“Say, Pooh, why aren’t you busy?” I said.
“Because it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
“Why ruin it?” he said.
“But you could be doing something Important,” I said.
“I am,” said Pooh.
“Oh? Doing What?”
“Listening,” he said.
“Listening to what?”
‘To the birds. And that squirrel over there.”
“What are they saying?” I asked.
“That it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
“But you know that already,” I said.
“Yes, but it’s always good to hear that somebody else thinks so, too,” he replied.
- From Winnie the Pooh by A.A.Milne.
The opportunity to take time out from the stress of life. I find so much insight in the stories of Winnie the Pooh. However, the stories were written from a contemplative viewpoint of the world, trying to conjure up the imagination of a little boy and his bear. Of course, the real story behind Winnie the Pooh was also incredibly sad as the demands of thousands of fans placed pressure on the family to whom Winnie the Pooh belonged. However, Winnie the Pooh has remained a firm favourite of many people and it’s not hard to see why. I wonder when you last took the opportunity to listen. I wonder how many of you saw that opportunity as doing something important?
I would like to share three short stories where listening was paramount to the outcome of what was taking place. The first of these was in the listening we were invited to do as part of the recent family service at St John’s. Held in the grounds of St John’s, the service took the form of a teddy bears’ picnic, with rugs spread out and camping chairs for those who felt the ground might be a tad far away. We had well known songs, home baked snacks and juice and activities that involved crayons and chalks and trees and pavements. We shared lots of stories too. The adults and children listened, and we all took part in the activities. It was clear that by the end of the service the three eldest children had become friends, communicating well with one another and listening to each other’s needs. The adults too, were allowed to find their inner child and take part as much as they wanted to. Listening and taking part together helps us to grow as a community.
My second story that I wish to share took place on Sunday 18thAugust. I took part in the Black Saturday Memorial Service for the thirty-seven men who lost their lives in the storm of 1848, just off Wick. I was on a friend’s yacht as part of the flotilla that gathered outside the safety of Wick Harbour, where many of those men died. Listening to the service broadcast from the Isabella Fortuna, on a choppy sea, with an on-shore wind, trying to keep the yacht stationary, required a great deal of concentration. The service was broadcast not just to the other forty-six boats in the flotilla but also to those gathered on land around the harbour. This was the first time that a service of this kind had been attempted and the community support has been overwhelming. Listening to the people is key and requires concentration.
My last story is part of an ongoing story. One where listening and discerning the move of God in our communities is current, and it brings me back to Winnie the Pooh. Where something important is happening, but not by being busy. I wonder how many of us miss the opportunity to sit and listen because we think we have to be busy. We have to be doing things. Things are needing to be done, therefore we ought to get on and do them. There is always something more important. But what if we’re missing a vital part of our spiritual journey of who we are in God if we don’t take the wisdom offered here and listen?
My journey as an ordained clergy person has not reached a year yet and I am poignantly reminded that our spiritual needs depend very much on our active discipline to stop being so busy. Many people see this as mindfulness. Being mindful of the stress that can be caused by doing too much rather than taking time to slow down, and spending time with God. This is not just my story. This story belongs to each of you, too. Listening to God requires active discipline.
Take time to listen to God, and the birds, and that squirrel over there. You’ll be doing something very important and you’ll thank yourself in years to come that you took time out from doing things that seemed important, but actually were not that important after all.