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From the Vicarage

 

 

            What is this life if, full of care,

            We have no time to stand and stare.

            No time to stand beneath the boughs

            And gaze as long as sheep or cows.

           

            No time to see, when woods we pass,

            Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

            No time to see, in broad daylight,

            Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

 

            No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

            And watch her feet, how they can dance.

            No time to wait till her mouth can

            Enrich that smile her eyes began.

 

            A poor life this if, full of care,

            We have no time to stand and stare.

                                                (W H Davies 1871-1940)

 

 

First published in 1911, this has always been one of my favourite poems.  Far from being out of date and obsolete, it seems to me to be just as relevant as ever.  Modern life can be so hectic.  It feels as though everything must be fast, if not instant, irrespective of whether it is good or lasting.  Businesses and organisations don’t want to talk to customers now; they’d rather we did it all on-line or by telephone.  Shops don’t stock what customers want but what brings in the most profit or is easiest to store.  It’s not that I’m averse to change, far from it.  I don’t think that everything was great in ‘the good old days’ and I recognise and accept the need for progress but I do think that we have lost the ability or the desire to stop, to think, to imagine; instead of human beings, we are becoming humans doing.  Where are the great thinkers of our age?

 

This lost ability to imagine and think creatively comes across in so many ways.  How many songs are cover versions?  How many films or reworked or re-mastered, versions of older ones?  How many plots and story lines in books or TV programmes are familiar.  So many people are searching for answers, for meaning, without success; perhaps because they’re so busy searching?  I’m sure most of us have experienced the scenario of losing a set of keys or a letter and searching high and low but in vain, only to find it half an hour later when we’d given up on it.


Just recently, I have had a particularly joyful but hectic period, in both my ministerial and family lives.  Just one week in late July/early August saw me helping to run a holiday club for two days, my role in Pilling Coffee Feast, my elder daughter’s wedding, and my own silver wedding anniversary.  It was in the midst of this that I rediscovered the beauty and benefits of being still; of just sitting in the garden and feeling at one with God and His creation.

 

Sadly, this culture of doing and busyness has spilled over into our worship and spiritual life too.  Our services can be so full of words and actions (If I sat still for too long in a service, people would think I’d nodded off) and our prayers, all too often, suffer the same fate – we babble through our shopping list then get on with whatever is next on our ‘to do’ list, expecting God to get cracking.

 

I earnestly believe that, if we are to find the answers to some of the problems facing the world in general, people need to take the time to stop and think, to reflect and imagine.  Equally, I believe the same to be true of our worship and prayer lives.  Hymn words such as ‘Be still and know that I am God’ and ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’ surely speak of this and one of my favourite hymns includes the wonderful image of God as that ‘still, small, voice of calm’.  We are reminded that Elijah did not find God in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in the silence (1 Kings 19:11-13).

 

One of the great joys of the love I share with my wife is that we can just sit, side by side, in each other’s company, without speaking but just being together and sharing the experience of being together and at one with each other.  Surely the same should be true of our relationship with the God we love and who loves us.

 

A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare and a poor faith this if we cannot find time, to spend time, with the creator of time and everything else. So I challenge everyone, including myself, to find space in their day, every day, just to be still and silent and to ‘be’ with God.       

 

God bless.

 

Fr Andy

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