Monthly Archives: May 2017

A Lesson from Sloth, Murder, Adultery, and a Water Tower

 

The list of what we know as “The Seven Deadly Sins” dates back to the fourth century and, of course, has its basis in the teaching of the Bible.

One of the seven was Sloth. A one-word paraphrase is inadequate but useful: laziness.

We’ve all known some folks beset by such, people who begrudge the effort it takes to breathe, much less to do anything resembling work. Like all sins, this one carries with it a sad list of its own punishments, consequences that hurt not just the slothful person, but also those who deserve better from him.

And yet a wise man once said something to the effect that all idleness and rest is no more sloth than all sex is adultery.

You see, God was saying nothing at all against sex in marriage and everything FOR marriage and faithfulness and strong families with happy and secure children when concerning adultery he said, “Thou shalt not.” That’s generally held to be Commandment Number Seven. No matter what our society says, we cannot make our own rules and break that commandment (or any of the others) without painful consequences to ourselves and those we should love more than ourselves. Of course, God’s forgiveness is available and real, but real forgiveness does not remove all of the real and intensely hurtful consequences.

All God’s commandments are like that. They are rooted in his very nature. Nowhere in God’s vast creation will you find a place where murder will not hurt you, where lying enlarges your spirit, where disrespect to parents blesses your life, where covetousness does not shrink your soul, etc. These laws from God are not simply the “flavors” he chose on one particular day; even God cannot change them because they reflect his nature, and they are as real as the law of gravity.

It’s been interesting lately to watch the water tower near our house as workers have been climbing all over that massive structure in a serious refurbishing project. Their various lines and cables and safety harnesses indicate that those folks (whose job I do NOT want) are very much aware that the law of gravity is not to be trifled with. Flaunt it, and serious pain or death will be the inevitable consequence.

All of that to say that the Almighty was not recommending laziness when he gave us Commandment Number Four: “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” Like all the other commandments, it predated the ritual laws of the Old Testament and points to truth and principles everlastingly true.

We can talk about those principles and applications and interpretations, but at the very least, we can know that even the Creator “rested” after creation. His commandment that we take some time for recreative rest and trust him to spin the world for a few hours without our help is meant to bless us. If we ignore it, the consequences to ourselves—and to those around us—may not be quite as obvious, but I think we can be sure they are just as real and painful as those which follow when we shoot a neighbor, run off with his wife, twist words into lies, or take a nose dive off the nearest 150-foot water tower.

 

      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.

 

 


Genuine Happiness Is Never Found By Focusing on Self

 

One In C. S. Lewis’ account of his early life, Surprised by Joy, Lewis begins by writing about the two family strains that had come together to give him life. On his father’s side . . .

By the way, Dr. J. D. Grey, for many years pastor of New Orleans’ First Baptist Church, used to tell the story of a little lad who lived a long way from his paternal grandmother. When the boy went with his father to the railway station to pick her up, she hugged him and said, “Young man, I’m your grandmother on your father’s side.” To which the lad replied, “That may be, but you won’t be in the house ten minutes before you figure out that you’re on the wrong side!”

On his father’s side, Lewis descended from Welshmen: “sentimental, passionate, and rhetorical, easily moved both to anger and to tenderness; men who laughed and cried a great deal and who had not much of the talent for happiness.”

Lewis’ mother, however, like her family, was a woman of “cheerful and tranquil affection.” Her people “had the talent for happiness in a high degree” and “went straight for it as experienced travelers go for the best seat in a train.”

You’ve probably noticed long ago that not only is not everyone happy, a good many folks seem to possess little or no “talent” for happiness at all.

I don’t mean to be cynical, and I don’t think I’m telling you something you don’t already know, but you probably can’t make unhappy folks happy no matter what you do, and I suspect it’s unwise to waste too much time trying.

Some folks are unhappy at work. They’re unhappy at school. They’re unhappy at the Little League park. They’re unhappy at the grocery store, at the church, at the bank, and at the barber shop. See a pattern?

The sad fact is that unhappy people tend to spread their unhappiness like chicken pox in a kindergarten class; it seems to be a sad law that unhappy people never seem closer to a twisted sort of happiness than when they’re busy making other people unhappy. Misery does indeed love company.

Until unhappy folks make a decision to be happy, they won’t be. Not only can you not make them happy, if you spend a good bit of your time trying, you will only succeed in becoming the unhappiest of all. Even if you get a little fleeting smile out of them if you stand on your head and stack a dozen or so BBs on your nose, they’ll suddenly remember that they knew somebody back in Kansas who was able to do the same thing except he stacked two dozen BBs in the air sideways while singing “Climb Every Mountain.”

People who want to be unhappy almost certainly will be. So what to do?

Be sure you’re not one of them. (Focusing on Christ and on others and on your blessings and not on your own navel will go a long way toward producing happiness under your own hat.) Love them by behaving in Christlike ways toward them. Pray for them. Model thankful and joyful living as you thank God with every breath that he has taught you how to find happiness by focusing outside yourself.

 

      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.


“A Time to Mow, a Time to Rake, a Time to Shovel, and a Time to Sow”

 

Well, here we go again.

I’m talking about firing up the lawn machines, mowing, trimming, fertilizing, weed-spraying, weed-eating, weed-picking, and the whole nine yards of yard and lawn care.

Actually, in my part of the country, we’ve been moving slowly back into mowing for at least a month. An April 29th snow which, I admit, I had hoped might slow the grass down a bit, didn’t much.

Friends in lower altitudes/swamps or other areas that spend most of the year garbed in green, or friends with yards the size of postage stamps, or, on the other hand, friends whose yards are the size of Rhode Island or a mid-sized Texas ranch, will have little sympathy for me.

If you can trim your yard in fifteen minutes, or if you’re sentenced by your geography to mow your massive estate twice a week in the summer, you’ll not likely shed many tears for a guy who grinches about having to mow once a week when the grass is really ginnin’.

I’m not looking for sympathy. I actually like seasons. And I like living in a place where we have four of them that are generally distinct. I admit that the more time the grass spends under snow, out of sight and out of my mind in the winter, the better I like it. I’d much rather ski over snow than mow over grass. But I’m fond of green, growing stuff (except dandelions and crab grass); I’m just happy that here grass—and weeds—take a few months off.

In my better moments, I even like mowing. A little. Sometimes. In my work, I get to visit with plenty of folks who’d absolutely love to be healthy enough to mow. That gives some perspective when I’m out cursing one hill in my yard that’s been trying to mow me under or break my ankles for thirty years.

I will also admit that chasing a mower over 10,000 square feet of grass seems a more productive exercise to me than chasing my tail in gerbil-like fashion down the belt of a treadmill. (I particularly despise lining up on those things with a bunch of other waddling gerbils.) I also like the fact that my cell phone is in the house when the mower and I are out in the yard. So mowing is not without some benefits.

My mother was a yard person. Well, actually, she was a gardening person. She was not averse at all to tackling lawn mowing chores, but she was more of a plant artist. I inherited her love of green things but not her ability. (I think my younger brother got more of her gardening gene.) Still, I try. I plant plants. About half live a normal plant lifespan.

Mom spent decades growing really pretty plants in the High Plains where ice in the winter, drought in the summer, and wind most of the year around all conspire to kill vegetation. But she was more than equal to the challenge. Then we moved to Houston and Mom got a canvas worthy of her ability. While she was there, it was beautiful. Ten minutes after she was gone, it reverted to swamp.

But in God’s economy no genuine beauty is ever wasted or irrevocably lost. I can hardly wait to see what God grows and lets us help tend in the new heavens and new earth where the season for joy is forever.

 

     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.


“My Mother Was a Daughter of Encouragement”

 

One of the most important leaders, and one of the very finest men, in the early days of the Christian church was a man named Barnabas. This good man’s name meant “son of encouragement,” and he blessed the church by living up to his name.

If Barnabas was the “son of encouragement,” I’m quite sure that encouragement’s daughter was my mother. Mom died twenty-five years ago (hard as that is for me to realize), but her encouragement lives on.

Near my desk sits one of the last birthday cards I received before Mom’s passing. In her uniquely beautiful hand (I’ve never seen more beautiful script) are written these words: “We love you so much! Every day we thank God for you and all you have meant to us and to the family. You are so sweet, so gentle in a manly way, so caring, and just so very special. Every day we pray God to bless you, to guide you, to give you strength, and, always, to be so very close to you. Love, Mom.”

May I hasten to admit that my mother’s opinion of me was much inflated! But that was another of her gifts to me. She looked for the best in me and my siblings, and her praise helped us to reach for the best in ourselves. Every day I thank God for her love and encouragement which are still as real to me as breath.

Mom gave me lots of precious gifts. She gave me life. She taught me to love words. And she nurtured in me faith in the One who gives life direction, purpose, and joy.

From my earliest days, she read to me, immersed me in and taught me to love the great stories from the Bible. She was smart, too. When my younger brother and I were small, she’d read the wonderfully paraphrased stories from books like Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible, rather than bore us out of our minds with words we could not understand. We never thought “The Bible” and “boring” were words that went together. I still have the pictures from A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories indelibly etched in my mind. (Those books and many others are still available. One of the very best more recent children’s Bible story books is The Story for Children (Lucado, Frazee, & Hill).

Mom was sure that since God gave us the capacity to laugh, we ought to use it. She taught me that to be serious about God means to refuse to take ourselves too seriously and that laughter washes away pomposity and repels Pharisees.

Mom taught me that people are more important than issues and that folks ought to be careful about thinking that their molehills are God’s mountains.

She gave me so many good gifts, but surely one of the best was her unfailing encouragement. No matter how long I live, I’ll be “playing to her”—not in a pathetic attempt to measure up, but joyfully sure that, whatever I accomplish, she’d be the first one to say, “Well done!”

I hope you’ve received the gift of encouragement from your parents. More important, moms (and dads), I hope you’re giving this beautiful gift to your own sons and daughters every day.

 

       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.


Who Do We Trust When Life Goes Off the Rails?

 

I still remember the movie, even though I’ve forgotten its name.

It’s been several years now since I watched it. I know this because it was a Netflix flick that actually came in the mail. Part of their movie sales pitch back then was “no late fees,” which was nice, but which also meant you could stack up a DVD or a few and let them sit around unwatched awhile. Truth be told, I was putting off watching it until my wife made me.

It was a love story, and early in the movie, the young husband died, tragically felled by a brain tumor. Chick flick, right? What was your first clue? Untimely death or cancer?

I was surprised by two things. First, I enjoyed it. Second, one great line from the movie made me think.

As the movie begins, the guy and gal are talking about whether or not to have a baby. Both of them are likable folks, as “successful” in their work as young folks just starting out can be.

But it becomes clear that the husband is carefree and impetuous, and she’s a (lovable) control freak who is probably a bit afraid (control is always about fear) to say, “Good morning!” without having some kind of plan in mind for both of them for the rest of the day—and probably the next month, the next year, and the next decade. He wants them to have a baby. She says they can’t afford to yet. Being translated, her protests mean that in her Life Plan “Be financially stable” shows up two lines ahead of “Have a baby with hazel eyes, weighing in at 7 lbs, 6 ozs, on a Thursday afternoon between 3 and 4, Central Time, in a month ending in R.” Her hesitance probably also means that she knows deep-down that the world has never seen a kid who could be completely controlled and that a long synonym for “baby” is “some degree of chaos and disorder from now on; the best-laid parenting plans will be broken and in need of change more often than the kid needs new shoes. Learn some flexibility or go quickly crazy. Welcome to parenthood!”

Like I say, the gal is a lovable control freak. She has the best of intentions. She really believes that most of life can and should be scrupulously planned, and if you plan it with all the right ingredients, life can hardly fail to turn out just like you have planned it. “To fail to plan is to plan to fail” and all that stuff has some truth in it and looks really great on the screen at “Success” seminars. It works fine—until real life bumps into it or roars over it like a freight train squashing a bug on the rails.

She doesn’t know that “real life” is racing down the track toward her and her husband. For them, it won’t be a baby; it will be a tumor. But they can’t know that yet. And so the argument rolls on until she finally blurts out her life philosophy (based on fear): “I just don’t want to make any mistakes, Jerry!”

Her smiling Irish husband replies with a wry wad of wisdom: “Well, you’re in the wrong species, love!”

Ain’t it just the truth!?

But the Creator of our species loves us completely, mistaken though we almost always are, and His is the only plan that ultimately matters. We can trust our Father and let go. No fear.

 

 

     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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