I am a Companion (member) of the Way of Life Community which is part of Green Christian (see: greenchristian.org.uk). As many of you know for many years, I was a trustee of this charity and for 12 years the editor of its magazine. I have a good quantity of each issue delivered for the church here so get in touch if you would like to receive it.
In the Way of Life Community we take it in turns to write a monthly letter of encouragement, rather like our Thought for the Week.
What I am sharing with you here is the letter of encouragement written by Deidre Monroe with whom I worked as part of Green Christian for many years and in this May’s letter of encouragement she hit the nail on the head for me and I hope for you too. I have asked her if I may share her letter with you all and she has readily agreed with delight. Here it is.
Dear Companions and Explorers, (even if we are not [yet!] part of Green Christian’s Way of Life Community we are all certainly Companions and explorers of THE WAY.
Deidre writes: Below are my musings on finding our path, walking slowly, stopping and seeing ….
As part of my day job I facilitate a discussion group on a psychiatric ward – all men on this particular ward. We call it the Reflection Group. It is the opportunity, and safe space, for a group of people who are (mostly) detained under the Mental Health Act to discuss things, something they wouldn’t usually do. Each week I use a different poem to get the discussion going, although we may well go off topic, it gives a framework. A week or so back I used W.H. Davies poem Leisure, the first lines of which are ‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?—’ It was familiar to some from school days but not to all. The poem provoked an interesting discussion about awareness: to stop and notice what is going on around us, to see rather than just look.
I’ve started this letter with that account since for a long time I’ve been aware of the need to be aware, to notice, to wake up to what is around me. Oh, how often I’ve walked to the station and not noticed other people, the blossoming trees, the sound of birds maybe, the missing landmark…. because I’ve been too absorbed in myself and my thoughts – in the past and the future rather than the present. It takes effort to move outside self, leave me behind and take notice what is all around. Walter Wink in Engaging the Powers wrote
Unprotected by prayer, our social activism runs the danger of becoming selfjustifying good works, as our inner resources atrophy, the wells of love run dry, and we are slowly changed into the likeness of the beast…’
I spotted this quotation recently and although not a new thought it did make me think again about prayer and action. St Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing – framing that with rejoicing and thanksgiving. This seems impossible. What does he mean? I want to link the idea of praying continuously with living my life as a prayer so that the disciplines of the Way of Life are the frame I live in – or attempt to – and are my prayer.
To live gently needs thought, consideration of where my feet are heavy on the earth, to think about what I buy, what I eat, where I holiday.
Daily devotions need consideration of where and what to intercede for, and the necessary restocking of the wells of love.
Public witness – what I can do to witness to others where things must change as a matter of justice; I need to be aware where injustice is and then how to act to effect, in whatever way I can, a change and so be challenged to change.
Encouragement, and support – we need, as we journey on together, knowing that we are rooted in God, drawing on the streams of living water.
I encourage myself to recognise how intertwined and linked we all are and how much I need stillness to fill the wells of love and not let them run dry and how much I need to be present and in the moment and not absorbed in the past or the future but paying attention to the here and now and all that is around me. My prayer is that filling the wells of love – turning to the source of living water – we will more faithfully act to care for the earth and all creation.
For those who don’t know W.H. Davies’ poem Leisure I copy it below:
WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and 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.
Deidre ends there. Thank you, Deidre for enriching us all.