Boast; Boast Not: The Tale of Four Trees | A Parable

This is the second parable in our series, with a contribution from writer and Jesus Centre volunteer Julia Faire. Read other posts in the parables series.

A tree standing on a hill

Once there were four trees: an apple, an oak, a pine and a tree no one knows the name of – so I have called it the Strange-Tree.

Every spring the apple tree was decked with white blossom, as a bride, beautiful and splendid, and the bees gathered in droves around her delicate white-cupped flowers to draw from the sweet nectar. As the months passed by, the tree’s branches began to sag under the magnificent crop of shiny green apples that it bore. People came from far and wide to admire the beauty and the fruit of the tree.

And the tree boasted: “Am I not the greatest of trees? For to what other tree do people come each year with their baskets in order that they may fill them with such wonderful fruit?”

And the majestic oak stood proudly on a hilltop. The tips of its branches towered above all the other trees; many birds made their nests amongst its foliage and a multitude of insects made their homes in the crevices of its bark. And in the hot summer months people came and sat in its shade and wondered at the strength of the magnificent tree. In the autumn showers of acorns fell, as deadly ammunition, from the branches of the tree and all feared to come near such a dangerous arsenal.

And the tree boasted: “Am I not the greatest of trees? Am I not taller than all the other trees of the forest? Am I not stronger than they? Am I not more deadly and fearsome than all the other trees?”

Down in the valley, by a raging river, stood a tall pine tree, cloaked with pine cones. Its trunk was long and straight and it stood erect and sure-footed as it straddled the mountainside.

And the tree boasted: “I am not as tall as the oak, neither do I bear fruit for people to eat like the apple tree and yet surely I am the greatest of trees for my beauty is constant. I never lose all my leaves like the other trees; my colour adds greenery to this bleak valley every month of the year. And my cones bring warmth and light as they burn on home-fires during the long cold winter months? Surely I am more beautiful and more useful than they?”

And another tree stood off, in a distant place, where the soil was poor and not much rain fell. The tree was squat and its branches were straggly and many thought what an ungainly tree it was. No one really knew what this tree was, for it was different from all the other trees; its fruit was oddly–shaped, red and gold and small and no one in the shops wanted to buy it. And when people walked by the tree, many of them sniffed at it and turned away. But the poor creatures came and ate of the fruit, the fruit which no one wanted and found themselves strangely nourished for the long winter months when no other fruit could be found.

And this tree made no boast at all but year after year continued to bear its strange looking fruit, to the dismay of some and the delight of others.

cut-downOne day some men came to look at the tree.” Let us cut this strange tree down and use its branches for wood,” they said. “Its fruit is no use except to the poor creatures and they can find something else to eat. We can use this land for better things than to grow this strange tree on,” and they chopped off its branches. And the poor creatures howled and cried; some scampered away whilst others hugged the tree’s desolate trunk.

And that night there was a terrible storm; such a storm had never been seen before. Fierce lightning flashed across the dark sky and thunder peals shook the very foundations of the earth. A great wind came, howling and mighty, and tore at everything in its path.

The apple tree tried to hold onto its fruit in vain. Like a carpet the apples were spread upon the ground, bruised and battered, unfit to eat.

And the great oak lost many of its branches. Its top was felled and it was no longer the tallest tree for miles around. And the fir, which boasted of its eternal leaves, lost every leaf that night in that terrible storm.

But the strange tree, growing as it did out of the dry ground, grew branches from its stunted trunk that spread far and wide. And the fruit that had been lost when its branches were felled sank deep into the ground and grew up overnight into other smaller trees, all bearing that strange, odd-shaped fruit, the fruit that is red and gold. And the poor birds and beasts and many people gathered to pick its fruit once more, which tasted even better than before.

And in time the strange tree filled the earth and became the greatest of trees – far higher, far more beautiful and more fruitful than all the other trees. But still, it never boasted; it just stood and stood and stood, providing food and shelter and warmth to any that took refuge under its sprawling branches.

The Beachcomber | A Parable

As it’s National Storytelling Week this week we thought we’d take a leaf out of Jesus’ book and publish a few of our own parables.

Just over a year ago Colourful Church held a parable writing competition which received an amazing variety of profound and entertaining submissions. Over the coming few weeks we’ll be publishing one of the top five winning parables each week, with a full listing of all the parables on the sixth week. You can keep up to date with these parables as we publish them through Facebook, Twitter, RSS, Google+ or by subscribing to this blog in the right hand sidebar.

Starting off the series is a parable called ‘The Beachcomber’ by Jenny Priestley.

Beach

The old man’s hut faced north and was as windswept and weather-beaten as his own face and hands.

This morning, as always, he stooped to sweep up the thin layer of sand that the salt wind had strewn across his floorboards.  He reached down to pick up two or three limpet shells and in doing so he felt the twinge of age in the muscles in his back.  He sighed as he straightened himself and went to place them on a shelf.  Every corner of his home was filled with his beach: a picture made from wave-worn driftwood, a mobile of clinking shells, a boat fashioned from pieces of plastic.

He was late today.  Soon the sound of children’s laughter would all but drown out the constant washing sound of the sea.  He pulled on a threadbare smock and made his way down to the tide line of kelp.

And so his inventory began: half a flip flop, a twist of fishing line, 5 battered cans, a plastic bottle, random pieces of bleached plastic, a deflated ball and three cuttlefish shells.  It was all swept up into carrier bags and as secretly as the salty deposit was made, it was taken away, leaving a clean stretch of sand for the holiday makers.

In 40 years he had seen the beach change.  On the east side, the sand was piled high towards the cliffs and on the west it has almost gone, leaving a mini delta of streams and rock pools.  It had been flatter once and easier to traverse.

Standing again in his hut, he felt weary. He still remembered his Father’s promise that if he faithfully looked after this stretch of beach, humble though it was, he would one day receive the family gold.  He had never seen gold before.  He was tired; his father long since dead.  He stared at the day’s haul and the weight of it all pressed in on his heart.  Not once had anyone thanked him and not once had he found anything of real worth.

Then it happened.

sand-pineconeThere can be months of rumination, but a decision is made at the speed of light.  He loved the beach and its people, but today would be his last day of combing the tide line.  I will always be a poor man, he thought to himself, but today I will be poor somewhere else, perhaps inland, perhaps I’ll find some farm work for a small wage.  And so he closed the door behind him and picked his way up and over the rocks that led him away from the ocean.

A little girl, fishing net in hand, smiled at him as she passed.  He paused for a moment and then disappeared up the lane that led inland.

Little fishing net girl returned again the next day.  Picking her way through the old bottles and tangled seaweed, she found a large wooden box, battered by the waves.  Moments later amidst the seagulls’ tumult she called out ‘Hey mummy, mummy, come quick.  Look what I’ve found….a box of gold coins!’

‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’
Galatians 6:9

Video Training Day

For a while now I’ve wanted to pass on what I’ve learned with making videos, and this tied in with realising that there’s a great crew of guys and girls doing video / media studies at college and university. So I arranged for everyone to come to the video studio where I work for a day’s training in both theory and practical video production.

Josh, Aidan, David, Charis, Naomi, Esme, George, and James

The team: Josh, Aidan, David, Charis, Naomi, Esme, George, and James

And a brilliant day it was – well anyway at least no one went home early in floods of tears. The overview of the video training day was a morning session on theory and editing techniques, lunch at a local community house, and then an afternoon where the group split into teams to each make a video on a set theme.

The theory session in the recently revamped video studio.

The theory session in the recently revamped video studio.

The technical detail behind video production is actually quite complicated and it’s hard to condense 7 years of learning into a couple of hours. So I focused on the main settings they’d need to know – like ISO, shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, frame rate, and white balance. Simple. I had three cameras out so they could see how changing the settings would affect the image. Hands on is the best way to learn. I’ve uploaded the handouts in case anyone finds them useful.

Video Production – Filming (pdf)
Video Production – Editing (pdf)

Editing Huw's video

I went through a recent video I’d made showing them various tricks I’d learnt, and the importance of good audio / sound effects.

After three hours of cramming information into their craniums we popped out for a bite to eat at Anthem, a community house where I live with around 20 others. Anna kindly cooked for us.

Lunch is served.

Lunch is served, much to the apparent delight of Esme.

After we’d had lunch I split the group into three teams and gave them each some kit, a theme, and a computer to edit the video on – with the 30 second short to be made in just two hours!
This was a challenging task as they wouldn’t have been familiar with the kit or the location, and two hours isn’t long at all when it comes to planning, filming, and editing a video. However all three teams did brilliantly, and came up with original, well made videos.

The three teams hard at work editing their videos.

The three teams hard at work editing their videos with the deadline looming.

Here are the short 30 second videos they made.

I was encouraged to see this group of people get together and get something from the day – one of the main outcomes was a sense of team even though we’re all from different parts of the country (Brighton, Norwich, London, Northampton, Coventry, Leicester, and Sheffield). Unity is one of the hallmarks of the Jesus Army and I’m glad to see that’s still the case.

The future is exciting – there is a collaboration project in the works, where everyone makes a short section of a video that will then be joined together. And we’ll definitely have another training day when they’re on their summer holidays – if there is anyone I’ve missed out who’s involved in video production or animation then please let me know.

Josh trying to work out how to open a door while George looks on.

Josh trying to work out how to open a door while George looks on.

And finally it’s worth saying that one of the biggest challenges I had was getting the training day up and running in the first place. When you’ve spent years learning a skill it seems you want to hold onto it and not share it with others. Pride holds on to knowledge and responsibility and I’ve seen a fair bit of that over the years so I was determined to pass on what I’ve learned. May this next generation produce greater works than I ever will.

I’ll certainly do what I can to help them.