The Magical Mustard Seed

There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and asked, “What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?”

Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.” The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed.

She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, “I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me.”Photo-08-A-woman-knocking-the-door-in-Old-Sana'a

They told her, “You’ve certainly come to the wrong place,” and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them.

The woman said to herself, “Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?”

She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hotels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune.

The woman became so involved in helping others cope with their sorrows that she eventually let go of her own. She would later come to understand that it was the quest to find the magical mustard seed that drove away her suffering.

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Invictus

By William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me, victory
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Building Bridges

Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.

Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days work,” he said.

“Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?”

“Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor, in fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence – an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place anymore. Cool him down, anyhow.”

The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”

The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day.

Garden_Bridges_378The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing.

About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped.

There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge… a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work handrails and all – and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched.

“You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. “No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother.

“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but, I have many more bridges to build.”

Run With Intent

by Steve Goodier 
Buckminster Fuller once said, “The minute you choose to do what you really want to do it’s a different kind of life.” And it’s not about what you’re getting PAID to do! If you want to live abundantly, decide what you really want and figure out a way to do it. Be clear and live with intent.

You may have heard of Fred Lebow. Fred complained to his doctor that he lacked energy. His doctor advised him to take up running in order to increase his stamina. He fell in love with it! He was 39 years old when he entered his first race — and did horribly. He beat only one other contestant…a 72-year-old man. But he loved it!Fred Lebow

Fred decided what he really wanted to do — and he did it in his spare time. He joined the New York Road Runners Club and organized New York City’s first marathon race. But what Fred truly wanted to do, even more than run, was to bring people together. And that is what he did. He believe that anybody should be able to run — people of all ages, any background, professional or amateur, and of any country. Today, more than 28,000 people of all backgrounds and nationalities compete in the NYC Marathon.

Not everyone in New York was excited about people running through their neighborhoods. Fred was approached by a youth gang that warned him that nobody had better run through their turf. “That’s great,” Fred enthused. “I need someone to protect the runners in your area, and you look like just the fellows to do it.” He gave them each a hat, shirt and jacket and that year, when the marathon went through their neighborhood, these young men proudly guarded the runners along their way.

Fred decided what was truly important to him and he found a way to do it. He lived with intent. That single decision made his life remarkably different.

In 1990, Fred Lebow found he had a brain tumor. In 1992 he ran his final race. He crossed the finish line holding the hand of his friend and Norwegian Olympic medalist, Grete Waitz. A bronze statue was created of Fred in his running clothes, checking his watch. It is now placed at the finish line of every race. Fred died in 1994. But as one sports writer said, “Fate handed him a short race. With his gall, with his love of life, Fred Lebow turned it into a marathon.”

Fred would say that it’s not about how long you live, but how you run the race of life. Do you run it with intent? 

Strength Made Perfect in Weakness

by Alan Smith 

I read a few years ago the story of a 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident. The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training, the master had taught him only one move. “Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”

“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied. Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.

JudoSeveral months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals. This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. “No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.”

Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and the sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind: “Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”

“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”

The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.

We don’t often view our weaknesses in the same way, but we should. I am reminded of the time that Paul prayed fervently for God to remove some affliction unknown to us, what he called a “thorn in the flesh.” Refusing to remove it, God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9).

A Light In the Darkness

The passengers on the bus watched sympathetically as the attractive young woman with the white cane made her way carefully up the steps. She paid the driver, using her hands to feel the location of the seats, walked down the aisle and found the seat he’d told her was empty. Then she settled in, placed her briefcase on her lap and rested her cane against her leg.

 

It had been a year since Susan, thirty-four, became blind. Due to a medical misdiagnosis, she had been rendered sightless, and she was suddenly thrown into a world of darkness, anger, frustration and self-pity. Once a fiercely independent woman, Susan now felt condemned by this terrible twist of fate to become a powerless and helpless burden on everyone around her.

  

“How could this have happened to me?” she would plead, her heart knotted with anger, but no matter how much she cried, protested, ranted or prayed, she knew the painful truth that her sight was never going to return. A cloud of depression hung over Susan’s once optimistic spirit. Just getting through each day was an exercise in frustration and exhaustion. And all she had to cling to was her husband Mark.

  

Mark was an Air Force officer and he loved Susan with all of his heart. When she first lost her sight, he watched her sink into despair and was determined to help his wife gain the strength and confidence she needed to become independent again. Mark’s military background had trained him well to deal with such sensitive situations, and yet he knew this was the most difficult battle he would ever face.

 businesswoman-in-blindfold

Finally, Susan felt ready to return to her job, but how would she get there? She used to take the bus, but was now too frightened to get around the city by herself. Mark volunteered to drive her to and from work each day, even though they worked at opposite ends of the city. At first, this comforted Susan and fulfilled Mark’s need to protect his sightless wife who was so insecure about performing the slightest task. Soon, however, Mark realized that this arrangement wasn’t working, it was hectic and costly. ‘Susan is going to have to start taking the bus again’ he admitted to himself, but just the thought of mentioning it to her made him cringe, she was still so fragile and so angry. ‘How would she react?’ he admitted to himself again.

  

Just as Mark predicted, Susan was horrified at the idea of taking the bus again. “I’m blind!” she responded bitterly “How am I supposed to know where I’m going? I feel like you’re abandoning me”. Mark’s heart broke to hear these words, but he knew what had to be done. He promised Susan that each morning and evening he would ride the bus with her, for as long as it took, until she got the hang of it. And that is exactly what happened. 

For two solid weeks, Mark, military uniform and all, accompanied Susan to and from work each day. He taught her how to rely on her other senses specifically her hearing, how to determine where she was and how to adapt to her new environment. He helped her befriend the bus drivers who could watch out for her, and save her a seat. He made her laugh, even on those not-so-good days when she would trip exiting the bus, or drop her briefcase. Each morning they made the journey together, and Mark would take a cab back to his office. Although this routine was even more costly and exhausting than the previous one, Mark knew it was only a matter of time before Susan would be able to ride the bus on her own. He believed in her, he used to know before she’d lost her sight, who wasn’t afraid of any challenge and who would never, ever quit.

 

Finally, Susan decided that she was ready to try the trip on her own. Monday morning arrived, and before she left, she threw her arms around Mark, her temporary bus riding companion, her husband and her best friend. Her eyes filled with tears of gratitude for his loyalty, his sincerity, his patience and his love. She said good-bye, and for the first time, they went their separate ways. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, each day on her own went perfectly, and Susan had never felt better. She was doing it and she was going to work all by herself.

 

On Friday morning, Susan took the bus to work as usual. As she was paying for her fare to exit the bus, the driver said “Boy, I sure envy you” Susan wasn’t sure if the driver was speaking to her or not. After all, who on earth would ever envy a blind woman who had struggled just to find the courage to live for the past year? Curiously, she asked him “Why do you say that you envy me?” The driver responded “It must feel so good to be taken care of and protected like you are”. Susan had no idea what the driver was talking about, she asked him again “What do you mean?”

 

The driver answered, “You know, every morning for the past week, a fine looking gentleman in a military uniform has been standing across the corner watching you when you get off the bus. He makes sure you cross the street safely and he watches you until you enter your office building. Then he blows you a kiss, gives you a little salute and walks away. You are one lucky lady.”

 

Tears of happiness poured down Susan’s cheeks, for although she couldn’t physically see him, she had always felt Mark’s presence.  She was lucky, for he had given her a gift more powerful than sight. She didn’t need to see to believe. It was a love that brought light where there had been darkness. 

Three Feet from Gold

By Napoleon Hill, from “Think and Grow Rich”

One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat. Every person is guilty of this mistake at one time or another.

An uncle of R. U. Darby was caught by the “gold fever” in the gold-rush days, and went west to dig and grow rich. He had never heard that more gold has been mined from the brains of men than has ever been taken from the earth. He staked a claim and went to work with pick and shovel.

After weeks of labor, he was rewarded by the discovery of the shining ore. He needed machinery to bring the ore to the surface. Quietly, he covered up the mine, retraced his footsteps to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, told his relatives and a few neighbors of the “strike.” They got together money for the needed machinery, and had it shipped. The uncle and Darby went back to work the mine.

The first car of ore was mined, and shipped to a smelter. The returns proved they had one of the richest mines in Colorado! A few more cars of that ore would clear the debts. Then would come the big killing in profits.

Down went the drills! Up went the hopes of Darby and Uncle! Then something happened. The vein of gold ore disappeared! They had come to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold was no longer there. They drilled on, desperately trying to pick up the vein again – all to no avail.

Finally, they decided to quit.Gold Mine

They sold the machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars, and took the train back home. The junk man called in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a little calculating. The engineer advised that the project had failed because the owners were not familiar with “fault lines.” His calculations showed that the vein would be found just three feet from where the Darby’s had been drilling! That is exactly where it was found!

The junk man took millions of dollars in ore from the mine, because he knew enough to seek expert counsel before giving up.

Long afterward, Mr. Darby recouped his loss many times over, when he made the discovery that desire can be transmuted into gold. The discovery came after he went into the business of selling life insurance.

Remembering that he lost a huge fortune, because he stopped three feet from gold, Darby profited by the experience in his chosen work, by the simple method of saying to himself, “I stopped three feet from gold, but I will never stop because men say `no’ when I ask them to buy insurance.”

Darby is one of a small group of fewer than fifty men who sell more than a million dollars in life insurance annually. He owes his “stickability” to the lesson he learned from his “quitability” in the gold mining business.