Monthly Archives: January 2019

Even for Night Owls, God’s Mercies Are “New Every Morning”

What a sweet morning I’ve just experienced! And this from a person not in the habit of gushing about mornings. A “morning person,” I am not.

The preceding sentence is just a fact. No moral ramifications are attached. Not by me. I have actually even met a few humble morning folks who seem to harbor no self-righteous “early to rise” prejudices. I refer the others to mounting research and genuinely science-based books such as Dr. Till Roenneberg’s Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired. Get up with the roosters if you want to; just please be quiet and don’t crow about it—and, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t bang the lights on!

Our chronotypes—whether you’re a morning lark, a night owl, or a “third bird” (something in between—check out Claudia Hammond’s fun and fascinating Time Warped)—are as hard-wired as our eye color. Granted, the time you’re due at work or school is likely beyond your control, but nobody can control the genes and physiology, your “chronotype,” that dictates when you will generally be most alert, effective, and efficient. The owl under my hat has no problem with mornings; I just like them as dark, as silent, and as still as possible, until caffeine and hot running water can accomplish a resurrection.

All said to underline how very beautiful this particular morning was, even from an owl’s perspective. (My wife and I had the sweet blessing of an unusually un-rushed morning.)

When I awoke, it was deliciously dark. Darkness can be a metaphor for evil, but in a safe, warm place, it can also be as beautifully enfolding as a blanket. I’d banked the fire the night before, tucking in with ashes what was left of the glowing embers so that this morning I could simply rake the ash-blanket aside, lay on some more wood, and wait for the flickering fire to spring into life and warmth. Flickering in darkness is the best kind of flickering a fire does.

I made coffee so as to be able to find my pulse. Later on, I perused the headlines in a digital version of The Wall Street Journal. It was nice to get a couple of my prejudices confirmed. Article headline, front page-below the fold: “Please Do Your Sneezing at Home: Employees Strike Back Against Coughing Colleagues.” (Of course, one colleague will spray disinfectant and sniffle-shame you if you show up sick, even as another will call you a slacker if you take sick leave. Catch-22.)

And I smiled at the book review of Dreyer’s English, a book by Benjamin Dreyer (review by Ben Yagoda). “Being well copy-edited is like getting ‘a really thorough teeth-cleaning,’” Dreyer writes. And he mentions a famous New Yorker editor’s rule: “Try to preserve an author’s style if he is an author and has a style.”

But before heading to the Journal, I sought more timeless wisdom. I decided today to read and pray the “morning office” from the venerable Book of Common Prayer. (There are apps for that! For iPad, iPhone, or PC, search “The Mission of St. Clare.” It’s one of the best. By the way, if you think this sounds terribly “spiritual,” you obviously don’t know me.)

One of the Scriptures for the morning was Psalm 19. “The heavens declare the glory of God, / and the firmament shows his handiwork.” I love that psalm in any translation, but I decided to check it out also in The Message, and, wow! Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase is always amazing, but never better than this: “God’s glory is on tour in the skies, / God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. / Madame Day holds classes every morning, / Professor Night lectures each evening.” (To read it all, head to http://www.biblegateway.com and go to Psalm 19 in The Message.)

No, I’ll never be a morning person. But I do indeed believe that God’s “mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3). And I really enjoyed this one.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

Advertisements

Mature “Little Children” Could Solve the Government Shutdown

As I write, it is Day 31 of the longest government shutdown in the history of our nation.

I tend to think that a much longer, much more permanent, shutdown of a good many regulation-spawning government bureaucracies would be about as detrimental to our nation as a cure for cancer would be to our health.

But life (and government) is neither that simple nor that fair. We actually need many of the services the government is presently not providing. Even if many of those duties could be far more efficiently provided by the private sector, well, when the gears grind to a halt, the sudden stop is jarring. And for workers whose paychecks are stuck in the non-functioning governmental gears, the shutdown is far worse than inconvenient.

I try not to push politics or a partisan position in this column, but if on occasion, I flirt with making folks on both extremes of an issue angry, I’m probably okay with that, so here goes.

I’m intensely frustrated with our nation’s mis-leaders on both sides of the immigration issue which is the excuse for this mess. They all are behaving like immature brats very much in need of a spanking.

Is there any good excuse for the unseemly cesspool in which so many of our politicians float? In a representative form of government, we are, ideally, supposed to elect our “betters,” people we esteem to be wiser, more mature, and with more experience and expertise than ourselves. We are supposed to be represented by folks who are capable, intelligent, well-educated, well-mannered, and who possess a higher than average level of wisdom, prudence, and integrity. Forgive the metaphor, but if the kids can’t trust the parents to behave better than selfish fools, the family is in trouble.

So the voter under my hat blames both sides. They all look terrible. They should have dealt wisely with immigration issues long ago. They should have been willing to reach fair and equitable, albeit imperfect, solutions long ago. And neither side should be allowed to accomplish by holding their breath and throwing tantrums what they could not accomplish by reasonable legislation.

If this goes on, I really think funds to help pay government employees should be deducted from the salaries of the “leading” politicians from both parties, those who have the power to break the stalemate.

I’d personally love to see Trump and Pelosi locked in a room, fed only water and crackers, with reasonable bathroom breaks, but otherwise not allowed to come out or sleep until they play nice and reach a compromise.

Or, maybe better, I’d refer the issue to binding arbitration by a non-partisan group of wise children. I’d suggest nine third-graders chosen from the student body of DeShazo Elementary School in Muleshoe, Texas. Let them choose a teacher they respect to lay before them, in thirty minutes, the main issues at hand. Give Trump and Pelosi twenty minutes each to make their cases. (Flip a coin to see who goes first.) Then let the kids deliberate and come up with a compromise. Third-graders understand “fair.” They recognize “stupid.” The know how to deal with whiners and bullies. I’ll wager they could come up with an equitable compromise, have the government running again before lunch, and not even miss recess.

Isaiah the prophet, and later, Jesus himself, pointed to the real peace found in God’s kingdom and rule, the time when “a little child shall lead them.” If our leaders find leading wisely in this nation too strenuous, perhaps they should be overruled by little children who could provide more mature leadership.

 

 

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

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Reverse Snobbery and “All Things New”

A big part of this is reverse snobbery, I know, but I love my old pickup truck.

That faithful machine already had 90,000 miles on it when I flew down to Houston a bunch of years ago, laid eyes on it, and fell in love. The original owner must have loved that truck, too, because he took great care of it.

I probably haven’t been quite as faithful in that department. I try to do basic maintenance, even a little touch-up paint here and there. I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning on the inside; it’ll just get dirty again. My wife quarrels with the reasoning, and I don’t apply it to my own personal hygiene.

But faithful to me is what that truck has been, and I honor it with the best two words ever used to describe any vehicle: “paid for.” Its odometer recently rolled on past 200,000 miles. There’s a “short” in that thing, so sometimes the screen goes blank, but it was blazing brightly as it proudly crossed the mark. Sadly, I missed the moment, and it was 200,011 when I noticed.

I try not to be superstitious, but I know I’m flirting with disaster by writing this. I’m dooming the transmission. Or the engine will now thrash. A wheel will fall off. Or maybe worse, my good friend Buddy, who sells cars (mostly trucks) in Robert Lee, Texas, will call me with a really tempting offer on a great follow-up F-150 at a good price.

Robert Lee is a truck place. Unless you’re infirm and not up to the step up, most able-bodied adults want trucks and not polite little car-lettes. The only electric vehicles are Old Man Jones’ golf cart with the flag on top or Billy Joe’s truck that lit up after it hit a utility pole.

I trust Buddy like a brother (which if you know my brothers might be scant praise), but he’s a great guy, and won’t steer me wrong. When he calls, I may be tempted to “pull the trigger” on the newer vehicle. I’ll probably love that truck, too. But I fully expect to be left wondering if the purchase was a bit extravagant, and, had I shown just a tad more faithfulness, I could have put another 100,000 miles on my older one almost for free. I’m putting a good many additional miles on my truck right now by ferrying friends to pick up their much newer vehicles at dealerships or repair shops. Their rides seem to break down pretty often and require a lot of pampering.

I splurged the other day and put a nice new arm rest cover on the driver’s side. The original one’s leather was torn, its foam disintegrating, its wooden “bone” about to poke through.

When my long-ago first love F-150 (blue, five-speed on the floor, short bed) needed a new arm rest, I carved and varnished one from an ancient bois d’arc tree on my grandparents’ old Robert Lee home place. It wasn’t soft, but it looked cool. This time, I went with a posh original-equipment-looking new one. I learned a few installation tricks, literally mostly by mistake, but it looks good.

So I admit that there’s a time for “new.” New years, even. And the time will come when God himself says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Already, He promises to those who trust Him new hope, new peace, new mercy and grace, new life. Why? Because it’s been paid for by His Son.

For my truck, an arm rest worth of new is new enough for now.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


January Is a Good Time for Looking in Both Directions

Well, here we find ourselves again in January, and maybe some reflection is in order.

On the one hand, author Thomas Mann is right: “Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.” So a new year? January? Big deal.

On the other hand, I’m always a little surprised when 12:01 a.m. of the new year rolls around and there’s not even any perceptible “bump” indicating that our wheels have run over a chronological curb. Even so, the seasons of the year each do have a discernible character, and I like that.

I like seasons, and I like living in a place where weather-wise, they are pretty obvious. It’s strange. I don’t tend to like change, but I like the changing seasons. I particularly like the fact that there is so very little change each year in the way that they invariably change. I like the particular character with which the Creator has endowed each season, and winter just might be my favorite.

I know nothing about Edith Sitwell, but I think she captures for me winter’s winsomeness: “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

There it is: “the time for home.” I like that.

One of my sons recently reflected on the time our family had together at Christmas, and what he said delighted me and may well have been the best Christmas gift I received. He said, “You know, it was really nice to be home. You and Mom have made it a really enjoyable place to be, and that’s true for all of us, from the little ones to all the rest.” I love that, and am immensely thankful for it!

Home matters to me, and there is no place I’d rather be.  Maybe that’s why I can think of nothing better (as long as the cupboard is full and there are some good books, old movies, and firewood available), than being snowed in for a few wonderful days. The only way, it seems to me, that we ever have anything much worthwhile to offer to the loud and bustling world outside is when we spend enough quiet and rich time inside, being gently reminded of who we are and Whose we are. That’s true of our homes, I think, and I believe it’s also true of our minds and our spirits.

January gets its name from the Roman god Janus who was depicted on Roman coins as two-headed, looking both ways, backward and forward.  He was the keeper of gates and doors.

Wisdom lies in spending the right amount of time looking in both directions. God is still the Lord of both our “coming in” and our “going out.” He is the God of all times, all seasons, both “now and for evermore” (Psalm 121:8).

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


%d bloggers like this: