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The Three Trees

A Folktale for Easter

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!" The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. "I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world!" The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world." Years passed and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. "Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!" the first tree said. The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell. "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!" The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me." He muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax the third tree fell. The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, nor with treasure. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river. Instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" The once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..." Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. "I wish I could make a cradle for him," her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful," she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world. One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth. One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. As she was lifted up on the mountain top she felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. Now every time people saw her she could point them to God, and that was what she wanted all along.

The Legend of Heliopher

As told by Hardy Arnold
Based on a Russian legend told by Maxim Gorki as Danko of the Burning Heart. Once upon a time there was a race which was lost in a great, dark forest. The trees stood so close together that the light of the sun could not penetrate the thickly entwined branches. There were also numerous wild animals which fell upon the people, especially the children, when they wandered too far from their parents while they were playing. So everyone lived in a constant state of fear of death and destructione, and a hopeless despair took hold of the hearts of the folk. Continuous black darkness had strangled all the light in their hearts. They could not love one another any more. They even hated and murdered one another in their rage. Yet they were forced to remain together, for it was impossible for any single man to defend himself against the attacks of the wild beasts. They had lost all hope of ever finding their way out of the forest. Many of the young people did not believe in the light they had never seen, and they mocked their elders, when, with a last weak light gleaming in their dim eyes, they recounted tales of the festive, sunny days of their youth. Among the people however, there was a young man called Heliopher. He was very much alone, grieving over the misery of his people, and seeking a way of salvation. He bore in his heart an endless longing for light and love in the desolation which surrounded him. Heliopher left his people to seek the sun. For many months and years he wandered through the dangers of the forest and of his own soul, and often, very often, nearly lost all hope and confidence. But Heliopher bravely withstood his enemies, whether within himself or around him, and at last he reached the edge of the forest and saw the light of the sun. In terrible amazement he fell into a swoon, and when he awoke he saw in the twilight that he was watched over in his slumber by beautiful people. In the green meadows stood the simple huts of the sun-people, and Heliopher lived with them in peace and endless joy as the most beloved amongst living men. Then Heliopher went back to the forest to seek his people. Come, brothers and sisters, he said to them, I will lead you to the light. At this there was murmuring and frowning, wavering and hesitation, wonder and questioning, incredulous laughter, and finally a jubilant Yes! And then, at last, the longed-for departure. Then the light of the sun shone in Heliophers eyes, but the way was long and difficult, and demanded much suffering and sacrifice, and murmuring arose among the people. Some spoke and said, Let us murder him, the betrayer of the people! And the dark glow of hatred was in their eyes. Others were wiser and said, No! let us judge him in the presence of all, for it is dangerous to give the people a martyr. And Heliopher spoke to his people, and talked about light and love. But the wise ones answered, You lie! There is no light, there is no sun, there is no love. Let us be darker than the forest and more cruel than the wild beasts. Then we shall be masters of the forest! Heliopher answered in great pain, O believe not, ye wise men, that ye can be victorious over darkness by being more dark, that ye can overcome the wild beasts by being more beastly. Only love is stronger. Only the light of the sun can drive away darkness. Be silent! said the wise men. There is no light, there is no sun! And the people shouted, flinging their arms about in raging despair, There is no light, there is no sun! But Heliopher called out, Follow me! And with his nails he tore open his breast, and his heart burned with love, and it glowed and shed its beams through the dark forest. The he took it in both hands, held it high over his head, and strode forth in front of the people. In reverent wonder and silence the multitude followed the burning heart. And the people went in jubilation towards the sun, and danced in its loving rays, and they loved one another. But Heliopher knelt down at the edge of the forest, and with the last strength of his outstretched arms he held up his loving, pulsing heart to the light of heaven, and gave his last smile to his people.

The Legend of Christopherus

Hans Thoma
Once upon a time a boy was born, and his parents named him Opherus. He was a very strong boy, and did not know what to do with all his strength. Even at a young age, he broke tools and agricultural equipment. His father often did not know how to occupy him because, in spite of his good will, he did more harm than his work was worth. All his fathers tools were too weak for his strong arms. You should have seen his muscles! By the time he became a young man, Opherus looked like a giant. One day his father sent him to the fields to plough. Since the horses were too slow for Opherus, he set them loose and pushed the plough through the field himself at great speed. After a few hours, the plough fell to pieces. His father was sad because Opherus always meant well; he was simply too strong. He said to his son, Opherus, you must serve a greater and stronger master where you can use your strength in a right and proper way. So Opherus left home. He went to the king of the land and offered to serve him. Since the king was at war with a powerful nation, he was glad to have such a strong servant. Opherus served his king faithfully for several years. One day a visitor at the kings court mentioned the name of the devil in a conversation. The king became uneasy. In fact, he was downright frightened. Opherus was surprised that his king could show such fear, since he had hoped that he was serving the strongest master. The king had to admit that he feared the devil. And so Opherus decided he must leave the king to seek this devil who was so powerful. It did not take very long before Opherus found the devil. He came to Opherus in the form of a terrible warrior, and gladly took him into his service. And that is how Opherus became a faithful servant of the devil. In the service of evil he did terrible things, but he was glad because he had found a strong master. One day, Opherus was riding with the devil over the countryside. At the wayside stood a cross. The devil looked frightened of the cross, and made a big detour around it. Opherus was startled. He began asking the devil about its meaning, and he found out that the man Jesus Christ, who had hung upon just such a cross, was even stronger than the devil. Opherus left the devil that very moment and began seeking Christ. He inquired everywhere if anyone had heard of Christ, or knew where he could be found. As he was searching, lonely and burdened with many evil deeds, Opherus met a hermit who told him that if he wanted to find Christ, he must first find remorse and repentance. But Opherus had a different idea about life. He told the hermit he wanted to do more than just sit and repent. Then the hermit showed him a great river which travelers had to cross. It had no bridge. The water was deep and the current strong. He said to Opherus, If you carry poor wayfarers over this river out of love, you may find what you seek. For many years, Opherus did as the hermit said. He did not spare himself; day or night he was ready to help the travelers who passed. He built himself a little hut at the edge of the river, and if someone called he carried them across the dangerous waters. But in all this time, his one longing was to find Jesus Christ. It happened once on a very stormy night that he heard a voice crying, Opherus, carry me over. He left his house and walked up and down the riverbank, but found no one. So he

returned to his hut and fell asleep again. But the voice called again, a very small voice, saying, Opherus, Opherus, carry me over. Again he went out, but no one was there. So he thought it must be the wind, and he lay down again. It did not take long before he heard the voice a third time. It sounded at first like a cry, and then he heard his name through the wind, Opherus, Opherus, come carry me over this water. This time he found a little child huddled on the riverbank. He lifted the little boy on his shoulder, where he seemed quite light, but when he entered the water the child became heavier and heavier. Soon he became such a burden that Opherus almost broke down under the weight. He cried out, Oh, little child, you seem to be so very heavyit is as if I were carrying the whole earth on my shoulders. Then the child answered, You not only carry the world and the heavens, but you carry him who bears the whole need of the world upon himself. I am Jesus Christ, your King whom you serve and whom you seek. And the child spoke further to Opherus, From now on you will fear neither death nor the devil. You will walk through the suffering of this world and your name will be Christopherus, which means bearer of Christ. Your soul will be illuminated with the love of God, and you will show mercy to men. Then the child disappeared, but Christopherus followed his commandment and went out to the people of the earth. Wherever he went, he witnessed to the love and power of the child, his King. Many of his old friends did not like the change in Opherus. They began to persecute him and drive him away, for they did not want to hear his message. Their hatred became so strong that they banded together and killed him. But his voice and his challenge to become carriers of Christ could not be killed. Let us open our ears, so that we also may hear the voice calling us to carry the King over.

From Stress to Peace

Jordanna Bazeley

July 7, 2009
Anne Finaughty. 'Just add "f" and "i" to "naughty,"' she likes to tell new friends, and follows up with inappropriately loud and raucous laughter. Anne hasnt learned to modulate her voice like us mild-mannered, dull adults who squirm when she talks out of place or doesnt use her "inside voice." But what adults might find inappropriate, children love, and at 48, Anne is still a child. Whenever Anne comes into a room, everybody is guaranteed a personal greeting; perhaps a hug, maybe a kiss. It hasnt always been this way: she says she has never had friends. When Anne was sixteen, she decided to follow Jesus. But how? I didnt have any friends for about 18 years. People left me alone for a long time. They didn't really want to know me. Maybe because I'm a bit too pushy. The difficulties of life overwhelmed Anne when her father became terminally ill and she became estranged from her mother.

Dad was diagnosed with a terminal illness when I was 15. He died on June 23, 1983, when I was 22 years old. I was told he would die every three months during those seven or eight years. That's why I was frightened and stressed out. Nobody asked me how I was coping. Anne had nobody to talk with about her loss. She had physical disabilities since birth, but this emotional trauma debilitated her further. She stopped walking and began using a wheelchair. I lived alone. I suffered from six nervous breakdowns with the seventh on the way. Things happened to me that should never ever happen to anybody. I even had suicidal thoughts. However, I knew God wouldn't like it if I attempted suicide. I was fully in love with God and I couldn't do that to Him. One day, two callers knocked on Anne's door. They were from the Riversong House, a collection of families living together in Christian community and had just moved in across the street from Annes flat. They were inviting everybody on the block to a donutfry. I was really uptight, stressed out and terrified of anybody coming to the door, but I was also terribly lonely so I opened the door a crack: "Who are you? What do you want?" They put me off, so I prayed to God about it: "Should I be friends with these people or not? What do you think, God?" and God said, "Yes you should be friends." By that time, they were at the gate, but I yelled, "Ill be your friend, but youre not going to change my beliefs. NO WAY!" In response, they offered to bring me donuts. I thought, "Theyre never going to bring donuts." People had been offering to do things for me all my life. They never kept their word. But two hours later, they were back with fresh donuts. They had kept their word! Did that open a door and a half! Three years and many friendships later, Anne felt the call to follow Jesus in total community with Riversong House: God told me to ask to become a sister, but I tried talking Him down by saying, "I'm not ready." I got so unhappy, that I just had to speak. Immediately, I totally calmed down and became peaceful and relaxed. Our new sister Anne moved from her lonely, cluttered flat across the street in to her new home in Riversong. In a matter of days she had left her "ex-house" (as she likes to call it) behind, not unlike the first disciples who left everything to follow Jesus. By the end of the week, she was seeking baptism and we were asking each other for forgiveness. Miraculously, she phoned up her motherthey had been estranged for over two decades and they forgave each other and reconciled completely. Anne invited all her friends and acquaintances from the neighborhood to witness her baptism. She was radiant; a daisy chain about her neck and a garland of bright red carnations in her hair. We were reminded of the final commission of Jesus recorded at the end of Luke: that repentance and forgiveness of sins be preached to the ends of the earth. That is exactly what happened. Anne simply couldn't be restrained from shouting the Good News. When it came time for her to be baptised, Anne was all ready with a tarp pulled snug around her shoulders and happy outbursts like, "I'm completely drenched!" Today, if you visit Riversong, you'll find Anne working in the sign shop or taking care of the young sisters in her apartment. You might even get an invitation to their seven o'clock Bible study. "I didnt think I was a motherly type of person, but I'm excited to be taking care of those young ladies."

"I've been looking for peace my whole life. I never dreamt I would have this true happiness and peace. I wasn't looking for community, but community found me. I cannot believe itI can be myself for the first time in my life."