Tag Archives: gratitude

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.

 

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Father Tim Kavanagh and Thanksgiving

I’ve been enjoying re-reading Jan Karon’s books set in Mitford, North Carolina, centering on the life and ministry of the community’s Episcopal priest, Father Tim Kavanagh.

I like Father Tim. My wife goes farther: she says I am Father Tim. My wife is usually right, but she’s wrong on this one. Father Tim is a much better pastor and a much nicer fellow than the preacher my wife lives with. But nonetheless it does me good to spend time with the kind rector, and I’m usually more pastoral and a little nicer after I’ve done so.

I wouldn’t deny that a few similarities do exist between us, Father Tim and me.

Mitford is a small town of the “great place to live” variety. Muleshoe is in exactly that category. Father Tim has discovered that the very best (and by far the largest) part of America is the small town part. I couldn’t agree more.

Mitford is set in the “high green hills” of North Carolina. Muleshoe is set in the high brown plains of West Texas. Hmm.

Father Tim has discovered that you can truly and meaningfully touch just as many lives in a small church/small town setting as you can in a large city/mega-church setting. Maybe more. I agree.

Father Tim is the kind of guy who would rather spend thirty minutes with the “real” guys at the local coffee shop than five minutes with the “plastic” big business/big politics/big shots (in general) of our society. Absolutely.

Father Tim has a great church secretary full-time who does a great job and doesn’t mind telling him how “the cow ate the cabbage” and keeping him in line. I’ve got one of those, too, but she can do the job in one day a week.

Father Tim has a great dog. For lots of years, I had one of those. His dog is pacified by the reading of Scripture or 18th-century English poets. I never needed to try that. Like her master, the best thing Maddie did was sleep.

Father Tim has a polite little motor scooter. I’ve got a man-sized machine with air intakes and pipes that opened wide will suck in and spit out neighborhood pets from three doors down. (The similarity is that both machines have two wheels.)

Father Tim has been described as “bookish.” Ditto, and that’s a compliment. Our society desperately needs folks who read more and spout off less. But I don’t read enough.

Father Tim esteems C. S. Lewis and Winston Churchill as among his heroes. Well, of course.

Yes, there are some similarities. But Father Tim is, I repeat, a much nicer guy, better pastor, and finer human being than am I.

As I spent some time with him recently, I was struck by the notes he’d jotted in his sermon notebook on “thanksgiving” and another quotation or two he recalled.

Oswald Chambers: “We look for visions of heaven, and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts he has in store for us because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. . . .” Looking for the “highest good,” we “deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, . . . Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things.”

I’m pretty sure Father Tim’s Thanksgiving sermon was better than mine.

 

 

     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.


Thanksgiving: A Time for Giving Thought to Gratitude

“The worst moment for an atheist,” writes G. K. Chesterton, “is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.”

Though any season is a great time for gratitude, Thanksgiving certainly lends itself at least to some thinking about the subject whether we’re believers, agnostics, atheists, or anything-else-ists.

Even an unusually intelligent golden retriever might do well to ponder on Thanksgiving morning the fact that somebody makes sure that food shows up in his bowl and water in his dish (and, well, for goodness’ sakes, what a nice meaty bone! Wonder what’s the occasion? Woof!). At least a little wag of the tail might be in order, I’d think, and I’m betting it would be more than a little one, since dogs seem to know instinctively that tail wags and gratitude are not items they need to hoard lest they run short.

More than “man’s best friend,” humans have, it seems to me, both a higher responsibility to think and to thank, and a much more serious temptation not to.

I’m told that the word “thank” comes from an older word related to “think.” And, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “thank” is “related phonetically to ‘think’ as ‘song’ is to ‘sing.’” So it would seem that even a very little thinking on our part would issue in “a profound sense of gratitude” and a great deal of thanksgiving. Our hearts really do have a song they should be singing, a song of thanksgiving! “Count Your Many Blessings” was a far better song title than “Think and You’ll Be Thanking,” but it really does come to the same thing.

What’s ironic here, and worth noting, is that those of us who seem to have the biggest boatload of blessings are often the very folks who are least likely to be genuinely thankful. Our “thanking” often suffers because our thinking is snotty, shoddy, and fatally flawed.

We tend to think that anyone else who has worked as hard as we have would naturally have as many blessings as we do.

We tend to think that anyone with a corresponding level of intelligence could certainly have made the same sorts of wise or profitable life or business decisions we’ve made.

We tend to think, though I hope we’d not say it, that we’re a “cut above” average and thus more deserving than others. When we say “blessings,” we mean something more akin to “wages, benefits, or dividends.”

We tend to forget how much we have that no one can possibly earn.

We tend to forget about inconvenient items that no one can control such as bad genetics or pesky microbes or crazily dividing cells or hurricanes or dictators or senseless crimes or market meltdowns—and so much more.

Healthy, happy, and more than well fed, it’s good that we’ve not bought into the self-defeating victim mentality that is such a scourge in our society, but buying into the “I’m my own god” mentality is just as deadly to genuine gratitude—and to our souls. We’ve not created a single breath of our own air or spun this world an inch, much less given ourselves life.

It’s a good time to do some good thinking and thus to be moved to lots of thanking. Most of all, it’s a good time to genuinely thank God and try not to confuse him with the dim-witted pseudo-deity under our own hat.

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Genuine Happiness Is Never Found By Focusing on Self

 

One In C. S. Lewis’ account of his early life, Surprised by Joy, Lewis begins by writing about the two family strains that had come together to give him life. On his father’s side . . .

By the way, Dr. J. D. Grey, for many years pastor of New Orleans’ First Baptist Church, used to tell the story of a little lad who lived a long way from his paternal grandmother. When the boy went with his father to the railway station to pick her up, she hugged him and said, “Young man, I’m your grandmother on your father’s side.” To which the lad replied, “That may be, but you won’t be in the house ten minutes before you figure out that you’re on the wrong side!”

On his father’s side, Lewis descended from Welshmen: “sentimental, passionate, and rhetorical, easily moved both to anger and to tenderness; men who laughed and cried a great deal and who had not much of the talent for happiness.”

Lewis’ mother, however, like her family, was a woman of “cheerful and tranquil affection.” Her people “had the talent for happiness in a high degree” and “went straight for it as experienced travelers go for the best seat in a train.”

You’ve probably noticed long ago that not only is not everyone happy, a good many folks seem to possess little or no “talent” for happiness at all.

I don’t mean to be cynical, and I don’t think I’m telling you something you don’t already know, but you probably can’t make unhappy folks happy no matter what you do, and I suspect it’s unwise to waste too much time trying.

Some folks are unhappy at work. They’re unhappy at school. They’re unhappy at the Little League park. They’re unhappy at the grocery store, at the church, at the bank, and at the barber shop. See a pattern?

The sad fact is that unhappy people tend to spread their unhappiness like chicken pox in a kindergarten class; it seems to be a sad law that unhappy people never seem closer to a twisted sort of happiness than when they’re busy making other people unhappy. Misery does indeed love company.

Until unhappy folks make a decision to be happy, they won’t be. Not only can you not make them happy, if you spend a good bit of your time trying, you will only succeed in becoming the unhappiest of all. Even if you get a little fleeting smile out of them if you stand on your head and stack a dozen or so BBs on your nose, they’ll suddenly remember that they knew somebody back in Kansas who was able to do the same thing except he stacked two dozen BBs in the air sideways while singing “Climb Every Mountain.”

People who want to be unhappy almost certainly will be. So what to do?

Be sure you’re not one of them. (Focusing on Christ and on others and on your blessings and not on your own navel will go a long way toward producing happiness under your own hat.) Love them by behaving in Christlike ways toward them. Pray for them. Model thankful and joyful living as you thank God with every breath that he has taught you how to find happiness by focusing outside yourself.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Warning: Grumble at Your Own Risk

 

 

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Grumbling is risky business.

Of course, like any temptation, it feels good at the moment we fall to it. The act of grumbling stokes the fires of our sinful pride. It also stokes the fires of hell—the one hereafter and the one we may be creating here and now.

Aside from the fact that we’re flirting with spiritual suicide when we play with this powerful poison, grumbling feels good to us because grumbling is by its very nature a complaint against “The Management.” It implies a superiority of intelligence or dedication or proficiency over a group or person—be it a boss or governing body or organization or business or colleague or coworker or family member, or . . .  Whether he says it or not, and he probably does, the grumbler is loudly implying, “Why, if I was in charge, things would be better! What’s wrong with these idiots? Can’t they see . . .”

Grumbling’s poisonous and seductive appeal is heightened because it is so easy to do and, at the very same time, requires no positive action at all. When we grumble, we don’t have to bestir ourselves to do, well, anything but grumble. And, in fact, as we allow ourselves to enjoy the presently sweet poison of grumbling, the very last thing we want is for the situation or people we’re grumbling against to improve lest we, at least theoretically, have to quit grumbling.

And grumbling snowballs—not only in our own hearts as we fall to its seduction more and more often, but also in our society with others. Habitual and dedicated grumblers always attract a following because everyone enjoys the poisonous pleasure grumbling affords. We all like to feel superior to those in authority. We all like to complain and take no responsibility for doing anything constructive.

I’m at least as prone to grumbling as anyone, so I need to say it again—grumbling is risky business.

If we grumble often and long enough, we so twist, contort, and poison our souls that pretty much all that is left in us is a slimy, stinky, malignant  grumble where once resided a warm human heart.

Because he loves us, God hates grumbling. Evidence abounds, but stark testimony is found in Numbers 21. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites are fed up. Among other things, they’re fed up with manna! They’re tired of the “miserable food” they eat each morning. They’ve become finicky eaters complaining against the cook. I mean, The Cook, and his staff.

Both as punishment and as a way to save others from the infection, God wipes out a big bunch of grumblers.

When I catch myself grumbling, I need to heed the warning: Danger! Grumbling Is Very Risky Business. It easily spreads to all parts of our lives, and in the final analysis, “The Management” we grumble against is God.

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“If Everybody Had a Father Like I Had a Father . . .”

 

Shelburne Portrait

I wrote most of the words below less than twenty-four hours after I got word that the kindest, gentlest, strongest, and best man I have ever known had passed away. He was my father.

Though many thoughts were racing through my mind, I realized that, if everybody had a father like I had a father, well, lots would be different in this world.

As I’m writing now, on January 15, 2017, I realize that Dad would have been 104 today. And every day, I realize with even more gratitude to God how true these words were and are.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no child would ever have to walk out the door or crawl into bed wondering if his father loved and wanted him.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no child would ever go to bed worried that his father might not really love his mother.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no son or daughter would ever see his father raise his fist or even his voice in anger.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, no one would have to ask how it is possible to be strong and gentle, just and loving, all at the same time.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, nations would not fight nations, families would not fight families, and Christians would never fight Christians, because we would all rather be hurt than be hurtful. And the hurts that are part and parcel of human existence would never be hurts we inflicted upon each other.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, every child would grow up knowing that the way to real happiness is to love the Father of all and the Son who died to save us.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, every child would grow up knowing that, even with all the church’s imperfections, the Bride of Christ is still the finest family of all, and that in her warmth is found spiritual nourishment and fine fellowship and genuine love.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, good times would be even better and bad times would be more bearable, because of the unfailing love of our fathers.

If everybody had a father like I had a father, well, there would still be problems in this fallen world because we would all still be sons and daughters of our father Adam, too.

But if everyone had a father like I had a father, then everyone would grow up knowing a lot more what their Father God looks like and acts like and loves like.

If everyone had a father like I had a father, then everyone would know the Father’s love largely because of their father’s love.

If everyone had a father like I had a father, this world and life itself would be much, much better.

But if everyone had a father like I had a father, I might not know what a fine father I had. And, not knowing that, I might not know what a Father I have, and that the best Father of all is your Father, too.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Giving Thanks Is a Genuine Debt We Owe to God

 

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If we wish to absolutely insure that we will never be thankful people, that we will always be morose and bitter, self-centered and selfish, and utterly miserable, the very best way to successfully sabotage our own happiness is to always center on our own rights, avoiding any thought of our own responsibilities. Or, better yet, to center completely on our own rights and think incessantly about the responsibilities of others or society itself toward us.

Of course, as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve bearing a remarkable family resemblance to our First Parents, at least in their most negative characteristics, we have a long and sordid history of taking exactly the approach I’ve just mentioned. Adopting that sort of an attitude is incredibly easy in a society with magazines proudly emblazoning their bankrupt philosophy right along with their name, SELF, and where “Have it your way!” is at least as much a personal motto for many as it is a slogan for selling hamburgers.

When we think about it, well, maybe we shouldn’t be at all surprised that an attitude that is at heart completely selfish is the default mode for human beings who deny or ignore the Creator, all the while breathing His air but refusing or neglecting to bow to thank Him for it.

Ultimately, if we don’t give thanks specifically to God, well, whom do you thank? And why?

“It must be odd,” author Cornelius Platinga once observed, “to be thankful to no one in particular.”

If giving thanks is simply a matter of our picking and choosing a few folks or institutions to whom we’ll deign to be thankful for a few things . . .

If giving thanks is simply at heart the sort of personal preference and choice (like mayo or mustard on your burger; take it or leave it) we make out of our fine moral character and good upbringing, and the choice has no serious consequences . . .

If giving thanks is anything less than the very real and genuine debt we creatures properly owe to our loving and powerful Creator . . .

Well, then I can easily see why we would spend most of our time thinking about the rights, privileges, and stuff we somehow “deserve” rather than the thanksgiving we owe to God.

If we adopt that attitude, and if we think of God at all, we’ll think of him either as a heavenly slot machine mechanically dispensing the good things we deserve or, when things don’t go our way, as the One to whom we can address all of our complaints and grumbles.

But Christians should know better. We serve a King who laid aside all of his rights and lowered himself even to die so that we might have the blessings of sons and daughters of Heaven. Dare we talk about our rights and grinch and grouse like ungrateful, immature, and churlish peasants?

No. Not in the presence of our all-loving and completely unselfish King.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


“May I Introduce You to Lancelot Andrewes?”

 

lancelot-andrewes

Lancelot Andrewes. Recognize the name? Probably not. But Lancelot Andrews (1555-1626) was Bishop of Winchester (Church of England), a member of the committee of scholars whose task it was to produce the King James Version of the Bible, and “probably contributed more to that work than any other single person.”

For the information above, and almost everything else in this column, I’m indebted to the very capable James Kiefer for his biographical sketch of Andrewes’ life.

Kiefer’s work shows up regularly in “The Daily Office from the Mission of St. Clare,” an online devotional site and mobile “app” based on the venerable Book of Common Prayer, the incredible centuries-old work whose words still find their way, whether we know it or not, into Shakespeare, into pretty much all traditional marriage ceremonies, into many, many of our church services, into many funerals, etc.

But that’s another story. Suffice it to say here that the BCP is a devotional, liturgical, historical, and English treasure, originally published in 1549, sixty-two years before the King James Version was finished in 1611! I tend to gravitate toward the 1979 BCP revision, and I enjoy most the morning “Daily Office” which includes Scripture readings and prayers. I like the continuity, the discipline, and the knowledge that these are prayers Christians have prayed in worship and individually for, literally, centuries, along with, of course, reading the Scriptures given for each day. To the prayers, I add my own on the days I use this resource (and I don’t every day; the flesh is weak, and I’m a lousy example for daily devotional-keeping).

All of the above to explain where I found the information on Lancelot Andrewes, who, Kiefer writes, was “a master of English prose, and learned in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and eighteen other languages.” But particularly fascinating to me are some excerpts from Andrewes’ personal notebook of “Private Prayers,” published after his death.

The words and “order” of his devotions are beautiful and, no surprise, seem “formal” to us, words affirming faith, confessing sin, rendering praise. But I especially like his many and varied simple words of “thanksgiving” for life, rationality, citizenship, education, gifts of grace, “calling, recalling, and further recalling,” “longsuffering towards me,” for hope, for the “fruition of good things to come,” “for parents honest and good,” for “teachers gentle,” and “colleagues likeminded,” “hearers attentive,” “friends sincere,”  “for all who have stood me in good stead by their writings, their sermons, conversations, prayers, examples, rebukes,” and even “wrongs.”

As he closes, he wonders how he can adequately give thanks to God for all His benefits. And he ends with, “Holy, holy, holy,” praising the eternal God who “hast created all things” and for whose “pleasure they are and were created.”

I love this glimpse into the private devotions of a “long-ago-gone-on” father of our faith who blessed and still blesses God’s people in ways he might never have dreamed. May God continue to multiply the blessings, large and small, of lives lived for Him.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Praise the Lord, O My Soul!”

 

psalms

If life, this world, the universe itself, and all that is most beautiful and joyful in them, from the warm hugs of your three-year-old to breathtaking vistas across snow-capped mountains, from the gurgling laughter of a mountain stream to red-washed Mars winking across the night sky at twinkling Jupiter . . .

If all of that and immeasurably more—still astoundingly beautiful even in this fallen, sin-twisted, and often tear-stained world—is the gift of a loving Creator and not just a cosmic accident, then surely he is worthy of our highest praise.

And for those whose deepest desire is to praise God, the wisdom and experience of generations of our King’s people point to one place above all others: the Psalms.

The Psalms, poems written to be sung to God’s praise, express every human emotion and lift the souls of “even small-scale, earthbound creatures such as us” to the Creator, musical praise ringing, as Professor N. T. Wright says, “around the rafters” of the heart’s cathedral that we “could not otherwise reach” (The Case for the Psalms).

Interestingly, the biblical picture of our Creator is not just of a God who is worthy of and desires our praise, it is of a God who knows full well that we are fashioned in such a way that we are never happier and more deeply contented and joy-filled than when we are praising the One who made us.

It is not, C. S. Lewis writes in Reflections on the Psalms, that God “needs” or “craves” our worship “like a vain woman wanting compliments” or “a vain author presenting his new books to people who never met or heard of him.” That would make even less sense, Lewis writes, than a silly author needing his dog to “bark approval” of his books. How much would such “praise” really be worth?

No, Lewis continues, the fact that God desires our praise is not in the least that he is a “silly” or “vain” Deity, it is that our Father knows that when we render gratitude for what is worthy of our praise—a sunset, a painting, a grand mountain—“the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment” and “our joy [is] no more separable from the praise . . . it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds.”

So, says Lewis, “Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

When the snaggle-toothed grandchild you adore smiles up at you, let your heart smile up to God and thank him for it, and that child’s smile becomes an even more joyful gift as it is colored and completed by praise.

When the psalmists invite us, time and again, “Praise the Lord, O my soul,” we’re being invited to a feast, a rich banquet that grows richer and more sumptuous the more we feed our souls on praise to the Master of the feast.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Commonplaces Never Become Tiresome”

 

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I was not particularly looking for wisdom when a friend and I walked into a Thai food restaurant; I was just looking for food. And I was trying to make sense out of a menu filled with genuine Thai cuisine. What I ended up eating was excellent, but I’m still wondering about one menu item that just sounded interesting.

Larb. L-A-R-B.

I still wonder what it is. A staple item in the Thai diet? A delicacy? The kind of thing a fellow just develops a taste for and says to his wife one evening after work, “Ya know, I could really go for a big bowl of larb right now! Man, that would hit the spot!”

I still don’t know what it is. I plan to try it. Might “Google” before I eat it.

But I think I already found a bit of wisdom. Right there on the wall of the restaurant.

Well, to be utterly truthful, it was on the wall of the restroom of the restaurant, a place where I surely wasn’t expecting to find any wisdom.

It was a quotation at the bottom of a Norman Rockwell print. The words were Rockwell’s words, which is what gave them even deeper meaning. Rockwell, arguably America’s most beloved artist, a man who succeeded in capturing on canvas the warm heart and the living soul of this nation, wrote this: “Commonplaces never become tiresome. It is we who become tired when we cease to be curious and appreciative. We find that it is not a new scene which is needed, but a new viewpoint.”

He is so right! Yes, there are times to take a trip, see new things, meet new people. But what most of us need far more is simply to open up our eyes to that which is beautiful and wonderful, joy-filled and life-giving, all around us every ordinary day in lots of ordinary places. Because, you see, there aren’t any simply “ordinary” days or “ordinary” places. And you never met an “ordinary” person. Our extraordinary God never created anything or anyone who was just “ordinary.”

The more I think about it, the more I realize that “commonplaces” are what God uses to make our lives uncommonly rich and interesting, and those who spurn them are poor no matter what their income.

The way your wife strokes your hand during a movie.

The giggles from the grandchild sitting on your lap as you’re singing a song together.

Early morning fog or a blanket of new snow creating a completely new world just outside your front door.

A clear, calm, crisp winter night and the smell of an oak fire warming the heart of a home.

The crackle of that fire in the hearth, its warmth on your back, and a book in your hand.

The taste of chocolate.

The easy laughter and good-natured joking of good friends.

Your favorite chair or your oldest pair of slippers.

Taking a snooze in the sun and realizing your dog is right about snoozes in the sun.

“Commonplaces never become tiresome.”

Thank God for them!

 

 

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

 

 

 

Copyright 2016 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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