Author Archives: Curtis Shelburne

“Trendy,” By Its Very Nature, Can’t Last

“Trendy” can’t last.

Whether you’re talking about clothing and hair styles, the latest instructional “cure-all” in education, technological whiz-bang devices, automobiles (think Pacers and PT Cruisers), tattoos still affixed to one’s epidermis long after the tatt has sagged past its coolness date, “cool” marches on.

No surprise, words and phrases also have a shelf life; the trendiest end up the moldiest most quickly.

For years, no mission statement (speaking of trendy) was complete without some form of the word “excellence” in the paragraph that could have been a horse until a committee turned it into a camel. It was enough to make one want to settle for “fair to middlin’” so as to give real excellence a shot at the same time as giving the word a rest.

You may have noticed that everybody’s “reaching out” these days. In times past, reporters asked for, requested, or sought interviews. Now they reach out. Continually.

And we’re in love with “systems.” Good luck finding a hospital; you’ll have to settle for a system. I’m sure your tooth paste is now part of your “dental wellness system.” (Wellness. Another trendy slinky overly-impressed with itself hot air sort of word with questionable credentials.)

Of course, shampoo is integral to your hair care system. And where would a carpenter be without what I assume is now a nail installation system? (Just hand me my hammer.) Got facts? If you need more, head to your handy dandy information system. You can even buy special food for your cat if she has a “sensitive system.” (Personally, I’d just buy a new feline.) It’s all a little too much for my system.

And here’s an increasingly trendy phrase for you. I’ve been trying to figure it out for a long time: “spiritual but not religious.”

I’m not sure what that means. Is it like “I’m a fan of sports but not athletics” or “I‘m sick but not enough to be contagious”? But make no mistake: it’s definite and certain. It definitely partakes of the seriously indefinite. It certainly feels deeply, albeit vaporously.

I only have two problems with “spiritual but not religious.” One is with “spiritual” and the other is with “not religious.”

I’m not sure what “spiritual” in this context means. Maybe it has something to do with liking sunrises and sunsets, mountains and birdies. (I do.) I think it may have once included a little New Age-tinged mysticism, 90 per cent of which was old warmed-over Eastern religion all dressed up as new. Define “spiritual” in this context. Good luck to you.

And “not religious.” Phooey! You’ve never met anyone who doesn’t worship something by making it their focus. It may be God, fame, fortune, success, work, pleasure, science, creation, or just themselves. We all worship something; we just don’t always name our God.

But that “jello nailed to the wall” phrase may hold some advantages. I’ll betcha “spiritual but not religious” folks get to sleep in on Sundays and never tithe. (If so, a lot of Christians got there first.) It must be handy to believe in an impersonal force who set this world in motion but can’t ask anything of you. Good luck, though, in getting that force to love you. You’ll get as much love from a carved piece of wood or chiseled stone. (That’s already been tried; it didn’t work.)

The God of the ages, our Creator, our Father, is changeless. Real. Strong. Not trendy at all, he is 100 per cent love. Now and always.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Copyright 2018 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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A Home Renovation Is Easier Than a Soul Upgrade

 

It was a joy last week to finally come out of the closet.

Well, perhaps I’d better rephrase that lest you get the wrong idea. And, to be completely accurate, I probably should say “out of the closets.” Two of them.

For clarity, maybe I’d better back up and take another run at this.

One of my sons and his sweet family are moving into a new old house. New to them. But very old. And they’re involved “up to their eyeballs” in serious renovation.

Part of the renovation involves the kind of wall work required when you take out old wall furnaces, ducts, and vent covers, alter some existing walls and deal with various imperfections in old ones. This involves sheet rock and drywall work. And that means slathering on mud (gypsum joint compound), putting on drywall tape, floating it out with two more coats of mud, and matching the old texture.

Call me weird, but I like “taping and bedding” sheetrock. I’ve made this deal with several folks: I’ll do the sheetrock finishing if you promise me I’ll never have to touch a paint brush. I do not like painting. By the way, want to watch a real craftsman? Take a look at any of the YouTube videos featuring Laurier Desormeaux. Poetry in motion with mud!

So, that deal made with my son (oh, did I remember to mention that deal specifically before I jumped in?), I got started. And I was quickly sent to a closet. Patched some holes. Re-sheeted the ceiling and a wall or two. Then finished it. (This description was time-altered. Drying between coats takes time.)

Then I was sent to another closet. A really small one with three walls and one needing to be built. Repeated the process above.

But with that one, I ran into a problem my son says he has already repeatedly hit head-on in this house. (Did I mention that it is a very old one?) Do I try to agree with Earth and gravity with regard to what is truly level, square, and plumb? (Folks may think everything from gender to the Ten Commandments is alterable depending upon the latest opinion poll, but the Earth is amazingly close-minded when it comes to items such as “square.”) Or do I give in and match the sags, pitches, and yaws of the old house? Or opt for a combination thereof and go for a split decision?

Well, for the closet in question, I went with Earth, deciding that inside that closet one door frame board that tapers from 3 inches to 1/2 inch will rarely be seen anyway. The real challenge there was to suck in enough of my girth to be able to climb in, turn around, occasionally change my mind or my knife angle, and not mud myself into the wall. Coming out of that closet eventually was a joy.

Maybe I like working with sheetrock occasionally because there’s really not much about it that can’t be easily fixed with a little mud. That sort of progress and healing in my own soul and those around me is not as easy to see. Sad to say, even that old house is far closer to plumb, square, and level than my life has ever been.

But the renovation that I need in myself is underway, and my hope is in the finest Carpenter of all. It’s amazing to watch him work!

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Strong Faith: How Badly Do We Really Want It?

If God exists and is all-powerful and all-loving, why does he allow suffering in the world he created?

Life’s biggest questions, the ones that truly matter, can be condensed into a few that can be counted on one hand. The question I’ve just asked is one of them. It, and the very few more in its league, are worth asking. I’m convinced that our God will help us face such questions in his strength if we really want his help.

But if we’re fat and sassy, dollar-blinded and bloated and quite comfy, swimming along in the warm stream of our society’s sea of selfishness . . . If, most of the time, pretty much our highest goal is to get through life with more and more stuff and not lose too many golf balls . . . Well, then we easily shove out of our consciousness the questions that matter.

Yes, but then one hope-withering medical test, one terribly sick child, one life-shaking tragedy is all it takes to toss us out of the hot tub and into very deep, cold, and turbulent waters indeed. Then the questions that really matter really matter, and easy answers and “throw-down,” “Facebook-faith,” TV-preacher platitudes will never weather the storm.

I hope you’re not in such a storm right now, but we don’t have to live long to know that we will all go through times that shake us to our core. Before the time of testing, it’s best to remember that strong faith cannot grow in a heartbeat. However badly I want a 50-year-old oak tree to shade me from oppressive heat, I won’t get it this afternoon by planting a seedling this morning. As G. K. Chesterton said, “No one ever grew a beard in moment of passion.” Some things just take time. Possessing faith that is strong and mature is one of those things.

Don’t misunderstand. You can sincerely give your life to the Lord in a heartbeat and your contrite heart will be accepted into the Father’s warm embrace. Even mustard-seed faith, Jesus said, can be real faith.

But if we think “baby faith” is all the faith God wants to build in us, and if we think genuinely trusting God is easy, we’re mistaken. For our faith to mature, we need to yield our wills to God and follow our Lord in practical ways. The Son worshiped the Father. He spent time in prayer. He was steeped in Scripture. He lay down his will, wrapped himself in a towel, washed the dirty feet of those who should have been washing his, and, because of his deep love for and trust in his Father, went to a cross.

If I want strong faith, I’ve got to walk the way of the cross. Can I carry a cross if I can’t even go to worship? How can I expect to grow in selfless, mature faith if I’m chafed by singing a song I don’t like in worship (but that might bless someone else)? More spiritual still, how strong is my faith if I won’t carry out the trash for my wife or switch off the TV to read our kids a Bible story?

God wants us to love him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. He’ll help us to grapple with hard questions and live through hard times. But for our hearts, minds, and souls to be strong and integrated, real relationship and growing faith is required—not to buy God’s favor; God’s people already have that. No, we need faith to help us through life’s storms. And the question is unavoidable: how badly do we really want it?

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 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 Chuckles and Says, “Time for Bed, Child”

When I learned that CBS’ 60 Minutes news program was doing a story on sleep, I was interested. Sleeping is one thing I’ve always been very good at. But if anyone has pointers to help my technique . . . So I made sure to watch what was a fascinating program, and I learned a lot.

In 1980, a study was done using rats who were kept awake indefinitely. After five days, they began dying. They needed sleep as badly as they needed food. All mammals do.

Modern folks in our society have been a little snooty and dismissive about sleep, as if needing to snooze at all is something of an embarrassment, a luxury we could likely do without if we weren’t lazy and unmotivated.

Not so.

Studies show that sleep is every bit as important to our health as diet and exercise, and that adults need around eight hours of it each day. The lack thereof seriously impacts our memory, our metabolism, our appetite, and how we age. A recent study at the University of Chicago School of Medicine restricted the sleep of young, healthy test subjects to four hours a night for six consecutive nights. At the end of that time, tests showed that each of the subjects was already in a pre-diabetic state (which would be naturally reversed when they resumed sleeping normally).

They were also hungry. Lack of sleep caused a drop in levels of leptin, a hormone that tells our brains when we’re not hungry.

A lack of sleep? No problem. If you don’t mind being fat and sick. One researcher said that sleep deprivation should definitely be considered a risk factor for Type II diabetes. The program host went on to mention studies done all over the world linking lack of sleep to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke—not to mention the mood swings that make sleep-deprived people “hell on wheels” to harmony in their homes and workplaces, and whose brain activity on MRIs mimics that of the severely psychiatrically disturbed.

To those who say they have trained themselves to do fine with little sleep, the researchers reply, “Nonsense.” For a day or two, artificial “counter measures” such as caffeine or physical activity may mask the problem, but it is cumulative and real, and can’t be hidden for long.

“People who are chronically sleep-deprived, like people who have had too much to drink, often have no sense of their limitations,” said Dr. David Dinges at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “It’s a convenient belief,” he says. But he issues a standing invitation for “any CEO or anyone else in the world” to come to his laboratory and prove it.

We easily adopt society’s lie that our true worth is in what we produce. We’re so impressed with ourselves, our indispensability, our strategies and plans. We quit “wasting time” by sleeping much. Then the wheels come off even as we slog on physically and emotionally as if through molasses. And the God who is real Rest and Peace but who Himself never needs to sleep, chuckles and says, “Time for bed, child. Go to sleep and let me do within you what you can’t do for yourself.”

I think there is a lesson in that, but right now I need a nap.

 

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

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“How to Think” Is Worth Some Thought

I’ve been enjoying reading a fine book by Alan Jacobs, a professor in the Honors Program at Baylor University. When I tell you the title of the book, you’ll likely smile and tell me that, obviously, I read it none too soon. It’s titled How to Think.

If you just peruse our social landscape very briefly, you’ll certainly recognize the need for better thinking. Often any attempt at cogent thought at all in the midst of our culture’s loud battles would be welcome. In a day when a deep fear of genuine freedom of speech is gripping many university campuses so tightly that they feel a need to establish “safe zones” for students apparently traumatized by the outcome of elections or diverse opinions, Professor Jacobs opts for teaching students (and others who will listen) to think more clearly rather than to run from facing reality at all.

I’m planning to read the whole not-very-long book, but, after reading the first chapter or two, I cheated and flipped over to the last one, “The Thinking Person’s Checklist.” Jacobs gives twelve great points there, ending with “Be brave.” Thinking requires courage, mostly because the loudest folks around us don’t do much of it. I’ll just mention here a few of his other points.

First, he says that “when faced with the provocation to respond to what someone has said, give it five minutes.” He suggests taking a walk or pulling some weeds. I think he’s recommending using that five minutes not to think much at all; better thinking will be more likely to occur after a break, and it will stand a better chance of being actual thinking, not just reacting.

Need I mention that this is particularly important with regard to social media? Off-the-cuff fly-off-the-handle flaming Facebook posts or middle of the night tweets or texts are rarely ever the fruit of much thought. If the tweeter talks like a twit, walks like a twit, and tweets like a twit, it’s probably a twit, and a twit’s lack of impulse control is rarely improved by sleep deprivation.

Along that same line, Jacobs also advises, “As best you can, online and off, avoid the people who fan flames.” Yes, and don’t be one! “Remember,” Jacobs writes, “that you don’t have to respond to what everyone else is responding to in order to signal your virtue and right-mindedness.”

Might I suggest that, before firing of a fiery Facebook post or a bird-brained tweet, it might be good to run it by a mature 8-11 year old? Their hormones haven’t kicked in yet and they usually have a pretty clear idea of what is fair, what is mean, and what is crazy. If you’re particularly courageous, you might even give them the power to curtail your Facebook or Twitter privileges if they determine that you can’t behave.

Professor Jacobs would agree that St. James was thinking very well indeed when he counseled, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (1:19). Yes, but that will require more thought and more courage than we might at first think.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 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’s Grace: It Just Isn’t Fair!

A surpassingly strange story it is, and enough to make a math or accounting major bite nails. I’m talking about Jesus’ Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16).

Here’s the story in a nutshell: It’s grape-harvest in Palestine. A vineyard owner goes out early to hire men to work in his vineyard, and he agrees to pay them a denarius, a normal day’s wage. They go to work.

At 9:00 a.m. he finds other men standing around in the marketplace and also hires them, promising to pay them a fair wage. At noon and at 3:00 he does the same thing. Finally, even at 5:00, he finds others standing around, and he hires them also.

When evening comes, he pays the workers, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first. To the workers he hired last, he gives a denarius, and so on down through the line. Every worker receives the same pay.

The workers who were hired first begin to complain that it isn’t fair, that the landowner has made the fellows who worked just one hour “equal to” those who have worked all day long in the hot sun. But the landowner replies that he paid exactly what he agreed to pay, and that he has every right to choose to as generous as he wishes with his own money and pay the men hired last as much as those hired first.

Jesus concludes, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Quite a story, and not so much a story about vineyard owners and workers as a story about grace.

You see, where real grace is found, you’ll find our gracious God.

Law may ask grudgingly, “I know I’m to love my neighbor. Who qualifies? And under its breath it mutters, “I’ll not love anyone I don’t have to.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “Who and how many times do I have to forgive?” and mutters with frosty breath blown out over a cold heart, “It’ll be a snowy day in perdition when I forgive that one.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “How much do I have to give?” and under its breath mutter, “I’ll not give a penny more.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “How many times do I have to go to church?” and under its breath mutter, “I’ll go not one Sunday more.”

Those are not the kind of questions grace asks because they are not the kind of questions God asks. God loves, forgives, gives, walks with us, because our Father is the God of all grace. Do we deserve his gift? No! It is enough for him that we desperately need it. His loving us will never make black and white, bottom-line accounting sense. Legally, it will never add up or balance. Not even close.

Sadly, where you find real grace, you’ll also find, just as in this parable, grinchy grumblers who aim to get their salvation the old-fashioned way: they want to earn it. They are angered by a God who freely offers salvation to a thief on a cross or a prisoner at Huntsville with a needle in his arm but faith on his lips. That kind of grace just doesn’t add up! That God gives it always angers some.

May we be far too busy praising him and thanking him to ever listen to complaints from those who’ve not yet learned that to get what you deserve is hell.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


What Will Happen Next in the Adventure of Life?

I don’t remember ever quoting that famous philosopher Forrest Gump, but here you go: “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”

That’s true, isn’t it?

Noted Swiss psychiatrist and Christian of deep faith Paul Tournier wrote a book about that truth and summed it all up in the book’s title, The Adventure of Living. Life, he writes, is, by definition, an “adventure.” You “never know what you’re gonna get.”

From even before the moments of our actual birth, we’re one heartbeat away from, well, death. Most of the time, folks survive the entry into this world. But not always.

Once breathing, we never know what the next breath will hold. Even before we know how to articulate these truths, we discover that life, and sometimes each day of life, holds both far deeper joys and much more poignant sorrows than we could ever have dreamed or imagined.

From a very young age, most of us—at least, those whose parents give them this sweet blessing—learn through time-honored fairy tales and great stories that life can be wonderful and scary, pretty much all at the same time. Imaginary countries filled with breathtaking beauty and incredible joys open our hearts to receive deepest truths. They take us on great journeys, amazing adventures which are adventures precisely because in the midst of their joys are encounters also with wolves and dragons and orcs. Nothing that is completely safe can be called an adventure, least of all, life.

It says much, I think, that most of us would judge that experiencing life’s deepest joys, greatest beauties, and richest loves, is worth the risk, the utter certainty, that living means facing relentless uncertainty and experiencing, at times, incredible pain. Few of us would, if we could, opt for a painless life. We know that a life devoid of the possibility of pain and sorrow would also be completely numb to the experience of joy and love. The trade would not be worth it. A risk-free life without “the adventure of living” is no real life at all.

Just this morning I watched the video account of three astronauts’ journey back to earth from the International Space Station. It happens so regularly that we become complacent. But it really is amazing. And dangerous.

That video led me to another, the poignant final moments inside the crew cabin of the space shuttle Columbia. Mission Commander Rick Husband and I were in school together. Another amazing man of faith, he absolutely loved what he did. Most of us can hardly imagine a life with such risk, but then we step out the front door, and . . . Would Rick have traded his rich life for one with no risk? It is not a hard question.

The almost career-ending injury astronaut John Glenn suffered was not in space but was against a bathtub right here on earth.

Mountain-climber Charlotte Fox scaled earth’s highest peaks and survived a near-disaster on Everest but died recently after falling down her stairs.

What will happen next to each of us in this adventure called life? We can’t know. But if our faith is in life’s Author, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” we can know that he will be with us through every moment of the adventure, and that the ending will be the best beginning of all.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Our Souls Need Real, Not Counterfeit, Rest

For many of us, one of the hardest things we ever do is doing nothing. Incredibly difficult, disciplining ourselves to find some regular time to do nothing is the best way to make the doings that we do, when the time is right for doing, worth something once the doing’s done. When we never really rest, we just end up done in, and much of the doing becomes dry dust bereft of real meaning.

If you found it difficult to make your way out of that last first paragraph, it’s because it’s its own frenetic illustration of our lives, bouncing so rapidly from one “doing” to the next, and the next, and the next, that it almost never stops. The Brits call a “period” at the end of a sentence a “full stop.” And an occasional full stop is exactly what we desperately need.

At least, our Creator seems to think so. He thought that a regular time to rest was important enough for the well-being of the humans he created in his image that he devoted one of the Ten Commandments to it. Even God rested on the seventh day of creation.

Dallas Willard once observed that “the command is ‘Do No Work.’” What that means, he says, is as simple as it is difficult: “Just make space. Attend to what is around you. Learn that you don’t have to do to be. Accept the grace of doing nothing.” And, knowing us well, he says, “Stay with it until you stop jerking and squirming.” (And texting!)

Oh, but we do jerk. We do squirm. And we have a very hard time just “making space” even for a few moments.

What is “urgent” crowds out the truly important. (How many texts do you get in a day that  deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the word “important”?)

What is loud floods our ears continually and drowns out the silence that can fill our souls with meaning if we just stop long enough to let it in.

What is garish and glitzy blasts our eyes with counterfeit color and flash-blinds us to the real beauty and joy we could see all around us if we’d just be still long enough (and unglue our eyes from our screens long enough) to look around and see it. But most of the time we’re moving so fast with our thumbs or our feet that life itself becomes a dreary blur.

I think it was Dallas Willard again who commented that rest and diversion are not the same things. We all enjoy some occasional diversion. A “run fast and play hard” vacation at times is fine, but don’t be surprised when you come home more tired than when you left, and your soul is still hungering for some real rest.

Living life continually at high speeds is unsafe. Wrecks happen and people get hurt. Relationships suffer as we bump into each other and crash into solid objects like exhaustion and reality. We weren’t made to run this fast, this continually.

And so our bodies, our minds, and the objects and people we bump into often end up forcing us to stop, whether we like it or not. I wonder how much depression, migraines, gut maladies—and on the list goes—are really our bodies/minds saying, “You won’t stop on your own, fool? Pull over. I bet I can stop you for a while.”

As always, our Creator is telling us the truth. Our souls desperately need some genuine rest.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 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 Stars Speak Loudy, Wisely, in Silvery Silence

The yard mowing was finished. One more time. A personal best, by the way. Two hours. Mowing our 10,000 square foot yard usually requires almost three hours.

The last part of the job had pretty much been accomplished in Braille. It was a Wednesday evening. We’d gathered, as usual, with our church folks for a meal, etc., 6:00-7:00. (I am so very glad we meet that early.)

But Daylight Saving Time, a very mixed blessing, meant that I faced a decision at about 7:30. To mow or not to mow. That was the question. I did not want to. That was not in question. But this was the window I had for mowing for the next several days. If I waited, the yard would be, even this early in the season for us, a jungle.

So I mowed, figuring I’d get at least part of it done. I was amazed to finish the whole thing. (Only because I had trimmed pretty seriously on the previous mowing and got away with very little of that on Wednesday.) As I mentioned, darkness was coming on as I throttled down my mowing machine.

It really was a beautiful evening. So, once the rumble of the engine was silenced, I decided to sit out on the patio for a few minutes, partly to nurse my aching feet, and mostly to enjoy the quiet and the stillness.

The slivered moon was headed down behind my friend and neighbor’s workshop. Optical illusion, I know, but it surely seemed to head down faster the closer it got to the horizon. A lunar voyeur, I spied on it, lest it sneakily rebel and head back upward with no one watching. In the space of ten long breaths (I was counting), it slipped away, down for the count.

And, of course, as the moon went under, the stars, always there but needing the darkness to make their shimmering silvery presence known, began their sparkling dance.

The canopy of two huge trees in the backyard obscures part of the sky (blessed shade in the heat of the day), but the Big Dipper was shining through brightly. A very elementary knowledge of astronomy will reveal that drawing a line from the “pointer stars” (Merak and Dubhe), five times the distance between them (about twenty degrees), will land your eye on Polaris, the North Star, the anchor of the northern sky and friend of long generations of sailors.

The second star from the Dipper’s bowl is Mizar, and right beside it, if your eyes are good (this was an ancient eye test) you can make out Alcor.

The Big Dipper hasn’t changed recently. In about 50,000 years, I’m told, a bit of a shape change may be apparent. But on Wednesday night, I noticed what looked like another bright star in the pattern. What?!

And then the “star” moved. Jet airplanes do that. And that’s what it was. I had momentarily confused a few-years-old man-made object flying six miles high with God-made stars billions of years old, 51-123 light years away.

We should spend more time sitting in the darkness looking up at the stars. That night their silvery silence spoke loudly. My “airplane” difficulties may masquerade as stars, but they flit away, and God’s love-lit starlight remains.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 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 God Posts a Warning, It Pays to Pay Attention

It had to be a government production, the sign I saw. Only a glassy-eyed bean-counting bureaucrat with common sense completely and laboriously expunged by years of mind-numbing training could have produced it. (Your tax dollars at work.)

Posted above a busy tramway, the sign proclaimed in large letters: TOUCHING WIRES CAUSES INSTANT DEATH. Good information, that.

But then in smaller letters was posted this message: “$200 Fine.”

Well, fine indeed. But I’m not exactly sure what to make of that.

I’m always as willing as the next guy to avoid shelling out two hundred bucks, but if paying up is presented as the alternative to sudden and gruesome death, I’d likely shell out a couple of C-notes.

Does the second warning belie the truth of the first? “Touch these wires, moron, and you’ll surely be quick-fried to a crackly crunch! But maybe not. In which case, you’ll be fined, and that’ll teach you!”

Or maybe there’s no contradiction at all. Maybe the long arm of the bureaucracy involved will reach right past death. The dead dumbo, smoky and smelling a lot like an electrical fire, finds himself waiting almost eternally (in a long line, no doubt) in front of a desk in the afterlife. He waits forever to file the forms in triplicate needed to remove the $200 lien on his account that’s got his posthumous processing locked up in limbo.

I’m not sure I get it. The sign’s message, I mean.

But I am sure I won’t be touching tramway wires if I should happen to run across any. I don’t like the sound of that stiff fine.

Some governmental signs and warnings can be a bit baffling. But it occurs to me that when God gives a warning, we do well to pay very close attention. Some things that we touch will hurt us worse than even an electrified tramway wire.

Touch adultery, God warns us, and we will get scorched. Count on it.

Grab hold of greed, and we’ll end up with some awfully bad burns. We can be sure of that.

Grasp bitterness and embrace an unforgiving and critical spirit, and, even if we’re sure we’ve been terribly mistreated and have a great excuse for the chip on our shoulder, we’ll still end up alone. Resentment is a very chilly friend.

Grip such tempting wires, and so many more like them, and we can end up with scorched souls and in deep pain. God knows it’s tempting; that’s why he gave us the warnings. And, thank God indeed, his grace and healing are real, available as often as we fail, as present as our next breath, as rich and deep and life-giving as our Father’s loving heart.

But the truth is that when we ignore his warning and choose to play with that which is deadly, pain is always the consequence. Worse, if we hang on to those hot wires long enough and are burned so badly that we refuse to ask for healing, death can come even before we die.

When God gives a warning, it pays to listen.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2018 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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