Tag Archives: God’s love

One Size Never Fits All

One Size Never Fits All

By Curtis K. Shelburne

One size never fits all. If you’ve lived for ten minutes or so, I probably don’t need to tell you that.

But one of my brothers just sent in a text to the rest of his brothers a photo of a government form designed by some nameless bureaucrat or committee of bureaucrats or building burgeoning with bureaucrats (of the sort some folks would like to place in charge of the part of our nation’s healthcare the government doesn’t already control). Form 1040-V (“V” for “voucher”) includes the payment voucher taxpayers are supposed to use if they mail in a check or money order to pay any additional dollars they owe at the end of the tax year.

In some ways, the form, really short by governmental standards, is helpful. Since it’s not long, I assume they put in only information they think is particularly useful and important for the wide variety of folks who mail in payments.

For example, the amount on the right side of your check should be in this format: $XXX.XX. Taxpayers are asked not to use dashes or underlines or slashes. None of this, please: “49/100.”

But the paragraph that my brother circled in the pic he sent to the other three of us gives some information he found especially helpful: “No checks of $100 million or more accepted. The IRS can’t accept a single check (including a cashier’s check) for amounts of $100,000,000 or more. If you are sending $100 million or more by check, you will need to spread the payments over two or more checks, with each made out for an amount less than $100 million.”

I’m glad Gene read that in time, lest he write one single check, fire it in, and inadvertently break a valuable IRS rule. He may need to send two checks. I just hope he gets the number format right and doesn’t use a dash.

This, by the way, proves what a wise accountant once told me. He certainly believed that taxpayers should pay what they owed, but he gave this valuable advice: “Curtis, remember these are bureaucrats [meaning that they barely still have a pulse]. Don’t think that any of this is personal with them. They don’t care if you owe ten dollars or ten million dollars, they just want the right blank filled in on the right form.” ’Tis true. (Yes, let’s hurry to give them the healthcare. That’ll be great.)

It surely is easy to inadvertently break rules. In the midst of this Covid-19 mess, I’ve found myself walking the wrong way down the jelly aisle at the grocery store (against the arrow) on several occasions. Then the only choice for a person of high character (not me, I’m afraid), is to turn around or walk backwards.

Businesses, and churches, in my state are starting to open again. But I’ve been surprised to be surprised that “one size” can’t work for them all. With masks and weird, but mostly sensible, accommodations, it’s going to be a bit strange and less comforting than we’d like for all of us, I suspect. But “all” of us are different.

Our small church “opens” next week. I’m glad, but figuring out how to do this is necessarily, may I say, a serious pain in the tail section. But it’s harder for a mid-sized church a few blocks away; it will take more planning and more time to pull off. And for the large church 100 miles away that another of my brothers serves, well, they’re not even close to being back. Too many folks for one building even if they have a bunch of services. And their area’s virus numbers are presently going crazy. They don’t know when they’ll be able to meet even in masks and each congregant doused in disinfectant. (Just kidding about the last part.) If this mess gets any more complicated, please just mercifully drown me in Lysol.

One size never fits all. That knowledge makes me especially thankful that our Creator knows each of us completely and individually. He knows exactly what we need and how we feel every moment. He even knows the number of the hairs on our heads.

And he never asks us to fill out a form. The love we need to go on in this life and beyond, far beyond $100 million in value, all comes from our Father to us.

 

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

 

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


“Christ’s Disciples Were Sheltering in Place When Suddenly . . .”

A normal Easter Sunday.

That’s pretty much exactly what this Covid-19 Easter Sunday 2020 wasn’t.

For my family, it was already a “particularly special” holy day. It was the fifth anniversary of my granddaughter Brenley’s baptism. And it was the thirty-fifth anniversary of our move to the 16th & D Church in Muleshoe. Especially special, for sure.

Just not normal.

Like churches all over the country, and a lot of the world, we were “social distancing,” not meeting together in large groups, even on Easter Sunday.

Pope Francis did not celebrate the traditional open-air mass in St. Peter’s Square; instead, the mass was “live-streamed” from inside an almost-deserted St. Peter’s Basilica. He acknowledged the terrible hardship and suffering the pandemic has thrust upon the world, but he talked about “the contagion of hope” and spoke of God’s reassurance: “Do not be afraid, I have risen and I am with you still.”

I enjoyed an interview Savannah Guthrie did with New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan. (That man is always worth a listen!) He made the excellent point that though this Easter is certainly a difficult one, it may also be a particularly meaningful one. In the midst of real darkness, maybe we are especially open to the reality of Easter hope. Yes, I thought, we so need that same power that met and dispelled the darkness of evil so long ago even as Christ’s disciples were cowering, sheltering in place, in desperate need of a mighty strength from outside of themselves, completely beyond themselves, to bring new life.

Oh, yes, we need that Resurrection power now! We always do, of course, but maybe this Easter we recognize our need more than usual. And that realization can bring very special blessing.

Yes, indeed, what a strange Easter! St. Peter’s Square in Rome was almost empty. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, basically deserted. 16th & D Church of Christ in Muleshoe, Texas. Ditto. And no news media there filming the lack of a crowd. Just one pastor and his wife. And an iPad.

A different sort of Easter Sunday, for sure. But since when can any Easter be called normal? Offhand, can you think of anything “normal” about God loving the world enough to come into it as a human being, give his life as the ultimate sacrifice to suffer and die and literally take away all of our sin and guilt, and then be raised to new life by the Spirit’s unimaginable power?

No Easter is “business as usual” in this universe. But Easter hope is the same precious gift every Easter Sunday, every Easter season, and every new day since that first Easter morning. Perhaps in the darkness surrounding our lives in the midst of this one, Easter glory just shines more brightly, its power more focused.

Let’s keep joyful and carry on—in hope!

 

 

     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.

 


How Much in Your Life Seems Normal Right Now?

 

I’ve long thought that, in so many ways, the biggest blessings of life are the small ones. The weeks we’re living through right now underline that, don’t they?

If, just a few weeks ago, you were a little bored and tired of the “normal” routine of your life, I’ll wager that is not the case now.

I admit that I can hardly understand ever being bored. I’ve always got more to do than I know how to get done, and, if I’m ever caught up with work and duties and that sort of challenge, I’ve always got waiting for me far more interests and projects than I can possibly get around. Bored I am not. Ever.

As much as I have to do and want to do, I try to find at least a little time, regularly, to be still and quiet. That’s not boring, either. Reading. Rocking. Napping. (Well, reading is an essential part of my work, but a whole lot of reading is also simply refreshing.) Some such is essential. Even if the rocking and napping and quietly musing is just for a few minutes, it’s needed. Anyone who doesn’t rest some can’t be worth what they should when they’re working.

Even God rested. And that we rest regularly is still His wise injunction, one which we ignore at our peril.

I hope you get some extra rest during this coronavirus mess. Okay, I know, some of it is externally imposed. Our kids expected to be back at school this week. School sports and league sports just aren’t happening right now. Restaurant dining rooms are closed. Take-out is a lifeline and a blessing to all concerned, and we pray for restaurant owners and staff even as we find a blessing also in remembering what it’s like to eat together at home some.

And churches? We surely didn’t expect to be doing variations on “remote” or recorded or live-streamed worship. For lots of church leaders, our “normal” routine of getting ready for Sunday worship, leading Bible studies, being together, eating together, and so many of our activities, are not “normal.”

Not much is normal. Everything we do seems to take more time, more thought. Even something as small as rolling off a little toilet paper! Very little.

Not much is happening on “auto-pilot.” “Normal” means, in so many ways, that we go through our usual paces without a lot of extra thought. Right now, we start to do something and . . . then . . . realize . . . that . . . we . . . can’t do . . . this . . . like . . . normal. What it certainly is, though, is . . . slow . . . and . . . kinda . . . hard.

Whether going to work, running a business, heading to the bank, taking a trip, getting ready for a meal, planning worship or even writing a church bulletin, and so much more, everything seems to require intentional, and different, thought.

Normal it ain’t.

It’s as if you were typing along on your keyboard and suddenly QWERTY is YTREWQ. The letters and characters are all there, but not one is in its usual position.

Life can surely be frustrating right now. And it’s hard to do anything fast. But it’s also not bad to slow down, even if we don’t have much choice. We’ve been moving way too fast for way too long. It’s good to tune more into each other. It certainly can be fine to attend activities and watch with a lot of other folks, but we’ve had plenty of that kind of time; we’ve long needed more time at home talking and getting reacquainted with our families. It’s good to think about how precious our relationships with family and friends really are.

And it’s good to think about what really is most important in our lives that hasn’t changed at all. On top of that list, I believe, is the love of our Father for His children. It hasn’t changed a bit. It never will.

And He’ll get us through this and teach us some things that will bless us along the way.

 

 

      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.


God Writes His Love in One Word

I love words. Perhaps I’ve not fallen into epeolatry yet, but it’s always fun and interesting to meet a new word. (Like “epeolatry,” which is “the worship of words.”)

One of the best places I’ve found to discover new words and interesting things about words of all sorts is through the free e-mail publication “A.Word.A.Day” offered at www.wordsmith.org (since 1994). Last time I checked (which was years ago), their daily subscriber list was passing 600,000.

I like that (even though a quick look at the list of “organizations” they “support” would be a great help if I ever need to make a list of organizations I do not support). It’s good nonetheless to know that somewhere out there are still some folks, endangered species though they may be, who think that words and the thoughts and ideas they convey are important. Word-lovers tend to believe that our society not only needs the technical know-how to make things work and build great new gadgets, we need to know how to think and speak about where we’ve been and where we’re going. Even though we’re making excellent time on the trip, it might be nice to consider if we’re pointed in the right direction at a destination worth reaching. Words help us consider such things.

A recent “Word of the Day” from Wordsmith.org is a particularly interesting one, but I’m afraid you’ll have a hard time slipping it into ordinary conversation down at the coffee shop.

Univocalic. (Pronounced “yoo-niv-uh-KAL-ik.”)

“From the Latin uni- (one) plus vocalic (relating to vowels), from vox (voice).”

Univocalic is “a piece of writing that uses only one of the vowels.”

Wordsmith gives an example of univocalic that uses only the vowel “e”: Seventh September. And they note that the longest one-word univocalic is “strengthlessness.”

They also mention that according to Ed Park’s article in “Village Voice,” Canada’s best-selling poetry book ever was Christian Bok’s work, Eunoia. In the main portion of the book, each chapter used just a single vowel, producing sentences such as this: “Enfettered, these sentences repress free speech.”

If you’ve got a little extra time, you might try your hand at writing univocalic in just a sentence or two. It is difficilt, if nit ilmist imp . . . Oops. I probably shouldn’t say that.

Oh, well. Words are fascinating, and univocalic is interesting stuff. But I’m thankful to have at my disposal a deep bucketful of words that use all the very fine vowels English makes available.

Still, univocalic is intriguing. “I think I’d writ it jist in fits” and “never get these endless sentences enfleshed.”

When God speaks, he uses many vowels all pointing to one Word, “Jesus,” and one word behind every letter of His Word, “love.”

 

   

   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 profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Grace Is Amazingly Hard–and Amazingly Wonderful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


A Week with Two Sundays in a Row

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

Well, not really. But it seemed like it.

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

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

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

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

Both days I arrived early and opened the doors.

Both days I scurried about getting things prepared.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


“Grace Sparkles with God’s Love Like a Diamond”

In his fine book What’s So Amazing About Grace, author Philip Yancey writes that at a British conference on comparative religions, scholars from around the world were discussing the most basic beliefs of Christianity. One important question in particular led them into pretty serious debate.

That’s when C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. When he asked, “What’s the rumpus about?” 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.”

I suspect we can learn something valuable from almost all world religions. I have no doubt that some very fine people are among the adherents of each. But I’m also confident that Lewis and Yancey are right. The answer to that question was and is “grace.”

And here’s what I believe: Grace sparkles with God’s love like a diamond. It’s the best and most genuine truth in the world—the truth that God loves his children so much that he could not possibly love us more and he will never choose to love us less. He knows us completely, and still he loves us completely. He completely accepts us, not because we could ever deserve his love, but because in faith we’ve opened our hands to accept his gift that we could never earn, could never craft, could never devise or design. It’s ours through faith in Christ and the loving sacrifice he made on the cross—fully, completely, once for all for all time.

The Father doesn’t look at us and say, “Here’s what you’ve done to ‘measure up’ by your own power. I’ll make up the difference.” No! That is not grace; it is a sham of the worst sort because it would leave us open to say, one to another, “I did this much; you did that much. I did more; you did less. You needed it worse; I needed it less.”

No, God’s gift of grace is full and complete. The bad news is that we don’t deserve any of it; the good news is that we don’t have to. The bad news to our pride is that we can never say, “Look how much I’ve done!” The good news is that we’re free instead to praise the God who through his Son has completely redeemed us. Our failures are forgiven. And any good we’ve done, we’ve done through God’s power and his love, not in order to gain his love, but because we already have it completely and forever.

This good news is intensely practical as it takes the spotlight off of us—our goodness or our “badness.” The focus is not on us, it is on our Healer. God sends his Son to do what we could never do, and he tells us, we who can’t possibly be by our power what we need to be, “Trust in my Son and his righteousness. Through faith, it’s yours. Really. Completely. Now that you’ve received my gift, go and in my power live beautiful lives knowing that though you can’t measure up on your own, through my Son you already do. Live life with joy, you who are fully loved, fully accepted, fully forgiven for your failures and fully empowered to live into a future filled with genuine hope.”

God never beats us into greater loveliness. Through absolute mercy and grace, God loves us into genuine beauty and shows us how to truly love each other.

And that, I believe, is grace, the real thing. A truly amazing gift!

 

   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.


The Resurrection Is the Greatest “Eucatastrophe”

More than a few writers have talked about the place where Joy and Sorrow meet.

In a moment of deep contentment, someone may say, “I’m so happy I could cry!” And in the moments of deepest and most unutterable joy, we say nothing at all. We don’t live long before we learn that tears are more precious than diamonds, and the best tears are tears of joy.

When those joy-tears come, we usually don’t analyze them; we live the moment. But if the time comes to talk about such moments, author J. R. R. Tolkien, most famous for his amazing Lord of the Rings trilogy, has kindly coined for us a very good word.

That joy and sorrow are so closely intertwined is ironic. And so, at first glance, seems Tolkien’s word: “eucatastrophe.” “Eu-” is a Greek prefix meaning “good,” and “catastrophe”? Most of us are all too familiar with the word and the situations it describes.

“Catastrophe” is a Greek word brought directly into English that means “destruction.” According to Webster’s, it has come to hold such decidedly negative meanings as “a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin,” a “violent usually destructive natural event,” or an “utter failure.” Understandably, most of us seek to avoid such. I think of the crash of the Hindenburg (see the first meaning). Or, more personally, I remember the first time I sang publicly in a quartet and we started the same song in different keys (see the third meaning).

But the word first had, and still has, a more technical meaning. In literature, especially in tragedy, the “catastrophe” is the technical term for the final conclusion or “unraveling” of the drama’s plot. No surprise that in tragedy, that conclusion is sad. Tragedies in literature, by definition, have sad endings.

Ah, but fairy tales are different. A true fairy tale always has a happy ending. Thus the master wordsmith Tolkien coined the word “eucatastrophe” to describe just such an ending: “I coined ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce).” He goes on to explain that what we call fairy tales actually point to the deepest truth and happiest ending of all (really a beginning), that good will overcome evil.

Tolkien knew that the Cross and Resurrection are no fairy tale. He speaks deep truth when he says that “the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible.” Its truth “pierces” us with “a joy that brings tears.”

The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God” (12:2).

“Christian joy,” Tolkien writes, “produces tears because it is so qualitatively like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled.”

 

 

      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.


When Jesus Says, “It’s Time to Fish . . .”

In Luke 5 we find the story of the calling of the first apostles.

To get a little space from the crowd, Jesus has turned Simon Peter’s fishing boat into a pulpit, pushed out from the shore, and taught the people from the boat.

When Jesus finishes speaking, he looks over at Simon and, I think, with a twinkle in his eye, he says, “Okay, Simon, you’ve indulged me as I’ve turned your boat into a lectern. Whaddaya say we make it a boat again? Put out into the deep water and let down your nets. Let’s fish a bit.”

Simon’s a tad taken aback. He has heard Jesus teach before and has been amazed. No one taught like Christ. But, with pardonable pride, Simon knows that not many fishermen fished as well as Simon. He knows fishing. It was worth stopping the endless work tending to his nets to listen to the Lord, but he’s tired and filled up with fishing. It’s time to go to the house, but . . .

“Master, we’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught a thing. But because you ask me, we’ll do what you say.”

Do you ever get your fill of experts? They’ve never coached a day in their life, but they know more than the coach. They’ve never doctored a day in their life, but they know more than the doctor. They’ve never taught a day in their life but they know more than the teacher. They’ve never farmed even a furrow but they know more than the farmer. They’ve not done the hard work or made the sacrifices or put in the hours to train or earned the experience only years can buy, but they know more about everybody else’s field than the folks in it.

We all play the pseudo-expert at times. When we’re pompous about it, we can be insufferable; but even a little of such can a bit hard to take, especially when you’re bone tired, you’ve done your best, and the last thing you need is help from an expert.

Jesus is certainly not being insufferable, and Simon is not even close to being deeply offended. But he’s really tired. And who’d blame him if behind his polite words is a little kernel of a “please mind your own business” rebuke?

“Rabbi, I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to teach, and I don’t mean to be impertinent, but the plain fact is that I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know about fishing. I promise you, more fishing right now is a waste of time. But if you have the time to waste—and I wouldn’t do this for anybody else—okay. We’ll give it a shot.” Behind his words: “And I’ll try not to say, I told you so.”

So out they go as Simon unlimbers his already stiff muscles. He takes the boat on out and then with a tired grunt he begins to toss out the nets. And . . .

So many fish the nets begin to break! Simon suddenly realizes that the One who made the lake and the fish and . . . is in his boat! And Christ has caught not just a bunch of fish but also four apostles who through his power will “fish for men” and change the world.

When Christ tells us to put out into the deep water, trust his promises, and follow him, something wonderful is always in store.

 

 

        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.

 


Reverse Snobbery and “All Things New”

A big part of this is reverse snobbery, I know, but I love my old pickup truck.

That faithful machine already had 90,000 miles on it when I flew down to Houston a bunch of years ago, laid eyes on it, and fell in love. The original owner must have loved that truck, too, because he took great care of it.

I probably haven’t been quite as faithful in that department. I try to do basic maintenance, even a little touch-up paint here and there. I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning on the inside; it’ll just get dirty again. My wife quarrels with the reasoning, and I don’t apply it to my own personal hygiene.

But faithful to me is what that truck has been, and I honor it with the best two words ever used to describe any vehicle: “paid for.” Its odometer recently rolled on past 200,000 miles. There’s a “short” in that thing, so sometimes the screen goes blank, but it was blazing brightly as it proudly crossed the mark. Sadly, I missed the moment, and it was 200,011 when I noticed.

I try not to be superstitious, but I know I’m flirting with disaster by writing this. I’m dooming the transmission. Or the engine will now thrash. A wheel will fall off. Or maybe worse, my good friend Buddy, who sells cars (mostly trucks) in Robert Lee, Texas, will call me with a really tempting offer on a great follow-up F-150 at a good price.

Robert Lee is a truck place. Unless you’re infirm and not up to the step up, most able-bodied adults want trucks and not polite little car-lettes. The only electric vehicles are Old Man Jones’ golf cart with the flag on top or Billy Joe’s truck that lit up after it hit a utility pole.

I trust Buddy like a brother (which if you know my brothers might be scant praise), but he’s a great guy, and won’t steer me wrong. When he calls, I may be tempted to “pull the trigger” on the newer vehicle. I’ll probably love that truck, too. But I fully expect to be left wondering if the purchase was a bit extravagant, and, had I shown just a tad more faithfulness, I could have put another 100,000 miles on my older one almost for free. I’m putting a good many additional miles on my truck right now by ferrying friends to pick up their much newer vehicles at dealerships or repair shops. Their rides seem to break down pretty often and require a lot of pampering.

I splurged the other day and put a nice new arm rest cover on the driver’s side. The original one’s leather was torn, its foam disintegrating, its wooden “bone” about to poke through.

When my long-ago first love F-150 (blue, five-speed on the floor, short bed) needed a new arm rest, I carved and varnished one from an ancient bois d’arc tree on my grandparents’ old Robert Lee home place. It wasn’t soft, but it looked cool. This time, I went with a posh original-equipment-looking new one. I learned a few installation tricks, literally mostly by mistake, but it looks good.

So I admit that there’s a time for “new.” New years, even. And the time will come when God himself says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Already, He promises to those who trust Him new hope, new peace, new mercy and grace, new life. Why? Because it’s been paid for by His Son.

For my truck, an arm rest worth of new is new enough for now.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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