Monthly Archives: October 2019

Cemeteries Help Keep Life in Perspective

I’m weird, and I know it. But I sort of enjoy spending some time in cemeteries. I’m talking, of course, about the times when I want to be there, not the times when I have to be. Big difference. There’s been way too much of the latter recently, it seems to me.

But I find cemeteries peaceful and interesting. Strolling among the tombstones (since I don’t have to mow around them, I much prefer the standing ones), I get the chance to play Sherlock Holmes and deduce all sorts of life stories from all sorts of inscriptions.

Some cemeteries are quite beautiful with well-kept shrubs and trees and grass. They are quiet places; I like quiet places. And, if I may say so, the folks who populate cemeteries tend to be incredibly easy to get along with.

Since I’ve been a pastor in my community for over thirty-four years, more than a few of the names I see on the stones in our area cemeteries are connected with lives and stories that I know. I stood at the heads of quite a few of those graves and spoke words I hoped would point to the Author of Life just before the earth’s blanket was rolled over those remains.

When I think of my life and the life of our community, it’s hard for me to visualize life without many of the folks I’ve just mentioned. I no longer bump into them at worship or at the coffee shop or wave at them as we pass on the street. I miss that.

But they are still very much a part of me. A part of us. And that’s especially true if they were part of the community of faith. They may or may not have been part of my congregation or my denomination, but so what? Christ’s church is so much larger than the fences we build to try to keep God all tied up and tamed. Thank God indeed, God won’t be shut up in anybody’s box, and he has never been willing to be successfully tamed.

Death is the harshest reminder of all that we’ll never get even this world tamed, much less its Creator. We may not look long upon those boxes that we bury, but they are nonetheless a constant reminder that life can’t be successfully controlled.

Cemeteries help put our lives in perspective. The “drop dead” late-filing date for filing federal taxes just passed, but folks who have passed away care not at all. And even if life’s cost is (almost certainly) increasing at a steadier clip than your paycheck, once your heart stops, the meter quits running, too. Perspective.

Cemeteries help us divide what really matters from what really does not. What matters most is who we chose to ultimately trust in this life—ourselves or our Creator. That’s a serious decision.

But once that decision’s made, cemeteries also remind us that life is far too precious to be taken too seriously. God is the God of all joy. Those who love him can dance in his presence both here and hereafter. They know better than to think that love and laughter and beauty cease on the other side of the tombstone.

 

      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.


God Writes His Love in One Word

I love words. Perhaps I’ve not fallen into epeolatry yet, but it’s always fun and interesting to meet a new word. (Like “epeolatry,” which is “the worship of words.”)

One of the best places I’ve found to discover new words and interesting things about words of all sorts is through the free e-mail publication “A.Word.A.Day” offered at www.wordsmith.org (since 1994). Last time I checked (which was years ago), their daily subscriber list was passing 600,000.

I like that (even though a quick look at the list of “organizations” they “support” would be a great help if I ever need to make a list of organizations I do not support). It’s good nonetheless to know that somewhere out there are still some folks, endangered species though they may be, who think that words and the thoughts and ideas they convey are important. Word-lovers tend to believe that our society not only needs the technical know-how to make things work and build great new gadgets, we need to know how to think and speak about where we’ve been and where we’re going. Even though we’re making excellent time on the trip, it might be nice to consider if we’re pointed in the right direction at a destination worth reaching. Words help us consider such things.

A recent “Word of the Day” from Wordsmith.org is a particularly interesting one, but I’m afraid you’ll have a hard time slipping it into ordinary conversation down at the coffee shop.

Univocalic. (Pronounced “yoo-niv-uh-KAL-ik.”)

“From the Latin uni- (one) plus vocalic (relating to vowels), from vox (voice).”

Univocalic is “a piece of writing that uses only one of the vowels.”

Wordsmith gives an example of univocalic that uses only the vowel “e”: Seventh September. And they note that the longest one-word univocalic is “strengthlessness.”

They also mention that according to Ed Park’s article in “Village Voice,” Canada’s best-selling poetry book ever was Christian Bok’s work, Eunoia. In the main portion of the book, each chapter used just a single vowel, producing sentences such as this: “Enfettered, these sentences repress free speech.”

If you’ve got a little extra time, you might try your hand at writing univocalic in just a sentence or two. It is difficilt, if nit ilmist imp . . . Oops. I probably shouldn’t say that.

Oh, well. Words are fascinating, and univocalic is interesting stuff. But I’m thankful to have at my disposal a deep bucketful of words that use all the very fine vowels English makes available.

Still, univocalic is intriguing. “I think I’d writ it jist in fits” and “never get these endless sentences enfleshed.”

When God speaks, he uses many vowels all pointing to one Word, “Jesus,” and one word behind every letter of His Word, “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 profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Grace Is Amazingly Hard–and Amazingly Wonderful

Grace is hard. It is almost incomprehensibly wonderful. It seems almost too good to be true because it actually is almost too good to be true. It is amazing! But it is hard.

Grace is hard because accepting it means nothing less than death to our pride.

If the sacrifice of Christ really is, as the New Testament claims, all-sufficient to save me, that not only means that I am powerless to save myself apart from faith in that sacrifice, it also means that I have no right—less than none at all—to boast that I have in any way earned what can only be accepted as a gift.

Accepting Christ’s sacrifice and being “clothed” in his righteousness means that I have no right to self-righteousness in any sense of the word. That truth chafes a bit. I would so like to harbor the illusion that there is something good in me, something I can be haughty about, something that makes me a cut above other mortals, that makes me acceptable to God.

Nope. That is not the case. I’m in the same boat with every other fallen son of Adam and daughter of Eve. If I think differently, I have far too high of an opinion of myself and I don’t understand the meaning of grace. Grace, you see, is hard.

Grace is hard because accepting it means becoming more Christ-like than I could ever be on the basis of law (by which I mean keeping religious or other rules in order to merit salvation). Law pats me on the back and says, “Hey, look at that murderer on trial. Aren’t you proud that you are such a fine person that you haven’t murdered anyone lately.” Grace looks much deeper into my soul and asks, “Have you hated anyone lately?”

Law asks, “I wonder how little I can do, how little I can give, how little I can worship, how little I can love, and still be okay with God?” Grace asks instead, “O Lord, how could I possibly thank you enough with every breath, every dollar, every heartbeat, for continually cleansing me through Christ!?” And grace always does more, loves more, gives more, is more than law. It doesn’t just forgive; it empowers.

Law says, “Here is a list of rules. Do this. Don’t do this. Work harder. Try harder. By your own power.” And Satan adds his whisper in your ear, “Or God can’t love you.” Grace says, “Be this through Christ. His Spirit will provide the power. By the way, God already loves you, and always will.”

Law says regarding a truly “gray” area of behavior where equally faith-filled Christians make different choices, “I’ve chosen not to do this thing, I’ve given up that thing, I don’t think it’s good to ever [fill in whatever thing], and so my decision is one I have every right to impose on you.” Grace says, “It is before his own Master that anyone stands or falls, and your Master is able to make you stand. Make a sincere decision based on sincere love for your Master and praise him for the freedom to choose. And, let your pride die yet again as you praise God just as loudly for the freedom your brother has to make a different choice.” (See Romans 14.)

It is amazing how hard grace is. And how wonderful.

 

 

      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.

 

 


“Are You Considering Buying a Light Bulb?”

Are you considering trying to buy a light bulb? Good luck to you.

A few evenings ago, my wife and I were in Amarillo baby-sitting (playing with, laughing with, rollicking with, snuggling with) some sweet grandkids.

At some point, I discovered both that my phone was needing a charge and that I’d forgotten the cable charged with supplying that need. Eight per-cent left. Red light blinking weakly. Screen dimming to conserve its faltering power. My phone! Perilously close to death, choking out warning words prophesying its looming descent into oblivion.

Heart racing, eyes wild, I started feeling short of breath. What, oh, what would I do if its little light faded away and my electronic umbilical cord was severed? What if the president sent an important (maybe even) presidential text? We’ve got that system now, you know. At least theoretically, it could happen. A POTUS text. And important. And my phone tweet-less and stone cold dead.

In dire circumstances we begin to ask the bedrock life questions. What if my phone should die and I be left in peace (I mean, devastatingly alone, un-phoned and un-phone-able) for maybe even a whole weekend? Would good news that I had to wait a day (and maybe longer) to hear be any better? Would bad news be any worse?

And what about health consequences? How would my left ear react, phone-less, to ear-lobal cooling? Text-bereft, would my thumbs begin to atrophy and hang useless? Would I have to be fully present with the people in the same room?

Oh, the stakes were just too high, the consequences beyond further contemplation. So I went looking for a charging cord. I figured I could get one at a nearby big box hardware store and, at the same time, pick up a couple of light bulbs.

Well, they had extension cords aplenty. Cords for fruit-based phones. But way short they were of cords for ’droids.

They had bulbs, though. Boy, did they have bulbs!

What I’d needed at home was a basic white bulb, and we had a box full of them. I’d grabbed three. Screwed them into three sockets of a new bathroom light fixture. I’d flipped the new switch, and, “Let there be light!” And there was.

Yellowish white. Pinkish white. And blue-ish white. All lined up in a confused row.

No. Not acceptable. There’s chaos enough in this world; I won’t put up with it above my sink.

So I found myself standing light-dazed in front of ten jillion bulbs at that big box store. LEDs. Halogens. Fluorescents. Incandescents. Smart bulbs. Dumb bulbs. Dimmable and darn bulbs. Sizes and tints and hues and lions and tigers and bears, oh, my!

A sales clerk (better make that “associate”) a bit older than me walked up.

“One day,” I greeted him, “I just want to tell my grandchildren stories of how easy it once was to walk into a store and buy a light bulb.”
He smiled. He understood.

I bought six bulbs. Cool white. (That’s 5000K.) A15 size. Medium base. LED. Dimmable. Suitable for use in enclosed fixtures. 720 lumens. 60-watt replacement. Lasts 13.7 years. I got extras anyway. I don’t want to do this again when I’m 75.3 years old.

I found a phone cord later. At a drug store. Call me, and I’ll tell you that story, too.

It felt good to talk to that old guy at the big hardware store. He understood me. I think he’d have made a good owner if it had been an old store with creaky board floors and a “soul” and not a new store slick with a plastic CEO and an invisible board of the corporate kind.

Come to think of it, what an amazing blessing that the One who first said, “Let there be light!” knew exactly the light, and the Light, that we would need. He understands us all.

 

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.


Talking About Painting Is More Fun Than Painting

paint-bathroom

Let’s talk about paint.

My wife and I have been involved in an upstairs bathroom renovation. She was mostly involved in, uh, “reminding” me regularly for several years (or maybe a decade) that we really needed to do something along this line. She seemed to hold something against antiquated fixtures and, particularly, their color. (If you savvy Pantone colors, plug in PMS 1625.) Or just picture something in the peach/apricot/salmon/pinkish family.

For many of those years, I countered (by the way, the bathroom’s vanity/counter was that same color) that the toilet was an endangered species—a pot that actually flushed once and did its job—and should be treasured, held in honor, and revered as a working museum piece. Even if it was of the aforementioned peach-pinkish color. But my usually rational wife maintained her prejudice against that peach-pink pot.

So a few weeks ago, a sledgehammer in my hands was destroying a cast iron bathtub (yeah, it was also that color), when it slipped (sort of on purpose) into that fine-flushing antique, ending both that worthy throne’s reign and a spousal disagreement.

A little more demolition, beefed up framing, plumbing, electrical, sheetrock, sheetrock-finishing, and . . . can we talk about paint yet?

Nope. Baseboards first. Then nail-hole filling (no fun at all).

Now? Now. About paint . . .

First, I admit my bias: I dislike painting. And I’m conflicted about paint itself. Buying cheap stuff—it’s all too expensive—is a costly mistake. The good stuff is pricey. What I bought claimed “one coat coverage.” Right. Has that claim ever held up in anyone’s experience? But I didn’t expect it to.

What I did expect at best was to be a little disappointed because I’m lazy, which almost rhymes with “latex.” What most of us buy now and call “latex” is actually “acrylic.” Since we all like the easy soap and water cleanup, we slather plastic easy-to-clean-up paint on the wall.

Me, too. I haven’t painted a wall or cabinet with oil paint in years. I’m not completely sure modern oil paint (sans chemicals, good and bad; I’m glad the truly bad are gone) is as beautiful as was the old. But the old looked great. Especially on cabinets. Smooth. Sleek. And to dry wood, a beautiful tonic.

I admit that the latex I’m presently spreading looks, well, not bad. It just feels like I’ve covered the wall with plastic wrap and, if I got my fingernails on a wee piece at the corner, I could pull the rip cord and the whole wall would peel off. I’ve also got a small shelf, already painted, that I may need to sand just a little for fit. I figure it will be much like trying to sand a sandwich bag. Quality? Generally, I think oil-free paint looks like fat-free “ranch” dressing tastes. Ah, but cleanup is easy. And the new bathroom looks good. No peachy-pink. Unless you peel off too much plastic paint.

It occurs to me that when God sent his Son to deal with our sins, when he used precious red to wash us white as snow, he didn’t just cover up the old faded and tarnished colors of our souls, he cleaned us up from the inside out even as he filled our lives with real color, a rich depth of hue that will last. One all-sufficient completely permeating coat. Truly guaranteed.

 

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

 

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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