Tag Archives: silence

“It’s Almost Never Wise to Trust a Mob”

Mobs. I never have cared much for them.

Personality—mine, that is—explains part of this. I’m not particularly freaked out by large crowds, I just don’t enjoy them and am happy to avoid them. It’s not a phobia. (“Enochlophobia” is “fear of crowds,” I’m told.) It’s a dislike.

I don’t enjoy what often seems mindless and is most certainly loud, and those two features tend to cluster around big crowds like flies around a dung heap. Peace is good. Quiet is precious. And the sounds we choose to fill our lives with (when we have a choice; we often don’t) should be an improvement over silence. (I wonder about a society that is afraid of silence, but that’s another subject.)

We’re told repeatedly in Scripture that Jesus often went out by himself to pray. Even God’s Son needed some time away from the ever-present and always needy crowds, which leads me to think that we might need some, too.

I like the music metaphor. Notes only have meaning and beauty because of the space between them.

To have something to say when we speak, we need some quiet time when we don’t have to speak. To be able to nurture others, we need souls able to go deep and fill up in the quiet. To pray. To read. To think. To breathe.

The time will come soon enough when we’re back in the crowd. Maybe if beforehand we’re still and quiet enough, we’ll have something worth sharing and a soul God-built strong enough in the silence to handle the soul-stifling noise that so often assails us.

All to say, crowds can be loud. Ah, but here’s a question for you: what’s the difference between a crowd and a mob? Let’s think quietly for a moment.

Well, not every crowd is a mob. Crowds may be loud; mobs are louder. But mobs are not just particularly loud crowds; they’re not even just mindless, frenzied crowds. (Those are called “fans.” Sorry.)

Mobs are crowds on steroids, including all the side effects. Mobs are loud, fickle, and downright dangerous. You see, even if their “cause” is not an inherently bad one, a mob is much more quickly described as “angry” than a simple crowd might be. “Deep anger” multiplied by “many folks” is gasoline just waiting for a spark.

Granted, it’s not impossible for a mob to begin with some “righteous” indignation. But it easily becomes just indignation and soon slides right on down into anger.

Some mob members are professional complainers and like nothing better than a good riot; they are misbehaving malcontents of the sort our national media loves to spotlight. People with sense who are not spoiled brats or professional victims, folks whose parents raised them to value civility, are in greater supply but are usually a lot quieter and, being generally occupied with worthwhile duties and pursuits, are less likely to be photographed shouting and with fists in the air.

I know. Some protests are worthy. I’m thankful and humbled when people who love freedom raise their voices together courageously to speak truth to Communist thugs or other dictators for whom truth is deadlier than bullets.

But I’m thinking here of mobs of a different sort.

Personally, I’d be slow at present to trust internet mobs, for example, who are careful about social distancing and quarantine but ranting that only fools would open up their states right now. We don’t all live in New York City.

But neither do I trust mobs who are carefully not social distancing, standing side by side, and screaming in front of state capitol buildings, “Open Up Now!” Shouting throws the human brain into neutral.

Of course, mobs are nothing new. Surely, anyone who has read the Gospels has wondered how many of the folks in that famous crowd shouting “Hosannas” on Palm Sunday were the same ones in the mob crying, “Crucify him!” on Friday.

It’s rarely wise to trust a mob. And it’s almost always unwise to join one.


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


Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

The Stars Speak Loudy, Wisely, in Silvery Silence

The yard mowing was finished. One more time. A personal best, by the way. Two hours. Mowing our 10,000 square foot yard usually requires almost three hours.

The last part of the job had pretty much been accomplished in Braille. It was a Wednesday evening. We’d gathered, as usual, with our church folks for a meal, etc., 6:00-7:00. (I am so very glad we meet that early.)

But Daylight Saving Time, a very mixed blessing, meant that I faced a decision at about 7:30. To mow or not to mow. That was the question. I did not want to. That was not in question. But this was the window I had for mowing for the next several days. If I waited, the yard would be, even this early in the season for us, a jungle.

So I mowed, figuring I’d get at least part of it done. I was amazed to finish the whole thing. (Only because I had trimmed pretty seriously on the previous mowing and got away with very little of that on Wednesday.) As I mentioned, darkness was coming on as I throttled down my mowing machine.

It really was a beautiful evening. So, once the rumble of the engine was silenced, I decided to sit out on the patio for a few minutes, partly to nurse my aching feet, and mostly to enjoy the quiet and the stillness.

The slivered moon was headed down behind my friend and neighbor’s workshop. Optical illusion, I know, but it surely seemed to head down faster the closer it got to the horizon. A lunar voyeur, I spied on it, lest it sneakily rebel and head back upward with no one watching. In the space of ten long breaths (I was counting), it slipped away, down for the count.

And, of course, as the moon went under, the stars, always there but needing the darkness to make their shimmering silvery presence known, began their sparkling dance.

The canopy of two huge trees in the backyard obscures part of the sky (blessed shade in the heat of the day), but the Big Dipper was shining through brightly. A very elementary knowledge of astronomy will reveal that drawing a line from the “pointer stars” (Merak and Dubhe), five times the distance between them (about twenty degrees), will land your eye on Polaris, the North Star, the anchor of the northern sky and friend of long generations of sailors.

The second star from the Dipper’s bowl is Mizar, and right beside it, if your eyes are good (this was an ancient eye test) you can make out Alcor.

The Big Dipper hasn’t changed recently. In about 50,000 years, I’m told, a bit of a shape change may be apparent. But on Wednesday night, I noticed what looked like another bright star in the pattern. What?!

And then the “star” moved. Jet airplanes do that. And that’s what it was. I had momentarily confused a few-years-old man-made object flying six miles high with God-made stars billions of years old, 51-123 light years away.

We should spend more time sitting in the darkness looking up at the stars. That night their silvery silence spoke loudly. My “airplane” difficulties may masquerade as stars, but they flit away, and God’s love-lit starlight remains.



     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.

Too Much Political TV Leads to Soul Heartburn



Confession is “good for the soul.” So I confess: I’ve been watching too much political TV. And that leads to soul heartburn.

It’s one thing to want some information. We do, after all, have a big election coming up. Yea, verily, presidential. Surely is looking like I’ll be holding my nose with one hand, voting with the other, and then washing with soap. But I’d like to be a voter who is as informed as he is nauseated.

Enough’s enough, though. Sins of excess often carry their own punishment. A political overdose tends to make me surly, cynical, snippy, and generally depressed. The dog starts avoiding me. I become one of those people who can bring light and joy and laughter into any room just by leaving it.

I need to remember that no election will change who my King is—and that it’s great exercise to punch the power button on the TV remote. OFF more than ON will help my home, my mind, my soul, and my disposition, whether the shows are political or not.

But here’s another confession. While I’ve been writing this, the TV has been on. Sound down, but on. Can you spell “addiction”?

In a pathetic defense, I will say that it’s been an interesting few days politically. Stuff happening fast. Candidates calling it quits. Then endorsing . . . “Are you kidding?! Two days ago, you said, . . .” Really?!

Anyway, I left the TV on, sound down, when I fired up my computer . . . and noticed something. When they’re mute (it takes a button for that) these candidates may reveal more about themselves than when they’re prattling on aloud. I’m not much of a lip-reader, but, sound down, I began to note with new interest what their faces and body language may be saying more loudly than their words. Eyes really are a window into the soul. Body language is a real language.

Some of these folks point a lot. Some scowl a lot. Some seem habitually angry. Some smile seemingly genuinely, easily. Some smile “plastically,” on cue; the smile-time message from their mouths was hijacked before it got to their eyes. Some tilt their heads back and look down their noses. All of them just look tired. The most interesting body language I’ve seen was telegraphed from a former candidate standing behind the guy he’d just endorsed. The endorser looked like he desperately needed a strong antidepressant or a big gin and tonic.

If I’m reading the body language right, I’ve seen a candidate or two I’d like to invite into my home for a talk. Some others? Not hardly.

In any case, I recommend the sound down approach for a change. The proverb-writer is on to something when he warns that a “troublemaker” not only “goes about with a corrupt mouth,” he “winks maliciously with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers” while he is plotting “evil with deceit in his heart” (Proverbs 6).

I wonder what my own body language says about my heart, my soul. More than I suspect, I suspect.



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



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering

Some Lessons Preached Loudly by Silence

silence 01

More than once since a recent Community Palm Sunday service, I’ve wished I’d not preached a sermon recommending some silence (introspection, reflection, quietness). I knew at the time how badly I always need some, but I didn’t plan to go overboard with it.

Then came April 12.

I’ll long remember that day. First and by far most important, it was the day I performed the baptism of my granddaughter Brenley. An incredibly sweet moment.

But it was also the day laryngitis laid me low, as it never has before, and I fervently hope never will again.

I’d sung three or so hours the day before. Didn’t strain anything. But by that evening, some diabolical combination of a virus and allergies nailed me. I was supposed to preach, baptize, and sing at Bren’s church. I gave my manuscript to my son and asked him to read it, managed to squawk out enough words to perform the baptism, and we’ll do the singing later. Boy, was I silent! And not happy about it.

Jesus talks about a “cup of cold water.” At the house later, Bren suddenly was at my side placing on my throat a plastic bag she’d filled with ice chips. Such a sweet nurse!

To shorten the story, I’ll just say that at the doc’s later, he said he thought I’d be fine, but, “How about trying to avoid unnecessary talking for the next ten days? I know you’ve got some stuff you can hardly cancel, but try some vocal rest. Don’t answer. Just nod your head.”

“Yeah, Bucko, how about this: you try not using your hands for ten days!? Just nod your head.” But he was right.

It’s been interesting. Here are a few things I think I’ve learned.

We talk too much, and it’s difficult to curtail our talk. St. James is right: we can tame all sorts of creatures, but “no man can tame the tongue” (3:8). It does makes good sense, and it’s great discipline, to lock it down for a little while.

By the way, “vocal rest” is difficult discipline, but it’s just half of the “silence equation.” Noise comes from two directions: the things we rattle about, and the things that rattle about (around) us. Your best bet, if you’re trying to be silent, is to find some solitude. Not only is some occasional “alone time” also balm for our souls, being silent is a lot easier by yourself.

The only place I can imagine going where they really understand the discipline of silence is a monastery. I’m not planning to enter one. Protestants are probably not their prime candidates. But many are kind enough to accept visitors, and I’m not kidding, wherever we can find it, I think most of us might find a few days of that kind of silence to be golden. We’d be amazed at what we’d learn. Some things—about silence and about so much else we desperately need to know—can only be learned in silence.

Apart from that, if you’re trying to be quiet in a crowd, good luck. It’s tough in both directions. Lest folks think you’re depressed, I’d suggest you smile more than usual. That’s probably good anyway. As is listening more and saying much less.

James, again, is the one who counseled, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (1:19). Shh! Let’s listen to him!


       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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