How Much in Your Life Seems Normal Right Now?

 

I’ve long thought that, in so many ways, the biggest blessings of life are the small ones. The weeks we’re living through right now underline that, don’t they?

If, just a few weeks ago, you were a little bored and tired of the “normal” routine of your life, I’ll wager that is not the case now.

I admit that I can hardly understand ever being bored. I’ve always got more to do than I know how to get done, and, if I’m ever caught up with work and duties and that sort of challenge, I’ve always got waiting for me far more interests and projects than I can possibly get around. Bored I am not. Ever.

As much as I have to do and want to do, I try to find at least a little time, regularly, to be still and quiet. That’s not boring, either. Reading. Rocking. Napping. (Well, reading is an essential part of my work, but a whole lot of reading is also simply refreshing.) Some such is essential. Even if the rocking and napping and quietly musing is just for a few minutes, it’s needed. Anyone who doesn’t rest some can’t be worth what they should when they’re working.

Even God rested. And that we rest regularly is still His wise injunction, one which we ignore at our peril.

I hope you get some extra rest during this coronavirus mess. Okay, I know, some of it is externally imposed. Our kids expected to be back at school this week. School sports and league sports just aren’t happening right now. Restaurant dining rooms are closed. Take-out is a lifeline and a blessing to all concerned, and we pray for restaurant owners and staff even as we find a blessing also in remembering what it’s like to eat together at home some.

And churches? We surely didn’t expect to be doing variations on “remote” or recorded or live-streamed worship. For lots of church leaders, our “normal” routine of getting ready for Sunday worship, leading Bible studies, being together, eating together, and so many of our activities, are not “normal.”

Not much is normal. Everything we do seems to take more time, more thought. Even something as small as rolling off a little toilet paper! Very little.

Not much is happening on “auto-pilot.” “Normal” means, in so many ways, that we go through our usual paces without a lot of extra thought. Right now, we start to do something and . . . then . . . realize . . . that . . . we . . . can’t do . . . this . . . like . . . normal. What it certainly is, though, is . . . slow . . . and . . . kinda . . . hard.

Whether going to work, running a business, heading to the bank, taking a trip, getting ready for a meal, planning worship or even writing a church bulletin, and so much more, everything seems to require intentional, and different, thought.

Normal it ain’t.

It’s as if you were typing along on your keyboard and suddenly QWERTY is YTREWQ. The letters and characters are all there, but not one is in its usual position.

Life can surely be frustrating right now. And it’s hard to do anything fast. But it’s also not bad to slow down, even if we don’t have much choice. We’ve been moving way too fast for way too long. It’s good to tune more into each other. It certainly can be fine to attend activities and watch with a lot of other folks, but we’ve had plenty of that kind of time; we’ve long needed more time at home talking and getting reacquainted with our families. It’s good to think about how precious our relationships with family and friends really are.

And it’s good to think about what really is most important in our lives that hasn’t changed at all. On top of that list, I believe, is the love of our Father for His children. It hasn’t changed a bit. It never will.

And He’ll get us through this and teach us some things that will bless us along the way.

 

 

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

 

 

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


Ode to TP

Note: I hesitate–maybe not long enough!–to post my “poem” here. This is NOT a regular “Focus on Faith” blog. Possibly, the only thing it has to do with faith is a rather idiotic indication of a very real and seriously beautiful fact: God is still powerful and loving and real, and our strength is in Him. Knowing that, and with sincere apologies and prayers for those who are truly being seriously hurt by the pandemic and resulting pandemonium, maybe a little laughter can be a genuine sign of at least a little faith. I hope so. I warn you: this “poem” is BAD. And came to me right where you might think it did. I henceforth swear off and promise to refrain from further toilet paper poetry!

 


The Muleona Virus and the Ravages of Time

I must begin this column with an apology and a plea for your patience. This is third column, in as many weeks, in which I mention the coronavirus. Witless, I know. But terror drives people to extremes. (Well, yes, but terror is not my problem; a lack of imagination is, and when a column idea flies overhead, I’ve gotta snatch it, pluck it, and cook it even if it comes in a familiar flock, flight, or gaggle.)

The fact is, I’ve already had a deadly virus in that category and been categorically cured by the finest medical minds. We were keeping three grandkids for the weekend, two of which are ages four and five, at our home in the Greater Muleplex, Muleshoe, Texas.

So when I swooned back-first onto the bed (I always try to swoon in the direction of soft places) and stammered, “I feel really bad! I think it’s the Muleona virus!” and I began to cough and hack in a braying, hee-hawing fashion, I knew help would come.

A city doctor might well miss this, and the patient might quickly expire from lack of critical and specific Muleona care, but I feel sure a country doctor would recognize not just the difference between a mule and a donkey but also between a mule’s bray and a donkey’s bray, and thus nail the differential diagnosis.

I knew my pint-sized medical team would drop everything, grab their toy medical bag, and rush in my direction.

All sorts of tests were run. Pulse. Temperature. Blood pressure. Though the dread diagnosis of Muleona was confirmed—and I’m not sure about a bedside manner with that many giggles involved—I was quickly cured with a shot. Doctor Garrett couldn’t find the “shot thing,” so Doctor Kendall just fired a shot at me using a plastic pistol, and I was quickly released, no worse for the wear and presumably chocked full of valuable Muleona antibodies. I only rarely revert to semi-mulish behavior.

As when . . . my wife and I were sitting in the living room last evening, and I said, “You know, they’re saying that if you’re over 60, you should try to avoid going out a lot. That seems to argue for brewing more coffee or steeping some tea and launching into a good book. In fact, I’m 61! Maintaining good health at my age in this coronavirus crisis must certainly mean barricading myself behind a bookmark!”

The dear lady rolled her eyes sardonically: “You are not 61; you are 63. And you are insane.”

Quick figures. Our oldest granddaughter just turned 13 a week after my own birthday, and I was a very young fifty when she was born, so . . .

“Good heavens! I’d not realized the virus was so diabolically strong! It’s just robbed me of three years of life in less than five minutes, and I’m not even infected! Get me a book and a blanket before it’s too late!”

Even with poor math skills and without a virus, life breezes by. The psalmist prudently asks the Lord to “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:14).

Hmm. So far we’ve had in Texas no coronovirus case within 300 miles of me, but New Mexico has had none at all. That seems to argue for skiing this thing out in the New Mexico mountains, just to be safe. I’ll read at night.

Note: Oops! As of a day or two after this column was written, my Texas data is still true, but New Mexico has four cases and counting. By the time this hits print, well, you better check more recent statistics. And I may need to consult my pint-sized medical staff for more advice. Maybe a shot.

 

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

 

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


Tweet Quote: “The Coronavirus Panic Is Dumb”

Oops! I doubt he cares, but it looks like a billionaire toy maker for cool kids just got himself into a bit of a bind. (He makes high-priced and over-hyped electric cars—he can keep those, as far as I’m concerned—and some seriously cool rocket ships.)

All Tesla CEO Elon Musk did to generate knee-jerk howls was to tweet elegantly and articulately, “The coronavirus panic is dumb.”

Not everybody disagreed. I’m told that he got a million “likes” almost immediately. Make that a million and one because, for what it’s worth, I agree with him. I won’t be “tweeting” any responses, though, because, whatever the evidence that the sky is falling because of the coronavirus, a boatload of evidence points to the fact that Twitter is for twits.

Oh, my good friend Elon (just kidding) and I would, I’m sure, agree that health authorities, and the rest of us, certainly need to exercise some wisdom and take precautions. It might not usher in world peace, but it would certainly be a better world if more of us would wash our hands a good deal more often, try not to sneeze on other people, stay home when we’re sniffing and snorting, and just generally try to keep our mucus to ourselves.

All of that would help some, surely, with the coronavirus. It might slow down cold viruses a bit, too. And getting a flu shot won’t help with the coronavirus, but if the present media hyperventilation reminds and motivates folks to get the shot, well, I suppose that flu numbers might go down even as big-bad-bugaboo numbers go up. If Elon and I are wrong and panic is indeed called for, I’m sure I’d rather have only one virus at a time.

But there’s that operative word: panic. It’s not “reasonable measures” or “wise precautions” or “good public health responses” that are dumb; it’s panic. And that’s why I find it hard to disagree with my bosom buddy’s five-word tweet. (Coronavirus is one word. No hyphen. Panic is no good excuse for improper spelling and punctuation.)

Ah, but here’s the problem, and this is why the tweet prompted some howling. When Joe Blow goes on un-sneezingly to work, listens to reasonable advice, but changes channels and watches re-runs while talking heads are unable to talk about anything but Covid-19, well, no one gets too upset with him if he shrugs his shoulders a little and just soldiers on.

But when a billionaire with easy access to the best doctors and healthcare and, should the need arise for such, the poshest quarantine quarters, seems to lecture commoners on “coronavirus panic,” it doesn’t come off very well—even if he’s correct.

Time will tell who’s right, I suppose. I figure vindication will come for those of us who just choose to wash our hands more and hyperventilate less.

I do know this: When the King of the universe wanted to take miraculous measures against the “virus” of sin, he didn’t tweet from on high, he sent his Son right down amongst us, completely able to “empathize with our weaknesses” and “tempted in every way, just as we are,” yet “without sin.” Why? “So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4).

 

 

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

 

 

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

 


Coveys of Quail, Columnists, Politicians, and Covid-19

Quail. I have nothing at all against those birds. I enjoy looking at them. I’ve fed a few. Raised a few. Shot a few. Eaten a few. I enjoy them on every level, from my eyeballs to my taste buds. So I don’t mean to slander these fine birds when I say that their images should be woven into the logos of the world’s leading stock exchanges.

Or maybe instead the exchanges could use in their logos images of a bunch of frightened old women leaning on walkers. But that would be grossly unfair to elderly females, most of whom I’ve found to be savvy, courageous, and wise. Come to think of it, most of that breed cower and whine less than any other group you’d care to mention.

Anyway, if you’re looking for courage and fortitude, don’t look to find it in any of the world’s stock exchanges during, say, your average epidemic. If you haven’t looked at your retirement account lately, I’d suggest you wait a few months, or a year or two, to let the quail get over their cowering and covey up again. Even if the sky really has fallen by then, you’ll have time to make peace with it. (My deep apologies for herein mixing metaphors of quail and Chicken Littles, but I’m scared out of my mind. Can’t you tell?)

Of course, what at present has the national news media ecstatic and the stock market falling to its knees in terror is a virus, a “coronavirus,” namely, Covid-19. The Wall Street Journal’s headline today: “Disease Takes Toll on Companies.” But it’s not yet the disease taking a toll; it’s fear of the disease.

In that publication’s weekend edition, one columnist (who I like) conjectured that, while this thing is nothing to sneeze at, irrational fear of it will do a lot more damage than the disease itself. I understood his point to be: wash your hands, get out from under the coffee table, don’t stand in lines with hordes of other quail buying face masks, have the good sense and decency to stay home when you’re sick, and get on with life.

Another columnist (one of my favorite), writing a few pages away, while basically agreeing with the first, expressed a gut feeling that this thing and its impact is “going to be bad.”

Take your pick.

The most informative article I’ve read yet is by Matthew R. Francis (Popular Science, “Just How Contagious Is COVID-19?” 2/28/20). He looks to well-established epidemiology. An R0 (“R naught” or “basic reproduction number”) enumerates how many people will be infected by one infected person. Flu is usually 1.2; this virus seems to be “above 1.4 but below 4.” Measles is 12-18, which is why it’s crazy, if not criminal, not to vaccinate!

He also mentions the CFR, “case fatality rate,” and says that, though the “seasonal flu” has a low CFR, so far in this flu season almost 30,000 Americans have died from flu. He writes that estimates now are that the CFR of this new disease is 1.4 per cent (14 per 1000). And he cites serious research that shows that “city-wide quarantines” and “travel bans” don’t help much. They may slow down the spread, but it’ll spread anyway, do what it will do, and be done. I read that to mean that, if you’re a Christian and, on a particular Sunday morning, you find that the barometric pressure in Bolivia is right, your dog seems healthy, and it’s completely convenient, it probably won’t hurt you to go ahead and go to church.

I guess we’ll see how this all goes.

Forgive me while I make everyone mad, but I’m not presently ready (it’s the Monday before “Super Tuesday,” as I write) to place too much trust in the two guys presently “leading” in our two Keystone Cop political parties. “Controlling” a pandemic? One can’t control his own cell phone and the other recently felt compelled to give a nice “shout out” to a totalitarian murderer for “literacy” efforts. Our political prospects are enough to make you want to take a good sniff of Covid-19 or a large dose of Corona (not the virus).

I admit that, as I watched a news program yesterday, I found the words of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to be sensible. (I hope he has time to do some good things before he is inevitably thrown under the bus.)

But I find these words more reassuring: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

 

 

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

 

 

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


“I Love You for Sentimental Reasons . . .”

“I love you for sentimental reasons . . .”

Yes, indeed, and I love singing that sweet old song and so many more of the “Great American Songbook” songs, songs like “It Had to Be You,” “The Very Thought of You,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” and my favorite of all, “Unforgettable” (unforgettably rendered by Nat King Cole in tones of velvet).

Old songs for sure. In order, above—1945, 1924, 1934, 1936, and 1951.

I love them so much that I went to Nashville to get some unforgettable musicians to record some world-class tracks, record a little myself, and make some music, not least because I want my grandkids to learn a little about this legacy of sweet music that is theirs, too.

Add this to the other projects I’ve recorded, and my grandkids will probably have plenty of cupcake platters, small Frisbees, and leaky saucers once I’m gone. Their imaginations are the only limits for the way those things could be used. But it’s been worth it. All told, I’ve sold a few thousand and hope to sell a few more. No gold or platinum records. But I’ve supported my music habit, done a few hundred program/concerts, and loved it!

All to say . . .

I like to sing anytime. “Christian” music (more about that in a minute). Christmas music (let it snow!). Even a song or two that walk a bit on the “country” side. (That was a surprise.) And more.

But I’ll confess that the biggest surprise to me has been singing these sweet old American classic “luuuuv” songs. If anybody had told me ten years ago that a couple of weeks ago I’d be singing such songs for a good-sized group of nice folks at a Valentine’s Banquet at a Baptist church in San Angelo, I’d have laughed and maybe burst into song. Something on the order of “The Very Thought of THAT”!

I’ve been a little surprised to find that the time right around Valentine’s Day would have been much on my radar at all. Just ask my wife. But it is! And the music, and the nice folks who enjoy it, have been the reason.

For sure, at a banquet such as that one (it was so much fun!), I’ll sing a song or a few specifically about the best love of all, a song with words about God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s best gift.

But here’s a principle I hope we always remember.

All real truth is God’s truth. All genuine beauty is God’s beauty. All that really is truly good comes from the Father. If it’s genuinely good, joyful, and loving, it’s God’s, and we should thank him for it.

These truths are worth pondering and discussing as the ripples from this basic reality reach out into the whole “pond.” Even into some old songs.

I know, the songs I chose to record are “syrup-py” by design. Nightingales sing. Moonglow brings on swoons. Hearts go pitter-patter. Throw in a saxophone, and you’ll slide right out of your seat. And it’s all fun and built into the DNA of the genre. I savvy “poetic license.” (I admit that a couple of songs I looked at and chose not to record had lyrics that I just thought were a little “over the top.” Syrup has its place; “love as a god,” though . . .)

But “Christian” music (and art and literature, etc.) is not just music with religious-sounding words—or even any words at all; it’s music that moves our souls, lifts us (to gratitude, laughter, tears), washes over us with beauty, taps (often poignantly) into what is deeply joyful, sorrowful, lovely. It touches our souls. And sometimes, it just delights us with a few sweet measures of fun. All of this honors the Artist who is the real Source of all beauty.

For sure, when the time is right, let’s sing “Amazing Grace.” Let’s play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” And, yes, let’s smile, our beloved’s hand in ours, as we hum, “Unforgettable.” And let’s not forget to give God thanks for them all.

 

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

 

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


Reality Is Hard, But Denying Reality Is Harder

Dealing with reality can be hard, but it’s better than the alternative which looks easy and turns out to be much harder.

In Jesus’ famous parable of “The Two Builders,” he talks about two gents who both did the hard work of building houses. Yes, but only one, the “wise builder,” did the harder work of building his on the right foundation, one of rock; the “foolish builder” built on sand. Both houses looked fine—until “the rain came down, the streams came up, and the winds blew and beat against” those houses. The house built on rock stood the test; the house built on sand fell with a great crash. The moral of the story: don’t build a house in California anywhere near mud, fire, or flood!

No. The moral of the story, Jesus tells us, is that a life built on the truth of his words (he’s just finishing his “Sermon on the Mount,” Matthew 5-7) will be a strong life that will stand even in the midst of great trial.

Storms eventually assail us all. When they come, we discover the truth about the quality of our foundations. Was laying the foundation quick, cheap, and easy? Okay. Until the storm comes and, unable to stand the test, what we built falls quickly. The collapse is expensive and may even be fatal. Nothing about the crash is easy.

If only we’d listened! If only we’d invested in reality, built on truth, trusted the One who built this whole universe and tells us the truth about living in it in a way that is fulfilling and “successful” in the deepest sense.

Reality is hard. But denying it is ultimately much harder.

I once spent a little time—it felt like hours—a fathom or a few under a Grade 5 rapid called “Silverback” in the Nile River, near Jinja, Uganda. Among several problems one encounters after having parted company with a perfectly good raft and being cast into the depths is, literally, not knowing which way is up. The Nile neither knows nor cares about how you feel about that stark question, but this much is sure: not all answers are equally correct. Only one squares with reality. In this situation, the very sensible rule is that you not to try to swim toward the surface. Instead, you relax and trust the reality of two of this world’s unbreakable laws: the laws of gravity and of buoyancy. They are real and strong and your life jacket, obeying them, will invariably propel you upward if you’ll be still. Underwater in the Nile is not at all a good place to try to beat or deny the reality of the laws of physics.

It’s no skin off the “nose” of the law of gravity if we choose to ignore its reality, but it may be more than a little skin off of ours. Beliefs have consequences.

I once asked a class of smart kids this question: Does everyone have a right to his/her own beliefs? Of course, they answered, “Yes!” resoundingly.

Then I asked a follow-up question: “Is every belief of equal value?”

That’s when the class got interesting. No matter how undemocratic or unpopular it might be, the obvious answer is “no.”

Every person in this world is of immense value to our Creator, no matter his/her belief. But beliefs that are based on what squares with reality are, by their very nature, worth more than beliefs that fly in the face of reality.

C. S. Lewis once opined that we’d raised a generation too “mentally modest” to believe the multiplication tables.

And a few generations later, we’ve raised some folks who find even the reality of their own chromosomes, which no amount of surgery can truly alter, too confining.

You and I can discuss the various merits of preferring dark over milk chocolate or a blue pickup over a maroon one. You can choose differently than me on such questions and live in this universe quite successfully.

But truth and reality are deeper than tastes or trends. A person who sincerely wants two plus two to equal five is going to need either remedial math or a different universe; he’s not likely to be very happy in this one.

And if we want to live in a place where people who murder, lie, steal, covet, break faith, etc., find real fulfillment and genuine joy, well, wherever that place is, it’s not this world.

When our Creator tells us “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not,” he’s telling us the real truth about successful living in this very real world. He’s pointing us toward foundations that can stand up to reality.

 

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

 

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


For God’s Kids, the World Is Always Expanding

It’s a good thing when your world expands. When I was a child living at 125 N. Goliad Street in Amarillo, Texas, my world expanded one sidewalk at a time. My younger brother and I were great adventurers. His mighty steed was a red and white tricycle. Mine was orange and white and slightly larger. All it took to turn the trikes into motorcycles was an index card or two and a couple of clothes pins.

We would ride out from the porch and pedal down to the hill that was the driveway slope to the street. If you did it right, you’d pedal faster than a gerbil chasing his tail on a treadmill and then, just at the top of the slope, you’d lift your feet off the pedals and let gravity hurl you down the slope. And you’d clutch the handlebars hoping to properly negotiate the turn to the sidewalk at the bottom.

Once on the sidewalk, the real adventure began. At first, we were restricted to just the walk in front of the house. Then we were allowed to venture on over to the Harrises on one side and the Roaches on the other. (Roach. It’s sort of a shame that it was the top of their fencepost Jim blew off a few years later when we began to experiment with a chemistry set and branched out to minor explosives. Life is unfair enough to anyone named Roach.)

A little later, we were allowed to pedal on down past the Klaus’s house (Mom & Pop Klaus owned the A & W Root Beer drive-in on 6th Street. Great folks!) and beyond.

Somewhere along the line we added new horses to our stable of rides. Lee Meadows, a really nice gentleman who worked at the old Northwest Texas Hospital (where Jim and I were both born), donated to the cause an old four-wheeled frame that probably came off the bottom of a hospital meal cart. We laid plywood on the top and learned to spin it for some serious centrifugal excitement as we launched down the hill.

Skates were fun, too. At first, they were the kind you stuck to your street shoes using a skate key (which was always lost). Then we pirated the wheels from old skates, nailed them to 2 X 4’s, and tried skate-boarding. Those boards were a far cry from today’s immaculately-engineered marvels that seem to barely touch the ground at all. Any pebble would stop our thin steel wheels cold, with unpleasant results.

Then came bikes, and our world began expanding by city blocks and then down and around West Hills Park. And then we were push- or roll-starting an old VW Beetle whose starter was on the fritz.

The rest is history. We’re in our 60s now and our world is still expanding.

What a shame if God’s people fail to explore and serve past four walls, or the city limits, or national borders, or denominational lines, or even time itself. God’s kids are part of a very large Kingdom indeed. How sad if we allow our own sometimes stunted minds to make it seem small when the world itself and time can never truly constrict it.

 

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

     

 

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

 


For Real People, Doing Everything Right Is Not a Real Option

A good many folks believe that, if you do everything right, you might live to be well over 100.

Two glaring presuppositions shine forth from this belief. One is that you actually might want to live to be “well over 100.” Not me, thanks.

The other most obvious problem is actually two falsehoods for the price of one—that it’s possible to “do everything right,” and that you will.

Under “doing everything right,” well, there’s a lot to check off. Most folks will tell you to spend a lot of time in physically demanding gerbil activity. (Careful, though, the sleep experts will tell you that if you short your sleep to make excellent time going nowhere on, say, a treadmill, you’re likely hurting yourself more than helping yourself.)

And you can probably forget about drinking any milk that a cow would actually recognize or claim. And definitely forget cheesecake or ribeyes.

Ironically, you may have to spend more time thinking about food—carefully cataloguing what you can’t eat—than the average glutton who just eats everything in sight. (I’m not arguing for either extreme.) Some folks will consider a particularly persnickety approach trendy or cool; probably more of your friends and family will just be driven crazy by it and find trying to eat with you more trouble than it’s worth.

And the lengthy “doing everything right” list goes on.

I readily admit that following a balanced approach to exercise and nutrition is a good thing. Do it, and you’ll likely live longer and better. Get crazy about it and you’ll drive yourself and everyone around you nuts (but this is sure: all concerned will live lives that certainly seem a lot longer, even if they’re not).

Here’s the problem, though. Even if it were possible to “do everything right,” one microbe that didn’t get the memo, one weak blood vessel, one errant gene first passed on by your great-great-grandfather, can quickly mess up your plan.

Ah, and what about folks who are sure that they can “do everything right” morally? I think I worry about them even more.

This example is extreme, but I laughed when I read this in Dave Shiflett’s Wall Street Journal review of Mark Stein’s book The Presidential Fringe: “Leonard Jones, standard-bearer for the High Moral Party from 1848 to 1868, promised voters that they would never die if they would live a faithful and fully moral life. He was apparently a good man, but when his time came he croaked like a toad.” That must have been embarrassing.

I vote for living a moral life. Defy any of the Ten Commandments often enough, and you’ll end up in pain with lots of bruises far more serious than even the ones people get by trying to defy the law of gravity. You’ll bless yourself and many others by heeding the words of our Creator. But if you think you follow them perfectly, you’ll bless the rest of us best by staying far away.

Some of the best wisdom God gave us came through the Apostle Paul in this straight truth about how crooked we all are: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3). And so, because we all need saving, and nobody gets life right, the apostle goes on to say, God sent his Son, our Savior.

Focusing on ourselves is a treadmill approach to life. (It’s actually idolatry.) Focusing on Him means finding genuine freedom and joy, finding our best selves by getting out of ourselves.

 

 

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

 

 

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

 


Watering Weeds Is Fools’ Work

Recently, I watered a weed. “Big deal,” you say, “most folks in your neighborhood, mortals whose lawns are not perfect, water weeds every time they water. What makes you special?”

No, you don’t understand. For a few weeks in the summer, I singled this weed out and watered it. It had popped up in a planter among some pretty little flowering plants of another variety. But it looked to me a little like some plants I’d ensconced there in a previous season, or, I thought, it might be a type of purslane. So I watered it along with its neighbors.

One day I came home to find that plant rudely plucked and tossed out into the yard by my wife, left to dry up and die and be sucked up into a mower run by a mower. (English is odd, isn’t it? The operator of a mower is both running the mower and is the mower.)

I picked the poor thing up, potted it, placed it in the back yard among other pots of plants, including a pot of purslane, and watered it.

“You are watering a weed,” my wife said.

“I don’t think it’s a weed,” I said.

“It’s a weed,” my wife said.

“I think it’s a type of purslane,” I said.

“It’s a weed,” she said.

Not convinced, I continued watering it. For two or three weeks, maybe a month, I watered it. And it grew. It prospered. But, increasingly, and soon obviously, it began to grow in a gangly, ugly, and—I’m afraid this might be truly said—malignant fashion. Even then, it looked like it might eventually flower, but, before sporting any flowers, it began to develop some hairy, spiny, prickly-looking extrusions along its tendrils (not a purslane sort of thing to do). One might mistake a strikingly beautiful lady for a former Miss America, but if she begins to sprout hairy growths on her snout, one’s opinion might need to be altered to align with reality.

It was a weed.

I hate it when my wife’s right. Which is the vast majority of the time.

So I hereby confess to late-learning a valuable lesson: watering weeds is a fool’s errand.

True, but I’m not lacking in foolish company.

When we continue making slight variations of the same dumb mistake, we’re watering weeds.

When we leap before we look and jump into a hole we’ve jumped into before, that’s watering a weed.

When we choose to be our own victims, bludgeoning ourselves with the same bad choices with which we’ve beaten ourselves before, we’re watering a weed.

When we go to the same places (geographically or mentally), poison ourselves with the same toxins (substances or bad attitudes), continue to surround ourselves with pseudo-friends as rudderless as we are (maybe even not that bad but not interested in being better or encouraging anyone around them in being better), we’re watering weeds.

The result is completely predictable. If we water enough weeds long enough, we’ll end up with a yard or, worse, a life, full of them, all of the good plants choked out. And weeds grow more quickly than we’d think.

From sad experience, I urge you to water only what you really want to grow. Ask for God’s help to know the difference between grassburs and flowers, and to pull up what’s worse than worthless. At the very least, don’t water weeds.

 

 

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

 

  

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


%d bloggers like this: