Monthly Archives: April 2018

“Wednesday’s Meeting Has Been Moved Forward”

Good morning.

Forgive me for even considering such, but I almost planted an exclamation point at the end of “morning.” It is indeed morning as I write. I’ve eased into light, speech, and a little thought, but that I would even consider assailing your mental ears this early in the day with the kind of volume implied by that loudest of punctuation marks, well, I apologize for almost falling into such brutish behavior. Those two words followed by an exclamation point become a contradiction in terms.

So, settling for the more civil ante meridiem (as in a.m. for morning) greeting, we move on into the day, fire up, log in, open up the computer, delete a few dozen ads and several phishing attempts masquerading as legitimate emails, and peruse this real one: “Note to Committee on Committees Members: Wednesday’s meeting regarding the creation of another committee to further complicate the lives and work of the many too many committees already created to complicate our lives has been moved forward by two days.”

Here’s the question: Is that Wednesday meeting, “moved forward by two days,” now set for Monday or Friday?

Okay. Pause. Take your time. Don’t lock in your vote and alter your calendar too quickly, but do take notice of your first reaction.

It’s clear to me that the meeting is now set for Monday. But I also know, and so do you, that a significant number of other folks will be quite sure that the meeting is now set for Friday. If we’re the ones wording the message, we know very well that we’d better spell out the day or confusion will reign. Two groups half the size of the whole will find themselves meeting on two different days four whole days apart. The confusion hinges on that simple word “forward.”

According to author, psychology lecturer, and BBC broadcaster Cynthia Hammond in her book Time Warped, the little vignette above illustrates how very practically in our daily world the way we associate time and space and the way we feel about time “moving” separates us into two groups.  Hammond says that those, like me, who now plan to head to the meeting on Monday, see time itself as moving “like a conveyor belt,” the future coming towards us. Those who plan to meet now on Friday see themselves as moving in time towards the future.

As Hammond writes, “either you stay still while the future comes toward you or you move along towards the future. It’s the difference between thinking that we’re fast approaching Christmas or that Christmas is coming up fast.” Either point of view is defensible; the point is that each of us defaults into one or the other.

I find this sort of thing fascinating. But far more important than whether the future is heading toward me or I’m heading toward the future is the fact that my Father holds all of time and all of the times of my life in his warm hand.

See ya Monday. But my vote is that we cancel and spare the world one more meeting and one more committee.

 

 

    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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Third Birds, Trampoline Mats, and Early Mornings

Third bird. That’s the term author Daniel Pink uses, in his book When, for folks who aren’t by nature larks (morning people) or owls (night people).

Having taken the analysis he recommends for determining where one nests on that feathery continuum, I was a little surprised to find myself perched in the third bird category. I’ve always thought I followed in my mother’s footsteps as the very definition of a night owl. (Henceforth I will simply say “owl”; “night owl” is as redundant as “hot water heater.”) I like the quiet and warm enfolding that night affords and, with it, opportunities for reading, writing, musing, perusing, working, breathing during sweet moments when one’s cell phone is under control (as in, OFF), and a large percentage of the population is comfortably tucked in and unconscious.

On the fairly rare occasions I’ve tested early mornings—I’m doing that right now, but they don’t come as naturally to me—I’ve found that they provide some of the same benefits as late evenings and have their own good flavor. Just let me ease into light and volume. I can make coffee just fine in the dark, and my mouth is where it’s always been. The computer screen’s brightness needs to be throttled down. I wish its key-clicking could be muted. And, please, let’s put off speech until coffee does its work and the sun follows suit.

Mom was not a morning person; I wonder now who it was who used to wake us up singing the old and always obnoxious “Good Morning to You” song with its line about “all in our places with sunshiny faces.” Ouch.

Third birds like me evidently can go a bit either way, though I’ll definitely morph more toward midnight than morning. Just mind the light, please.

But I’m writing early this morning. I blame the trampoline. My back, which was awake before the rest of me, thinks I spent too much time testing a new mat yesterday afternoon.

The old mat served long and well. Four sons did their best to work it out. One Great Dane spent a little time on it but found it hard on his hip. That mat was shaving cream-stained from grandkid fun days complete with water, sprinklers, “silly string,” water balloons, etc. And it had lots of mileage on it as a launching pad for jumping and giggling grandkids on the back of a winged unicorn or about to be eaten by a hungry orc. The aforementioned unicorn/orc recently put his foot (rapidly) through what was a small tear in the mat. Hence, new mat. Hence, time testing new mat. Hence, up early this morning.

The lawyer litter tag on the new mat says it needs to be used with mature supervision. My wife read that and said I don’t count.

Scripture says that God’s mercies are “new every morning.” My back will be fine. The coffee is on board, and I don’t at all mind admitting that on this early morning, the Creator of each new day has blessed me with some sweet memories. I’m ready to make some more! I just need a nap first.

 

     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


“The Word ‘Good’ Has Many Meanings”

“The word ‘good’ has many meanings,” writes G. K. Chesterton. “For example,” he continues, “if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”

Certainly a true observation, as far as it goes. I, for one, would like to know more about the character of the fellow’s grandmother before rushing to judgment.

Nobody before or after Chesterton has done a better job of lining up words delightfully. Of course, were he to fire a good shot with the words above in today’s politically correct society, he’d bump into all sorts of problems, and not just with The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Grandmothers.

He transgresses immediately by using the term “man.” Though one would think that anyone passing third grade successfully would know that “man” in such a construction is more generic suffix than sexist offense, an “enlightened” editor today would undoubtedly want Chesterton to change “man” to “human” or “person,” lest the quote offend delicate ears. Never mind that such surgery would immediately render a pithy quote punch-less.

But let’s play with this. Please work with me a bit on putting away just for the moment any very appropriate concerns against grandmother abuse.

“Human” as a choice in this sentence is so atrocious as to be no choice at all. “If a human were to shoot his grandmother” not only, of necessity, brings in the always ungainly “his or her,” it brings up unhelpful questions about whether or not most Martians treat their grandmothers better than most humans do.

“Person” is better than “human” but still brings up the “his or her” thing along with difficulties related to the subjunctive mood and choices regarding “was” or “were.” Pretty soon, “their” will try to barge in, as it always does in today’s attempts at neutered writing, even as it wantonly wreaks subject-verb agreement havoc by pretending to be what it will never be: singular.

Sorry, but I’m thinking that if you surgically change “man” in this great quote to anything else, the patient (meaning the quotation) will not survive the operation. And, the grandmother’s character aside, we’ve not yet dealt at all with the modern debate over whether or not the guy is really nasty and messed up and mostly to be blamed or if the real culprit is his wicked gun.

It’s a tough situation. Reflecting on this great quotation moves me to sympathy not just for grandmothers but for all writers who increasingly face the choice between political correctness and writing that hasn’t had the life and even the grandma—I mean, the grammar—throttled out of it.

The crux of the quote, though, ain’t grammar; it’s goodness. And it’s not good at all that political correctness can so obfuscate a good point. For a good springboard to some very good discussion about what it means to be truly good, I refer you to Christ’s words (Luke 18:19): “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”

A good shot with good words.

 

 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.


Wisdom and the Times of Our Lives

According to the wise man writing in Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases this in The Message: “There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth.”

Yes, and the sage continues in those famous words, “There is a time to be born and a time to die, . . . a time to kill and a time to heal, . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance . . .”

It rings true, doesn’t it? Our souls and our experience hear these words and respond, yes.

Life is a patchwork quilt sewn together with swatches of immensely varied “times and seasons.” In our lives we experience incredibly sweet moments, sometimes followed in an eye-blink or two by tastes terribly bitter. Even on the same day, how unusual is it to both shed a tear and liberate a laugh?

Pain and pleasure, darkness and light, tears and laughter. However long the cycles—moments or days or weeks or months or seasons—the human experience is that night-times of weeping and joy-splashed mornings, and everything in between, are the mosaic pieces that make up our lives.

The “wise man” had lived long enough to be wise. Some things just take time. You’ll never get a 100-year-old oak tree by wishing really hard for it for ten incredibly strenuous minutes. Even a for-their-age-mature pre-teen or teen will likely find it challenging to believe even a well-loved and trusted adult sharing the truth that dark times of sorrow and pain and frustration and fear really do not last forever. It is nonetheless true and wise counsel that we owe them and that one day they’ll also try to share with the next generation even as they face the same challenges when sharing it. The times and seasons and cycles continue, you see.

Wisdom says that it’s good to know that the times and seasons really do change.

Wisdom says that it’s good to take what’s immensely good about the good and incredibly difficult about the bad and learn from both.

Wisdom says that though experience is the best teacher for us all, we needlessly impoverish ourselves if we fail to listen to the experience of those who go before us and have much priceless to teach.

Wisdom says that genuine truth is truth for all seasons, and it does not change.

Wisdom says that the best way to live wisely into the future is to learn the lessons of the past.

Wisdom says that only the incredibly foolish ever think of themselves as being wise.

Wisdom refuses to be a slave bowing before the supposed wisdom of its own time.

Wisdom knows that the glitz of its age (industrial or technological or informational or . . .) makes it not one bit wiser than ages past.

Wisdom knows that genuine wisdom is rooted forever in the truth of the One whose existence holds this world and universe together, the only One who is constant, unchanging, and true in all times, all seasons.

 

 

     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.


The Good News Is That “Jesus Paid It All”

Here’s a tale of two sweet songs and, with them, a life-crucial lesson.

The first song is a heartwarming ballad performed by Phillips, Craig and Dean, one of my favorite singing groups.

“A scene so familiar at the old five and dime / A little boy waited his turn in line . . .”

With excited eyes twinkling, he’s holding in his hand the candy he’d been saving his money to buy. The girl at the register smiles at him as he forks over the handful of coins but then winces; it’s not enough. Kind-hearted, she’s not sure what to do. But that’s when a stranger standing behind the boy in line speaks up and saves the day: “Whatever he’s short, just take it and add it to mine.”

“I’ve got you covered / I’ll pay the difference / You don’t have to worry at all / Whatever the cost is, I’ll go the distance / If you fall I will catch you / You know I won’t let you feel like you’re there all alone / I’ve got you covered.”

It really is a sweet song. A few measures in, and we become that little boy. We’re really him already. We’ve been there. We know how he feels. And soon we’re thanking the Lord for that kind “stranger.” An eye-blink later, we realize that the merciful stranger is our Lord, and we’re beautifully reminded of what he’s done for us.

I love the song. In fact, I added it to my own repertoire years ago and perform it whenever I can. I like it so very much that I can get so caught up singing the sweet story that I dream past a mildly tricky entrance or two and miss the train! It’s one of my favorites for sure, and I don’t mean to be picky.

But here’s a point we’d better not miss. If we do, it’s no exaggeration to say that we’ve missed the truth of the good news, the gospel, of Christ, and we’re well on our way to being sad Pharisees.

In walking with us through our lives, Jesus does indeed lift us up whenever we fall. When our strength is not enough, his is very much there for us. That’s the truth of this song and why I love to sing it.

But let’s not push the song too far. When on the cross Christ takes on himself all of our sin and guilt, he doesn’t just “pay the difference.” The wonderful truth is in the title of another sweet song: “Jesus Paid It All.” All! He really did!

If we catch ourselves thinking that salvation itself is a matter of me doing my part and Christ “paying the difference,” we’re denying the cross, the depth of our need, and the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice. And we very much need to spend some serious time grappling with the Apostle Paul’s amazing words in Romans and Galatians.

We also need to read Ephesians 2 and believe the apostle when he says that salvation is not at all a matter of works we do. If it was—oh, he knows humanity—we’d be “boasting,” figuring that we’d put at least part of the money on the counter. We’d never know the real price, and we’d live in constant anxiety and fear—no real joy, peace, or confidence—never knowing if even the small price we’d paid was enough (and always tempted to compare the price we think we’ve paid to the price we judge that others around us are paying). That way of life is self-centered, not Christ-centered. It is a way of condemnation, not a way of salvation. It is exhausting and futile, terrifying and gospel-denying.

Thank God indeed, Jesus paid it all. Christ’s people live their lives to honor him. They live into the good works Scripture says he has created for them to do (Eph. 2:8-10). Not to pay the price. Because the price has already been fully paid. The difference is just, well, all the difference in the world.

 

 

     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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