Monthly Archives: February 2019

When Your Whole World Seems Tilted in Its Orbit

It’s very nearly as weird-feeling as it is heart-rending—a day when you wake up and realize it’s just another ordinary day for most of the world around you, but your whole world has tilted in its orbit, shifted on its axis.

For you, almost nothing feels the same, and even the things that do, don’t. Their very sameness in this new universe renders them incredibly strange.

You brush your teeth just like you always have. Part your hair in the same place. Take your keys off the same old hook. Just like you did in your old universe. But this morning you feel as if you’d opened your eyes in a universe where two plus two could not possibly still equal four. Is plumb still plumb, level still level? You know it must be, but you wonder how as you take your first steps in your suddenly off-axis world.

This morning you waked up for the first time in your life in a world where the mother or father who gave you life didn’t also wake up. You wonder how many times you’ll have to think, “I need to call Dad,” before your mind will face that fact that you can’t.

How long did it take this morning for you to realize that you were alone in the house? No shower sounds. No smell of coffee. Nobody else’s alarm going off. Your spouse really has left. Some of the last words before that were a little loud. But this jarring silence seems louder.

This morning you took your first breath of consciousness in a world where the child who was the light of your life no longer breathes. People say sadly that you lost a child. No! As if you could misplace your own heart! You didn’t “lose” her. Cancer or tragedy or incomprehensible accident seized her, wrenched her out of your arms. But not your heart. Never your heart. It still beats. And you wonder how.

Whatever the grief—and grief is the name of this thing that feels so strange—you waked up this morning in a universe that seems completely tilted.

You managed to get out of bed, but could that really have been you yesterday in the doctor’s office? Did she really say that the test results confirm that you have a life-altering disease? Now you’re staggering between the uneasy “peace” of at least knowing the reason for your symptoms and the abhorrence of the new label you never wanted, the name of the disease you’re told you that you have but right now seems to have you. “Your” symptoms? The disease you “have”? You resent “having” something that’s “yours” that you have no option to throw away. The old words are not adequate in this new world where the ground won’t stop shifting.

Hear now some words that point to a reality that is rock-solid, foundational, unchangeable, always trustworthy. Grief has a name, but so does Hope. God’s “mercies” really are “new every morning,” every moment, even in what seems a new and unwelcome universe. The only thing greater than your pain is God’s love. “Great is his faithfulness!” It is no accident that those words, deeply true, are found in the tear-stained Bible book named Lamentations (3:22-23).

When your old world “was,” when you don’t know how you can ever stand in this new world that “is,” when you’re deeply afraid of what “will be,” trust, one moment at a time, in the great “I Am.” The God of the universe is your Father. He loves you. That has not changed. It never will.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


When Jesus Says, “It’s Time to Fish . . .”

In Luke 5 we find the story of the calling of the first apostles.

To get a little space from the crowd, Jesus has turned Simon Peter’s fishing boat into a pulpit, pushed out from the shore, and taught the people from the boat.

When Jesus finishes speaking, he looks over at Simon and, I think, with a twinkle in his eye, he says, “Okay, Simon, you’ve indulged me as I’ve turned your boat into a lectern. Whaddaya say we make it a boat again? Put out into the deep water and let down your nets. Let’s fish a bit.”

Simon’s a tad taken aback. He has heard Jesus teach before and has been amazed. No one taught like Christ. But, with pardonable pride, Simon knows that not many fishermen fished as well as Simon. He knows fishing. It was worth stopping the endless work tending to his nets to listen to the Lord, but he’s tired and filled up with fishing. It’s time to go to the house, but . . .

“Master, we’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught a thing. But because you ask me, we’ll do what you say.”

Do you ever get your fill of experts? They’ve never coached a day in their life, but they know more than the coach. They’ve never doctored a day in their life, but they know more than the doctor. They’ve never taught a day in their life but they know more than the teacher. They’ve never farmed even a furrow but they know more than the farmer. They’ve not done the hard work or made the sacrifices or put in the hours to train or earned the experience only years can buy, but they know more about everybody else’s field than the folks in it.

We all play the pseudo-expert at times. When we’re pompous about it, we can be insufferable; but even a little of such can a bit hard to take, especially when you’re bone tired, you’ve done your best, and the last thing you need is help from an expert.

Jesus is certainly not being insufferable, and Simon is not even close to being deeply offended. But he’s really tired. And who’d blame him if behind his polite words is a little kernel of a “please mind your own business” rebuke?

“Rabbi, I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to teach, and I don’t mean to be impertinent, but the plain fact is that I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know about fishing. I promise you, more fishing right now is a waste of time. But if you have the time to waste—and I wouldn’t do this for anybody else—okay. We’ll give it a shot.” Behind his words: “And I’ll try not to say, I told you so.”

So out they go as Simon unlimbers his already stiff muscles. He takes the boat on out and then with a tired grunt he begins to toss out the nets. And . . .

So many fish the nets begin to break! Simon suddenly realizes that the One who made the lake and the fish and . . . is in his boat! And Christ has caught not just a bunch of fish but also four apostles who through his power will “fish for men” and change the world.

When Christ tells us to put out into the deep water, trust his promises, and follow him, something wonderful is always in store.

 

 

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

 

 

 Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Unselfish Love: A Real Gift That Matters

Uh oh. It seems that the date for this column should probably indicate its content. Rats! If the whole thing reads like it was written by a Valentine’s Day grinch, I should just plead guilty.

It’s almost certainly good for husbands like me to have a deadline that calls for something on the order of flowers, gifts, candy, seriously over-priced cards, etc. I have difficulty appreciating the Madison Avenue manipulation, but I don’t doubt that clods like me need the shove.

It’s not particularly what the pseudo-holiday has turned into that bugs me; what really bothers me is the reminder that so much in our society that masquerades in second-rate song lyrics and steamy TV as “luuuuuv” bears no resemblance to the real thing.

I listened as a famous singer on a TV morning show opined that he and his wife had just split up because “the sparkle wasn’t there anymore.” He was way past fifteen, so “puppy love” was no excuse. He evidently had actually believed too many of his own songs and was confusing love with “warm fuzzies” and body heat, the kind of “luuuuv” that bears precious little resemblance to genuine commitment that really means “in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer.” The love god was originally an old Greek one, Eros, as Sheldon Vanauken (“The False Sanction or Eros”), C. S. Lewis, and I’m sure others, have noted. Eros has never lacked for worshipers.

Bowing before this god, our society has unleashed a demon who offers easy sanction for anyone wishing to commit almost any wrong, shatter any vow, break faith with God and society, and, in the sordid process, break the hearts of countless spouses and children. And the “luuuuv” god blesses the whole mess brought on by unvarnished selfishness.

How does our society respond? When we should turn away in nausea or shed tears, we turn to tabloids and gossip magazines that glamorize the carnage.

God help us to be both wise and merciful. When we fail in our marriages to love as we should—and we fail often—may we turn contrite hearts to our spouses and our God as we seek his grace and seek renewed power to share with each other our Lord’s genuine mercy and forgiveness and love. If we can’t share those things with our mates, I doubt that what we’ll share with others will be worth very much.

Oh, and let’s be merciful, too, to those who have fallen and failed seriously in this regard, and whose genuine sorrow shows that they know it, lest we find ourselves looking down our noses when we need to look inside and realize that we too are totally dependent upon mercy and grace every moment.

Fellows, you really ought to invest in a card and maybe some flowers or candy, too. (My wife prefers cash.) But your gift will mean a whole lot more if your beloved knows that behind it is the kind of genuine, unselfish love that helps with dishes and diaper-changing before it forks over the flowers.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Irreplaceable: When a Mary, a Martha, or a Dorcas Goes Home

You probably didn’t notice a wobble in the earth’s rotation, a split-second tilt in its axis, a brief cosmic stutter last Wednesday. Neither did I.

But when I learned later that a sweet lady in Amarillo named Melba Joy had passed away suddenly that day, I immediately felt an emptiness in my soul, a pain in my heart, and a deep sense of loss. And I confess to being irrationally surprised that this planet could sustain that kind of loss and keep spinning as the solar system carried on business as usual.

I suppose that an unbeliever, an agnostic or atheist, but a skeptic of a kind sort, would feel compassion for anyone in grief, even if the bottom line in the skeptic’s life philosophy is that we’re all accidents anyway and the planet/universe can’t be expected to notice, much less, mourn, our loss.

Rationally, though I’m a Christian believer—and one who doesn’t believe for a second that belief negates rational thought—I know that the universe is impersonal and cannot mourn. But I believe its Creator is God, not an impersonal force or capricious pagan deity, but the Father who loves his children with an intensity we cannot begin to fathom, who, as Christ has told us, numbers even the hairs on our heads.

I believe the Creator of the universe not only noticed when Melba Joy passed away last Wednesday, I believe he welcomed her with an inexpressible love and, yes, joy. I believe that our Father not only loves every one of his children, I believe that he loves us as if there was only one to love. And, though I believe that the Father rejoiced to receive her truly Home, I also believe that he feels the loss and grief of those who loved her.

Obviously, my words come from the perspective of a believer. They are also coming from a small-church pastor. If you’ve not known and loved life, and the lives, the folks with faces, in a small church family, a real family in every sense, I doubt you can begin to understand the loss the folks in the little but lovely Anna Street Church in Amarillo are feeling right now. (It’s been my privilege to know and love them for lots of years, and my brother is their pastor.)

They love all of their folks, but for over 60 years, Melba, a “charter member,” has been integral in the life of that church family. For much of that time, she served as their church “hostess” and was later also recognized officially as what she had long been, a sweet deaconess. If it was warm, beautiful, well-organized, tasty, filled with joy, you can be very sure Melba Joy had a serious hand in it.

Sweet, talented, filled with joy to match her name, and beautiful in every way, Melba died at 93 (and could have easily passed for 73). When my younger brother heard of her passing, he wrote, “How sad! But didn’t she show us how to serve right up until the finish line? What a remarkable ‘Martha’ who had a big helping of the heart of ‘Mary’!” (Mary and Martha were Jesus’ dear friends). Yes, and what a “Dorcas” (Acts 9) whose passing the ancient church mourned so deeply.

Irreplaceable. That’s the word that keeps coming to mind. For small churches who lose such a lady, irreplaceable has a name. It’s Melba Joy. It’s June Conway. It’s Robin Taylor. It’s ______; fill in the name. If you’re a genuine part of a small church family, you know it. Speak the name. Thank God for her. And when she goes Home, ask the Father to help you honor him as you also honor her by being part of the small army you’ll find it will take to try to even begin to do what she did so wonderfully with so much selfless and soul-warming love.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 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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