“I Guess the Turtle Was Right”

Well, I guess the turtle was right, and rain was on the way. If you can’t trust a turtle, the epitome of slow, faithful plodding, who can you trust? Not flighty or flitting, manic or depressive, just one step at a time dependability—that’s the ticket, turtle!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A couple of days ago, I looked through a window at the back of our house and spied, trudging across the property in a generally southerly direction, a fine example of Terrapene ornata, otherwise known as an “ornate box turtle.” Better yet known in “these here parts” simply as a turtle because, “ornate” or not, this species of turtle is the only kind I’ve ever seen here. Confirmation came when iNaturalist, a great “app” you can get for your phone to help easily identify all sorts of flora and fauna, nailed this guy as a “North American box turtle sometimes referred to as the western box turtle or ornate box turtle.” Yep. Terrapene ornata.

A little more reading and I’m kinda thinking “this guy” may be a gal and, very likely, no spring chicken. These creatures can easily live for decades. Who knows? This may be the same individual my grandkids saw lumbering across the same terrain almost a year ago. Turtles “all look alike to me,” says me, betraying shocking species-specific prejudice and appalling insensitivity.

Ah, but you can’t expect too much from me. I’m no genealogist, but what I’ve read strongly hints that my Shelburne ancestors were fiercely true to the British crown, and maybe even that some of the bunch who’d made their way to this side of the Pond chose to be “Loyalists” who went to Canada rather than lift a sword or musket against King George III a couple of years after all that fine tea was dumped into Boston Harbor. So I’m tainted. If I could find a statue of me, I’d pull it down in shame.

But the sackcloth and ashes, statuary graffiti and soul-grinding guilt will have to wait for another day. (Maybe Thursday, 2:00 p.m.?) The topic now is turtular weather prognosticating. And, honestly, I’m not sure if the turtle deserves bragging rights or not. From what I’ve read, this kind of turtle is quite fond of rain and tends to be more active after a good reptile-washing downpour (which may wash amphibians, too, but a turtle is not one, I may confidently proclaim as I feel all “woke” now regarding turtles).

Obviously, the turtle knows he’s wet after a rain, but what I’m investigating now is whether or not turtles are among the creatures who know instinctively that a frog-washer is coming. I’ve been told by at least one farmer that when he sees turtles out turtling about, he figures rain is likely on the way.

Thus, I say, I guess the turtle was right. If my farmer friend is right. We’ve had, for two sweet days in a row now, at least a little bit of rain each day. Turtles are not the only folks who feel better after rain, and I thank the Lord for it.

Back to our ancestors. Maybe some of them should have thought more about it before they chose to build in what is basically a desert. Still, it’s mostly been a good life here, even if the water’s always been short above ground and is getting a lot sparser below ground. And these days, goodness knows, our ancestors could use a little slack and some appreciation. The kind we’re all, whoever we are, if our “species” is “human,” sure to need ourselves down the line.

 

 

      Hey, folks! My new “Focus on Faith with Curtis Shelburne” podcast is now available! I’d love for you to check it out and, if you’d be so kind, subscribe! Episodes are available for the “clicking” over to the right, right here on my WordPress site, also at CurtisShelburne.com, and on most podcast players!

 

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


“Time for Bed, Child! Go to Sleep!”

The segment actually aired several years ago, but I still remember a fascinating piece 60 Minutes produced on sleep. (About sleep. Not while sleeping.)

Since sleeping is one thing I’ve always been particularly good at, I was immediately interested. Even professionals can hone their technique, so I was happy to tune in. May I share a bit of what I learned?

In 1980, a study was done using rats who were kept awake indefinitely. After five days, they began dying. They needed sleep as badly as they needed food. All mammals do.

Modern folks in our society have been a little snooty and dismissive about sleep, as if needing to snooze at all is something of an embarrassment, a luxury we could likely do without if we weren’t lazy and unmotivated.

Not so. Not even close.

Recent studies show that sleep is every bit as important to our health as diet and exercise, and that we need 7 1/2 to 8 hours of it each day. The lack thereof seriously impacts our memory, our metabolism, our appetite, and how we age. A study at the University of Chicago School of Medicine restricted the sleep of young, healthy test subjects to four hours a night for six consecutive nights. At the end of that time, tests showed that each subject was already in a prediabetic state (which would be naturally reversed when they resumed sleeping normally).

The same test subjects were also hungry. Lack of sleep caused a drop in levels of leptin, a hormone that tells our brains when we’re not hungry.

A lack of sleep? No problem. If you don’t mind being fat and sick. One researcher said that sleep deprivation should definitely be considered a risk factor for Type II diabetes.

The program host went on to mention studies done all over the world linking lack of sleep to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke—not to mention the mood swings that make sleep-deprived people “hell on wheels” to harmony in their homes and workplaces and whose brain activity on MRIs mimics that of the severely psychiatrically disturbed.

To those who say they have trained themselves to do fine with little sleep, the researchers simply reply, “Nonsense.” For a day or two, artificial “counter measures” such as caffeine or physical activity may mask the problem, but it is cumulative and real, and it can’t be hidden for long.

“People who are chronically sleep-deprived, like people who have had too much to drink, often have no sense of their limitations,” says Dr. David Dinges at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “It’s a convenient belief,” he says. But he issues a standing invitation for “any CEO or anyone else in the world” to come to his laboratory and prove it.

We easily adopt society’s lie that our true worth is in what we produce. We’re so impressed with ourselves, our indispensability, our strategies and plans. We quit “wasting time” by sleeping much. Then the wheels come off even as we slog on physically and emotionally as if through molasses. And the God who is real Rest and Peace but who Himself never needs to sleep, chuckles and says, “Time for bed, child. Go to sleep and let me do within you what you can’t do for yourself.”

I think there is a lesson in that, but right now I need a nap.

 

 

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! A link to my NEW PODCAST is there, and also right here on my WordPress site. Why not check it out?

 

 

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


“Please Join Me for a Walk Through a Mine Field”

By writing today’s column, I am breaking a promise, one that I made to myself. I didn’t make myself take an oath aloud or sign anything. I suppose it was less a promise than a mental warning not to stroll into any mine fields.

The topic is difficult and highly-charged, a tough one for any of us to deal with wisely and rationally and one where many folks seem to opt quickly for foolishness and irrationality. The best of writers could be easily misunderstood on this subject. I am nowhere near the best of writers. Add to this the fact that loud folks who want to misunderstand in order to be louder and angrier almost always succeed.

But I hereby invite you along for a stroll into a mine field. I really hope we’re seeking understanding, respect, and peace. The Lord promises great blessing to peacemakers, but they can also expect flying shrapnel and subsequent wounding from both “sides.”

What, you might ask, could make a pandemic even less pleasant? And now we know: social and racial unrest.

I suspect that most of us also know that, enjoyable or not, “conversations” about tough issues like race and justice are discussions we need to be able to have and can be positive, if we really listen to each other.

But we did not need looting, burning, and rioting; it is wrong, weak, cowardly, criminal, and indefensible, and I am very sure that the vast majority of people of all races in our land are in agreement on that.

I think most of us, whatever our color, believe that what happened to George Floyd was abhorrent and wrong.

I think most of us believe that it’s a matter for tears that in our land any parent of any race should have to give their teenagers “the talk.” (The much earlier talk about sex is hard enough.)

I believe that I have a lot to learn about the challenges faced by my friends of other races and that trying to learn is worth some effort.

I believe that a lot of what we see as racial differences are also, and maybe on an even deeper level, economic differences. My own experience is that I have very little trouble at all talking to, respecting, understanding, and loving friends of different races who are similar to me (or “above” me) economically and educationally. Some of the folks I’m thinking of are among my dearest friends, and some are family members. This does not absolve me from trying harder to understand folks from other races who are poorer economically and/or educationally. (In my experience, it’s every bit as hard for me to understand and communicate with “poor white” as it is “poor choose-a-color.”)  But we all need to try harder.

My own belief is that much of the unrest and hurt we see most obviously in some of our nation’s largest cities can be traced directly to seeds sown years ago when societally we ran to embrace the selfish and false “freedom” that resulted in massive numbers of fatherless families, illegitimacy, and the many bitter fruits of poverty. And the pernicious result was exacerbated by failed social and economic policies from the left that promise compassion and end up promulgating cruelty.

I also believe that you have every right to disagree with me. You have not only a Constitutional but God-given right to do so, a right that I should cherish and be willing to defend. And “free speech” is rapidly becoming an even larger part of the current “discussion.”

As free people we should be able to talk peacefully about our beliefs, even if they’re diametrically opposed, and whether or not they are in line with the latest opinion polls or the views of the media or the self-righteousness and virtue-signaling of the social and political right or left. (Are those two qualities not easily recognizable by their smell as being of the same substance?)

I believe that any “culture” that would actively “cancel” speech and thought is a culture for cowards, brutes, and immature fools. How can we understand each other if we don’t listen to different views? And who will decide whose opinions expressed in speeches, books, movies, etc., are views that our evidently very delicate ears can handle?

As it happens, I found myself agreeing with and appreciating Jason L. Riley’s Wall Street Journal column (6/17/20; his stuff is always worth reading, and his opinion is always thought-provoking). In “America Has a Silent Black Majority,” Mr. Riley (who is black) quotes Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s words in a 1970 memo to President Nixon that there “is a silent black majority as well as a white one” that “shares most of the concerns of its white counterpart.” Fifty years later, Riley says, this is still true.

“Most black people,” he writes, “know that George Floyd is no more representative of blacks than Derek Chauvin is of police officers. They know that the frequency of black encounters with law enforcement has more to do with black crime rates than with racially biased policing. They know that young black men have more to fear from their peers than from the cops. And they know that rioters are opportunists, not revolutionaries.”

Riley writes that, though there’s nothing wrong with a national conversation about better policing, “blaming law enforcement for social inequality” is “not only illogical but dangerous.” He goes on, “Unsafe neighborhoods retard upward mobility, and poorly policed neighborhoods are less safe.” And he closes, “A conversation that doesn’t acknowledge that reality is hardly worth having.”

I think he’s right on target. But maybe the even larger issue these days is how willing I am to acknowledge and defend your right to think otherwise. A lot of people have given their lives to help preserve our right to live in freedom. Freedom without free speech is not freedom.

The best and most loving, the strongest and gentlest, most truly wise and most completely peaceful Man of all died completely unjustly to bring all of us, of every race and nation, genuine freedom.

 

      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 for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Even in a Bad Year, a Good Father Is a Priceless Gift

In the midst of this roller coaster year and its blur of events and emotions, we’re speeding toward Father’s Day. As I find myself thinking of my father, my thoughts quickly turn in immense gratitude to my Father for giving me such an incredible gift, my earthly father.

If anyone asked me for the name of the best man I have ever known, I’d not have to pause a nanosecond before replying, “G. B. Shelburne, Jr.” My dad.

I’ve said that many times, not because I feel haughty about it. That would be ridiculous. I say it in what I hope is deepest humility because the gift utterly amazes me, and I recognize that it’s worth far more than gold. What did I do to merit the gift of such a father? Nothing at all, of course. It was pure grace. Total blessing. Absolutely undeserved and “undeservable.” And worth more than all the gold in the world.

I don’t come even close to always living up to what Dad taught me. But what he taught me and showed me, what I watched him live out in his day to day life, is always in my mind and never far from me. It’s very practical. Examples abound, and maybe never more than right now.

In the midst of the present health pandemic, the social and political pandemonium, and the economic and pervasive uncertainty, I ask myself, “What would Dad do? How would he respond?” And I realize that as I ask this question, I might as well just ask, “What would Jesus do?” That’s the kind of man he was.

Would Dad tremble in fear before the virus? Of course not. He would behave wisely, and in attitude and action point people toward the Source of real hope and health for the present and “the hereafter.”

In the face of racial conflict, social unrest and mistrust, Dad would love and respect God’s people of any color. He would do what he did—willingly preach for any church except a church that would exclude other races. He would teach God’s word to anyone willing to listen, and he would particularly love teaching in Spanish.

Dad would sympathize with and love folks who told him about their fear for their children because of their race. He would also model respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who do a thankless job well. Dad would never be able to understand why anyone would “take a knee” during our national anthem, but it would warm his heart to see citizens and police officers kneeling together.

Dad was much too wise, much too gentle, and much too strong to be anything but appalled that anyone would even consider participating in or making excuses for looting or burning. For that matter, Dad would never agree that getting what you want politically, even if the “end” is good, justifies using low or coarse behavior against your adversaries as a means to reach that end.

In short, as we come to this Father’s Day on this difficult year, from the bottom of my heart, I thank my Father for my father and for the incredible blessing that knowing him has made it so much easier for me to know Him.

 

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.


“To See Real Strength, Look Into the Face of a Farmer”

A glance through the window on the other side of the room tells me that we’re “in for it” again.

It’s mid-morning and the trees are already waving their branches maniacally, flailing arms raised in surrender, as the wind lashes them unmercifully. They seem to know that they are facing another withering day of wind-scourging, aided and abetted by blistering, unrelenting, sap-boiling, life-sapping heat.

The calendar says that it’s not officially summer yet. But the window and the trees are issuing a bleak and soon-to-be scorching sort of warning. Like the trees, I feel ready to surrender.

I’m weak. If you want to see strength in the face of a drought’s merciless onslaught, look into the face of a farmer.

If you’re not a farmer and you glanced into his barn at a pallet loaded with bags of seed, and if your life depended on correctly guessing the cost of the seed in those bags, I’m guessing you’d miss it by a factor of three zeros. Rich life is in that seed, dormant but real. The life is the miracle and our Creator freely gives the life. He also has given us men and women who have gained the knowledge and ability to be able to enhance that seed and multiply its blessing for a world much in need of it. That part does not come cheap, but when that seed grows, it’s green and rich and beautiful, full of potential and blessing.

But I look through the window again. I’m not standing out in the midst of the wind’s assault, waiting for the blast furnace to fire up again, knowing that we’re heading into another day, another week, with no rain. I’m not loading heavy bags—they might as well be filled with silver dollars—into planters, knowing that, barring some meteorological miracle, each seed is being plunged toward death by asphyxiation in dry dust.

No, I’m not a farmer, and though I respect and appreciate and love a bunch of farmers and farm families, just looking through the window today reminds me of how little I really understand about the way of life that makes it possible for me to live. Even to me, planting in a drought seems pointless. But that’s what the insurance rules require, and to have any chance at all to live long as a farmer, you must not only know how to grow things, you must understand, though it breaks your heart and goes against every fiber of your being, why for far too many years, seed has to be planted just to die.

Jesus once told a parable about seed; it was really a parable about souls (Matthew 13). But telling it showed that our Lord completely understands both. He understands seed. He understands souls. And he understands a farmer’s soul. He keeps planting seed, and he keeps planting in hope. He knows that at the end of the day he’s one day closer to the time when he’ll tuck that seed into the ground, the rain will fall, life will conquer death, and what grows will be beautiful.

Yes, in farming and in all of life, in times of difficulty and drought, we’re still one day closer . . .

 

 

     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.


“What Can We Know Right Now, and How Do We Feel?”

“I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet,” wrote the man we know as the prophet Amos (7:14). He said that he was just a shepherd and a caretaker of sycamore trees when he was called by God to deliver the Lord’s message.

I understand. I’m a “non-prophet” myself. And right now I’m “sucking air” on delivering anyone’s message, even as a deadline for this column is racing down the rails toward me.

Newsworthy current events are currently plentiful.

We just successfully launched two astronauts into space and to the International Space Station without the humiliating need to hitch a ride on a Russian launch vehicle. This is progress, and the public-private partnership between NASA and commercial entities is a fine thing. (I wish we’d try it with TSA and a trillion or two other government agencies.) I feel good about this.

The Covid-19 pandemic is still pandemicking and causing an incredible level, a mind-boggling variety, of stress—physical, emotional, and economic—pretty much everywhere. (“Everywhere” is the “pan-” part.)

But the situation “everywhere” varies widely. They have over 2,500 cases in a couple of not-far-off counties where some of my kids/grandkids and two of my brothers live. Yet one son says he personally knows only one person who has it; one brother says he knows of two. In the county where I live, we had zero cases for weeks; now we have 21. I know personally one person who has died due to the virus. He lived in the same state, hundreds of miles away. I know a couple of folks in New York City who have been dealing with the virus assault there.

Most of us where I live have been trying to be careful, but until recently, it seemed pretty unreal. I always took my mask with me into the grocery store; it always stayed in my pocket.

How to feel about this all right now? Worried? Ticked off? Scared? “Over” it? Tired? Sick of it but not sick? Well, ya feel the way ya feel, but it feels weird when your feelings are all over the place. When you don’t know how to feel, you mainly feel bad.

And now. Now comes the brutal killing of George Floyd and the subsequent mayhem, and here’s the “non-prophet” aspect of this column.

Last week’s column was entitled “It’s Almost Never Wise to Trust a Mob.” It dealt with some pandemic reactions. I asked about when a crowd becomes a mob, when a protest becomes a riot, how long it takes “righteous indignation” to become mindless anger, when protesters are high-minded and brave and when they are misbehaving malcontents and professional victims.

And then a week later in Minneapolis, a police officer put his knee on a suspect’s neck and the man died in custody. I didn’t know white police officer Derek Chauvin’s name. I didn’t know black suspect George Floyd’s name. But we know the names now.

The pictures and video I’ve seen are appalling. I don’t know if they tell the whole story, but the story they surely seem to tell is abhorrent. I don’t know if Floyd committed the crime he was accused of, but I know he didn’t deserve to die. I know that I wish race wasn’t a factor. I know that people jumping on cars, burning and looting, are thugs with no excuse, no matter their race, and they demean those they claim to “speak” for. I know that I wish we weren’t all—black and white and all races—so quick to believe in caricatures of others instead of seeing the image of God in all.

But how do I feel, and how do you, watching the pictures of the mayhem? My emotions are many. Mostly sad.

But I do know this: I know that people of good will of all races, people who aren’t interested in joining mobs, can and do learn to respect and love each other. I know it happens, and I suspect that it happens most regularly among Christ’s followers. I’m thankful for that.

I know that we need to hug each other, virus be hanged.

 

You’re invited to check out 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.


“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.


“Judge Not, O Ye Masked or Mask-less Ones!”

“Sheltering in place.”

Just for the record, it might be worth mentioning that “sheltering in place” is what we’re not doing.

Forgive me, please. I am far too much in love with freedom to turn anyone over to the Covid-19 police. I won’t be scowling at you if I meet you pushing your basket the wrong way down the jelly aisle at the supermarket. Besides that, it’ll probably be me swimming upstream; I seem to be clueless when it comes to noticing arrows on floors.

Nor will I cast a masked smirk at you if I see you mask-less behind your cart, becalmed in the aisle, not moving in any direction as you “ponder in place,” wondering whether store brand green beans are as good as Libby’s (pretty much, yes) or generic peanut butter is as tasty as Peter Pan’s (not even close.) In the state where I live, you can still make your own decision about that. Not peanut butter. Masks.

So far, I’ve consistently chosen to take a mask with me every time I’ve gone to the grocery store. And I’ve consistently chosen to keep it in my pocket. Mostly because we’ve had just handful of Covid-19 cases in our county and half a handful have already recovered. I know this could change quickly, and that’s probably a good reason to wear a mask at the store. Would I wear a mask in a store in New York City? Yes, indeed. Would I wear a mask at a store in a much smaller less virus-besieged city if everybody else in the store wore a mask? Probably so. We may not have achieved “herd immunity,” but I’m still part of a herd.

In this strange time, what is a customer saying if he or she walks into a store or church or “essential business” liquor store masked or mask-less (and is not robbing the latter)? I mean, what’s he saying in a city where no laws are in place about masks or, for that matter, whether you can buy a 32-ounce soda?

I don’t know. And neither do you. I think we’d be wise to “judge not, lest ye be judged.” We don’t know if the masked person is sick, medically compromised, careful, neurotic, wise, scared, smart, smug, self-righteous, considerate, “virtue-signaling,” a wonderful and thoughtful human being, a jerk, or a lot older than the unmasked potion of their face looks. And we all know wise medical folks who tell us, “Here’s the evidence thus far, and here’s what I’d recommend.” Resounding Yes? Resounding No? No, not terribly resounding. So mask-wearers and non-mask wearers are usually best advised, I think, to wear some humility. It looks good on us and protects us from an affliction worse than Covid-19 anytime, even as we’re not sheltering in place.

I’m not the English usage police, either. I think I can live with occasionally turning “shelter” into a verb. But “sheltering in place,” as I understand it, actually means to stay in the closet until the bullets quit flying, or not sticking your nose out of the storm shelter until the tornado has flown away and the “all clear” is given. It must be terribly difficult, but you’re not  technically “sheltering in place” even if you’re going stir-crazy staring at your over-priced and claustrophobia-inducing apartment walls in New York City, but still putting on a mask and emerging occasionally for some useful purpose like buying food or just to take a walk to avoid full-blown psychosis.

To borrow a musical metaphor, “sheltering in place” is fortissimo and only a few measures long. “Stay at home” is forte and can seem like forever. And “safer at home,” a nuisance and not a storm shelter, is semi-forte and certainly not normalissimo (don’t look either of those up).

Misuse the term if you want to, but if you start out at -issimo don’t blame me if you want to get a lot louder and have already limited your linguistic options. I promise not to call storm troopers from the EUP (English Usage Police).

I’m about to mask up. Always do when I mow the yard. But, as I write, our county’s Covid-19 cases are passing two handfuls. A mask at the store, even if you don’t intend to rob the place, is making more sense.

But “judge not” makes the best sense of all.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! No mask required or even suggested.

 

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


“Our Church Went Back to Church on Sunday”

Our church went back to church on Sunday. Our governor had said that we could, within some Covid-19 guidelines. Our little bunch chose to wait a week longer than required, and, just speaking for me, myself, and I, I’m glad we waited.

One size does not fit all, though we’re all trying to plot a way through this mess. Backseat drivers are already plentiful, and, though toilet paper was hard to come by a few weeks ago, I suspect, once we get a bit past this present pandemic crisis, we will be buried by a surplus of hindsight for years to come.

It seems to me that the top national medical folks we’ve heard from have done very well. I think my state’s governor and the mayors in my area have handled a tough situation admirably.

And so, when we got to the point here that churches were given, not the “all clear,” but the opportunity to meet together again, with precautions in place, we did. We just waited an extra week. I have friends at area churches who met the first Sunday they could. I have friends and colleagues at churches who have needed to wait two weeks. And I have friends and colleagues at other churches in other towns who either can’t resume meetings yet because their churches are too large to effectively follow the guidelines, or they are located in areas where the virus is presently spiking.

What this all means is that, though we’re all dealing with this mess and share plenty of experiences in common, we may be at slightly different points in the journey.

Not second-guessing anybody else at all, I’m glad we waited a week. It took that long to try to figure out how to do, in the midst of a pandemic, this thing that we’ve done every Sunday for decades. And I might as well admit it, spiritual giant that I am, though I’ve really missed worshiping together, I knew we’d be “back” eventually, and I didn’t mind recording one more Sunday service on a Thursday night and having one more sort of two-Saturday weekend. (Am I really just a barely housebroken pagan at heart? Probably so. If you’re surprised, you obviously don’t know me.) I know God wants his people to meet for worship. I know we need it. And I love it. But if my Father minds me filing as “a little bit of a blessing in the mess” a few Sunday mornings of genuinely quiet rest, well, I’d be very surprised. (In fact, I now think I’d lobby for a once ever seven-year Jubilee year, an Old Testament allusion, where we had seven Sundays of total Sabbath rest.)

Being “back” would be good, I knew, but I also knew it would be a bit weird. Enough masks for a bank robber/burglars’ convention. An odd inclination to want to remove somebody’s appendix. And, if we took any liberties, expecting the Covid-19 police to show up with tape measures and super glue or staple guns to permanently mask us up, even in a county with, so far, less than a handful of confirmed cases. And, yes, I know we need to be wise, even if being wise may feel a bit silly. We don’t want more cases, and we’ll probably have more, like it or not, so, yes, we need to be careful.

I’ll be interested in comparing notes with others who have or soon will go back to church. Not everything felt silly.

Some of the changes made us think more about what a blessing it was simply to be together. We thought more than usual about each member’s special place at the Table and in the Body—both those who were there and those who weren’t yet. We lingered on the front lawn visiting and laughing (and desperately wanting to hug).

What was the same as it had always been seemed somehow more precious. What was altered seemed more deeply filled with meaning.

We’re enjoined by the Apostle Paul to “discern the body.” Maybe we did. Maybe more than ever on Sunday. His Body.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! No mask required!

 

 

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

 


One Size Never Fits All

One Size Never Fits All

By Curtis K. Shelburne

One size never fits all. If you’ve lived for ten minutes or so, I probably don’t need to tell you that.

But one of my brothers just sent in a text to the rest of his brothers a photo of a government form designed by some nameless bureaucrat or committee of bureaucrats or building burgeoning with bureaucrats (of the sort some folks would like to place in charge of the part of our nation’s healthcare the government doesn’t already control). Form 1040-V (“V” for “voucher”) includes the payment voucher taxpayers are supposed to use if they mail in a check or money order to pay any additional dollars they owe at the end of the tax year.

In some ways, the form, really short by governmental standards, is helpful. Since it’s not long, I assume they put in only information they think is particularly useful and important for the wide variety of folks who mail in payments.

For example, the amount on the right side of your check should be in this format: $XXX.XX. Taxpayers are asked not to use dashes or underlines or slashes. None of this, please: “49/100.”

But the paragraph that my brother circled in the pic he sent to the other three of us gives some information he found especially helpful: “No checks of $100 million or more accepted. The IRS can’t accept a single check (including a cashier’s check) for amounts of $100,000,000 or more. If you are sending $100 million or more by check, you will need to spread the payments over two or more checks, with each made out for an amount less than $100 million.”

I’m glad Gene read that in time, lest he write one single check, fire it in, and inadvertently break a valuable IRS rule. He may need to send two checks. I just hope he gets the number format right and doesn’t use a dash.

This, by the way, proves what a wise accountant once told me. He certainly believed that taxpayers should pay what they owed, but he gave this valuable advice: “Curtis, remember these are bureaucrats [meaning that they barely still have a pulse]. Don’t think that any of this is personal with them. They don’t care if you owe ten dollars or ten million dollars, they just want the right blank filled in on the right form.” ’Tis true. (Yes, let’s hurry to give them the healthcare. That’ll be great.)

It surely is easy to inadvertently break rules. In the midst of this Covid-19 mess, I’ve found myself walking the wrong way down the jelly aisle at the grocery store (against the arrow) on several occasions. Then the only choice for a person of high character (not me, I’m afraid), is to turn around or walk backwards.

Businesses, and churches, in my state are starting to open again. But I’ve been surprised to be surprised that “one size” can’t work for them all. With masks and weird, but mostly sensible, accommodations, it’s going to be a bit strange and less comforting than we’d like for all of us, I suspect. But “all” of us are different.

Our small church “opens” next week. I’m glad, but figuring out how to do this is necessarily, may I say, a serious pain in the tail section. But it’s harder for a mid-sized church a few blocks away; it will take more planning and more time to pull off. And for the large church 100 miles away that another of my brothers serves, well, they’re not even close to being back. Too many folks for one building even if they have a bunch of services. And their area’s virus numbers are presently going crazy. They don’t know when they’ll be able to meet even in masks and each congregant doused in disinfectant. (Just kidding about the last part.) If this mess gets any more complicated, please just mercifully drown me in Lysol.

One size never fits all. That knowledge makes me especially thankful that our Creator knows each of us completely and individually. He knows exactly what we need and how we feel every moment. He even knows the number of the hairs on our heads.

And he never asks us to fill out a form. The love we need to go on in this life and beyond, far beyond $100 million in value, all comes from our Father to us.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne! No mask required.

 

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


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