Tag Archives: Creator

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 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.

 


Sherlock Holmes and Thanksgiving

In an old issue of Leadership Journal, Chris T. Zwingelberg observed that though everyone is familiar with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and his amazingly keen powers of observation, few of us are aware of Holmes’ belief that deduction and observation are even more necessary in faith and religion than they are in detective work.

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Naval Treaty, Doyle pictures his famous sleuth studying a simple rose. Holmes’ famous sidekick Doctor Watson observes, “He walked past the couch to an open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any interest in natural objects.”

Doyle writes that Holmes leaned “against the shutters” and observed, “There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion.”

He continued, “Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

I think the great sleuth has discovered something important. Think about it. (By the way, the root word from which “thanksgiving” comes is also the root for “think.” To really think is to be truly thankful.)

God has absolutely showered us with extras. With his brush he has painted a world dripping with color when, for most things, a few shades of gray would do.

Our Creator has populated our lives with wonderfully interesting people not even the most creative author could have envisioned.

He has given us the ability to enjoy an astonishing variety of tastes. Many of us will be doing our best during the upcoming holiday to check those out!

Thanksgiving, the holiday, is a wonderful time, and I pray it will be a time of sweet blessing for you and yours. But even when the holiday is in the rear view mirror, the “extras” from the hand of God will keep right on coming. That means that every day is a good day for gratitude.

 

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

 

Copyright 2019 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.

 


Third Birds, Trampoline Mats, and Early Mornings

Third bird. That’s the term author Daniel Pink uses, in his book When, for folks who aren’t by nature larks (morning people) or owls (night people).

Having taken the analysis he recommends for determining where one nests on that feathery continuum, I was a little surprised to find myself perched in the third bird category. I’ve always thought I followed in my mother’s footsteps as the very definition of a night owl. (Henceforth I will simply say “owl”; “night owl” is as redundant as “hot water heater.”) I like the quiet and warm enfolding that night affords and, with it, opportunities for reading, writing, musing, perusing, working, breathing during sweet moments when one’s cell phone is under control (as in, OFF), and a large percentage of the population is comfortably tucked in and unconscious.

On the fairly rare occasions I’ve tested early mornings—I’m doing that right now, but they don’t come as naturally to me—I’ve found that they provide some of the same benefits as late evenings and have their own good flavor. Just let me ease into light and volume. I can make coffee just fine in the dark, and my mouth is where it’s always been. The computer screen’s brightness needs to be throttled down. I wish its key-clicking could be muted. And, please, let’s put off speech until coffee does its work and the sun follows suit.

Mom was not a morning person; I wonder now who it was who used to wake us up singing the old and always obnoxious “Good Morning to You” song with its line about “all in our places with sunshiny faces.” Ouch.

Third birds like me evidently can go a bit either way, though I’ll definitely morph more toward midnight than morning. Just mind the light, please.

But I’m writing early this morning. I blame the trampoline. My back, which was awake before the rest of me, thinks I spent too much time testing a new mat yesterday afternoon.

The old mat served long and well. Four sons did their best to work it out. One Great Dane spent a little time on it but found it hard on his hip. That mat was shaving cream-stained from grandkid fun days complete with water, sprinklers, “silly string,” water balloons, etc. And it had lots of mileage on it as a launching pad for jumping and giggling grandkids on the back of a winged unicorn or about to be eaten by a hungry orc. The aforementioned unicorn/orc recently put his foot (rapidly) through what was a small tear in the mat. Hence, new mat. Hence, time testing new mat. Hence, up early this morning.

The lawyer litter tag on the new mat says it needs to be used with mature supervision. My wife read that and said I don’t count.

Scripture says that God’s mercies are “new every morning.” My back will be fine. The coffee is on board, and I don’t at all mind admitting that on this early morning, the Creator of each new day has blessed me with some sweet memories. I’m ready to make some more! I just need a nap first.

 

     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


Why Does Finding Real Rest Require So Much Discipline?

Why is resting so hard?

One definition, “freedom from activity or labor,” surely makes “rest” sound rather appealing, maybe even like something we should try on occasion.

Just a brief Internet search will result in scads of wise quotations on the benefits of rest. Some sound almost like a sop to Type-A hyperactives who won’t say “Good Morning” unless it fits into their business plan and the utterance is duly scheduled. Charles Spurgeon was not among that group, but he told the truth when he said, “In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.”

Some quotes are simple and wise: “Rest is not idleness,” wrote John Lubbock, “and to lie sometimes in the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

Someone took a few of those words and, understanding our tendency to actually feel guilty if we ever rest (how incredibly dull, stupid, and full of ourselves we are!) wrote, “All rest is no more idleness than all sex is adultery.”

The research keeps stacking up. Sleep less than six hours a night for a couple of weeks and our performance scores will plummet, our blood sugar levels will rise, our waistline will expand, we will actually begin to show levels of psychosis, and (this one is my own observation) we might even begin to compulsively and irrationally tweet in the middle of the night. Run long enough without rest and someone in your family will be the “barometer” who first begins to reflect the stress and begin to be in “distress.” Count on it.

Oh, and by the way, the Creator of the universe thought rest important enough that he gave us a commandment along that line. Disregard the truth at the heart of any of those Ten and a price will be paid. The principle at the heart of this one, no matter what pseudo-Bible scholars may say as they quibble about Sabbath, is no different.

Because he loves us, God tells us to take time to rest. Really rest. The kind of rest that means significant time for praying, playing, sleeping, filling up, soul-growing, recreating, thanking, breathing, not producing, just being. Taking time to rest may be one of the most faith-filled God-honoring activities of all as we follow his loving command, believe his promises, stop, and trust him to spin the world for a few hours without our help.

Let’s be honest. More often than not, we have a very hard time finding the kind of discipline it takes to intentionally pursue this kind of rest. Obstacles abound, mostly between our ears, but also many things not bad but just incredibly unbalanced in our lives.

Jobs. Especially the more we confuse what we produce with our value; the way we make a living, with our life.

Phones. The more panic we feel when we’re away from them for five minutes, the more desperately our souls need to be away from them for much more than five minutes.

Electronic “balls and chains” in general. Unplug!

And, oh yes, balls. All shapes and sizes. We’re masters at making even our “fun” with them a grueling amount of stress-filled work.

And have you noticed? We’re so terrible at resting that we often make even our vacations utterly exhausting, about as relaxing as a forced march in wartime.

Unless we’re in complete denial (we may be; addicts always are), the problem is obvious. I can’t prove it, but I suspect it lurks near the heart of much of the soul-distress, the depression, the lack of joy, the loss of purpose, and the fractured relationships littering so many lives. As individuals, families, and a society, we pay a staggering price for our refusal to listen to the One who made us, to take time to truly rest, to let our souls breathe.

We need his grace and power in all things—even and maybe especially to have the real strength and uncommon wisdom it takes to find and fill up on regular times of genuine rest.

 

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

 

 

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

 


“Ah, Winter! How Do I Love Thee?”

 

Ah, winter! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Reason #1: Christmas usually comes during winter, thus Reason #1 by itself would more than tip the scales.

Reason #2: Christmas singing (where “yours truly” gets to croon Christmas tunes) comes, yes, indeed, during Christmas which . . . well, refer to Reason #1.

Reason #3: My favorite days tend to be days during which I get to spend at least a little time reading, drinking coffee or tea, and/or just breathing in front of our fireplace. (The only thing better than a good book is a good book in front of a fire.) Those days almost never come during summer; consequently, score a win for winter!

Reason #4: Nothing in nature is more beautiful than snow. And when, pray tell, does snow tend to fall? Bingo. Winter. (And snow falling on a mountain in winter? Perfect!)

Reason #5: Snow falling from the sky (though no moisture at all is falling from the sky this winter) is far superior to dust, dirt, real estate, and small animals flying across the sky. When weather prognosticators in our area talk about “spring-like conditions,” it’s usually code for “wind, dirt, and drought.”

Reason #6: Grass does not have to be mowed during winter. My yard never looks better than under a blanket of snow, and though brown grass is not beautiful, neither is it needy. Being able to ignore it gives me three extra hours a week to do stuff I’d rather do, like read and enjoy the fire. Oh, I love a nice green yard for a few months, but “few” is not eleven, and eleven would be insufferable. Winter is mower parole.

Reason #7: Valentine’s Day comes during winter. It is not, honestly, that I’m all choked up about that pseudo-holiday, but, much to my surprise, Cupid’s season has become a big one for me singing-wise. I love singing for joyful reasons, “for sentimental reasons,” and for lots of other reasons, and winter’s when I get to do a bunch of it.

Reason #8: Though the Olympic Games actually take place every two years, my very favorite edition is the Winter Olympic Games, which occur in . . . Yes. There’s never a time when I don’t enjoy watching skiing, bobsledding, snowboarding, and all the other amazing stuff folks do on frozen water. Give me food, drink, a fire, and these ice-based Olympic games, and I’m happy as a clam at high tide, as a pig in sunshine, as a ski jumper nailing a perfect landing after a near-miss with a Boeing 777. Snow-deprived here this year, I’m lovin’ it even more.

Reason #9: Our family’s annual ski trip (we’re not talkin’ water skiing, here) comes in . . . ditto. These reasons are not in order, or this one would be way higher!

Reason #10: Clear, crisp winter air is the best air you’ll ever breathe, paired very nicely with clear, crisp, star-kindled winter skies.

Thank God indeed, our Creator is Lord of all seasons and his joy is woven into them all. I just think he does some of his very best work in winter.

 

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

 

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


“The 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.

 


“I Will Lift Up My Eyes to the Hills”

 

Something about the mountains my soul needs regularly and loves always. There’s just something about gaining altitude, heading up!

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills,” writes the psalmist as he beautifully affirms that all of his “help comes from the Lord” (Psalm 121).

Reading the Gospels, I feel some sweet altitudinal affirmation when I read about Jesus “going up on the mountainside” to pray. Of course, we can pray and receive strength from our Father at any and all altitudes. But “up” seems a particularly good direction to go for the strength needed to deal with life back “down there.”

It’s no accident that it was up on a “high mountain” that Jesus was “transfigured” before the wide eyes of Peter, James, and John as that clear, crisp mountain air blazed with God’s glory.

What’s really needed, of course, is for us to ask God to help us live with our eyes open. But life just seems to run a lot better when our eyes are pointed in an upward direction.

Even in the muck and the mire of a sin-sick and fallen world, if we can find the strength to look up in the midst of the darkness, we see God’s stars, and their silvery light spells hope.

When our souls are oppressed by the weight of 24-hour news, much of it bad (and at least 23 hours more than we need), if we’ll just wash our hearts out with beautiful music, we’ll find that music can be God’s blessing to lift us up, if only for a few moments, to a much higher, more beautiful place.

When we’re disappointed and hurt by human failures—not least, our own—and we’re feeling bent over under the accumulated weight of the weakness that has appalled us yet again, often that’s exactly when God’s Spirit can use our bending to be the first step toward our bowing. Then in worship our eyes are lifted up to the sinless One dying to carry all of our sins—past, present, and future—away from us forever.

To accept that sacrifice and live in the light of that truth is blessing and uplift indeed, in the highlands, the lowlands, or the plains.

But I find myself especially “lifted up” and thankful to have opened my eyes in the mountains on this particular morning, the start of almost a week in the hills. And it’s easy for me to echo the words of John Muir: “Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.”

Yes, the mountain peaks seem to point up to God like the spires of a cathedral.

The majesty of the mountains reminds us of the majesty of God.

The seemingly timeless face of a mountain reminds us of the timeless permanence of God.

The enormity of the mountain reminds us of the vastness of God.

The awesome power of the mountain reminds us of the unshakeable strength of God.

Yes, indeed, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills.”

 

      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.


“Praise the Lord, O My Soul!”

 

psalms

If life, this world, the universe itself, and all that is most beautiful and joyful in them, from the warm hugs of your three-year-old to breathtaking vistas across snow-capped mountains, from the gurgling laughter of a mountain stream to red-washed Mars winking across the night sky at twinkling Jupiter . . .

If all of that and immeasurably more—still astoundingly beautiful even in this fallen, sin-twisted, and often tear-stained world—is the gift of a loving Creator and not just a cosmic accident, then surely he is worthy of our highest praise.

And for those whose deepest desire is to praise God, the wisdom and experience of generations of our King’s people point to one place above all others: the Psalms.

The Psalms, poems written to be sung to God’s praise, express every human emotion and lift the souls of “even small-scale, earthbound creatures such as us” to the Creator, musical praise ringing, as Professor N. T. Wright says, “around the rafters” of the heart’s cathedral that we “could not otherwise reach” (The Case for the Psalms).

Interestingly, the biblical picture of our Creator is not just of a God who is worthy of and desires our praise, it is of a God who knows full well that we are fashioned in such a way that we are never happier and more deeply contented and joy-filled than when we are praising the One who made us.

It is not, C. S. Lewis writes in Reflections on the Psalms, that God “needs” or “craves” our worship “like a vain woman wanting compliments” or “a vain author presenting his new books to people who never met or heard of him.” That would make even less sense, Lewis writes, than a silly author needing his dog to “bark approval” of his books. How much would such “praise” really be worth?

No, Lewis continues, the fact that God desires our praise is not in the least that he is a “silly” or “vain” Deity, it is that our Father knows that when we render gratitude for what is worthy of our praise—a sunset, a painting, a grand mountain—“the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment” and “our joy [is] no more separable from the praise . . . it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds.”

So, says Lewis, “Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

When the snaggle-toothed grandchild you adore smiles up at you, let your heart smile up to God and thank him for it, and that child’s smile becomes an even more joyful gift as it is colored and completed by praise.

When the psalmists invite us, time and again, “Praise the Lord, O my soul,” we’re being invited to a feast, a rich banquet that grows richer and more sumptuous the more we feed our souls on praise to the Master of the feast.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2016 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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