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What is this world?

What is this world?

posted by Gill Robins Friday 4th April 2014

Earlier this week I spent an enjoyable hour discussing the RSA report ‘Schools with Soul’ (the focus of last week’s blog) with Simon Marsh on his radio show, ‘Caught or Taught’. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned in passing the poem ‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare’ – wrongly quoted and wrongly attributed, for which, apologies to the author. It set me thinking though, particularly when I read the whole poem, kindly emailed to me after the broadcast by Robert Hall. Where, in the midst of all our busyness, is there time to watch the world go by; to meditate?

Now there’s a current buzz word – meditate. Anthony Seldon, writing in Resurgence and Ecologist recently, described the value of stillness in school life. Ever ready to embrace any idea that might raise standards, the idea has been picked up by Liz Truss, who is apparently looking at introducing Buddhist mindfulness training into the classroom to help children pay attention (and thereby, of course, increase the potential value of each economic unit, aka each human child). But Christian meditation is quite different from any other form of meditation. It involves focusing your mind on God rather than emptying it or thinking of yourself, and there are three components to Christian meditation. These are: grounding our thoughts in the Bible, responding to the love of God and then worshipping God. The following is written not to improve your well being (although it may) or to improve your work output (although that may be an outcome, too) but just because God is.

Here is the complete version of the poem ‘Leisure’ which I misquoted, written by W.H. Davies, with the Bible verses that it brought to mind. As you breathe a sigh of relief at having made it to the end of another term and as you look forward to a well-earned rest, take time to be still, to meditate and to worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness, reflected for us in His creation.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
‘Be still and know that I am God   Psalm 46:10

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
‘ask the animals and they will teach you ... in his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.’  Job 12:7,10

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
‘all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’  Colossians 1:16-17

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
‘The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands’ Psalm 19:1

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has ... set eternity in the hearts of men’  Ecclesiastes 3:11

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
‘Worship the LORD in the splendour of his holiness’ 1 Chronicles 16:29

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted’ Psalm 46:10

May you know God’s richest blessing and deepest peace during Easter, as you recharge your batteries for the final lap of the academic year.


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