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Speaking in Stories
Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers


The Plum Tree

Years ago, I heard John Claypool tell a story that meant a lot to me. I was going through significant struggle and grief at the time, and the story profoundly impacted me. The story was about John’s grandfather and his cherished plum tree. This beautiful plum tree stood for decades in his grandfather’s back yard. It was the prize of the farm and the pride of his granddaddy’s eye. Then one day a horrible storm swept through the community. In its power, the storm twisted the plum tree from its roots and left it lying lifeless on its side. After the storm passed, people ventured outside to survey the damage. Before long a few neighborhood men gathered in the grandfather’s yard. They all stood silent in a circle, gazing down at the once beautiful plum tree now ruined beyond repair. Finally, one of the men asked the grandfather, “What are you going to do with that tree?” After a long pause the old man replied, “I’m going to pick the fruit and burn the rest.”

John Claypool, who faced enormous grief during his lifetime, went on to say that picking the fruit and burning the rest is the best response we can make to life’s wounds, storms, losses and pains. First, we must pick the fruit. Even from awful experiences we can pick new sensitivities, insights, discoveries and growth. But eventually we must burn the rest—the anger, grief, and bitterness—or it will destroy us.

“Pick the fruit and burn the rest” is some of the best advice I ever received. I enthusiastically commend it to you.

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