Tag Archives: change

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.

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“Your Identity Remains Unchanged”

 

cup-grandkids

An e-mail subject line just caught me by surprise: “Your identity remains unchanged.”

Really? I guess that’s good to know. I’ve wondered.

How much does a person’s identity change over the years? How much of who we really are is changed simply by the accumulation of years and experience? How much of our genuine identity is changed just by making the journey across life’s mountaintops and through its valleys, as we’re lifted up by deep joys and disheartened by deep sorrows? How much is just rubbed down or polished smooth by the day-to-day relentless tumbling of the sand grains of the years? What’s eroded and lost? What’s brightened and beautified? What will be left and how will it have been changed?

How much of what makes me “me” changes not much at all? How much would be almost unrecognizable to someone who knew the long-ago “me”?

I just picked up my coffee mug. (I’m not so foolhardy as to try to write without coffee.) Looking at my grandkids’ sweet photo on that cup, I fervently want to believe—I do pray—that the sweetness of those spirits, the pure laughter, and the sparkle in the eyes, will still be there when the years have piled up and they’re playing with their own grandkids and savoring sweet smiles and laughter and joy, and when they’re praying the prayer I pray right now that the kernel of that beauty and joy is something that grows and deepens over the years and never becomes lost or twisted or marred.

We are not our bodies, even though we have them. Yet even the ways our physical bodies change, but remain the same, is mind-boggling. As others have eloquently noted, our bodies are like waterfalls. The cells that make them are always changing, but the DNA inside ensures that though we’re changed by age and the cells we have are not the ones we started with, we have the “same” bodies. Amazing.

How much more mysterious is the soul, the part of each of us that makes us unique creations of God? As a Christian, I believe that God’s Spirit living inside us as we’re submitted to Him, continually cleanses our spirits, renews us, re-makes us, refreshes us, re-creates us into the persons He would have us be. And in mystery and in joy, as He molds us ever more deeply into His image, we become increasingly our truest “selves.”

I have far more questions than answers here. But I think the answer, deeply mysterious and filled with joy, is that for me to become more fully the self God made me to be is to find my identity in the One whose identity never changes.

By the way, that e-mail note was from a company supposed to keep me safe from identity theft. I now see that it said, “Your identity information is unchanged.”

If what I’ve just written is true, the worst identity thief is not a human one. And the Creator and Protector of my true identity is Divine.

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!
Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Crowing Roosters, Chiming Bells, and Change

crowing roosterI woke up in my Key grandparents’ old house in Robert Lee, Texas, this morning. My maternal grandparents had the good sense to live here all of their lives. A couple of times a year, for over thirty years, my brothers and I have gathered here, a gaggle of pastoral Shelburnes somewhat off-duty.

I like to wake up here, even though the rooster who lives across the “patch” could use a short “For Dummies” course on “Ways and Means of Knowing When the Sun Actually Rises.” His vocal apparatus could do with a little lubrication, too. But I’ve grown fond of him. Roosters crow in all sorts of places, but whenever I hear one announcing a new day, I think of Robert Lee.

I like that, too, by the way. The name itself and the venerable general. You don’t have to learn much about General Lee to figure out that he was one of the finest men this land of ours ever produced (ironically, I’d argue that Lincoln and Lee were very close together up near the top of that list).

I stopped for just a moment here to listen to church chimes. So far, I’ve only heard the hour, which is chime enough this early. I hope that later they also launch into some beautiful hymns, as they’ve done for decades. There’s been a “changing of the chime guard” church-wise. We’ll see if the new chimers have the great taste in hymns the old ones did.

I’m not interested in providing ammo for any “worship wars.” There’s plenty of room in worship for high quality hymns and high quality “praise songs,” and followers of a crucified Lord should be thankful for an opportunity to crucify their own desires occasionally by singing a song that blesses someone else.

But wisdom is called for. There’s a right time and place for a variety of songs to be sung or played. Maybe in a difficult time even “You’re the Hang-nail of My Life” or “Thank God and Greyhound She’s Gone” might be sung with deep feeling, but not at church, please.

Seriously, it’s not just a taste thing. One of Charles Wesley’s or Fanny Crosby’s songs is truly more spiritually valuable than, say, one of the “poor pitiful me” Depression-era tunes. One verse of “Crown Him With Many Crowns” or “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” is salve to a soul rendered anorexic by a diet of camp songs of 27 verses (Trinitarian though they may be with the words “love,” “joy,” and “adore” shifted in and out.) Ah, but don’t forget the beautifully meaningful modern stuff like “How Deep the Father’s Love” and “As the Deer.” They’ll stand the test of time and enrich our souls when the thin stuff has long since faded away. Sometime we need a swim in deep water and shallow just won’t do. Sometimes we need to praise God and not just praise praise.

Uh oh. That’s a fine Christmas hymn the bells are chiming. But it’s April. Some fine-tuning may be needed.

One great old hymn reminds us, “Change and decay all around we see,” but then points us to the One who does not change. I see plenty of evidence of change and decay around me this morning, but some combination of good memories, crowing roosters, and chiming bells, and the fact that I don’t wake up here every day seems to help me focus here in a special way on the One who does not change.

  

Copyright 2013 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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