Monthly Archives: August 2015

Worshiping Feelings Is a Path to Unhappiness

 

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The God who designed us as creatures with bones and skin also equipped us with all sorts of feelings and emotions. Good.

But that same Creator warns us not to trust that our feelings are always an accurate reflection of reality. He even commands us to “live above” our feelings. We are, for example, to love our enemies whether we feel like it or not.

Sometimes, maybe even many times, our feelings accurately reflect reality. But not even close to “always.” Surely the unhappiest people on the planet are those who always trust their feelings and set them up as the gods they follow at any terrible cost.

I mean no disrespect to “man’s best friend” when I say that we humans often operate at a level somewhere below that of our dogs. And our dogs sometimes misinterpret reality.

If you meet a dog in the park, unwisely thrust out your hand to pet the cute little beast, all the while with nothing in your heart but love, warmth, kindness, and the best of human intentions, but he nonetheless perceives your action as threatening, you may draw back a bloody human paw. The dog has reacted not to reality but to his perception of it, the way he “feels” about it. He may be dead wrong. But he’ll bite you anyway.

With a little time, and if he’s a fairly intelligent beast, he may learn that his estimation of your intentions was flawed. Eventually, he may even allow you to reach down more carefully and pet him with your remaining good hand.

More likely, he won’t wait to change his opinion; he’ll tuck tail and run barking over the hill, desperate to get away from you. He’ll likely be even quicker to sink his teeth into the next human who innocently tries to pat his head. For the rest of his doggy years, he’ll live firmly convinced that all humans who try to pet him are mean, malicious, mutt-haters who should be run from or bitten. That is truly how he feels. Even if he is truly mistaken.

Would that this were only a problem with dogs!

How many people live just as witlessly, wrongly, mistakenly! Because they completely, blindly, trust their often fouled up feelings—feelings rendered untrustworthy by tragic backgrounds, bad upbringing, mental disease or distress, or even bad digestion or too little sleep—they draw wrong conclusions about the motives or intentions of others. Then they run around snapping and biting folks who’ve done nothing to deserve it.

We need to pay attention to our feelings. Filter them. Judge them. Evaluate them. But God help us, and those around us, if we think we can always trust them and if we worship them as invariably infallible gods.

No wonder Jesus warned us about not judging others. We’ve got our hands full just trying to be honest about ourselves.

Personally, I’d trust a dog with a good nose a lot farther than I’d trust a biting, barking, snapping, ill-tempered human.

 

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

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Happy 100th Birthday to an Amazing Mom!

 

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On August 15, 2015, Wilma Jean (Key) Shelburne, my mother, would have been 100 years old.

Now this gets dangerous. As an English major, I’m delving into what for me is higher math. But Mom passed away in 1992, over 23 years ago. Amazing that it’s been that long! She was 77.

The grandson born on her birthday, my son, just turned 32 on their birthday. He was 7 when Mom passed away. If some of my math won’t fly, I’ll not be surprised, but time surely does. And, no surprise, I still miss my amazing mom.

I suppose that in one way or another most of us “play to our mothers” all of our lives. Whenever cameras pan across cheering crowds, the signs folks hold and the words they mouth are, more often than not, “Hi, Mom!”

It’s no accident, on a much more poignant note, that many survivors of bloody battles tell of hearing the wounded and dying lying between the battle lines in “No Man’s Land” crying out for their mothers.

Anything we do, whatever we accomplish, no matter how sweet the success, is for most of us sweeter when we know our moms know about it. Moms are, after all, our biggest fans. They are the leaders of our cheering sections, the un-elected but unimpeachable presidents of our fan clubs.

I’m no exception. In a couple of weeks, my third recorded album, a music CD entitled “For Sentimental Reasons” will be in my hands, and I’m pleased and thankful about that. (I hope some other folks want it in their hands, too!) But it would be an even sweeter experience for even more “sentimental reasons” if I could play the record for Mom. She’d like it. A lot.

Mom was, to borrow author Joyce Landorf Heatherley’s term, one of my very top tier “balcony people.” Always encouraging, supporting, cheering, inspiring, motivating. Always loving.

I know she loved the rest of her kids, too. Fiercely. But let’s be honest here. My surviving siblings just need to face the fact that Mom & Dad’s first three kids were basically a practice group, and that when, seventeen years after the birth of the third, #5 came along, it was clear that he was brought on board primarily just to be a companion and playmate for #4 who was, may I humbly say, sort of the culmination, sweet spot, and focal point of the whole process. Even if I did show up as a “Now, dear husband, don’t forget to breathe when I tell you this” surprise.

My little mama was amazing. Smart. Spunky. Faith-filled. Articulate and great with words. She laughed easily when the time was right, which was often. Sometimes she laughed when the time wasn’t “right” but some wise and wry soul needed to laugh to clear the air of nonsense. She was the defender of the underdog and the scourge of the sanctimonious. She taught us not just to know the Bible but to know the Savior.

I don’t know what other amazing blessings God bestowed on August 15 way back in 1915. But the one I know about was enough to make it a really, really fine day.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!  By the way, click “Play” on the bottom of the Home Page for a song sample from the new album! 

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Some Gifts, Some Sacrifices, Take Your Breath Away

 

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Some gifts, some sacrifices, take your breath away.

Thank you. Two little words stammered out from beneath a gentle waterfall of tears.

Though they flow from the wellspring of your heart, they seem so little compared to the gift of the heartbroken family of the organ donor who just gave new life to you or to one you love more than life.

Maybe birds were singing, the sun was shining, and everything in that person’s world seemed filled with life on the day they checked the “donor” box on the driver’s license form. Death by boredom in a DMV line seemed more likely than a violent, untimely passing. But now?

One family’s deep sorrow. Another’s undying gratitude.

Three weeks ago you could barely walk across the room. Now you can hardly wait to dance! With every step, every breath, you thank the giver.

Or change the scene.

The striking young couple standing at the altar would light up the sanctuary even if all the candles burned out. It’s their wedding day, a day as beautiful as they are.

Before God, his people, their families and friends, they stand hand in hand, making the vows, speaking the promises. Heartfelt. Real.

They exchange the rings, eat the cake, head off to the honeymoon, and begin life together.

And then, wonder of wonders, a new life, a precious little girl! She lights up the lives of her parents, her grandparents, their families. With just a smile and a giggle she carves her initials into hearts we’ve already lost to those brown eyes.

But just as the joys of life are deeper than we might have ever dreamed, so at times are its sorrows.

“In sickness and in health,” was the promise. We choose life together. In good times and in bad. Their voices signed the covenant on a bright cloudless day, but signed for just such a dark time as would come when…

The cancer. The treatment. The consequence. No more children. At least, not of their blood.

Well, already that one. What a blessing! But the God who has never seen a situation he could not redeem was not finished with blessing.

A very young unmarried couple in real love. But too far too soon, a human mistake. But not a mistake for which they were willing to make the purest, smallest, and most innocent pay the ultimate price. To carry a child for nine months is never easy. But to carry a child to give as a gift of deepest love?

A week ago, that little gift was born. This grandfather will never forget opening the door and walking in with her sister to meet Kendall Briley Shelburne.

Smiles. Tears. Laughter. Joy. Deep gratitude. Our family will always love and honor those birth parents. So young. But filled with love for that little one, and trusting, with wisdom beyond their years, that there is no situation the God who allowed himself to be hung on a cross cannot redeem.

Some gifts, some sacrifices, take your breath away.

 

 

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

      

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


The Tongue Is a Powerful and Often Fiery Instrument

 

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Ah, the tongue. ’Tis a powerful instrument indeed, as St. James sternly warns us in the New Testament book which bears his name (James 3:1-12).

James points to the incongruity of the fact that with this same instrument we can both praise the Lord and curse our neighbors. Strange, he comments, that out of the same spring can flow both fresh and salt water. Odd, he observes, and unnatural, that a fig tree could “bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs.” Something is wrong with that picture, and James is saying that something is wrong with our using an instrument given by God to bless us as a weapon with which to curse those created by God and in His image.

The tongue. It’s such a powerful thing that James says that a person completely able to control it, “never at fault in what he says,” would be a “perfect” person.

The tongue. It may be small, but in our lives it’s like the rudder that steers a huge sea-going vessel. Or, more often, it’s like a spark that sets a forest ablaze. Which leads me to this: We need to be very careful that what flows from our tongues are words that are refreshing, redeeming, and winsome, and not words that spark fires. Most of us would, we like to think, never shove a knife into an enemy, but we need to remember that, in God’s economy, neither are we to bow to the very real temptation to skewer folks with our own forked tongues, to use that instrument to spread poison, or to drop tongue-kindled sparks that fan fires which we secretly hope burn the folks who’ve rubbed us wrong.

Even loose lips which mean no harm can cause injury. Have you ever played the classroom game where the teacher whispers a simple sentence to a person at one end of the room, and then that person whispers it to the next, and so on, until the last person in the room shares it with the whole class? It’s often hilarious to see how the message has changed as it’s been repeated. It’s not so funny in real life.

Combine a willing tongue and a little anger, and you have a fiery combination that very few of us handle well. In this respect, as in so many others, I wish I was more like my father.

Sometime in the 70’s, Dad took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Holy Land. Several good friends of our family also went on that trip, and one of them recently recalled a long day in which the weary but excited travelers had been sightseeing among the pyramids. The tourists were riding camels led by some pesky camel-drivers who were driving their American visitors crazy with trinket-selling and incessant pleas for handouts. That night my father explained to John Comer, a dear friend, that he’d finally had to get ugly with one of those fellows.

“What did you say?” John asked.

“I said, ‘Sir, I do wish you would leave me alone.’”

That was my Dad at his ugliest. Even when he was angry, he seemed always to have his tongue under control.

I wish I was more like my father.

I wish I was more like my Father.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Ah, the tongue. ’Tis a powerful instrument indeed, as the Apostle James sternly warns us in the New Testament book which bears his name (James 3:1-12).

James points to the incongruity of the fact that with this same instrument we can both praise the Lord and curse our neighbors. Strange, he comments, that out of the same spring can flow both fresh and salt water. Odd, he observes, and unnatural, that a fig tree could “bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs.” Something is wrong with that picture, and James is saying that something is wrong with our using an instrument given by God to bless us as a weapon with which to curse those created by God and in His image.

The tongue. It’s such a powerful thing that James says that a person completely able to control it, “never at fault in what he says,” would be a “perfect” person.

The tongue. It may be small, but in our lives it’s like the rudder that steers a huge sea-going vessel. Or, more often, it’s like a spark that sets a forest ablaze. Which leads me to this: We need to be very careful that what flows from our tongues are words that are refreshing, redeeming, and winsome, and not words that spark fires. Most of us would, we like to think, never shove a knife into an enemy, but we need to remember that, in God’s economy, neither are we to bow to the very real temptation to skewer folks with our own forked tongues, to use that instrument to spread poison, or to drop tongue-kindled sparks that fan fires which we secretly hope burn the folks who’ve rubbed us wrong.

Even loose lips which mean no harm can cause injury. Have you ever played the classroom game where the teacher whispers a simple sentence to a person at one end of the room, and then that person whispers it to the next, and so on, until the last person in the room shares it with the whole class? It’s often hilarious to see how the message has changed as it’s been repeated. It’s not so funny in real life.

Combine a willing tongue and a little anger, and you have a fiery combination that very few of us handle well. In this respect, as in so many others, I wish I was more like my father.

Sometime in the 70’s, Dad took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Holy Land. Several good friends of our family also went on that trip, and one of them recently recalled a long day in which the weary but excited travelers had been sightseeing among the pyramids. The tourists were riding camels led by some pesky camel-drivers who were driving their American visitors crazy with trinket-selling and incessant pleas for handouts. That night my father explained to John Comer, a dear friend, that he’d finally had to get ugly with one of those fellows.

“What did you say?” John asked.

“I said, ‘Sir, I do wish you would leave me alone.’”

That was my Dad at his ugliest. Even when he was angry, he seemed always to have his tongue under control.

I wish I was more like my father.

I wish I was more like my Father.

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

        

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“What’s So Amazing About Grace?”

 

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“What’s so amazing about grace”?

The whole universe is not large enough to contain the wonderful answer, but maybe part of the answer is found in contrasting grace with what Philip Yancey, in his fine book What’s So Amazing About Grace, calls “ungrace,” grace’s ugly opposite.

Ungrace says, “You are what you produce.” Grace says, “You are what God has produced.”

Ungrace says, “What you produce is not good enough.” Grace says, “What God has produced is beautiful and you will be amazed at how beautiful it will yet become.”

Ungrace says, “You must keep working to earn God’s love.” Grace says, “You already have God’s love now, completely, and forever.”

Ungrace says, “Look how bad you are!” Grace says, “Look how good is the God who loves you now, completely, and forever.”

Ungrace says, “You don’t measure up,” and it frowns. Grace says, “Through Christ, you do. You absolutely do,” and it smiles.

Ungrace measures. Grace exults.

Ungrace says, “You can never afford the luxury of real peace and contentment and serenity.” Grace says, “Yours is peace beyond comprehension, worth more than gold.”

Ungrace says, “You must always keep working to be sure you’ve done enough—and, by the way, you can never know.” Grace says, “Christ has done enough, far more than enough, and you are Christ’s. Live in him, with peace and joy, and be amazed at the bounty of good works he does in your life.”

Ungrace says, “Work harder to be saved.” Grace says, “Work well and joyfully because you already are saved.”

Ungrace groans. Grace laughs.

Ungrace says, “Look at yourself! You’re worthless!” Grace says, “Look at God who knows you completely and says, ‘You’re priceless, worth the gift of my Son!’”

Ungrace says, “Let’s make some rules for some slaves, pretend we keep the rules, and worship what we call our religion.” Grace says, “Let’s bow gratefully before the God who has made us his children, freed us from subservience to law, and saved us to freely obey the law of Love.”

Ungrace says, “Grovel, slaves, before the stern Taskmaster who can’t wait to damn you when you foul up.” Grace says, “Dance, children, before the God who is your Father, whose Joy fills and empowers your every step and whose love covers and redeems your every misstep.”

Ungrace looks at those who glory in God’s grace and warns, “You’ll be sorry! Even God can’t forgive somebody like you!” Grace looks at God and sings his praises, “Worthy, worthy, worthy! Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” even as ungrace’s whiny voice is forever obliterated, and God’s people from all ages raise their voices in the everlasting and joyful praise of “the God of all grace.”

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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