Monthly Archives: August 2016

Animal Friends Are Among God’s Best Blessings

 

Maddie

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.

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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

 

 

 

trainwreck

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

 

tattoo typo

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.

 


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