Monthly Archives: November 2019

Writing on Monday Mornings Is a Challenge

 

Here we go again. It’s Monday morning. Mondays come after Sundays, and, like most pastors, I tend to be toast on Monday mornings. Brain dead but breathing.

It’s not the best day to write, but the deadline for this column is noon on Mondays. Someday, when pigs fly and twits quit tweeting, I’ll embrace some discipline and manage to write days before the deadline. But I like to think that I write best with adrenaline pumping and coffee fueling neurological fission.

If I wait until Monday morning, adrenaline and coffee are both available at the house. So I pull on sweats, sit in the recliner, tap away at the keyboard, listen to the clock chiming in the background. At this moment, I’ve got a full hour and 35 minutes to get this written and off to the various venues. I’m ahead of the game.

This morning’s session is a tad unusual; I’m icing a knee as I write. I value our relationship and appreciate the trust you place in me each week as you read these words, so I’ll tell you the truth about the injury (which, thanks for asking, is very minor).

I twisted the knee just a little as I jumped a bit too quickly out of a hovering helicopter. We were doing a little early heli-skiing in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, and I knew I was a bit hasty out the door; I didn’t hit the deck or face plant into powder, but I did feel a pop/jolt and then some nagging tightness in that right knee all the way down the “waaaa-y past double black diamond” mountain face. What a rush!

Okay. Not really. I just didn’t want to alarm you.

The fact is that I surprised an intruder in our house one late night last week. I’d gotten out of bed to get a drink of water, strapped my Walther PPK 9mm onto my calf as usual, and headed for the kitchen. As I came through the door into the living room, I saw the huge, masked hulking figure as he opened the refrigerator door, his dark grim visage briefly outlined in the 20-volt appliance light reflecting off a milk jug (whole, not, heaven forbid, 2% or skim).

Instinctively, I knew the miscreant was reaching for leftover smoked ribs. Oddly enough, I had an absolutely clear view of the 44-magnum revolver he suddenly raised. Time froze; my training kicked in. In two seconds that seemed like eternity, I threw myself to the ground, rolled, came up firing. I shot the gun out of his hand and double-tapped him, not in the head and heart since I’m a pastor and merciful, but in both knees so that following a period of repentance and physical therapy, he would live and be loath to pilfer barbecue ever again—or, at least, a good deal slower if he succumbed to temptation.

Not buying it, are you?

Okay, I should’ve used knee pads one day last week when I was kneeling on the garage floor to pray. Uh, actually, to cut sheet rock. Just a little bruising or bursitis, I think.

I don’t know what your Monday mornings are like. Mine are much like I just described, sans helicopter and 9mm. Most Monday mornings, I do try to write a little about faith. Yes, with adrenaline. And coffee. Rarely, ice.

But always with a prayer that God will give us the faith to live the week with strength and hope, mercy and joy. Oh, and also truthfulness.

 

 

     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.


Grief: It Is a Very Large Word Indeed

Grief. It’s a far bigger word than we usually think.

Oh, we all know that it applies to the loss wrought by death as we’ve stood at the graveside of a loved one, smelled the flowers, felt the emptiness, and wondered how to face a world so suddenly changed.

And every day changes. We may think we’re doing, well, some better. At least, maybe making small steps in the right direction. And then we get up on the next day and find ourselves, it seems, having taken two, or twenty, steps backward.

Following the death of his wife, C. S. Lewis wrote of grief’s pervasiveness, “Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection . . . I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”

Grief seems to color everything. We long for the time to come when it isn’t the first thing that hits us in the face yet again each morning and the last thing we think of before we finally find sleep each night.

Such is so very true regarding death-induced grief.

But grief is spelled L-O-S-S, and loss comes in many bitter flavors.

Whatever dreams you had for your marriage, only your nightmares would have included the divorce that throttled those dreams.

Whatever your dreams for your child, well, only bad dreams included . . .

Your dreams for your business or profession were bright and optimistic and seemed real at the time, but . . .

Maybe you’d dreamed of traveling in retirement. And now? You are. Mostly to specialists and pharmacies.

In any of your dreams for the future, did these words figure in? Cancer. Addiction. Bankruptcy. Jail. Tragedy. Hurt. Disappointment. Depression.

Need I mention that those are not words you’ll ever lightly drop into a Christmas letter?

And by the way, in the midst of such loss is one that colors it all and may surprise you until we name it. But we need to name it. It’s the loss of control.

“I don’t know what to do about . . .”

“What now?”

“Here’s what needs to happen, but I can’t . . .”

“I have no clue what . . .”

“I can’t imagine how I’ll . . .”

The ship has already embarked. You’re in the midst of the sea and the storm. And the rudder has broken loose from the wheel.

Need I tell you? This is frightening. Worse, really. This is terrifying.

Will it help much if I point out that none of us was ever really in control anyway? That was largely an illusion.

But maybe it will help a little for us to consider where we actually might try to exert a little control. Maybe just in small moments at first. But in our attitudes. In our next footstep. In sincerely asking for help, for each of the ten thousand times we’ve asked and failed yet again to truly “cast our cares” on the Captain of our souls (and leave them there). He really does care for us, love us, more than we can imagine.

As deeply frightened as I often am on life’s sea, I believe that the “man of sorrows” really is “acquainted with” our grief in all of its forms. We can believe in and trust his willingness to “carry our sorrows.”

And, paradoxically, stronger and deeper, more real and pervasive than any of our genuine grief, is his joy. When all of our griefs and hot tears have faded away, his joy will remain for a thousand forevers.

 

     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.


This Alligator Bites Your Wallet and Won’t Stop Chewing

Warning: This column might be called a rant. You might be wise to wave off now.

I cannot imagine why we put up with it. I’m thinking about the sick state of healthcare in America.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been to Third World countries and seen misery and need. I’m genuinely thankful for what we have. I have good friends in all sectors—physicians/providers, hospital administrators, insurance folks, attorneys, etc. I’m incredibly thankful for the health insurance my wife and I have. Having served on a board charged with finding health insurance for over 100 employees, I understand and know how very, very hard that task is.

But our system has become utterly insane.

Want to know why most average workers in our country are heading backwards financially even if they get cost of living increases (which are not real raises) or raises in pay (which are really meant to be raises)? Healthcare. For most folks, its cost rises at a rate consistently outpacing any pay adjustment. Both workers and companies are being slowly eaten by a hungry alligator who won’t quit chewing, and they can’t get out of its jaws.

Want to start a business? Good for you! But good luck to you. You’ll need it, and this is a big reason why.

Ah, but here comes governmental salvation. Right. Increasing governmental involvement mucks up everything. Stand in line all day at a governmental office seeking “public assistance” and tell me you want the government more involved than it already is, despite “pie in the sky” let-the-already-broke-government-pay-for-it-all or soak-the-rich political campaign horse hockey so popular right now.

If your goal was to design a system bloated, wasteful, and inefficient, you could hardly do better than we’ve done.

If people of good will and wisdom actually had a shot at trying to fix this, it would still be complicated. Instead, we get misleading politicians who refuse to speak to each other.

Greed in some form at every level is throttling the goose that laid the golden egg. Insurance companies. Attorneys. Politicians. Some unethical providers. The list is long.

It’s like the money isn’t real.

An article in the Wall Street Journal recently asked, “What Does Knee Surgery Really Cost?” The answer: In 2016, the average price was over $50,000. We should be surprised, but I wasn’t. I figured that in our system, a new knee, hip, or left nostril would probably run that much. But a hospital in La Crosse, Wisconsin, commissioned a realistic and thorough assessment of every moment doctors and staff spent with patients, and added in every penny of all associated costs—all of them. The actual cost was “$10,550 at most.”

A good friend of mine underwent an inpatient, in-his-doctor’s-office procedure and got a statement for $56,000. Admittedly, it was a procedure that took real skill and high-dollar equipment, but in what universe should any inpatient procedure cost $56,000? He almost required a cardiologist when he saw the statement. But everyone besides the patient knew these aren’t real dollars. They’d bill the insurance company $56,000 (wink, wink), would honor their pre-agreement for $3,600 (wink, wink), and he’d pay $1,200 for deductible and out of pocket expenses and maybe for having the procedure in a month ending in a Y. Who knows why?

It’s like buying peanut butter in a grocery store with no price on the jar. If you were on public assistance it would be “free.” But for you, average Joe or Joan who knows life and peanut butter is not free, it rings up as $3,000. You gasp. That seems like real money and a lot of it. But the nice register lady explains that they have a deal with the peanut butter folks to sell it for $5.00 and your part will be $2.50—unless your deductible or out-of-pocket expense (that’s the same pocket the deductible comes out of) hasn’t been met. Or unless the insurance company decides that peanut butter is an experimental food and thus not covered. Or unless you failed to “pre-certify” your need for peanut butter before you bought it.

We really should boil over. It seems to me that we should never have to undergo a non-emergency medical procedure without having a written and binding paper in hand saying, “This is the price. Real money.” No wink. Now, let’s be nice. Let’s allow a 10% window for unforeseen complications and a procedure to appeal for more. That’s fair. But we should demand a price up front just as we do for anything else that we buy.

Healthcare really is not free. For patients trying to live. For hospitals and providers trying to stay in business. The money is real, even if our sick system encourages all of us—wink, wink—to pretend otherwise.

Thank God indeed that his Son’s sacrifice, costly beyond belief, was paid in full by our Lord. Mercy overflowing. Grace to the max. Real blood. The best care of all. And no deductible.

 

     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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