By Revd Preb Julian Ould
Now that I am retired the arrival of September doesn’t seem so daunting. Why was it daunting? Well, it was, and for many is, the month when everything gets started again after the summer break and it comes as a rush! Everything that we said we will do once the holiday period was over was now coming to roost. All manner of meetings were planned for September and with the start of schools for the new academic year and the choir getting fully going after its summer break, the weeks ahead were busy. So, I ask had we benefited from a summer break and was it right to return headlong into a whirl of activity?
Well, no! There are lots of things that have to be done, by all of us, but wearing ourselves to a frazzle is not the answer. I would advocate pacing ourselves and perhaps learning a lesson from our ‘holiday’ or if not this, perhaps a quieter period. For most, working under pressure is when we fail to give of our best and when mistakes are made. Added to which I would ask what does it ultimately achieve? If we wear ourselves into the ground the only person who will suffer is ourselves and no-one will thank us for it. The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, some time ago wrote a book called “Do nothing to change your life” and perhaps tongue in cheek advocated that we need to, “learn to nurture our inner slob.” To be fair he was not suggesting that we all ‘down tools’ for good, but seriously was advocating time to pause and reflect, lest life goes by and we miss it, or worse that, we destroy ourselves in trying to do far too much.
We all have things to do and at times there are unpleasant duties or tasks that we would rather not face, but by and large we should seek to enjoy our lives and to live them to the full. This is not to contradict what I have just been saying, but to take time to pause and reflect, take time to relax, take time to just be and take time to pray. Not in a pious ‘holier than thou’ sense, but a very down to earth acknowledgement of how good it is to be alive, of thank you for all that we are so lucky to have. As noted, there are bits in life that are not so great and for this, prayer can be good in seeking strength and guidance. For most of us however, a lot of our prayer has to be of thanks and, in our reflections, we can take time to see just how lucky we are. We can also take time to decide what our best courses of action are. For in giving thanks, we can and should look to ways of enhancing this, which is not about selfish pursuit, but sharing and building with and for others, for this is where real happiness comes.
Life is for living, to state the obvious, and all too often we put this on hold in our busy, cluttered lives. In the month ahead I note that almost every weekend has a special event. This could be seen as a marathon and hurdle to overcome, or if we pace ourselves, take time to pause and reflect, take time to pray, a month of much excitement. I am certainly going to enjoy it and advocate the same for you.
I finish with a short verse that I dwell on from time to time that just gives me a gentle nudge, when I get bogged down with too much to do.
I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day
I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray
Problems just tumbled about me and heavier came each task.
“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. He said, “But you didn’t ask.”
I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled on grey and bleak;
I wonder why God didn’t show me. He said, “But you didn’t seek.”
I tried to come into God’s presence; I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided, “My child, you didn’t knock.”
I woke up early this morning and paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.