Tag Archives: seasons

“A Time to Mow, a Time to Rake, a Time to Shovel, and a Time to Sow”

 

Well, here we go again.

I’m talking about firing up the lawn machines, mowing, trimming, fertilizing, weed-spraying, weed-eating, weed-picking, and the whole nine yards of yard and lawn care.

Actually, in my part of the country, we’ve been moving slowly back into mowing for at least a month. An April 29th snow which, I admit, I had hoped might slow the grass down a bit, didn’t much.

Friends in lower altitudes/swamps or other areas that spend most of the year garbed in green, or friends with yards the size of postage stamps, or, on the other hand, friends whose yards are the size of Rhode Island or a mid-sized Texas ranch, will have little sympathy for me.

If you can trim your yard in fifteen minutes, or if you’re sentenced by your geography to mow your massive estate twice a week in the summer, you’ll not likely shed many tears for a guy who grinches about having to mow once a week when the grass is really ginnin’.

I’m not looking for sympathy. I actually like seasons. And I like living in a place where we have four of them that are generally distinct. I admit that the more time the grass spends under snow, out of sight and out of my mind in the winter, the better I like it. I’d much rather ski over snow than mow over grass. But I’m fond of green, growing stuff (except dandelions and crab grass); I’m just happy that here grass—and weeds—take a few months off.

In my better moments, I even like mowing. A little. Sometimes. In my work, I get to visit with plenty of folks who’d absolutely love to be healthy enough to mow. That gives some perspective when I’m out cursing one hill in my yard that’s been trying to mow me under or break my ankles for thirty years.

I will also admit that chasing a mower over 10,000 square feet of grass seems a more productive exercise to me than chasing my tail in gerbil-like fashion down the belt of a treadmill. (I particularly despise lining up on those things with a bunch of other waddling gerbils.) I also like the fact that my cell phone is in the house when the mower and I are out in the yard. So mowing is not without some benefits.

My mother was a yard person. Well, actually, she was a gardening person. She was not averse at all to tackling lawn mowing chores, but she was more of a plant artist. I inherited her love of green things but not her ability. (I think my younger brother got more of her gardening gene.) Still, I try. I plant plants. About half live a normal plant lifespan.

Mom spent decades growing really pretty plants in the High Plains where ice in the winter, drought in the summer, and wind most of the year around all conspire to kill vegetation. But she was more than equal to the challenge. Then we moved to Houston and Mom got a canvas worthy of her ability. While she was there, it was beautiful. Ten minutes after she was gone, it reverted to swamp.

But in God’s economy no genuine beauty is ever wasted or irrevocably lost. I can hardly wait to see what God grows and lets us help tend in the new heavens and new earth where the season for joy is forever.

 

     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.


“For Everything There Is a Season”

 

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Well, rats! My fire is out. I just looked up across the room and, no flame in the fireplace. A sad sight.

I confess, I laid the fire, lit the match, and quit paying attention. Instead of staring at the hearth, I was staring at a blank computer screen and wishing words would start appearing. Moments later, it seems, my fledgling fire fizzled.

A good fire in the fireplace is one of my favorite things. I like living in a place where we have real seasons, where fireplaces are not just decorative, and where I’m just a few hours away from the second most beautiful thing in nature: mountains. The first? Snow, of course. The fact that the two so often go together is nature tipping her hat in a dance of glorious gratitude to her Creator. (No, I don’t have cattle. If I did, my love of snow might be modified.)

Fact is, it’s been a wimpy winter. Sub-zero cold a few nights, yes, but otherwise puny. And don’t broadcast this, but as much as I love Sunday worship and as seriously as I believe that Christians who claim to be serious about Christ ought to try being serious about being in church . . . I always feel like any winter where we don’t get snowed out of Sunday morning church once during the season is a weak winter indeed.

I figure church-going folks like me who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their church attendance ought to get an opportunity on one Sunday a year to stay home and relax (in front of a fire) like non-church-going folks who are tempted to be religiously hypocritical about their nonattendance. No hypocrites (that’s all of us at times) are harmed in this once-a-year civilized exchange. And I could hardly be more thankful for our usual one Sunday a winter snow day. (If you think this shows I’m not religious enough to be a preacher, you’ll get no quarrel from me.) But the Lord who said, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” is neither the sort of Pharisee nor the sort of kill-joy who will begrudge us a snowy sabbatical.

Alas, no snow. The snow dragon that my grandkids know is hibernating under our front yard won’t get to rear his head this year. But even on a better year, snow melts, trees and lights get packed away, and winter bids adieu as some other sweet seasons swing onto the stage.

I know I’m living on borrowed time this year fire-wise. Oh, we’ll still have a cold spell. Count on it. At least one. A late one that fritzes foolish fruit trees. An Easter sunrise service where the sun rises but the mercury in the thermometer forgets to is not that unusual. And I remember a mid-March road-closing due to snow blowing across the highway so thick you couldn’t see. Even in spring, winter will get in a parting shot.

But, no doubt, it won’t be long until my wife issues her annual edict and the decorative candles slide back in where once roaring flames lived and danced and delighted my soul.

God’s age-old wisdom is that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3). I figure that includes snow and green grass and birdies and falling leaves and . . .

Thank God for the beauty of them all!

 

     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.


“How Little We Know” Is Well Worth Knowing

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Not long ago, one of my favorite columnists, George Will, wrote a column about his favorite columnist, William Zinsser.

Zinsser died last year at the age of 92, an amazingly accomplished writer, editor, and teacher. He was literally the man who wrote the book on writing well. On Writing Well has sold over 1.5 million copies.

If Will liked Zinsser, I figured I would, too. But I was sure of it after I read Zinsser’s essay on “postmodernism” (in a fine collection of his essays entitled The Writer Who Stayed). He titles it, “Goodbye and Don’t Come Back.”

Among my wide variety of valued friends are some who like to hang out, drink coffee, and discuss such topics as “postmodernism.” I suspect that most of the friends in that group are, like me, blessed to also have a good many friends who don’t know postmodernism from post nasal drip. If you talk about such topics too much, they’ll yawn, excuse themselves, and go mow their lawns or balance their checkbooks, thus accomplishing something of more lasting value than most folks who sit around discussing postmodernism.

Zinsser could tell you about postmodernism. He ran in circles where they’ve been talking about it for forty years. But he tired of all the prattling, probably partly because he spent his life teaching folks to write well, and that means learning to recognize slippery words and vapid thinking.

Zinsser says he looked for a definition of “postmodernism,” but the definition was more slippery than the concept. When the definition-writer used the word “problematization,” Zinsser cringed and tuned out.

He also experienced problematization with the term itself. (I couldn’t resist.) He felt sure the “moment” for post-modernism was long over, but he didn’t remember “anyone telling it to go away.” And he asked, risking annoying people who put up with slimy words, how can you ever put it out the door? If “modern” is past, how long is “post”-modern supposed to last? “The word floats in a vast sea of postness.”

Zinsser reckons that post-modernism was born in 1970. It died, he says, on the morning of September 11, 2001.

“At heart,” he writes, “‘postmodernism’ was unkind. But nobody really cared because everyone was so clever. Everyone who mattered knew everything. Then came 9/11 and nobody knew anything.”

Postmodernism aside, I like Zinsser’s writing. The best way to learn to write well is by reading folks who do.

Now, after some more coffee, I need to go mow the yard. But before I do, I might just mention that it’s worthwhile to keep a good eye open to try to understand something about the “times and the seasons” of our world and discern what is real, what is a passing fad, and what is something in between.

But to do that well means keeping both eyes focused on the One in whom there is “no shadow due to change,” who holds time itself in His hand, and who can handle all of our “times.” Compared to Him, nobody knows anything. And how little we know is well worth knowing. Always and even post-always.

 

     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.


The Owner’s Manual for Life: Refer to the Son

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I like seasons, and I’m particularly pleased to live in a place where the seasons are distinctly different. Lest I’m ever accused of being less than politically correct, I hereby affirm that I’m in love with seasonal diversity.

I will say, though, that as much as I like green growing things, I find that grass with snow on top of it is a lot less trouble than the fast-growing stuff. I much prefer skiing to mowing. But ’tain’t the season for skis. They’re shoved lovingly under the bed. The lawn mower is now oiled up. And—I do like this part!—the barbecue grill is ready to go.

That took a little doing this year. When I opened the grill a few weeks ago, stuff started falling off the lid. Rusty stuff. I frugally figured I’d just clean it up, replace some parts, and grill right on. Then I touched a burner pipe. It fell apart. Along with a few burner covers and a grate or two. Okay, more parts required.

But when I put the pencil to it and pondered the engineering necessary to install a few of the new parts, the answer was obvious: “Do Not Resuscitate.” Attempts otherwise would be, to change the metaphor, “perfume on a pig.”

So . . . a new grill. Same brand. Same configuration. Dual gas/charcoal. This time I ponied up for the optional “smoke box” and, with scenes of rust fresh in my mind, also purchased a grill cover.

The nice lady at the store asked if I’d like one already assembled, mentioning with a tired look that it took her two days to put hers together. I was tempted. But such is not the Shelburne way. If something later malfunctions, an explosion ensues, and I make an ash of myself, I’d like to have the satisfaction of knowing that I was the one who blew it. Up, that is.

Assembly did not take me two days. But it did take 33 steps.

The grill was manufactured in China, but the company is obviously owned by somebody with barbecue credentials. And, contrary to what we’ve come to expect, they were smart enough to hire instruction writers who are fluent in English. I even smiled when I saw a label on the smoke stacks: “If you can see this, you’ve put this together wrong. This goes inside.” I’d have felt even more at home and akin to the company owners if it’d said, “Whoa, Pard! If yer readin’ this, that dog won’t hunt! Ya just backed the cow out of the barn south-side first. Try ’er agin!”

Of course, the instructions include the usual lawyer litter. I’m not supposed to attempt putting this together if I’m missing any of my parts. Also, I’m supposed to perform a spray water/detergent leak test every time I light this thing. Right. If you hear of my incineration, you’ll know I forgot. But I’m assured that noticing some smoke is normal.

The Owner’s Manual for our lives is more straightforward. The Author pretty much brings it all down to this: If you have any questions about how your life should be assembled, just look at my Son.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


The Seasons Change, But the Lord of the Seasons Does Not

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Seasons. I love living in a place where we get them all. (Altitude. That’s the ticket to ride if you want all four full on.)

I’m unrepentantly partial to the one that includes roaring fires, snow, and Christmas. But each holds its own particular hue and beauty, and I’m on mostly good terms with them all.

Seasons come. Seasons go. No surprise. But the changing colors, varying for each of us within the changing seasons, do surprise me a bit. It’s not just winter or summer or . . . It’s that particular time in winter or summer when you and yours . . .

I know what to expect, for example, as autumn gives way to winter. The candles lit too rarely residing “off-season” in the fireplace feebly reminding us that it is a place for fire, are pushed aside, packed up, and put away as wicks give way to logs and flickers give way to blazes. Every year in front of the hearth I celebrate as the fireplace gets down to the business God intended.

I’m more than willing to croon a tune in any season, but December brings the best opportunities to sing the best songs and make a little music particularly in step with His. Singing and joy are gifts of God all wrapped up together and never more beautifully than when we celebrate the Gift.

So in December, I sing and sing and . . . as we get further into the season, services multiply, preparatory candles are lit, hope and expectations rise up anew as (I always hope) snow falls down, the gifts pile up around the tree, and then, for me, a candlelight service or two, and Christmas Day, and suddenly, even as the twelve days are adding up, a bit of a new season comes within the season.

And that’s where I find myself, as I’m writing on this fifth day of Christmas. It’s deliciously cold. One good breath of air will remind you that you’re alive, and the smell of the burning oak and pinion makes you glad that you are. The kids and grandkids are coming in a few days, so gifts are still piled around the tree. The Christmas train at the tree’s base is becalmed by a blizzard of presents, but the grandkids will soon dig it out. And some good Methodist friends and colleagues who know about the twelve days of Christmas will, ere long, give me one more chance to sing its songs and help me gently tuck this season into bed yet again.

The task, I think, is to learn to let the Lord lead us into each season, and the seasons within them, with open hands and hearts, to learn their lessons anew, to savor their particular joys, and, on a more somber note, to hold on to his hope as we (not often, I pray) pass through dark times within some seasons that seem completely bereft of warmth. Winters of that sort no one likes, but—Lord, help us believe it when we can’t feel it—even their dark cold is no match for his warm light; one day it will be banished forever.

The seasons, the years, change. But walking with us through each season and every time within it, is the One who does not change. Thank God indeed!

 

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

 

Copyright 2015 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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