Author Archives: Curtis Shelburne

When Foundations Shift, Cracks Begin to Show

“Wow, I wonder how much farther that old sagging column supporting the corner of this old sagging house can lean out southward before the corner of the house just collapses and wordlessly pleads, ‘Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!’”

Nothing about that column is plumb, square, or level anymore, but I do notice some symmetry this morning. I’m writing my weekly Focus on Faith column weakly, sitting beside a weak porch column, and displaying at least some weak faith that this will not be the morning when that weak column collapses.

I don’t think the problem with that porch column started with the column. I’ve got my bag chair perched on the porch; if I look down, I see two things: 1) concrete, almost 90 years old, of an incredible quality no longer available; and, 2) in spite of the quality of the concrete, one big almost inch-wide crack bisecting the porch.

So the real problem is that the column is perched on the porch, the porch is concrete perched on a “stem-wall” foundation, and the foundation is shifting because the ground below it (drought-ravaged) started shifting first. Hence, that porch column leans, and even world-class concrete is defiled by a big crack.

When foundations become weak and begin shifting, much that we depend on to be sturdy begins to falter. We can no longer count on “plumb, square, and level.” Cracks that have been forming soon become too obvious to ignore. And, yes, eventually, columns tumble and what they have long supported crashes down.

We don’t have to look far in our society to see cracks becoming obvious. Look for their source and you’ll find foundations that are shifting and no longer able to support the weight they were designed to carry. Cracks. Crumbling. Collapse.

We’ve laughed at truth. I hear phrases like “your truth” and “my truth” which make about as much sense as “your gravity” and “my gravity.”

We’ve twisted real freedom, freedom to live a truly freeing, unselfish life of love that broadens our souls and blesses others, into the counterfeit “I’ve Gotta Be Me” no matter who I hurt.

We abandon foundational values as timeless and real as the multiplication tables (“your math” and “my math”?) and are surprised when what we build using false figures won’t stay standing. C. S. Lewis described the situation: “We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

If this old porch column is to go on bearing weight, my brothers and I are going to have to rebuild it on a firm footing.

And where can we find a foundation that will bear the weight of our lives so that our lives can be built not only to bless ourselves but to bless those around us?

May I suggest a walk down the street this Sunday morning? You’ll likely find a place where people meet to honor the Builder who set the foundation posts of this universe. As cracked and weak and crumbling as many of us who meet below them are, steeples still point in the right direction—to the One who is eternally faithful and strong.

 

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 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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God Pays the Price for Bread That Is Free and Freeing

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35).

Five little barley loaves and two little fishes. That’s all Jesus had, you know. And even those were sort of borrowed that day by the Sea of Galilee.

But the Lord who turned water into wine at a wedding feast took those loaves and fishes and turned 5000 hungry people hoping to see miracles into 5000 well-filled people whose bellies were rounded out by a miracle.

Now, when you’re hungry, about all you can think of is being hungry. But when you’ve been filled up with a miracle meal just a few hours ago but are well on your way to being unfilled and hungry again, what next?

Well, if you’re like the folks in John 6, you form a committee, take a hike to find the miracle worker, and start planning to force your feeder to become your free food king. Who knows? Maybe if he plays his cards right and gives away enough “Make Israel Great Again” caps, he just might amass enough power to take over as king and kick out those sorry Romans! At the very least, well, did I mention free food?

When they find him on the other side of the lake—by the by, how in the world did he get there?—Jesus says, basically, “I know what you want, and what you want is not nearly enough.”

“Oh, Rabbi, that free food by the sea . . . we liked it, don’t you see?”

“Oh, I see. But you should want food that’s better than free. Food that isn’t a few hours away from leaving your belly hungry again and your soul still starving. You should want more. Food that doesn’t spoil. You should want more. Food that gives real life. You should want more. You filled up with free food, but a day later what hadn’t turned into dung had turned into rot. You should want more! Food that’s not only free but frees your soul and fills it up forever. You should want more.

Now the wheels in their “bargain basement bread heads” were already turning. But this Rabbi’s words are a wrench tossed into their mental machinery.

Free food forever? Rot-free food that doesn’t route through your belly to fill your soul?

Oh, they could get pretty religious about “free,” but somebody tosses out a religious question. “You say God says “really free.” But our real creed, ages old, is as modern as tomorrow. ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ So what do we have to do before God does bread “free”?

Jesus answers, “One word. Believe. God’s work is this: believe in the One God sent.”

But one word can’t be enough, can it? “Let’s just get back to that old time religion, the kind we like that talks a lot about God and centers a whole lot more on us. We had a redeemer once named Moses who gave our ancestors manna to eat in the wilderness. Free food’s fine, and your barley loaf bread was mighty fine, but a really good sign would be . . . let’s see . . . You know, the old preachers said that when Messiah, the second Redeemer comes, he’ll bring not just bread, he’ll bring manna again. That’s the ticket! Show us a sign, and we’ll sign up! Show us some manna!”

I think they were disappointed in the answer.

“Manna was a miracle, and Moses was a great man. But you should want bread that’s better than manna, and you need to look a lot higher for a Redeemer. Even then, way “back when,” your Redeemer-Bread Giver wasn’t Moses; your Redeemer-Bread Giver was God. I warn you! If you keep on looking for life in stone-cold law that will never be bread, your bread will rot, your souls will rot, and you will very religiously rot trying to be your own redeemer. Do you want the real Redeemer? Do you want real bread? I AM the bread of life.”

“Is there work to do? Oh, yes. The work of believing. And even that is God’s work in you.”

“So, Lord, how do we get that bread?”

It’s still our question. And this is still our Redeemer’s answer.

“Believe. Receive. Take and eat.”

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Hymn-tinkering. Just Say No.

It was none other than the venerable Charles Wesley, writer of hundreds of grand hymns, who in the preface (1779) to one of his hymnals pronounced a word of stern warning against anyone who would mess with the words—and thus the theology, not to mention the beauty—of one of his hymns. He had little use for “hymn-tinkerers.”

During most of my growing up years, my home church, and most others of our brand, used a hymnal that contained 665 songs, or 666 in one edition if you counted “1-a” printed inside the front cover. (Cue scary music here or not, depending upon your eschatological views.)

I later learned that 130 or of those songs had been tinkered with by the compiler. I also learned why my Uncle Kline (not really my uncle but whose name was given to me as my middle moniker and whom I am proud to claim) referred to the hymnal as Sacrilegious Selections. Uncle Kline was an English professor and much of the tinkering grated on his ears; more than that, he also loved the gospel and hated to see it gutted.

It’s rather amazing that while Christ’s people have so often made a real mess of recognizing the unity for which the Lord prayed so poignantly just before he died (John 17), at least we’ve all sung an incredible number of the same hymns. Most of us don’t know or care about the “religious preference” (as in Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, etc.) of the hymn-writers; we just know that their Lord was Jesus Christ, and, as hard-headed as we may have been in lots of areas, music did what it so often does— tore down walls, lifted hearts, and united us in praise.

I’ve got the words in my head, verse upon verse of many of those hymns of my childhood (most of which included a bit richer vocabulary than the presently popular variations of “Father, I love you—Jesus, I love you—Holy Spirit, I love you—repeated thirty-nine times).  But I still sadly discover on occasion that the words in my brain are a few words or phrases off of what the writer originally wrote.

Some of them don’t surprise me much. References to harps, lyres, zithers, stringed, or other instruments might be all over the Psalms, but you can bet your pitch pipe they’d not make it into that hymnal. Sad, but much worse was some of the theological tinkering. Done with pure motive, I don’t doubt, some of the tinkering nonetheless cut at the very heart of Christ’s cross. (It was, thus, more serious than some of the modern linguistic atrocities perpetrated by politically correct hymn-tinkerers who failed to learn in, oh, about third grade or so, that “-man” is a suffix for “human” and that words like “mankind” are no assault at all on “womankind.”)

Fanny Crosby could write beautifully, “Pass me not, O gentle Savior / Hear my humble cry.” And then in Verse 3, “Trusting only in Thy merit, / Would I seek Thy face.” But the hymn-tinkerer in his version changed “only” to “always.” Why? Because he wasn’t sure that “only” Christ’s merit, his sacrifice, is enough—which, whatever the tinkerer’s intent—makes his “cry” a lot less humble and effectively undercuts the cross.

“When We All Get to Heaven” became “When the Saved Get to Heaven.” As if someone unsaved might somehow sneak in?

But the absolute worst example comes in, of all places, “Amazing Grace” where Verse 2 was tinkered with, and Christ’s cross violated, when “How precious did that grace appear / The hour I first believed” was changed to “When I His Word obeyed.”

So wazzamattuh? We want to obey Christ, right? Yes! But if for salvation I trust in my power to obey, that is not at all the same thing as trusting completely and only in Christ and his blood. That hymn-tinkered “grace” suddenly becomes not very amazing at all. The world didn’t and doesn’t need yet another “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” self-help program or do-it-yourself religion. God’s Son did exactly what we needed. He did it once. He did it all. He did it forever. On a cross. Amazing!

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Is the Tweeter a Twit? That Is the Question!

Twits.

Twitter is for twits.

That has been my opinion pretty much ever since I learned several years ago that birds tweeting sweetly in the sky had been joined by twits tweeting, sweetly or not, in cyberspace.

It just seemed like a very lucrative, very bad, idea. I found it hard to believe that our world would be improved by folks, many of whom are incredibly short on impulse control already, suddenly having the opportunity to net any thought, crazy or not, that happened to be flying over their own head, and, in 140 characters or less, release it into the already polluted cyber-atmosphere so it could fly over the rest of us. We already know what pigeons do, given a similar opportunity. I couldn’t imagine Twitter droppings being much more of a blessing. The whole thing seemed likely to lend itself to the usual social media temptations of narcissism and voyeurism but ratcheted up a notch by the ease with which any twit could launch birds.

I know. Social media is here to stay. It is a tool that becomes a blessing or a curse or something in between depending upon the character of the folks using it.

Really healthy well-balanced folks use it to catch up on old friends and classmates and share pics of their kids or grandkids. They occasionally even choose to turn it off for a couple of heartbeats in order to spend a little real time in the real world nurturing real relationships.

Really unhealthy and unbalanced folks use it to escape into an alternate and unreal universe, becoming more unbalanced than they already are. Of course, they almost never turn it off. Seriously, has it been your experience that social media helps unbalanced people become more balanced? I thought not.

But most of us who are pretty normally abnormal and try to confine ourselves to being completely unhinged only on third Wednesdays in months ending in Rs find ourselves somewhere in the middle of the social media continuum.

I read an enjoyable article the other day by a guy who says that for him Twitter has just been a lot of fun. I had just written an article for a magazine, and they wanted my Twitter address to share along with the article. (I did set one up ages ago; I never use it.) I’d also just completed the audio narration for a book on “Proactive Grandfathering” in which the wise granddad/author suggested that grandparents should try to use and be familiar with all the social media that their grandkids use. He had a point.

So I guess I should admit that not everyone who tweets is a twit. And I should also confess that what bothers me most about Twitter in particular and social media in general is the twit under my own hat. I am not short of strongly held opinions. The same skills, such as they are, that I can use to build people up and point to Christ make it much too easy for me to fire a pithy (and poisonous) 140-character shot. And I worry about my character and influence if I too often fall to that temptation.

St. James warned God’s people that the tongue is a fiery instrument. A twit with a finger and no impulse control can set off some pretty serious blazes, too. I probably do a better job honoring my Lord if I choose not to play with matches.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


A Wise Answer to a Thought-provoking Question

Surely everyone who spent much time growing up in the western world in the 20th century knows a universal law which is almost as time-tested as the Law of Gravity. It is this: Thou shalt not throw out old National Geographic magazines. Doing so may not be illegal; it is just not something that civilized people of good upbringing would ever do.

In fact, I can’t remember who I heard propounding this theory—maybe a leading scientist like Garrison Keillor—but I think it explains rising waters and land subsidence at our coastlines far better than global warming. The theory is that the oceans are not rising at all; the continents are slowly sinking due to the weight of all the National Geographics stored in people’s garages.

The garage is where I’d go as a kid to read when I got bored and was fresh out of Sugar Creek Gang books. That’s where the old National Geographics were.

Right beside them were shelves of old Reader’s Digests. Anyone who would throw a stack of RD’s away might not be as depraved as a person who’d throw away National Geographics, but I still wouldn’t trust such a person with small children.

I’m well aware that Reader’s Digest is not recognized far and wide as our culture’s most respected repository for fine literature. But what do I know? I’m an old English major. And you may read that however you wish. It might mean that I’m well on the way to being old. It might also mean that I much prefer English literature that’s stood the test of time and been around for a long time. It might even mean that my literary tastes are so ancient that I still much prefer poems that rhyme.

But whatever his or her tastes in literature, anyone who is too high brow to enjoy a run through Reader’s Digest’s “Laughter, the Best Medicine” is too full of themselves.

That’s very likely the RD feature I was aiming at when, a few years ago, I ran across an article entitled, “Answered! Life’s 25 Toughest Questions,” by Jeanne Marie Laskas who writes their “Ask Laskas” column. And I really liked her answer to this question: “Do you have to love your job?”

Part of her answer: “No. Love your children, your spouse and your country. Love your parents, your neighbor and your dog. Loving is too important an emotion to attach to the way you make a living. But it’s OK to strive for satisfaction.” And according to her research, a majority of folks do find job satisfaction, which is nice to know.

In my list, I’d put “Love the Lord” first, and I’d add, Love your church.” But I like what she says. And she made me think a little.

Christians are supposed to do a good job at work, working “as unto the Lord.” But that does not mean approaching our work as if it was our Lord.

When you work, work well. I do hope you really like your work. But don’t forget to go home. The folks there are worth your love.

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


A Storage Philosophy for Garages, Closets, and Hard Drives

“I might need that.”

Step into my garage, my office, my shed, or my closet, and you’ll quickly discover that those four simple words are the guiding philosophy of most of my life and all of the spaces I occupy.

Those four words are the reason I’m convinced that the best rental property imaginable these days is not made up of lots and houses folks have acquired to rent to other folks to live in. No. The best rental property is not designed for human habitation at all; it’s built for people to use to store the stuff that’s about to literally bury them in the habitation in which they do live. My facility would be called “Because You Might Need That” Storage.

That popular philosophy/disease being what it is, people will clean out a garage or a spare room or an office, and then decide to rent storage space for a couple of months until they have time to go through all the junk.

A year later, of course, the stuff’s still stored, and the meter’s still running. Later still, the heirs of the original packrats will likely be on Social Security before they find time to don hazmat suits and dig through the archaeological waste accumulated by their progenitors. More than likely, they’ll then open the door, take one look at the detritus, and decide to pay the rental fee for a couple more months until they psych themselves up to tackle the mountainous mess. An eye-blink later, it’s a year later. The meter is still running.

All of this points to the fact that most of us have way too much stuff, a large percentage of which should have long ago been labelled “garbage” and relegated to a landfill. But we don’t toss it; we store it. Why? Repeat the four words.

A glance at my computer’s “desktop” will confirm that those four words also constitute my digital philosophy. I’ve got a new computer arriving in a few days, so I’ve been deleting old files and programs. I still need to find time to look through a file labelled “Old Files” that I created and moved from the computer that preceded this one five-and-a-half years ago. What I’ll probably do is start off digitally packing and tossing, and then I’ll mutter, sigh, and create a new folder called, maybe, “Old Files 2.” It’s the equivalent of packing one room at your old house, throwing up your hands, and then just letting the professional movers pack it all, trash still in your waste baskets, moving everything, garbage and all, to the new one. You can always sort through it later, right? And who knows? [Insert the four-word mantra here.]

I’ve found a program and a cable that promise to seamlessly move everything from the old machine to the new one, all settings intact. Is that a blessing or a curse? I really should make some decisions about which forty of the forty-five pictures of our five-year-old grandson’s first birthday that I keep. But, sure as the world, if I delete five, I’m afraid that I’ll wake up and realize, well, you know. So I just ordered a massive hard drive (so I can pack the trash cans, too). More storage. That’s the ticket.

No wonder Jesus warns, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where old hard drives crash and new operating systems corrupt” (Matthew  6:19, mostly).

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“I Wish My Smart Phones Were a Little Smarter”

I wish my phones were a little smarter—both the smart phone that lives in my pocket and is too often screwed into my ear, and the landline phone whose cordless babies are strewn all over our house.

Both phones are pretty amazing. The one in my pocket will do math calculations, connect to the Internet, check my email, give me compass headings and altitude, show me star constellations and planet positions, scan barcodes and QR codes, analyze Wi-Fi signals, take and edit pictures, and serve as a remote control for my television.

It will let me shop on Amazon, read Kindle books, listen to Audible audio books, serve as a GPS, play movies (sad as the little screen is for a big screen flick), keep ten tons of contact info, help me keep in touch with social media (if I’m dumb or addicted enough to want to be more in touch with the foolishness on social media than I already am), keep memos for me, play music (pretty underwhelming on its teeninsy speaker), serve as a dictionary for me to look up words like “teeninsy,” help me check snow depth and quality at selected ski areas, serve as an electronic Bible with about 1,045 versions, and hook me up with daily Scriptures and prayers from The Book of Common Prayer.

That phone will take my pulse and blood pressure (I think it’s mostly guessing at the latter), scan documents (fairly poorly), serve as a virtual reality computer (with goggles attached), become a flashlight, keep my calendar, schedule, and project times, become a small whiteboard, morph into a metronome, make a stab at helping me write songs, keep photos and records of business and other receipts, record voices, give me the weather, identify birds and plants (pretty poorly), give me guitar chords, tune my guitar, let me play a staggering variety of games from flying F16s to shooting turkeys and birds with bad attitudes, and even “flip a coin” for me (a “decision roulette wheel”) if my wife and I or a grandchild or two are having a hard time picking a restaurant.

If I let it, it will also do me the questionable service of being sure I’m never fully present at a family meal or gathering because I’m playing with my electronic tether and phubbing (phone snubbing) the flesh-and-blood folks in my vicinity.

My smartest phone is smart, for sure; if I were smarter, maybe I could figure out if I own it or if it owns me. Smart or not, it or its owner often displays shockingly bad manners and almost no discipline at all.

It won’t yet brush my teeth, install piercings, or remove tattoos (surely the hottest dermatological business opportunity on the horizon). It talks too much, but it is nonetheless pretty darn smart.

Oh, and it will also make and receive calls and texts. Even some that matter.

But, I repeat, my phones need to be smarter. I live on the edge. I mean, on the edge of a time zone and border. I’ve found the right settings, but they won’t stay set: my smart phone is not smart enough to remember what time zone it lives in. And now my new cordless landline phone is having the same dumb problem.

In the midst of all of this smart technology, the most amazing avenue of communication is not just smart, it’s also wise, and it’s universally available and completely free with a great signal.

It’s called prayer.

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Good Hearts Have Room for Lots of Good Songs

 

I keep thinking that the folks up, way up, at the Red River Community House (Red River, New Mexico, elevation 8,650 feet) will one day wise up and get tired of us, but they haven’t yet. So this Sunday morning my wife and I were at RRCH on yet another of a nice string of Labor Day/Red River weekends.

I helped lead worship at the Community House this morning, and I’ll be singing a concert there this evening featuring some of the great old “American Songbook” songs,” the ones lots of us have in our memories resonating with the velvet tones of Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, and on we could go. And on we do go as those sweet tunes live on.

I’m not sure how sweet my tones will be, but not much is better than getting to croon a tune when your lungs are filled with crisp mountain air, your heart is uplifted by the smiles of friends and warm music, and everyone there is being enfolded into the loving embrace of the sturdy log timbers of a building that’s been a community treasure since it opened in 1940.

Count on it, the open rafters at the Community House have heard these tunes many times before. Come to think of it, at least two of the songs I’ll sing tonight were top hits at some point during the 40s, and most were still favorites.

“For Sentimental Reasons” is a great song—even better, I think, when paired with Nat King Cole, who is pretty much always my favorite. (Tonight I’ll definitely be singing one of his signature songs, “Unforgettable,” though Irving Gordon didn’t write it until 1951. Had Gordon gone with his “working title,” which was both bad English and a bad title, I doubt we’d be singing, “Uncomparable.” But as it is, wow!).

“I’ll Be Seeing You” is another of the 40s tunes. It’s a romantic melody for sure, but it became a love song not just for lovers but for parents and families and siblings and anyone sending a loved one off to war and to an unknown future in terribly difficult and uncertain times. The quintessential song of World War II, this love song was almost a whispered prayer, too, and often accompanied by tears.

I was singing some of these sweet songs at a retirement home several years ago when a dear lady approached me to say, “I remember going to New York City to be reunited with my husband who’d been sent back to the States on a hospital ship. Together again, we danced to those songs.”

It would be a compliment of the highest order if a dance broke out tonight (as has happened many times before at the Community House) and some members of that “greatest generation” were leading out. For so many years, they led us so well.

A bridal shower is being held at the Community House right now. A new life-song is evidently being written. In a couple of hours, we’ll be there sharing some old songs. I like that.

New lives and old lives. Old songs and new songs. My grandkids are bringing in some great new ones, and they also really like some of the songs PawPaw sings, too. Good hearts have room for lots of good songs, old and new.

That’s what “community” is about, right? Sharing what is precious.

Starting this day off at the Community House with Christians of all sorts praising the God of us all. Ending the day there with more sweet songs.

I call that precious indeed.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 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 Mountains Sing Together for Joy”

My wife and I were in Colorado recently. Living on the aptly named “high plains” of Texas, at a tad over 3,800 feet in our particular part of those plains, we’ve got a pretty good start on altitude already. But I discovered long ago that my soul requires regular doses of much higher altitude, the kind that comes only with mountains.

I love mountains in general, but I was ready for a good dose of some Colorado mountains. And, of course, if you want to go up Pikes Peak, and that is exactly what we wanted, and if that incredible peak has not wandered off or been misplaced, Colorado is your destination. If you also like trains, and I do, a Cog Railway ride up Pikes Peak wonderfully answers both needs: mountains and rails. A win-win situation.

The history of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, “the highest railroad ever built in the USA,” and the description of the engineering involved is pretty incredible. On the way up the hill we learned that most “normal” trains bump into the laws of physics and are unable to handle grades of more than about 4%. I’m told that 3.3% at Raton, New Mexico, is the steepest grade in the U.S. for “normal” trains. Because of the Cog Railways “cog” system, a gear-like intermesh between track and locomotive, those trains can climb up grades as steep as 26%.

You’d have to work hard to find vistas and scenery more incredible than the mixture of green and granite, azure blue and gleaming snow, adorning those hills and peaks. What I particularly like are the switchbacks where a passenger turned photographer finds himself literally rounding the bend and gasping at the beauty of each new scene stretching to the horizon.

Oohs and aahs and wows echo through the train car, and you find your mind almost derailed as it was still trying to wrap itself around the magnificence of the last vista, but now you’ve chugged up and around and, voilà!, our Creator has painted another masterpiece before the paint was dry on the last one!

I found myself thinking of the folks who had made their way up that mountain long before the train was available. The trip, I’m told, was a two-day affair on a mule, if the weather and the mule cooperated and all went well. It was after Zalmon Simmons, “inventor and founder” of the famous mattress company, made the trip on a mule in the 1880s that “there has to be a better way” led to the beginning of the construction of the cog railway in 1889. For chronological snobs (like most of us), that’s a reminder that “modern” and “amazing feats of engineering” are not terms that have to be coupled on the same track.

Coming down Pikes Peak is at least as much a challenge for the trains as going up. Redundant brake systems and procedures are checked often, for which I was thankful.

Going up, coming down, rounding the next turn—we never know in life exactly what is coming. Amazing beauty. Deep joy. Searing pain. This challenge or that obstacle.

But we can rest assured that our Creator is good, all-powerful, and all-loving. In their Creator’s presence, the “mountains sing together for joy” (Psalm 98:8). They always have. They always will.

And our God forever sings with joy over his children.

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


“What About Folks on the Other Side of the Fence?”

“Teacher,” John the Apostle said to Jesus, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us” (see Mark 9:38).

The disciples were royally ticked. They were absolutely indignant, and who can blame them? They’d discovered a fellow casting out demons without a license. They’d uncovered a do-gooder doing good without a permit.

Now John was reporting the infraction and evidently looking for an “Attaboy!” from the Lord for putting a stop to this unlicensed demon-removal.

You’ve gotta give it to John—he was absolutely ahead of his time and thoroughly modern. How could he have known? The time would come when Christians would take morbid delight in dividing and subdividing, walling themselves off, separating one group from another behind massive walls built of the bricks and mortar of hatred and ignorance.

The walls would not only effectively obscure their view of any good being done by folks on the other side of the particular wall obscuring their own field of vision, those walls would also keep them from seeing anything that others who also love the Lord might even be seeing more clearly.

If he’d been allowed to keep that walled-off attitude, the Apostle John could have become the patron saint of any number of modern folks whose toxic approach to religion motivates them to be absolutely proud of small-minded divisiveness and who expect an “Attaboy!” from Christ for doggedly clinging to incredibly stunted and spirit-withering views of the folks they barely acknowledge on the other sides of the unholy walls they’ve built.

But John didn’t get a pat on the back. Instead he got a word of correction from the Lord: “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said, and (I’m paraphrasing), here’s why:

1) No one who does good works in my name is likely to say anything bad about me in the next breath.

2) Anyone who is not against us is for us, and that’s a very good thing!

3)  And, in fact, anyone who does good to my people will be sure to be rewarded.

“Don’t stop him!” Be glad for the good being done.

John learned a lesson that day, and he seems to have learned it well because it is in John’s Gospel that Jesus’ beautiful prayer, truly “the Lord’s Prayer,” a prayer that Christ’s modern disciples have largely ignored, is recorded. John recalls Jesus’ deep desire for his disciples as Christ prays to the Father, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).

What is Christ’s attitude toward other groups of his people outside of our own doing good in his name?

We don’t have to wonder.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 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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