Time away good for the soul

Curtis Shelburne

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Though I love my usual “neighborhood,” it was nice to wake up today in another one: Robert Lee, Texas. It’s the Semiannual Pastors of the Shelburne Variety Robert Lee Ministry Conference which I’ve been religiously attending now for thirty years or so. It’s by far the most inspiring ministry conference I’ve ever attended.

Actually, it’s the semiannual convergence in Coke County of my three minister brothers and myself at our Granddaddy & Grandmother Key’s old homeplace in Robert Lee. Lots of fun, it’s worth a ton in relaxation, pure enjoyment, and some fine opportunities for bouncing ministerial ideas, problems, and general ruminations off the graying heads of three other brother clerics all coveyed up for a few days of retreat.

I rolled in late last evening, glad to have seen only one deer in the forty miles between Colorado City and Robert Lee. It was a reverse record. My brother Jim set the record last year by spotting fifty deer along that same stretch of highway, some of whom seemed suicidal. “Terrorist deer,” storyteller Garrison Keillor calls them. Deer ready and willing to commit suicidal mayhem. Only one last night. And not of the terroristic variety.

Jim and I spent a couple of hours solving world problems and then headed to bed, both glad that the pre-tripulation (before the trip tribulation) work flurry was over and we’d actually landed in Robert Lee.

When my head hit the pillow, I was hoping to sink into blissful oblivion; instead, I launched into a nightmare sort of hodge-podge of worship services gone terribly wrong and a few other church-type afflictions. I don’t know what to make of that. Probably nothing. Thank the Lord, fiction is stranger than truth.

I doubt it’s all that unusual for a tired plumber taking some time off to spend the first night or two tossing and turning with visions of gushing pipes or under-the-sink drips drip-drip-dripping all night long on his nose in a kind of subliminal waterboarding.

It’s funny. I love what I do and can hardly imagine doing anything else. But a few days away is a good thing. The Lord knew what he was talking about when he built in, right from the first, some time for rest and even made a commandment out of it, hoping to force his frenetic kids to seek some kind of balance in our all-too-often unbalanced lives.

Anyway, I’m going to avoid chili dogs this evening before retiring to what I have every hope will be peaceful slumber.

Uh oh. Jim just discovered that the old abode’s old water heater seems incontinent. Not a good sign. Pastoral plumbing will be required. More tribulation. Even here. Jesus predicted it. But he also said, “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”

Now, how many pastors does it take to change a water heater?