Tag Archives: God

“Time for Bed, Child! Go to Sleep!”

The segment actually aired several years ago, but I still remember a fascinating piece 60 Minutes produced on sleep. (About sleep. Not while sleeping.)

Since sleeping is one thing I’ve always been particularly good at, I was immediately interested. Even professionals can hone their technique, so I was happy to tune in. May I share a bit of what I learned?

In 1980, a study was done using rats who were kept awake indefinitely. After five days, they began dying. They needed sleep as badly as they needed food. All mammals do.

Modern folks in our society have been a little snooty and dismissive about sleep, as if needing to snooze at all is something of an embarrassment, a luxury we could likely do without if we weren’t lazy and unmotivated.

Not so. Not even close.

Recent studies show that sleep is every bit as important to our health as diet and exercise, and that we need 7 1/2 to 8 hours of it each day. The lack thereof seriously impacts our memory, our metabolism, our appetite, and how we age. A study at the University of Chicago School of Medicine restricted the sleep of young, healthy test subjects to four hours a night for six consecutive nights. At the end of that time, tests showed that each subject was already in a prediabetic state (which would be naturally reversed when they resumed sleeping normally).

The same test subjects were also hungry. Lack of sleep caused a drop in levels of leptin, a hormone that tells our brains when we’re not hungry.

A lack of sleep? No problem. If you don’t mind being fat and sick. One researcher said that sleep deprivation should definitely be considered a risk factor for Type II diabetes.

The program host went on to mention studies done all over the world linking lack of sleep to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke—not to mention the mood swings that make sleep-deprived people “hell on wheels” to harmony in their homes and workplaces and whose brain activity on MRIs mimics that of the severely psychiatrically disturbed.

To those who say they have trained themselves to do fine with little sleep, the researchers simply reply, “Nonsense.” For a day or two, artificial “counter measures” such as caffeine or physical activity may mask the problem, but it is cumulative and real, and it can’t be hidden for long.

“People who are chronically sleep-deprived, like people who have had too much to drink, often have no sense of their limitations,” says Dr. David Dinges at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “It’s a convenient belief,” he says. But he issues a standing invitation for “any CEO or anyone else in the world” to come to his laboratory and prove it.

We easily adopt society’s lie that our true worth is in what we produce. We’re so impressed with ourselves, our indispensability, our strategies and plans. We quit “wasting time” by sleeping much. Then the wheels come off even as we slog on physically and emotionally as if through molasses. And the God who is real Rest and Peace but who Himself never needs to sleep, chuckles and says, “Time for bed, child. Go to sleep and let me do within you what you can’t do for yourself.”

I think there is a lesson in that, but right now I need a nap.

 

 

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! A link to my NEW PODCAST is there, and also right here on my WordPress site. Why not check it out?

 

 

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.


“To See Real Strength, Look Into the Face of a Farmer”

A glance through the window on the other side of the room tells me that we’re “in for it” again.

It’s mid-morning and the trees are already waving their branches maniacally, flailing arms raised in surrender, as the wind lashes them unmercifully. They seem to know that they are facing another withering day of wind-scourging, aided and abetted by blistering, unrelenting, sap-boiling, life-sapping heat.

The calendar says that it’s not officially summer yet. But the window and the trees are issuing a bleak and soon-to-be scorching sort of warning. Like the trees, I feel ready to surrender.

I’m weak. If you want to see strength in the face of a drought’s merciless onslaught, look into the face of a farmer.

If you’re not a farmer and you glanced into his barn at a pallet loaded with bags of seed, and if your life depended on correctly guessing the cost of the seed in those bags, I’m guessing you’d miss it by a factor of three zeros. Rich life is in that seed, dormant but real. The life is the miracle and our Creator freely gives the life. He also has given us men and women who have gained the knowledge and ability to be able to enhance that seed and multiply its blessing for a world much in need of it. That part does not come cheap, but when that seed grows, it’s green and rich and beautiful, full of potential and blessing.

But I look through the window again. I’m not standing out in the midst of the wind’s assault, waiting for the blast furnace to fire up again, knowing that we’re heading into another day, another week, with no rain. I’m not loading heavy bags—they might as well be filled with silver dollars—into planters, knowing that, barring some meteorological miracle, each seed is being plunged toward death by asphyxiation in dry dust.

No, I’m not a farmer, and though I respect and appreciate and love a bunch of farmers and farm families, just looking through the window today reminds me of how little I really understand about the way of life that makes it possible for me to live. Even to me, planting in a drought seems pointless. But that’s what the insurance rules require, and to have any chance at all to live long as a farmer, you must not only know how to grow things, you must understand, though it breaks your heart and goes against every fiber of your being, why for far too many years, seed has to be planted just to die.

Jesus once told a parable about seed; it was really a parable about souls (Matthew 13). But telling it showed that our Lord completely understands both. He understands seed. He understands souls. And he understands a farmer’s soul. He keeps planting seed, and he keeps planting in hope. He knows that at the end of the day he’s one day closer to the time when he’ll tuck that seed into the ground, the rain will fall, life will conquer death, and what grows will be beautiful.

Yes, in farming and in all of life, in times of difficulty and drought, we’re still one day closer . . .

 

 

     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.


“What Can We Learn in the Midst of This Mess?”

Like most humans with a few years on them, I’ve had an occasion or a few (not too terribly many) to mention to the Lord that, in this distress or that difficulty, I have at least two requests. Jesus did, after all, teach us to ask, so I do.

First, I’d much prefer to avoid the mess altogether. What I have in mind is not “strength to get through” this or that tough thing. I’d prefer a nice pass to get around it; I really don’t want “through” it.

Second, if I must go through the distress (did I say that, with all respect, I’d very much rather not?), I desperately need my Father’s help to trust his love and providence. And, if this blasted thing must be lived through, I need divine help to learn something worthwhile from it. As hard as it is to live through pain, it would be even worse to waste the opportunity to get something of value from it.

I’m not tempted to call my attitude one of great faith or exemplary courage. I’m a pretty run of the mill human, and I can live with that.

So I wasn’t too surprised to hear myself praying, in the midst of the present pestilence, for the Lord to please get us out of this wretched mess but, if it can’t be over, say, yesterday, to please teach us some valuable lessons in the midst of it. I think he has. And, though it’s still a wretched mess, I think most of us have already been surprised at some of the blessings that have come in the midst of the difficulty. It might do us a good bit of good to write a few of them down and thank God for them, even as we beseech (that’s a word pastors use for “ask”) him to pull us through that which is truly painful and difficult and frightening.

I’ll pause this for a moment so you can start your list. You can add to it later. [Please pause here.]

Among the items on my own list is one word: humility. I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use a good dose of it.

We’re hearing a lot these days from experts. Pretty much every day. I’ve never been wise enough to need a lot of knowledge to adopt an opinion, but these folks have done the work and the study and had the experience to have opinions that actually are worth something.

That fact makes me particularly appreciative of a few of this slew of experts who have candidly said that, though they have done their best to make educated estimates regarding many aspects of this pandemic, what they know and are learning each day is, well, new, and much must be re-evaluated.

I appreciate that, and I bet you do, too. Just give us your best shot, Dr. Expert. Give us your educated opinion based on the knowledge and experience you’ve amassed in the past and the facts you have today. If that needs to change tomorrow, just tell us. That kind of honest humility we very much appreciate. It makes listening to you and trying to follow your best advice in a difficult situation a lot easier.

Right now, yea, verily, at this very moment as I write (and I’d be surprised if this doesn’t change by the time you read this; I’m sure it soon will), in my county we have not a single confirmed case of Covid-19. At this moment, were I unwise enough to actually want to contract the virus here, I’m not at all sure that I could. That’s now. That’s here. This moment. But this is far from true in so many places in our land and our world where the virus is now raging. I pray for all who are already dealing with serious pain.

So when the experts and those who govern us tell us that, even at present in a county like mine, social distancing, etc., is important, I believe them, and I appreciate their efforts to try to slow down the spread of this thing and help us get through this. I’ll try to show some humility and some appreciation and do what I can do to help. I hope we all will as we navigate through this serious threat to our health and our economy.

I don’t know what the exact situation is where each of my readers live, but we’re all dealing with a lot of uncertainty. I am certain, though, that my Father has plenty to teach me in the midst of it.

 

      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.


The Muleona Virus and the Ravages of Time

I must begin this column with an apology and a plea for your patience. This is third column, in as many weeks, in which I mention the coronavirus. Witless, I know. But terror drives people to extremes. (Well, yes, but terror is not my problem; a lack of imagination is, and when a column idea flies overhead, I’ve gotta snatch it, pluck it, and cook it even if it comes in a familiar flock, flight, or gaggle.)

The fact is, I’ve already had a deadly virus in that category and been categorically cured by the finest medical minds. We were keeping three grandkids for the weekend, two of which are ages four and five, at our home in the Greater Muleplex, Muleshoe, Texas.

So when I swooned back-first onto the bed (I always try to swoon in the direction of soft places) and stammered, “I feel really bad! I think it’s the Muleona virus!” and I began to cough and hack in a braying, hee-hawing fashion, I knew help would come.

A city doctor might well miss this, and the patient might quickly expire from lack of critical and specific Muleona care, but I feel sure a country doctor would recognize not just the difference between a mule and a donkey but also between a mule’s bray and a donkey’s bray, and thus nail the differential diagnosis.

I knew my pint-sized medical team would drop everything, grab their toy medical bag, and rush in my direction.

All sorts of tests were run. Pulse. Temperature. Blood pressure. Though the dread diagnosis of Muleona was confirmed—and I’m not sure about a bedside manner with that many giggles involved—I was quickly cured with a shot. Doctor Garrett couldn’t find the “shot thing,” so Doctor Kendall just fired a shot at me using a plastic pistol, and I was quickly released, no worse for the wear and presumably chocked full of valuable Muleona antibodies. I only rarely revert to semi-mulish behavior.

As when . . . my wife and I were sitting in the living room last evening, and I said, “You know, they’re saying that if you’re over 60, you should try to avoid going out a lot. That seems to argue for brewing more coffee or steeping some tea and launching into a good book. In fact, I’m 61! Maintaining good health at my age in this coronavirus crisis must certainly mean barricading myself behind a bookmark!”

The dear lady rolled her eyes sardonically: “You are not 61; you are 63. And you are insane.”

Quick figures. Our oldest granddaughter just turned 13 a week after my own birthday, and I was a very young fifty when she was born, so . . .

“Good heavens! I’d not realized the virus was so diabolically strong! It’s just robbed me of three years of life in less than five minutes, and I’m not even infected! Get me a book and a blanket before it’s too late!”

Even with poor math skills and without a virus, life breezes by. The psalmist prudently asks the Lord to “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:14).

Hmm. So far we’ve had in Texas no coronovirus case within 300 miles of me, but New Mexico has had none at all. That seems to argue for skiing this thing out in the New Mexico mountains, just to be safe. I’ll read at night.

Note: Oops! As of a day or two after this column was written, my Texas data is still true, but New Mexico has four cases and counting. By the time this hits print, well, you better check more recent statistics. And I may need to consult my pint-sized medical staff for more advice. Maybe a shot.

 

     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.

 


“I Love You for Sentimental Reasons . . .”

“I love you for sentimental reasons . . .”

Yes, indeed, and I love singing that sweet old song and so many more of the “Great American Songbook” songs, songs like “It Had to Be You,” “The Very Thought of You,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” and my favorite of all, “Unforgettable” (unforgettably rendered by Nat King Cole in tones of velvet).

Old songs for sure. In order, above—1945, 1924, 1934, 1936, and 1951.

I love them so much that I went to Nashville to get some unforgettable musicians to record some world-class tracks, record a little myself, and make some music, not least because I want my grandkids to learn a little about this legacy of sweet music that is theirs, too.

Add this to the other projects I’ve recorded, and my grandkids will probably have plenty of cupcake platters, small Frisbees, and leaky saucers once I’m gone. Their imaginations are the only limits for the way those things could be used. But it’s been worth it. All told, I’ve sold a few thousand and hope to sell a few more. No gold or platinum records. But I’ve supported my music habit, done a few hundred program/concerts, and loved it!

All to say . . .

I like to sing anytime. “Christian” music (more about that in a minute). Christmas music (let it snow!). Even a song or two that walk a bit on the “country” side. (That was a surprise.) And more.

But I’ll confess that the biggest surprise to me has been singing these sweet old American classic “luuuuv” songs. If anybody had told me ten years ago that a couple of weeks ago I’d be singing such songs for a good-sized group of nice folks at a Valentine’s Banquet at a Baptist church in San Angelo, I’d have laughed and maybe burst into song. Something on the order of “The Very Thought of THAT”!

I’ve been a little surprised to find that the time right around Valentine’s Day would have been much on my radar at all. Just ask my wife. But it is! And the music, and the nice folks who enjoy it, have been the reason.

For sure, at a banquet such as that one (it was so much fun!), I’ll sing a song or a few specifically about the best love of all, a song with words about God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s best gift.

But here’s a principle I hope we always remember.

All real truth is God’s truth. All genuine beauty is God’s beauty. All that really is truly good comes from the Father. If it’s genuinely good, joyful, and loving, it’s God’s, and we should thank him for it.

These truths are worth pondering and discussing as the ripples from this basic reality reach out into the whole “pond.” Even into some old songs.

I know, the songs I chose to record are “syrup-py” by design. Nightingales sing. Moonglow brings on swoons. Hearts go pitter-patter. Throw in a saxophone, and you’ll slide right out of your seat. And it’s all fun and built into the DNA of the genre. I savvy “poetic license.” (I admit that a couple of songs I looked at and chose not to record had lyrics that I just thought were a little “over the top.” Syrup has its place; “love as a god,” though . . .)

But “Christian” music (and art and literature, etc.) is not just music with religious-sounding words—or even any words at all; it’s music that moves our souls, lifts us (to gratitude, laughter, tears), washes over us with beauty, taps (often poignantly) into what is deeply joyful, sorrowful, lovely. It touches our souls. And sometimes, it just delights us with a few sweet measures of fun. All of this honors the Artist who is the real Source of all beauty.

For sure, when the time is right, let’s sing “Amazing Grace.” Let’s play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” And, yes, let’s smile, our beloved’s hand in ours, as we hum, “Unforgettable.” And let’s not forget to give God thanks for them 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.


Reality Is Hard, But Denying Reality Is Harder

Dealing with reality can be hard, but it’s better than the alternative which looks easy and turns out to be much harder.

In Jesus’ famous parable of “The Two Builders,” he talks about two gents who both did the hard work of building houses. Yes, but only one, the “wise builder,” did the harder work of building his on the right foundation, one of rock; the “foolish builder” built on sand. Both houses looked fine—until “the rain came down, the streams came up, and the winds blew and beat against” those houses. The house built on rock stood the test; the house built on sand fell with a great crash. The moral of the story: don’t build a house in California anywhere near mud, fire, or flood!

No. The moral of the story, Jesus tells us, is that a life built on the truth of his words (he’s just finishing his “Sermon on the Mount,” Matthew 5-7) will be a strong life that will stand even in the midst of great trial.

Storms eventually assail us all. When they come, we discover the truth about the quality of our foundations. Was laying the foundation quick, cheap, and easy? Okay. Until the storm comes and, unable to stand the test, what we built falls quickly. The collapse is expensive and may even be fatal. Nothing about the crash is easy.

If only we’d listened! If only we’d invested in reality, built on truth, trusted the One who built this whole universe and tells us the truth about living in it in a way that is fulfilling and “successful” in the deepest sense.

Reality is hard. But denying it is ultimately much harder.

I once spent a little time—it felt like hours—a fathom or a few under a Grade 5 rapid called “Silverback” in the Nile River, near Jinja, Uganda. Among several problems one encounters after having parted company with a perfectly good raft and being cast into the depths is, literally, not knowing which way is up. The Nile neither knows nor cares about how you feel about that stark question, but this much is sure: not all answers are equally correct. Only one squares with reality. In this situation, the very sensible rule is that you not to try to swim toward the surface. Instead, you relax and trust the reality of two of this world’s unbreakable laws: the laws of gravity and of buoyancy. They are real and strong and your life jacket, obeying them, will invariably propel you upward if you’ll be still. Underwater in the Nile is not at all a good place to try to beat or deny the reality of the laws of physics.

It’s no skin off the “nose” of the law of gravity if we choose to ignore its reality, but it may be more than a little skin off of ours. Beliefs have consequences.

I once asked a class of smart kids this question: Does everyone have a right to his/her own beliefs? Of course, they answered, “Yes!” resoundingly.

Then I asked a follow-up question: “Is every belief of equal value?”

That’s when the class got interesting. No matter how undemocratic or unpopular it might be, the obvious answer is “no.”

Every person in this world is of immense value to our Creator, no matter his/her belief. But beliefs that are based on what squares with reality are, by their very nature, worth more than beliefs that fly in the face of reality.

C. S. Lewis once opined that we’d raised a generation too “mentally modest” to believe the multiplication tables.

And a few generations later, we’ve raised some folks who find even the reality of their own chromosomes, which no amount of surgery can truly alter, too confining.

You and I can discuss the various merits of preferring dark over milk chocolate or a blue pickup over a maroon one. You can choose differently than me on such questions and live in this universe quite successfully.

But truth and reality are deeper than tastes or trends. A person who sincerely wants two plus two to equal five is going to need either remedial math or a different universe; he’s not likely to be very happy in this one.

And if we want to live in a place where people who murder, lie, steal, covet, break faith, etc., find real fulfillment and genuine joy, well, wherever that place is, it’s not this world.

When our Creator tells us “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not,” he’s telling us the real truth about successful living in this very real world. He’s pointing us toward foundations that can stand up to reality.

 

      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.


For God’s Kids, the World Is Always Expanding

It’s a good thing when your world expands. When I was a child living at 125 N. Goliad Street in Amarillo, Texas, my world expanded one sidewalk at a time. My younger brother and I were great adventurers. His mighty steed was a red and white tricycle. Mine was orange and white and slightly larger. All it took to turn the trikes into motorcycles was an index card or two and a couple of clothes pins.

We would ride out from the porch and pedal down to the hill that was the driveway slope to the street. If you did it right, you’d pedal faster than a gerbil chasing his tail on a treadmill and then, just at the top of the slope, you’d lift your feet off the pedals and let gravity hurl you down the slope. And you’d clutch the handlebars hoping to properly negotiate the turn to the sidewalk at the bottom.

Once on the sidewalk, the real adventure began. At first, we were restricted to just the walk in front of the house. Then we were allowed to venture on over to the Harrises on one side and the Roaches on the other. (Roach. It’s sort of a shame that it was the top of their fencepost Jim blew off a few years later when we began to experiment with a chemistry set and branched out to minor explosives. Life is unfair enough to anyone named Roach.)

A little later, we were allowed to pedal on down past the Klaus’s house (Mom & Pop Klaus owned the A & W Root Beer drive-in on 6th Street. Great folks!) and beyond.

Somewhere along the line we added new horses to our stable of rides. Lee Meadows, a really nice gentleman who worked at the old Northwest Texas Hospital (where Jim and I were both born), donated to the cause an old four-wheeled frame that probably came off the bottom of a hospital meal cart. We laid plywood on the top and learned to spin it for some serious centrifugal excitement as we launched down the hill.

Skates were fun, too. At first, they were the kind you stuck to your street shoes using a skate key (which was always lost). Then we pirated the wheels from old skates, nailed them to 2 X 4’s, and tried skate-boarding. Those boards were a far cry from today’s immaculately-engineered marvels that seem to barely touch the ground at all. Any pebble would stop our thin steel wheels cold, with unpleasant results.

Then came bikes, and our world began expanding by city blocks and then down and around West Hills Park. And then we were push- or roll-starting an old VW Beetle whose starter was on the fritz.

The rest is history. We’re in our 60s now and our world is still expanding.

What a shame if God’s people fail to explore and serve past four walls, or the city limits, or national borders, or denominational lines, or even time itself. God’s kids are part of a very large Kingdom indeed. How sad if we allow our own sometimes stunted minds to make it seem small when the world itself and time can never truly constrict it.

 

      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.

 


For Real People, Doing Everything Right Is Not a Real Option

A good many folks believe that, if you do everything right, you might live to be well over 100.

Two glaring presuppositions shine forth from this belief. One is that you actually might want to live to be “well over 100.” Not me, thanks.

The other most obvious problem is actually two falsehoods for the price of one—that it’s possible to “do everything right,” and that you will.

Under “doing everything right,” well, there’s a lot to check off. Most folks will tell you to spend a lot of time in physically demanding gerbil activity. (Careful, though, the sleep experts will tell you that if you short your sleep to make excellent time going nowhere on, say, a treadmill, you’re likely hurting yourself more than helping yourself.)

And you can probably forget about drinking any milk that a cow would actually recognize or claim. And definitely forget cheesecake or ribeyes.

Ironically, you may have to spend more time thinking about food—carefully cataloguing what you can’t eat—than the average glutton who just eats everything in sight. (I’m not arguing for either extreme.) Some folks will consider a particularly persnickety approach trendy or cool; probably more of your friends and family will just be driven crazy by it and find trying to eat with you more trouble than it’s worth.

And the lengthy “doing everything right” list goes on.

I readily admit that following a balanced approach to exercise and nutrition is a good thing. Do it, and you’ll likely live longer and better. Get crazy about it and you’ll drive yourself and everyone around you nuts (but this is sure: all concerned will live lives that certainly seem a lot longer, even if they’re not).

Here’s the problem, though. Even if it were possible to “do everything right,” one microbe that didn’t get the memo, one weak blood vessel, one errant gene first passed on by your great-great-grandfather, can quickly mess up your plan.

Ah, and what about folks who are sure that they can “do everything right” morally? I think I worry about them even more.

This example is extreme, but I laughed when I read this in Dave Shiflett’s Wall Street Journal review of Mark Stein’s book The Presidential Fringe: “Leonard Jones, standard-bearer for the High Moral Party from 1848 to 1868, promised voters that they would never die if they would live a faithful and fully moral life. He was apparently a good man, but when his time came he croaked like a toad.” That must have been embarrassing.

I vote for living a moral life. Defy any of the Ten Commandments often enough, and you’ll end up in pain with lots of bruises far more serious than even the ones people get by trying to defy the law of gravity. You’ll bless yourself and many others by heeding the words of our Creator. But if you think you follow them perfectly, you’ll bless the rest of us best by staying far away.

Some of the best wisdom God gave us came through the Apostle Paul in this straight truth about how crooked we all are: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3). And so, because we all need saving, and nobody gets life right, the apostle goes on to say, God sent his Son, our Savior.

Focusing on ourselves is a treadmill approach to life. (It’s actually idolatry.) Focusing on Him means finding genuine freedom and joy, finding our best selves by getting out of ourselves.

 

 

        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.

 


“Well, You Got Old, Too! I Give Up!”

“Well, you got old, too! I give up!”

That was the greeting offered to me recently by a cherished (and dare I say?) old friend who is one of my respected predecessors in my present (for almost 35 years) pulpit.

In his Gospel, St. Luke tells us that when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and “greeted” her, Mary was “deeply troubled and wondered what manner of greeting this might be” (1:29).

The Bible writers almost never waste words in describing events, but my suspicion is that Mary was deeply troubled even before the perplexing greeting. With few, if any, exceptions in the Bible, folks who see angels are scared almost to death; their first worry is not that the angel’s introductory remarks are unusual. The angel always has to proffer some version of “Fear not!” prior to delivering God’s message. Gabriel will get to the “fear not” part in the very next verse.

All that to say that, ever since I received it, I’ve been (mostly) smilingly pondering “what manner of greeting” my friend’s recent salutation might have been. I’m afraid I know.

You see, I’ve just celebrated another birthday. (I celebrated two, actually. My oldest granddaughter and I were born one week less than 50 years apart. Our larger family got together this year for Christmas and our two birthdays on the same day.)

The good news is that I’m still kicking and, if our clownish politicians (both sides of the aisle) don’t screw it up further, Social Security and Medicare may ere long be within my reach.

Back to the greeting proffered by my friend.

It was three days after my birthday. Along with a host of others (“host” is a preacher word which should be interpreted as “a big bunch”), we were both at the funeral of an amazing mentor, colleague, and friend, a veteran minister, 99 years old, who had loved and pastored, taught and inspired, all who were gathered that day and so many, many more. My own father had died 20 years (to the day) before this good man and, had he lived, would have been 106 just a few days before this service. Both “knights” in God’s kingdom, they loved and respected each other deeply, and when time came for each to be laid to rest, well, those were sweet times, mighty convocations of gratitude when many gathered to thank our High King for such lives.

Yes, the beauty and significance of this occasion was profound. In the midst of it, though, a side point. I know and love deeply so very many of those who were present that day. I just don’t see many of them very often. (One or two commented on my beard; I’ve had it for almost 30 years.) So, not to be unkind here, may I just say that I had noticed that many were looking a good bit older than they did when we last enjoyed each other’s company.

Ah, but the picture one carries in his head of oneself often defies what he sees in the mirror. I’ve wondered what pictures of themselves the human gerbils on the treadmills at 24-hour gyms see as they toil along vainly—and maybe even somewhat valiantly—trying to trample on the clock and defy gravity. I am trying to get used to seeing my Granddaddy Key looking back at me from the mirror, but that still is not the picture of me I see in my own head.

“Bodily exercise” is of “some value,” the Bible says, but “training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

An event such as I’ve described, and the verse just quoted, leads me to another Scripture. If we want to gain “a heart of wisdom,” the psalmist says, our prayer should be, “Lord, teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90).

That will put a “You got old, too!” greeting in perspective and make it much less “troubling.”

 

 

      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.

 


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