Mouse Traps and Human Traps Are an Age-old Problem

 

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“Warning! Some mice were harmed in the research for this column. Some of the images contained herein may not be appropriate for small children or squeamish adults.”

I mean to say a few words regarding varmints (a good word that comes from “vermin”) of the rodent variety.

Humans share the world with an incredible variety of creatures. Many are beautiful, even inspiring. Some are also amazingly useful. (I’m thinking filet mignon and boots.) But some are pests. Let pests multiply, even if you have kind motives and an empty head, and you get pestilence. (I’m thinking plague, “Black Death.”)

I like where I live, and I like most of the neighbors, two-footed and four-footed, who live around me. A friend saw three deer in our front yard one recent morning. Too many can be a problem and eat the wrong things, but I don’t mind some help keeping a 10,000 square-foot yard mowed.

But the nearby field also brings in much smaller four-footed mammals. If they were stealthier, hid better from my wife, and didn’t have such appalling hygiene, we might not have a problem. But they are not, and we sometimes do.

This world really could use a better mousetrap. I’m afraid the old standard wood and wire model is still the best. Just add cheese (or peanut butter), and bang! He’s dispatched, bloodied and bug-eyed. Then, frugality versus squeamishness, you can either dispose of the body and re-bait, or toss the whole thing—hide, hair, and all. I just don’t enjoy baiting the things in the first place. I don’t enjoy misfires during baiting. Slaaaaapppp!

I once fired a BB gun at a garage mouse but missed. The ricochet caught me in the forehead, providing my sons with years of hilarity.

So I went to glue traps. Bait ’em with bird seed or peanut butter. The critter climbs on and finds himself “steadfast, immovable.” You might even catch a couple at once. But then you’re caught in a dilemma with a live rodent staring at you pitifully.

Somewhere on the way to the dumpster with my first wiggling catch, I (stupidly) opted for “release.” I’d pull him off with forceps and let him go. A very bad idea for both man and mouse.  Better just dispatch him quickly. Other alternatives (none good) involve turning the card over and a quick stomp, or heavy object to the head, or drowning in a bucket of water. (But the little bubbles . . .)

If your heart really gets the better of your head (don’t tell my wife), you can take the stuck up mouse to the field, and hose him down with WD40. If he doesn’t drown, he’ll scamper off smelling like fish oil and you can catch him again.

Tired of disposal dilemmas, I have now acquired a 15-inch-long plastic tube with a flat metal floor. Add peanut butter. Plug the contraption in. And before he can eat PB&J, the mouse gets hit with 8000 volts. He won’t care how you dispose of him. It seems to work and is pretty safe unless you’re a varmint or a tea-cup chihuahua with a taste for peanut butter.

We might do well to ponder the types of traps that we humans flirt with. Mess with them much, and we’ll find the only real question is how long the death will take and how many folks we’ll take down with us. Our Creator has warned us about those traps, and he’s paid an enormous price to clean us up and release us, free and empowered to live new lives.

 

           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.

 

 


In the Face of Real Love, “Tolerance” Is a Weakling

 

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Shhh! If in our society you are about to walk out your front door, it’s important to remember these days that you’re about to step into the temple of secularism. You must be very careful to be quiet and reverent lest you cause any stir in the temple and upset the worshipers in the midst of their devotions.

It is rather striking how religious modern secularists are about their irreligion, how very “tolerant” they are of anything except “intolerance.” No big surprise. It’s never easier to be religiously (or irreligiously) arrogant than when you’re being self-righteous about not being self-righteous.

By the same token, “tolerance” is always easiest when one of your deepest convictions is that no one’s deepest convictions or beliefs can be objectively right or wrong. Tolerance is only difficult when you find you have something to tolerate. If everyone’s belief is equally correct just because it’s earnestly held, tolerance is incredibly easy because at heart it just means not caring very much.

Once you actually start caring about something enough to believe that what folks believe about it genuinely matters, then you soon find yourself swimming in waters far too deep for tolerance; you will, in fact, sink unless you latch onto a four-letter word called love.

Love is always better than, stronger than, far more noble than, mere tolerance. “What’s right? What’s wrong? Is there any such thing as right or wrong?” Tolerance doesn’t much care.

But love cares deeply. It faces the bedrock truth, as real as the law of gravity— truly “inconvenient” though it may be, if, say, you’d prefer a universe where two plus two could just as easily equal five on days when the wind has changed and you’re feeling a little down on “four”—that in this universe some things really are right, true, and beautiful, and others are wrong, false, and ugly. Real truths, you see, have real consequences. It’s rather important that engineers who design bridges believe the old-fashioned, and true, multiplication tables, as inconveniently unbending as the stone cold truth behind those tables may be.

What if this really is a universe woven with genuine laws of right and wrong? Believe that truth, and in these days colored by the religion of “tolerant” secularism, it’s as if you passed gas loudly in the secularists’ church service, spat upon their holy altar, offended their non-god gods in some unforgiveable way. You seem incredibly intolerant and out of date. If we’re tired of those old multiplication tables, or any other truths that might bind or chafe us, let’s just take an opinion poll and change them, right?

But that’s where love comes in and mere tolerance is shown to be a tottering weakling. Love may be completely unable to “tolerantly” accept a person’s actions or beliefs as being anything but mistaken and harmful, but love is beautifully able to accept even the person with whom it most strongly disagrees as a person deeply loved by the God who is love. It cares deeply. And chooses to love anyway.

 

 

     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.


“I Can’t Help It! I’m the Victim of My Genes!”

 

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Aha! It’s genetic! I’ve been reading about the several-years-old discovery of a “fidgeting” gene.

When I’m talking on the phone and my wife, rather discourteously, hollers at me, “Put that pen down! You’re driving me crazy!” she’s referring to my unconscious click-click-click-click-clicking of the writing instrument in my hand. And she’s betraying intolerance toward a man who is simply the hapless victim of his genes.

I’m wondering if pack-ratting is genetic, too. In any case, it’s another trait my mother passed on to each of her offspring.

My garage, I admit, is dangerously overloaded, but my sister, who lived in Houston, could have survived ten years of hurricanes with just “supplies on hand.”

I once suggested to one of my brothers that he’d need to deck himself out in high priestly garments if he wanted to safely enter his garage. When, once a year, Israel’s high priest entered the Most Holy Place to offer sacrifice, he was to go in with bells sewn onto the bottom of his robe and a rope tied to his leg. If he touched the Ark of the Covenant and was fritzed, or was somehow otherwise dispatched while officiating near the holiest core of that holiest place, the bells would quit tinkling and they’d drag his carcass out by the rope. (Turns out, the rope part of this is probably fictional, and the bell part likely for the Holy Place and not the Most Holy Place. But you get my point.)

Truth be told, the garages of the other siblings, including me, for sure, are not much better. My poor heirs.

But it was not in the garage, it was actually in a box of stuff up in our closet, never opened, inherited from my sister’s stash, who got it from my mother’s hoard, that my wife recently found a pile of congratulatory notes from age-old family friends (mostly long-since passed on) and the hospital instructions regarding the care and feeding of “Boy Shelburne.” That would be me.

The booklet was professionally printed, used by Northwest Texas Hospital (the original one) in Amarillo, and filled in, the specifics handwritten, by a conscientious nurse.

I’m not sure if Mom & Dad followed all the instructions properly or not, which may explain some things. I do know that it included a formula for my formula, consisting of condensed milk, Karo syrup, etc. What’s not to like? And it specified feeding me every three hours, a health practice, on the advice of that nursing staff, I’ve tried to continue all of my life. (Oh, and Mom was instructed to wear an apron when feeding me. If that’s required, lots of babies are in serious danger. And good luck trying to buy an apron. Out of style in every sense, and I’m weeping at the political incorrectness of the very thought! Trust me.)

By the way, people with the fidgeting gene are supposed to be naturally thinner than those without it. With my strict diet (I never eat anything that doesn’t taste good) and my feeding schedule, I’m thankful for that gene. Still, I evidently don’t fidget nearly enough.

Oh, this is funny. I just stopped to stare into space and figure out how to land this column—and caught myself jockeying my knee up and down like a sewing machine needle. Left seems to be this fidgeter’s knee of choice.

Genes. They are for most of us a mixed bag, both blessing and curse. But the worst curse we inherited from Father Adam. And the most amazing blessing, incredibly costly, is made available, free upon request, by the Second Adam who bore our curse, God’s own Son.

 

      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.


Animal Friends Are Among God’s Best Blessings

 

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I’ve tried to wait a bit before writing this column. Since one of my life achievements is excellence in procrastination, I’ve been successful, although on rare occasions I’ve even put off procrastinating.

But I needed to wait. Some things are hard to keep in perspective. At the top of the list is anything—or anyone—that we love. And, no doubt about it, I loved that lazy furball, the little brindle-colored cross-breed canine critter we had to have “put down” recently.

People can be so crazy—literally—about pets that the excessiveness is obscene. I don’t doubt for a moment that a dog is “man’s best friend.” An incredible blessing.

But dogs are dogs. And though real grief at any level is still real grief, I’m slow to mention “this” grief in the same paragraph—or universe—as theirs.

But if it were possible, my sympathy for those facing severe loss is heightened as every time I walk into the house, get out of bed, open the blinds in the morning, or kick back in the recliner, I miss my friend.

Jesus tells us that his Father is so intimately connected to creation and his creatures that he sees when even a sparrow falls.

Hmm. That makes me wonder a little about grackles. You know, those goose-stepping, ill-mannered Nazi blackbirds. If I had my way, and my aim was better, lots more of them would be falling.

Up on their high branch, above the patio they’ve defiled, Grackle #1 growls to Grackle #2, “Say, did you hear what happened to ol’ Jake last night? Right in mid-cackle, he wing-clutched his chest, went inverted, and hit the deck. His heart? Not sure. One of the boys said he thought he saw something fly by and nail him. Maybe .177 calibre lead. Dunno if he was gone when he hit, but I’m dead sure he was gone once that Doberman down there got to him! The ol’ screecher leaves 42 children and a host of friends.”

Our little gal, Maddie, liked to chew on grackle when she could get it. I discouraged the practice. She seemed to have a hard time keeping it down, and I couldn’t imagine it being a healthy habit.

Son Josh was in high school when he brought the wiggling puppy home and unashamedly begged like a four-year-old to keep it. He said she was a Chihuahua-Shih Tzu mix. Definitely a puppy of the first part. But I’m not so sure about the other part. Some sort of short-haired terrier?

Opinions vary widely as to her “beauty.” But her heart was good—even when twelve years later, her ticker wasn’t. From the get-go, she was sweet, gentle, and, to me, cute. She could jump like a cat, but, at rest, and she was almost always at rest, she crossed her paws like a little lady.

The house was a renovation wreck, two of Josh’s brothers were in the throes of preparing to head to Africa for mission work, and Mom was wisely and firmly against importing a dog at that moment. Tears all around. I backed off to a safe distance, expressing no opinion aloud.

Josh won. Maddie stayed. I’d already fallen for her. When Josh left home, Maddie didn’t. She and I were thick as thieves.

I don’t know what plans God has for our animal friends when “all things are made new.” I’ll not be surprised if He delightfully surprises us.

 

       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.


A Church Advertisement That Will Never Appear

 

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A very good friend just sent me an ad he saw for a new church in a city miles away from mine.

I’ve long thought that, for city churches particularly, some seriously thought-out and well done advertising might be very good. In this case, an existing church is starting a new one. The ad is well done, nicely packaged, and accurately reflects their approach to “church.”

They’ll kick off soon with a “rally.” Fine. Likely a very good idea. (But, please don’t tell my wife and dear friends who were cheerleaders, I never saw a rally with “pep” in front of it that I wouldn’t prefer to miss. It’s a personality flaw, I know.)

The ad says, “No perfect people are allowed.” Good. Such are hard to find and “wannabees” are annoying.

“Relevant” messages. Hmm. Theology lite or just good preaching? No organ for sure. I assume, no traditional hymns, but a “rockin’ band.” Right. This cool model requires it. “Casual dress.” Okay.

The ad didn’t say anything about a pastor. A plastic one on screen who preaches well but won’t show up at anybody’s surgery or do any funerals?

This really may be a great group, but its extremely popular approach is nothing new. In the 60s, mood rings, lava lamps, and the “church growth movement” showed up. The latter has lasted longer, but it has always felt a little plastic and trendy to me, a “consumer” approach that focuses on glitz and low to no expectations, assuming that discipleship will follow once folks are in the door. It is a troubling fact that Jesus ran folks off in droves taking exactly the opposite approach. Do I want to run people off? Noooooo!

I’m kidding a bit with part of what follows, but try this ad.

Large print. “We love Christ. We love you. We want you to come!”

Not-so-fine print: “Just so you’ll know, we sort of figure that commitment might mean attending at a faith-building (and not faith-withering) rate of more than half the time. That’s extremely generous, and nobody’s counting; we just love you and love it when the family’s together.

“You can call our building or sanctuary a worship center if you want to, but we don’t mind being called a church.

“We aren’t in the least embarrassed about taking up an offering. We can’t/won’t/shouldn’t require it, but we encourage sacrificial giving as a God-honoring blessing to all concerned.

“We won’t be ashamed to ask for some help doing stuff. What you say Yes to is completely your choice, but if you say No all the time, that says something, too. We are not a consumer church. If you want one those, glitzy and asking of you nothing at all, it won’t be hard to find.

“Formal dress is not at all required, but it’s just a fact that our pastor probably won’t wear jeans he paid extra to have holes in.

“We’re not very trendy and not all that cool. But when we say, ‘It’s all about Jesus, we mean it.’ It ain’t all about us or all about you. We figure serving a crucified Lord has consequences. You can ‘Have It Your Way’ at Burger King, but probably not 100% of the time here. You might even have to endure serious persecution by singing a song or two you don’t like that blesses someone else. That’s okay. They’ll do the same for you. We’ll never be mega-anything except seriously in love with Christ and the people He loves.

“If this picture seems God-focused to you, welcome! Come on in!”

 

     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.


“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.


“To See the Sort of Knights You Dub,” a Pub, Please

 

 

 

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For the many years I’ve been writing this column/blog, I’ve tried to avoid being political, and I intend to keep trying.

But I feel oddly at peace with making occasional comments that stand a good chance of making everybody—conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, red or blue, right-leaning or left-leaning, or just leaning half a bubble off of any kind of leaning—mad.

A recent Gallup poll shows each of the two  main presidential nominees coming in with an “unfavorability” rating of more than 50% (52% and 62%, to be precise; you can guess who wins the contest for most “unfavorability”).

An Internet search will net a bunch of stats, but one poll shows that “one-quarter of voters” dislike both candidates. Still another confirms that “most Americans dislike” both. “Record-breaking” is the term used to describe the numbers reflecting, well, Americans’ level of nausea when they consider presidential candidates they evidently consider to be far less than presidential material.

The wry wordsmith G. K. Chesterton almost 100 years ago now penned a little poem (“Ballade of an Anti-Puritan”) poking fun at the quality of the knights being “dubbed” to preserve grand old England.

“Prince,” he opined, “Bayard [the faithful and chivalrous French knight of old] would have smashed his sword / To see the sort of knights you dub— / Is that the last one of them?”

And accurately taking the measure of the new “knights,” he just hangs his head and begs, “O Lord / Will someone take me to a pub?”

I won’t be advising drunkenness, but viewing our present choices, I can well understand the temptation to and serious need for some sort of potent anesthetic. Whichever way this circus goes, the pain-killer may need to be of a long-acting, “sustained release” variety.

If you have a choice on a difficult Monday as to which you’d prefer—a root canal or a colonoscopy—on Tuesday, I suppose you’d have to admit that it’s a real choice. But I wouldn’t blame you for being a tad depressed on Sunday. And no surprise that either one would be a lingering pain in the tail section on Wednesday.

And that, my friends, pretty much sums up my feelings about our 2016 incredibly un-presidential presidential choices. In two words, utterly appalling. If I trample on your political position, my apologies. The polls, however, show that, on this rare occasion, my opinion is the majority opinion and, if it were an option, “None of the Above” would be elected to the presidency in November by a landslide.

This mess is hard to swallow. That this great nation can do no better than this boggles the mind. But a reminder to Christians that we are citizens of a kingdom with one all-powerful and all-loving King, and that the universe is not a democracy, is not without its blessings.

 

 

     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.


God’s Love Never Goes Out of Style

 

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I’ve been looking at some old family photos. Old! Some of them were of me, and, yes, that makes me . . . more than middle-aged.

Some of those pics were from my high school years. They simultaneously beg a question and shout an answer. What does “cool” do? Cool marches on!

I graduated from high school in 1975. We thought the music was cool. (Some was!) We thought the cars were cool. (My VW bug wasn’t.) And we thought the styles were cool. (Oh, the shame of it!)

I’ve been afraid, for at least a decade or so, that I’ve lived too long because . . . aargh! More than a few of those 1970s styles are back! Once was too much. But this time around, we get (no offense to my friends in this honorable line of work), the “plumber” look, too.

Behinds and belly buttons, very few of which are particularly appealing. And tattoos, too, so that with a very little body art artistic flair, it is now possible, against all celestial odds, to have the sun and the moon rising at exactly the same time on the very same  teeny or tweeny hemisphere. Amazingly immodest at times (just thought I’d toss that word in since nobody ever hears it anymore), but still amazing. Not least, because the tats will still be hanging around on an 80-year-old tail section years from now but a lot farther south in the hemisphere.

Not sure if it’s a blessing or a sentence, but I might actually live long enough to see the present teens and tweens hit 40 or so. I think they’re gonna hit pretty hard.

Yep, we thought we were cool in the 70s—very full of ourselves we were—with bell bottoms and six-inch wide patent leather belts and peace symbols on chains and shaggy manes. But I will be forever grateful that none of that stuff was tattooed on! And, except for the economically disadvantaged and aging hippies, or the really wealthy and aging hippies who you can still find in some mountain areas, some southwestern desert areas, etc., where the air is really thin or mind-numbingly hot, most of my generation was pretty much cured of the style-viruses of the 70s by the 1980s.

It turns out, though, that this style stuff is like cerebral malaria. After a long period of latency, it builds up again in the bloodstream. You wake up with a fever and a throbbing head, and you’re wearing bell bottoms—again! Then you look around at some modern-day really “cool” folks, and they look exactly like the poor pathetic style-slaves still trapped between the pages of your high school yearbook who scrawled in its margins profound stuff like, “Whatever you do, don’t change!” And, good grief, maybe some didn’t. They’re baaaaaaack!

It’s the stuff of nightmares. To have decades-old styles, the equivalent of my old purple-striped bell bottoms, inked on and be condemned to live out your latter years with tats zagging six inches lower from where they once zigged. Ouch.

I’m glad God’s love never goes out of style. He loves us in all times in all places and even when we’re all caught up in all kinds of styles. He loves us—and that never changes.

 

     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.

 


“Out of the Depths I Cry to You, O Lord!”

 

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It’s amazing how often we can find ourselves within the pages of the biblical Book of Psalms. Consider Psalm 130.

I hope we’re not in this psalmist’s sandals often, but anyone who has lived very long can empathize with him. Hurting and almost hopeless, he writes, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” And then he reveals something about the nature of this fallen world, the nature of needy humans, and the nature of our mighty and merciful God.

The rendering in The Message well paints the picture: “Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cries for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.”

A Latin term has at times served as a title for this psalm: De Profundis. Something that is “profound” is deep, and the word used for “depths” here has to do with deep waters.

The psalmist is saying, “I’m in trouble! I’m sinking in the deep waters. I’m headed down into dark oblivion! I can’t get myself out! Dear God, help!”

When you’re going down, it’s not a time for polite words: “If you don’t mind, would you help me, please? Ever so sorry to be a bother, but I really believe that I may be drowning.”

In Uganda, in 2007, my wife and I visited our sons who were then in Uganda, and son Joshua and I went rafting down the Nile. We had great guides, and most of the trip was incredibly beautiful. But part of the descent was through what has been called “five of the greatest kilometers of big volume white water on the planet.” (That famous section is lost now, submerged under waters piled up behind the new—in 2012—Bujagali Dam. I’m so glad we rafted it when we did.)

As we came to the Class 5 rapid named Silverback, we knew we’d be tossed out of the raft—yet again. But we wanted to ride it as long as we could. Outside the boat in that class of white water it is surprisingly difficult to get your breath even if you’re on the surface—and we soon weren’t. Cast into the depths and carried off underwater in different directions, we later both confessed that for several long dark moments, we thought drowning was not unlikely. (In the accompanying photo, Josh  & I are in the front of the raft, and headed, in every sense of the word, down.)

“O Lord, out of the depths I cry to you!”

You don’t have to go rafting down the Nile to understand the psalmist. Life has tumbled in, and gone are the illusions that we can handle it ourselves with our strength, our bank account and investments, our professional expertise, our uncommon common sense, our noble character. No! We’re going down, and we’re fresh out of wise words and self-help strategies.

Our words are cut down to three: “O God, help!” From the “depths,” we recognize God as our only help, our only hope. No longer foolish enough to assume we deserve anything, we plead instead for sheer mercy.

In the Lord, both we and the psalmist find forgiveness and mercy and hope. And we praise Him: “My soul waits for the Lord / more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

We can trust our God. He won’t leave us in the depths.

 

 

     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.

 

 


“We Have Given Our Hearts Away”

 

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In one of Jan Karon’s delightful “Mitford” books, the winsome Episcopal priest Father Tim Cavanaugh shares with his dear old organist some lines from the sonnet (1807) by Wordsworth:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

I admit it: the English major under my hat has always felt a bit (a lot!) deficient with regard to poetry. I love Father Tim, but the good rector is not only a far better pastor than am I, he has a far better grasp on poetry!

But if I understand Wordsworth’s lines at all, I’m with him. The “world” is far too much “with us.” Twenty-four hour news, one of the scourges of our time, is at least 23 1/2 hours too much, a curse to our souls. And, yes, “getting and spending” occupy far too much of our precious time.

Forgetting that the real “bottom line” of our lives has nothing at all to do with the bottom line of any balance sheet, we hurry and scurry and worry our way through God’s gift of life, and barely pause to really “see” nature or, for that matter, beauty of any kind. We hardly notice the stealthy atrophying of our hearts, the shriveling of our souls.

Ah, but we produce, in hopes that the balance sheet nailed to our tombstone will be quite impressive.

I’m reminded of an interesting article from The Washington Post (“Pearls Before Breakfast” (4/8/07), by Gene Weingarten who tried a fascinating experiment with the invaluable aid of Joshua Bell, arguably the best classical violinist in the world.

At 7:51 on a Friday morning, the 39-year-old Bell stood by a trash can at the Metro subway stop at L’Enfant Plaza in Washing-ton, D.C., and played his violin for 43 minutes as a street musician. Tickets to hear this “street musician” routinely fetch three figures. And, by the way, this “street musician” was playing a $3.5 million Stradivarius violin.

As Joshua Bell played three of the most beautiful violin pieces ever written, the whole thing was captured on video. Sixty-three people walked by before one even slowed his pace. Of the 1,097 people who hurried by, 27 people, barely slowing down, threw $37.13 into his violin case. Seven stopped for just a minute to listen, but there was never a crowd. A few children wanted to stop, but their parents were far too rushed.

Many of those who get off the Metro at L’Enfant Plaza are government workers rushing off to crunch numbers and catalog regulations. Bureau-crats and bean counters rarely have time for beauty. But I’m afraid those of us whose lives they live to complicate have exactly the same disease.

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

 

      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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