Tag Archives: fear

Who Do We Trust When Life Goes Off the Rails?

 

I still remember the movie, even though I’ve forgotten its name.

It’s been several years now since I watched it. I know this because it was a Netflix flick that actually came in the mail. Part of their movie sales pitch back then was “no late fees,” which was nice, but which also meant you could stack up a DVD or a few and let them sit around unwatched awhile. Truth be told, I was putting off watching it until my wife made me.

It was a love story, and early in the movie, the young husband died, tragically felled by a brain tumor. Chick flick, right? What was your first clue? Untimely death or cancer?

I was surprised by two things. First, I enjoyed it. Second, one great line from the movie made me think.

As the movie begins, the guy and gal are talking about whether or not to have a baby. Both of them are likable folks, as “successful” in their work as young folks just starting out can be.

But it becomes clear that the husband is carefree and impetuous, and she’s a (lovable) control freak who is probably a bit afraid (control is always about fear) to say, “Good morning!” without having some kind of plan in mind for both of them for the rest of the day—and probably the next month, the next year, and the next decade. He wants them to have a baby. She says they can’t afford to yet. Being translated, her protests mean that in her Life Plan “Be financially stable” shows up two lines ahead of “Have a baby with hazel eyes, weighing in at 7 lbs, 6 ozs, on a Thursday afternoon between 3 and 4, Central Time, in a month ending in R.” Her hesitance probably also means that she knows deep-down that the world has never seen a kid who could be completely controlled and that a long synonym for “baby” is “some degree of chaos and disorder from now on; the best-laid parenting plans will be broken and in need of change more often than the kid needs new shoes. Learn some flexibility or go quickly crazy. Welcome to parenthood!”

Like I say, the gal is a lovable control freak. She has the best of intentions. She really believes that most of life can and should be scrupulously planned, and if you plan it with all the right ingredients, life can hardly fail to turn out just like you have planned it. “To fail to plan is to plan to fail” and all that stuff has some truth in it and looks really great on the screen at “Success” seminars. It works fine—until real life bumps into it or roars over it like a freight train squashing a bug on the rails.

She doesn’t know that “real life” is racing down the track toward her and her husband. For them, it won’t be a baby; it will be a tumor. But they can’t know that yet. And so the argument rolls on until she finally blurts out her life philosophy (based on fear): “I just don’t want to make any mistakes, Jerry!”

Her smiling Irish husband replies with a wry wad of wisdom: “Well, you’re in the wrong species, love!”

Ain’t it just the truth!?

But the Creator of our species loves us completely, mistaken though we almost always are, and His is the only plan that ultimately matters. We can trust our Father and let go. No fear.

 

 

     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.

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Storms on the Sea of Galilee and in Robert Lee, Texas

 

“Quiet! Be still!”

Those words from Christ did the job that day in the midst of the raging storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4). Jesus was sleeping peacefully in the stern of the boat when his terrified disciples had disturbed his repose.

“Master,” even the seasoned seamen had opined, “don’t you care that we’re about to head to the bottom and drown?”

It certainly sounds as if the Lord was not particularly pleased at being roused. His question for the disciples: “Don’t you have any faith at all?” (The Message).

And to the wind and the waves, he casts a stern gaze, as if commanding an unruly child, “Enough! Be still!”

If Christ had been a supposedly enlightened modern parent, oblivious to the fact that a properly and lovingly administered spanking in the face of willful defiance is not even in the same universe as child abuse, and unaware that much closer to real abuse for parent, child, and everyone else unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity, is the common situation where the parent rarely expects to be obeyed, if at all, until the parents have “reasoned” the child, themselves, and everyone around them into a truly dangerous state of utter frustration and exhaustion . . . Well, I suspect the stormy sea would still be tossing and the awful wind still roaring, the boat long since at the bottom of the sea and all aboard drowned but thankful for finally finding some blessed relief.

But the elements argued not at all with their Creator. The storm was immediately stilled, and the disciples were immediately amazed: “Who is this? The wind and the sea at his beck and call!” (The Message).

For a couple of days this week I’ve been about as far away from the Sea of Galilee as it’s possible to be. The only body of water nearby is Spence Reservoir which in the last few years has managed to get from less than 1% “full” (which is pretty darn close to empty) to being now, I think, at a staggering 14% full (86% empty). A disciple, or anybody else, wanting to put a boat out on that lake today will find it a challenge, the forlorn boat docks bone dry and about a day’s journey from anything wet. I’m sure you could still drown in the lake, but you’d have to be pretty serious about it.

My brothers and I, spending a few days at my grandparents’ old   home place in Robert Lee, Texas, have dealt this week with a rare but frustrating “stormy” situation. Dead dry but maddeningly constant and raging, crazily high winds have for two days just about blown us off the acreage. We’re all pastors. My estimation of these fraternal colleagues would have increased immensely if even one of them could have stepped outside, looked up, sternly pronounced, “Enough! Stop it!” and achieved some success. Alas, none of these “clout-less” clergymen even tried.

I’m heading home. It’s finally a beautiful day. The wind has tired out and shut up. High time.

In the midst of storms it’s good to remember that one day the Lord of the universe will command and all tears, all fears, all storms will be over. Finally and forever. The  Cross says our Creator has the clout to get it done.

 

 

    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.


“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night . . .”

Galilee Storm and Christ

Fear and faith. Both color our journey in this life. I hope we know ourselves well enough to just frankly admit that it’s no rare occasion when the former threatens to swamp the latter. It’s nothing new.

In Mark 6:45-52, the disciples of Christ have gotten into a boat on the Sea of Galilee to go ahead of the Lord into the village of Bethsaida. Jesus himself has stayed behind to dismiss the crowd of 5,000 which he has just fed, and to go up on a mountainside to pray. Out on the lake, in the middle of the night, a storm has come up, and the disciples are straining at the oars “because the wind was against them.”

You know the feeling, don’t you? We’re in the same boat.

Often in our own journeys, the wind seems to be against us. It blows in the form of trials that test our faith, weaknesses in ourselves or others that cause us pain, bad decisions complete with unpleasant consequences, awful diagnoses, sudden tragedy.

Sometimes we’ve steered the wrong course and are in treacherous waters. We should have been wiser sailors. We should have consulted the Captain of our souls, His compass, His chart.

Sometimes the storm is simply upon us and the most experienced sailor in the world could not have seen it coming. But come it did.

Several of the disciples on the Sea of Galilee that night were experienced sailors, fishermen who knew its every league, every fathom, every eddy. From the sea, they had drawn out their living, but suddenly they are faced with the prospect of dying in its depths.

At around 3:00 a.m., in the middle of that dark night, Jesus goes “where no man has gone before” (at least not without a boat), walking on the water. He hears their cry for help, and he gets into the boat.

That’s the Incarnation, folks. That’s the Lord of the sea saying to them, to you, to me, “Don’t be afraid; I’m with you on the journey.”

On the sea that night, the disciples had lots of fear, precious little faith—just enough to let their Lord get into the boat. Maybe his gift to them was that on that day, when that was all the faith they had, that was all the faith required. Maybe that is his gift to us, too.

Ah, it is a wonderful gift! When we’re tempted to be paralyzed by fear in the face of all that has happened and all that might happen on the journey, the Captain of our souls comes to you and to me and says, “I’ll never ask you to take a journey that I won’t take right by your side. Just let me into your boat.”

 

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

 

Copyright 2015 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 Lovely to Let Out the Light, But…”

blitz blackout

It was 1945, a big and tough year in a line of extremely difficult years for a globe that had been squeezed in the clutches of world war.

Death and destruction had been the order of the day for way too many days. Whether it’s on a school playground or an entire world, when bullies are taking over, something beyond “a good talking to” (during which the bullies rally their forces, take more territory, and laugh at the talkers) finally has to be undertaken; if not, tyranny wins, freedom loses, and the weak are crushed by the cruel as the dangerously naive, blind to humanity’s fallen nature, wring their hands, weep, and wonder why.

In The Last Lion, their fine book on Winston Churchill, William Manchester and Paul Reid share a 1945 anecdote from Mollie Panter-Downes, longtime London correspondent for The New Yorker.

Victory in Europe would be joyfully declared on May 8, but old habits were dying hard. On May 7, “a predawn thunderstorm broke over London” with such a realistic “imitation of the blitz” (Hitler’s bombs raining down on London) that “many Londoners started awake and reached for the bedside torch” (flashlight) they’d become accustomed to keeping in their blacked-out bedrooms for use during each night’s raid.

“Nerves were still raw” even though Hitler’s V-2 rockets had been grounded since late March. The blackout had been lifted “after 2,061 consecutive nights of darkness.” London’s streetlights, now allowed, “failed to flare” when “the switch was thrown,” and though “most Londoners took down their heavy blackout curtains (which they converted to black clothes and funeral coverings,) they pulled their old curtains closed out of habit.”

One five-year-old girl who had never known any other kind of life, asked her mother, “It’s lovely to let out the light, but how shall we keep out the dark?”

It was a great question then and now. Hitler, the deranged “little corporal” and mass murderer was finally dead. Without the Russians, the war could not have been won, but they were led by Joseph Stalin, himself a monster who would kill more people even than Hitler. In May 1945, the Cold War was looming, dark and dreadful.

Plenty of dark times still oppress this world and threaten to engulf our lives. “How shall we keep out the dark?”

Well, we can be sure that God’s light lives in and warms our hearts even in dark times.

We can claim Christ’s promise to live in his people, affirming John’s words: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

We can refuse to trust life, a priceless gift but as literally impersonal as a rock and with no more ability to care for us. We can choose to trust God, the Author of life, the stable Rock always worthy of our trust, the Father who loves us completely. He created light, and he is far stronger than darkness.

In him, we can safely open the curtains.

 

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

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


As the New Year Unfolds, Humans Face a Choice

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A mother sits in the bed holding her sleeping newborn infant. She looks down at him in love and wonder and in awe at such an amazing miracle of God. And she wonders. She wonders who he will be and what he will become. She wonders about his joys and his sorrows. She wonders about the shape of this little one’s life journey.

Mary sits holding her sleeping newborn infant. She looks down at him in love and wonder, in awe at such an amazing miracle of God. He is the most amazing child ever born and his is the most amazing birth. The angel has told her who he is and has given her his name, but Mary still wonders at all the angel has not said. She wonders who this little miracle called the Son of God will be and what in God’s miraculous power he will become. She wonders about his joys and his sorrows. She wonders about the shape of this little One’s life journey. This little One who flung the stars across the canvas of the universe. This little One, this Almighty One, who has chosen to become small and weak to make us strong.

And so even Mary, the mother of God, joins mothers in all times and in all places, and the rest of us as well, as we gaze at the known and we wonder about the unknown. As new parents, we hold the little answers to a nine-month-long question in our hands, and the reality dawns on us that, though now we see the little one whose coming we had longed for, this little sleeping answer to our prayers brings more questions than answers. We thank God for what is, that the great I AM has called into being one more little human being, one more wonder. But we wonder what will come.

And what is true of our little ones, and what was true even of Mary’s little One, is true of this new year we’re just beginning. And it’s true of every new year we’ll ever begin; every one of them an adventure because life itself is an adventure. We don’t know, we can’t know, exactly what the new year will hold.

2015 will bring for each of us some wonderful and surprising joys. It will also hold some deep sorrows. Such is the patchwork of life. I have experienced more blessing and joy myself than any 1000 people have any right to, and yet I know how easily I give in to fear and anxiety, how I tend to focus on sorrows and not joys. I need so badly what we all need—God’s help to face the future with a faith-born depth of peace and joy and gratitude that only comes from learning to trust the Author of life.

Writer Kenneth Wilson tells of living as a small boy in a big, old, dark, multi-story, creaking and rattling house in Pittsburgh. At night the old dwelling could be a scary place. One evening his father read him a bedtime story and then asked, “Would you rather I leave the light on and go downstairs, or turn the light out and stay with you for awhile?” Wilson says, “I chose presence with darkness, over absence with light.”

It was a very good choice. In the face of an unknown future which sometimes seems dark because we see with weak and human eyes, choose to trust God and live daily in his presence.

 

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

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Brock Bronson and the Russian Attack on Goliad

 

russian bomberOne day when I was just a small lad growing up at 125 N. Goliad Street in Amarillo, Texas, Brock Bronson scared the bejabbers out of me. Until that moment, I’d never even seen a bejabber. Maybe you’ve never laid eyes on one, either. You don’t want to, let me tell you.

Hmm. Until recently, I hadn’t thought of that guy in years.

Brock Bronson. Now there’s a name that means business. Especially if it’s attached to a teenaged bully sort of guy. Especially if you’ve barely broken into double digits age-wise yourself. Especially if the teenaged Bronson lives just three doors down the street from you. (I’ve changed the name to protect the guilty—and to keep the innocent from being sued—but it was exactly that kind of name.)

I barely remember Brock, His Teenaged Highness, ever lowering himself to speak a word to me, which may have made the words he spoke on that fateful day all the scarier.

In his defense (which is crazy—a guy named Brock Bronson doesn’t need any defense), he may not have been that much of a bully. He may have been just a pretty normal teenage boy which meant then, just like it probably does now, that he had a higher opinion than the facts would support regarding his own intelligence, invincibility, immortality, and skill behind the wheel of an automobile. Maybe his parents didn’t share those views, but I will testify, the pre-teen boys on his block were pretty sure that teenage guys like Brock were either one notch below deity or in very close contact with the Devil. Either way, they were not to be trifled with.

Which might explain to some extent why my little brother and I believed him when Brock and his companions (I don’t remember if he had companions, but this is the kind of brainstorm teenage boys usually have in pairs) roared to a brief stop in front of our house, stopped my little brother and me in our innocent tracks as we were riding bikes or trikes on our sloping driveway, and informed us that a Russian attack had been launched against these United States in general and Goliad Street in particular. He led us to believe that we didn’t have time enough even to run inside the house but that if we’d crawl way in under the juniper bushes that bracketed our driveway, maybe the Russians wouldn’t see us, and we might have some slim hope of survival.

I suppose we thought Brock was headed to the Front. All we knew for sure was that he was headed away. Jim and I ended up way under a big juniper waiting for Soviet bombers to appear. I don’t know how long we waited, but it seemed like hours, and, later, it seemed like days before I quit itching. (Have you tried crawling around under junipers recently?)

I suppose we were waiting for Brock to stop by and give the “All Clear.” It never came. Neither did he. But neither did the Russians or their bombers.

Ah, worrying about a Russian attack on Goliad Street was world-class dumb. But I hate to think how much time I’ve wasted in the years since then worrying about stuff which, from Heaven’s point of view, must be even dumber. Worry. Anxiety. It’s dumb and dumber.

Faith. Now that’s where wisdom comes in. On Goliad Street or anywhere else.

 

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

 

Copyright 2014 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 Little Faith on a “Dark and Stormy Night”

 

storm on galilee 01

Fear and faith. Both color our journey in this life.

Down toward the end of Mark 6 comes one of the most famous stories from the life of Christ.

The disciples of Jesus have gotten into a boat to go ahead of the Lord to the village of Bethsaida. Jesus himself has stayed behind to dismiss the crowd of 5,000—a bunch of folks he’d just fed—and to go up on the mountainside to pray. Out on the lake, in the middle of the night, a storm has come up, and the disciples are straining at the oars because “the wind was against them.”

You know the feeling, don’t you? You recognize the boat, don’t you? It’s a vessel you’ve been in yourself, I’ll wager.

Often in our own journeys, the wind seems to be against us. It blows in the form of trials that threaten to swamp us, weaknesses in ourselves or others that cause us pain, bad decisions complete with unpleasant consequences, awful diagnoses, sudden tragedy. Serious tests of faith, all of these things.

Sometimes we’ve steered the wrong course and are in treacherous waters. We should have been wiser sailors. We should have consulted the Captain of our souls, checked his compass, looked at his chart. But now we’re seriously off course and about to flounder in heavy weather.

Sometimes the storm is simply upon us and the most experienced sailor in the world could not have seen it coming. But come it did.

Several of the disciples on the Sea of Galilee that night were experienced sailors who knew its every league, every fathom, every eddy. From the sea they had made their living, but suddenly they were faced with the prospect of dying there.

At around 3:00 in the middle of that dark night, Jesus goes “where no man has gone before” (at least, not without a boat), walking on the water. He hears their cry for help, and he will still the storm. But first, he just gets into the boat.

That’s the Incarnation, folks. That’s the Lord of all seas and the universe itself saying, “Don’t be afraid; I’m with you on the journey.”

On the sea that night, the disciples had lots of fear and precious little faith. Just enough to let their Lord get into the boat. On that day when “a little” was all the faith they had, Christ’s gift to them was that it was all the faith he required. Maybe that’s his gift to us, too.

As we’re tempted to be paralyzed by fear in the face of all that has happened and all that might happen on the journey, the Captain of our souls comes to you and to me and says, “I’ll never ask you to take a journey that I won’t take right by your side. Just let me into your boat.”

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

 
Copyright 2013 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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