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A Rule That Will Bless Us: No Whining Allowed

[Note: One of the sweetest and best ladies I’ve ever known, Vernell Cotten Nance, my mother-in-law, just passed away. Maybe this is a good time to reprise this column from August 2012.]

My mother-in-law has just moved from her apartment down and around the corner from our house, where she moved around five years ago, to assisted living in a community about 75 miles away.

I don’t like it much. I know—we’ve all heard the jokes about mothers-in-law. And, yes, I’m afraid we’ve all seen some who deserved both to be the brunt of jokes and to be drop-kicked a blessed distance away.

But by far most of the mothers-in-law that I’ve known actually do the job quite well and are a major blessing. And I’m convinced that mine is the best of all. Vernell simply amazes me, and from the first moment over 37 years ago when it began to look like I might become her son-in-law, I knew for sure I was getting the better end of the bargain.

I would describe her first as Christlike, and that means loving and unselfish and grateful and winsome and . . . all sorts of good things. I could talk for a very long time about all the good things she is.

But one thing keeps occurring to me, and it centers on what she is not and never has been. She has never been a whiner. (I wish I was more like her!)

Dr. Charles Siburt, a truly amazing Christian man, professor, minister mentor, church fuss mediator, etc., passed away recently, and a friend of mine remembered him saying this: “There is no way to modulate the human voice so as to make whining an acceptable sound.”

My mother-in-law would have liked him. Vernell is one of the most patient and forgiving people I have ever known, but my wife, truly her daughter in this respect as well, will tell you that her mother has never had much patience for whining or whiners. Juana remembers, for example, coming home from school as a child and starting to fuss about a situation, another student, or a teacher.

“Now, Juana . . .” her mother would say, and then give a lesson on “Why We Don’t Whine, Why Whining Is Obnoxious, and Why You Are Never Allowed to Become a Whiner.” She didn’t actually give the sermon a title, but that’s what the lesson was. For most of the rest of my wife’s childhood, two words were all her mother had to say to silence completely any whiny utterance: “Now, Juana . . .”

The gift Vernell gave her daughter has been passed on. My sons and I know quite well that if we feel like whining, we’d better look elsewhere than to the wife and mom who loves us too much to let us get in the habit of emitting whiny sounds.

Vernell has buried two fine husbands, and she genuinely grieved, but I’ll always remember what she said: “I don’t like this, but if I were the only one this had ever happened to, I might have a reason to complain.” Wow.

She will be happy in her new home. You can count on it. She plans to be.

It’s okay for us to be sad that she won’t be as close by. Healthy tears are allowed. Just not whining.

 

 

     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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Amazing Is What Real Grace Always Is

“Amazing grace.”

Amazing is exactly what real grace always is.

On the other hand, the many counterfeits are pretty much what we should expect—“do-it-yourself” schemes focused on our power to occasionally strike a tiny spark rather than on God’s power to always create a nuclear reaction. Do-it-yourself “grace” is an impostor every bit as dangerous as the real thing is amazing.

The Apostle Paul points to real grace in everything he writes, most notably Romans and Galatians, pounding the point home. If we feel we must earn it in any way, it’s not real grace. If we imagine that we can pay for it at all, it’s bogus. If we think we can deserve it even a little, it’s a sham. And perhaps worst of all, if we reckon that we might need less of it than someone we consider morally below us, we’re dishonoring Christ and denying his Cross.

God’s grace is amazing, astounding, marvelous, incomprehensible, eternal, and so much more. And as we pile up adjectives, we should never forget this one: “scandalous.”

Read the Gospels with eyes wide open, and notice how many of Jesus’ healings, miracles, teachings were offensive to those who could never imagine God’s grace reaching so far, so low, so wide. A woman caught in the wrong bed in the embrace of the wrong guy. A gal who’d been through way too many husbands and was living with a guy she’d forgotten to marry. An acknowledged loser hanging on a cross, a failed thief unable to steal any more earthly chances. And the list goes on. Right down to us. The real grace of Christ always has within it a serious element of scandal. It seems reckless. It seems “over the top.” Too good to be a true.

We can never plumb its depths or exhaust its powers. We’ll never fully comprehend it, but even what we can see rocks us on our heels as Jesus reaches down to forgive those we can’t imagine even God ever forgiving. Certainly not without some lengthy probation. Maybe a written self-improvement plan. And a short leash, for sure.

But Christ just keeps on forgiving, his only requirement being that, having given our lives to him, we keep on accepting the gift he keeps on giving. How reckless is that!? Good luck trying to find that kind of grace in any other world religion—or in the world anywhere else.

Real grace both forgives and empowers even as it refuses to allow us to focus on ourselves. When we do poorly, fall flat on our faces yet again in attitude or action, grace turns our focus back to Christ, forgives, and gives him glory, reminding us that Christ at Calvary has literally taken all of our “badness” away from us. When we do well, grace reminds us that everything good we could possibly do comes through Christ’s power at work in our lives and that what we might once have considered our own goodness is not our own at all.

When we’ve accepted real grace, the focus is never again to be on us; the focus is on God and joyfully giving him glory for what he has done and is doing—all by grace, all through his Son. All for us, and not at all by us.

 

 

     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 Is Amazing, But It Is Not “Easy”

God’s grace is wonderful. But if we think grace is easy, we need to think some more.

One of Jesus’ most famous stories was told in response to a religious lawyer’s question: “Teacher, who is my neighbor?”

The question was blatantly self-serving. Luke prefaces the lawyer’s question: “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked . . .”

The greatest temptation we all face is to try to “justify” ourselves rather than accepting by faith the justification that comes only through grace. We understand the question’s tone all too well.

“And who is my neighbor?” (10:29).

Let’s make a law about this so I can be very sure I’ve done what is required and no more. After all, love is costly business, and I’d hate to waste a lot of time loving someone with no claim on my love. Let’s clear this up so I can check this off the “to do” list, present the completed list to God, and expect to be paid a wage for services rendered.

We’re all expert in religious accounting. It’s easier to count than to worship. Trusting ourselves rather than trusting God is humanity’s default mode. And it’s easy to find a religious group that is more of a “religious” accounting firm focusing on our effort to keep the law rather than being the worshiping Body of Christ focusing on blood-bought salvation we in no way earn.

Ah, but that “all-about-me” question hangs in the air: “Who is my neighbor?”

Remember the story? A foolish traveler, a Jew, is waylaid by robbers, beaten senseless, and crumpled by the side of the road. In turn two religious men, a priest and a Levite, see him and walk on by, willfully blind to his need. But a Samaritan, a man whose race and religion all Jews, including this lawyer, would despise, stops, helps the man, and even pays for his lodging and care.

Then Jesus asks his own question: Who was a neighbor to the man in need? And the lawyer stammers, “The one who had mercy on him.” “Go,” Jesus says, “and do likewise,” indicating that the lawyer will never run out of neighbors and never be able to check this item off his religious “to do” list.

Salvation by law, by rule-keeping, which is no salvation at all, says, “How little can I do and be saved?” Salvation by grace through faith says, “How may I joyfully honor the God who has already saved me?”

So here are a few religiously legal questions for us, though you could add a thousand more: How often must I go to church? How much of my money do I have to give? How much can I play with sin in action or attitude? When can I say I’ve completed all the “right” rituals, worshiped enough and just “right”? When can I look down on others of God’s children who are not as “right”? How many miles away from my own front door does my responsibility to show God’s love extend?

If you think these are law questions and not grace questions, not the kinds of questions God wants us to waste time asking, I think you’re right. A legal approach to religion is not only cold, shallow, and barren, it is far too easy.

Grace? Now that’s another thing entirely!

 

 

     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.

 


Nearest the Axle, the Spokes of a Wheel Are Nearest to Each Other

My favorite columnist, Charles Krauthammer, passed away in June. When I (very often) miss his wit, wisdom, common sense, and uncommon command of the English language, I pull out his book Things That Matter, a compilation of some of his best columns.

One of those was written in 1999 shortly after Time magazine had named Albert Einstein as the “Person of the Century.” An “interesting and solid choice,” Krauthammer wrote, albeit a wrong one. “The only possible answer,” he continued, “is Winston Churchill.” Why? “Indispensability.” “Without Churchill, the world today would be unrecognizable—dark, impoverished, tortured.” Yes, it would.

Krauthammer noted that Einstein certainly possessed the “finest mind of the century” and was “deeply humane and philosophical.” He even said, “I would nominate him as the most admirable man of the century.” But indispensable? Churchill, not Einstein.

Krauthammer didn’t jump on into postulations regarding any other categories, but one that particularly interests me was settled long ago. The most influential Christian apologist of the 20th century? C. S. Lewis. An “apologist” in this context is a “defender” who writes to logically defend, make the rational case for, the truth of Christianity.

I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of people have read his classic Mere Christianity? And I wonder how many thousands of those have found it to be the catalyst God used to launch their journey into the Christian faith? (Charles Colson of Watergate fame was one of those.)

I’ve long thought that the preface of Mere Christianity is itself more than worth the price of the book. In it Lewis makes it clear that he is writing to highlight the beliefs held in common, all through the centuries, by those in the whole Christian “house.” He is not at all intending to discuss the differences of views from any particular room (denomination). And he wisely writes, “Our differences should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son”; otherwise, we drive people away.

Lewis goes on to note that before publication he sent the second section of the book, “What Christians Believe,” to four clergymen from four different Christian groups to be sure he was on track. A minor quibble or two, but yes, they said.

But the really interesting thing he discovered came from responses after publication. Any serious criticism seemed to come from “borderline people” not seriously involved in any Christian tradition. He actually found this rather “consoling,” an indication that it is “at her centre, where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to every other in spirit . . . And this suggests that at the centre of each there is a something, or a Someone, who against all divergencies of belief, all differences of temperament, . . . speaks with the same voice.”

Are we surprised? A point far out on the spoke of a wheel is farthest from the other spokes. The center point of the whole “wheel” of Christianity is Christ. Those nearest to the axle, whatever “spoke” they’re on, are closest both to Him and to each other.

 

 

     You’re invite 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.

 


“What Are You Waiting For?”

What are you waiting for? The truth is that most of us spend the vast majority of our lives waiting for something.

Maybe it’s a birthday. A vacation. A holiday. A graduation. A wedding. An anniversary. A retirement.

Maybe it’s when the baby is finally born, or the student loan (good luck waiting that out!) or car or house or business loan is eventually paid off.

You waited—even as you were working all the necessary hours and many more—to achieve that hard-to-reach business goal or rank. You waited—even as you trained, practiced, sweated—to finally earn that coveted professional certification. It took all of the knowledge, skill, and experience you possessed—and more—for you to finally finish that massive multi-year project, but you did.

Maybe what you’re waiting for right now is not warm or fuzzy, not exciting at all, but you’re waiting nonetheless. Waiting for the chemotherapy to be over once and for all. Waiting for the divorce to be final and that corner turned. Waiting to be dismissed from rehab and praying to keep the freedom you’re working so hard to find.

Waiting can be a big part of the adventure on the journey toward a goal. It can be a sweet blessing. Waiting can be the cask in which the draft is aged and infused with layer upon layer of flavorful complexity. It can be precious time, essential time. Waiting can be filled with anxiety as each day, each hour, each moment seems to bring its own ominous question mark. It can be excruciating.

Scripture overflows with examples of waiting and wait-ers. We read the amazing story of the patriarch Joseph and see him waiting in a pit, waiting in a prison, waiting, unbeknownst to himself, to save his family (and many more), bless the whole world, and be a major link in fulfilling God’s promise to us all.

How many long years did David wait before he actually began to reign as king of Israel?

In a rather negative example, we see a surly prophet named Jonah waiting for three interminable days in the belly of an oversized fish and then waiting, scowling, grinching, sweating on the top of a hill hoping against hope that God might ditch mercy and scorch and destroy a city He seemed determine to save.

Nine months of waiting became for the Virgin Mary precious, invaluable time.

Jesus himself waited for thirty years to begin his primary ministry and, as it began, spent forty days in the wilderness being tested and, I think we can also say, waiting.

Saul of Tarsus was stopped in his tracks on his way to Damascus by Christ and a blinding light. But becoming Paul the apostle also entailed spending three years in Arabia, waiting, learning, being molded by his Lord; the waiting was essential to what he would become and do.

Whenever you find yourself navigating an “in-between” time, a time of waiting, well, you may find that it’s actually priceless time God can use to shape and hone your life into a far richer blessing than it could ever be apart from the waiting.

Pastor and author John Ortberg’s words are wise: “Who you become while you’re waiting is as important as what you’re waiting for.”

 

 

    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.

 


“Sensdistra Is Good for What Ails Ya!”

A good commercial can be a lot of fun. I’m thinking about the TV sort. You know—cave men, lizards with British accents. That sort of thing.

But I am full to overflowing (yea, verily, to nausea) with two other TV ad-types—those pumped out by slime-oozing lawyers and those peddled by drug pushers. Let’s tackle the latter.

I am very thankful indeed for the availability of needed medications that make our lives much better. But whatever side of the political spectrum you find yourself on, is it hard to figure out that our medical system is messed up, wasteful, unaffordable, and in need of massive change?

Case in point: drugs. How helpful are drugs if you can’t afford them? And just a few of the reasons you may have a hard time affording them are legitimately high costs in research and development, much higher costs because attorneys are involved, and the kind of stinky skullduggery that always attaches itself to big bucks and big institutions.

Ah, yes, and the cost of commercials. The commercials must work, or the folks spending big bucks on them wouldn’t spend big bucks on them. They can’t be targeted just at doctors, but I liked it better when my physician just told me what medicine I needed. If it might cause “oily discharge” or gruesome death as a side effect, he’d probably mention it. It’s laughable that company lawyers, who’d rather their clients not get out of bed and thus manage “risk,” force half of the stupid commercials to be devoted to listing atrocious side effects. Just stuff it! I mean, the brochure. Into the box. Just get off my TV! Your commercials make that vast mind-numbing wasteland even more vapid.

Alas, the never-ending drug ads just keep piling up. Lest they drive me nuts, I just laugh at them. (Is it possible to be amorous to much effect in two separate bathtubs?)

As word guy, I can’t help but wonder how much money the drug companies spend naming their concoctions. I can help them, I think, and for less than a cool million.

I’ve started keeping a list of drug trade names. Filled a page of a yellow pad with just 78 of the better-known. (You can easily find around 4000 on the web at lists such as http://www.needymed.com.)

Most (not all) are three syllables. The emphasis is usually on the first. Some make sense. Allegra® has to do with allergies. Some are take-offs on the chemical name. Paxil® is Latin “pax” for peace and sounds a little like paroxetine. Where they got Xeljanz® for tofacitinib, Jardiance® for empagliflozin or Kystrexxa® for pegloticase, I don’t have a clue. (Those are all patented trade names; leave ’em alone or the lawyers will be after you.)

I wrote drug names on slips of paper, put them in three bowls, one for each syllable, and then drew, combined, and laughed. So here ya go, drug pushers. These are free for the taking, and there are scads of combinations. But I’d accept a check.

Spitavtyx. Crestoppa. Lotaflo. Humnocol. Oproqura. Vyervo. Tretilor. Lipfexty. Orrevia. Wellfypro. Valuvia. Neudivnax. Elitrin. Migcardya. Celtrudgrix. Levlasmax. Sensdistra. Litavtor. Shinazi. Alvanpril. Glalartik. Eljanztix. Trexlicort. Viliquin. Remdaxia. And on we could go. (If I’ve stumbled onto any real names, it’s accidental!)

The real fun might come if we were to try to postulate what maladies might be connected with each of my cobbled together drug names. At least one needs to be for “oily discharge.”

The Creator of our universe has lots of names. I’m particularly fond of Lord, Father, Abba. Whatever the number of syllables, the emphasis—first, last, and forever—is on love.

 

 

     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.

 


Tripping Over a Logical Fallacy Can Cause Bruises

 

I don’t have a clue what the rules are now at most universities regarding graduate/teaching assistants. I do know that when I was working on a master’s degree and serving in that capacity, teaching assistants actually taught. A lot.

It was not unusual for me to teach three or more sections of English 101 (Freshman Composition) per semester. The departmental goal for English 101 was that each student write ten 500-word essays.

Somehow I managed to get through college and a graduate degree without taking a single math course, but I can tell you that if each of three classes had 20 students (we often started out with more), that translates into 600 essays per semester for the TA under my hat to grade. For obvious reasons, we didn’t always make it to the ten, but we got so close that my own spelling suffered from running in such bad company. I almost began to believe that “alot,” as in “My students used that non-word word alot,” was a word. As I recall, when I was sitting in the labor room with my wife as she was doing the work of getting our first child here, I was grading essays and/or working on my thesis until her groans became distracting.

English 101 students will drive a teacher to distraction/despair with spelling and grammar errors, but a big problem with many of those essays was not mechanical; it was a problem some of my fellow TAs and I tried to address with a unit on “Logical Fallacies.” (We meant breakdowns in logic, not fallacies that were logical.) Good writing not only needs to be free of grammar errors, it needs to make alot of sense alot (even most) of the time. (Oops.)

Logical fallacies abound. Whether we’re writing or not, we all bump into them or fall over them regularly. Once we learn to recognize a few, we’ll be a bit more wary and a lot more humble, even as we begin to see more of them lurking about than we’d ever dreamed existed. I’ll list a few below. (A Wikipedia article lists more than 100.)

Either/or sets up two extremes as the only possibilities when many others actually exist. “If we don’t elect Senator Bluster as president, the country is doomed.”

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc, Latin for “after this, therefore because of this,” jumps to draw conclusions from coincidences. We chuckle about the rooster who noticed that the sun came up every day after he crowed. He developed serious neurosis, paranoia that he might oversleep and, at great inconvenience to the world, the sun would not come up because he forgot to crow. To assume that since many children who develop autism received vaccines, the vaccines cause autism is no more logical, but it is more dangerous.

Non sequitur, Latin for “it does not follow,” means that your conclusion does not necessarily logically follow your premise, as in, “If you hate this column, you are mean and ignorant.” (And here, I jump right into the ad hominem, “to the man” fallacy, too, by resorting to name-calling rather than rational discussion.

Oh, and don’t forget the fallacy fallacy. Reasoning for an argument may be fallacious, but that does not necessarily mean the conclusion is false. (Even a broken clock is . . .)

Jesus says that we are to love the Lord with “all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.” I’m not sure which is hardest, and I’d like to avoid the either/or fallacy, but I’ve not found the “mind” part to be the easiest.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my webpage 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 “War” Comes to Worship, All Sides Lose

I try to avoid ever firing any shots in what have been called the “worship wars.”

“Worship” and “war.” Those two words together, not held at arm’s length from each other by a conjunction, form a jarring contradiction.

We know what the Apostle Paul would say because we know what he did say in Philippians 4:2 to two squabbling gals named Euodia and Syntyche (who some wit has christened Odious and Soon-touchy). He doesn’t describe the “issue” or take sides. He just says, “Get along.” The mere fact that Christians were fussing was shameful, as out of place as a cow patty on a cheesecake. It still is.

Our Lord Jesus went to the cross, completely emptying himself, laying aside his own will, out of his love for his Father and us. How ludicrous, how deeply wrong, it is for those saved by his sacrifice to refuse to sacrifice their own rights—maybe even to shoulder the unbearable burden of singing a song or two that we might not like but that might very much bless someone else?

I wonder. In times of persecution, do people worry and fuss about such minutia? I wonder how long we could endure the real thing if our idea of suffering is to sing a song we don’t like or endure a service with the thermostat set a bit too high or too low for our personal comfort. (Oh, it’s impossible to ever get that one “right.”)

I do understand why some fine pastors I very much respect and some great churches have chosen to offer separate “traditional” and “contemporary” services, particularly when the whole congregation can’t fit into the building at the same time anyway. I’d likely do the same thing. But, ideally, I much prefer a “blended” worship where we sing a variety of styles and thereby inch up on something called sacrifice. Or love.

As the disparity between styles widens, though, I admit that “blended” is a challenge. “God of Our Fathers” cries out for an organ. “Kumbaya” equivalents, soundly Trinitarian (that’s good) with three hundred verses (fine for the first 150), need a guitar (and maybe a campfire). And the latest coolest Christian Luv Radio Top 40 or sorta sacred rap songs call for calisthenics, maybe some amazing riffs, and perhaps a good deal of other jumping about. It can be a tad jarring to go straight from some of these into others of these.

Yes, and I suppose church folks have always been like all folks. Everyone is somewhere on a continuum from dyed in the wool and pretty much calcified traditional (danger: ossified folks bend poorly and break easily) to folks burdened by carrying about a heavy load of coolness (danger: cool marches on, and we look silly chasing it). The fact that the former folks on one side of that continuum have usually paid the freight and are the reason the church exists perhaps should at least not be totally forgotten but never brandished like a club.

But the One who truly paid the price, the Reason the church exists, is Jesus. And if we ever catch ourselves fussing about worship, we’ve already lost the fight and are utterly defeated. Claiming to see better than our brothers and sisters in Christ’s family, we’ve already poked out one eye and are half-blind and stumbling; we’ve lost the focus of all worship, and we are denying the Cross. Then whether we’re doing so with a pipe organ, a cappella, or a heavy metal guitar makes precious little difference.

 

 

     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.


“So, Bob, Would You Hand Me That Thingamajig?”

Thingamajig. Doohickey. Dillybob. Whatsit.

Those are, of course, all words we use to refer to things for which we are unsure of the actual word, if there is one, for the thingamajig in question.

There. I’ve written “thingamajig” twice now, and my spell-checker has thus far resisted the impulse (do spell-checkers have impulses?) to squiggle a red line under the word, thereby calling my spelling into question. “Thingamajig” is evidently now a bona fide word for something we don’t know the word for. Ditto for doohickey.

Yes, but dillybob and whatsit still get red squiggles. Since I usually write these columns using software which, perhaps like its owner, tends to straddle American and British English spelling a bit—its preference for “anesthesia” or “anaesthesia” is mostly anesthetized, not to say completely anaesthetised (red squiggle just appeared; the “s” did it)—I often double-check the spell-check.

So I just did. Now the gate arm swings up and whatsit strides on past the spell-check check point. Dillybob is still being held at the border, though the Urban Dictionary (not, I admit, the highest authority) recognizes its usefulness. The Oxford English Dictionary must be dilly-dallying and hasn’t given dillybob its official papers yet.

Still, you know what I mean when I use the word. We need words for thingamabobs, whatchamacallits, doodahs, and hoobajoobs. (Sea of red squiggles now, but I’ll stake my English degree that these whatsitsname words for things unknown or as yet unnamed exist to answer, rather creatively and with a touch of heart-tickling whimsy, a real need.) The language would be much poorer without them.

We need a word for the crunchy little tidbit left on a corn dog stick when the dog is doggone. And along that line, what about a word for that little smidge of chocolate sticking to an ice cream stick until you lick it off?

What about a word for that disgusting little puff of smelly air that hits you in the face when, after delaying a bit too long, you bag the kitchen trash and then lean over and pull the plastic drawstring tight?

Often you discover that a word really does exist for the whatsit you wondered about. It was a fine moment when author Madeleine L’Engle taught me that dragon droppings are called “fewmets.” It’s a shame to accidentally step into something and not know its official name. Now I’m fewmetically safe. (Definite red squiggle.)

And is there a one-word description for a dweeb with a weird sense of humor? I guess so. (See dweeb. Or dork. Or nerd. Maybe doofus.)

I stepped right into that one, but I’m still smiling. Words can sting a little or a lot. But they can also morph wonderfully into delightful whimsy. And they can fly to heights of breathtaking beauty and awe-inspiring mystery.

And, yes, sometimes you just need a word and don’t have one. But our heavenly Father knew exactly what this world needed when, out of infinite love, he sent us his Son, the Word.

 

 

     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.

 


“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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