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Encounters: Dave Waters – Open Your Paddocks, Part II

April 2, 2019 by

The following is a continuation of the Sunday morning service given by Dave Waters at Danthonia, a Bruderhof in New South Wales, on 10 February 2019. At this juncture, Dave had asked someone to read one of his favorite poems, “The Summer Day,” by Mary Oliver. It was a fitting tribute to the poet, who had died just three weeks earlier.

If you don’t know the poem, look it up and it will become one of your favorite poems, too. Oliver begins with three questions, each comprising a line. She starts with the big one – “Who made the world?” – and ends with “Who made the grasshopper?” But she doesn’t mean just any old grasshopper; Oliver is writing about a specific female she observes as it eats “sugar out of my hand,” its jaws moving “back and forth instead of up and down” while its “enormous and complicated eyes” take in everything. Then, having washed her face, the grasshopper launches into flight.

Here the poem pivots. These are its final lines. The poem ends as it began, with three questions – only this time, they are in reverse order, ending with the big one:

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

When the poem’s reader sat down, Dave continued, aided by “Bazza,” the Aussie-accented voice of his text-to-speech app:

Dave Waters going down a waterslide at Danthonia, an intentional Christian community in NSW Australia
Dave enjoying a water slide at the Danthonia Bruderhof, February 9, 2019.
How great is that poem! What did you get from it? What about that last line? “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” If you remember anything from today, remember that.
What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Can I implore you, don’t be a bystander. Open your life to Christ. Really open it. Open your paddocks. Life is too short! I know that. We all know that.
My experience is that if your desire is to open your life, and you partner with God in that endeavor, then your life will not only have impact, it will give you immense joy and satisfaction.
So, friends, that is it. I am not scared, but look forward to my next adventure – but before that, to being with my beautiful wife, Leigh, and my amazing family. And when it is time for my death, I really look forward to getting to heaven.
There are these lines from one of my favorite songs, that I hold onto. It’s from James Taylor’s song “Captain Jim’s Drunken Dream.” It goes like this:
Sounds just like the angels up in heaven when they sing […]
Welcome home, welcome home. Let it blow, welcome home, welcome home.
Welcome home. Such a sight to see!
I can’t wait to get there, and, when you get there, we’ll have that coffee, or G&T, or whiskey, that we have missed out on, and I’ll show you around the place.
You know what? That day in July 2011 when the first couple we ever met from the Bruderhof walked into World Vision, was a day that changed my life forever. That day, Leigh and I gained an amazing family. We set out on a journey that has enriched us and opened our eyes and grown our hearts.
What an amazing paddock you have! So, thank you. I’ll be watching you.
I love you all.
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About the author

photograph of Bill and Grace Wiser

Bill Wiser

Bill Wiser lives at Danthonia, a Bruderhof in New South Wales. His daily activities include teaching and pastoral work...

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  • I love the poem and I've answered; I’ll reach out and live, I’ll meet everyone I can - on their terms and we’ll discuss their hopes and dreams. I’ll help if help is needed, I’ll hope and I’ll pray. I’ll live each and every wonderful day, whether it’s wonderful to me or not that day, it’s still wonderful. I’ll reach out and touch each of God’s creations; flowers, plants, birds, animal. Mostly I’ll just love.

    Judith Scollard