and returned to his work in the garden, dumbfounded at what had taken place. One of the palace cooks commented to the others that he was sure he had seen one of the gardeners pass by dancing across the grass.

Sighting one of his co-workers, the new gardener sauntered over and declared, “You’re never going to believe this, but I have just been in the palace conversing with the king.” His co-worker threw his head back and roared with laughter. “Do you expect me to believe that?” he mocked. Not for a moment did the man consider it to be true. Gardeners don’t meet with royalty. Evidently this new worker had much to learn about affairs in the palace grounds. Those who had been here for years had never known such a thing to happen. Obviously the newcomer was making this up.

Admittedly it was hard to believe. Kings are not in the habit of fraternizing with gardeners. Everybody knows that. But this had actually taken place!

By coffee break time, the rest of the crew had heard the story and took to ridiculing the new gardener. He became the laughing stock of the palace grounds. Some were sure that the new worker was having hallucinations. Others concluded that people like him should not be working in the royal gardens. None gave credence to his story.

But the garden worker knew that it was true! He had talked face to face with the king! His colleagues turned to arguing about some policy in the Royal Procedures Manual, but the new gardener could not stop pondering his encounter with the king.

He continued to attend to his daily responsibilities in the palace gardens. He did so to the best of his abilities, but somehow everything was different. He had become acquainted with His Majesty! The king had become his friend! The excitement of it all took his breath away and made his heart take flight. Every once in a while he could be seen throwing a glance at the windows on the second floor of the palace.

His co-workers were intent on following the Royal Manual, he was interested in knowing His Royal Highness. Some people just dream about this sort of thing. But this wasn’t a dream! It was unmistakably real.

And he was certain that life could never be the same.

Published in: on 10/23/2012 at 6:46  Leave a Comment  
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Return of the Prodigal

Rembrandt’s embrace remained imprinted on my soul far more profoundly than an temporal expression of emotional support. It has brought me into touch with something within me that lies far beyond the ups and downs of life, something that represents the ongoing yearning of the human spirit, the yearning for a final return, an unambiguous sense of safety, a lasting home.

–Henri Nouwen

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