Tag Archives: dreams

Grief: It Is a Very Large Word Indeed

Grief. It’s a far bigger word than we usually think.

Oh, we all know that it applies to the loss wrought by death as we’ve stood at the graveside of a loved one, smelled the flowers, felt the emptiness, and wondered how to face a world so suddenly changed.

And every day changes. We may think we’re doing, well, some better. At least, maybe making small steps in the right direction. And then we get up on the next day and find ourselves, it seems, having taken two, or twenty, steps backward.

Following the death of his wife, C. S. Lewis wrote of grief’s pervasiveness, “Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection . . . I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”

Grief seems to color everything. We long for the time to come when it isn’t the first thing that hits us in the face yet again each morning and the last thing we think of before we finally find sleep each night.

Such is so very true regarding death-induced grief.

But grief is spelled L-O-S-S, and loss comes in many bitter flavors.

Whatever dreams you had for your marriage, only your nightmares would have included the divorce that throttled those dreams.

Whatever your dreams for your child, well, only bad dreams included . . .

Your dreams for your business or profession were bright and optimistic and seemed real at the time, but . . .

Maybe you’d dreamed of traveling in retirement. And now? You are. Mostly to specialists and pharmacies.

In any of your dreams for the future, did these words figure in? Cancer. Addiction. Bankruptcy. Jail. Tragedy. Hurt. Disappointment. Depression.

Need I mention that those are not words you’ll ever lightly drop into a Christmas letter?

And by the way, in the midst of such loss is one that colors it all and may surprise you until we name it. But we need to name it. It’s the loss of control.

“I don’t know what to do about . . .”

“What now?”

“Here’s what needs to happen, but I can’t . . .”

“I have no clue what . . .”

“I can’t imagine how I’ll . . .”

The ship has already embarked. You’re in the midst of the sea and the storm. And the rudder has broken loose from the wheel.

Need I tell you? This is frightening. Worse, really. This is terrifying.

Will it help much if I point out that none of us was ever really in control anyway? That was largely an illusion.

But maybe it will help a little for us to consider where we actually might try to exert a little control. Maybe just in small moments at first. But in our attitudes. In our next footstep. In sincerely asking for help, for each of the ten thousand times we’ve asked and failed yet again to truly “cast our cares” on the Captain of our souls (and leave them there). He really does care for us, love us, more than we can imagine.

As deeply frightened as I often am on life’s sea, I believe that the “man of sorrows” really is “acquainted with” our grief in all of its forms. We can believe in and trust his willingness to “carry our sorrows.”

And, paradoxically, stronger and deeper, more real and pervasive than any of our genuine grief, is his joy. When all of our griefs and hot tears have faded away, his joy will remain for a thousand forevers.

 

     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.


“I Dreamed a Strange Dream”

 

Everybody dreams. Or so the sleep experts say.

I feel most refreshed when I wake up with no memory of dreaming during the night. I feel most exhausted when I had a bad or intensely frustrating dream, got up a time or two in the night, and each time was launched right back into the same past-midnight mess.

If I remember what I learned in some long-ago psychology class—maybe I just dreamed this—we all dream during sleep, but the only time we remember the dreams is when we wake up during them. And even then, as you know, they soon vanish like morning mist.

What do you make of the ones that don’t? The dreams that are particularly memorable, for good or ill?

Some are jumbles that make no sense at all. I chalk them up to fried jalapenos the night before. Some are pretty easily and obviously “interpreted.” Still, if a counselor or therapist tells you, “Oh, I know exactly what that means,” you need to fire them. He/she might have a suspicion, and depending upon how wise or crazy (that’s a technical psychological term) the professional is, might be on target. But a good one will ask the client, “Tell me, what do you think that might mean?” And they talk.

I’m just gonna talk to you. I’ll tell you my dream and then ask, “Tell me, what do you think that might mean?”

In a recent dream (it was a Saturday night, by the way), I was at a Christian church—Protestant, for sure, and Baptist, I think (choir behind me; flanked by piano and organ)—preaching at a weekend revival. That was the first problem; I’d rather be doing the music.

Second problem, it was a short revival. We’d gotten our wires crossed. For some weird reason, the bulletin said the local pastor was going to preach the Sunday morning sermon (no offense to him, I guess we were already supposed to be revived after Saturday), but there I was again, and he kindly asked me to preach. And things went south.

I’d misplaced my suit coat. Looked all over, but couldn’t find it. Oh, well. And I’d had a message prepared, but when my time came to bat, I couldn’t find that, either. For some reason, though, I had with me two large folders full of old sermon manuscripts.

So I rifled through, retrieved one, and homiletically launched out, not very sure of where I was going. An illustration started at the bottom of one page. I’d written it, but didn’t remember it. I confidently jumped into it anyway, fervently hoping that it was continued on the next page. Maybe it was. But, at some point, as I recall, the pages were blank. I was about to crash and burn, fly that sermon right into the ground. And it was “pilot error” for sure.

Ya never wanna do that. Not standing in a pulpit in front of a crowd. And, worse, I had a pastor brother and friend or two, excellent preachers, sitting in the back of the sanctuary.

Ah, well, a choir member or someone near the front suddenly had some sort of medical crisis. Attention was diverted, and that sermon is forever unfinished. Unless I have to give it another try tonight. I hope not.

Jalapenos? Quite likely.

Or am I just a small church pastor dealing with the same challenges most of my breed are dealing with these days? Stuff we feel (mostly irrationally) responsible for but can’t control. And I’m letting that bug me worse than I thought.

Eight-word sermon to me: God is in control. Now, sleep, fool! Amen.

 

 

    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 profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Real Joys Here Are Glimmers of Joy Hereafter

 

I once thought it was a bit strange that most of us think of “heaven” as being “up.” Since pretty much 100% of us who are still breathing (minus a few astronauts now pitifully reduced to hitch-hiking skyward with the Russians) live on a round planet, how can a place called “Heaven” be up for all citizens of this globe?

Now I’m a little embarrassed by the lack of biblical/theological understanding my perplexity betrayed. My ignorance on the subject is still vast, and unlikely to be cured much in the two hours I have before this column is due (the cure for ignorance is reading, and that takes some time). But I think I know a smidgeon more about the matter now than I once did.

Why should I have been surprised that most of us think of heaven as being “up”? The “heavens,” as in “the sky and the celestial objects hung there” are always for all of us here quite literally “up.”

And now, when I think of “heaven,” as in Heaven, I’m thinking less in terms of geography, earthly or celestial, and more in terms of what the Bible writers tantalizingly refer to as “the new heaven(s) and the new earth.” I’m trusting that our God, the Master Builder and Great Architect, the Consummate Artist and only True Creator, has at his side a palette of color and beauty and even dimensions dwarfing our accustomed three.

I don’t pretend to understand exactly what our Father is preparing for his children, but the hints and metaphors he has scattered around in his written revelation glitter like flecks of gold inviting us to dig deeper, live more joyfully, and with a purer longing for the completely unalloyed Joy found in God’s eternal Presence. As C. S. Lewis, drawing on Plato, reminds us, it’s not less real than the “heavens” we see here; it is far more real.

We can be sure that the essence of all that is truly good and joyful here will be found there, magnified a gazillion times. What do you love most purely, deeply, and joyfully here? None of what makes that truly joyful will be lost; it will be forever found and experienced completely.

Here everything from the color of the sunset, to the hugs of your little ones, to the smell of coffee, to the warmth of a well-laid fire in the hearth, to the sunbeams splashing through mountain aspens, to whatever you truly love that is good, be it great or small, brings genuine joy. That joy is real and beautiful and created by our Father to be received by his children with open hands and thankful hearts.

But the deepest joys we ever experience here are penlight joys compared to the full sun of Joy that awaits. Here such Joy would be too much for us, like trying to route Victoria Falls through a half-inch plastic pipe.

But our Creator is preparing a place for us, and preparing us for that place, where the unceasing torrents of cascading Joy washing over us lift us up to everlasting praise and complete fulfillment, utter contentment, and genuine life that here is only a fraction of the stuff of our best and highest dreams.

We won’t have to wait and dream there. Shadows will have given way to real, unfiltered, and eternal Joy.

 

 

 

Copyright 2012 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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