Monthly Archives: January 2014

Too Old? Only If Your Imagination Has Withered

 

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I turned 57 the other day. No big deal, even though 57 is widely recognized as a serious milestone.

I’m sure if you “Google” it, you’ll find all sorts of articles and blogs where “Baby Boomer” folks like me wax philosophic about the big 57. My generation has always been gifted when it comes to navel-gazing about things that don’t matter.

Truth be told, I seemed to skid right on past the big event with barely a bump in the road. That may have been because my math skills are nonexistent. I spent a good bit of last year sitting on the fence between 56 and 57, literally and figuratively. I was fairly confident that I was one or the other.

But just to set my mind at ease and to stay razor sharp mentally, from the top of the fence I stopped a couple or three times to do a little math (the only kind I ever do). Since I suspected that I was already 57, it was nice to discover that I was younger than I thought.

Yes, I did that several times. You’re right, of course. I should have just written it down—scrawled “56” in big letters on a Post It note and then stuck the sticky in the stacked up “leaning tower” stack of those notes I collect to keep me right on top of important events.

It’s a pleasure to dig down through that sticky pile just often enough to get to throw away the half of the notes connected to monumental events that have already happened that I can now forget about. And it’s gratifying to know that I’ve saved time and been ahead of the game by forgetting about them already, long before a less gifted forgetter could have been expected to forget about them. A guy who can’t remember if he is 56 or 57 is world-class talented in the “forgetting” category.

I guess I also forgot to be alarmed by the fact that I kept forgetting the result of my math. I’ve been too busy living life and aging to worry much about aging.

But two things—make that three—cause me a little anxiety.

First, I’ve lived long enough to see styles returning that I thought had mercifully expired at the end of the seventies. Once around was more than enough, thank you. (I’m immensely thankful that our styles weren’t tattooed on.)

Second, I’m hoping that maybe a shaky season or two during my forties will count as a “mid-life” crisis. It’s not only too late to go through one now—I can’t spare the time—the math worries me. If I had one now, at 57, would “mid-life” indicate that I’d have to hang around until I’m 114? I’ve got far better things to do and a much better place to be.

Third, though there is no doubt at all that the best thing about being 57 is getting to jump into a second childhood with your grandchildren, those little grandfolks are starting to grow too tall. I’m afraid my heart will break if the magic fairy princess castle out in our back yard ever turns back into just a shed.

What’s “too old”? It’s when your imagination withers and your heart starts to calcify. No wonder the Eternal One hugged children and said that the way to be saved is to be like them. At any age.

 

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

 
Copyright 2014 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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All Human Beings Worship Someone or Something

God reaching man

Human beings are inherently religious. We will worship someone or something.

Of course, some folks claim to believe in no god. Truth be told, the deity they refuse to bow before and direct prayers to is rarely a god of the “to whom the universe may concern” generic variety; it’s almost always the Judeo-Christian “God.”

Not even the small capital “G” God of truly off-the-rails “left of left, touchy-feely” religion and aging flower children (denying that wispy cut-rate deity must be as satisfying as denying the existence of a cumulus cloud), the God most atheists deny is the large capital “G” God of Believers, Bible-lovers, Baptists and such. God with a holy name. God who is a Person and not an it. The God they can deny and feel like they’ve accomplished something. The God they can slap in the face and feel like they’ve hit Somebody.

The God many atheists spend their lives resenting (so much that they let themselves be defined by a resentment of Someone they don’t think exists) is often the God of their parents, or their childhood church, or some other group they think has been overly strict with them, potty-trained them poorly, or otherwise ticked them off. Atheism is payback.

The God they deny is the God whose standards and rules are as real as the law of gravity, but gravity is confining, and they’ve decided to shake it off. Never mind that ignoring gravity on a globe governed by it is uphill business fraught with bumps and bruises.

Most atheists are unable to espouse disbelief as quietly, as, say, a person who doesn’t believe in collard greens as food. No matter how sincere he is in his conviction that collard greens are a weed and not a food, he feels no particular need to found an Anti-Collard Green Society or take out a sanctimonious ad in the paper; he just doesn’t eat them, and, if you do, he may look down his nose at you, but it’s no skin off his snout.

Atheists tend to be testy about disbelief. Agnosticism, a more honorable position I think, may partake of these self-righteous qualities, but is often less militant. In our culture, atheism is often an “in your face,” “up yours,” full-blown religion. Agnosticism is a question; atheism is a statement that seems to require, at the least, a raised eyebrow, a gaze down the nose, a snooty sort of disbelief.

But gods we will have, even if we toss out God. The psalmists made unmerciful fun of folks who carved statues carefully so they wouldn’t topple over, then put them on stands and worshiped them. But the god-makers the psalmists lampooned had more sense than modern pagans in business suits who worship only themselves and their 401k’s.

A few decades ago liberals made fun of conservatives who worshiped a God with rules; now many of the same liberals worship rules with no God. They tack up many more commandments than ten. Lacking belief in an afterlife, they center on constricting this one, all in the name of salvation; it’s just that “salvation” is mostly about saving your body (no trans fat and no cigars ever, and don’t even think about taking a Coke can into a school cafeteria) or saving the earth (you never met a Bible thumper more self-righteous or blindly believing than a devout environmentalist so green his brain has molded).

Human beings will worship someone or something. We may be sure of that. So . . . who or what will we worship? That’s the question.

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

 

 

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Caution: Laughter May Cause a Rise in Blood Pressure

doormat

One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year is, no kidding, a doormat, one with a label proclaiming, “This perfectly fine if not certainly adequate DOORMAT is Made in the USA.”

This fine doormat was bundled with some other gifts, one of which was a prodigious chunk of fine blue cheese. A love of blue cheese is certainly an acquired taste, one that I certainly acquired years ago. I love the stuff. The fact that good blue cheese smells, some say, like dirty socks, which are attached to feet, which are attached to shoes, which are wiped on doormats, ties the whole gift together nicely.

The doormat is not only a most certainly adequate doormat, it is wonderfully inscribed for this specific locale, “THE SHELBURNE CENTER For Exceptional Grandchildren.”

Hard to get better than that, but, surprise! One of the finest things about this fine doormat is its warning label. It has one, of course. These days in the Nanny State everything anyone produces is lawsuit fodder, priced to deal with future lawsuits, price-inflated from past lawsuits, and covered in lawyer droppings. It might be a garden hose (“Don’t stick this thing down your throat and crank up the faucet!”) or a cup of coffee (“Surprise! This stuff is hot!”), but it will feature lawyer litter.

This doormat did, too. I’m bettin’ that the “Chairman of the Board” of the business wrote this “warning” himself. He’s the guy whose motto is, “If it isn’t funny, it isn’t fun.” And the doormat warnings are fun, for sure.

“Do not use mat as a projectile. Sudden acceleration to dangerous speeds may cause injury.”

“When using mat, follow directions: Put your right foot in, put your right foot out; put your right foot in and shake it all about.”

“This mat is not designed to sustain gross weight exceeding 12,000 pounds.”

“If mat begins to smoke, immediately seek shelter and cover head.”

“Caution: If coffee spills on mat, assume that it is very hot.”

“Small food particles trapped in fibers may attract vermin.”

“When not in use, mat should be kept out of reach of children diagnosed with CFED (Compulsive Fiber Eating Disorder).”

And my favorite: “Do not glue mat to porous surfaces such as pregnant women, pets, and heavy machinery.”

Well, there you have it. Or, rather, there I have it. A perfectly fine doormat and instructions on how to use it in a relatively safe manner.

I hope the doormat-sellers sell a bunch of them. If it’s a small business, it’ll need help to survive government’s war on small business. But anybody with that kind of sense of humor deserves to have his stuff bought and his business get bigger.

Besides, I figure that the Lord who talks about camels going through the eyes of needles, and pokes fun at folks with 2 X 4’s in their eyes pointing out the dust-specks in the eyes of their compadres—that Lord seems to enjoy some good humor.

Caution: Laughter, while generally safe and even conducive to good spiritual and physical health, may cause an unsafe rise in blood pressure. Take the risk.

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com
Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Christmas Is Over, But Its Real Joy Lasts Forever

Christmas dec 001

Ah, ’tis a dangerous time for me, a little section of the year I always dread, and this year, more than usual. You see, Christmas is over, no matter how you reckon it.

Christmas, the shopping season, is done. Madison Avenue launches Santa’s sleigh the day after Halloween, largely ignores Thanksgiving, and then shoves the whole thing back into the box and up into the attic on December 26.

And even for those committed to observing the time-honored “holy days” of Christmas, the season that begins on Christmas Day and lasts for twelve, well, the twelve are done. (Which reminds me: I need to go unplug and un-hang the shepherds on the front of our house.)

So here we are. Christmas is over. The decorations, and a whole lot of beauty and color, in our homes and churches are all coming down again as we head into a time, I’m tempted to say, easily relegated to bureaucrats and bean-counters and the IRS, and where we are tempted to focus on “battery-powered” human “resolutions” rather than God-powered, “the Word became flesh” salvation.

That God’s joy is never far away at any time of year is, as I count it, an article of faith. That I have to work a little harder myself to experience it during these early days of the year is a weakness in me, I’m sure. But it is, by now, predictable. And this year, oh, I saw it coming like a Mack truck!

To have a Christmas album ready in September, I began singing Christmas music last February (we recorded “Let It Snow” in July!), and my oft-repeated prayer has been that God’s joy shine through every note. During the season, I was singing those songs, and a sled-full of other Yuletide carols and tunes, more than ever. I love to sing for any reason at any season, but the Christmas songs are my favorite. To have a chance to help brighten the season for others and help us all plug more into God’s joy is a genuine blessing I hope to have many times again—and then, in some way, forever!

But, alas, the season has done what seasons are supposed to do: it has come, and it has gone. This one just happens to be my favorite. And I find myself considering the wisdom an 88-year-old snow-haired friend and church member shared years ago as we sat by his fire. He said, “Curtis, at my age, it seems like Christmas comes about every other week.” Did he also say that each one seems to last about ten minutes? Ah, well.

My wife says I’m a January Grinch. As usual, she’s probably right. But I hope it’s more accurate to say that I’m a January Scrooge.

I’ve long thought that the most dangerous time for the new Ebenezer Scrooge lay in January, following the Christmas of his reclamation. Dickens puts our minds at ease by giving us a glimpse into Ebenezer’s future. The old boy held on to his new-found joy. It was the real thing, and he never lost it.

May the same be said of us all, and the January Scrooge under my hat, during this and all times of the year.

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

Copyright 2014 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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