Monthly Archives: April 2019

“Drink This Water, and You’ll Never Be Thirsty Again!”

You should probably drink a lot more water.

It’s our age’s most oft-recited quasi-medical mantra. Never mind that most of us have long thought that the human body came equipped with an “idiot light” on the dashboard that flashes “You Are Thirsty!” to be sure we don’t miss the signal that we are when we are. Thirsty, that is. In need of liquid sustenance. Maybe even . . . water. As precious as water is—far more precious than oil—you have to be really thirsty for it to taste really good; otherwise, the very best thing you can say about its taste is that it has none.

Cue, at this point, creepy, foreboding background music to set the stage for a horrific confession: I don’t much like water. I find drinking it all through the day to be tedious, boring, and annoying. And since the water gurus want you to drink a riverboat of it, you can’t just chug it and get the delightful experience over with. You’re chained to a water bottle all day long.

If you happen to be equipped with a urinary tract more than a few decades old, you will also find yourself chained to something else. Should you try to take a trip—say a fifty-minute flight to Dallas (tripled in length by TSA) and find the seat belt sign ON for most of the flight, be ready for an in-flight emergency.

You see, if the medical professional who recently told me to shoot for six bottles a day—those plastic, crackly, never decomposing vessels our planet is awash in that fools buy in bulk and never think of simply refilling from their own tap—well, if that guy’s right, we’re talking about 101.4 fluid ounces, .79251616 of a gallon, or, what I think they’re really shooting for, 3000 milliliters. Chug that, and your stomach and bladder will resemble the wreck of the Hindenburg sans fire.

Stay chained to the water bottle all day, though, and the water-pushers promise delightful results. Your car’s alternator will last longer. Vladimir Putin will become an incredibly big-hearted, warm person. Donald Trump will stop wee-hour tweeting. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez will lead hordes of their glassy-eyed followers in chants of “Cut Taxes Now!” World peace will flower.

Excuse me. I need to take a break.

From what little research I’ve done, it seems that the very food we eat contains more of the water we need than you’d think. And fluid is fluid. Strain it through a coffee bean, tea leaves, or even add hops and fermentation (I’m talking diuretics here), and you may need more fluid for the net result, but fluid is fluid. The way our brains/bodies let us know we’re thirsty is amazing, fascinating, and complex. But, basically, our bodies know.

I am trying to drink more water. I really am. Mostly, I don’t doubt that I need to drink more than I’d like to. But it’s a chore.

“Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again,” Jesus promised a water-drawing woman at a well (John 4). Thirst quenched forever! On every level, I like the sound of that.

 

 

     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.

Advertisements

“Render Unto Caesar What Is Caesar’s”

Tax Day 2019 has come and gone. It’s actually just Tax Filing Day since every day is a tax day and, if you somehow still manage to own a business or be self-employed, you’ll have several more lesser but still taxing opportunities.

As disheartening as Tax Day always is, April 15, 2019 was far more depressing than usual as we watched in grief and horror as Notre Dame Cathedral burned.

That day was also decidedly disheartening for many employees who file what passes for a simple 1040 form and are accustomed to receiving a tidy sum called a tax refund. Since the 2017 tax law changes, withholding guidelines have been altered. Also, many employees are paying less total tax. Thus more folks are receiving smaller refunds and maybe even having to write an actual check to the IRS. Ouch!

If that’s your situation, I feel your pain, but this disappointing turn of events could provide an instructive moment. Forgive any hint of condescension, but I’m one of those people who are not “subject to withholding” but who are, on the other hand, very regularly subject to actually writing checks to the IRS.

It’s possible there’s some good news in this difficult situation. You may actually be paying less tax this year. Good news: your take-home pay may be a bit larger. Bad news: your tax refund may be a bit smaller. I’d suggest you look at your pay stubs or talk to your tax preparer to actually find out how much tax you pay.

The whole system—I’d say the whole diabolical system—is designed to mislead, promote class warfare and political posturing, and is one notch above a misdirection con game, as this year shows much more clearly than usual.

You’re too smart not to already know this, but lots of folks have very little idea how much they pay in taxes. Why? Because under this system, their employers (operating businesses that actually create wealth and provide jobs) are forced by the government (which does, of course, need revenue) to be unpaid tax collectors. Not only are employers not paid for the onerous, productivity-leeching, and expensive task of thus garnishing their employees’ wages (it’s called “withholding”), many employees have no real idea of how much they pay in taxes, and they consider their employer to be the “bad guy.”

Ah, but then the government comes out of hiding to rescue the day by sending a nice refund check. Unless . . . the tax law changes and less of the employees’ money is filched from their paychecks during the year. Then the refund is thin or, horrors, a check has to be written, and they suddenly realize that paying taxes is both real and painful.

Personally, I don’t much blame folks for being surprised and disheartened this year. But no excuse next year. Now they know. They can either adjust the withholding or, much better, open a savings account and set up an automatic bank draft. If they want a surprise at tax time, they can ask the bank to mail a nice check to them. Their own money.

Just know this: a tax refund is no gift from a benevolent government with a note attached: “All of your money is really ours, but just to show you that we appreciate the hard work you do for that greedy boss garnishing your wages, we’re sending you with our warmest compliments this nice gift.” Phooey!

Jesus taught us to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Pay your taxes. But don’t fall for a con game. Governmental or otherwise.

 

 

        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.


The Resurrection Is the Greatest “Eucatastrophe”

More than a few writers have talked about the place where Joy and Sorrow meet.

In a moment of deep contentment, someone may say, “I’m so happy I could cry!” And in the moments of deepest and most unutterable joy, we say nothing at all. We don’t live long before we learn that tears are more precious than diamonds, and the best tears are tears of joy.

When those joy-tears come, we usually don’t analyze them; we live the moment. But if the time comes to talk about such moments, author J. R. R. Tolkien, most famous for his amazing Lord of the Rings trilogy, has kindly coined for us a very good word.

That joy and sorrow are so closely intertwined is ironic. And so, at first glance, seems Tolkien’s word: “eucatastrophe.” “Eu-” is a Greek prefix meaning “good,” and “catastrophe”? Most of us are all too familiar with the word and the situations it describes.

“Catastrophe” is a Greek word brought directly into English that means “destruction.” According to Webster’s, it has come to hold such decidedly negative meanings as “a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin,” a “violent usually destructive natural event,” or an “utter failure.” Understandably, most of us seek to avoid such. I think of the crash of the Hindenburg (see the first meaning). Or, more personally, I remember the first time I sang publicly in a quartet and we started the same song in different keys (see the third meaning).

But the word first had, and still has, a more technical meaning. In literature, especially in tragedy, the “catastrophe” is the technical term for the final conclusion or “unraveling” of the drama’s plot. No surprise that in tragedy, that conclusion is sad. Tragedies in literature, by definition, have sad endings.

Ah, but fairy tales are different. A true fairy tale always has a happy ending. Thus the master wordsmith Tolkien coined the word “eucatastrophe” to describe just such an ending: “I coined ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce).” He goes on to explain that what we call fairy tales actually point to the deepest truth and happiest ending of all (really a beginning), that good will overcome evil.

Tolkien knew that the Cross and Resurrection are no fairy tale. He speaks deep truth when he says that “the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible.” Its truth “pierces” us with “a joy that brings tears.”

The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God” (12:2).

“Christian joy,” Tolkien writes, “produces tears because it is so qualitatively like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled.”

 

 

      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.


Thank God When We Avoid “What Might Have Been”!

Have you noticed? When something bad, sad, and tragic happens, we agonize, “Dear God, how could you allow this?” But, too often, when we see something bad, sad, tragic avoided, we fail to give thanks.

If you are my auto insurance agent or my wife, please stop reading in 3-2-1. Now.

I like San Antonio. But a few weeks ago, we headed that way, were almost there, rounded a bend on the wet expressway, and were greeted to a sea of red brake lights much too close that I saw almost much too late. Close call.

Yesterday afternoon, I was again on the way to San Antonio. Just me. And driving a new (to me) truck that I just bought and have already fallen in love with.

(Are you still reading, dear wife? Stop now!) I don’t want my judge wife to pull my license. And I really don’t want her to send one of our kids to San Antonio to take away the keys and drag me home.

I decided just to follow the GPS lady. I’ve seen three gals get in a fight in our vehicles before. One is the “nav” system gal. One is the GPS gal who lives in my phone. The other is the lady in the copilot’s seat. I miss her, but two gals giving me directions on this trip are enough. When they say, “Recalculating,” it doesn’t sound like, “Nimrod, why didn’t you turn!”

The trip to San Antonio entails miles of two-lane roads and miles of four-lane/Interstate driving. And this year it’s gorgeous! Bluebonnets galore!

Big trucks are the hazard on the Interstate. Passing is the hazard on the two-laners. (I love the new signs on some roads that let you know a passing lane is coming, so just wait a sec!)

So . . . yesterday I’m on a two-lane road. I’ve got a Bubba-truck behind me. Too close. If Bubba can see past his eyebrow ring, he’s looking for 90 mph or so. We’re moving about 70 in hill country, stuck behind an 18-wheeler. Fairly heavy oncoming traffic. I can live with 70, but I’m sick of bookends Bubba and Big18. I was tempted to toss the former a little minor (and safe) brake light scare to get him to back off, but I didn’t.

Finally! Here comes a passing lane. The big guy slides over. I’m going for it, for sure. But ten feet or so into the shortest passing lane in this hemisphere, a sign on the right says it’s going away. Are you kidding!?

I should mention that we’re headed up a hill. I can’t see if there’s oncoming traffic, but three lanes should be plenty. (Mistake.) As I’m about to pass Big18, his left blinkers come on. It’s either abort or all in. (What will Bubba do?) Split second decision. Foot down! New truck floored! V8 roars! Three lanes turning into two. Now I see four cars coming on at light speed! Oh, give me a break and use a little shoulder, Big18! Two and a quarter lanes now. Needle threaded. Inches to spare. Start heart. Breathe. Wait for big guy to lay on his horn. He should have.

Having survived, I’ve replayed this, looking for reasons why this wasn’t mainly my fault, but… Several bad things came together at once. It could’ve been…

I wonder. How many times in life do varying degrees of fatigue, impatience, ignorance, foolishness, and just human frailty come together to issue in great pain? And sometimes no one meant evil. But serious hurt came.

How many of those times do we avoid safely, and we don’t even know we had a close call? But I know this: When we do see what could’ve been and that it was avoided, it’s a really good time to give serious thanks and drink a good dose of humility.

 

 

     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.


Two Men. Two Failures. Different Tears.

 

Here’s a riddle for you. It’s one that intrigues and gives me pause at about this same time every year.

Two men, two mouths,

    both tongues betray,

almost but not quite

    on the same day.

One fails and weeps,

   shinnies up and up

       and falls putrescently;

one fails and weeps,

    bows down and down

       and rises taller, finally,

           than before his perfidy.

   Love’s victory!

       Who are they?

I’m neither a poet nor the son of a poet, and not much riddle-writer at all. But onward I hint.

Two men. Two world-class failures. Two very different endings.

When I say “failures,” I mean deeds, not men, though a failure one of these men certainly was.

Though in our society, all it takes to be called a “success” is a lot of money—even if you’re sad, pathetic, miserable, dishonorable, unfaithful, cowardly, brutish, and completely lacking in every other aspect of life and character—the first fellow I’m thinking of who fixated on money and had more of it, for a time, than the other individual, is the failure.

Both of these men failed miserably. Both betrayed the same man. One betrayed for money. One betrayed to save his skin. Both betrayals were predicted by the same man betrayed.

You’ve already cracked the riddle, right? Apostles both. Judas and Peter.

Judas, of course, betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Many have postulated that a significant motive may have been his desire to rush the Lord into quickly and powerfully inaugurating an earthly kingdom. I think they’re probably right, though the Bible never says that.

Scripture does tell us that the man was a thief, a thief who whined about his concern for the poor. Maybe he did want to rush Jesus to take up the throne—he was not alone among the disciples in looking for an earthly kingdom—but I’m quite sure he also wanted to take his place in that kingdom thirty pieces of silver richer.

When it all goes wrong, Judas tries to cast away his guilt by slinging the silver at the priests’ feet. But the guilt covering his hands and heart is gangrenous and won’t be flung away. Fatally self-centered even in his sorrow over failure, Judas ends up focused completely on Judas.

And Peter? Ever impetuous, though Jesus has warned him and that famous rooster is already calibrated and cocked to crow, Peter blubbers and blusters, “I don’t even know the man!” He punctuates his denials with sea-salt curses before rushing away and weeping bitterly, wondering in anguish how everything could have gone so wrong.

But though his flesh is weak, Peter’s heart—before, during, and after his failure—is the Lord’s. When Jesus later asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” they both know the answer. Blood-cleansed, Peter is not centered on Peter; his focus is on his Lord.

Two men fail; two men weep. Since we fail, too, we do well to consider the two very different types of tears.

 

 

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

 

 

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.

 


%d bloggers like this: