Tag Archives: fear

What We Have Is a “Failure to Communicate”

A language problem.

We have a language problem, writes geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Marc Agronin in the Wall Street Journal, which is “Why It’s So Hard to Talk to Your Parents About the Coronavirus.”

We don’t want hard times, struggles, and suffering. But one thing they do for us is bring to the surface truths that we already deeply or instinctively knew were lurking just barely underwater. Then we wonder why we didn’t see that hidden, but real, fact all along. This generational “linguistic” truth is real.

Plenty of other reasons make knowing how to feel about this mess difficult already. Even “keep your tail section at home” terms in the same language are confusing. “Stay at home,” “safer at home,” and “shelter in place” are not the same. (Google it.) The first two are close. The second is what we’re doing where I live. Almost nobody is truly doing the third in its strict “don’t budge at all until the bullets quit flying” sense, though New York is close.

New York is close for good reason. The situation there is different than in my town. (For that matter, the situation 70 miles to the east in Lubbock is also different.) The Dallas mayor was frustrated that the Texas governor hasn’t completely shut down the whole state, but the governor is wise enough to know that Dallas County with several thousand confirmed cases is not the same as Bailey County with zero. We need to do some of the same things, but we’d be fools to do all of the same things.

Ah, but then we discover that, even living in the same area, folks of different ages are, as Dr. Agronin says, speaking different languages. They’re speaking “forty-ish” (if they’re 30-50), “sixty-ish” (40-60), and “eighty-ish” (70-90).

Forty-ish speakers figure they’re mostly safe, unless they have “underlying issues,” even if they catch Covid-19. But then they figure out that their parents, speakers of sixty-ish, aren’t scared enough and need their wings clipped and their keys hidden. “You went where!?” Forty-ish speakers have shifted roles from “occasional drop-by driver, porter, or tech support” to “protectors.”

But their protectees are unruly and not accustomed to feeling the need to be protected or managed. Sixty-ish speakers are most recently accustomed to taking care of both the generations ahead of them and behind them. They’re not totally cut up that the younger generation might get a chance to worry a little (about time, donchathink!), but they think of themselves as being still in their prime. Caregivers not care-receivers. Vulnerable?! Since when? It feels like an insult or a demotion and a lie all at the same time. And, worse, what if . . . it’s . . . true? When did that happen!?

And the eighty-ish speakers? Most are far sharper, Dr. Agronin writes, than we realize. Their “healthy aging minds are neither depressed nor disabled.” They are less impulsive than younger folks, less “reactive.” They know that time and relationships are precious and that routines are comforting. “Social distancing” negatively impacts all of those things. Eighty-ish speakers are tough and “surprisingly resilient.” They’ve met “crises” before and don’t plan to panic. (No accident that “key leaders” like Dr. Fauci are from this bunch.) Most are much more worried about “loss of connection” than getting sick.

So how do we talk to each other? Dr. Agronin says that we listen, and then try to hear what’s really being said. A forty-ish speaker saying, “You went where?!” means, “I love you, and I’m worried about you” even if a sixty-ish speaker hears, “You’re older and more vulnerable than you think.”

I’m thankful we all have a Father who is, in all respects, the King of all ages. He understands and loves us all. Completely.

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 


A Shortage Can Make a Bad Situation Worse

Did you see the Covid-19 news conference the other day featuring a particularly noted, well-published, and often-quoted professor of epidemiology?

Dr. Angus Jones-Brown has been studying virus transmission for many decades, and the data accumulated over those many years seems to rather clearly indicate, against all previous thought, that most of these viruses proliferate not by passing into our airways via our noses or by traveling through other mucous membranes. In fact, the professor says that, as odd as this may sound, many viruses, actually much weaker than you might think, seem to be inhibited by the blue to blue-violet wavelength range (492-425 nanometers) of the spectrum.

Dr. Jones-Brown’s further research indicates that a porous and soft cloth of a blue color, supplemented by common copper (Element Cu, Group 11, Atomic Number 29) and passed over a person’s feet when those feet are higher than that individual’s head (a position known as hyperpedisquelaltudia), provides almost complete immunity to most viruses, including all coronaviruses and Covid-19 in particular.

I won’t bore you with all of the scientific details, chemical equations, and medical jargon that the erudite professor shared in the article; it gets pretty deep. And I hope you’ll note that the reason his research caught my eye specifically was because his test subjects were taken from the exact demographic group into which I fit. Thus I hope you will please understand that his research and conclusion may not be applicable to individuals in other cohorts at all.

But I quote here from what I consider to be the most important note in the “Conclusions” section of his article “abstract.” It reads: “Based upon the absence of other comorbidities and aberrant prognosticological criteria, gray-haired males in late middle age, with myopia corrected by contacts, healthy blood pressure, marriages of over forty years, and who drink prodigious amounts of coffee are well-advised to put on blue suede shoes, stand on their heads, and stack copper BBs up their noses as a probable, though not absolutely conclusive, antiviral barrier against Covid-19.”

And there you have it!

I’m not sure what. But you have it.

I admit that no one who is not a doctor or a hypochondriac should read as many PubMed articles as I do. (My doctor will agree.) What I’m quoting above is completely out of my head.

I really don’t mean to poke fun at a terribly serious situation, but I do indeed mean to poke fun at the way some of us—me included, I promise—react during said situation. Some of those gullible reactions have made a bad situation worse in ways that we could easily have avoided with just a little common sense. Two words, and I rest my case: toilet paper.

Who was the second idiot who heard the first idiot say, “I dunno, Harv, we might run outta toilet paper during this virus mess. I think . . .” Better that he’d have said, “I dunno, Harv, let’s just jump off a cliff and do it before anybody else can.” I wonder if really determined folks with a TP-hoarder mindset would’ve just lined up for the flight? Maybe we’d have been spared the non-shortage shortage.

Or maybe he should have just told his buddy, “Well, I read somewhere that ya won’t catch this if you put on blue suede shoes, stand on your head, and stack copper BBs up your nose.” It’d have made as much sense as stashing toilet paper.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it’s always best not to make a bad situation worse by making bad and unnecessary choices that end up truly making it worse. For. No. Reason.

In any case, a word of heartfelt thanks to all of the many, many folks, working in so many ways, obvious or not, but brave and steadfast nonetheless, who keep working at real risk. And my prayers also with all who are hurting in any way, and the many who very much wish they were still working.

And one more word for us all: faith. Just ask your Father for it. His strength is available when ours isn’t. No shortage. Real or imagined. No shortage at all.

 

 

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

 

 

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

 


Tweet Quote: “The Coronavirus Panic Is Dumb”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take your pick.

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

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

I guess we’ll see how this all goes.

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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


Sometimes the Main Event Is Not the Main Event

Sometimes the main event is not the main event.

A couple of times a year I usually receive article requests, three at a time, from a great little daily devotional magazine. As with all of their writers, the editors pick two Scripture passages for me and I get to pick the third.

So when I received the request letter a few weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised. I opened it, perused the assigned passages, and saw that one was 1 Samuel 17:16-28.

That’s a good one! Or, to be entirely accurate, it’s cut right from the middle of a really great one. First Samuel 17 is the well-known story of “David and Goliath.” Even in our largely biblically illiterate society (and one wonders how anyone in the world, and especially in western society, can claim to be educated at all and not have some familiarity with the Bible, believe it or not, that has so shaped our literature, history, culture, and life), almost everyone knows something about that “shepherd to giant killer” story.

But I was a bit surprised that the Scripture passage I was assigned didn’t encompass the end of the story. If you read this section, you’ll see that when it begins, David has just arrived on the scene, and when it ends, the giant is still alive and ranting. Hmm.

I was a bit befuddled until this truth hit me, and I now repeat it: sometimes the main event is not the main event.

Naturally enough, when we read the great story of David and Goliath, we tend to cut right to the chase or, in this case, the swing. The young son of Jesse swings his sling. The stone flies out, locks on, sinks in; a loud-mouthed giant shuts up and falls down. Cue to cheering! But the key event that actually sets up the sling swing victory comes earlier.

Each morning and evening, like clockwork for forty days, this nine-foot-plus giant with a glandular problem and a boatload of arrogance strides out from the Philistine camp to taunt the Israelites with what seems to be a four-foot-wide mouth. When David arrives, as young and unaccustomed to battle as he is, he sizes up the problem immediately. Not Goliath and his tree-sized spear, the crux of the matter is that as the giant taunts Israel, he is defying God.

The main event? It’s when a full-of-faith shepherd about to turn giant-killer asks who this taunter of God thinks he is. David’s answer? Compared to the living God, this giant is less than nobody at all.

Dealing with a giant of a problem? Don’t we all at times? When life’s frightening giants loom large and threaten to obscure our view, may God give us eyes of faith to recognize Satan’s strategy of misdirection. The real “main event” is the choice to fixate in fear on the giant or to ask God to help us focus in faith on him. And then to help us aim. He’s already promised a victory. And he does his best work when weak folks trust him for help in defeating giants.

 

 

      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 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.

 


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.


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.


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