The Mara Tree


It had finally come true.  His dreams were finally happening.  John never expected his dream to own a farm would ever come true, but it was about to become a reality.  Anxiously sitting in the bank, he nervously waited for the banker to come in with the completed paperwork.  As his leg shook incessantly, he looked around, like a child waiting to see their favorite movie character.  After a few minutes, the bank official entered the small office.

“Here we are.  All documents have been finalized and you are now the proud owner of the farmland.  Congratulations John”, said the bank official.

With paperwork in hand, John gleefully walked out of the bank, singing one of his favorite songs.  As he was about to leave the bank, he stopped at the glass door, turned around and yelled, “Thank you!” to the bank official, who was smiling and waving him goodbye.

That was almost 20 years ago.  He couldn’t believe it had been that long.  Sitting in his tractor, tilling the land for planting, John had been reminiscing about times past.  Good times and bad, happy and sad times, times of great harvest and times of famine.  He had been placing himself on the emotional rollercoaster ensuring that he had traveled the right path.

As the tractor came to the last edges of his land, he turned off the engine and just sat there in the quietness.  A gentle breeze massaged his body and mind.  The sun wasn’t as strong as it could be but was warm enough to satisfy any chilled bones.  John took off his hat to wipe the sweat off of his brow.  He reached down for his thermos and poured a cup of hot coffee, black with sugar, and sat with his feet up on the edge of the tractor.

John thought to himself, “This year should be a very good year.”  However, John also knew that what he grew this year was of such significance for the next 7 years as he would start a new harvest during that time.  If the land was on his side, he could harvest enough fruit and vegetables for several thousand families.  The key to success was the crops he would plant.

The next day, John began the process of planting various fruits and vegetables.  Apple trees would take years but the return on his investment would be ten-fold.  Corn, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and other such vegetables, would line the interior of his land.

A few months after planting, he noted that there was a gap in the middle of his farm.  It was as if nothing was planted there.  The center of his farm appeared desolate and lifeless.  John said, “I know I planted vegetables here, so why is nothing growing?”  John didn’t understand what was going on, so he decided to investigate with some professional land surveyors.

Over the next few weeks, John met with different professional land surveyors.  They explained that on his land, if the soil was too acidic, nothing would grow there.  Some thought a mole or rabbit had settled just beneath the surface, while others told him that his seeds were bad in that area.  Unfortunately, none gave John an explanation that he could accept.  All seemed to be guesses or riddles that could not be answered.

As John contemplated the reasons for this phenomenon, a man called from the distance.  He was a slender man with a business hat and a briefcase.  He waved one hand in the air and greeted with a joy that John had never seen before.

“Greetings John.  My name is Mr. Natas and I can give you an answer to your dilemma.”

John curiously looked and remarked, “Oh you can, can you?  I have had several professionals come here only to give me nothing but guesses and stories.”

“I understand John.  This is not the first time someone has doubted me”, claimed Mr. Natas.  “But I will tell you an answer and one that I am sure you will be pleased with.”

John knew he had no choice.  He didn’t have any answers but maybe this Mr. Natas could guide him in the right direction.  “So, Mr. Natas, if I let you help, what is your fee?”

“Nothing”, Mr. Natas responded.

“Nothing?” asked John.

“Nothing.  All I ask is that you pass along whatever I give you to someone else.”

That didn’t sound difficult.  Here was someone who could give John and answer and all John had to do was pass along whatever was given to him by Mr. Natas.  John gladly responded, “I agree.”

Mr. Natas smiled and placed his briefcase on top of picnic table.  His thumbs wound the combination and unlocked the briefcase.  He opened the top and pulled out a small envelope and a piece of paper.  He placed both of the items on the table and said, “Here is a single seed of Mara fruit.  It is one of the most beautiful and best tasting fruit you have every encountered.  It doesn’t take long to harvest, nor does it take several seasons to produce.  Once you plant the seed, it will grow within a month and will produce fruit in less than three months.  All I ask is that you sign here agreeing to the terms of sharing the fruit to your friends and family.  Remember, this fruit is desirable by all once seen.  Sign here please.”

John picked up the pen, which appeared old but distinguished.  He looked into Mr. Natas’ eyes to see if there was anything that would stop him from signing.  As he peered into Mr. Natas’ eyes, John could see innocence and love.  With calmness and ease, John signed the paper and handed it to Mr. Natas.  Both John and Mr. Natas said their goodbyes.  As Mr. Natas walked away, he turned and said, “Remember, you agreed to share this fruit.  Share it well.”

John opened the envelope and saw the small seed.  It was one of the tiniest seeds he had ever seen.  Doubt started to overcome his mind.  What if Mr. Natas was wrong?  What if the seed didn’t grow?  All John knew was that if this didn’t work, his dream of continuing to be a farmer may be in jeopardy.  John cautiously planted the seed in the middle of the desolate land and hoped for the best.

A month passed by and John wanted to see where his new fruit tree was growing.  He ran out to the middle of the farm and came to the spot where he planted the seed Mr. Natas had given him.  He looked around but saw nothing.  All around him was desolation and dust.  Nothing had grown.  He had been lied to, again.

Anger welled up in John.  So much so, that he picked up a rock by his feet and hurled it with all his might toward the other crops while screaming at the top of his lungs.   Why would so many people take advantage of him?  Why would Mr. Natas have the gall to lie to him during his time of desperation?  John never understood why this happens to him.

As John wallowed in his anger and sadness, tears flowed from his eyes and hands.  As he cried wondering what he was going to do next, he noticed something unusual.  Where his tears touch the ground, a small stem grew.  Had that been there before?  Was this the famous Mara tree?  John gained his composure and stared at the tiny stem.  Thinking he just missed it, he began to jump for joy but he couldn’t stop thinking about those who ripped him off.

Days went by and the plant grew more and more.  He remembered that in a few short months he would be able to begin his harvest.  He wondered if the small tree would produce a crop like he had been previously promised by Mr. Natas.

 

Finally, the day of harvesting came.  John and his wife began the process of bringing in all of the fruits and vegetables for their market.  As John’s wife, Ella, came toward the center of the farm, she noticed how the small tree had no fruit.  She had not been pleased with John the day he told her about the tree.  She thought it was odd that someone would simply help them without a standard fee or royalty.  She shouted, “John, come here.  I need to show you something.”

John stopped his work and ran to his wife.  “What is it darling?”

“Look at this stupid tree.  What do you see?”

John looked up at the small tree and said, “I see a small tree with leaves.”

“Exactly”, she exclaimed, “No fruit.  I told you this was a bad investment.  Now what will we do?  How will we survive?  We needed this fruit to survive?”

Frustration and bitterness welled up in John’s spirit.  They had argued over this small tree for days.  Over and over again, they argued over what to do and how to do it.  Ella wanted him to build another barn in the center as it would make harvesting easier.  But John knew that if his crops didn’t produce enough this year, they might lose the farm.  Not knowing how to answer, John ignored her comments and walked away.

Suddenly, Ella turned and saw something magical.  A small piece of purple fruit hung in between the branches.  She knew it wasn’t there before.  How did it get there?  She picked the purple fruit and thought, “This looks amazing.  I wonder how it tastes?”  She knew John didn’t know about it but wanted to taste it more and more.  As she held the fruit, she could feel a sense of desire like she never felt before.  It was as if the fruit called to her.  She brought the fruit to her mouth and took a large bite.  Juices flowed from the fruit and the sides of her mouth.  The taste was unlike anything she had ever had.  Sweet, yet tangy or maybe sour.  Whatever it was, it was the most appetizing fruit she had ever tasted.  She quickly wiped off her mouth, dropped what was left and continued to harvest the crops.

 

A week later, John and Ella continued to fight over the tree and many other things.  The work on the house, the chores in the barn and even the color of paint to use inside the living room was what they argued about.  After their yelling and screaming match, they would storm out of the house and continue the harvest.

Every basket had something in it.  Vegetables and fruits came in droves.  Their stand continued to be full but not as many people stopped by to purchase goods.  It became so bad that their fruit and vegetables started to turn rancid.  It was then they started to argue about that as well.

One morning, John walked the fields trying to understand what was happening to him and Ella.  As he walked he entered the center of his farm and noted the large amount of harvestable fruit on the Mara tree.  It was then he decided to harvest the tree and give away the fruit as he had promised Mr. Natas.

He walked to all of his neighbors and even into town to give away the fruit.  As he was told, many people wanted the fruit.  They saw how desirable it was and even tried to give John money toward the fruit.  John said, “No thank you.  I promised I would give it away.  But if you would like, I have other fruits and vegetables to sell.”

No one appeared interested.  They only wanted the Mara fruit.  As Ella experienced, it was juicy with a sweet and sour taste.  As they ate more, they desired more.  John was able to give away all of the fruit he harvested.  Some began to ask for more, but when John explained that he had no more, the people began to yell and curse.  How could he tempt them with such desire?

Toward the end of the harvest season, John noticed something that made him curious.  More Mara trees had grown but not just in the center of the farm but around the rest of the crops as well.  All had fruit and all were ripe.

When John brought this observation to Ella, both Ella and John wondered how this happened.  John began to monitor the situation to see if any more trees began to sprout.  Over the next few days, John noticed that he no longer had a harvest of corn, tomatoes or other fruits or vegetables.  He only had a harvest of Mara fruit.

John decided to look at a copy of his agreement to see if he was able to sell the Mara fruit.  He dug through some papers and came across his contract.  As he read it, fear overcame his whole being.  His contract stated that the fruit had to be given away and never sold.  But what about his other crops?  Wherever the Mara trees grew, his other crops suffered and died.  How was he supposed to make a living giving away Mara fruit?

As John stood and pondered his situation, he looked up and saw a mirror.  He saw an image of a man he had never seen before.  This man was old and tired.  A man who appeared to be hungry and hopeless.  It was then he realized he was looking at himself.  He held the contract up in disbelief and spoke into the mirror, “How could you have done this?  How could you be so stupid?”  As John continued to beat himself up he suddenly noticed something in the mirror.  The signature of Mr. Natas appeared to read something else.  The “N” had a long arrow pointing down and the “S” formed the image of a serpent hissing.  What intrigued him more was the spelling of Mr. Natas’ name.  In the mirror the contract signature read, “sataN”.

It was then John realized, he had given root to Satan.  He allowed his desires to cloud his judgment.  John had allowed Satan to opportunity to destroy his goals and dreams.  He ran out of his house, screaming with ax in hand.  One after the other he chopped down every Mara tree on the farm, hoping to save his other crops.  No matter how hard he tried, more and more trees sprung out of the ground bearing the Mara fruit.

Day and night John fought with the land.  He continued to chop down tree after tree.  Pulling up saplings that looked like the Mara tree.  When the sun rose the next day, John looked over the land and noticed every crop had been uprooted except that of the Mara trees.  It was then John realized that every bitter thought and every angry action caused a Mara tree to grow.  He also realized that giving away the fruit caused more pain and suffering to him and Ella.

No more did John live his dream.  No more could John and Ella survive on the farm.  They abandoned all hopes and dreams and rode to the city in the hope of one day returning to the farm.  For now they needed to understand and learn that when the root of bitterness enters a life, it ruins not just the one person, but also others surrounding them.

 

God bless and encourage someone today.

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Upon the Sacred Sand


The waves gently crashed against the shore.  White caps caressed the sand.  As the water progressed along the sand, Allen knew not all was well.

He had just received word that his life was to be shortened.  Not fully understanding the circumstances, he walked at the edge, where the water meets the sand.  What was this about?  Why him and not someone else?

Doctors had warned him earlier in life that his lifestyle was harmful.  As a teenager, he had been subject to the wars of the streets.  His parents divorced.  His mother an alcoholic. His father absent.  It wasn’t until he met Rolo that Allen understood what acceptance was about.

Rolo was the leader of a local gang that ruled the streets.  He led a group of hoodlums and reprobates.  But one thing Rolo understood, if someone needed to feel accepted, he was the guy.

Rolo was the one who raised Allen during his formidable years.  He showed Allen how most rejected him, but only a few accepted him.  In order for Allen to feel accepted, all he needed to do is sell some “pharmaceutical” products to other teens.  Allen believed Rolo and thus began his journey down a funnel cloud of destruction.

Over the next few years, Allen would eventually get hooked on the drugs he sold.  Getting high and crashing became the norm.  In the morning, he would get high in order to handle his day.  As evening came, he would begin to crash but would intervene with another dose of drugs.

Regularly, he would wake up with blurred vision of lights and white suited people surrounding him.  The nurses and doctors would strap his hands and feet to subdue his temper while regaining true consciousnesses.  Several times, he remembered how the warning shots fired over his mind and body.  He had been told his life was on the line and several times almost lost the battle.

One time as he left the hospital, a homeless man stopped him and asked for help.  At first, Allen thought to himself, “Whatever!  I need help too.”  Instead of responding to the homeless man’s request, Allen just rolled his eyes and kept on walking.  The homeless man persisted, “Please help me.  I haven’t eaten and need food.”  Allen ignored the man and continued to walk, crossing the busy city street.

As Allen entered the busy intersection, he continued to hear the homeless man cry out for help.  Allen turned to acknowledge the man’s cries with a response of hatred and fear.  He lifted his head, opened his mouth and shouted, “Leave me alone!  You’re not the only one who needs help, you homeless…”

Allen was not given the opportunity to finish his sentence when he noticed the frail homeless man entered the intersection.  Suddenly and without warning, a taxi broadsided the homeless man separating his body and soul.  It was then Allen realized life was too short to continue down a path of destruction.

As Allen walked the beach, also he remembered how he met his wife.  Ruth was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  He had seen her from a distance in the deli for several months, but never had the nerve to approach her.  Once while he was sitting and staring at her, she turned, tilted her head, winked and smiled the most comforting smile.  A few minutes later it was Ruth who approached him.

Not long after they met, Ruth and Allen got married.  Unfortunately, like his parents, his marriage didn’t last long.  He had begun to drink again and ended up in an angry stupor night after night.  Fight after fight both Ruth and Allen flung insults and negativity.  After six months of marriage, Ruth walked out never to return.

Now five years later, a pain had entered his stomach.  At first, he thought it was simply a diet problem but as it intensified day after day, he decided to go to the hospital to see if they had a solution to his problem.  After several days of tests, the doctors found a mass near the outside of his stomach.  Within 24 hours, Allen finally knew what ailed him, stage four cancer.

When he inquired how this was possible, the doctors told him that years of abuse lead to days til death.  No matter what they wanted to try, it would never extend the weeks he had left.  Knowing this he opted to leave the hospital.

He walked and walked, not returning home, but instead entered the beach.  Now as he walked remembering both the good and bad, he looked toward the sunny blue sky and cried, “Lord, why me?  Why now?”

As the words left his mouth he felt a hand on his shoulder and a whisper in his ear, “Is everything alright?”  Allen slowly turned and saw a man walking with him.  With tears in his eyes, Allen responded, “I’m dying.”

The man softly said, “Are you sure?”

Allen whimpered a simple, “Yes.”

The man and Allen spoke for several hours, mostly talking about Allen’s past but laughing occasionally from some funny stories.  Allen felt comforted by the man’s words.  The man spoke words of encouragement and truth.  He told Allen about another man who died for his enemies.  A man who felt that all people were important.  He explained that if acceptance was to be realized, Allen had to let go of his life.  Allen didn’t fully understand what he meant, but it felt good.

As he started to feel better, Allen turned to the man and asked, “What is your name?”

The man had disappeared.  Allen desperately turned in circles looking as far as the eye could see.  There was no one around.  Was it the cancer?  Was he so distraught that his mind began to hallucinate?  Was he going insane?

In an instant, he realized what had just happened.  The mysterious unnamed man was speaking of himself.  Could it really be him?  Could the man really been the famous Jesus Christ?  Allen looked back to the sky while the ocean caressed his feet and cried, “I believe.  Please don’t leave me.”

There was no answer.  He cried and cried, “Please don’t leave me.”  Again no answer.  After a few minutes of tears and despair, Allen realized the man would not return.  He fell to his knees, covered his face and quietly wept.

As his head began to fill with guilt from past sins, he raised his hands toward heaven and said, “Lord. I believe.”  At that very moment, he felt a sense of joy and peace.  It was a feeling he never had before.  He knew that even if he didn’t continue this life, there was another life that he could look forward to.

Suddenly, a distant figure appeared.  Allen raised his head and saw the outline of a person.  He jumped to his feet and began to run shouting, “You came back.  You came back!”

As he approached the figure, he realized the person he saw was different than the mysterious man.  This person had long hair and curves that were of no man.  Disappointed, Allen stopped running and once again fell to his knees.

The distant person then began to jog toward him.  In a matter of seconds, Allen could hear the cries of the person.  “Allen, honey.  I did come back.”  It was Ruth.  Allen then raised himself to his feet, held out his arms and hugged Ruth with such love and peace.  They kissed for a few moments and spoke of how they both met a mysterious man.  It was at that moment they realized, God had visited them both.  Allen then knew he was standing upon sacred sand.

God bless and encourage someone today.