Tag Archives: Faith

When Jesus Says, “It’s Time to Fish . . .”

In Luke 5 we find the story of the calling of the first apostles.

To get a little space from the crowd, Jesus has turned Simon Peter’s fishing boat into a pulpit, pushed out from the shore, and taught the people from the boat.

When Jesus finishes speaking, he looks over at Simon and, I think, with a twinkle in his eye, he says, “Okay, Simon, you’ve indulged me as I’ve turned your boat into a lectern. Whaddaya say we make it a boat again? Put out into the deep water and let down your nets. Let’s fish a bit.”

Simon’s a tad taken aback. He has heard Jesus teach before and has been amazed. No one taught like Christ. But, with pardonable pride, Simon knows that not many fishermen fished as well as Simon. He knows fishing. It was worth stopping the endless work tending to his nets to listen to the Lord, but he’s tired and filled up with fishing. It’s time to go to the house, but . . .

“Master, we’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught a thing. But because you ask me, we’ll do what you say.”

Do you ever get your fill of experts? They’ve never coached a day in their life, but they know more than the coach. They’ve never doctored a day in their life, but they know more than the doctor. They’ve never taught a day in their life but they know more than the teacher. They’ve never farmed even a furrow but they know more than the farmer. They’ve not done the hard work or made the sacrifices or put in the hours to train or earned the experience only years can buy, but they know more about everybody else’s field than the folks in it.

We all play the pseudo-expert at times. When we’re pompous about it, we can be insufferable; but even a little of such can a bit hard to take, especially when you’re bone tired, you’ve done your best, and the last thing you need is help from an expert.

Jesus is certainly not being insufferable, and Simon is not even close to being deeply offended. But he’s really tired. And who’d blame him if behind his polite words is a little kernel of a “please mind your own business” rebuke?

“Rabbi, I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to teach, and I don’t mean to be impertinent, but the plain fact is that I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know about fishing. I promise you, more fishing right now is a waste of time. But if you have the time to waste—and I wouldn’t do this for anybody else—okay. We’ll give it a shot.” Behind his words: “And I’ll try not to say, I told you so.”

So out they go as Simon unlimbers his already stiff muscles. He takes the boat on out and then with a tired grunt he begins to toss out the nets. And . . .

So many fish the nets begin to break! Simon suddenly realizes that the One who made the lake and the fish and . . . is in his boat! And Christ has caught not just a bunch of fish but also four apostles who through his power will “fish for men” and change the world.

When Christ tells us to put out into the deep water, trust his promises, and follow him, something wonderful is always in store.

 

 

        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.

 

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Even for Night Owls, God’s Mercies Are “New Every Morning”

What a sweet morning I’ve just experienced! And this from a person not in the habit of gushing about mornings. A “morning person,” I am not.

The preceding sentence is just a fact. No moral ramifications are attached. Not by me. I have actually even met a few humble morning folks who seem to harbor no self-righteous “early to rise” prejudices. I refer the others to mounting research and genuinely science-based books such as Dr. Till Roenneberg’s Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired. Get up with the roosters if you want to; just please be quiet and don’t crow about it—and, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t bang the lights on!

Our chronotypes—whether you’re a morning lark, a night owl, or a “third bird” (something in between—check out Claudia Hammond’s fun and fascinating Time Warped)—are as hard-wired as our eye color. Granted, the time you’re due at work or school is likely beyond your control, but nobody can control the genes and physiology, your “chronotype,” that dictates when you will generally be most alert, effective, and efficient. The owl under my hat has no problem with mornings; I just like them as dark, as silent, and as still as possible, until caffeine and hot running water can accomplish a resurrection.

All said to underline how very beautiful this particular morning was, even from an owl’s perspective. (My wife and I had the sweet blessing of an unusually un-rushed morning.)

When I awoke, it was deliciously dark. Darkness can be a metaphor for evil, but in a safe, warm place, it can also be as beautifully enfolding as a blanket. I’d banked the fire the night before, tucking in with ashes what was left of the glowing embers so that this morning I could simply rake the ash-blanket aside, lay on some more wood, and wait for the flickering fire to spring into life and warmth. Flickering in darkness is the best kind of flickering a fire does.

I made coffee so as to be able to find my pulse. Later on, I perused the headlines in a digital version of The Wall Street Journal. It was nice to get a couple of my prejudices confirmed. Article headline, front page-below the fold: “Please Do Your Sneezing at Home: Employees Strike Back Against Coughing Colleagues.” (Of course, one colleague will spray disinfectant and sniffle-shame you if you show up sick, even as another will call you a slacker if you take sick leave. Catch-22.)

And I smiled at the book review of Dreyer’s English, a book by Benjamin Dreyer (review by Ben Yagoda). “Being well copy-edited is like getting ‘a really thorough teeth-cleaning,’” Dreyer writes. And he mentions a famous New Yorker editor’s rule: “Try to preserve an author’s style if he is an author and has a style.”

But before heading to the Journal, I sought more timeless wisdom. I decided today to read and pray the “morning office” from the venerable Book of Common Prayer. (There are apps for that! For iPad, iPhone, or PC, search “The Mission of St. Clare.” It’s one of the best. By the way, if you think this sounds terribly “spiritual,” you obviously don’t know me.)

One of the Scriptures for the morning was Psalm 19. “The heavens declare the glory of God, / and the firmament shows his handiwork.” I love that psalm in any translation, but I decided to check it out also in The Message, and, wow! Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase is always amazing, but never better than this: “God’s glory is on tour in the skies, / God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. / Madame Day holds classes every morning, / Professor Night lectures each evening.” (To read it all, head to http://www.biblegateway.com and go to Psalm 19 in The Message.)

No, I’ll never be a morning person. But I do indeed believe that God’s “mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3). And I really enjoyed this one.

 

 

     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.

 


Christmas Is Only as Strong as Its Weakest Link

I don’t usually think of Christmas and chains as going together, unless I’m reading about the ponderously-chained Ghost of Christmas Past who so terrorized old Ebenezer Scrooge! But I believe this to be true: Christmas is a “chain” which is only as strong as its weakest link.

If Christmas deals only with lights and tinsel, egg nog and poinsettias (all of which I enjoy very much, I hope you understand), and the Yuletide joy and peace, love and good will, we sing about are just artificial twinkles and largely illusory light, then Christmas is a weak and pathetic thing which can’t possibly stand the test of life and time and which will fade a long time before the January sales (and credit card bills) end.

If Christmas has to do only with parties and good times, but nothing to do with hospital rooms and disgusting diagnoses . . .

If Christmas has to do only with smiles and “Merry Christmases” and nothing to do with hope at a graveside . . .

If Christmas has to do only with sales and not souls, presents and not His Presence, holiday cheer but not lifelong Joy . . .

If Christmas has to do only with Jingle Bells and nothing to do with “God with us,” well, then, Christmas is not up to the task of making a real difference in our lives, and it’s just one more momentary diversion for the despairing, one more false hope for people who know no hope, and it certainly won’t make much difference in life, or in death, or in anything at all very real or substantial.

But if Christmas, and all that is best about this good season, points to real light and hope, glimmering reflections from the Father of Lights, the Giver of Joy, the Sender of the very best Gift, then the Christ of Christmas can use this time of celebration to point us to light that truly is stronger than darkness, hope that is genuinely stronger than despair, and life that is ultimately and infinitely stronger than death.

Then we discover that the Light of Christmas is real indeed because He is real, and life is far more substantial than death.

Then Christmas means something beautiful and wonderful and real. And Christmas joy can and will last forever.

 

 

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

 

 

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.


Father Tim Kavanagh and Thanksgiving

I’ve been enjoying re-reading Jan Karon’s books set in Mitford, North Carolina, centering on the life and ministry of the community’s Episcopal priest, Father Tim Kavanagh.

I like Father Tim. My wife goes farther: she says I am Father Tim. My wife is usually right, but she’s wrong on this one. Father Tim is a much better pastor and a much nicer fellow than the preacher my wife lives with. But nonetheless it does me good to spend time with the kind rector, and I’m usually more pastoral and a little nicer after I’ve done so.

I wouldn’t deny that a few similarities do exist between us, Father Tim and me.

Mitford is a small town of the “great place to live” variety. Muleshoe is in exactly that category. Father Tim has discovered that the very best (and by far the largest) part of America is the small town part. I couldn’t agree more.

Mitford is set in the “high green hills” of North Carolina. Muleshoe is set in the high brown plains of West Texas. Hmm.

Father Tim has discovered that you can truly and meaningfully touch just as many lives in a small church/small town setting as you can in a large city/mega-church setting. Maybe more. I agree.

Father Tim is the kind of guy who would rather spend thirty minutes with the “real” guys at the local coffee shop than five minutes with the “plastic” big business/big politics/big shots (in general) of our society. Absolutely.

Father Tim has a great church secretary full-time who does a great job and doesn’t mind telling him how “the cow ate the cabbage” and keeping him in line. I’ve got one of those, too, but she can do the job in one day a week.

Father Tim has a great dog. For lots of years, I had one of those. His dog is pacified by the reading of Scripture or 18th-century English poets. I never needed to try that. Like her master, the best thing Maddie did was sleep.

Father Tim has a polite little motor scooter. I’ve got a man-sized machine with air intakes and pipes that opened wide will suck in and spit out neighborhood pets from three doors down. (The similarity is that both machines have two wheels.)

Father Tim has been described as “bookish.” Ditto, and that’s a compliment. Our society desperately needs folks who read more and spout off less. But I don’t read enough.

Father Tim esteems C. S. Lewis and Winston Churchill as among his heroes. Well, of course.

Yes, there are some similarities. But Father Tim is, I repeat, a much nicer guy, better pastor, and finer human being than am I.

As I spent some time with him recently, I was struck by the notes he’d jotted in his sermon notebook on “thanksgiving” and another quotation or two he recalled.

Oswald Chambers: “We look for visions of heaven, and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts he has in store for us because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. . . .” Looking for the “highest good,” we “deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, . . . Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things.”

I’m pretty sure Father Tim’s Thanksgiving sermon was better than mine.

 

 

     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.


Epitaph: Love Is Always Greater Than Power

cross-sunset2

This morning in The Wall Street Journal I read a well-written obituary by James R. Hagerty focusing on a woman who so loved to be in the spotlight that her former husband—she had four and divorced four—simply said, “To say that [she] loved publicity would be a massive understatement. She lived for publicity.”

Hagerty wrote, “More than 30 years before she died, she had her own tombstone engraved,” noting on it that “her father was a prominent neurologist and that she was recognized at White House press conferences by several presidents.”

Hagerty says that in a 1996 People magazine article, she simply said, “The main thing is to keep my name out in front.”

I do not intend to mention her name. You won’t know it anyway, and it will soon be forgotten. But I admit that I’ll have a hard time forgetting what Hagerty says this woman wrote on her own memorial: “Power is greater than love, and I did not get where I am by standing in line, nor by being shy.”

I suppose when she wrote that pathetic line, she could hardly imagine that “where I am” could mean anything other than “in the spotlight.” For much of her 89 years, she lived for power and fame. Where did she get? She got to the place where “where I am” means “in the grave.” And then what happens to such a shriveled soul?

I read that obituary this morning. Then this afternoon I drove down to our little town’s First Baptist Church to attend the funeral of a man whose name I’m privileged to mention and whose service I felt it was an honor to attend, “Sonny” Byrd. Most of us just called him Mr. Byrd.

I didn’t know that Mr. Byrd’s first name was actually Levanather. I’ve still not heard anyone take a stab at pronouncing it, but, if I’m doing that right, I kind of like it. It has a dignity about it. Just like the man, married 57 years to his “sweetheart” and committed to his Lord.

I didn’t get to know Mr. Byrd nearly as well as I’d like to have, partly because he was such a quiet, gentle, “always there but never loud” presence in our community that I guess I thought he always would be. I figured he had many stories to tell, and I hoped one day to be able to sit down, drink coffee with him, and hear some of them. He was here for 60 years; me, for 33. Surely there was time. And then there wasn’t. Not in this life, but I hope in the next.

I felt almost presumptuous attending the funeral, mostly because—my own fault—I didn’t know him well enough. But what I knew, I respected. He cut a striking figure, a man carved out of rich ebony, clad in crisp coveralls and a cowboy hat. He worked so well, so hard, with dignity and the kind of soft-spoken gentleness that is only found in those who are genuinely strong with the kind of soul-strength that the loud will never understand, much less, possess. I can’t imagine anyone less interested in the limelight, but when I heard of Mr. Byrd’s passing, I knew our community had lost the kind of person to whom any community owes a debt that can’t be paid. At the funeral, it became clear that lots of folks felt that way.

It’s probably a mercy to him that he could not hear what was said at his service because the last thing in the universe he’d have wanted was for his name to be “out in front.” I have no idea what will be written on his tombstone, but it might well be this: “Love is always greater than power.”

And that is literally God’s truth.

 

 

     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.

 


A Life or Death Fight in the Backyard Bird House

I like to think of our back yard as a mostly safe, peaceful, and appealing place. Until recently, it was.

Oh, there were years when a good-natured Great Dane lived there. It was safe. He was peaceful. But “nice yard” and “Great Dane” do not coexist in the same universe. He was a good dog, but his relocation was an incredible blessing for that piece of real estate. When he moved on, we undertook a serious improvement project, and that part of the estate became vastly better, truly enjoyable.

About fifteen years ago, I built out there what I call my “bird house.” “Aviary” is actually closer to the mark but communicates with fewer folks. Neither a little bird house nor a large aviary, this is a 4 X 8-footprint, 9-foot tall, rustic, old barn-style edifice with railroad tie corner posts—and birds. White doves, one gray ring-neck dove (I named him Michael, as in Phelps, because he loves water, but a grandchild recently saw Michael lay an egg), one ring-neck male pheasant, pharaoh quail (about the same size as ordinary quail), and button quail (my favorite—little guys who, full-grown, are smaller than chicken eggs with legs).

Alas, my button quail are no more. Old age and one hungry snake, I think, took them out. (I took him out, but too late.)

And now, I sadly report, the pharaoh quail are gone, too. They started disappearing, or turning up dead,

a couple of months ago. It didn’t take a CSI technician and detailed postmortem for me to determine that they weren’t dying peacefully in their sleep. Down to one quail and feeling helpless in the face of mass murder, I somberly apologized to that bird for my failure to solve the case but also wished him luck and told him truthfully that I’d hate to be in his, uh, shoes. He lasted maybe a week. An intolerable situation.

I’ve tried deduction. All the doves are fine; they only touch ground to eat, and they perch up high to sleep. The pheasant sleeps on the ground, but he’s large, and the killers are cowards.

Signs of serious digging and some interesting holes began to show up before the spate of murders. Snakes are hole-dwelling opportunists and don’t dig their own. I didn’t think that skunks or raccoons would fit the bill.

Tired of deduction, I bought a cheap wildlife camera and hung it on the chicken-wire screen door. First night. Bingo! Some nice pheasant pics. Even a fox staring in hungrily at the pheasant.

But once that bird bedded down, three sets of beady eyes began to glow in the dark from a hole. Then (quit reading if you are squeamish) unmistakable, gross, vile, evil vermin with long tails began to roam the birdhouse floor: rats! Out of quail to terrorize, these murderous and disgusting freeloaders are, each night, chowing down on my bird food.

The fight is on! It involves a combination of traps, voltage, poison, and calibre. This is not catch and release. I do not care if these enemies expire peacefully. This is war. I intend to finish it quickly.

Most analogies break down if pressed too far, but it is not difficult to find numerous Bible verses that warn about trusting or associating with creatures who live in darkness, despise beauty, and seek to destroy what is good. We’ll see what works in my bird house, but having God in your heart is the best defense against spiritual rodents who would like to lodge there.

 

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.

 


“A True Friend . . . Continues a Friend Unchangeably”

friendship

If I ever write anything wise—you know, the kind of pithy one-sentence bit of proverb-like wisdom that shows up in quotation books and on Internet “great quotes” sites, I hope I can avoid using any one word in the string that is detrimental to my proverb’s multi-century shelf life.

Sometime over 300 years ago, the Quaker leader and founding father of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, William Penn (1644-1718) wrote these wise words about genuine friendship: “A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.”

That is so good! I wish I’d said it. From the depths of my unbosomed soul, I sincerely believe it. It’s just sort of a shame that, though these sweet words have been conveying an even sweeter truth for several centuries and the English major in my soul says that the fourth word in is still a perfectly fine word, the third grade boy still alive in my head needs a swat in the tail section and the admonition, “Move on, lad!” lest he overindulge in snickers and mental immaturity.

Some morons just remove the one word from the quote, crippling the sentence. Others remove the word and its modifier and comma. To be fair to Penn, and accurate, they need to insert an ellipsis (formally known as the three dotty thing) to show they’ve snipped some words. But doing so, even that honestly, costs the sentence a little punch, color, and truth.

You see, a true friend is one to whom you can genuinely share your soul, whether unburdening your bosom of a deep sorrow, doubling up to find the “two is better than one” brain power to squeeze the juice out of a prickly or fascinating life question, or allowing a joy to flower more beautifully precisely because joys burst into fullest bloom when shared.

And, yes, indeed, a real friend will tell you the truth in tough love lest the momentary warmth of soft words and falsehood lure you into soul-chilling peril.

A real friend will help you lift a burden that would be crushing to one.

A real friend will ride a real roller coaster with you even if she hates roller coasters. She’ll ride an emotional roller coaster with you for a while but will be wise and loving enough to know when to tell you to get off of it, quit living addicted to drama, and grow up. And love you still.

A real friend’s love and faithfulness lifts you to be better even when you’re going through times that are your worst.

A real friend will be patient in strong kindness, will “have your back” always, will defend you when you deserve it and love you and stand up as your friend even when you don’t. A real friend would rather be ridiculed for remaining true to a friend than be praised by those who change friends like they change shoes.

A real friend shares your joy when you or yours reap public praise, your sorrow when you or yours are stung by public shame, and loves you all just the same in good times and bad.

Come to think of it, is it any surprise that our best Friend and the best pattern for true friendship is the One who once told his disciples, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15) and loved them always? He is still our very best Friend.

 

      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.

 


Faith Is the Key to Any Enduring Foundation

If you know me, any of my three brothers, or, heaven help you, all of us, you know that our grandparents’ old place in Robert Lee, Texas, is dear to our hearts.

Granddaddy Key built the house in 1928, and, long story short, in 1974, after Granddaddy had passed away and, partly to ease our Grandmother’s mind as she made the transition to the nursing home just across the creek, my brother Gene bought the place. For seven years, it was occupied by various tenants whose rent helped pay for it, but, truth to tell, were otherwise about as helpful to home upkeep as goathead weeds in the once-pristine lawn.

In 1981 or so, Gene was able to bid the last tenant, “Farewell, and don’t let the door hit you in the tail section,” and bring in some even less savory sorts—his three brothers. For those first years, we actually did some serious manual labor here, and the place eventually became such a showplace that, after we put carpet down, my younger brother and I became reformed characters and had to quit spitting sunflower seeds on the floor, sweeping up once at the end of the trip (good stewardship of time and effort). If anybody ever vacuums now, I’ve never caught him at it, but since nobody spits seeds on the floor, there’s not a lot of need for persnickety housekeeping.

We love this place that, filled with wonderful memories, has affected our lives far out of proportion to its size and (nonexistent) grandeur. My brother Gene even wrote a great book about it (The Key Place, Leafwood Publishers, 2015), filled with the kind of lessons that perhaps a “key” place in your life might hold, too. The book’s well worth the read!

Long ago, we got the place in nice enough shape that we love to come here, and (don’t read too much into that conjunction) our loving and long-suffering wives are happy for us to come and even happier that they don’t ever have to. For (gasp!) thirty-seven years, twice a year all together, we four brothers, all pastors, have been coming. For a number of sweet years before his death, our father, also a pastor, came with us. In short, the blessings we’ve received at this place can’t be bought at any price.

I’m sitting at the old original table at the Key Place this Sunday evening. For maybe the second time in all these decades, I’m here first. The only other time I recall this happening, I walked in to find that some incredibly nasty insects had arrived first, been fruitful and multiplied, and taken up residence. It was like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I engaged the enemy, my brothers later joined the battle, and we won. The post-traumatic stress has become manageable enough that I decided, these years later, to take a chance once more and get here first.

I’m glad I did. I unloaded my truck, sat for a while out near the unlit fire pit which will be wonderfully ablaze tomorrow night, and just breathed in the beauty of a deliciously cool and still autumn evening. The country still smells like the recent rain.

I finally came inside to sit at the old original kitchen table, think about what I might write for this column, and eat a quiet dinner. Of course, Grandmother’s corn bread was not available. But the meal I brought chilled from the big city and enjoyed here by myself is a dish I don’t suppose this table’s ever hosted in its 90 years. I’ve eaten goat here with Granddaddy and family. But never sushi. Grandmother and Granddaddy would love my being here. I doubt they’d much appreciate the meal.

Time and tastes, years and generations, keep rolling on. But the deep faith in God that was the real foundation undergirding everything my grandparents built here is still real and sure, true and unchanging, timeless in all times.

 

 

     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.


“It’s No Secret: I Love the Church!”

I love the church! Not just (just?!) the church universal, that marvelous, amazing, and miraculous Body of Christ composed of all of God’s children, everyone who ever has or ever will wear Christ’s name, all the sons and daughters of God. Oh, I love “that” church, too.

But I also love the smaller local expressions of that Body, the little bands of disciples—all of them small indeed, whatever their size, compared to the grand Body from which they spring—working in thousands of thousands of places to share Christ’s love. I love the church.

Oh, I know, loving the church is not always fashionable. Many of my generation who were sentenced to too much time in the 60s and 70s decided that all “institutions” are suspect. Many others of later generations—different views and different areas of blindness—have decided that the church is not “relevant.” Not enough of a social service agency? Not (lock)step enough with the latest opinion polls? Oh, I do recognize some of the truth in the charge, but, still, I’m trying to understand how worshiping the One who gives us each breath could ever be anything other than intensely relevant to folks who enjoy breathing.

Some, also like me, grew up in “separatist” traditions or groups who tended to talk more about “the church”—meaning their little walled-off franchise of it—than they did about the Lord of the church. That sad mistake makes it easy to lose respect for the church as seen in the little all-too-human local expressions of Christ’s Body.

Yes, I know, when bad things happen in the church, the ugliness is even worse precisely because we know how beautiful the church can and should be. When a church gets caught up in power struggles disguised as pious piffle, dividing and walling itself off from the rest of the Body over molehills masquerading as mountains, prancing around like the old naked emperor parading “issues” that most sensible folks (in the church or outside it) recognize as no clothes at all, it looks really bad. It’s like a hairy wart on the nose of Miss America, or (and I could really cry a tear over this one) a cow patty dropped on top of a luscious cheesecake.

But, in spite of very real flaws, I still love the church. I’ve seen her beauty. I’ve felt her warmth and been embraced by her love, and the very best blessings of my life have been gifts from the Lord given through her hands.

I love the church, and I love the little church I’m a part of, and I hope you love “yours.” We’re family, you see. Over the years in this little group, I’ve seen walking through our doors and worshiping in our pews folks as diverse and deeply loved as a Cornell-educated F-16 pilot and his sweet law-student wife, a child just born weighing in at less than 4 lbs, a frail (though gigantic in the faith) little widow well into her 90s struggling to church every Sunday on a walker while so many younger and healthier folks slept in unaware that the blessing she claimed while they slumbered was worth more than gold.

I love the church! Vertically and horizontally, all because of a cross, she and her King have my heart.

 

 

   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.


“You Must Read and Understand These Instructions”

I’m considering buying a new weed-eater. It’s an extravagant thought. The old one, older than five of my grandkids, is still working fine but taking longer on first start. My patience is wearing thin, but my memory is still good. I remember when I bought that machine.

It was also an extravagant purchase. Its predecessor was sputtering along just fine in two-cycle engine form, but a couple of my sons had just moved into a different house and needed weed-whacking equipment. In a gesture of paternal magnanimity, I donated the old weed-destroyer to the cause. I didn’t tell them that it will likely out-value anything else left in the estate for them when I’ve departed. But they seemed appreciative.

I ceremonially handed over the old weed-eater and straightway departed (in a less final sense) to procure a new one. The shopping trip was like all of my shopping trips. I wasted gas going to four stores to save money and ended up back at the first store and lined up to pay twice as much as I thought the item would cost.

When I got my shiny new weed-whacker home, I was tempted to fire it up just to check out the brand new thimble-sized engine, but it was midnight. I’d given my (mixed) gas can away, too, and couldn’t buy a new one to get the petrol cocktail mixed up (shaken, not stirred) until Monday. So I parked the new machine on the living room floor for the weekend and actually started reading the instructions.

Once I’d trimmed the two manuals down to the King’s English only, I was left with eighty-four pages of weed-eater literature. Only twenty-six pages counted as “instructions.” The lion’s share was the “safety manual.” It was evidently a vicious machine.

Of course, there was very little plot to the two-volume novel. Most of the pages were covered with lawyer droppings. Safety booklets will soon come, no doubt, attached to every nail you buy at your local hardware store. Restaurants will be including safety manuals with toothpicks, and toothpick manufacturers will be paying hefty fines since they knowingly sold their wares and conned us, poor victims that we are, into thinking toothpicks were safe.

But I read and learned . . .

The muffler would be hot. Good.

The State of California (which, safety labels assure us, can always be counted on to know so much more than other states) was concerned that my sucking in weed-eater exhaust could cause birth defects. (I’m relieved to report that my grandchildren are fine.)

The thing could amputate my fingers. I figured I’d have to be uncommonly determined to be fingerless, but I supposed it could happen.

It seemed that it would also be a bad idea to run it indoors, to use it to shorten power lines, or to operate it when drunk.

And so on.

I’m not sure I finished reading, partly because reading these manuals, I was warned, was not enough. I needed to “read and understand” all of the warnings. I doubted that I’d ever be able to honestly check off that last part.

I can only imagine the size of the manuals that must come with today’s weed-eaters. I see no evidence that common sense is on the upswing. And we have more lawyers.

The Maker of this world was kind enough to include a manual that we really should read and, yes, do our best to understand. He wrote it not to keep Heaven out of court, but to keep us out of trouble. But the main reason he wrote it was to point us not to the law but to the Savior.

 

 

     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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