Vicars’ Blog – June 2017 – Stones in the jar of life.

Stones in the jar of life.

There are so many things we can spend our time and energy and money on in life. It could be work, family, friends, a leisure activity, a hobby, physical fitness, the list goes on. Do you ever get frustrated spending so much time on mundane chores, emails and bills? Of course, these things do need to be done, but there is greater fulfilment in life when we get things in the right order. A professor took a glass jar and stood it on the desk at the front of the class. “This is your life,” he said. He took five large stones and, placing them in the jar, asked the students if the jar was full. ‘Almost’, they agreed. The professor picked up some medium sized stones and added them to the jar until they came up to the top. He asked again if the jar was full. The students said “Yes”. Then he took some fine gravel and, shaking the jar slightly, poured them into the jar. “Now is it full?” he asked. The students, more wary this time, said they thought so. Finally, he took a bottle of water and poured it into the jar right up to the top. “Now it is full,” he said. “And what can we learn from this?” Not impressed with the students who thought it illustrated that you can always fit something more into your life, he said “if you put the gravel in first, there will not be space for the big stones, but if you start with the big stones, the rest will fit around them.” If the jar represented your life, what would your ‘big stones’ be? What should the ‘big stones’ be for us as Christians? Summing up all the Old Testament laws and guidelines, Jesus says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength” (Matthew 22:37). In other words, put God first in your life. Ken Shigematsu’s ‘Tree of Life’ helps us to prioritise the things in our lives. First in his tree comes God – the ‘Roots’ of prayer, sacred reading, sabbath. (We have looked at these in previous articles.) We could call these the biggest stones or the ‘main thing’. “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing” says Stephen Covey, management guru, in his book, the Seven Habits of highly effective people. So, once we have established what is important in our lives, the next step is to live it out. The challenge is to actually reorganise our lives to make sure we spend our time, energy and money on what we regard to be our priorities in life.


It is true for a church, too. In the year ahead, we will be thinking about who we are as a church and what should our ‘big stones’ or ‘main things’ be over the next few years. This is a process of discerning vision which we will be inviting everyone to take part in. It is an exciting time in the life of the church as we will be gathering information about our church – the history and our favourite memories as well as finding out more about the people who live and work in our parish of Walton. Look out for details of how you can get involved by filling in a questionnaire.


Family is a big stone for many of us and Ken Shigematsu has family as high a priority. In his tree of life, the next level after ROOTS is RELATE consisting of family, friends and sexuality. There is plenty in the Bible about family values. Honour your father and mother is the only one of the ten commandments to have a blessing attached: “so that you may live long and it may go well with you”. Jesus upholds the sanctity of marriage and Paul exhorts fathers not to exasperate their children and children to obey their parents. Families are by no means perfect and Ken points out that our family relationships are a powerful crucible that God uses to refine our character. As well as this opportunity, God sees family as a place for rest and worship, for sharing joys and sorrows, to work and serve together and to offer hospitality to others. In this way our households become a blessing to God. Of course, we do need to work at family relationships and take time to be together. Workaholics take note! Our society has moved far away from the days when children were under-valued or even made to work. The danger today is more that our whole lives revolve around our children and they can even usurp the place of God. With God and our family as priorities, we are a blessing to God, our community and the world. Do we need to rearrange the stones in the jar of our lives?