Tag Archives: Faith

Grief: It Is a Very Large Word Indeed

Grief. It’s a far bigger word than we usually think.

Oh, we all know that it applies to the loss wrought by death as we’ve stood at the graveside of a loved one, smelled the flowers, felt the emptiness, and wondered how to face a world so suddenly changed.

And every day changes. We may think we’re doing, well, some better. At least, maybe making small steps in the right direction. And then we get up on the next day and find ourselves, it seems, having taken two, or twenty, steps backward.

Following the death of his wife, C. S. Lewis wrote of grief’s pervasiveness, “Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection . . . I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”

Grief seems to color everything. We long for the time to come when it isn’t the first thing that hits us in the face yet again each morning and the last thing we think of before we finally find sleep each night.

Such is so very true regarding death-induced grief.

But grief is spelled L-O-S-S, and loss comes in many bitter flavors.

Whatever dreams you had for your marriage, only your nightmares would have included the divorce that throttled those dreams.

Whatever your dreams for your child, well, only bad dreams included . . .

Your dreams for your business or profession were bright and optimistic and seemed real at the time, but . . .

Maybe you’d dreamed of traveling in retirement. And now? You are. Mostly to specialists and pharmacies.

In any of your dreams for the future, did these words figure in? Cancer. Addiction. Bankruptcy. Jail. Tragedy. Hurt. Disappointment. Depression.

Need I mention that those are not words you’ll ever lightly drop into a Christmas letter?

And by the way, in the midst of such loss is one that colors it all and may surprise you until we name it. But we need to name it. It’s the loss of control.

“I don’t know what to do about . . .”

“What now?”

“Here’s what needs to happen, but I can’t . . .”

“I have no clue what . . .”

“I can’t imagine how I’ll . . .”

The ship has already embarked. You’re in the midst of the sea and the storm. And the rudder has broken loose from the wheel.

Need I tell you? This is frightening. Worse, really. This is terrifying.

Will it help much if I point out that none of us was ever really in control anyway? That was largely an illusion.

But maybe it will help a little for us to consider where we actually might try to exert a little control. Maybe just in small moments at first. But in our attitudes. In our next footstep. In sincerely asking for help, for each of the ten thousand times we’ve asked and failed yet again to truly “cast our cares” on the Captain of our souls (and leave them there). He really does care for us, love us, more than we can imagine.

As deeply frightened as I often am on life’s sea, I believe that the “man of sorrows” really is “acquainted with” our grief in all of its forms. We can believe in and trust his willingness to “carry our sorrows.”

And, paradoxically, stronger and deeper, more real and pervasive than any of our genuine grief, is his joy. When all of our griefs and hot tears have faded away, his joy will remain for a thousand forevers.

 

     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.


This Alligator Bites Your Wallet and Won’t Stop Chewing

Warning: This column might be called a rant. You might be wise to wave off now.

I cannot imagine why we put up with it. I’m thinking about the sick state of healthcare in America.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been to Third World countries and seen misery and need. I’m genuinely thankful for what we have. I have good friends in all sectors—physicians/providers, hospital administrators, insurance folks, attorneys, etc. I’m incredibly thankful for the health insurance my wife and I have. Having served on a board charged with finding health insurance for over 100 employees, I understand and know how very, very hard that task is.

But our system has become utterly insane.

Want to know why most average workers in our country are heading backwards financially even if they get cost of living increases (which are not real raises) or raises in pay (which are really meant to be raises)? Healthcare. For most folks, its cost rises at a rate consistently outpacing any pay adjustment. Both workers and companies are being slowly eaten by a hungry alligator who won’t quit chewing, and they can’t get out of its jaws.

Want to start a business? Good for you! But good luck to you. You’ll need it, and this is a big reason why.

Ah, but here comes governmental salvation. Right. Increasing governmental involvement mucks up everything. Stand in line all day at a governmental office seeking “public assistance” and tell me you want the government more involved than it already is, despite “pie in the sky” let-the-already-broke-government-pay-for-it-all or soak-the-rich political campaign horse hockey so popular right now.

If your goal was to design a system bloated, wasteful, and inefficient, you could hardly do better than we’ve done.

If people of good will and wisdom actually had a shot at trying to fix this, it would still be complicated. Instead, we get misleading politicians who refuse to speak to each other.

Greed in some form at every level is throttling the goose that laid the golden egg. Insurance companies. Attorneys. Politicians. Some unethical providers. The list is long.

It’s like the money isn’t real.

An article in the Wall Street Journal recently asked, “What Does Knee Surgery Really Cost?” The answer: In 2016, the average price was over $50,000. We should be surprised, but I wasn’t. I figured that in our system, a new knee, hip, or left nostril would probably run that much. But a hospital in La Crosse, Wisconsin, commissioned a realistic and thorough assessment of every moment doctors and staff spent with patients, and added in every penny of all associated costs—all of them. The actual cost was “$10,550 at most.”

A good friend of mine underwent an inpatient, in-his-doctor’s-office procedure and got a statement for $56,000. Admittedly, it was a procedure that took real skill and high-dollar equipment, but in what universe should any inpatient procedure cost $56,000? He almost required a cardiologist when he saw the statement. But everyone besides the patient knew these aren’t real dollars. They’d bill the insurance company $56,000 (wink, wink), would honor their pre-agreement for $3,600 (wink, wink), and he’d pay $1,200 for deductible and out of pocket expenses and maybe for having the procedure in a month ending in a Y. Who knows why?

It’s like buying peanut butter in a grocery store with no price on the jar. If you were on public assistance it would be “free.” But for you, average Joe or Joan who knows life and peanut butter is not free, it rings up as $3,000. You gasp. That seems like real money and a lot of it. But the nice register lady explains that they have a deal with the peanut butter folks to sell it for $5.00 and your part will be $2.50—unless your deductible or out-of-pocket expense (that’s the same pocket the deductible comes out of) hasn’t been met. Or unless the insurance company decides that peanut butter is an experimental food and thus not covered. Or unless you failed to “pre-certify” your need for peanut butter before you bought it.

We really should boil over. It seems to me that we should never have to undergo a non-emergency medical procedure without having a written and binding paper in hand saying, “This is the price. Real money.” No wink. Now, let’s be nice. Let’s allow a 10% window for unforeseen complications and a procedure to appeal for more. That’s fair. But we should demand a price up front just as we do for anything else that we buy.

Healthcare really is not free. For patients trying to live. For hospitals and providers trying to stay in business. The money is real, even if our sick system encourages all of us—wink, wink—to pretend otherwise.

Thank God indeed that his Son’s sacrifice, costly beyond belief, was paid in full by our Lord. Mercy overflowing. Grace to the max. Real blood. The best care of all. And no deductible.

 

     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.


Cemeteries Help Keep Life in Perspective

I’m weird, and I know it. But I sort of enjoy spending some time in cemeteries. I’m talking, of course, about the times when I want to be there, not the times when I have to be. Big difference. There’s been way too much of the latter recently, it seems to me.

But I find cemeteries peaceful and interesting. Strolling among the tombstones (since I don’t have to mow around them, I much prefer the standing ones), I get the chance to play Sherlock Holmes and deduce all sorts of life stories from all sorts of inscriptions.

Some cemeteries are quite beautiful with well-kept shrubs and trees and grass. They are quiet places; I like quiet places. And, if I may say so, the folks who populate cemeteries tend to be incredibly easy to get along with.

Since I’ve been a pastor in my community for over thirty-four years, more than a few of the names I see on the stones in our area cemeteries are connected with lives and stories that I know. I stood at the heads of quite a few of those graves and spoke words I hoped would point to the Author of Life just before the earth’s blanket was rolled over those remains.

When I think of my life and the life of our community, it’s hard for me to visualize life without many of the folks I’ve just mentioned. I no longer bump into them at worship or at the coffee shop or wave at them as we pass on the street. I miss that.

But they are still very much a part of me. A part of us. And that’s especially true if they were part of the community of faith. They may or may not have been part of my congregation or my denomination, but so what? Christ’s church is so much larger than the fences we build to try to keep God all tied up and tamed. Thank God indeed, God won’t be shut up in anybody’s box, and he has never been willing to be successfully tamed.

Death is the harshest reminder of all that we’ll never get even this world tamed, much less its Creator. We may not look long upon those boxes that we bury, but they are nonetheless a constant reminder that life can’t be successfully controlled.

Cemeteries help put our lives in perspective. The “drop dead” late-filing date for filing federal taxes just passed, but folks who have passed away care not at all. And even if life’s cost is (almost certainly) increasing at a steadier clip than your paycheck, once your heart stops, the meter quits running, too. Perspective.

Cemeteries help us divide what really matters from what really does not. What matters most is who we chose to ultimately trust in this life—ourselves or our Creator. That’s a serious decision.

But once that decision’s made, cemeteries also remind us that life is far too precious to be taken too seriously. God is the God of all joy. Those who love him can dance in his presence both here and hereafter. They know better than to think that love and laughter and beauty cease on the other side of the tombstone.

 

      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.


Grace Is Amazingly Hard–and Amazingly Wonderful

Grace is hard. It is almost incomprehensibly wonderful. It seems almost too good to be true because it actually is almost too good to be true. It is amazing! But it is hard.

Grace is hard because accepting it means nothing less than death to our pride.

If the sacrifice of Christ really is, as the New Testament claims, all-sufficient to save me, that not only means that I am powerless to save myself apart from faith in that sacrifice, it also means that I have no right—less than none at all—to boast that I have in any way earned what can only be accepted as a gift.

Accepting Christ’s sacrifice and being “clothed” in his righteousness means that I have no right to self-righteousness in any sense of the word. That truth chafes a bit. I would so like to harbor the illusion that there is something good in me, something I can be haughty about, something that makes me a cut above other mortals, that makes me acceptable to God.

Nope. That is not the case. I’m in the same boat with every other fallen son of Adam and daughter of Eve. If I think differently, I have far too high of an opinion of myself and I don’t understand the meaning of grace. Grace, you see, is hard.

Grace is hard because accepting it means becoming more Christ-like than I could ever be on the basis of law (by which I mean keeping religious or other rules in order to merit salvation). Law pats me on the back and says, “Hey, look at that murderer on trial. Aren’t you proud that you are such a fine person that you haven’t murdered anyone lately.” Grace looks much deeper into my soul and asks, “Have you hated anyone lately?”

Law asks, “I wonder how little I can do, how little I can give, how little I can worship, how little I can love, and still be okay with God?” Grace asks instead, “O Lord, how could I possibly thank you enough with every breath, every dollar, every heartbeat, for continually cleansing me through Christ!?” And grace always does more, loves more, gives more, is more than law. It doesn’t just forgive; it empowers.

Law says, “Here is a list of rules. Do this. Don’t do this. Work harder. Try harder. By your own power.” And Satan adds his whisper in your ear, “Or God can’t love you.” Grace says, “Be this through Christ. His Spirit will provide the power. By the way, God already loves you, and always will.”

Law says regarding a truly “gray” area of behavior where equally faith-filled Christians make different choices, “I’ve chosen not to do this thing, I’ve given up that thing, I don’t think it’s good to ever [fill in whatever thing], and so my decision is one I have every right to impose on you.” Grace says, “It is before his own Master that anyone stands or falls, and your Master is able to make you stand. Make a sincere decision based on sincere love for your Master and praise him for the freedom to choose. And, let your pride die yet again as you praise God just as loudly for the freedom your brother has to make a different choice.” (See Romans 14.)

It is amazing how hard grace is. And how wonderful.

 

 

      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.

 

 


“Are You Considering Buying a Light Bulb?”

Are you considering trying to buy a light bulb? Good luck to you.

A few evenings ago, my wife and I were in Amarillo baby-sitting (playing with, laughing with, rollicking with, snuggling with) some sweet grandkids.

At some point, I discovered both that my phone was needing a charge and that I’d forgotten the cable charged with supplying that need. Eight per-cent left. Red light blinking weakly. Screen dimming to conserve its faltering power. My phone! Perilously close to death, choking out warning words prophesying its looming descent into oblivion.

Heart racing, eyes wild, I started feeling short of breath. What, oh, what would I do if its little light faded away and my electronic umbilical cord was severed? What if the president sent an important (maybe even) presidential text? We’ve got that system now, you know. At least theoretically, it could happen. A POTUS text. And important. And my phone tweet-less and stone cold dead.

In dire circumstances we begin to ask the bedrock life questions. What if my phone should die and I be left in peace (I mean, devastatingly alone, un-phoned and un-phone-able) for maybe even a whole weekend? Would good news that I had to wait a day (and maybe longer) to hear be any better? Would bad news be any worse?

And what about health consequences? How would my left ear react, phone-less, to ear-lobal cooling? Text-bereft, would my thumbs begin to atrophy and hang useless? Would I have to be fully present with the people in the same room?

Oh, the stakes were just too high, the consequences beyond further contemplation. So I went looking for a charging cord. I figured I could get one at a nearby big box hardware store and, at the same time, pick up a couple of light bulbs.

Well, they had extension cords aplenty. Cords for fruit-based phones. But way short they were of cords for ’droids.

They had bulbs, though. Boy, did they have bulbs!

What I’d needed at home was a basic white bulb, and we had a box full of them. I’d grabbed three. Screwed them into three sockets of a new bathroom light fixture. I’d flipped the new switch, and, “Let there be light!” And there was.

Yellowish white. Pinkish white. And blue-ish white. All lined up in a confused row.

No. Not acceptable. There’s chaos enough in this world; I won’t put up with it above my sink.

So I found myself standing light-dazed in front of ten jillion bulbs at that big box store. LEDs. Halogens. Fluorescents. Incandescents. Smart bulbs. Dumb bulbs. Dimmable and darn bulbs. Sizes and tints and hues and lions and tigers and bears, oh, my!

A sales clerk (better make that “associate”) a bit older than me walked up.

“One day,” I greeted him, “I just want to tell my grandchildren stories of how easy it once was to walk into a store and buy a light bulb.”
He smiled. He understood.

I bought six bulbs. Cool white. (That’s 5000K.) A15 size. Medium base. LED. Dimmable. Suitable for use in enclosed fixtures. 720 lumens. 60-watt replacement. Lasts 13.7 years. I got extras anyway. I don’t want to do this again when I’m 75.3 years old.

I found a phone cord later. At a drug store. Call me, and I’ll tell you that story, too.

It felt good to talk to that old guy at the big hardware store. He understood me. I think he’d have made a good owner if it had been an old store with creaky board floors and a “soul” and not a new store slick with a plastic CEO and an invisible board of the corporate kind.

Come to think of it, what an amazing blessing that the One who first said, “Let there be light!” knew exactly the light, and the Light, that we would need. He understands us all.

 

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.


Talking About Painting Is More Fun Than Painting

paint-bathroom

Let’s talk about paint.

My wife and I have been involved in an upstairs bathroom renovation. She was mostly involved in, uh, “reminding” me regularly for several years (or maybe a decade) that we really needed to do something along this line. She seemed to hold something against antiquated fixtures and, particularly, their color. (If you savvy Pantone colors, plug in PMS 1625.) Or just picture something in the peach/apricot/salmon/pinkish family.

For many of those years, I countered (by the way, the bathroom’s vanity/counter was that same color) that the toilet was an endangered species—a pot that actually flushed once and did its job—and should be treasured, held in honor, and revered as a working museum piece. Even if it was of the aforementioned peach-pinkish color. But my usually rational wife maintained her prejudice against that peach-pink pot.

So a few weeks ago, a sledgehammer in my hands was destroying a cast iron bathtub (yeah, it was also that color), when it slipped (sort of on purpose) into that fine-flushing antique, ending both that worthy throne’s reign and a spousal disagreement.

A little more demolition, beefed up framing, plumbing, electrical, sheetrock, sheetrock-finishing, and . . . can we talk about paint yet?

Nope. Baseboards first. Then nail-hole filling (no fun at all).

Now? Now. About paint . . .

First, I admit my bias: I dislike painting. And I’m conflicted about paint itself. Buying cheap stuff—it’s all too expensive—is a costly mistake. The good stuff is pricey. What I bought claimed “one coat coverage.” Right. Has that claim ever held up in anyone’s experience? But I didn’t expect it to.

What I did expect at best was to be a little disappointed because I’m lazy, which almost rhymes with “latex.” What most of us buy now and call “latex” is actually “acrylic.” Since we all like the easy soap and water cleanup, we slather plastic easy-to-clean-up paint on the wall.

Me, too. I haven’t painted a wall or cabinet with oil paint in years. I’m not completely sure modern oil paint (sans chemicals, good and bad; I’m glad the truly bad are gone) is as beautiful as was the old. But the old looked great. Especially on cabinets. Smooth. Sleek. And to dry wood, a beautiful tonic.

I admit that the latex I’m presently spreading looks, well, not bad. It just feels like I’ve covered the wall with plastic wrap and, if I got my fingernails on a wee piece at the corner, I could pull the rip cord and the whole wall would peel off. I’ve also got a small shelf, already painted, that I may need to sand just a little for fit. I figure it will be much like trying to sand a sandwich bag. Quality? Generally, I think oil-free paint looks like fat-free “ranch” dressing tastes. Ah, but cleanup is easy. And the new bathroom looks good. No peachy-pink. Unless you peel off too much plastic paint.

It occurs to me that when God sent his Son to deal with our sins, when he used precious red to wash us white as snow, he didn’t just cover up the old faded and tarnished colors of our souls, he cleaned us up from the inside out even as he filled our lives with real color, a rich depth of hue that will last. One all-sufficient completely permeating coat. Truly guaranteed.

 

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 


A Pastor’s Job Description: Point Out What God Is Doing

All honorable work is God’s work, a calling, and anyone serious about doing a good job in his/her work derives priceless benefit from the example of respected mentors. Surely teachers and doctors, business folks and farmers, all need mentors to encourage them to “soldier on.”

One of my most influential mentors passed away almost a year ago, and I never met him. Eugene Peterson, best-known for his amazing paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, never wrote anything poorly, but his books written particularly for pastors have blessed me immensely.

I particularly love Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor. I think it should be required reading for would-be pastors, and I think “veteran” pastors probably should read it again once a year. Reflecting on fifty years of ministry, Peterson reminds those still on that journey that God does not call us to be religious CEOs but to love His sheep. Our calling is not to be little gods who think we can make the sun rise but simply to walk with our people through life each new day reminding them, and being reminded, that God is the One who bids it rise.

The job has never been easy, and it certainly is not now. The statistics are dismal and, as Peterson notes, pastoral “defections and dismissals have reached epidemic proportions in every branch and form of church.”

The pressure comes from all directions. Some groups, saying very truly that “every Christian is a minister,” draw some conclusions that are simply silly and demeaning and make as much practical sense as saying that everyone who has ever cut up a pork chop is a butcher. Of course, every Christian is called to the service of God, but our roles, functions, training, and gifts are, thank the Lord, all as different as they are all valuable and needed.

Our culture itself, and especially our “religious” culture, is toxic to real ministry; it devalues and demeans it. “The vocation of pastor,” writes Peterson, “has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.” God is treated as a consumer “product to be marketed” and the marketers scramble to find the right “model” for “success” which is then “religiously” measured in our culture’s terms rather than Christ’s: if it’s big, if it’s quantifiable, if it’s impressive, it’s called success. Never mind that measured by such standards, Christ was remarkably unsuccessful as he loved the weak and little children, the powerless and the “foolish” of this world; he chose the cross instead of “success.”

Desperate for the latest program to “revitalize the church,” pastors often fall to the very temptations Satan offered in the wilderness and Christ resisted. When we do, we act as if the “fruit” we push the church to produce (and measure) is the only thing that validates its existence. Buying that lie, we devalue worship and prayer and become blind to the real fruit (much that is visible but much more that is “unseen”) that God produces. We proceed by displaying a profound disrespect and denial of God’s presence in the “ordinary.”

It’s good to have someone particularly ordinary particularly charged with pointing out what God is doing every day through His presence, forgiveness, and grace in our seemingly ordinary lives. It’s work worth doing.

 

 

     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.


A Week with Two Sundays in a Row

We had two Sundays this week at our little church. Two Sundays two days in a row.

Well, not really. But it seemed like it.

The first Sunday this week was Saturday as we held the funeral of a fine man and good friend, a well-loved and faith-filled member of our church. We sang and prayed and shared God’s good news of hope. Sweet melodies and rich tones rose in that sanctuary and lifted our spirits, and God’s Spirit comforted, and God’s word was balm, and the hearts of God’s people praising Him were washed with tears of sorrow mingling with joy and laughter and hope.

When we returned later from the cemetery, we came back to that little church and filled our stomachs with wonderful food seasoned by love, and we filled our hearts again with hope in the presence of God’s people.

And then came Sunday—the real one, albeit the second. And we sang and prayed and shared God’s good news of hope. Sweet melodies and rich tones of hope rose in that sanctuary and lifted our spirits, and God’s Spirit comforted, and God’s word was balm, and his Table was open to all, and the hearts of God’s people praising Him and participating in His sacrifice of love were washed with tears of sorrow mingling with joy and laughter and hope.

Then following worship we went into the fellowship hall of that little church and filled our stomachs with wonderful food seasoned by love, and we filled our hearts again with hope in the presence of God’s people.

Both days I arrived early and opened the doors.

Both days I scurried about getting things prepared.

Both days I stopped for a few moments to drink in the sweet silence of that sweet place.

Both days I knelt between the front pews to lift up a prayer.

Both days I thanked God for His people here and for His people everywhere who kneel before Him.

Both days I silently praised God for the opportunity to come together to praise God.

Both days, and with each breath, I thanked God for hope in Christ.

Both days it occurred to me again how much I love what happens in that little place and with a little church large in love.

Ah, “church” is a big word. No one has to tell me that the real church is the people; it’s not the building, it’s Christ’s Body.

But don’t try to tell me that the little place I also unashamedly call the church is not a special and holy place (as, I pray, is yours). How near-sighted must we be if we can’t see that “place” matters!

When I kneel here, I think of all the others who have knelt here, and who do, and who will. They are part of me and I of them.

I’ve worshiped and worked here, laughed and cried here, knelt in joy here, bowed in near-desperation here, proclaimed God’s word here, received God’s word here, celebrated Christ’s life and death and resurrection here, and been filled with His life and hope here.

This place’s two-by-fours and sheetrock and glass (even stained) are ordinary, but what happens here is more than ordinary. What happens here on Sundays (usually just one a week) is so holy that it lifts and sanctifies the remainder of even the most ordinary days of the most ordinary of weeks.

Maybe this week it took two Sundays to remind me that if we ever let the wine of the grace we receive in such a place turn back into water when we leave, well, that’s not the fault of the wine-making Lord who bids us drink from His full cup. I love worshiping Him here in this special place of grace.

May God sanctify and bless such a beautiful place in your life, too. Yes, and drink deeply!

 

 

     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.

 

 


“How Are You? Good! I’m Fine!”

People can be maddening, frustrating, bull-headed, mean, dumb, astonishing, resilient, weak, strong, gentle, loving, perplexing, bitter, graceful, resentful, hateful, merciful, and . . . pick any adjective and stack ’em up. Any one of those will apply to a few someones, and lots of them will apply to the same folks at the very same time.

None of that is news to anyone.

Having said that, and having lived for six decades, I must say that, as many human idiosyncrasies and traits as I’ve observed in myself and others, sometimes I’m still surprised. For example . . .

It may not be true in a larger town where you either don’t know each other or, if you’re in a very large town, folks think eye contact might predict a mugging.

But in a small town like mine, when you set foot into your doctor’s waiting room, you almost always know a few folks, and you will quite naturally shake hands and say, “Hi, Joe! How are you?” And Joe will shake your hand and very likely reply, “Hey, Curtis! I’m fine; how are you?”

Now, remember, you’re in your doctor’s office. First of all, it’s a great place to get sick, and any sensible person would be wary of shaking hands. (Which is why I carry in my pocket a little bottle of hand sanitizer.)

Second, you are in your doctor’s office. How likely is it that you are both there because you’re fine as frog hair? But you’ll still reply, “I’m fine.” You might say later, “Oh, honestly, I’m leaking snot out of every pore in my body.” You probably won’t say, “Well, except for a potentially life-threatening, life-altering, disgusting, maddening disease that has me scared out of my wits, I’m fine.”

Still, I guess it’s a good comment on our town that, really, most of us are happy to be aboard, and mostly, “We’re fine.”

My doctor—I hope he doesn’t mind the description—is as close to Marcus Welby as you’ll ever find. I’ve been loving and serving this community for well over three decades, and he has been for a lot longer—all of his life. He’s pulled me and mine through a bunch of scrapes. We obviously like, respect, trust, and enjoy each other a lot. Not many folks do I enjoy talking to more. And I’d put him up against any big town medical guru any day.

I still laughed when I read one lady’s words. An emergency room physician, she said, “If your bone is presently sticking out of your leg, you should come see me; otherwise, you’ll likely live longer if you use medical care rarely and judiciously.”

I figure she’s talking mostly about specialists, though. The kind retired folks (that’s not me yet) tend to collect as a very unfulfilling, expensive, and too-often truly necessary hobby. Probably the same ones we read about in Mark 5:26 when we’re told of a poor lady who had “suffered much under the care of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.” A cautionary tale.

Specialists. Three options. Pick two out of three. Get better. Get worse. Get poor. Before you try them, I’d suggest some time out on the back porch with a good book and maybe even an occasional fine cigar to lower your blood pressure. If you can get your doc to smoke one with you, you’ll have both relaxation and some of the best conversation with one of the best friends you’ll ever find.

By the way, how are you? Good. I’m fine.

 

 

       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.

 


“Do You Remember the Search for the Holy Grail?”

You’ve heard, no doubt, of the legendary search for the holy grail?

In everything from tales of medieval knights, legends of King Arthur, the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and even Monty Python satirical sketches, the grail, supposedly the cup or chalice from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper, has been a precious object searched for, longed for, even lusted for.

I don’t have space to describe it, but who can ever forget the great movie scene and the driest of all lines of dry wit, “He chose poo-oo-rly.” The grail turned out not to be a golden and jewel-encrusted goblet but a modest wooden vessel well-suited for a carpenter. (Search for “He chose poorly” on YouTube and you can watch the scene. Wait for the end! Never has a villain been more justly dispatched or an actor better delivered a three-word line.)

For anyone with at least half a brain, it’s all the fun stuff of great stories and legend. But for more than a few serious searchers over the years—some of whom have claimed to actually find it—the search has been, well, serious.

Some have searched for the grail as a priceless (meaning incredibly pricey) object. Some with, I think, religious fervor that should be saved for the Lord who drank from it and not the cup itself, have searched for it as a matter of some sort of quest smacking more of magic than faith. No surprise. Some folks would go nuts and pay big bucks to see or even (gasp) own, or build a church around, a bunion that a Professor Froogdable (mail order doctorate from Archaeology Associates Unlimited) asserts is “very likely,” based on his best research, from the base of John the Baptist’s left big toe.

Ah, well. I’ve been on a search myself lately. And I admit that it’s become a bit of a quest. I’ve become a little despondent about it and, I confess, pretty much given up. But sometime, some day, perhaps years in the future (maybe aided by someone like Professor Froogdable), someone is going to discover, shoved into a dark corner of a warehouse a fairly large dusty and by then decaying old box.

In that box will be the three-piece acrylic bathtub wall surround I ordered online weeks ago from a big box DIY home improvement store (the blue place, not the orange place). The four-piece set was supposed to come in two big boxes. It would take years by Amazon time standards, but, finally, the notification of its arrival arrived in my email.

Yay! It arrived early! Boo! It was just one box. One bathtub now installed and waiting waterless and forlorn as my bathroom renovation stalls for lack of three sheets of over-priced plastic. The barcode on the box failed the store and me. They needed a chip, a tracker. And I need patience which is as lost to me presently as that mysterious box.

I’ve reordered. Amazon, this time. And even they are oozing along at a weeks-long pace on this one. The reviews warn that it will likely arrive chipped, and I’ll have to order yet again. I literally need a shower.

I guess I need a better shipper, but what I’m eternally thankful to have is the best Shepherd. He’s never lost a sheep like me yet.

 

 

     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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