St Dunstan’s

Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire, England

St Dunstan's James Tomkins 2

James’ Message

Dear Friends,

One of my favourite stories is a Norwegian folk tale called "The Three Trees". This is a story of three young pine trees growing together in a forest on a hilltop. Each of them had a different dream for their lives. The first wanted to be made into a beautiful treasure box to hold the most valuable jewels in the world. The second wanted to become a wonderful ship, carrying important people across seas and oceans. The third tree had a simpler, and it thought, more humble dream: to stay right there on the hillside, growing tall and strong, pointing everyone towards God.

When the big day for cutting down the forest came, the three trees were all disappointed. The first was made into an animal's feeding trough, the second into a small fishing boat, and the third was left as logs in the wood yard. Their dreams had seemingly come to nothing as they took their place in the world, along with a whole host of other ordinary objects.

With time however, all three came to see how they were caught up in the story of God in very special ways not of their own making. The first tree became the feeding trough that held the newly born baby Jesus, the second tree became the fishing boat from which Jesus calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and the third became the cross on which Jesus was crucified, pointing the way to God for all generations.   

Being ordinary tends to be looked down upon nowadays. It tends to give an air of disappointment and certainly isn't regarded as a compliment. Of course it's good to strive to be the best that we can be but sometimes this desire for excellence can get out of control, so that we're never satisfied unless something is extraordinary or unique. The truth is, however, that much of life is very ordinary but that doesn't mean that we can't be content or satisfied. Imagine a young child watching snow fall from the sky for the first time or splashing about in puddles, and you can sense the incredible joy and excitement that can be gleaned from ordinary, everyday occurrences.

Perhaps the last word we might use of God is 'ordinary' or 'everyday'. Surely God is magnificent, awe-inspiring and only found in mighty cathedrals, fine art or exquisite music. The reality is though that God derives enormous pleasure and delight from the lives of ordinary people. Jesus constantly mixed with 'ordinary' people and instead tended to come into conflict with those in authority and in high places. His measure of a person isn't how much money they earn, how big their houses are, how many children or grandchildren they have, what type of job they do or what their hobbies are. Instead Jesus looks to see to what extent lives are shaped by qualities such as love, humility, compassion, forgiveness and peace.

The three trees initially thought that they had failed in life but that couldn't be further from the truth. God looks at the ordinary and considers it to be extraordinary as we faithfully fulfil the role that only we can fulfil. In this way, on the face of it, the most ordinary people are capable of carrying out the most extraordinary acts of human kindness.

With all good wishes,


(Inspired by 'Everyday God: The Spirit of the Ordinary' by Paula Gooder)