Monthly Archives: February 2018

Why Does Finding Real Rest Require So Much Discipline?

Why is resting so hard?

One definition, “freedom from activity or labor,” surely makes “rest” sound rather appealing, maybe even like something we should try on occasion.

Just a brief Internet search will result in scads of wise quotations on the benefits of rest. Some sound almost like a sop to Type-A hyperactives who won’t say “Good Morning” unless it fits into their business plan and the utterance is duly scheduled. Charles Spurgeon was not among that group, but he told the truth when he said, “In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.”

Some quotes are simple and wise: “Rest is not idleness,” wrote John Lubbock, “and to lie sometimes in the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

Someone took a few of those words and, understanding our tendency to actually feel guilty if we ever rest (how incredibly dull, stupid, and full of ourselves we are!) wrote, “All rest is no more idleness than all sex is adultery.”

The research keeps stacking up. Sleep less than six hours a night for a couple of weeks and our performance scores will plummet, our blood sugar levels will rise, our waistline will expand, we will actually begin to show levels of psychosis, and (this one is my own observation) we might even begin to compulsively and irrationally tweet in the middle of the night. Run long enough without rest and someone in your family will be the “barometer” who first begins to reflect the stress and begin to be in “distress.” Count on it.

Oh, and by the way, the Creator of the universe thought rest important enough that he gave us a commandment along that line. Disregard the truth at the heart of any of those Ten and a price will be paid. The principle at the heart of this one, no matter what pseudo-Bible scholars may say as they quibble about Sabbath, is no different.

Because he loves us, God tells us to take time to rest. Really rest. The kind of rest that means significant time for praying, playing, sleeping, filling up, soul-growing, recreating, thanking, breathing, not producing, just being. Taking time to rest may be one of the most faith-filled God-honoring activities of all as we follow his loving command, believe his promises, stop, and trust him to spin the world for a few hours without our help.

Let’s be honest. More often than not, we have a very hard time finding the kind of discipline it takes to intentionally pursue this kind of rest. Obstacles abound, mostly between our ears, but also many things not bad but just incredibly unbalanced in our lives.

Jobs. Especially the more we confuse what we produce with our value; the way we make a living, with our life.

Phones. The more panic we feel when we’re away from them for five minutes, the more desperately our souls need to be away from them for much more than five minutes.

Electronic “balls and chains” in general. Unplug!

And, oh yes, balls. All shapes and sizes. We’re masters at making even our “fun” with them a grueling amount of stress-filled work.

And have you noticed? We’re so terrible at resting that we often make even our vacations utterly exhausting, about as relaxing as a forced march in wartime.

Unless we’re in complete denial (we may be; addicts always are), the problem is obvious. I can’t prove it, but I suspect it lurks near the heart of much of the soul-distress, the depression, the lack of joy, the loss of purpose, and the fractured relationships littering so many lives. As individuals, families, and a society, we pay a staggering price for our refusal to listen to the One who made us, to take time to truly rest, to let our souls breathe.

We need his grace and power in all things—even and maybe especially to have the real strength and uncommon wisdom it takes to find and fill up on regular times of genuine rest.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 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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When Dust Returns to Dust, What Kind of Wealth Matters?

Wealth. How varied and strange are the uses of that word.

More often than not, when we use the word “wealth,” we’re talking about money, a necessary commodity, for sure. But measuring wealth is not as easy as it might seem. A boatload of financial wealth, if allowed to possess us, may amount to less than a nanoparticle of the wealth that matters, the sort that frees us. (Oh, and this is tricky. A grasping, greedy soul can be throttled by much or by little.)

Surely you don’t have to think long to call to mind some folks the world labels “successful” simply and only because they have money but who are utterly pathetic and appalling by any other standard. Wealthy, are they? Well.

If you have more dollars or dinars, more pesos or pounds, more shekels or shillings, more francs or marks or rupees or yen, than anyone else in the world, you will most certainly be called wealthy. Your life will be quite different from that of the poorest person on the planet—right up until one millisecond after both hearts stop and both souls are launched toward the only accounting that really matters.

But back in this world, some other accounting may actually continue for a bit.

The first spreadsheet will be a short one. “Amount of money dead filthy rich guy (or gal) or dead pitifully poor guy (or gal) takes to grave” will be zero. Naught. Zilch. Nada. May I press that truth home? The zero for deep pockets guy will look exactly the same as the zero for no pockets guy.

The heirs of our hypothetical not-breathing folks may be arranging for their bodily passage to putrefaction to be first class or coach, but it won’t matter a worm’s eyelash to the honoree whether he’s boxed in hand-waxed cedar (cushioned in comfort) or Amazon-recycled cardboard (stowed in a bag amidst those white packing “ghost farts”). Eventually, dust is dust is dust and pretty much just dust. Beautiful cemetery or pauper’s field, million-dollar mausoleum or a fish’s belly in the bottom of the sea, the location will matter not in the least to the deceased.

But another inventory and another sort of spreadsheet will be left behind in hearts that remain beating. Perhaps this inventory will be counted by tears of gratitude. By warm memories. By smiles. By a life well-lived. By a large soul that valued relationships far more than things and planted seeds of joy and love, mercy and trust, in all the good hearts it touched, seeds that will bear sweet fruit for generations to come.

In God’s economy, rich folks and poor folks and all the many more folks in between can all possess the wealth that truly matters and lasts beyond the grave. “Treasures in heaven” begin to be accumulated when we treasure what truly matters right here. If we’ve not given ourselves away to our Creator and to those we love before we leave, what we leave behind will only be dust.

It will matter not whether kings and queens attend our send-off. The sweet tear of a grandchild we taught to love the One who will bring us together again forever, and the “well done” of the Author of life who walked with us all of our life and receives us now, will be worth immeasurably more. Wealth indeed.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Ah, Winter! How Do I Love Thee?”

 

Ah, winter! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Reason #1: Christmas usually comes during winter, thus Reason #1 by itself would more than tip the scales.

Reason #2: Christmas singing (where “yours truly” gets to croon Christmas tunes) comes, yes, indeed, during Christmas which . . . well, refer to Reason #1.

Reason #3: My favorite days tend to be days during which I get to spend at least a little time reading, drinking coffee or tea, and/or just breathing in front of our fireplace. (The only thing better than a good book is a good book in front of a fire.) Those days almost never come during summer; consequently, score a win for winter!

Reason #4: Nothing in nature is more beautiful than snow. And when, pray tell, does snow tend to fall? Bingo. Winter. (And snow falling on a mountain in winter? Perfect!)

Reason #5: Snow falling from the sky (though no moisture at all is falling from the sky this winter) is far superior to dust, dirt, real estate, and small animals flying across the sky. When weather prognosticators in our area talk about “spring-like conditions,” it’s usually code for “wind, dirt, and drought.”

Reason #6: Grass does not have to be mowed during winter. My yard never looks better than under a blanket of snow, and though brown grass is not beautiful, neither is it needy. Being able to ignore it gives me three extra hours a week to do stuff I’d rather do, like read and enjoy the fire. Oh, I love a nice green yard for a few months, but “few” is not eleven, and eleven would be insufferable. Winter is mower parole.

Reason #7: Valentine’s Day comes during winter. It is not, honestly, that I’m all choked up about that pseudo-holiday, but, much to my surprise, Cupid’s season has become a big one for me singing-wise. I love singing for joyful reasons, “for sentimental reasons,” and for lots of other reasons, and winter’s when I get to do a bunch of it.

Reason #8: Though the Olympic Games actually take place every two years, my very favorite edition is the Winter Olympic Games, which occur in . . . Yes. There’s never a time when I don’t enjoy watching skiing, bobsledding, snowboarding, and all the other amazing stuff folks do on frozen water. Give me food, drink, a fire, and these ice-based Olympic games, and I’m happy as a clam at high tide, as a pig in sunshine, as a ski jumper nailing a perfect landing after a near-miss with a Boeing 777. Snow-deprived here this year, I’m lovin’ it even more.

Reason #9: Our family’s annual ski trip (we’re not talkin’ water skiing, here) comes in . . . ditto. These reasons are not in order, or this one would be way higher!

Reason #10: Clear, crisp winter air is the best air you’ll ever breathe, paired very nicely with clear, crisp, star-kindled winter skies.

Thank God indeed, our Creator is Lord of all seasons and his joy is woven into them all. I just think he does some of his very best work in winter.

 

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

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Thinking About Thinking Can Be Difficult

I’ve been trying to do some thinking—which is harder than I thought. I’ve tried it a few times before, but what’s made this latest attempt particularly difficult is that I’ve been trying to think about thinking.

This is Alan Jacobs’ fault. A Baylor University professor, Dr. Jacobs has recently written a book entitled How To Think. I figured he wrote it because as a college professor grading thousands of student papers, he sees firsthand how rare it is for real thinking to occur. But a better clue to the book’s purpose is its subtitle: “A Survival Guide for a World at Odds.”

You don’t have to think about it much to realize that lots of us don’t think much. But almost all of us think that folks who disagree with us socially, politically, religiously, etc., are folks who don’t think much at all—or at least not very well. It turns out that we have more in common with those folks than we think: none of us think enough about trying to recognize even the iceberg’s tip of the biases we all bring with us to our own thinking.

Jacobs has a name, by the way, for “those folks.” He calls them “repugnant cultural others” or RCOs, for short. We all have RCOs, and we all are RCOs for somebody else.

Here’s the rub. We don’t like those “other” folks. We actually do find them pretty repugnant. It doesn’t take long to think about the way hard-line Republicans feel about dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, for example. Then pick out any of a jillion other groups or issues and, well, there you have it.

We don’t understand those folks; we don’t like those people. We don’t plan to understand those folks; we don’t plan to like those people. Which means we almost always succeed in our plan. This all means, of course, that we don’t know each other, and we don’t intend to. Knowing each other just a little, we might like each other even less, but . . . well, we might be surprised to find that we actually do share a few likes/dislikes. Chocolate, or something.

Sadly, disastrously for any kind of dialogue, we listen to social or other foes for about two seconds before in our social media-ravaged minds, we hit Like or Dislike and start mentally (or actually) tweeting. Jacobs recommends that we listen to each other for a few minutes, all the while being vigilantly on our guard lest we immediately enter “Refutation Mode.” That’s when we quit listening and start formulating our own arguments. Then he suggests waiting for almost an eternity—five minutes (twenty-four hours is better)—before beginning an assessment of the other person’s opinion.

By the way, true and false are real deals. Some other folks’ convictions really are grounded in truth; some are truly false. Yes, and the same is true in the mirror. But we’ll come a lot closer to learning something when we realize that we all have a lot to learn—particularly from folks we’d love to never listen to.

If we don’t think we have any biases that at times foul up our own thinking, Jacobs suggests a quick perusal of a Wikipedia article, “List of Cognitive Biases.” It is, as he warns, depressing to see how seriously affected our thinking is by biases that have almost nothing to do with the issue at hand. Oh, we still may be correct on the issue. But being aware of our tendency to be biased can produce a couple of real blessings: better thinking and deepening humility. Both make for fewer rifts and better relationships.

Hmm. It seems that I remember Jesus telling us to love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. And didn’t St. James say something about being “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (1:19)? I’m thinking that’s wise counsel.

 

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

 

Copyright 2018 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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