Tag Archives: freedom

“Please Join Me for a Walk Through a Mine Field”

By writing today’s column, I am breaking a promise, one that I made to myself. I didn’t make myself take an oath aloud or sign anything. I suppose it was less a promise than a mental warning not to stroll into any mine fields.

The topic is difficult and highly-charged, a tough one for any of us to deal with wisely and rationally and one where many folks seem to opt quickly for foolishness and irrationality. The best of writers could be easily misunderstood on this subject. I am nowhere near the best of writers. Add to this the fact that loud folks who want to misunderstand in order to be louder and angrier almost always succeed.

But I hereby invite you along for a stroll into a mine field. I really hope we’re seeking understanding, respect, and peace. The Lord promises great blessing to peacemakers, but they can also expect flying shrapnel and subsequent wounding from both “sides.”

What, you might ask, could make a pandemic even less pleasant? And now we know: social and racial unrest.

I suspect that most of us also know that, enjoyable or not, “conversations” about tough issues like race and justice are discussions we need to be able to have and can be positive, if we really listen to each other.

But we did not need looting, burning, and rioting; it is wrong, weak, cowardly, criminal, and indefensible, and I am very sure that the vast majority of people of all races in our land are in agreement on that.

I think most of us, whatever our color, believe that what happened to George Floyd was abhorrent and wrong.

I think most of us believe that it’s a matter for tears that in our land any parent of any race should have to give their teenagers “the talk.” (The much earlier talk about sex is hard enough.)

I believe that I have a lot to learn about the challenges faced by my friends of other races and that trying to learn is worth some effort.

I believe that a lot of what we see as racial differences are also, and maybe on an even deeper level, economic differences. My own experience is that I have very little trouble at all talking to, respecting, understanding, and loving friends of different races who are similar to me (or “above” me) economically and educationally. Some of the folks I’m thinking of are among my dearest friends, and some are family members. This does not absolve me from trying harder to understand folks from other races who are poorer economically and/or educationally. (In my experience, it’s every bit as hard for me to understand and communicate with “poor white” as it is “poor choose-a-color.”)  But we all need to try harder.

My own belief is that much of the unrest and hurt we see most obviously in some of our nation’s largest cities can be traced directly to seeds sown years ago when societally we ran to embrace the selfish and false “freedom” that resulted in massive numbers of fatherless families, illegitimacy, and the many bitter fruits of poverty. And the pernicious result was exacerbated by failed social and economic policies from the left that promise compassion and end up promulgating cruelty.

I also believe that you have every right to disagree with me. You have not only a Constitutional but God-given right to do so, a right that I should cherish and be willing to defend. And “free speech” is rapidly becoming an even larger part of the current “discussion.”

As free people we should be able to talk peacefully about our beliefs, even if they’re diametrically opposed, and whether or not they are in line with the latest opinion polls or the views of the media or the self-righteousness and virtue-signaling of the social and political right or left. (Are those two qualities not easily recognizable by their smell as being of the same substance?)

I believe that any “culture” that would actively “cancel” speech and thought is a culture for cowards, brutes, and immature fools. How can we understand each other if we don’t listen to different views? And who will decide whose opinions expressed in speeches, books, movies, etc., are views that our evidently very delicate ears can handle?

As it happens, I found myself agreeing with and appreciating Jason L. Riley’s Wall Street Journal column (6/17/20; his stuff is always worth reading, and his opinion is always thought-provoking). In “America Has a Silent Black Majority,” Mr. Riley (who is black) quotes Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s words in a 1970 memo to President Nixon that there “is a silent black majority as well as a white one” that “shares most of the concerns of its white counterpart.” Fifty years later, Riley says, this is still true.

“Most black people,” he writes, “know that George Floyd is no more representative of blacks than Derek Chauvin is of police officers. They know that the frequency of black encounters with law enforcement has more to do with black crime rates than with racially biased policing. They know that young black men have more to fear from their peers than from the cops. And they know that rioters are opportunists, not revolutionaries.”

Riley writes that, though there’s nothing wrong with a national conversation about better policing, “blaming law enforcement for social inequality” is “not only illogical but dangerous.” He goes on, “Unsafe neighborhoods retard upward mobility, and poorly policed neighborhoods are less safe.” And he closes, “A conversation that doesn’t acknowledge that reality is hardly worth having.”

I think he’s right on target. But maybe the even larger issue these days is how willing I am to acknowledge and defend your right to think otherwise. A lot of people have given their lives to help preserve our right to live in freedom. Freedom without free speech is not freedom.

The best and most loving, the strongest and gentlest, most truly wise and most completely peaceful Man of all died completely unjustly to bring all of us, of every race and nation, genuine freedom.

 

      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 for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Judge Not, O Ye Masked or Mask-less Ones!”

“Sheltering in place.”

Just for the record, it might be worth mentioning that “sheltering in place” is what we’re not doing.

Forgive me, please. I am far too much in love with freedom to turn anyone over to the Covid-19 police. I won’t be scowling at you if I meet you pushing your basket the wrong way down the jelly aisle at the supermarket. Besides that, it’ll probably be me swimming upstream; I seem to be clueless when it comes to noticing arrows on floors.

Nor will I cast a masked smirk at you if I see you mask-less behind your cart, becalmed in the aisle, not moving in any direction as you “ponder in place,” wondering whether store brand green beans are as good as Libby’s (pretty much, yes) or generic peanut butter is as tasty as Peter Pan’s (not even close.) In the state where I live, you can still make your own decision about that. Not peanut butter. Masks.

So far, I’ve consistently chosen to take a mask with me every time I’ve gone to the grocery store. And I’ve consistently chosen to keep it in my pocket. Mostly because we’ve had just handful of Covid-19 cases in our county and half a handful have already recovered. I know this could change quickly, and that’s probably a good reason to wear a mask at the store. Would I wear a mask in a store in New York City? Yes, indeed. Would I wear a mask at a store in a much smaller less virus-besieged city if everybody else in the store wore a mask? Probably so. We may not have achieved “herd immunity,” but I’m still part of a herd.

In this strange time, what is a customer saying if he or she walks into a store or church or “essential business” liquor store masked or mask-less (and is not robbing the latter)? I mean, what’s he saying in a city where no laws are in place about masks or, for that matter, whether you can buy a 32-ounce soda?

I don’t know. And neither do you. I think we’d be wise to “judge not, lest ye be judged.” We don’t know if the masked person is sick, medically compromised, careful, neurotic, wise, scared, smart, smug, self-righteous, considerate, “virtue-signaling,” a wonderful and thoughtful human being, a jerk, or a lot older than the unmasked potion of their face looks. And we all know wise medical folks who tell us, “Here’s the evidence thus far, and here’s what I’d recommend.” Resounding Yes? Resounding No? No, not terribly resounding. So mask-wearers and non-mask wearers are usually best advised, I think, to wear some humility. It looks good on us and protects us from an affliction worse than Covid-19 anytime, even as we’re not sheltering in place.

I’m not the English usage police, either. I think I can live with occasionally turning “shelter” into a verb. But “sheltering in place,” as I understand it, actually means to stay in the closet until the bullets quit flying, or not sticking your nose out of the storm shelter until the tornado has flown away and the “all clear” is given. It must be terribly difficult, but you’re not  technically “sheltering in place” even if you’re going stir-crazy staring at your over-priced and claustrophobia-inducing apartment walls in New York City, but still putting on a mask and emerging occasionally for some useful purpose like buying food or just to take a walk to avoid full-blown psychosis.

To borrow a musical metaphor, “sheltering in place” is fortissimo and only a few measures long. “Stay at home” is forte and can seem like forever. And “safer at home,” a nuisance and not a storm shelter, is semi-forte and certainly not normalissimo (don’t look either of those up).

Misuse the term if you want to, but if you start out at -issimo don’t blame me if you want to get a lot louder and have already limited your linguistic options. I promise not to call storm troopers from the EUP (English Usage Police).

I’m about to mask up. Always do when I mow the yard. But, as I write, our county’s Covid-19 cases are passing two handfuls. A mask at the store, even if you don’t intend to rob the place, is making more sense.

But “judge not” makes the best sense of all.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! No mask required or even suggested.

 

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


Genuine Freedom Must Be Cherished—or Lost

Freedom. It is not a gift any government benevolently bestows upon its citizens; freedom is the gift of God to everyone created in His image. It is the responsibility of governments to recognize and protect the freedom that is already the birthright of those given life by their Creator.

It’s a blessing to be able to celebrate on July 4th the birthday of a nation “conceived in liberty.” It’s good for us all to think about the nature of freedom. For those of us who bow before Christ as Lord, it’s particularly good to engage in some reflection regarding genuine freedom.

How important is freedom for Christians? So important that the Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

Freedom carries with it both deep privilege and deep responsibility. If we twist it into license to be as selfish and self-centered as we wish, how long will we as individuals, as families, as any group, as a nation, as God’s church, still be truly free?

Because it is “for freedom that Christ has set us free,” the apostle proceeds to issue a serious warning: “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

In context, St. Paul was warning the Galatians not to allow themselves to be misled by those who trusted in what they could do (and boast about it) rather than in (humbly accepting) what Christ had fully accomplished. A needed warning still!

Freedom is easily lost. Ironically, if we loudly claim our “rights,” all the while allowing most of our relationships to be ripped apart by our own selfishness, meanness, pettiness . . . If we allow ourselves to be enslaved by our own worst attitudes, addictions, and base instincts, we can yell continually about our freedom even as we are the ones throwing it away. No one is free who chooses to live like a slave.

As a Christian, I need to remember the price Christ paid for my freedom with his own blood. If I don’t cherish that gift of love and honor the Giver, I easily become enslaved by my own worst passions. Then, whatever else I am, the one thing I am truly not is free.

And what about my citizenship in America? Oh, my deepest allegiance by far is to Christ as the highest King. Still I think it very true to say that for me a lifetime of love and devotion to America and all that is best about this grand experiment in self-government is not enough even to begin to pay back the debt of gratitude every citizen of this land owes.

We don’t have to be blind to our nation’s flaws; we don’t have to agree with the domestic or foreign policy of a particular administration of government or to have voted for this or that governor or president or particular politician, to begin to pay back that debt. We just need to be immensely thankful to live in a land where the voices of the people are heard—even if we sometimes wish they spoke with deeper wisdom.

We’re free not to acknowledge the gift of freedom. Free not to appreciate it. Free not to cherish it. We’re free to be selfish and self-seeking, ignorant and arrogant, ungrateful and blind, even as we take advantage of what we don’t appreciate. And, at least as long as enough better people still love this land unselfishly, our nation will still be free.

But we won’t be. And the prison of our unhappiness will be one of our own making; our slavery, self-imposed. Freedom must be cherished—or lost.

 

 

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

 

 

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


Why Does Finding Real Rest Require So Much Discipline?

Why is resting so hard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electronic “balls and chains” in general. Unplug!

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 


What Sets Christianity Apart? Grace!

Author Philip Yancey writes that at a British conference, scholars from around the world were discussing the most basic beliefs that set Christianity apart from other world religions.

As they debated some important possibilities, C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and he was told that they were asking what Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions might be. He answered, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

Yancey continues, “After some discussion, the conferees had to agree. The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.”

We could never be saved by our own effort or by keeping any law, as St. Paul makes clear.

“We all [sinned], all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ” (Ephesians 2:3-5, The Message).

It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? Yes, and that’s a good sign! Real grace always sounds that way as it amazes those who receive it. Read the Gospels! You’ll find a lot of smiling, amazed people there. (Watch out for the Pharisees, though; they never smile. No surprise. Toxic religion never leaves its adherents anything to smile about.)

Real grace is always a little and maybe a lot scandalous. If no one thinks you’re too gracious, you’ve probably not felt and internalized enough of the grace of God yourself. If our churches aren’t regularly accused by some folks of being too gracious—too loose, too accepting, too free from law—that’s a very bad sign. It almost certainly means we don’t understand how much grace we’ve received and how rich is God’s supply. Read the Scriptures! The Good News, the real thing, the real Lord, has always scandalized people by the depth of his love and mercy.

If you’re God’s child, you don’t have to live a fearful, tentative life. Indeed, how dare you!? You don’t have to be careful lest you exhaust God’s amazing resources by being too loving, too gracious, too joyful, too free. God’s supply of love and grace, joy and freedom, is boundless!

You don’t have to live like the “one talent servant” in Christ’s parable (Matthew 25:14-30). Terrified that he might make some mistake and tick off his master (whom he misjudged completely), he made the worst mistake of all, not loving his master.

If we’re living lives cowering in fear, afraid to dance before our God because we might miss a step, we’re making the biggest mistake of all, not knowing and loving our Father as we should—the Father who continually amazes his children by the depth of his love and mercy, his grace and joy, and the genuine freedom that only he can give.

 

     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.


When Foundations Shift, Cracks Begin to Show

“Wow, I wonder how much farther that old sagging column supporting the corner of this old sagging house can lean out southward before the corner of the house just collapses and wordlessly pleads, ‘Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!’”

Nothing about that column is plumb, square, or level anymore, but I do notice some symmetry this morning. I’m writing my weekly Focus on Faith column weakly, sitting beside a weak porch column, and displaying at least some weak faith that this will not be the morning when that weak column collapses.

I don’t think the problem with that porch column started with the column. I’ve got my bag chair perched on the porch; if I look down, I see two things: 1) concrete, almost 90 years old, of an incredible quality no longer available; and, 2) in spite of the quality of the concrete, one big almost inch-wide crack bisecting the porch.

So the real problem is that the column is perched on the porch, the porch is concrete perched on a “stem-wall” foundation, and the foundation is shifting because the ground below it (drought-ravaged) started shifting first. Hence, that porch column leans, and even world-class concrete is defiled by a big crack.

When foundations become weak and begin shifting, much that we depend on to be sturdy begins to falter. We can no longer count on “plumb, square, and level.” Cracks that have been forming soon become too obvious to ignore. And, yes, eventually, columns tumble and what they have long supported crashes down.

We don’t have to look far in our society to see cracks becoming obvious. Look for their source and you’ll find foundations that are shifting and no longer able to support the weight they were designed to carry. Cracks. Crumbling. Collapse.

We’ve laughed at truth. I hear phrases like “your truth” and “my truth” which make about as much sense as “your gravity” and “my gravity.”

We’ve twisted real freedom, freedom to live a truly freeing, unselfish life of love that broadens our souls and blesses others, into the counterfeit “I’ve Gotta Be Me” no matter who I hurt.

We abandon foundational values as timeless and real as the multiplication tables (“your math” and “my math”?) and are surprised when what we build using false figures won’t stay standing. C. S. Lewis described the situation: “We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

If this old porch column is to go on bearing weight, my brothers and I are going to have to rebuild it on a firm footing.

And where can we find a foundation that will bear the weight of our lives so that our lives can be built not only to bless ourselves but to bless those around us?

May I suggest a walk down the street this Sunday morning? You’ll likely find a place where people meet to honor the Builder who set the foundation posts of this universe. As cracked and weak and crumbling as many of us who meet below them are, steeples still point in the right direction—to the One who is eternally faithful and strong.

 

 

     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.


Freedom Is a Costly and Precious Gift

Until my family and I moved to Muleshoe, Texas, over thirty-two years ago, and I discovered the largest and best part of America, the “small town” part, I had never experienced Independence Day as it really ought to be experienced and celebrated. Since that time, I’ve gained new love for this special day.

I don’t know exactly what July 4th means to you. It’s just a date, but all wrapped up in the date, along with mental images of hot dogs, ice cream, and fireworks, are deeper impressions of freedom and liberty—and sacrifice. Very real sacrifices made so that our nation might remain free.

Odd, isn’t it, that freedom itself is never really free? It is, in fact, a very costly thing. The price was paid in literal blood, sweat, and tears. Many, like me, who have personally paid so little of the price of freedom but who share mightily in its blessings, tend to forget what a costly thing it is.

I hope we don’t forget. As a Christian, my love for this nation pales beside my allegiance to Christ who paid the debt to make me truly free, but it is still true that a lifetime of love and devotion to America, this grand experiment in self-government, is not enough even to begin to pay back the debt of gratitude every citizen of this land owes.

It’s a debt, you see, not just to a flag, a nation, a form of government. It’s a debt to the men and women who put their lives and liberty on the line—ordinary people who showed extraordinary courage and uncommon unselfishness by willingly laying aside their own comfort and personal pleasure so that other ordinary people, like you and me, could live as free men and women in a land whose founders recognized liberty as an “inalienable” gift bestowed not by any government but by our Creator.

The debt we owe to those who’ve gone before is real. You don’t have to belong to a particular political party to begin to pay it. You just need to realize that safeguarding your freedom to belong to any party you choose or none at all did not come cheaply.

You don’t have to agree with the domestic or foreign policy of a particular administration of government to begin to pay back that debt. You don’t have to be pleased with the quality of the nominees for high office. You just need to be thankful to live in a land where the voices of the people are heard—even if you sometimes wish they spoke with deeper wisdom and civility.

You don’t have to like everything that has gone on in this nation to begin to pay back the debt we all owe. You just need to love this land.

You’re free not to. That’s the amazing thing about freedom. You’re free not to acknowledge the blessing, not to appreciate it, not to cherish it. You’re free to be selfish and self-seeking, ignorant and arrogant, ungrateful and blind to what is still, in the midst of all of her many shortcomings and challenges, very, very good about this land.

But as long as enough people of good will choose to love this land unselfishly, living and working in ways that show a practical willingness to make sacrifices, large and small, to make this country better, one choice at a time, our nation will still be free.

 

    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.

 

 


Americans Need to Keep Hyphens in Perspective

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As an English major and an occasional copy editor, may I say that the hyphen, as tricky at times as it is versatile (think, confusingly, of dashes, en hyphens, em hyphens, etc.), is a noble and useful mark of punctuation. But it pays to keep hyphens in perspective.

In our present age and culture, the hyphen, too often seen as a mark of division, can serve us better as a mark of unity, all the more noble because that unity occurs in the richness of genuine and joyful diversity, as opposed to the insipid and sterile “politically correct” kind.

I’m just thinking, during this Independence Day week, that almost all of us in America can justly lay claim in one way or another to a hyphen. Some of us just got here. But many others of us are from families who have been in America for generations and are so mixed up genetically that our hyphens might actually extend for paragraphs. Even so, lots of us still have at least some idea of the parts of the world from whence many of our ancestors hailed. Hence, hyphens can happen.

My particular hyphen firmly links British with American. British-American.   I’ve never understood why we rarely, if ever, hear that particular hyphenated term of ancestral description. Prejudice? I don’t know. We hear of Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans, Spanish-Americans, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, etc. Why don’t we hear of British-Americans? I’m not kidding. I really wonder.

In any case, in my case, the Shelburne & Caudle, Shropshire & Key blood mingling in my veins points back to merry old England. And, for what it’s worth, though I had nothing to do with my birth, I am absolutely okay with that. When I read the words of my personal heroes, like the man singly most responsible for leading in the defeat of Hitler in World War II, Winston Churchill (whose mother, by the way, was American and who himself near the end of his life received honorary American citizenship), I look back on the long history of British-American relations and am thankful for the exceptionally warm ties of friendship and, for most of their histories, faith, that have long bound England and America wonderfully and almost always together.

But what about your own hyphen and your own heroes? I can be happy with mine and at the same time be completely happy that you’re happy with yours. I guarantee you, I’m richer (and fatter) for having feasted on the food, enjoyed the flair, and learned to love a bunch of the customs that have come with lots of different hyphens to the nation that nurtures us all. We are first and foremost simply Americans, hyphens be celebrated or hyphens be hanged.

God, the Father of us all, hates divisiveness. He paid the highest price to unite his children. But he loves, celebrates, and makes possible genuine and joyful diversity of the very best and richest sort. If you doubt that, just visit a zoo. Or . . . America.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


One Word From the King Trumps the Supreme Court

 

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The colored lights recently painting the White House, the Obama administration’s anything-but-classy dance in the end zone after the Supreme Court’s incredibly overreaching “legislation” last week, cast the White House flag in a strange and dim light.

I don’t like how some folks have tried to dim and sully rainbows and their breathtaking beauty. I don’t like what the Supreme Court majority, in breathtaking arrogance has tried to do with a flick of the pen to an institution ordained by the Creator of the universe. (That institution, is “marriage,” not “federal power.”)

And I deeply dislike this most recent federal assault on the Constitution and the powers that should remain with the states. Reading Winston Churchill’s amazing A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (Churchill is incredibly astute in his “take” on the Civil War), I was at first surprised to see him using “United States” as the plural term that it originally was. But I soon found such usage amazingly refreshing, a much-needed reminder.

What a sad and putrid river of arrogance, idiocy, and immorality overflowed its banks last week. No wonder the White House flag was painted in a weird and unnatural light.

It will be, I’m afraid, a strange Independence Day this year, particularly for those who’ve held as priceless the words of the First Amendment regarding the “free exercise of religion” and “freedom of speech.” The federal government is a giant step closer to telling pastors who they can unite in marriage. And increasingly in our land, any speech not approved by the majority is easily defined as “hate speech.” One wonders how many “Fourths” will still pass in our land while the First Amendment means anything.

I think—I hope—that I would be willing to die for this nation. I would do the same, by the way, for my state. I’ll fly my nation’s flag on July 4th, as I always have. But I’m tempted to tie a black ribbon around its pole. Some national sorrow. Some national repentance. Some national recognition of shame seems in order.

The recent Supreme Court decision well deserves a boatload of adjectives: shameful, immoral, overreaching, unjust, heavy-handed, illogical, arrogant, pretentious, egotistic. Yet again states and citizens get shoved down their throats a ruling legitimized simply because a majority of nine lawyers choose to cut off public debate and steer us by force in the direction they personally prefer.

Among my respected colleagues in ministry, I know not a single one would be cruel to a homosexual. But I know more than a few who would go to jail before they would willingly preside at a same-sex marriage.

Whatever happens, it is good for American Christians to have to realize what most Christians in most times have always realized: Truth is truth, no matter what the majority believes. “Fiery trials” for Christians are the rule, not the exception. Our hope is in God, not in government. One word from our King trumps the time-bound rulings of a million courts. His victory is assured.

 

       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.o


Grace Is What Sets Christianity Apart

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Philip Yancey writes that at a British conference scholars from around the world were discussing the most basic beliefs that set Christianity apart from other world religions. As they debated some important possibilities, C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and he was told that they were asking what Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions might be. He answered, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

Yancey continues, “After some discussion, the conferees had to agree. The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.”

We could never be saved by our own effort or by keeping any law, as St. Paul makes clear.

“We all [sinned], all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ” (Ephesians 2:3-5, The Message).

It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? Yes, and that’s a good sign! Real grace always sounds that way as it amazes those who receive it. (Read the Gospels!)

Real grace is always a little and maybe a lot scandalous. If no one who thinks you’re too gracious, you’ve probably not felt and internalized enough of the grace of God yourself. If our churches aren’t regularly accused by some folks of being too gracious—too loose, too accepting, too free from law— that’s a very bad sign. It almost certainly means we don’t understand how much grace we’ve received and how rich is God’s supply. Read the Scriptures! The Good News, the real Thing, the real Lord, has always scandalized people by the depth of his love and mercy.

If you’re God’s child, you don’t have to live a fearful, tentative life. Indeed, how dare you!? You don’t have to be careful lest you exhaust God’s amazing resources by being too loving, too gracious, too joyful, too genuinely free. God’s supply of love and grace, joy and freedom, is boundless!  You don’t have to live like the “one talent” servant in Christ’s parable (Matthew 25:14-30). Afraid that he might make some mistake and tick off his master, he made the worst mistake of all, not loving his master. If we’re living lives cowering in fear, afraid to dance before our God because we might miss a step, we’re making the biggest mistake of all, not knowing and loving our Father as we should—the Father who continually amazes his children by the depth of his love and mercy, his grace and joy, and the genuine freedom that only he can give.

 

     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.

 


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