Monthly Archives: April 2017

“Shaky? Nauseous? Pale? Oh, You Turned Off Your Cell Phone!”

 

Face it. More than a few of us are addicts. For all addicts, the first step toward recovery is summed up in one word: honesty. That means admitting we have a problem.

And we do. Nomophobia. That’s the official name for cell phone addiction. The term actually means “no mobile phone fear.” Of course, a phobia is an irrational or excessive fear. And “no mobile phone” means, in this context, that the digital device might be (Careful! I warn you, these are terrifying prospects!) lost, misplaced, turned off, battery dying or depleted, left at the house or office or in the car, etc.

The designers of these devices and their “apps” have long been aware of their addictive potential. Of course, the design folks work their techno-magic to the best advantage for their company or advertisers to keep us checking, glued to, enslaved by, the devices we own that too easily own us.

The actual research regarding what happens in our brains, and, more sobering, the brains of our kids, when we/they feel a deep need to be constantly on or checking our phones or apps is as interesting as it is troubling.

In a Business Insider article by Madeleine Stowe (http://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-nomophobia-2014-7), Dr. David Greenfield, a leading expert in this arena, says that when we get a notification from our phones, an elevation in dopamine occurs in our brains. Dopamine is “a neurotransmitter” that “regulates the brain’s reward system” and is a key component in all addictions. Who knows? That notification might be something gratifying or important, and so, for our brains, our cell phones become the miniature slot machines we are compulsively checking as our brain wants a payout, a fix, a reward.

“Google” this, if you dare: “signs you are addicted to your phone.” And get ready to be uncomfortable. You’ll find a bunch of articles on “10 Signs” or “25 Signs” and most of us don’t need nearly that many to fail (or be nailed by) the test miserably. If you’re a little nauseated or ticked off by the prospect of looking at such an article, I rest my case. Maybe “1 Sign” will suffice.

We might also just try some simple experiments.

*Keep a log of how many times a day we check our phones.

*Notice how often we are phubbing others (“phubbing” is “phone snubbing” and there’s no courteous way to do it) by focusing on our phones, disregarding, and thus demeaning the people around us.

*Eat a meal with our phone off, put away, or throttled all the way down. I mean, really, is it vital for most of us non-emergency personnel to have our phones at the table during a meal—or is it just one more proof of addiction? Care about teaching your kids manners, parents? Teach them about this—and show them. Please!

I actually heard of a church recently where social media access is electronically blocked on their campus. Good!

Speaking of social media, here’s a way to get a daily dopamine fix by playing a game of chance. How about for a week or two or 52, flipping a coin each morning? Tails? No Facebook or other social media today. Faces? I mean, heads? Scroll your heart out, all a-twitter that day, as much as you want! How much courage/discipline would that test take from addicts like us? Probably more than we have. Still it’d be well worth a try.

Lots of blessings become curses—even idols—if we don’t use them wisely, throttle them back, give them away, quit bowing before them, or, in this case, just regularly turn them off.

One God is enough.

Note: I do not recommend tossing this column at your spouse or others—or whimsically sending it to their phone. 1) Addicts are easily angered, even dangerous. 2) Self-righteousness is as bad as addiction.

 

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

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 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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Mustard Seed Faith May Often Be Faith Enough

 

One Easter years ago (almost two decades!), I got to play the Apostle Peter in a community Easter cantata. I enjoyed it. For one thing, the music was really good; for another, I like Peter. I think everybody likes Peter.

But, another apostle really high on my list (I suppose it’s okay to have favorite apostles?) might not make the top slots on many folks’ lists. He does with me! I’m speaking of the Apostle Thomas.

I doubt that Thomas (See! Thomas and I get along already!) asked for any evidence just before he met the Risen Lord that the other apostles hadn’t already pretty much checked out before he had the opportunity. But his are the seemingly doubt-filled questions that make it into Scripture. I think his questions were excellent, and I’m glad he asked them.

I like Thomas, and I love the fact that once he saw the risen Lord, his “You are my Lord and my God!” is one of the most stirring affirmations of faith in all of Scripture. By the way, I appreciate the author who pointed out that nothing in Scripture ever indicates that Thomas actually retraced the nail prints in Jesus’ hands with his own; it was enough for him that Jesus loved him so much that He invited him to.

It’s okay to ask questions.

It’s okay (though rarely comfortable) to deal with honest doubt.

Oh, there’s a blessing in childlike faith, and Jesus tells us to strive for such. But there’s also a blessing in learning to work through and, when necessary, live with some honest doubt. Jesus never once turned away an honest doubter.

Thank God for days when the sun is shining, life seems very good, and faith seems to come easily.

But, in a different sense, on days when the sun of your happiness is cloud-covered, when even getting through one day at a time seems too great a task and you wonder if you can even manage one moment at a time, one heartbeat at a time—thank God for His assurance that sometimes faith as small as a mustard seed is faith enough to deal with a mountain of doubt.

On those cloudy days, thank God for another honest man in Scripture (Mark 9:24), much akin to Thomas, I think, who said, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief!”

On difficult days, maybe faith just means wordlessly making the same commitment Peter made when the crowds following Jesus (they liked free food and were hoping for more loaves and fishes) abandoned Him. When Jesus asked sadly, “What about you? Will you leave, too?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.”

On some days, in the midst of all we don’t understand, don’t like, and have a very hard time dealing with, maybe simply praying, “Lord, there’s no other game in town! You’re my only realistic hope, my only choice! Just help me through one moment at a time!”—is faith enough.

And pretty strong faith, at that.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 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 the Rocks of Creation Praise the Creator’s Son

 

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, and for centuries many Christians have let that Sunday before Easter carry their minds back to the amazing scene of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before he would die.

Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey no one had ever ridden, a beast his disciples found just as he had said they would. Our Christmas cards invariably depict Mary, Jesus’ mother, riding a donkey to Bethlehem. It’s not unlikely, though no Gospel specifically says such. If it’s so, that alone would have been enough to ennoble the species. But now this! What a privileged beast!

As he approached the city, people began to spread their cloaks on the road and wave palm branches hailing the coming King.

As he came down the road from the Mount of Olives, the crowd began to burst into praise.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

The Pharisees, soured, joyless, and heart-atrophied by their toxic (and still all too popular) approach to religion, began to warn Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples. Shut them up!”

And Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

On Palm Sunday—and on every Sunday—I’d rather be a rock on the road praising the Savior than a Pharisee all knotted up in religious robes and with no one to praise.

The cynical poet Swinburne once wrote, “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean! / The world has grown grey with Thy breath.”

If Christ was the morose Son of a joyless God sent just to tell this world we are wrong and lost and that we’d better straighten up, but to do nothing to help us . . .

If the cross was just an unfortunate accident, a tragic historical footnote with no meaning instead of the event in which God himself accomplishes the work of salvation and does for us what we could never do for ourselves, I could well agree with the poet’s words. Good news? What good news?

If God was just a stern heavenly killjoy, a thin-lipped, overly strict, bloodless, joyless frustrated caricature of a “father” griping that his kids are more trouble than they’re worth and who’d really rather not bother with them . . .

If God had stopped with the tables of stone revealing his holy law and not gone on to send the Savior with the message, “God’s laws are real, and you often break them at great cost, but I have paid the price for your pardon and risen to heal and empower you to live lives under his mercy, led by his Spirit, and filled with his joy . . .”

If God had sent just the Law to be our Prosecutor and not the Son to be our Savior, Swinburne would be right.

But he’s not right.

And it would be a shame to let the rocks do all the praising.

 

 

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

     And may this be a sweet and meaningful Holy Week and blessed Easter for you and yours!

 

Copyright 2017 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 Hard-to-Spell Prophet Points to Hard-to-Beat Faith

 

So, tell me, have you read Habakkuk lately?

You know, in the Bible. The Old Testament. One of the prophets.

The English major part of me has paid attention to this prophet only rarely and then only to try to remember if his name, which sounds vaguely like a variety of something legal in Colorado but federally frowned upon, includes two Bs and two Ks or one B and three Ks.

It’s the latter. Like the World War I vintage song I remember singing around the campfire with the Boy Scouts: “K-k-k Katy, beautiful Katy, / You’re the only g-g-g-girl that I adore…”

That song was a run-up to my still-favorite-Boy-Scout-song we crooned about Dutchman Johnny Verbeck’s machine. Its best line: “All the neighbors’ cats and dogs / will never more be seen; / they’ll all be ground to sausages / in Johnny Verbeck’s machine.”

But I digress. (Ya think?)

When the Bible major part of me read that prophet’s “book” years ago, I was rather surprised—and then awed by Habbakuk’s—I mean, Habakkuk’s—incredible, and unfailingly honest, faith. I’d not really spent much time in the Psalms, or, for that matter, the other prophets, or grappled enough with the nature of real faith. I still thought genuine faith was mostly unquestioning, always serene, content, and nice. Habakkuk put the lie to that nonsense. (Read the prophet’s “book.” Three chapters short, it’ll take less time to read than a Reader’s Digest article. And by all means, read it in a modern translation.)

You’ll quickly notice that Habakkuk is not a happy camper. First, he’s intensely frustrated that God seems slow to see his nation’s situation, hear his prayers, and do something. Habakkuk is appalled at his nation’s (Judah’s) sinfulness and is pleading with God to come and bring justice. For a long time, no answer. But then…

Oh, but then God answers. And Habakkuk hates the answer. Yes, the Lord says, I’ve seen the rampant wickedness and injustice, and I intend to deal with it decisively with the kind of eye-popping punishment that will cause the whole world to take notice and be appalled. Here’s how: I’m sending the Babylonians, the fiercest pagan army in the world, to be my whip and wreak havoc. (The Babylonians are about to run Judah right through Johnny Verbeck’s machine. Only worse.)

“But, Lord,” Habakkuk complains, “how can you do this? Those idolatrous cutthroats, those bloodthirsty Babylonians, are far worse even than my terribly wicked nation! How is this fair?”

And God answers. Just wait, Habakkuk. Justice and mercy will both prevail. Just wait until the end of the story. This is not the end. Trust me. And wait.

Waiting is the hard part. Waiting in those many times when God seems silent… Waiting in those times when, well, if this is God’s answer, we might have preferred silence.

Habakkuk makes the choice of real faith, faith with its eyes open: God is God, and I am his. Come what may, I will trust him.

“Even if the sheep die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet will I rejoice in the Lord. The Lord is my strength” (Habakkuk 3).

 

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

 

 

 Copyright 2017 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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