Monthly Archives: May 2018

Our Souls Need Real, Not Counterfeit, Rest

For many of us, one of the hardest things we ever do is doing nothing. Incredibly difficult, disciplining ourselves to find some regular time to do nothing is the best way to make the doings that we do, when the time is right for doing, worth something once the doing’s done. When we never really rest, we just end up done in, and much of the doing becomes dry dust bereft of real meaning.

If you found it difficult to make your way out of that last first paragraph, it’s because it’s its own frenetic illustration of our lives, bouncing so rapidly from one “doing” to the next, and the next, and the next, that it almost never stops. The Brits call a “period” at the end of a sentence a “full stop.” And an occasional full stop is exactly what we desperately need.

At least, our Creator seems to think so. He thought that a regular time to rest was important enough for the well-being of the humans he created in his image that he devoted one of the Ten Commandments to it. Even God rested on the seventh day of creation.

Dallas Willard once observed that “the command is ‘Do No Work.’” What that means, he says, is as simple as it is difficult: “Just make space. Attend to what is around you. Learn that you don’t have to do to be. Accept the grace of doing nothing.” And, knowing us well, he says, “Stay with it until you stop jerking and squirming.” (And texting!)

Oh, but we do jerk. We do squirm. And we have a very hard time just “making space” even for a few moments.

What is “urgent” crowds out the truly important. (How many texts do you get in a day that  deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the word “important”?)

What is loud floods our ears continually and drowns out the silence that can fill our souls with meaning if we just stop long enough to let it in.

What is garish and glitzy blasts our eyes with counterfeit color and flash-blinds us to the real beauty and joy we could see all around us if we’d just be still long enough (and unglue our eyes from our screens long enough) to look around and see it. But most of the time we’re moving so fast with our thumbs or our feet that life itself becomes a dreary blur.

I think it was Dallas Willard again who commented that rest and diversion are not the same things. We all enjoy some occasional diversion. A “run fast and play hard” vacation at times is fine, but don’t be surprised when you come home more tired than when you left, and your soul is still hungering for some real rest.

Living life continually at high speeds is unsafe. Wrecks happen and people get hurt. Relationships suffer as we bump into each other and crash into solid objects like exhaustion and reality. We weren’t made to run this fast, this continually.

And so our bodies, our minds, and the objects and people we bump into often end up forcing us to stop, whether we like it or not. I wonder how much depression, migraines, gut maladies—and on the list goes—are really our bodies/minds saying, “You won’t stop on your own, fool? Pull over. I bet I can stop you for a while.”

As always, our Creator is telling us the truth. Our souls desperately need some 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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The Stars Speak Loudy, Wisely, in Silvery Silence

The yard mowing was finished. One more time. A personal best, by the way. Two hours. Mowing our 10,000 square foot yard usually requires almost three hours.

The last part of the job had pretty much been accomplished in Braille. It was a Wednesday evening. We’d gathered, as usual, with our church folks for a meal, etc., 6:00-7:00. (I am so very glad we meet that early.)

But Daylight Saving Time, a very mixed blessing, meant that I faced a decision at about 7:30. To mow or not to mow. That was the question. I did not want to. That was not in question. But this was the window I had for mowing for the next several days. If I waited, the yard would be, even this early in the season for us, a jungle.

So I mowed, figuring I’d get at least part of it done. I was amazed to finish the whole thing. (Only because I had trimmed pretty seriously on the previous mowing and got away with very little of that on Wednesday.) As I mentioned, darkness was coming on as I throttled down my mowing machine.

It really was a beautiful evening. So, once the rumble of the engine was silenced, I decided to sit out on the patio for a few minutes, partly to nurse my aching feet, and mostly to enjoy the quiet and the stillness.

The slivered moon was headed down behind my friend and neighbor’s workshop. Optical illusion, I know, but it surely seemed to head down faster the closer it got to the horizon. A lunar voyeur, I spied on it, lest it sneakily rebel and head back upward with no one watching. In the space of ten long breaths (I was counting), it slipped away, down for the count.

And, of course, as the moon went under, the stars, always there but needing the darkness to make their shimmering silvery presence known, began their sparkling dance.

The canopy of two huge trees in the backyard obscures part of the sky (blessed shade in the heat of the day), but the Big Dipper was shining through brightly. A very elementary knowledge of astronomy will reveal that drawing a line from the “pointer stars” (Merak and Dubhe), five times the distance between them (about twenty degrees), will land your eye on Polaris, the North Star, the anchor of the northern sky and friend of long generations of sailors.

The second star from the Dipper’s bowl is Mizar, and right beside it, if your eyes are good (this was an ancient eye test) you can make out Alcor.

The Big Dipper hasn’t changed recently. In about 50,000 years, I’m told, a bit of a shape change may be apparent. But on Wednesday night, I noticed what looked like another bright star in the pattern. What?!

And then the “star” moved. Jet airplanes do that. And that’s what it was. I had momentarily confused a few-years-old man-made object flying six miles high with God-made stars billions of years old, 51-123 light years away.

We should spend more time sitting in the darkness looking up at the stars. That night their silvery silence spoke loudly. My “airplane” difficulties may masquerade as stars, but they flit away, and God’s love-lit starlight remains.

 

 

     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.


When God Posts a Warning, It Pays to Pay Attention

It had to be a government production, the sign I saw. Only a glassy-eyed bean-counting bureaucrat with common sense completely and laboriously expunged by years of mind-numbing training could have produced it. (Your tax dollars at work.)

Posted above a busy tramway, the sign proclaimed in large letters: TOUCHING WIRES CAUSES INSTANT DEATH. Good information, that.

But then in smaller letters was posted this message: “$200 Fine.”

Well, fine indeed. But I’m not exactly sure what to make of that.

I’m always as willing as the next guy to avoid shelling out two hundred bucks, but if paying up is presented as the alternative to sudden and gruesome death, I’d likely shell out a couple of C-notes.

Does the second warning belie the truth of the first? “Touch these wires, moron, and you’ll surely be quick-fried to a crackly crunch! But maybe not. In which case, you’ll be fined, and that’ll teach you!”

Or maybe there’s no contradiction at all. Maybe the long arm of the bureaucracy involved will reach right past death. The dead dumbo, smoky and smelling a lot like an electrical fire, finds himself waiting almost eternally (in a long line, no doubt) in front of a desk in the afterlife. He waits forever to file the forms in triplicate needed to remove the $200 lien on his account that’s got his posthumous processing locked up in limbo.

I’m not sure I get it. The sign’s message, I mean.

But I am sure I won’t be touching tramway wires if I should happen to run across any. I don’t like the sound of that stiff fine.

Some governmental signs and warnings can be a bit baffling. But it occurs to me that when God gives a warning, we do well to pay very close attention. Some things that we touch will hurt us worse than even an electrified tramway wire.

Touch adultery, God warns us, and we will get scorched. Count on it.

Grab hold of greed, and we’ll end up with some awfully bad burns. We can be sure of that.

Grasp bitterness and embrace an unforgiving and critical spirit, and, even if we’re sure we’ve been terribly mistreated and have a great excuse for the chip on our shoulder, we’ll still end up alone. Resentment is a very chilly friend.

Grip such tempting wires, and so many more like them, and we can end up with scorched souls and in deep pain. God knows it’s tempting; that’s why he gave us the warnings. And, thank God indeed, his grace and healing are real, available as often as we fail, as present as our next breath, as rich and deep and life-giving as our Father’s loving heart.

But the truth is that when we ignore his warning and choose to play with that which is deadly, pain is always the consequence. Worse, if we hang on to those hot wires long enough and are burned so badly that we refuse to ask for healing, death can come even before we die.

When God gives a warning, it pays to listen.

 

     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.


Knowledge and Wisdom Are Not the Same Things

Knowledge and wisdom are not the same things. As has been wisely observed, knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in a fruit salad. On a deeper level . . .

Knowledge has to do with knowing about created things; wisdom means knowing the Creator.

Knowledge means knowing facts about the past in order to make a good grade on your history exam; wisdom means learning the lessons of the past to plot a course for the future.

Knowledge knows how to make stuff, lots of it really cool; wisdom means knowing how to use what is made for the best purposes.

Knowledge may think that simply knowing facts equals wisdom; wisdom knows that only the incredibly foolish ever think of themselves as being wise.

Knowledge is tempted to be arrogant, puffed up because of what it knows; wisdom lives in humility knowing that everything it knows is evidence of how very little it knows, even as it is always seeking to learn more.

Knowledge points to glitz and technology and cool engineering tricks to amaze and thumb its nose at the past; wisdom knows that the glut and the glitz of its age (industrial or technological or informational) makes it not one bit truly wiser than ages past.

Knowledge knows stuff—and lots of it; wisdom knows that what is true and real and lasting is rooted forever in the One whose existence holds this world together, the only One who is constant, unchanging, forever true.

C. S. Lewis is the one, I think, who coined the term “chronological snobbery.” We are so easily—at all times and never more than now—tempted to think that increasing knowledge and information and, especially in our time, amazing technological advances, mean that we are wiser than those in all preceding ages. Really?

Oh, I love technology (and cool gadgets). I love being able to access incredible information at the click of a few keys. But wisdom is not dependent in the least upon technology, and burgeoning levels of information are no evidence at all of any increase in wisdom.

I may be afflicted with chronological snobbery in reverse. I can’t imagine how we can be such fools. Even ancient pagans, foolishly worshiping rocks and carved pieces of wood, were “wise” enough to worship something outside of themselves. How many of us today breathe God’s air, live on his spinning world, “thank” him by doubting, denying, or laughing at his existence, and crown our idiocy by worshiping ourselves? In our arrogance, we seem to think that everything from our gender, to the multiplication tables, to whether up is up or down is down depend our mood or the latest opinion poll. After all, it’s 2018, and technology and information abound. Are we not wiser than all who’ve come before us?

No, we’re not. I wonder if any society has ever been more foolish. The Apostle Paul pointed to the cross and told the truth that “even the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

 

 

      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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