Monthly Archives: February 2017

“There Is a Season” Even for Using “There Is”

editor

“For everything there is a season,” writes the wise man in Ecclesiastes 3.

Not only is that very smart fellow pointing us to a profound truth, his English translators are phrasing it beautifully. The vast majority of those folks are smart enough themselves not to mess much with the English construction of this well-known Scripture.

If you’re not an English major, I hereby give you my blessing to tune out. Blessing or not, if you’re not some sort of word person, you’ll soon turn off anyway. But are you aware that the famous words above are breaking (beautifully) an “Editing 101” rule?

Some rules you should never break. Spelling rules, for example. As a short-lived teacher of English 101, I discovered that between 87 and 93 percent of college freshmen (well, a lot of them anyway) are convinced that “alot” is a word. “Allot” is, but “alot” ain’t, and “allot” is not what they mean.

Sure, some rules ought to be broken occasionally. For example, starting a sentence with a preposition really is okay if you’ve got a good reason for it. (But you don’t have a good reason as often as you think.)

As an editor, I quickly learned one of Ten Editorial Commandments. “Thou shalt quickly kill ‘there izzes’ and ‘there arzzes.’” What that means is that when a writer begins a sentence with “There is” or “There are” a good editor will prune those words because they’re almost always deadwood anyway. If you see many of them in a book, article, or manuscript, it’s a dead giveaway that the author went to press without an editor or the writer threw his editor into a deep sleep. Somebody goofed.

“There are many bears who hibernate in January” may be true, but it’s drowsy word-wise. “Many bears hibernate in January” is a tad closer to coming awake.

“There is very little to be gained from using ‘there is.’” Absolutely true. “Very little is gained from using ‘there is,’” is, however, greater gain.

A quick Google search just brought up this “Op-Ed” title: “There Is a Long Campaign to Put the U.S. Economy Back on Track.” What does that mean? Maybe . . . “Putting the U.S. Economy Back on Track Will Require a Long Campaign.” Economists probably won’t notice anyway, but more reconstructive surgery than that will be required before this title dances much. Those dratted “there izzes” and “there arzzes” are guaranteed to hobble decent writing pretty much anytime an editor allows one to sneak in and live.

Except . . . when the rule is turned on its head and needs to be.

Mahatma Gandhi: “Where there is love there is life.” And right there are two great uses of “there is.”

Yes, indeed, in God’s good time, “for everything there is a season.”

There really is.

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“For Everything There Is a Season”

 

snow-dragon-01

Well, rats! My fire is out. I just looked up across the room and, no flame in the fireplace. A sad sight.

I confess, I laid the fire, lit the match, and quit paying attention. Instead of staring at the hearth, I was staring at a blank computer screen and wishing words would start appearing. Moments later, it seems, my fledgling fire fizzled.

A good fire in the fireplace is one of my favorite things. I like living in a place where we have real seasons, where fireplaces are not just decorative, and where I’m just a few hours away from the second most beautiful thing in nature: mountains. The first? Snow, of course. The fact that the two so often go together is nature tipping her hat in a dance of glorious gratitude to her Creator. (No, I don’t have cattle. If I did, my love of snow might be modified.)

Fact is, it’s been a wimpy winter. Sub-zero cold a few nights, yes, but otherwise puny. And don’t broadcast this, but as much as I love Sunday worship and as seriously as I believe that Christians who claim to be serious about Christ ought to try being serious about being in church . . . I always feel like any winter where we don’t get snowed out of Sunday morning church once during the season is a weak winter indeed.

I figure church-going folks like me who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their church attendance ought to get an opportunity on one Sunday a year to stay home and relax (in front of a fire) like non-church-going folks who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their nonattendance. No hypocrites (that’s all of us at times) are harmed in this once-a-year civilized exchange. And I could hardly be more thankful for our usual one Sunday a winter snow day. (If you think this shows I’m not religious enough to be a preacher, you’ll get no quarrel from me.) But the Lord who said, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” is neither the sort of Pharisee nor the sort of kill-joy who will begrudge us a snowy sabbatical.

Alas, no snow. The snow dragon that my grandkids know is hibernating under our front yard won’t get to rear his head this year. But even on a better year, snow melts, trees and lights get packed away, and winter bids adieu as some other sweet seasons swing onto the stage.

I know I’m living on borrowed time this year fire-wise. Oh, we’ll still have a cold spell. Count on it. At least one. A late one that fritzes foolish fruit trees. An Easter sunrise service where the sun rises but the mercury in the thermometer forgets to is not that unusual. And I remember a mid-March road-closing due to snow blowing across the highway so thick you couldn’t see. Even in spring, winter will get in a parting shot.

But, no doubt, it won’t be long until my wife issues her annual edict and the decorative candles slide back in where once roaring flames lived and danced and delighted my soul.

God’s age-old wisdom is that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3). I figure that includes snow and green grass and birdies and falling leaves and . . .

Thank God for the beauty of them all!

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Warning: Grumble at Your Own Risk

 

 

grumbling

Grumbling is risky business.

Of course, like any temptation, it feels good at the moment we fall to it. The act of grumbling stokes the fires of our sinful pride. It also stokes the fires of hell—the one hereafter and the one we may be creating here and now.

Aside from the fact that we’re flirting with spiritual suicide when we play with this powerful poison, grumbling feels good to us because grumbling is by its very nature a complaint against “The Management.” It implies a superiority of intelligence or dedication or proficiency over a group or person—be it a boss or governing body or organization or business or colleague or coworker or family member, or . . .  Whether he says it or not, and he probably does, the grumbler is loudly implying, “Why, if I was in charge, things would be better! What’s wrong with these idiots? Can’t they see . . .”

Grumbling’s poisonous and seductive appeal is heightened because it is so easy to do and, at the very same time, requires no positive action at all. When we grumble, we don’t have to bestir ourselves to do, well, anything but grumble. And, in fact, as we allow ourselves to enjoy the presently sweet poison of grumbling, the very last thing we want is for the situation or people we’re grumbling against to improve lest we, at least theoretically, have to quit grumbling.

And grumbling snowballs—not only in our own hearts as we fall to its seduction more and more often, but also in our society with others. Habitual and dedicated grumblers always attract a following because everyone enjoys the poisonous pleasure grumbling affords. We all like to feel superior to those in authority. We all like to complain and take no responsibility for doing anything constructive.

I’m at least as prone to grumbling as anyone, so I need to say it again—grumbling is risky business.

If we grumble often and long enough, we so twist, contort, and poison our souls that pretty much all that is left in us is a slimy, stinky, malignant  grumble where once resided a warm human heart.

Because he loves us, God hates grumbling. Evidence abounds, but stark testimony is found in Numbers 21. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites are fed up. Among other things, they’re fed up with manna! They’re tired of the “miserable food” they eat each morning. They’ve become finicky eaters complaining against the cook. I mean, The Cook, and his staff.

Both as punishment and as a way to save others from the infection, God wipes out a big bunch of grumblers.

When I catch myself grumbling, I need to heed the warning: Danger! Grumbling Is Very Risky Business. It easily spreads to all parts of our lives, and in the final analysis, “The Management” we grumble against is God.

 

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Control Freaks, Prepare to be Controlled”

 

control-freak

Control freaks, beware! A “controlling” approach to life is fraught with danger and tears.

We all fall into that mode from time to time, thinking that if we can just “get it right” and force (we’d say “encourage”) others (spouses, children, coworkers) to  “get it right” by submitting to the improvement plan we create, we can fashion for ourselves and others a perfectly ordered, smoothly running, incredibly efficient existence. As long as we’re in charge, masters of the situation, all will be well, right?

Life doesn’t work that way, and, ironically, people who have a deep need to be masters end up as slaves continually dealing with fires that they rarely realize they’ve set or stoked themselves by their own sick need. And they are not the only ones who end up wrecked and broken, resentful and resented.

In a fine article in Christianity Today entitled, “Justify Yourself,” David Zahl writes that 500 years after Martin Luther helped the world rediscover the truth of the gospel, that salvation is by grace through faith and not by law through works, we still need to be reminded—and in very practical ways.

Zahl points to a university task force exploring reasons for a “spate” of suicides on its campus. Seriously contributing to the problem was the pressure many students felt to push for perfection in “every academic, co-curricular, and social endeavor.” The result? Serious anxiety and/or depression.

Jesus told us, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7). But what if the fingers gripping your throat are tentacles of your own perfectionism? As you choke for air, the neurotic need you refuse to recognize is also throttling your spouse, kids, and coworkers.

It’s a sad symmetry. Failing to feel mercy and grace, or admit we need it, we become unable to extend it. Even if we can’t see the reality, all of our relationships become conditional and sick: “You’ll be okay with me IF . . .” That is poison.

When Luther grappled with Scripture, the Apostle Paul’s words both assailed and freed him: we are truly saved only by grace through faith; law through works will only condemn us. But that’s just religion, right? Wrong!

As Zahl points out, that truth is as practical as hyper-driven students and suicide rates, women who’ll never be thin enough or successful enough, business folks who’ll never get enough work done and get shaky if they ever turn off their cell phone, kids with headaches and tummy aches and no virus but adult-sized stress, spouses whose marriages are more based on performance review than on unconditional love . . . Resentment flourishes. No one ever feels that he/she has done enough. Worse, no one feels that he/she IS enough. “If only I can do, get, achieve . . .” “If only I can get YOU—spouse, child, coworker—to do, get, achieve . . .” then my own life and existence will be justified. But what’s enough? When will I reach it? The answer? Never.

The fruit of a law-based life? Bitterness, resentment, anger. “The sad irony of our lives,” Zahl writes, “is that our desire to be in control almost always ends up controlling us.”

The good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to justify ourselves; it’s already been done. We’re completely loved, forgiven, and free. If we know that, let’s pass it on. If we don’t? Well, control freaks, prepare to be controlled.

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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