Monthly Archives: April 2020

Genuine Truth Is as Real and Unchangeable as Gravity

I was scrolling through some news this morning and ran across a completely nonsensical “headline” in the midst of much “non-news.” Some popular actress or other generic celebrity (I don’t remember her name), the headline promised, would tell us all about “her truth.”

Great. I suppose that if we’re interested enough to read that article, we can logically look forward to some companion articles, some sequels. Maybe she can later tell us about “her gravity” or “her multiplication tables.” If truth itself is up for grabs—and why wouldn’t it be in a society where your very gender is dependent upon the day or your mood and not easily determined by your chromosomes and plumbing—are any of the “laws” of physics or mathematics really much more than suggestions?

If anybody wants to come talk about his or her gravity, I suppose we could climb up on my roof, have a nice visit, and discuss our deep and very individually unique feelings about gravity and how we’re feeling on that particular day about “up-ness” and “down-ness.” Or, forgive me if this is harsh, we could save a lot of time by holding hands, taking a deep breath, and leaping together off the roof. However we feel about the experience, I’m willing to go on record as believing in the absolute law of gravity which dictates this harsh but real truth: we will not fall up. And “open-minded” is not the first word that comes to mind when I think about someone who feels a need to try such to find out if gravity is a law still in effect on this particular morning.

It is not simply my opinion that gravity is still a law today. It is. This is a truth I can know without any need at all to resort to difficult or dangerous or painful testing. And, I suppose, if I wake up one morning with doubts about the truth and reality of gravity or the multiplication tables, professional help is available to help me come to terms both with reality and with whatever malady or foolishness is causing me to doubt it. In the long run—and even the short run, if I’m contemplating jumping off a roof to test gravity—coming to terms with what is inalterably true and real is much wiser, more helpful, and less painful than the alternative.

Of course, the point I’m trying to make here is true regarding genuine truth and laws that are real and incontrovertible laws. Physics. Mathematics. And I’d say, the Ten Commandments. No one can break those without consequence. I don’t remember if my brother had a clothes-pinned super hero towel-cape around his neck or not when he fell or jumped out of a redbud tree in our back yard when we were kids; I do remember that he broke his arm.

The problem comes when I get my opinions confused with incontrovertible laws, my opinions confused with immutable truth. I am not a super hero, and I am wrong and mistaken about many things, and this fact calls for some serious humility.

But I’m not so confused that you will ever hear me talking about “my truth.”



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Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.




What We Have Is a “Failure to Communicate”

A language problem.

We have a language problem, writes geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Marc Agronin in the Wall Street Journal, which is “Why It’s So Hard to Talk to Your Parents About the Coronavirus.”

We don’t want hard times, struggles, and suffering. But one thing they do for us is bring to the surface truths that we already deeply or instinctively knew were lurking just barely underwater. Then we wonder why we didn’t see that hidden, but real, fact all along. This generational “linguistic” truth is real.

Plenty of other reasons make knowing how to feel about this mess difficult already. Even “keep your tail section at home” terms in the same language are confusing. “Stay at home,” “safer at home,” and “shelter in place” are not the same. (Google it.) The first two are close. The second is what we’re doing where I live. Almost nobody is truly doing the third in its strict “don’t budge at all until the bullets quit flying” sense, though New York is close.

New York is close for good reason. The situation there is different than in my town. (For that matter, the situation 70 miles to the east in Lubbock is also different.) The Dallas mayor was frustrated that the Texas governor hasn’t completely shut down the whole state, but the governor is wise enough to know that Dallas County with several thousand confirmed cases is not the same as Bailey County with zero. We need to do some of the same things, but we’d be fools to do all of the same things.

Ah, but then we discover that, even living in the same area, folks of different ages are, as Dr. Agronin says, speaking different languages. They’re speaking “forty-ish” (if they’re 30-50), “sixty-ish” (40-60), and “eighty-ish” (70-90).

Forty-ish speakers figure they’re mostly safe, unless they have “underlying issues,” even if they catch Covid-19. But then they figure out that their parents, speakers of sixty-ish, aren’t scared enough and need their wings clipped and their keys hidden. “You went where!?” Forty-ish speakers have shifted roles from “occasional drop-by driver, porter, or tech support” to “protectors.”

But their protectees are unruly and not accustomed to feeling the need to be protected or managed. Sixty-ish speakers are most recently accustomed to taking care of both the generations ahead of them and behind them. They’re not totally cut up that the younger generation might get a chance to worry a little (about time, donchathink!), but they think of themselves as being still in their prime. Caregivers not care-receivers. Vulnerable?! Since when? It feels like an insult or a demotion and a lie all at the same time. And, worse, what if . . . it’s . . . true? When did that happen!?

And the eighty-ish speakers? Most are far sharper, Dr. Agronin writes, than we realize. Their “healthy aging minds are neither depressed nor disabled.” They are less impulsive than younger folks, less “reactive.” They know that time and relationships are precious and that routines are comforting. “Social distancing” negatively impacts all of those things. Eighty-ish speakers are tough and “surprisingly resilient.” They’ve met “crises” before and don’t plan to panic. (No accident that “key leaders” like Dr. Fauci are from this bunch.) Most are much more worried about “loss of connection” than getting sick.

So how do we talk to each other? Dr. Agronin says that we listen, and then try to hear what’s really being said. A forty-ish speaker saying, “You went where?!” means, “I love you, and I’m worried about you” even if a sixty-ish speaker hears, “You’re older and more vulnerable than you think.”

I’m thankful we all have a Father who is, in all respects, the King of all ages. He understands and loves us all. Completely.



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Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.



“Christ’s Disciples Were Sheltering in Place When Suddenly . . .”

A normal Easter Sunday.

That’s pretty much exactly what this Covid-19 Easter Sunday 2020 wasn’t.

For my family, it was already a “particularly special” holy day. It was the fifth anniversary of my granddaughter Brenley’s baptism. And it was the thirty-fifth anniversary of our move to the 16th & D Church in Muleshoe. Especially special, for sure.

Just not normal.

Like churches all over the country, and a lot of the world, we were “social distancing,” not meeting together in large groups, even on Easter Sunday.

Pope Francis did not celebrate the traditional open-air mass in St. Peter’s Square; instead, the mass was “live-streamed” from inside an almost-deserted St. Peter’s Basilica. He acknowledged the terrible hardship and suffering the pandemic has thrust upon the world, but he talked about “the contagion of hope” and spoke of God’s reassurance: “Do not be afraid, I have risen and I am with you still.”

I enjoyed an interview Savannah Guthrie did with New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan. (That man is always worth a listen!) He made the excellent point that though this Easter is certainly a difficult one, it may also be a particularly meaningful one. In the midst of real darkness, maybe we are especially open to the reality of Easter hope. Yes, I thought, we so need that same power that met and dispelled the darkness of evil so long ago even as Christ’s disciples were cowering, sheltering in place, in desperate need of a mighty strength from outside of themselves, completely beyond themselves, to bring new life.

Oh, yes, we need that Resurrection power now! We always do, of course, but maybe this Easter we recognize our need more than usual. And that realization can bring very special blessing.

Yes, indeed, what a strange Easter! St. Peter’s Square in Rome was almost empty. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, basically deserted. 16th & D Church of Christ in Muleshoe, Texas. Ditto. And no news media there filming the lack of a crowd. Just one pastor and his wife. And an iPad.

A different sort of Easter Sunday, for sure. But since when can any Easter be called normal? Offhand, can you think of anything “normal” about God loving the world enough to come into it as a human being, give his life as the ultimate sacrifice to suffer and die and literally take away all of our sin and guilt, and then be raised to new life by the Spirit’s unimaginable power?

No Easter is “business as usual” in this universe. But Easter hope is the same precious gift every Easter Sunday, every Easter season, and every new day since that first Easter morning. Perhaps in the darkness surrounding our lives in the midst of this one, Easter glory just shines more brightly, its power more focused.

Let’s keep joyful and carry on—in hope!



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Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Resurrection Hope Shines Brightly in Dark Times

As most of our friends and parishioners know, my brothers and I, all four of us preachers, head to Robert Lee, Texas, a couple of times a year to spend some time together at the old home place of our maternal grandparents. We were supposed to be there last week, but the Covid-19 virus, national and state authorities, and our wives clipped our wings.

The Coke County Ministerial Conference. That is what I call our usual biannual get-togethers. I’ve derived far more ministerial benefit from those gatherings than any more formal pastors’ conference I’ve ever attended. We always have a great time, and I hope a few months from now we get to make up this missed one.

Summer? Yes, but that reminds me of one of our gatherings a few years ago. We probably should have taken turns preaching sermons to each other warning of hell. We were there a bit later in the spring than usual; afternoon temperatures were already hovering obscenely around 100, and we were roasting. Add a little—actually, a lot—of wind to that, and it was seriously hot.

It was also dangerously dry. I didn’t see any brimstone, but the fire danger was extreme. Not many days before we got into town, a chance of fire had become the certainty of fire as a major wildfire threatened the towns of Robert Lee and Bronte. Some of our family there had to evacuate their homes, and our cousins were among a big bunch of folks who had joined in to help get the blaze under control.

One report mentioned that the residents of the nursing home (I’ve sung there many times) just across the creek from my grandparents’ old place was also evacuated during that crisis. Part of the area threatened was out near Paint Creek (around eight miles out of Robert Lee) and the little cemetery where my parents and grandparents and many other family members and dear friends and others are buried. The fire ended up sparing the cemetery and the two aforementioned towns, but it burned a huge amount of land. Scary, to say the least.

That fire was contained, put out, and became a memory a long time ago. But fires belong on a list of the kinds of crises common to the human race. Along with earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts. Guys with questionable theology and a flare for writing can always stand to make a lot of money lining up those sorts of things in books and making questionable claims about Bible verses. People have been doing that, in one form or another, for centuries. Oh, and right now a writer with a flare for such can add in a very scary virus pandemic.

The Covid-19 mess is on all of our minds. It is a dark and difficult time, for sure. But in Easter’s brilliant light shines the hope of God’s resurrected Son. When the virus recedes and fades, Easter hope will remain.

Sunday is Easter! Even in the midst of the present distress. In Pope John Paul II’s words is still deep wisdom: “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” That’s true even if the ground shakes, or smoke is in the air, or a virus is assaulting the world. Prayer is called for, along with Resurrection hope.



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Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


A Shortage Can Make a Bad Situation Worse

Did you see the Covid-19 news conference the other day featuring a particularly noted, well-published, and often-quoted professor of epidemiology?

Dr. Angus Jones-Brown has been studying virus transmission for many decades, and the data accumulated over those many years seems to rather clearly indicate, against all previous thought, that most of these viruses proliferate not by passing into our airways via our noses or by traveling through other mucous membranes. In fact, the professor says that, as odd as this may sound, many viruses, actually much weaker than you might think, seem to be inhibited by the blue to blue-violet wavelength range (492-425 nanometers) of the spectrum.

Dr. Jones-Brown’s further research indicates that a porous and soft cloth of a blue color, supplemented by common copper (Element Cu, Group 11, Atomic Number 29) and passed over a person’s feet when those feet are higher than that individual’s head (a position known as hyperpedisquelaltudia), provides almost complete immunity to most viruses, including all coronaviruses and Covid-19 in particular.

I won’t bore you with all of the scientific details, chemical equations, and medical jargon that the erudite professor shared in the article; it gets pretty deep. And I hope you’ll note that the reason his research caught my eye specifically was because his test subjects were taken from the exact demographic group into which I fit. Thus I hope you will please understand that his research and conclusion may not be applicable to individuals in other cohorts at all.

But I quote here from what I consider to be the most important note in the “Conclusions” section of his article “abstract.” It reads: “Based upon the absence of other comorbidities and aberrant prognosticological criteria, gray-haired males in late middle age, with myopia corrected by contacts, healthy blood pressure, marriages of over forty years, and who drink prodigious amounts of coffee are well-advised to put on blue suede shoes, stand on their heads, and stack copper BBs up their noses as a probable, though not absolutely conclusive, antiviral barrier against Covid-19.”

And there you have it!

I’m not sure what. But you have it.

I admit that no one who is not a doctor or a hypochondriac should read as many PubMed articles as I do. (My doctor will agree.) What I’m quoting above is completely out of my head.

I really don’t mean to poke fun at a terribly serious situation, but I do indeed mean to poke fun at the way some of us—me included, I promise—react during said situation. Some of those gullible reactions have made a bad situation worse in ways that we could easily have avoided with just a little common sense. Two words, and I rest my case: toilet paper.

Who was the second idiot who heard the first idiot say, “I dunno, Harv, we might run outta toilet paper during this virus mess. I think . . .” Better that he’d have said, “I dunno, Harv, let’s just jump off a cliff and do it before anybody else can.” I wonder if really determined folks with a TP-hoarder mindset would’ve just lined up for the flight? Maybe we’d have been spared the non-shortage shortage.

Or maybe he should have just told his buddy, “Well, I read somewhere that ya won’t catch this if you put on blue suede shoes, stand on your head, and stack copper BBs up your nose.” It’d have made as much sense as stashing toilet paper.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it’s always best not to make a bad situation worse by making bad and unnecessary choices that end up truly making it worse. For. No. Reason.

In any case, a word of heartfelt thanks to all of the many, many folks, working in so many ways, obvious or not, but brave and steadfast nonetheless, who keep working at real risk. And my prayers also with all who are hurting in any way, and the many who very much wish they were still working.

And one more word for us all: faith. Just ask your Father for it. His strength is available when ours isn’t. No shortage. Real or imagined. No shortage at all.



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Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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