Tag Archives: grace

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.

 


“How Are Your New Year’s Resolutions Going?”

Well, how are your New Year’s resolutions coming along?

Oh? Sorry. I didn’t mean to touch a sore spot. I suppose nothing is a much sorer spot for humans than having to face the fact that we don’t measure up even to our own standards, much less to God’s. The spirit indeed is willing. We want to do better. Be better. But the flesh is ever so weak. Which is why I’m increasingly unimpressed with human resolutions and will power and more and more amazed by our Father’s power as we trust him and not ourselves.

We need to keep in mind who we are. We’re all prodigal sons and daughters.

Do you remember Christ’s story in Luke 15, the story of “The Prodigal Son”? Remember how that young fool demanded his inheritance, ran off from home, and partied it all away? This Jewish young man ended up slopping hogs (not a great job for anyone, but particularly loathsome for a “Jewish young man,”) and hungrily wishing he could eat what they ate. Remember how he “came to his senses” and decided to return to his father? Remember how all along the road he rehearsed his speech of contrition? Remember how he realized that he didn’t deserve to be accepted even as a slave much less as a son? Remember his joy as through sheer mercy and grace his father ran to meet him, embraced him, put a signet ring on his finger and shoes on his feet, and threw a party because the son that was lost was now found? Oh, yes, and remember the older son grinching about his father’s grace?

We are all prodigal sons and daughters. And never more in need of grace than at the times we grouch about the Father’s giving grace to others. The difficult part of our prodigal experience is the walk back to the Father as we realize that his grace is our last, and only, hope. The wonderful part is feeling the warmth of his embrace and realizing that his grace is not only all we have, it is all we need, and it is freely, deeply, willingly given.

It’s a costly gift, you know.

Once the Father had another Son who left home on an infinitely longer journey for a much holier reason. Old as the universe, that Son became young to see a world reborn. To give it life, to give it grace, he lay his life down.

To give prodigals like us the gift of grace cost the Father the blood of his firstborn Son. And now the most expensive gift of all, the one we could never possibly afford but the one, the only one, that will answer our need, is given for free. It’s ours if we trust the Father enough to accept it.

The only resolution that ultimately matters is the decision to trust the Father and accept his embrace.

Shhh. Not too loud now. Don’t tell the older son, but when God’s kids come home, there’s always a big party in heaven.

 

 

       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.

 


Sherlock Holmes and Thanksgiving

In an old issue of Leadership Journal, Chris T. Zwingelberg observed that though everyone is familiar with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and his amazingly keen powers of observation, few of us are aware of Holmes’ belief that deduction and observation are even more necessary in faith and religion than they are in detective work.

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Naval Treaty, Doyle pictures his famous sleuth studying a simple rose. Holmes’ famous sidekick Doctor Watson observes, “He walked past the couch to an open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any interest in natural objects.”

Doyle writes that Holmes leaned “against the shutters” and observed, “There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion.”

He continued, “Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

I think the great sleuth has discovered something important. Think about it. (By the way, the root word from which “thanksgiving” comes is also the root for “think.” To really think is to be truly thankful.)

God has absolutely showered us with extras. With his brush he has painted a world dripping with color when, for most things, a few shades of gray would do.

Our Creator has populated our lives with wonderfully interesting people not even the most creative author could have envisioned.

He has given us the ability to enjoy an astonishing variety of tastes. Many of us will be doing our best during the upcoming holiday to check those out!

Thanksgiving, the holiday, is a wonderful time, and I pray it will be a time of sweet blessing for you and yours. But even when the holiday is in the rear view mirror, the “extras” from the hand of God will keep right on coming. That means that every day is a good day for gratitude.

 

      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.


This Alligator Bites Your Wallet and Won’t Stop Chewing

Warning: This column might be called a rant. You might be wise to wave off now.

I cannot imagine why we put up with it. I’m thinking about the sick state of healthcare in America.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been to Third World countries and seen misery and need. I’m genuinely thankful for what we have. I have good friends in all sectors—physicians/providers, hospital administrators, insurance folks, attorneys, etc. I’m incredibly thankful for the health insurance my wife and I have. Having served on a board charged with finding health insurance for over 100 employees, I understand and know how very, very hard that task is.

But our system has become utterly insane.

Want to know why most average workers in our country are heading backwards financially even if they get cost of living increases (which are not real raises) or raises in pay (which are really meant to be raises)? Healthcare. For most folks, its cost rises at a rate consistently outpacing any pay adjustment. Both workers and companies are being slowly eaten by a hungry alligator who won’t quit chewing, and they can’t get out of its jaws.

Want to start a business? Good for you! But good luck to you. You’ll need it, and this is a big reason why.

Ah, but here comes governmental salvation. Right. Increasing governmental involvement mucks up everything. Stand in line all day at a governmental office seeking “public assistance” and tell me you want the government more involved than it already is, despite “pie in the sky” let-the-already-broke-government-pay-for-it-all or soak-the-rich political campaign horse hockey so popular right now.

If your goal was to design a system bloated, wasteful, and inefficient, you could hardly do better than we’ve done.

If people of good will and wisdom actually had a shot at trying to fix this, it would still be complicated. Instead, we get misleading politicians who refuse to speak to each other.

Greed in some form at every level is throttling the goose that laid the golden egg. Insurance companies. Attorneys. Politicians. Some unethical providers. The list is long.

It’s like the money isn’t real.

An article in the Wall Street Journal recently asked, “What Does Knee Surgery Really Cost?” The answer: In 2016, the average price was over $50,000. We should be surprised, but I wasn’t. I figured that in our system, a new knee, hip, or left nostril would probably run that much. But a hospital in La Crosse, Wisconsin, commissioned a realistic and thorough assessment of every moment doctors and staff spent with patients, and added in every penny of all associated costs—all of them. The actual cost was “$10,550 at most.”

A good friend of mine underwent an inpatient, in-his-doctor’s-office procedure and got a statement for $56,000. Admittedly, it was a procedure that took real skill and high-dollar equipment, but in what universe should any inpatient procedure cost $56,000? He almost required a cardiologist when he saw the statement. But everyone besides the patient knew these aren’t real dollars. They’d bill the insurance company $56,000 (wink, wink), would honor their pre-agreement for $3,600 (wink, wink), and he’d pay $1,200 for deductible and out of pocket expenses and maybe for having the procedure in a month ending in a Y. Who knows why?

It’s like buying peanut butter in a grocery store with no price on the jar. If you were on public assistance it would be “free.” But for you, average Joe or Joan who knows life and peanut butter is not free, it rings up as $3,000. You gasp. That seems like real money and a lot of it. But the nice register lady explains that they have a deal with the peanut butter folks to sell it for $5.00 and your part will be $2.50—unless your deductible or out-of-pocket expense (that’s the same pocket the deductible comes out of) hasn’t been met. Or unless the insurance company decides that peanut butter is an experimental food and thus not covered. Or unless you failed to “pre-certify” your need for peanut butter before you bought it.

We really should boil over. It seems to me that we should never have to undergo a non-emergency medical procedure without having a written and binding paper in hand saying, “This is the price. Real money.” No wink. Now, let’s be nice. Let’s allow a 10% window for unforeseen complications and a procedure to appeal for more. That’s fair. But we should demand a price up front just as we do for anything else that we buy.

Healthcare really is not free. For patients trying to live. For hospitals and providers trying to stay in business. The money is real, even if our sick system encourages all of us—wink, wink—to pretend otherwise.

Thank God indeed that his Son’s sacrifice, costly beyond belief, was paid in full by our Lord. Mercy overflowing. Grace to the max. Real blood. The best care of all. And no deductible.

 

     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 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 Pastor’s Job Description: Point Out What God Is Doing

All honorable work is God’s work, a calling, and anyone serious about doing a good job in his/her work derives priceless benefit from the example of respected mentors. Surely teachers and doctors, business folks and farmers, all need mentors to encourage them to “soldier on.”

One of my most influential mentors passed away almost a year ago, and I never met him. Eugene Peterson, best-known for his amazing paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, never wrote anything poorly, but his books written particularly for pastors have blessed me immensely.

I particularly love Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor. I think it should be required reading for would-be pastors, and I think “veteran” pastors probably should read it again once a year. Reflecting on fifty years of ministry, Peterson reminds those still on that journey that God does not call us to be religious CEOs but to love His sheep. Our calling is not to be little gods who think we can make the sun rise but simply to walk with our people through life each new day reminding them, and being reminded, that God is the One who bids it rise.

The job has never been easy, and it certainly is not now. The statistics are dismal and, as Peterson notes, pastoral “defections and dismissals have reached epidemic proportions in every branch and form of church.”

The pressure comes from all directions. Some groups, saying very truly that “every Christian is a minister,” draw some conclusions that are simply silly and demeaning and make as much practical sense as saying that everyone who has ever cut up a pork chop is a butcher. Of course, every Christian is called to the service of God, but our roles, functions, training, and gifts are, thank the Lord, all as different as they are all valuable and needed.

Our culture itself, and especially our “religious” culture, is toxic to real ministry; it devalues and demeans it. “The vocation of pastor,” writes Peterson, “has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.” God is treated as a consumer “product to be marketed” and the marketers scramble to find the right “model” for “success” which is then “religiously” measured in our culture’s terms rather than Christ’s: if it’s big, if it’s quantifiable, if it’s impressive, it’s called success. Never mind that measured by such standards, Christ was remarkably unsuccessful as he loved the weak and little children, the powerless and the “foolish” of this world; he chose the cross instead of “success.”

Desperate for the latest program to “revitalize the church,” pastors often fall to the very temptations Satan offered in the wilderness and Christ resisted. When we do, we act as if the “fruit” we push the church to produce (and measure) is the only thing that validates its existence. Buying that lie, we devalue worship and prayer and become blind to the real fruit (much that is visible but much more that is “unseen”) that God produces. We proceed by displaying a profound disrespect and denial of God’s presence in the “ordinary.”

It’s good to have someone particularly ordinary particularly charged with pointing out what God is doing every day through His presence, forgiveness, and grace in our seemingly ordinary lives. It’s work worth doing.

 

 

     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.


Real Holiness is Deeper Than “Don’t Touch! Don’t Taste!”

“I’m in a twelve-step program for recovering ascetics,” I explained to my missionary nephew. I knew he’d get it.

More than a little conversant in theology and church history, Ian had joined his dad and uncles at the old “home place” at Robert Lee, Texas. We had been dining quite well out by the fire pit when I felt led to confess.

In case the humor misses you, let me explain. To greatly oversimplify, may I just say that “asceticism” is a kind of over-reaction to “hedonism.” That helps, right? No. Okay.

“Hedonism” is an approach to life that says, “Get all the gusto! Deny yourself nothing!” (Solomon is the most famous of the jillions who’ve tried it. See Ecclesiastes 2.)

Asceticism, on the other hand, says that the way to be really holy is to strictly and religiously deny yourself all comfort and pleasure. If you’re a monk given to asceticism (and by no means all monks are or were), you might wear a hair shirt, sleep on the cold floor, fast for days on end, maybe even whip yourself, to try to put to death all physical desires.

With medium rare steak juice trickling down my beard and in the midst of kinsmen all busily eating too much, I told Ian, “I’m in a twelve-step program for recovering ascetics.” Ascetics Anonymous.

Truth be told, I’ve never been even close to asceticism. But also true, in my early life I spent way too much time feeling guilty about enjoying God’s good gifts and that amazing blessing, life itself. I should have known my Father better.

I was teaching a Sunday School class on “Moderation” (now that’s funny!) when I remembered my quip to Ian.

Yes, Jesus says that his disciples must deny themselves and follow him. Denial of “things” may at times be part of that, but the deeper denial is far harder. Following a crucified Lord means to follow him by laying aside our rights, our selfish wills, our self-centeredness, any claim to be our “own” and the god of our own lives, any claim to a “righteousness” that is our own, and any desire to take center stage with our own rule-keeping “holiness.”

The Apostle Paul issues a stiff warning in Colossians 2. He says that rules such as “Touch not! Taste not! Handle not!” have “an appearance of wisdom,” but in reality “their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body” lack “any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” They’re just one more way of focusing on us and our sham of “goodness” rather than on God and the real thing.

The Scriptures make it clear that we may well choose on occasion to give up for a time some things or activities as a spiritual discipline, but we must not feel haughty or be loud about it or bind our way on others.

Most of the time, the best way to honor God is to enjoy his multitude of gifts at the right times, in the right amounts, and to overflow in thanksgiving as we live balanced lives eating, sleeping, working, playing—all to God’s glory. Moderation is a key to balance.

Funny though, we need to be moderate even about moderation lest we take ourselves too seriously and God not seriously enough. Folks who pat themselves on the back about how moderate they are end up tired and tiresome. Such contortion always produces a pain in the tail section.

 

    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 Gracious Become More Gracious”

How’s this for the setting for a series of mystery novels? It’s twelfth-century England. Following a long career as a soldier and later as a ship’s captain, a short but sturdy Welshman, who still rolls a bit when he walks as if he were still at sea, has “taken the cowl.” Kind and wise, he has taken vows as a monk in a Benedictine monastery where he is in charge of the “herbarium,” growing all sorts of herbs and vegetables from which he blends healing ointments and medicines. Often, he also finds himself playing the lead role in a medieval cross between Sherlock Holmes, CSI, and Law & Order as he becomes a kind of monkish detective.

I have just described the Brother Cadfael mystery series, written under the pen name of Ellis Peters by Edith Pargeter. Many of the stories have been adapted for television by the BBC (starring Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael) and are available through Netflix, etc. They’re well done, though the best movie can never beat a book.

I love the series, and I love Brother Cadfael, a wise good-humored man with the kind of robust Christlike goodness that loves both the Lord and His gift of life. No surprise that Cadfael finds himself in hot water at times with the pretentiously pious “powers that be.” He is true to the Spirit of God and to what is best in his monastic order, but he has seen enough of both the world and his Lord to know that God truly does desire “mercy and not sacrifice.” I like spending time with him.

I was listening to the audio version of one of the Cadfael books the other day (The Holy Thief) when I came across a quotation that made me think. A servant girl has fallen in love with a young man about to take his vows as a monk but presently accused of murder and being dealt with sternly by a particularly self-righteous abbot. She says openly to Brother Cadfael, for anyone with a good spirit knows they can trust him, “These monastics! They are what they are born, only with a vengeance. If they come into the world hard and cold, they end up harder and colder. If they come generous and sweet, they grow ever sweeter and more generous. All one or the other.”

What do you think? I think she’s on to something not just about monks or pastors or other religious professionals. We note it in them particularly because we know deep down that following a gracious Lord should make us gracious people.

But don’t we often see in all people exactly what the girl describes to Cadfael? The gracious become more gracious until their winsome lives seem warmed within by deep joy. The critical and hard become harder and more critical until cold and alone, they break.

We see it happening, and I see in it both warning and hope. To choose to be cold and hard, or warm and gracious? May we choose well. One day, sooner than we think, we’ll have chosen the direction and set sail, unlikely to look back and even less likely to tack against the wind.

 

 

    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.


One Thing Is Still Marvelously Full and Free

I still miss Andy Rooney. Where’s the old curmudgeon when you need him?

Rooney’s commentary at the end of 60 Minutes was always the cream of the show. (Speaking of dairy, I still thank him for pointing out that milk that a cow would claim is just 3.2% fat; I’ve never touched 2% or “skim” since.) After his death in 2011, five weeks after his last television commentary (number 1,097), the man has been irreplaceable. Go to commercial. It’s over.

One of my favorite types of Rooney commentary came when he’d speak over a desk strewn with a variety of items and discuss how consumers were getting ripped off. I thought of him today as I reached for the toilet paper. (Quite a memorial!)

That toilet paper roll was one of those fat ones. The package promised more sheets per roll. And darn well should. If it gets any more expensive, it’ll be cheaper to use dollar bills.

But, more sheets rolled up on the roll or not, I think I’ve uncovered a nefarious plot to filch consumers. Reach for that roll and you’ll find that it rattles around, side to side, on the TP roller. Why? Because the roll is at least an inch narrower than TP rolls used to be. So, less total toilet paper. And I’ll betcha dollars to paper perforations that the price did not go down when the company went to narrower rolls. I’ll call the roll. I call it skimpy even if it’s fat.

Call them out on that (oh, we need Andy Rooney!), and I suspect the companies would give moving speeches about their heartfelt concern for the environment; they’re saving trees. I’ll believe that explanation at exactly the same moment I believe that hotel chains’ primary motivation for wanting to wash your bed linen and towels less often is their desire to help “save the planet.” Or maybe when the skimpy roll sports a lowered price. Not gonna happen. We pay the same or higher prices; we get less product.

I’m not usually much of a conspiracy theorist, but I smell a toilet paper conspiracy. I’d be tempted to suggest we all go back to using Sears catalogs and outhouses in protest (our forefathers were incredibly conscientious about such recycling), but you can’t find Sears catalogs. Or outhouses.

I think the TP narrow gauge rip-off is the T-i-P of a much larger pattern of skullduggery. Have you measured a frozen corn dog lately? They’ve been bobbed. Same price. Less dog. And research shows that since 2006 most ice cream manufacturers have gone from a full half-gallon, 64 ounces, down toward 48. If I’m paying money for what is already mostly air, albeit wonderfully sweetened and flavored, I want 64 ounces of it.

Coffee? We’re mostly getting 13 ounces or less now, not 16. And count your Saltine crackers. Fewer per package. Peanut butter “jars.” Same size? Not really. Notice the indentation in the bottom? In a wine bottle, that’s called a “punt,” and there are a number of good and plausible reasons for it. Only one reason for dents in peanut butter jar bottoms. And it’s not positive. Candy bars? Shrinking because of the companies’ over-arching concern for the health of overweight consumers. Right. Products shrink; prices stay the same. Feel the hand in your pocket? It’s not yours.

One thing is still marvelously full and absolutely free. The riches of God’s grace. And that you can count on.

 

   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.


%d bloggers like this: